A Ryan Family of Colonial VA
With Allied Families: Damron, Proffitt, Hundley, and Johnson
From Buckingham, Albemarle, and Nelson Co
Questions or discussion can be forwarded to:
Mark R. Rain
128 Notch Rd
Oak Ridge, NJ 07438
The principle sources for the information on these families are: A letter written in 1926 by WE Ryan to Mary Ryan Copeland, the author’s great grandaunt. (There are other versions of this letter dated 1923 and 1931, as WE Ryan recited the history to several family members). WE Ryan wrote about information he had gathered by interviewing his grandfather, William W. Ryan, in 1883. William W. Ryan was the grandson of William Ryan Sr, the most distant ancestor identified in this article. Second, was information handed down through the Proffitt family and was relayed to the author by John M. Proffitt in the summer of 1998. Like the Ryan letter, the Proffitt source is without formal documentation. But many of the items relayed through the Ryan family were also passed down through the Proffitt family providing some corroboration. The two families in question did not seem to have any apparent contact with each other since the early 1800’s. Lastly, an 1812 pension filing made by William Ryan (Jr), alias William R. Damron. This William Ryan Jr was the father of William W. Ryan. There are other sources that will be mentioned as necessary.
William Ryan, Sr
This author’s most distant identified Ryan ancestor was one William Ryan, Sr. With the source description above providing a basis, this family’s history can be related. The birthplace of William Ryan Sr of Buckingham Co is shrouded in some mystery. William Sr is alleged to have come from England “before the Revolution” to Buckingham Co, VA according to the account by WE Ryan. Although WE Ryan’s account probably related his grandfather’s tale accurately, it is not clear to me whether William W. Ryan actually knew his grandfather, William Sr. The reason for my skepticism is the War of 1812 pension filing by William W. Ryan’s father, William Ryan Jr. The pension filing by William Ryan,Jr in 1855 states that his real name is William Ryan, but that he was known during his military service as William R. Damron, taking the name of his mother’s family. The filing goes on to say that William Ryan, Jr was an illegitimate child. His son-in-law, Obediah Proffitt, about whom I will discuss more later, witnessed the filing. Therefore, this author suggests that either William Ryan, Jr may not have known his father, or was estranged from him by the time of his military service 1813-1815. William W. Ryan was born in 1803.
Although William Ryan,Sr may well have come from England as William W. Ryan related to his grandson, it may be true that he didn’t come from England at all. Perhaps William W. Ryan didn’t know his grandfather due to the fact that his father was illegitimate and simply was told that William Ryan, Sr came from England. But if William Ryan, Sr didn’t come from England, where could he have come from? One answer may lie in the counties that surround Buckingham Co. There was a Ryan family that hailed from neighboring Amherst Co. This family is well documented in Mildred Stout’s text, “More Ryan Roots”. In it, she describes the family of John and Unity (Toney) Ryan. This family had several sons who were Revolutionary War veterans that filed for Rev War pensions: Philip, Harris and William. This William was born on April 14, 1755 and would have been old enough to father William Jr of Buckingham Co above in 1773/1774. “More Ryan Roots” also suggests that William Ryan of Amherst married a Mary Chancellor in 1773. In addition, descendants of William Ryan of Amherst have suggested that William was married to a “D” Ryan, as listed on one of their children’s headstones. If they are indeed the same person, William Ryan, Sr would have to have been quite the rogue: marrying Mary Chancellor in 1773, fathering illegitimate William Ryan, Jr of Buckingham in 1773/1774, and later moving to NC, TN and AL, and perhaps marrying a “D” Ryan before filing for his Rev War pension in 1834 at age 79.
So apparently there is no documented link between William Ryan of Amherst Co (b. 1755) and William Ryan Sr of Buckingham Co. But there are other circumstantial facts that suggest a connection. The location of the Amherst Ryans is quite interesting. Philip Ryan of Amherst is on record of having conducted a land transaction in Buckingham Co. thus suggesting a Buckingham Co connection. He also states in his Rev War pension application that the part of Amherst he was born and raised in became Nelson Co in 1807. Nelson Co is closer to Buckingham than Amherst currently is. It also became the home of William Ryan Jr. William Ryan, Jr moved there from Buckingham sometime between his marriage in 1794 and 1803 (his son William W. Ryan was born in Nelson Co), and he is listed there in census indices in 1810, 1820 and 1830. Philip Ryan of “Amherst” is listed in Nelson Co indices in 1810 and 1820. In 1820, both William Ryan and Philip Ryan are listed on the same page in the Nelson Co census. Perhaps their proximity suggests they were uncle and nephew.
