History vs. Family Legend

Shortly after I began my research into the Pool family of Laurens County, South Carolina, I encountered a book published in 1931 by Bessie Poole Lamb and Mary- Mack Poole Ezell entitled A Genealogical History of the Poole, Langston, Mason Families and Kindred Lines of Upper South Carolina. Their account of the origins of the Poole family in Laurens County is as follows:

Migrating from Westmoreland County, England about 1784 three Poole brothers: (I) Seth Petty, (I) William, and (I) John, came to America. William Poole settled in Maryland, and called his place Pooleville. (This is probably the present Pooleville, Md.) Seth and John Poole settled near Orange Court House, Virginia. Later they moved to South Carolina. John settled two miles north of Mountain Shoals (now Enoree, SC.) He married there, then moved near Duncan, S. C., on Middle Tiger River. Later he migrated to Mississippi. He had one son, Thomas, who was a physician.

These three brothers had two sisters one of whom, Elizabeth, married a Terry and lived between Enoree and Woodruff at the old Terry place… The second sister married and lived in Chester County, South Carolina. She had no descendants. (Page 1)

By the time I found this account, I was aware that the Scuffletown1 Pool’s were really Pettypool’s, and that by 1784 the family had been in North America for about 130 years. And the point of departure from England was the Tower Hamlets of London’s East End, not Westmoreland county in the far north-east of England.2  In addition, those with some experience in genealogy and family history will recognize the “three brothers myth” so prevalent in early 20th century genealogy.3   So, I dismissed Bessie Lamb’s account of the origins, and just used her information about the later family as a guide to my own research.

That approach was not without complications, however. It is clear from the amount of extraneous general material Bessie Lamb included in her book about the Poole family in England that she never realized that the common ‘middle’ name of ‘Petty’ in the early Laurens family derived from the Pettypool surname, distinct from the Pool(e)’s from England. Hence she was not able to separate any potential Poole families in early Laurens county from the (Petty)Pool family.

In addition, since Bessie Lamb assumed that Seth Petty Pool (c. 1754- 1837) was the first Pool in Laurens County, nearly every contemporary Pool she documented was recorded as a child of Seth Petty Pool. This certainly complicated my effort to determine the exact composition of Seth’s family. Internal evidence in Seth’s Probate records implies twelve children4, but the Lamb list of children is much longer. And since only 6 of the children can be reliably named from any source other than the Lamb account, it is still unclear who Seth’s children were, and what is the lineage of the other individuals named Pool in early 1800’s Laurens County.

Recently I became aware of the research into Peter Pettypool (1727- after 1778) by Dr. Carolyn Hartsough. Peter is the putative father of Seth Petty Pool of Laurens, and evidence places Peter in present day Union County South Carolina by the early 1770’s.5 After discussing the Lamb story of origins with Dr. Hartsough, she was able to propose a possible origin of the story. The following are her comments, slightly edited for presentation.6

“Interestingly, although generations seem to have been merged, some of the information scrambled, and Peter is missing altogether from the narrative (probably because he left no will or other probate material that I’m aware of), L & E have pretty much named all of Peter’s siblings. I have an old Xerox of the L&E manuscript that I got from the LDS library and noted the following when I reviewed it this time around. I will cite L & E’s opening paragraphs and comment as relevant about how and why I think their information might possibly have come down as it did.

The Three Brothers: Migrating from Westmoreland County, England about 1784 three Poole brothers: (I) Seth Petty, (I) William, and (I) John, came to America.

These are, in fact, the names of Peter’s only three known brothers (and Seth Petty’s uncles) although they didn’t come from England but from colonial Chesapeake.

William Poole settled in Maryland, and called the place Pooleville.

This William is possibly my ancestor who settled not in Maryland but in Halifax County, VA on the home farm of his father, Seth. There is a site called Poolville on Aaron’s Creek in the general area where William and his descendants settled and some of them still live.

Seth and John Poole settled near Orange Court House, Virginia.

Seth Jr. and John both settled in Granville County, North Carolina. I read that Orange County, North Carolina is located just south of Granville County and was formed from parts of the original Granville County. I haven’t researched the site of the courthouse for early Granville but it may have been in a part of the county that is now Orange County.

Later they moved to South Carolina.

Both John and Seth Jr. died in Granville County but several of Seth Jr.’s sons, including sons called Seth and John, did move to SC in the latter part of the 18th century. They would have been Seth Petty Pool’s cousins, so Seth Petty’s descendants were re-connecting with the Pettypools in SC who were most closely related to them.

The Two Sisters: These three brothers had two sisters, one of whom, Elizabeth, married a Terry and lived between Enoree and Woodruff at the old Terry place.

Elizabeth was the name of the oldest of the girls born to Seth and Martha, Peter’s parents, although I suspect the Elizabeth indicated by L&E is again a daughter of Seth Jr., Peter’s brother. Seth Jr. did have a daughter called Elizabeth, and I seem to recall that members of Seth Jr.’s family may have married into the Terry family. Peter had a least two more sisters, Sarah and Anne, although I don’t know who they married or even if they survived childhood. I would imagine at least one might have done so.”

And although Peter is missing from the Lamb & Ezell publication, a letter dated October 3, 1924 from Bessie P. Lamb to the Bureau of Pensions, Rev. War Section7, requests any records relating to a “Peter Poole”, so it appears that Bessie Lamb may have had some indication that a person named Peter was associated with the family. The response Bessie Lamb received from the Bureau of Pensions related to a Virginia born individual, resident in Pennsylvania at the time of his application, so apparently Bessie Lamb eventually concluded that Peter Pool was not relevant to the family and dropped him from the book.

In conclusion, quoting Dr. Hartsough:

What is fascinating are the kernels of accurate reporting buried within the family stories that came down to L & E about these earliest generations. The names of Peter’s siblings were preserved even if the associated details and generations likely were confused.”

  1. Scuffletown P.O. is shown on the 1825 Mill’s Atlas of SC.  It became the name of one of the historical townships of Laurens County SC.
  2. See The William Pettypool Family of Southside Virginia: Lineage Reconstruction Based on Current Review of Evidence by Carolyn S. Hartsough, available from The Pettypool Family in America website, www.pettypool.com.
  3. A web search with the phrase “three brothers genealogy myth” will find several articles on the myth  (as well as a few respondents who insist that their family really did have three brothers.)
  4. Laurens County Probate Court, “Laurens County Ordinary/Probate Judge Index to Estate Papers 1800-1939” Box 58 Pkg 4.
  5. See the website www.pettypool.com for details. Earliest evidence for Peter’s presence in South Carolina is a land transaction. See Tryon- Lincoln Deeds, Vol. 1, pp. 596- 597, abstracted in Deed Abstracts of Tryon, Lincoln & Rutherford Counties North Carolina 1769- 1786 Tryon County Wills & Estates by Brent Holcomb.
  6. E-mail, Carolyn Hartsough to the author, June 11, 2012.
  7. National Archive film: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrents, Call #205, Microcopy M804, Roll No. 1950