ATWELL, John, Sr, of Maryland and North Carolina

John Atwell Sr was born in Maryland, ca 1742, since he was reportedly 85 at the time of his death, Rowan County, North Carolina, 16 Mar 1827.[1] His wife may have been an Elizabeth,[2] otherwise unknown, but the fact that his son’s given name was Lock suggests that as a maiden name and may be the origin of some researchers calling her Elizabeth Lockett; there was a Locke family nearby in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The mother of this family probably died before 1820.

John’s life has been traced largely through what is known of his children. There were two John Atwells in 1776, St. James Parish, Anne Arundel County, one with one woman, 2 boys, 2 girls; the other with 1 woman, 2 boys, 1 girl. One of these men signed a Fidelity Oath in 1778 in Anne Arundel County, p 22. John Atwell was assessed taxes in 1783, residing in Herring Creek Hundred. The names used in our John’s family suggest he was belonged to the same family as Benjamin Atwell of Anne Arundel Co in the same 1776 census and other records.[3] On the same pages, 351 and 352, are Benjamin Atwell, 3/2/[blurred], John Atwell, 1/2/1, and [illegible]l/t/d son of Jno. Atwell, 1/2/1.[4]

            The John Atwell in Sampson Co NC 1790 census was a different man, who moved to Richmond Co GA and died there ca 1815.

            Family researcher Lois Kimmons wrote, “I haven’t been able to find primary evidence on the parents of John Atwell, Sr. In one of the genealogies he is listed as the son of John, son of Francis of Westmoreland Co VA. Also, John Atwell’s wife was said to be Elizabeth Lockett. No actual proof that I have found. John Atwell Sr of Prince Edward Co VA, was not the same John who was in Caswell Co NC by 1800,[5] where there were deeds dated 1799, 1808, 1809 and 1811. The latter man’s known children were John, Lock, Richard, Elizabeth, Mary and probably others.”[6]

            There were five Atwell marriages in Caswell Co NC recorded during the period from 1803 to 1810.[7] Four were the children of this John Atwell. First, Richard married in 1803. Next, John had married first in Maryland and had four young children when his first wife died, probably at the time of the birth of Benjamin Atwell in 1807; his second wife’s name is not given in Caswell Court records, but is believed to have been a sister of Richard’s wife, Sarah Tennison, based on family tradition and the bondsman. Also in December 1807 John’s son Lock and daughter Margaret were both married in Caswell Co. The fifth record, confusingly, was the fourth John Atwell known to be in this county in those years, neither John Sr nor John Jr, since this man’s marriage was intact at the time of the 1850 census in Iredell Co NC, and the will of a John Atwell of Iredell Co NC, dated July 9 1863, names his wife Bena; his place in the Atwell family is not known. Nor was he the John whose wife Martha (Rice) Atwell burned to death on Christmas Day 1819.[8] Our John Atwell’s fifth child, daughter Mary, is also believed to have married in Caswell Co ca 1801, and her marriage is not recorded.

            No 1800 census for our John Atwell has been found. He was not the John Atwell in Shenandoah Co VA in 1783. By 1803 at the latest, his family was in Caswell Co NC, and sometime after an 1807 deed selling his land in Caswell Co, son Richard had moved on to Kentucky.[9] In 1810, his family’s census entries read: Caswell Co NC, p 461, John Atwell Sr: 00001/00101; John Atwell Jr: 31010/20010; and Lock Atwell: 20110/00100. William “Swan” was also in Caswell Co NC: 01100/20100; and Thomas Bastin as well: 00010/30010. There was no 1810 census in KY, but Richard shows up in several records. John Sr’s census also suggests a younger daughter.

