Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reminiscences of Miss Willie Lea

Lea, Wilhelmina. Reminiscences of Miss Willie Lea. Copied from Manuscript in Possession of Mrs. M. H. Moore (Weaverville, North Carolina). Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, North Carolina). June 1943. Mostly a narrative account of her family, with biographical data, dates, and relationships, written in the 1930s. Typescript was made in 1943 from a manuscript lent by Mrs. W. S. Dixon.

"There have been numerous traditions about the Lea family. One was -- which has been believed by some Leas, but not by me -- that there were 3 brothers, who came from England -- that one of them changed his name to Lee and became the head of the noted Virginia Lees; another changed his to Leigh, while our family retained the original name.

"A document in my possession that professes to athentiic [authenticity], says that the ancestral home of the Lea family was Lea Hall on Lea River in Cheshire Co., England, (There is certainly a river of that name.), and that the family was descended from the nobility.

"All of which might have been verified or not, if we had thought to ask our grandfather, William Lea, who knew is grandfather, James Lea, Sr., and also his wife's grandfather, William Lea.

"However, we do know that the Lea family is noted for longevity and integrity.

"We have been thwarted in our efforts to trace the family back to England and when they came to the U.S., as the records of King and Queen Co., Va. where they first located were destroyed by the burning of the Court house by the Federals during the Civil war.

The Leas of Caswell Co., N.C.

"In 1750, two brothers, James and William Lea, English by birth, emigrated from King & Queen county, Virginia, where they first located, to the part of North Carolina, which was then known as Orange county, but afterwards Caswell and Person counties. Caswell was formed from Orange in 1777, and Person from Caswell in 1790.

"James Lea settled about 2 miles west of Leasburg, a village subsequently established and chartered by the Legislature in 188. It was named in homor of James's son William Lea, who became a very wealthy and prominent man.

"William Lea, brother of James, settled 3 miles east of Leasbury at South Hyco bridge, near Lea's Chapel, which belonged to the Established Church of England, and was built by the Lea brothers when they came to this region. It later became a Methodist church, but still retains its name.

"William Lea had a son named George, born in 1755, and 2 daughters, Anness and Eunice. George Lea had 2 sons, Vincent and William Archer. The latter married Susan Cochran. He lived and died in Leasburg and is buried in the cemetery here. After his death the family moved to Arkansas and became prominent citizens of that State. One of his grandsons, Robert Lea, a lawyer of Little Rock, becoming a Judge."

In this document, Wilhelmina Lea (1843-1936) states that her grandfather is William Lea, who knew his grandfather, James Lea, Sr., and his wife's grandfather, William Lea. Wilhelmina Lea's father is Solomon Lea (1807-1897). His father is William Lea (1776-1873) (who married Sarah McNeill). The grandfather of Wilhelmina Lea who purportedly knew his grandfather, is James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea.

James (Kilgore's Branch Lea)
Gabriel Lea
William Lea
Solomon Lea
Wilhelmina Lea

The grandfather of William Lea's wife is William (South Hico) Lea:

William (South Hico) Lea
Anness Lea m. John McNeill
Sarah McNeill m. William Lea
Solomon Lea
Wilhelmina Lea

She also states: "In 1750, two brothers, James and William Lea, English by birth, migrated from King & Queen county, Virginia, where they first located, to the part of North Carolina, which was then known as Orange county, but afterwards Caswell and Person counties. . . ."

The James Lea apparently is the James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea referenced above. Wilhelmina Lea claims that this James Lea "settled about 2 miles west of Leasburg, a village subsequently established and chartered by the Legislature in 1788. It was named in honor of Jame's son William Lea, who became a very wealthy and prominent man." This William most likely is William (Merchant) Lea (1747-1806).

Wilhelmina Lea states that the William Lea, brother of James, "settled 3 miles east of Leasburg at South Hyco bridge, near Lea's Chapel, which belonged to the Established Church of England, and was built by the Lea brothers when they came to this region. It later became a Methodist church, but still retains its name."

Wilhelmina Lea further provides with respect to this William Lea, brother of James: "William Lea had a son named George, born in 1765, and 2 daughters, Anness and Eunice. . . ." This identifies the William Lea as William (South Hico) Lea (c.1715-1804).

Now there is a problem. Some Lea family researchers question whether James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea and William (South Hico) Lea are brothers. Whether James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea or James (Country Line) Lea is the brother of William (South Hico) Lea has been argued for decades.

Further confusion results from Wilhelmina Lea's claim that this William Lea's son George was born in 1765 and had two sons, Vincent Lea and William Archer Lea (who married Susan Cochran). Many researchers believe the William Archer Lea who married Susan Cochran is a son of George W. (Cobb's Creek) Lea and provide the following ancestral outline:

William Lea
William (Cobb's Creek) Lea
George W. (Cobb's Creek) Lea
William Archer Lea

It is possible that Wilhelmina Lea confused William (South Hico) Lea and William (Cobb's Creek) Lea. However, the reference to Anness Lea and Eunice Lea as a brother of George Lea (born in 1765 and with sons Vincent Lea and William Archer Lea) may be a mistake. If so, the Lea brothers who Wilhelmina Lea claims moved to Orange County, North Carolina, in 1750 would be William (Cobb's Creek) Lea and James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea. Some researchers believe these brothers are sons of William Lea and brothers of John (Richland's Creek) Lea and Sarah Lea.

Researchers are advised to proceed with caution in this area. If Wilhelmina Lea was confused, imagine what can happen many decades later.

