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Gwinn Family

County Tyrone Arms showing the Red Hand of the Ui Neill

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The Gwinn Family

A Single Line of Descent from Robert Gwin, Sr. of Augusta County, Virginia

The Gwinn family was until recently believed to be of Welsh descent. However, Y-DNA testing of three documented descendents of Robert Gwin, Sr. matched the Northwest Irish Modal Haplotype (R-M222).  This rare haplotype appears in only 10 percent of men in Ireland.  A  study conducted by Trinity College Dublin noticed a close relationship of this haplotype with surnames associated in the traditional Irish genealogies with the Ui Neills--Irish and Scottish dynasties claiming descent from the Irish warlord and High King, Niall Noigiallach or "Niall of the Nine Hostages." 

For a detailed look at the Y-DNA evidence see:  The Origins of the Gwinn Family

Robert Gwin, Sr. of the Calfpasture River, Augusta County, Virginia came to America from Northern Ireland sometime before 1744.  Today, literally thousands of his descendents live across the entire United States.  This webpage traces one line of descent from Robert Gwin, Sr. to my grandfather Basil Hilbert Gwinn.

In 2001, a memorial to the Robert Gwin family was erected in the Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church graveyard by my cousin and fellow Gwinn researcher, Dr. Diane Gwinn Schaaf.  The church is located just south of Deerfield, Virginia off State Route 600.











Left: The Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church graveyard looking towards Great North Mountain. The Gwin Family memorial is marked with an asterisk in the photo.   The face of the memorial, shown at right, reads:


In loving memory of the Robert Gwin family who lived in this valley in the mid-1700s. Robert was appointed constable at the head of the Great Calfpasture River in 1746.  He served with Captain William Preston's Company of Rangers in the French and Indian War, 1758, and was awarded 50 acres for his service.  Three of his sons, Capt. David, Joseph, and Samuel Gwinn, Sr., served in the Revolutionary War. His wife was Jane Kinkead Gwin.

ROBERT GWIN, SR. (1715c - 1790c)

Received of William Preston, Eight shillings in full for 8 days work at Fort Amherst of my son Robert, Jr. in full of all accounts before this.  

22nd November 1759   Robert  Gwin Sr. (signed by mark)  - from the receipt book of William Preston

Robert Gwin was probably born in Northern Ireland around the year 1715, most likely in either County Donegal, Derry, or Tyrone.  He may have been one of the 36 families imported to Virginia in August 1738 on the ship Walpoole by Colonel James Patton.   A prominent man in Virginia history, Colonel Patton imported settlers from Northern Ireland in order to gain title to a large tract of land on the Calfpasture River. With authorization from the Council of Virginia, Patton, John Lewis, and William Beverley had entered into a joint venture to obtain title to 30,000 acres on the Calfpasture by settling at least one person upon each 1,000 acres of land. 

Ulster-Scots in Virginia - Article on Patton & Lewis and the Voyage of the Walpoole

Orange County Deed Book 10, p. 104-106 records an "Indenture 16 July 1745 between James Patton and John Lewis, both of Augusta County, and Robert Gwin of the Calf Pasture of the same county ... witnesseth ... for five shillings ... sold 544 acres in Augusta County on west side of the Great River of the Calf Pasture .... "  The witnesses to the transaction were David Kincaid, Robert Bratton, and Loftis Pullin.  The money was paid and the release date recorded on 25 July 1745.

In 1746, Robert was appointed Constable at the head of the Great Calfpasture River.  In 1758, he served in William Preston's company of Rangers in the French and Indian War.   Augusta County deed records indicate that he was still living as late as 1785, but was deceased by 1791 when his son Robert Gwin, Jr. returned from Kentucky to administer the estate.

Although proof is lacking, tradition says that Robert married a Jean (Jane) Kincaid (or Kinkead) the reputed daughter of David Kincaid of Albemarle and Augusta Counties. Their sons were Capt. David, Robert Jr., Joseph, James and Samuel.   Robert's daughters are said to be named Agnes and Nell.

The name Gwinn was spelled many different ways in the early records. The descendents of David and Joseph mostly retained the spelling GWIN.  Robert Gwin, Jr., moved to Woodford County, Kentucky in 1784 where his descendants adopted the spelling GUYN.  Samuel and James moved into Western Virginia and their descendents eventually settled on the spelling GWINN.


SAMUEL GWINN (1752c-1839)

 In the the Winter I returned to my cabin and devoted the Winter to hunting - All the people of the fort took their families to the Forts in the summer months where we lived pretty much in common. We would turn out all in a body and work each others corn and potatoe patches by turn.

