It seems like everyone in the family is brick-walled on Peter Timmons (b. 1813). He is my 4x-great-grandfather. Some say his father was John, others say Peter Sr. I posted back in January about his ties to the Virginia Military District and I’ve been digging ever since. Now I have a new working theory.
The Timmons name can be found all throughout the Virginia Military District. It seems like all the Timmons families had a habit of naming their kids after grandparents, aunts and uncles so it’s very easy to get confused or make faulty assumptions. (The “Virginia Military District” is roughly 20-county area that was settled by Revolutionary War patriots from Virginia who received bounty land warrants as payment for their military service.)
So let’s start with what we know for sure and then very carefully add what we can infer from various record sources.
Back in the 1950’s, Lola Timmons (my great-grandmother) knew Peter’s name and the names of his 12 children. She also knew that Peter lived near Chillicothe, Ohio and she had a list of towns where the family had lived over the years.. And I think that’s it as far as what she knew. I presume Lola learned this information first-hand from her father (Charles) and her aunt (Effie), and they would have learned these facts from their father Salathiel. So I believe this is the extent of what we know from family lore – at least from our branch of the family. I don’t think Lola or anyone she talked to had looked at census records or anything like that. Since the time that Lola made her notes, other people from many different branches of the family have come up with birthdates, locations, spouse names, etc. from their own family lore but also gleaned from census records and other published sources. Sometimes researchers in different branches of the family reached the same conclusions, other times they did not, and often I think people just copied down information that they found elsewhere. It’s all kind of a mishmash.
For now, I’m going to just stick with what Lola knew and then see what can we add to this picture by looking at records that we know for sure are relevant and reliable.
The first solid census record for Peter Timmons is the 1860 census, where we find him in Monroe Township in Madison County, Ohio. He is renting a farm and living with his wife Nancy and nine of his twelve children (we can presume that the older three, including Salathiel, are out on their own). The names of the kids match perfectly with Lola’s notes, so I have no doubt at all that this is the right family. Peter gives his age as 47 and his birthplace as Ohio.
If Peter Timmons was born in Ohio in 1813, that means his family was among the very earliest settlers in the area. The area was opened up for settlement in the 1790’s, and Ohio became a state in 1803. His parents could not have been born in Ohio. It’s a pretty good bet that his parents were from Virginia and that his father had acquired bounty land warrants either through his own military service or through purchase or perhaps both.
I’ve searched through all the various county histories for this part of Ohio (nine of them!). It seems as though there were two prominent Timmons families in this part of the Virginia Military District before 1813. One was the Samuel Timmons family from Pennsylvania, who settled in Jefferson Township in Madison County. The other was the John Timmons family who settled in both Pickaway and Madison counties. John Timmons was a Revolutionary War patriot who came from Virginia to Ohio. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these two families are related if you go back a couple of generations further.
There were many other Timmons families that moved into the region after 1813. The 1850 and 1860 censuses, for example, are full of Timmonses who were born in Maryland and Delaware. But we want to keep our focus on only those Timmons families that we know were there before 1813.
I cannot find any connections to the Samuel Timmons family. The John Timmons family, on the other hand, is almost certainly connected to our family.
John Timmons acquired several properties in the 1810’s in the Virginia Military District. By the time of his death, his holdings included the following:
- He had 200 acres in Perry Township, Pickaway County from a patent in his own name dated 1810
- He acquired several hundred acres in Union Township, Madison County from from Peter Helphenstine in 1810
- He acquired 200 acres in Pickaway County from O’Neall in 1815
The O’Neall property was adjacent to his own property in Perry Township, while the Helphenstine property was about 25 miles away.
Going through all the county histories for Pickaway and Madison counties, I find that John Timmons was active in both counties. In Madison county in 1810, he was elected as County Coroner and also as a judge in Union Township1. In Pickaway County, he was elected as a County Judge in 1810 and as a Deer Creek Township Trustee in 18162. (I’m guessing that was should probably think about the term “judge” as parallel to our notion of “county commissioner”.)
I will write much more about John Timmons some other time. But long story short, he went kind of nutty at the end of his life and his kids had to petition the court for guardianship and then had to petition the court to divide up his assets after he died. It sounds like it was kind of a mess and may have come with all the family drama one might expect. He died in 1837 and it wasn’t until 1842 that the land got all sorted out. It’s lucky for us, though, because there is a lot of genealogy detail laid out in a court ruling from Pickaway County.
According to the ruling3, he had 10 kids, two of whom had already died but had heirs. So the properties got distributed as follows:
- The 1810 Pickaway County property was divided between Peter and Stephen
- The 1815 Pickaway County property (O’Neall property) was divided between Daniel and Levi
- John Jr., heirs of George, heirs of Samuel, Edmund, Leah and Lewis all received portions of the Helphenstine property in Madison County
The judge couldn’t make it come out exactly fair, so he reserved a portion of the Helphenstine property to be sold, and the proceeds would be used to even things out so everyone had an equivalent value of cash and land. The settlement was signed by all of the children still living plus Amasa Timmons, who must have been the son of either George or Samuel.