With respect to William Archer Lea, Wilhelmina Lea provides:

". . . The latter [William Archer Lea] married Susan Cochran. He lived and died in Leasburg and is buried in the cemetery here. After his death the family moved to Arkansas and became prominent citizens of that State. One of his grandsons, Robert Lea, a lawyer of Little Rock, becoming a Judge."

Robert James Lea was born March 10, 1852, at Princeton, Arkansas. He was the son of George Gallatin Lea and Sarah Eliza Wright. Robert studied law at the University of Virginia and returned to Arkansas to practice law by 1876. He married Georgie Passmore of Hot Springs on September 29, 1882. They lived in Little Rock, where he practiced law and served as Circuit Court Judge until his death in 1890. Robert and Georgie Lea had a daughter, Wilhelmina Lea.

Source: Lea Family Papers.

With respect to Annes/Anness Lea, Wilhelmina Lea provides:

"Annes Lea married John McNeill, and was the mother of 6 children, Hosea, George, Franky, Sarah, John, and William. After the death of her husband she married James Cochran, by whom she had 3 children, Anness, Susan, and Addison." This seems correct in that Anness Lea, daughter of William (South Hico) Lea, married first John McNeill (c.1754-1791), and second James Cochran (c.1761-1807). Wilhelmina Lea did not mention, however, the fourth child of James Cochran and Anness Lea McNeill Cochran, Aurelia Cochran, who died young.

With respect to Eunice Lea, who Wilhelmina Lea described as a sibling of the Anness Lea discussed above, Miss Lea stated:

"Eunice Lea married Alexander Rose. Their children are Alexander, Betsy, Neil and Duncan. Duncan Rose married a McAddin. Their children are John McAddin, Melinda, Catherine, Lavinia and Grandison. John McAddin Rose married Jane McNeill, daughter of George McNeill of Fayetteville, N.C." This Eunice Lea is believed to be a daughter of William (South Hico) Lea and Ann Unknown Lea.

Eunice Lea married Alexander Rose and their descendants have been traced by Dr. Ben Lacy Rose in his book Alexander Rose of Person County. Source: The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 355 (Article #443, "Capt. William Lea" by Katherine Kerr Kendall).

The following is from Rose-Steel Anthology, Ben Lacy Rose (1982) at 18:

Eunice Lea, sometimes called Nicey, was born around 1750, probably in Virginia, and moved to North Carolina with her father at an early age. She grew up on her father's plantation on South Hyco Creek in what is now Person county NC and, on May 5, 1774, married Alexander Rose, a merchant from Petersburg VA, who had purchased land near her father's farm. Eunice and Sandy had ten children: Annes, Duncan, Frances, Neill Buchanan, Alexander Jr, William, Eunice, Milton, Elizabeth Poythress, and Beverly. She and her husband were apparently members of Lea's Chapel which was then Church of England and their children were baptized by the Rev. George Micklejohn, minister of St. Matthew's Parish of Hillsboro NC. Her husband, a merchant and planter, had come from Scotland and, after a stay of several years in Petersburg VA, had moved to North Carolina around 1770. They made their home in what is now Person county, first near Roseville (named later for her son, Duncan) and on South Hyco Creek near Lea's Chapel. Eunice's husband died Apr 12, 1807 at their home where Eunice continued to live. She died some time after Mar 21, 1816 when she put her mark to a deed. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Lea's Chapel church yard.

Wilhelmina Lea then returns to James Lea, brother of William Lea, they being the two brothers who moved to Orange County, North Carolina, in 1750. See the above discussion. In this area, Miss Lea apparently confuses James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea and James (Country Line) Lea:

"James Lea, brother of William Lea married Annie -- Their children, as recorded in the book we have, which was compiled by Uncle Lorenzo Lea, are William, Polly, Gabriel, James, Betsy and Phebe. He had two other children, Major and John, according to his will. (He may have married twice.) It is recorded that he was a small man of very temperate habits. he was born in 1715 and died in 1792. His son James, always called James Lea Junior, was born in 1760. He married Ann Talbot. They had 2 sons, Major and Luke. Luke Lea, Sr., was born Nov. 26, 1739. Elizabeth Wilson, his wife was born on the same day. They were married May 4, 1759 in Caswell Co. North Carolina. They moved to the State of Franklin, (East Tenn.) shortly after the Revolution bringing a large family of boys and one daughter, 12 children in all. Luke Lea's only brother, Major Lea, Sr., died in Lowell's Valley in 1843, over 100 years old."

Where to begin?

As stated above, it appears that Wilhelmina Lea confused the families of James (Country Line) Lea and James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea. Accordingly, researchers are advised not to rely upon the foregoing quoted paragraph. Luke Lea and Major Lea are sons of James (Country Line) Lea, not of James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea. Moreover, Wilhelmina Lea goes on to state the following with respect to James Lea's son, William Lea:

"James Lea's son William was born in 1751. He married Catherine Vanhook. He was a well-to-do merchant here. It is my opinion that Leasburg was named in honor of him, instead of the first William Lea. He died in 1806, and is buried in the cemetery here, his grave marked by a common stone."

This William Lea is believed to be William (Merchant) Lea (1747-1806), son of James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea and Anne Unknown Lea (with Tolbert/Talbert claimed by some as her maiden surname).

Gabriel Lea

Wilhelmina Lea continued describing the children of James Lea (apparently James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea):

"James Lea's son, Gabriel, born in 1756, he married Elizabeth Ashburn. Their children are Vincent, William, Gabriel B., James, Elizabeth, Polly, Sally, Phebe and Barbara. Gabriel Lea was noted for his piety, high moral character and integrity. He amassed considerable property, due to industry and good management. In Civil affairs was a J.P. for a number of years, and in 1794 was a member of the State Legislature in the House of Commons. He also served in the Revolutionary War as Captain. He died in 1834, aged 76 years."

