Generation seven: William and Dianna Hodson/Hodgin

William Hodson, representing the first North Carolina-born generation of my name-line, appears to move about in what I have come to call the Shadow Meeting individuals who attend Quaker Meeting, and in this period might even wear Plain clothing and converse in Plain speech, yet who are not official members of the Society of Friends. Without membership, though, they are not minuted in the Quaker records. Complicating the documentation of William Hodson’s life and family is the fact that he died intestate, making proof of his genealogy even more tenuous.

Likewise, detailing his wife’s place within the Saferight genealogy is at this point sketchy.

Spousal lines: Saferight/Sigfried/Sigfret/Siegfried/Seyfert.

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William Hodson was born 1768, Guilford County, the son of George and Rachel (Oldham) Hodson. He married, ca 1790, Diannah Saferight (1768-before May 17, 1852), the daughter of Henry (or Heinrich) Sigfred/Sigfried/Saferight. John K. Hodgin also lists a Nancy as the given name for Henry’s wife. William died intestate February 6, 1849, Guilford County. Four or eight reported children, possibly ten.

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Charles H. Saunders, drawing upon Glen C. Walker, names the first four children. I round out his information with data from other sources. John K. Hodgin, working from his computerized files, adds another four, though at this time I am hoping to find data on the other the other local William Hodson’s family to make sure we are not mixing two separate lines into one. (He also names a second wife, Keziah Harvey, as the mother of Ruth, but that 1825 date falls within the span of children born to Diannah Saferight, leading me to rule that out.

  1. George, born January 2, 1797, Guilford County; died November 4, 1878, Guilford County; married, January 1818, Delilah Britton [often reported as Rayle or Hunt] (October 10, 1784 or 1794 -November 21, 1883). They are buried at Centre Friends. Eleven known and/or reported children, although at least one of them may be by a husband or companion before George.
  2. Henry, born 1802, Guilford County; died 1876, Guilford County; married October 21, 1820, Polly Petty (1806- ), daughter of Elias and Rachel. [Rachel was the daughter of Daniel and Eunice (Hussey) Worth, who removed from Nantucket in 1771.] At least three children. In the 1860 Guilford Census his occupation is listed as miller, and daughters Lydia, 18, and Eunice, 17, are living at home (one is still attending school).
  3. Rachel, born 1805, Guilford County; died 1883, Guilford County; married August 9, 1831, John Stephenson (1809-1885), son of John and Elizabeth (Dobson) Stephenson. In the 1860 Guilford Census he is successful farmer, and they have nine children and two others living in their household; five are  in school.
  4. Diannah, born 1810, Guilford County; died ( ), Guilford County; married, 1833, William Petty (1810- ). In the 1860 Census their household is the only Petty listed in Guilford County, and they have six children, three of them still in school. His birthplace is given as Kentucky.
  5. Catharine (Ketty), born ca 1792, Guilford County; died ca 1852; married, January 13, 1813, John Shelly ( -1820), son/daughter of ( ). Three children. She then married Charles Bland and with him had six daughters. In the 1860 Guilford Census she is recorded as age seventy, living in the household of forty-year-old Elvina Armfield and eight-year-old Rosella Armfield. She is the only Bland indexed.
  6. Anne, born ca 1794, Guilford County; married, August 17, 1819 Joseph Wheeler. (He marked with his x.) They are not in the 1860 Guilford Census.
  7. Rebecca married Henry Albright. Their Guilford marriage bond is dated October 9, 1829. It may have been a second marriage for him; he marks with an x.
  8. Ruth.

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William Hodson had long been the missing link in my attempt to connect what I had found of my Hodson line in Ohio with the early North Carolina Hodgsons. Efforts of sifting through available Census data, “ghosting in” known children into the appropriate columns, narrowed the search; nevertheless, difficulty arose in attempting to account for some of the families that migrated northward to Ohio and Indiana, making every theoretical model one of quicksand; in time, my search began zeroing in on two William Hodsons, plus a Joshua Hodson and a Zachary Hodson. Illegibility of some of the records even had me wondering whether Joshua and Zachary were the same individual. At last only one William was left, but the process of elimination could never be considered proof: my ancestor could have been living in another household, perhaps laboring for his wife’s parents. And then I received a chart from Charles H. Saunders, drawing upon research by Glen C. Walker, placing my George Hodson (1797-1878) in the family of William and Diannah Hodson and naming George’s wife as Delila Hunt.

