Four Odom Brothers: From Barnwell, SC, to Union Parish, Louisiana by Bruce Odom (

The family legend about four brothers (some versions said it was three) could not be confirmed or disproved by a lot of conventional genealogical research. The brothers allegedly were John, Jesse, Pinckney and Benjamin W. Odom.  However, modern technology has pretty much destroyed a large part of the story. The results of DNA samples supplied by descendants of Jesse, Pinckney, and Benjamin W. Odom indicate that Jesse and Pinckney were brothers but that Benjamin W. was not their brother.  No male descendant of John Odom is known who has the Odom surname. Apparently three of John's sons died as infants or youngsters. Of the two who survived, one went to Texas with John (James Monroe) and had no children. The other (Wilson Pinckney) moved to and died in Winn Parish, LA. I have corresponded with a descendant of John Odom but he is not surnamed Odom. He is going to try to find someone who is. The DNA project requires a sample from a descendant who is surnamed Odom. So, the three brother version appears to be the true one. It was believed for over 20 years that Emanuel Odom was a brother but DNA has proven that he was not.

Benjamin W. Odom died in Union Parish in July, 1863, after being sent home after capture and paroled from Vicksburg. There is no record of his burial. His widow, Sarah Dick Odom, and one son, Benjamin Franklin Odom, moved to Oklahoma and lost contact with the Union Parish Odoms. A descendant of Benjamin W. Odom who still lives in Union Parish said, "We always thought we were kin," to the descendants of Jesse and Pinckney. Maybe that was because they had the same last name and lived in the same community. They all four seemed to have named their sons after each other. John Odom and his wife, Elizabeth Hendrick, moved to Fannin County, TX, after the war. She died there and he died in Montague County, TX.

The story is that John, Jesse, Pinckney, and Benjamin Wellington Odom migrated from Barnwell, SC to Union Parish, LA, beginning in the late 1830s. The original researcher, Bettie Kroll Odom, did a huge amount of work, and as we all know, sometimes things aren't exactly like we thought they were at first. The father of these four brothers, according to her research, was Michael W(ellington) Odom, one of the sons of Benjamin (Wellington?) Odom, who was married to Julia Walker. However, Wellington is quite often said to be the middle name of the "other" Benjamin (died 1801) in Barnwell whose wife was Thamer Powell.

The facts of their origin are these: All census records for John Odom say he was born in MS. Jesse, Pinckney, and Benjman W. census records say they were born in SC. Benjamin W.'s Confederate Army enlistment paper says he was from Barnwell, SC. Pinckney's Confederate enlistment paper is lost. Jesse Odom served in the 1st Mississippi Regiment during the Mexican War. His papers say he was born in Barnwell, SC. Since DNA says Pinckney and Jesse were brothers we can reasonably assume that Pinckney was born in Barnwell also.

Their grandfather Benjamin was an officer of the SC militia during the Revolutionary war. Possible evidence of this service can be seen here . There are other records that show Benjamin was a captain in Col. William Harden's regiment. Col. Harden's regiment was part of the brigade commanded by Gen. Francis Marion, the legendary "Swamp Fox." I have several records of service in the Revolutionary War from the South Carolina Archives for Benjamin Odom. Most of them are receipts for supplies furnished by a Benjamin Odom who could not write. He always made his mark in the form of a crude "B." On one of the receipts he very crudely printed "Ben Odom." I have two documents of service in the war for a Benjamin Odom which are both signed "Benj. Odom" in a quite good cursive handwriting. One of them is a pay voucher and one is a document he wrote in support of a pension claim by the widow of Jacob Lamb whose husband was killed while under his command. We believe the Benjamin who provided supplies to the Patriots was the Benjamin whose wife was Thamer Powell. He was probably too old to serve militarily and is the "other" Benjamin. This Benjamin died in late 1800 or early 1801 and had no living son. It is believed he had a son, thought to also have been named Benjamin, who died in 1792 and left a daughter named Mary. There is no record that this Benjamin had a son so a DNA connection is impossible. Nothing I have seen in Benjamin/Thamer's probate papers ever refers to him by a military title. The probate of our Benjamin refers to him as "Major Benjamin Odom." Neither of these Benjamins, nor their widow, applied for a state or federal pension because of Revolutionary War service.

Five generations of the family tree, beginning with Benjamin are here . Notes and resources about the first two generations can be found by clicking the names. The undated information in the notes is from the book compiled by Ouida Watters Nelson and her sister Jay Watters. Their original information basically came from Bettie Kroll Odom but was supplemented over more than 20 years with information provided by various descendants. The dated information is based on my research.

