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Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor is the third-great-grandfather of this website's author. Pinning down his origins is one of our primary goals.

With great difficulty and years of research, we traced Michael Taylor backward through his  journeys to the Craven County area and are trying to identify Michael's parents. The search required gathering & organizing a great quantity of information about Taylors in this area. We decided not to keep that information private, but to share it in the hope that it would be helpful to others.

The rest of this page is mostly about the nature of that search for Michael's elusive origins and an overview of his life.

In Illinois

We first located Michael Taylor late in his life, when he was farming in Pleasant Grove township of Coles County, Illinois. He was the patriarch of an extended Taylor family there and a neighbor of Tommy Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's father.

Pleasant Grove township (It is not incorporated.) has been known by more than one name. The first was "Goosenest Prairie". In some censuses, it's referred to as "Muddy Creek Precinct". "Pleasant Grove" is the most recent and most attractive name.

He farmed a one-eighth-section (80 acres) very near the southern county line between Coles & Cumberland counties. Adjoining his parcel were those of sons Stephen & Elijah.

He was a lay Baptist minister, seemingly an avocation of many of this Taylor family. He tended to the "fire-and-brimstone" type of sermon.

Michael and his family were only a few of many former residents of Kentucky & Tennessee in this part of Illinois. {The Lincolns came from Kentucky, by way of Indiana.} During the Civil War, the area was considered a hotbed of Confederate sentiment and a riot against the War took place at the Charleston courthouse.

He died in Coles in 1838, leaving a will which left his land to his 10 children with Elizabeth and named Stephen as Executor. Of those 10, he named only daughter Temperance. The will is of a rambling nature, indicating Michael may have been suffering delirium as he dictated it.

Michael & Elizabeth are buried side-by-side in the Thomas Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, which is also known as "Shiloh" & "Old Gordon", with the Shiloh Church adjoining the gravesites. Their simple graves are marked with white limestone, set into the ground a few yards north of the prominent memorial to the President's father. Several of their children are also buried here. The location is appropriate because their farm was just east of this site.

After Michael's death, his youngest son Isaac began acquiring land from the estate as the other children moved away (some as far as Oregon). Isaac built the farm into a large and prosperous one and became a prominent citizen of Coles County. Today, there are hardly any descendants left in Coles County and most are spread throughout the West, but a family reunion is held there occasionally.

Another son, William, was the eldest son of Michael & Elizabeth. William had something of a wanderlust and at least five marriages. We mention him, because he was the father of the author's great-grandfather.

Life on the farm

Those who want to see how Michael and his family lived should visit the nearby Thomas Lincoln Living History Museum; the Lincoln farm & cabin have been reconstructed to 1840 standards and actors portray real characters from the era.

It would have been crowded in the Taylor cabin. Many were cramped into a small living space.

Also on the grounds is another farm, which bears close resemblance to what son Isaac built the Taylor farm into by 1890. The contrast between the two farms is significant.

The Controversial Picture:

Michael Taylor?
This copy from a tintype is purported to be a picture of Michael Taylor.

We're doubtful, because Michael died in rural Illinois in 1838 — just before photography began to reach the big, sophisticated cities. A photographic picture of Michael would be an historical anomaly.

We think it more likely that this is a picture of Michael's son, William A. Taylor (1819-1913), or even grandson, Isaac Henry Taylor (1844-1925). The picture appears to be of a man in his 30s, rather than one in his late 50s. On the other hand, some of Michael's descendants do retain a young appearance into old age.

In Tennessee

Michael had arrived in Coles in 1830, while it was still part of Clark County. Several clues indicated he had come there from Tennessee. We managed to find him living on Overalls Creek in Rutherford County, Tennessee from no later than 1810 (when he reached 21) to 1829. He was closely associated there with a man named James Taylor, who — from indirect evidence — was probably not his father. James had arrived in Rutherford no later than 1808 and died there in 1816.

Some researchers have claimed that James was Michael's father. If true, it would make things simpler. However, we believe they have paid insufficient attention to all the available evidence. Two key pieces of evidence: So, we conclude that James was more likely Michael's uncle than his father.

