Some notes on the FARLEY line -- Obediah, Daniel, Elijah, Newton -- 1757 through 1863

Contributed by Gary Farley, Conyers, Georgia - Oct/1996

In 1832 Obediah Farley appeared before a judge in Columbiana, Alabama, to give a deposition in which he requested a pension for service in the Revolutionary War. The bad news is that it was denied. (His tours of duty did not total up to the required six months of service.) The good news is that it tells about some of the events and some of the movement of our common ancestor, one of thousands of Americans who moved Westward in the first 50 years of the history of the United States. When my aunt, Nancy Wood, first shared a copy of this pension request with me about 25 years ago, I was living near one of the places mentioned in the request, Sevier County, Tennessee. An interesting hobby resulted. What follows is a summary of what I have found about the first three generations of this family.


His pension request indicates that Obediah was born in Amelia County, Virginia, in 1757. He says that this was recorded in his Father's Bible. Amelia lies just west of Richmond. The request also mentions a living brother. (Several other Farleys made requests for pensions as veterans born in Virginia. None of them mention Obediah, unfortunately.) I have searched the records at the Amelia Courthouse. I found several Farleys, but not him. Since he left that county when only 20, it would have been unlikely that his name would have appeared. Other Farleys lived in Chesterfield, Bedford and other nearby counties (cf the 1790 Federal Census). In 1777 he was drafted for 3 months from Amelia. Then in 1778 and again in 1781 he served in the militia. On these two occasions he joined up in Bedford County, Va. This is about 100 miles further west, southeast of Roanoke. He describes the events around the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorkstown in his pension request. It matches what I have found in published accounts.

Living at this time along the Blackwater, tributary to the Staunton River, were several Farleys. And the Hatchers who were to become his in-laws were nearby. (In 1785 this area which lay south of the Stauton area became Franklin County, Va. Our Potter relatives passed through here, as well as my Greer and Divers kin from my mother's side of the family.) In the Franklin Courthouse I found a record of the sale of land by a Daniel Farley and his wife, Jane, in 1788 to a T. Crump. It is listed as adjoining the land of Obediah, Jeremiah and Stewart Farley. (Note: Daniel and Jane are names that Obediah used for this children. Were this Daniel and Jane his parents? Or a favorite brother? Also several Jeremiahs and Stewarts appear in other locations later. Are these brothers? This seems very possible to me. If this Daniel and Jane were his parents, then who might their parents be?) Other early Franklin County land owners were Stephen and Matthew Farley. Also, rather common early Farley names. (Note: the first son of Obediah was named Matthew. In 1775 the will of a John Farley was probated by a Daniel and a Stewart Farley in Chesterfield, Va. This county adjoins Amelia on the West.)

Both Matthew Farley and Farley Hatcher, about whom more will be said, sold land in Franklin County about this time (1788) to a William Bradley. This suggests to me that the Hatchers and the Farleys were near neighbors. (Note: also, among the Virginia Pension Request is one by a Stephen Farley who passed through Franklin County, Va., but in 1830 was living among several other Farleys in White County, Tn. He states that his father was John and that he had brothers, John, Isham, and William. Brother William was also a veteran. And to muddy the water a little more there was a Thomas Farley and his family also in Southwest Virginia then. They settled in Biles and in Sumner counties. Perhaps, some answers are still to be found in the records of Franklin County, Va. (Here and in a similar Tennessee list the name is spelled Farler, perhaps a sloppy "y".) I had only one afternoon there. In any case, most of the Farleys there had left by 1790. (I did not find when Obediah sold his land, so I ssume it was abandoned.) Some of these Farleys went south into Carswell County, North Carolina, west to Middle Tennessee, but our Obediah went to East Tennessee, Washington County, 1789. (I found him listed among Va. taxpayers 1782-89 with a Daniel, Francis, and Jeremiah. Of interest is the fact that Booker T. Washington was raised on a plantation very near to where the Farleys and the Hatchers lived.