There were these two Benjamin Odoms in Barnwell (and each seems to have had a son named Benjamin!) at the same time which has caused much confusion. So far no researcher has confirmed the ancestors of Benjamin Odom, the grandfather of these Union Parish Odom brothers. The Odom DNA project on has yet to uncover a descendant who has this information. It has raised the possibility that our Benjamin is the son of Michael Odom, son of Isaac and Esther Odom as conjectured by Helen Odom Harrell. Isaac and Ester had sons Seybert, Daniel, and George according to Helen Odum Harrell's book. Probate records prove that these three men were brothers and that they had a sister named Elizabeth because she is mentioned in George's will. Seybert, Daniel, Michael, and Michael's possible son, our Benjamin, served in the Revolution. Michael was killed in August 1781. Our Benjamin was possibly involved in some bounty land transactions for Michael's widow, Martha, leading to the conjecture that he was their son. Anyone who can help break through this barrier please contact Bruce Odom at

There were two (or more) Michael Odoms in Barnwell. According to my interpretation of the censuses one was born between 1780 and 1790 and the other between 1795 and 1800. The older one is the one who apparently had the family that is supposed to include these four brothers. It seems likely to me that the younger one is Michael W, therefore probably not our ancestor. Two Michaels are confirmed by Helen Odum Harrell's book. There is another Michael Odom who was the son of Charity Odom as confirmed in her will of 1817 but I have no evidence that he is our ancestor. In addition there was the Michael above who died in the war and another Michael Odom who died in the war who was from the eastern part of SC.

There is a family story that our Michael helped build a railroad in the 1830s and then moved to Mississippi where he died in 1842. However, there is a Michael Odom in the 1850 Barnwell census who is 52 years old, occupation mechanic, living with a 32 year old man named Newton Roney, a fisherman. (To be honest this man's name could be Michael Adam, it is difficult to read.) There is clearly a Michael W. Odom listed in the 1860 Barnwell census living with Levica Matheny. Our Michael W. Odom had a sister, Levica, married to Charles Matheny. Charles Matheny died between 1850 and 1860. Based on the children listed in her family in 1860 this is the same lady who was listed as Charles' wife in 1850. Michael W. Odom was 60 years old in the 1860 census and his occupation was millwright. The ages of Michael in these censuses are the reason that I believe he is the younger of two Michaels. If he is our Michael he should be at least 66 years old in 1860. (It does seem normal, though, for census takers to get ages wrong. It makes me wonder if people knew how old they were!) The occupations listed for him cause me to believe that he worked for the railroad for several years. There was some railroad construction in Madison County, MS but from what I have found out it might have been started after he left. Lines were built through Canton and Flora.

Also, there are recorded transactions involving Michael W. Odom and his brother-in-law, Muke A. Youn, in Barnwell that go through 1845. These transactions and being counted on the 1860 census would be hard to accomplish for someone in a grave in Madison County, MS.

Can anyone confirm or rebut this? Do you have proof or reasonable evidence? If my speculation is true we seem to be back to square one. Which Michael is our ancestor?

As a result of frustration and doubts that the Michael Odom in the 1840 Madison County, MS, census was ours, as maintained by Bettie Kroll Odom, on July 29, 2002, I went to the Madison County, MS, courthouse in Canton to look for evidence. What we found (my brother Bob went with me) eliminated my doubts that our Michael Odom was in Mississippi. His death there is still much in doubt, in my mind, though, since there is no evidence of it and it will be impossible to prove from any MS records. Death records were not kept in MS until 1912.

We found land transactions: John Odom bought 120 acres from Joseph B. and Frances Trotter on July 2, 1838. On Dec. 4, 1839, John Odom and wife Elizabeth sold this same land to Ludwell W. Smith. We didn't know that John Odom was ever in Madison County. Apparently he sold out and went to Union Parish where he and his family are listed in the 1840 census.

Emanuel Odom bought 150 acres from Thomas and Mary Grafton on May 8, 1840 for $1500. Emanuel and Sarah Grafton Odom sold this same land and two elderly slaves to James M. Grafton on Feb. 25, 1843 for about half what he paid for the land. Emanuel is almost certainly not a brother, although that can't be entirely ruled out since dates on tombstones can be wrong (see below), but the fact that John and Emanuel were in Madison County at the same time is interesting.

Luke W. Smith gave 280 acres to his mother, Ann Smith, for love and affection, on Jan. 25, 1885. Ann Smith, nee Odom was a daughter of Michael W. Odom and married Ludwell Smith. Our information that she died in 1870 is wrong. Luke also gave and/or sold land to his daughter Fannie P. Smith.

William E. Council and Mrs. Annie Smith borrowed money on her property in 1877 to make a crop. If this is Ann Odom Smith she is the sister of Serena Odom, William E. Council's wife.

So, we have all these people we have suspected of being Michael's children actually in Madison County, with him, interacting with each other. There was also a William Odom and wife Jane in Madison County in 1840. I found a William Odom and wife Jane in Hancock, MS, in the 1850 census. He is 68 years old, too old to be a brother but possibly an uncle or a first cousin.

