James and William McCorkle of Ulster
& Montgomery Co., Virginia c. 1770

 

The information below was accumulated in our McCorkle research in Kentucky and Virginia. At first we thought that these individuals might be closely related to Samuel McCorkle Sr. of Augusta Co., Virginia. They are found with descendants of Samuel in several different locations. We have concluded that they were somehow related to Samuel Sr., but that their common ancestral connection occurred in Ireland before Samuel's forefather came to America circa 1730. There is also the possibility that these McCorkles may be connected to the "Three McCorkell Brothers" legend of Ireland. As more and more records become available in Ireland, perhaps the Irish history of this James and William can be ascertained and this could lead to the Irish heritage of the earlier American McCorkles. September 27, 2012 Update: Recently published records of 1783 County Donegal describe the situation of an "elderly" William McCorkill/McCorkhill. His rents had recently been raised and he had sold his property rights to another person and declared that he was going to emigrate to America. This William seems like a near perfect match for the William McCorkle described below. Our thanks go to Joe McCorkell of Londonderry, Northern Ireland for making us aware of this event.

In A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia, Oren Morton writes: "In 1770 another James (McCorkle) came from Ulster and was a merchant in Staunton. A few years later he removed to Montgomery, of which county he was sheriff in 1778. He died there in 1794. It was this James who was trustee of Liberty Hall Academy in 1783. He had a brother William, those daughters were Margaret, Martha and Rebecca".  Most important parts of this story can be proven by primary evidence; however the "1770" assertion has not been proven. In addition, Morton left out some very important information that leads to other avenues of research. James McCorkle was a militia Captain, a Gentlemen Justice of Montgomery County and a 1782 trustee of Washington and Lee University. The sketch on the right is from "The Founders of Washington College" published in 1890. This sketch was likely the source of Morton's comments which were published some thirty years later; however, there is an important difference in the two accounts. The sketch alleges that James went to Ingles Ferry in 1770, not Staunton. The first evidence of this James McCorkle in Augusta is on Jan 6, 1767 when he witnessed a deed transferring property to William Christian.

James McCorkle's will was dated Feb 2, 1794 and was proved in May Court, 1794 in Montgomery Co., Virginia. James' nieces, daughters of his deceased brother William, were the only heirs mentioned in his will. The nieces were Margaret, then wife of William Adams (married Aug 9, 1793 in Montgomery Co., Virginia), Rebecca, later wife of Andrew Thompson (married May 11, 1801 in Montgomery Co., Virginia) and Martha, later wife of Samuel Compton (married Oct 18, 1810 in Green Co., Kentucky). William's widow Martha was also mentioned. In the subsequent probate proceedings, James' partner of 1775, William Christian was named. Niece Margaret got most of James' 1000 acres (grant dated Oct 2, 1786) on Sinking Creek, a branch of the Green River in what became Green Co., Kentucky. The original patent for this property was granted to William Christian. Christian later assigned this warrant to Capt. James Maccorkle. On Oct 10, 1803, this land was identified as "James McCorkle's thousand acre survey and now known as William Adams' land". William Adams was the husband of James' niece Margaret. In about 1800, Samuel and John, sons of Samuel and Sarah Buchanan McCorkle Sr. of Augusta, had settled in this exact location.

William Christian was a native of Augusta County, Virginia where several of the large Christian family had been a close neighbors of Samuel McCorkle Sr. James McCorkle and William Christian co-owned a store in Dunkardís Bottom and, in January, 1785, James was appointed the administrator of the estate of Israel Christian, the father of William. Israel Christian was a native of the Isle of Man where his ancestors had resided for centuries; however, he reportedly moved to Ulster with his father or grandfather. The report also avers that he was living in Londonderry in 1726 when the older members of his family came to America and he joined them in about 1740 when he was about twenty. It seems that Israel soon married and quickly became a successful merchant and politician in Staunton.

On Feb 15, 1797, William Adams was named as an administrator of the estate of Samuel McCorkle of Green Co., KY. This Samuel is a complete mystery, but was undoubtedly related to James and William, perhaps another brother. William McCorkle's daughter's, Rebecca Thompson and Margaret Adams, were enumerated in the same household in the 1850 Union Co., Kentucky census. Rebecca was 70 years old (bc. 1780) and Margaret was 78 (bc. 1772). Both were born in Ireland. So, it would seem that William came to America more than a decade after James.

On Oct 18, 1810, Martha McCorkle married Samuel Compton in Green Co., Kentucky. Martha's mother, Martha, gave her consent. A witness was William Adams. These were surely the same individuals mentioned in the settlement of James McCorkle's estate in Montgomery Co., Virginia.