This description appears essentially correct; as does the following:

"His son [son of Gabriel Lea], William Lea, (my grandfather) married Sarah McNeill, grand daughter of the first William Lea. She was his second cousin. Their children are Willis Monro, Lorenzo, Solomon, William, Addison and Anness."

[Insert here the claims of Ben L. Rose with respect to James Lea and William Lea.]

Willis M. Lea

"Willis M. Lea [middle name seen as McNeill and Monro], a physician, married Miss Sarah Wilson of Danville, Va. They had 8 children, 5 sons and 3 daughters. Two of his sons, Willis and John were in the civil war and were killed in battle in Va. After spending several years practicing in his native place, he went to Marshall county Miss. He died in Holly Springs, Miss. aged 78."

Lorenzo Lea

"Lorenzo Lea married Miss Mary Medley of Halifax county Va. He was a Methodist preacher, and at that time belonged to the Virginia Conference. While in this work, he was elected to the presidency of Memphis Female College, located at Jackson, Tenn. He filled that position a good many years. During that time, he lost his entire family, wife and 5 children, by death in the short space of 2 years. He was highly educated, understanding a good many languages. His principal life work was teaching. He determined to be employed to the last. He died at Corinth, Miss. where he last taught, of paralysis in 1872, aged 72. Although sadly bereaved, he neve lost faith through all his trials. I will add some items about Uncle Willis's family. His son Nat was in the Civil war, served under the noted ranger, Morgan. He married and settled in southern part of Miss. Winnie married Capt. Powell. Sallie married Calhoun. Lucy married Scruggs. Uncle Willis and Lorenzo both graduated at Chapel Hill."

Thus, Wilhelmina Lea lists the following as the children of Lorenzo Lea:

Nat Lea
Winnie Lea
Sallie Lea m. Unknown Calhoun
Lucy Lea m. Unknown Scruggs

The Caswell County Historical Association ("CCHA") shows the following as the children of Lorenzo Lea:

William J. Lea
Georgianna Hunt Lea
Lorenzo E. Lea
Mary A. Lea
Sallie Lea

The CCHA also shows a second wife of Lorenzo Lea: Frances Cobb.

1850 United States Federal Census
Name: Lorenzo Lea
Age: 45
Birth Year: abt 1805
Birthplace: North Carolina
Home in 1850: District 15, Madison, Tennessee
Gender: Male
Family Number: 16
Household Members: Name Age
Lorenzo Lea 45
Mary A Lea 38
William J Lea 15
Georgiana H Lea 14
Lorenzo E Lea 9
Mary Lea 4
Martha C Jackson 45
Ann M Anderson

Was Wilhelmina Lea also confused about the family of her uncle Lorenzo Lea?

Solomon Lea

"Solomon Lea, my father, William Lea's 3rd son, married Miss Sophia Ainges [Ainger], an English lady, who was born and reared in London with every social and educational advantage. She came to this country with some friends when about 20 years of age. She expected to return to England, but began teaching in Philadelphia in the family of Dr. Shippen. Afterwards she went South and taught in a private family in Warren Co. N.C. My father, who was teaching in the town of Warrenton met her. It was love at first sight, but he was courting her for 5 years before he gained her consent to marry him. After his marriage he went to Virginia, in which state he taught for several years. Then he returned to N.C. and to Leasburg, his native place, and was conducting a school here, when elected to the presidency of Greensboro college. He served in that capacity for two years (1846 & 1847) then he resigned and came back to Leasburg.

"He then founded Somerville Female Institute a school that flourished and was extensively patronized up to the Civil War. Besides teaching, my father was a Local preacher in the Methodist church, and preached whenever opportunity afforded. He was called on to perform many marriage ceremonies, and to preach funeral sermons. He received his A.M. at Chapel Hill in 1833.

"My father was one of the most genial men, kept open house, and was almost universally popular. He loved the out-of-doors, and gardening, and was particularly fond of horse-back riding. He was exceedingly active and young in his looks and ways until his health failed. He was born 1807 and passed away in 1897 in his 90th year. My mother died in Nov. 1866, preceding him to the eternal world 31 years. He neve married again.

"To this happy, congenial union were born 8 children, 6 daughters, and 2 sons, Anness Sophia, Henrietta, Adeline, Wilhelmina, Lilianne, Eugenia, Edward Wadsworth and Robert Albert. The last died in infancy."

Anness Sophia Lea

"Anness Sophia Lea married when 20 years of age, in 1859 Dr. Leon Richmond of Oxford, Miss. After their marriage he went to Shelby Co. Tenn., 15 miles from Memphis, to live. 9 children were born to them, five of them are dead and four living, two in California and two in Shelby Co. Tenn. Thomas and Georgia live in California, Edward and Margaret in Tenn. Margaret teaches at Oakville near Memphis."

Henrietta Lea

"Henrietta Lea was born in Boydton, Va. in 1840. In 1858 she was married to Rev. M.C. Thomas a member of the North Carolina Methodist Conference. After he ceased to be active in the work of the church in which he served faithfully for many years, he too a superannuated relation and made his home in Leasburg. 10 children were born to this union, of whom only 2 survive at this time, Mrs. M. H. Moore of Weaverville, and Mrs. W.S. Dixon of Mebane.