Now about Michael Odom, here is the blockbuster news from the trip! We went to the state archives in Jackson because I wanted to see what could be found about the Michael Odom of Madison County that says was listed in the 1841 Mississippi state census. Here is what that census has:

Michael Odom 4 males 3 females 1 voter

Pinckney Odom 1 male 1 voter

Ludwell Smith 2 males 1 female 1 voter

They are listed on consecutive lines indicating they lived next to each other. We didn't know Pinckney, another of Michael's sons, was in Madison County, either. This is the first written record I have found him listed in. I think it is reasonably safe to say that Bettie Kroll Odom's conjectures are born out--that this is the Michael Odom of Barnwell County, SC, who had about 12 kids. We still aren't certain about all their names but it looks like the whole clan went to Madison County, MS.

I went back to Canton, MS on March 18, 2003. I found a court document concluding a sheriff's sale of some of Michael Odom's property that occurred in 1840. The sale was the result of a suit against him that he lost. The record of the original suit, the people in the clerk's office said, was either lost, destroyed, or in a warehouse somewhere so I don't know what the original dispute was about. The strange thing about it is that there is no record that Michael Odom ever bought any property in Madison County.

I wanted to check the tax rolls but there was a large blank space in their volumes from 1825-1848. However, I again stopped by the state archives in Jackson and hit some pretty interesting pay dirt. Since I doubt that Michael died in 1842 in Madison County what I found in Jackson strengthened my doubts immensely. Michael was in the 1840 Federal census and the 1841 state census. He was also in the 1845 state census with two females! Not only that but: he was on the 1840, 1841, 1843, 1844, 1845, 1848, and 1849 Madison County tax rolls! The years missing may be because I ran the microfilm too fast, I was there about an hour and a half and they started blinking the lights for quitting time. In addition his sons Jesse and Pinkney were on the 1842 tax rolls and Jesse was on the 1845 state census. Emanuel was the first on the tax roll in 1839 and also 1840, 1841, 1842, 1843, and 1844. On the 1841 roll Michael had 200 acres worth $600. That is the same amount of land that was sold to satisfy the judgement against him. That means he either had 400 acres or the 1841 list was for property owned in 1840. In most of the other years I only found him on the personal property rolls with one clock worth $15. However in 1848 he had two slaves, the clock and no free whites 21-50 years old. In 1849 all the boxes for him were blank.

John Odom was in Madison County and is on the 1837 tax roll. He bought land in Madison County in 1838 and sold it to Ludwell Smith in 1839. He appears on the 1840 Union Parish, LA census, as does a 16? year old Mikel Odom. The other two sons recorded in Madison County, Jesse and Pinckney, also went to Union Parish as did Benjamin W. Odom. B. W. could have been included in Michael's household in the 1840 census but was probably in LA by the 1845 MS state census. I speculate that Mary Albany and Serena were the two females living with Michael in the 1845 census.

As you recall, I also doubt that Michael was a farmer in spite of the 200 acres. Michael Odom in the 1850 Barnwell, SC census is listed as a mechanic and Michael W. Odom in the 1860 Barnwell census is listed as a millwright. I guess he could have had a couple of slaves to help him. It would be interesting to find out about his acquisition of the slaves.

In Canton I also copied marriage licenses for Ludwell Smith and Ann Odom, William E. Council and Serena Odom, Emanuel Odom and Sarah Grafton. I did not find a license for Herman Black and Mary Albany Odom.

I'm not sure what this information about Michael Odom proves. There is a possibility Michael W. had a son named Michael (the one on the 1840 Union Parish census?) and he is the one in the records after 1842. However, the fact that Michael W. Odom appears in the 1860 Barnwell census in the household of his sister Levica Odom Matheny makes me think that the name on all those rolls through 1849 I found on this trip is our Michael W. Odom. I don't know where Bettie Kroll Odom got the information about his death occurring in 1842. In the last four or five years the online family trees for Michael W. Odom include a son named Michael J. Odom who was born in 1824. Census records show him in Hinds County, MS, in 1850-1880. He is the right age to be the 1840 Union Parish Mikel Odom. I have had some contact with descendants of Michael J. Odom but none of them were able to name his father.

I found and traced the sisters of Michael W. Odom, Levica and Julia Odom, and their husbands, through the census and then had confirmation by information in the court papers filed in a separation suit by Sarah Odom Matheny against her husband John Matheny. We knew nothing about them before those discoveries.

I made another trip to Jackson and Canton, MS in March 2006. I did not discover any new breakthrough information. I did find a marriage license for Herman Cain Black and Mary Odom. I found deeds in Canton of a type of transaction for property that Michael could have entered into and then lost in the sheriff�s sale. Emanuel Odom is on the 1833 tax roll and also a Bailus Oldham. Michael is on the 1840, 1841, and 1842 rolls with 200 acres on Bogus Creek worth $400 in 1841 and $600 in the latter two years. I still did not find where he ever bought the land. However, there was a complicated arrangement by which he could have been deeded all rights to the land of a debtor and then lost it.

This website has resulted in contacts that led to the new information about Pinckney, John, and Emanuel and a few other pieces to the puzzle. If you have information or questions please contact me at