This article first appeared in November 2010 on my other blog. All of the genealogy studies are currently being edited and relocated.
The Search for Zedekiah Ledbetter, Part 2
Question 1 – What was his date of birth?
The information found on the Internet covers a wide range. Dates range anywhere from circa 1740 to almost 1760. The reason for any single approximation is based upon how old he must have been at the time of a major life event (i.e. marriage or the birth of a child). Such a broad range makes researchers wonder if there could be more than one man by the name of Zedekiah Ledbetter. I, for one, do not think so. I believe that every piece of information found pertains to only one individual. With that in mind, let’s examine the details.
His year of birth was given in both Ledbetters from Virginia and Ledbetters Revisited. The specific date comes from a handwritten note “To Benjamin Bell” that lists all “Children Borne [sic] to Charles Ledbetter and his wife francis [sic].” Not only are the children’s names given, but their dates of birth are also. The addressee, Benjamin Bell, married Elizabeth “Betsey” Ledbetter and was therefore the brother-in-law of Zedekiah. Bell died in 1843 in Montgomery Co., NC so this paper obviously predates that. I personally think that Zedekiah himself wrote the note based upon my unprofessional comparison of his handwriting on the page with that found on another letter that he sent to Bell in 1809. (Compare the 3 examples below.) The writing is bigger on the first paper but the letters are made in the same way. Although the page is unsigned it tells the recipient that if he has any questions the reader should “ceap [sic] it till I come and perhaps I can unriddle it.” According to this paper Zedekiah Ledbetter’s date of birth is August 27, 1758. (Source: NC State Archives, “The W.K. Littleton Collection,” P.C. #227.1.)
It is also known that Zedekiah was born in Brunswick Co., VA and left with his parents at the time of the American Revolution. The Tories of Brunswick ran the Yankee-sympathizing Ledbetter family from the area. They moved to Anson Co., VA.
- Timeline entry 1 – born 27 Aug. 1758.
- Timeline entry 2 – left Brunswick Co., VA and settled in Anson Co., NC in 1774.
- Atlas point 1 – Brunswick Co., VA which is located near the VA/NC state line in the middle portion of the state.
- Atlas point 2 – Anson Co., NC which is located in the lower Piedmont region near the current NC/SC state line.
- US History note – Revolutionary War, family sympathetic to the patriot cause.
Question 2 – Can all known documents be attributed to one individual?
Several deeds, wills, census records, and family obituaries from various locations across the then-United States cite the name of Zedekiah Ledbetter. Do these all reference life events for only one man?
In my opinion, yes. The most obvious point is that no other Ledbetter family was known to have a child by that name. It does not appear to be one of the distinct trademark names that was used in different generations or extended family like Drury and Grey were. Barring the discovery of another birth record or finding an event that cannot “fit” into his normal lifespan, there is no reason to invent another person by that name.
- February 1779 – Zedekiah Ledbetter is on the 2nd list that petitioners from the upper end of the county sent to the governor, council, and assembly asking for Anson to be divided into 2 counties. (Source: Anson County, North Carolina: Abstracts of Early Records compiled by May Wilson McBee, c. 1978, p. 136.) U.S. History Note – the Revolutionary War was not over.
- Montgomery County Tax List, 1782 – His name appears and the entry shows the following: invalid, 50 acres, 2 slaves. (Source: Anson County, North Carolina: Abstracts of Early Records compiled by May Wilson McBee, c. 1978, p. 145. *This would be the ONLY record that might cause me to believe in a 2nd man by the name of Zedekiah Ledbetter due to the “invalid” listing. I do not know much about the tax so I cannot determine if it means he was aged and unable to work, or if it means that he failed to meet a standard requirement for a certain taxable commodity (which would make the word mean “not valid”). Since anywhere to 1/4 to 1/3 of the names on the list have the designation of “invalid” I tend to believe it to mean “not valid.” The other meaning designates a significant portion of the population as elderly and/or infirm.
- February 17, 1784 – He was named specifically as son-in-law in the will of David Hyde. (Source:Northampton County, North Carolina 1759-1808 Gennealogical Abstracts of Wills by Margaret M. Hofmann. Will #233, page 348 and proven in June Court 1785.) Atlas Note: Northampton Co., NC is across the state line from Brunswick Co., VA.
- The 1st U.S. Federal Census, 1790 – He resided in Fayette District of Anson Co., NC. This is the ONLY place that the name Zedekiah Ledbetter appears in that census ANYWHERE. If there was another Zedekiah Ledbetter living he would most likely be enumerated. The entry shows that he is a male above the age of 16 (he would be approximately 32), there were 2 free white males under 16, 5 free white females, and 6 slaves enumerated with him.
- July 21, 1791 – Zedekiah Ledbetter witnessed a sale of land between Van Swearingen and Stephen Hyde, both of Anson. (Source: Anson County, North Carolina: Abstracts of Early Records compiled by May Wilson McBee, c. 1978, p.62 – original found in county deed book B#2, p. 405.) I believe that Stephen Hyde was Zedekiah’s brother-in-law (his wife’s brother, as per the above mentioned will. Theories about his various wives will not be discussed in this article).
- The 2nd U.S. Federal Census, 1800 – He resided in Montgomery County, North Carolina This county was formed from Anson County. There were 3 free white males 16-25, 1 male 26-44 (he would be approximately 42), 2 free white females under the age of 10, and 1 free white female 16-25. There was only 1 free white person over the age of 25 (himself) and 6 slaves for a total of 14 people in the household.
