Sunday, January 2, 2022

Eleazar Kersey (1762-1816) and Elizabeth Harlan Kersey (1762-1845), Quakers, my 5th great grandparents


Guilford County North Carolina
Image by David Benbennick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. 
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In my last post, I wrote about Elizabeth Harlan’s father, Stephen Harlan (1740-1830), and the family trek from Chester County Pennsylvania to the frontier regions of North Carolina, that story can be found HERE.


Elizabeth Harlan, the oldest daughter of Stephen Harlan and Mary Carter (1740-1824) was born in Chester County Pennsylvania in 1762. She was the oldest of at least nine children: Elizabeth (bn. 1762, dd. 27 Feb 1845, m. Eleazar Kersey 1784), Alice Ellen (bn 22 July 1764, dd 17 June 1835, m. Moses Robbins 1786), Margaret (7 Dec 1766, dd 30 Nov 1825, m Obed Barnard 1810), Stephen (bn. 25 Jan 1773, dd. 6 July 1859, m. Alice Smith 1795), Edith (bn. 6 Sept, dd. 27 March 1847, m. William Hill), Enoch (bn. 17 March 1776, dd. 9 June 1863, m. Abigail Jones 1805), Mary (bn. 12 Sept 1779, dd. 22 May 1841, m. William Morrison 1802), and Ruth (bn. ?, dd. ?, m. George Criscow 1814), Ann (bn. ?, dd. 1866).


Elizabeth would have been approximately three years old when her family migrated from the Pennsylvania colony to North Carolina. They initially moved to Cumberland County, NC and by 1769, when she was seven, had moved to a more frontier area of North Carolina in Guilford County that later was sectioned off to become part of Randolph County.  Her father was a farmer, millwright, and wagon maker. The post about her father is HERE.


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In the years just prior to the American Revolution Quakerism in North Carolina experienced its second great wave of migration and growth, and by the 1770’s, the greatest concentration was in the Piedmont region where the Harlans moved to. Eventually, there were twenty-three Quaker monthly meetings in North Carolina, each composed of representatives from several individual meeting houses, who sent delegations to two Quarterly Meetings in the eastern and western parts of the colony. A Yearly Meeting of North Carolina Friends (eventually held at the New Garden Meetinghouse) met and maintained contact with Yearly Meetings in Philadelphia and London.


After the Harlan family moved to Guilford County, Elizabeth met and subsequently married Eleazar Kersey, whose family had come to North Carolina about 15 years before the Harlans. Eleazar was born the same year as Elizabeth, on 27 August 1762, in Springfield, Guilford County, North Carolina. He was the fifth son born to his parents, William Kersey (1722-1764) and Hannah Hunt (1730-?), and his father’s sixth son. Eleazar’s father, William, had first married a woman named Elizabeth (?-1749) and had one child, also named William Kersey (bn. 15 Nov 1745 -?), likely in PA or VA, and subsequently married Eleazar’s mother, Hannah Hunt in Loudoun VA, outside of Meeting. William and Hannah’s children, all born in Guilford County, NC, were: Amos Kersey (bn. 15 Feb 1751, dd. 7 July 1831, m. Dinah Beeson 29 Mar 1786, & m. Elizabeth Willson 17 April 1794), Jesse Kersey (bn. 1 Dec 1753 dd. 7 Nov 1822, m. Rachael Haworth 1805), Daniel Kersey (6 Nov 1757, dd. ?, m. Mary Carter 25 Novr 1778, m. Ann Irwin 16 Oct 1800), Thomas Kersey (bn. 15 Sept 1759, dd.10 Aug 1835, m. Rebecca Carter 1782) and Eleazar Kersey (bn.15 Aug 1762, dd. 1 June 1816), my fifth great grandfather. Tragically, Eleazar’s father died two years after Eleazar was born.


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When Eleazar and Elizabeth were fourteen, the American Revolution began. Many Americans today don’t realize that the revolution took place over five years, 1776-1781.


After the Regulator's War (See entry on Elizabeth’s father, Stephen Harlan, for an explanation of the Regulators War,) when it became apparent that such conflicts were not over and would eventually result in greater bloodshed, the North Carolina Yearly Meeting convened on October 27, 1775, to issue an epistle which set forth the position of North Carolina Friends with regard to any future political contests. The epistle defined the principles which governed North Carolina Quakers throughout the revolutionary years. Reiterating their opposition to war yet avowing their allegiance to the Crown and insisting that many engaged in the dispute with England were “Honest and Upright”. It also spoke of all "Plottings, Conspiracies, and Insurrections” as works of Darkness" and reminded Friends of advice from the London and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings "not to interfere, meddle or concern in these party affairs".


