The nomadic nature of our McCorkle-Morrison-Purviance-Thomas Folks

I attempt to include in this compilation a genealogy of Alexander & "Nancy" Agnes(s) Montgomery McCorkle and as many of their children as practicable.  I don't know how to do an Ahnentafel.



            These folks were Scots-Irish emigrants from Northern Ireland to:


(1)      Lancaster County & Harrisburg, Pennsylvania [Harrisburg is now in Dauphin County].  Please see references to Robert McCorkle’s maternal uncle Rev. Joseph Montgomery, 1733-1794, in Dauphin County.  [Mrs. Alexander McCorkle I, née "Nancy" Agnes Montgomery, had a brother named Joseph Montgomery.]  A Presbyterian minister, Joseph Montgomery was a member of the Continental Congress, was connected with Princeton University, and married as one of his wives Rachel Rush (widow of Angus Boyce), a sister to the Dr. Benjamin Rush of Revolutionary Era fame (and of a wee bit of notoriety for improvident persistence in using leeches to bleed hapless patients, one of whom was George Washington);

(2)      down the Great Wagon Road of the 18th century to Rockbridge County, Virginia, in the area of Lexington, whence some of the McCorkle and Thomas and Houston families are thought to have traveled together;  some remained there; others (ours) migrated on down to:


(3)      Rowan County, NC (Iredell County was carved off in 1788) and other sites in the Piedmont of North Carolina near Salisbury and Statesville near Charlotte—particularly around the Thyatira Presbyterian Church near today's Mooresville.  Samuel Eusebius McCorkle, the eldest son & fortunate enough to have studied at the precursor of Princeton with his uncle Joseph Montgomery, was a founder of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


 [2007 update:  This past winter I found a piece of paper from Elmira Sloan McCorkle Roache, at my mom's old house, which states that her father Robert McCorkle was "educated at Chapel Hill."]  I believe it was from Rowan County, NC, that Robert McCorkle and two of his brothers (Joseph and William) went directly exploring into Kentucky in the environs of today's Lexington.  They appear on the records in the formation of Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church.  Some records, but not ours, indicate that at least three McCorkle brothers joined Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church, viz., Joseph, William, and Robert McCorkle.  Elmira Sloan McCorkle Roache wrote that her father Robert McCorkle, with brothers Joseph and William, was in the "second company" of [white] men to move into Kentucky, and that they had many perilous adventures during their insurgency, often being forced to take refuge within a primitive fort.  I doubt Elmira meant that her father was in the militia.


          Evidently, some of these folks, excluding Robert, William, and Joseph McCorkle, went directly from Rowan County, NC, to Middle Tennessee.  Most of Northern Middle Tennessee at that time was known as Sumner County (today, the county seat of Sumner Co. is Gallatin, and the county seat of Wilson Co. is Lebanon); and they lingered a while in:


(4)      Sumner County, Tennessee, near Lebanon and Gallatin (Northern Middle Tennessee excluding Nashville and Davidson County).  We should look for some of them at the organization circa 1793 of Shiloh Presbyterian Church just outside today's Gallatin.  The Barr family was prominent amongst the members of Shiloh Presbyterian Church, but I'm not sure exactly of the degree of kinship these Barr folks had to Robert McCorkle's sister Elizabeth McCorkle Barr (I think she herself was at Shiloh Presbyterian Church, and I know her brother William McCorkle was there....);


(5)      then with escape by some from Hostilities in Sumner County, Tennessee, up to Cane Ridge and Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky; and Logan County, Kentucky, either before or after John Purviance (a son of John & Mary Jane Wasson Purviance) was “scalped” in Sumner Co., Tennessee, in 1792. 

     [The John Purviance who was “scalped” and died tragically in 1792 was a son of Rowan County, NC, Revolutionary War soldier John Purviance and wife Mary Jane Wasson (Purviance).]  More work needs to be done looking for McCorkles' tracks in Kentucky, certainly around Cane Ridge and Paris, Kentucky; and at Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church near Lexington, Kentucky;    --and once having been established in Kentucky:


