One of the “brick wall” ancestors on my family tree is Peter Timmons, born in about 1813 in Ohio. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about his name, his birth place, and his parents. I think I’ve made some headway…
My great-grandmother Lola Timmons Frasier left some handwritten notes about her ancestry. She has just one sentence about her great-grandfather Peter Timmons: “Peter Timmons, father of Salathiel, lived near Chillicothe, Ohio and also near Paris, Charleston, Westfield, Lincoln, Bennett [sic], and Atwood, Ill.” I recently found out that late in life, Peter moved to California, leaving his wife and family behind, and took up work in the cattle business. He died there and after his will was probated, the net assets left to his wife and family totaled 54 cents.
What about Peter’s early life? And most specifically, who were his parents? Lola did not know. Some researchers have speculated that Peter’s father was named John while others believe that Peter’s father was also named Peter. I decided to see what I could do this week to sort this out.
The first really solid and verifiable clue we have about Peter is the 1860 census, where he is listed with his wife Nancy and nine of his twelve children. (The oldest three had presumably left home by 1860; they were all over the age of 25 by then.) They are living in Monroe Township in Madison County, Ohio. A couple of additional facts are worth noting: it says that he was born in Ohio in about 1813; and that he does not own any real estate assets. His personal assets are worth $500.
At this point, we have some really important clues. If indeed he was born near the Chillicothe area in 1813, there is a strong possibility that his family settled in this area by acquiring land in the Virginia Military District. This is a really interesting piece of American history.
Many of the original 13 states could not afford cash payments to their soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War. Instead, they gave them free land. In the case of Virginia’s soldiers, the state of Virginia acquired a huge tract of land in Ohio for the express purpose of granting land to veterans. There is a lot of information out there about the Virginia Military District, including write-ups in Wikipedia, Ancestry and FamilySearch. Many veterans, however, didn’t particularly want to move to Ohio. So they proved up their service by getting a certificate of service. With this document, they could procure a land warrant. The warrant could then be sold for cash. The warrant specified the number of acres but the holder of the warrant could choose the acreage anywhere within the Virginia Military District. Once chosen and surveyed, the holder of the warrant would receive a patent (a deed) for the land.
Here is a map of the Virginia Military District. It lies between the Little Miami and Scioto Rivers in south-central Ohio.
Fortunately, all U.S. Government land patents are available online. Do we find any Timmons folks getting patents? Why yes we do! In 1810, a John Timmons received a patent for 200 acres in what I have determined to be in the southwestern corner of Pickaway County, Ohio. (Download the patent document here if you’re interested.) The document states that John Timmons is the assignee of Elias Rector, who is the assignee of Lieutenant Robert Breckenridge. (Too bad Breckenridge isn’t our ancestor; there’s quite a bit of information out there about the entire famous Breckenridge family.) As a lieutenant, he would have been entitled to 200 acres and that’s exactly what the John Timmons patent is for. The patent is based on Warrant Number 1653. (There is much more information out there about the Robert Breckenridge certification and warrant. A transcribed pension application is available on Ancestry, and the Library of Virginia has his service voucher. He was quite the dude – he was a prisoner of war at one point!)
All of the land allocated in the Virginia Military District is according to old-fashioned “metes and bounds” descriptions. There are no sections, townships and ranges like we find in other parts of Ohio or in the western United States in general. John Timmons’ patent includes a colorful legal description making reference to a 24-inch diameter cherry tree, burr oak trees, a swamp and an elm tree. That makes it rather difficult to reconstruct the boundary lines 200 years later.
An 1816 tax record for John Timmons positively locates this land in Pickaway County and it shows that John Timmons held other warrants as well: an additional 150 acres under warrant 2487 (also the assignee of Elias Rect0r) and warrants 4515 and 4513 totaling 400 acres in Madison County (assignee of Helbeson?).
An 1830 census refers to John Timmons in Perry Township in Pickaway County. The family appears to include a wife and six children, including a male in the age 15 to 20 classification – very likely our Peter Timmons who would have been 17 at the time. (This is all pure conjecture at this point – there are several other John Timmons families scattered about the Virginia Military District, so there’s a lot of checking yet to be done.)
But did this John Timmons have a son Peter? There are several clues pointing in that direction. One is a petition for guardianship of John Timmons in 1833. (I think he died in 1834.) The petition is signed by Daniel Timmons, Levi Timmons and Lewis Timmons. A second is a land partition deed in 1842. This document makes reference to a ruling a court case between petitioner “Peter Timmons et al” and defendants “John Timmons et al” and the additional note “Heirs of John Timmons dec’d.” Oops, this sounds like a family squabble about dividing up the land! The case records themselves are on microfilm in Salt Lake City, so I’m anxious to schedule a field trip…
There are numerous family trees on Ancestry.com and elsewhere showing a John Timmons family in Pickaway County, Ohio and with children including Daniel, Levi, Lewis, Peter and others. So I think this is a pretty good working theory about Peter’s family. The court case records and John Timmons’ will might confirm these details.
As for the land, I think I’ve found it on an 1858 property map (available from the Library of Congress). In the northwest corner of Perry Township, there is a 94-acre tract of land belonging to “S. Timmons heirs”. This could be a reference to Stephan Timmons, a possible older brother of Peter, if you believe the family trees on Ancestry. This would be sixteen years after the contentious land partition of 1842, thus explaining why it’s a 94-acre parcel instead of the original 200. Again, deeds and other records in Salt Lake City will be most helpful in sorting all of this out.
The parcel of land has the notation “467” next to it. I believe this is a Warrant Number, and this number is actually mentioned in the patent as a reference point for John Timmons’ survey. (Always good to be able to validate your assumptions…)
Here are some points for further research:
- Track down all land deed and probate records for John Timmons and his heirs in Pickaway County.
- Confirm whether our John Timmons is in Perry Township or neighboring Deer Creek Township in Pickaway County (land deeds will help with this).
- Presumably, John Timmons is from Virginia. Can we track him down there? Perhaps the name “Elias Rector” is a clue – somehow, John acquired the Breckenridge warrant from Mr. Rector.
There is quite a bit of conjecture about all of this on various family trees on Ancestry, but no one is able to cite sources. I’ll be on the hunt for proof.