Tuesday, February 14, 2023

But What About Benjamin?


There is a name which, due to its owner's brush with history, has been memorialized through the various positions he held and roles he played in the early years of our country's existence. That name was Benjamin Taliaferro.

As far as I've been able to see through occasional research on the Taliaferro family over the years, that Benjamin belonged to the same immediate family as my fourth great-grandfather, Zachariah Taliaferro. But when we look at their father's will, I have to wait until almost the last line of the document to find Zachariah mentioned, but not once do I find Benjamin named in that record.

Is Benjamin part of that family or not? Did I enter him into a family tree to which he has no relation? Let's review what can be found about this Benjamin, starting with the reports from history.

Benjamin Taliaferro was known as an attorney, a politician, and a judge. Born in 1750 in Amherst County, Virginia, he came of age with the dawning of his own nation, serving in the Revolutionary War. After the war, he married the daughter of another longstanding colonial family, Martha Meriwether, and they moved from their native Virginia to the newly-formed state of Georgia.

A few years after their move to Georgia, Benjamin served in the Georgia General Assembly, and eventually was elected to the state senate, where he served as the senate president.  He later served two separate terms in the United States Congress, before returning to Georgia to serve in another capacity as a judge of the Georgia Superior Court, and later, as a trustee for the University of Georgia. It is no surprise to learn that a county, Taliaferro County, was named in his honor.

Though the retelling of Benjamin Taliaferro's history sometimes includes the names of his parents—the senior Zachariah and Mary Boutwell Taliaferro—I find it odd that Benjamin is not mentioned in his father's will. As a Patriot due to his service, Benjamin Taliaferro has his own entry in the listings provided by the Daughters of the American Revolution, as one would expect. But he also is included in the descendants listed in the DAR entry for his father Zachariah.

If that is so, why was Benjamin not mentioned in his father's will? It certainly couldn't be owing to Benjamin's choice to move from his family home in Virginia to the pioneer settlement where he lived in Georgia. His brother Richard did the same thing. It appears that at least one of his sisters—Ann Watkins—and possibly his sister Frances Penn, did likewise. And another brother, the younger Zachariah, lived not far from Georgia, being just over the state line in South Carolina.

As it turns out, there may have been another reason for this omission, though I can only guess at the cause. Relying only on stories from printed genealogies of generations past, I might have found a reason. At least, it makes me wonder what is at the root of the omission. We'll explore those old family stories tomorrow.

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