            In Caswell County, North Carolina, between 1784 and 1803 there was a William Atwell listed on deeds; between 1803 and 1812, John Sr, John Jr, Thomas, Lock and Richard Atwell all appear on deeds, plus a Pearce and a John Aswell or Azwell in 1798 and 1799.[10]

            In 1820 this John’s sons were in Green Co KY, p 61, John Atwell: 320101/10210/4, and Woodsonville, Hart Co KY, Richard Atwell: 421111/21011; and possibly Joseph Atwell in Meade Co KY. Lock and his father had moved to Rowan Co NC, p 264, Lock Atwell: 320011/10020; and the Swanns were living in 1830 in Iredell Co NC, where the daughter and her husband now had a family of: 0211001/2121101, that is, 3 sons and 7 daughters. Thomas Bastin and wife were still in Caswell Co in 1820: 300010/1301.

These are the children of John Atwell Sr and his wife, possibly Elizabeth:

1. John ATWELL Jr was born in 1770-1774 in MD. John died in Green Co KY, before 1840, and was buried on what became the Alvie Kessler Farm, KY Hwy 218, Green Co KY. He appears to be the man who, on 4 Sep 1797, married Anne LEWIS in Frederick Co MD. John’s first wife died ca 24 Nov 1807 in Caswell Co NC. They had the following children:

                        i.            Thomas (ca 1798-ca 1822)

                        ii.            William (1800-1877)

                        iii.            Eleanor/Nelly (ca 1804-)

                        iv.            Benjamin (1807-1895)


On 20 Dec 1807, he second married — TENNISON, daughter of Ignatius Nevitte TENNISON & Lucretia –?–, in Caswell Co NC.  She died ca 1815. They had the following children:

                        i.            Nancy (1808-)

                        ii.            Richard (ca 1813-1850)


About 1815, he third married Mrs Sarah (–?–) RISON in Green Co KY. Sarah Atwell was a widow in 1840, and both of them had probably died before 1850. John and Sarah had the following children:

                        i.            John A (ca 1815-)

                        ii.            Margaret (ca 1818-1881)

                        iii.            Joel (1820-1882)


2. (poss.) Joseph Atwell was born ca 1780 in Maryland. His censuses give different ages, from ca 1775-1785. He was married before 1817 to a first, unknown wife, and on 27 Nov 1845, he married, second, Judith (–?–) MOORMAN in Breckenridge Co KY. She was born ca 1793 in VA, and both were living in 1860 in Meade Co KY. Joseph and his first wife had the following children:

                        i.            Edward Hayden (1817-1888)

                        ii.            Samuel S (ca 1823-)

                        iii.            Rebecca (ca 1828-)

                        iv.            Joseph Anderson (ca 1831-)

                        v.            Hester (ca 1835-)

                        vi.            Margaret (ca 1837-)

                        vii.            Thomas (ca 1838-)

3. Thomas ATWELL, who appeared on an 1803 deed in Caswell Co NC, on Dobbins Creek of Hogan’s Creek where others of this family resided.[11]

 4. Mary Wayson[12] ATWELL was born on 17 Nov 1780 in MD, stated by descendants to have been in Dorchester Co. Mary W died in Green Co KY, on 26 Jan 1852. She married Thomas Lane BASTIN Jr in Caswell Co NC. Born on 6 Feb 1783 in Caswell Co NC, Thomas Lane died in Green Co KY, in 1858. They had the following children:

                        i.            Henry (ca 1802-)

                        ii.            Margaret (ca 1810-)

                        iii.            John Atwell (ca 1811-)

                        iv.            Ann Wayson (ca 1814-)

                        v.            Martha B (ca 1815-1860)

                        vi.            Henrietta (ca 1815-ca 1845)

                        vii.            Thomas (1818-1889)

                        viii.            Major B (ca 1820-)


5. Lock ATWELL was born on 1 Feb 1781 probably in MD. Lock died in Rowan Co NC, on 24 Sep 1844. In 1820 Lock was in Rowan Co NC, in a household that probably included his father: 320011/10020/03. On 5 Dec 1807 when Lock was 26, he married Mary E SMITH in Caswell Co NC. Born ca 1788 in VA, Mary E died in Rowan Co NC, before 1862. They had the following children:

