William D. Duncan, The Uncle

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1790 to 1848
Location: Tennesseemap
Surnames/tags: Duncan Batson Dennis
Profile manager: Rebecca Rose private message [send private message]
This page has been accessed 98 times.

In researching my direct ancestor, William Duncan, I kept coming across another William Duncan in various Duncan family trees, and this William Duncan had the initial ‘D.’ for a middle name. Sometimes they were listed as having the same children, but seemed to be given different fathers and siblings, or places of birth. Which one was which, and what did the ‘D’ stand for? Were these two men even related? In order to sort out the confusion, it made sense to put together a timeline for the two William Duncans.

Hopefully this will help other Duncan family researchers.

The William Duncan under discussion here, I refer to as ‘William D. Duncan, The Uncle.’ This reflects the fact that, in harmony with records, as well as an accepted family history, William D. Duncan and his wife Sarah never had any children. He was a respected uncle to many nieces and nephews, but never had children of his own.

Obviously this is an important distinction to be made between the two men.

The William Duncan who was married to Frances Benson and who fathered at least nine children in Greenville SC and Warren TN, I have called ‘William Duncan, The Ancestor’. You can see his profile here: Duncan-14656

First, the difficulty:
 The history of these two men has been confused because of these facts:

  • They were both named William Duncan.
  • They both had ties to the name ‘Dennis’, with William ‘D.’ Duncan having it as his middle name.
  • They both grew up in Greenville, SC.
  • They were almost exactly the same age.
  • They both married in Greenville, SC.
  • They both had records of dealings with Asahel Rains. (one William was a brother in law to Asahel)
  • They both had connections to the Hawkins family of Greenville SC and Warren TN.
  • They both had a brother and a father named John Duncan.
  • They both moved to Warren, TN, and lived on adjoining properties to each other.


But--and this is worth emphasizing, if you are researching your own family history—only one of these William Duncans had children.

William ‘D.’ Duncan and his wife Sarah, according to a respected and well-accredited Duncan family history, had ‘no issue’.

In creating this timeline for William D. Duncan, a pattern began to develop as I noted the neighbors he had dealings with, and the other names of friends and family on deeds that were clearly written William ‘D’. Duncan.

These were some of the names that helped me to distinguish between the two William Duncans. As well, another truth began to emerge. A picture of a man came to life that I would not have known, otherwise. William D. Duncan was a responsible man, and a helpful uncle; one who always could be relied upon to step in to help out when tragedy struck his family.

He did suffer tragedy. His father was reportedly murdered while traveling. William D’s two brothers John and Lewis both died suddenly during a move to Missouri. The cause of their death is unknown. But this left William, the youngest son, as the only man left of his immediate family. Thus, as uncle to a large family of newly bereaved nieces and nephews, he and his wife Sarah shouldered a new responsibility.

And when William D. himself died, it was his nephew, Hamilton Lewis Duncan, who was administrator of his affairs.

William D. Duncan’s story really begins with the Duncan family history; a history that is well accredited and accepted as true by Duncan family researchers. (first published in the "Coffee County TN Historical Quarterly" Vol. X, p. 82.)

Duncan Family History:

‘John ‘Jack’ Duncan had five brothers. He came to South Carolina about 1750 from Scotland, then on into Middle Tennessee. He is said to have been murdered near Crab Orchard. He left going down river with a raft of lumber and never returned to his home.
John Jack Duncan married Martha ‘Patsy’ Dennis. Their children were:

1. William D. Duncan, [b. circa 1777] mar. Sarah Batson--no issue

2. Jack Duncan, went to MO, one son (one version says both he and son died there)

3. Mary Duncan, mar. ??? Hawkins; moved to GA [believe Frederick Hawkins]

4. Nancy Duncan, mar. ??? Hawkins, moved to GA

5. Lucy Duncan, mar. [Joseph] Batson; moved to GA 

6. Lewis Duncan, by first (unknown) wife had 3 children:

  • Martha Duncan, unmarried
Nancy Duncan, [b.1794 GA], mar. Jess Hollis
Lucy Duncan, [b.1797 GA] mar. John Stacy [div. before 1850]

William D. Duncan is actually the youngest son, though listed first. His middle name was Dennis, named for his mother’s maiden name. The Dennis family was a very well known and respected family, associated with the Quaker faith. He is referred to as William ‘D’. both in Greenville, SC, and later when he lived in Warren, TN, and Coffee, TN.

