Peachy Gilmer Boswell: the son of Thomas & Mary Woody Boswell


Many online genealogies of the Boswell/Bozwell/Bozzel/etc. line aver that Mary Gilmer was the wife of Thomas Boswell, the generally accepted son of William M. & Mary Jean/Jane Mason Boswell.† This "theory" has been on the web since the advent of genealogy message boards and mailing lists in about 1998. I have not looked, but this speculation has also probably been published in book form. Almost all of the internet queries shared a common theme. They all insisted that the wife of Thomas Boswell must be a Gilmer because the couple had a son named Peachy Gilmer Boswell. After making this assumption, the writers of the messages usually asked for help in determining the parents of Mary. None of the writers offered any evidence of Mary's maiden name beyond the Peachy Gilmer assumption. Lastly, none of the many queries on this subject were answered with the name of a suitable Mary Gilmer. Unfortunately, someone invented a Mary Gilmer to fit the "theory" and published the Boswell/Gilmer connection in a WorldConnect GEDCOM without any explanation. Of course, this bogus GEDCOM was hastily copied, spliced and diced by many others. Even more inventive splicers added this fantasy Mary to established Gilmer genealogies as if she had somehow been overlooked by Gilmer family historians. Perhaps someone has already spliced in a connection to Jamestown or the Mayflower. 

 In the early 1800s, the given name/names of an individual would usually be a valuable clue pointing to the heritage of that person; however, there were also many exceptions to the so called "naming pattern" customs of those times. Children's names are a good starting point, but there was no law that required any naming pattern at all. At the end of this page, I have included an interesting and related example of an exception. The name Peachy Gilmer seemed like a very good clue pointing to the maiden name of Mary, but no supporting evidence has ever been discovered. So, if a clue does not produce results, other avenues should eventually be explored. Peachy G. Boswell was almost surely named for a Peachy Gilmer, but not because his mother was a Gilmer.

 It is interesting to note that the most dedicated and through Boswell family historian on record has not found one iota of evidence to support the Mary Gilmore "theory". Neither has anyone else.

Some background: Thomas Boswell/Bozwell was enumerated on every Franklin Co., Virginia Tax List from 1805 through 1813.  From 1804 through 1818, a William Boswell/Bozwell was enumerated on every Franklin Tax List except one. This William may have died circa 1819, since he was enumerated but not taxed, in 1818. Any serious Boswell researcher should be interested in the fact that only one William Boswell/Bozwell was ever noted on any yearly Franklin Tax List from 1804 through 1820. John and Bird Boswell/Bozwell also appear frequently on these tax lists. In 1810, William, Thomas and several other Bozzel families were enumerated in the Franklin Co. census. According to the 1850 Iowa census, Mary the wife of Thomas Boswell, was born ca. 1782 in Virginia and Mary's oldest child, Susan, was born ca. 1805 in Virginia. If Mary was a Gilmer, an interested family historian would normally look in Franklin and surrounding counties for her parents. So, it is somewhat surprising that not a single Gilmer (or variant) was enumerated in the 1810 Franklin and Henry County censuses. Additionally, the only Peachy Gilmer that appears on any of the Binns Virginia County Tax Lists is Peachy Ridgeway Gilmer in Rockingham County in the late 1700s.* This was the first Peachy Ridgeway Gilmer and his wife was Mary Meriwether. When Peachy died in 1799/1800, his son George inherited his father's large plantation. Peachy's four daughters are described in some detail below. However, the name Peachy Gilmer (or variant) is noPeachy R. Gilmer's daughter's biost found in the entire 1810 census of the United States.

