Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Obediah Florance (1740-1816)

Obediah Florance Family (Caswell County, NC)

The story of a family is recorded here as an example to show where most of the settlers came from, how land was obtained, kind of homes built, and the disappearance of all the descendants from Anderson township. The place from whence this family came is the same as most other settlers, Virginia.

Obediah Florance (1740-1816) was born in Prince William County, Virginia, and on land that his great grandfather, William, received by grant. It was located on Ocaequan Creek, now Lake Jackson. The family later moved from there to Fauquier County, and then to Culpepper, Virginia, where Obediah's mother, Littice, daughter of German immigrants, Tilman and Anna Margaret (Cuntz) Whitescarver, lived and whose occupation was that of blacksmith. From that shop came the only long fish-tail hinges made in America. Obediah Florance served in the Revolutionary War, the Militia, and was assigned to the Border Patrol. From a book, "House of Hill" by Katheryn Hill Arbogast, a descendant of Obediah Florance's brother, Elder William Florance, Jr. we quote:

"Every non-commissioned officer who enlised for duration would receive a 400 acre land grant (Hennings Statute, Vol. IX, page 179 and Vol. X, page 161.)

Obediah Florance was offered free land in North Carolina. In 1778, one year after Caswell County was formed, he arrived in what later became Anderson township. The land was on the headwaters of Jordan Creek and consisted of seventy-seven acres. This place is now known as that of Sidney Yancey Florance (1853-1938), a descendant, who was the son of Empson, son of Tolliver, son of Obediah.

On May 29, 1778 Obediah Florance tentatively received a land grant of 300 acres, and on October 1, 1779 he received another adjoining tract of seventy-seven acres on which he resided. More than twenty years later, 1800, the patents were received and the grants became official.

He was not of the first settlers to come to the County. The first wave arrived some forty years earlier. However, Obediah was the first Florance to come to Caswell County. Evidence supports the statement that he returned to Culpepper, Virginia, upon the death of his grandfather Whitescarver in 1780. It is assumed that while there he secured and brought back long fish-tail hinges and other necessary hardware with which to build his first home.

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While in Caswell County, Obediah Florance and Phebe Bowland were married. Shortly after 1780 he built a house of white oak logs, and used the half dove-tail notch. The length was twenty feet and the width eighteen. The chimney was of rock and the fireplace carried the trammel, and adjustable pothook and crane. The base of the rafters were mortised to fit the V-Cut top logs. The top of the rafters were double jointed and pegged. On the roof wide boards supported the oak shingles. One window was on each side of the fireplace. Small four-pane windows were upstairs. The other end of the house carried center windows. Floor and ceiling were of wide boards. Center front and back doors swung on long fish-tail hinges. Locks of that day were used. A separate log kitchen stood nearby. A spring was close to the house.

The first child born in the house was William Florance in 1783. On Nov. 6, 1808, he married Martha "Patsey" Pleasant. According to members of the Florance family of Benton County, Tenn., "Patesy" was a full sister of Elder Stephen Pleasant (1779-1852) who was a leader of the missionary and benevolent movement which brought about the "split" within the Baptist Churches. As a result he organized Clement Baptist Church, Person County, N.C. and was father of the Beulah Association of which the 150th anniversary is to be observed in 1984. However, some of the genealogists of Person County indicated that Elder Pleasant had no full sister. (Heritage of Person County, N.C., 1981, Vol I.)

The second child of Obediah and Phebe was Tolliver, who married Elizabeth Bird. He and his brother William remained in Caswell County the remainder of their lives. The other children were: James, who married Nancy Roberts; John, who married Rebecca Roberts; Lettice, who married Joseph Cantrell in Caswell County on Nov. 11, 1814, witnessed by Tolliver Florance and Math. G. Muzzall; Delpheney, who married Moses S. Simpson on Oct. 22, 1804, witnessed by Hugh Walker. All of the latter four left Caswell County on a very long wagon train in 1818 and settled in Boone County, Kentucky.

Clustered around Culpepper, Virginia, were six Baptist churches. It appears that most of the Florance family continued their Baptist affiliation. Obediah is believed to have been a member of Lynch's Creek Baptist Church on Corbett Ridge, N.C. William and Tolliver Florance were staunch members of Bush Arbor Church where William served as clerk for thirty-five years.

In 1804 Obediah Florance purchased two additional tracts of land on South Country Line Creek. On the 355 acre tract he resided. it was later known as the "BillY Florance-Graham Miles farm. The 78 acre parcel became known as the George Baynes farm. Also in 1815 Obediah Florance bought an adjoining tract of 150 acres which is now owned by "Jim" Hall.

Obediah Florance died Feb. 8, 1816. It was his wish to be buried on the highest knoll of the farm on which he resided. In the same month Phebe died and was buried beside her husband. From appearance of the graves, two children and one more adult were buried there. No one knows who the children were. A very much loved black woman stayed all her life with the Florance family. It is believed that she was buried in the same cemetery.

All graves were marked by native stones. From 1935 to 1945 Nathaniel S. Gregory, along with his sisters, brothers and mother, lived on the same farm, in the same house, and cared for Flora "Florilla" (Warren) Florance (1862-1950), widow of William A. "Billy" Florance (1849-1922). According to a recent statement of Nathaniel S. Gregory "Miss Florilla" asked that he and others go with her about twice per year and clean off the family cemetery. While the work was in progress she always related something about each one buried there. She never forgot to state that Obediah was the first Florance to come to Caswell County.

Recently descendants of the family erected a monument in the Florance plot at Bush Arbor Church in memory of Obediah "Flourence." A part of the script is in error in that it stated he was "buried on his original plantation." In fact he was buried on the 355 acre tract he purchased in 1804.

Two hundred years after Obdiah Florance built his first log cabin in Anderson township, Robert H. Florance of Arlington, Virginia, a descendant of Elder William Florance, Jr., and brother of Obediah, bought the cabin on Jan. 7, 1983 from Billy Jones, present owner. The cabin was given to James Lee Florance, Jr. of Route 1, Box 215-C, Efland, N.C. 27243. The cabin was dismantled and moved near his home in Cedar Grove township, Orange County, N.C. Wide board ceiling and weather boarding were removed. Hone was removed from between the upstairs floor and ceiling. Bees were captured and hived.

On the day the logs were moved cousins present and helping were: Robert H. Florance of Arlington, Virginia; Tom Florance of Manchester, Tennessee; Bruce Florance of Efland, N.C.; and Same Florance of Mebane, N.C.

By help of his father, Rev. James "Buster" Florance, Tom Williams, and Wesley McKinney, James L. Florance restored the two hundred year old log cabin. Plans are to use it as a guest house. Presently no direct descendants of Obediah Florance live in Anderson township.

This preservation and restoration project followed many years of family research, special interest and appreciation of family heritage on the part of James Lee Florance, Jr., who knows more about his ancestors than any other living person. Gratitude is expresse to him for sharing the essential facts for composition of this story.

Source: From Rabbit Shuffle to Collins Hill: Stories of Southern Caswell County, North Carolina, Millard Quentin Plumblee (1984).

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