                        i.            John W (1808-1862)

                        ii.            Joseph (1810-)

                        iii.            William B (1810-)

                        iv.            Elizabeth A (1810-)

                        v.            Thomas L (ca 1812-)

                        vi.            James A (ca 1817-)

 6. Richard ATWELL. Born ca 1782/1786 in MD. Richard died in KY after 1850. On 8 Dec 1803, he married Sarah TENNISON, daughter of Ignatius Nevitte TENNISON & Lucretia –?–, in Caswell Co NC. Born ca 1781-83 in Prince Georges Co MD. Sarah died in Barren Co KY, on 15 Feb 1854. O n 20 Nov 1814, Richard enlisted in Capt. Robert Paxton’s Kentucky Militia in the War of 1812; he mustered out on 20 May 1815, after his unit participated in the Battle of New Orleans. They had the following children:

                        i.            Lucretia (1804-1880)

                        ii.            Ignatius (ca 1807-)

                        iii.            John Tennison (ca 1806-1880)

                        iv.            Sarah (ca 1810-)

                        v.            Richard Nevet (1812-1880)

                        vi.            Margaret Ann (1818-)

                        vii.            William Henry (1824-1864)

 7. Margaret ATWELL. Born in say 1787. On 24 Dec 1807, she married William SWANN in Caswell Co NC. By 1820, the couple had at least 3 sons and 7 daughters.

 8. [Elizabeth?] ATWELL, born 1785-1794, at home in 1810, could be the Elizabeth named by Lois Kimmons.

© 2009 Kathy Alvis Patterson

[1] Death notice of John Atwell Sr, from “Marriage and Death Notices from the Western Carolinian,” Salisbury NC, 1820-1842: John Atwell, age 85, died 16 Mar 1827 in Rowan Co NC.

[2] In 1808, “John Atwell and wife Elizabeth” sold 10 acres of land on Hogan’s Creek, Caswell Co NC. This may be part of the land the son John bought from John Sr in 1807, demonstrating that his second wife was named Elizabeth, or it may be the father and mother selling land. In 1809 John Atwell sold 7 acres to Elizabeth Atwell.

[3] The 1778 list males 18 years or older in Anne Arundel Co MD and the St. James Parish records 1770-1799 name Benjamin, Daniel, John, Joseph, Robert, and Samuel Atwell.

[4] A recent posting [in 2009] at Genforum says that this Green Co KY—Caswell Co NC family is proven to trace back to Anne Arundel Co MD. I am looking for details. {I never found them.-2018]

[5] Both the Prince Edward Co VA and Caswell Co NC families had a John Sr and a John Jr. The Caswell Co father and son moved away after the 1810 census. The John Jr of Prince Edward Co VA moved to Caswell Co NC before 1819. Their relationship is unknown, but the two John, Seniors, could be cousins. At the time John Atwell’s wife, Martha Rice, burned to death 25 Dec 1819 in Caswell Co NC, John Atwell of KY was married to his third wife Sarah Risen.

[6] Correspondence with this writer, plus postings at the Atwell Family Genealogy Forum, including 3 Mar 1999. See also “New Atwell Information,” posted by Lois Kimmons and Ray Atwell, 27 Nov 2004, at this forum (<,Lockett::atwell::1024.html>).

[7] Caswell Co NC Marriages:

Richard Atwell to Sarah Tennison, 8 Dec 1803;

Lock Atwell to Polley Smith 5 Dec 1807;

John Atwell to __________ 20 Dec 1807;

Peggy Atwell to William Swann 24 Dec 1807;

John Atwell to Beney Smith 8 Dec 1810.

[8] MR 22 Feb 1796, Prince Edward Co VA. Caswell Co NC Coroner’s Inquest: Caswell County Coroner’s Inquest into her death on 25 Dec 1819. Witnesses to her death at the inquest were Douglas Fulcher (he was her son-in-law, the husband of Nancy), Benjamin Johnston, Lucy Johnston, Nancy Johnston, Mary Johnston, Mary Yokley, Henry Atwell, Nancy Page, Joseph Atwell, John Mason, Joshua Beavel, John Farrie Jr, James Stafford and Mary Stafford.