- Samuel Gwinn in his 1835 application for a Revolutionary War pension


Robert Gwin's son, Samuel Gwinn was born in Augusta County either in 1751 or 1752.  This date of birth is based on Samuel's own statement made in his pension application for his Revolutionary War service as a frontier scout.  During Lord Dunmore's War, Samuel was in Capt. Andrew Lockridge's company, Augusta County militia, and fought in the decisive but bloody Battle of Point Pleasant (insert) on October 10, 1774 against the Shawnees and Mingos led by the renowned warrior Cornstalk.  In 1778, he was a member of the relief column that night marched from Camp Union to rescue the defenders of Fort Donnally which was under attack by 300 Shawnee.

Around 1775, Samuel married Elizabeth Lockridge Graham, the widow of Robert Graham.  Elizabeth was either the sister or daughter of Andrew Lockridge who was Samuel's captain at Point Pleasant. Samuel moved with his wife and two children (probably Moses and Samuel, Jr.) deeper into the frontier of Greenbrier County around 1778 and settled on Muddy Creek near present day Lowell, West Virginia. Samuel's brother, James, also moved to the Greenbrier area at the same time.

Samuel was said to have first married an Elizabeth Speece, but there is no known record of this. It may instead have been a misreading of the name Elizabeth Graham. Samuel's sons were Moses, Samuel Jr., Andrew, John and Ephraim; his daughters were Ruth, who married James Jarrett; Jane, who married David Withrow; Elizabeth, who married Robert Newsome; and Isabella "Ibby" who married Thomas Busby.

Around 1800, Samuel moved from Muddy Creek to Lick Creek near present day Green Sulpher Springs, West Virginia which was founded by his youngest son, Ephraim James Gwinn.


By his own thrift and industry, Samuel became a wealthy man. Before his death, he divided $12,000 in silver and gold specie among his sons. He also bought public Western Lands as they became available to give to his children. The History of Summers County (1908) relates the following tale:

It is told of this Mr. Gwinn that, while attending to some business at Lewisburg, he fell in with some gamblers who induced him to enter a game of cards. Knowing that he had plenty of money, they permitted him to win the first few games, then proceeded to double the bet, to which he replied that his mother had always told him that it was a wise man who knew when to quit; so saying, he arose from the table and bade the gamblers "good day."

Samuel's property on Muddy Creek, passed to his son Samuel Jr., and then to his grandson, Andrew "Long Andy" Gwinn.  The Samuel Gwinn Plantation is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/summers/88002956.pdf




Please tell Pap John what you think of our situation on this low ground of sorrow, so that he might advise my Francina what to do for Dad can advise for weal or woe with her.

- John Fulwider, son-in-law of John Gwinn, in reference to Indiana farm.  Letter to Laban Gwinn dated July 15, 1866.


John Gwinn was a large landowner in the Little Meadows area of Fayette and Greenbrier counties.  Owning several thousands of acres he came to be known as "Squire John".  Like his father, John also purchased public Western Lands in Illinois and Iowa that some of his children settled.

In 1812, John married Sally George, the daughter of Thomas George and Catherine McCoy. John and Sally reared a large family including sons, Harrison, Lockridge, Breckinridge, Eldridge, Samuel, Laban, and John George Gwinn. His daughters were Francina who married John Fulwider; Achsah, who tragically died at the age of 8 from the fall of a tree limb; Sydney, who married Caleb Lively; Cyntha, who married Samuel Keller Gwinn; and the youngest Catherine, who married John Henry Patterson. 

At the June term of the Fayette County Court, 1840, John Gwinn was granted a license to keep an inn or "house of private entertainment."  In 1844,  John was commissioned as the 7th sheriff of Fayette County and served a two year term.  A member of the Democratic Party before the Civil War, he served as a justice of the peace. As a Union man, he switched to the Republican Party and after the Civil War was a voter registrar in his precinct in the Blue Sulphur District of Greenbrier County.

The violence of the Civil War must have been especially troubling for the older couple as the peace of their golden years was disrupted by the fierce guerrilla fighting and "bushwhacking" in this part of what would become West Virginia.  The John Gwinn family was generally supportive of the Union cause in a land with strong Confederate sympathy. However, his son Samuel did serve in the Confederate army...


The Gwinn Family Papers - Original Documents of Laban Gwinn, son of "Squire" John

The Gwinns of Round Bottom by Leona Gwinn Brown



Brother Sam is in the Rebel army and is very sick of it. He sends his best respects to you all.

- Letter from John George Gwinn to Laban Gwinn dated July 24, 1863

A son of "Squire John" Gwinn, Samuel served as a Confederate private in Philip J. Thurmond's Battalion, Virginia Partisan Rangers, during the Civil War.  Samuel's service may not have been entirely voluntary as the letter quoted above implies.  His father and brothers were all Union supporters and his brother Laban had to hastily flee West Virginia when the Thurmond brothers marked him for arrest or death and burned his farm.  Many of the men in the county tried to avoid service with either side even going as far to hide in the many caves of the area as Union or Confederate forces marched through looking for "recruits."