"She passed away in Milton, N.C. in the home of her deceased son, W.L. Thomas in 1929 in her 90th year. Her mental faculties were clear to the last. She was brought to Leasburg for burial in the cemetery here, where also her husband, who preceeded [sic] her to the grave a number of years, is buried. Besides the two daughters, 23 grand children, and a number of greatgrand children survive. She was devoted to her church, and never let anything except something serious prevent her attending on its services. The missionary cause was particularly dear to her heart, a society being named for her."

Adeline Lea

"Adeline Lea, called Addie, was born in Farmville Va. in 1842. After finishing school here she went to school in Richmond Va. for one term. She was very gifted in music. During the Civil War she taught in a private family in Patrick Co. Va., for a year. Later she taught in Dr. Charles Deems school at Wilson N.C. Soon after the war, she went to Jackson, Tenn. to teach music in Uncle Lorenzo's school there, in which also Prof. B. L. Arnold, a native Virginian, taught mathematics. The intimate association resulted in marriage, which was consummated in 1867. Their union was a short one, Addie, in 1871, dying very suddenly in Bolivar Tenn, where Mr. Arnold taught after leaving Jackson, leaving 2 children, the oldest Harry, 3 years old, and a baby, John Marshall, 8 months. (The baby lived only 2 weeks after his mother's death.) I was in Tenn. at the time and Mr. Arnold with me brought the children east. I took charge of the baby and he carried Harry to his father's home in Va. Harry, a year later, was brought here to stay with us. He, after his education and spending many years in the army lives now in Oregon to which state his father went soon after Addie's death. Mr. Arnold was President of a College at Corvallis, Oregon. After Addie's death he married again, Minnie White. They had one son, Ernest, who was highly educated and very musical. He lost his life when about 25 years of age, I suppose."

Lillie Lea

"Lillie Lea was born in the old family home in Leasburg, Jan. 8, 1845. She was a rather shy sensitive child, but had a very bright studious mind. She was exceedingly fond of reading. Nothing gave her more delight than having some good interesting book to read. She was an apt student at school, and stood at the head in her classes. She was sixteen when the Civil war broke out. As the times were getting to be hard after a year or two, she was persuaded to take a private school in the upper part of Caswell, which was the beginning of almost continuous teaching for about 40 years. She has taught in Miss., Tenn., Ga. also Arkansas; but her teaching has been principally in N.C., here in Leasburg, and in other places in the state. She loved to teach, and it can be truthfully said that she was a born teacher. She has travelled extensively over the U.S. and has also been to Europe, going with a party of teachers.

"After staying single for so long a time, she was married when 49 to Mr. T. C. Neal of Caswell, a widower with 7 children, in 1894. He died in 1919. Since her widowhood she divides her time with her sister Willie and her surviving step-children, who give her the most devoted attention."

Eugenia Lea

"Eugenia Lea was born in Greensboro, N.C. Aug. 28, 1846. At the age of 22 she was married to Dr. Calvin G. Lea, of Caswell Co. He was a grandson of John C. Lea, connected in some way with our branch, but how we've never found out, though we claimed kin.

"To this union were born 8 children, Florance, Addie, Solly, Marvin, Julia, Lillian, Lucy and Lemuel. Solly died of Pneumonia, Lemmie was killed by a steam shovel. Florence married Stokes Clarke of Anson. She died in March 1931, leaving a daughter and 2 sons.

"Addie married R. T. Tomlinson. Has 2 children, Marshall Lea and Louise. She is now     living in Haughton, La. -- lived in Shreveport a number of years.

"Julia married Carl Dunlap of Anson Co. She has one son, Pines, a talented young man. He is in the army on account of difficult in obtaining a job.

"Lillian married Tom Dunlap and died in 6 months after her marriage. Lucy married Fleetwood Dunlap and has 4 children, James, Fleetwood, Jr., Lucy Lea and Roberta.

"Eugenia died Aug. 16, 1930 in her 84th year. She was living at the time in Anson Co. with her daughter Julia, to which county she went after he husband's death."

Edward Wadsworth Lea

"Edward Wadsworth Lea was born in Greensboro in 1847. He died in 1921 at the age of 74. He never married. His vocation was farming, which he liked better than anything else, as he enjoyed a free, out of doors life. He was noted for his calm, unruffled spirit, taking things as they come without worry. He was fond of singing -- had a good voice, and was a faithful attendant at Sunday school and church services. He was greatly missed in the community when he passed."

Addison Lea

"William Lea's youngest son Addison married Elizabeth Patrick of Greensboro, N.C. He received his collegiate education at Randolph Macon College, then situated in Boydton, Va. He became an itinerant Methodist preacher. While in this work, he was elected the presidency of a college in Aberdeen, Miss. and left here with his family in 1852. He lived only a few years. His wife died a year later. To their union were born 8 children, all of whom are dead.

"Uncle Addison's children were Jennie, Annie, James, Willis, Addison and Elizabeth. Two others must have died young. Jennie married a Harris. Annie never married. Elizabeth died of T.B. when just grown up. She was a very bright and attractive girl. The boys moved to Texas, James, the last of the family died a few months ago, leaving one daughter, Mrs. Gerdes of Waco, Texas. Willis never married. I believe Addison's children live in Dallas Texas."

Anness Lea

"William Lea's only daughter Anness, after declining a number of offers, married when 40 years old Mr. Yancey Wiley of Oxford, Miss., a widower with several children. She died during the Civil war after a short married life.

"Aunt Anness was a very superior woman, cultured and refined. She was a lover of flowers, and the garden at Grandpa's was beautiful with its numerous roses and other flowers. She also raised a good many potted plants."