Quaker religious principles forbade them from condoning the overthrow of any established government; and required obedience to the existing government, when such obedience did not run counter to conscience was a fundamental duty. To the revolutionary forces this seemed to place the Quakers in the Loyalist camp. On the other hand, since the Friends would not directly help the Crown, to the British authorities, they seemed to be in sympathy with the rebels. The Quakers themselves wanted to be left out of all of it, to remain peacefully in their homes and to be neutrals in the conflict they saw coming. North Carolina Quakers would not bear arms, pay muster or "draughting" (drafting) fees, or hire substitute soldiers, pay taxes to a government which might support its military operations, or hold office under it. Friends also declined to vote for delegates to the state constitutional convention in 1776 and debated over the use of paper money issued by the revolutionary government, eventually deciding to leave that to each individual Quaker’s own conscience.


It was not easy being neutral. The Friends could not resist confiscations of their property for nonpayment of taxes and fines by either the Crown or the revolutionary government. Friends also had their lives threatened and/or were beaten by both sides for refusing to join the local Crown or Patriot militias.  Additionally, their lands were often plundered by military forces on both sides of the conflict. Quaker homes, barns, and pastures were repeatedly destroyed as armies moved through the lands; their horses were taken for army mounts and their cattle and sheep for food for the armies and fences were dismantled to be used as firewood.


Copy of sketch of New Garden Quaker community, Guilford Co., North Carolina, time of the Battle of Guilford Court House, March 15, 1781. Originally drawn by Jonathan Jessop, son of Thomas. Jonathan, age 10, 1781 Hand-drawn.; Shows battle sites, buildings, property owners, roads, and natural features. Public Doman.
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As much as they tried to stay out of the conflict, the war brought the conflict to their door in 1781, with the battles of New Garden, Guilford Courthouse, and Lindley's Mill. On March 15, in the early morning hours, Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis sent off his baggage under the escort of Lieutenant Colonel John Hamilton’s Royal North Carolina Regiment, 20 dragoons, and Bryan’s North Carolina Volunteers, to Bell’s Mill and marched with his army to attack Major General Nathanael Greene at Guilford Court House. Greene had placed troops out in advance positions to the south and west to give him fair warning of any potential attack. When the front line of the British army, led by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, encountered Lt. Col. “Light Horse” Harry Lee’s troops just north of the New Garden meeting house, British and American soldiers crashed into each other in the narrow lane. After the initial clash, the British cavalry were pushed back, across what is now the Guilford College campus to the New Garden meeting house where they were joined by infantry units. The two sides exchanged fire twice more before American forces retired north towards Greene’s army. The entire clash took over three hours and involved 617 Americans and 842 British (including American Tories and Hessians). About thirty British were killed and more injured.


Several hours later the same day, British and American forces met again at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in the streets in front of Quaker houses. This battle has been called "the largest and most hotly contested action" in the American Revolution's southern theater and involved a 2,100-man British force under the command of Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis and 4,500 Americans under Major General Nathanael Greene. After a brutal battle, Cornwallis defeated the Americans but lost approximately 25% of his forces in the process and was in no position to pursue Greene. Cornwallis decided to withdraw to his supply base in Virginia to rest and refit. 


After the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, there were hundreds of wounded American and British soldiers. Cornwallis left his wounded at the New Garden community under the care of the Quakers. When General Greene learned of the Quakers’ generosity, he wrote a letter to the Friends requesting they provide “relief of the suffering wounded at Guilford Court House.”  The Meeting responded that they would “do all that lies in [their] power” to assist the wounded, despite the recent theft of resources by both British and American soldiers.  The New Garden Friends cared for 250 wounded British and American soldiers in the Meeting House. They were cared for in an old two-story log house at the corner of New Garden and Ballinger Roads, and at New Garden Meeting House, and in nearby Quaker homes. Of those who did not survive their care, British soldiers were buried under an old oak tree in the New Garden meeting 's graveyard with the bodies of the American dead buried beside them.


Reproduction of a Philadelphia Broadside 1781, In the Emmet Collection, New York Public Library. (Click to make bigger.)

I don’t know whether Eleazar and Elizabeth were involved in the nursing of the soldiers but Eleazar lived in that area at the time so it is likely he helped especially as members of his mother’s family are referenced as assisting with the wounded in several history articles and books.