Samuel married Frances Jane Lowry (1842-1913), the daughter of John Lewis Lowry and Elizabeth Huffman.  Their sons were Daniel and Lake; daughters were Mary Margaret; Amanda Catherine, who married Oliver Wickline;  Rosa Mae, who married Pemberton Lilly; Cynthia Frances, who married George Bridges; and Virginia "Jennie", who married Morris Patterson.  The Gwinns also adopted a young boy named Simeon Martin.


Samuel Gwinn family, Summers County, West Virginia, 1898.  

I believe that the above picture may have been taken on or about July 4, 1898 because examination of the original photograph reveals that my great-grandmother Clara Taylor Gwinn is wearing an American flag bow tie.  Also my grandfather Basil, born in February 1898, appears to be about about the right age--5 months old.  The bearded male shown as "unknown" in the caption is Oliver Wickline, husband of Kate. The second male identified as "unknown" is Spurgeon Lilly, a family friend.








                                                 Samuel Lake Gwinn                                                                                                                                                                                                Frances Jane Lowry


DANIEL GWINN (1871-1941)

My Papa was a Christian, but some what like the prodigal son in the Bible, he wanted his part of the inheritance with the notion of going West and making a better living for his family.  He chose Spiro, Oklahoma as his destination.  Mama said his parents cried and begged him not to go but his mind was made up.

  - Memoirs of Thelma Gwinn Bell, dated 1986

The eldest son of Samuel Gwinn and Frances Jane Lowry, Daniel was born in Elton, West Virginia on March 11, 1871.  On October 28, 1896, he married Clara Cloe Taylor (1878-1949) daughter of William Riley Taylor and Frances Jane Tigrett.  Their children were Basil Hilbert, Gradie Gilbert, Gladys Cleo, Lena May, Robert William, Thelma Frances, Lester Woodrow, and Hubert Earl Gwinn. 

Daniel bought land in Oklahoma and moved his family to Spiro, Oklahoma in 1910.  By 1915, several of the children had failing health in the different climate and, on doctor's advice, the family moved back East and settled in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

Despite the move, illness would continue to plague the family as three of the children would die as young adults: Gradie from bone tuberculosis in 1918; Lena from tuberculosis in 1920; and Gladys from influenza in 1922.






Daniel Gwinn family, Tucker, Oklahoma, 1910c.

From left to right: Gradie, Lena, Basil, Robert, Daniel Gwinn, Gladys, Clara Taylor Gwinn, and Thelma.        




Basil liked Papa, I think one reason was that when we got married Papa said, "Grace, you be good to Basil."  He always seemed fond of Basil and though they didn't agree on politics and religion (Basil being a Democrat and Methodist) they respected each others choice.

  - The Story of My Life by Grace Viola Smith Gwinn

Basil Hilbert Gwinn, the eldest son and child of Daniel and Clara Cloe Taylor Gwinn, was born in Elton, West Virginia on February 1, 1898.  He married Grace Viola Smith, daughter of John Milford Smith and Dora Belle Baker, in Knoxville on June 18, 1919.  Their children were Ralph Virgil; Lawrence Edward; Doris Marie, who married Robert Ray; Charles Gilbert, and Ernest Lee.  Their youngest child, James Earl, died a few days after birth.

Basil worked as a marble worker before beginning his career with Southern Railways around 1918 as a carpenter and car repairman in the Coster Shop in Knoxville; he retired from Southern Railways as a derrick foreman in the 1960s.  Basil was also very active in scouting and served as a Scoutmaster for many generations of young scouts in Knoxville.


Basil Gwinn Family on McTeer Street, Knoxville, Tennessee

Ralph, Lawrence, Doris, Basil Gwinn, Grace Smith Gwinn, Charles and Ernest


Map of  Green Sulphur Springs, Lockbridge, and Elton, West Virginia showing location of Gwinn Mountain




    This website is dedicated to my grandfather

 Basil H. Gwinn (1898-1973)

     who inspired my interest in history and genealogy.


Special thanks to my cousins, contributors, and fellow researchers:

Dr. Diane Gwinn Schaaf, a direct descendent of Samuel Gwinn, Jr.

A. Nelson Gwinn and his grandson, Michael Gwinn, direct descendents of Laban Gwinn

and Jim Patterson, a direct descendent of Virginia "Jennie" Gwinn Patterson.



Let me know what you think about my website. Send e-mail by clicking here.

©  2009, 2011, Ronald C. Gwinn

Last updated: March 17, 2011