James Huff Overview


The image below is from The Marriage Register of Henry County, Virginia as compiled by the Virginia State Library and includes the 1786 marriage record of James Huff and Biddy Woodey.

There is a near perfect match for James and Biddy Woody Huff in the 1850 Harlan Co., Kentucky census:

    James Huff, 82, Doctor, Virginia
    Obedience, 82, Virginia
    Alfred, 14, Kentucky

In the next home was:

    Thomas J. Huff, 43, Farmer, Virginia
    Catherine, 39, N Carolina
    Polly, 16, Kentucky

Four home's away was:

    Isaac Huff, 48, Farmer, Virginia
    Elizabeth, 24, Virginia
    Ira, 23, Kentucky
    Martin, 21, Kentucky
    William, 20, Kentucky
    John W., 14, Kentucky
    Hiram, 12, Kentucky
    Rebecca, 11, Kentucky
    Milton, 6, Kentucky

On the previous census page was:

    Winston Huff, 44, Farmer, Virginia
    Stacy, 40, N Carolina
    Louisa, 21, Kentucky
    Elizabeth, 18, Kentucky
    Obedience, 16, Kentucky
    William M. C., 11, Kentucky
    Rebecca, 8, Kentucky
    Mary A., 5, Kentucky
    Ellen J., 3, Kentucky

Two censuses pages away was:
    Elisha Huff, 25, Virginia
    Sally, 21, Kentucky
    Absalom, 1, Kentucky
    Mary, 8/12, Kentucky

The 1840 Harlan Co., Kentucky census includes James Sr., James Jr., Winston, Thomas and Isaac Huff, all in close proximity.

The 1830 Harlan Co. Kentucky census includes James, James Jr., Thomas, Isaac and Vincent Huff, all in close proximity.

Since Elisha Huff was enumerated in 1850 as being born circa 1825 in Virginia, I assume that the Huffs moved to Kentucky between 1825 and 1830. However, I cannot pinpoint James Huff in the 1820 or 1810 censuses.

All the above is interesting; however, the Obedience mentioned with James Huff has been spoken for by Huff researchers.  She is supposedly Obedience Koger. As usually, the online lineages are very short on sources, but I think I have tracked down the source for Obedience. The well respected Wise Co., Virginian historian, Emory L. Hamilton (1913-1991), contributed many stories and biographies to the Wise County GenWeb site. I have copied the sketch for Dr. James Huff.

Dr. James Huff

"Dr. James Huff, b. ca. 1768 in NC, d. 1852 on Clover Fork, m. Obedience Koger, b. ca 1768. 
Dr. James Huff was the last survivor of the battle with the half-breed Benge in 1794; was a member of the Virginia Legislature before 1797.
     (1) Thomas Huff, b. 1802, d. 17 July 1882, m. Catherine Morris, 6 Apr 1828. She was b. ca 1810. Had child: Polly Huff who m. John C. Holmes.
     (2) Dr. Winston Huff, b. ca 1810, m. Stacy Parker, 12 Feb 1827. She was b. 1800. Had children: Robert Huff?, b. ca 1844?; Daniel Huff?, b. ca 1846; Nathan Huff?, b. ca 1848; Green A. Huff; Louisa Huff; Elizabeth Huff; Obedience Huff; William M. C. Huff; Rebecca Huff; Mary Huff; Ellen Huff." (DLW note: As can be seen in the above 1850 census enumeration, Mr. Hamilton's list of children is incorrect. The 1860 census enumeration for the same Huff family and their next door neighbors, the Henry Clark family, shows that Mr. Hamilton included some of the Clark's children in his list of Winston Huff's children. This error has nothing to do with the proof of the surname of Obedience, the wife of James Huff, but it does illustrate how transcription errors become part of "accepted" lineages that have been copied, but not checked against readily available sources. My thanks to Wilma for making me aware of this error.)


