An American Family

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Henry G. Hodge/Hodges
(Contributed by Marty Hodge)
Henry Gustavus Hodges was born circa 1744/45 in Virginia. It is believed that he came to Edgecombe County, North Carolina from Virginia with his parents when he was just a small boy. There is some speculation that his father came to Virginia in the mid 1700s from England. Though most records have been destroyed by natural disasters, wars and even human carelessness, it is believed (my theory) that Henry’s parents were Robert and Patience Hodges of Virginia. This Robert named his wife executrix of his will, but this will has long been lost or destroyed. Robert, who died ca. 1755/56 in Edgecombe County, was named as the executor of the will of John Hawkins in Perquimans County and may have been related to James and John Hodges of Halifax and Edgecombe Counties, North Carolina. On May 5, 1743 John Hodges “proved his rights in Edgecombe County”and his brother James did several land transaction with James Lawrence. It is quit ironic that Henry named one of his sons James and he in return named one of his sons James Lawrence, but at this point all of this is conjecture and speculation.

Henry lived on the north side of the Tar River along Fishing Creek, just north of Tarboro, Edgecombe County. Family records indicate that Henry was of the Baptist faith. Most of the Baptist of Edgecombe are said to have emigrated in 1742 from Berkley, Albemarle County, Virginia and settled along Kehukee Creek in Halifax County (then part of Edgecombe). The Kehukee Association, which bears the date of 1765, was organized at Kehukee Creek and from there spread over the country. The churches of which this Association was first composed, according to Burket and Read, who wrote its history in 1803, were, besides the one from which it was named, those called Toisnot, Falls of Tar River, Fishing Creek, Reedy Creek, Sandy Run, and Camden. Dr. Jeremiah Battle’s article on Edgecombe (The County of Edgecombe in 1810) stated that the only religious denominations in the county were Methodist and Baptist. We see this later in two of Henry’s grandsons: Rev. Hugh Campbell Hodge of the Methodist faith and Rev. Collin Hodge of the Baptist faith. Very few Presbyterians lived in Edgecombe during the early days as evident in the journal, or diary, of Rev. Hugh McAden (McCadden) when he traveled to Edgecombe County in 1755. “Being sent for, and very earnestly entreated to go to Tar River, I took my journey the same evening, with my guide, and rode to Bogan's, on Tar River, twenty miles. Next morning, set off again, and rode to old Sherman's, on Tar River, and preached that afternoon to a small company, who seemed generally attentive, and some affected.” Next day he went to Grassy Creek, sixteen miles, where was a Baptist meeting house, and preached to a people “who seemed very inquisitive about the way of Zion.” The next day he accompanied his host, old Mr. Lawrence, to Fishing Creek, to the Baptist Yearly Meeting; and on Saturday and Sunday preached to large and deeply interested audiences. * * * On Tuesday, April 13th, 1755, he set out homeward, and rode twenty miles, to Mr. Toole's, on Tar River, etc.

Upon Henry’s arrival in Livingston County, Kentucky the family attended services at the home of Fredrick Fulkerson until 1820, when Mr. Fulkerson moved to Illinois. This land was transferred to the Rev. William Buckley in September 1819. Henry was listed as a “Subscriber” and gave $15.00 toward the purchase of the property. Thus forming the Union Baptist Church in what is now present day Levias, Crittenden County, Kentucky. This church stands some mile and a half from the site of the old Robert Hodge homestead.

