The Revolutionary War Veteran

Though I have more than one ancestor who fought in the War for Independence, I’ve selected my 5th great-grandfather to fulfill this week’s prompt: Independence.

Tillotson O’Brien

The fourth child and second son of Laurence (1720-1812) and Frances (1725-?) O’Brien, Tillotson was born in May 1760 in what is now Richmond County, North Carolina. At the time of his birth it was Anson County, but around 1779 his father and several other nearby residents petitioned the state for a new county to make it easier to conduct business. Laurence and Frances had immigrated from County Cork, Ireland, to Queen Anne County, Maryland before 1740. Around 1750 he moved his family to North Carolina where Tillotson was born. There are two known siblings for Tillotson: Dennis O’Brien (1740-1800) and Lucretia O’Brien (abt. 1750-?). Two other names have popped up, Nancy and David, but I can’t find anything to confirm their existence.

When Tillotson turned 20 he volunteered for service in the Revolutionary War, enlisting as a private in the North Carolina militia. He served for three months, “holding in subjection the Tories in Richmond County” under the command of Captain William Wall, according to his pension file. When his three months were over, he re-upped with the same outfit and continued fighting and capturing the Tories. However, they didn’t have a place to house the captured enemy soldiers, so they had to let them go. At the end of this three-month stint, he “hired one John Long as a substitute” to take his place. The unit, sans Tillotson, was involved in the battle at Beatti’s Bridge.

The year the war ended, 1783, Tillotson married Sarah Dawkins (1766-1810). They had four children:

  • John J. O’Brien (my 4th great-grandfather, 1784-1848)
  • Agnes O’Brien (abt. 1785-?)
  • Sarah Louise “Sallie” O’Brien (1789-1871)
  • Dennis O’Brien (abt. 1810-?)

In June 1792 Tillotson purchased land, 50 acres on the south side of the Rocky fork of Hitchcock, joining Richard Campbell’s and Thomas Adcock’s lines. He had varied interests, including farming and operating a small leather goods business. Tillotson also served at one time as a magistrate in the county. (Several later documents refer to him as “Esquire.”) The children grew up and started families of their own. Son John married Zilpha Casey and they had ten children, all surviving into adulthood. One story goes that daughter Agnes married a McCoy from Mississippi. However, there is a Tillotson O’Brien Smith that may be Agnes’s son. He married a McKay and settled in Mississippi. The jury is still out on this. Daughter Sallie married her first cousin Bryant Lovin, and started a trend for the family. They had 11 children.

Tragedy came in 1810 when Sarah died, probably during childbirth. This left Tillotson with infant Dennis to care for. Dennis grew up and married Christian Cameron; there are no records of them having any children.

It wasn’t until 1829 that Tillotson married again, to Mary Lassiter. In his later years, Tillotson applied for a war pension and was granted $30 per year. After an Act of Congress in 1853 made pensions available for surviving spouses, Mary applied for and received the same annual benefit until her death in 1861.

Tillotson died on 11 July 1840. He’s buried in Old Hickory Cemetery next to his first wife. His obituary from the 29 July 1840 issue of the Fayetteville Observer speaks to his death and of the times:

Another Revolutioner Gone

Death in all forms is terrific, but much more so does it appear, when its object is suddenly seized upon, and at once destroyed by its powerful grasp. Tillotson O’Bryan, Esq. suddenly departed this life at his residence in Richmond County, N. C., in the 82nd year of his age, about 11 o’clock of the evening of the 11th of July 1840. He took supper as usual, and retired to bed, and was taken with the Asthma and died in a few minutes. Thus he was a lifeless corpse who a few minutes before was cheerful and apparently in good health. Mr. O’Bryan was a soldier of the Revolution, and has left but six of his fellow soldiers behind him in Richmond County. He had been an excellent magistrate for many years, and had devoted much of his life to education of the young.

Posted in 52Ancestors, Casey, Lovin, O'Brien | Leave a comment

The Black Sheep

Everyone has a black sheep in their family (some may have more than one). There are probably varying degrees of black sheepness (a child who decided to drop out of school and avoid the family business is probably lower on the scale than the long-lost cousin in jail for murder), but whatever has put the family member on the outs with everyone else, the black sheep make for very interesting research. This is a good thing for genealogists. You don’t get to choose your ancestors; I might not have chosen this one. And now, introducing my family’s favorite “black sheep”: Continue reading

Posted in 52Ancestors, Ford, Rohleder | 1 Comment

My Grandmother

Since I’m named after my grandmother, this seemed like the time to write about her (this week’s prompt is “same name”). Besides my name, I got my coloring from my grandmother, and my crocheting ability. (If there’s anything else, someone tell me, because I can’t see it!) Almost everyone who knew my grandmother called her Miss Annie, even some of her grandchildren. Our family called her MaMa (even accent on both syllables), but with all the genealogy work I’ve been doing, I’ve gotten in the habit of calling her Miss Annie, too. Continue reading

Posted in 52Ancestors, McKenzie, O'Brien, Phifer, Reynolds | 2 Comments

My Uncles

It’s Father’s Day this weekend. My parents didn’t have any sisters, and, since I’ve already written about my father, I wanted to honor my uncles who became dads. (Daddy’s eldest brother died before he had a chance to have children.) Continue reading

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She Married Well

With a prompt of “Going to the Chapel” this is the perfect time to write about Lou, my first cousin three times removed. This is my maternal grandfather’s side of the family. Continue reading

Posted in 52Ancestors, McKenzie | 1 Comment

The War Hero

Andrew Hamilton Rohleder III

Ensign Rohleder in his dress whites.

Andy was always an enigma to me. The picture of the handsome young man in uniform on top of the bookcase at my grandparents’ house was always visible but never really spoken of. When asked about Andy, the answer was always, “He died in the war.” Continue reading

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The Universal Language

My ancestors are from England, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and Switzerland. Those countries cover just a few of the 6,900-plus languages in the world. That’s a lot of different languages! But according to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, there is one universal language: Music. Like most languages, music has its own system of symbols and the combination of those symbols produces phrases—or a composition—that can be interpreted by instruments or voices. Since music is such a big part of my life I decided to find other people in my family who also speak that language. Continue reading

Posted in 52Ancestors, Gibson, McKenzie, Primm, Reynolds, Rohleder | 2 Comments