At this point there was still no indication of Diannah’s maiden name, but the four children who were named hinted at her parents’ first names: Henry and Diannah. Curiously, her first name – that of a Greek goddess – would not have been common among these Quaker lines. I began sifting through the appropriate Census tables for Henrys who headed households in Guilford and Randolph counties, eliminating those that lacked daughters in Diannah’s age range. At last I was down to Ford, Davice (Davis), Kirkman, and Sigfret. Eventually, Clay Hodgin’s Early History of the Quaker Hodgson-Hodson-Hodgin Family (Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina; 1988) arrived, containing tables that named her as Dianna Saferight. (A word of caution: those tables do mangle several generations in this line, leading to unnecessary confusion.) Again, this is not proof, but it is plausible.

On his chart, Walker notes, “Little is known about William. He signed his name ‘Hodson’ and bought and sold considerable farm land. He died intestate and his small estate was settled by an administrator. Census records were very poor but indicated that he probably had ten children.”

Through part of this period, keeping the two Williams in the family distinct is difficult. The 1790 Census lists a William Hodgings having one free white male over age 16 and two free white females in the household; that would appear to be my ancestor, since the other William (1762-1828) did not marry until the end of 1790. That William, the son of Joseph and Margaret (Williams) Hodgson, married Mary Thornburg (1764-1842) on Twelfth Month 29, 1790.

In 1800 the Census lists a William Hodgins having one male under age 10 and one between 26 and 45, plus one female under age 10, one between 10 and 16, and one between 26 and 45; this fit seems to match my William better than the other, Joseph’s son.

The 1810 Census lists two Williams: my ancestor, William Hodson, listed near George, Isaac, and Jonathan, now has one male under age 10, one between 10 and 16, and one between 26 and 45, plus two females under age 10, two 16 to 26, and one between 26 and 45. The other William Hodson has two males between 10 and 16, and one over 45, plus one female under age 10, one between 10 and 16, and one over age 45; I assume this is the son of Joseph and Mary.

An 1815 Guilford County tax list compiled by William Perry Johnson reports, under Fentress and Sumner townships, two William Hodsons: one has two white polls; the other, a miller, has one and is estimated to be worth $368 in land holdings and $1,090 in valuation. Based on the 1810 Census, I assume that my William was the miller.

Centre Friends’ reconstructed meeting minutes have (1816?) William Hodgin and wife Mary and children Joseph, Margaret, Lydia, and Mary being granted a certificate of transfer to Lick Creek Monthly Meeting, Indiana, and endorsed to Blue River Monthly Meeting, Indiana. That would leave sons Nathan and William Junior unaccounted for in the certificate, although other family records report their lives continuing in Indiana.

The 1820, 1830, and 1840 Guilford County Census lists have only one William Hodson or Hodgin. In 1850, after my William’s death, two William Hodgsons are enumerated, as well as Diana Hodgson.

As the eldest son, William was named in honor of his mother’s father, in line with Midland England naming patterns rather than the Borderland England patterns seen in earlier Hodgson generations. Yet with his own sons, William reverts to the earliest usage, which is also more in line with German tradition. The daughters’ side, however, is less clear. John K. Hodgin’s insertion of an additional four daughters makes sense, considering the six-year gap between William and Diannah’s marriage. But since the only mention of her mother is the Nancy that John K. Hodgin lists, the Catharine or Anne names become puzzling. In addition, we might ask why Rachel, in honor of William’s mother, appears lower on the list than it does. This bits acknowledge that earlier customs are in flux, especially as one stream of tradition mingles with another.

We can surmise, to use the words of Damon D. Hickey in The Southern Friend (Spring 1981), that William was one of those who found themselves “confirmed … in a course that was independent of Friends but curiously parallel to and in close contact with them.” As Quakers discovered, “clearly it was helpful to have friendly, disowned Friends in high places.” Although William’s parents had been disowned from membership and were later reinstated, their renewed membership came too late for William, who was already a married adult; thus, technically, he had never been disowned. And though William was never as highly placed as George Mendenhall or Governor Jonathan Worth, he was positioned to act on the legal behalf of Quaker families; he and his brother, Zachariah, are noted repeatedly as witnesses to wills or marriage bonds. William witnesses the 1825 will of Thomas Ozburn (Elisha’s father and the grandfather of Eunice Ozbun, who marries William’s grandson, Pleasant Hodson) and the 1831 will of Elijah Manship, which involved slaves as well. He is the executor of his father’s will and of Mary Hacket’s 1826 will (witnessed by George Hodson).