Obediah's wife was Phoebe Hatcher. The Edward Hatcher family came to Bedford Franklin County in 1769. They settled land on the Staunton River. Edward died in 1782. His oldest son was named Farley Hatcher. Often the first male was given the maiden name of the mother as his first name. So, it is likely that Edward's first wife was a Farley. (One possibility to surface is Sarah, the daughter of a Matthew Farley, Sr., who left slaves to the children of his dead daughter Sarah Hatcher. His will was probated in 1791, however, in Powhattan County, Va., some nine years after Ed Hatcher died.) Interestingly, Edward Hatcher does not mention two of his daughters in his will, Phoebe and Nancy, the wife of Flayl Nichols. This may mean that Obediah and Phoebe were married by 1782, when Edward Hatcher died, and had received their share in the form of a dowry. However, in 1819 after the death of Edward Hatcher's second wife, both Phoebe and Nancy are listed as his children when the slaves he had left as a "life-time" dowry to his second wife were sold. I have not been able to find the marriage bonds of Obediah and Phoebe recorded in Bedford, Amelia, Franklin, or several other Southwest Virginia counties.

Could Sarah Hatcher have been an aunt of Obediah? The Farley Hatcher name and Obediah's removal from Amelia to Bedford may suggest some connection, but the fact that Sarah's father's will was probated in a county other than Amelia raises a question for me about this connection. In any case, I am still uncertain about the name and parents of Obediah, and that of his siblings. Before continuing, let me summarize the time line to this point born in Amelia County in 1757; drafted into the army in 1777 (age 20); moved west to Bedford/Franklin County upon the end of his tour; got some land there, volunteered for service in 1778 and once more in 1781, married Phoebe Hatcher about 1780, her father died in 1782, probably the first three children, Sarah, Jane and Anne, or born during this decade, moved to Tennessee in 1789.

Obediah is listed as taxpayer in Washington County, Tn., from 1789 to 1794, with the Farler spelling of the name. He had property valued for taxation at 50 dollars. At this time the Dumplin Creek Treaty with the Cherokee opened up Sevier County, Tn., for settlement. It seems that several of the Hatchers, including Farley Hatcher, and the Flayl Nichols settled in Wear's Valley. There is still a crossroads settlement called Hatchertown there. Hatchers are still in the county. (Other Hatchers stayed in Virginia. One descendant, William, became a leader among Baptists of Virginia, about a century later, as did his cousin Jeremiah Jeter.) Interestingly, the first settler of Sevierville was Spencer Clack. He had been a Justice of the Peace in Franklin County and was the same in Sevier. I am assuming that Obediah, Phoebe and the children probably settled in the Hatchertown area of Wears Valley near their kin.

The Sevier Co. Courthouse burned in 1857 and again in 1892. So records are scarce. But Joe Sharp, the late county historian and a descendant of the Nichols, was able to direct me to the state land grants records in Nashville. They showed the sons of Obediah and Phoebe, Matthew and Daniel, as taking land grants there in 1808. These were along Gist's Creek, about 10 miles east of Wear's Valley. (I served about 6 months as interim pastor of the Gist's Creek Baptist Church in 1970-71.) Each tract contained about 80 acres. Matthew was born in 1790 and Daniel in 1792, according to family history. This makes them only 18 and 16 when these grants were taken Was this possible? (Of course, the 1810 census was, for the most part a victim of the burning of Washington in the War of 1812. So again I am frustrated by fire.) Daniel married Frances Ballard about 1817, probably in Sevier County.

In 1814 Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend in southeastern Alabama. The treaty that followed opened up much of Alabama for settlement. By 1820 Obediah, and I assume Phoebe, have moved to Shelby County, Ala. (In that year Daniel's second son, Matthew, was born in Jackson County, Ala., near Scottsboro, according to his obituary.) Shelby County is east and south of the present city of Birmingham. (Birmingham did not exist until after the Civil War.) In the listings of the 1820 and 1830 censuses there is a woman of the right age to be Phoebe and a younger woman, which is either Jane or Anne in the household of Obediah. Earlier, daughter Sarah had married Rev. Frederick (Shadrach) Casteel. He was Methodist. They moved to Cooper County, Mo. in 1822. They would have been one of the earliest families to settle in that area. Osage Indians still raided in the area. (My Swope ancestors had lived there three years prior, settling in Pettis County in 1827 also.) Later one of their children will marry a son of Daniel Farley and a daughter will be the second wife of Elijah Newton Farley's father-in-law, Larkin DeWitt, we think. It is to Cooper County where Daniel and his family will move in 1833, surely at the encouragement of the Casteels. (Further discussion of Daniel's family will await the next section.)