In the listing for ‘Wrightsboro Township Landholders Before 1776’, (Wrightsboro was a famous Quaker settlement in GA) there are several Dennis families listed, along with John Duncan. John Duncan’s wife, Martha ‘Patsy’ Dennis, was likely a daughter of one of these men. Some say John Dennis was her father, but there is no documented evidence of this.

Wrightsboro Township Landholders Before 1776

Dennis, Abraham

Dennis, Isaac

Dennis, Jacob

Dennis, John

Duncan, John

Also in this settlement, though apparently not a Quaker, is a man named Joseph Batson. He appears on several land records. His wife is named Lucy, but this is a second marriage. He has older children by a first wife. [See John Batson, Elizabeth Batson Hawkins]

Joseph Batson’s land in Columbia County, GA, was part of the land grant to the Wrightsboro Quaker settlement, where the Dennis’ and Duncans were living. Here are some deeds that show this. These records are generously provided by Mary Ann Duncan Dobson, The Genealogy Bug.

(For more on Joseph Batson, see his profile.)

D-123: 22 March 1796, John Roberson (X) (/s/ Robertson) and wife Ruth (X) to John Duncan, both Columbia Co. GA, £22, 200 acres surveyed for John Hutchinson Sr. by Basil Lamar on warrant dated May 16, 1789, surveyed May 17, 1789, adj. Marshall, John Culbreath and William Few, refer to Grant E4, 30 May 1794; wit. Philip Steed, Joseph Battson; rec. 13 June 1797. (FHL film 847,819)


COLUMBIA COUNTY - Early Deeds - Deed Book "A", p. 116 s/ Nov 4,1791 r/ Apr 15, 
1792 Joseph Batson and wife Lucy, to James Reed, for œ55, sell 100 a., bounded north by Samuel Scott, west by Scott's Spring Branch, south by Greenbriar Cr., and east by John Marshall, part of 500 a. tract granted to Thomas Ford.

COLUMBIA COUNTY - Early Deeds - Deed Book "B", pg.230 s/ Dec 4,1792 r/ Dec 12, 1793 Joseph Batson and wife Lucy, sell to John Hargroves, for œ90, "100a. originally granted by Sir James Rite (sic)[Sir James Wright of Wrightsboro], to Richmond, (no other name), Nov 1, 1774.",

"Georgia Pioneers" vol.9, pg.33 
[deeds courtesy of Mary Ann Duncan Dobson, of the Duncan research pages]

There are several family trees that mistakenly assign a 1790 Greenville SC census to this William D. Duncan. It is ‘William Dunkin’, and he is enumerated with four daughters, a son, and three slaves. This clearly is not William D. Duncan, who would only have been eleven or so at this time, and likely still living in GA in the h/h of his father.

1800 Greenville SC census


By 1800 these families of Batson and Duncan have all left Georgia for South Carolina. 
William D. Duncan is now newly married to Sarah Batson, and living in Greenville, South Carolina. (William’s brother John and Lewis, and Joseph Batson and his family are all on this 1800 Greenville census.)
In the newlywed William and Sarah’s household, there is an older teenage boy listed, likely a nephew.

Greenville SC census for 1800: William Duncan, age 16-25, wife age 16-25, 1 male 10-15

Living next door is Lewis Duncan, and nearby is other brother John Duncan.

