Chapter 1 – Overview
This book was written primarily for descendents of Samuel Howell Lewis, who was born March 12, 1796 in Mecklenberg County, VA; married Henrietta Mabrey July 4, 1818 in Warren County, NC; believed to have had children James, Samuel, Hardin and Ansell; later married Jane Darnell and had children Benjamin Darnell, Ann, Robert, and William Baugh; moved to Southern Illinois with his three youngest sons Benjamin, Robert and Will about 1845 after Jane died; died November 28, 1867 in Pope County, IL and was buried in Joyner Cemetery, Stonefort, Saline County, IL. This book may be of interest to other descendents of the “Warner Hall” Lewis family as well.
One shortcoming of this book is the relatively little information on descendents Samuel’s sons Dr Ben and William, as well as Samuel’s older children and their descendents. I would be delighted to have contact with any of these descendents and gather more material that could be included in a future revision.
This is written in as straightforward a manner as possible. Deciphering Welsh history and names was anything but straightforward, twisting both the tongue and brain. I have tried to integrate much information and distill our history to its essence. Family Notes are included in several chapters to tie in locations, historical events and people who are not our direct ancestors.
Acknowledgements: This work could not have been possible without the efforts of family history researchers whose work this report is built upon.
Leland Lewis, whose passion for family history led him to travel widely to research family history. He interviewed many people familiar with our family, and preserved stories and lineage of Samuel Howell’s descendents in his book Lewis Genealogy 1557 – 1982. His stories of family and the area around Stonefort were an inspiration to dig deeper into our roots. Much of the information about Samuel Howell and his descendents comes from Leland’s book, and his descendents have very graciously allowed me to include it in this booklet.
- Dr Malcom Harris, whose discovery of the grave of John Lewis on Poropotank Creek near Adner, Virginia in 1948 led to unlocking the mystery of our ancestry. He was a country doctor with a keen interest in the history of the area where he practiced medicine, and spent much of his life collecting and publishing that history.
- Grace McLean Moses, whose unrelenting determination to discover factually supported historical information led to the deciphering of the coat-of-arms on the grave of our immigrant ancestor John Lewis, as well as tracing his history in Wales and Virginia. She documented her research in the book The Welsh Lineage of John Lewis (1592-1657) Emigrant to Gloucester, Virginia, ISBN 0-8063-4542-X. Dr Susan J Daves of the University of Wales was the principal researcher, conducting her extensive work in 1983/ 84 at the National Library of Wales.
- Col Edgerton Sorely who wrote “Lewis of Warner Hall, The History of a Family” in 1935, providing much valuable information on descendents of Councilor John Lewis of Warner Hall. Although his ancestry of the Lewis family of Warner Hall was borrowed from earlier published works, and is inconsistent with source documents uncovered through recent research, his book is a wonderful source of information on Councilor John Lewis and his descendents. One omission that is significant to our branch of the family is the fact that he does not list Robert Lewis of Mecklenberg as a child of Robert of Granville.
- John Cook, who transcribed source records across many states which he later published in his four volumes of the book Pioneer Lewis Families. This excellent reference is no longer in print, but can be found in select libraries.
- David Brown and Thane Harpole, archaeologists who worked at Warner Hall, and published Warner Hall, Story of a Great Plantation, ISBN0-9763585-0-6
- Dr Edy MacDonald, the driving force behind the Lewis DNA Project.
- John Davies, author of A History of Wales. Until recently he was a member of the Department of Welsh History at the University of Wales at Aberystwyth. He wrote this book in Welsh, and later translated it to English. The book is an excellent source of Welsh information and is easier to read than others I encountered on this history journey.
There has been heated controversy for at least 100 years among Lewis families in America about their origins, and we need to address it now so it does not cause some readers to be distracted later in the book. One strongly held and widely published story by multiple Lewis families in both Virginia and New England is that their emigrant ancestor is one “General Robert Lewis”, son of Sir Edward Lewis of the Van and Lady Ann Sackville, who come to America with his wife Elizabeth on the ship “Blessing” in 1635, and received a grant of land of 33,333.3 acres. Several Lewis books state this “General Robert Lewis” is the ancestor of the Lewis family of Warner Hall, while others state he is the ancestor of their separate line.
Here is the data that leads me to not accept General Robert Lewis as our emigrant ancestor:
- a Robert and Elizabeth Lewis sailed to the New World on the Blessing on July 16, 1635, but according to the Public Records Office in London the ship sailed to New England, not to Virginia where our ancestors landed
- Robert and Elizabeth Lewis landed in Salem Massachusetts, then moved to Newbury Massachusetts where Robert died in 1644
- Although Sir Edward Lewis of the Van and Lady Ann Sackville had a son named Robert, there is no record linking Robert Lewis of the Blessing to them
- The coat of arms used by the Warner Hall Lewis family is not the same coat as Sir Edward Lewis of the Van
- There has been no military or civil record found of a “General” Robert Lewis in either England prior to 1635 or Virginia following 1635. In fact, the British War Office has no record of any officer of any rank named Robert Lewis at that time
- All Virginia land grants from 1634 forward are recorded, and there is no grant for 33,333 acres to anyone with the last name Lewis during that era
- The grave of Isabella Miller, mother of Councilor John Lewis of Warner Hall, is one of the graves in the same small family cemetery as that of John Lewis who emigrated to America in 1653. Those grave stones, and the multiple church, court and land records that survived the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, link our Warner Hall Lewis family to the emigrant John Lewis buried in that cemetery.