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The English Family, Revolutionary War and Cape Girardeau County

Thomas English (1754-1829), one of Cape Girardeau County’s Revolutionary soldiers had many adventures before moving to Cape County around 1806.

A native of Virginia, Thomas left the state at the age of 15 in 1769 and lived in Georgia with his sister for a short time. Returning to his native state, he met Jane Wicker (1759-1842), daughter of Robert and Hannah Wicker. Thomas and Jane were married in 1774 after which the two families moved to Washington Coun-ty, GA, where Robert received a government land grant.

With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Thomas was with the 4th, 8th, and 12th Regiments in his native state of Virginia. Robert, Jane’s father and her brother were also drafted into service. It is noted in family records Robert “performed patriotic service” during the war years.

For safety, the women were taken to a South Carolina fort where Jane delivered the first of their 12 children.

In 1777, Thomas with the 8th Virginia Regiment, was sent to Valley Forge to the 3rd Division under Co. Captain David Stephenson, Regiment Commander; Regiment Commander MA Marquis de Lafayette and General George Washington (from Roster of soldiers at Valley Forge). Here, Thomas suffered along with thousands of other soldiers from hunger, disease, and lack of clothing and supplies. Records show Thomas returned to Virginia in January 1778 for sickness and returned in May 1778.

In 1781, back in South Carolina, Thomas and his brother-in-law, William Wicker, fought against the Tories in the Battle of Eutaw Springs, SC, in one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Casualties were high. Thomas was wounded and taken home by William. The Muster rolls in 1779 show Thomas English at the camp at Morristown, NJ.

In 1783 at the close of the War of Independence, the English family moved back to Georgia where her parents owned a plantation.

By 1795, the Wicker family had accumulated about 2,000 acres in Washington County, GA. Times were difficult for the southern family. The Thomas English lost much of their property at the hands of the British.

After 22 years in Georgia, the Wickers and Thomas families, along with Jane’s sister, Nancy and husband John Shepard sold what they owned in Georgia and moved to Cape Girardeau County, MO.

They moved their Baptist affiliation with the Bethle-hem Baptist Church in Georgia to become the earliest members of the old Bethel Church south of Jackson. Thomas English is found on a committee in 1821 that studied and formed the rules of disorderly conduct for the small congregation.

It is believed the Thomas English family bought land from Greer Davis on the road leading from Jackson to Benton. Jane loved flowers and planted Georgia daffodil bulbs she had tucked in the wagon among their belongings.

The many English children married into other well known early settlers of Cape County: McFerrons, Evans, Hunter, and Matthews, How-ard, Kennison and Campster. Their lines continue on in the county to this day.

Along with their many wagon loads of household belongings, the couples brought slaves from Georgia to help with household and farming chores. One slave Pompey, the same age as their son, Thomas, became the plantation overseer. He was given his freedom in Thomas’ last will and testament in 1827.

Thomas’ and Janes son, John, bought a sizeable acreage in Arkansas and Louisiana. He was one of the first farmers to introduce the cotton gin in the areas. Ironically, the cotton gin became his demise. While operating the equipment, John’s shirt was caught in the gin, crushing him to death. His children were brought back to Missouri by Simeon, his brother. Simeon married Erina, daughter of Cape Girardeau county clerk, Joseph McFerron.

The patriarch of the family, Thomas English Sr. died in 1829, leaving a large estate to his widow Jane, who later died in 1842. The notice of the public sale was advertised in the Jackson paper, Mercury on November 6, 1829. The 10 surviving children and grandchildren and slaves were listed in his last will and testaments. Because John and Thomas both were deceased when Thomas Sr. died, their heirs, were listed. Upon her husband Thomas’ death, Jane was given Thomas’ slaves, household and kitchen funiture. While she was living, she had all farming utensils and stock unless she remarried (Cape Girardeau County Probate records.)

Thomas and Jane are buried in the English Cemetery under a copse of trees on a private lane along Bloom-field Road near Cape Girardeau. His grave is marked by a Revolutionary War soldier plaque.

Thomas and Jane English’ grandson, Thomas Ballew English Jr., son of John, was reared in Cape Girardeau County by his uncle Simeon, who inherited the family farm. Over years he achieved prominence. He clerked for Andrew Giboney in his store in Cape Girardeau for two years before going off with his two brothers, John and Albert, to one of the best Catholic schools of the time, St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perryville from 1831-35. The family book written by Pat Elmore states the following items were purchased from F. Rozier and Co. for the boys: “books, quills, papers, shoes, and corn for a hungry goose.” (Upon completion of his requirements, Thomas taught Greek, Latin, French, and Spanish.

Thomas Jr. went on to study law under William C. Ranney, first judge of the Cape Girardeau County Court of Common Pleas. Following the apprenticeship, he received his law license in 1834. He then was elected by the Cape County voters to become Circuit Attorney as well as serving in the Common Pleas Court.

Thomas married his first cousin, Sarah Cone Joyce of Cape Girardeau. The Joyce family of considerable wealth, moved to Cape Girardeau County from Louisiana where they kept slaves on the plantation. She attended the equivalent of St. Mary’s for Young Ladies. The marriage took place on September 17, 1834, at old St. Vincent’s Catholic Church in Cape Girardeau. They became the parents of 10 children. In 1841, Thomas served as cashier at the third branch of the Missouri State Bank in Jackson. A.H. Brevard served as its first president. (Good-speed’s History of Southeast Missouri.)

In David March’s History of Missouri, Thomas B. English was known as a “soft Democrat” from Cape Gira-deau County. He was unsuccessful against Thomas Hart Benton in the senatorial contest, but was later elected in 1860.

In 1860 Thomas B owned 15 slaves. Emma Wilkinson Medley (granddaughter) states in her scrapbook, the “cholera scourge visited Jackson in June, 1852. Many people died including three negroes of Thomas B.”

As a busy attorney, Thomas traveled on horseback to other counties on legal business. He also found it necessary to travel to Louisiana dealing with his wife, Sarah’s properties. He spent long periods of time there from 1835-38.

Besides property in Jackson, Thomas also owned tracts of land with fellow attorney, Nathanial Watkins. Four of these were in Stoddard County and Scott County.

On February 20, 1860, the English lost their first child, Teresa Josephine Wilkinson. The funeral was held in the home of her mother and father. Burial was in the Jackson Cemetery the following day.

After a painful illness of three weeks, Thomas B. died November 10, 1866, and was buried alongside his daughter. Probate records of the county give a sizeable estate for English. A seven page inventory list mentioned all items at the public auction, including household items such as beds, bureau, chairs, sofas, desks, carpets, bookcases, tables and a library of books appraised at $300.

Sarah kept an 8-volume set of Shakespeare’s writings. Besides a piano valued at $350, a buggy was appraised at $150.

In probate, living expenses were allowed including tuition and boarding in a St. Louis School for their sons, Simeon G. and Henry R.

Funeral expenses for Thomas B. were $5 to G.W. Pendergrass for digging the grave; $2 for laying foundation, $200 for monument to Douglas Howard, $25 for coffin and hauling stone from Cape to Jackson and $5 for a carriage hire to Bay and Galusky to bring Rev. S. F. McGerry and Dr. O’Hara from Cape Girardeau to Jackson.

Sarah Joyce English died on July 31, 1895, in Jackson and was buried also in the Jackson Cemetery alongside her husband.

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