Elijah Wimberly moves to Illinois

Lewis Wimberly (1750-1817) left a will in which he required his son Elijah to take care of his mother and his younger brothers and sisters or lose part of his inheritance. In the will, Lewis stipulated the following:

"I give and bequeath unto my son Elijah Wimberly my land & plantation (300 acres) as before mentioned after the Death of his mother is to full possession of on condition that he takes good care of his younger Brother and Sisters in providing for their natural support until such time as they may become of full age, also to furnish my sons Thomas Wimberly & Washington Wimberly with one hundred Dollars each in property when they may become of lawful age, also my daughter Susannah Wimberly, Betsey Wimberly, and Milly Wimberly I give & bequeath unto each of them ten Dollars worth of property to be made out of my estate whereever they are either of them may marry or become lawful age on condition that Elijah Wimberly, my son, shall or (may) fail to stay with his mother & provided & take good sufficient care of the family before named according to the times meaning as before inserted he is to have only an equal part of said land with his other two brothers Thomas Wimberly & Washington Wimberly"

In late 1829 (probably in September or October), Elijah left Smith County and moved to Jefferson County, Illinois, taking with him his younger sisters, Elizabeth (Betsey) and Milly. Betsey would have been about 19 years of age and Milly would have been about 17 years of age in 1829.

The Brothers and Sisters

Thomas Jefferson Wimberly (the brother) married Martha M. Erwin on May 11, 1826 in Jefferson Co, Alabama. Thomas became of age in 1824 and received his inheritance of $100 worth of land in Smith County, TN. He probably sold the land before he moved to Alabama.

George Washington Wimberly married Nancy A. Clayton on January 20, 1850. George would have been 44 years old at the time so it is assumed Nancy was his second wife. They were married in Warren County, Kentucky. George became of age in 1826 and received his inheritance of $100 worth of land in Smith County, TN. He probably sold the land before he moved to Kentucky.

Susannah Wimberly married Steven Boren on April 19, 1821 in Smith County, Tennessee. She also received her share of her inheritance when she became of age. Susannah would have been 19 years of age in 1821 and 27 years old when Elijah and his family moved to Illinois..

Elizabeth (Betsey) Wimberly, born 1810, married James Parker in Field Township, Jefferson county, IL in 1831.

Milly Wimberly, born 1812, married James N. Garrison in 1830 in Field Township, Jefferson County, IL.

The Children

There were five children that moved from Tennessee to Illinois with Elijah and Maria. They were:

Evaline Wimberly, born in 1823 in Smith County, Tennessee, married Cyrus Murphy on October 1, 1837 in Field Township, Jefferson County, Illinois. Evaline would have been about 6 years old when the family made the move to Illinois.

Thomas Jefferson Wimberly, born April 15, 1825 in Smith County, Tennessee, married Martha White in 1845 in Field Township, Jefferson County, Illinois. Thomas Jefferson would have been about 5 years old when the family made the move to Illinois

Lanie Wimberly, born in 1827 in Smith County, Tennesse, never married. She lived with Elijah and Maria until she died in 1897 in Field Township, Jefferson County, Illinois. Lanie would have been about 3 years old when the family made the move to Illinois.

Louisa Wimberly, a twin, born in 1829 in Smith County, Tennessee, married Jesse Hawkins in 1847 in Field Township, Jefferson County, Illinois. Louisa and her twin sister, Lucy, would have been a baby, less than one year old, when the family made the move to Illinois.

Lucy Wimberly, a twin, born in 1829 in Smith County, Tennessee, married William Cassady in 1850 in Field Township, Jefferson County, Illinois. Lucy, and her twin sister, Louisa, would have been a baby, less than one year old, when the family made the move to Illinois.

The Mother of Elijah

Mary "Polly" (Baucom) Wimberly (Elijah's mother) does not appear on any census after 1820. It is assumed she died some time during the period 1820 and 1829. Elijah would have fullfilled his obligation to his father according to the will and would have received the remainder of the estate under the provisions of Lewis' will. Elijah probably sold the 300 acre plantation and moved his family to Jefferson County, Illinois where land was cheap and more fertile in which to grow crops.