The first record I have on Eleazar, after his birth, is his marriage to Elizabeth Harlan on 12 July 1784. Like her parents before her, Eleazar and Elizabeth went outside the Quaker meeting to get married. On for October 1784, the meeting records for the Deep River Monthly Meeting in Guilford County North Carolina, state “also complains of Eleazar Kersey for going out in marriage; therefore this meeting disowns the said Eleazar Kersey to be a member of our society until he condemn his misconduct to the satisfaction of Friends William Tomlinson is appointed to inform him of the proceedings of this meeting against him with his right of appeal, and that he may have a copy of this minute by applying to the clerk.”


Eleazar and Elizabeth’s daughter, Esther, was born in about 1784, and may have been the reason the couple did not wish to go through the multiple monthly Meetings involved in a Quaker marriage procedure (I described the marriage procedure in this post on Ezekial Harlan). Their daughter Ayles (Alice) was born on 6 April 1785, in Springfield in Guilford County North Carolina. It was some years before Eleazar requested readmittance to the meeting, fitting the pattern I learned of while researching for the post on Stephan Harlan, where oftentimes a couple who had married outside of the Society would seek readmission just prior to requesting a certificate of transfer to move to a new meeting. 


Eleazar was doing well as a landowner and farmer. On 16 May 1787, a survey was performed on his land. It shows he owned 450 acres, on both sides of Richland Creek. The survey document was recorded (perhaps recorded again) on 30 November 1796.


1st page of survey of Eleazar's land. (Click to make bigger.)


Eleazar and Elizabeth’s son Stephen Kersey was born on 6 May 1789, and their son Jesse Kersey was born in about 1790. According to the 1790 census, the family lived in Guilford County, North Carolina. The census counted 1 free white person male under 16, 1 free white person male over 16 and 3 free white persons female in the household. They had another son, William Kersey, in about 1791 and a fourth son, Enoch Kersey, on 10 May 1794, also in Guilford County.


Now that he had a family, Eleazar, who was now 31, wanted to start attending Monthly Meetings. On 4 August 1794, the minutes for the Deep River Monthly Meeting, stated that “Eleazar Kersey appeared at this meeting and offered a paper condemning his accomplishing his marriage contrary to discipline, which was accepted.” And then, one month later, on 1 September 1794, the meeting minutes record, “Also informs that Eleazar Kersey requests a certificate to Springfield Monthly Meeting; David Sanders and Amos Mills are appointed to make the needful Enquiry and if they find nothing to hinder, to prepare one and produced to the next meeting.” A certificate of removal was prepared by the Deep River Monthly Meeting on 6 October 1794. On the same date, the minutes of the Springfield Monthly Meeting record, “Eleazar Kersey produced a certificate to this meeting from deep River monthly meeting dated the 6th of 10 mo 1794, which was accepted.” The Springfield Monthly Meeting was about 18 miles from the New Garden Meeting and both were in Guilford County.

Map shows the Quaker Meeting Houses ("mh") in the county and where Richland Creek is (look bottom left area) (Click to make bigger.)


On 30 November 1796, Eleazar expanded his land by buying 129 acres by Richland Creek from Arthur Carney, for 60 pounds. Two years later, Eleazar and Elizabeth’s next son was born on 15 July 1798 and named after his father, Eleazar.


On 5 September 1801, the Springfield monthly meeting minutes stated that “the preparative meeting informs this that Eleazar Kersey requests to have his children joined in membership, and they have been under the care of the preparative, this meeting grants the request. Their names are Stephen, William, Enoch, Jesse, Eleazar & Moses.” A month later, on 3 October 1801, the Springfield Women’s Monthly Meeting minutes, reflected that “Elizabeth Kersey requests for her two daughters, Ayles & Esther, to be joined in membership & they having been under the care of the preparative meeting some time, this meeting grants for request.”


Another daughter was added to the family when Elizabeth was born on 19 Jan 1805.  Their last child, Moses, was born on 6 September 1806. Eleazar and Elizabeth were 44 when their last child was born.


The next record I have for Eleazar is on 9 September 1815 when he was appointed to represent the Springfield Monthly Meeting and attend the coming yearly meeting. Later that year, on 4 November 1815, the minutes of the New Garden Quarterly Meeting, a regional governing body above the local monthly meetings, show that “Elazar Kersey” produced a certificate from the Springfield monthly meeting to the New Garden quarterly meeting recommending him to the station of Elder, which was accepted. This shows that Eleazar was a respected leader within his community. He was 53.


