Monday, December 1, 2014

Estep Stories from the Frontier

Esteps in the United States
The Esteps from Maryland lived in the Colonies, but now the family, no matter which state they move to, belong to a new nation called the United States of America.  After the colonial period the Thomas Estep families branched into Virginia and points west, establishing farms in North Carolina, Virginia, what is now West Virginia, and Kentucky.  In the Thomas Estep book, John (the son of Thomas Estep, Sr.) is listed as the “probable” father of Shadrach Estep, who was born about 1760-65 in Frederick County, Maryland.[1]  Shadrach is thought to be the father of Joel Estep, Sr. who was the father of our Wesley Estep, born in Floyd County, Kentucky, and died in West Virginia. 
Continuing in the vein of blending what we know with what seems probable, John Estep was born to Thomas and Mary Estep, Sr. in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, 4 March 1738, but it is not known when he died or where he is buried.[2]  Neither is there any record of whom he married.  After his birth, John Estep is absent from records in Maryland which lends credence to the theory that he did not own land in Maryland (no taxes, no deeds, etc.).
Families usually lived near each other or with each other on farms, and when a move was planned, it was customary for one of the sons to go ahead to the new territory to locate available land and clear it, then to build cabins and mills in preparation for the other family members to move.  If John Estep did not own land in Maryland but lived on his father’s land, he may not have left any records until he moved to Rowan County.  John, along with his brothers, Samuel and Shadrach, may have been the Esteps who first went to North Carolina in preparation for the move of Thomas, Sr. and Jr. in 1772. 
In the 1771 tax list for Surry County, North Carolina, a John Step is listed.  John Estep is found on the tax list of Rowan County in 1778, along with Samuel and Shadrach Eastep.  During the build-up to the Revolutionary War, men in North Carolina were required to sign an oath of allegiance to the state.  John Easteb took this oath on 5 August 1778.  For 21 years there are no records for John until he appears on the 1800 Russell County, Virginia, tax list with his sons Samuel and Shadrach.   
Writers of the Thomas Estep book think that there was ill feeling between Thomas Estep, Jr. and his brothers.  Thomas, Jr. lived in Rowan County, and the other Esteps lived in what eventually became southern Davie County, so there was something of a geographical separation.  Of the Esteps from Maryland, William’s and Robert’s families seem to settle close to each other, Thomas, Jr.’s  sons migrated to Indiana with William’s sons, and the sons of John and Shadrach inhabited Virginia, southeast Kentucky and West Virginia.  
Thomas Estep, Jr., is listed as a patriot with the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Thomas "rendered material aid" which means he assisted by providing food, horses, equipment, services, etc. to the American forces.  The DAR lists his residence as Rowan County, North Carolina and shows his death as before  2 November 1807.  Generally speaking, men who were considered too old to serve as a soldier contributed by "rendering material aid".  Born 3 November 1730, Thomas, Jr. would have been about 46 years old in 1776.  The DAR names three wives of Thomas:  Delilah, Susannah, and Hannah M. Cannon.
          There are no land records to show when John left North Carolina and went to Russell County, Virginia, but he appears on Russell County tax lists from 1800 through 1810, around the time that Thomas, Jr. died. .  By 1810 his sons Samuel and Shadrach have moved to Kentucky, and John is 72 years old.  He died sometime between 1810 and 1820.  Samuel left Adair County, Kentucky, in 1816 to return to Russell County, possibly because of the illness, advanced age, or death of his father. 
          Of John’s two known sons, Shadrach, the younger, was the first to marry.  He was born 1760-1765, probably in Frederick County, Maryland.  He married a woman named Elizabeth around 1780-1784, and their first child, Cornelius, was born around 1785 in North Carolina.  Samuel married Mary Lane in Green County, Tennessee in 1788. 
Shadrach’s first three children said they were born in North Carolina, and his next two claimed Virginia as their birth place.  Based on this it is assumed that Shadrach moved to Russell County, Virginia, around 1792.    Shadrach appears on the 1798 Russell County (now Scott County) tax list.  In 1799 Samuel, Shad's brother, appears also on the list with Shadrach.   
          The brothers and their wives were members of the Stoney Creek Church in Blackmore, Virginia, (which is in present-day Scott County) pointing to the close relationship between them and contributing to the assumption that they are brothers.[3]  In the minute books of the church, Shad Estep, Samuel Estep, and Mary Estep are listed as members before 1819.  
In the minute books of Stoney Creek Baptist Church “Shadrick” and Elizabeth Estep are received into the church by letter on 26 January 1805.[4]  Shadrick is also mentioned on 28 December 1805 when the church agrees to send him a letter asking him to make satisfaction to the church concerning a transgression. 
In 1805 Shadrach sold his land on Copper Creek in Russell County and moved to Floyd County, Kentucky.  In 1807 Samuel moved to Adair Co., Kentucky, and the brothers lived near each other until Samuel returned to Scott County, Virginia, in 1816.
           Shadrach left Elizabeth in Floyd County when he moved to Adair County.  Around 1813 he met a woman in Adair County named Sarah Newsom.  From this point on, Shadrach’s life was, to say the least, unsettled.  He moved so often that information of his whereabouts is presented in a chart. 
5 Occurrence of Shadrach Estep in Official Records
Floyd Co., KY, on the census
Adair Co., KY where he witnessed a deed, on the tax lists
Clay Co., KY on the tax lists
Harlan Co., KY on the census
Harlan Co., KY on the tax lists
Floyd Co., KY Elizabeth Estep (his wife) on the census
Clay Co., KY received a land grant for 50 acres on Laurel Fork
Clay Co., KY on the tax lists
Perry Co., KY on the tax lists
Harlan Co., KY on the tax lists
Sold his land in Clay Co., gave his address as Perry Co., KY
Clay Co., KY on the tax lists and the census
Kanawha Co., VA, married Sarah Newsom (Elizabeth had died.)
Kanawha Co., VA, census (may have died shortly before the census)

