R. H. (Ruth Hairston) Early.

The family of Early, which settled upon the eastern shore of Virginia and its connection with other families online

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Which settled upon the Eastern Shore
of Virginia



R. H.



Copyright 1920




Captain Samuel Hy. Early, from a crayon drawing.

Cadet Samuel Henry Early Jr., from a portrait.




"A lively desire of knowing and recording our ancestors so gen-
erally prevails that it must depend on the influence of some common
principle in the minds of men. We seem to have lived in the
persons of our forefathers; it is the labor and reward of vanity to
extend the term of this ideal longevity. Our imagination is always
active to enlarge the narrow circle in which nature has confined us.
We fill up the silent vacancy that precedes our birth by associating
ourselves to the authors of our existence."

Edward Gibbon.


The custom of recording genealogies is many centuries old, as
witness the generations chronicled in the Scriptures, showing its
importance in the estimation of the ancients.

Later Tuitions have also provided for the preservation of family
history. There are at the public record office in Chancery Lane,
London, twenty-six miles of shelves containing millions upon mil-
lions of documents methodically arranged, so that if you have the
necessary facts to work on, you may trace family history generation
by generation.

Among the people who have observed the custom (which has a
bearing upon nation and individual ) are the Irish, who incorporated
it in their system of government.

In the preface to the 2nd series of his "Irish Pedigrees," O'Hart
says that to the end of the 16th century, or as long as the Tanist
Law remained in force in Ireland, collections of authentic pedigrees
existed; in one or other of which was carefully registered the birth
of every member of a sept, poor as well as rich, and by which was
determined the portion of land to be allotted for the sustenance
of each head of a family and of those dependant on him. These
records disappeared when, by the conquest of Ireland, they ceased
to be useful for their own special purpose — but before they dis-
appeared they formed the basis of genealogical collections of
several Irish historians. Then a time came when it was of im-
portance for the conquerors to know something of the native
families. Out of this necessity arose a new value for all genealogical
records, and the attention of English officials at the close of the
16th century was directed towards the recovery of such documents.
In his "Miscellany of the Celtic Society," O'Donovan says, "Those
of the lowest rank among a great tribe traced and retained the whole
line of their descent with the same care which, in other nations, was
peculiar to the rich and great; for it was from his own genealogy,
each man, poor as well as rich, held the cantred in which he was
born, the soil of which was occupied by one family or clan, and


in which no one lawfully possessed any portion of the soil if he
was not of the same race as the chief."

"In Ireland and Scotland each family had its own chief under
Tanist law. These chiefs constituted the ancient nobility in sister
counties down to the reign of James I."

The history given in the following pages is confined to the family of
Early, which settled in the tidewater section of Virginia, and having
acquired landed interests remained in the state for two or more
generations, moving, as time passed, towards the hill country. The
founder of this family was presumably John Early, first recorded
in Virginia annals 1661.

To materials collected from American records, I have undertaken
to add what data, regarding earlier history there was to be ex-
tracted from authentic Irish writings, copied during a visit to
Dublin for the purpose of learning the basis for the claim, tradi-
tionally made, of Scotch-Irish ancestry. I have not attempted the
difficult task of tracing actual connection with the family in the
mother country, in order to discover the exact stem from which
the venturous branch started forth to secure root in the new world.
The Irish works to which I had access were:

1. "Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland," "A celebrated work of
Irish history from the earliest period till the year 1676, compiled
from ancient Gaelic Mss. in 1631, at the Franciscan monastery in the
town of Donegal, by Michael O'Clery, a monk of the order, and by
Peregrine and Conary O'Clery and Peregrine O'Duigenan, learned
antiquaries. From their high character these annals have, since
their publication, served as the basis of all Irish historical writings."
Translated by John O'Donovan, barrister-at-law, 1856. Dublin.

In this there is a genealogical Index concerning the three Collas
from 322 to 1536, which is amplified in the history; they were the
ancestors of various families in Ireland and Scotland.