Unfortunately, tragedy struck the next year and on May 29, 1816, Eleazar wrote a short will, just before dying on June 1, 1816. The will was probated in August 1816. It read: “Be it remembered this 29th day of this fifth month in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred & sixteen that I Eleazar Kersey of Guilford County in the state of North Carolina being sick and weak in body but of sound mind & of majority make this my last will & Testament in the following manner it is my will that all my just debts and funeral charges should be first paid and discharged by my executors hereinafter named. Item I give & bequeath unto my loving wife Elizabeth Kersey all my movable effects except what is hereafter in this will directed to be given to my children and when she has done with it let my daughter Elizabeth Kersey have what remains thereof And let my wife have full privilege of living in my dwelling house during her widowhood, also her maintenance.

Item I give & bequeath unto my two sons Stephen & William Kersey all that piece of land which I bought of William Beals to be equally in value divided between them at the direction of my executor to be theirs, their heirs or assigns forever  Item it is my wish that my said two sons Stephen & William should pay cash of [?] $25 to my executors to help pay my debts – Item I give & bequeath unto my four sons Enoch Jesse Eleazar & Moses Kersey all that piece of land whereon I now live to be equally (in value) divided among them at the discretion of my executors to be theirs their heirs or assigns forever – – is my will that Eleazar my son should have thy dwelling house when his mother has done with it. Item I give and bequeath unto my son Enoch that mare his but if she has a cold let his brother Eleazar have the first she brings forth Item I give I give & bequeath unto my two sons Jesse & Moses each of them a colt which has been called theirs. Item I give & bequeath unto my daughter Elizabeth Kersey one feather & and furniture bed one desk and one large pewter disk. Item. I give & bequeath unto my two daughters, Alice Beeson & Esther Wolfington to each of them five shillings sterling And lastly I nominate and appoint my trustee brother in law, Stephen Harlan, & my wife Elizabeth Kersey & my son Stephen Kersey executors of my last will and testament thereby making void all former wills by me before made or appearing in my name declaring allowing or confessing item as no other to be my last will & testament.” … The will was signed by Eleazar Kersey and witnessed by Amos Kersey, William Kersey, and Elizabeth Kersey, likely two of his sons and his wife.


Eleazar Kersey's Will. (Click to make bigger.)


His wife, Elizabeth survived him. I’ve found no record of Elizabeth remarrying after Eleazar died even though she survived him by twenty-nine years. She lived to see three of her children migrate 500 miles away to Indiana, and to see at least three of her other children predecease her (I don’t know when two of her children died).  Elizabeth died on 27 Feb 1845.


Death record for Elizabeth Harlan Kersey from the minutes of the Springfield Monthly Meeting.
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Eleazar and Elizabeth’s children were: my fourth great grandmother, Esther Kersey (bn. about 1784, dd. about 1850, m.  Abraham Wolfington), Ayles (Alice) Kersey (bn. 6 April 1785, dd. 10 April 1850, m. Seth Beeson 18 Oct 1804), Stephen Kersey (bn. 6 May 1789, dd. 12 march 1845, m. Jemima Leonard in 1812), Jesse Kersey (bn. about 1790, dd. ?), William Kersey (bn. about 1791, dd. 3 Feb 1840), Enoch Kersey (bn. 10 May 1794, dd. 1 Dec 1837, m. Sarah Curl 6 August 1834), Eleazar Kersey (bn. 15 July 1798, dd. 8 March 1854, m. Naomi Hodson, 21 November 1835), Elizabeth Kersey (bn. 19 Jan 1805, dd. ?), and Moses Kersey (6 Sept 1806, dd. Nov 1841, m. Asenith Ricks 24 October 1833).




History and Genealogy of the Harland Family in America, and particularly of the descendants of George and Michael Harlan, who settled in Chester County PA, 1687, compiled by Alpheus Harlan (The Lord Baltimore Press 1914); Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Minutes, 1746-1768; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: MR-Ph 339, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935,;  North Carolina, Land Grant Files, 1693-1960,; North Carolina Quakers in the Era of the American Revolution by Steven Jay White, University of Tennessee – Knoxville; Quakers at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse - Guilford Courthouse National Military Park (U.S. National Park Service) (; Battle of New Garden | American Revolution Tour of N.C. (; Battle of New Garden Meetinghouse • American Revolutionary War; Copy of sketch of New Garden Quaker community, Guilford Co., North Carolina, time of battle of Guilford Court House, March 15, 1781 - Family Records - North Carolina Digital Collections (; Quaker Meeting House Site of Skirmish Prior to Guilford Courthouse | NC DNCR (; New Garden Friends Meeting – The Christian People called Quakers by Hiram H Hilty, first printed in 1983; revised and expanded 2001 (New Garden Friends Meeting : the Christian people called Quakers (; NC Land Grant Images and Data | Home (; Wills, 1771-1943; Author: North Carolina. County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (Guilford County); Probate Place: Guilford, North Carolina, digitized by; 1790 United States Federal Census