Stephen LEFEW
(-Bef 1800)
(Bef 1774-1839)


Family Links

1. Unknown First Wife of Joseph Leffew

2. Polly JONES
3. Polly MILLER
4. Sarah MAJORS

Joseph LEFFEW 5 6 7 8

  • Born: Bef 1774 8 9
  • Marriage (1): Unknown First Wife of Joseph Leffew
  • Marriage (2): Polly JONES on 5 Aug 1815 in Grainger County, Tennessee 1
  • Marriage (3): Polly MILLER on 24 Jul 1822 in Grainger County, Tennessee 2
  • Marriage (4): Sarah MAJORS on 19 Apr 1839 in Grainger County, Tennessee 3 4
  • Died: 12 Dec 1839, Grainger County, Tennessee 10

bullet   Other names for Joseph were Joseph LEFEW and Joseph LEPHEW.7


bullet  Research Notes:

When I first posted my Leffew research to my website, I was reluctant, except in a few instances, to list the children of the three Leffew brothers who settled in Grainger County, Tennessee, namely, Joseph, Elisha and Elihu. While inferences could be made from census and other records as to which children belonged to which brother, it was such a confusing family that I feared my construct would be like a house of cards, in that the whole structure would collapse if just one child was pulled out after being put in the wrong place. So, I just listed all the children in a Research Note along with my impressions from the records I researched. It was my hope that other descendants might come forward with additional information that would bring some clarity to the situation. Over the years, though, most descendants seemed just as confused about their Leffew lineage as I. Then, just a few years ago, I was contacted by Danette Welch, one of the most thorough, insightful and imaginative researchers I have ever encountered, with a further plus being she was a research librarian at the resource rich McClung Library in Knoxville. That collaboration has given me the confidence to attribute the children to their respective parents. That doesn't mean there aren't any errors in what follows. For the most part, hard documentary proof does not exist and the attributed relationships are inferred from the available documents. In some instances, I may have gone further than Danette would be willing to go without more convincing evidence, but hopefully some of these hunches might spur others to dig even deeper for more evidence. Any errors are probably mine.

As to the children of Joseph, the starting point is the 1800 census for Rockingham County, North Carolina, in which Joseph is the only child of Stephen Lefew to be enumerated as the head of his own household and thus most likely the only son to have had children born before 1800. His household consisted of 6 free persons of color, suggesting that there were 4 children born before 1800. Based upon the available records, 2 of these children can be identified with confidence, namely, Elizabeth Leffew, born about 1793 (presumably in North Carolina) and Lavinia Leffew, born about 1798 in North Carolina. Mary Ann Marthana Leffew, born about 1799, is a good prospect to have been part of Joseph's 1800 family. The final child of the 1800 census may be John H. Lephew, born about 1801 in North Carolina per the only census record found for him. John is almost certainly a son of Joseph, the only question being whether he was one of the children in the 1800 census.

Joseph is next enumerated in the 1810 census for Grainger County, Tennessee, where he heads a household of 9 "free colored." This suggests 3 more children were born between 1800 and 1810. If John H. Lephew was born before 1800, then the 3 children born 1800-1810 would appear to be the following: Nancy Leffew, born Jun 1801 in North Carolina; Pleasant Henry Leffew, born 1803-1805 in North Carolina; and William Leffew, born about 1807 in Tennessee. If John H. Lephew was indeed born in 1801 (Nancy's twin brother?) and there were only 3 children born 1800-1810, then that would raise an issue with Pleasant being Joseph's son. While the number of children in the 1810 household could have been 8 if Joseph's first wife had died and he had not yet remarried, she is not thought to have died until after the birth of Phoebe Leffew about 1811. Of course, there is always the possibility of census error. On balance, I feel pretty confident about the children named thus far even though the family profile does not exactly match census records..

By the 1830 census, Joseph's household consists of only him and 3 "free colored" females, 2 under age 10 and 1 age 10-24. The 1833 school list shows 3 children of school age (6-18), which indicates all three females in the 1830 census were of school age in 1833. That in turn would indicate the 2 children under age 10 in 1830 were really age 3-10 and the child age 10-24 was really age 10-15. There are only 3 Leffew females in the records that have not yet been accounted for and thus are likely prospects for the females in the 1830 census. They are Mariah Leffew, born about 1816, Ellen Leffew, born abt 1820, and Sarah/Sally Leffew, born 1822-1824.

