Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Bicknells and "When did the War of 1812 begin?" (A question college students often fail)

“When Did the War of 1812 Begin?”—

Here's an open-ended story about my Uncle Thomas Bicknell and his Nephew Thomas Bicknell

A piece from the Internet:
“Posey Reeder
Born 1788 in Bertie, NC
Husband of Nancy M. (Asbill) Bicknell — married March 4, 1801 in Randolf, NC
Died 1812 in Kings Mountain Battle, War of 1812.”

Another piece from the Internet:
 “Thomas [Bicknell] fought with Posey Reeder in the Battle of 1812 where Posey was killed at Kings Hill. Posey asked Thomas to please take care of his wife after he died. After Thomas's first wife died in 1812, he married Nancy and took care of her for the rest of her life.”

Another piece from the Internet:
Posey Reeder fought with Thomas Bicknell in the Battle of 1812. As he lay dying at Kings Mountain, he begged Thomas to please take care of his wife. After Thomas' wife died in 1812 birthing their 13th child, Thomas married Posey's wife Nancy Asbill and together they had 10 more children. Nancy was a full blooded Native American Indian.

More from the Internet: 
Posey Reeder. Posey married Mary Nancy Asbill on 4 Mar 1801 in Randolph, Nc.  Mary Nancy Asbill  was born in 1787 in Wilkes Co., Ga. She died on 25 Jan 1869 in Madison Co., Ky.

So Posey Reeder married at 13 or so in Randolf, NC (or Randolph). Well, there were Posey and Reeder people in Randolph County, VA, so Posey seems real, as in the real actress, Parker Posey. I am a member of Fold3 but I still have not found when and where “Posey Reeder” died—presumably not at “King’s Hill” or even “King’s Mountain,” where the great battle took place on October 7, 1780, before Reeder was born, in would seem.  The Thomas Bicknell who (in fact) married Reeder’s widow filed for his Revolutionary pension in Madison County Kentucky on October 1, 1832, but he may never have served in the War of 1812. I have not mastered the intricacies of Fold3 and other resources, but I can’t find any record of a Thomas Bicknell (Becknell, Bignal, however spelled) or Posey Reeder (however spelled) in the War of 1812. The Thomas Bicknell who received his mortal wound at King’s Mountain was the uncle of the Thomas Bicknell who married the widow Reeder, and my uncle by marriage, the husband of Rachel Sparks Bicknell.

            There were two Wilkes County Thomas Bicknells at or near King’s Mountain on 7 October 1780.  The older one, born in 1751, who charged up the hill on horseback and was struck in the hip with a ball fired by Ferguson’s men, and his young nephew (born in 1763), son of his brother Samuel, who was nearby, guarding the “baggage waggons” but not fighting. [You had to be right there to fight in the hour-long battle at King’s Mountain. Many of the pension applicants say they were on the way but arrived too late; some say they heard gunfire. My Grandfather Robert Knox says his officer, James Johnston (his brother-in-law, although he does not say so) had sent him away on “some business.”] Other Bicknells besides the two Thomases were there. The mammoth Bicknell Genealogy says that the Rev Ila J. Bicknell, of Indiana, wrote in 1880 that his grandfather, Samuel, was in the Revolutionary War, and that a brother was killed at his side at the battle of King’s Mountain in 1780.” Perhaps almost true—if he was there and was nearby when his brother Thomas was grievously wounded. ROSTER OF SOLDIERS FROM NORTH CAROLINA IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (p. 57) lists James and Thomas Bicknell and on 65 William Bicknell. Katherine Keogh White in THE KING’S MOUNTAIN MEN has this: Bicknell. James, John, and Thomas were at King’s Mountain. The last was a Wilkes county man under Cleveland. He was killed early in the battle.” (148). Thomas Bicknell was indeed a Wilkes County man under Cleveland, and was grievously wounded early in the battle. Other close kin of the Bicknells were there.  At least one in-law of the older Thomas, John Sparks, was at King’s Mountain. On 430 the Bicknell Genealogy says that the Fains “largely intermarried with the Bicknells,” and that five Fain brothers “took part in the battle of Kings Mountain, the youngest being at the time only 16 years old.” ONE HEROIC HOUR AT KING’S MOUNTAIN by Pat Alderman lists Samuel and Nicholas Fain on p. 59 and Captain John Fain on p. 65. ROSTER OF SOLDIERS FROM NORTH CAROLINA IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION lists William Fain on p. 8.  Lymon C. Draper’s great book, KING’S MOUNTAIN AND ITS HEROES (1881) on 261 says, “Daniel Siske and Thomas Bicknell were among the killed of the Wilkes regimennt, as the manuscript records of that county show.” On 304 Draper expands the comment: “Of the Wilkes and Surry men, under Cleveland and Winston, we have only the names of two men killed—Thomas Bicknell, and Daniel Siske, of Wilkes County.” Others, he knew, were wounded, and he thought there must have been others who were killed.”

