Moses Ferguson, my first genealogy love

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Who Would You Like to Meet?

I started my genealogy journey when I retired at 62, thirteen years ago. I was a little late to start but better late than never. I didn’t know much about the ancestors of my mother and father other than the information I gleaned from the few stories they told me throughout my childhood. Common sense would dictate that I start with my family. But no, I started with my husband Dave’s family.

I like challenges. I like word games and solving crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. It became clear to me that genealogy was a perfect fit for me. And it certainly is challenging. My new hobby became my passion.

Ferguson family lore was there were three Ferguson orphans from North Carolina. Dave’s grandmother, Lola, knew that the Fergusons had come from North Carolina, and his great-grandfather was named Thomas Bunn Ferguson. The Fergusons settled in and around Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kansas. Everyone assumed the family lived and were buried in Kansas.

I eventually learned much about Thomas Bunn Ferguson. He married Mary Elizabeth Baker.¹ His father was Russel Ferguson, and his mother was Sarah. Online records for Sarah never showed her last name. Tracking their family and friends and the lucky find of her brother’s will, led me to discover her last name was Miller.²

Transcription with some changes to make the transcription easier to read: John B. Miller being duly sworn by the Clerk of the County Court said County deposes and says that to the best of his knowledge and behoof the name of the heirs of James C. Miller deceased are Henry H. Miller who resides in the County of Ray [sic] and state of Tennessee,  Peter W. Miller who resides in the County of Ray and state of Tennessee, the heirs of Robert Miller deceased who reside in Cass County and the state of Missouri, Sarah Ferguson and Martha Jane Miller who reside in the County of Cass and state of Missouri, William R. Miller who resides in Bates County, Missouri, Elizabeth Beard of Fort Scott, Missouri [Kansas], Jacob Miller residence not known, and John B. Miller who resides in the County of Johnson and state of Missouri all of whom are brothers and sisters of said deceased.

Russel and Sarah are buried in the same grave as their children in Vernon County, Missouri.³ Documents led me to believe that Russel, Sarah, and their oldest boy Jackson died from a disease that struck them down within days of each other.⁴ Their other children, Thomas Bunn, James, and Martha, were left orphans. The mystery of the three orphans was solved. Indirect evidence shows Russel is the son of Moses Ferguson and Elizabeth Cox.

Moses was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1762⁵ to Robert Ferguson and Elizabeth Wylley. The family traveled from Maryland and settled first in York County, South Carolina, and then Tryon County, North Carolina, close to the border with South Carolina. The area was near King’s Mountain, the location of a famous Revolutionary War Battle. Unfortunately, the family became embroiled in the war. The story of Elizabeth’s death at the hands of Tories is well-documented in the Draper Papers⁶ transcribed here:

”I will give you a history of my informants family.  His father Robt. Ferguson in the vicinity of Lincoln C.H. [Court House] N.C.   There were 6 sons to wit informant James, Moses, Robt, John, Elias and Alexander.  The old man and James though a youth frequently were on the scout.  They were at home one evening and men professing to be Whigs, road up and asked for supper and horse feed who was accommodated as soon as possible.  At supper they sat down.  The leader calling himself Brown asked a Blessing and expressed  thanks.  After this was over they were seen in secret counsel the sequel of which they came into the house and knocked the old man down & beat him until they thought he was dead.  Seizing the guns in the rack, confining and tying the oldest son James Moses made his escape.  Robt was punched in the side with a gun breaking 2 of his ribs.  One of the party pushed one of the little boys in the fire. Old lady pulled him out for which another threw her with violence against the table after which she never spoke.  Moses that escaped alarmed the neighborhood who collected and the distressing scene of the dead mother a father scarcely alive but did live but never was able to do anything.  All their property that they wanted carried off by these wretches these neighbors gave a hot pursuit and overtook these fellows in the Piney woods of SC next evening in a bad fix to take prisoners this Brown tried to fight but was shot dead with 4 men killed 2 escaped and nearly all the property received.  This is a sketch of the family that our informant came from he died in good old age if there was ought against him its not known.”

James, John, and Moses joined the American forces, probably due to the death of their mother. James fought in the bloody battle on King’s Mountain, South Carolina.⁷ According to the Web page of Battlefields.org, this battle was one of the few where countrymen fought countrymen. The story of the battle is worth exploring. The two websites listed below also have a good accounting of what happened. Fortunately, all three brothers survived their military engagements. Moses joined the South Carolina first regiment of state dragoons led by Wade Hampton. ⁸ He fought at Orangeburg, Eutaw Springs, and was at the taking of Fort Granby, all in South Carolina.

In his will, Robert left land in Rhea County, Tennessee, to his sons James, John, Robert Jr., and Alexander, who lived out their days in Rhea County.  Records show another son, Elias, was in Missouri as early as 1822.¹¹ Moses lived in Rhea County from 1822 to 1830, when he purchased land and moved to Lafayette County, Missouri.¹²

Robert Ferguson Will ⁹

I would love to meet Moses. He was a late bloomer like me. At the age of seventy, he purchased land in Lafayette County. Three years later, he bought land in Johnson County, Missouri. Most of his children moved to Missouri with him. The 1840 census record showed he was a veteran and blind.¹³ He died at about the age of 83.

Even though Moses isn’t related to me, I feel an affinity with him. I found as many documents as I could for him. While documents can’t give you the measure of the man, they can give you a pretty good idea of how and where he lived his life.

