JOSIAH BRYANT (SR)
Very little is known about our Josiah Bryant. When we began our research all we had to go on was the following paragraph from The History Of The Bryant Family by John W. Bryant, which was written in 1920.
"Josiah Bryant was born and raised in South Carolina. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. His wife's name was Lydia. He was a millwright by trade. He moved to Virginia and again to Kentucky and lived near Mammoth Cave. He has five sons and two daughters; Gabrial, Ambrose, William, John and Josiah. Have not the daughters names. After his children left him he moved to Virginia and lived on Laurel Hill the remainder of his life."
As with all family stories, there is usually a combination of truth and error. Determining how much of this information was true and how much wasnít became our challenge.
So far we have not been able to prove or disprove that Josiah was born and raised in South Carolina. We have not been able to determine where he was born. Until further information comes to light, South Carolina is the only place we can claim.
We have found no evidence that Josiah was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. At least not officially. Itís possible that he fought in a local militia or some other group that kept no official rosters. Or he may have served as a paid surrogate for somebody else. His name is not found on any official lists and we have found no evidence that he ever filed for a military pension or land.
Because Josiahís wifeís name was Lydia, he has often been confused with the Josiah Bryant of Reading, Massachusetts, who married Lydia Green. Not only did both Josiahs have a wife named Lydia, they also each named a son Josiah. Itís easy to understand how they might be confused. However, the Josiah from Massachusetts died in 1798 and we have evidence that our Josiah was still alive in 1820. They are not the same person. After many years of research we have determined that our Josiah was married to Lydia Ratliff, daughter of Silas Ratliff. She is mentioned in her fatherís will in Patrick County, Virginia. Silas Ratliff died in 1811.
We have no evidence to either prove or disprove that Josiah was a millwright. It is quite evident that he was a poor man who had trouble being able to buy land. So if he was a millwright he most likely worked as a laborer for a mill owner instead of having his own mill.
We have been able to establish that Josiah did live in Virginia and Kentucky. He did not, however, return to Virginia after his children left home. He remained in Kentucky. After much searching for "Laurel Hill" we finally located it in what is now Wolfe County, Kentucky. Laurel Hill is not an official designation, it appears to be a name used by local residents to define a particular geographic area. We located an individual who stated that he "had walked Laurel Hill many times". At the time Josiah lived there it was in Floyd County, Kentucky. Josiah apparently lived on Laurel Hill until his second marriage to the widow, Elizabeth Tribbett O'Hair in 1819. After the marriage he relocated to Elizabeth's home. His marriage to Elizabeth only last about three years, at which time Elizabeth divorced him. Josiah returned to Laurel Hill after the divorce. His date of death has not been determined but it would have been after 1822 and before 1830. He is not listed on the 1830 census. No grave or burial records have yet been found for him, or for his first wife, Lydia.
There is a Laurel Hill in Patrick County, Virginia. This Laurel Hill, however, belonged to the Stuart family, who settled it in 1778. Josiah did live in Patrick County at one time so it is possible that he lived there but it is not likely. The area of Patrick County he lived in became Montgomery County later, then Floyd County. Therefore, it appears that Josiah (and the Ratliff family) lived further north than Laurel Hill. The history of Laurel Hill, Virginia is well documented because it was the birthplace of J.E.B. Stuart of Civil War fame. Josiah's name has not been found in any of that documentation.
Of the children mentioned in the Bryant history we have information on four of the five sons Ė Gabriel, Ambrose, William and Josiah. We have yet to locate John or his descendants. We have also identified one of the daughters. Her name was Elizabeth and she married George Hollon (Holland) in Floyd County, Kentucky in 1818. She appears to have been the youngest child, or the youngest at home, since Josiah remarried just a year after her marriage.
The one remaining question is whether or not Josiah lived near Mammoth Cave. We believe he did not. Census records show a Josiah Bryant living in that area but it is not our Josiah. That has been proven through DNA testing. Our Josiah appears to have lived in what is now Wolfe County, Kentucky. The area he lived in was originally part of Montgomery County, then became Floyd County, which later became Wolfe. There are many large caves in that vicinity. In fact, the Hollon (Holland) family had a cave on their property that was big enough for the family to live in for a while. This may very well be the cave that Josiah lived near. The Bryant history talks about the younger Josiah sleeping in Mammoth Cave while bear hunting. The cave that is now known as Mammoth Cave was not known by that name at this stage of Kentuckyís history. Josiah the younger may very well have gone that far while hunting but itís more likely that he hunted locally and slept in one of the large caves near his home.