Welcome to JeterRoots.com, a genealogy website for the Jeter Family.
On this website you will find a collection of information, some found by various family members through diligent research, others from casual searches on the internet and other sources. My hope is that through collaboration we can provide a written history of our family to pass down to future generations.
The Jeter family has a rich heritage and story of God’s faithfulness and provision that needs to be told, needs to be preserved. We have a blessed history, full of stories, successes, ministries, and yes, even hard times and failures. Our ancestors persevered through wars, the depression, dust bowls, persecution, genocide, struggles and victories. Their stories are part of our story.
They have finished their race and now surround us as a great cloud of witnesses, urging us to stay focused on what really matters in life, cheering us on toward the finish line that lies before each of us. We would all do well to look back, to learn, to understand our past, to observe God’s hand in our family lines and to fix our eyes on Him and run our race to it’s end. One day, when we all get together again we will hear stories and testimonies of days gone by, recounting with each other the goodness of God and His love for us. Until that day…
The Edict of Nantes –
During the 1500’s the Catholic church had a stranglehold on just about everything in Europe. After several previous attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 Martin Luther began his work on The Ninety-Five Theses. In it he criticized a number of practices and doctrines such as the selling of indulgences, the authority of the Pope over purgatory, the merits of the saints, etc. Protestants, often referred to as Huguenots were despised and rejected by the corrupt religious system, stripped of their basic human rights to own land, to work in any field or for the state and to bring grievances directly to the king. They were religious outcasts, schismatics and heretics. As the reformation began to have it’s effect the two sides drew their lines and several massacres and wars ensued.
Henry IV had been baptized as a Catholic but was raised as a Protestant by his mother Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre. In 1572, upon the death of his mother Henry inherited the throne of Navarre and was involved in the French Wars of Religion. He barely escaped assassination in the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and led Protestant forces against the royal army.
In 1589, after the death of King Henry III, Henry became the king of France. Initially he kept his Protestant faith but after four years of stalemate with the Catholic League, who protested his right to be king as a Protestant, he renounced the Protestant faith in order to obtain mastery over his kingdom.
In 1598 King Henry IV of France signed the Edict of Nantes which granted the Calvinist Protestants of France substantial rights, such as amnesty and the reinstatement of their civil rights and the freedom to practice their religion without persecution from the state. This edict marked the end of the religious wars that had afflicted France for nearly fifty years. Henry was assassinated by a fanatical Catholic in 1610 and succeeded by his son Louis XIII.
In 1685 King Louis XIV issued the Edict of Fontainbleu which is better known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. In effect, this edict stripped Protestants of their rights, ordered the destruction of their church buildings and closing of their schools. As a result a massive, state-sponsored persecution began and a mass exodus of Protestants ensued over the next 20 years. They refugees fled for their lives without money as widespread persecution broke out, including the massacre in Paris in which over 30,000 Protestants were murdered within one month. They fled in all directions, to England, Germany, South Africa, South America, North America. Proud of his successful eradication, in 1686 Louis XIV claimed that only 1,000 to 1,500 Huguenots remained in France out of the 800,000 to 900,000 that existed prior to his edict.
One interesting side-effect of the revocation was the loss of a large portion of skilled craftsmen. Rulers of other countries took notice of the brain dump and took measures to encourage the Protestants to take refuge in their countries. This is where we pick up the Jeter family story.
Early Jeter History
In a letter written to his nephew, Will, on January 11th, 1880, Thomas Horatio Jeter related bits of Jeter family history as told to him by his grandfather. Later, in a letter to his brother Mayo, Will Jeter recalled this history, ” The origin of the name in America is traced to two brothers who came from Wales in the Colonial period, and settled on the James River near Richmond, Virginia. My great grandfather came from the descendants of the brother who remained in Virginia. The other brother removed from Virginia to South Carolina. I have met many of the name, at one place or another, but never talked or corresponded with anyone of them who could not trace the nativity of his ancestors to either Virginia or South Carolina.” Records remaining from those times dispute only details of Thomas Horatio Jeter’s account.
The Jeter name is found among those Huguenots that settled in the Mattapony River valley area of King William County after arriving in Virginia on the 20th of October, 1700. They were on the last of four ships from England paid for by King William to transport Huguenots to America; only this last ship lacks a record of its name and passenger list. Lacking as well are most all of the records of King William and Caroline counties of the period and therefore Jeter family history in the first part of 18th century Virginia must depend on early Essex County records and some surviving order books of Caroline County. (Caroline County was formed in 1727 from the Mattapony area of King William and Essex counties.)