While researching Moses, I also gathered many documents for Robert Ferguson, his father. The Draper Papers proved that Robert was the father of Moses. However, conflicting information online led me to believe there may be more than one Robert Ferguson in the area where they lived, one of which was born in Scotland in 1722. But was he the correct one?

To help solve this dilemma, I turned to DNA. My husband, who was as excited about his family as I was, readily agreed to submit his yDNA to FamilyTreeDNA. I joined the Ferguson group project as well. The day came when the results arrived. After uploading them to the Ferguson group project, I looked at the results. What? What? There were no Fergusons matching him. I contacted the organizer of the group and asked him to explain. He told me the results showed an NPE in the family. Being so new to everything, I had to ask him what NPE meant. At the time, the definition of an NPE was a non-parental event. Today it can be referred to as misattributed paternity or not parent expected.¹⁴ The results showed that Dave was a Dixon/Dickson not a Ferguson. It took me a few days before I had to nerve to tell him. He took it very well. But not so much our oldest son. He was sure I could take my research back to Scotland. He hoped I would eventually connect the family with Fergus, the founder of the Ferguson clan. As if.

My long story leads up to why I would like to meet Moses. I want to meet Moses to ask him several questions. They are:

  • Did your father come from Scotland in 1722?
  • How did the family manage after the death of your mother?
  • What was it like to live during and fight in the Revolutionary War?
  • Did you play any part in the Battle of King’s Mountain?
  • Why did you decide to move to Missouri at an advanced age?
  • Why did most of your children live close to you in Missouri while Russel lived apart from the family?

Of course, there are many more questions I would like to ask of Moses as there are many questions we want to ask of our other ancestors.

The morals of my story are several: Start with your family and work backward. Learn as much as you can about how to research. I did this while researching Moses by reading many books and blog posts on how to conduct research for genealogy. I also watched a lot of webinars as well. Lastly, be prepared if the results of your DNA don’t turn out the way you expect.

The funny thing is, the family still feels like they are Fergusons. I’ve had the name so long that I feel like I am a Ferguson too. In our instance, nature and nurture are stronger than bloodlines.

I haven’t written a blog for almost nine months. I decided to jump back in by participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” In addition, I plan on writing about Russel and Moses in the future.

More information about the Battle of King’s Mountain:

https://www.historynet.com/american-revolutionary-war-battle-of-kings-mountain/

https://ovta.org/page-1466419


¹ Missouri, “Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 Jun 2012), p. 188, Ferguson-Baker, 25 Oct 1870; Citing Missouri Marriage Records. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives. Microfilm. 

² Johnson, Missouri, Probate Case Files, Folder O-1423 Citing Heirs of James C. Miller, James C. Miller; Missouri State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, C7274; State of Missouri, County of Johnson

³ Compiled by Nancy Thompson and Nemoa Foreman, Vernon County, Missouri Cemetery Directory 2010  (Nevada, Missouri: Tri-County Geneological Society and Vernon County Historical Society, 2010),  71. 

⁴ Compiled by Nancy Thompson and Nemoa Foreman, Vernon County, Missouri Cemetery Directory 2010  (Nevada, Missouri: Tri-County Geneological Society and Vernon County Historical Society, 2010),  71.  Written on the receipt was “E. S. Weyand made three coffins at $4.00 each in August 1854.

⁵ William T. Graves C. Leon Harris & database, Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters (http://revwarapps.org/index.htm : accessed 1 Jan 2013), Entry for Moses Ferguson; Citing compiled database of Revolutionary War Applicants. 

⁶ Kennedy, Daniel R. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Interview by Lyman Draper, Kings Mountain Papers, 4 May 1880. Transcript. Wisconsin Historical Society. FHL microfilm. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

⁷ William T. Graves C. Leon Harris & database, Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters (http://revwarapps.org/index.htm : accessed 1 Jan 2013), Entry for James Ferguson; Citing Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Roster. 

⁸William T. Graves C. Leon Harris & database, Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters (http://revwarapps.org/index.htm : accessed 1 Jan 2013), Entry for Moses Ferguson; Citing compiled database of Revolutionary War Applicants. 

⁹North Carolina, CR.060.801.9; Robert Ferguson, 1815; Lincoln County Wills, 1769-1926; North Carolina – State Archives of ₀

¹°Anderson, Tennessee, Tennessee Supreme Court Trial Case, East Division Box 658: 1-32, Thomas Hopkins, et. al vs. Moses Ferguson, et. al., Aug 1822 Term; Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville; RG 170 RG 170. 

¹¹Rhea, Tennessee, USA, “Rhea County, Tennessee Tax List 1819-1829, Transcribed from Xerox copies by Betty Broyles.  Originals are at the University of Tennessee Library in Knoxville, Tennessee, “Moses Ferguson; St. Louis County Library, Special Collections, Des Peres.

¹²Ailene F. Lewis, Moses Ferguson, His Family and His Descendants from Eastern Shores, Westward to Missouri and Points West 1701 … 1980, 929.2 M (Holden, Missouri: Self Published, 1980), Citing Deed Book C: Page 292.

¹³1840 U.S. census, Johnson, Missouri, Jackson, p. 18, line 8, Household of Moses Ferguson; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 Jan 2023); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M704, roll Unk. 

¹⁴https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-paternity event

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