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Edens Cemetary In Universal City

Written by Art Hall

This small cemetery is a pioneer grave yard completely surrounded by development in Universal City, Bexar County, Texas. It is located immediately across from the municipal animal shelter and inside a fenced area which encompasses various municipal facilities. The cemetery contains only six marked graves, all members of the Banister Edens family which came to the area and established a farm and ranch on Cibolo Creek in 1855.

Banister Edens was born in the Pendleton District of South Carolina on June 29, 1804, the eldest child of John Edens (1783-1857) and Luvinia Langford (ca. 1785 – ca. 1830). As a small boy, Banister moved with his family to Tennessee in 1808 and from there to St. Claire Co., Illinois Territory around 1812. From Illinois the family moved to Hempstead Co., Arkansas in 1817 and eventually into Claiborne Parish, Louisiana around 1822. In Claiborne Parish, Banister grew to manhood and married Mary Walker, the daughter of Dr. Hugh Walker and Jane Greene Walker.

Banister and Mary Edens had nine children, all born in Claiborne Parish between 1830 and 1846. In 1850, the seven youngest children, including son Napoleon Augustus Edens, were still living in the family home.

In 1831, Banister’s father, John Edens, and Banister’s younger, unmarried siblings moved to the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas, settling in that part that eventually became Houston County, Texas. It was there, about ten miles north of present day Crockett, that John Edens received a league and a labor of land in David G. Burnet’s colony. In 1838 Indians attacked the home of John Edens and killed eight women and children and severely, wounded a number of others in what became known in Texas history as the Edens-Madden Massacre. Among those killed were Banister Edens’ step-mother (whose given name is unknown but who was a sister of George Pollitt of Nacogdoches), his sisters Emily, age 16 and Caledonia, age 3; and his nephews Robert and Seldon Madden, ages 7 and 5 respectively. Also killed were neighbors Mary Madden, age 3, Mrs. Sarah Hall Murchison, and Mrs. Mary Murchison Sadler.

Banister and his family had remained in Louisiana when his father made the move to Coahuila y Tejas in 1831, but in 1855 decided to follow him into Texas. He sold his land holdings in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana to his son-in-law, Samuel R. Clinton and Samuel’s brother, David Clinton. According to family tradition, when they first arrived in Texas, Banister and his family stayed briefly with Banister’s father in Houston County before moving on down the El Camino Real to Bexar County, near San Antonio. In Bexar County, Banister acquired 350 acres of land on Cibolo Creek which he farmed and ranched. In the 1856 tax roll of Bexar County, Banister was shown owning these 350 acres, 6 Negroes, 5 horses, 70 cattle and a wagon. Most of this old Banister Edens farm now lies within the perimeter of Randolph Air Force Base.

On January 10, 1856, Banister’s wife, Mary Walker Edens died after a short illness and was buried on the family farm near the house. She had been born on March 11,1810, in Illinois Territory. She was the first recorded burial in the Edens Cemetery.

Soon after Mary’s death, Banister moved his family back to East Texas to be near his father, brothers and sisters who were living in Houston and Anderson Counties. Banister settled near Elkhart, Anderson County. However, he retained his land in Bexar County although he disposed of or moved his other property. The 1858 tax roll of Bexar County showed Banister still with his 350 acre farm on Cibolo Creek but with no other taxable property.

In Anderson County, Banister married Elizabeth Bennett Grigsby, the widow of William Grigsby in 1857. In 1866, Banister moved back to his farm on Cibolo Creek in Bexar County.

Napoleon Augustus Edens, one of Banister’s sons, married his step-sister, Mary Faith Grigsby, in Anderson County in 1859. During the Civil War, Napoleon enlisted in the CSA at Dailey’s Store, Houston County, being among the group enlisting in Capt. R. Pridgen’s Co., Mounted Horse Division (aka Elkhart Cavalry, later a part of Greene’s Brigade.
After the war, Napoleon and Mary Faith joined Banister in the family’s move back to the Edens’ farm in Bexar County in 1866. They resumed farming and ranching with Napoleon, eventually buying the farm from his father. After selling the farm, Banister and Elizabeth moved to near Center Point in Kerr County, Texas, to be near another son. Here Banister died in 1889 and Elizabeth in 1892. Both are buried in the Center Point Cemetery.
Napoleon and Mary Faith Edens lived on the old family farm on Cibolo Creek for over 35 years, eventually selling the place in 1901 and moving into San Antonio where they lived the remainder of their lives. It is interesting to note that when the farm was sold, the deed contained the following provision:

“We reserve from the sale out of the above lands our family graveyard, same being near the house, same is 60 feet square, and is to be fenced and kept fenced by us and our heirs, and we reserve the right to enter the said land and bury members of our family in said graveyard, and to repair the same.”

I think it unlikely that some later disposition would have been made of this 60 x 60 plot, so it would appear that the descendants of Napoleon and Mary Faith still retain their interest in it.