Chief Benge's Last Raid

There is another interesting story concerning James Huff in the "Historical Sketches by the Historical Society of Southwest Virginia"on the Wise County GenWeb site . This sketch by Luther F. Addington is called "Chief Benge's Last Raid" . This event occurred in 1794 and James Huff was described as the last surviving witness in 1846.  The sketch is quite detailed and I have extracted a small portion.  The main value of this sketch is to pinpoint the location of James Huff prior to his move to Kentucky.

"Now let's view the site as described by the last surviving member of the Hobbs' party, Dr. James Huff of Kentucky, in an interview 1846 for the Jacksonian, a newspaper published in Abingdon and filed in the Draper Papers." 

    ""Some time in the month of April 1794, just before daylight a man by the name of John Henderson rode up to Yokum Station in Powell Valley and informed the station that Indians had taken the wives of Peter and Henry Livingston....""
     ""....the writer has seen this spot where Benge was killed; it is one of those deep, dark mountain passes where the ridge on each side seems to reach the clouds, an the center of the deep, gloomy valley below is covered with large masses of unshaken rocks, with a wild furious stream, tumbling and rolling in the midst.""
     ""These backwoodsmen sat but a short while in their hiding places until two of them highest up the precipice, V. Hobbs and J. Van Bever saw an Indian and the wife of Peter Livingston coming.""

Mr. Addington's comments concerning James Huff's recollections are interesting and may have something to do with the whereabouts of James Huff before this appearance in Kentucky.

"However, it was not Peter's wife but Henry's. Now there is no such rugged terrain as described here just south of Norton: no great boulders, no great gorge; no cliffs, merely a small bump of stone which is claimed to be Hobbs' hiding place; no stream which could be called a furious one, just a small branch which today is called Benge's Branch. Now it must be recognized that there were no white settlers in Norton until about 1890, nearly a hundred years after Benge's demise; consequently, traditional stories, and the failure to study facts as recorded in reports of responsible persons of the time, have led to errors in designating the scene of Benge's death."

Without a doubt, the James Huff found in 1850 Harlan Co., Kentucky is the person described by Mr. Hamilton.  However, with all respect to the work of Emory Hamilton, there are a few details about James and Obedience that seem pertinent to me. 
    1. I can find no corroborating evidence for the marriage of James Huff to Obedience Koger.
    2. Mr. Hamilton does not name the parents of Obedience. His sketches usually supply this type of information when it was known to him.
    3. Mr. Hamilton was not sure the names of the parents of James Huff.
    4. Mr. Hamilton believed that James Huff was born in North Carolina. The censuses of 1850 & 1860 Harlan Co., Kentucky enumerate James Huff as being born in Virginia.
    5. In 1786, a James Huff and Biddy Woody were married in Henry Co., Virginia. The Douglas Register records the birth of Biddy Woody as January 21, 1765 to William and Lucy Barnet Woody.  William Woody was recorded on the tax lists of Henry County from 1782 until 1790. A James Huff was enumerated once in the 1782-1790 Henry Co. Tax Lists and that was in 1786. If this was James' first enumeration, his birth date would be circa 1765. Other Huffs enumerated in this period were: Joseph, John, Mary, and Peter. None of these people were enumerated in Henry after Patrick County was formed from Henry in 1790, so I assume they lived in the part of Henry that became Patrick. I have not found an online lineage that includes any of these Huffs in Henry County, so I assume that they have not be seriously researched.
    6. Wise County was formed in 1856 from Russell, Lee and Scott Counties; however, the events described in the Chief Benge sketch seem to have occurred in Washington County which was adjacent to Russell and Lee in 1794. If James Huff was in Virginia before circa 1825, it would seem he should have been enumerated in Russell, Scott, Lee or Washington in 1810 or 1820. However, there are no Soundex James or J. Huffs enumerated in Russell, Scott, Lee or Washington during this period. In fact, I can't find a suitable Soundex Huff any where near this area in 1810 or 1820.

