James Whitaker

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James Whitaker
April 3, 1779--November 3, 1871
Married Mary "Polly" Walker, September 1800, in North Carolina
Born, Swearing Creek, Rowan Co., North Carolina; interred, Andrews, Cherokee County, North Carolina
Photograph is Courtesy of Ms. Carolyn Ellertson

James Whitaker Sr.jpg

 Mary "Polly" Walker Whitaker
June 26, 1779--August 14, 1849
Married James Whitaker, September 1800, in North Carolina
Interred: Andrews, Cherokee County, North Carolina 
Mary was the first person buried in the Valley River Baptist Church Cemetery

Polly Whitaker.jpg

Buncombe County deed- book 7, page 113, April 23, 1802, 100 acres bought from Richard Hill on Woods Creek (now Garren Creek) in Fairview, North Carolina. He was Justice of the Peace from 1809-1817. He was appointed Postmaster of Swannanoa. He was elected to the County Board of Commissioners. He was Captain of the Militia. He was Treasurer of the Board of Wardens. He was elected to represent Buncombe County in the lower house of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1818, 1819, 1820, and 1823. He was deacon and clerk of Franklin Baptist Church till 1834. He was active in bringing the Word of God to the Cherokees. The Valley River Baptist Association was formed in 1839 and he was clerk till 1845. On August 14, 1865, at the age of 86 he was appointed Justice of the Peace.

The following is "A Short Memoir of the Life of James Whitaker, Esq. - written by himself". (His autobiography). James Whitaker is the son of Joshua and Mary Whitaker - was born in the State of North Carolina, Rowan County, near the place where Lexington now stands in Davidson County, on the third day of April, 1779, and was the youngest of four brothers and two sisters. Their names were John, Joshua, William, Sarah and Mary. My parents were poor but honest and industrious and therefore I was taught to work in early life upon a small farm which yielded a sufficient support for the family. As such, the chances for my Education were very small. At the age of six years however, I could read and begin to write. But in my tenth year I had to leave school entirely having only went occasionally during that period. My other brothers by this time were all grown and some or all of them married and left home, so I was called to the farm where I remained until the death of my father which happened on the lst of May, 1798 when I was in my nineteenth year. My brothers and one sister were all married. My youngest sister and myself and Mother now constituted the family and lived upon the farm.... the care and management entirely fell on me and which I attended to with care and industry for three years, or until September 1800. 1 was like many other young persons very wild in my youth, but not however, profane, having always possest a reverence for God and Religion and from almost my infancy had frequent checks of conscience for crime and I believe never permitted myself to go to sleep at night without first putting up some kind of short prayer that God would preserve my life till morning or should I die that he would take me to Himself. MY raising was rather under the high Church order and accordingly, "My Father I think in my fourth or fifth year had me sprinkled (or Baptised as he called it) by Mr. Hinkle, a preacher of the Church of England having my Godfather and Godmother in the usual way. These things however had but little weight on my mind only it served to make me learn my Catechism, etc. It might also have assisted as one cause that led me to so early to study on the subject of Religion, and ...."Yself, and soon found that for myself I must stand or fall and .... infant sprinkling as well as Godfather and Godmother were as I believe only inventions of men and unnecessary to our day,added to the Doctrines of the church without authority from the Holy Scriptures and served to lead the..... unthinking part of mankind. When I was in my thirteenth year a scene of unusual seriousness pervaded my mind. I felt some convictions for sin with a consciousness of quilt and was made to view seriously the shortness of life and certainty of death. While under these impressions of mind it was my evening employment for some months to view the setting sun with intense anxiety believing that it might be the last time I should see that bright Luminary and that I should never again witness his Rising to cheer the earth anymore. But after passing the summer in this way and some more shorter periods and also from a deep sense of the past goodness of God and a firm persuasion that his mercies would not fail and under a most solemn promise on my part that if the Lord should spare me until I should marry and become settled that then I would become religious in a proper sense of the word and serve God with a full purpose of heart. And thus it was that the disorders of my troubled conscience was made to grow easy for the moment. From this time perhaps for the space of six or seven years the mind that had been so torn to pieces became settled and calm. But surely under a false hope! But so it was I did hope and that hope was founded on the Everlasting and ...... Love of God. The faith of the universalism, the rock upon which thousands have sliden (?) and fallen to rise no more, the religion of my neighborhood at this time consisted in little more than forms. It was therefore more easy for persons of my age to slide off into vanity and crime. 

Cherokee County was formed in 1839 from Macon County. At that time, Cherokee County included all of present day Cherokee County as well as present Graham County and present Clay County.