While I have not been able to pick up Matthew, the son of Obediah and Phoebe, for certain, I have gathered some interesting clues in my Alabama research. A Matthew A. Farley (same name as one of the sons of Daniel) was married in Shelby County, in 1841 and again in 1853. He was buried in the Bold Springs Presbyterian Church graveyard--born 1814 and died 1899. But he is not listed in the 1840, 1850 or 1860 censuses of Alabama. Further, I found that in 1842 an Obadiah Farley married A. Whorter in St. Clair County, just north of Shelby. (Note: this is the historic spelling of Obadiah.) This Obadiah is in Lawrence County, Ala., in 1850 and 1860. I am guessing and it seems likely, that these men were sons of Matthew and grandsons of Obediah and Phoebe. The census records reveal several Farley families other than Obediah Obediah, Sr., in Shelby County in 1820 and 1830, one of whom may have been the widow of Matthew and who may have moved to that area with the older Obediah about 1819. (For example, there is a Priscilla Farley as head of household with 5 minor children in the 1830 census for Shelby. Also a Rachel Farley. And in the 1860 census there is a Cleveland Farley in the region around Montevallo in Shelby County.)

I do not know when Obediah died, or where he is buried. I have checked the various cemetery records in Shelby and Bibb counties, with no success. I have assumed that it might have been in 1833 about the time that Daniel and his family left Tennessee to move to Missouri. I did find that in September 1832, about a month after he filed for a Revolutionary War pension, that he also filed for a land grant in Shelby County (Section 24, Township 21, Range 3). Why take a land grant at age 75. I wonder. In the land records I discovered that on February 4, 1840, Priscilla Farley, along with her son William, mortgaged 120 acres of land in the same section to Henry Harless. I found this land to be about three miles south of Alabaster, Ala., on Shelby County route #12. It is creek bottom land. (The area today is beginning to suburbanize). I see this as supportive of my contention that she was the widow of Matthew and that the later Matthew, William, and Obediah were among her five children noted in the 1830 census. About two miles south of this property is the Harless Cemetery. I visited the cemetery, but did not find a stone for a Farley. However, this cemetery goes back to about 1830 and very well may be the location of the burial of Obediah and Phoebe. (The listings of cemeteries for the county have none that are any closer. Many early rural graves went unmarked.)

I find no mention of Phoebe in the 1840 census. Here is a woman who was the child of a slaveholding planter as a young woman. She dies apparently poor and is buried in an unmarked grave in the Black Belt of Alabama. How did she reflect upon her life? Certainly, by contemporary standards and values, she did not do well. I suppose that some of the time in eternity can be spent exploring such questions, but I would like to know about these and related questions now. As you have read these pages, I hope that you have come to feel as I do, that we need to leave to future generations far more information about their predecessors than name, dates and rank. What do we think about the big issues of life? What have we learned from our experiences? I feel short-changed that I really know so very little about the really important things about my ancestors. Do you?

Before moving on, let me summarize the rest of his time line. He moved to the Johnson City, Tennessee, area in 1789; on to Sevier County about 1794; on to Shelby County, Ala. about 1818 and died there around 1835. His wife died in the same decade. His property passed to his widowed daughter-in-law by 1840. Probably either Jane or Anne lived on as a single woman, caring for the old folk.


Was he named for his grandfather or an uncle? Why did he take a land grant at 16? He had a brother-in-law named Obediah Farley Ballard. What is the story behind that? What became of his brother Matthew, and of his sisters, Jane and Anne? Why did he pick up his family, a wife and nine children, to make a dangerous trip to the Western frontier when 41 years old? How did he and Frances deal with the death of an infant child on the trip west? HIS grandson Will Farris told me he was a millwright by trade. (Will was the son of Permelia, the youngest of the children of Daniel and Frances. He was born in 1880 and died in 1984 at the age of 104 years. In the last 30 years of his life he gained a regional reputation as an artist.) Is there still a mill around that he helped to fashion? (For example: A mill in Cade's Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park dates from his young manhood and is less than 20 miles from where he probably grew up.) Frances was to be among the first civilians to see and smell the carnage of the Battle of Pea Ridge. She had a son come home alive from Andersonville. Another son died as a result of the war. And a battle of the war was waged in her town of Newtonia. What might she have reflected with us about these bad times, and good.

Here is what I have found out about Daniel and his family. He was born in 1792 near Jonesborough, Tn. As a baby in arms he was moved to Sevier County, Tn. He grew up in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. The Ballards, John and Elizabeth James, were neighbors as were Hatchers. Was Obediah a particularly fine man? Why else might the Ballards have named a son for him? (O. F. Ballard also moved to Copper County, Mo. and then is found in the 1860 census for Carroll County, Ark.