North Carolina, Marriage Collection, 1741-2004
Name: Anniss Lea
Gender: Female
Spouse: Yancey Wiley
Spouse Gender: Male
Marriage Date: 30 Apr 1855
Marriage County: Caswell
Marriage State: North Carolina
Source: Record of this marriage may be found at the Family

Yancey Wiley was married at least three times and fathered at least seven children. The wife preceding Anness Lea was Elizabeth Anne Thompson (1812-1850), daughter of Nicholas Thompson and Lucretia Van Hook. She may have been the mother of all the children.

After Anness Lea Wiley died, Yancey Wiley married Mary M. Tankersly 21 November 1867 in Mississippi.

William Lea

"William Lea's 4th son, William Lea, Jr. married Mary Wilson, a granddaughter of John C. Lea. She was only fifteen. Early marriages were not uncommon at that period. They had 3 children, George, John and Margaret. George died in infancy and is buried in the cemetery here. William Lea, Jr. lived in Leasburg for sometime before going to Petersburg, Va., where he was a commission merchant a good many years. The firm, through the dishonesty or mismanagement of his partner, finally became insolvent, and his father, who thought it a disgrace for a 'Lea' not to pay his debts, paid everything, amounting to a good many thousands. William Lea, Jr. after months of ill health, died during the fifties in his 48th year. His last words were 'Farewell, vain world.'

"His brother Willis of Miss., who was present at his death and funeral, carried his widow and daughter back with him, for it was unheard of then for a southern woman or girl of high social standing to do any kind of work for a living.

"Later they went to Jackson Tenn. to stay with Uncle Lorenzo Lea. While there, Aunt Mary, Uncle William Lea's widow, was married to Hon. Calvin Graves of Caswell Co., N.C. who was prominent lawyer and member of one of Caswell's oldest families. His daughter Margaret was married just before the close of the Civil war to Lt. Charles I. Graves of Ga., a nephew of Calvin Graves. He belonged to the U.S. Navy, but later to the Southern one. He was as handsome and striking in appearance, as his wife was, as lovable and lovely. They began housekeeping at a country place near Rome, Ga. and he engaged in teaching for a while, but being in debt, and anxious to get out, he resolved to go to Egypt in the service of the Khedive that offered big pay. He was there for three years, during which time his wife and 5 children spent part of the time in Leasburg and part with her mother. When he returned to the U.S. they went back to Ga. He was out of debt at least, but his health had been injured and their happy married life was cut short by death some years later. After surviving him a number of years, his wife, too is dead, also all of their 5 children. The few grand children they had, we have about lost sight of.

"When Uncle William Lea died, his son, John Willis entered West Point in 1857, aged 18. He received the cadet ship from Miss. through the influence of his uncle Willis M. Lea. When the Civil war began in 1861, he resigned and came south to fight for the cause he considered right. In a battle near Williamsburg, Va. he was severely wounded and was received in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Goodrich Durfey, who gave him every attention. When he recovered he married their daughter, Maggie G. Durfey in 1862. He was then 'Capt. Lea,' but continued to rise until the became Lt. Col. N.C. Regiment of Infantry in 1863.

"When the war closed in 1865, he went into business with his brother-in-law. One day while reading his Bible, he became strongly impressed that he was called to preach. As he said afterwards, 'It is woe with me if I preach not the Gospel.' He gave up his business in which he was prospering. Although brought up in the Methodist church he joined the Episcopal to which he wife belonged and entered a Theological Sem. in 1869 to prepare himself for the ministry. He was there three years. He became rector of several different parishes in West Va. While at St. Alban's his wife suddenly died of acute indigestion, leaving an infant named Willis and 4 other children, William, Maggie Estelle, John and Ernest. Cousin Maggie Graves of Rome, Ga. took the baby and Maggie Estelle, who, unmarried is superintendent of schools in Birmingham, Ala.

"A year later in 1884 Cousin John married Mrs. Kate Wilson, who, he had known at Clifton, Albemarle Co. Va. The ceremony was performed on his death bed, he, dying fifteen days later from a carbuncle on the back of his neck. A great uncle had died in the same way. His widow took the three other children, William, John and Ernest, and was a true mother to them. She, when last heard from, was still living, aged 82, in much feebleness and nearly blind, in a Sanatorium at Charlottesville, Va.

"Rev. John W. Lea, who was my 1st cousin, has a grandson -- his namesake -- living in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He is the son of Ernest Lea, who died in Norfolk, Va. a few years after his son's birth. His widow married again. Cousin John is so much interested in the native place of his forefathers that he has been here several times. The first time he came was on his honeymoon trip. The second time, he bought an acre of land that once belonged to his g.g.g.grandfather Gabriel Lea, the property now owned by Voss Stephens, also a descendant, saying that as a matter of sentiment, he wanted to own a bit of land that belonged to one of his ancestors. He was here again in March this year, as buoyant as ever -- he is only 24 -- and full of interest about all ancestral matters. He is as affectionate in his disposition as was his generous hearted grandfather, who was born in Leasburg in 1838."

Wilhelmina Lea

"But what shall I say about my long life, so miraculously spared by an overruling Providence, for I have been near death several times. To begin -- one of my chief characteristics from childhood, has been an intense love of home, so intense that I would never be satisfied long away. Then music has been a passion with me. At the age of 7 I was playing on the piano could play anything I heard played by ear, but was 9 before I learned to play by note.