"Days gone by...in Fairview" by Bruce Whitaker
James Whitaker, Sr. was an early settler of Fairview. Born April 3, 1779 on Swearing Creek in the Jersey Settlement of Rowan (now Davidson) County, North Carolina, he was the youngest child of Joshua Whitaker, Sr. and his wife Mary Reed. James was forced to quit school when he was ten years old due to his father's failing health (heart dropsy). According to his autobiography, at the age of 13 he became severely depressed. He "viewed the setting sun with intense anxiety, believing it might be the last time I would see that intense luminary!" Finally, James made a "most solemn promise" to God "that if the Lord would spare me until I should marry and become settled, that I would become religious in a proper sense of the work and serve God with a full purpose of heart." After making this promise, his depression disappeared. James stayed home on the farm with his parents until his father died in 1798. By then, all his brothers and sisters had married and most had moved to Fairview. But 19-year-old James and his mother, Mary, remained at home. In September 1800, James married Mary "Polly" Walker, daughter of Howard Walker of Wilkes County, North Carolina. (Mary was born in North Carolina on June 26, 1779.) A few days after his marriage, James, his wife, and his mother left for Fairview to be with the rest of his friends and relatives. On April 23, 1802, he acquired 100 acres of land from Richard Hill on Woods Creek (now Garren Creek). He settled down on this farm and began to raise his family. One day in 1803, while plowing, James recalled the promise he made to God when he was thirteen years old. This upset him greatly and he spent several years trying to decide what to do. His wife, Polly, joined French Broad Baptist Church in what is now west Henderson County (which was the nearest Baptist Church at the time) in October 1803. James did not join until May 1806. One week later, on May 10, 1806, the Cane Creek (now Fairview) Baptist Church was formed, and James and Polly became charter members. James was appointed the church's first deacon and clerk-treasurer. The Reverend Humphrey Posey and James wrote the articles of faith for the church. In March 1807, James moved his family to Swannanoa, in what is now called Lytle Cove. Swannanoa was a Presbyterian community and had no Baptist church until the 1880's. Although his new home was 10 miles away (that's walking straight over the top of the mountain) from Cane Creek Baptist Church, he continued to be one of the church's most active members. In 1812, he became the Clerk of the French Broad Baptist Association. That year he wrote his first Circular Letter for the Baptist Church, one of at least fifteen that were to come from his pen. It was entitled "The Duty of Church Members, One to the Other." In community affairs, James served as a Justice of the Peace from 1809 to 1817. He was appointed Postmaster of Swannanoa, was elected to the County Board of Commissioners, Captain of the Militia, and Treasurer of the Board of Wardens. He was elected to represent Buncombe County in the lower House of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1818, 1819, 1820, and 1823. In March 1825, James and 12 of his 13 children moved to a farm near Franklin in what is now Macon County. The next month, James and Polly were received by letter into the Franklin Baptist Church. When Macon County was formed in 1828, James Whitaker was on the first County Board of Commissioners. He represented Macon County in the General Assembly from 1828 to 1833. James also became involved in the county's road surveying. During this period, James was active with the Reverend Humphrey Posey in establishing new Baptist churches and with bringing the Word of God to the Cherokee. In 1830, James was appointed Clerk Treasurer of the Tuskaseege Baptist Association. In the book A Biography of a Southern Unionist by Jonathon Worth, James Whitaker is mentioned for his contributions toward equal representation in the General Assembly. In 1831, Whitaker called for the legislature to meet every two years instead of yearly, and for seats in the House of Commons to be based on the Federal Census population. In 1835, the North Carolina Constitution was amended to make both these changes. In March 1835, James Whitaker moved his family into what is now Cherokee County, North Carolina. For several years the surrounding settlement was called Jamesville after him. It was later changed to Valleytown, and then to Andrews. James and Polly joined the Valleytown Baptist Church that year, which had a mixed white and Indian congregation. He donated the land for the church's cemetery. The Valley River Baptist Association was formed in 1839, and James was the Clerk of the Association from 1839 to 1845. In 1838 and 1839, James lobbied for the creation of Cherokee County. He carried the resolution to the General Assembly, and when Cherokee County was formed, he became the County's first Clerk of Court and Recorder and Register of Deeds. He served his last term in the General Assembly in 1842 as the Cherokee-Macon County representative. On August 14, 1849, Mary "Polly" Whitaker died, becoming the first person buried in the Valley River Baptist Church Cemetery. In the spring of 1853, James came back to Fairview for a visit. While here, he married Mary McBrayer, widow of his old friend, James McBrayer, on May 15. James and his second wife returned to his home in Cherokee County. In August 1865, at the age of 86, James was appointed a Justice of the Peace. The next month, he was appointed to take amnesty oaths from Civil War soldiers for the Valley River Area. In 1867, James fell and dislocated his hip. He was never able to walk without crutches again, and his health began to decline. On October 31, 1871, he was confined to bed. A few hours before his death, he clasped his hands and shouted: "Glory! Glory! Glory!" He said he saw his home in heaven and tried to describe it. Someone asked if he was happy and he shouted: "Oh, yes! Happy! Happy!" At 4:50 p.m. on November 3, James died at the age of 92. The following March 20, his second wife, Mary McBrayer Whitaker, also died. James and both of his wives are buried in Valley River Cemetery in Andrews. James Whitaker, Sr. was described as being a man "of great intellect, high character, and unsullied reputation." He was said to have done as much for the Baptist Church as any man in the state.