(6)      some family members, such as church “elderDavid Purviance (another son of Rev. War Lt. [but postbellum called “Colonel”] John Purviance and Mary Jane Wasson Purviance), remained in Bourbon County, Kentucky, then later on moved farther north to Preble County, Ohio, to “New Paris.”  It was from New Paris, Ohio, that church "elder" David Purviance founded Miami University of Ohio and often served as its president pro tempore.  (Today's young Garner Huie, son of Joseph Headden Huie & Ann Livingston Huie of Knoxville, Tennessee, is a recent graduate of Miami University of Ohio.)  This David Purviance was a brother to Elizabeth Purviance Thomas, the mother of Mrs. Edwin Alexander McCorkle of Dyer County, Tennessee (née Jane Maxwell Thomas). (--I think Jane Maxwell Thomas McCorkle was named after her Purviance-Thomas mother's [Elizabeth Purviance Thomas's] sister, a  Mrs. Jane Purviance Maxwell.)


     As examples of the nomadic nature of these pioneers,

     of the nine (9) children of Alexander & Agnes Montgomery McCorkle's son Joseph McCorkle & wife Margaret (Snoddy) McCorkle:  an Agnes McCorkle was born 1778 in Rowan County, NC, but died in Miami County, Ohio;  a John McCorkle (d. 1829) and a Martha McCorkle, b. 1788, were born in Fayette Co., Ky., a Mary McCorkle [Edwards] was born in Bourbon Co., Ky. and an Amanda McCorkle was born ca. 1802 in perhaps Tenn. & died in Cass County, Indiana.—The source for the previous sentence about Joseph McCorkle's children is Carol Byler.

     Another good example comes from the Morrison family.  Andrew B. Morrison, born 18th July 1780 in Iredell County, NC, died in 1853 in Preble County, Ohio.  His marriage was in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  --This Andrew B. Morrison's father, Andrew Morrison, 1754-1780, was a 1st cousin to our Margaret MORRISON McCorkle (1770-1848). --By the way, the ANDREW MORRISON who is buried at Thyatira Presbyterian Church cemetery is an uncle of "our" ancestor Andrew Morrison (the father of Margaret Morrison McCorkle). The Andrew Morrison (uncle of our Andrew Morrison, father of Margaret Morrison McCorkle) who is buried at Thyatira was a brother to the William Morrison (1704-1771) who settled Third Creek in what is today in Iredell County (Loray Community near Statesville), but was then Rowan County.   It's this William Morrison, 1704-1771, who called himself the "first inhabitor" of that country.  Eighteenth-century colonial records kept by the Moravian bishop August Gottlieb Spanenberg (of the United Brethren or Unitas Fratrem of Czech origin) mention an isolated, almost inaccessible, mill at Third Creek (founded by this William Morrison, 1704-1771).  --;


(7)      but with others—such as Robert McCorkle & his 1st wife Lizzie Elizabeth Blythe McCorkle, and Robert's brother William McCorkle [1st wife Peggy Blythe] and William’s 2nd wife (“Mattie”)  Martha King McCorkle, the widow of the “scalped” John Purviance), and we think “colonelJohn Purviance & wife Mary Jane Wasson Purviance—going back southward, either from the environs of Bourbon & Logan Counties, Ky., or Preble County, Ohioto the area of Gallatin and Lebanon in Middle Tennessee.


     Elmira Sloan McCorkle Roache wrote that her father Robert and her uncle William McCorkle lost their wives after moving back down to Middle Tennessee, and that William’s 2nd wife “Mattie” King died on the way from North Carolina in what was then wilderness and was buried on the trail in a “rude grave.”  James M. Richmond, however, thinks there is evidence Martha King (widow Purviance) McCorkle may be buried at Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church’s King Cemetery near Gallatin.  (Perhaps Elmira would have considered that, at the time, a "rude grave.") Then, in Sumner County, Tennessee, in 1800 William McCorkle was to marry a 3rd wife, Jane or "Jennie" Graham.

William’s brother Robert McCorkle trekked back to Rowan County, North Carolina, to marry “Peggy” Margaret Morrison (McCorkle) and fetch her westward, eventually to Middle Tennessee.  By then at least, certain Morrison lands whereon Margaret lived adjoined certain McCorkle lands in this part of NC;

(8)      then, receipt by brothers Robert & William McCorkle of their father Alexander McCorkle’s 2400+-acre Revolutionary War land grant which, they thought, had been set aside for them in Rutherford County (Murfreesborough), Tennessee.  Recipients of land grants had to get precise plats identified and set aside for them in the locality--county--where the land actually did lie, and in the age of poor communication often land claims conflicted; if so, the race became as lawyer's say a race to the courthouse; often, that is, the race became a question of who got the claim recorded first in the local courthouse.

