Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Legendary Isaac Bellangee

When I was a little girl, I once asked my dad that age-old question, "Where did we come from?"  He could have answered simply and truthfully, "Summers County", but he knew that I was looking for a deeper truth, even at that young age.  He told me that we were Irish and possibly a little Dutch.  He didn't explain further, so I let it go at that, and now I'm left wondering what the heck he meant by that.  It turns out, though, that the Ballengee family tree blossomed from French roots.

The best research on the Ballengee family of Summers County, West Virginia, indicates that the family patriarch, Isaac Ballengee, came from the Evi Bellange family in Burlington County, New Jersey.  The various Ballengee family members from New Jersey have been well-documented, but few early records exist for Isaac Bellangee, who settled in the mountains of early Virginia.  Isaac lived through Indian wars and a revolution that formed a new government, but there is no documentation to  prove with certainty who his parents were. 

 Because of the lack of documentation there is quite a lot of legend that exists around Isaac, and when legend is repeated often enough, it is perceived as being factual, so I want to set the record straight by using what we know is true about Isaac.

The Augusta County, Virginia, land grant for Isaac Bellangee in 1767.
    Some say that Isaac married his wife, Jane, in Stokes County, NC about 1767.  This is not true because Stokes County, NC, was not formed until 1789.  No one has presented any records which prove that Isaac ever lived in Stokes County, NC.   In 1767 Isaac was in Augusta County, Virginia.  The Quaker, Henry Ballenger, who first moved to Virginia, settled in Rowan County, NC, about 1759 when he appeared on the county tax list, but there are no links to the Augusta County Isaac Bellangee (note that Isaac used the same spelling of the surname as Evi Bellangee in New Jersey).  Henry Ballenger had a nephew named Isaac, the son of Amariah Ballenger of Burlington Co., New Jersey.  This Isaac is named in Amariah's will in New Jersey in 1747, and he married there in 1755.  Although there is no indication that Amariah's son, Isaac, ever lived anyplace other than New Jersey, the familial link to Henry Ballenger should be strongly considered when determining which Isaac ever lived in North Carolina.   
    Another source says that three Ballengee brothers, Isaac, Eli, and one unnamed, came to America with Lafayettes’ army in 1777 to fight in the Revolution.  This is not true.  Isaac Ballengee first came to Augusta County, Virginia, around 1767 and remained there until he moved to Greenbrier County.  The earliest mention of him is in a land grant in Augusta in 1767 and a land grant in Botetourt in 1772.  In The Marquis de Lafayette in the American Revolution, by Charlemagne Tower, p. 24, the 11 Frenchmen who travelled with Lafayette to America are listed, and no Ballengees are included.

    At least one writer reported that Isaac served in the Revolutionary War and was on guard duty in 1776 in Philadelphia when the Declaration of Independence was signed.  This is not true, because Isaac was already in Botetourt County by this time.  There may have been another Isaac Ballengee of which this is true, because there was another Isaac Bellangee who lived in Philadelphia 1770-1781 who was a member of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia.   The Summers County patriarch signed a loyalty pledge in Botetourt County, Virginia, in 1777. 

    Some say that Isaac was born in 1719 on the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel when it was under British control, and another says that Isaac was a sailor who married Jean in NC about 1777.  The Summers County Isaac was born about 1719, but there is no documentation that he was born on the Isle of Jersey.  A search that was completed by the Channel Islands Family History Society on the Isle of Jersey revealed no mention of the Bellange surname, although there was a Bellanger family on Jersey, but not until the 18th Century when our Ballengees were already firmly established in America.[1]   In 1777 Isaac lived in Botetourt Co., Virginia. French-speaking immigrants who settled in New England and Virginia before 1680 were residents of the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, but most of them had lived in the Channel Islands a generation before they came to America.[2]  Some enterprising genealogist could spend some time looking for new records that may have info about the origins of Ives Bellangee (Isaac's father).

