52 Ancestors: #2 of 52 – Jeremiah Campbell, Sr. (1762-1843)

Jeremiah Campbell, my 4th great grandfather, is the perfect ancestor for the 52 Ancestor Week Two theme, “Kings,” since Jeremiah and at least one of his brothers fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain, one of the decisive battles of the American Revolutionary War.52ancestors-2015-02

Jeremiah was born on 15 December 1762, place unknown, but it must have been either Scotland, Ireland, or Virginia. His parents were Zachariah Campbell Sr. and Leah Unknown. Zachariah may have come to this country as a tobacco merchant, first living in the area of what is now Virginia. (1) Or he may have come here from Ireland–we just don’t know.

Regardless of where Jeremiah was born, the family was in Virginia by the time Jeremiah was nine years old in 1771, and they were living there at least until 1877 when Jeremiah turned 15. (2) When Jeremiah was 18 years old, he enrolled as a volunteer to fight with Colonel John Sevier under General McDowell. These Tennessee “Overmountain Men,” as they were called, took part in a 14-day march to South Carolina, where they became involved in the Battle of Kings Mountain, 7 October 1780, a battle that is credited for turning the tide of the war against the British. (3)

Jeremiah is next found in the records when he marries Sarah, on 12 Sep 1789 when he was 27 years old. Sarah’s maiden name is variously written as Marr, Murr, or Mann. Sarah is one of those brick walls; more research on her is needed. The couple was married in what was then Washington County (later in 1796 Carter County), Tennessee. Records show that in 1792 Jeremiah paid 50 shillings for a Revolutionary War land grant, for 94 acres in Carter County near Doe River. Apparently Jeremiah farmed this land until the end of his life, probably passing it on to one or more of his sons before he wrote his will in 1843. Yearly tax rolls for Carter County confirm Jeremiah’s ownership of this 94 acres.

From 1791 to 1814, Jeremiah and Sarah had six sons. We know about these sons because they lived to adulthood; it’s possible the couple also had children who died young. If any daughters were born, they haven’t been discovered in the records.

The first census where Jeremiah makes an appearance (the records from 1800-1820 for Carter County are not available) is 1830. Sarah must have died by then, because she is not a part of the family. Included in the family is a woman between 20 and 30 years old and a young boy between 5 and 10. Was this one of Jeremiah’s daughters?

The 1830 and 1840 census, as well as Jeremiah’s will, indicate that he owned slaves at the end of his life. In his will, he mentions a negro woman Amanda and Amanda’s two children, Eliza Ann and Joel. It’s hard to imagine a slaveholder ancestor; however, if a family tree can be traced back to a farmer at this time and in this area, the likelihood is pretty good that somewhere in that tree will be someone who owned slaves.

We will probably never know for sure where Jeremiah was buried. In the 1940s, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Watauga Project flooded what had been Jeremiah’s land (and thousands of acres more), creating the Watauga Reservoir.

Watauga Reservoir, c.2000

Watauga Reservoir, c.2000

According to TVA records, 761 existing families were removed from their homes for the Watauga project. (4) Thousands of graves were removed and the remains reinterred in hundreds of cemeteries found in Carter and Johnson Counties. Hundreds if not thousands of others were left in place, and are now under the reservoir. Jeremiah’s grave site is not one of those that was removed and is most likely one of those graves that lie under the reservoir. (5)


(1) There is a great deal of disagreement in the family genealogies about this Zachariah. Most seem to believe he is the Zachariah Campbell who was the son of James Campbell, a Glasgow merchant, and Mary Murdoch Campbell. Although it seems clear that James and Mary had a son named Zachariah who came to this country sometime around 1760, it is not clear that “my” Zachariah Campbell was that person. Other family histories claim that this Zachariah emigrated from County Tipperary near Cork, Ireland. DNA studies would be useful here. Just last month, someone left a note for me at Ancestry.com:

I am a direct male descendant of Zachariah Campbell and have had my DNA tested. . . . All I can tell you is that our line is dissimilar from the majority [of the] Campbell lines from Scotland, and may indicate a stronger Irish, or highland, strain of the Campbell line than is most common here in the U.S.

(2) 1850 census records show that two of Jeremiah’s siblings (ones who were still alive in 1850, obviously) were born in Virginia–his brother Zachariah Jr. in 1771 and his sister Hannah in 1777.

(3) A handwritten document of Jeremiah’s account of his service in the Revolutionary War is part of his pension claim package, found at fold3.com.

(4) Tennessee Valley Authority Reservoir Projects: Family Relocation Assistance. Statement by William R. Holden. Knoxville, Tennessee. 1963. Part of the Tennessee Valley Authority [TVA], Record Group 142, National Archives at Atlanta.

(5) A good resource for TVA grave removal records for Carter and Johnson Counties is Watauga Reservoir Cemeteries, by James L. Douthat. Mountain Press, Signal Mountain, Tennessee, 1992. The original records relating to the TVA Cemetery Relocation Program, including permits, removal orders, grave inventory sheets, maps, and field notes are now housed at the National Archives, Southeast Region. However, James Douthat says in his Introduction that not all records may be available: “A thorough search of the TVA files did not locate any of the original surveyors field notes. It is these latter records that give some additional records much sought after by the genealogical researchers.”

Related Posts
Lineage Applications
Researching Jeremiah Campbell Sr., Ancestor #2/52
An Analysis of the Existing DAR Applications for Jeremiah Campbell (1762-1843)

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4 Responses to 52 Ancestors: #2 of 52 – Jeremiah Campbell, Sr. (1762-1843)

  1. Pingback: Researching Jeremiah Campbell Sr., Ancestor #2/52 | The Shoebox Under the Bed

  2. onlyarethusa says:

    Really enjoyed your post. Also love the way you have everything documented. It makes me feel (and look) lazy!


  3. Pingback: An Analysis of the Existing DAR Applications for Jeremiah Campbell (1762-1843) | The Shoebox Under the Bed

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