The Dobbs Family

My grandfather, James Monroe Dobbs, Jr., was also a descendant of the Dobbs family that settled in Georgia in 1790′s. The information that I received in the summer of 1999 was in the form of a well-documented genealogy that listed his earliest forbearer as Josiah Dobbs. This showed that Josiah Dobbs was born in the mid-1700s in Henry County, Virginia and that he died in 1810s in Gwinnett County, Georgia – having lived for a time in North and South Carolina, and in Elbert County, Georgia.

Having suddenly gained this wealth of information I wondered how much, if any, I could carry it further. I started poking around on to see if I could find other Dobbs researchers out there who may have extended the search further and on my very first time out, I found quite a bit of information. The one thing I did not expect to find was that there were a number of different versions of the same lineage. After sorting through what I had found I determined that there was at least two different versions.

One lineage showed Josiah Dobbs’ father to be John Dobbs, his grandfather to be Josiah Dobbs, and his great grandfather to be John Dobbs. The other lineage shows that Josiah Dobbs was a son of Fortune (or Fortunatus) Dobbs1.

Which one was correct? Actually, the jury is still out on both theories and the Fortune Dobbs theory has had a long shelf life that up until now has been carried forward by many Dobbs researchers with out question. There appears to be a number of problems with the Fortune Dobbs theory.

According to one researcher, the Fortune Dobbs theory came about because of research that was conducted by a Dobbs descendant in the 1920′s:

It appears that the first southern Dobbs researcher was a Carey Dobbs who was a professor at Delta State Teachers College in Mississippi back in the 1920′s. Unfortunately, genealogical research was not scientifically oriented in those days and with the limited resources he had, he concluded that most all of the Dobbs in western SC and eastern GA were members of one family. He indicated that all were sons of a Fortunatus Dobbs who appears in the 1790 census of Abbeville Co., SC.

He indicated that Fortunatus came from NC and was one of the cousins of Gov. Arthur Dobbs who was a colonial governor of NC in the 1700′s.

Dr. Carey Dobbs had concluded that Fortunatus was probably born ca. 1727 in Ireland. That he settled in North Carolina and left for South Carolina when Tory activity became too strong during the American Revolution. He said that Fortune (for short) had seven sons and three daughters. He concluded that the seven sons were Fortune Jr. b. ca. 1755, William b. ca. 1757, Lodowick Adams b. ca. 1759, Josiah, Samuel, Lott, and Joseph.

The researcher goes on to say:

After 37 years of combing and analyzing the primary sources on the Dobbs in the south, I have concluded that Dr. Carey Dobbs was considerably off base. The only mention of a man who might be considered Fortunatus was a man who signed a petition in Guilford Co., NC in 1773 as Fortus Dobbs. And Dr. Dobbs concluded that that was Fortunatus. Also, a Forlin Dobbs also signed the petition at the same time and he concluded that Fortus and Forlin were twins. Forlin’s name has never been found again.

In time I discovered a Forton Dobbs who was in SC as early as 1765 and since Fortunatus was sometimes called Fortune, I suspected that this Fortunatus Dobbs may not have been the same as the Fortus in NC.

Meanwhile I had discovered that Lodowick Dobbs and John Dobbs were in Wilkes County, NC in the early 1780′s, at the close of the American Revolution. In time and for several reasons I began to suspect that Lodowick was the son of John and not the son of Fortunatus.

Dr. Carey Dobbs had suggested, after talking with one of Lodowick’s descendants, that Lodowick was named Lodowick Adams Dobbs. However, southerners very rarely gave children two given names before 1800 and I doubted that was true with Lodowick. Dr. Carey then figured that Lodowick’s mother must have been an Adams – again, no documentary basis. In all my years I have never found a document which gave his name as Lodowick Adams Dobbs.

After much study, I now believe that John Dobbs and his son, Lodowick, came down to the GA-SC border ca. 1784-86.

Lodowick is found over the next thirty years in both Franklin Co., GA and Pendleton Dist., SC. John Dobbs Sr. received a grant in Pendleton Dist., SC on the Savannah River of 324 acres of land in 1786. Two years later he received a headright grant in Wilkes Co., GA across the Savannah River. This land was later taken into Elbert Co., GA when the new county was formed in 1790. Land records show that John Dobbs lived on Cedar Creek in Elbert County and that among his neighbors living on Cedar Creek were Josiah, Silas, Lott, and Peter Dobbs. As we have indicated Josiah died in Elbert ca. 1810 and there seems to be no trace of John Sr. in the land records after about 1795. In the 1810′s Silas, Lott, and Peter all move to Hunter Creek in Franklin Co., GA. Shortly after the death of Lodowick in Pendleton Dist., SC in 1814, his widow, Sarah, moved over to live on Hunter Creek in Franklin Co., GA near Lott and Peter. As a matter of fact, Lodowick (Jr.) married one of Peter’s daughters. So that is a good indication of a relationship that already existed between old Lodowick and the Dobbs of Cedar Creek. Many records, unsubstantiated, have shown that Lodowick was born in 1759. I suspect that was a little early. I would not put a date on the birth of Josiah but I would think no later than 1765. We know Silas was born around 1770 because he was still living in 1850. Lott was probably born in the 1770′s and Peter in the 1780′s. He was still living in 1850.