The Gilmers were a very prominent and well known family in Virginia. The Gilmers in America, published in 1897 by John Gilmer Speed is probably the best source of unadulterated Gilmer history and genealogy. John Gilmer Speed relied heavily on the 1855 published research of Governor George Rockingham Gilmer entitled Georgians. Speed's work contains autobiographies, biographies and "The Gilmer Genealogical Records" by Miss Louisa A. H. Minor.
        On May 13, 1732, Dr. George Gilmer (the immigrant) married Mary Peachy Walker in Williamsburg, Virginia. They had two sons: Peachy Ridgeway and George Jr. Dr. George Jr. and his son, Francis Walker, were close friends with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Francis Walker Gilmer assisted Thomas Jefferson in recruiting the original faculty for the University of Virginia. Peachy Ridgeway Gilmer married Mary Meriwether. Most of the GEDCOM splicers have decided to add the fantasy Mary Gilmer to the long established list of children of this Peachy Ridgeway. This was an unfortunate guess because The Gilmers in America contains a biography of this Peachy Ridgeway Gilmer and his children entitled "The Eldest Branch". A short biography of his four daughters appears on page 28 & 29. As can be seen from the text image on the right, two daughters were married and two daughters never married. The two unmarried daughters are described in quite a bit of detail. So I guess the splicers and dicers need to return to their Ouija boards, wishing wells and sťances.

Because of their high social standing, there is a wealth of genealogical information concerning the Gilmers, but nowhere has any serious Gilmer family historian noted a marriage of any Gilmer to any Boswell.  Additionally, the bonds for early Franklin County, Virginia marriages have survived and are published. Franklin bond/marriage records exist for the five of the seven children generally attributed to William and Mary Jean Boswell. Another child was married in Mason County, Virginia. However, no bond/marriage record exists for Thomas Boswell and Mary Gilmer.  It seems very unlikely that the marriage of a descendant of Dr. George Gilmer would have gone unnoticed and unrecorded in the Gilmer family history. Finally, Peachy and Mary Boswell did not name any child Peachy or Gilmer. They did have a granddaughter named Peachy Ratcliffe. None of the other the descendants of Thomas and Mary Boswell used the given name of Peachy or Gilmer. This is hardly the what the family historian would expect if Mary had been the daughter of Peachy Gilmer. So, no one has found even one piece of supporting evidence to corroborate the Mary Gilmer "theory". Miss Ratcliffe provides the only positive supporting evidence and her grandfather was Peachy. There is no additional circumstantial evidence: None at all. In fact, nearly all of the circumstantial evidence detracts from the "theory". With reference to the Mary Gilmer "theory", these facts should raise a very bright red flag. Not only was the wife of Thomas Boswell not the daughter of Peachy Gilmer, she was not the daughter of any Gilmer.


        On the other hand, there is substantial (certainly more than a scrap) primary (not whimsy, not wishful thinking, not circumstantial) evidence for the marriage of Mary Woody to Thomas Bozzel:


1. The Dec 10, 1803 Stokes Co., North Carolina marriage bond of Mary Woodey and Thomas Bozzel. Stokes is on the border of North Carolina and Virginia near Franklin and Henry Counties, Virginia. The distance from the southern border of Franklin County to the border of Stokes County is about 20 miles. From Rocky Mount, in the center of Franklin County, the distance is about 30 miles. There are no Woody's or Bozzel's (or variations) recorded in the 1800 Stokes Co., North Carolina census, so it is highly unlikely that neither Mary or Thomas lived in Stokes County.


2. The Nov 11, 1807 will of Henry Woody of Franklin County, Virginia names his daughter Polly Bozzel. Henry died Dec 7, 1807 and his estate was inventoried Dec 28, 1807.


3. The 1800 Franklin County, Virginia Tax List includes Henry, David, John, Martin, Randolph & Weyott Woody. William Bozwell was also listed. Although not proven, William is the generally accepted father of Thomas and his siblings.


4. The early marriage bonds of Franklin County, Virginia are well documented. The marriage bonds of the other Henry and Susannah Woody children married in Franklin are recorded. The marriage bonds of five of the other six children generally attributed to William and Mary Bozzel  are recorded. The sixth is recorded in Mason County, Virginia.


5. Thomas and Mary Bozzell named their first known child Susan. Mary Woody's mother was Susannah.†If it were not for the evidence mentioned above, I would not even include this fact.