"I was 15 when I quit school -- was a pretty good scholar in everything except mathematics for which I had no particular turn. I was especially fond of writing, composition day being my delight. I had been 'on the carpet' so to speak for three years, when the Civil War broke out, the South having seceded from the North, Lincoln having become President in 1861.

"When the company, 'Leasburg Greys' was formed of which Maj. John Hambrick, a veteran of the Mexican War, was made Captain. I was requested to present the Confederate flag, which sister Lillie and myself made, for we were both expert with our needle. I shall never forget that occasion. I wish I had the address I made when presenting the flag. I stood on the front porch of our home, surrounded by a crowd of people, as well as the immediate family. Oh, how full of enthusiasm were those 'boys' who went to the war!

"Very few returned, either died of some disease or were killed in battle. So far as I know, not a soul is living today, except sister Lillie and myself, who was present.

"The war had been going on for two years, when I unwillingly consented to teach in a private family about five miles from home, and was there when the war, in which the South was defeated, practically closed by the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Va. April 8, 1865.

"Everything in the South was changed by the emancipation of our negro slaves, who, in most cases had proved so faithful, and were regarded with much affection as family servants.

"The terrible war changed me too, I was no longer a gay girl, but a somewhat settled individual, although only 20 when the war closed. I declined teaching again in the private family but in the fall of 1866, my father, thinking a change of scene might benefit me, secured for me a position as music teacher in Louisburg Female College of which Dr. Turner M. Jones was at the time president. In November of that year, my mother, who had long been in failing health, passed away, at the age of 56. I didn't return home until Christmas, a month's vacation being given then. The vacant seat in the family circle is always a sad sight.

"When I returned to Louisburg I was clad in deep mourning. I looked sad and I felt sad, too, but faithfully attended to my duties.

"At the close of the term, I was re-elected with the further inducement of an increase in salary, but I declined staying. I wanted as usual to be at home. At the end of that year, we single daughters -- three in number --begged our father to let us do our domestic work, as we had grown tired of the way some of our hired servants behaved. He very reluctantly consented, couldn't accustom himself to the idea of our doing such a thing; and so at the end of the year he said, 'Well, children, you've kept everything all right, but I want servants to do the work.' So servants a plenty we had to the end of his days.

"While at home n 1871, Uncle Lorenzo Lea who was Prof. of Mathematics in Soule College, Murfreesboro, Tenn. wrote me that a music teacher was needed in the school and that he had recommended me for the position. It was offered me and I accepted, but it proved to be anything but desirable. I was glad enough to quit at the end of the term. Uncle Lorenzo left also, not to return.

"I went to visit my sister Annes Richmond in Shelby Co. expecting to spend several weeks, but had been there only a few days when our beloved sister Addie, Mrs. Arnold, suddenly died. I have written about that sad event, and my unexpected return home and my care of the baby, who soon died.

"About that time Uncle Lorenzo had taken charge of Marshall Inst. in Marshall Co. Miss, and he wrote to me to come out and be his assistant.

"As I wasn't needed at home, I agreed to do so, but after teaching several months became dissatisfied and wrote sister Lillie to please come and take my place which she did. Instead of returning home at once, I decided to visit my sister Anness, with whom I spent some time.

"In the summer of 1872, I returned home, accompanied by Mr. Arnold who went to Va. to bring his son Harry to stay with us, his mother's people.

"While he was with us in my care in particular, Dr. Jones, who had left Louisburg College and gone to Warrenton, offered me position there, also saying that he would want me at Greensboro College, which had been burned, when it re-opened. I had to decline the offer, but a year later in the fall of 1873 went to Greensboro as I had sent my nephew to Va. to stay again with his father's people. But, alas ! my stay there was of short duration. I was already somewhat run down in health, and soon became so indisposed from indigestion that life was a burden. I kept resolutely attending to my duties, but when Christmas came, resigned. Instead of returning home at once, I accepted an invitation to visit friends in Va. I was there 7 weeks, and was greatly benefited by the change, so much so, that after all my sad experience I was foolish enough to make one more venture.

" In 1875 I procured a position in Wesleyan F. College in Brownsville Tenn. I taught there one year, and might have continued, but returned home, resolved to stay there, the rest of my life, fully convinced that home, with its varied round of duties was best for me.

"Hampered, too, as I've been ever since I had a fall backward, when in my teens, that injured my spine, causing extreme nervousness, that has prevented my going about much, or taking an active part in public affairs. I was able to do my domestic work; so did my cooking after my father's death, and, for many years until disabled. I also taught music in the school here until I quit finally. During these years at home I have done a good deal of writing for various newspapers, using a 'non de plume' most of the time. I have also improvised and composed a good deal of music, some of which has been published.

"This account wouldn't be complete without mentioning that my married sister's daughters took turns going to school here. My father used to say that he could help educate them if he couldn't leave them much. We enjoyed having them with us.

"In concluding this imperfect story of my life, I have to record, that the night of April 17, 1933, I tripped my feet in a rug in my room and had a hard fall which dislocated my right hip. I was carried to Duke Hospital, Durham, N.C. for an X ray examination. Doctors all agreed I couldn't stand an operation at my age. Nov. 9, the same year, my 90th birthday, was celebrated by some friends here, which gave me a pleasant surprise. I'm 'shut in' for good, in bed most of the time, but sit up some every day and have been trying to walk, but am convinced that I'll never succeed.

"I am thankful to say that my general health is fairly good, and my faculties still clear. I divert myself with reading and writing, glad that I can see to do that. My hearing is also good. I'm cheerfully and resignedly bearing this affliction, that has come to me in the ordering of Providence; and patiently await the end which cannot be very far off. I think I can say all is well.

