Friday, October 14, 2011

In Search of "Pioneer" William Bradshaw

In response to my call for old property to search, I got an email from Lane Watson of Lane Watson Photography, telling me to check out some old farmland near his home.

Rewind all the way back to 1804.  Thomas Bradshaw drafted a deed for his son, who genealogists have taken to calling "Pioneer William".  The deed transferred 100 acres on Meadow Creek in Haw River, bordering the lands of Jonathan Thompson and William Bradshaw Sr. (Thomas' brother), from Thomas Bradshaw to his son Pioneer William.

William (1783-1852) is listed in his father's household in the 1810 census prior to serving as a teamster in the war of 1812.  He is then listed as head of household in the 1820 census.  During this time, William had a son (also named William) and was likely wed, although there is no record of the union.  William's second marriage was to Elinor “Nelley” Turner in 1823.  Nelley passed away in 1825, probably in childbirth with her son (confusingly enough, also named William).  Pioneer William then married Mary Ann Brewer in 1827.  Their eldest son was named Thomas Lafayette Bradshaw, born in 1935.

1850 Census showing William, Mary Ann, and Thomas Lafayette Bradshaw

Thomas L. Bradshaw did not pass away until 1914, and thus his name appears on the 1893 Spoon Map of Alamance County, near Meadow Creek and bordered by the lands of various Bradshaw's and Thompson's.  Not far from where this house appears on the map, the Bradshaw Family Cemetery lies nestled amongst the trees, containing the final resting place of William Bradshaw and his second and third wives, along with two of William's sons killed fighting for the Confederacy and several other family members.  I believe that Pioneer William lived here prior to 1825 (and perhaps his parents as well, going back before the 1804 deed).

William Luther Spoon Map of Alamance County, 1893

It was here that I was being asked to investigate today with modern technology to search for traces of the past.  I started off around a depression where an outbuilding likely stood, but besides some age-whitened lead, came up empty handed.  I had intended to search some of the fields, but tall grass made it difficult to get good depth.  None-the-less, I recovered a number of fishing related items along the edge of the pond.

At this point, I asked for (and was given) permission at a neighboring house, which was believed to have been built around the turn of the century.  The results here included a few wheatback pennies going back to the 1920's, a chipped glass marble, and a large number of cut nails dating from the mid-late 19th century.  I'm unsure if this was the original home site of T. L. Bradshaw (or Pioneer William), but the topography and the age of the trees suggest it is plausible.  The Spoon map is inconclusive in this regard - the house on the map appears further south east in relation to Salem Church Road, but it lines up with the standing ca. 1900 house in relation to Meadow Creek.  I hope to obtain permission to search the area south-east of the standing ca. 1900 house in the future, to determine if it is a possible location for Pioneer William's house.

While I wasn't able to locate anything to date the site specifically, I still consider the day a success.  I got out to enjoy the beautiful weather, added a few things to my collection, and met some great people.  I was also able to learn more about our locale history, and share that with you all.  I'd like to thank Lane for emailing me the tip, and Terri Bradshaw O'Neill for the research help.  With the landowners' permissions, I will certainly be back to investigate this area, because there is a lot of ground left to cover.  Hopefully someday I will be able to prove the location of the original settlement of Pioneer William Bradshaw.

Thanks for reading, and God bless!


  1. Fantastic research! I can't wait what else you find there. I wish I had places like that around here although the history around here is interesting as well.

  2. Thanks! I certainly hope I can track down the right spot!

  3. Thank you for this blog. Thomas Lafayette Bradshaw was my father's great grandfather. You have now inspired me to want to find this cemetery and surrounding land you have walked. (Tracy Thompson McPherson, Raleigh, NC)