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The Douthat Family

Charles Fletcher Douthat's father

I worked for several years to find the parents of Charles Fletcher Douthat. He was born in 1839, perhaps in Pulaski Co., Virginia. He died in 1898 in Bluefield, West Virginia. His death record may list his parents, but I have not been able to get a copy of that (he apparently did not die in West Virginia). I started exploring background information on the Douthats living in that area of Virginia, since they all appear to be related.

I was thrilled to recently hear from a cousin (much removed) who knows who Charles Fletcher Douthat's parents were. I can now trace the Douthats back to their immigration to America right after the Revolution.

My grandmother Mary Douthat Burgess (1889-1978) was born in Wytheville, Wythe Co., Va., and lived most of her life in Bluefield, Mercer Co., W.Va. She was the daughter of Charles Edgar Douthat (1865-1926) and Nannie Elizabeth Weiser (1868-1951). Edgar was the son of Charles Fletcher Douthat (1839-1898) and Mary Fletcher Foote (1841-1921), both born in Pulaski Co., Va. Charles F. served in the Civil War, but I was unable to find any records for him earlier than the 1860 census.

Family records compiled by the descendents of his older brother, John Hank Douthat, now indicate that C.F. Douthat was the son of Jacob Yost Douthat (1808-1888) and Maria Woolwine (1810-abt 1847). John R. Douthat, in whose household he was living in 1860, was his oldest brother. Charles, his brother John and his father Jacob all were saddlers. The entry for Jacob and his family in the 1850 census records does not include Charles F. by name, but instead includes "Richard" age 12. No Richard appears in any other census records or family records, so this must be accepted as an error, perhaps arising from the family living in an uncle's household at the time.

Charles Fletcher Douthat's grand-father

Jacob Yost Douthat is a son of Robert S. Douthat (1778-1861), the patriarch of a large number of Douthat families in the Valley of Virginia, and Polly Yost (1779-1854). His sons were wagon makers, blacksmiths, harness and saddle makers. It seemed fairly conclusive from the beginning in view of proximity, occupation and the peculiarity of the name that Robert Douthat was Charles' grandfather, even before his father was determined.

However, I felt I should investigate the possibility that there were other, perhaps related, Douthat families in the area that he could have sprung from, and found an interesting story, which raises even more questions.

Robert S. Douthat's father

Most genealogies (and my cousin Betsy's information) list Robert Douthat (1758-1818) as Robert S. Douthat's father. The senior Robert immigrated from Ireland in 1784, and besides being the right generation to be Robert S.'s father by an early marriage, he had a close association with him. He stood surety for Robert S.'s marriage bond. Although this duty was usually performed by a brother or uncle of the bride, a relation of the groom could serve upon occasion. No particular relationship to the groom is implied, though. (What it does suggest is that Polly Yost may have entered the marriage on her own, without the direct approval of her family. This possibility is further supported by the fact that her sister, Polly Yost, swears she is of age rather than a male relative giving permission for the marriage.)

The 1850 and 1860 census records report Robert S. Douthat's birthplace as Maryland, but at least one source says he was born in Ireland (a biography of one of his grandsons). If he was Robert Douthat's son, he was indeed born in Ireland. A bigger discrepency is the difference in social class between Robert S. Douthat, craftsmen, and Robert Douthat, who was wealthy, influential in the community and had many ties to the Tidewater elite. He was involved in trade and woolen manufacturing, held many civic offices and he accumulated a huge amount of land. (One grant of 102,000 acres in Amherst County extended into Rockbridge County and included Natural Bridge.) The next big research project will be to look at the legal proceedings caused by his intestate death to see if his children are named.

Sources, again including cousin Betsy, say Robert Douthat, Sr. had two other sons— William H. Douthat and Thomas Douthat. William Henry was born about 1800. He was a bank teller and businessman and lived in Buchanon and married into an influential eastern Virginia family. His offspring are well documented (and do not include Charles F.). We will discuss Thomas Douthat below. This Thomas also married very well and tried (ineffectually, it appears) to wheel and deal. If Robert's son isn't the documented Thomas below, he must have died young, since no other Thomas Douthat appears in census records.

Robert Douthat, sr. and other Douthats of his generation

There were 3 adult Douthat men in Staunton at the end of the 18th century, and a little evidence of a fourth. Robert had a brother William Douthat who names him as his brother in his will of July 19, 1795. Marriage, business and land records document William and Thomas Douthat, as well as Robert. The fourth Douthat, whose presence is more ephemeral, was Francis Douthat.