While Napoleon and Mary Faith were living on the farm, the five other burials in the Edens Cemetery took place, as follows:

  1. Mattie H. Edens, died on October 22, 1886 at the age of four years. Her tombstone says simply “Little Mattie – Aged 4”. She was the daughter of Hugh Banister Edens, another son of Banister Edens, who was living nearby.
  2. Roy Edens died on July 21, 1887 at the age of two years. Roy was the son of Napoleon and Mary Faith Edens.
  3. Next to be buried here was John Napoleon Edens, age 35, who died on July 21, 1899. He was another son of Napoleon and Mary Faith Edens.
  4. William Grigsby Edens, another son of Napoleon and Mary Faith, died in California on February 9, 1901. According to his wishes, his body was transported back to Texas to be buried in the family cemetery. He was 25 years old.
  5. The last known burial in this cemetery was that of W. K. Kellam, who died on March 5, 1902, just prior to the sale of the farm. Kellam was the husband of Nora B. Edens, a daughter of Napoleon and Mary Faith Edens. He was 29 years of age when he died.

As far as is known, there are no unmarked graves in the Edens Cemetery.

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Another Look At The Edens-Madden Massacre

Written by Art Hall

Often when we consider the Edens-Madden Massacre, we tend to look at the massacre as an isolated incident and not consider the events surrounding it. These surrounding events help us place the massacre into historical perspective and understand the eventual expulsion of the Cherokee and Kickapoo Indians from East Texas.

Prior to Texas winning its independence from Mexico in 1836, the Mexican authorities had good relations with the various Indian tribes, primarily the Cherokees and Kickapoos, who were found in East Texas. The Mexican government had no plans to colonize East Texas and, consequently, had no problem with the Indians claiming large sections of land for themselves. Things began to change, however, after Texas independence in 1836.

Under Mexican rule, few Anglos came to Texas, but after independence a flood of settlers began arriving. And although many came through the Gulf ports of Galveston, Brazoria and Indianola and settled along the rivers near the Gulf coast, most came overland through the gateway town of Nacogdoches and settled near the Old San Antonio Road (El Camino Real) in close proximity to Nacogdoches. More and more these new settlers encroached upon lands claimed by the Indians. The East Texas Indians were not nomadic as were the Plains Indians, but were a mountain and forest people who hunted and fished, built villages, raised livestock, and cultivated fields. And they were being forced off of their lands at an increasing rate.

In an effort to pacify the East Texas Indians, Sam Houston (prior to and while President of the Republic of Texas) entered into a number of treaties guaranteeing them title to their lands. However, the Texas legislature refused to ratify these treaties and they were generally ignored by local authorities and settlers.

Following its defeat in 1836, Mexico began a campaign of inciting the East Texas Indians and native Mexicans in Texas to rise up against the Anglo-Americans in hopes of driving them out and eventually reclaiming Texas. These efforts were largely carried out by native Mexicans in Texas and by government agents sent to Texas. One of the more active and successful of these Mexican agents was Vincente Cordova who had lived in Nacogdoches for many years. He had been an early supporter of the Texas Revolution and was once a wealthy leader in Nacogdoches community affairs. A local judge and captain of militia, he held several government posts during colonial days in Mexican Texas. Cordova fought for the revolution when it was the colonists’ struggle for constitutional rights under Mexican rule. But after the revolution became a war for Texas independence, Cordova declared loyalty to Mexico.

Cordova eventually recruited a force of Mexican loyalists, Indians, blacks and disaffected Anglos to dismantle Texas independence from within with promised support from the central government in Mexico City.

In 1838, Mirabeau B. Lamar was elected President of the Republic of Texas, replacing Sam Houston who could not run for re-election under then current law. Lamar’s campaign promise to suppress the Indians and to drive them from Texas won him much support with the settlers who were suffering more and more from Indian depredations across East Texas. Lamar’s election, the increasing flood of Anglo settlers into East Texas, and the failure of Texas to guarantee the Indians their lands made fertile ground for Cordova to instigate an uprising in 1838. The uprising became known as the “Cordova Rebellion”.

Map2Following are significant events which occurred during this uprising.

August, 1838 – Indian depredations increased, particularly around Ft. Houston, near present day Palestine, in Anderson Co.  Following is a letter written August 25, 1838, from the citizens of Ft. Houston to President Houston (Lamar was not inaugurated until Jan., 1839).

“Our property has been stolen, our houses and farms infested and surrounded, our families alarmed and ourselves compelled to desert our homes on account of depredations committed by our Indian neighbors. We would further beg leave to suggest as our settled conviction that from our isolated situation and sparseness of our population, this settlement will be compelled to desert our property and protect our women and children from the tomahawk and scalping, or more cruel horror of Indian captivity. This subject is most respectfully submitted to the consideration of the Executive and some protection earnestly but strongly solicited in our truly unpleasant and distressing situation. The Indians who are doing mischief in this neighborhood are supposed to be principally the Kickapoos.”

Ft. Houston was within an easy days ride from the home of John Edens and other settlers on San Pedro Creek, near Augusta. Note, also, that the Indians being blamed for the trouble were the Kickapoos. So the trouble had begun close to home a good two months before the Edens-Madden Massacre.

September, 1838 – As a result of the above letter to President Houston and reports of other depredations in the vicinity, Maj. Leonard Mabbitt and three companies of cavalry were dispatched to Ft. Houston to pacify the area. They arrived on September 27th. Maj. Mabbit’s troops patrolled east from Ft. Houston to the Neches River and came under increasing Indian harassment, primarily from Kickapoos who had been enlisted by Vincente Cordova.