"In writing this 'Lea History," I've only given the line, or branch that for 5 generations has been closely identified with Leasburg -- one family always staying here."

"One of Leasburg's most prominent citizens, who deserves more than a passing notice was William Lea, Sr. (my grandfather) son of Gabriel Lea. He was for 40 years or more, a merchant here -- was well-to-do in land, mills and negroes. He gave a collegiate education to five sons and one daughter. For many years was J.P. and also sheriff of Caswell Co. He was remarkable for industry and temperate habits. He had a power constitution -- was 6 ft. 4 in. in height and well formed. It was a familiar sight to see him riding about on horse-back, looking after his various interests, for he would never have an overseer. Hunting, especially turkey hunting was one of his favorite sports. He was a consistent member of the Methodist Church and lived a practical Christian life.

"After the marriage of his daughter Anness, who went to live in a distant State, he would never consent to break up and live around with his children; but stayed in his home with faithful servants to look after him.

"On Sunday morning's he would have the negroes at the home place come to the house where he would pray with them and exhort them to lead a good life and serve God.

"His old cook, Aunt Emily, whose husband was Ishmael Jacobs, used to say 'I beleaves in Marster's religion.' When they were set free, she and his body servant, George with his family, stayed on with him to the last. The latter called George Lea, after his old master, died a few years ago aged 104."

"Wm. Lea, son of James (A), lived and died in Leasburg -- was a dry goods merchant. His wife Katy, lived to a very old age in comfort."

William (Merchant) Lea is believed by many researchers to be a son of James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea. Miss Willie Lea apparently maintains that William (Merchant) Lea is a son of James (Country Line) Lea (referred to by her as James (A)).

"Gabriel Lea, son of James (A), lived one mile east of Leasburg, was possessed of a handsome estate, the fruit of industry & economy & good management, distinguished for his examplarly Christian character, many years a class leader, his house the home of the Methodist preachers. In civil affairs, he filled the office of J.P. and in 1796 was a member of the state Legislature in the house of commons, died in 1834, aged 76 years. His wife Elizabeth survived him serval years and died, aged 83 years."

"James Lea, son of James Lea (A) emigrated to Tennessee at an early day, settled probably in Granger (?) County, and may be the father of Major Lea & Luke Lea & Mrs. Spencer Jarnegan, grandfather of Joe, Albert & August."

Here, again, Miss Willie Lea has confused the Lea family genealogy. No reliance should be placed upon the foregoing with respect to the children of this James Lea.

"Betsy Lea married James Lea, the same known as Shoe-Book (I reckon it is) Jimmy on County [Country] Line and brother to Jane __________ John Lea."

It is Betsy Lea, daughter of James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea, who married James (Jimmy Shoe-Boot) Lea.

"Phoebe Lea and Thomas Kilgore emigrated to Tippah (?) Co. Miss. Before the writer's recollection who once saw him on a visit to the old county about 1817, when he appeared a tall, straight, tidy old gentleman, with a straight -- round tailor -- coat on, perhaps he was a local preacher."

"Lawrence Larry Lea lived at Leasburg in the best looking house at the time in the village, -- stones and painted yellow, a member of the state Legislature in the commons (?) in 1801."

"Vincent Lea was a successful merchant in Leasburg and for many years in Petersburg Va., where he was burnt out in the fire of 1812, lived many years afterward in Norfolk as the Inspector of place, having had the misfortune to lose one of his legs from white swelling, was born in '74. He had ruddy cheeks, sandy whishers and a head well covered with nicely combed hair with one active limb and a wooden leg, his companion for the last forty years, had large experience in business was well-read and talked fluently and instructively on all subjects of practical life, reasons like a philosopher, a great morality (?) [possibly moralist] in theory & practice, remarkable for neatness in person and evenness of temper, temperate in meals & drinks with faculties unimpaired, was married to Mary Voinard of Petersburg, a lady of French descent."

"Gabriel Lea followed the rest of his family, a merchant for many years in his native village, Leasburg, which was indeed the _____ of the Leas. He realized a handsome fortune and married into a family of wealth and high morals & position, a Methodist a civil _____, he has been greatly useful to the church, to society, raised a numerous family steady & industrious as the day was long, Grandfather of Edwin H. Lea."

"James Lea, a merchant, son of Gabriel Lea, lived all his life in Leasburg, Petersburg & N. York with _____ & _____, made money and lost it, doing too large a business on the credit system in '36 married the beautiful & accomplished Rebecca Meade. He was one of the noblest specimens of humanity in personal appearance, up-rightness of character and general intelligence, a free liver and venturesome trader. He was up & down, died from too much business & care about the 50th year of his age."

"Wm. Lea son of Gabriel Lea, for 40 years or more a merchant in Leasburg, was well to do in lands, mills & machines & negroes, gave a collegiate education to five sons & one daughter, many years J.P. and also sheriff of Caswell County, a consistent member of the Methodist church -- In practice a Whig to the last, remarkable for industry and temperate habits -- a person of stern integrity. He had a powerful Constitution, was 6 ft. & 4 inches in height -- died of old age -- he was in his 97th year in 1873. Grandfather of Wilhelmina Lea."

"The Lea family has been rather noted for longevity. It is naturally a strong, robust family and pretty free from organic diseases, industrious & temperate, distinguished for their moral worth and high-toned principles. The Leas stood well wherever they are.