William, Thomas and Francis were all three involved in trying to develop mills in Augusta Co. William leaves "To wife Ann, fulling mill near Staunton, in Col. William Bowyer's meadow." Thomas Douthat was also connected to this mill. In the Staunton Spy of Sept. 21, 1793 we read: "Thomas Douthat, begs leave to inform his friends, and the public in general, that his Fulling Mill, in Col. William Bowyers meadow in the vicinity of Staunton, will be ready for business...." (This was a few months after Thomas Douthat married Jane Price of Henrico County in June 1793. source 1) There are also petitions to the Virginia Legislation filed at about this time asking for loans to establish a woolen mill filed both by Thomas on 1793/11/01 and the elusive Francis 1794/11/14. Virginia Legislative Petitions, LVA website

The only other evidence for Francis is correspondence with Alexander Hamilton, who was instrumental in trying to encourage the development of manufacturing and milling in New Jersey. These letters indicate he actually knew Alexander Hamilton, who had even loaned him money. In one letter he refers to "My brother here has great expectations the I Shall make money" with his milling machinery. He refers to America as "yr infant country" and leaves no further records, so one can assume he returned to Ireland after failing to obtain funding to set up mills in this remote, wilderness area.

The fulling mill in Col. Bowyer's meadow may have been started by Thomas and William together, and Thomas then sold his interest in it to William; or it may have been William's property all along, with Thomas as manager. Thomas is not named in William's will.

One more tie among the Douthats is that Robert and Thomas (his son or brother) were married to two sisters, Polly Price and Jane Price. The Price women were daughters of Samuel Price and Elizabeth Puveyeur of Henrico Co. source 2

Thomas was clearly related to both of the other Douthats, but their relative ages are not clear. The three all married within 3 years - Robert in 1790, William in 1791 and Thomas in 1793. However, Thomas could be Robert's son, as cousin Betsy asserts, by the early wife named as mother of Robert S. (born 1778), although Robert sr. would probably have to have been born a little earlier than other evidence suggests. However, if Thomas was the Thomas Douthat who served in the Revolutionary War for Virginia, he was substantially older, and could even have been older that Robert, since he would have come to America 5 or more years before Robert arrived in 1784. source 3 In either case, he also shared the same social connections and business activities as Robert and William. The wedding announcements in the eastern newspapers refers to him as Esq. source 4 He was a gentleman rather than a working man like Robert S.

William married in 1790 and died in 1795 and his will names no children. Any children by an earlier marriage are unrecorded. Thomas married in 1793 and had just one son before his marriage dissolved, another Robert Douthat, who lived out his life in Richmond and Henrico County. In 1802 Thomas and his wife Jane separated, and there is no evidence they ever reconciled. (A contract written in connection to their separation is included below, just because it is so interesting! source 5) So, although I have some qualms about accepting Robert S. as Robert's son without an explanation for the difference in his station compared to his brother(s), neither of the other 2 Douthats are any likelier, and some weight needs to be given to what is 'remembered.'

In 1810 Jane Price Douthat was living in Richmond with her son by Thomas, who was about 14 at that time. Robert married Eleanor Warner Lewis, daughter of Fielding Lewis of Wyanoke, in 1819 (an old FFV family). Their 3 sons were named Robert, Fielding Lewis and William. There was no Thomas. Clearly his father Thomas was a black sheep. I have found no evidence yet as to whether he shortly died, or just sank into an alcoholic oblivion.

Close relations between Robert Douthat and the Prices continued. In 1797 Sarah Price, a third sister, asked the Augusta County court to appoint Robert Douthat as her guardian. She was about 14 years old. Her father Samuel died in 1782, so we may assume her mother died about this date and that she was living with one of her sisters in Augusta County.

Sarah had a claim on her "brother" William Douthat's estate (William was the one NOT married to a Price sister). Robert in a letter to her in 1810 gives a summary accounting of this, which totaled more that £250. source 6 The only connection I can surmise is that Polly Price, Robert's wife, had also died and left her estate to her sister Sarah. This would explain Sarah's claim on William's estate (since he left a bequest to Polly as well as one to Robert). The letter also documents a debt from Robert of another 160 pounds, so she may have left her dower to Sarah as well.

1 <--?--> Douthat, Ireland
  Unknown wife
   2 Robert Douthat, 1758-1818
     Sarah <--?-->, m. abt. 1777, d. bef. 1791
	3 Robert Douthat, 1778-1861
	  Polly Yost, m. 1800, 1779-1854
     Polly Price, m. 1791, 1768-bef. 1810
	3 William Henry Douthat, 1800-1858
   2 William Douthat, abt.1760-1795
     Ann Lewis, m. 1790, 1767-?
   2 Francis Douthat
   2 Thomas Douthat, abt. 1768-abt. 1800
     Jane Price, m. 1793, 1774-aft. 1810
	3 Robert Douthat, 1796-1828
                     or
1 <--?--> Douthat, Ireland
  Unknown wife
   2 Robert Douthat, abt. 1750-1818
     Sarah <--?-->, m. abt. 1777, d. bef. 1791
        3 Thomas Douthat, abt. 1768-abt. 1800
          Jane Price, m. 1793, 1774-aft. 1810
		4 Robert Douthat, 1796-1828
	3 Robert Douthat, 1778-1861
	  Polly Yost, m. 1800, 1779-1854
     Polly Price, m. 1791, 1768-bef. 1810
	3 William Henry Douthat, 1800-1858
   2 William Douthat, abt.1760-1795
     Ann Lewis, m. 1790, 1767-?
   2 Francis Douthat