As indicated above, the origin of William Ryan Sr is not clearly known. There is also nothing to suggest what became of him either. Due to damage, censuses are not available from Buckingham Co or Amherst Co, VA in 1790 or 1800. Census records from 1810 and 1820 do show a William Ryan located in Buckingham Co. However, in 1810 there is no one in this William Ryan household that would be old enough to be William Ryan, Sr or William Ryan of Amherst, both of whom would have been at least 50 years old by 1810. So it appears that William Ryan Sr either left Buckingham Co prior to 1810 or died. The data in the 1820 Buckingham census appears to update the family of the 1810 census. A review of Nelson Co census microfilms from 1810, 1820 and 1830 was pending as of this writing.
The only other fact mentioned in the WE Ryan and Proffitt sources regarding William Ryan Sr, is a marriage in Buckingham Co by William Ryan, Sr to a “Anthony” Damron. Her name is spelled “Antheney” Damron in an article in “Roane Co, WV Family History” (1990) by RW Ryan, MA Sands, and PR Schubert. The Roane Co article also suggests that William Sr arrived from England in 1772. The name Antheney (or Anthony) would seem an unusual one. Considering that William Jr’s pension application states he is illegitimate, one might believe that his mother’s name might be a key lead toward discovering his ancestry.
There are two potential sources for the name Antheney that the author has found. First, we can look to the Damron family. William Jr it turns out also married a Damron, Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s father was Michael Damron of Albemarle Co, VA according to the WE Ryan letter. Research among Damron descendants suggests that while not proven, a likely father for Michael Damron was George (Ward) Damron. George’s wife’s name was reportedly Anne Thaney (also spelled Thane, Theaney, etc.). The spelling of Anne’s name has varied with various sources. Research done by a prominent Damron researcher in the 1950’s, Helen Foster Snow, concluded that George (Ward) Damron’s wife’s maiden name was likely “Toney”, as that was a prolifically named family in Buckingham Co. In fact this author reviewed the 1810 census from Buckingham Co, VA and found many Toney listings, but no Thaney listings. While not proof, this leads to the second potential source for the name Anthony. The Amherst (or Nelson) Ryans mentioned earlier had a mother by the name Unity Toney. So at least in Nelson Co, there is precedent for a relationship between the Ryans and the Toneys. Does this mean that William Ryan Sr had an affair with someone named Ann Toney Damron? Although not proof, but it is curious that when William Jr, the illegitimate son of William Ryan,Sr named his first child, she was named Ann T. Ryan. This information comes from the Proffitt history. Also, when William Jr’s son, WW Ryan named his first daughter she was named, Ann T. Ryan. And William Ryan,Jr’s second daughter, Lucy T. Ryan, named her third daughter, Ann Theaney Johnson. It does suggest that William Jr named his first child after his mother, and that his mother was a blood Toney named Ann Toney Damron.
Engaging in complete speculation, the following scenario is presented solely for discussion: We have a man who appears in Buckingham Co, VA in about 1772, has a child with an Antheney Damron (the WE Ryan letter stated that “Anthony” Damron and William Ryan had only one child), and disappears. Nothing else is known. So lets suppose the roguish William Ryan, son of John and Unity Ryan of Amherst (soon to be Nelson Co) had an affair with a cousin from his mother’s family, the Toneys. Further lets suppose that that cousin was married or widowed to a Damron, perhaps George Damron, or perhaps another Damron. Most families of the era had many children unless there was a problem (death, etc). So this also suggests a possible affair. What would happen to William Ryan, if he married at the same time as his affair? He would possibly leave VA, which is supported by the fact that there is no William Ryan in Buckingham Co by 1810 who would fit the description of William Sr. After all, the Ryans attributed the child to him in later generations, so his parenthood would have been common knowledge. William Ryan, son of John and Unity, indeed left VA for NC, TN and eventually AL. He might have married several times. The marriage in 1773 to Mary Chancellor might have been an entirely different William Ryan, or she died, or perhaps he left her and VA behind.