State of Illinois

Illinois in 1829 was still a relative new state having joined the Union in 1818. Land was still available for $1.25 per acre. The question to be answered is why Elijah moved to Illinois instead of staying in Smith County or moving to one of the southern states?

Elijah probably heard from the early Smith County emigrants who left Smith County for Jefferson County in the early 1820's about the rich soil and level land in Illinois, just right for crop farming. In fact, Jeremiah Fields who was probably one of Elijah's friends, moved to Jefferson County in 1826 from Smith County, TN.

Elijah acquired the following tracts of land in Field Township, Jefferson Co, IL:

This concluded Elijah Wimberly acquisition of 599 acres of land in Field Township, IL. Elijah sold land to his sons in later years and eventually sold or willed all of his land away before he died in 1876.

The Wimberly Plantation

The Wimberly plantation of 300 acres in Smith County, TN was situation in the valley of the Cumberland River. Most of Smith County is hilly, rocky and very poor farm land for grain crops. It is suited mostly for tobacco farming. The early settlers to this part of Tennessee claimed the land near the Cumberland River and probably every spring the river would flood portions of the valley destroying valuable crops. Elijah probably was a tobacco farmer along with corn and some wheat.

The author has been to Smith County, Tennessee and attempted to find the location of the Wimberly Plantation but to no avail. It is either at the bottom of the Cumberland River or all records of the location have been destroyed. The Cumberland River was increased in size and a lake was formed covering many old homesteads when TVA completed the Barkley Dam in the late 1940's.

The Journey to Illinois

Elijah's family consisted of his wife, Maria, his five children, Evaline, Thomas Jefferson (the son), Lanie, Louisa & Lucy, (twins), and his two sisters, Betsey and Milly.

Elijah probably left Smith County, Tennessee in the fall of 1829 and traveled the 300 miles north to Jefferson County, IL by horse and wagon. He probably crossed the Ohio River either at Shawneetown or Golconda, Illinois where the river bottom was rocky and at low water levels, was easily navagated. Or there could have been a river ferry since Shawneetown was a fairly large town of 700 people in 1829. It had 8 to 10 stores, several groceries, two public houses, and a land-office. Elijah probably arrived in Field Township, Jefferson County, Illinois approximately 30 days later traveling about 10 miles per day on the Shawneetown-to-St. Louis road which ran through the center of Mt. Vernon Township. There were other well-established roads by 1829 in Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Who did Elijah and his family of 9 persons stay with during the winter of 1829-1830 once he arrived in Jefferson County? The Fields family moved to Field Township in 1826 and the Wimberly's were always close to the Fields family. The best guess is Elijah and his family stayed with Jeremiah Fields until Elijah could build his family a log home in 1830. (See picture above)

Elijah also could have traveled the Cumberland River by river raft since rivers were one the main transportation links in the late 1820's but I believe this is highly unlikely since well-developed roads were in place by 1829.

Elijah Wimberly and his family were included in the U. S. Census of 1830 for Jefferson County, IL.

Elijah the preacher

We know Elijah became a preacher when he arrived in Jefferson County in 1829/30. A death notice was published in the St. Louis Christian Advocate when Elijah died in 1876. The notice: Elijah was born in the Pendleton District of South Carolina in 1800. Maria (nee Holland) was born in Virginia according to the census of 1850. The above notices were incorrect in stating Elijah was born in North Carolina and Maria was born in Louisiana.

Elijah started his own church on 10 acres of land he sold to the church trustees for $8.00 on January 8, 1853 and February 15, 1856. The church name was Jordan Chapel M.E. Church and was located halfway between Dix (Rome), IL and Texico, IL. The church burned years ago but the cemetery is still there and Elijah and Maria are buried in the cemetery. Elijah's children and grandchildren must have gotten tired of Elijah's fire and brimstone preaching because almost all of them joined other churches in the area and only two were members of his church.

The Page was last updated: February 19, 1999