Elisha Spence (1776-1835)–Part Eleven: The Case for Elizabeth Spence (1804-1809/10)

A rose for Elizabeth

A rose for Elizabeth


Years ago, when I first began searching for the children of Elisha Spence, I recall seeing a record for Elizabeth Spence, born 1808. I found it in the old IGI records. After the passage of time and after being unable to discover anything else about her, I deleted her from the list I was compiling. And that’s when I began hearing from people.

“What about Elizabeth?” they asked.

Sometimes they added a surname:

“What about Elizabeth Ramseur?”

(Believe it or not, I found that item in one of my notebooks: a copy of an old email someone sent me over twenty-years ago.)

“Her surname was Ramseur!” I responded. “I’m looking for Spence.”

Ultimately, I decided that submitters of early records confused Elizabeth Ramseur with Elizabeth Spence. As noted in the update I provided in the James Spence of Randolph County article, Elizabeth Ramseur married Malachi Spence. Malachi Spence was a son of David Spence and Esther Lombard. And David Spence was another son of James Spence and Lucy Upton of Randolph County, North Carolina. There was no way Elizabeth Ramseur was a daughter of Elisha Spence!  However, the name Elizabeth still haunted me, and I began wondering What if there was an Elizabeth?

An excellent possibility! I recently noted that Elisha and Susanna had a child every year or every other year. Samuel was born in 1800. Milly Catherine was born in 1802. Daniel was born in 1806. The twins were born in 1809. And their last daughter Susan was born in 1810. Elizabeth could have been born between Milly Catherine and Daniel or between Daniel and the twins. Susanna’s mother was Caroline Elizabeth Toney.  Young Elizabeth’s full name could have been Caroline Elizabeth Spence and typical of the old Spence custom–her family referred to her by her middle name.

I must admit, the more I thought about Elizabeth, the more I became convinced that she did exist and that she was probably born between Milly Catherine and Daniel. I began checking various records on ancestry making certain I didn’t have her confused with someone else. A number of Spence families resided in in Surry, Rowan, and Guilford County who came from other lines. For example, there was an Elizabeth Betty Spence (1812/13-1843) who was the daughter of James Spence (1775-1826) and Mary Coots (1775-1815). This Elizabeth Spence was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, and she died in Harris County, Georgia. She married McAlvin Howell Spence (1810-1899). He was the son of Nathan Spence, Jr. (1785-1853) and Adeline Reeves (1784-1848). McAlvin was born in Rockingham County, North Carolina, and he died in Harris County, Georgia. James Spence and Nathan Spence, Jr. were brothers. They were the sons of Nathan Spence, Sr. (1743-1833) and Elizabeth Quinnelly (1745-1820), the grandsons of John Spence (1715-1772) and Mary Nutter (1725-1773), and the great grandsons of Patrick Spence (1680-1746) and Phoebe Sasserson (b. 1680). This branch of the Patrick Spence family settled in Talbot County, Maryland, settled next in Delaware, removed to Guilford County, North Carolina, and then relocated to Georgia. Elizabeth Betty Spence was not the Elizabeth I was seeking. She was born in 1812 or 1813 in North Carolina, long after the Elisha Spence family settled in Tennessee. And the Guilford County/Rockingham Spences were from a different line.

There are a number of Elizabeth Spences of record born between 1800 and 1808 in North Carolina, but none of them connect as a child in the Elisha Spence family. I searched the counties from Randolph, Davidson, Surry, Guilford, Rockingham, Rowan and Burke Counties and could not find a qualifying candidate for the role. The Elizabeths I found had a different surname at birth and took the Spence surname after marriage, or they were Spences at birth but were from a different line.

So what have I concluded?

I tend to believe that yes, there was an Elizabeth Spence, who was the daughter of Elisha and Susanna Spencer Spence. I believe that she was probably born between Milly Catherine and Daniel, making her year of birth about 1804. She may have died in infancy, and she may have lived a few years. I think it is possible that she died before Daniel’s birth in 1806. A female child her age does not appear on Tennessee census records in the Elisha Spence family, so she definitely passed away prior to the family’s departure for Tennessee. She may have lived until 1809 or very early 1810.

I believe that she did exist for a number of reasons:

  1. The number of people who contacted me about her when I first started researching the Spence family. They were either relying on the same old IGI record I discovered, or else they had heard a story that a daughter named Elizabeth died young.
  2. Given the fact that Elisha and Susanna named their children after specific family members or friends, it seemed odd to me that none of them were named for Susanna’s mother. I have several DNA connections with Caroline Elizabeth Toney so as far as I am concerned, the identity of Susanna’s mother is no longer in question.
  3. Because of the distance between Milly Catherine and Daniel, it is quite possible that Elisha and Susanna had a daughter in 1804, who died late 1809 or early 1810. The 1804 date is more likely than the 1808 date.

So, yes, I believe there was a Caroline Elizabeth Spence, who was born in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1804 and who died in Randolph County in 1809 or  very early 1810 who was the daughter of Elisha Spence and Susanna Spencer.



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