Finding Your Folks: John Tidwell of Virginia

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

This week we’ll launch the series of southside families from the book, “McCall, Tidwell and Allied Families,” written by Ettie Tidwell McCall in 1931. Descendants of this Tidwell family married into many, many families in Fayette, Coweta, Campbell, Meriwether, Pike and other Atlanta metro counties. The more families I read about, the more amazed I became at the number of people (surnames) who are descended from this family.

And, what is so surprising is that most came from two male orphans, William and Benjamin Tidwell, who made their way to Georgia in the early 1800s.

Those of you who are descended from Milly Tidwell Boyd of the Bethany Boyds will be particularly interested in this series since we will discuss Milly’s ancestors who were not fully discussed in the Boyd-Tidwell book. We will touch on many families who lived in the Fayette-Meriwether-Spalding-Pike area.

But it all began with one John Tidwell who came to America with his two brothers, Richard and Robert, in the 1600s. I will quote a lot from Mrs. McCall’s book on the early Tidwells since she made the story so interesting. It would be a shame not to pass that on.

From page 35, John Tidwell of Virginia, Mrs. McCall writes:

“John Tidwell, the founder of this Virginia family, came to America with his two brothers, Richard and Robert Tidwell, from England. Tradition says the Tidwell family were among the Huguenots who fled from France to England and remained there many years.

The name of Tidwell is found in County Devon, England, and is spelled Tidswell, Tidwell, Todwell, Tydswell, and Tyddeswell. As to religion, this family adhered for many generations to the Church of England and the old Virginia records show that they were of the Episcopal Church. It was no doubt the desire of the younger sons to have new homes and the love of adventure, and not religious freedom, that they came to America.

Early Virginia records show that the three brothers and their sons were men of honor and trust, holding high office in social and religious affairs of the Colony, but show no record of any member of the family holding public office in the Colony.”

Mrs. McCall states that the three brothers all settled on the Potomac River in Westmoreland County, Va., about 1683 and, in 1705, the town of Yeocomico was established on the lands of Richard Tidwell. She references the Virginia Historical Magazine, Vol. 10, page 77, and says that John Tidwell lived his life as a quiet planter, owning many acres of land, and was a wealthy and influential man. He resided on the Potomac River and belonged to the Church of England. His name and the names of his two sons, Robert and John, were on the Parish Register of the Yeocomico Church. The records also show that they were strong adherents of the King of England.

However, by 1790 the name of Tidwell was extinct in Virginia and the name does not appear in the 1783 census.

Mrs. McCall does not give any information as to the final disposition of John Tidwell, founder of this Tidwell line in America, so we have no idea (from her book) as to when he died or where he may be buried. Also unknown is the name of this John Tidwell’s wife. From church records, we have only the names of his two sons, Robert, who married Hannah Carr, and John. Mrs. McCall leaves the possibility open that there may have been other children.

The next generation concerns only the son, John, and does not go into the family of Robert and Hannah Carr Tidwell.

Young John was born in Virginia on the Potomac River and lived on a plantation near his father. His name appears in Virginia records as having land and being a member of the Church of England.

In 1772, having received a grant of land in Craven County, S.C. from King George (dated Nov. 19, 1772), young John moved to that colony with his family, following the tide of immigration of hundreds of others. With John were his wife (name unknown), his children and his slaves, and all their household goods. They settled on the waters of Wateree Creek, “ ... virgin forests abounded everywhere, a frontier settlement typical of the time and section ... his name does not appear as a Revolutionary Soldier, so he probably died before this time.” Again, we do not know the death date for this John Tidwell.

Other descendants of the three Tidwell brothers of Virginia also came to South Carolina, as Mrs. McCall’s research indicates. A Richard Tidwell of Virginia obtained a grant of land in Craven County in 1764 and deeded it to his son, Francis Tidwell, in 1775; a Robert Tidwell obtained a grant in Craven County in 1769; and a Pressley Tidwell came at the same time as our John in 1772.

The next generation concerns a son of John Tidwell, William Tidwell, born in 1765 on the Potomac River, who moved with his parents to Craven County in 1772. This William lived in Craven County until he volunteered as a Revolutionary Soldier.

The record of William’s life and tragic death, along with the sudden death of his wife, were related to Mrs. McCall by William’s great-grandson, Reuben William Tidwell, and we’ll take up there next week.

Although time does not permit me to do personal research for others (unless the family connects to my own), I welcome all letters and e-mails about genealogy and info on south metro Atlanta families. Send them to The Citizen, P.O. Drawer 1719, Fayetteville, GA 30214; e-mail or Any letters and/or e-mails I receive are subject to being used in the column.

Until next week, happy hunting!

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