This effort to account for all the children of Joseph would not be complete without mentioning Samuel Leffew aka Jones and Elijah Leffew aka Jones. Samuel Leffew headed his own household in the 1830 census and Elijah Leffew headed his own household in the 1840 census. They were also known as Samuel Jones and Elijah Jones, as evidenced by the case of State vs. Samuel Leffew aka Jones, in which Elijah Leffew aka Jones was listed as a defense witness in the hearing on 25 Apr 1836. After Samuel left Grainger County for Kentucky before 1840, he kept the Leffew name. Elijah, on the other hand, remained in Grainger County and used the Jones name. It is reasonable to theorize that Polly Jones, second wife of Joseph Leffew, was their mother and that they were children by a prior relationship. It seems, though, that at least Elijah was more associated with the family of Elihu Leffew. See Research Note for Elihu for further discussion on this point. A direct male descendant of Elijah (through a son who reverted to using the Leffew name) has been tested through the Leffew DNA Project and his yDNA does not match the tentative modal Leffew haplotype, nor does it match a Jones lineage nor any other lineage for that manner. Thus, these Leffews aka Jones remain a mystery. (It would be nice to be able to test a direct male descendant of Samuel Leffew aka Jones, most of whom settled in Boyle County, Kentucky.)

bullet  Birth Notes:

As the most likely candidate for Stephen's oldest son and thus the son over age 16 in the 1790 census, or at least one of them if there were others that were not enumerated, Joseph was probably born before 1774, even though we can only say he was born before 1775 based upon later census records.


bullet  Noted events in his life were:

1. Census: 1800, Rockingham County, North Carolina. 13

Household of Joseph Lefew: 6 free persons of color.

[That Joseph was the only son of Stephen and Elizabeth Lefew to have established a separate household by 1800 suggests he was the oldest son.]

2. Deed: 1806, Rockingham County, North Carolina. 14

Deed No. 1112, Dated 27 May 1806, Bk M:107
Joseph Lephew of Rockingham County sold 40 acres on Dan River to Nelson Fields of Rockingham County for $100, it being Lot 9 of the tract owned by his father, Stephen Lephew, which had passed to Joseph after his father's death in accordance with an agreed upon division of the land in 1801. Witnessed by Alex Sneed and John Fields.

3. Census: 1810, Grainger County, Tennessee. 15 16

Joseph Lephew: 9 free colored

[The McClung Historical Collection in Knoxville includes some pages of the original 1810 census for Grainger County. Most researchers have relied upon the more accessible transcriptions by Pollyanna Creekmore. Her initial 1956 transcription did not contain Joseph's surname, presumably because of difficulty in reading the name. The cited 1990 transcription does show him as Joseph Lephew. Dannette Welch, my Leffew research colleague, provided me with a copy of the page from the original census and we agree that you can make out his name as Joseph Lephew.]

4. War of 1812: Nov 1814 to May 1815, Mississippi Territory. 17

Per his Roster Card, Joseph Lefew enlisted on 13 Nov 1814 as a Private in the 4th Regiment of the East Tennesse Militia. His commander was Col. Samuel Bayless and he served in Capt. Joseph Rich's Company.

Per Regimental Histories of Tennessee Units During the War of 1812, which can be viewed online at The Tennessee State Library and Archives website:

"This regiment, along with Colonel William Johnson's Third Regiment and Colonel Edwin Booth's Fifth Regiment, defended the lower section of the Mississippi Territory, particularly the vicinity of Mobile. They protected the region from possible Indian incursions and any British invasion. These regiments were under the command of Major General William Carroll. They manned the various forts that were located throughout the territory: Fort Claiborne, Fort Decatur, and Fort Montgomery, for example. Sickness was rampant in this regiment and the desertion rate was high. The regiment mustered in at Knoxville and was dismissed at Mobile."

5. Tax List: 1811-1837, Grainger County, Tennessee. 11

1811 Capt. David McAnally's Company: Joseph Leffew, 100 acres, 1 white poll. (No deed has been found for this acreage. Given the 1815 tax list and the 1819 deeds, query whether this tax list was accurate.)

1815 Capt. John Arwine's Company: Joseph Leffew, 1 free poll. (At the end of this tax list is a narrative statement by Thomas Johnson listing his extensive land holdings and noting that part thereof were held in adverse possesson by many persons, including Joseph and Richard Lafew)

1819 Capt. McGinnis' Company: Joseph Leffew. (This was a list of male inhabitants over the age of 21, rather than a tax list.)

