Hampton Bynum Tilly d 1843

When I first started researching John C Tilly (1837-1864), I believed that his parents were Edmond and Sarah (Ferguson) Tilly from Ashe County NC. John Tilly was in the 1850 census, right age, adjacent to the county to where he later married, had children, and died. But I’ve taken another look, and now feel I had the wrong parents attached to John. I now believe that the parents of John Tilly (who married Elizabeth Johnson and then Fannie Speer) are Hampton Bynum Tilly and Cynthia C Moore.

The 1850 census shows a John Tilly, age 12, in Johnson County, TN (JCT). Also counted in this household is Smith M Tilly, age 17. They are in the household of Green Moore, and that is the name of Cynthia Moore’s brother. Also in the household is Phillip M Kiser, son of Camilla Moore, Cynthia’s sister. Smith Moore Tilly died in 1917, and his death record names his mother as Cynthia Moore. Living in JCT but in a different household in 1850 is Samuel Tilly. His death record shows parents as JH Tilley and Cynthia Moore. Also in JCT in 1850 is William C Tilly, and his Find-A-Grave page lists his parents as Hampton Bynum and Cynthia Moore Tilley. Because Cynthia and her 5 sons and 1 daughter were all in JCT in 1850, I believe that the John Tilly who was living in that county (not Ashe Co NC) was her son. In fact, all the Tillys living in JCT in 1850 were her children.

On 10 Jun, 1849, in JCT, Cynthia C Tilly married Abraham Lowe, and had three more children with him. The marriage document doesn’t identify the parents of either party, but it does place Cynthia Tilly in JCT prior to 1850. Her daughter Mary Tilly was with Cynthia and Abraham Lowe in the 1850 census, along with his children from his previous marriage (his wife had died in 1849.)

So where was Cynthia’s first husband, Hampton Bynum Tilly? I found Hampton B Tilly in the 1840 census, living in Tyrrell County, NC. The 1840 census does not list the each family member, but the genders and ages match Cynthia and the first four sons – with the last two children being born after the 1840 census.

On 9 Sept 1842, the Rasp (a newspaper from Raleigh NC) printed the following: [Terminology and spelling copied from the original paper.] DEATH BY VIOLENCE – On Friday, the 9th instant, Mr. William Martin was deprived of life by his overseer, a Mr. Tilly, near his plantation in the northern part of this county. The reported circumstances of the murder may be briefly summed up as follows: Tilly was engaged, with Martin’s slaves, in procuring some timber, and Martin having gone out to examine the operation, some misunderstanding or altercation took place between them, which resulted in Tilly’s knocking Martin’s brains out with the butt of a gun. No other person was present, except the negroes alluded to. Tilly has been committed for trial, but says he acted in self-defence. We, however, learn from a gentleman who arrived at the fatal spot before Mr. Martin’s body was removed, that the appearance of the implement of destruction, leave a strong impression against the perpetrator of the deed. Salem Gazette

The trial was held in April 1843 in Greensborough NC, and the news story identified the prisoner as Hampton B Tilly. Many witnesses testified that Tilly, employed by Martin as overseer, held ill will toward Martin, and had carried a dirk and handguns in anticipation of encountering Martin. They testified that Tilly had complained of being poorly treated by Martin, but also that Martin had made threats against Tilly. Tilly did admit to the killing, but said it was self-defense, pointing out that he didn’t try to escape, and in fact, reported the incident to neighbors. However, so many witnesses spoke of Tilly’s animosity towards Martin that the jury in only an hour agreed upon the verdict of guilty. The defense attorney, J. T. Morehead, asked for a new trial, but it was denied.

The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court. There is a note in the documents that the prisoner was insolvent, and he was allowed to appeal without posting security. The defense argued that Tilly should have been able to use his own statements, right after the event (apparently when reporting this to neighbors) as support for his claim of self-defense – this was denied. The trial judge did correctly instruct for murder (rather than manslaughter or self-defense) if the jury believed that the defendant has malice against the deceased. The fact that the deceased was a “man of high temper” was not to be considered – only whether he was a violent and dangerous man. The appeal was denied.

