As historian for the organization, it has been my privilege to delve into the ancestral history of our known Revolutionary War patriots. Telling their stories will be the focus of the afternoon program at the reunion. Those with ties to early settlers Bluford Elisha Dyer and Elizabeth Clark Dyer and John Souther and Mary Combs Souther are invited to attend. Friends of these descendants are also welcome. We will have a grand time of renewing acquaintances and remembering our ancestors and their contributions to America's freedom.
The historical focus of this column will be two of several honored patriots, Stephen Souther (1742-1780) and William Souther (about 1732- 1784).
Stephen was a son of Henry Souther (about 1712-May, 1784) and Juliann (last name unknown - about 1715- about 1783). William Souther was Stephen's uncle, brother to Stephen's father, Henry. Both were born in Culpepper County, Virginia. The Choestoe early settler, John Souther, was a grandson of Stephen Souther.
The five known children of Henry and Juliann Souther migrated from Virginia to Surrey County, North Carolina (from which Wilkes County was formed). So did William Souther, Stephen's uncle and Henry's brother, who was only ten years older than Stephen. William's wife was Magdalena Vernon whom he had married in 1755.
We will examine first, our ancestor, Stephen Souther, first son of Henry, and trace what we know of the story of his service to his country. It is unrecorded (yet) in annals of patriot history, mainly because he may have died before his volunteer service was recorded. A story well-founded in Souther family history and recorded by historian Watson Benjamin Dyer states that Stephen Souther (1742-1782) married Mary Bussey (1745-1790) before they left Culpepper County, Virginia to move to Surrey (later Wilkes) County, NC in 1778. At the time, much unrest brewed as Tories (those loyal to the British) attacked settlers in the remote mountain areas, led on by the British Captain Ferguson who promoted their loyalties and attacks.
Stephen Souther signed on with the militia led by Benjamin Stephens. The story of Stephen's military service, passed down in family stories from that time, is that Stephen Souther, suffering from severe nosebleed, for he was afflicted with the disease of hemophilia, died in 1780. It is not known definitely whether his death occurred at the Battle of King's Mountain where he may have suffered a wound and the bleeding could not be stopped or whether he died somewhere enroute to the Battle. His widow, Mary Bussey Souther, was granted 200 acres of land on Hunting Creek in Wilkes County on October 23, 1782 in appreciation of his service to the country. Already, Stephen had received a grant previous to his death on February 5, 1780.
Stephen and Mary Bussey Souther had seven known children, Elizabeth, Jesse, Michael, Joshua, Joel, Sarah and Frank. The second-born, Jesse Souther (about 1775-1858) who married Joan Combs, was the father of John Souther, first Souther settler in the Choestoe District of Union County, and for most in the Souther kinship line, our link back to Stephen, whose Revolutionary Service is not proven through records. Even though there is not yet an official documentation of Stephen Souther's patriotic service, we his descendants hold confidently to the belief that he lost his life at King's Mountain where the British leader Patrick Ferguson and his army were defeated by hill country militia in late 1780. Stephen's widow, Mary Bussey Souther did not apply for a pension but accepted the land grant as recompense in recognition of her husband's service.
Documentation for the service of William Souther (1732 -1794) is clear, found in his application for pension which was made September 14, 1833. It was approved and payment made retroactive to March 4, 1831 of $27.00 per year.
In his application for pension William Souther (# S-7575) stated he volunteered for the militia in Surrey County, NC under Captain William Merritt. In his first three months tour he was at Salisbury under General Rutherford, at Rutgers Mill near Camden, SC, and with General Compton at the rout of British soldiers, Tories and Indians at the Catawba River. Then, joining General Gates at the Catawba, they were defeated in August, 1780 at the Battle of Camden and returned home.
His next term of service was by draft in Surrey County. He was at Richmond, NC under Captain Arthur Scott, at Haw River, where he became sick and was discharged to go home and recover. His next draft was under Captain David Humphries at Old Richmond in Surrey County. The unit went to Guilford Court House in March, 1781, and won a decisive victory against the British. He joined with Colonel James Martin's forces and went to Wilmington, NC in November of 1781. There they were ordered to line up for a proclamation. William Souther and his fellow soldiers heard the grand news that Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown in Virginia and that General Washington was victorious in battle on October 17, 1781. The British officially surrendered on October 19 and asked for terms.
These brave ancestors gave time, energy, courage and loyalty to winning of America's freedom.
c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 16, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.