Sunday, March 26, 2023

Oddball Out

Like many ancestors in Montgomery County, North Carolina, Mary Ann Roper Haywood seems to be the oddball out. She just does not seem to fit into any family in the area. I do not know who Mary Ann’s parents are, but I do know who they are not. 

According to the 1850 Census, Mary Ann Roper Haywood was born about 1787 in North Carolina. She was married to Jesse Haywood and was living with him in 1850. Jesse, also born about 1787 in North Carolina, was a farmer. In 1850, his real estate was valued at $1000. The couple lived close to their children, Juriah, and husband John Dunn, Cynthia, and husband, Thomas Dunn, sons Moses Haywood, Miles Haywood, and William Haywood. The couple also had a daughter, Mary, who married John Chisholm.

I became interested in Mary Ann because a mtDNA match I was researching leads back to James Roper and Mary O'Neil/Neal from Caswell County, North Carolina. Imagine my surprise, and initial excitement, at finding family trees that had Mary Ann Roper Haywood of Montgomery County, North Carolina listed in them showing this couple as her parents. 

That excitement fizzled and died as I began a month-long journey down a rabbit hole trying to collect the proof documents across the counties of Burke, Caswell, and Wilkes in North Carolina, and Simpson County, Kentucky where I have now realized that researchers have mixed up three James Roper's and assigned Mary Ann Roper Haywood to a family she does not belong to.

I believe I have figured out where the confusion might have come from though and at least one other researcher, the owner of the Find-A-Grave memorial for James Roper (Caswell) seems to agree.

There were three James Roper's, one in Caswell County, married to Mary Neal/O'Neill, and another in Burke County married to Elizabeth maiden name unknown, and yet another in Richmond County, married to Sarah maiden name unknown.

James Roper who married Mary O'Neil/Neal moved from Caswell County, North Carolina to Simpson County, Kentucky as proven in the Revolutionary War pension file for that James Roper.

The first 17 pages of the Revolutionary War pension file for James Roper, married Mary O’Neil/Neal, are detailing another James Roper who lived in Richmond County, North Carolina. 

Pages 18 through 80 detail the service for James Roper of Caswell County and include the widow pension file for wife Mary O’Neil/Neal. 

I have posted the film images from Fold3 below. As you can see, there is one file for both men, pages 1-80. However, pages 1-17 are for James Roper in Richmond County, North Carolina and pages 18-80 are for James Roper in Caswell, North Carolina (he and his wife, Mary, migrated to Kentucky).

From family trees, it looks like researchers were trying to make sense of the information in the file, rather than just accepting that the file contains information on two different men and they mixed up the James Roper's, assigning Mary O’Neil/Neal as the wife of both men.

Researchers have since added Elizabeth (from Burke County) as a name for Mary O’Neil/Neal renaming her to Mary Elizabeth O’Neil and have forced this poor woman, in documentation only, to become the wife of all three James Roper’s! Poor Mary!

James Roper who married Elizabeth maiden name unknown, lived, and died in Burke County. This couple looks to be living in Burke County in 1850.

For more detailed information on the James Roper's of Burke, North Carolina and Caswell, North Carolina/Simpson County, Kentucky, see their Find-A-Grave memorials that have relevant information listed. The owners of these memorials are very much aware that these James Ropers and their wives are mixed up and have provided information that hopefully will assist in getting researchers back on the right track with these Roper men and making the corrections to their family trees.

Memorial ID: 105345644
Memorial ID: 219622945

The third James Roper lived in Northampton County, North Carolina and moved to Richmond County, North Carolina between 1791 and 1800. As stated above, his Revolutionary War pension file is literally mixed up with the James Roper who married Mary O'Neil/Neal and moved from North Carolina to Kentucky (Fold3 number R8996). Because the files are lumped together as one, the first 17 pages belonging to James Roper of Richmond County and pages 18-80 belonging to the James Roper who moved to Kentucky, this looks to be causing a great deal of confusion with researchers assigning James Roper in Richmond County, North Carolina as the husband of Mary O'Neil/Neal. (see above screenshot of the Fold3 image).

It would make sense that Mary Ann Roper Haywood would be the daughter of James Roper of Richmond County, North Carolina, except, she is not. James left a good amount of information that would allow any researcher to put the pieces of his life together.

James Roper of Richmond County, North Carolina states in his 1832 Revolutionary War pension file that he was 70 years old (making him born in 1762) and that he lived in Northampton County, North Carolina when called into service at the age of 15 years in 1777 and was discharged in 1780. Again, after his return home in 1780, he substituted for Robert Boykin for 3 months and after that he substituted for 12 months for John Garren. Because James still had his discharge papers from 1780, his claim was not questioned, and he was allowed his pension.

James is shown on the 1790 Census for Northampton County, North Carolina with his wife, a son and a daughter born prior to the 1790 Census.

In 1790, James and wife Sarah sold their land in Northampton County, North Carolina to Mark Phillips.

In 1800, James is found in Richmond County, North Carolina with his wife and two children. 

In 1810, James is living with his wife and daughter in Richmond County, North Carolina. The son is now missing and has either died or left home. Based on future records, it is my belief that the son has died.

In 1820, James is living with his wife, daughter, and two children under the age of 10 in Richmond County, North Carolina.