            Shadrach’s son, Joel, appeared in the Kanawha County records in 1835, and Shadrach probably followed him there because Shadrach’s sons, William and Andrew, both said they were born in Harlan County, Kentucky, in 1828 and 1832 respectively.   After his wife, Elizabeth, died around 1839, Shadrach was able to marry Sarah Newsom, which he did on 18 April 1839 in Kanawha County. All of the known children of Shadrach and Sarah Newsom were born between 1821 and 1832.
Although Shadrach is listed as the head of household in the Kanawha County census in 1840, no listing is included for a male age 75-80 years old, so he probably either died right before the census or the census taker made an error (which is not uncommon).  At any rate, Shadrach died around this time; his second wife, Sarah, appears on following censuses as a widow. 
Joel Estep, Sr. (born about 1788, probably in Rowan Co., NC) is listed as the son of Shadrach Estep by the writers of the Thomas Estep book.  It’s noted that it is possible that he could also be the youngest son of John Estep (born 1738) of Russell County because John and Shadrach appear there on the 1810 tax list.  John Estep is listed as being excused from paying taxes because of his age.  There is no proof of the parentage of Joel, but he seems to follow Shadrach in his various travels; this connection contributes to the conclusion by the writers of the Thomas Estep book that he is the son of Shadrach.   
          Joel was born around 1788 in North Carolina, probably Rowan County, and died around 1866 on the Estep Fork of Laurel Creek in Boone County, West Virginia.  Joel’s first wife was Nancy (Nelson?); they probably were married in Russell County, Virginia.  Nancy died around 1830-1831; Joel then married Rebecca Hall on 18 June 1831 in Pike County, Kentucky. 
          Around 1816-1817 Joel moved from Russell County, Virginia, to Floyd County, Kentucky, and lived there until he moved to Kanawha County, Virginia.  Boone County was formed from Kanawha County in 1847, so Joel may not have actually moved to Boone County, but lived in the part of Kanawha that eventually became Boone County. 
          One amazing fact of Joel Estep’s life is that he is thought to have had 24 children, 12 by each wife.[5]  Only three of the children have not been identified by name.  They may have died in infancy.
          Joel obtained 90 acres in 1839 on a branch of Laurel Creek of Big Coal River.  The Big
A section of the Coal River in West Virginia.
Coal River rises in Raleigh County as two streams, the Clear Fork and the Marsh Fork, which join near Whitesville. The river then flows generally northwest through Boone County.  David Turner in the Thomas Estep book writes that current residents near the head of the creek still refer to the branch as “Estep Fork”.[6]  Turner reports that as late as the 1960s evidence of the old Estep house could still be found, such as the rocks that formed the foundation, some square-cut nails, and broken pottery.  A cliff overhang gave evidence of “white man” occupation, and Turner surmises that Joel and Rebecca Estep may have lived under the cliff until the more permanent home was built.  When Joel died after the Civil War, his son, Enoch, lived in the old Estep house. 
      The Esteps pushed westward as the new nation developed.  At this time of their history, the family connections are not clearly defined, leaving much information and documentation to be found.  One of Joel Estep's sons, John Wesley Estep, was born Floyd County, Kentucky, in July 1825.  Wesley was part of the great American Civil War, and his descendents are easily documented. 

[1] Thomas Estep, p. 202.
[2] Thomas Estep, p. 171.
[3] Thomas Estep, p. 176.
[4] Stony Creek Baptist Church Minute Books, 1801-1811, Jenny Stillwell, 
[5] Thomas Estep, p. 216.
[6] Thomas Estep, p. 216.


  1. Hi Janet, I am descended through your Wesley's older brother Pleasant Estep. It is good to see your blog site. I have studied this interesting family for the past couple of years and though I haven't spent much time on Wesley, he has shown up as a witness on Civil War pension applications of his nephews. I also have some further info on Rufus that you may be interested in. It would be great to trade information.

    Mark Bryant

  2. Thank you for this! I've been researching my husband's family tree and it's been a bear!
    I haven't been able to find any documents saying that Shadrach is John's son... it's all just been "assumed" do you have any documentation (birth or death certificates) that could verify this for me??

  3. Thank you for the information. I am Pamela Estep, a descendent of >John Ralph Estep>Lenville Van Buren Estep>James T Estep>William W Estep>Elijah Estep>Joel Estep>Shadrach>John Estep>Thomas Estep. Would like to know more about Thomas Estep.

  4. Thank you for the information. I am Pamela Estep, a descendent from John Ralph Estep>Lenville Van Buren Estep> James T Estep> William W Estep>Elijah Estep>Joel Estep>Shadrack Estep.John Estep>Thomas Estep. We are having a ESTEP family reunion August 5th at noon at Roosevelt Lake picnic shelter near West Portsmouth, Ohio. Would love to connect with more Esteps. My father John is 91 years old and will be there. Contact me at for more information.