James and Polly Whitaker had 13 children:
1. Sarah (1801-38). Born in Fairview. Married Benjamin Mann. Died in McDowell County, North Carolina.
2. William (born 1803 in Fairview). Married Anna Ervin in Macon County, North Carolina, and moved to Georgia.
3. James, Jr. (1804-99). Born in Fairview. Married Nancy Kyle. Died in Andrews.
4. Elizabeth (1806-52). Born in Fairview. Married Spencer Shearer. In 1843, they moved to Cypress, Titus (now Franklin County), Texas. She died there of pneumonia.
5. Jesse (1808-91). Born in Swannanoa. Married Caroline Ervin. They moved to Georgia. He died in Whitfield County, Georgia.
6. Joshua (1809-86). Born in Swannanoa. Married Lydia Burgin. They moved to Edneyville in Henderson County, North Carolina, where he died.
7. Mary "Polly" (1812-1902). Born in Swannanoa. Married Samuel Jarvis. They moved to Cherokee County, Georgia. Died in Georgia.
8. Stephen (1814-1900). Born in Swannanoa. Married Elizabeth Taylor. They lived in Andrews. Stephen, a Major in the Confederate Army, led the last battle of the Civil War, the "Battle of Hanging Dog." He died in Andrews.
9. Lettice (born 1816 in Swannanoa). Married Garret Taylor.
10. John (born 1818 in Swannanoa). The first Postmaster of what is now Andrews. Moved to Arkansas, and later Oklahoma. Worked for years on Mississippi River boats.
11. Silas (1820-1916). Born in Swannanoa. Married Rebecca Allison. They lived in Cherrylog in Gilmer County, Georgia.
12. Adeline (1822-1907). Born in Swannanoa. Married Robert Paul Dunkin. They moved to Loudon County, Tennessee, where she died.
13. Carolina (Born 1825 in Swannanoa). Married John Kimsey.

Father: Joshua WHITAKER b: 22 JAN 1734/35 in Bradford, Chester County PA
Mother: Mary REED b: 31 OCT 1748 in New Jersey

Marriage 1 Mary Polly WALKER b: 26 JUN 1779 Married: 21 SEP 1800 in North Carolina

Children Sarah WHITAKER b: 25 SEP 1801 William WHITAKER b: 23 FEB 1803 James Jr WHITAKER b: 15 AUG 1804 in Fairview, Buncombe County, North Carolina Elizabeth WHITAKER b: 8 MAY 1806 Jesse WHITAKER b: 26 FEB 1808 Joshua WHITAKER b: 4 OCT 1809 in Swannanoa, Buncombe County, North Carolina Mary Polly WHITAKER b: 12 MAR 1812 Steven WHITAKER b: 9 FEB 1814 in North Carolina Lettice WHITAKER b: 10 JAN 1816 John WHITAKER b: 2 FEB 1818 Adeline WHITAKER b: 18 AUG 1822 in Buncombe, North Carolina Caroline WHITAKER b: 7 JAN 1825 Silas WHITAKER b: 20 JUL 1820 in Swannanoa, Buncombe County, North Carolina.

Credits: I am indebted to Carolyn Ellertson, Bruce Whitaker, Linda Anders, Barry LeRoy Burdett, Bev Otis, and the Macon County Historical Society & Museum for their dedication, assistance and contributions with the James and Stephen Whitaker material and information.

Recommended Reading: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy, 2nd Edition. Description: A very helpful genealogy reference! It is extremely helpful if you're in the "I want to trace my roots, ancestors, family tree and heritage. How do I begin, where do I start, and how do I go about doing it?" situation. It contains numerous helpful common sense tips that will prevent future headaches and a lot of well thought out suggestions and tips too. One helpful hint: "Talk with your extended family and interview them for genealogy information, be patient with them, and let them tell their stories....document everything." There are plenty of well-mannered tips like these that elevate this book to excellence. A lot of the confusing aspects of genealogical research such as document requests and providing proof and evidence are well covered. RATED 5 STARS. Continued below...

Customer's Review: I bought this book when I hadn't yet done any research at all about my family history. A year and a half later, I have a file drawer full of information, and I have needed no other reference. I also bought a book called "The Source", which is supposed to be the 'genealogist's bible', and it has been a giant paperweight in comparison. Idiot's genealogy is full of the kind of practical information that can carry you through years of research. Happy hunting!!!