"Solomon Lea third son of Wm. Lea was born in Nov. 1807 and died here in May 1897. He graduated at the University of N.C. (Chapel Hill) and made teaching his life work. He also became a local preacher in the Methodist church. He was one of the most genial and hospitable of persons or individuals & a man of much energy. And with few exceptions later generations have honored their good heritage by being true in all the relations of life and leading exemplary lives.

"Leasburg was a more noted place in old times than it is at present. It has ben left behind in the progress of our County -- I mean as to material progress.

"We have no R.R. -- the place is inaccessible and outsiders are not tempted to settle here. But our people enjoy the quiet atmosphere. The soil is red clay & little hills abound -- It is a healthy part of county.

"With the passing away of the single children of Solomon Lea -- Wilhelmina & Edward W -- the Lea name will entirely die out here, tho there are descendants of other names. Arthur D. Thomas, whose mother was a Lea -- wrote recently from the P.I. saying he supposed Leasburg was the same old place, and that he didn't suppose anybody would ever die of heart disease, caused by undue excitement. Walter Lea Thomas, grandson of Solomon Lea, is one of Leasburg's most enterprising & successful business men. He is intelligent & educated. He afterwards moved to Milton.

"The John C. Lea line has been well to do -- Mostly farmers & business men of this side generally -- not so well educated as the James & Wm. Lea branches, but think a great deal of their family name. The name is not likely to die out soon as sons predominate --

"The William Lea line --

"As Wm. Lea had only one descendant of that name are by no means very numerous. But there are many McNeils & Roses, descendants of his two daughters Annis & Eunice. No more cultured, refined people are to be found than the McNeils & Roses -- But not many of them live about here now."

[Editor's Note: The Eunice Lea who married Alexander Rose, and the Aness Lea who married John McNeill are daughters of William (South Hico) Lea (c.1715-1804) and Frances Unknown. This William (South Hico) Lea is not known to have a son named William Lea. Perhaps Miss Willie Lea is referring to a grandson. But, William (South Hico) Lea apparently did have only one son, George Lea (married Lucy Talbert/Tolbert).]

"At 'Lea's Chapel' are a good many graves of the old Leas --"

"As John C. Lea (A) had only one son and he lived & died in Caswell Co. It seems there can be little doubt that the Leas (B) north and south are descendants of James Lea, who emigrated to Middle Tenn. early. His descendants are the only ones we've had no record of. Letters [do not] often come to Leasburg from them -- It is a matter of regret that we are not able to throw light on what they are anxious to hear. His brother[s] Wm. & Gabriel lived & died in Leasburg & are buried there. Wm. Lea, born in 1747 -- died in 1806. Gabriel born in 1758 -- died in 1834."

[Editor's Note: The reference to John C. Lea (A) is somewhat confusing. However, this apparently is meant to be John (Country Line) Lea, who had a son named John (Canebrake) Lea (who married Mary (Polly) Stevens and Hannah Slade). The James Lea "who emigrated to Middle Tenn. early" apparently is a son of James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea. This James Lea would be a granduncle of Miss Willy Lea, being a brother of her grandfather Gabriel Lea.]

"Henrietta Lea, second daughter of Solomon Lea, was born May 24, 1840, married to Rev. M. C. Thomas June 1858, and died Oct. 12, 1929, survived by 2 daughters, Eugenia & Emma, Seven sons & 1 infant daughter preceded her. Her husband died Oct. 13, 1913.

"Anness Lea, the eldest daughter, died about 1890, I think. Edward Lea, the youngest child & only living son, died May 7, 1921. -- Adeline Lea Arnold, another daughter, died in 1871. Eugenia Lea, wife of Dr. Calvin Lea, the youngest daughter, passed away August 16, 1930 -- was born Aug. 28, 1846.

"Walter Lea Thomas, oldest son of Henrietta Lea Thomas, died Oct. 22, 1929 -- born April 11, 1864. Florence Lea Clarke died March 12, 1931 -- Born September 22, 1870. Se was the oldest daughter of Eugenia Lea.

"Wilhelmina Lea was born Nov. 9, 1843 and died at the old home place June 23, 1936, leaving one sister, Mrs. Lillie Lea Neal. Lilyanne, wife of T. C. Neal was born Jan. 8, 1845 and died April 21, 1938."


  1. Thanks for publishing this record.
    The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Forde-Beatty

  2. Thanks for posting this. I am a direct descendant of Capt. William Lea, his d. Anness Lea who m. John McNeill, to his d. Frances McNeill who maried Nathan Williams to their son, John McNeill Williams who m. Lucy Ann Courts of Rockingham Co. NC.and on. I have visited Lea's Chapel Church and feel the ties that bind. It is interesting that Francis Asbury preached here. Our faith is Methodist and our Sunday School Class just happens to be called the "Asbury Class."
    Janie Ridley Bice
    Sherman, TX

    1. Hi Janie,

      Cynthia asks if you know any male Leas interested in DNA testing. Your Lea autosomal DNA is also of great interest. She is coordinator for the Leas of Caswell County YDNA research project. Kindest regards,

      Love from Ron Beatty (Cynthia's hubsand), Montgomery, TX

    2. My name is Gregory Kyle Solomon my Grandmother was Shirley Briggs, and we are descendants of the aforementioned Leas. If you would like to contact me for any reason let me know.

    3. My name is Gregory Kyle Solomon my Grandmother was Shirley Briggs, and we are descendants of the aforementioned Leas. If you would like to contact me for any reason let me know.

    4. Sorry I left Mary Malone Stephens out after Elizabeth

  3. Connection as follows: Gabriel Lea> Elisabeth Lea>Emma Love>Annie Briggs>Shirley Solomon>Gregory K. Solomon SR> Yours truly