Much of the frontier defense was left to volunteer companies of Texas Rangers. One such company was commanded by Capt. William T. Sadler, a neighbor of John Edens on San Pedro Creek. Sadler’s company patrolled south of Ft. Houston to Ft. Brown, a small log structure on San Pedro Creek a few miles west of the Edens home. Many of Sadler’s troops came from the San Pedro Creek area, including, among others, John Murchison; Robert Madden; and brothers Darius Edens, Balis Edens and John Silas Edens.

October 5, 1838 – Killough Massacre. The extended Killough family had settled on a creek near the Neches River and near the Kickapoo Village in present day Anderson Co. A large group of Indians attacked during the afternoon while a number of the men were in the adjoining fields. And while a number were able to make their escape, 18 men, women and children were slaughtered that afternoon. Originally blamed on the Cherokees, it was later thought that the massacre was committed by Cordova and his Mexicans and Indians. When word of the massacre reached Nacogdoches, Thomas J. Rusk began mobilizing as many men as possible to march on the Cherokees and Kickapoos in northern Anderson County.

Of interest is the fact that Olive Edens, daughter of John Edens, later married Allen Killough, one of the surviving members of the family.

October 11, 1838 – General Rusk left Nacogdoches with a large contingent of men with the intent of meeting Maj. Mabbitt’s men at Ft. Duty, about halfway between Ft. Houston and the Neches River. The combined force was then to proceed north about 20 miles to the vicinity of Kickapoo Village and engage the sizable contingent of Indians there.

Capt. Sadler was ordered to proceed immediately to Ft. Houston to join Maj. Mabbitt’s men for the campaign against the Indians. Since the men of Capt. Sadler’s Company were leaving Ft. Brown and their homes on San Pedro Creek, this may well have been when many of their wives and children gathered at the home of John Edens for protection.

October 12, 1838 – Maj. Mabbit, joined by the men from San Pedro Creek, left Ft. Houston for Ft. Duty to meet Gen. Rusk. As the trail was narrow through heavily forested terrain, Mabbitt’s men became spread out over a considerable distance. The rearmost company was that of Capt. Brown and had fallen behind the main force by about a mile. Approximately 6 miles east of Ft. Houston, Capt. Brown’s troops were ambushed by a group of Cordova’s Mexicans and Indians. And while they were able to eventually drive off their attackers, four of Capt. Brown’s troops were killed and a number wounded.

When Maj. Mabbitt received word of the ambush, he immediately ordered a return to Ft. Houston to bury the dead, nurse the wounded, and to re-supply his troops. Word was sent to Gen. Rusk that Mabbitt would be delayed but would join up with Rusk on the Neches.

October 14, 1838 – Maj. Mabbitt again left Ft. Houston but proceeded directly to the Neches River, just south of Kickapoo Village. Here he joined Gen. Rusk’s troops late on the afternoon of October 15th. That night, the Indians, being fully aware of the Texan’s presence, started fires around their camp in the hope of burning them out. The fires were unsuccessful but heightened the Texan’s alertness throughout the night and for the battle which would take place early the next morning.

October 16, 1838 – The Indians attacked early that morning. Rusk’s men had constructed defensive positions the night before and were fully prepared when the attack came. The battle lasted about one hour and when it was over, the Indians and Mexicans had experienced heavy casualties. The survivors escaped into the forest. Rusk lost only one man (Pvt. James Hall). No one from the San Pedro Creek area had been killed and only one wounded, that being John Murchison, who would lose his wife, Sarah Hall Murchison, in the Edens-Madden Massacre two days later.

One other casualty, however, was suffered by the men from San Pedro. The casualty was Darius Edens’ horse. An affidavit prepared and signed shortly after the battle reads as follows:

“We the undersigned being appointed by Gen. T. J. Rusk to value a sorril mare about 15 ½ hands high belonging to Darius Edens a private of Capt. J. Box’s Spy Co. on oath appraise the said mare to be worth the sum of two hundred and seventy five dollars and to certify that she was killed in the action fought this day at the Kickapoo Village.

Signed: J.C. Box, Captain

Approved: Thos. J. Rusk, Major General”

(Darius had been transferred to Capt. Box’s company while at Ft. Houston shortly before departing for Kickapoo. His claim was paid by the Republic on May 11, 1840, for $200.)

After the battle, the men under Maj. Mabbitt returned to Ft. Houston, arriving there on October 18th. After a short rest, the men of Capt. Sadler’s and Capt. Box’s Companies departed for their homes on San Pedro Creek.

October 18, 1838 – Edens-Madden Massacre. Several older men of the San Pedro Creek area and a number of the wives and children of the men in Capt. Sadler’s Company had gathered in the home of John Edens, probably shortly after Sadler’s volunteers had been ordered to Ft. Houston on October 11th. It is possible that those who gathered at the Edens home continued a fairly normal routine during the day but retired to the Edens home for protection at night. Gathered there on the night of October 18, 1838, were John Edens; his son-in-law James Madden; Elias Moore; and Martin Murchison, the father of John Murchison who had been wounded two days earlier at Kickapoo Village.

