In the mid-1800s, the Burton and the Ellis families of Abbeville County, SC were almost inseparable. So much, that Toliver Joseph Burton named his oldest son Robert Ellis Burton, and his second son, Ira O. Burton, named his son Walter Ellis Burton. Why?

I think I know the answer:

First, let me inform you that the part of Abbeville County that these families made their homes was in and around the small town of Due West. While looking at mid 19th century census records, it became apparent that many of the families in the sleepy town had immigrated from Northern Ireland. Why?

I think I know the answer:

The Cherokee War of 1760-61 and the bloody massacre by Cherokee Indians on February. 1, 1760 of twenty-three settlers at Long Canes Creek near Abbeville led to the passage of the Bounty Act in 1761 by the South Carolina Assembly. The act was pushed into law by a New York City merchant named John Torrans who had moved to Charleston in 1758. He, along with John Greg and John Poag, formed a firm in 1761 in which they, as ship owners, were to be paid a bounty to bring poor Protestant emigrants from Europe, who in turn received land in exchange for their journey across the sea to settle in South Carolina.

Between 1763 and 1768, scores of Scotch-Irish men, women, and children were passengers on ships hoping for new opportunities and a better life. What they did not know was that they were being herded to the newly created township of Boonesborough near Long Canes Creek.

This new township was established on the “highway” used by the Cherokee. The newly arrived immigrants from Belfast and Ulster and Irish parts unknown were being used as human shields to block the Indians from traveling into the more civilized, settled parts of the colony. They were given everything needed to begin farming the land before being put into the pathway of the marauding Cherokee warriors. The Scotch-Irish were considered to be expendable by the English.

When a ship named Nancy arrived in Charleston in 1767 from Belfast with hoards of dying Irish crammed into a space meant for far less bodies, the Bounty Act soon went by the wayside. The three JohnsTorrans, Greg, and Poag — exchanged importing Irish souls to be used as human blockades to buying and bringing to Charleston the bodies and souls of stolen African slaves.

Robert Ellis (1718-1773), his wife Esther (b. 1716), and their six children were born in Northern Ireland and came to America in 1768 on a Snow named the Greg ( a snow — a square-rigged sailing vessel with two masts, complemented by a snow- or trysail). The Ellis family, like many other Scotch-Irish families, settled in Boonesborough which later evolved into the small towns of Donalds and Due West.

Toliver Joseph Burton was the son of Joseph Burton who descended from the English-born Burtons. This fact has been documented on paper and proven by genetic testing. Toliver Joseph Burton was also the son of Delilah Toliver, and she was born in IRELAND

Joseph Burton, father of Toliver Joseph Burton, had died by 1846, and Delila Burton had apparently died in between the years 1850 and 1860.

In 1860, the two sons of Toliver Joseph BurtonTimothy Burton and Francis Marion Burton — lived in the household with their sister Margaret Burton who had married John McCombs (1825–1896), who was of Irish descent.

Toliver Joseph Burton’s oldest daughter, Sarah Burton, was in the 1850 Abbeville County Census with her husband, James E. Gray (1825–1863) and son John J. Gray (b. 1848). I can find no record of the Gray family in 1860. They may have been missed that decade. It is possible that Mary Ann Burton, youngest daughter of Toliver Joseph Burton and Delila Burton was living in the missing household. More in-depth research may also reveal that 14 year old (give or take a year or two) Mary Ann Burton had been married by 1860.

Delilah Toliver Burton was somehow connected to the Ellis family of Ireland. The Ellis family was also closely related to other immigrant families from Ireland: Lindsay and Gray.

Robert N. Ellis (1800-1866) and his wife Jane Cowan (1809-1861) took in Delilah’s son Toliver Joseph Burton, a fact proven by the presence of 19 year old college student Toliver Joseph Burton in the 1860 Abbeville County household of 60 year old Robert Ellis and his 51 year old wife Jane Ellis.

Robert N. Ellis left Toliver J. Burton one thousand dollars, a horse, cow, calf, and other items in his 1866 Last Will and Testament, Robert N. Ellis mentioned Toliver Burton before his niece Mahalah McAdams in the will and left her only a sewing machine. Why was Toliver Burton, potentially no blood relative to Robert Ellis, mentioned earlier in the will and given more than a niece? Was Delilah Toliver actually related to Robert Ellis?

Item 2nd I give and bequeath unto Toliver J. Burton one thousand dollars in cash, the horse, saddle & bridle which he uses in riding, one cow and calf (his own choice of my cattle) and one bed and furniture.

Toliver, Ellis, Lindsay, Cowan, Gray, McCombs, McAdams…….. It was definitely an Irish thing. Perhaps these families were related by their Celtic blood; perhaps a shared oceanic voyage from Ireland to the new land linked them. Whether they traveled together or not, these families began their journey in northern Ireland and ended in the northeastern part of Abbeville County, in the tiny township that would become Due West. They gave up the River Main in County Antrim, Ireland for the River Saluda in County Abbeville, South Carolina.

Let us take a short step back in time and look at the slightly extended Burton family. Joseph Burton was born in 1796 in Abbeville County, SC to John Burton (1753-1839) and Caroline Cook (b. 1773). Joseph Burton married Delilah Toliver, Probate on his will was begun in 1846. (There are documents dated 1844 and 1845 in the packet that need closer examination)

John E. Ellis was the administrator for the estate. Robert Ellis was mentioned in the estate settlement. The estate settlement is a little complicated. The estate of Joseph Burton’s father, John Burton who died in 1839, was still being settled and was mentioned in the paperwork. Evidently, Joseph Burton’s brother James Burton had also died close to the same time as Joseph. John E. Ellis was also the administrator for James Burton.

Joseph Burton’s widow Delila Burton was mentioned several times. It was stated that Joseph Burton had “five or six children” but by the time of the final settlement, the proceeds of the estate were divided between the widow Burton and six children. I found the names of widow Delila Burton, children Sarah Burton Gray, Margaret Burton, Joseph T. Burton, Marion Burton, Timothy Burton, and M.A Burton (Mary Ann?).

Toliver Joseph Burton married Jane Jennie Murphy (1844-after 1880). She was likely an Irish lass and most definitely the daughter of Samuel Mosley Murphy (1801–1877) and Harriet Goolsby Spencer (1811–1896).

Toliver Joseph Burton and wife Jennie had the following children:

  • Annette “Nettie” Burton (1868–1945)
  • Robert Ellis Burton (1874–1917)
  • Ira O. Burton (1875–1938)
  • Oscar Othell Burton (1881–1928)

Ira O. Burton was my great great grandfather. The story of his tragic life will be forthcoming. Toliver Joseph Burton died in 1905. I’ve not found the location of his grave but his residence was in or near Due West, Abbeville County SC. If there is a headstone to be found, you can expect an update after my soon-to-be-taken journey to the land near River Saluda, the land where the Irish lived after their arrival in the New World.

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