We first see Henry in the land records of Edgecombe when he is listed as a witness in a land transaction made by his brother Thomas on the west side of Fishing Creek, joining Crooked Swamp, on November 26, 1776 in Edgecombe County, now Nash County (Nash Co. formed from Edgecombe Co. in 1777). The following year Henry bought 200 acres from John and Winnifred Lowery on the southwest side of Fishing Creek. Henry and his wife Catherine (of Halifax County) sold this property to Richard and Frances Ship (of Edgecombe County) for “four likely negroes” on 28 May 1782. In the August Court at Halifax in 1781 he was listed as a witness in the will of William Burgess. “William Burgess 11 Oct 1781, Aug 1781. wife Penelope, estate to be kept together until youngest child comes of age. 2 sons Bryant Burgess and Cullen Burgess (both under 21), son Burrel Burgess, daughter Polly Daniel 1 shilling. residue of estate to children Malicha Burgess, Betsey Burgess, Morning Burgess, Winney Burgess, Dempsey Burgess, John Burgess, Salley Burgess, Cathron Burgess, William Burgess, Penolepy Burgess and the said Burrel. executrix wife Penelope. wit Je. Nelms, Henry Hodges, Lewis Bryant. trustees Thomas Joyner, William Bryant.” This seems to indicate that Henry moved to Halifax County sometime prior to August 1781. In the 1782 Halifax County tax list for District 14 he was listed with six slaves, four horses and eleven head of cattle. He later buys land joining his brother-in-law, William Bryant Jr., in Halifax. On August 5, 1790 he bought 400 acres of land in Edgecombe County on the south side of Fishing Creek from his brother Thomas for 600£ specie. He later sold this property in 1801 for “400 pounds of Virginia money”. This money was most likely used to help pay for the move to Kentucky. In this same time period Henry paids Solomon Slatter [Slaughter] 3 pounds, 4 shillings and 3 pents for his son William’s account. Solomon Slatter was a merchant who lived in the Scotland Neck area of Halifax. He was enumerated in the 1790 and 1800 census as a resident of Halifax County. By old tax receipts in possession of the compiler Henry was still in Halifax County until at least 1803. In 1803 he paid James Smith for work on his wagon, evidently in preparation for his move to Kentucky. In March 1804 Henry paid his taxes in Halifax County for the years 1798 to 1803. In the Livingston County Court records of October 3, 1804 Henry paid taxes for 400 acres. This would seem to prove that Henry started his journey to Kentucky in the spring of 1804.

He married Catherine Bryant circa 1772 in the Edgecombe County. Catherine was the daughter of Edgecombe County planter William Bryant and his wife Jean Andrews. William Bryant was in North Carolina by 1737 and had migrated from Isle of Wight, Virginia. Henry and Catherine had eight known children: Robert, Sarah, William, Thomas, Henry Jr., James and Allen. From all indications Henry was a saddle maker, farmer, horse trader and land speculator. In the 1790 Halifax County census he was listed as having fives males under 16 years of age, two white females and six slaves. He was last enumerated in North Carolina in the 1800 census at Halifax Township. After the death of Catherine, Henry married Mrs. Sarah Cotton Barnes, daughter of Edgecombe County lawyer Randolph Cotton and widow of Bartholomew “Bart” Barnes. Sarah had three children from this previous marriage. Henry filed a lawsuit in Halifax County in reference to the dowry of these children in 1795 [Records of Estates Halifax Co., NC Vol. II, Extant Bound Records, 1765-1835, by David B. Gammon]. Henry and Sarah had three known children while living in Halifax County: Maria, Peyton Randolph and Marina.

He was a member of the local militia in Edgecombe during the Revolutionary War as were most of the able-body males. He may have fought in a few of the small skirmishes around Fishing Creek, Swift Creek and Halifax in May of 1781. His grandson, Fidelio Hodge, submitted a brief sketch to Col. Orlando John Hodge about British soldiers visiting Henry’s home during the war, but there is no evidence that he fought in any great battles. It should be noted that this Henry was not the Henry Hodges of Pitt County who served in Captain John Hodges Company during the RW. Local militiamen (Minutemen) unlike the Continental Army did not receive any pay or land grants after the war. They were a patriotic bunch and believed strongly in defending their families and livelihood from British oppression. If Henry had served in the North Carolina Line he would have received his grant in Tennessee. The compiler has yet to find any such grant in Tennessee land records.