William [D.] Duncan buys land in Greenville SC:
E-405: 22 Jan. 1800, Samuel Magness and wife Nancy to William Duncan, $200, 118 acres on Ready [Reedy] River. Wit. Jno. Sammon, John Duncan, Joseph Batson. (FHL film 24,014)


William [D.] Duncan buys land in Greenville, SC
F-430: 21

Oct. 1801, Stephen "D" McDaniel of State of Georgia to William Duncan of State of SC, $200, 101 acres on Ready [Reedy] and Enoree Rivers. Wit. Jno. Solmon, Walker Solmon. [these men’s names are also written as Salmon, Sammon, Solomon, etc.] (FHL film 24,014)

William [D.] Duncan sells same land to Lewis Duncan two months later, Joseph Batson is witness, and a T(J?). Blackwell

‘F-431: 8 Dec. 1801, William Duncan to Lewis Duncan, $200, 101 acres (land in F-430). Wit. T. Blackwell, Joseph Battson. (FHL film 24,014) (MAD: see Coffee Co. TN)’


If you want to fast forward in time a bit, you can scroll down to 1844 and see the entry where William D. Duncan signs an affidavit that he has known John Nelson (father of Lewis Duncan's wife Mary Nelson) since about 1802. As we can see from looking at these records, Lewis is already married, or getting married at this point, and below in the 1806 entry, John Nelson, Lewis' father-in-law, is witness to a land deed for William D. Duncan.


William [D.] Duncan sells the land he purchased in 1800: G-458: 11 Nov. 1806, William Duncan to Joshua Hawkins, both Greenville Dist. SC, $200, 118 acres on Ready River. Wit. John Nelson, Patrick Moore, James Blackwell.’
(This land transaction seems to be one that could have been William D. selling his property in SC before moving to TN--note John Nelson (Lewis Duncan’s father-in-law) as witness, and a James Blackwell; John Nelson also ends up moving to Warren TN about this time)


This land claim for Lewis Duncan (brother of William D. Duncan) would put them in the newly formed Warren county, TN by 1808 or earlier. 

‘No. 666. Returned 11th June 1808 ~ Warrant No. 382 for 200 acres has this day been applied and Entry No. 248 dated June 22d. 1811 corresponding with the within Survey according to Law 
‘State of Tennessee 2nd District ~ At the request and upon the application of Lewis Duncan I have Surveyed for him Two hundred acres of land which is Situate lying and being the county of Warren on the South side of Barren fork of Caney fork. Beginning on a post Oak on the West side of a branch and and about 50 yards from the South West corner of his field running thence East thirty one Chains and sixty three links to a post Oak among post Oaks thence North sixty three Chains and twenty six links to a Mulberry just in the bank of the barren fork thence West along the bank thirty one Chains and sixty three links to a Post Oak thence [should be S.63C.& 26L.] to the Beginning Including his improvement which is truly represented in the annexed plat and was Surveyed the 22nd day of May One thousand eight hundred and eight by ~
Patrick Mac Eachern D.S.
Charles Dement &
 Wm Duncan C. C. 
Lewis Duncan ~ Marker 
Examined & correctness Ascertained
 Transmitted to Register 25th Nov 1814 by Thos. Hopkins’


Unable to locate William D in this census, may have been in the process of a move to TN along with brothers Lewis and John.
Lewis Duncan was apparently in TN by this time (also unavailable on a census) as his first son by Mary Nelson was Hamilton Lewis Duncan, born 1806 in TN.

William D. Duncan seemed to make the same moves as his older brother so he may have been in TN by this time as well.


William appears on the tax list for Warren, TN. Note the two William Duncans--William ‘D’. is likely the William who is numbered ‘7’, next to Daniel Batson. (have not been able to determine who Daniel Batson is and how he is related to William’s wife; this is his only appearance in any records)

1812 Tax List, Warren Co

4 Isham Franklin

5 Alexr. Blakely

6 Benj. Hopkins [Hawkins?]

7 William Duncan

8 Daniel Batson

9 William Graham

10 Richard Graham

11 Asahel Rains

12 Elijah Miller

13 David Watson

14 Edward McDaniel

15 John Looney

16 William Rains

17 Will Alexander

18 Samuel Harris

19 William Duncan

20 Isaac Anderson

21 John Jones

22 John Rains

War of 1812

William D. Duncan serves as corporal in the war of 1812 under the command of Captain Asahel Rains and Colonel Alex. Loury.