They, and some of the associated Morrisons including Margaret Morrison McCorkle's sister Mary Morrison Morrison, who married her 1st cousin John Morrison, a son of Patrick Morrison) settled on Bradley's Creek and  Stone’s River). "What happened to the poor children [if any] of Aunt Mary (Morrison Morrion)?" inquired Elmira Sloan McCorkle Roache in a letter to her mother, Margaret Morrison McCorkle.  --I had not known until very recently that at least some of the Rowan County /later Iredell County/ Morrisons lived  for a while--if not longer-- in Middle Tennessee; but got this from a letter recently found that had been written from Mary Morrison Morrison by then residing in Coffee County, Tennesseee, to her sister's son and her nephew Robert Andrew Hope McCorkle by then residing in Dyer County. Aunt Mary tells of having received a one-dollar bill from her nephew Edwin Alexander McCorkle residing in Dyer County, and asks to be remembered to Quincy Roache, Elmira Sloan McCorkle Roache's son, whom Mary remembers as having played sweetly as a little child on Bradley's Creek.

 The Revolutionary War land grant to Alexander McCorkle I was to be lost circa 1826 in title-dispute litigation. (Records of litigation consumed in Murfreesboro fire during Civil War.) This Rutherford County land had been devised to the two brothers upon their father’s death in 1800 in Rowan County, NC.  The father Alexander I was interred at Thyatira Presbyterian Church beside the wife who predeceased him, “Nancy” Agnes Montgomery McCorkle, and beside his 2nd wife and widow, Rebecca [McNeeley?] Brandon McCorkle.

A letter written by Alexander McCorkle II in the year 1820, from Giles County, Tennessee (Giles County was formed in 1810 from Maury County and was and is bounded on the south by Alabama) back to homefolk in Rowan County, NC, states that his brother ROBERT McCORKLE had recognized his brother Alexander only from Alexander's voice, when Alexander had paid Robert & family a visit in Rutherford County, Tennessee.  From that letter one concludes that Robert McCorkle was blind at least as early as 1820.  -- Robert's brother Alexander McCorkle II married Katie or Catherine Morrison (a 1st-cousin-once-removed, or was it 1st cousin--to Margaret Morrison McCorkle).

Alexander II's niece Elmira said her uncle Alexander II was "emotional in character and joined the Methodists."  I posit that any group might seem emotional compared to the staid, stiff, rigorously correct Old-Style Presbyterians.  Alexander who by now referred to himself as "Alexander Snr" moved on a bit north to Henry County, Tennessee, which includes the town of Paris.  --;


(9)         then Robert McCorkle -- but not his brother William McCorkle who had died in 1818 in Rutherford Co., Tennessee -- removed westwardly to Dyer County in the newly opened western district of Tennessee to claim land granted in lieu of land from which they had been disseised in Rutherford County litigation—with nearby towns first Yorkville (Gibson County, Tennessee) and then, after the Civil War, Newbern (Dyer County), Tennessee. Robert McCorkle died in the spring of 1828 (April), very soon after removing to Dyer County in the newly opened Western District;


(10)       one of Robert McCorkle and William McCorkle’s sisters who remained in North Carolina, Nancy Agnes(s) McCorkle Ramsay or, earlier, Ramsey (Mrs. Robert Ramsay), and her husband and progeny, engaged in correspondence with family members who had removed westwardly into Tennessee.  These papers lie in the Archives at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and are not included here. One should also check in the archives for papers filed under the name of William McCorkle.

     Nancy Agnes McCorkle Ramsay 's siblings included Samuel Eusebius McCorkle about whom much has been written and who also remained behind in North Carolina. Samuel, a founder of UNC, was a Princeton graduate (actually, of the precursor to Princeton) and recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.     Samuel's wife Margaret Gillespie McCorkle was a daughter to Elizabeth Maxwell (widow Gillespie) Steele, 1733-1790, patriot notable who kept an inn in Salisbury, where she encouraged General Nathaniel Greene in the dark hours of the Revolutionary War and for the war effort gave him all the specie she owned.  The local Rowan Co. DAR group is the Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter of DAR. Margaret Gillespie McCorkle's father was killed in an Indian uprising at Fort Dobbs just outside today's Statesville, NC (Iredell County), and her mother married again.  Elizabeth Steele & daughter Margaret Gillespie McCorkle are buried at Thyatira Presbyterian Church. Cemetery; 

