Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Wandering William


If you were gifted with the most important part of your family's heritage—the family farm—would you have simply walked away from it? I'm not sure I would. There would have to be some extremely weighty extenuating circumstances to make me wander from such a legacy.

And yet, William, father of my fourth great-grandfather Peleg Tilson, apparently did just that. Why?

As we saw yesterday in the will of William's own maternal grandfather, John Murdock, not only was William handily identified by his grandfather as son of Stephen "Tillson," but in the first item listed in John Murdock's will, William was specifically given his grandfather's farm.

The farm was located, presumably, in the same county where John Murdock drew up his September 16, 1756, will: "Plimouth." While the farm was in the New England colony, however, grandson William Tilson may soon have been somewhere far distant. Here's where I need to connect the dots.

There are a few subscribers who have included an unidentified printed narrative which provides the supposed explanation of the wanderings of William Tilson. I have seen this printed page in family trees in the past, but have yet to identify the source. Of course, if this is true, I'll need to locate documentation to verify each of the assertions about William's history.

According to that information, William Tilson served during the battles comprising what was called, at least in North America, the French and Indian War. He became part of Captain Josiah Thatcher's company, of the regiment led by Colonel John Thomas. By early May of 1759, less than two months after entering the service on March 29, 1759, William landed at Halifax in Nova Scotia, serving there until November 1 of that same year. He again was noted to have served in Nova Scotia beginning in 1760, from January 1 through December 18, 1761.

From that point, this unsourced report notes that William Tilson left Nova Scotia, but ultimately not to reside at his inherited property in Massachusetts, but to settle in southwest Virginia. When I have read of other men who had, subsequent to their military service, settled in locations other than their home colony, it has generally been because they personally observed the benefits of their new location due to previous military action there. Furthermore, the other ancestors I've studied who had relocated often moved with others of their company, sometimes following the officer of their unit, in peacetime just as they had done in battle.

So how did Virginia enter the equation for this New Englander? Even if William Tilson did obtain bounty land for his service in this new-to-him location, the laws of that post-war decade would have gone against him. And yet, this report states that William Tilson "migrated to the western part of Virginia" by 1763. Comparing this report with history, though, we run into problems, which we'll see tomorrow.

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