I have no doubt that the information I have written about here already has been discovered and compiled by others who have done a much better job of it.  I am the great-great-grand-daughter of John Raphael Lafayett Barnwell.  While providing here what information I have about my Barnwell forebears that might be helpful to others, I also am looking for information as to who really was his father.  I am not a professional genealogist, so please substantiate any sources I provide.  Additionally, if I have misquoted any of the sweet and endearing folks that I contacted back in the early 1980’s, and who were so generous as to provide invaluable information to a stranger - who although a distant relative - suddenly intruded on their lives, I do apologize.  


John Raphael Lafayett Barnwell was born ca 1854/55 near Tazewell, (Claiborne Co.) TN, at Ball Creek near Lone Mountain.  He was the son of Lavania (Lavany) LeBow (Leabow) Barnwell.  In records, she was referred to variously as Lavania, Lavinia, Luvany, Vaney, etc.  Her parents were John (Jackson) Leabow and Mary Jennings Leabow.  Mary Jennings was the daughter of Edward (Ned) and Sarah Jennings.  They were all Claiborne, TN residents.  Family oral history indicates that John Barnwell and his sister Martha might have been illegitimate; however, in the book "A History of Old Tazewell" by Mrs. Mary A. Hansard, it is mentioned that Lavania married a Barnwell in the 1830s.  This husband "left mysteriously", leaving Lavania "in care of some children", according to Mrs. Hansard.  The 1830 Claiborne Census lists only one Barnwell – a William.  That census, unfortunately, provides little other information.  The 1840 census lists no Barnwells.  The 1850 Claiborne Census shows Lavinia Barnwell, aged 31; William R. Barnwell, aged 17; Samuel Barnwell, aged 15; Martha Barnwell, aged 5; and Margaret Barnwell, aged 2.  From family oral history, I know that Martha Barnwell (she later married William Guy) was John R. Barnwell's only known sister.  Perhaps Margaret did not survive into adulthood.  John, born ca 1854, evidently came along after the recording of the 1850 census.


Years back, I wondered if the older William Barnwell of the 1830 Claiborne census could be the husband of Lavania Leabow Barnwell.  If William and Samuel were her sons, then she would have been only around 14 when the oldest was born.  Why then the 10-year gap between the older and younger siblings - unless they were perhaps from a different father and received the name Barnwell only from their mother?  If such were to be the case, I am not descended from Barnwells.  Another possibility I considered was that the younger children of Lavania were also the children of the 17-year-old William R. Barnwell listed with the Leabow family in 1850.  William was 17 - Lavinia was 31.  Was he her son, her stepson, the father of her younger children - or none of the above?  I am sure they all turned over in their respective graves if they were aware of all these wild speculations! 