2. "Irish Pedigrees" begins with what the author calls the "stem"
of each pedigree. From the stem, branch many other families, and
to the head of each is attached a number, which determines the order
of precedence assigned. Under the "stem" O'Brassil (West) comes
Fiachra Casan No. 86, son of Colla-da-Crioch and his descendants
down to Dallgan No. 96, who had a brother Maolmocheirghe, angli-


cised Mulmoghery, Early and Eardley — eleven generations from

3. "Families in Ireland from the 11th to end of the 16th century,"
by Philip McDermott, M. 1). p. 388. "O'Mulmoghery family of
Doneghal County. Maolmocheirghe, O'Maolmocheirghe, O'Mul-
moghery, O'Maoilmocheirghe, or Ua Maolmocheirghe. This name
is still common in the county of Donegal, Ireland, but anglicised
Early because the Celtic signifies 'early rising.' Maol signifies the
'chief of the early rising.' The word 'maol,' when not prefixed
to the name of a saint, signifies a king or chief, as in the present
instance." These volumes were all issued in the 19th century.

From these three sources we discover that there existed a family
which bore the name of Maolmocheirghe and dwelt in North Ireland
many generations ago; but which, from the 16th century, has been
known by the derivative name of Early. It remains to designate
the descendants of later generations who came to America, and
made their abode in Virginia.

The destruction of court and family records, removal of families
to distant and unknown sections, the difficulty of obtaining response
from many to whom enquiries have been sent and other obstructive
causes, have retarded the publication of this family data, collected
from various sources. I do not claim for it entire accuracy of detail,
for it has not been possible always to confirm — yet on the other hand
to disprove — much information which has been given by members of
the connection. My aim is to preserve the knowledge which I
have secured and incidentally to furnish clues to those who may
desire to obtain lost traces of their branch of the family. The
absence of record in various lines is not intended to convey the
impression that none exists but that (if extant) I have not been able
to obtain it.

One of the greatest deterrents to investigation has been the re-
currence of the same given name often perpetuated through genera-
tions of large families. In such instances accuracy of date alone
may keep one from becoming confused and misled. Even then
the not unusual habit of one brother duplicating the name another
chose for his children, may halt investigation indefinitely. It has
happened that a certain name was a favorite one which became
repeated in successive generations — without a distinguishing middle
name or the latter omitted. The investigator, in such instance, may


start quite confidently upon the family search through a first genera-
tion of 'Mary and John' — pursue the genealogical lines to a second
generation but gets entangled, lost, in the maze of Marys
and Johns discovered increasingly in the extension of lines. To
this comes added confusion from the manner of spelling surnames,
which seems to have been arbitrarily regulated by the conception of
the writer, who leaving slight resemblance to the original, forces
a pursuit of the name most similar. There is thus created an ignis
fatuus in record hunting and there may come into play more than
one family line to be followed, perhaps a final turn present an ap-
pearance of a distinctly different one.

These difficulties must largely account for the inaccuracies so
often discovered in genealogical publications, the correction of
which has to rest with the members interested in setting history
right who are able to correct it. In all of the earliest records I found
the name Early spelt in such a variety of ways that only its associa-
tion gave me confidence in its being the one sought. It was written
Earle, Early, Earley, Yerle, Yearly, Yerley indifferently through
all order, deed and will books, then the similar names of Ely and
Ealy would add to die uncertainty. I could not discover whether
this was merely another specimen of eccentric spelling or if in-
tended for families bearing those names.

We learn of a second founder of the name who came to America
from North Ireland but landed upon the Jersey coast and estab-
lished his family in Union County, New Jersey. This was William
Early, who arrived in the New World about 1742. His son, Thomas,
moved from New Jersey to Hampshire County, Virginia, and re-
mained there twenty-five years, then left for Kentucky, where many
descendants may be found. Samuel Stockwell Early, the descendant
of a branch which later moved to Indiana, left a Mss. account of these
settlers, which was published after his death by his nephew, Robert
S. Hatcher, under the title of "The Early Family in America."
The audior believed that the two Virginia founders were brother.?,
and he had evidently intended to incorporate the history of both in
his book, as it mentions several descendants of the earlier emigrant, —
but he died before he had completed his manuscript, and it was
printed in its unfinished state. There seems little doubt of a re-
lationship, but we find John Early recorded as early as 1661, his
son, Thomas, and wife, Elizabeth, in 1705 — when their son, Jeremiah,


was born, and in 1729 Jeremiah's son, John, was born, so here were
four generations before the second settler, William, came to this