            In December 3, 1845 in the Pickens District of South Carolina Mrs. Rachel Biecknell, aged 88, declared that her late husband, Thomas Biecknell or Bicknell “entered the service under Captain Richard Allen” from Wilkes Co., NC and that “he marched much through North & South Carolina, and served at various times under Captain Lanore [Lenoir], Colonel Cleveland [probably Benjamin Cleveland, as says the great transcriber of pension applications, Will Graves], and Colonel Hearne. He “was wounded with an ounce ball in his hip in the Battle at Kings Mountain, with which wound he died, and was carried to Burke County near Morganton, to the house of Mrs. Bowman, where declarant went and waited upon him with his wound eleven weeks, at the end of which time he died.” Someone says "horse litter." I would have thought 4 Tory prisoners, told not to drop him during the 2 or 3 or 4 day journey to Morganton. In 1851, at the age of 94, Aunt Rachel was still trying to obtain a pension. The VA today is devoutly carrying on the tradition of delay.

            In the October 1, 1832 pension application in Kentucky the younger Thomas Becknel made this claim: “He volunteered some time in August 1780 in the County of Wilks in the State of North Carolina. His Colonel was by the name of Benjamin Cleveland. His Major was by the name of Jesse Walton. His Captain by the name of Larkin Cleveland. He left the service some time in March 1781. The date he entered the service he is unable to state correctly, but he knows it was within a few days of the time of the battle of Kings mountain, he thinks not more than ten or twelve days. he rendezvoused at Wilks courthouse and marched on towards Kings Mountain and was guarding the baggage waggons at the time of the engagement, from there he marched to the barracks, and staid there some time guarding the prisoners.” He got his pension and at the age of 93, in 1757, applied for bounty land under the act of 1855. He was allowed 160 acres of Bounty land under warrant 61274.

            Great names are in these applications, the larger than life Whig Colonel Benjamin Cleveland and his brother Larkin; Larkin Cleveland was co-executor of Jesse Walton’s will, and Clevelands and Waltons married. Richard Allen survived to apply for his pension in 1832 at the age of 90.  A captain under Benjamin Cleveland, Allen in late September 178- answered his call for troops against Patrick Ferguson. They joined up with “Col Campbell with a body of troops from Virginia, as also by Cols Sevier, Shelby and McDowell with the troops from North Carolina. After a junction of the troops was formed, as most of them had horses, it was proposed that all those who had horses or could procure them should advance immediately upon Ferguson. This deponent had a horse, and was anxious to proceed with the main army, but as a great many were on foot and would necessarily be left behind, it became necessary that the charge of those should be committed to some officer. . . . In this state of affairs, Col Cleveland thought proper to order this deponent to remain in charge of the foot men, and he accordingly done so. They continued their march however with all possible speed in the direction of Kings Mountain, but was not able to reach it in time to engage in the battle; it having been fought and the Americans, with their prisoners being on their return some short distance before they met with them. When they rejoined the army, they continued with them and assisted in guarding the prisoners until they proceeded as far as the Moravian Towns in the County of Stokes . . . .”[slightly corrected from the photocopy in Fold3] William Lenoir survived to make his claim at the age of 82 in which he describes his joining Captain Jesse Walton’s body of minute Men in 1776 and fighting on through the next years, including King’s Mountain. Like Allen, he describes the decision to leave behind “all those who had been unable to procure horses”—about 1500 left behind, he figured, and 700 horsemen going on. Many other pension applicants confirmed parts of the stories of the two Thomas Bicknells, among them John Parmly or Parmley, John Burgey or Amburgey, Roger Turner, Amos Church, Benjamin Hammons. Jacob Stamper, Snead Davis (who served at King’s Mountain in Benjamin Cleveland’s regiment under “Captain Becknell,” the older Thomas Becknell, who was fatally wounded there).

            In THE PATRIOTS AT KINGS MOUNTAIN Bobby Moss distinguishes the two Thomases:

THOMAS BECKNEL (Bicknell, Bicknold) b. March 1763 Albemarle Co. VA. While a resident of Wilkes Co. N.C. Thomas Becknel enlisted sometime in August 1780 under Capt. Larkin Cleveland & Col. Benjamin Cleveland. He marched to Kings Mountain & guarded the baggage wagons during the battle. After the battle, he guarded prisoners. He was discharged in March 1781. Becknel was allowed pension on his application executed 1 Oct 1832 while residing in Madison Co, KY- FPA

BIECKNELL (Beicknell, Biecknell, THOMAS d. 31 Dec 1780 m. Rachel Sparks 22 Oct 1774 Wilkes Co. NC. The widow of Thomas Biecknell alleged that he was a private & lieutenant. He enlisted under Cpt. (later Col.) Richard Allen while residing in Wilkes Co. N.C, & was at the siege of Charleston. He served at various times under Cols. Lenoir, Cleveland & Hearne (?). After being wounded in the hip by a ball in the battle at Kings Mountain, he was carried to the house of a certain Bowman near Morgantown, NC. His wife joined him there & a tended his wounds until he died 11 weeks later. The couple had 6 children. Mary, the baby married Davis Roper. Rachel applied for pension 3 Dec 1845 while residing in Pickens Dist. SC & aged 88 years. FPA R12399--------------------------------------------

            The plaque on the 1909 Kings Mountain obelisk lists Private Thomas Bicknell killed. Was the older Thomas a Lieutenant or Captain? According to this plaque, “Thomas Bicknell was born in Amherst County Virginia to William and Rosanna Cash Bicknall. Before 1770, he and his brother Samuel had moved to Swan Creek in Rowan (divided into Surry (1770), then Washington (1776) then Wilkes (1777) County North Carolina. In 1774, Thomas married Rachel Sparks at “the meeting place” near the forks of the Yadkin. These scant imprecise details bespeak much of the history of the settlers of the frontier.”