On 20 Oct 1843, Hampton Tilly was ordered executed by hanging. On 4 Nov 1843, the Greensborough Patriot printed the story of the public execution, almost more as an editorial rather than a strictly factual description: By 12 o’clock a great throng had gathered at the spot—in vehicles of various descriptions, on horseback, but far most on foot. All conditions, and ages, and colors were there. Conspicuous on many a bony old carryall and shaggy mule, or tiptoeing in the crowd, were the negroes, manifesting that unsophisticated and unrestrained interest which such a scene naturally inspires in such minds. Women—“delicate and tender women!” were there: but what business or what enjoyment they had, is probably best known to that potent being who visited Eden in his wrath and instilled his spirit into the bosom of mother Eve, and who must also have put it into the tender hearts of her daughters to come and see a fellow creature hung! But most painful was it to see the little boys—and some little girls too—led up by their tiny hands to “learn a lesson” – to learn a lesson!—and, merciful heaven! To learn at the gallows!

Now the tap of the drum is heard, and the “Guards,” with their arms and uniform glittering in the sunshine, file slowly through the swaying crowd, and form a hollow square at the door of the prison. The door opens, and between two officers appears the condemned man, in a long white shroud-like robe, the cap upon his head, his arms pinioned, and a rope with the hangman’s rugged knot about his neck. The silence and the stillness are profound,–every pulse bounds quicker, and every heart swells with strange emotion, as he steps into the cart and takes his seat upon the black coffin. With measured tread the Guards march away to the knell-like tap of the muffled drum, and the crowd breaks and rushes along like a swollen stream, to the lonely spot where the gallows is erected, far from the sight and the busy haunts of men. There the tide is stayed, and the throng cluster around the criminal to catch his last accents, expecting words of fearful import at that honest hour of the murderer’s life.

The rope is tied to the gallows-tree, the cap is drawn over his eyes, the cart driven away, and he swings heavily into the air—a thousand up-turned faces pale at the sight—the whole throng shivers for a moment, as though one vast heart sent a chill through every artery—and again does stillness dwell for a time over the multitude.

The reporter went on to say that Tilly’s spirit was unsubdued, that he seemed callous and lacking feelings. He talked about 45 minutes, describing his quarrels with Martin and alleging that trial witnesses had lied. The reporter said that his manner of speaking had a tendency to convince the bystanders that the verdict of the jury was correct.

Now widowed, with five little boys under the age of 11, and pregnant with Mary, Cynthia move to Tennessee and lived near other Moore family members.   In 1849, she married Abraham Lowe. Tragedy struck the family again in about 1864, when Cynthia’s son John was shot and killed by marauders at his home. The rest of her Tilly and Lowe children lived long lives. Abraham Lowe died in 1873, and Cynthia in 1887.

A book written in 1992 by Bill Cecil-Fronsman, called Common Whites: Class and Culture in Antebellum North Carolina, p 62, says the following about the Tilly Case: [Original terms and spellings] In 1842 when an overseer, Hamton B. Tilly of Stokes County, was convicted of murdering his employer, William G. Martin, the community rallied to his aid. Not only did the petitions to the governor claim Tilly had acted in self-defense, they also implied that Martin deserved whatever fate he received. Martin apparently had an “over baring disposition”. If that were not enough, they noted “the supposition is that William G. Martin plases his overseers on a level with the negros.” Southern society may not have been a democracy in which all whites were each other’s social equals, but common whites thought it ought to be. The community had considerable power to enforce its code. If it approved of an individual’s response it might refuse to convict him for crimes he had committed (which was presumably why Martin’s family had Tilly tried in a different county). It might urge that he receive executive clemency. The community was defending its own version of the moral economy. When a planter violated some accepted right, the community would rally to restore it. Martin apparently violated Tilly’s right to be treated with the respect accorded white men. The community was prepared to support Tilly’s response, even when a life was taken. (76)   [76. GP 105, 10-183]

The newspaper clippings did not mention Tilly’s family, although his wife was mentioned in passing by at least one witness. Nothing in the paperwork proves that Hampton was John’s father. I did do an on-line search a will, but didn’t find one. Perhaps his status as “insolvent” precluded the need for a will. The stories did identify Hampton’s father as David.

Hampton and Cynthia can be found in on-line trees at Ancestry – his birthdate is often given as 12 Nov 1805 in Stokes County NC. Sadly, for all the trees – nearly 100, none have documentation such as a birth, marriage, or death record, and just a couple have the 1840 census attached.

