Joseph and Martha (Newberry) Thames – Part 2

Cover Illustration - The Thames Family of North Carolina 1735-1780

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In A Thames Family History: From Derbyshire, England 1584 to Cape Fear North Carolina to 2002 (Emert, 2002, self-published), on page 63, the following statement is found:

“Joseph Thames came to Cape Fear area of North Carolina as a young man. He had been a school teacher since Thomas Thames had moved to Craven County, North Carolina. One document, Records of Craven County, North Carolina, Vol I, shows he traveled with a Moravian Missionary stating he was a school teacher from Pennsylvania.”

The statement warrants further examination. The book the author uses as her source, Records of Craven County, NC, Volume 1, by Elizabeth Moore (Genealogical Recorders, Bladensburg MD 1960) makes no mention of Joseph Thames anywhere in the book. While the book does mention Leonhard Schnell, a Moravian missionary, visiting Craven County in 1743-1744 and being accompanied by “an English teacher of Pennsylvania,” it does not mention the teacher’s name (Records of Craven County, NC, Volume 1, pp 62-63).

That said, The German Element in the United States, Vol 1, by Albert Bernhardt Faust (Houghton Mifflin, Boston & New York, 1909), pp 208-211, says of Schnell’s five-month missionary journey from Nov 1743 to April 1744, extending from Pennsylvania all the way to Georgia:

“Leonard Schnell was accompanied by Robert Hussey (born in Wiltshire, England), a teacher of the Moravian school in Oley, Pennsylvania.”

And there’s the English teacher. Not a teacher of the English language, but a teacher from England.

No mention of Joseph Thames (nor any other traveling partner for Schnell) is made in The German Element. Furthermore, if the Thames family were indeed Quakers, Joseph would not be traveling the frontier to assist Schnell with spreading the Moravian faith.

Unfortunately, this misrepresentation has blossomed into a “factoid” attached to him in several online trees. We urge you to ignore it.

This is not to say that the Thames family was never in Pennsylvania, because we do have questions about where they were prior to their appearance in North Carolina (notwithstanding records for a Thomas Thems found in Virginia), but certainly more research in that region is warranted before concluding they were there.

And now, on to some things we know are true…

While reviewing the records for Joseph (and Martha), it’s important to remember the following:

  1. Cumberland County was formed from Bladen County in 1754; its southern border is Bladen County’s northern border.
  2. The border between the two counties changed twice after it was initially established in 1754:
    •  First, part of Bladen County was annexed to Cumberland County in 1762, and made official in 1764.
    • Then, part of Bladen County was again annexed to Cumberland County in 1789. This second annexation is the point in time where Thames land along the Cape Fear River stopped being part of Bladen County and became part of Cumberland County.

The map below was published in 1782. It shows the area of land where the Thames family had, collectively, relatively large land holdings still situated in Bladen County – look at the Bladen County line near the bottom and note the area on the Cape Fear River with the big bend at the county line. Inside that bend was Thames land. Also note to the north, Campbellton and Cross Creek which became Fayetteville the year after the map was published.

You can view a larger version of the map here, on the University of North Carolina website.

1782 Map of Cumberland County NC
1782 Map of Cumberland County NC

Joseph Thames was a busy man.

In addition to running his plantations – with which he certainly must have had help from Martha and his sons – deed records reveal that he was at different points of time referred to as a cooper (maker and repairer of casks and barrels) and a millwright/sawyer. He also seems to have been involved to a degree in land speculation and development in Cross Creek and Campbellton.  Cross Creek and Campbellton where two individual towns very close together, which were consolidated in 1778 as Campbellton, and in 1783 was renamed Fayetteville, in honor of General Marquis de Lafayette of Revolutionary War fame.

There are so many deed records involving Joseph – as a seller, a buyer, a “mention” about borders or as a previous owner, and as a witness. This narrative will skip the deeds having to do with borders, prior ownership and witnessing unless they provide insight or clues into his life and business.

The earliest record for Joseph (that we have discovered) is dated 10 Apr 1752, when Joseph Thims petitioned the North Carolina Executive Council for a 300 acre land warrant in Anson County, which was granted. There is no record of this land being surveyed nor a patent being issued. Additionally, there is no record of him disposing of this land. It may be that for any number of reasons the petition was withdrawn or cancelled.

16 Feb 1760 – Cumberland Co NC – John Newberry of Cumberland sells to John Stephens of Bladen, 16 acres situated on Cross Creek 38 poles [209 yards] below [downstream of] John Newberry’s grist mill, on the creek, the final waypoint being at John Newberry’s property line near the end of an old dam opposite Joseph Thames. This deed tells us that Joseph already owned land in that area, even though we don’t have a record of his acquiring it.  Cumberland Co NC Deed Book 1 p 350.

19 Aug 1760 – John Newberry of Cumberland made a deed of gift to his sons-in-law Joseph Thames and Peter Lord of Bladen a tract of land and half of a sawmill on Cross Creek, held in partnership with John Welsh and formerly the property of Thomas Matthews and sold to Jesse Newberry. Deed Book 1 p 358

On 23 Oct 1761, Joseph Tims received a land patent for 200 acres in Cumberland Co NC, adjoining Pugh’s, Russell’s and Whittle’s lines (North Carolina Patent Book 15, page 375 – see, where you can set up a free account to view records). Later deeds confirm this land was Joseph Thames’s land, by the spelling of his surname, and that it was located on Cross Creek on the Yadkin Road.

On 22 Jan 1773, Joseph Thembs received a land patent no. 280 for 500 acres in Bladen Co NC, adjoining Jesse Newberry, Isaac Simms and Edmiston Weir on the SW side of the NW River ((North Carolina Patent Book 22, page 190 – see, where you can set up a free account to view records).

To be continued…

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