- July 31,1809 – He wrote a letter that begins, “My Dear Bro and Sister,” and specifically names the addressee as Bro. Bell in two places within the body of the letter. He tells of preaching a sermon from 1 Timothy 6:6 the day before (Sunday, July 30th). He later tells about how good the crops are in what he calls “this part of the world” and tells how many bushels he has seen “go up the river since I came here.” He signs his name “Zed Ledbetter” and his location is given as “Stewart County, Ten.” (Source: This letter is probably from the Benjamin Bell files listed above, however, I obtained my copy from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Benjamin Bell served as a soldier and someone that descends from him submitted the document as part of her proofs for membership. Copies of the paper may be ordered through the DAR library. Atlas note: Stewart County, TN is near the confluence of the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Ohio rivers, which happens north of this location near what is now Paducah, Kentucky.
- February, 1810 – Zedekiah Ledbetter is one of five men appointed by the court in Caldwell County, KY to view a road from the state line on the Tennessee River for the nearest and best way to Harry Darnal’s and to report at the next court. (Source: Caldwell County, Kentucky Court Order Book B1, page 70 for the Jan/Feb/May court session.)
- Tax lists for 1810-1814 – Zedekiah Ledbetter is listed in Caldwell County lists. (Source: Caldwell County, Kentucky Tax Lists compiled by Don Simmons. Note that I mentioned in the earlier edition of this article that I had not viewed these. I viewed them in April, 2014.)
- Interspersed among these are deeds, notes having to do with putting children into apprenticeships, and other sundry legal procedures. They all happen prior to 1811 and they all fit into the time line for the known Zedekiah.
Question 3 – When did Zedekiah Ledbetter die and where?
At this point most Internet sources say that he died in 1811 in Montgomery County, North Carolina. Why do they make such a claim? I suspect that back in the days when research was done completely by visiting courthouses and archives, someone lost his trail after the 1810 census in Montgomery County, NC and assumed that he died there. This supposition has been repeated without verification as fact ever since!
I believe he died after 1820 and most likely in Louisiana. That is a few years and many miles away from 1811 in North Carolina! Here are a few more “Zedekiah Ledbetter” sightings and citings that seem to indicate that the man lived longer than earlier researchers supposed. It is also why it is important to make that case that there was only 1 person by the name of Zedekiah Ledbetter alive at that time.
- 1812 – Zedekiah Ledbetter claimed land west of the Pearl River in what is now Louisiana. (Source: The Library of Congress, document found here or here Under “A Century of Lawmaking” and is on page 387 and in record dates 1820.)
- 1820 – He is found in the 4th U. S. Federal Census in Thompson Creek, Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. His name is spelled “Zebediah” Ledbetter and Ancestry.com has it indexed as Lebediah Ledbetter even though the two capital “L”s are not identical. I think it is safe to assume that this is the same person as the Zedekiah Ledbetter who filed a claim on land in the region in 1812. In the census, the household contains 1 free white male 16-25, 1 free white male age 45 or older (he would be approximately 62), and two slaves: 1 male 26-44 and 1 female over the age of 45. Everyone in the household is engaged in agriculture. If there had been another man by that name and of this age, he should surely have appeared in at least one of the other federal census abstracts, but none did. It seems reasonable to assume that the head of household named “Zebediah” is the older man and not the 16-25 year old. The man who is over the age of 45 is the correct age to be the same Zedekiah Ledbetter that was born on August 27, 1758.
Why did I say that it is necessary to have a knowledge of religion and basic US history? These are necessary to explain his movements. It is not known how many children he had, but it is known that he definitely had two daughters. His daughter, Oney Ledbetter married first to James Raiford and later to George Shankle. This family moved to Wilcox County, Alabama. Oney Shankle is buried there in the Capell Cemetery. Her obituary is found in the book Marriage and Death Notices from the Southern Christian Advocate, Vol: 1, 1837-1860, page 372 by Brent H. Holcomb. Oney was born in 1781 in Montgomery Co., NC and her parents were Zedekiah and Tabitha Ledbetter according to the same source. It also states that in April of the previous year (prior to her death in Feb. 1855) she stopped in Camden to see her sister.
Oney’s sister was Lucy H. Ledbetter who first married Aaron Baldwin and then Jonathan Mason. Lucy’s obituary also appeared in the same source but in Vol. 2: 1861-1867, page 203. It states that she was born in N.C. in 1792 or 3, that she moved to Alabama in 1817, and that she was the daughter of Rev. Zedekiah Ledbetter.
Several things can be gleaned from these obituaries. One is that the family was on the move from North Carolina in the early 1800’s. This is because land was opened up along several trails following the Revolution and the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson, a citizen living in an area near to Zedekiah’s location when he sent his letter to Benjamin Bell in 1809, made his way to the Gulf of Mexico along the Natchez Trail during that era of history. I have no doubt that Zedekiah did likewise.
As far as religious history in the USA, the family was Methodist. Zedekiah was known to have been preaching as early as 1809 when he wrote to his brother-in-law. Since the denomination was known for its circuit riding preachers it can be assumed that he traveled to preach the gospel.
Given the facts that Zedekiah Ledbetter’s two known daughters lived in southern Alabama in the early 1800’s, that he was known to have lived in Tennessee at about the same time, and a man by this distinctive name filed a claim for land in a territory a little further west than where his daughters resided it is not unreasonable to assume that the man who filed the claim was the same Zedekiah Ledbetter. Therefore, my conclusion is that Zedekiah Ledbetter died after the census of 1820 and probably in Louisiana.
Do you have any further information about Zedekiah Ledbetter?
***Note: This is one of the most popular posts to receive hits at its former location. Here are a few of the comments that were left there. Feel free to add your own here.