Hampton Tilly’s father’s will was written in 1859. While most of the elder David’s sons and daughters were recognized to greater or lesser extent, some receiving land and livestock, David only provided for (now deceased son) Hampton’s second son, David G, giving him a horse, bridle, and saddle worth $50, but Hampton’s other heirs got “one dollar and no more.”   Perhaps Hampton’s family was being punished for pro-Union sympathies – as it appears that only David G Tilly served in CSA. But however the family might have been divided during the Civil War, Hampton’s sons Smith Moore Tilly and David Green Tilly both moved to Clay, Illinois, dying there in 1917 and 1918. Sons Samuel and William stayed in Johnson County TN, dying in 1926 and 1918. Daughter Mary Tilly Garland also died in JCT in 1926.




  1. Diane said,

    May 23, 2015 at 20:24

    Great research Susan! Nice to read you again 🙂

    • sooze471 said,

      May 23, 2015 at 20:25

      That was quick! Thanks for your help with the research.


  2. Charles said,

    July 11, 2015 at 17:25

    I do not believe that Cynthia Moore was the wife of Hampton B Tilley of Stokes County, NC that was hung. As far as I can tell, Hampton never left Stokes county except to visit locally and for his trial and hanging. Hampton was married to Julia Ann “EAST”, who is referenced in Hampton’s father David’s will as his “daughter’ when in fact she was his daughter-in-law. She is shown as Julia East in her son David S Tilley’s (mentioned in David’s will) death certificate dated 1922. David apparently left the majority of his assets to Julia as compensation for the stigma of his son Hampton’s actions and hanging. There was an appeal to the will, apparently contesting the terms that his natural children got “one dollar and no more”.. The appeal was turned down and the will was ordered filed as written. Note that Hampton’s children other than the mentioned David (Dumps) and Robert P also received “one dollar and no more”. This apparently handled the possibility of Hampton fathering children other than David S and Robert P and them filing a claim against his estate. As further proof, David Tilley’s 1850 census shows a John and Lydia East also living with him, his wife Polly, and Julia and her children. John was apparently Julia’s brother and Lydia (Tilley) his young wife, as evidenced by their marriage license.

    • sooze471 said,

      July 12, 2015 at 08:20

      Thank you for reading my post and taking time to write such a long comment with alternate information. I agree that Hampton probably lived his life in Stokes, but it would be reasonable for his widow and children to move away, particularly to a place where she has other family living. David Green Tilly’s obit says he was born in 1834 and at age 8 moved to TN. That is consistent with Hampton’s arrest, trial, and execution. I don’t have a copy of the original of the will David (father of Hampton) so I’m working from transcriptions I found on line. The only definite link to a child of Hampton is in the fourth provision where David bequeaths to “my grandson David C Tilley son of Hampton” a horse, and the remainder of the heirs of Hampton (not named) $1 and no more. Reading the transcription, it seems like “my daughter Julia Ann” does get the majority of the assets, but if she was the wife/widow of Hampton, why are the second and fourth provisions set apart from each other? If he wanted to provide compensation to Julia for Hampton’s actions, why (except for David C) did Hampton’s heirs get only $1. Towards the end, where David wants the remaining property sold and the money divided among his children, he names the daughters, and says wife of. Julie Ann is listed as wife of Alexander Rutledge. I think that David s/o Julia and David C son of Hampton are not the same person. David son of Julia was born in 1846 (age 14 in the 1860 census living with Julia and the elder David) but Hampton died in 1843. It would be reasonable for David (the elder) to have more than one grandson named for him. The transcript I found listed Julia’s sons as Robert Pink Tilley(?) and David Tilley(?) almost as though the person doing the transcribing was guessing at the last names.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to provide the alternate information. Perhaps someone else reading this can contribute. I found an old (2001) posting on line that said family information passed down about Cynthia Moore said that she was previously married to Hampton Tilley in Stokes NC and had six children, before marrying Abraham Lowe. I will try to track down David S Tilley’s death certificates and other documents you mention.

  3. Charles said,

    July 12, 2015 at 23:16

    I am very open to a debate on Hampton as I have been struggling with what happened to him for quite a few years now and what role did Julia Tilly play in the family and why was she singled out in the will of David Tilly. I have seen the original of the will back in 1997 at the NC archives and have a copy of it in my files at home and have its scan posted with my attempt at an extract on ancestry in a private family tree that I would gladly make available to you upon request. My wife descends from David S Tilly, assumingly mentioned in the will.

