William Spilsby Gregory
Revolutionary War Veteran
from research published in
"Gregory Family Origins"
Since he reportedly hails from Fredericksburg, VA, he is potentially of our core line, potentially even a son of our own Isaac Gregory. Proving any such connection is however rather unlikely given the paucity of verifiable records, and recent DNA evidence casts serious doubt on that idea. We find in the Family Tree DNA records a record purportedly from a descendant of Spilsby, with the following Markers:
R-M269 13 25 14 11 11 13 12 12 12 13 14 29 17 9 10 11 11 25 15 18 29 15 16 17 17
Note that the Haplogroup R-M269 matches our own Haplogroup, but ONLY the markers highlighted in green march our markers. This record is taken from Kit# 32836, which is in Group 4 of the FTDNA Gregory Surname Project. The contributor of the DNA sample is unknown and we do not know anything of the reliability of the research linking this unidentified contributor to Spilsby Gregory and Caroline Muse. There are only five contributors to group 4, and none of them have provided any documented research. Interestingly, one of them is Haplogroup R-M222, and not R-M269, although the markers match.
Group 4 is named as the line of Col. Isaac Gregory, who is generally considered to be a grandson of Napthalum Gregory via his son John. There is also a 12 marker yDNA match to kit#17929 which is descended from Clan McGregor, suggesting Scottish origins.
Records place William Spilsby Gregory and Caroline Muse as married December 27, 1787, in Caroline Co., Virginia. This is documented in FHL Film Number 30826, Page 62 which lists them as Caroline Muse and Spilsby Gregor. He would have been about or over 30 years old at the time of the marriage. We have been promised, but not yet received a copy of the actual marriage certificate. The descendants credited to William Spilsby Gregory and Caroline Muse founded a significant Gregory family line, and includes many of the given names we associate with our core line, including William, James, Isaac, Benjamin, Enoch, Nancy. We had considered it highly likely that this line indeed was connected to our core line, strongly hinting that he might be a son of Benjamin, or even Isaac.
It may well be borne out by further research, but we currently fall a bit short of being able to substantiate all of the claimed facts. Indeed, the Gregory line descending from Caroline Muse and William Spilsby Gregory is a strong one, but many of the “facts” claimed by their descendants are questionable, especially any claimed identification of William's parents. We consider it likely that at least some of the North Carolina connections could be correct, as that would have been a logical route for Spilsby and Caroline to travel on their way to Kentucky, following Daniel Boone's “Wilderness Road” through Cumberland Gap. That their children's names eschew carrying the Spilsby name forward is puzzling, even though we believe we are largely correct in their identifications.
Muse Family Connections
We would be most interested to count Caroline Muse among our extended family as she came from a famous family with close ties to the family of George Washington. Her father4 George Muse was a Lt. Colonel, in the Virginia Militia, and second in command to General George Washington in his first campaign, the expedition against the French and Indians when they were forced to build Fort Necessity5 to defend themselves from the French, and subsequently forced to surrender. Muse was awarded over nine thousand prime acres for his service, but even so, had some serious conflict with Washington. It appears he was a drinking man, and his frequent inebriation caused him no end of difficulties. Despite these problems, the Washington family stayed quite close with the Muse family for several decades, and Caroline's brother Battaile Muse managed Washington's affairs for many years.
4 Library of Congress, George Washington letters to George and Battaile Muse.
5 1754, Washington's first campaign,
After the war, George Muse moved his family to Ky, settling around Nelson County, where he died about February of 1790. In the 1810 Census we find a William Gregory in Nelson County, living next door to a Stephen Gregory, with a household of 7, including one slave. We cannot identify the Stephen Gregory, as this is his one and only track, and his neighbor might be William Spilsby Gregory, and he might not, but it fits what is claimed about Caroline and William and their one child in that time. The household has 3 whites and five slaves. Many slaves in a household is usually associated with British families, and not the Scotts-Irish. This argues that either Spilsby was of British descent, supporting assignment to British Line #2, (Fitting the link to the North Carolina Gregorys) thus not related to our Scots-Irish roots, or otherwise the William Gregory named in this tax record was a different man entirely, which is quite possible since Spilsby so rarely appeared as William.
