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 “Tale of Two John Knoxes…”




To a large degree, genealogy is about sorting through data, fitting the pieces together, and solving puzzles...  Separating multiple individuals with identical names who lived in the same timeframe and same general location is a challenging task for even the most experienced researcher.  It’s easy to misidentify, confuse, misconnect, or switch these “genealogical twins.”

Once the mistake occurs, it may be undetected for years -- accepted as fact, replicated and simply not questioned by subsequent researchers...  Moreover, identifying the error is only the first part of the task, correcting it is actually the greater challenge!

This is the situation with our “Tale of Two Johns” case...


Which John Knox?


In 2008, the simple job of documenting “my” John’s ancestry turned into a major project.  He was previously identified as the son of Robert and Mary (Ewart) Knox of Lincoln County NC, but to my dismay...I discovered he was not!  To review my complete analysis of the evidence, and why “my” John Knox, born 22 May 1777 cannot be their son, go to this link: Robert Knox of Lincoln County.

How could this error happen?  How could earlier researchers of “my” John Knox take this “wrong turn?” 

After analyzing the circumstances, it’s actually easy to see how this error occurred.  I believe the major factor was timing.  One John Knox disappeared from Lincoln County records, when about the same time the “other” John Knox seemed to appear next door in Mecklenburg County, creating the illusion of a move...  

John, the son of Robert and Mary (Ewart) Knox did leave Lincoln County NC several years after his parents died there in 1833.  However, he moved “west” to Mississippi, where he is found in 1850 with his second wife, Jane Bell, and their children.  Deeds, Estate and Court records show that another John, the son of Patrick and Mary (Smith) Knox, was already living in Mecklenburg County in 1780, although he doesn’t appear in Mecklenburg Census or Tax Records until 1798, when he first appears as a tax payer in Captain Archibald Cathey’s Company.

A second contributing factor was location.  My John Knox and James Knox, son of Robert and Mary (Ewart) Knox, were members at Bethel Presbyterian in Cornelius – and both are buried there.  In addition, in 1815, James Knox purchased 165 acres near John’s home on the headwaters of McDowell Creek, making John and James near-neighbors.  Those two factors made it easy to assume this was John, the son of Robert, and that these two Knoxes were brothers.  However, these facts were simply circumstantial evidence – pointing to the possibility of kinship – but not proof of it.  The weight of the other evidence must also be considered. 

Robert and Patrick Knox both fought for their country in the American Revolution.  Patrick gave his life for it.  They lived on opposite sides of the Catawba River, the western boundary between Lincoln and Mecklenburg counties.  Some researchers believe they were brothers.  Recent DNA tests of their male descendants confirm that kinship is highly probable; however, at this time, we can speculate, but cannot prove they were brothers. At the same time, if Robert and Patrick were brothers, and their sons were first cousins, then living in the same location, attending the same church and being buried in the same cemetery would not be all that unusual...

Within this webpage, you’ll find the trail of evidence left by John Knox, son of Patrick.  The data speaks for itself, but sometimes the facts don’t provide conclusive data, making it necessary to fill the gaps by making assumptions or interpretations.  In those cases, I’ve tried to spell out what is proven versus what is tradition, assumption, or speculation, and hope that I’ve made each clear.


Merging the “Two Johns”


I spent nearly a year reviewing all of the records (I could find...) for the "John" Knoxes who lived in North Mecklenburg with focus on the John Knox who lived on McDowell Creek.  A timeline of deeds and other “John Knox” transactions has been created to sort out the details between the two Johns.  The results of this analysis shows that John Knox #1, son of Patrick, and John Knox #2 -- my John -- merge into one John Knox on the “headwaters” of McDowell Creek…and only one John Knox emerged – John Knox of Caldwell Station.

Can we identify how, and when, this “merger” took place? 

·         In July 1800, John Knox #1, son of Patrick, sold his father’s land on the “east side” of the Catawba River, and on the same date purchased land on McDowell Creek. 

·         “My” John Knox #2 also owned land on McDowell Creek and can be clearly identified living there as early as 1816. 

If the “Two Johns” did not merge into one person, then where was John #2 before 1816? When and from whom did he acquire his land?  Moreover, where did John Knox #1 go after John #2 emerged in 1816?

To answer these questions and a few others...we must travel to McDowell Creek and meet John’s neighbors.  On the way, we’ll make a brief stop in Caldwell Station on the “headwaters of McDowell Creek,” the 1860 home of “my” John Knox.


 Go to Caldwell Station

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If you are one of those folks who insists on reading the last chapter first...then go straight to The Evidence...Summary