Saturday, May 12, 2018

John De Graff Wemple (1809-1873)

Courtesy Carolina Caswell
Dr. John De Graff Wemple, D.D.S. (1809-1873) was born in or near what today is Fonda, New York, which is around 200 miles almost due north of New York City. In 1823, 14-year-old Wemple reportedly moved to New York City and served seven years as a harness-maker's apprentice. Wemple family history tells that, after completing his New York apprenticeship, 21-year-old Wemple moved to Petersburg, Virginia, where he worked one year. His occupation there is not known.

The period between 1831 and 1840 is uncertain. The earliest record of his Caswell County presence is as a witness in a February 1, 1840, deed of trust given by Richard W. Jackson to secure an indebtedness to Owen McAleer. An abstract of that deed is set forth below. Wemple would have been thirty years old.

Wemple obviously was interested in dentistry, and, according to a letter written to his cousin Fonda Wemple (also a dentist), in 1840 John Wemple studied dentistry in Utica, New York, with a Dr. Kendall. Further, according to that letter, he then moved to Caswell County, but shortly thereafter, in 1841, Wemple studied dentistry at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, from which institution he claimed to have graduated. In March of 1841 he married Dorothy Gwynn in Caswell County. Their first child was born July 26, 1843, in Caswell County.

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Around 1843, Wemple built what today is called the Shelton House west of Yanceyville, North Carolina.

Dr. Wemple apparently was successful in his dental practice and was able to acquire substantial wealth. The 1850 United States census shows him owning real estate valued at $2,000. By 1860, this amount had grown to $10,000, and with personal property valued at $7,000 (possibly slaves). It also is likely that his wife, Dorothy Gwynn (1813-1886) brought significant assets to the marriage (land and slaves she inherited).

John De Graff Wemple and Dorothy Gwynn Wemple had four children, three of whom achieved adulthood. All were born in Caswell County:

Maria Temperance Wemple (1843-1900)
Laura Wemple (1845-1906)
Orlando Wemple (1848-1914)
Elizabeth Wemple (1851-1851)

Caswell County Deed Book EE, Page344-345/Kendal #2 at 291

Richard W. Jackson (in debt to Owen McAleer for $63.75, for $360 on open account) to Sterling S. Kent, for $1, negro girl Milley; boy Mitchell about 10 yrs old; horse, buggy, cattle, furniture; 200 lbs cotton yarn; 210 acres on South Country Line Creek adjoining Alanson Howard, Thomas Boswell, same known as Gregory tract. 1 February 1840. Witnesses: Jno K. Graves, Jno D. Wemple.

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