Mount Airy, Mayberry, Siamese Twins and My Dudley Family

#52 Ancestors   Week 16    Air

Mt Airy North Carolina map

Mount Airy, North Carolina has a couple “claims to fame.”  For one, it was the birthplace and hometown of actor Andy Griffith.  In his television show, the town of Mayberry was inspired by this town of Mount Airy nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Another fact about the town is that it was the residence of Chang and Eng Bunker, the famed conjoined “Siamese Twins” who are buried just two miles from the main street.   Many of their descendants live in the area today.  In fact, the 200 acres of land acquired by Chang and Eng were previously owned by my ancestor and fifth great grandfather, Charles Dudley, in 1782!  (So very interesting!)

When I saw the prompt “Air,” I immediately thought of my ancestral Dudley Family who settled in Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina!  Charles Dudley and Robert Dudley, in particular, raised their families in that area.  Charles and Robert were originally from Caroline County, Virginia where Robert was born on 30 December 1772.   He was the son of Charles and Mary Dulyin.   Luckily, I can confirm Robert’s birth date as it was mentioned in his father’s Anglican Church Prayer Book and Psalms!   That was a great find, especially from the 1700s!


dudley, charles, bible record closeup 001
Charles Dudley’s Psalm Book noting births of himself, wife Mary, daughter Judith and son Robert Dudley. 


Before 1777, the Charles Dudley family moved to Surry County, North Carolina, just 3 miles south of the Virginia border, where Charles had received several land grants.  During the mid-to-late 1700s, the availability of land in North Carolina drew thousands of settlers from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.  The process of patenting land in North Carolina was not really hard.  Anyone wanting to patent land just submitted an application or land entry to the land office and the land officer then issued a warrant. Surveyors surveyed the land and sketched a plat or map of the land claim which was filed in the land office or, after 1777, recorded by the county register of deeds.  Then the land patent was issued and recorded!

Charles Dudley’s first land grant Warrant of Survey is dated Nov. 21, 1777 in Surry County.  Three other grants at various dates were issued to him totaling about 1000 acres. Some of this land was on the Ararat River in Surry County and this is the river that flows through Mount Airy.  I am really puzzled as to the parentage of Charles.  One source claims he was the son of a wealthy nobleman in England but he ran away to seek adventure and went with a neighbor to America.  He established himself as a sort of sporting English Squire on his land and was a hospitable man who loved fast horses. You can read more about Charles in my post The Challenge of Finding Charles Dudley

Charles’ son Robert married a cousin named Clarissa Ross in about 1791 in North Carolina.  Clarissa was the daughter of Captain William Ross of Amherst County, VA and Rachel Coxey or Rachel Fugate (conflicting sources – needs more research!)  Clarissa’s family had also taken advantage of the land warrants offers in North Carolina.  Robert and Clarissa were both 19 when they married and went on to have ten children.  Their firstborn child was James Ransom Dudley, my third great-grandfather.  Robert and Clarissa did have their farm on Stuart Creek (Stewart’s Creek).  I found Robert’s name on the 1812 tax list for Surry County and, according to census records, they remained in the Mount Airy region.

Robert died in 1834 and left a will (see below):




Dudley, Robert Will 001
Robert Dudley’s Will.


The important thing to note in the will is that he wished “his property to remain as it then was and wished no division take place in the same until after the death of his wife or widow and until his daughters or children are all married.”   However, four years later in 1828, there was a sale of his personal estate and his widow Clarissa was living with her daughter Betsy and son-in-law, Hardin Herring, so the wishes of Robert were not carried out as he stated in his will.   Perhaps there was an agreement by his children and widow to dispose of his estate in this manner.   Clarissa Dudley lived until 1860.  It is quite possible that they both were buried in the Herring-Dudley Cemetery in Mount Airy, North Carolina.

Mount Airy NC Twp Map 001
Map of Surry County Townships with Mount Airy at the top.  Highlighted rivers: Stewart’s Creek (left) where Robert Dudley owned land and the Ararat River where Charles Dudley owned land.




  • The Heritage of Surry County; Surry County Historical Society, Family #209, P. 166.
  • Connor, R. D. W. History of North Carolina-North Carolina Biographies. Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, New York, 1919, Vol. 5, p. 76.
  • Charles Dudley Family Bible Record, 1749-1830; State Archives of North Carolina; North Carolina Digital Collections.
  • Yates Publishing, U. S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2004.
  •  Wikipedia, citing Mount Airy, North Carolina.
  • Cerny, John & Mark, Gareth L: Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources; North Carolina Land Records ( Wiki)

John Taliaferro of Snow Creek

#52ancestors     Prompt:  Water  (Week 14)

I found that many of my ancestors settled near rivers and streams which makes perfect sense as a source of water is a vital need.  Water was also used for transportation of people and goods – a way to connect with the rest of the settlers and the world.  Since this theme is water, I thought of an ancestor named John Smith Taliaferro.  John was the father of Mildred Taliaferro whom I wrote about recently.  You can read part of her story here – Mildred Taliaferro: A Strong Woman!  Just about every source identified John Taliaferro as “John of Snow Creek”  as that is where he settled and established his homestead in 1707.   Snow Creek flows into the Rappahannock River a short distance from Fredericksburg, Virginia.   John settled above Snow Creek below the falls, and there were then but three settlements above his house on the south side of the Rapidan River.  Settlements above the falls had been burned out by Indians in 1707.