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Editor's Recommended Reading: Western North Carolina: A History from 1730 to 1913 (Hardcover: 679 pages). Description: From the introduction to the appendix, this volume is filled with interesting information. Covering seventeen counties—Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, and Yancey—the author conducted about ten years searching and gathering materials. Continued below...

About the Author: John Preston Arthur was born in 1851 in Columbia, South Carolina. After relocating to Asheville, North Carolina, in 1887, he was appointed Secretary of the Street Railway Company, and subsequently the Manager and Superintendent until 1894. Later, after becoming a lawyer, he was encouraged by the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) to write a history of western North Carolina.


Recommended Reading: Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Hardcover) (1328 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press), Description: The first single-volume reference to the events, institutions, and cultural forces that have defined the state, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is a landmark publication that will serve those who love and live in North Carolina for generations to come. Editor William S. Powell, whom the Raleigh News & Observer described as a "living repository of information on all things North Carolinian," spent fifteen years developing this volume. With contributions by more than 550 volunteer writers—including scholars, librarians, journalists, and many others—it is a true "people's encyclopedia" of North Carolina. Continued below...

The volume includes more than 2,000 entries, presented alphabetically, consisting of longer essays on major subjects, briefer entries, and short summaries and definitions. Most entries include suggestions for further reading. Centered on history and the humanities, topics covered include agriculture; arts and architecture; business and industry; the Civil War; culture and customs; education; geography; geology, mining, and archaeology; government, politics, and law; media; medicine, science, and technology; military history; natural environment; organizations, clubs, and foundations; people, languages, and immigration; places and historic preservation; precolonial and colonial history; recreation and tourism; religion; and transportation. An informative and engaging compendium, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is abundantly illustrated with 400 photographs and maps. It is both a celebration and a gift—from the citizens of North Carolina, to the citizens of North Carolina. "Truly an exhaustive and exciting view of every aspect of the Old North State!”


Recommended Reading: The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina (Hardcover). Description: The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina constitutes the most comprehensive and inclusive single-volume chronicle of the state’s storied past to date, culminating with an attentive look at recent events that have transformed North Carolina into a southern megastate. Integrating tales of famous pioneers, statesmen, soldiers, farmers, captains of industry, activists, and community leaders with more marginalized voices, including those of Native Americans, African Americans, and women, Milton Ready gives readers a view of North Carolina that encompasses perspectives and personalities from the coast, "tobacco road," the Piedmont, and the mountains in this sweeping history of the Tar Heel State. The first such volume in more than two decades, Ready’s work offers a distinctive view of the state’s history built from myriad stories and episodes. The Tar Heel State is enhanced by one hundred and ninety illustrations and five maps. Continued below...

Ready begins with a study of the state’s geography and then invites readers to revisit dramatic struggles of the American Revolution and Civil War, the early history of Cherokees, the impact of slavery as an institution, the rise of industrial mills, and the changes wrought by modern information-based technologies since 1970. Mixing spirited anecdotes and illustrative statistics, Ready describes the rich Native American culture found by John White in 1585, the chartered chaos of North Carolina’s proprietary settlement, and the chronic distrust of government that grew out of settlement patterns and the colony’s early political economy. He challenges the perception of relaxed intellectualism attributed to the "Rip van Winkle" state, the notion that slavery was a relatively benign institution in North Carolina, and the commonly accepted interpretation of Reconstruction in the state. Ready also discusses how the woman suffrage movement pushed North Carolina into a hesitant twentieth-century progressivism. In perhaps his most significant contribution to North Carolina’s historical record, Ready continues his narrative past the benchmark of World War II and into the twenty-first century. From the civil rights struggle to the building of research triangles, triads, and parks, Ready recounts the events that have fueled North Carolina’s accelerated development in recent years and the many challenges that have accompanied such rapid growth, especially those of population change and environmental degradation.


Recommended Reading: Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads (Touring the Backroads). Editorial Review: This guidebook, unlike most, is so encyclopedic in scope that I give it as a gift to newcomers to the area. It is also an invaluable reference for the visitor who wants to see more than the fabulous Biltmore Estate. Even though I am a native of the area, I learned nearly everything I know about Western North Carolina from this book alone and it is my primary reference. I am still amazed at how much fact, history and folklore [just enough to bring alive the curve of the road, the odd landmark, the abandoned building] is packed in its 300 pages. The author, who must have collapsed from exhaustion when she finished it, takes you on a detailed tour, laid out by the tenth of the mile, of carefully drawn sections of backroads that you can follow leisurely without getting lost. Continued below...

The author is completely absent from the text. The lucid style will please readers who want the facts, not editorial comment. This book, as well as the others in this publisher's backroads series, makes an excellent gift for anyone, especially the many seniors who have relocated, or are considering relocating to this fascinating region. It is also a valuable reference for natives, like me, who didn't know how much they didn't know.

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