Revised July 3, 2004

Historical Problems of Our Family Descent



Some of the problems stem from there being two Benjamin Carpenters from the region of Amherst Co., Va. around 1780. Early records are indeed scant and early regional historians confused the two. It appears as though geographical and chronological proximity constituted a degree of proof sufficient to support a possible family relationship. For the sake of clarity, let me distinguish them as Benjamin #1 and Benjamin #2.

What is known about Benjamin #1 (Not our ancestor):

Born: March 01, 1755 Rockfish River, Amherst Co., VA

Died: 1840 Knox County, IL

Wife: Sarah ?

Known service: From the Journal of Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 8, Number 3, Oct. 1915, page 441, as reported by Richard Charles Carpenter, tells of Sgt. John Carpenter's brothers Benjamin Carpenter's service. "Benjamin Carpenter was a native of Virginia, born in 1753. He enlisted for four years in Amherst County, Virginia. His Company joined the Army of Lafayette and he was present at the surrender of Cornwallis. He came to Illinois and resided in Schuyler County where he died." (532156) Illinois Certificate #22315.

What is known about Benjamin #2...our ancestor

Born: 1730-1750 Probably in England

Died: 1832 Amherst Co., Va.

Wife: Mary (?)

Known service:

From "Amherst County , Virginia in the Revolution", by Lenora H. Sweeny, Clearfield Co., 1998 comes the following:

In the same publication, under TYLER, JOHN -- .... Eaton Carpenter, son of Benjamin Carpenter, testified that his father was drafted in the Amherst Militia, Siege of York & Capture of Cornwallis. He heard his father say that John Tyler was in the same service. .... May 19, 1846, Col. George W. Higginbotham, Amherst co., Va., aged 63, "Recollects distinctly that in looking over his father's Revolutionary papers, he came across several muster rolls containing the names of soldiers that composed the several companies that were in service under deponents father Col. or Major Higginbotham, who was an officer in the Revolutionary War of the above grades; deponent has heard his father say that he was in service against the Indians at Charlottesville, Williamsburg, & Yorktown. Deponent say that the Captain's name whose roll the name of John Tyler was on, but it is very clear in his recollection of having seen the names of John Tyler & Benj. Carpenter on the above rolls that were in possession of his father, Col. James Higginbotham. The muster rolls are at the court house or in Kentucky."

Additional proofs:

Ref.: Amherst Co., VA 9293755496.029ab ... an abstract of all items in wills from 1761-1919, Vol. 1 108 Benj. Carpenter 8:208 June 24, 1825; May 21, 1832. Wits.: Geo. W. and Absalom Higginbotham and L. Cash. Eaton Carpenter and Cornl.[Cornelius] Sale qualified Bdm.: Dabney Sandidge and Wiley Campbell. Ux, Mary; son, Austin--Piney Mt. tract; son Eaton. My four children Jas., Hensley; Austin; and Mary Rogers ux of Wm. Rogers, Exrs.: Cornl. Sale and my son, Eaton Carpenter.

8:226 Inv., June 2, 1832. Geo. W. Higginbotham; Absalom Higginbotham; Chas. & Wm. Tucker. Total $2381.75

[Geo. W. Higgingotham's signature is quite clear on the will as a witness.]

Some of our family historians think that perhaps the militia rosters were subsequently taken to Kentucky. A recent paid search of the W. Va. State Library turned up nothing new. As far as I can determine our Benjamin, of yet unidentified father, cannot be proved to be a participant in The Revolutionary War although, based upon testimony of his son Eaton, he did serve. My information is that records for the county militiamen/women were not well kept. This was a free-for-all and anyone who wanted to could fire a few shots at the British…it was open season.

It has now been proved through the Family Tree DNA project that Benjamin was one of the group classified as Tennessee and Kentucky Carpenter families.  Link to Southern Carpenters The genetic evidence proves that he was several generations removed from an ancestor common with the New York and New England Carpenters. Anecdotal evidence has been supplied by Elsie (Drummond) Carpenter who related that the grandsons of Austin Carpenter said Austin told them that his father, Benjamin, was born in England, came to America when in his teens, and he, Austin, was born in Queen and King Co., Va.. Although his writing is rife with prior history confusing the two Benjamin's, similar statements were related by Col. William Carpenter. Although the Col. repeated some of the prior errors, he did relate a conversation, which could be taken as supportive of the information related by Elsie Drummond.  Those anecdotes are not supported by census, marriage, land ownership records, or time lines.

Early genealogists mixed our Benjamin with Benjamin s/o Thomas and assigned a first wife, Sarah, to him who in truth was the daughter-in-law of Thomas and the spouse of Benjamin s/o Thomas. There is no evidence that my Benjamin ever had any wife except Mary as proved in his will. Some family historians accepted some of the early works reflecting Sarah as a first wife. A first wife would have made Eaton and Enoch half brothers to Austin who passed the name of Eaton to his children. It seems unlikely, though certainly possible, that one would name his children after a half brother. I'm going with Mary as his only proven wife.

In view of somewhat sketchy information, I am concluding that our Benjamin probably came from England when he was in his teens and may have settled in Queen and King County, Va. then migrated to Amherst County before 1781  Unfortunately, records may never have existed and if the did, they were probably destroyed. That position taken in view of the following historical note.

"1864 March Colonel Uric Dahlgren and 120 Union troops enter King and Queen County and skirmish with the 9th Virginia Cavalry and Home Guard units at Bruirigton. As Dahlgren’s troops move down the River Road, they are ambushed near Stevensville and Mantapilce and Colonel Dahlgren is killed. In retaliation, the King and Queen Court House, Clerk’s Office, jail, several stores and homes belonging to Robert Pollard, County Clerk, and William Martin, are burned by Union troops stationed at Gloucester Point. Tradition holds that the tavern was spared because the troops were told someone was lying ill upstairs with smallpox causing them to flee the area, but that in reality no one with smallpox had been in the building."

So…we may never know!

Alton Carpenter