6. The Thomas Bozzel family was enumerated in the 1810 Franklin County, Virginia census: 2-0-1-0-0 & 2-1-0-1-0.†Since William Bozzel, the posited father of Thomas, was enumerated two residences away from Thomas, there may may been some intermingling of the families. Susan, bc. 1805 & Peachy, bc. 1807 , were almost surely in this enumeration. The Thomas Bozwell family was again enumerated in the 1820 Mason County, Virginia census next to the Gilbert Bozwell family. However, since this listing is a clerk's alphabetical listing, it is impossible to know if there may have been some intermingling of the two families. The enumeration for Thomas' family was 4-1-0-0-1-0 & 1-2-0-1-0. It is interesting to note that all eight of the younger members of the family were enumerated as born between 1803 and 1820 and that this age enumeration of  agrees exactly with the generally accepted ages of the children Thomas and Mary Boswell.


Summation: On December 10, 1803 Thomas Bozzel made a marriage bond with Mary Woodey. At the end of December, 1807, Henry Woody had a married daughter named Polly Bozzel. The December 1807 Thomas Bozzel family most likely consisted of three children, one of which was Peachy G. (born circa 1807 based on later census data)


Conclusion: Peachy G. was the son of Thomas & Mary Woody Bozzel and so were Peachy's siblings. Mary Gilmer was never married to Thomas Bozzel. Since there is substantial primary evidence for this conclusion, I will let other "researchers" try to prove a different conclusion based on the facts.


Some interesting questions:


1. Why did Thomas and Mary Woody Boswell name their child Peachy Gilmer? I doubt that we will ever know for sure, but many, many children have been named for people that their parents admired or were "indebted" to for some reason. The Mary Gilmer "theory" depends entirely on the concept of traditional "naming patterns" and, as mentioned above, it is usually a good place to start. But the same people that jump on the Peachy Gilmer "naming pattern" bandwagon ignore the fact that Thomas and Mary named their first daughter Susan, the name of Mary Woody's mother. The generally accepted mother of Thomas was Mary Jean/Jane Mason. So where did the name Susan come from? Thomas and Mary also had a son named Creed. Creed was/is also a fairly common surname, but I haven't seen any suggestion that Mary was a Creed. Why not? There is exactly the same amount of evidence for Gilmer and Creed speculation: Exactly the same amount. But Creed didn't have any known descendants; ergo, no one has a pony in that race. Even so, Thomas and Mary had at least five descendants named Creed. Besides their son, the only other Thomas and Mary Boswell descendant named Peachy was a granddaughter and she wasn't a Boswell. Thomas and Mary did not have a single descendant named Gilmer. The Mary Gilmore "theory" is a great example of data cherry picking. Emphasize the one piece of data that supports a position and ignore the all the data that doesn't. 


2. Why did Mary & Thomas go to North Carolina to get married? I don't know, but I have been informed by resident researchers of the Bassett Library that it is/was not an unusual occurrence. When I visited this great facility in Henry County, these researchers suggested that I look at the records of the North Carolina border counties for marriage records of Virginia residents. I followed their advice.


3. Why is there so much current enthusiasm for the Gilmer connection? The Boswell and Woody families were average frontier families in 1800 Virginia. Both families had their up and downs; sometimes more downs than ups. But the Gilmers were a prestigious and wealthy Virginia family that had intermarried with the equally prestigious Meriwethers of Lewis and Clark fame. Human nature yearns for a connection with fame, no matter how distant, dim and obtuse. Some folks just feel a lot better with a fictional lineage that includes a touch of celebrity. Other folks could care less: They a just splice their way to a million person GEDCOM.


4. Why is there less enthusiasm for a Woody connection? Several reasons: No GEDCOM to splice. No speculative Woody connection to Lewis & Clark. The stubborn "Not Invented Here" syndrome. The stubborn "Don't Confuse Me With The Facts, My Mind Is Made Up" syndrome. 


        At any rate, there is more than adequate primary evidence to support the marriage of Thomas Bozzel and Mary Woody, the daughter of Henry. †If the marriage bond had been made in Franklin County, instead of 20/30 miles away, I doubt that the Mary Gilmer "theory" would have surfaced. If the marriage bond had named Mary Gilmer, a marriage location in California (or Mars) would have been ignored.

