The 12 Children of William Darwin?
beholden to Christopher B. Darwin, who noted in his Descendants of
William Darwin an
that there were 12 children in the family, the first six having been born in
England which would suggest that some of the children died from infant
mortality in Virginia.
As Christopher notes, we are all grateful to
Anne McNeil Darwin for running down (in a letter dated 10 February 1993) the
"Talked to Mrs. Rumble
in Macon: Her information comes from the files of the late Maude Thomison of Dayton, Tn. It references bible of Jean
Wilkerson, Hickory Grove, S.C. (York County) and the several pageslost in a 1961 fire. She says William (1707) and Jean
(Jane) Darwin of Louisa, Va. had 12 children. The first 6 were born in England.
They lived at a place called 'Cucoo' on the headwater
of Holliwig Creek. JOHN was the first child born in
Virginia. He married Jane Bland 19 March 1755. The will of William Darwin was
written in old English script."
This is an intriguing tangle of Chinese
whispers. The "bible" referred to is unquestionably the incomplete Darwin-Bland "Bible" Record,
and tantalisingly appears to preserve some lost information therefrom.
Moreover, some of the information in this
bundle, not derived from the "Bible" record as we have it, is
nonetheless altogether sound. Cuckoo (after the name of a local
tavern, later associated with the celebrated Jack Jouett)
was indeed the name of the locality in Louisa County where William Darwin
resided (the local name 'Bumpass' is later), and the local watercourse is
indeed Hollowing Creek (as noted in a 1751 map of Louisa County) .
Clearly, Maude Thomison's
source of information for the place names of Cuckoo and Hollowing
Creek is accurate, and it may be that this information was derived from a
now-lost page of the Darwin-Bland "Bible" Record.
Or: it may be information derived from other
sources. And, even if it is indeed from a lost page of the "Bible"
record, their are other clear errors in this bundle of information which
give pause, to wit:
there may have been more children born to William and Jane than the
8 we currently know (6 from the Darwin-Bland "Bible" Record, 2
from William's Will), it would be difficult to fit in as many as 4
additional births, in any location. Her 8 known children are born between
Jane's ages of 20 to 40, at an average interval of 2.5 years.
notion that John Darwin (born 1755) was the first born in Virginia is
clearly an error. William and Jane married (location unknown) in
September, 1734, and their first child, Agnes, is born 'right on schedule'
9 months later in June, 1735 (Jane was 20 at the time of this birth). We
know from the Hardy - Darwin Lawsuit that William Darwin
was already resident in Louisa County in July 1743, so there can be no
serious doubt that his sons James (born June 1744), and Bartlett (born
1745/46) were born in Louisa. John's date of birth (which we know from his
own hand, in his War Pension Application) was 19 March 1755 --
which appears in the tangled account above as the misplaced date for his
So what are we left with here? In my view:
certainty, we know that an earlier generation of family researchers had a
source with some accurate information about the Darwins
in Louisa County (the place names Cuckoo and Hollowing Creek).
- The possibility
that that source of information was a page from the "Bible"
record, now lost. But there is no necessary indication that was the
low probablity that this additional source
(whether a lost "Bible" page or other primary source) indicates
as many as 12 children for William and Jane.
low probabilty that this additional source makes
reference to England. Had the claim been for a record making reference to,
say, Yorkshire, or some other specific locality, it might be worthy
of greater credence.
certainty that such a source could not have specified the 'first 6'
children as born in England; as we have seen, at best only the first three
may have been born elsewhere than Louisa County, and we have no other
source to indicate this.
It may be that at least part of this tangled
report arises from a misreading of the Darwin-Bland "Bible" record as
it stands, perhaps mistaking the list of children of Robert Bland on Quarto A
for Darwin offspring? But this is to speculate about speculation!
It may be worth noting, that there is some
reason to doubt the claim of a 'fire' in 1961 as the cause of lost pages to the
"Bible" record. The photostatic copies
appear to show detached sheets, not fire-damaged ones, and the inverted writing
down two of the quartos, along with the name of 'Decembus
Abram Summerford his book' on just such a page might
suggest sheets long detached from the original notebook rather than sheets
miraculously spared from flames. But again, in the absence of a good report on
the state of the original documents, this is simply speculation!