The following would indicate that William and Sarah moved back to Greenville for a time. 
(from the Minutes of the Reedy River Baptist Church, North Greenville Baptist Association, SC, 1799-1914 (FHL film 984,336 item 2)

Pg.51: March 6, 1813, ‘William and Sarah Duncan received by letter.’ (this usually indicated admittance into the membership rolls of the church)

Lucy Duncan Batson, wife of Joseph Batson, is also listed as a member.


Lewis Duncan, brother of William D., receives land grant in Warren County ‘land grant for 200 acres on a ‘branch of the Barren Fork of Caney Fork (south side) issued on 14 Sept. 1815 to Lewis Duncan, as assignee of Robert Searcy. 

Minutes of the Reedy River Baptist Church: Pg.55: May 6, 1815, ‘William Duncan and wife received by letter.’ (not sure why there is a duplicate entry two years later.)


More evidence that William D. Duncan is possibly back in Greenville SC during this period:
Witnesses deed in Greenville SC ( ‘on oath of William D. Duncan’)

Q-475: 18 Dec. 1818, John Duncan of Greenville Dist. SC to Mary McDaniel of same, $50, 25 acres on branch of Reedy River adj. Bridges and Sammon's corner, corner Brock, Robert Duncan's old corner, Kirblay's corner and line, Brock's corner; wit. William D. Duncan, Lewis McDaniel; reg. on oath of William D. Duncan 21 Sept. 1818; rec. 2 May 1831.’ (FHL film 24,018) (MAD: dates plain for Dec. and Sept.)

Pg.58?: February 28, 1818, Brother William Duncan came forward and acknowledged that he had "drank to much spirits."

Pg.58?: September 5, 1818, Brother John Duncan requests a letter of Dismission which is granted. (see below)


Once again Lewis Duncan receives land due to military service, and the family is on the move once more, this time to Missouri.

‘A land warrant issued to a Lewis Duncan in 1819 in Sec. 36, Twp. 56 Range 29, #21562, as a soldier in Zantzinger’s Corp. of Artillery in the War of 1812.’ [this is modern day Chariton county, MO; in looking at the plat map the actual date written on it is 1814, the grant is for about 140/160? acres] 

William D. Duncan and Sarah Duncan granted a letter of dismissal from the Reedy River Baptist Church in Greenville, SC in Sept.
‘ Pg.62?:

September 4, 1819, Brother William D. Duncan and Sarah Duncan made application for letters of dismission which was granted.’ [Reedy River Minutes] 


The fact that this family is enroute to new lands in Missouri would help explain why they are not to be found on any census for 1820. There are no census records for MO at this early time period. (The last two children of Lewis Duncan and Mary give their place of birth as Missouri, and their dates of birth are about 1821, 1822.)

Not even Joseph Batson is on the 1820 census, (that I can find) although his sons are still living on the property in Greenville in 1820, and Joseph reappears there on record in 1830. 

The move to Missouri was definitely an ill-fated one for the family, with both John and Lewis dying there, according to family history. It is unclear how many of the traveling party stayed, and how many returned. 


Lewis Duncan’s widow, Mary, has returned to Warren, TN with her large family. She and her father, John Nelson, begin to appear on land deeds in Warren in the early 1820‘s. 

William D. Duncan returns there, as well. He acquires property, and the next two decades of his life will show he and Sarah surrounded by various nieces and nephews--of Hawkins, Batson, and Duncan origin--living on this property next to him at various times.

From Warren county land records:

‘William D. Duncan enters 50 acres on the waters of the Barren Fork of Collins River, beg. on Thomas Hopkins n. boundary, June 29, 1824, locator William D. Duncan.’

1824, Oct. 5
‘ survey for Isham Franklin, on north side of Barren Fork, where WILLIAM DUNCAN NOW LIVES, a swamp, William D. Duncan’s line, Wm D. Duncan and Richard Lee, SCC (notice this does not say where ‘Wm D. Duncan’ now lives, and the county recorder seems to be making an effort to distinguish between the two men)

Dec. 23, 1824 
Wm D. Duncan is CC for Richard Lee, for property adjoining ‘SW corner of a 50 acre tract’

Jan. 2, 1826 
Wm D. Duncan is chain carrier--Survey for Isham Franklin, ‘n. side of the branch where Wm Duncan now lives’ Asahel Rains and Wm D. Duncan SCC’

1826, Feb. 4
William D. Duncan surveys 75 acres on the waters of the Barren Fork of Collins River, ‘SE corner of a 20 acre tract belonging to said Wm D. Duncan...east boundary line of a 50 acre tract in name of said Duncan..Asahel Rains and Isham Franklin, SCC.’