There is a suggestive coincidence in the fact that the sons in the
first generation of both Earlys were named Thomas — which is
singular in that there seems to have been but one son in each of
these families. We learn from "The Early Family in America"
that William came not directly from Ireland, but by way of Eng-
land — where he married. It seems not improbable that he was
not the first generation of his people in England. Previous ones
may have started from Ireland, with intent of American destina-
tion, but taking England en route, were delayed there longer than
it is supposed. A letter from one of the Early family living in
Ireland about fifty years ago, contains the statement, "Our family
sent at a very early period of our colonial history several members
to America," which seems to confirm belief that two or more started
about the same time.

To more clearly define family lines it may be well to call atten-
tion just here to other peoples in the state who bear a similar name,
and in passing to note that as early as 1710 Earlys were living near
the North Carolina border. In an account of the boundary line
proceedings between Virginia and North Carolina at that date, is
found the statement, "The day being clear this operation was taken
at the widow Early's about two miles up the Wicocan Creek." (Va.
His. Mag.)

An Earley family, which claims German origin, came with the
human tide which flowed through Pennsylvania and settled, as bar-
riers against Indian encroachment, along Virginia's west borderland,
locating in the fertile valleys, descendants of whom still reside in
that section. It will be observed that the last syllable of the name
is spelt "ley" — thus marking it distinctively.

Three Early brothers settled in Monroe County; but, I think, in
a second generation moved west, descendants of whom are to be
found about Evansville, Indiana: they appear to have come from

Mr. Richard H. Earle, of Marietta, Georgia, who most untiringly
collected material for a history of the Earle family, was of the
opinion that the Earles and Earlys were originally one and the
same people, and wrote that a number of circumstances led him


to this conclusion. He quotes Hutchinson's "History of Dorset,
Eng.," and Collinson's "History of Somerset, Eng.," which traces
the ancestry of the Earles, saying they derived their name from the
lordship of Erleigh, near Reading in Berkshire. This "Erleigh"
is now a large town and is spelt Ear ley. In England all families
deriving descent from the lords of Erleigh spelt their names 'Erleigh
de Erleigh, Earley, Early, Erley, Erly, Earle, Earl.

"The family is of remote Roman origin : came from France and
then Normandy with William the Conqueror, Johannes -de Erleigh
heing a baron in France prior to joining William's standard. His
French name was different from the one assumed when he became
Lord of Erleigh."

Mr. Earle found Earles or Earls in the Southern States "whose
ancestors came from Ireland, though it is pretty certain that their
forbears resided in England before going to Ireland."

"The North Carolina Earls came from Bandon, Ireland."

"The part of Northumberland County, Virginia, in which my
ancestors settled was an Irish community, which is proved by the
name of the village they founded, Kinsale" — (the name of a town in
Southern Ireland) — "on the Wicomoco river and a stream called
Earle's Creek." Bandon is about twenty miles distant from Cork,
Ireland, and Kinsale twenty miles from Bandon. Here are shown
two settlements of people in different states, originally within twenty
miles of each other in Ireland, who brought the names of Irish
towns with them, rather than others, yet both are presumed to have
been of English origin, and the claim of this (American) Kinsale
community to Irish heritage is discredited.

I do not know whether Mr. Earle was familiar with the Irish
historical writings of which Mr. Stockwell Early made a study,
but believe that, if he had been, some of his inferences would have
been different. He died before he had completed the investigations
he had started for tracing his lineage, leaving a large collection of
data, in the zealous pursuit of his theory of the Earle, Early and
Yeardley relationship, one argument in favor of which was the
fact that in the records of Gov. Yeardley's time he is sometimes
given that name and at others the name of Earley: another is the
intimate association of Sir Walter, Christopher and Martin Earle
with Sir George Yeardley in the Virginia company of London.