Since both of his parents and his descendents maintain ties to Centre Friends Meeting, as do some of his wife’s family, we can assume William and Diannah attended worship there and are interred in the burial ground.

When William was about twelve years old, Centre Friends built their second meetinghouse, an event an impressionable youth would remember, especially if he participated in the “barn-raising” festivities of the labor; the 1780 structure would serve the family and their neighbors nearly a century. “Early in the days of Centre meeting,” Samuel A. Purdie wrote shortly after the Civil War (“Quakerism in Dixie,” edited by Thomas D. Hamm, The Southern Friend, Spring-Autumn 1999),

the needs of their large congregation compelled them to build a large meeting house. They entered earnestly upon the work, and the result was a house in [which] the people of Centre still meet to worship God. The structure is one of the most curious of Friends’ meeting houses in America, and is worthy of passing notice. The walls are built of three-inch poplar plank, morticed into upright oak posts, and securely pinned, the points of the pins often projecting inside, although not intended for ornament. The side walls consist of two ranges of posts, one above the other, with a plate or beam between them. There are, I believe, seven posts in each row, requiring six lengths of plank for each side, making a total of 130 mortices on each side. The ends are built on a similar plan. The places between the planks are stopped with mortar and sticks. The whole structure has been weather-boarded, but bids defiance at all efforts at ceiling, save the gum-ceiling over a little more than one-half of each room. The remainder of each room is occupied by the loft or gallery, to support which, and to give strength to the whole structure, recourse was had to a curious combination of braces and supports, which makes the upper part of the building look about as much like an effort at ship-building as at house building.

This generates a much different picture of the meetinghouse than one would imagine in hearing it described as a log cabin fifty-by-thirty-eight feet built in “puncheon” style and raised, with one hundred men lifting a side – probably framed, roofed, and sided in a single day. Purdie’s portrayal of the upper part of the interior suggests that its design was influenced by shipbuilding Friends who had arrived only a decade earlier from Nantucket Island.

That same issue of The Southern Friend contains another piece that can assist our understanding of Quaker-influenced life in the Piedmont region at this time. “Quaker Plan Houses of Deep River Quarterly Meeting, Guilford County, North Carolina,” by Benjamin Briggs, surveys residences built by Friends before the Civil War and finds some unique commonalities of design, in part arising in an attempt to maintain a distinctive Quaker identity. “The issue of slavery particularly separated Friends from the mainstream of southern society,” Briggs writes. Turning to house construction, “This investigation found that another material manifestation of Quakerism [in addition to the peculiar dress and speech] was the Quaker plan, otherwise referred to as the ‘Penn plan.’ Though interpreted through different proportions, architectural styles, and materials, the house type was used almost exclusively by members of the Society of Friends to distinguish themselves materially from others in an effort to foster a sense of solidarity within an increasingly intolerant environment.”

Essentially, these houses are based on a three-cell plan that includes a fireplace on the exterior wall “serving a kitchen or hall that runs the depth of the house, and is adjacent to two rooms of equal size. … Enclosed, or boxed, stairs usually lead from the hall to the second floor, where the plan becomes less rigid.” The design often incorporates a single-room annex extending from the parlor.

While the survey confines itself to Deep River Friends, the style also influences houses at Centre. Looking at newspaper clippings reporting a fire that destroyed the birthplace of broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, just east of the Centre meetinghouse, one can discern the “Penn plan” proportions, even when the story describes the oldest part as a log cabin as “20 feet square with a big fireplace.” The parlors appear to have been added, in log, at the end opposite the fireplace, in accord with the style. Photos taken after the fire expose the original logs, which had previously been covered in siding, and these clearly show how the addition worked.

This, too, becomes an aspect to be considered in examining family roots in Guilford and neighboring Randolph County.