In 1797 Henry’s sons Robert, William and Thomas, along with Spear Fort and John Phelps traveled to Christian County, Kentucky (later divided to form Livingston County) to seek out a new home for their   families. Of the five mentioned, only Robert Hodge, Spear Fort and John Phelps received a grant along the Clay Lick Creek in November of 1798. This land, which was previously part of Virginia, had been used for the payment to its soldiers for service during the French and Indian War and the newly won Revolutionary War. The new founded state of Kentucky enacted legislation in 1795 opening up the land to any male over twenty-one who could reside on this land for least one year prior to application and build any improvements. In 1798 this was lowered to the age of eighteen. The money was used to fund the new state and to open up the land that was unclaimed by the earlier grants. These land patents were known as “Grants South of the Green River”. Henry’s son Robert received his land patent in 1798 and was the second person in Livingston County to build a home. Henry or his son Henry Jr. was granted 200 acres of land along the Clay Lick in March of 1803, which meant under the stipulations of the General Assembly’s Act of 1795; he had to live on this land one year prior to application. There is no indication which Henry it was in this 1803 grant so it is assumed that it was his son Henry Jr.

Henry must have been a very hearty man, as he would have been in his late 50’s when he started this western movement to Kentucky along with the Barnes, Champion, Clements, Coffield, Coleman, Foster, Rutter and other families living near Fishing Creek. His sons William and Thomas most likely lead the way since both are missing from the tax list in Livingston during this time. The trip was undoubtedly a long and treacherous one as unfriendly Indians still roamed the countryside and robbers such as the Harp brothers preyed on the unsuspecting settlers along the way. In the hot summer sun of 1804 these families slowly meandered their way into Livingston County on the Flynn’s Ferry Road. Once at Centerville, then the county seat, Henry and his family headed west toward Salem valley, crossing Clay Lick Creek and finally stopping at the foot of an old bluff. Years later this same road would be used by the U.S. Army for the western movement of the Cherokee (Trail of Tears). This bluff was the eastern boundary of Salem valley. The bluff would later be named “Kirk Bluff”, after Joseph Frederick Kirk who bought a section of this bluff after he moved to Crittenden County from Tennessee in the 1850’s. The valley was abundant with hardwood trees and game. The soil was rich for the growing of corn and tobacco, which was a stable for these early pioneers. Henry built his cabin at the foot of this bluff near his son Robert. The homestead had a spring suitable for drinking and a small stream that could irrigate the crops and water the livestock. This old bluff served as a marker for the Hodge family, Robert living on the northern end and William living on the southern end. Year’s later Henry’s son Robert would own much of this valley floor and become one of the richest landowners in Livingston County. In 1808 Henry expanded his land holding when he bought a parcel of land from David Fort. David Fort was the county surveyor and founder of Salem.

In 1806, Henry’s brother Thomas died in Edgecombe County. Thomas was a planter, justice and a large slave owner in Edgecombe. As show from early land records both brothers bought and sold property in Edgecombe as well as surrounding counties. Thomas apparently conducted much of Henry’s business after his departure from Halifax County. What all this entailed is missing from most official records, but it is after Thomas’ death that we see Henry’s sons Thomas, James, Allen and Henry Jr. conducting his business in Livingston as well as North Carolina. Henry apparently raised Elizabeth Hodges Digges’ son (receipt in possession of compilers) and this may have been a factor in Henry’s sons going back to Edgecombe to collect from Thomas’ estate. 

Henry had no formal education, in contrast to his younger brother Thomas, but was strong of back and deeply religious. These simple traits would be instrumental in helping the family survive this harsh wilderness. He worked endlessly insuring that his children had the education that he had lacked. This would serve his children well, as many of their descendants became rich landowners, doctors, ministers, lawyers and business owners. In the year 1818, having felt the effects of his age, he decided to write his will. He named his son James as the executor and left his children and his wife Sally all his worldly possessions. A neighbor, friend and famly member, Isaac S. Coffield, was one of the witnesses to Henry’s will. Isaac was the son of Gresham and Patience (Sessums) Coffield who had migrated with the Hodge family from North Carolina. It is not ironic that Henry’s youngest son Peyton would be a witness to Isaac’s will some twenty-five years later. Henry died on February 10, 1824 and his will was probated on March 3, 1824.  His wife Sallie died some seven years later on April 16, 1831. Both were laid to rest in the soil of this valley near their home. Many of his descendants were later buried next to Henry and Sallie and they remain undisturbed until the late 1970’s when the farm was sold and cleared by the present owner