In 1829, James wrote his will dividing his estate between his wife, Sarah, and two grandchildren, James, and Sarah. Neither his son or daughter are mentioned, and it can be assumed that both have died prior to 1829. 

Grandson James inherited 675 acres of land in Montgomery County on Clark's Creek that his grandfather, James Roper, purchased of William Turner and Henry Turner. That deed is not to be found and was probably one of the many documents destroyed in courthouse fires over the years.

Wife, Sarah, and granddaughter, Sarah inherited several tracts of land in Richmond County.

To granddaughter Sarah Roper, several tracts of land in Richmond County
100 acres granted to Morgan Brown Jr
150 acres granted to Patrick Sanders
100 acres granted to Thomas Gibson
150 acres granted to James Roper (himself)

To Sarah, wife of James Roper, 150 acres granted to Duncan McRae which James purchased of him and 20 acres adjoining the same of which he bought of William Everett. 

In 1830, James is living with his wife and two teenage children, (no daughter).

In 1832, James amended his will putting restrictions on the land left his grandchildren. 

In 1833, James died, and his will was probated in Richmond County, North Carolina in the July term. 

Because the land willed to Sarah was less than the 1/3 allowed by law, Sarah petitioned the court to obtain her 1/3 dower of both the real and personal property of her deceased husband. The court ruled in her favor and additional lands and property, both in Richmond and Montgomery counties, were divided out for her.

James Roper also owned 320 acres of land in Wilson County, Tennessee and 100 acres on Big Mountain Creek in Richmond County and he asked that his executor, Edmund Deberry, sell that land and the proceeds to be equally divided between his grandchildren James Roper and Sarah Roper.

I am not able to find the deed for the Big Mountain Creek property. The Wilson County, Tennessee property was sold to David Billings of that place by Edmund Deberry, the executor of the will of James Roper. Edward Harris and Eli Hancock, both names from Montgomery County, North Carolina, were witnesses to the deed in Wilson County, Tennessee. 

In 1840, Mrs. Sarah Roper, age 100, is living in Fair Ground District, Richmond, North Carolina with a male and female that match the age of her grandchildren, James, and Sarah. Sarah would not have been 100 years old in 1840, but closer to 80 years old. Notice that Tristram Bostick is a close neighbor.

The two grandchildren, James, and Sarah, belong to the daughter of James and Sarah Roper and they were born out of wedlock. Both children of James and Sarah Roper look to have died prior to the writing of James’s will in 1829, his son not shown after the 1810 Census and his daughter not showing after 1820. This would explain why neither child is mentioned in his will written in 1829. This also explains why James Roper left everything to his grandchildren. They would have been his only living heirs.

Grandson James is the James C. Roper found in Montgomery County living on Clark's Creek. He married Nancy Deberry and this couple had at least four children. 

James Henry Roper b. 1835 d. 1883 - can be found on 1860-1880 Census records for Alachua, Florida. He died while visiting his parents in Montgomery County, North Carolina.  

John W. Roper b. 1842 d. 1863 - died in the Civil War, Richmond, Virginia from an infection caused by a gunshot wound in the left shoulder.

Nancy Roper Matheson b. 1852 d. 1928 - married Samuel Alexander Matheson in 1876. Was the only surviving child of James C. Roper and Nancy Deberry.

David Roper b. 1855 d. unknown - found on the 1880 Census living with his father, James Roper

James C. Roper died in 1893. His estate file mentions his Turner tract of land, the same land that his grandfather, James Roper, purchased of William Turner and Henry Turner and was noted in his will as such.

Granddaughter Sarah married Tristram Bostick. James C. Roper, brother of Sarah, witnessed the will of Tristram.

Sarah Ann Roper Bostick deeded tracts of the Roper land that she had inherited from her grandfather, James Roper, to her children. The deeds proving she is the granddaughter of James Roper. 


James Roper of Richmond County, North Carolina is not the father of Mary Ann Roper Haywood as his only daughter looks to have died before the writing of his will in 1829. His only surviving heirs were his grandchildren, James C. Roper and Sarah Ann Roper Bostick.

Thomas Roper also lived in Richmond County, North Carolina and no doubt was somehow related to James Roper. Both of these men were from Northampton County, North Carolina. Thomas Roper deserves a blog post of his own but, suffice it to say, I have seen some family trees showing him as the father of Mary Ann Roper Haywood. Thomas Roper was born in 1777, just ten years before Mary Ann Roper Haywood, so, he cannot be her father as he would have only been 10 years old when Mary was born. Thomas did have a daughter named Mary Ann, born 1815, and she married Thomas Harris. 

There were at least two other Roper men in Richmond County, North Carolina who could have been the father of Mary Ann Roper Haywood.

John Roper is showing on the 1800 Census with a female around Mary Ann's age, give or take a few years.

John Roper may be the same man who filed a Revolutionary pension application in 1832. He states he entered the service in 1780 in Northampton County, North Carolina (the same place James Roper in Richmond County said he was from). John moved to Gwinnett County, Georgia and migrated to Benton County, Alabama in 1839. More research required to prove or disprove this theory.

James Roper is also showing on the 1800 Census with a female around Mary Ann's age. There is no further information on James Roper. 

I welcome any evidence that would prove Mary Ann Haywood's maiden name is Roper. You can contact me through the blog or email me at