For whatever reasons, William and Diannah made crucial decisions – probably with little or no deliberation – that nevertheless kept the family under the influence of Friends Meeting. While his parents rejoined Centre Meeting a few years after his marriage, he and his wife apparently did not apply for membership. Although the minutes from those years are lost to fire, we find no subsequent evidence that any of their children were members, which would have been a consequence of their parents’ joining. William and Diannah could have drifted away altogether, possibly coming into the emerging Methodist orb, which seems to have been especially attractive to those from Quaker stock. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had, after all, been profoundly influenced by Quaker thought, and the principle theological treatise of Friends, Robert Barclay’s Apology, countered Roman Catholic and Anglican as well as Calvinist theologies – but not Methodist reasoning, which had not yet been formulated. Perhaps family ties and the neighborhood itself were a sufficient reason to continue along at the fringe of the Quaker culture and community.

Then there’s the matter of livelihood. Unlike his father or Grandfather Hodgson, William’s occupation is described as a miller. We can ask about the nature of the work itself. Was it essentially seasonal, with harvests coming in during dry weather, rather than rainy winter and spring? Was it part-time labor, or a full-time concern? How big was his operation, anyway? And was it a grist mill, for wheat, corn, and the like, or other operations, such as a sawmill? Assuming the mill was on the Polecat, we can ask how steady the streamflow was, how much water he impounded, how he coped with flooding, how much of the dam building and maintenance he did himself and how much he contracted out, how much of the actual mill construction and maintenance of the burrs he did himself. Did any of this come down to him through Peter Dicks, the settler at Centre who was not only a Quaker minister and kinsman, but a miller as well? And would any of this translate into the construction and operation of a gold mine?

Even if William Hodson was primarily a miller – and presumably, also a farmer, to whatever degree – he is also found actively engaged in land transactions.

Randolph County, for instance, records turn up a number of real estate transactions involving William Hodson, including 1831 as grantee and grantors John and Baptist Clark, 112½ acres; 1832 as grantee with grantor John Clark, 112 acres; 1837 as grantor of 100 acres to Warwick Davis; and 1841 as grantor of a half acre to James Frazier.

William also appears in Guilford County land transactions. In his Guilford County: A Map Supplement, Fred Hughes writes, “In 1819, Edward Poor leased land from William Hodson (Hodgin) for the stated purpose of mining gold. Poor agreed to pay a fee of one fourth of the gold found, and posted a bond of $5000. Robert W. Hodson and his brother Jeremiah did some prospecting, found gold, and developed their own operation.”

Mary Browning dates the agreement January 25, 1819. In her “Remembering the First Jamestown Gold Miners, published December 11, 2005, in the News & Record, she writes “at some time before 1819 gold had been discovered on William Hodson’s property near Deep River in Guilford Co.” She adds that the document recorded with the county register of deeds entitled Poor to “work & use wood & water in working a gold mine on the land of said William” and was to pay Hodson one-fourth part of the gold or other metal recovered. She remarks, “Edward Poor was successful enough during the next few years to cause the honorary title of ‘Captain’ to be placed on his tombstone. He died in 1827 and was buried in Old Union graveyard, also called Holton-Vickrey cemetery, on River Rd.”

In addition, she reports that Robert W. Hodson also owned one of the early mines, 1825-1831, before he moved to Indiana. In an 1879 letter to Philip Horney Hodson in Guilford County, Robert wrote of panning for gold with his brother Jeremiah in 1825. After that, for four years, they worked what they called the Horney Mine, location kept secret: “Some days we did not make more than $1.00 in the hand, on other days much more. The largest day’s work we ever done, was to dig out the ore, haul it to the washing place and wash out a little over $90.00, or $30.00 to the hand. We only went a little over fifty feet deep while I worked the vein. The vein thickened from near a foot on the surface to near five feet in the bottom. We sold out, I think, in the Spring of 1831 to Andrew Lindsey, James Robbins and Jesse Shelly.”

For a comparative sense of their earnings, consider that a steak dinner in a fine hotel could be had for a nickel, the same price as overnight accommodations. So, in today’s terms, they may have made the equivalent of $600, on the slow day; their biggest day, in contrast, netted the equivalent of $18,000.

In detailing the rise and importance of the North Carolina mines, Hughes explains, “When the United States began making its own coins, French, Dutch, and Spanish coins were melted down and recast into blanks for the coin stamps. The first gold coins made from virgin gold were made from North Carolina gold. The state was the premiere producer of gold until the gold rush into California” in 1849. Hughes notes that having the Carolina finds occur on privately held property prevented a gold rush in the Piedmont region. “Many of the early mines were operated by farmers during times when they could not plow and plant – a second income for them,” Hughes writes. As additional ore was located below the water line, however, the nature of mining and recovery changed; the ore above the table was largely placer gold, while that below was in alloy with other minerals, which required larger investment. Among the Guilford County companies was a Hodgin Hill Mining Company, founded in 1855. Even so, by 1855 most of the gold operations in Guilford County had converted to copper production.