(11)       one of Robert McCorkle’s putative paternal uncles, although not in our records, may have been a Francis McCorkle.  Francis McCorkle was Robert's uncle only if Robert's father Alexander McCorkle I was sired by Matthew McCorkle, which I rather doubt, although I believe Alexander & Francis McCorkle were surely cousins.  Whatever kin he was, this Francis McCorkle was a major in the Revolutionary War “patriot” army, surviving the battles of  Ramseur’s or Ramsour’s Mill, Cowpens, King’s Mountain, and Torrence’s or Tarrant’s Tavern. 

     I cannot yet accept that this Major Francis McCorkle was a brother to, inter alia, “our” Alexander McCorkle, Sr., the latter having been buried at Thyatira Presbyterian Church in 1800.  Others’ records (not ours) say that Francis came over with his immigrant parents and is buried beside what is now Lake Norman (created by Duke Power Company circa 1960) in a McCorkle family cemetery.

      I’ve not yet researched the kinship, if any, of the second wives of Alexander McCorkle [Sr., who died in 1800] and of Major Francis McCorkle: viz., Rebecca [ possibly: McNeely] Brandon McCorkle alias Mrs. Alexander McCorkle (buried Thyatira Presbyterian, beside Alexander & Alexander McCorkle’s 1st wife Agnes “Nancy” Montgomery McCorkle) and ElizabethBetsyBrandon McCorkle, alias Mrs. Francis McCorkle, buried near NC Hwy 150 beside Francis.  I wouldn't be surprised, though, to learn these two Brandon-McCorkle women were sisters. One anonymous listing on shows Rebecca as Rebecca (McNeely) Brandon (the 2nd Mrs. Alexander McCorkle); I do not know about this McNeely name.  Betsy Brandon [Mrs. Francis McCorkle], daughter of “Squire Richard Brandon, as a 14-year-old girl in 1791 prepared breakfast for General George Washington, by then President, although she knew not his identity until he had eaten and was to depart for his reception at Salisbury, some 6 miles away. The President had ridden from Charlotte on his way to Salisbury.  [NC Highway Marker at US Highway 29.]


Why did so many Scots leave Scotland for Northern Ireland circa 1700?


We know that an English monarch, King James I (1603-1625) of Scottish background himself, strove to plant Scots in Northern Ireland to try to 'civilise' the 'savage' (and Roman Catholic) Irish; and that the Ulster Plantation in Northern Ireland as encouraged by the king grew sporadically.  That royal effort to intermix English/Scots with the Irish is the genesis of today's troubles between the 'native' Roman Catholic Irish in Ulster, on the one hand, and on the other hand the Protestant 'English' incomers to the Ulster Plantation (mainly sent from Scotland).  Heavy migration continued until roughly 1700 from Scotland to fulfill the king's design for Ulster.  The north of Ireland officially became Northern Ireland (British-ruled) after the southern revolution resulted in the free state of Eire or southern Ireland.  Now, of course, the Republic of Ireland (Eire, and mostly Roman Catholic) is a member of the European Union; as is Northern Ireland, although Northern Ireland is still technically part of the United Kingdom (The UK comprises: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England).

Well, then, why did so many Scots disembark from Northern Ireland?

The very success of these Scottish incomers in Ireland sealed the economic doom of many, in that their success in the wool business caused economic dislocation in the wool industry in England. The British Parliament reacted by passing protective Woolen Acts which placed restrictive tariffs on foreign woolen goods coming into England.  When Irish woolens lost their major market, thus depression struck Northern Ireland, and about the year 1718 began a long period of immigration to the New World from Ulster.  -- I suspect but do not know except from others' records (not ours kept in West Tennessee) that our Scots-Irish McCorkle-Morrison people formed part of this economically displaced Scotland-to-Northern-Ireland-to-New-World group.


We know that our McCorkles came from Pennsylvania down the Great-Wagon-Road of the 19th century from Pennsylvania.  (History reveals the path of the Great Wagon Road:  Schuylkill River, Philadelphia; to the Susquehanna River in what was then Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; to York, PA; to Gettysburg, PA; to Maryland; then southward to the Shenandoah Valley.)

