“They say curiosity killed the cat. I wonder what that cat was looking at, and was it as interesting as this?”
― Sheena Hutchinson, Discovering April
Moses Ferguson was born to Robert Ferguson and Elizabeth Wylley. Moses is my favorite person to research; he lived an interesting and long life.
Records show Robert and Elizabeth married in Trinity Church in New York City, the church close to where the towers of the World Trade Center collapsed during the 911 attacks on the United States.¹ They sired six boys. James was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Moses in 1762 in Baltimore, Maryland, and John, Robert, Elias, and Alexander were born in York County, South Carolina. York, the county where they lived, bordered Tryon County, North Carolina. In 1779, they found themselves living in North Carolina when South Carolina lost this area to Tryon County. For several years the Fergusons lived in peace while trouble fomented in the north.
During the first three years of the American Revolution, the battles took place in the northern colonies. The British then turned their efforts to the southern colonies of North and South Carolina in late 1778. Little did the Ferguson family know that the closing years of the American Revolution would be fought in their backyard.
According to History.com, The “Southern Strategy” transformed the American Revolution into a civil war that was, according to author Thomas Fleming, “far more savage and personal than anything fought in the North.” Both sides engaged in scorched-earth campaigns that pitted neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother.”²
American patriot Patrick Henry exclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death.” His mother called the American Revolution just more “lowland troubles.” She did not mean North America’s lowlands but the borderlands comprising the north of Ireland, the Scottish lowlands, and England’s northern counties. Most frontier people in the South were immigrants from those borderlands.³ As were the Fergusons.
Many years later, Lyman Draper, author of the informative Draper Papers, captured stories of the Revolutionary War. He did this through interviews, one of which captured the impact of the Revolutionary War on Moses and his family. In his examination of Daniel R. Kennedy, the story of the attack of Tories on the Ferguson family came to light.⁴ This is the story verbatim as it was told to Lyman. “ 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 parties 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.”
Perhaps it was the death of their mother that led his brother, James, and Moses to join the fight against the British. James fought with others in the battle of Kings Mountain against the infamous Major Patrick Ferguson and his loyalist militia.⁵ Moses fought in the South Carolina 1st Regiment of State Dragoons under Col. Wade Hampton.⁶
The Revolutionary War passed. The Ferguson boys came out of the war physically unscathed but most likely mentally scarred. Robert, their father, died in 1815, leaving one hundred and ten acres of land in Rhea County, Tennessee, to his heirs.⁶ Moses and several of his brothers and families moved there in the early 1820s. Later, Moses moved to Lafayette County in western Missouri.⁷ He died in Johnson County, Missouri about 1845.
I spent a year tracking down records for Moses from South Carolina and North Carolina to Tennessee and ending in Missouri. I was attached to Moses like he was my great-great-great-grandfather.
My oldest son was hopeful that I could take the Ferguson family back to Scotland. Robert Ferguson supposedly came from Ayrshire, Scotland giving me a place and time to look for additional ancestors. And yet, I was curious to know if my husband was truly related to these Fergusons. I was new to genealogy. I found several Robert and Moses Ferguson’s in Lincoln and York counties. To remedy my curiosity and concern that my research may be faulty, I asked my husband if he would take a Y-DNA test. He agreed. When I told our older son what we were doing I got the look. You know, the look of disapproval that only your child can give you. He said, “Mom, you never know what these tests are going to dig up.”
The test came back, and true to my son’s prediction, the Fergusons are not Fergusons. They are Dixons. I believe I know where and when Dixon DNA entered the Ferguson gene pool. I plan to write about how I found out who the culprits were in a future blog.
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. It certainly took the wind out of my sails for a while though. Fortunately, my husband and his brother took the news very well. My son was stoic. Perhaps it helped when his father told him the Dixon’s have a more prestigious pedigree in Scotland than the Fergusons.
¹ Trinity Church Parish (New York, New York, United States), Robert Ferguson and Elizabeth Wylley, 05 Oct 1757; FHL microfilm 974.7 B2N V. 69-72.
³National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior., Overmountain Victory (Washington, D. C.: GPO, 2011), Excerpted from the pamphlet.
⁴Daniel R. Kennedy (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), interview by Lyman Draper, 4 May 1880; FHL microfilm R929.3 5797C, 4 May 1880, item 15DD61.
⁵William 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.
⁶J. D. Lewis, The American Revolution in South Carolina (http://www.carolana.com/SC/Revolution/home.html : accessed 21 Jan 2014), The Battle of Orangeburg, South Carolina; SC 1st Regiment of State Dragoons led by Col. Wade Hampton, with three (3) known companies, let by:- Capt. William Alexander- Capt. James Giles- Capt. John Reed according to the pension papers of Moses Ferguson he fought under Capt. William Alexander and Col. Wade Hampton
⁶Bettye J. Broyles, A compendium of Rhea and Meigs counties, Tennessee, 1808 through 1850; PDF Download, FamilySearch Books (http://www.familysearch.org : downloaded 4 Jan 2020), 133, Image 154.
⁷Ailene 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.