    Julia is definitely an East as listed in David S. death certificate noted above. The catch is that the certificate lists his father as David Tilly, Sr, which I assumed points to the David Tilley who owns the will. Why? David S is shown 14 years old living with David [Sr?], Julia, and Robert P in the 1860 census, That would place his birth around 1846 AFTER Hampton B was hung. It would also mean that David Tilly in the census should be his father, but Sr is listed as 90 years old. I took the assumptions that the accuracy of the census and father listed in the death certificate was suspect, Robert P is shown as 6 years old in the 1850 census with David [Sr?], his wife Polly, Julia, and John and Lydia East as mentioned above but NO David S, who based on the 1860 census should be 4 at this time. Why no David??? Robert P’s birth would have been 1844, again AFTER Hampton B’s hanging. Robert P, died in the civil war from wounds suffered the first day of fighting at Gettysburg. No death certificate or record that I can find listing his parents other than using the 1850 & 60 census’. Anyway, that is what I’ve been fighting for almost 20 years now in my research.

    Questions per your response…. You say David Green Tilly’s obit says he was born in 1834 and at age 8 moved to TN That would be 1842 around the time of Hampton’s hanging. That being the case, why would David Tilly leave him anything in the will when the will was written in 1859, some 17 years after DGT’s move to Tennessee??? I doubt that the Tennessee crew was heard from though I have no proof, so for all David knew they were no longer a concern, so why leave DGT the horse bridle and saddle in 1859 if he was the David mentioned? If my David is the one mentioned and Hampton was his father, then mentioning him separately as son of Hampton would make sense to differentiate him from any other David’s in the family. Just a thought. In the hard copy of the will, it appears that the ink smeared at this line. There is something that resembles a printed G, but if so, it would be out of place as everything in the rest of the will is written cursive script. It appears that if the letter was written cursive, that the right-hand side of the letter smeared, and based on comparisons with the remainder of the will, it could be a David “B” or “R” (no S), but I’d have to go back and see the original again to be more sure of what it was. A copy does not cut it.

    Also, though William C Tilly’s Find-A-Grave page lists his father as Hampton Bynum, what is it’s source? Family tradition? Someone’s hunch? I use Find-A-Grave for guidance but do not count it as accurate until I have a verifiable source document to back it up.

    Looking forward to your thoughts in trying to give me better confidence in the answer to the riddle of how these players are related. 🙂 -Charles

  4. Charles said,

    July 13, 2015 at 09:29

    Also forgot to add that Julia is not listed as the wife of Alexander Rutlege in David’s will, David’s daughter Polly was. Julia is not connected to anyone. Below is my Extract from the will:

    “divided equally between any children namely Reuben D Tilly, Nancy the wife of Thomas Reddick, [Alsa] Tilly, Martha the wife of Philip Mc[caster], Elizabeth the wife of Henry Tuttle, Julia Ann Tilly, Polly the wife of Alexander Rutlege, Phebe the wife of John Tuttle share and share alike with said children.”

    • sooze471 said,

      July 13, 2015 at 09:59

      That makes much more sense – the transcription I was using said “Julie Ann Tilly (Pilly) the wife of Alexandra Rutledge.” Using your transcription, the marriage record for Rutledge to Mary Tilly fits – Mary was probably Mary/Polly just like her mother. And McCaster is much more likely to be McCarter/McCarta as seen in later records. A good example of why it is so important to use original records when they can be found, rather than a transcription or index.

  5. Charles said,

    July 24, 2015 at 13:37

    To all
    Susan has convinced me with private email correspondence between the two of us that her proposed scenario of family relationships is more apt to be correct than my proposal. As a result, I have discarded my link between Julia Ann and Hampton B Tilly in my family tree and am in the process of further verifying what she has before adding her information to my tree. So far, it seems she is right with the available information we have to go on. To note, my original assumptions were made back in 1997 and were based on my interpretation of the 1859 will of David Tilly as well as the 1840-1880 census information containing David, Julia, Robert P, and David S Tilly, as well as John and Lydia East. Since then, new information has appeared on the internet, especially the recent discovery of the trial for murder and subsequent hanging of Hampton. We discussed removing my earlier comment but I suggested leaving it to show how important it is to review earlier assumptions you have made in your tree for which you do not have iron clad relationships for, as you may ultimately by proved incorrect. Much thanks to Susan for her research and help with this and her very useful blog.

  6. Laurie Duncan Mathews said,

    August 6, 2015 at 18:04

    This is very interesting! Thank you Susan for leaving your comment on my website about Hampton’s death. I had sort of abandoned since I haven’t had internet in over a year. You have motivated me to get back to work on it as soon as possible. Hampton’s brother Reuben Dodson Tilley is my great, great, great, grandfather.

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