As trustworthy an authority as Bishop John Early (5th genera-
tion from John Early, the fust) is given for the statement that a
relative of his was a first Virginia governor, referring, it is pre-
sumed, to Yeardley.

Now that many individuals are turning attention to genealogical
investigation, and old court records are being brought to light, the
unsettled problems which confuse research may at a day not far
distant be solved. We must leave disputed points to the solution
of later historians.

Turning to the "Early Family in America," we find that "the
people known by the surname of Early, especially in the states
of the South, are descended from an Irish ancestry whose habitat
in the Isle of Saints lay in the ancient pentarchate of Ulster. Their
cognomen is a translation into English of the old Hibernian desig-
nation O'Maolmocheirghe. This formidable appellative was the
Gaelic title of one of the tribes composing the Clan Colla of
Orgialla and was derived from the name of the progenitor of the
tribe, Maolmoeheirghe, a descendant in the 11th generation from
Colla-da-Crioch, the founder and first sovereign of the provincial
realm of Ulster under its Heremonian line of kings."

The author reverts back to the 4th century and repeats ancient
Irish history in telling of the success of three war-like brothers,
called the three Collas who wrested from the original possessors a
great part of the province of Ulster. This they divided among
themselves, but descendants of two of the brothers were deprived
by a great warrior-king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, of their share
of spoil. Descendants of the third brother, da-Crioch, retained their
ancestors' portion and authority over it, as titular kings of Ulster,
down to their submission to the crown of England in the 12th

"From Fiachra-Casan, one of the younger sons of Colla-da-Crioch,
sprang the sept of O'Maolmocheirghe, which sustained the family
reputation for piety." (There follows the list from "Annals of the
Four Masters" of those who attained very high preferments for
their service to the church, ancient representatives of O'Maol-
mocheirghe.) "Their race, we are told, is still numerous in the land
of their ancestors but their surname has for centuries been angli-
cised as Early. This transformation was a consequence of the
legislation of the English invaders of Ireland, who not only dis-


possessed the conquered natives of their lands and political rights,
but deprived them also of their characteristic appellations. Many
penal acts of Parliament were passed during the reigns of the
Henrys and Edwards, which compelled the Irish to adopt English
surnames together with the English language, dress, manners and
customs wherever their authority prevailed. Dr. John O'Donovan,
a celebrated scholar, complains of this policy of denationizing the
distinctive Irish designations, the effect of which has been greatly
to obscure the race history and to render it difficult to determine
to what stock many families belong. He describes the methods of
altering names as having been either by paring the originals down
or by translating them. By the second process English equivolents
in meaning supplanted the Galic titles; thus the ancient name
O'Maolmocheirghe was rendered 'Early' because 'moch eirghe'
meant early to rise. Christian or given names also became Angli-
cised, such as Seagan, Tamas and Diarmuid of the Irish being re-
placed by the English John, Thomas and Jeremiah. Descendants
of this family bearing the Anglican version of their name are dis-
tributed throughout several counties of Northern Ireland, but are
gathered in greater numbers in the highlands of Donegal, whither
they were driven by the evicting policy of the Anglo-Irish govern-
ment. The latter appropriated all generous soils, such as charac-
terized the possessions of Colla-da-Crioch's posterity to the use of
its own adherents, and compelled the withdrawal of the nations into
less fertile districts." (Ancient Tyrconnel — Tir-Connel or Donegal
county, Ulster Province, was formed into the county Donegal by the
Lord Deputy, Sir John Perrott, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth,
called Donegal from its chief town. Donegal, in Irish, Dun-nan-
Gall signifies the "Fortress of the Foreigners," and got its name, it
is said, from a fortress erected there by the Danes. This ancient
territory was called "Tir-Conaill," or the county of Conall, from
Conall Gulbin, son of Niall, of the Nine Hostages.)