[9] Hart Co KY Historical Society Quarterly (OK Historical Society, 11 Feb 1999), II, 1, p 6f: 1819 Tax list included Richard Atwell.

[10]Caswell County records  28 Oct 1784, —Atwell witnessed a deed for James Miller, land on Hogan’s Creek

18 Aug 1787, William Atwell had grant from NC for 220 acres on Hogan’s Creek

17 Mar 1798, Pearce Aswell (Atwell) bought 100 acres on Country Line Creek

17 Dec 1799, John Aswell (Atwell) witnessed deed

11 July 1803, Thomas Atwell bought 10 1/2 acres on Dobbins Creek of Hogan’s Creek, adjacent Atwell’s land

16 Mar 1803, John Atwell bought 100 acres on Hogan’s Creek

4 Jan 1804, John Atwell’s land was adjacent land bought by John Brown on Dobbins Creek of Hogan’s Creek

9 Apr 1804, Richard Atwell witnessed deed for Asa Teneson on Hogan’s Creek at Dobbins Creek

6 Aug 1804, John Atwell bought 120 acres on Hogan’s Creek

2 Sept 1805 John Atwell bought 78 acres on Hogan’s Creek

17 Nov 1807 Richard Atwell witnessed deed for land on Hogan’s Creek

10 Dec 1807, Richard Atwell sold 106 acres on Dobbins Creek

13 July 1808, John Atwell, Sen to John Atwell, Jun, 80.4 acres on Hogan’s Creek by Dobbins Creek

Aug 1808, John Atwell, Jun, agrees to give his father peaceful possession of said land for his life (deed from Caswell County Deed Book P, pp. 252-3 between John Atwell, Senr and John Atwell Junr of Caswell County, NC, dated “this thirteenth day of July in the year of our Lord one Thousand eight hundred and eight. Which has the following after the signature of John Atwell and the witnesses to the will: “I do hereby these presents bargain and assign and oblige myself to let my Father John Atwell have peaceable and quiet possession of the lands within mentioned and deeded to me during his natural life . . .hereto set my hand and seal this 7 day of August 1808. (signed) John Atwell Jun)

18 Mar 1809, John Atwell Sr to Richard Atwell, 100 acres on Hogan’s Creek. Richard Atwell agrees his father John Atwell to have peaceful possession of said land for life (Caswell County Deed Book P, p. 308 between John Atwell and Richard Atwell, dated “This eighteenth day of March in the year of our Lord one Thousand eight hundred and nine.” It also ends as the above deed: “I do hereby certify that I Richard Atwell have agreed that my Father John Atwell is to have quiet and peaseable posession during his natural life. . .” (signed) Richard Atwell)

16 June 1808, John Atwell and wife Elizabeth Atwell, sell 10 acres on Hogan’s Creek

7 Jan 1811, John Atwell of Caswell County to Elizabeth Atwell, 7 acres on Hogan’s Creek

8 Jan 1811, Lock Atwell sold 123 acres on Hogan’s Creek

11 Jan 1811, John Atwell jr. and John Atwell Sen of Caswell County, sold 100 acres on Dobbins Creek of Hogan’s Creek (Deed Book Q, p. 323, dated 11 Jan 1811 when John Atwell Senr and John Atwell Junr sell land they jointly owned)