He did notably appear as William in an instance where he corresponded with Battaile Muse, Caroline's brother, and signed the letter "William". He also signed, as William, for his son James to marry Nancy Clarke. He seems to have changed to using William in his elder years.
His signing in March 1811 for James to marry raises the question of James' birth date. If he were born in 1787 as claimed he would be age 24, thus not need his father's signature. This does not prove he was younger, but does raise an eyebrow as does his reported 1787 birth when his parents married on December 27 of that year. He may have been much younger.
There are two interesting tangential intersections with our core research. Caroline's brother George William Muse moved to Fleming County where he died in 1827. The area where he died is known today as Muse's Mills. From the online records we surmise he came to Fleming County before or about 1800, received land grants in the area that is now Muses Mills, and apparently founded a Mill there. We have been unable to find any actual written history for Muses Mills, but strongly believe he was the founder of the Mill based on land grants and other records.
In the other interesting connection, Caroline's uncle, William Muse, lived in Prince William County Virginia in the 1740's and was a contemporary of our Isaac and Benjamin Gregory in that area. Despite this, the name Muse does not appear in the Dettingen Petition and nothing in either case links the Muse's and our Core Gregory line, yet it is an interesting tidbit.
As for Spilsby himself, the origin of his colorful middle name is still a question since we can not link any John Spilsby descendant to our William Spilsby. Further, no one named Spilsby is clearly linked to any descendant of Napthalum, or indeed to anyone named Gregory. Yet, harking back to the North Carolina hypothesis, we note that James Thomas Gregory and Patience Godwin named a son Josiah, hinting at possible influence from descendants of Josiah Stone, Spilsby Stone's father. More research will be required to unravel these details. The best hope is to persuade more descendants of this line to submit DNA to the study.
The linked PDF file contains the images of all the documentation we have thus far uncovered. It is too large to place on the web pages.
Spilsby Gregory Timeline
1751 – Birth, as based on 1831 letter in which he himself stated he was 80
1757 – Alternate Birth, based on 1832 letter in which the court stated he was 75
1765 – David Lewis Hampton places Spilsby as a boy companion in Fredericksburg, VA
1775 – Isaac Ferrall places Spilsby as a boy in Virginia
October 1778 – Entered Military Service (age 21 or 27)
1780 – Transferred to the command of Captain Buckney
June 1782 – Discharged from Military
June 1783 – Alternate Discharge date
December 27, 1787 – Marriage to Caroline Muse, Caroline Cty VA
1787 – Reported Birth of son James (In VA or possibly NC)
1789 – Birth of daughter Elizabeth, reportedly in North Carolina
1790 – Settled in Nelson County Ky, precise year unknown.
1798 – Birth of son Battaile in Nelson County, Ky
August 30 1800 – Appears on the tax lists for Nelson County
April 27 1806 – Daughter Elizabeth married William Hatfield
1810 – US Census seems to show Spilsby and family in Nelson County
1816 – Grandson Joseph born
December 22, 1819 – Granddaughter Elizabeth Caroline is born
November 29, 1820 – Grandson William James is born
1822 – Son James reportedly dies
January 7, 1824 – Spencer County is formed
May 15 1828 – Act of Congress provided for pay to surviving veterans
December 20th 1828 – Filed Declaration of Revolutionary Claims
January 10, 1829 – Filed claim in Fayette County
1830 – US Census seems to show Spilsby living with daughter
June 26, 1830 – Letter by Ralph Lancaster on his behalf
Sept 20, 1830 – Claim filed on his behalf by Ralph Lancaster
April 2 1831 – Letter to Treasury Dept, stating his age as 80 (Item 34)
May 12 1831 – Letters from Hickman and Schooler attesting to Spilsby's military service
December 9 1831 – Letter from Treasury Dept rejecting his claims
June 7, 1832 – Act of Congress extended Pension benefits for War veterans
November 12 1832 – Court claims he was a Sergeant under Capt Minor then Buckney and is age 75
November 22 1833 – Ralph Lancaster Letter references Spilsby as still alive
Children of William Spilsby Gregory
Spilsby and Caroline had three children as far as we know, and we know little more about them than we do their parents. Their firstborn, a son named James Gregory, was reportedly born in 1787, the same year his parents married. That is certainly possible, but we tend to suspect the date is bogus.