Starting with these very early records most if not all of those with the Jeter surname in the United States can trace their ancestry back to the Huguenot John Jeter who arrived in Virginia in 1700, lived in what was then a part of Essex County, and purchased land within a few miles of Port Royal in 1722. His wife’s name is unknown at this time, but he was married about 1705 and had several children, John, Jr. being the only one proven by record. John, Sr. died before April 9, 1736. A putative son, William Jeter, left Virginia for Edgefield, South Carolina after about 1741; John, Jr. remained in Virginia. Placenames such as St. Asaphs Parish of Essex (later part of Caroline County) are of Welsh origin.
John Jeter, Jr. married about 1727, most likely to Sarah Dozier. It is thought that his lands lay between the Peumansend and Goldenvale Creeks a few miles from Port Royal in Caroline County. Much more documentation exists after 1736 to establish family relationships. The Jeter/Dozier children included William, born about 1734 in Caroline County. John Jeter, Jr. died in Caroline County in 1781.
William Jeter’s second marriage was in all likelihood to Nancy Ann Griffin from which came the following issue: Thomas (the father of William Griffin Jeter), Elizabeth, and William, Jr. William, Sr. died in 1786. Son Thomas, born about 1780, removed to Jefferson County, Kentucky about the turn of the century. There he married Sarah Benfield, a native of Maryland, in 1803 with the following issue: Thomas Horatio, William Griffin, John Dabney, John Obadiah, Ambrose Elijah, Anne America, James Madison, Sarah Ann, Mahaley Jane, and Elizabeth Frances. Sarah Benfield Jeter died about 1829 and Thomas married again in 1830 to Catherine Poulter. There was no issue from this second marriage. Thomas passed away about 1845, but the circumstances are unknown.
Submitted August 12, 1999, C. Victor Jeter
Other Jeter Stories Passed Down:
What my mother, Sara Frances Maxwell Baily, told me about her grandmother’s family:
“My grandmother Mary Jeter Tharp was born in November 29,1847 on a farm near Springfield, Ill. Her father was an early supporter of Abraham Lincoln who often stayed at their house when Lincoln was “riding the circuit.” Because of transportation problems, courts held early sessions in country school-houses or churches out in the country. This was called “riding the circuit”. Grandmother’s family moved from Springfield, Ill., to Chillocothe, MO, when she was about 10 (1857).
My grandmother Tharp used to tell wonderful tales of the Civil war. Her brothers were Union soldiers (Uncle John and Uncle Mayo) whom I never saw. They were in the middle of this mess at the time of Quantrell’s Raiders (renegade Confederate soldiers) who preyed on the farmers of NW Missouri around St. Joseph. She used to tell how she and her older sister, Adeline, dealt with the Raiders:
The girls always slept with matches in their hands so they could light the lamp if they heard the beat of horse hooves. The livestock was kept hidden in a thicket near a creek that flowed through the farm. Coffee, sugar and similar edibles, together with any money or valuables the family possessed were hidden in a small cellar under the kitchen floor. A trap door in the floor gave access to the cellar.
When the Raiders were in the vicinity, the girls put a rag rug over the trap door and ensconced their father in his easy chair over the cellar opening. Evidently the old man had had a stroke and was quite handicapped, and in no condition to deal with renegades.
When the raiders did appear, they always demanded food and Aunt Addie would bemoan the fact that they were so poor, but would offer to prepare them a meal. The food always consisted of corn meal mush. The Quantrelle Raiders later formed the nucleus of the Jesse James gang which terrorized the Midwest during the 1870s and 1880s.”
1991, Sara M. Baily
A Story with Two Presidents and a Governor:
WILLIAM GRIFFIN JETER
William Griffin Jeter was born 9/20/1807 to Thomas Jeter and Sarah Benfield and most likely on the farm of Zachary Taylor near Louisville in Jefferson County, Kentucky where his parents resided in the early 1800s. He came to Illinois shortly after his mother’s death and became aquainted with his future wife when he united with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of John McCutchen Berry in Sangamon County. She was Elizabeth McCutchen Berry, the Reverend’s niece and daughter of James Samuel Berry and Anny Weir.