    On the subject of Isaac being a sailor, An Index to Seamen’s Protection Certificate Applications in the Port of Philadelphia, 1796-1823 (Dixon, 2001) lists an Isaac Bellangee.  He is registered in the years 1807 and 1815 at the age of 18 and 25 respectively with a birth state of New Jersey.  This may be the Isaac referred to by other researchers, but it is not the Isaac who settled Botetourt and Greenbrier Counties because he was deceased before 1807.  

    One researcher reported in The Greenbrier County Family Heritage Book that Isaac was married in New Jersey and had four children (Joseph, Benjamin, Mary and William).  After his wife died, he left the children with his brother, Samuel, and went to Virginia.[3]  There is an Isaac with his wife and four children who are received on certificate from the Evesham Monthly Meeting to the Burlington meeting in 1813, but this is long after our Isaac is established in Virginia.[4]  On page 196 of the Quaker Encyclopedia Genealogy, we find that the Quaker Isaac, his wife, Hannah, and their children, Mary Ann, Abraham, Isaac H., Hannah and Samuel went to Miami, Ohio, in 1819.   None of this information lines up with the Isaac in Summers County, and the Greenbrier County book offers no corroboration on how their conclusions were reached.

    Another legend says that after their marriage, Isaac and Jean settled on the farm of his brother, Eli, near the Greenbrier River.  A few years later they bought 185 acres.  Isaac actually had a brother named Evi, but there is no documentation that he had a brother named Eli nor is there documentation that Evi obtained land or lived on the Greenbrier River.  Isaac received a land grant of 184 acres on the Greenbrier River in 1787.  The brother, Evi, was older than Isaac and would have been about 81-82 years old in 1782 when Isaac moved to Greenbrier County.  In A History of Summers County from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time (Miller, 1908), on page 43 the writer remarks that “Isaac Ballengee, Evi’s grandfather, settled at the Evi Ballengee farm about 1780.”  This may be the source of the confusion, because the Evi referred to is Isaac’s grandson (not his brother), who was the son of George Eli Ballengee.  At his death, George left Isaac’s farm to his sons, Evi and John Robert.  John Robert was killed in the Civil War.  Evi died in 1864, and it’s likely that this is the person that James Miller referred to in his book published in 1908, not Isaac’s brother, Evi.   

    Another mistaken story says that in 1787 Isaac received a land grant of 210 acres in Summers County for service with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.  Summers County was not created until 1877.  Isaac received a grant of 210 acres in Botetourt County in1772, obviously before the Revolution.  There is no documentation as of this date to indicate that Isaac served in the Revolution.  The Daughters of the American Revolution have no record of Isaac having served in the war.

    Nor is it true that Isaac received a land grant for service in the Revolution ca. 1780 nor that Jean was patented a tract of land 2 November 1800.  In 1780 Isaac lived in Botetourt County.  He moved to Greenbrier County in 1787, but there is no indication on the grant that it was made for military service.  The deed for the tract that bears the name of Jean Ballengee is Isaac’s land that was deeded to Jean after Isaac’s death.  Although it is reported that Isaac received pay for the use of horses (by the Revolutionary army) in Virginia, there is no evidence of this. Isaac is on an index of men who were paid for services during Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774 (the payment was recorded in 1775) which was before the Revolution. 

    Harmon Ballengee says that Isaac was in Cape May, NJ, in 1762 and was in the newspaper business.  Isaac is also purported to be in the newspaper business during the war.  No documentation is offered to confirm that Isaac Bellangee was ever in the newspaper business.  He lived in Botetourt County during the Revolutionary War. 

    J. Bellangee Cox writes that Isaac was the son of Ives and Christian Bellangee, which is true, but much of Mr. Cox's information is not accurate.  He says that Isaac moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, married, and had four children.  His wife died, and Isaac left the children with his brother, Samuel, when he moved to Augusta County.[5]  He further says that Isaac remarried in Virginia, left an estate with 1000 acres of cleared land, and had a number of slaves.  Supposedy his descendents in New Jersey did not respond to requests to come to Virginia for their share of the inheritance.  Isaac sent for his children in New Jersey when they were old enough to leave school, but they did not join him.  The information about the family in New Jersey has not been documented, and there were other Isaac Bellangees from that area.  Isaac's parents moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, but they lived in New Jersey from around 1701 until their deaths.  Isaac would have been born in New Jersey and raised there.  The number of total acres of land that Isaac owned in Virginia was nowhere near 1000 acres, nor did he own any slaves (slaves would have been taxed as personal property and thus appeared on county tax lists).  There was no will probated for Isaac, Sr.  

