Annapolis Heritage Society | Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

The Weatherspoon Family

by Ian Lawrence

In genealogy parlance “daughtering out” is a quaint term used to refer to the disappearance of a surname from a given locale. Of course other factors, such as outmigration and periodic epidemics, have contributed to the demise of family names in our area. But that is not to say that descendants of such families do not survive here. The Weatherspoon family is one family that has “daughtered out” spectacularly. Despite the fact that the surname faded from here one hundred years ago, in the counties of Annapolis, Digby and Kings there are literally thousands of descendants of early settlers John and Elizabeth Weatherspoon.

A native of York, Maine, John Weatherspoon or Witherspoon was b. c. 1725, probably the son of John Witherspoon and his wife Isabel McMarston. They in turn were likely part of the migration of Scots to parts of modern-day Maine and New Hampshire at the turn of the 18th century.

Leading up to and during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), a number of New Englanders were engaged in activity in the Annapolis area. Some were traders and fishermen, others employed by the garrison. Together with those who served in the New England militias that were present during the expulsion of the Acadians and the campaign to take Louisbourg, they were familiar with the desirable Acadian lands and took advantage of land grants when they were made available in the 1760’s. John Weatherspoon was one of those New Englanders who had been in Annapolis in the 1750’s and eventually settled in Granville a decade later. He would hold no special significance but for one singular fact.

In December 1757, while cutting firewood near Fort Anne, he was captured by Indians (presumably Mi’kmaq) and carried away to the mouth of the Miramichi River. From there he was eventually sold or traded to the French and taken to Quebec, where he was held until late in 1759 and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, when General Wolfe’s forces prevailed. John Weatherspoon kept a journal for the length of his imprisonment, reportedly written with tobacco juice and hidden at night in the cinders of the previous night’s fire. The journal was published in Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society for the Years 1879-1880 (Halifax 1881) that has since been reprinted (Mika Publishing Company, Belleville, Ontario, 1976). It is a remarkable document for the light it sheds on this turbulent period in North American history, particularly as seen through the eyes of an ordinary individual whose misfortune it was to be caught up in the events of the day. He was an unwilling witness to the closing acts in the struggle between England and France for supremacy in North America. His journal documents the shadowy world that he belonged to during the period of his incarceration. Until August 1758 he was held in the Miramichi area, recording the bits of news of family and friends back in York and elsewhere received from other captured Englishmen, and commenting on the lifestyle and demeanour of his captors. Following a failed escape, he was taken to Quebec and imprisoned there for the remainder of the conflict. News from the steady stream of English prisoners to the jail on political and military developments in the wider world was duly recorded, as well as the deteriorating situation in the besieged city and increasingly desperate plight of the starving prisoners.

Upon his release, John Weatherspoon was reunited with his family and within a few years was settled on land in Granville Township. In the census for 1770 he was enumerated at Granville, head of a household of eight persons, one man, three boys, one woman, and three girls, all Protestants and Americans. The family had 2 oxen, 3 cows, 3 young cattle, 5 sheep, and 2 swine.

The surname of his wife Elizabeth is unknown. The couple had six children: Elizabeth, James (d. unmarried in 1803), Mary, Rosanna, Joseph and John. John Weatherspoon died in Granville between 14 May 1787 and 11 Apr. 1791.

Daughter Elizabeth Weatherspoon, b. c. 1754 married first c. 1774 David Fletcher jr. and second in 1785 Daniel Wade, both the sons of New England Planters from Massachusetts. Elizabeth had two daughters with David Fletcher: Sarah Fletcher, b. 31 Dec. 1776, m. in 1796 James Milbury, and Mary Fletcher, b. 11 Feb. 1779 m. first in 1797 Timothy Young and second in 1828 Henry Milbury. Elizabeth Weatherspoon’s children by Daniel Wade were: Thomas Wade, b. 21 Dec. 1785, m. in 1809 Christina Morrison; Hannah Wade, b. c. 1788, m. c. 1805 Abraham Young; Elizabeth Wade, b. c. 1790, m. in 1814 Charles Bent; Rosannah Wade, b. c. 1796, m. in 1819 Edward Covert; and Susannah Wade, b. 31 Jan. 1798, m. in 1828 Archibald Morrison.

Daughter Mary Weatherspoon, b. c. 1758, m. c. 1785 Loyalist Thomas Fowler, a native of Westchester, New York. They had children: Elizabeth Fowler, b. c. 1787, m. 1832 Samuel Milbury; Lemuel Fowler, b. c. 1790; William Fowler, b. c. 1792, m. in 1818 Ann Seidler; John Fowler, b. c. 1794, m. in 1817 Sarah Webber; Ann Fowler, b. c. 1797, m. in 1815 John Roney; Phebe Fowler, b. c. 1800, m. in 1828 David Sproul; and Martha Fowler, b. c. 1807.

Daughter Rosannah Weatherspoon, b. c. 1760, m. in 1785 Loyalist Anthony VanBlarcom, a native of Passaic, New Jersey. They had children: James VanBlarcom, b. 20 Jan. 1787, m. c. 1808 Catherine Gilliatt; John VanBlarcom, b. 20 Sept. 1789, m. in 1834 Jane Eagleson; Joseph VanBlarcom, b. 27 May 1791; Mary VanBlarcom, b. 2 Aug. 1793, m. in 1811 Elias Bent; Martin VanBlarcom, b. 9 June 1796, m. in 1816 Sarah Leonard; Elizabeth VanBlarcom, b. 27 May 1798, m. in 1824 James Webber; and Ann VanBlarcom, b. c. 1804, m. in 1843 John Eagleson.

Son Joseph Weatherspoon, b. 4 Oct. 1762, m. in 1791 Mercy Hardy, daughter of New England Planters from Massachusetts. They had five sons: John Weatherspoon, b. 7 Sept. 1794, m. in 1820 Rebecca Edgett; Benjamin Weatherspoon, b. 25 July 1795, d. 1823; Joseph Weatherspoon, b. 21 Apr. 1797; James Weatherspoon, b. 23 March 1801; and Aaron Weatherspoon, b. c. 1805, m. in 1835 Eliza Halliday.

Son John Weatherspoon, b. 21 Apr. 1769, m. in 1790 Elizabeth Mills, daughter of settlers to Granville from Yorkshire, England. They had children: Ann Weatherspoon, b. 7 Dec. 1793, m. first c. 1811 William Winchester and second in 1817 James Winchester; David Weatherspoon, b. 21 Sept. 1796, m. in 1819 Elizabeth Mills; Robert Weatherspoon, b. 20 Oct. 1798, m. in 1822 Mary Anne Mills; James Weatherspoon, b. 9 Aug. 1802, m. in 1821 Mary Amberman; and Hannah Weatherspoon, b. 4 Jan. 1808, m. in 1824 Job Wade.

These grandchildren of John and Elizabeth Weatherspoon produced 150 great-grandchildren for the couple, most born in Annapolis County in the early decades of the 19th century.