Among the women and children who were present were John Edens’ second wife (a Pollitt, but given name unknown), and daughters, Emily, 16, Caledonia, 3, and Melissa, 1. Also present were Edens’ daughter, Lucinda Madden, wife of James Madden, and their sons, Balis, 9, Robert, 7, and Seldon, 4. Others present were Mrs. Robert (Nancy Halhouser) Madden and her daughter Mary, 3; and Mrs. John Murchison and her step-daughter-in-law, Mrs. William T. (Mary Murchison) Sadler.

It is known that the Indians attacked at bed time and were able to isolate the four men in one of the cabins of the double cabin home. The women and children, in the other cabin, were at the mercy of the Indians. Killed were John Edens’ wife, his daughters, Emily and Caledonia and grandsons Robert and Seldon Madden. Also killed were Mary Madden, Mrs. John Murchison and Mrs. W.T. Sadler. Severely wounded were Lucinda Madden and Mrs. Robert Madden, but both recovered to lead long and productive lives. Infant Melissa Edens was carried to safety by Patsy, a Negro slave who probably had been her nursemaid. Patsy was credited with also saving the two severely wounded women, Lucinda Madden and Ms. Robert Madden. Nine year old Balis Madden was able to escape as did the four men isolated in the other cabin. With coals from the fireplace in the women’s room, the Indians were able to set fire to the structure which totally consumed the home and many of the bodies of the dead.

October 19, 1838 – The men from Ft. Houston arrived to find many of their loved one killed or maimed. They nursed the wounded and buried the dead in the John Edens Cemetery about 150 yards from the site of the massacre. Since many of the victims had been burned in the fire, identification must have been difficult if not impossible.

There was some speculation in later years that the Indians had taken some of the small boys captive, but I tend to discount that theory. If captives had been taken, the men arriving from Ft. Houston would surely have tried to track the Indians, and there is no evidence that such was the case. Also, because of the fire, it would have been difficult to identify the remains, particularly those of the younger victims. Burial would have taken place as soon as possible, possibly in a common grave. In any event, the victims’ graves are unmarked in the old John Edens Cemetery.

The particular group of Indians responsible for the massacre was never identified, but from evidence which has been uncovered, it appears that they were Kickapoos.

Elias Vansickle, of Nacogdoches, was taken prisoner by Indians near Kickapoo Village about the 1st of October, 1838. He was held captive at a nearby village until December 21st, 1838 when he was able to make his escape. Upon his return to Nacogdoches, he gave a statement, as follows:

“He states that he was in their camp at the Kickapoo town at the time of the battle between General Rusk’s forces and them, and that there were then fifteen Cherokees with them, who all joined in the attack upon General Rusk’s camp.

He states, also, that Dogshoot, a Cherokee, came to the enemy some time before and brought a scalp which he said belonged to one of the Killough family, who had been murdered about the same time in the Cherokee nation. The Cherokees, Dogshoot and others, said that in three days from that time, thirty besides those then in camp would join them, and unite with them in a war upon the white settlements. Previous to this time some Kickapoos, a large number, came in and stated that they had killed the families of Eden (sic) and others, near Mustang prairie, Houston County.”

From Vansickle’s statement it seems clear that the perpetrators were, in fact, Kickapoos. And since a war party of Kickapoos had been close to San Pedro Creek only six days before the Edens-Madden Massacre (when it ambushed the trailing elements of Maj. Mabbit’s troops on their way to Ft. Duty), it is entirely possible that part of this group was involved in the massacre.

January, 1839 – Indian depredations around Ft. Houston continued. In January, 1839, four members of the Campbell family were massacred at their home near Ft. Houston.

July 15, 16, 1839 – General Rusk mounted a major campaign against the East Texas Indians. In running battles along the Neches River, Rusk was finally able to comer a large contingent of Cherokees and Kickapoos just north of present day Chandler in Henderson Co. and very near the old Kickapoo Village. Here approx. 100 Indians, including Chief Boles, were killed which effectively ended the Indian uprising in East Texas. The remaining Indians were removed to Indian Territory.

Taking part in this last campaign with Rusk were brothers Balis and Darius Edens. Also participating were James Madden and Martin Murchison, both of whom had been present at the Edens-­Madden Massacre and who had been roundly criticized for their failure to mount a better defense of the women and children there.

September 18, 1842 – Vincente Cordova escaped to Mexico with a number of his Mexican and Indian followers after the Battle of Kickapoo Village in October, 1838. He was still determined to bring down the Republic of Texas. In 1842 he and his followers joined Mexican General Adrian Woll’s vain invasion of Texas. Vincente Cordova was killed on September 18th at the battle of Salado Creek in Bexar County.

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Alexander Edens in the Oolenoy Valley

Written by Art Hall

Our Alexander Edens (ca. 1750 VA – 1835 SC) moved from his native Virginia to the far western part of South Carolina sometime between 1783, when his son (Texas) John Edens was born in Virginia, and 1785 when he received the first of his numerous land grants in South Carolina. His early land grants were located on Oolenoy River, a tributary of the Saluda, in what is today Pickens County about 15 miles west of Greenville.  Here, Alexander and his family settled in the Oolenoy Valley, near the present-day town of Pumpkintown, South Carolina. The valley where Alexander settled was named for Woolenoy (the white settlers dropped the “W” in the early 1800s), chief of the Cherokee Indians, who had made this land their home for centuries.   It is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is in the shadow of Table Rock and Caesar’s Head, prominent peaks of the Blue Ridge.