1820 Capt. Wm. Clark's Company: Josep Lephew, 45 acres, no poll. (See 1818 deed)

1821 Capt. Clark's Company: Joseph Leffew, 45 acres, no poll.

1823 Capt. William Clark's Company: Joseph Leffew, 45 acres, 1 white poll. (See 1825 Court event.)

1824 Capt. Clark's Old Company: Joseph Leffew, 45 acres, no poll.

1825 Capt. Adkins: Joseph Leffew, 45 acres, no poll.

1828 Capt. McGinnis' Company: Joseph Leffew, 45 acres, 1 white poll.

1830 Capt. Atkins'es Old Company: Joseph Leffew, 45 acres, no poll.

1833 Capt. Brock's Company: Joseph Leffew, 45 acres, no poll.

1835 Capt. James Brock's Company: Joseph Leffew, 45 acres, no poll.

1837 District No. 12: Leffew, Joseph, 45 acres, value $150, no poll.

6. Deed: 1818, Grainger County, Tennessee. 18

By an indenture dated 5 Nov 1818, Thomas Johnston (presumably the same person who in the 1815 tax list reported that Joseph Leffew occupied a portion of his land in adverse possession) sold 45 acres located on the waters of Puntion [Puncheon] Camp Creek to Joseph Leffew for $90. The legal description begins with a metes and bounds reference to a "conditional line betwin said Joseph and Richard Leffew." See the discussion of a contemporaneous deed to Elihue Leffew of abutting property in the Events for Elihu Leffew, who was also known as Richard.

7. Court: 1825, Grainger County, Tennessee. 19

The following court minute appeared on Monday, 21 Feb 1825: "Ordered by the Court that Joseph Leffew be released from the payment of a poll tax for the year 1823 it appearing to the satisfaction of the Court that he was overcharged this much."

[Since the only poll tax imposed in 1823 was for 1 white poll, it would appear that Joseph's position was that he was not white, a position with which the court agreed.]

8. Census: 1830, Grainger County, Tennessee. 9

Household of Joseph Lefew:
Free White 0-0; Free Colored 00001-21
(Free Colored age groups were 0-10, 10-24, 24-36, 36-55, 55-100)

9. School List: 1833-1834, Grainger County, Tennessee. 20

The school list for District No. 14, dated 19 Aug 1833, shows that Joseph Lephew Sr. had three children of school age (6-18) in school. The designation of Joseph as Sr. suggests a younger Joseph, but no other records for a younger Joseph have been found.

10. Estate Administration: 1840, Grainger County, Tennessee. 21

Allowance for Sary Leffew (Page 109 of film source): Per order dated 18 Jan 1840 and recorded 10 Mar 1840, Sary Leffew, widow of Joseph Leffew, Dec'd, was awarded "one hog and twenty five bushels of corn for one year."

Inventory (Pages 107-108 of film source): An Inventory of the estate of Joseph Leffew, Dec'd, was prepared by Reas William, Administrator, on date unknown and recorded on 10 Mar 1840.

Account of Sale for Joseph Leffew, Dec'd 12 Dec 1839 (Pages 110-112 of film source): The sale of his property took place on 18 Jan 1840 and the Account of Sale by Reas Williams, Administrator, was recorded 10 Mar 1840. Significant assets and their sale prices were as follows: cow, $11.25; mare, $27.375 (purchased by W[illiam] Leffew); colt, $16.125 (purchased by T[homas] Majors); colt, $14.26; 26 head of hogs, $23.25;and rifle, $8.58. The total proceeds of sale was $165.3425. Additional relatives who were purchasers were L[avina] Leffew, S[arah] Leffew and N[ancy] Williams. It is presumed that S. Leffew was Sarah Leffew, not Samuel Leffew, because household items were purchased and also because there are no records for Samuel Leffew in Grainger Co. in the late 1830s. Also, J. Howet of the author's Howeth line was a purchaser.

Account of Settlement made with Rease Williams, Administrator of the Estate of Joseph Leffew, Dec'd (Pages 482-483 of film source): The account was made as of 22 Apr 1842 and recorded on 11 May 1842. The beginning balance was $165.3425, the proceeds from the sale of personal property on 18 Jan 1840. This accounting reflects payments to creditors for notes, accounts and judgments, which totaled $80.28, and for expenses of administration, which totaled $28.50, of which $25 was paid to Rease Williams for his services as Administrator. That left a balance of $56.5625. Note that Thos Majors was one of the creditors; he had a judgment for $2.50.

Account of Second Settlement made with Reece Williams, Administrator of the Estate of Joseph Leffew, Dec'd (Pages 777-778 of film source): The second account was made as of 9 Dec 1843 and recorded 7 Mar 1844. The beginning balance was $56.5625, which matches the ending balance of the first account. This accounting shows payments of $29.29, of which $18.92 was paid to additional judgment creditors, $0.037 was paid on account of 1841 taxes, and $10 was paid to Reece Williams for services rendered as Administrator. In addition, the Administrator was charged with interest of $5.75 on the funds in his possession. The ending balance was $32.025 (by my calculations, the balance should have been $33.025).

No further settlements were found and thus there is no record of any distribution to heirs.

Also, see deed dated 11 Dec 1841 relating to the sale by heirs of the real property of Joseph Leffew, Dec'd. This deed is discussed under the Events for Nancy Williams nee Leffew and Phoebe Majors nee Leffew.


