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Gideon Lewis, Sr. - The Facts

What Do We Know About The Man?



There are not many records in existence to tell us much about Gideon Lewis, Sr., and what few do exists are sketchy at best, and most times, easily confused with his son by the same name. We believe he was born about 1730 - 1735 or so, probably in Virginia or North Carolina. His son Gideon Jr. was born about 1765 in North Carolina. So any record found dated before 1765 is obviously not Gideon Jr. but possibly Gideon Sr., providing there were no other Gideon Lewis's around there. We believe he had a brother named James. We also need to be aware of the condition of the country at that time. What is known as Ashe County today did not exist yet and was in control of the Indians of the area. Ashe County was formed from Wilkes County in 1799, and Wilkes County was created from Surry County in 1777, while Surry County was formed from old Rowan County in 1771. There were no white settlers west of the New River Valley prior to 1799, except for a few hunters or some squatters who own no land there.

The earliest record that has been found was a 1759 Rowan County Militia List that contained both Gideon and James Lewis. They were assigned to a company to patrol the frontier. Next is the 1761 Rowan County Taxables returned by Constable Elijah Skidmore, which shows both Gideon and James Lewis as titheable. Neither Gideon or James Lewis appear to have ever owned land in Rowan County, since there are no deed records for them. In all likelihood, Gideon and James were probably not farmers, but were backwoodsmen hunters and trappers. They probably squatted on some unclaimed land or land owned by some absentee owner. It is clear that Gideon knew the county well from Rowan and Wilkes Counties, on up through Ashe County even west of the New River Valley, and into what is now Grayson and Washington Counties in Virginia. We have record of him working as a scout during the surveying of the NC/VA state lines and the TN/NC state lines.

Gideon appears on the Loyal Land Company list of settlers on the New River in Virginia in the mid 1770's. He had a grant for land in 1779 on the Virginia side. He probably lived very close to the VA/NC state line. In the book, "A history of Western North Carolina" written by John P. Arthur, he states that during the survey of the TN/NC state line that there were two wagon roads crossing the Iron Mountains of North Carolina into Tennessee. He further states that the main wagon road had been completed by 1772, and this was the same road used by Andrew Jackson in 1788. A Robert Henry is quoted that Gideon Lewis was one of the guides from Whitetop Mountain, and that it was remarkable that his direct descendants still live in Taylor's Valley and Konnarock, Virginia, and in Ashland and Solutude, North Carolina. This date is too early to be to be confused with Gideon Jr.

Then there is the First Federal Census of 1790. In Wilkes County there are two Gideon Lewis's. One of them has a family of four,( 2 male < 16 yrs. 1 male > 16 yrs. and 1 female), and the other has a family of nine, (2 males < 16yrs, 2 male > 16 yrs, and 5 females) By 1790, Gideon Sr. would have been about 55- 60 years old. It is possible that he could have had some children still living at home. But this record certainly is not conclusive that this Gideon is our Gideon, Sr. The Gideon Lewis with a family of nine has too many children to be our Gideon Jr. If he was born about 1765, he would only be 25 years of age. He may have been a big strong mountain man, but he was not THAT GOOD! So we can conclude that there was other Gideon's in the same area at the same time. Possibly a son of one of his brothers. Personally, I think our Gideon was "lost from the world" hidden in the mountains on the VA/NC state line, a little west of the New River Valley.

Any other record found after 1785 could just as easy be for his son, Gideon Jr. We have a land deed between Martin Gambill and Gideon Lewis for 150 acres on March 5, 1785. Then Gideon Lewis filed for a land grant for 150 acres lying on the north side of Horse Creek. Then on Aug. 9, 1789 he bought 150 acres from William McClain, located on the North Fork of the New River. On Aug. 2, 1793 another grant for 100 acres of land located on the west side of Horse Creek. Again, another grant dated June 6, 1794, located in the Three Top area near the North Fork of the New River. Then Gideon purchased 53 acres from William M. Smith on Feb. 3, 1806 located on east side of Horse Creek. Then on William Smith sold him 200 acres more all on Horse Creek.. All these land records, I believe, belongs to Gideon Lewis, Jr. I am not sure that Gideon Lewis, Sr. ever owned any land in Ashe, Wilkes, or Rowan Counties. If he owned any land, it would be near Whitetop Mountain on the VA/NC state line from the 1779 land grant from the Loyal Land Company.

I don't think anyone has proof that Gideon's wife was Nancy Osborne, the daughter of William Osborne and Sarah Willen. On that issue I could mistaken. I believe that it was a family tradition. I'm not sure if anyone knows all his children. I don't know for certain exactly where or when Gideon Sr. died. Some researchers think he may have left for Kentucky and died there in 1801. Some researchers think he died in Ashe County somewhere between 1800 - 1810. Personally, I think he died and was buried in Virginia somewhere around Whitetop or Pond Mountain. Who's to say otherwise? It is my desire that all the researchers of this family can find this web site a forum or a platform from which we can communicate and continue our research of our pioneer Gideon Lewis, Sr.


© 2001, David Reedy, Schurz, Nevada


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