            Descendants of the younger Thomas Bicknell, the one who married the widow Reeder, confused him with his uncle Thomas Bicknell. Here’s a claim about the younger TM: THOMAS BICKNELL was born 1763 in Albermarle Co., and died 1833 in Madison County Kentucky. He married (1) MARY MATHUSON 1783 in Wilkes North Carolina.

This Thomas Bicknell’s first wife, Mary Matheson (1765-about 1812) according to a descendant “died after bearing her 14th child while Thomas was fighting the War of 1812.”

More: He married (2) NANCY MELINDA AZBILL REEDER December 29, 1814 in Estill County Kentucky.
Burial: 1833, Wilkes North Carolina
Military service: Fought in the Rev. War
Married to a friend of Thomas who died in the War of 1812. She had 4 children by Reeder.

From another Internet site:
Thomas Bicknell married Mary Mathuson of North Carolina, but she died in 1812.
During the War of 1812, Thomas again joined the army. His close friend, a man
named Reeder, was critically wounded and, as he lay dying, asked Thomas to take
care of his wife, Nancy, and his four children.
After the war was over, Thomas married Nancy Reeder and they were the parents of
nine children. They became very devout Christians and were baptised into the
Baptist faith beneath the famous oak tree at Boonesborough. [This tree I have not found anything about—presumably over a creek.]

Some of this is true, but I’ll bet you that this Thomas Bicknell was not buried in Wilkes County, NC. He could have fought in the War of 1812. He could have married the Widow Reeder at the end of 1814, and done so in Estill Co. KY, just east of Madison Co. Descendants of Bicknell and Mary Matheson may speak out now, to clarify matters. Some of the Matheson children lived in Estill and Madison Counties and some of them married Asbills (or Azbills), and some of the children of Nancy Reeder romanticized American Damon and Pythias. Thomas Bicknell may have taken care of Nancy Reeder as long as he lived, but he seems not to have taken care of her children by Reeder:

From the Internet:
Nancy was taken to court for not bringing up her children properly. The following is from the Estill Co. court records. Page 136, 17 July, 1815, Summons against Nancy Reeder alias Becknell, charged incapable of bringing up her children in a honest manner. Aaron Reeder age about 9 bound out to David W. Bullock to learn the occupation of a cabinet maker. Arras [Aaron] Reeder bound to same. Elizabeth Reeder bound to Henry Beatty to learn the trade of housewifery, and John Reeder to learn the trade of millwright to Henry Beatty. The orphans of Roosey [sic] Reeder.

There were indeed Reeders in Madison County, KY, including Aaron and Amos, who survived their childhood. Perpend.

There is one admirable sceptic, “dwatts48” :Title: Doubts regarding Thomas Becknell and Posey Reeder's War of 1812 Service. Attached To: Posey Reeder (1788-1812). In looking for Thomas (or Posey Reeder) in the muster of soldiers in "Kentucky Soldiers of the War of 1812: With an Added Index By Kentucky Adjutant-General's Office" I can not find Thomas E. Bicknell or "Becknell." I find Linsfield Bicknell, his younger brother who served very admirably, but not Thomas under any variation of the name. Thomas did serve in the Revolutionary War and I believe his pension derives from that. In addition there is no mention of Posey Reeder in the same muster for Kentucky in 1812. Indeed the only record that appears online about Posey is his marriage record. Posey's children were real and the records on them and his grandchildren are significant but where is Posey? Also the story being reprinted again and again is that Posey died at the Battle of King's Mountain in the War of 1812. That battle was a Revolutionary War battle, not a War of 1812 battle.  I believe Posey existed but there is a dearth of records at a time when numerous records are becoming available on and other sites as well. The story of Posey dying on the battlefield and asking Tomas Becknell to take care of his wife is a good story but it appears to be exactly that. I have been researching Posey's children and there are some records on the children and very good ones for the grandchildren.   We must stop perpetuating stories that have no proof.  If anyone has proof of either man's  service in the war of 1812 please advise me.

If I find where Posey Reeder died presumably I will find when and where Thomas Bicknell served in the War of 1812, if he did. Meanwhile, best wishes to “dwatts48”.


  1. Hi I have been so very confused as to whether my Ancestor was the daughter of Linsfield Becknell or Thomas Becknell as information I am finding supports both. Her name is Elizabeth Becknell and she married Ross Asbill the son of William Asbill and Elizabeth Ross. Ross' mother was a full blook Cherokee native and her Cherokee name was Nar-nee. Do you have any information as to which brother could possibly be her father? Thank you!

  2. Linsfield had a daughter named Elizabeth who was born in 1839