A license was issued by Sangamon County on 3/9/1832 and William and Elizabeth were married 3/13/1832 in Bernadotte, Fulton County, Illinois, as noted by son Will in a letter on family history written in 1921 to a Berry cousin. The date is recorded in the family bible. It is likely that the Rev. J. M. Berry officiated but there was no return of the marriage details back to the county seat. In August of the same year William aquired from his brother-in-law James Berry, 55 acres along a branch of Concord Creek and about a mile north of the “old” Concord or Goodpasture cemetery, and this was still the location of the family farm when the Jeters left for Missouri in 1857. In that same month of August, 1832, Abraham Lincoln entered his position as a storekeeper with William F. Berry, son of the preacher and first cousin of Elizabeth, in a small cabin in New Salem along the Sangamon River and a few miles south of the Jeter farm. (The store would not prove profitable even after a move to a larger building, the only one with “planed” lumber in New Salem, and was sold in 1834.)
William and Elizabeth’s first child, Anderson Bell, was born on 12/16/1832 and their second, Sarah Ann, 10/11/1834. Gov. Will Jeter, in a letter to a Berry cousin, notes that both were born in Fulton County. Sarah Ann died from whooping cough one day shy of her first birthday and was buried in the “old” Concord or Goodpasture cemetery in Menard (then Sangamon) county. Her tombstone is still there and is the only Jeter grave. Anderson Bell died of typhoid fever on 12/7/1854; his burial place is likely in the “new” Concord cemetery but there is no marker. He had not married. The rest of their children were all born on the family farm noted above which was located between Petersburg and Atterbury in Menard County.
A. Lincoln and W. G. Jeter were well aquainted. It is said, by family tradition, that there was a romantic interest between Abe and Elizabeth, but she thought him unattractive and turned her attention elsewhere. As did Abe with the legendary young Ann Rutledge who died of the fever on 8/25/1835. (Ann’s sister, Jane O. Rutledge, had married one of Elizabeth’s brothers, James Berry, on 2/28/1828 in Sangamon County.) We do find some connections on record however: There was a petition on 12/27/1834 by the citizens of Morgan and Sangamon counties in Illinois to the U.S. Congress to establish a mail route between New Salem and Beardstown, about 30 miles west. Among the signers: A. Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas, Wm. G. Jeter. And on 3/8/1836. Sangamon County Commissioners, which included William’s father-in-law Samuel Berry, appointed Robert Conover, William G. Geter(sic) and Abraham Lincoln to locate a new road from Watkins Mill on the Morgan County line to Miller’s Ferry. On 6/2/1836, Robert Conover, William G. Geter and A. Lincoln reported to the Sangamon County Commissioners that they made the location and recommended the opening of the new road.
In 1835 and in anticipation of the coming of a railroad, a new town called Fulton was laid out on the Spoon River in Fulton County, Illinois. William G. Jeter and brother-in-law Baxter Bell Berry bought land in 1838 and moved there. The Jeter family was listed on the 1840 census for Bernadotte (to which the town name had been changed) but were soon back in Menard County as the railroad chose another route and the town died. (This move to Bernadotte may have caused some confusion later on in the recounting family history, and it may be that the marriage and birth of the first two children, all before 1838, really occured in Menard County instead.)
About a mile north of the old Concord cemetery and across Lincoln Trail Road from the old Wm. G. Jeter farm was the location of the Concord Church, erected in 1840 by the Cumberland Presbyterians. It was built on an elevation above Concord Creek and to its rear was the church cemetery now known as the “new” Concord. In 1838 William G. Jeter had been elected ruling elder of the Concord Congregation and served in that capacity until his departure for Missouri in 1857.
William’s brother, Thomas Horatio, had left Illinois for California just before the Civil War and William entertained ideas of doing just the same. And he started out to do exactly that in the spring of 1857, selling the farm, loading family and possessions into wagons and began the first leg, a 200-mile journey to northern Missouri. They planned to winter over in Missouri near the trailhead west and get an early start across the plains in the spring, but William liked the area around Chillicothe in Livingston County, Missouri so well he changed his mind, bought a farm and spent the rest of his life there. Two decades later his son Will and sister Harriet (with husband Zack Goldsby) would complete the trek west.
William Griffin Jeter died at his residence in Livingston County, Missouri on the 31st of August, 1867. The cause of death was “cholera morbus.” He was in his 60th year. His son-in-law, the Rev. J. H. Tharp, wrote his obituary and noted, “He remarked to the writer a few moments before his spirit took flight, that his trust was in Jesus and that Jesus had promised dying grace.”
William’s dearly beloved companion of some 35 years, Elizabeth, survived another seven and a half years, passing away on March 31, 1875 of pneumonia at home in Livingston County. The Rev. Tharp wrote, “She was sorely tried by afflictions for many years, but in great patience was developed of her Christian heart, especially in her last sickness. She said she was going home, and told friends and children not to weep.”
Submitted by C. Victor Jeter