My great-great grandfather, John R. Lafayett Barnwell, per oral family history, had only one known sibling, his older sister Martha, yet there was some vague rumor that he  had a "twin" brother who had gone to Texas and was never heard from again.  John is buried in the Scott Cemetery in Shewanee, TN.  My queries for John and Martha’s death certificates have been unsuccessful.   I know that John died in 1928 in Middlesborough (Bell, Co.) KY.  He lived at Queensbury Heights in Middlesborough.  He was a Baptist minister and was called "J. R.", "Fate", "Preacher" and “Jack.”  The nickname "Fate" I once thought had something to do with his middle name, Raphael (told to me by my Uncle George Frye, who has his middle name after John R. Barnwell); however, I recently learned that John Raphael’s name as recorded in the 1870 census was Lafayett Barnwell.  I have a few photographs of him, his wife, Sydney Woodson Barnwell, and three of their children whom I believe to be Martha (my great-grandmother), Charles and Mary.  He was a very nice looking man.  Family history says that he had some clay musket balls from the Battle of Fredericksburg or Vicksburg, and that his family (Barnwell) originally came from the Carolinas.  He married Sidney Woodson and his children were Charles, Martha and Mary.  His daughter, Martha Jean Barnwell, married Charles Calhoun Frye, and they are my great-grandparents.  Mary married Gilbert Turner, and Charles married Kitty Wilson.  If anyone has any information on which John R. Barnwell's father was, and the relationships of those young Barnwells listed on the 1850 census, I would be very grateful to obtain it.  I first thought that the Barnwell husband of Lavania Leabow Barnwell, was surely John R. Lafayett Barnwell’s father, but then I found the information listed in the Claiborne County Will Books shown below.  If I interpret the information correctly, John Barnwell, Sr., whom I presume to have been her husband, was deceased no later than 19 Feb 1849 and likely even on or before Feb 1847.  It appears that John Barnwell, Sr., deceased, had established a guardianship by Lavania of his two older sons (heirs), William R. and Samuel.  Because the younger Barnwell children residing with Lavania per the 1830 Census (Mary and Margaret) were 10 and 12 years younger than the two older boys were, it seems to indicate that Lavania may have been the second wife of John Barnwell, Sr.  This also could explain the guardianship, as Lavania probably would not need guardianship appointment if she were the natural mother of the 15 and 17-year-old boys.  She had no such appointment for her two younger daughters.  The problem lies in that John Barnwell, Sr. – Lavania’s husband (I presume), evidently was deceased by 19 Feb 1849.  John Raphael Lafayett Barnwell was born around 1854.  If these respective dates are correct, there is no way that John, Sr. could be John R. Lafayett’s father.  So the question is – who was his father????   If his mother, Lavania, had him out of wedlock, since her name remained as Barnwell, I can see where he also would have been given that surname, although he may be only a half-brother to Lavania’s other children.  Additionally, in the Book of Wills (John Barnwell) listed below, there is mention that money from the estate of WILLIAM BARNWELL was added to the funds which Lavinia Barnwell was holding in trust/administering for the two heirs of John Barnwell, Sr.


I have listed below the sources that I have found in my search for our Barnwell ancestors.  I hope the information I have included may be helpful to others interested in our history.  The information received from telephone calls is roughly transcribed, and is not intended to quote anyone directly.   


Cheri Tousignant                              





Excerpted from "Old Tazewell" by Mary L. Hansard:


Jackson Leabow lived at Ball Creek, Lone Mountain, Claiborne Co.,

TN.  His father-in-law was Edward (Ned) Jennings Sr. of Cedar Fork Church.  Jackson Leabow and his wife died around 50 years before Mrs. Hansard was writing her book (per the book). 

Jackson's children were:


   John Leabow -- left area

   Isham -- left area

   Urial (Royal?) bought old homestead

                  mar. (1) Rosa Saunders ca 1840 - had Robert and

                  Newton (who married a daughter of Jesse Rodgers)

                  mar. (2) Mrs. Jacob Walker (dau of William Lewis)

                  had Isham G. (who married Rachael Rodgers)


   Mrs. Wells  {Note: The 1850 census shows:

                Richard Wells     45   Farmer    NC

                Lottie M. Wells   38                    TN

                Mary Wells         17                     TN

                Liretta Wells       11                     TN

living near the Leabows.  It is very likely that Lottie M. Wells is Jackson Leabow's daughter, "Mrs. Wells", however, Lottie Wells is here 38 years while Lavany is 31 - and Mrs. Hansard says that Lavany is the OLDEST daughter.}


“Urial, from his first marriage to Rosa Saunders, had dau Malissa

who mar. William Hodges ca 1880.  (William Hodges' first wife was

a M.  Shumate and their children were Tilman and Lucy). 


Lavania (Lavany) was the oldest daughter of Jackson Leabow, Sr.

She married a Mr. Barnwell sometime in the 1830's”. 


The 1850 Claiborne Co. TN Census shows:


   John Leabow          58   M    Farmer      TN

   Mary Leabow         55   F                        TN

   Luvany Barnwell   31   F                        TN

   Wm. R. Barnwell   17   M    Laborer     TN

   Samuel Barnwell   15   M                       TN

   Martha Barnwell     5   F                         TN

   Mary A. Barnwell   2   F                         TN

Note: John R. Barnwell had not yet been born, as he apparently was born ca 1854.  He was said to be about mid-70's when he died, per family oral history, on 10 May 1928.   The 1910 Bell Co. KY census shows John R. Barnwell, age 56 - born in TN.  This would indicate that he was born in 1854.  If he died in 1928, he would have lived approximately 74 years.  He was in household (listed as "uncle") of John R. Guy.



