Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Stephen Souther – William Souther


(Photo By Cato/Cater and related families of SC)

Revolutionary War Partiots Stephen Souther and William Souther written by Ethelene Dyer Jones

Two of the Revolutionary war patriots, Souther men whose lineage goes back to Henry and Julianne Souther of Culpepper County, Virginia were Stephen Souther (b. about 1742 – d. 1780) and William Souther (b. about 1732 – d. 1784).

Stephen was a son of Henry Souther (about 1712 – May, 1784) and Julianne (last name unknown – about 1715 to about 1783). William Souther was Stephen’s uncle, brother to Stephen’s father, Henry. Stephen and William were born in Virginia. The Choestoe, Georgia early settler, John Souther, was a grandson of Stephen Souther.

The five known children of Henry and Julianne Souther migrated from Virginia to Surrey County, North Carolina (from which Wilkes County was formed). So did William Souther, Stephen’s uncle, and Henry’s brother, who was only ten years older than Stephen. William’s wife was Magdalena Vernon whom he married in 1755.

We will examine, first, our ancestor, Stephen Souther, son of Henry, and trace what we know of the story of his service to his country. It is unrecorded (yet) in annals of patriot history, mainly because he may have died before his volunteer service was recorded.

A story well-founded in Souther family history and recorded by family historian Watson Benjamin Dyer states that Stephen Souther (1742-1782) married Mary Bussey (1745-1790) before they left Culpepper County, Virginia to move to Surrey (later Wilkes) County, NC in 1778. At the time, much unrest brewed as Tories (those loyal to the British crown) attacked settlers in the remote mountain areas, led in North Carolina by the British Captain Ferguson who promoted Tory loyalties and attacks.

Stephen Souther signed on with the militia led by Benjamin Stephens. The story of Stephen’s military service, passed down in family accounts from then until the present, is that Stephen Souther, suffering from severe nosebleed, for he was afflicted with the disease of hemophilia, died in 1780. It is not known definitely whether his death occurred at the Battle of King’s Mountain where he may have suffered a wound and the bleeding could not be stopped, or whether he died somewhere enroute to the battle.

His widow, Mary Bussey Souther, was granted 200 acres of land on Hunting Creek in Wilkes County on October 23, 1782 in appreciation of Stephen’s service to his country. Already, prior to his death, Stephen had received a land grant on February 5, 1780.

Stephen and Mary Bussey had seven known children: Elizabeth, Jesse, Michael, Joshua, Joel, Sarah and Frank. The second-born, Jesse Souther (about 1775-1858) who married Joan Combs, was the father of John Souther, one of the first Souther settlers of our line in the Choestoe District of Union County. John’s brothers, Jesse and Joseph, and his sister, Kizziah Souther Humphries, also settled in Choestoe. For most of us in the Souther kinship line, our link is back to Stephen, whose Revolutionary Service is not yet proven through records.

Even though we have not found an official documentation of Stephen’s patriotic service, we, his descendants, hold confidently to the belief that he lost his life at King’s Mountain where the British leader Patrick Ferguson and his army were defeated by hill country militia in 1780. Stephen’s widow, Mary Bussey Souther, did not apply for a widow’s pension from which records most of the accounts of patriotic service are secured. Instead, she accepted the land grant as recompense in recognition of her husband’s service.

Documentation for the service of William Souther (1732-1794), Stephen’s uncle, is clear, found in his application for a pension made September 14, 1833. His pension was approved and payment made retroactive to March 4, 1831. He was granted $27.00 per year.

In his application for pension, William Souther (#S-7575) stated he volunteered for the militia in Surrey County, NC under Captain William Merritt. In his first three months tour, he was at Salisbury under General Rutherford, at Rutgers Mill near Camden, SC, and with General Compton at the rout of British soldiers, Tories and Indians at the Catawba River. Then, joining General Gates, they were defeated at the Battle of Camden in August, 1780, and he returned home.

William Souther’s next term of service was by draft in Surrey County. He was at Richmond, NC under Captain Arthur Scott, at Haw River, where he became sick and was discharged to go home to recover. His next draft was under Captain David Humphries at Old Richmond in Surrey County. The unit went to Guilford Court House in March, 1781, and won a decisive victory against the British. He joined with Colonel James Martin’s forces and went to Wilmington, NC in late 1781. There the militia was ordered to line up for a proclamation. William Souther and his fellow soldiers, in formation, heard the grand news that General Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown in Virginia and that General Washington’s army was victorious. The date of battle victory was October 17, 1781. The British officially surrendered two days later on October 19, 1781.

As regards Stephen Souther who died during the Revolution from excessive bleeding, we will still keep searching for his official documentation of service. As to William, whose service is documented,he is a 5th great uncle in our Souther line. These brave ancestors gave time, energy, courage and loyalty to winning America’s freedom.

[Information on William Souther from his pension application; information on both William and Stephen from Souther Family History by Watson B. Dyer, 1988. Information compiled and sketch written by Ethelene Dyer Jones, Historian, Dyer-Souther Heritage Association.]


Ethelene’s research on Stephen and William Souther gives insight into what it must have been like during the difficult birth of America. As Captain Ferguson, and others like him, encouraged attacks on those who weren’t loyal to the King-it surely caused people to look twice at their neighbors and wonder exactly which side they were on.


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  • Reply
    February 1, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Very nice. Stephen Souther is my Greatx6 grandfather.

  • Reply
    July 3, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Another interesting post,, never heard of the name Souther, My Dad’s Mother’s last name was Southern with a (N) on the end,, wonder if it got changed over the years..

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 2, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Even after the Revolutionary War, it was
    hard to tell just who your friends were.
    This was the Civil War between the states and sometimes it was brother
    against brother. After all the lives on
    both sides that were lost, nothing much
    has changed. We got the greatest thing
    in the World, Freedom…but we must
    guard it wisely…Ken

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    July 2, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you for this post. It reminds me how difficult this must have been to fight folks that could have been your neighbors and friends. This tells me that their freedom was dear and worth dying for. We need to remember these folks and what they stood for. They were willing to put their lives on the line. Some of our bravest men and women are doing that now for us. It may not be in our back yards like the colonials, but they are standing of us none the less. God bless each and every one of them and their families.

  • Reply
    July 2, 2014 at 10:46 am

    An interesting piece of history. I wonder how much of this type of information is credited in U.S. history books used in schools.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 2, 2014 at 10:43 am

    That “hill country militia” Ethelene mentions is now called The Overmountain Men. They were settlers from Northwestern NC, Northeastern TN and Southeastern VA who, when they heard the British were coming, decided to go on the offensive and marched across some of the most rugged mountains in the eastern US to meet Ferguson head on. And whup them they did! When the British saw they had been out everythinged by a bunch of back country hillbillys, it was the beginning of the end for them.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    July 2, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Tipper another great post.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 2, 2014 at 8:07 am

    The media paints a picture of lines of redcoats on one side and colonists in mostly civilian clothes on the other. In fact, many battles were between loyalist colonials and revolutionary colonials. I believe that I read that Captain Ferguson led a band of mostly loyalists with a small group of redcoats at Kings Mountain. So it really must have been very difficult to know who your friends were.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    July 2, 2014 at 7:17 am

    As I researched for information on these Revolutionary patriots, my heart was filled with gratitude for their vision of freedom and their willingness to defend it. Yes, they were defending their rights to live in and develop the frontier, but at the same time freedom burned as an unquenchable light. If we imagine we were there with them we begin to understand “what price freedom!” In this season of remembrance, July 4, 2014, let us know that “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” We could lose it, even in our day.

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