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         Blairs in Augusta County, Virginia,
        & Grainger County, Tennessee

2003-2008 R. L. Steinacker 


"Stretched before us we see a rare and magnificent valley--a paradise."  Governor Spotswood's comment upon his group's discovering the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia  in 1716 proved to be a sentiment shared by many immigrant families.  Immigrants came both by boat from abroad and they also traveled south from Pennsylvania and elsewhere on the east coast.

According to one prominent Blair family researcher,  the immigrant ancestors for our branch of the Blair family were Alexander (born abt. 1713) and Jane Preston Scott Blair.  Alexander and Jane appear in Orange County, Virginia, Headright records on 28 Feb 1739, along with their children, James, Mary, and John.  These Blairs were of  the group many modern historians call the "Scotch-Irish", as were many other immigrants entering Virginia at that time.  Though, Alexander and Jane Blair entered Virginia from Ireland, it is unlikely they had any Irish bloodlines.  They were to settle in what is now Augusta County, Virginia.  


It is James, son of Alexander and Jane Preston Scott Blair, who is believed to be the progenitor of the Blairs in Grainger County, Tennessee.  There is no absolute proof that ties that James to our ancestor, James Blair, of Grainger County, Tennessee, but there is some circumstantial evidence, as follows:  

1)  A James Blair married Kitrin (Irish for Catherine?) King, daughter of Robert King, abt 1755 in Augusta County, Virginia (per the will of Robert King)....our James Blair in Grainger Co., Tennessee, was married to a Catherine. Several children of their son, Solomon, bear the middle name of King. However, since we don't know Solomon's wife's name, it's possible her surname was King, as well.

2 )   Members of a King family were involved with James Blair, Sr. from the very beginning of his experience in Tennessee, both with the original North Carolina Land Grant along the Holston River (see "History" below), and with further land deals in Hawkins County and other counties. That seems to indicate a close connection more than just friendship, but of course is not proof of kinship.

With these two pieces of information, some Blair family researchers have concluded that the two James Blairs are one and the same.   At this point, having looked at Grainger county records and having viewed the reasoning and research of other researchers, I tend to think the two James Blairs (Augusta County and Grainger County) are likely the same man.  I feel, though, that more research needs to be done in both Tennessee and Virginia before I'd feel comfortable coming to a definite conclusion.

Along with James Blair, several other Blairs appear in the early records of Hawkins and Grainger County, Tennessee.  On  8 March 1790, Alex Blair, James Blair, and William Blair were listed as voters in Hawkins County.  (Note that Grainger County was formed in 1796 from portions of Hawkins and Knox Counties.)  Josiah Blair, Robert Blair, and Col. John Blair were also listed in various records.  Col. John Blair, who lived in another part of the county, was an older son of James (proven as of August 2005)

(Link to Lt. Col. John Blair's Obituary& Muster Roll.  

Further complicating the process of identifying Blairs in Grainger County, Tennessee, is the fact that there were other Blairs living in surrounding counties during the late 1700's and early 1800's, some of whom are also named James.  (Oh no!)  It is possible, even likely, that those Blairs are connected in some way to the Grainger Blairs.  Even in Augusta County, Virginia, there appear to have been several James Blairs in the county records.  It is also possible that some of the records appearing in other eastern Tennessee counties belong to Blairs in Grainger County, as it was not uncommon in those days for landowners to own land in several counties.  In addition, counties in eastern Tennessee were being divided, forming other counties; thus, spreading out the holdings and records of many families


James Blair obtained large tracts of land in Tennessee from North Carolina Land Grants. Thus, James and Catherine settled along the Holston River in Hawkins County (what is now Grainger County).  The area was still a wilderness and was very sparsely populated.  The 1790 County Court records list the following interesting entry:  

"Whereas it has been represented to the court by Thomas King, that Matthew English and Elizabeth English, orphan children of William English, who was taken and killed by the Indians in December, 1787, at which time the aforesaid children were carried into captivity by the Indians, supposed to be of the Wyandotte Nation, and are yet in captivity. Thomas King therefore represents that the said orphans might be recovered if there was property sufficient for that purpose. Ordered by the the court that James Blair and William Patterson do receive from the said Thomas King or from any other person the property belonging to the estate of the said William English, and the same apply as they shall think best for the redemption of the said orphans, and Thomas King was discharged thereupon of said property."

It was not unusual for James Blair and his sons to be involved in court proceedings.  As prominent landowners, they were all involved in both the Hawkins County and the Grainger County justice system. (Grainger was a new county formed from part of Hawkins County). When the Grainger County court system was organized, James Blair was one of the magistrates present.  His son, Alexander Blair, served on the first grand jury, and another son, James Blair, Jr., was one of the commissioners given the duty of choosing a permanent site for the Grainger County court.   Thereafter, these Blairs and other Blair sons served as jurors.  The Blairs were also involved in other official business of the county.  One, Richard C. Blair, was the sherriff.  Going through the court minutes and the estate records of Grainger County will give a Blair researcher a good idea of the prominence of the Blairs. The records show that the Blairs were both wealthy and educated.Only one of  James and Catherine Blair's sons stayed in Grainger County the rest of his life, with the others moving elsewhere in Tennessee and Col. John Blair dying in 1793.

The Blairs bought and sold large acreages of land in both Hawkins and Grainger Counties, leaving a wealth of land records. It is unfortunate that the same cannot be said about other important records, namely wills. Until recently, the only known, surviving Blair will  in Grainger County was that of Catherine Blair (signed 15 Nov 1814). In her will, Catherine lists her six surviving sons and also mentions several grandchildren. Without that will, we wouldn't have had much more than guesses. We still have too many of those, as it is!

(Link to Catherine Blair's will)   

What of Blair daughters?  Several Blair women  show up in early Grainger County marriage records. The speculation is that these were probably daughters of James and Catherine. However, since Catherine's will only lists her sons and grandchildren, there is no solid proof that the Blair women in these marriages were connected to James and Catherine other than logic.

Descendants of this James and Catherine Blair played a vital role in settling this country as they moved south and west, with a few even moving north into Kentucky. They fought the land and sometimes fought local Indian tribes. They also fought on both sides in the Civil War (a.k.a. The War of the Rebellion).

Links pertinent to James & Catherine King Blair  
Beverley Patent Map of 1736 (Robert King)
Augusta Co., Virginia, Genealogy Resources
Grainger County, Tennessee, Genealogy
Doing genealogy in Grainger County, Tennessee.


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