The 1830 Claiborne Co., TN census shows:

   William Barnwell     Head (included in count below)

   1 male 20 - 30 years

   1 male 50 - 60 years

   1 male 90 - 100 years

   1 female 20 - 30 years

   1 female 40-50 years

   1 female under 5 years



The 1830 Claiborne Co., TN census also shows Isaam Lebow and female

(wife?) both aged 20 - 30 years with one child (male) under 5



The 1830 Claiborne Co., TN census also shows Mary LeBow as head of household which (including herself) had males: 1 of 5 - 10 years,

1 of 15 - 20 years, 1 of 50 - 60 years and females: 1 of 5 – 10 years, 1 of 10 - 15 years, 1 of 15 - 20 years and 1 of 40 – 50 years.


Same census also showed:

Daniel LeBow as head of household which (including himself) had males: 1 of 5 - 10 years, 2 of 10 - 20 years, 1 of 40 - 50 years, and females: 1 of 10 - 15 years, 1 of 15 - 20 years, and 1 of 30 - 40 years.



The 1850 Claiborne Co., TN census shows:

   Royal Lebow                  32       Farmer    TN

   Rosanna Lebow             33                        TN

   Malissa A Lebow           10                        TN

   Sterling L. Lebow            7                        TN

   Amana (sic) M. Lebow   5                        TN

   Calaway LeBow              2                         TN

   Jasper N. LeBow        1/12                         TN


The 1850 Claiborne Co., TN census also shows:

   Edward Jennings          76       Farmer     VA

   Sarah Jennings              75                         NC

   Wm. H. Jennings          46                         TN

   Mary Jennings               10                         TN

   James Jennings              12                         TN

   George Jennings           10                          TN

   Garrett Jennings             8                          TN

   William Jennings            6                          TN


The 1850 Claiborne Co., TN census mentioned above was enumerated on

27 Sep 1850.



The 1870 Claiborne Co. TN Census shows:


William Guy                     27             TN   White male           Farmer

Martha Guy                      22             TN   White female        Keeping house         

Lutitia Guy                         3             TN   White female            

Elizabeth Guy                    1              TN   White female

Lafayett Barnwell            15              TN   White male          Works on farm



The 1880 Claiborne Co. TN Census shows:


John R. Barnwell               26             TN   White male        Laborer                 

Sidney Barnwell                27             TN   White female     Keeping house    




The 1910 Bell Co. KY Census shows:

   John R. Guy      43     H       TN

   Amanda            49     W      TN

   Cora                   18     D       TN

   Sudie                 16      D       TN

   Dewey               11      S       TN

   John R.              56   Uncle   TN


All of the above entries show self and both parents as born in TN.  John R. Barnwell is listed as a widow(er), John R. Guy (evidently his nephew and son of John R. Barnwell's sister Martha Barnwell Guy, is listed as a coal miner, who can both read and write.  John and Amanda had been married 27 years at this census.



Older family members say that John R. Barnwell‘s family originally was from South Carolina.  That he was a young man at the battle of Vicksburg, MS,  (I do not know if he was a participant), and that he used to have some mini-balls or clay rifle balls which may have been from that battle.  (I speculate that perhaps it was his father or an older relative that may have been at this battle and brought back the mini-balls, as John would have been only around 10 - 12 years old during the Civil War).  Males displaced by this war could possibly be the answer as to where the Barnwells came from.  A letter which I received (in reply to a query) from Stephen R. Wise of the

University of South Carolina, states that Barnwell, SC was named for John Barnwell (1748 - 1800) of Beaufort, SC, a militia general in the Revolutionary War.  He commanded a brigade in the later portion of the conflict and was promoted to Major General at the war's end.

He held no rank in the Continental Army.  He was the grandson of John Barnwell (1671 - 1724) who was known nationally for his Indian campaigns in which he obtained the nickname "Tuscarora Jack".  The genealogy of this family has been done in both Stephen B. Barnwell's An American Family, 1969 and in the “South Carolina Historical Magazine” Vol. II, pp. 46-88.  John Rafael Barnwell does not appear in either work, thus it is most probable that he was not a member of this particular clan of Barnwells – if he were a Barnwell at all. Yet, I found an impressive paralleling of first names of males of our clan and of those in SC.  In addition, I found a Barnwell male born in TN, who died in SC.



