THOMAS T. FOSTER (b. 1820) is my great great grandfather. He is often confused with another Thomas J. Foster who was born in 1818. I would like to set the record straight. They were two different men married to three different women.

My ancestor, Thomas T. Foster, was born in Union County, SC in 1820. His father was John M. Foster (1788-). Thomas T. Foster married a woman named Mahala. She is my great great grandmother. I have seen her last name once as McWhirter, but when I tried to contact the researcher, he had died and his notes were lost or destroyed.

Thomas T. Foster and Mahala had three daughters and one son: Eliza, Alice, Josephine Delilah, and Robert Foster. Thomas Foster can be found in 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 census records. Mahala died after 1870, and Thomas Foster married Mary Catherine Gossett on December 29, 1872..

1850 Union County SC Census
  • Thomas T. Foster 32
  • Mahala Foster 29
  • Eliza Foster 8
  • Robert Foster 4
1860 Union County SC Census
  • Thomas Foster 40
  • Mahala Foster 38
  • Robin Foster 14
  • Alice Foster 3
1870 Union County SC Census
  • Thomas Foster 45
  • Mahale Foster 40
  • Alice Foster 12
  • Josephine Foster 9
1880 Union County SC Census
  • Thomas T. Foster 58
  • Mary C. Foster 45
  • Alice G. Foster 20
  • Josie D. Foster 18
1900 Union County SC Census
  • Thomas Foster 79
  • Mary Foster 61

Mary Catherine Gossett (1835-1918) was the daughter of Moses Gossett (1803-1856) and Nancy White (1811-1872). Moses Gossett was convicted of slave stealing and he was hung on July 11, 1856. Mary Catherine Gossett had first been married to Leonard Campbell and they had two daughters: Mary Jane (1856-1935 married to Samuel Harmon (1848-1900) and Emily (b. 1859). Leonard Campbell died in the Union Army prison in Elmira, Chemung County, New York on March 28, 1865 near the end of the civil war.

Thomas T. Foster died October 1, 1903. He was buried at Gilead Baptist Church under a tree where his first wife Mahala had already been laid to rest. His second wife Mary Catherine Gossett would later join them in eternal rest in 1918.

Mary Catherine Gossett Campbell Foster

Thomas T. Foster was known as both Thomas Foster and Thomas T. Foster. I found one instance of an unusual middle name for him in the obituary of his daughter Alice G. Foster Fowler Horne.

The children of Thomas T. Foster and Mahala:

  • Eliza Foster (b. 1842)
  • Robert M. “Robin” Foster (1846-after 1900) m. Mary C Johnson (1851–1901)
    • Sarah Johnston (b.1861) “adopted daughter”
  • Alice G. Foster (1856-1931) m. Rufus Fowler (b. 1861); m. Elias Ball Horne 1840-1930
    • Herbert Fowler (1881-1951)
    • Lula Fowler (1883-1902)
    • Mamie Fowler (1885–1946)
    • Foster Elias Horne (1897–1970)
    • Myrtle Jesse Horne (1902–1979)
    • Brady Horn (1905–1917)
  • Josephine Delilah Foster (1860-1935) m. Benjamin Franklin Mabry (1847–1925)
    • Florence Imogene Mabry (1882–1974)
    • Howard Mabry (1885–1946)
    • Viola Estelle Ola Mabry (1888–1959)
    • Robert Ney Mabry (1890–1952)
    • Guy Godfrey Mabry (1894–1953)
    • Vermelle Mabry (1896–)
    • Lois Ellen Mabry (1899–1984)
    • Gladys Mahala Mabry )1902–1982)
    • Wilma Mabry (1906–)


THOMAS J FOSTER (1818-1888) lived in the same county in the same decades but must be seen as a different man. He was known as “Peter Hawk” and he was likely the son of James “Bully Jim” Foster and Jenny Miller. He married Emma Kelly (1823-1892), daughter of Thomas Kelly and Molly Hames. He and Emma had three: children Mary Foster born about 1844, John Henry Foster born November 17, 1847, and Thaddeus K. Foster born about 1852.