    There is also debate about who Isaac’s parents were.  There is no definitive documentation to prove that the Isaac Ballengee who settled in Augusta/Botetourt County, Virginia, was the son of Ives, Sr. and Christian Delaplaine Ballengee of New Jersey.  Some researchers think that Isaac was the son of Evi Bellangee, Jr., son of Ives (Evi) Bellangee, and Judith Richardson McClung says in her research[6] that she believes Evi, Jr. is the father of Isaac Bellangee based upon a letter written in 1839 from Edward Ballengee (grandson of Isaac Bellangee) to Aaron Bellangee (descendent of James Bellangee).  McClung quotes from the letter:

    "I have no doubt that we are of the same family [descendents of Ives Bellangee, Sr.], for I very well recollect hearing father say that his grandfather’s name was Evi, so that it appears to be quite a favorite name in the family. . . There are five of us and all are living; our names are as follows:  Evi, Edward, Isaac, Sarah Jane and James the youngest who is 24 years old.”

McClung (and other researchers) feel that if Isaac were born in 1719, he would have been too old to settle wilderness territory in Botetourt and Greenbrier Counties between 1767 and 1787 when he acquired land on the Greenbrier River.  At the time his land was surveyed in Augusta County in 1767, Isaac would have been nearly 50 years old.  His land grant in Greenbrier County was obtained in 1787 when Isaac’s age would have been about 68.  The earliest recorded date for the birth of one of his children is 1778 (Isaac was about 61 years old), and the last child was born in 1789 (Isaac was 72).  The argument is that if Isaac were born to Evi, Jr.(married first in 1724 when he was disowned by the Quakers and married secondly to Susanna English in 1738), then Isaac would have been a much younger man when he first came to Augusta County, and the dates and ages would have been more probable.      

While pioneering at an advanced age and fathering seven children at 60 to 70 years of age would be remarkable, it would not be impossible.  General Andrew Lewis, famous for the Battle of Point Pleasant during Lord Dunmore’s War, was born in 1720 and also would have been in his 50s when settling western Virginia and fighting as a soldier.  As for the reference in the letter to Isaac’s father’s name being Evi, that name is a derivative of Yves (found in documents as Yves, Eve, Ive, Ivi, Evi), and the name Evi is first found on land records when Evi Bellange, Sr. bought land there in 1697, so the name "Evi" could refer to the Bellangee who died in Burlington County, NJ, around 1720, and not necessarily his son, Evi, Jr.  So I don't have any proof that Evi Bellangee, Sr., is Isaac's father, but since Evi, Sr.'s will mentions a son, Isaac, and there is no record of Evi, Jr., having a son named Isaac, I'll say that my great-great-great-great grandfather is the son of Evi Bellangee, Sr. 

How many fantastical legends are there about Isaac Ballengee?  More than I can count.  If all of these stories were true, old Isaac would need a much longer life to accomplish everything attributed to him. Let these legends that are listed stand as proof that not everything that is printed up is true. 

[1] Email from Henry Coutanche to Janet Ballengee Estep, 11 April 2010.
[2] Butler, Jon, The Huguenots in America, 1983, p. 43.
[3] Greenbrier County Family Heritage Book, 1997, p. 30.
[4] Hinshaw, William, The Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy, 1750-1930, Vol. II, 1938, p. 197.
[5] J. Bellangee Cox Records, 6 September 1895, Volume Gen Cp-2, Genealogical Society, PA.

1 comment:

  1. One fact that I did know of was the French heritage. My dad Harry Ballengee told me this years ago.