14 Oct 1812, Nicholas Willis bought 104 acres on Dobbins Creek of Hogan’s Creek adjacent Atwell

[11] “Michael Harlow and his Children” at has this information: “Thomas Atwell was born 24 Jan 1789 in MD and according to a Massac Co IL history, his father was also a native of MD, early moved to NC, thence to Barren Co KY and engaged in farming. Nancy, daughter of Michael Harlow and Lucy Davis, was born in KY, possibly Barren Co. Thomas and Nancy married about 1817, Barren Co. By 1830 the family was listed in the Hart Co census. However, Nancy’s parents were living in Hart Co by 1825 and quite possibly the Atwells, too. By 1831/2 both of these families appear in Harrison Co IN. A school enumeration of that county in 1846 lists these children for Thomas: Lewis, 16; Jane, 14; and Samuel, 11. Also for 1847, on the 1842 Tax list, Heth Twp: “In addition to the marriage of son Fielding and Sarah Herndon, 1845, Harrison Co. there are 2 other Atwell marriages that year which may be Thomas’s daughters. Mary A. Atwell and John S. Risler, 30 Mar and Lucy Atwell and James Copland, 22 June. The History of Massac Co IL goes on to say that Thomas’s family left Indiana in 1849 and travelled the Ohio River by flatboat to Brooklyn Twp, Massac Co. (across the river from Paducah, KY), arriving on 1 Mar where he and Nancy lived out their lives. The 1850 census for Massac Co lists (hh #483) Thomas, 62 MD, Nancy, 53 KY, Louise, 21 KY, Jane, 20 IN, Samuel, 16 IN, Francis, 10 IN. (#650) includes, Fielding, 28, Sarah, 22, George W, 4, and Leonidas, 2. Interestingly, (#649) is Jacob Davis, 26, Sarah, 31, John, 14, Fielding, 6, and William L. Sarah could be Fielding Atwell’s sister, naming her son after her brother. And Davis is the surname of Thomas Atwell’s wife, Lucy. Thomas appeared in the 1860 census and died 2 years later.”

[12] There was a Levy and Mary (Smith) Wayson family in Anne Arundel Co MD, ca 1800.

Published on August 14, 2008 at 9:27 am  Comments (21)  

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21 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I believe the last name that you are looking for on Elizabeth is Webster

    • I think that’s a different John Atwell Sr. I’ll check.

  2. This is an Afro- American Family that I am searching for, please keep that in mind for me, I visited the White family’s records and trouble putting things together, hopefully some one with a good christian heart can assist me in the right direction. Thank you for your help so far Janice Atwell Mcgee

  3. I just found your family in the 1910 census and was going to email that they were African American. In Mecklenburg Co NC, mother Lizzie Atwell, age 40, widowed, was with Troy, 17, Billie, 14, Molly, 12, and Odessa, 5.

    In 1900, the family consisted of James, a farmer, born Jun 1873 [1900 census entries gave the month and year of birth], Lizzie, born Jan 1870, married seven years and mother of three living children, Troy, can’t read the month, but born in 1894, James (so Bill may have been James William or William James), Feb 1896, Mary Ann (this must be Molly), Apr 1898, a lodger and an aunt, Bettie Atwell, born Jan 1855.

    As you may know, the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, so we have to go back to 1880. James or Bettie might be located but I have no clues yet for Lizzie’s last name. Actually, I just looked and found two white boys named James Atwell. Just because I haven’t found him yet doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. has North Carolina death records. Bill Atwell’s wife’s death certificate reads: Dorcas Atwell, age 24, daughter of Sam C Alexander and wife, — Johnston, died Mar 24, 1927, of tuberculosis. Their baby Mauda died a week later, Mar 29, 1927, at the age of eight months, also of tuberculosis. How very sad, back before medicines were available.

    William Atwell’s World War I Draft registration in June 1917 says he was born Nov 19, 1895, married, a farmer, could sign his name, was medium height and slender, with black hair and black eyes.

    Troy Atwell’s World War I Draft registration also in June 1917 says he was 24 years old, born Sep 23, 1892 (year not clear), was married, a farmer, could sign his name, was tall and slender, with black hair and black eyes.

    Not all birth or death records were officially recorded. Odessa Atwell married Luther Brown and had two babies in 1927 and 1930. The baby in 1930 was born and died on the same day, so sad, in Kannapolis, so you may know this already.