I found the Ballards as members of the Forks of the Pigeon Baptist Church about 1807 (FBC Servierville, today). In 1825 they are members of the Paint Rock Baptist Church, in Monroe/Meigs County, Tn. I am guessing that their daughter, Frances, married Daniel around 1817. Their first child, Elijah Newton, was born in 1818 probably in Sevier County. The second, Matthew Anderson, was born in 1820 in Scottsboro, Ala. So they apparently were part of the group that opened Alabama. I think they were in the Paint Rock church in 1825 and in Monroe County, Tn. for the 1830 census. (In the obituary for Rev. Matthew A. Farley it states that his family moved from Alabama to East Tennessee in 1826.) The name on the records is spelled Fardly. But the family data matches, and an appropriate Daniel Farley is not listed in Alabama.

Apparently, he went to Missouri at the insistence of his sister and brother-in-law who had been there more than a decade. They settled on land less than one-half mile away. The trip according to family tradition was made by flat boat--down the Clinch and Tennessee, up the Mississippi and Missouri to Booneville, then overland to the southwest corner of Cooper County. They moved with several families who were to become neighbors and in later times, in-laws, my uncle Homer, said. Infant son John died along the way at St. Louis. They settled on a tract of 2 off-set 40 acres along the upper reaches of Otter Creek. When he died at 65 in 1857, he lived about a mile closer to the town of Otterville on 55 acres. Had he lived a short-time longer he would have seen the MOP Railroad laid only a short way south of his home, and in another 20 he would have participated in the excitement surrounding a Jesse James train robbery less than two miles from there. The inventory of his estate which included 15 wood planes and other assorted tools suggests that indeed he was a craftsperson. He was buried in the Pleasant Grove cemetery just north of Otterville. The stone is now gone. Will Farris, his grandson, told me that a stone was located about 20 steps south of a fenced-in grave when he visited the plot in the World War II era. There is still a fenced grave there. For a number of years the cemetery was not used and fell into disrepair.

The first son, Elijah Newton, became a Baptist preacher and the second, Matthew Anderson, was a Methodist minister like his father-in-law. Later he was a pioneer in the holiness movement. Will remembered that he was very long winded and not very interesting. I wonder, given the competitiveness of denominations on the frontier, how this difference impacted their relationships. Another son, Sam, moved to St. Louis. He had a number of descendants about which we presently know very little.

When Daniel died, Frances and several of their 10 surviving children (4 died in infancy or their youth) moved to Granby in Southwest Missouri. Matthew Anderson, Martha, and perhaps another daughter had settled there earlier. It was a booming mining town then. Several of the girls married persons who worked in the mines. Some of the boys also worked there. Only Elijah stayed in Central Missouri. It has been interesting to me that the family through the third and fourth generations stayed in close contact with one another. (Examples: Homer told of going to visit some of them along with his father about the close of World War I. Henry, a son of Elijah, and Bert, a grandson, lived some of their lives in Rocky Comfort, a village only a few miles east of Granby. They are both buried there.)

Again let me summarize. He was born in 1792; took land at 15 in 1808 on Gist's Creek in Sevier County, Tennessee; married about 1817; had a son in 1818; the first of 14 children of whom 10 lived to adulthood; moved to Alabama about 1820; moved back to Tennessee about 1825; moved on to Missouri in 1833, settling near Otterville; died in 1857; his widow moved to Granby; she lived on for another twenty years. She is buried in the Old Civil War Cemetery in Newtonia, a nearby town. So, while our family comes down through Elijah in Central Missouri, most of the children and descendants of Daniel and Frances come from those who moved to southwest Missouri. (I have a fairly complete list of these lives which Jewell Farley of Cassville gathered in 1940.)


He was born in Tennessee in 1818. He moved with his family to Missouri in 1833. He married in 1842, Mary (Polly) DeWitt, a neighbor, three years his junior. Her father was Larkin DeWitt. He was a native of New York State, of Dutch descent. He fought in the War of 1812 and was released from the army in St. Louis. In BENNETT-DEWETT AND RELATED FAMILIES it is reported that he fought the Shawnee Indian chief, Tecumseh, in Canada and was present when he died. Larkin married Hannah Potter DeWitt Ewing, a widow with one child. Their vows were heard by Rev. Finis Ewing, probably some kin to her first husband. The Potters and Ewings were early settlers in Cooper County. Finis Ewing, one of the founders of the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination. He took some land in the area and formed a "preacher" school to train ministers in the village of New Lebanon. Later Finis moved on to Lexington, Mo., where he managed the land office for the U.S. government and pastored the First Cumberland Presbyterian congregation. (A fine old Presbyterian church house still stands in New Lebanon. After bearing 7 additional children for Larkin DeWitt she died in 1837 at age 39. He remarried to a Casteel (Castile) woman, probably a Farley cousin, and she bore an additional 9 children. They lived for a while in the Springfield, Mo., area as one of the earlier settlers. Later he moved back to Cooper County. Among the children of Larkin and Hannah was Mary. (Among her kin were several Potters and DeWitts who participated in the 1849 Gold Rush.)

