An American Family History

David Humphreys


"[L]iberty must at all hazards be supported.
We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.
But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us,
at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood."

-- John Adams, 1765


East Tennessee is part of Appalachia. At the end of the French and Indian War, colonists began drifting into the area. In 1769, they first settled along the Watauga River. During the Revolution, the Overmountain Men defeated British loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The State of Franklin was formed in the 1780s, but never admitted to the Union.

Carter County, Tennessee was organized from Washington County on April 9, 1796. Elizabethton is the county seat.

David Humphreys was born in about 1746. Dr. Samuel Masengill wrote that he was born in Londonderry, Ireland. I think he may be a son of John and Susannah Humphreys.

During the American Revolution, he served as a private on the Pennsylvania Line. According to his pension file (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6), he joined the Continental army in 1776. He was in the First Regiment of Foot commanded by Colonel Edward Hand. He was enlisted by Captain John Holliday and Lieutenant James Holliday (killed September 11, 1777). At first he was in Captain Robert Cluggage's company of riflemen.

He served until 1778. Several times he participated in missions against the indigenous people in North Carolina. He was at Trenton and Monmouth. He received an honorable discharge from Dr. William Magaw. At one point he was in the hospital. He served 18 months under General Sineleary?

He married Elizabeth Hart in 1786. Their children and life together are described in detail in the section on David and Elizabeth Humphreys.

He applied for a pension on August 10, 1818 in Carter County, Tennessee. His pension started at age 88. He was paid $376 and $96 year.

On October 30, 1823 the general assembly passed an act to pay $31 to David for being a brigade inspector of the 4th brigade of the Tenessee militia as required by the 1815 assembly. A brigade inspector was to

. . . distribute all orders from the brigadier general or commanding officer . . .
to keep an orderly book . . .
. . . keep a record of all appointments and resignations in his brigade;
he shall keep a roster of the field and staff officers. . .

On August 21, 1830, David Humphreys appeared in court in Sullivan County, Tennessee. He was 73 years old. He swore that he served in the American Revolution. He said he was no longer able to pursue his occupation of leather glove making. He said his son, John Humphreys, was settled in Carter County and that his daughter married John Smith of Sullivan County and that he lived with her.

He died June 27 1832.
Children of John and Susannah Humphreys
  • William Humphreys
  • David Humphreys
  • Richard Humphreys
  • Moses Humphreys
  • Mary Humpreys Tullis
  • Jesse Humphreys
  • Elizabeth Humphreys Greenway
  • Elisha Humphreys
  • George Humphreys
  • Carter County is in northeastern Tennessee. It was part of the Washington District of North Carolina organized in 1775.┬áIn 1777, the district became Washington County, North Carolina.

    Sullivan County is in far northeast corner of Tennessee between North Carolina and Virginia and was originally part of those states. It was formed in 1779 when it was divided from Washington County.

    Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796. It was initially part of North Carolina.

    North Carolina was one of the thirteen original Colonies. It was first settled by small farmers and grew quickly in the mid 18th century.



    Watauga Pioneer Neighbors

    The Massengills, Massengales and Variants, 1472-1931 by Samuel Evans Massengill, M.D. The King Printing Company, Bristol, Tennessee, 1931.

    Some of the Humphreys descendants lived on Muddy Creek in Sullivan County, Tenn. Catherine knew a great many people on Garland's Branch near Watauga, Tenn., and it is likely that she was akin to the Humphreys who are mentioned frequently on the early records of Washington County, Tenn.


    Connecticut's first European settlers were Dutch.

    Medical Men of Franklin County, 1750-1925 by Ambrose Watts Thrush, M.D.; Chambersburg, Pa.; Medical Society of Franklin County, Page 237

    Dr. William Magaw (1740-1829)
    William Magaw was born at Carlisle, Pa., a son of William and Elizabeth Magaw and was a brother of Colonel Robert Magaw. He was commissioned surgeon in June, 1775, serving with Colonel William Thompson's, afterward Colonel Hand's Battalion of riflemen. This Battalion was the first body of troops from west of the Hudson River and south of Connecticut to reach Boston and join General Washington. Dr. Magaw later was appointed surgeon in the Continental Army and served to the close of the war.

    After leaving the army Dr. Magaw located in Mercersburg, Pa., and practiced medicine in this town for many years. He became the owner of much valuable real estate in this neighborhood. When well advanced in years he went to Meadville, Pa., and lived in the family of his son, William, until his death. General Lafayette during his visit to the United States in 1824 spent a few hours with Dr. Magaw in Meadville. While a surgeon in the Revolution Dr. Magaw in one instance had dressed Lafayette's wounds. Dr. Magaw married in 1790, Mary McDowell, born 1756, died 1799. She was the second wife and there were no children. Dr. Jesse Magaw was a son by the first wife.

    Surgeons in colonial America were often barbers who used their cutting tools to perform surgery.
    Physicians were university trained.
    Midwives assisted women in childbirth.

    Colonial Maryland
    Colonial New England
    Colonial Virginia & West Virginia
    Quakers & Mennonites
    New Jersey Baptists
    German Lutherans
    Watauga Settlement
    Pennsylvania Pioneers
    Midwest Pioneers
    Jewish Immigrants

    ©Roberta Tuller 2023
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