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Weekly 150

The Dinwiddie Family — Part I

From Scotland to Caledonia

Posted 8/21/19

Over the last eight months of research, the surname Dinwiddie is one of many names that has come up numerous times. From reading about Caledonia to Ms. Cora Sedberry, the name Dinwiddie has seared …

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Weekly 150

The Dinwiddie Family — Part I

From Scotland to Caledonia


Over the last eight months of research, the surname Dinwiddie is one of many names that has come up numerous times. From reading about Caledonia to Ms. Cora Sedberry, the name Dinwiddie has seared itself into my brain. Recently, I’ve made connections to the early Dinwiddies who came to Carroll-Henry County area to current descendants. So I figure it is time to pay homage to the family.

The old Dinwiddie pioneers believed in strong churches and schools, which led to them helping build the foundation to many of them. Bethel College/University was among the group. The early area history has the family taking an active role in the Presbyterian faith. Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian was where most of the family attended, later the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. of McKenzie served as the church home of many of the latter generations.

As far back as 1830, James Dinwiddie was connected to the Shiloh Religious Society and was elected an elder. Records exist stating James was the first ruling elder to represent Hopewell Presbytery in the General Assembly and was a member of the Hopewell Presbytery which was organized in 1824.

From historical records the Dinwiddie family originated in Scotland before immigrating to the American Colonies. James Dinwiddie along with his wife Sarah and four of his six children blazed a trail joining the company of the first pioneers of West Tennessee; they located near the Caledonia Community between Paris and McKenzie.

There are many descendants of the original Dinwiddies around McKenzie. They include the names: Baker, Barham, Bateman, Burdette, Dinwiddie, Edwards, Hallums, Hearne, Howell, Gordon, Kemp, Lankford, McGeehee, McNeil, Ridley, Sexton, Snead, Thomas and Willoughby.

The following information comes from a writeup (I believe in 1941) sent to William Lycurgis Dinwiddie, who was born in Henry County near McKenzie.

Grandfather of His Country

As America celebrates the birthday of George Washingtonm the father of his country, Professor Louis Knott Koontz would like to get some attention for the man he calls the “Grandfather of his Country.”

This is the man who gave Washington his start --

He was Robert Dinwiddie, a Scotchman and Colonial career man who was Lieutenant Governor of Virginia at the time Washington came of age.

“It is not too much of an exaggeration to him the discoverer of George Washington,” says the historian Koontz.

“He made him (Washington) an Adjutant of the Virginia Militia at the age of twenty and the Commander in Chief of that Colony’s forces at twenty-three years old.

Those were the days of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) - Dinwiddie stood behind his young protégé in victory and defeat, and he was published The Young Man’s Journal, which made a National Journal. Koontz, associate professor of history at the University of California’s Southern Campus, has written a book on Dinwiddie. Among things he discovered is that the Virginia official was among the first to see the importance of Westward expansion of the English Colonies from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and obtained a grant, which had it remained in effect, would have extended Virginia’s boundaries straight across the country to California.”

A sidelight on the leisurely affairs of an earlier day is Koontz discovering of Washington and Dinwiddie letters, written in manuscript, and under the stress of war, which ran up to 2500 words in length.

“Dinwiddie was 39 years older than Washington,’’ says Professor Koontz.

In the present war (World War II) it is enlightening to reflect on the age of the young man whom Governor Dinwiddie chose for the most important tasks, and heartening to know that the young man measured up to them.

His decision indicates he was wise and great personality.

This was Robert Dinwiddie’s contribution to the career of the man who later became the “Father of his Country.”

Lt. Governor Dinwiddie was distant cousin to James and brother William.

James Dinwiddie was born 1755 in British Colony of Pennsylvania. He was married May 1776, in Bedford Co., Virginia to Sarah Jameson (Helm). They had six children: James Jr, William, Jane, Thomas Helm, Elizabeth Helm and Moses Steele Dinwiddie. Under his name in the family Bible he wrote, “Fought for liberty in Revolutionary War.”

Lieutenant Dinwiddie’s parents, William and Elizabeth (Elea) McWilliams of Scotland, had a six-month honeymoon on a ship from Ireland bound for the Colonies.

In 1823 James and Sarah with four adult children and spouses (William and Patsy Maulpin, James and Mary Carson, Jane and Samuel Gilbert, and Moses and Susannah Baugh) moved to Henry County, Tenn. There were several grown grandchildren, and all of them bought and homesteaded land.

James, Jr. and his first wife, Cassendra Harris, had five children: Andrew, Mary Jane, Barcena (died in infancy), Aranthea Jane and James Harris. His second marriage was to his cousin, Mary (Polly) Montogomery Carson. They had six children: Harvery Carson (died in infancy), Newtown Alexander, Thomas Helm, William Carson (first white child born in Henry County), Joseph Robert Baker.

In the next edition, we will move forward a generation from James, Jr. to Joseph Robert Dinwiddie who owned and operated a thread factory in Caledonia and had the colonial home known as Cedar Front.

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Executive Chairman, McKenzie 150th Celebration

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com  P: 731.352.3323

Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.


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