Per a conversation I had years back (early 1980s) with Mr. Willard Guy, whom I believe is a grandson of Martha Barnwell Guy, and therefore a great-grandson of John R. Barnwell, John R. is buried in the Scott Cemetery in Shewanee, TN.  His grave has only a fieldstone marker.  Willard said he also found the graves of Sudie Guy and Martha Guy.  Martha was born 10 Feb 1846 - died 16 Feb 1933.  While searching in the cemetery, he said that he met some older citizens, Mrs. Carson Brooks and her sister, Ms. Beulah Guy.  Mrs. Brooks was a Guy by birth.  They knew of Jennings and Leabows in Lone Mountain, TN.  Mrs. Brooks is Willard's 3rd cousin.  He said that he learned quite a bit from them about his family, and found that he has uncles at Greer's Chapel that he was not aware of.  At the time I contacted him, Willard said that he had a niece in Newport, MI who was collecting information about the family history.



On 16 Jul 1982, referenced by Mr. Willard Guy of Shewanee, TN, I called Mrs. Carson Brooks of Harrogate, TN.  She referred me to her sister, Ms. Beulah Guy (never married) who was at Mrs. Brooks' house.  Per Beulah Guy:


She is the granddaughter of Martha Barnwell Guy - the sister of "Fate" Barnwell (John R.).  Fate was the only known brother of Martha.

Beulah did not know the names of Martha's parents.  Martha was raised by her grandparents at Lone Mountain, TN.  They were Leabows.  They owned slaves.  Martha was raised by a slave black woman and called her "Mammy".  Martha had gracious manners and was a well-raised lady.


Beulah remembered seeing "Fate", her great-uncle, several times when she was a child.  She called him "Uncle Fate".  Martha was born and raised at Lone Mountain, TN.  Beulah has heard her speak of being kin to Leabows and Jennings and Hodges.  Fate is buried not far from Beulah's house (I assumed that she lived with her sister, Mrs. Brooks, but did not ask).  Beulah remembered Fate living in Middlesborough when she was a young girl, and her father ran W. W. Guy Furniture Store in Middlesborough, KY.  She said that there was a lawyer named Leabow in Middlesborough who was related to her dad and would come to visit.  She said that Fate died 1926, 1927 or 1928 at Middlesborough.  Beulah affirmed, "All those old people had come from the Carolinas".


The following information was from my great-aunt Allie Fair Frye Taylor: 

John Raphael Barnwell had a sister Martha who married a Guy.  Aunt Allie remembers Martha Barnwell Guy as a very old woman of about 90, but that even at that advanced age she had real black hair and brown eyes.  She did not look her age, and she resided in Shewanee, TN.  In addition, family history from Allie Taylor stated that John R. Lafayett Barnwell was possibly illegitimate and that his mother Lavania was well to do.   Her daughter, Martha, John R. Lafayett Barnwell’s sister, was said to have been raised by a black slave lady, had graceful manners and was well brought up.  She called the black lady “Mammy.”

Martha and John supposedly had a twin brother who went away from home when young and they never could locate him again.  Dora, Allie (my great aunts)  and Bessie Frye (my grandmother) were young girls when their grandpa John Barnwell died.  Aunt Allie thought that 1928 seemed too late to her. Her brother George Frye, his wife, Celia Baker, and Bessie Frye and Allen Grubbs (my grandparents) were already married when John R. died.  Allen and Bessie married in 1921. 



Per a call to Ms. Dora Barnwell of Middlesborough, she was born in 1924.  I understood that she is daughter of Tommy andLovina (Lovie) Barnwell, and granddaughter of Charles Edgar ("C. E." Barnwell and his wife Kitty Wilson Barnwell.  Charlie Barnwell had sisters Mary Barnwell Turner and Martha Barnwell Frye. Charlie

Barnwell lived near Cumberland Gap. 

