John D. Bridgers M.D.
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Shaggy Dog Chronicles
Chapter 2, Part 4 - Confusion at Grindle Creek


The households of John and Joyce (Langley) Whichard and their immediate descendents are lumped together because their identities are difficult to separate.

This is in part because the Christian names of the male heirs in successive generations are extremely repetitive, and also because the deeds and wills, which would allow such individuals to be differentiated, were lost when the second courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1858.

Dr. Rogers Day Whichard, the genealogist supreme of the family, even with access through diligent recourse to more detailed and documented allegations, also had trouble and, in fact, my difficulties mainly spring from his.

Solomon Whichard, being of age when his family entered Pitt County, first purchased land of his own along Grindle Creek in 1761, and it has been intimated that his father may have assisted in this acquisition, and as well perhaps passed along some of his land to his son.

He figured in several land transactions over the next few years and in several deeds was referred to as "Solomon Whichard, planter."

More than one surmise is made as to whom he married, and it is my best estimate that he mated with Nancy Jones, daughter of John Jones around 1765.

I searched in vain for a father and daughter with these names in The Chronicles of Pitt County;  a massive tome complied by the Pitt County Historical Society at the time of the Bicentennial in 1976.

So we know not more of these possible ancestors, though as in most North American communities the name Jones is rife, this being the Anglo-Saxon derivative of the Scandinavian names of Johnson and Jensen.

Next in line was another John Whichard, perhaps named for one or both of his grandfathers, and who also remained in the northeast area of Pitt County through which Grindle Creek runs.

From circumstantial records it seems probable he was born about 1766 and further that he married Frances Elizabeth James.

The Chronicles of Pitt County does not shed further light on her parents or a James branch with a daughter so named.

Lemuel James is reputed to have settled along Grindle Creek in 1751, several years before John Whichard Sr. and his family, and it seems likely he was the taproot for the many branches of the James family who still live in the area.

Fast-forwarding one's memories, whenever I think of this possible distant grandmother I recall my good friend Elmer James of High Point.

He was one of large family from Bethel, a small Pitt County community north of Greenville.

He studied accounting at a business college in Norfolk, and then spent the bulk of his career in veneer distribution, which served the large furniture industry in High Point and its environs.

I had come to know Elmer in a speaker's club, and then had drawn close to him in his grief after he lost his beloved wife, Elsie.

He and I spent many hours together golfing, eating and chatting.

Elmer was one of the finest fellows I've ever known and was a treasured friend.

One day when we were sharing a golf cart he showed me on a scorecard how his signature had deteriorated -- it had become quite small and all but illegible.

I suspected he was developing Parkinson's disease and without sharing my suspicions I suggested he demonstrate his handwriting to his physician.

His doctor sent him to a neurologist and my fears were confirmed -- Elmer slowly went down hill.

After we left High Point and I started traveling for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals Elmer made it his job to keep us informed of events and folk in our then hometown.

Alas, when he died there was no one to tell me of this, and I incidentally learned of his death several months after the fact.

We used to kid one another about being distant cousins.

As I'm fading into old age, Elmer joins the parade of well-loved friends and kinsmen who have climbed skyward before have I.

So back to the family.

This John Whichard, the second in the Carolina succession, was listed as a head of family in the first U. S. Census in 1790 with his wife, two sons and daughter also included.

One of these sons was the second Solomon Whichard, then one year old.

Frances James Whichard was listed in the 1830 census, but not in 1840, so she must have died in this interim.

In the 1800 census John Whichard held two slaves, and in the 1840 record these holdings had increased to twenty.

Before their demises John and Frances (James) Whichard had an issue of eight children.

The second Solomon Whichard was their second son and my great-great- grandfather.

Solomon Whichard (II) lived from 1789 to 1851.

He was a member of the N. C. Militia.  When the British under Admiral Cockburn threatened the Carolina coast in The War of 1812, he was among those sent to "The Outer Banks" to defend against invasion.

This came to be only a long walk and boat ride as nothing came of the admiral's foray.

In 1827 Solomon Whichard married Nancy Fleming, a descendent of David Fleming and the couple settled in a house which incorporated parts from another 150 year old dwelling on his grandfather's land that had been built well before the Whichard's came to North Carolina.

David James is listed as having arrived in Pitt County in the mid-1700's, approximately in the same era and area as did the Whichards.

From the records available it is not certain how many generations separate David and Nancy Fleming, but it seems definite that a David was Nancy's father.

Solomon and Nancy (Fleming) Whichard purchased land in an area known as Briery Swamp, which fits with my prior description of the "low-lands" in which all these generations lived and farmed.

They had four sons of whom one was David Fleming Whichard, and another Willis R. Whichard who was the grandfather of Dr. Rogers Day Whichard, the genealogist whom I have shamelessly plagiarized. 

We think of this procession of men as "planters," which certainly they were.

Many likewise were slaveholders, though not to the degree that were many planters in southern states other than North Carolina.

The fact that they held slaves at all shows this was a difference in economics rather than ethics, despite our wishing to show our forebears in the best light.

The picture we hold today of a "planter" may well yield the image of gentlemen-farmers riding gaited walking-horses over their broad fields, and wearing white suits and panama hats.

In truth, these ancestors undoubtedly wore bib overalls, brogan shoes and followed mules drawing plows across their acres.

Such was the ante-bellum culture of the average North Carolina farmer despite our grander view of this life.

As is evident these were all large families, and the children worked along with the Negro slaves -- in the farmhouse and in the fields. 

In truth they held other humans in bondage, but they were hard-working folk.

However, for those of our line, much of this changed with David Fleming Whichard, my great-grandfather.

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