Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Concerning Coburn's Creek


Perhaps one would never suspect it, but be forewarned: the 1830 will of Anthony Carroll is about to lead us down a rabbit trail which may—or may not—prove fruitful in our assembling of the cluster of names associated with the Carroll, Gordon, and Guseman families of Monongalia County in old Virginia.

Recall, for a moment, that in his will, Anthony Carroll stipulated the customary instructions to pay "all my just debts and funeral expences."

Out of concern that, perhaps in liquidating the "perishable part" of his estate, the reconciling of debts and assets might come up short, Anthony had conditionally instructed his executors to sell his "land lying on Coburns Creek."

Of course, the curious family historian would want to know just where such ancestral property might have been situated. And this is the beginning of our long slide through Monongalia County history, almost to the formation of the county itself, in 1776. 

You see, before Monongalia County was part of West Virginia, it began its history, carved out of what once was the Virginia county of Augusta. However, disabuse yourself of the modern notion of counties, for at the formation of Augusta County in 1738, the land was part of such a sparsely populated territory as to not even have an organized government until seven years after its formation.

Furthermore, Augusta County was such an immense territory as to swallow up most of what has now become West Virginia, plus the whole of Kentucky, as well. That, plus containing an indefinite western boundary which eventually precipitated a boundary dispute—which will figure into our story in a few days—yielded an unwieldy matter of governance.

The solution, in 1774, was to designate this vast wilderness of then-colonial Virginia as the District of West Augusta. It was from this immense chunk of land that, in 1776, three counties were carved, one of which was Monongalia County.

Don't hold your breath about the creation of a governing body to direct the activities politic of this nascent American county, though. The act forming the three new counties out of the erstwhile District of West Augusta stipulated that the qualified voters of that year were "to meet at the house of Jonathan Coburn...on the 8th of December following," weather permitting, of course.

So there it was: that name Coburn. Whoever Jonathan Coburn was, he was resident in Monongalia County by 1776. Presumably, his was a house which included property adjacent to the creek which bore the same misspelled surname—although that is merely a presumption of mine at this point. Of course, that research path would require construction of a viable pedigree, plus likely a thorough examination of property records.

Let's follow that "Coburn" trail just a bit farther. As it turns out—creative spelling being a favorite pursuit of the inventive mind of that era—the name was actually Cobun, not Coburn, though Colburn was another variant. And there were signs of further family members in the area.

One such entry in the History of Monongalia County mentioned a Cobun relative by the name of William Sanford Cobun, born not in Monongalia County, but in nearby Preston County in 1838. He was the son of Samuel W. Cobun, who early in his son's life had moved the family to Barbour County before his own untimely death.

At that point, William's widowed mother moved the family to Monongalia County. Why move there? I suspect it was because the former Susan Guseman—who had originally married Samuel "Coburn" in Monongalia County on May 28, 1837—had family back in Mon County, herself. Though likely not the "Susan Murdock" mentioned in Godfrey Guseman's 1838 will as his sister, this little discovery does give rise to considerations of how interwoven those early Mon County families once had been.

Add that to our growing cluster of friends, associates, and neighbors of the ancestors and relatives of my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother, Mary Carroll Gordon. We are in the genealogical vicinity, in exploring this "F.A.N. Club," but not close enough, yet, to confirm any of the details we need to know about Anthony Carroll or his son-in-law, Godfrey Guseman.


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