Spotsylvania Co Map, taliaferro, John 001
Snow Creek runs into the Rapidan River in the upper left corner of Spotsylvania County VA.  John Taliaferro was in the Fredericksburg area. 


John Taliaferro was born in 1687 in Golden Vale Swamp, Essex County, Virginia.  I am thinking that this was a community, not an actual “swamp!”  He was the son of John “The Ranger” Taliaferro (He may have an interesting story!) and Sarah Smith.  His father deeded additional land to him in 1717 as shown by this deed extract below.  The land was in Spotsylvania County on the Rapidan River, “amongst ye Little Mountains.”

John Taliaferro of St. Mary’s Parish, Essex County, to John Taliaferro, junr son to the aforesaid John of same For natural love and affection Two plantations with 1000 acres on the upper side of Snow Creek in the forke thereof which was formerly given to me by my brother Fran Taliaferro late of said parish by deed of gift” (signed by Jno. Taliaferro)

spotsylvania County sign, taliaferro, John 001When John Taliaferro and Francis Thornton settled there on Snow Creek, that section belonged to Essex County, Virginia and was later incorporated into Spotsylvania County. They were not only near neighbors but also brothers-in-law.  John married Mary Catlett on 22 December 1718, daughter of John Catlett, Jr. and Elizabeth Gaines, his wife, and Francis Thornton had married John’s sister, Mary Taliaferro.   The Catlett’s owned a large estate at the mouth of Golden Vale Creek in present Caroline County.

Evidently, John of Snow Creek was a man of some note in the community.   He was a Justice of Spotsylvania in 1720.  The county seat of newly formed Spotsylvania was Germana and on 1 Aug 1722, six justices or magistrates were sworn in, one being John Taliaferro.  John was also known as a vestryman of St. George’s Parish in 1725.   A vestryman is not a cleric but one who would probably be like a church board member or a deacon today.   In some sources, he is identified as Major John, who was requested “to bring up the Surplice” in 1730 to the established church at Germana, a community of German settlers.  This puzzled me so I looked up what a “surplice” was and found it was an outer garment worn by clergy.  So was John was delivering church garments?  – still not sure on this but I did find a military record so it may have to do with something military.

Spotsylvania Courthouse, 1700s Taliaferro, John 001John Taliaferro was an officer in the Spotsylvania County Militia.  In order to receive their commissions, the officers had to take the requisite oath of office to the crown.  John was listed in 1736 as Lt. Col. John Taliferro.

John and Mary Taliaferro had six known children including two sons, Lawrence and William Taliaferro and four daughters named Martha, Lucy, Mary and Mildred.  Mildred was called “Molly” in John’s will.   Mary, their daughter, may have died before John as she was not named in his will.  Eventually, John had amassed huge land holdings – thousands of acres as witnessed by the land records I have just begun to study.


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Hickory Neck Church and Cemetery

John died 7 August 1744 at Snow Creek at about age 57 and son Lawrence passed in 1748 at age 27 years old.  They were both buried at Old Hickory Neck Church in James City County which is near the present village of Toana.  Although their tombs were once well preserved, no trace of them remains today.  A few fragments of the stone of Lawrence was found and then embedded in the cement floor of the small entry porch of the old church.

Hickory Neck Church sign - taliaferro, John 001Mary Catlett Taliaferro lived to age 79 and passed in 1771 in Essex County, Virginia.  Daughter Martha married William Hunter in 1744 and died in 1750 in Fredericksburg. Her sister Lucy Taliaferro married Col. Charles Lewis and died after 1768 in Port Roayl, Caroline County, VA.   Daughter Mary, as mentioned before, died before her father and had married Joseph Jones.  Lawrence was married to Susannah Power and his brother William of “Snow Creek” had married twice:  firstly to Mary Battaile and secondly to Elizabeth Taliaferro of “Epsom”.  William died in 1798 at age 71 at his plantation, Newington, on Mountain Run in Orange County, VA.  Mildred Taliaferro married Samuel James and her story is linked above.  She was my fifth great-grandmother which makes John Taliaferro and Mary Catlett my sixth great-grandparents.  There will be more to come on the interesting Taliaferro family!

Virginia map and Spotsylvania Co., Taliaferro, John 001Sources:


  • Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia; Ancestry Operations, Inc., Provo, UT, USA, 2002, Repository: Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
  • Ancestry and Posterity of Dr. John Taliaferro and Mary (Hardin) Taliaferro; Chapter IV, p. 101 (citing the first John Taliaferro)
  • West, Edmund, comp., Family Data Collection – Individual Records [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2000.
  • Some Prominent Virginia Families, Vol. 1-4, p. 14,, 2005.; Also, Vol. II, p. 736-737.
  • Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt, Comp.; Virginia’s Colonial Soldiers: A Supplement.  Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly and Magazine of Virginia Genealogy.
  • 1717-1721 Essex County, Virginia Wills, Inventories and Settlements of Estates No. 3; An American Family History, [John Frederick Dorman], Pages 157-59.
  • Chalkley, Lyman. Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, 1745-1800.  Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1965. Originally published in 1912.