Where did these Chastains originate? What is significant about their ancestry?
Tracing these Chastain settlers in Union back to Pierre Chastain (about 1659 - 1728), known to subsequent generations as Dr. Pierre Chastain, the Immigrant, we find that this first of the line in America came to Virginia in 1700 because of religious persecution in France. Pierre was a son of Estienne Chastain and Jeanne Laurant Chastain. They were members of what became known as the French Huguenots. They were adherents of the French Reformed Church (also called Calvinists because of their leader, Jean Cauvin, English name John Calvin [1509-1564]).
With other Huguenot immigrants, Pierre Chastain and his first wife, Susanne Renaud, settled on land at Manakin, Virginia near present day Richmond. Pierre had multiple occupations. First and foremost, he was a physician (surgeon). It has also been noted that he was a perruquier (the French term for barber and wig maker). He was a planter and plantation owner.
After the death of his first wife, Susanne, by whom he had eight children, he married Anne Soblet, whose family had also escaped France under Huguenot persecution. Dr. Pierre Chastain and his wife Anne had eight children, making a total for The Immigrant Chastain of sixteen. Three of his children with Susanne died young, for in February, 1700, he was listed with five children and no wife in the Manakin area census. Dr. Pierre Chastain's third marriage was to Mary Magdalene Trabue, widow of Antoine Trabue.
Pierre Chastain was active in the Manakin Town Episcopal Church where present-day visitors are told of the Chastain pew, third from the front on the left side of the church. Descendants of The Immigrant also take pride in visiting the home of Dr. Chastain, a two-story white frame house in Manakin Town, Virginia. The gravesite of Dr. Chastain and his three wives and some of his children has been identified and marked. The Pierre Chastain Family Association, organized in 1975, has for its aim the development and preservation of Chastain family records and information. Many places dear to The Immigrant and his descendants have been marked and identified as they spread out from Manakin Town, Virginia to surrounding areas and moved to other pioneer regions of the country as migrations occurred.
The book of genealogy, Pierre Chastain and His Descendants, Volume I: First Five Generations in America was published by the Association in 1995 and has become a much-sought after volume for history on the Huguenot settlers in Virginia and their dispersion throughout America.
In more recent years, the Chastain Family website posts additional genealogical and historical information, and The Chestnut Tree, the Association's quarterly newsletter, keeps interest in the Chastain family alive and well.
As I studied and read the Chastain family history book, I was interested in how names were passed down through generations. There were many with the name Pierre, to honor The Immigrant. But in subsequent generations, Pierre became anglicized to Peter. Jean became John.
As mentioned in last week's article, one of the Johns was John Chastain (1743-1805) the famous John "Ten Shilling Bell" Chastain, noted Baptist minister and church planter. This John was a son of Pierre Chastain, Jr. (1707- after 1775), third child of Pierre and his second wife Anne Soblet. The records on the second Pierre are somewhat fuzzy as courthouse fires in Buckingham County, Virginia where the family lived took major records.
Pierre, Jr.'s son John's first wife was Mary O'Bryan (1765-1797), born in Ireland and died in Pendleton District, South Carolina. Following his first wife's death, he married second, Mary Robinson, a widow, whose maiden name is unknown. It is through this John Chastain that many of the North Georgia Chastains descend. For those who can trace their lines back to John "Ten Shilling Bell" Chastain, they can claim a Revolutionary War patriot, for he signed the oath of allegiance in Powhatan County, Virginia.
A brief listing of John Chastain's children by his first wife, Mary O'Bryan show Abner (1764-1846) who died in Pickens County, SC. John, Jr. (1766-1844) who died in Pickens County, SC. Martha (1768- 1794) who married John Blythe and died in South Carolina. Edward Brigand (1769- about 1834) who lived in Union County, GA, died in what is now Fannin County. Mary (1771-?) married John O'Dell. Elijah (1776-1853) died in what is now Gilmer County, GA, married Hannah Adams, Anna Middleton and Catherine Carson. Elizabeth (1777-after 1850) married Samuel Denton, Jr. Cleo (or Chloe) (1799 - ?) married John Denton. Benjamin Chastain (1780-1845) was in Union County, died in what is now Fannin, married Rebekah Denton. Nancy Chastain (1783-?) married John Robinson. Joseph Chastain (1783-after 1850) married Nancy Young, went to Missouri.
John Chastain's children by his second wife, widow Mary (maiden name unknown) Robinson were Violet (1798- ?) married William Akins. William (1801-after 1860 and before 1875) married Margaret Dobbs, died in Habersham County, GA. Mary Lavina (1803 - 1845) died in Franklin County, Tn. She married three times.
From Pierre the Immigrant to the generations cited here, the Chastains migrated to many sections of our country and became involved citizens in the life and growth of their communities.
c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 11, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.