MARY COX (c1740-1816),
WIFE OF THOMAS WALLING,
WAS NOT A CHEROKEE
I hope this posting will help to create a better understanding of the ancestry of Mary (Cox) Walling (born ca 1740; died 1816), wife of Thomas Walling, of Virginia. Several online sites, including personal websites at Rootsweb and other sites such as “Biography and Genealogy of the Men in William Herbert's Company in Lord Dunmore's War (1774)” at http://www.ls.net/~newriver/va/swift/herbertbio.htm,
either imply or state explicitly that Mary (Cox) Walling (c1740-1816), wife of Thomas Walling, of Virginia, was a Cherokee Indian. This allegation appears to stem from a published account, using information obtained in the 1930s, regarding Judy (Walling) Chrisman, daughter of Thomas and Mary (Cox) Walling and wife of Isaac Chrisman of Virginia and of Gasconade County, Missouri. This account made three claims:
Claim one: Judy Walling, wife of Isaac Chrisman, was a half-blood Cherokee, her mother allegedly being a full-blood Cherokee. Since we know Judy Walling was the daughter of Thomas Walling and Mary Cox, the claim would therefore be stating that Mary Cox was a full-blood Cherokee. (Note: an apparent phonetic spelling of her name was Judah – her name is given as Judy in her family Bible and in the estate administration of her husband. It appears a near certainty she was named for her maternal grandmother, Judith Woodson, wife of Stephen Cox of Cumberland County, Virginia.)
Claim two: Judy Walling’s father, Thomas Walling, lived with the tribe after his marriage and participated in tribal life.
Claim three: When Judy was a girl she witnessed the torture of a young Creek Indian who was captured by her people in one of their tribal wars. The captive was burned at the stake and her observation of his burned hands was said to be the reason that members of the Chrisman family, descendants of Judy (Walling) Chrisman, had twisted, gnarled hands.
It’s very important when conducting genealogical research to differentiate between primary sources and secondary sources. The often repeated account, broken down into the three basic claims given above, is taken entirely from a secondary source and the information was obtained well after the people it discussed were dead. It was related by someone who did not know the individuals involved. The surviving primary sources, documents dating to the lifetime of the individuals involved, easily refute the claims.
The wife of Thomas Walling can be ascertained as being Mary Cox. The family record of Isaac and Judy (Walling)Chrisman was transcribed in 1920 from their Bible published in 1785. The important entry for the issue at hand is the death entry for Mary Walling, described as the “mother of Judy Chrisman” and further identified as being the daughter of Stephen and Judith Cox of Cumberland County, Virginia. It gives Mary Walling’s date of death and her age at death. Although the information regarding her parentage wouldn’t be a primary source, the fact that the death entry, made by a family member, gives the names of her parents, indicates that it is a trustworthy and accurate account of the identity of her father and mother. The father and mother of Mary (Cox) Walling, can therefore be identified as Stephen Cox and his wife, Judith (Woodson) Cox, of Cumberland County, Virginia.
There is some discussion as to a disparity between the social positions of the Walling and Cox families. The Cox and Woodson families were of a higher social class than the Wallings. Nevertheless, the family record of Isaac and Judy (Walling) Chrisman clearly indicates the parentage of Mary (Cox) Walling. Furthermore, Mary Cox is identified as a daughter of Stephen and Judith (Woodson) Cox in family wills (Note: Mary Cox is mentioned in these wills, but they were written and proven before her marriage to Thomas Walling). Additionally, I have found a county record which shows Thomas Walling witnessing a power-of-attorney for a member of the Woodson family, a cousin of his wife, Mary (Cox) Walling. Thomas and Mary (Cox) Walling named children after members of the Cox and Woodson families. (Note: Judy Walling, daughter of Thomas and Mary (Cox) Walling, married Isaac Chrisman, who represented Lee County in the Virginia House of Delegates. This indicates a degree of prominence and this too may reflect on the association with the Cox and Woodson families. Chrisman was related to the Hite family, which had intermarried with a number of prominent Virginia families including the family of President James Madison.)
The family record taken from the Chrisman Bible, the contemporary power-of-attorney, and the names given to the Walling children all indicate that Mary Cox, wife of Thomas Walling, was a daughter of Stephen and Judith (Woodson) Cox. She was not a Cherokee Indian.
Let us examine the second claim, that Thomas Walling lived with the Cherokees. Clearly, this is not true. The Cherokee at this time lived nowhere near the area where Thomas Walling resided. He may have been, like his brother Elisha, a “long hunter,” but he resided primarily in Virginia and there are no indications that he ever resided with the Cherokee, only a claim made in the 1930s, some two hundred years after the birth of Thomas Walling. It is entirely possible he visited with the Cherokee Indians in his travels as a “long hunter.”