The first white settler in the area was Cornelius Keith who with his wife, Juda Thompson and their young child, settled in the valley in 1743.  Keith had traded goods for land on the river with the Cherokee chief and lived for many years in peaceful co­existence with the Indians. Few white settlers arrived until after the Revolutionary War when this part of western South Carolina was first opened to white settlement and land grants were being offered as inducements to settlers, the Cherokees having been forced off of their lands by the federal government.

There was a great deal of intermarriage between the descendants of these early settlers, with one of Cornelius Keith’s granddaughters, Margaret Keith, marrying Alexander Edens’ grandson, Alexander Edens (1808-1864). There was also intermarriage between Edens descendants and other early settlers in the Oolenoy valley, such as the Sutherlands and Hendricks.  And, of course, our (Texas) John Edens married Luvinia Langford and his sister, Mary Edens married Luvinia’s brother, Eli Langford, Jr., the Langford family having moved to the Oolenoy Valley shortly after Alexander Edens settled there.

Soon after Alexander Edens had settled in the valley, he was joined by his brother James Edens, and James’ two brothers-in-law, the Reverends John and James Chastain, both Baptist ministers.  James Edens’ wife was Martha Chastain and she and her two brothers were the grandchildren of Pierre Chastain, a French Huguenot born ca. 1663 in France who escaped to Switzerland in 1696 and later made his way to England from whence he emigrated to America.  He and his wife and five children arrived in Virginia in 1700 on the ship Mary and Ann and settled in the Huguenot settlement of Manakintowne, where our Edens ancestors were also living.  By 1800, James Edens and James Chastain had moved to Carter Co., Tennessee, where James Chastain organized the Sinking Creek Baptist Church.  Later, James Edens, Jr. would serve as pastor of this church for many years.

Back in South Carolina, John Chastain organized the Oolenoy Baptist Church (in present day Pumpkintown) in 1795 where he served as its pastor until his death in 1805.  William Edens, son of Alexander, served as messenger of the church and reported a membership of 60 in 1797 when the church entered the Bethel Association.  The church practiced foot washing as a symbol of humility. John Chastain was said to have been an eloquent speaker with a clear ringing voice that carried so well he could be heard for a great distance. He became known as “Ten Shilling Bell” since that was the clearest bell and could be heard the greatest distance of any bell of that time. Rev. Chastain was known to be very strict in his application of religion to the conduct of church members. He is buried in a small, rural cemetery known as the Chastain Cemetery, very near the church he organized. Soon after, the need for a cemetery near the church was recognized, and the Oolenoy Baptist Church Cemetery was started. It is highly probable that Alexander Edens and his descendants were members of this church as many Edens descendants are buried in the cemetery. Alexander Edens (grandson of old Alexander) is buried here, as is his wife, Margaret Keith Edens. Also buried here is William Edens ( 1800-1871), the grandson of old Alexander. When a survey was made prior to 1980, there were a total of 73 “Edens” tombstones in the cemetery and many unmarked graves were discovered. It is likely that our ancestor Alexander Edens is also buried here, in one of these unmarked graves. View a list of Edens buried in the church cemetary, view pictures of this beautiful old cemetery and learn more about Pumpkintown and Oolenoy including the Oolenoy Baptist Church.

Our (Texas) John Edens, his wife Luvinia and their four small children (Banister, Balis, Matilda and Lucinda) left the valley in 1808 and started their twenty-three year trek through Tennessee, Illinois, Arkansas and Louisiana before finally arriving in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas in 1831 (now known as the U.S. state of Texas).

Other descendants of old Alexander Edens apparently stayed put. A look at the current telephone directories of Greenville, Pickens and Pumpkintown reveal many Edens listings. They haven’t strayed far from their roots in the Oolenoy Valley.

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Alexander Edens (circa 1750 VA to 1835 SC)

Written by Art Hall

In all probability, our Alexander Edens was born in Buckingham Co., VA, sometime around 1750. He was living there in 1773 and 1774 when he appeared in the tithe (tax) lists, living near his father, John, his brothers John and James, and his sister Frances Salle. At that time, Alexander was living on the plantation of Thomas Blakey and appears to have been working there as a hired hand. As he was the only person other than members of the Blakey family enumerated on the plantation, it is possible that he was the slave overseer since there were many slaves present.

By 1778, Alexander’s brother James Edens was in Bedford Co., VA where he and his wife, Martha Chastain, bought 400 acres of land on Orricks Creek. James and Martha sold this land the following year and moved to Pendleton Dist., SC where they appeared in the 1790 census living near our Alexander. The third brother, John Edens, also lived in the Shenandoah Valley after leaving Buckingham Co. In 1790 he was one of the “pilots” for a 4275 acre survey in Montgomery Co. for Thomas Patteson, probably a son of David Patteson for whom John had worked back in Buckingham. David Patteson’s plantation in Buckingham was located next to that of Thomas Blakey where Alexander had worked.