1826, June 16 
Another land survey for Isham Franklin, where it specifies (and differentiates?) ‘corner of Duncan’s line, north boundary of Wm D. Duncan’s 20 acre tract’


Warren Co census: William and wife Sarah [Batson] Duncan, age 50-60; next door to John Batson, Joseph Batson, Dennis Hawkins

1830, Feb. 11
Survey for Wm D. Duncan, 300 acres on the waters of the Barren Fork of the Duck River; later transferred to Hamilton Lewis Duncan, oldest son of Lewis Duncan.

[This land was surveyed May, 1830 and transferred to Hamilton L. Duncan in 1832--this would later become Coffee County in 1836. (see 1832 record) 


Cannon County is now formed from Warren, and William D. Duncan is enumerated as ‘Wm D. Duncan’ and wife, age 60-70, and other older female living in h/h (an unmarried or widowed niece?); their neighbors are Lewis Hollis, age 20-30, Jess Hollis, who married Nancy Duncan, daughter of Lewis Duncan, also a Dennis Batson, age 20-30

[Notes: The daughter of Lewis Duncan, Nancy Duncan Hollis is living next door--she married Jess Hollis, and they had a son named William D., and a son named Lewis. Dennis Batson is son of Joseph Batson, Sr.]


William D. Duncan purchases 200 acres in Coffee County

William now begins to appear in Coffee County, TN records. It is the neighboring county to where he lived earlier.

D-367: 18 Nov. 1843, Elijah Eathy to William D. Duncan, $150, 200 acres corner John Frazier, part of tract of 550 acres entered in name of Elijah Eathy in 1835. Wit. James M. Vaugh, S.H.D. Duncan.’


William D. Duncan of Coffee Co. aged about 67 years, filed an affidavit in the Rev. War pension application of Lucy Nelson (for husband John Nelson) whom he had known about 42 years (ca 1802).

This affidavit of William D. Duncan is significant because it indicates that Lewis his brother may have married Mary Nelson around 1802. Hamilton Lewis Duncan, their firstborn, has the birthdate of 1806 TN. (see 1806 SC land transaction)


William D. Duncan sells 1/2 of property purchased in Coffee Co.
E-116: 19 March 1847, William D. Duncan and Baily (X) Carter to Jackson Jones, $50, 100 acres in District 6 on Fraziers & Duncan's line, Parker's corner, 1/2 of a 200 acre tract William Duncan purchased of Elijah Eathy. Wit. Wm. R. Wilson, Danl. M. Lean. Rec. on oaths of wit. 29 March 1848.’


Death of William D. Duncan:

April 3, 1848: Coffee Co. Court Min. Bk II:
Page 316 - 'It appearing to the satisfaction of the Court that William D. DUNCAN who was at the time of his death a resident Citizen of Coffee departed this life intestate, admr. his estate granted to Hamilton L. DUNCAN, bond $400 with S.H.D. DUNCAN sec. ' [both of these men are nephews to William D.]

Page 319 - Ordered that Michael STEVENS be allowed $5 for holding an inquest over the body of Wm. D. DUNCAN Dec’d. 

Page 318 -April, 1848: 'This day Hamilton L. DUNCAN admr. of William D. DUNCAN presented inventory '
H.L. Duncan was administrator of the estate of one W.D. Duncan, reporting in April 1852- (as found in the "Coffee County TN Historical Quarterly" Vol. X, p. 82.)’ 


  • Login to edit this profile and add images.
  • Private Messages: Send a private message to the Profile Manager. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)

Leave a message for others who see this profile.
There are no comments yet.
Login to post a comment.