It is significant to point out that it was sufficiently noteworthy that an attack on Thomas Walling’s son by an Indian was mentioned in the papers of the governor of Virginia. Had Thomas Walling’s son been half-Indian and his father living with the Cherokees, this would have hardly been noteworthy as the governor likely wouldn’t have been in the habit of mentioning Indians shooting other Indians (or half-Indians). It was only noteworthy to the governor because an Indian had shot at a caucasian Virginian.
As for the third claim, although somewhat poignant, it has no basis in scientific fact. The mere fact that someone observed the disfigured hands of a burned corpse would in no way affect the hands of someone viewing them nor would they affect that person’s descendants. I would have hoped that the inclusion of this fanciful tale along with the other information would have served as an indicator to others of the poor quality of information being offered.
I reiterate, Mary (Cox) Walling, wife of Thomas Walling was NOT Cherokee. She was the daughter of Stephen and Judith (Woodson) Cox, of Cumberland County, Virginia. The ancestry of both is known and there is no Indian ancestry for either.
Setting aside the pseudo-fantasy allegations regarding Thomas and Mary (Cox) Walling, we can look to a true and proven Indian connection. As previously indicated, Thomas and Mary (Cox) Walling’s daughter, Judy Walling, married Isaac Chrisman. They eventually settled in Gasconade County, Missouri. There, a son married a woman of partial Cherokee Indian ancestry. It seems likely that a descendant of this couple probably related some aspect of her heritage to the gentleman responsible for the false account of Judy Walling and he may have taken it upon himself to ascribe it to her, incorrectly.
There also remains another possible link with Native Americans, but it does not rest with Mary Cox. Instead, we may look to Thomas Walling himself, for there is suggestive evidence that he may have had some degree of Indian ancestry. Descendants of Thomas Walling’s children: Judy Chrisman, Stephen Walling/Wallen, and Katy Herd, all made claims to the government indicating a degree of Indian heritage, citing the name of Thomas “Tom” Walling. (Note: In the case of the descendant of Judy Chrisman, the claim is in the form of a letter between a family member and a legal firm. The descendants of Stephen Walling/Wallen and Katy Herd all made government claims.)
Armed with the fact that the ancestry of Mary (Cox) Walling is established and has no Cherokee component, the only other person to whom we can look would be Thomas Walling. Could he have had some degree of Indian ancestry?
Thomas Walling is widely identified as being the son of Elisha Walling, whose ancestry is traced back to Colonial Rhode Island. Thomas Walling would have no Indian ancestry on his father’s side. There are no contemporary references to Elisha Walling’s wife, the mother of Thomas Walling. She was identified by a descendant in the mid-nineteenth century as being a Blevins and described as having blonde hair, but this descendant would no have been in a position to describe her appearance as she would have been long dead and it is unlikely a portrait ever existed. Members of the Blevins family did intermarry with the Cherokees, so it remains a possibility that Thomas Walling may have had some degree of Indian ancestry through his mother, who remains to be confidently identified.
It should be noted that a physical description of Thomas Walling’s brother, Elisha Walling, the famed “long hunter,” certainly brings to mind a description one might make of a Native American. However, such descriptions are difficult to interpret and his appearance may have been due to his time spent in the outdoors.
The fact that the claim is made that there was a “Cherokee” connection remains puzzling, as the individuals involved were not within the established realm of the Cherokee during the period.
For the sake of accuracy, the identity of Thomas Walling’s mother should be given as “unknown.” One might go so far as to say “possibly Mary Blevins, without sufficient proof.” It’s possible that she may have had some degree of Native American ancestry, but it seems unlikely to have been Cherokee. It remains debatable as to whether she would have had any degree of Native ancestry at all. Not one record has been found from the lifetime of the woman that even gives her name.
Claims of Indian ancestry may have been made for Thomas Walling, but they must be viewed in the light they were made. People were seeking monetary compensation. The claimants were making claims about people they did not know personally and it may be that they were confusing information they may have heard regarding Thomas Walling.
However, for those who are interested in pursuing the possibility, albeit slight, that Thomas Walling’s descendants had some degree of Indian ancestry, the path of research is clear. We know the ancestry of Thomas Walling’s wife. We know the ancestry of Thomas Walling’s father, Elisha Walling. There are no Indian components. By contrast, we know very little, nearly nothing, regarding the identity of Thomas Walling’s mother, the wife of Elisha Walling.
Copyright @2004 Charles M. Ward, Jr.
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