James and his sons first appeared on an 1808 Rutherford County road duty list. They were assigned to work on a road running from Stones River up to "The Knobs".

These Taylors lived on a 512-acre tract on Overalls Creek that James bought in 1812. It contained a pond & the 1816 deeds allocated frontage on the pond. Overalls Creek flows into the Stones River and is one ridge to the west of Murfreesboro.

In 1810, Michael married a Jane Smith and had four children with her. Two sons,  Stephen & Elijah, accompanied Michael to Illinois in 1829/1830. The fates of Jane and the two daughters are lost to us.

Michael was among the original Tennessee Volunteers from which the state gets its nickname. From Oct 1814 to May 1815, he served in the 2nd Tennessee Militia and fought in the Battle of New Orleans in which the British were decisively defeated. Cousin (or brother) Jesse was in the same militia company and Jesse's brothers Aaron & James were also in this regiment, in different companies. For a narrative reconstruction of his war experiences, click this link.

Probably sometime after returning from the war, Michael "married" Elizabeth Patterson from South Carolina, with whom he would spend the rest of his life and have 10 children. {Jane was apparently still alive and no divorce record, which would have required an act of the Legislature, has been found. This is a mystery.} Elizabeth had also previously been married to a John Gillespie, though there seem to have been no children.  She was heir to a John Patterson of Knox Co., TN.

James died in December 1816 and his will names his wife and another daughter along with the daughter's husband and son. James named his son James as executor, though not bequeathing anything to him.

After James' death, the Taylors began to leave Rutherford County one by one. Jesse & Aaron went to Alabama, where they became known for their ministries of the Gospel. 

Aaron sold the land from James to Michael in Oct 1818 and Michael sold his from James about the same time. (The deed was registered in June 1819.)

Association a clue:

The association with James Taylor provided a clue to Michael's origins. If we could find James' origins, we could perhaps find Michael's. It was highly unlikely that these Taylors were born in Tennessee. It wasn't a state until 1793 and white settlement was mostly by post-1800 immigration from Virginia & the Carolinas.

In Carolina

After much searching and rejection of many "candidates", we found a James Taylor in Craven County, North Carolina whose wife's and children's names matched the James of Rutherford. The James of Craven disappeared from records just before the James of Rutherford appeared. "Icing on the cake" was a friend named Solomon Beasley who was involved with a James Taylor in both places.

Very recent information indicates that, perhaps, the Solomon Beasley of Rutherford may have been the nephew of the Solomon of Craven.

Further, Y-DNA analysis demonstrated that descendants of Michael Taylor share a common male ancestor with the descendants of a Moses Taylor, the elder brother of James. Moses left Craven for Warren County, Kentucky in 1793.

But, this was a large family; Moses & James had four other brothers and many, many cousins in Craven, any one of whom might have fathered Michael.  The brothers included:

We have ruled out Moses & James as Michael's father -- James for the reasons above. Moses, if Michael's father, would have taken the four-year-old boy with him on the trip to Kentucky in 1793.

Searches negative

We have found no records of Michael in Craven or surrounding counties, nor, would we necessarily expect to, even in diligent searches; Michael was still a minor when he left North Carolina.

There were no birth records. {He might have been baptized in a Baptist church.}  Had he been neglected, the court might have intervened, binding him  out as an apprentice. But that seems not to have occurred; nor was there a bastardy bond.

Like most children of his time and place, Michael did not come to attention of the authorities and did not get his name recorded.

The most likely simple explanation seems to be that Michael's father may have been a brother or cousin of James and died or otherwise been unable to provide & care for Michael — sometime between 1789 and 1806.

We have found two female-headed households in the 1790 & 1800 censuses with males of the right age category to be Michael. Either might be his mother. We have found a Taylor man who was murdered in 1803, but been unable to link him with this family.

We conclude that Michael was almost certainly born in either Craven or the neighboring Dobbs (now Lenoir ) or Jones counties. We continue to search for evidence to shed light on the remaining mystery of his parents' identities.

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