Mary had:  George, Bessie, Fred and Reno.  Bessie first was married to a husband who was killed by a train.  She later married again to a Wallace.


Charlie had:  Edgar, Mossie, Jane, Clara, Tommy and Hubert.



Per call to Ms. Mossie Barnwell Yoakum, Speedwell, TN, Mary, Martha

and Charlie were children of John R. Barnwell.  Not many Barnwells were left – a few of her dad's family were still living.  Mary's family went north.  Martha is

dead as is her husband and son.  She says John R. Barnwell had one brother who went to TX and took up some land.  He wanted John R. to go with him, but John lost trace of his brother.  She said J.R. died about 1926.  Mossie has a sister - Ms. Janie White in Pineville, wife of John White.


Per call to Ms. Janie White on 11-28-81, Janie was 71 years old.  She remembered J.R. Barnwell, and called him Jack.  He died probably 1927 or, more likely 1928 - just before she got married in 1929.  He lived at Middlesborough when he died.  Her sister-in-law, Ms. Judy Barnwell, wife of her brother Hubert, lives in Middlesborough.  She (Judy) was contacted by a Barnwell whom she did not know (evidently seeking family connections/history).  Judy lives in Middlesborough, but her husband Hubert died in a plane crash in the mid 1970s.  Janie said that John R. Barnwell, “Jack”, as he was called, had three children: Mary, Martha and Charlie.  Sidney, his wife, died before she, Janie, was born.  Her mom gave her a picture of Sidney, but it was lost in a flood.  She said the family originally came from South Carolina, but locally were from Shewanee, TN.   Janie says that Charles Barnwell when young had red hair.  Blonde-haired/blue eyed people are in her family.  She has brown hair and eyes and has freckles.  All her kids have brown or black hair and brown eyes.  The very pretty blonde Virginia Barnwell who I went to school with at Lone Jack is her brother's daughter – a distant cousin of mine. 


Per a call to Judy Barnwell of Middlesborough, her husband Hubert Barnwell’s parents had twelve children, nine of whom survived.  His mom was 40 when he was born and 44 when his baby sister was born. 


NOTE:  Amongst the old photographs, which I borrowed to copy from Uncle George Frye's daughter Dora, there is photograph of two very young children, a boy and a girl, seated in a reedwork (wicker) chair.   They are both very blond and very handsome children.  On the reverse of the original picture, someone had written in very poor script with a pencil what looked like "Unie Barnwell's children".  As I never could find any reference to a Unie Barnwell, I wondered what the name actually was and to whom it was referring.  Some years ago, I came to realize that the name possibly is Vnie or Vanie (Lavaney) Barnwell.  If this were to be the case and the Vanie being referred to is the mother of John R., Martha and Mary Barnwell, then the children are possibly John and Martha (or Mary) when very young.  I never thought that the print could be quite that old due to the high quality of it and due to the fairly modern look of the dress, etc..  The little boy does have somewhat of a resemblance to John R. in shape of the head and so forth.  In addition, as the parents of Lavania Leabow Barnwell (with whom Lavany continued to live after her children were born) were quite well off, it is conceivable that she could afford a good photographer for her children. 


NOTE:  From the book “IRELAND - MYTHS AND LEGENDS" by Samuel Lover and Thomas Croften Croker, Senate Press 1995:


"The White Horse of the Peppers - A Legend of the Boyne":  Quoted:  pg 196-197:  " In some time, the notice of the stranger was attracted by the singular and picturesque tower of Lusk that arose on their sight, and he questioned Rory as to its history and use.  {He (the stranger) is a predatory English soldier looking for the estate of the Peppers, Ballygarth, which has been promised to him as plunder for his successes on behalf of William of Orange against the minions and supporters of King James, recently defeated at the Battle of the (River) Boyne.}  'It's a church, it is,' said his guide.  'It looks more like a place of defence,' said the soldier.  'It is a square tower with circular flankers.'  'To be sure, it is a place of difince, said Rory.  'Isn't it a place of difince agin the divil (God bless us!) and all his works; and mighty great people is proud to be berried in it for that same.  There is the Barnewells (the lords of Kingsland, I mane), and they are berried in it time beyant tellin', an has an iligant monument in it, the lord himself and his lady beside him, an the broad o' their backs lyin' dead, done to the life.'"