I’m sure the name “Peter” caught your eye – is this our Peter? No. According to several DAR applications based on John Timmons’ service, all of John Timmons’ children were born in Virginia. In fact, the DAR records show this Peter as being born in 1782.
So what about grandchildren?
I’ve combed through published genealogies and what census records I can find for the grandsons of John Timmons. There was only one Peter.
Because two of the sons (George and Samuel) had died, the settlement specifically identifies their children and where they were living as of October, 1840. The children of George were:
- John of Logan County, OH
- Peter of Fayette County, OH
- George Jr. of Illinois
- Sarah wife of Henry Hartman of Illinois
- Mary of Clark County, OH
- Leah, wife of Rufus W. Powell of Fayette County, OH
Two things to note here: (1) the Amasa Timmons who signed off on the settlement agreement appears to have been George’s son, and (2) a Peter Timmons of Fayette County is identified. Could he be our Peter?
Consulting the 1840 census, there is only one Peter Timmons in Fayette County. He lives in Madison Township and has four boys and two girls (this census only tells us the name of the head of household and just age ranges for everyone else). The ages lines up perfectly with the 1860 census – the boys would have been Thornton, Salathiel, George and Battle; the girls would have been Sallie and Lucinda. The only mismatch on this record is the ages of Peter and Nancy – Peter would have been 28 and Nancy 32 but instead their ages appear to be switched.
This aligns nicely with the record of Peter’s marriage in 1831, which was also in Fayette County4. (Why oh why can’t we find this family in the 1850 census? Grr! I’ve looked high and low.)
Anyway, this all seems really promising and logical. The only weakness in this theory is the age discrepancy for Peter and Nancy in the 1840 census. This doesn’t strike me as a fatal flaw.
If we accept that our Peter is the son of George Timmons, then things really start to get interesting!
George’s father, John Timmons, has a purported ancestry going back to a Thomas Timmons who came from Ireland in the 1600’s (until I check it out, his pedigree on ancestry.com is no more than hearsay at this point, but it looks plausible).
George’s mother, Mary, has an interesting lineage as well. There is an 1892 biography of a Thomas R. Van Deventer, a prominent resident of Brown County, Illinois who was born in Fayette County, Ohio. Thomas had two aunts: Mary Van Deventer and Peggy Van Deventer. According to his biography, Mary married George Timmons and Peggy married George’s brother Daniel Timmons. The Van Deventer family goes all the way back to pre-Revolutionary War Dutch settlers in New York City and Brooklyn. Mary Van Deventer’s father (Peter’s grandfather) was Jacob Van Deventer, a Revolutionary War patriot in Virginia who supposedly supplied the Americans with gunpowder from his factory on the Potomac River5. It’s interesting to note that Mary and Peggy Van Deventer had brothers named William, Isaac, and Cornelius – these would be uncles to our Peter. Peter himself had children with these very names.
The name connections get more interesting the deeper we dig: Peter’s oldest son (Salathiel’s oldest brother) was named Thornton Amasa – we saw that Peter had a brother Amasa (who signed the estate settlement); it turns out that Daniel and Peggy had a son named Thornton.
Adding even more intrigue, my mom’s DNA testing shows matches with five individuals who have Van Deventers in their family tree. Ancestry predicts that these people would be in the range of 5th to 8th cousins. The closest mom can be to the Van Deventers is a 6th cousin, so this lines up pretty well. Of course it could be mere coincidence that she shares Van Deventer DNA with these folks, but it’s certainly better than querying the DNA matches and not finding any Van Deventers at all!
I think it’s highly likely that I have acquired some really cool Revolutionary War ancestors – John Timmons and Jacob Van Deventer. And since Jacob was Dutch, I get to add a new European country, too!
I’m anxious to hear what everyone else thinks about this…
1Bryan, Chester Edwin. History of Madison County, Ohio : Its People, Industries and Institution with Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens and Genealogical Records of Many of the Old Families. Indianapolis, Ind. : Bowen, 1915. http://archive.org/details/historyofmadison00brya, p. 65.
2Van Cleaf, Aaron R. comp cn. History of Pickaway County, Ohio and Representative Citizens. Chicago : Biographical Pub. Co., 1906. http://archive.org/details/historyofpickawa01vanc, p. 41 and 217.
3Pickaway County Common Pleas Court case file C-6677
4I want to note here that some people see what they think is a “Wm” on Peter’s marriage record – if you compare the handwriting to the other entries on the page, it actually says “Mr”. There is no such person as William Peter Timmons! That error has been propagated all throughout ancestry.com and findagrave.com. Peter is not buried with his wife in Illinois (although it’s possible that the family may have purchased a plot for him there). I think people have assumed that the William F. Simmons (died 1877) in that cemetery is somehow actually William Peter Timmons. We know that Peter Timmons died in California in 1879 and I’m certain they did not ship his body back to Illinois.
5Illinois bibliography, and Genealogy bibliography. Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois: Containing Biographical Sketches of Pioneers and Leading Citizens. Chicago : Biographical Review Publishing Co., 1892. http://archive.org/details/biographicalrev00illi, p. 285