With the claim that they were "forfeiting proprietors," Irish land-
owners were ousted from their holdings and turned adrift to find
homes where they might obtain them. In the history of the "Twelve
Livery Companies of London" there is given an account of the
"Plantation of Ulster, six counties in Ulster confiscated in the reign
of James I. in consequence of their adherence to Ulster chiefs.
James by his letters patent dated March 29, 1613, in the 11th year of


his reign, incorporated llie Irish society hy the name of the 'Gov-
ernors and Assistants of the New Plantation in Ulster, within the
realm of England.' A new county was thereby erected, which, uniting
the old name of Derry with its new masters, the corporations and
companies of London, is now called London-Derry. This new set-
tlement was mapped and divided by the Irish society as nearly as
could be into twelve parts and the twelve companies who had
equally contributed to the raising of the £60.000 drew lots for their
several shares."

In "The Genesis of America," Alexander Brown, alluding to the
abatement of interest at that time in the American colonization, says,
"very many merchants of London as individuals continued their
interest in the American enterprise but the companies as corporate
bodies soon transferred their interests in the far distant American
plantation, and devoted themselves to those lands in Ireland."

Sufficient cause we find then for the immigration of those who
became the victims of English speculation to America, the land
which had been a loadstar to their English neighbors, adventurers
who were less precariously circumstanced.

Mr. Stockwell Early not only read Irish history, he travelled
through Ireland, and in mingling with the native people obtained
much traditionary lore not to be found in books. He begins his
narrative at the starting point of his ancestor: "from the valley of
the Owenee" (an angler's stream, which flows towards the west coast,
passing between Ardara and Glenties and empties into Loughros,
More Bay), in the parish of Inniskell, a wild and picturesque but
by no means productive region of Tyrconnel (Donegal) two of
the race set out to seek a more promising abode in America."

Having located these emigrants in their Irish homeland, he follows
them to their temporary home in England, across the ocean to their
landing in New Jersey; to the change of a home in Virginia; thence
after a residence of twenty-five years, to Kentucky, where they be-
came more firmly established. None of this branch of Earlys re-
mained in Virginia, their descendants are to be found largely in
Indiana and Ohio: therefore we find no records of them in this state.

The introductory portion of Mr. Early's history, dealing as it
does with early and quaint Irish records, is very interesting even to
one indifferent to genealogical topics; as a family book, giving


benefit of his great research, it is most valuable to the descendants
of Wm. Early, the founder.

We turn to the Virginian, John Early, who is, with good reason,
presumed to have been the father of Thomas Early, hence the an-
cestor of those listed in the following pages.

The coat of arms used by the American branch of the Early family
as taken from Burke in the General Armory, is as follows:

"Arms: Gules a chevron between three birds argent.

"Crest: A dexter arm, erect perpendicular, the hand holding a
ring, gem or stone, gules.

"Motto: Virgilan et tenex."



I. John, Thomas and Jeremiah Early 17

II. John Early, of Orange County, Va 29

III. Jeremiah Early, Jr., of Bedford County, Va 63

IV. Sarah Early-Kirtley 145

V. Joshua Early, of Bedford County, Va 173

VI. Joseph Early, of Madison County, Va 205

VII. Jacob Early, of Clarke County, Ga 225

VIII. Ann Early-Rogers 257

IX. Hannah Early-Scott 279

X. Joel Early, of Greene County, Ga 293


Capt. Samuel Hy. Early (from a crayon drawing) Frontispiece

Cadet Samuel Henry Early (from a portrait) Opp. Frontispiece

Sen. Nathaniel Bacon Early Facing page 32

Rev. Jeremiah Early Goodwin 70

Capt. Charles Callaway " 72

Locket Memorial to Elizabeth Early Callaway 90

John Cabell Early, V. M. I. (New Market Cadet) " 112

Lieut. Jubal Anderson Early, Jr " 114

General J. A. Early ' 116

Granite Shaft to Gen. J. A. Early and his soldiers com-
memorating the battle near Lynchburg. June 18, 1864 ' 118

Bishop John Early " 188

Judge Wiley Pope Harris " 228

Dr. Coleman Rogers (from a miniature painting) " 266

Judge George Hillyer (of Atlanta, Ga.) " 310





The fact that the name of John Early is found among the records

Online LibraryR. H. (Ruth Hairston) EarlyThe family of Early, which settled upon the eastern shore of Virginia and its connection with other families → online text (page 1 of 24)