THE DILL, McCRAY, & JEFFERY FAMILIES: FROM OHIO TO HENRY COUNTY, IOWA / A LAND GRANT ON THE PRAIRIE
Revised Jan. 27, 2016
(1976). Burke’s Irish Family Records American Edition. London: Burke’s Peerage Limited.
County Donegal, Ireland, is in the northern province of Ulster. The county seat is Lifford. It’s in County Donegal that we first encounter the Dill family, though they are presumed to have been transplanted Scots.
The early history of the family is quite confused. In Burke’s account of the ancestry of Major Richard Patrick Murray Gordon Dill, my ancestor Francis Dill who died in Warren County, Ohio, is mentioned as a son of David Dill of Aughadreenagh and his first wife, (?) Fullerton. According to Burke, Francis Dill emigrated to Ohio in 1779, but there were very few white settlers in Ohio in 1779, mostly French fur traders. Ohio as a geopolitical entity didn’t exist in 1779. Burke is not considered a reliable source.
Tied to the history of this family is the claim that Dill ancestress Catherine Sheridan rode with the hunt that killed the last wolf in Ireland. There are several versions of this tale, all of them absurd—how could they have known it was the last one? Too much of the account of this family’s history in Ireland relies on anecdotal evidence, but they were an educated and substantial family in County Donegal. I know of no royal or noble ancestry for Francis Dill.
While Francis Dill is definitely a member of the County Donegal family which traces its pedigree to the early 17th century, a monograph by Nancy S. (Shuffelton) McBride disagrees with Burke and without citing a source gives Francis Dill’s mother as Ann Moore, daughter of Moses Moore.
Francis Dill emigrated to PA and about 1770 married Ann Dunlap. Her parentage is unknown. She’s buried in the Old Presbyterian Cemetery (now Lebanon Cemetery) in Lebanon, Warren County, Ohio. Her gravemarker shows her to have been born in 1751, and died on 1 Mar 1817 (data from photo of her gravemarker). In the same cemetery is the gravemarker of Alexander Dunlap, son of Joseph and Margaret Dunlap of Pennsylvania. It’s possible Ann was Joseph Dunlap’s sister as she is evidently related to the Dunlap (Dunlop) family of Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
In 1771, Francis and Ann (Dunlap) Dill became members of the Presbyterian Church of Upper West Conococheague (now Mercersburg), Franklin County, Pennsylvania, a section that earlier was part of Cumberland County. He was a Ruling Elder. On 4 Jun 1778, Francis Dill swore an Oath of Allegiance to the new republic. Francis Dill is not currently a DAR ancestor, nor is he among the soldiers in the Pennsylvania State Archives database of Pennsylvania troops. His Oath of Allegiance is qualifying patriotic service for DAR membership.
By 1786, Francis Dill had moved to Kentucky, then known as the Kentucky District of Virginia. He lived 2 miles south of Lexington. At that time, he was a merchant. Said to have been unhappy that Kentucky was a slave state, he moved to Ohio, and bought land in Turtle Creek Township, Warren County from Jonathan Dayton. In 1805, he was a county commissioner. He died of paralysis at age 87 on 4 Nov 1833.
In his will (Warren County, Ohio Will Book 5, p. 389), made 1 Jun 1833, probated 3 Dec 1833, Francis Dill names the following:
Sons William Dill and Joseph Dill; daughters Besty Taylor, Ann McCane, Sally McCray; granddaughters Adrian Dill and Sally.
Sally (Sarah) Dill married John McCray in Warren County on 17 Mar 1808. John McCray was also Presbyterian and one of the directors of the school district of Lebanon. John McCray is thought to be the son of Samuel McCray (d. 1814 Warren County), and a descendant of the numerous Scots-Irish families who emigrated to the American colonies. Unfortunately, Samuel McCray’s probate papers don’t list his children. However, in a biographical sketch, Francis McCray, son of John McCray, stated that his father was a native of Virginia and had served as a teamster in the War of 1812.
John McCray (1773–1839) died intestate in Warren County. His probate papers (Warren County Will Book 7, p. 692, Box 79 No. 17) name children Samuel McCray, Jane E. Bone, and Joseph McCray. Sally McCray, widow of John McCray, relinquished her right of administration to her son Francis McCray. Why weren’t Francis McCray and Ann (McCray) Jeffery listed as receiving their share of the estate? I took a close look at the probate papers I do have, and it’s clear they’re incomplete. They begin: “Received severally of Francis McCray Admr. of John McCray decd. the following sums are annexed to our names being the full amounts coming to each of us on the dividend Decedants estate.” The remaining papers may be somewhere in the Warren County courthouse.
However, there’s no doubt that Ann (McCray) Jeffery was the daughter of John and Sarah (Dill) McCray. Sarah (Dill) McCray accompanied Garrett Irons and Ann (McCray) Jeffery to Henry County, Iowa, where she died on 7 Feb 1858. According to cemetary records, she’s buried in an unmarked grave in Green Mound Cemetary near Trenton, Iowa. Sarah (Dill) McCray died intestate and her son Francis McCray (the same Francis McCray who was appointed administrator of her husband’s estate) was granted administration.