1850 Union County SC Census
  • Thomas J. Foster 31
  • Amy (Emma) Foster 25
  • Mary Foster 6
  • John Foster 2
1870 Union County SC Census
  • Thomas Foster 52
  • Emma Foster 47
  • Thaddeus Foster 18

1880 Union County SC Census
  • Thomas J. Foster 61
  • Emma Foster 54
  • Thaddeus Foster 27

Thomas J. Foster died in Union County on February 22, 1888. He is buried at Flat Rock Cemetery.

Thomas T. Foster and Emma Kelly had the following children:

  • Mary Foster (1846-)
  • John Henry Foster (1848-1923) m. Mary Ann Gault (1846–1901)
    • Anna A. “Annie” Foster (1869–1938)
    • Henry K. Foster (1871–1900)
    • Emma S. Foster (1873–1969)
    • James Thomas “Jim” Foster(1879–1940)
    • Carrie E. Foster (1882–1929)
    • William Marvin Foster (1883–1973)
    • Hessie E Foster(1886–1935)
    • John Bascomb Foster (1889–1940)
  • B. Thaddeus Foster (1852-1915)

It is going to take more research to find out the connection, if any, between these two Thomas Fosters. DNA testing would be a good start in figuring out the lineages of both men. In the meantime, I hope this brief article has cleared up some of the confusion in Foster family trees.

4 thoughts on “THOMAS T. FOSTER (1820-1903) and THOMAS J. FOSTER (1818-1888)

  1. Correction:John Henry Foster was known as Peter Hawk.He was my Great Great Grandfather.William Marvin Foster was my Great Grand father whom I remember as a small child.

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    1. John Henry Foster was the son of Thomas “Peter Hawk” Foster and Emma Kelly. It is possible that John Henry was also known as Peter Hawk, but his father Thomas Foster was known by the nick-name first.

      Emma Kelly Foster’s obituary can be found in the book, Union County Death Notices, p. 57.

      “Mrs. Emma Foster died at the home of her son, J. H. Foster, in Spartanburg, Thursday, 24 January 1892, from an attack of dysentery. Her maiden name was KELLY. She was the widow of Thomas J. Foster, better known by the name of ‘Peter Hawk’. She was buried the next day at Flat Rock Church (Union County) beside her husband.” Their graves are marked.

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  2. I don’t think they were related.Foster’s lived in a couple different districts in Union county.I think Thomas J. FOSTER lived in the Jones mills district.

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    1. HI Robert — Thomas J. “Peter Hawk” Foster lived in Union County, SC (near Jonesville/Kelton) and he was married to Emma Kelly. They had three children, including a son named John Henry Foster. When Emma died, her obituary published in 1892 stated that she died at her son’s home in Spartanburg. (her son was J.H. Foster –John Henry Foster). Thomas “Peter Hawk” Foster died in 1888. Both he and his wife are buried at Flat Rock near Peter Hawk Road outside of Jonesville. I go to that cemetery often.

      John Henry Foster (1847-1923) was born in Union County but moved to Spartanburg County. He married Mary Ann Gault. They had a son named William Marvin Foster (1883-1973) who was born and died in Spartanburg County. I am assuming that this is your great grandfather, making you a descendant of Thomas J. “Peter Hawk” Foster and Emma Kelly.

      I also had an ancestor named Thomas Foster. (b. ca. 1820). He is very often confused with your Thomas “Peter Hawk” Foster. They were two different men with two different families but living in the same part of Union County around the same time. I’ve done a lot of DNA testing. (I am an administrator with a DNA Project). I do not yet know if the two Thomas Fosters were related but I do know that there was more than one Foster line in Union County in the 1700s and 1800s. My Thomas Foster was buried at Gilead Cemetery in Joneville beside his first wife, Mahala. His second wife was buried nearby.

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