From twentieth century maps I find in Sumner Township the Fentress Mine and Dickens Mine, both just north of the Centre Friends meetinghouse, a Hodges Hill Mine (Hodgin, the one from 1855?) east of a Concord Friends meetinghouse in the north-central part of the township (and neighboring what the C.M. Miller map of 1908 labels as a Hodgin residence), a Beard Mine neighboring Concord Friends, and a cluster of Fisher Hill, Millis Mill, and Hackett Mine, all to the north of Concord Friends. Some of these sites may have been quarries left from the days of open-pit mining.

With so much of this activity happening around him, William Hodson nevertheless died intestate, with a small estate. Had he already distributed much of his wealth to his children, helping them set up households, farms, and other businesses of their own? Or is there another story?

The Guilford Genealogist (Fall 2003) includes two entries from the February 10, 1849, edition of the Greensboro Patriot newspaper:

Died In the south part of this county, the 6th instant, William Hodgin, aged upwards of eighty years. The deceased for a great number of years pursued the occupation of a miller … so pleasant is the recollection of his merry old visage, and deep mellow laugh, his evidences of a kind and trusting heart. …

Valuable Gold Mine for Sale. The valuable gold mine known as the Hodgin Mine situated in the county of Guilford, 7 miles south of Greensboro, N.C., containing 105 acres of land will be sold on the premises on the 3rd day of April 1849, on a credit of 12 months. This mine has been worked successfully for Gold for several years, and for the last eighteen months it has produced over 14000 dwts of gold, at an expense not exceeding $6,000. There is also a fair prospect for copper; opinions of experienced miners for this metal are favorably given of this mine. There is no mine perhaps in this section of the country that has produced a better profit, and none that presents as fair a prospect at this time. The sale will positively take place, as one of the proprietors wishes to leave the country, and this method is resorted to in order to make a division. Persons wishing information respecting this property can apply to J.W. KIRKMAN, Esq. near the premises or to J.W. FIELD, Jamestown, N.C. J.W. FIELD, J.W. KIRKMAN, A.B. GARDNER, S.C. COFFIN. Feb. 5th 1849

Coincidentally, the dates of the two announcements are a day apart. How much interest, if any, did William’s family still have in this property?

About their children

The life of George, by whom I descend, is detailed in a separate posting.

Turning to the other children, I have already detailed what little I have on them. Since the definitive number remains in doubt, it is difficult to determine whether a higher proportion of William and Diannah’s children chose to remain in Guilford County than was the case with William’s siblings, or whether the ones listed here are simply the ones who stayed.

Crucial points for further research

The Saferight lineage, especially, requires much work.

A clearer picture of William’s life – milling, mining, land dealing included – would be welcome. As would something of his wife’s experiences. Details regarding their children are needed, beginning with a definitive number, their names, and their destinies.

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4 thoughts on “Generation seven: William and Dianna Hodson/Hodgin”

  1. Pleasant Garden, Maryland interests me. I live in Pleasant Garden, NC. Could it be the namesake of this plantation? What more do you know about James Hendricks?

    1. Hendricks is someone I, too, would like to know much more about, and apparently we’re not alone.
      He shows up in my chapter “Robert Hodgson of Pleasant Garden” as the two invested in 1714-15 in 2,000 acres in what would become Lancaster County — perhaps the first developers in that county. Remember, though, that while Hodgson filed his Pleasant Garden tract in Maryland, it was contested land and is now solidly in Chester Country, Pennsylvania.
      A little later, I find my Danner ancestors settling in 1734 on 200 acres “originally developed by the Quaker James Hendricks in present-day York County” on the west side of the Susquehanna (Donald Durnbaugh’s “The Brethren in Colonial America”) — land that was also claimed by Maryland and led to some intense controversy and persecution.
      But what I’ve seen about Hendricks so far looks rather tangled, especially when lines start showing up in North Carolina. Was he the one, for instance, who accidentally shot and killed his son while hunting?

  2. Your ancestor’s gold mine is in my back yard. The Armfield house is 200 yards from me. Your ancestor’s neighbouring landowners, and former owner of said gold mine, were the Fields. They are still right here. Saferight road is less than 3mi. away.

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