April 6, 2009 Update: Thanks go to Larry Huff for informing me that James Huff was recorded on the Russell County tax lists for 1790 and 1791 then, after Lee County was formed from Russell, James was on every Lee tax list until 1818.
So, with the addition evidence placing James Huff in Russell and Lee Counties from 1790 through 1818, the Huffs are much less mysterious to me. I have found nothing to prove Emory Hamilton's assertion concerning Obedience's surname; however, I have found the Henry County marriage of James Huff to Biddy Woody in 1786, the same year that a James Huff was taxed in Henry. James Huff's assumed birth date from the 1786 tax list matches well with the James Huff enumerated in the 1850 Harlan County, Kentucky census, as does the proven birth date of Biddy Woody and Obedience, the wife of James.

October 3, 2010 Update: The Koger line in Virginia and elsewhere has been very well researched and documented. Some of this research has been recently published. Although a suitable Obedience Koger is not listed as a descendant in any Koger lineage, there were Kogers in south and southwest Virginia in the late 1700s. A little more research has been done on the Huffs of this area at this time and, although this James Huff has not been listed as a descendant by these researchers, a potential Huff family connection exists. However, I have not found any specific research concerning a James Huff, born about 1768, of Henry Co., Virginia, so the James Huff that married Biddy Woody has not been identified. Although the Hough/Hoff/Huff DNA Project apparently has two participants from this James Huff line, their yDNA does not match any other project participant. However, this new research has considerably increased the possibility of a Huff and Koger connection, so I will continue to defer to the work of Emory Hamilton.

Feb 9, 2019 Update: The wide use of atDNA testing and the vast increase in the number of imaged vital records have produced a likely answer to the Koger mystery discussed above. In about 1822, Nancy Huff, the daughter of James and Obedience Woody Huff married Nathan Sword in southwest Virginia. In about 1854, their daughter, Susan, married John D. Koger. Although Nathan Sword does not seem to be otherwise recorded in Kentucky, he obtained a 50 acre land grant on Clover Creek in Harlan County on 17 September 1838.
Many family historians do not seem to understand the importance of geography as it pertains to their research, so a little discussion of the extreme southwest section of Virginia may help. Lee County, Virginia is the most southwestern Virginia county and is very close to the Tennessee and Kentucky borders.  In fact, Lee County shares a border with Harlan County, Kentucky, so they are indeed adjacent. The straight line distance the between Harlan, the county seat of Harlan County and Jonesville, in the Powell Valley and the county seat of Lee County is a little less than fifteen miles; however, these locations are separated the Cumberland Mountain ridge of the Appalachians. Clover Creek is a tributary of the Cumberland River and they join very near the town of Harlan. From this point, the creek runs northeast and roughly parallels to the border of Kentucky and Virginia. Clover Creek is also the exact location where James Huff received a land grant in 1821 and the Huff family was enumerated in the 1830 census. Census records also show that children of John and Susan Koger were born in both Kentucky and Virginia, so Nathan and Nancy Sword also surely visited Harlan and may have even resided there for  relatively short periods. Although Harlan and Lee counties were adjacent, the very steep and rugged mountain terrain made travel between the two locations rather difficult. To the north was the Pennington Gap Trail which would have been a relatively difficult journey and would have about doubled the travel miles. A shorter, but much more arduous alternative route followed an old Indian trail. This trail went over Little Black Mountain to Cranks Creek, Kentucky and on to Harlan Many years latter, a rather large tunnel was hand excavated near the top of the mountain to facilitate wagon travel and the path became known as the Wagon Tunnel Trail. Still later, the invention of the automobile and more modern roads made the tunnel obsolete, but it did become a minor tourist attraction. Today, the Wagon Tunnel, also known as the "Hole in the Mountain", is largely forgotten, but has become a hiking destination and the area may see another revitalization. Photos are on the left and right. Whichever route was taken, the trip could have been completed in less than a day. So, Lee and Harlan counties are very the close neighbors and the Koger family did share a close relationship with the Huff family. atDNA matches with Huff, Sword and Koger descendants add weight to the recorded evidence of the marriage of James and Obedience (Biddy) Woody Huff of southwest Virginia and Harlan County, Kentucky.

As always, I will appreciate any facts pertinent to the above discussion.

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Revised Jan 14, 2012
Revised Feb 9, 2019
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