  4. Thank you so much, for the infomation. I never knew about my family, but thanks to you, I’m enlightened about a lot of the details, for instance, Dorcas Atwell was my grandmother and she did in fact die after she had a child, but no one mentioned my mother, Mary Frances Atwell who was her daughter. Again thank you. My grandfather was a lover, so I was told maybe he made that trip and sired the white James Atwell. Who knows?

  5. It’s been awhile since we talked, I was wondering if you came up with anymore information about my family,

    • Sorry, but that’s all I have.

  6. Hi, i’m sorry, I’ve waited so long to talk to you again,I know the last time we talked you said you didn’t have anything more, please could you give me a way or some information on how I can start my own search. so much more is there for instance my gggrandmothers name and great grandfathers mthers name. I want to thank you for the information you gave us it was a big help,please let me know thanks
    again Janice Atwell Mcgee

  7. I have some new information on the Atwell Family of Green Co Ky. Please. Email me at


  8. Hi, My name is Greg Stallings and I’m descended from Eliza Virginia Atwell, daughter of Jeremiah Atwell (Augusta, GA), son of James, son of John? I was wondering if anyone has information on this John and where he originated in NC. Is this the same John who had descendants in GA? Please email me at if you can help me clarify this line. Thank you!

    • I really need some dates. Do you have these people’s censuses ion any years? Kathy

      • I have a tree or Gedcom I could send if you email me. Elizabeth Virginia Atwell born 1837 in Augusta GA. Thanks! – Greg.

  9. Does anyone know of the name Lockatwell? He was an African American child between the ages of 8 and 10. I think he was missing. I dreamt this and I wrote it down.

    • When was he aged 8-10? Was his name written as one word, Lockatwell? There was a presumably white man named Locke Atwell, considered to have been a son of John Atwell, Sr. This is probably the source for the statement that John’s wife’s family name was Locke or Lockett.

  10. I remember my Aunt Odessa and Molly Atwell mentioned a Lock’ when I was a small child a lot and making a lot of laughter when he was mentioned.Did he live in the area of China Grove, NC?

    • I doubt your aunts remember the first Lock Atwell, who dird in 1844 in the area of China Grove, NC. But the first Lock had 5 or 6 sons and a quick study on shows three of them has sons named Locke, either first or middle name, usually with the -e.
      Of these men, Lock Wilson Atwell died in 1861, William Locke Atwell died in 1864, and the youngest of these cousins, John Locke Atwell was born in 1849 and died after 1900.
      Again a generation passed before there was another Lock or Locke Atwell. Lock Wilson Atwell’s only known son had a son Locke Paul Atwell born in 1880 and died in 1963, living most of his life in Selma AL. And this man’s son was Locke Paul Atwell Jr, born 1921 in Alabama and died 2008 in Idaho.
      I imagine one of these younger men visited family in China Grove and knew your aunts there.

  11. OMG! You are so right thank you so much for all that you do,my Aunties loved him like he was the best family member ever. I’m asumming that he was the Locke Atwell born in the year 1880-1963 in Selma AL.If there is anymore news about his son ,maybe a phone number or address I would love to talk with him about the family?

    • Hello, I am Locke Paul Atwell’s daughter. I would be interested in knowing more about the North Carolina part of our family. I see that you are an app with two. I would love to know how we are related.

      • You and I are sixth cousins. Are you on Your Atwell lineage is posted there; we both descend from sons of John Atwell, who died in 1827. Have any male Atwells in your family had DNA testing? The clue to whether our Maryland Atwells are related to families in Connecticut and Virginia will be revealed through DNA, I hope.

  12. Janice,
    Locke’s obituary is not online, but here is his wife’s.
    You might be able to track down some of the children.
    Now, please email me names, dates and places for your side of the Atwell family.

  13. Thank you for the info.I read the obituary and I believe that we’re getting closer to family.

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