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Mary J. D. Wortham


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At a Glance

Mary J. D. Wortham came from two of Granville County, NC's leading families. She died within two months of the birth of her first child.


Mary's father James L. Wortham helped to establish Presbyterian churches in Granville County, NC and was clerk to Geneva Presbyterian Church in Granville County, NC for many years. The session records in his hand are in the Richard H. Thornton Library in Oxford, NC in Granville County, NC.

Mary's mother, Rowena Washington Wortham, was also a member of Geneva Presbyterian Church in Granville County, NC. However, she was  "dismissed"  February 5, 1832 and her membership was reinstated September 27, 1833. The reason is unclear. It could simply be that she requested that her membership be suspended for some reason. Interestingly, the dates coincide with the birth and death of her son, Robert Maben Wortham. He was born in June 1833 and died in August.

Church records also refer to the plantation of James L. Wortham as  "Indian Fields, NC."  There is a Granville County, NC creek that appears on 1981 United States Geological Survey maps as Rocky Creek. I found a reference in the Richard H. Thornton Library in Oxford, NC that says  "In the Eighteenth Century this creek was named, Indian Fields Creek, Hampton Mill Creek, Hamilton Mill Creek, or Mill Creek after a mill was erected on the creek."

As an official in the Presbyterian Church of Granville County, NC, James L. Wortham traveled to Hillsborough, NC for meetings of the Orange Presbytery. Another active Granville County, NC Presbyterian who was a charter member of the same church was John Webb and his wife Margaret Howard Webb. The session records show that he too traveled to Hillsborough, NC for church meetings. His brother was Dr. James Webb who lived in Hillsborough, NC and was the Dr. Webb who encouraged Mrs. Burwell (Margaret Anna Robertson) to teach his daughter Mary Webb  and to establish a school.

Mary J. D. Wortham's family was one of the leading families in Granville County, NC—from both her father's side and her mother's side. The February 10, 1940 issue of State Magazine included an article by Harry Z. Tucker on  "Elmosa, NC,"  an important house in Granville County, NC that may be the childhood home of Mary J. D. Wortham. According to the article, John Washington built the home for his daughter Rowena Washington when she married James L. Wortham. The house is apparently no longer standing; however, the article refers to the  "ivy-clad burying ground at Elmosa, NC."  This may refer to the  "Dr. Wortham Cemetery at Berea in Walnut Grove, NC"  where several of the family members are buried.

James L. Wortham was extremely wealthy. Mark Pace of the Richard H. Thornton Library in Oxford, NC shared a page of a manuscript that includes abstracts of estate documents. He found one (page 20), 501 - 502 that documents the inventory of the estate of Dr. James L. Wortham from a May 1866 court date. The inventory was done by George Washington Wortham, Forney George, James J. Wortham,Isaac Jackson, administrators. It lists thousands of acres of land in Granville County, NC and Brunswick County, NC, 200 books, and railroad stocks.

The families were large slave owners. Rowena Washington Wortham's father left her 50 slaves. In the United States Census of 1840 of Granville County, NC, James L. Wortham's entry shows 9 white people (2 parents, 7 children) and 97 slaves for a total of 106 people.

Mary's husband owned land in Columbus County, NC, in or near Whiteville, NC. It is not clear how he became acquainted with Mary, however it may have been through her brother George. She is found in the United States Census of 1860 of Columbus County, NC living with Forney George but with no children listed. This is only about a year and a half after their marriage. She died in 1869, prior to the United States Census of 1870. In 1875 he married Ann Elizabeth Lash Hairston, widow of George Hairston. The George Hairston Papers are in the Southern Historical Collection at the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Included in them is a letter from George Washington Wortham, Mary's brother. Both George Washington Wortham and Forney George were high ranking officers in the Civil War. Forney George was in the 18th North Carolina which gained some negative notoriety as being the unit some of whose members mistakenly fired on and killed Stonewall Jackson.

The 1860 Slave Schedule shows Forney George of Columbus County, NC owning 44 slaves.

A tax assessment indicates that at least some of Forney George's land in Columbus County, NC was used for harvesting/processing turpentine. Mary's father James L. Wortham also owned a lot of land down east—primarily in Brunswick County, NC which is next to Columbus County, NC.

Mary W. George, only daughter of Mary and Forney George, appears in the United States Census of 1880 of Forsyth County, NC living with her stepmother, Ann Elizabeth Lash Hairston George. She has a half sister living there as well.

Biographical Data

Important Dates

Mary J. D. Wortham was born on September 1, 1837, in Granville County, NC [1]. Mary's date of birth is also found on her gravestone in the Whiteville Memorial Cemetery in Whiteville, NC [1]. She died on July 6, 1869 [2], and was buried in Whiteville Memorial Cemetery in Whiteville, NC. Columbus County, NC birth records show a Mary W. George born June 6, 1869. Forney George is listed as parent. Mary J. D. Wortham  died within two months [3]. The Columbus County, NC USGenWeb Archives Project [2] places a Torney George next to Mary J. D. Wortham 's grave site. Given the dates on the stone, this appears to be the grave site of her husband, Forney George. There is an unknown grave site next to Mary J. D. Wortham  and Forney George grave sites [2].

Places of Residence

  • Granville County, NC, between September 1, 1837 and 1858. The United States Census of 1850 [4] places Mary in Granville County, NC and her marriage was also recorded in Granville County [4].
  • Columbus County, NC, from 1858. Mary J. D. Wortham  probably moved to Columbus County, NC shortly after her 1858 marriage to Forney George. The United States Census of 1850 [4] place her and her husband in Columbus County, NC in 1860 [5].
  • Hillsborough, NC, from und the spring of. Elizabeth Coit  writes to her sister that Jenny Speed and Mary Wortham have gone home [6].

Schools Attended



  1. Geneva Presbyterian Church in Granville County, NC
  2. Columbus County, NC USGenWeb Archives Project.
  3. Columbus County, NC birth records.
  4. United States Census of 1850.
  5. Granville County, NC Marriages 1753 - 1868.
  6. From the Records Room, Burwell School Historic Site