        However, there is no primary evidence that Thomas Boswell was the son of William and Jane Boswell, just as there is no primary evidence for the names of any of the children of this couple. There is no extant William Boswell will and there was an older (over 45) John Bozzell enumerated in the 1810 Franklin County census. With John were his probable wife and two probable daughters in the 10/16 age group. John could have been the father, uncle, brother or cousin of William, so the younger male Bozzels enumerated in the same census could have been John's sons or even the sons of another relative. All the early Boswell marriages in Franklin County have been accepted, without much question, as involving children of William and Jane. However, even if the circumstantial evidence used to establish the generally accepted children of William and Jane Boswell is not conclusive, it seems probable to me.

        It has been suggested that Mary Woody Bozzel died and that Thomas then married Mary Gilmer, but the Peachy Gilmer name is the only evidence of this possibility and based on census data and the will of Henry Woody, it is almost certain that Peachy was born when Mary Woody Bozzel was living.††

        Many years have passed since Mary Gilmer "theory" was suggested and it has been several years since this "theory" was incorporated into a fantasy GEDCOM and published on the internet but, to my knowledge, no one has discovered one fact to back up the original speculation. The power of print is powerful, but no matter how many times this fantasy connection is copied and republished, it is still fiction.

        Research Suggestion: I am very confident that Mary Woody Boswell was the mother of Peachy G. Boswell, but other family historians obviously disagree and the GEDCOM splicers/dicers just don't care. However, I am also very interested in the reason for the Peachy G. Boswell name and I have spent more than a little time searching for this connection. Here is what I found: A Peachy Ridgeway/Ridgway Gilmer, b. 1779, in Albemarle County to Dr. George Jr. & Lucy Walker Gilmore, inherited a large amount of property in Henry County. He was a sometime lawyer and was married in 1803 to Mary House. In February, 1806, he went to Henry to spend at least part of his time. His autobiography makes it clear that he did not like living in Henry, but did practice in that area since his name appears as an attorney on more than a few legal documents in the early 1800s. In 1818, he moved to Bedford County. This is the Peachy Gilmer for whom Peachy G. Boswell was probably named. For those who might be wondering, this Peachy Gilmer had several sisters, but none named Mary.

        As a very interesting and related aside, this same Peachy R. Gilmer named his first child William Wirt Gilmer in honor of his tutor and mentor, William Wirt. Do the strict "naming pattern" people insist that William Wirt Gilmer's mother was a Wirt? If so, here is an golden opportunity for another "theory" and the splicers/dicers can connect to a large Wirt GEDCOM.

        It is possible that the connection between Thomas Boswell and Peachy Gilmer might be found in one of the legal documents I have mentioned. Also, the readily available yearly Franklin County Tax Lists raise other doubts about the "generally accepted" children of William and Mary Mason Boswell. I would think that dedicated Boswell family historians would want to explore every lead, no matter how small. To my knowledge, these documents are not to be found on the internet, so old fashioned research would be necessary to follow up on the leads that might prove useful. Jump on it. Spend a buck. Rent a microfilm. Take a research trip. Find that iota of evidence. Prove me wrong. Perhaps you can extend the line to Sacagawea.
        June 12, 2015 Update: To date, I have seven atDNA matches with descendants of Thomas Boswell/Bozzel/Bozwell and Mary Woody/Gilmer at the AncestryDNA Results Page at the site. Our Common Ancestors (CA) are Henry & Susannah Martin Woody, the parents of Mary Woody Boswell. The Ancestry predicted relationship is 5th to 8th cousins. A comparison of the lineages of these matches with my own shows I am a 5th cousin, 5th cousin, once removed and 5th cousin twice removed to there folks. An atDNA match is proof of a genetic relationship; however, it is true that an atDNA match coupled with a lineage match is not proof of a particular relationship. To prove a particular relationship, the atDNA segments must be analyzed and each segment assigned to an ancestor. I do not yet have enough data to make these assignments, however, this evidence adds to the considerable evidence cited above.   

        * Our thanks go to Steve & Yvonne Binns for alerting us to this interesting tax listing.


        I would be extremely pleased to hear from anyone that has any evidence that might bear on the marriage of Thomas Bozzel/Boswell/Bozwell. Click here to email me.


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Revised Jun 19, 2017