Joseph married Unknown First Wife of Joseph Leffew.


Joseph next married Polly JONES on 5 Aug 1815 in Grainger County, Tennessee.1


Joseph next married Polly MILLER on 24 Jul 1822 in Grainger County, Tennessee.2


Joseph next married Sarah MAJORS, daughter of Elias MAJORS and Margaret FLOYD, on 19 Apr 1839 in Grainger County, Tennessee.3 4 (Sarah MAJORS was born in 1810-1815 in Tennessee 22 23.)

bullet  Marriage Notes:

The film source shows the date of marriage as 16 Apr 1839. The actual marriage records show that the bond and license were dated 16 Apr 1839, but the return on the license states they were married on 19 Apr 1839 by John Robertson, J. P. Bondsmen were Joseph Leffew and James Kerbo (Kerby).

Note that Joseph was over 65 and Sarah was under 25 when they married. Moreover, he was considered to be non-white and she was his fourth wife. This may have been a marriage of convenience, occasioned by the death of her parents. 3 4



1 Mrs. Gladys Fennell & Mrs. Olivia Mason, Compilers, Marriage Records, Grainger County, Tennessee, 1796-1837, (The Historical Records Survey, June 19, 1939), FHL Film No. 024,658, Page 69.

2 Mrs. Gladys Fennell & Mrs. Olivia Mason, Compilers, Marriage Records, Grainger County, Tennessee, 1796-1837, (The Historical Records Survey, June 19, 1939), FHL Film No. 024,658, Page 111.

3 Grainger County, Tennessee, Marriage Records, Marriage Bond and License, with Return, for Joseph Leffew to Sarah Majors. The author is in possession of xerographic copies of the official records, which were copied for the author in 2000 by Mickey Morris of M & D Genealogy.

4 Porter H. McCarty, Miss Lucille Renean and Mrs. Ellen H. Wilson, Compilers, Marriage Records 1838-1857, Grainger County, Tennessee, (The Historical Records Survey, 22 Feb 1939), FHL Film No. 024,657, Item 3, Page 19 of Records, Page 6 of Film.

5 Grainger County, Tennessee, Tax Lists, 1797-1819, FHL Film No. 464,105. Although this film is only supposed to contain tax lists from 1797-1819, it actually includes through 1837.

6 Estate Records, 1780-1926, Lancaster-Lomas, Rockingham County, North Carolina, FHL Film No. 2,110,215, Folder for Stephen Lephew.

7 Deeds, Volumes E-H, 1796-1802, Rockingham County, North Carolina, FHL Film No. 19,707, Book G, Page 158.

8 1790 Census, Rockingham County, North Carolina, Census Images Online, Image 2 of 8.

9 1830 Census, Grainger County, Tennessee, FHL Film No. 024,538, Page 367.

10 Grainger County, Tennessee, Wills & Settlements, 1839-1847, FHL Film No. 464,102, Page 110.

11 Grainger County, Tennessee, Tax Lists, 1797-1819, FHL Film No. 464,105.

12 Family Records of Danette Welch. Danette's husband is a descendant of Thomas Majors and Phebe Leffew through their son, James, and his wife, Sarah Dyer. As a research librarian for the famed McClung Library in Knoxville, she has been an invaluable colleague in sorting out our Majors and Leffew families. Her e-mail address is

13 1790 Census, Rockingham County, North Carolina, Census Images Online, Image 48 of 48.

14 Deeds, Volumes K-N, 1802-1810, Rockingham County, North Carolina, FHL Film No. 19,708, Book M, Page 107.

15 1810 Census, Grainger County, Tennessee, Page 7.

16 Pollyanna Creekmore, Grainger County, Tennessee United States Census of 1810 and County Tax List of 1810, Tennessee Ancestors, Volume 6, Number 2, August 1990, Page 98.

17 Regimental Histories of Tennessee Units During the War of 1812, prepared by Tom Kanon, Tennessee State Library and Archives,

18 Grainger County, Tennessee, Deeds, 1811-1828, FHL Film No. 968,598, Book E, Page 11.

19 Grainger County, Tennessee, Court Minutes, 1824-1842, FHL Film No. 580,855, Page 84.

20 Common School Papers, 1833-1834, Grainger County, Tennessee, FHL Film No. 464,105 (at end of the tax lists).

21 Grainger County, Tennessee, Wills & Settlements, 1839-1847, FHL Film No. 464,102, Pages 107-112, 482-483, 777-778.

22 1830 Census, Roane County, Tennessee, Roll 180, Page 39 ( Image 69 of 27).

23 1840 Census, Grainger County, Tennessee, FHL Film No. 024,546, Page 127.

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