The 1850 census finds Elijah and Polly on a small farm in Johnson County, about 5 miles south of the village of Montserrat. It was near the Clear Fork of the Blackwater River. A trail from Booneville to Fort Scott, Kans., passed through the community. It was later to be known as the Sedalia Trail and was to become in the years after the Civil War one of the early cattle trails. (Recall the Rawhide TV show in the early 1960s with Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates.)

In the 1860 census Elijah is listed as a farmer and minister. The form says Methodist, but this must be wrong. He is listed in the 1860 minutes of the Blue River Baptist Association as a licensed minister (not ordained) along with John DeWitt, who is probably his brother-in-law. They were members of the Clear Fork Baptist Church. Like many other congregations on the Western frontier it did not survive the Civil War. And its records seem to have been lost. (Well after the war the area became active as a coal mining region and two new Baptist congregations are to be found. In the 1920s they merge to become Pleasant Bethel. Francis Marion Farley, a son, was an important lay leader there.) I have found several marriage licenses in county records where Elijah was the one who signed the bonds as minister. I do not know if he pastored a church, but at the very least, he performed pastoral duties. Many Baptist churches of that era had multiple "elders." The biographical information on Mary DeWitt Farley's brother, John, does not mention his having been a minister. He was among the early settlers in Oklahoma territory. His trade is listed as being a blacksmith.

Elijah and Polly had 10 children, 9 boys and one daughter. By all accounts the war in Western Missouri was terrible for non-combatants. Bushwhacking was widespread. No one was safe. Elijah and his two oldest sons served. (Why would a 43-year-old minister with 9 children be among the first volunteers to join the Union home guard?) Son Will contacted Rubeola at the Jefferson barracks at St. Louis and died. Son John T. served with the Company B of the Missouri 27 Mtd. (This is the same unit in which Elijah served.) Elijah was involved in the Battle of Lexington, an early scrap (September 20, 1861). He was taken prisoner. While in the custody of the Confederates, or while making his way back home, he became ill with consumption. Later he escaped or was paroled. At home he was able to father his 10th child, but died in 1863 a few months before she was born. He was buried on his home place. The graveyard has since become known as the Ellis cemetery and can be reached off of country route Y. I did not find his stone there, but his name is listed in an census of the cemetery in the Johnson County historical library. The library is next to the old Johnson County Courthouse, a building that dates from the days of E. N. Farley. (There is a request for a Civil War widow's pension which reports most of the above.) A family story tells of General Sterling Price's army marching along the Sedalia Trail. When they ask about the whereabouts of Elijah, and old Black man, Sam, tells a lie and saves Elijah's life.

Following the war Polly apparently moved most of her children to a village of Lookout, along the Pettis/Cooper county line. This is an area where her DeWitt and Potter kinspeople are heavily present. She ran a store at Lookout. (That settlement is now gone. The store location is a hole in the field. The village also boasted a post office. Nearby are the ruins of the school house. Granddaughter, Myrtle, once taught there.) I wonder what Mary's life was like. Left a widow and pregnant. In a dangerous time and place. How did the family make it through? I have heard that she was red-headed and strong willed.

I came across an interesting document in the Pettis County marriage book from the early 1880s. Polly DeWitt Farley contracted to marry William Kabler. In essence the document allows each to pass the property they will bring to the marriage on to their children. I found the marriage license. And I have seen the documents where she is referred to as Mrs. Kabler. But her gravestone in the Potter-DeWitt cemetery does not mention Kabler. Had she already had the stone made? Did her heirs not recognize the marriage? Did it not last? She died in 1891. Another interesting note is that in the 1880 census record she has some of her grandchildren living with her. I believe that a little later this was also the case for the first three children of Daniel Lee Farley. A further story concerning her is that she provided a 40-acre farm for each of her children. I have some verification for this in a deed from her to Daniel Lee for just such a place near Lookout, signed Mrs. Mary Kabler.