Christian Co., Kentucky was named for William Christian. In 1774, Capt. Christian raised a company of men to help with the protection of the frontier. A James and Patrick McCorkle were part of Christianís force. On October 7, 1774, Christian was under the command of Colonel Andrew Lewis at the Battle of Kanawha (better know to me as the Battle of Point Pleasant). Andrew, John and William McCorkle were soldiers in the Army of Colonel Lewis. Many historians consider this battle to be the beginning of the American Revolution. The first explorers and surveyors of western Kentucky were William Christian, James Davis and John Montgomery from Augusta Co., Virginia. On April 9, 1786, at age 43, William Christian died from wounds received in a skirmish with Indians. He was buried on the Oxmoor estate on Bear Grass Creek in Jefferson Co., Kentucky. This Capt. Christian was surely the same person mentioned in the will of James McCorkle of Montgomery, Co., Virginia. In 1784 and 1785 Christian and his wife Annie sold part of their Dunkard's Bottom property to James McCorkle.

Conclusion: Since James and William McCorkle did not have any male descendants, there has been very little interest in their ancestors; however, these ancestors were surely related to the McCorkles of Augusta and Rockbridge Counties, Virginia. It is somewhat difficult for me to believe that James McCorkle arrived in America circa 1770 and achieved so much, so quickly. Also, James McCorkle seemed to be much more aligned with the Christians than with any of the Augusta or Rockbridge McCorkles. There is a hint of another possibility. Historians have reported that a McCorkle family of Dunkards was living on the west bank of the New River near Inglis' Ferry in 1753. This location is exactly where James McCorkle and Israel Christian made their homes after leaving Staunton. The 1753 story is also a little difficult to believe, since the Dunkards were a German sect of Anabaptists, with beliefs similar to the Mennonites. However, the first Dunkers did immigrate to the Philadelphia area about 1719 and then moved down the Valley of Virginia, much as the Presbyterians did. We do not know the birth dates of James, William or Samuel McCorkle, but since James was a friend and partner of William Christian (bc.1743), we assume they were about the same age.

Addendum: The above information was assembled from several sources. Since creating this page, we have read the James McCorkle biography in Early Adventurers on Western Waters, Vol. 1, by F. B. & Mary B. Kegley. This is a well researched and detailed sketch the life of James in Montgomery Co., Virginia, but the writers defer to Morton in regard to James' earlier years. The Kegley's made this assessment of James McCorkle: "These records indicate that James McCorkle was a well educated, responsible and civic-minded citizen, and was capable of holding positions of great importance on the frontier." We agree and the same assessment might be applicable to William Christian. If Christian did receive an advanced education, it most likely would have occurred at Augusta Academy, a Presbyterian school founded in 1749. This institution later became Liberty Hall Academy in 1776, then Washington College and finally, Washington and Lee University. We think it is possible that James McCorkle and William Christian became friends at this school. We also think it is possible that James McCorkle was the adopted son of Israel Christian.

 

Bibliography

 

Chalkley, Lyman, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia. Vol. I & III, The Commonwealth Co., Rosslyn, Virginia, 1912 (Online: Google Books) 
"Colonel William Christian", Kentucky Genealogy - Christian County (Online: Kentucky Genealogy)
Fisher, Therese A. Marriages in the New River Valley: Montgomery, Floyd, Pulaski and Giles Counties, Heritage Books, Westminster, Maryland, 2008
Green County Kentucky Marriage Records - Book A, 1793 - 1836, Green County Historical Society, no date
Hale, John P. C. Trans-Allegheny Pioneers: Historical Sketches of the First White Settlements West of the Alleghenies, The Graphic Press, Cincinnati, 1886 (Online: Google Books)
"Index for Old Kentucky Surveys and Grants", Kentucky Historical Society - Digital Collections (Online: Kentucky Historical Society - Digital Collections)
Kegley, F. B. & Mary B.  Early Adventurers on Western Waters, Vol. 1, Green Publishers, Orange, Virginia, 1980
"Letter of James Hamilton, Strabane, to Earl of Abercorn", Public Record Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI), D623/A/44/237, 11 May 1783
"Map of Beverly Patent-1736",  Augusta County Resource, Augusta County, Virginia GenWeb (Online: Augusta Co. Virginia GenWeb)
Morton, Oren Frederic. A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia, McClure Co., Staunton, Virginia, 1920
Summers, Lewis Preston. History of Southwest Virginia, 1746-1786: Washington County, 1777-1870, J. L. Hill Printing Co., Richmond, 1903 (Online: Google Books)
"The Founders of Washington College - Sketch of James McCorkle", Washington and Lee University - Historical Papers No. 2, John Murphy & Co., Baltimore, 1890 (Online: Google Books)
"Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series", Kentucky Land Office (Online: Kentucky Land Office)
Witsitt, William Heth. "The Christian Family", "Capt. Israel Christian" & "Col. William Christian", Life and Times of Judge Caleb Wallace, John P. Morton & Company, Louisville, 1888 (Online: Google Books)
Wright, Barbara. Green Co., Kentucky - Abstracts of Deed Books 3 & 4, 1801 - 1806, McDowell Publications, Utica, KY, 1993

 

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Revised Sep 27, 2012