Claiborne County, Tennessee
Wills & Estates

John Barnwell


Settlement with LEVANA BARNWELL, Guardian of Minor Heirs of JOHN BARNWELL, deceased Amount of former settlement made 19th February 1848 $$434.13 ½ Amount paid out by Guardian for the wards: Clerk's fee for making and recording this settlement $1.50 Guardian charges for her trouble and attention to the business for 2 years $7.50

Leaves a balance of $425.13 ½ remaining in the hands of the Guardian this 19th day of February 1849. Thomas J. Johnson, Clerk

Settlement with VANA BARNWELL, Guardian of the minor heirs of JOHN BARNWELL, deceased Amount of former settlement with interest $450.64 Cash received the 1st of July 1849 with interest $52.00 Paid Clerk’s fee for making and recording this settlement $1.50 Paid Guardian for his trouble and attention as Guardian $2.50

Leaves a balance of $498.64 remaining in the hands of the Guardian, this 19th day of February 1850. Thomas J. Johnson, Clerk

Settlement with W. W. GREER, Agent for LEVANA BARNWELL, Guardian to minor heirs of JOHN BARNWELL, deceased Amount of former settlement with interest $450.64 Paid clerk’s fee for making and recording this settlement $1.50 Paid guardian charges for trouble and attention $2.50

Leaves a balance of $446.64 remaining in the hands of the Guardian, this 19th day of February 1850. Thomas J. Johnson, Clerk


Settlement with LEVANNA BARNWELL, Guardian of minor heirs of JOHN BARNWELL, deceased Amount of former settlement with interest $528.55 ¾ Cash received from estate of William Barnwell, deceased, with interest $103.50 Paid Clerks fee for renewing bond and making and recording this settlement $2.25 Paid Guardian for trouble and expenses $10.00

Leaves a balance of $619.80 remaining in the hands of the Guardian, this 19th day of February 1851.

Thomas J. Johnson, Clerk

Settlement with LEVINA BARNWELL, Guardian of R. S. BARNWELL, Minor Heirs of JOHN BARNWELL, deceased Amount of former settlement with interest $328.49 ½ Paid C. H. Williams’ receipt for attending to the estate $25.00 Paid clerk’s fees $1.50

Leaves a balance of $301.99 ½ remaining in the hands of the Guardian, this 19th day of February 1852.

Thomas J. Johnson, Clerk

Settlement with LEVINA BARNWELL, Guardian of WILLIAM R. BARNWELL, minor heir of JOHN BARNWELL, deceased Amount of former settlement with interest $328.49 ½ Paid Hugh Graham receipt for clothing $46.20 Paid David Cardwell receipt for boarding $4.00 Paid J. B. Lam receipt for tailoring $9.00 Paid R. C. Williams receipt for attending to the estate $25.00 Paid clerk’s fee for making and recording settlement $1.50 Leaves a balance of $242.79 remaining in the hands of the Guardian, this 19th day of February 1852.

Thomas J. Johnson, Clerk

Settlement with LEVANA BARNWELL, Guardian of R. J. BARNWELL, Minor Heirs of JOHN BARNWELL, deceased Amount of former settlement $320.11 ¼ Paid clerk’s fee for making and recording this settlement $1.50

Leaves a balance of $318.61 remaining in the hands of the Guardian, this 19th day of February 1853.

Thomas J. Johnson, Clerk

Settlement with LEVANA BARNWELL, Guardian of WILLIAM BARNWELL, minor heir of JOHN BARNWELL, deceased Amount of former settlement $257.35 ¾ Paid clerk’s fee for making and recording this settlement $1.50

Leaves a balance of $255.85 ¾ remaining in the hands of the Guardian, this 19th day of February 1853.

Thomas J. Johnson, Clerk

Settlement with VANA BARNWELL, Guardian of R. J. BARNWELL, Minor Heir of JOHN BARNWELL, deceased Amount of former settlement with interest $337.69 Paid clerk’s fee for making and recording this settlement $1.50

Leaves a balance of $336.19 remaining in the hands of the Guardian, this 14th day of February 1854.


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