I think (but am not certain) that the McCorkles that were prominently represented in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, around Staunton, were kin to ours.    An old letter of Margaret Morrison McCorkle included in this compilation writes to her daughter Elmira that she, Margaret, thinks her brother Andrew Sloan Morrison might have been at that time living up in Virginia "to attend an old lawsuit" brought there about disputed land ownership.


Cities in Virginia that sprang up along the Great Wagon Road included Staunton, and the other set of McCorkles were there.  Then the Great Wagon Road turned southward to North Carolina, with Salisbury developing as the end town in NC.  I think our McCorkles arrived from Pennsylvania into Rowan County near Salisbury circa 1754.


Why did our particular McCorkle-Morrisons leave Pennsylvania for North Carolina?

I do not know, as we have no records stating the reason for exodus.  These people tended to be Presbyterian ministers, which meant they were literate and, indeed, college graduates; or they were in kinship with Presbyterian ministers who taught them to be literate.  Literary accomplishments notwithstanding, probably they left Pennsylvania because land there became scarce causing prices to rise.  That's speculation by me. Maybe they just were filled with wanderlust.


Although good demographic studies are, I think, nonexistent for the Piedmont of NC in the early-  to mid-eighteenth century, I've read that it was the Highland Scots, generally, who removed to the Piedmont of NC, while lowland Scots had tended to settle with the English more on the coast around Cape Fear, NC.  I do not know if this is correct. Many immigrants to NC were like our McCorkle-Morrison ancestors who had spent one generation in Pennsylvania--our particular McCorkles, recall, had landed at what they called Harris' Ferry (Harrisburg) but must have been Philadelphia (perhaps I'm wrong:  was there a river they took from Northern Ireland directly into today's Harrisburg?) --but others from Northern Ireland after landing in Philadelphia went directly to the NC coast as first-generation Americans.)



Who was the immigrant father of our immigrant son Alexander McCorkle I ?  --Samuel McCorkle? Matthew McCorkle? James McCorkle?


Choice One:  Samuel McCorkle:

Our West Tennessee records do not definitively state the name of the father of Alexander McCorkle but some other records name Alexander McCorkle's father as Samuel.  [I do not know about this SAMUEL business.] 

Choice Two:  Matthew McCorkle of Mecklenburg County, NC:

Update added in 2007:  this winter I found at my mother Joyce Cope Huie's old house on the Dyer-Gibson county line in western Tennessee a leaf of paper handwritten in pencil by Elmira Sloan McCorkle Roache.  The leaf mostly chronicles the contagion of cholera and its rapid deaths in her community, presumably in Gosport, Indiana (I'm not certain of the location as Elmira lived in numerous places after leaving North Carolina & Tennessee).  On one page of this leaf, someone else's hand, presumably Elmira's sons or one of her grandsons, has written in pencil beside the name of our Alexander McCorkle (died in 1800):  "father: MATTHEW McCORKLE."  This is interesting but not dispositive of the issue as mistakes recur in the genealogy as written by the descendants of the two long-surviving sons of Elmira (viz., Addison Locke Roache, Snr., & Robt. Quincy Roach).

Choice Three: James McCorkle

I think I've read that Roman Catholic priest Louis McCorkle identified the father of Alexander as James McCorkle; but I don't have Msgnr. McCorkle's book.  Based on my awareness of his intensive genealogical studies, I would tend to go with his decision, although once circa 1980 I dared to telephone him in his monastery(?) --living quarters--in Missouri (?), I think it was; and he was grumpy with me; he did sound aged, though, and perhaps he couldn't hear me very well.  Unfortunately, at that particular time in my life, I thought I didn't have the extra money to spend frivolously on buying his McCorkle book.  Now of course I wish I had splurged....




     I’ve tempted time by waiting over 20 years to make all this information publicly available. The good thing about my procrastination is the advent of the Internet, which has afforded us much more genealogical  information than our mere old family records kept in West Tennessee (Yorkville-Newbern).

     Photographs of my husband and of me follow.  We live most of the time in San Antonio, Texas, but part of my heart is on the county line between Dyer and Gibson Counties, Tennessee. My theory in publishing now, finally in 2006, is that it’s better to make a full effort, replete with errors of commission and omission, than it is to wait for a perfect edition.