Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Harshbarger line: John Wyatt, Methodist pastor

John Wyatt is another fascinating Harshbarger ancestor.  His story is fascinating, but even more, his pedigree is fascinating.  Apparently the Wyatt line ties back to George Wyatt and Jane Finch, who had royal ancestry, based on DNA testing. The problem is that so far, the exact line of descent has not been determined.  John's father was Thomas, whose father was John, whose father was Major William.  It surprises me that we know William was a major, and that he was born about 1627, but we don't know how or when he arrived in Virginia, or how he attained the rank of "Major".  Was it based on the prominence of his family? We just don't know at this point. 

However, we do know a little more about John Wyatt, since he lived 100 or more years later than Major William.  John was born June 4, 1748 in Virginia. Some internet sources say that he was born in Franklin County but Franklin County wasn't formed until 1785, so his exact place of birth is unknown.  His parents are thought to be Thomas Wyatt and Susannah "Sukey" Edmondson, and he was one of at least 6 children. 

His marriage took place in Loudoun County, Virginia in 1767 to Alice Gordon, daughter of John Gordon. In 1772, his father's will was probated in Loudoun County, so the family had been there for at least a few years.  Loudoun was in northeastern Virginia, so the new family traveled quite some distance within two years, because by then John and Alice were in Shenandoah County, where John leased 246 acres on the north side of the Shenandoah River.

Undoubtedly the Wyatts had hoped to settle down to a peaceful life on their land, but such was not to be.  As in so many families, the Revolutionary War intervened, and John was sworn in as a lieutenant  of the Shenandoah County Militia under Captain John Tipton in April, 1778.  We don't know how often he was called to active duty, but he was apparently home at least some of the time because he is a witness to a deed and also leased 100 acres of his land in 1780.  Most likely, he served in a frontier unit that protected against Indians who were loyal to the British, but I've not found documentation for that yet. 

The Wyatts may have belonged to the Church of England, as did most Virginians, but by 1780 the family had become supporters of the Methodist cause. The Wyatts deed part of this 246 acres to the Trustees of the Methodist church on the western side of the north river of the Shenandoah, with Special Trust and Confidence that they use the land to "preach and expound God's Holy word...provided that they preach no other doctrine than is contained in the Rev. John Wesley's notes upon the new Testament and four volumes of sermons."  

The Wyatts had at least 8 children: Elijah, Edward, Solomon, Thomas, John, Jane, Sarah and Andrew. In 1792, the Wyatts leased their remaining land and moved to Sandifers Creek, Franklin County, Virginia, where they founded the Methodist Episcopal Church of Franklin County, Va.  John had been ordained on May 31, 1792 in Shenandoah County, Va, and he must have felt some sense of urgency to leave in December of that year to go to their new pastorate. 

John Wyatt died May 1, 1802 in or near Rocky Mount, Franklin County, and it appears that Alice may have died shortly after her husband.  His will mentions all of his children except Edward. Perhaps he had already received his portion.

There is much I'd like to know about John.  I have seen him referred to as a circuit rider, but I can't pin down documentation for that.  I'd like to know where he was born (possibly Gloucester County, Va?) and I'd like to know more about his Revolutionary War Service.

There is an absolutely wonderful manuscript of the Wyatt family on FamilySearch.  It was prepared by Genevieve Peters and has transcripts of the Wyatt family as far back as can be found in Virginia, and a lot of Wyatt descendents.  It's in five volumes, and I've only reviewed the Virginia documents.  If you have interest in this family, I'd suggest going to that website, to the books section, choosing author, and then Genevieve Peters.  She must have been a wonderful, lifelong genealogist to have accumulated so much information about so many families! Most of the information in this post can be traced back to her manuscript.

The line of descent is:

John Wyatt-Alice Gordon
Jane (Jean) Wyatt-William Farmer
Margaret Farmer-Solomon Bennett
Mary Bennett-John Harter
Clara Ellen Harter-Emmanuel Harshbarger
Grover Harshbarger-Goldie Withers
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks
Their descendents