Firstly, Spilsby and Caroline were married on December 27, thus suggesting that if James were born that same year, his birth must have occurred before the wedding. Possible, but it seems unlikely.
Second, When James married Nancy Clarke (1786-1855) in 1811 he would have been age 24. Yet we found a reference where his father signed for him to be married. At age 24 he would not have needed his father's approval, suggesting he was in fact under age 21 in 1811. That raises the fair estimate of his birth to about 1791 or after. His sister Elizabeth was born about 1789, thus a marriage in 1787, firstborn in 1789 and second child in 1791 all seems intuitively more reasonable. Further, Elizabeth married in 1806, several years before her supposedly older brother. Their third child was reportedly born in 1798, for a seven year or less gap, more reasonable than the 9 year gap otherwise reported.
We also have the conundrum of James' bride being older than the groom. Nancy Clarke is reportedly born in 1786, which is undocumented, making her apparently older than James, significantly older if he was born in or after 1791. If we knew her precise birthdate we might suspect him of in fact being born in 1787, but the reality is we have no proof when she was born, 1786 being merely someone's unsubstantiated guess. Her age at marriage is unknown, but we found no record of her father signing for her to marry. That hints she may have been 21. Perhaps James was just shy of age 21 and Nancy just past 21, making them both born possibly in 1791, her just a few months earlier.
As stated before, James is often given the middle name of 'Thomas' by researchers, but nothing we have seen actually documents any middle name, nor did he name a child Thomas. We believe this is bogus, and if he had a middle name at all, it more likely was William, since he named a son William James. Of course he might have named the child William after his father.
James reportedly died in 1822, a fact we have not been able to document. If accurate, he left behind a Widow and three children. His widow reportedly lived until 1855, dying at age 69 but again we have not been able to satisfactorily document this. Their three children lived long lives. Joseph died in 1882 in Ky., Elizabeth died in 1873 in Ky, and William James moved to Texas where he raised a huge family and lived until age 87, dying February 7, 1908.
William James Gregory's Texas descendants are many to this day, yet none we have uncovered propagate his grandfather's name of Spilsby. His firstborn is named Isaac, a name we might think significant by the conventions of the day. The first son was typically named for the paternal grandfather, thus should have been named Spilsby, indicating that William James did not follow the convention. A second son should be named for the mother's father, thus should have been a clue to Millicent's father, but instead is named James W. Gregory, possibly for his father. By convention the fourth son should be named for the Paternal grandfather. William's fourth son was named Felix, but we know no Felix Gregory in any tree that might be Spilsby's father.
Spilsby's daughter Elizabeth Gregory married William Hatfield on April 27, 1806, and we have not identified their family or descendants. The last track we have for them is the 1830 Census, wherein they reflected six children, but we have not identified their names. Perhaps they moved away from Kentucky too, but if so we have not found the trail.
Spilsby's third child, a son named Battaile Gregory in honor of his more famous Uncle, Battaile Muse similarly leaves us no tracks. Despite the advantage of an uncommon, even remarkable given name, he appears nowhere, in no Census records, Marriage, Wills or other records. A complete mystery. Perhaps Battaile was his middle name and he commonly went by another name, or even a nickname. If so, we find no hint of it.