There are no records to indicate that Alexander made the move to the Bedford/Montgomery Co., VA area where his two brothers resided for a period of time. On the contrary, in 1781 during the American Revolution, Alexander was still living in Buckingham where he was listed on a militia list. He probably made the move to Pendleton Dist., SC between 1783 when his son John (our ancestor “Texas” John Edens) was born in VA and 1785 when he received the first of his several land grants in SC.

The Pendleton District was located in the northwestern part of South Carolina and was first opened to white settlement around 1784. Here Alexander received two land grants totaling over 900 acres in 1785, two more grants of over 900 acres in 1787 and a final grant of 163 acres in 1799. It is possible that one or more of these grants was for his revolutionary war service. This land is in what is today Anderson Co., SC, and is in the eastern part of the county on Wollenoy Creek near the Saluda River. Alexander sold small parcels of this land in 1786 and 1788 and sold over one thousand acres to various individuals from 1805 until 1813. Land records indicate that Alexander’s wife was “Molley”, probably a nickname for Mary. Unfortunately, no records have been located with would indicate her surname.

There is, however, a land transaction that may provide a clue to the name of an unidentified daughter or widowed daughter-in-law. On 9 November 1818 in simultaneous transactions, Alexander Edens sold 125 acres to James Prince and James Prince sold 300 acres to Matilda Edens. The same persons were witnesses to both transactions. Since Alexander had married his second wife, Mary Meens (or Meers) supposedly in 1816, it is not likely that Matilda was actually Molley. A more likely possibility is that Matilda was Alexander’s daughter or a widowed daughter-in-law. It is interesting to note that Texas John Edens named his first daughter “Matilda”. No other records have been found which would shed light on the relationship of Matilda to Alexander.

In a Revolutionary War widow’s pension application filed in 1853, Alexander’s second wife Mary Meers/Meens stated that she and Alexander were married in Pendleton Dist. on 16 November 1816. Mary at the time of filing was living in Union Co., GA. In her application, Mary stated that Alexander had died at home in Pickens Dist., SC on 28 June 1835. She also stated that Alexander had been a revolutionary soldier of Virginia or South Carolina, but because she did not provide any details or proof of this service, her application was rejected. She also stated that Alexander had no children, obviously meaning that she and Alexander had no children, but possibly an attempt to exclude Alexander’s children by Molley from any pension settlement.

Children of Alexander Edens and his first wife, Molley

  1. Elizabeth. b. 1771 VA. m. Joseph Carleton, brother of Rebecca Carleton.
  2. William. b. ca. 1773 VA. Was a messenger of Oolenoy Baptist Church in 1797. Lived in Franklin Co., GA after 1800. Died 1834 in Franklin, GA.
  3. Samuel. b. ca. 1776 VA. d. 1847. Married Rebecca Carleton.
  4. Jacob. Married Rachael Hamilton.
  5. Absolem.
  6. John. b. 1783 VA, d. 1857 TX. Our (Texas) John Edens who married Lavinia Langford.
  7. Mary. Married Eli Langford, Jr., the brother of Lavinia Langford.
  8. (Possibly) Warren Davis. May have died young.
  9. One unidentified son, and…
  10. One or…
  11. Two unidentified daughters

In the 1790 census of Ninety-Six Dist., Pendleton County, SC, the enumeration for Alexander Edens showed two males 16 and up (Alexander and probably son William), six males under 16 years (Samuel, Jacob, Absolem, John, Warren Davis, and one unidentified) and three females of all ages (Molley, daughter Mary and one unidentified). By this time, oldest daughter Elizabeth was married and living nearby with her husband, Joseph Carlton. Also living close to Alexander in 1790 was his brother, James Edens, and Eli Langford, Sr., the future father-in-law of his son Texas John Edens and his daughter Mary Edens.

In the 1800 census of Pendleton Dist., Alexander Edens was shown with four sons (Absolem, John, Warren Davis and unidentified) and two daughters, both unidentified, still in his household. Sons William, Jacob and Samuel were living nearby as were daughters Elizabeth Carlton and Mary Langford. Also living nearby was Eli Langford, Sr. By now Alexander’s brother James had moved to Carter Co., TN.
Our ancestor Texas John Edens married Luvinia Langford ca. 1802 in Pendleton Dist, Sc.

In 1808, John and Luvinia started on an “odyssey” that ended in 1831 with John moving into the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. The birth dates and birth places of John’s children provide a good road map of his travels.

Name                          Birth Date       Birth Place
Banister                         1804                     SC
Balis                               1805                     SC
Matilda                          1807                     SC
Lucinda                         1808                     SC
Washington Earl         1810                      TN
Alfred                             1812                      IL
Lauriet M.                     1813                      IL
Darius                            1814                      IL
Olive                               1818                      IL
John Silas                     1820                     AR
Emily                             1822                     AR/LA
Calidonia                      1835                      TX
Melissa                          1837                      TX

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Early Edens History in America

Written by Art Hall

The information below is taken from The Edens Adventure, published in 1992. At that time, we relied upon previously published data for some of the information we included about our early Edens family in Virginia. The information appeared to be well documented and we had no reason to suspect that it was flawed. Subsequent research on our part has proven some of this information to be incorrect, particularly with respect to family relationships between several of the Edens men living in the same area at the same time. The following is based upon our additional research and hopefully corrects any flawed information contained in The Edens Adventure.