The final estate account is rather interesting. It names as heirs: Samuel McCray, Joseph McCray, Sarah J. Moore, Jane E. Bone, and G.I. Jeffery as guardian to the minor heirs. This makes absolutely clear the identity of Sarah McCray.
The principle here is important: always collect every record that mentions your ancestor, even if it doesn’t seem relevant at the time. Even experienced genealogists can overlook pertinent evidence.
Garrett Irons Jeffery (living in 1880) is presumed to be buried at Green Mound Cemetary along with his mother-in-law and wife, but there’s no gravemarker for him—in view, at least. Ann (McCray) Jeffery, Garrett’s wife, does have a gravemarker, which states she died on 3 May 1855. Her son, Francis I. Jeffery (my ancestor), is also buried at Green Mound. He has a GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) marker for his service in the Civil War, in which he attained the rank of Serjeant.
In the 19th century, slab gravemarkers were common (they’re still occasionally used). Over the years they can become obscured by soil and vegetation. Some genealogists use a pointed instrument with which to probe the ground, and sometimes a gravemarker that has disappeared from view is located.
SOME FURTHER HISTORY OF THE JEFFERY FAMILY
US county histories can be vaulable sources of information. The following material is from The Combined Atlases of Warren County, Ohio:
“In the autumn of 1816 … Francis and Eleanor Irons Jeffery … came to Warren County, Ohio. Francis Jeffery was the sixth son and eighth child of John and Elizabeth Irons Jeffery, and was born near Barnegat Bay [near Toms River], New Jersey, July 12, 1779. John Jeffery, father of Francis, who was also a native of New Jersey, was the son of Francis and Mary Jeffery. He was born January 7, 1728. Francis and Mary Jeffery are said to be natives of Scotland.
The frame house … was erected by Francis Jeffery, soon after he settled on the farm [in Turtlecreek township], in 1817. The large tree … is a cottonwood, ninety feet in height, with an immense top more than sixty feet in diameter. This tree was standing when the Jefferys first occupied the place, being then a small sapling. It is, therefore, about one hundred years of age.”
“THE JEFFERY FAMILY
On the 7th of January, 1728, was born in what is now Ocean County, New Jersey, JOHN JEFFERY, with whom this narrative begins. He was the son of Francis and Mary Jeffery, the date and place of whose birth is not at hand. His wife was Elizabeth Irons, daughter of James and Deborah Irons, and was born April 23, 1737.
The children were: James, born August 6, 1760; John, born March 18, 1763; Charity, born October 23, 1765; Jacob, born August 23, 1768; William, born April 20, 1771; Jesse, born October 14, 1773; Elizabeth, born July 31, 1776; Francis, born July 12, 1779; Deborah, born February 14, 1782. Mrs. John Jeffery died October 29, 1808.
FRANCIS JEFFERY, sixth son and eighth child of John and Elizabeth Irons Jeffery, was born in what is now Ocean County, N.J., July 12, 1779. He married Eleanor Irons, daughter of Garrett and Esther Irons, who was born January 19, 1785. In the autumn of 1816 he emigrated West, and located in Turtle Creek Township, Warren County, Ohio.
The following is the record of the family: Garrett I., born June 6, 1804; married Ann McCray; John, born March 17, 1806, died November 24, 1869; Samuel, born March 27, 1808; married twice; Esther, born May 24, 1810; married Henry Sherwood; died May 20, 1863; Elizabeth, born December 13, 1812; married Jonathan Sherwood; died April 3, 1851; Sarah, born May 11, 1815, died July 13, 1873; Francis, born November 9, 1817; married three times; Eleanor, born January 31, 1820, died November 28, 1858; James, born February 14, 1822; married Sidney Berry; Mary, born June 16, 1824, died December 10, 1843; Jacob, born August 26, 1827; married Frances Blake; William, born November 23, 1829; married Rhoda G. Warwick.
Mr. Jeffery’s life was that of a pioneer, filled with toil and privations. He was an upright man and a valuable citizen. He died November 6, 1834.
Mrs. Jeffery was a vey quiet woman, and possessed great solidity of character. She was especially strict in the moral training of her children. She died May 6, 1856, at an advanced age and greatly respected.
Her father, Garrett Irons, was born February 15, 1759, and her mother, March 15, 1761.”
In connection with the family of John Jeffery (7 Jan 1727/8–23 Dec 1794), there is at Bayville, Ocean Co., NJ, the Jeffrey Family Cemetery, which certainly belongs to this family. The family name was spelled either “Jeffery” or “Jeffery,” and occasionally other spellings were employed. Although the cemetery grounds are enclosed, it’s unclear if any tombstones are yet standing.
(Click on image to enlarge.)
On 1 Jan 1847, four days after Iowa became the 29th state, Garrett Irons Jeffery was granted 51 20/100 acres in Henry County: