The May 2015 edition of the “North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal” (Vol. XLI, No. 2) contains information reported by Larry W. Cates regarding several Coroner’s Inquests. Page 169 & 170. One item mentioned an item of interest regarding a coroner’s inquest held in 1784 on the body of William Ratliff. What made this of interest is the date and the manner of death.
According to Mr. Cates’ report of the inquest, a William Ratliff was killed while pursuing a robber. He was shot 5 times in the left hip and died from his wounds. As we have no firm death date for our William Ratliff (1777 Anson Co., NC will) this raised the question of whether this would have been our William or possibly some other William Ratliff. So a request for a copy of the actual inquest report was made to the North Carolina Archives who have provided a copy of this report. The report is difficult to read but in an attempt to make the information clearer to the reader, time was taken to copy it down (spelling and grammar) and it follows. The poor spelling and lack of punctuation makes it difficult to read.
This inquest taken at the home of John Cotney in the county of Anson on the 30 day of August and in 9 years of American Independence over the body of William Ratlef ——-
We the jures do say on our oath that the said William Ratlef was wounded on the 29th day of August he being with a lawful officer in sarch of George Burlew suspected of having commited a Robery and in sarching the woods nere suspected splashes (?) was heard to say George surrender at which time a gun was heard to fire by the Rest of the party which was in sarch of the said Burlew Then running to the place saw a man Running from the said Ratlef lay wounded with five shots in the lef hip of which mortal wound the said William Ratlef died on the 30 day of August and are the ? for the day that Elisbeth Burwell was there present in the woods with the person that commited the murder which we believe to be gorge.
This inquest taken before John Dejarnett one of the Justes of the said County this 30 day of August (?).
Then the members of the jury were listed although the document calls them “Burlers(?)”:
Now several things come to mind when reading this report.
First, a definite crime has been committed – murder. There has to be some type of a criminal report on this matter and George Burlew had to have been given a trial. This obviously needs to be researched further but wanted to make this information available for those who may be interested.
Several questions also arise:
Why was William pursuing old George?
Was William the one that was robbed?
Was William some type of a deputy for law enforcement?
All questions that need to be addressed.
The Anson Co., NC William Ratliff’s on which we have some information that would have been alive in 1784 in Anson Co. were reviewed:
William Ratliff (1727 to 1777) – our William. (1777 Anson Co., NC will)
William Ratliff (1760 to 1819) – son of our William and Susannah. This William married ca. 1781 and sired children after 1784, ultimately moving to Wilcox Co., AL where he died about 1819.
William Ratliff (1785 to 1839) – son of Thomas Ratliff & Sarah Diggs. Born too late to have been the William who was killed in 1784.
William Ratliff (1794 to 1884) – son of Zachariah and Elizabeth Fields. Obviously the dates don’t fit the 1784 situation.
There was one William Ratcliff who was one of the Quakers in Johnston/Dobbs Co. but his death was listed as 1795 in Orangeburg District, SC.
So unless we can locate any other William’s in Anson Co., that were alive in 1784, wouldn’t the process of elimination fit our William (1777 Anson Co., will)?
Next, it seemed appropriate to examine the names on the Inquest report.
- Couldn’t the Burlew name have been misspelled and could have been Belew or Belyeu?
- The George Dood could have been misspelled from George Dodd. Considering the poor spelling in the written inquest report, this could be a possibility.
An examination of the land transactions for the Ratliff family in Anson Co., NC reveals similar names where a possible relationship could be made with the parties named in the inquest. Three transactions could lend some support to the idea that relationships did exist between our William (1777 Anson Co., will) before he died in 1784.
Nov 1790: George Dodd sold Mary Ratliff 150 acres on Spring Branch of Cedar Creek. One of the adjoining land owners was Abraham Belew (similar to Burlew?). Notice the Abraham Belyeu as a witness in the following land transaction.
Nov 1791: Richard Ratliff sold Maliciah Gould 100 acres on branch of flat fork of Brown Creek adjoining Ralph Vickers (one of inquest jurors) land. One of the witnesses was Abraham Belyeu.
Oct. 1810: George Dodd sold Jesse Ratliff 65 acres of land lying on N/S of Savannah Creek surveyed by John Newton (possible father or brother of Mary Newton).
The Justice of the Peace at the inquest was John Dejarnett (how it is spelled in the article and the handwritten coroner’s inquest report). Did the Dejarnett family have any possible connection to the Ratliff’s? There are some “interesting” possibilities.
John DeJarnette (how we have it spelled) may have been John Thomas DeJarnette (1748-1799). He married Jemina Owen (1752-1821).
One of their children was Phoebe DeJarnette (1778- 1840). Phoebe married James Watkins (1770-1840).
One of their children was John Fletcher Watkins (1794-1859). Guess who he married? Sarah Ratliff (1800-1852). Her father was William Ratliff (1760-1819) the son of our William (1777 Anson Co., NC will) who married Mary (Polly) Henson (1764-1841). Thus the grandson (John Fletcher Watkins) of John Thomas DeJarnette married the granddaughter (Sarah Ratliff) of our William (1777 Anson Co., NC will). This son William immigrated to Wilcox Co., Alabama after 1810 where he died about 1819.
According to our records, Sarah Ratliff and John Fletcher Watkins were married about 1821 in Alabama (site is undetermined).
So this would at least provide some “circumstantial” evidence of at least an acquaintanceship between the DeJarnette and Ratliff families. But then was our John Thomas DeJarnette a Justice of the Peace in Anson Co. in 1784?
Looking through Mary Medley’s “History of Anson County, North Carolina” we find mention of a Captain John DeJarnette joining the Anson militia along with Captain James Marshall (page 41). Mention is also made of General Francis Marion (Swamp Fox) visiting Capt. DeJarnette’s house (on page 61).
Page 63 mentions a Captain John DeJarnette, along with other able leaders turning their attention to the creation of a new county seat after the revolution. Obviously Capt. DeJarnette was someone of high standing within the population and it could be conceivable that he would have been appointed (or elected) as JP.
On Page 64 we find reference of Capt. John DeJarnette again assisting in the creation of the new county seat of Anson. In looking through the appendix for Medley’s book, I cannot find any listing of the Justices of the Peace. I would strongly “suggest” that the John DeJarnette who presided over the coroner’s inquest for William Ratliff in 1784 was the same Capt. John DeJarnette who was prominent in the Revolutionary War in North Carolina and in the establishment of the new county seat of Anson.
This is certainly is “very interesting” regarding the relationship of the party’s mentioned in this inquest. While it’s not definitive proof that the inquest is for our William (1777 Anson Co., NC will), there is certainly strong “circumstantial evidence” of this possibility.
All comments and suggestions are requested and would be greatly appreciate