Early records in Virginia show the name as “Edings, Edings, Eddins, Edins and Edens.” Other phonetic derivations are also found but less frequently, such as the above spellings without the “s”. In a few instances, the name was spelled several ways in the same record. Today, each of these different spellings is still found in various branches of the family. For consistency I will spell the name “Edens” unless a document is being quoted verbatim in which case I will spell the name as it appears in that record.


Other Edens researchers believe (but without proof that I have seen) that our Edens family descended from the Eden family of Durham, England. I doubt this to be true although it is possible that our family came from Durham. From early medieval times, the Eden family of Durham lived in Eden Castle. They were well connected, wealthy and prominent, all the things our Edens family in America was not. Among others, this Eden family produced Sir Anthony Eden, former Prime Minister of Great Britain.

A common practice when surnames first came into common use was for a family to adopt the name of the area, castle, prominent family, etc. located near them. So it is entirely possible that our Edens ancestors lived in the vicinity of Eden Castle and adopted that name when surnames came into general use, but that remains to be proved.

On the other hand, The National Huguenot Society considers our John Edens (great grandfather of our Texas John Edens) to have been a Huguenot, but I don’t believe that to be the case. I believe that our Edens were English. From the early 1700’s in Virginia, our Edens ancestors lived among other English citizens, intermarried with the descendants of English families and did not live near the few French settlements that existed at the time, with the one exception noted below.

Our above mentioned John Edens (the supposed Huguenot) moved from Orange Co., VA, where he and his brothers and sisters and their families were living among English settlers, to the Huguenot settlement of Mankintowne on the James River shortly after 1735. Here he lived among the French refugees who had come to Virginia in 1700 from England after having left France when the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685. John was thee only member of his family to live among the French, and it remains a mystery as to why he did so, unless possible his wife was French. What is known is that there was intermarriage in later years between certain of John Edens’ descendants and known Huguenots. For example, James Edens, brother of our Alexander Edens (father of our Texas John Edens,) married Martha Chastain, and Frances Edens, sister of Alexander, married Isaac Salle. The Chastain and Salle families are well-documented Huguenot families who came with the other French refugees to Mankintowne, Va., in 1700.


We believe that our earliest Edens ancestor in America was William Edens (we will call him old William). Thomas Jones imported him into Virginia, along with 65 other persons, sometime in the very early 1700’s. It was common practice for wealthy individuals to pay a person’s passage to America in return for that person indenturing him or herself for a period of time, usually about six years. In addition, the English government granted large estates to these persons based upon the number of individuals they imported. Jones received 3273 acres of “new” land (not previously inhabited), in New Kent Co., Va in 1719 for the importation of these 66 persons. The recording and formal granting of this land typically took many years, so the actual arrival of old William in America would have been much earlier than the grant date of 1719, as shown by an early record he left in Williamsburg.

The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA was established in 1693. By 1705 old William was living nearby and was working as an “overseer” for a Mr. Blair who was the commissary (quartermaster) for the college. In all probability, old William was the slave overseer since Blair would have needed numerous field hands to tend to the crops and livestock needed to provide the food and other provisions required by the college and its students. In 1705 the college (probably housed in one large building) burned and old William, as a witness, gave the following deposition:

Wm. Eddings, overseer to Mr. Commissary Blair saith: That on Monday, the 29th of October after he was gone to bed he head ye dogs bark in his corn field, and his wife getting up to see what was ye matter, and telling him there were horses in his corn field, he made a shift to get up, tho’ he was very lame and as he comes out he perceived a light in ye air and a great smoke, and (as) ye light increased he perceived the College was on fire and could see clearly the chimneys and the cupulo, between ye two chimneys on ye back part of ye college over the piazzas, but the Deponent being very lame could not go to ye college. And further saith not.”

Williamsburg, of course, is very close to New Kent County where old William may have worked off his indenture on the land granted to Thomas Jones (or Jones could have sold his indenture to Blair).


A few years later, old William left records in New Kent Co. and then left a few records in Spotslvania Co., Va when that part of Virginia was first opened to white settlement. It appears that he died prior to 1732 in Spotslvania when he disappeared from the records. From various land, church, and court records of the area, we know with some degree of certainty that old William had at least the following children:

  1. William (young William), who married Rebecca Frith. Young William appears to have been the oldest of the sons. He first appeared in the land records of Spotslvania in 1726 when he received the first of his land grants. He was a large landowner and was involved in a number of business enterprises in Fredericksburg, VA. In addition to many other land grants and purchases in Spotslvania, in that part that became Orange Co., Young William remained in this “upper neck” of Virginia (in the fork of the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers) until 1740 when he sold his land holdings and moved to Lunenburg Co., VA. There he remained until his death in 1754.
  2. Theophilus. First appeared in the records of Spotslvania in 1726 when he received his first land grant. He was in the 1735 tithe list for that area but disappeared from the records shortly thereafter.
  3. Thomas. Thomas left few records in the Spotslvania/Orange area. However, in 1730, the widow of Robert Taliaferro petitioned the court to stop a land patent of Thomas, which infringed upon an earlier survey of Taliafarro. The court agreed that Thomas’ land had already been granted to Taliafarro, and ordered that it be granted to the widow and her daughters, but reserving nevertheless the power to Thomas to sue out new patents for a like amount of land in another area. Two years earlier, in 1728, the widow Taliaferro had petitioned the court in Sposlvania to stop a patent to young William, with the same result.
  4. John (probably our ancestor). John first appeared in the records of Spotslvania/Orange in 1726 when he witnessed a deed for his brother, young William. In 1728 he received a grant of 525 acres, which he sold to young William in 1735. Later land records relating to this tract of land mentioned a “little” mountain known as “John Edens Mountain”. (The foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains were known as “little” mountains). It is interesting to note that this land where our Edens lived in Spotslvania/Orange in the early and mid 1700s was where the Battle of the Wilderness and numerous other battles were fought in 1864 during the War Between the States.