At no time have I ever found any of our Dobbs living in the same county as Fortunatus who showed up in Spartenburg Co., SC before he moved to Abbeville.

What then is the origin of  John Dobbs, father of Josiah, Silas, Lott, and Peter Dobbs? There has been found in the records a John & Elizabeth Dobbs who were members of Christ Church between 1719 and 1732 in Middlesex County, Virginia2. This same couple is found later living in St. George Parish, Spotsylvania, Virginia, in 17393. This John Dobbs, living in the first half of the 18th century, could not be the same man as the John Dobbs who is found living in Elbert County, Georgia in the 1790′s, but could be a candidate for the later John Dobbs’ father or grandfather. The record also shows that the earlier John Dobbs had a son named Josiah Dobbs who was born on 17 August 1732 in Middlesex Co., Virginia2. He was christened on 28 August 1732 in Middlesex Co., Virginia4. This Josiah Dobbs is recorded as being granted guardianship of Jesse, Thomas, Edmund, and William Bennitt, orphans of John Bennitt on 4 February 1773 in Isle Of Wight, Virginia5.

There is a record of a John Dobbs, son of John Dobbs & Elizabeth Hyatt, who was born 1708 in Westchester, Dobbs Ferry, New York. There is also a record of the father that shows the elder John Dobbs to be a son of Walter Dobbs & Mary Merritt – born 1675, Flatlands, Barren Island, New York; married Phillip’s Manor, New York in 1708 and died in Of, Dobbs Ferry, New York6. Some have suggested that our Dobbs family is connected with Dobbs Ferry, New York. However I have found no basis in fact to support that.

There is a John Dobbs in New York City in 1736 and 17387. There is a John Dobbs listed as heir to Joseph Pike in Pennsylvania in 17298. However, none of these early John Dobbs can be connected to the later John Dobbs and family.

Records also show a "John Dobbs" arriving in America as an indentured servant in 1745 and it is quite possible that the progenitor of my Dobbs family came to America in bondage9. In the 17th and 18th centuries, there was never a sufficient supply of voluntary labor, and before the great influx of slaves from Africa, the solution to this labor shortage was to bring cargos of whites who either voluntarily or involuntarily paid their passages to America by undergoing a period of bondage10. In the years between 1630 and 1640, not less than half of all immigrants to Pennsylvania were indentured servants, redemptionists, or convicts and more than half of those who went to colonies south of New England were servants in bondage to planters and proprietors11. Some were waylaid or kidnapped; while others were debtors or convicts. Those who survived the miserable ocean crossing found themselves forced into service with terms that usually began at seven years. For some infraction of the terms, such as attempted runaway or engaging in sex, the terms their bondage might be increased to ten years or more. In some cases, black slaves were treated better than white servants as the masters considered the slaves property in perpetuity and therefore an investment worth protecting12. During the wars of the 1740′s and 1750′s the demand by the army for soldiers caused the colonies to allow servants to join the militias. In the 1740′s one third of enlistments in Pennsylvania were from the servant class. During the French & Indian War, the colonies of Virginia and Maryland encouraged servants to join the army much to the consternation of the masters13.

The accuracy of the record concerning my Dobbs family improves from the time that the family settled in Elbert County, Georgia – in the years immediately following the Revolutionary War. Around 1787, my gggg-grandfather, Josiah Dobbs settled in what was to become Elbert County, Georgia. Either he or a brother (Lodowick) received a headright grant for service in the Revolutionary War. Josiah Dobbs was born say 1765 in Virginia or North Carolina14. It is not clear if Josiah actually served in the military during the conflict. He married Susannah ___ circa 1789 in Elbert Co., Georgia. He was also known as Joseph Dobbs. He appeared on the census of 1790 in Franklin Co., Georgia15. He lived nearby John Dobbs in 1790 in Cedar Creek, Elbert Co., Georgia. He died after 1813 in Elbert Co., Georgia16. He and his sons acquired land in Georgia through the land lottery system. Josiah, Silas, Peter and John drew land in the Georgia Land Lottery of 1806 in Elbert County. From the Lottery records, we find "Fortunate Drawers: Josiah Dobbs’ orphans, Captains District: Dobbs, Number: 142 District: 2 County: Coweta County"17 and also "Fortunate Drawers: Josiah Dobbs, Captains District: Dobbs, Number: 309, District: 6, County: Lee County"18

There are some problems regarding the birthdates given for Josiah Dobbs. If Josiah was born as late as 1765, it might seem un-likely that he served in the Revolutionary War, as it appears he would have been too young to take part in the conflict. If that is the case, then he would have been about twelve years old at the time of the war, but it was not unusual during that conflict for boys that young to have taken to the field. For example, President Andrew Jackson, who was born in 1767, was a veteran of the American Revolution, and the only President to have been a prisoner of war19.

If Josiah was born earlier than say 1760, then his father, John Dobbs would had to have been born earlier then 1745. This would make the case difficult for claiming that this Josiah Dobbs’ father, John Dobbs, to have been the son of the Josiah Dobbs (b. 1732) found in the birth records for Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, Virginia and consequently the grandson of John & Elizabeth Dobbs in the same records. His birth date has been given as "about 1775", but it has also been noted that he lived in Henry and Wilkerson Counties, Virginia, in 1768.

Josiah and his wife Susannah (Louisiana?) had eight children:

  1. David Dobbs my ggg-grandfather

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