When John Edens sold his 525 acres homestead to his brother in 1735, he made his way to the French settlement of Mankintowne, located on the James River a few miles up stream from present day Richmond. Here he was found in the tithe list of King William Parish in 1744 living among the Huguenots. Also found in the 1744 list was Alex (Alexander) Edens, probably a son of John. This Alexander, of course, should not be confused with our Alexander who was the father of our Texas John Edens, since he would have been much too old. Alex again appears in the 1748 tithe list of King William Parish, but John does not. John was not found in any subsequent records in VA, so he was probably deceased by this time. No other records of Alex Edens were found after the 1748 tithe list, so he too, may have been deceased by that time.


As new lands farther up the James River were opened to white settlement in the 1750s, many of the descendants of the Mankintowne Huguenots moved to what became Buckingham Co. Our Edens ancestors made this move also, and were in Buckingham as early as 1764. It is unfortunate that most of the records of Buckingham were destroyed in a courthouse fire in the 1800s, but a few have survived which allow us to draw a few conclusions about our Edens family while in that area.

In the 1764 tithe (tax) list of Buckingham, we find only one Edens, that being John, in all probability the son of either John Edens or Alexander Edens who were in the tithe list of King William Parish in 1744. John of Buckingham appears to have been our lineal ancestor. He was shown in that 1764 tax list as having two tithes, himself and Dick, probably a slave. There were no other Edens in that tax list, indicating that the sons of John were not yet eighteen years of age, although they were probably still living in their father’s household. The next tax lists of Buckingham were those taken in 1773 and 1774. By then, the three sons of John as well as his daughter were on their own but still living nearby and living near each other. They were:

  1. James Edens (who married Martha Chastain). He had established his own household but did not own any land at this time.
  2. Alexander Edens (our ancestor) was living on the large plantation of Thomas Blakey and was working there as a hired hand or possibly as a slave overseer. The Blakey and Edens families had lived near each other for many years in the Spotslvania/Orange Cos. Area and Benjamin Edens, Jr., cousin of Alexander, had married his first cousin, Sarah Blakey.
  3. John Edens (young John) Young John was living on the large plantation of David Patterson that was located next to the Blakey plantation. As was Alexander, John was probably a hired hand or possibly the slave overseer. The wife of David Patterson was Sarah Blakey, daughter of Thomas Blakey.
  4. Frances Edens. She married Isaac Salle, jr. in Buckingham and lived the rest of her life there.

Living near his three sons and his daughter was old John, who was first enumerated in Buckingham in 1764. In the 1773 and 1774 tithe lists, old John was listed but without showing any tithes, indicating that he was probably elderly and no longer had to pay taxes.


By 1778, James Edens was in Bedford Co., VA where he and his wife, Martha Chastain, bought 400 acres on Orricks Creek, bordering the line of “Chasteen”, no doubt one of Martha’s Baptist preacher brothers with whom James was associated the rest of his life. James and Martha sold this land the following year and were in Pendleton District, SC in 1790 living near our Alexander Edens. By 1800, James and Martha and her two brothers had move to Carter Co., TN where they remained the rest of their lives.

John (young John) also lived in the area after leaving Buckingham. In 1790, he was one of the “pilots” for a 4275-acre survey for Thomas Patterson, probably a son of David Patterson for whom John had worked back in Buckingham. John later moved to Patrick Co., VA where he died in 1803. His wife was named “Nancy” but her surname is unknown. It is possible that she was a Blakey since their oldest daughter was named Nancy Blakey Edens. As Mentioned earlier, there had been a long association and some intermarriage between our Edens and the Blakey families.

It does not appear that our Alexander Edens made this move to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his brothers. Alexander was still in Buckingham in 1781 when he was mentioned in a militia list during the American Revolution. He probably left Virginia between 1783, when his son Texas John Edens was born, and 1785 when he received the first of his several land grants in the old Pendleton District of South Carolina.


A mystery surrounds the identity of a David Edens who was living in the same general area of the Shenandoah Valley when James and John Edens were there. He first appeared in the records there in 1781 when he was appointed an Ensign in Capt. Martin’s Company of militia in Botetourt County. He would have been the right age to be another of the Edens brothers, but he left very few records and his identity has eluded us. Interesting that John Edens who died in Patrick Co. in 1803 (brother of James and our Alexander) named a son “David” is not found in any other branches of the Edens family that I am aware of. Later the sons of the older David moved their families into the Kanawha Valley of what was to become West Virginia, and may of their descendants are found there today.

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