Of course, there are other possibilities could support the current facts. It might be that William Ryan,Sr died shortly after fathering William Ryan, Jr. or that there were more William Ryans in the area than are indicated by the records reviewed to date. And it is even possible that Anthony or Antheney was a real given name of someone in the Damron family.
William Ryan Jr
Much more is known about the son of William Ryan, Sr. William Ryan, Jr was born in Buckingham Co, VA. There is a discrepancy in his birthdate, however. WE Ryan gave his birthdate as June 1, 1774. The Proffitt source gives it as July 23, 1773. William Ryan, Jr married Elizabeth Damron, daughter of Michael Damron and Lucy (Thomas) Damron of Albemarle Co, VA. They were reportedly married in Buckingham Co, VA on May 14, 1794. Some time before 1803, William Ryan, Jr and Elizabeth moved to Nelson Co, VA (which was Amherst Co until 1807).
William Ryan, Jr and Elizabeth Damron had 5 known children:
Ann T.Ryan b. March 24, 1797 d. April 26, 1877
m. January 16, 1816 to Obediah Proffitt, in the home of her father in Nelson Co, VA
Page Ryan b. July 1, 1799 d. Aft 1830
m. April 25, 1825 to Lucinda Willoughby
Lucy T. Ryan b. October 31, 1801 d. March 27, 1877
m. October 7, 1822 to William Johnson
William W. (WW) Ryan b. November 12, 1803 d. September 13, 1885
m. January 25, 1825 to Sarah Hundley
Gideon Ryan b. March 7, 1805 d. ?
William Jr Ryan served as a private in the War of 1812 for two terms. The first was in the 28th Regiment of VA Militia of Light Infantry under the direct command of Capt. Lansford Loving from March 24, 1813 to August 20, 1813. The 28th VA was under the command of Col. John H. Cocke. His second service was in the Company of VA Militia commanded by Capt. Miles Cary from July 28, 1814 to January 31, 1815.
William Ryan,Jr appears to have lived the rest of his life in Nelson Co, VA. His first wife, Elizabeth, died at Faber Mills in Nelson Co, January 1, 1840. At the age 69, William Ryan,Jr remarried Sarah “Sallie” Mawyer on November 19, 1843 in Nelson Co. Sallie was 24. In 1850, William Ryan, age 76 is listed in the census living with Sarah age 31. But strangely William Ryan, Jr is listed as “Page” Ryan. Perhaps Page was his middle name, explaining the naming of his oldest son, Page. The census was taken in Sept 1850, thus confirming that 1774 was his likely birthyear. William Ryan applied for his War of 1812 pension in 1855. William Ryan died July 14, 1860 at Rockfish Depot, Nelson Co, VA on the eve of the Civil War.
Generation 3 - The Children of William Ryan, Jr & Elizabeth
A brief synopsis will be presented on each of the children of William Ryan Jr
1. Ann T. Ryan
She married Obadiah Proffitt as indicated above. Obadiah served with William Ryan, Jr in the War of 1812. They had as many as 12 children:
a. William Perry Proffitt m. Sarah Jane Johnson (First cousin)
b. Joseph M. Proffitt m. Amanda Jane Carter
c. Anaxgoras I. Proffitt
d. Jasper Proffitt
e. James W. Proffitt m. Judith Newton
f. John S. Proffitt Died young
g. Elizabeth Ann Proffitt m. John Hughes
h. Littlepage Ryan Proffitt m. Ann Newton
i. Gideon Eli Proffitt m. Elizabeth Newton
j. Obediah P. Proffitt m. Mary Walker
k. Isaiah H. Proffitt
l. Lucy Proffitt
Descendants of this family were still living in Nelson Co until at least the 1870’s. Ann died in 1860, and Obediah in 1877.
One interesting note. Several of the sons fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. One, Gideon Eli Proffitt, served with the 51st VA, which fought, among other places, in the Kanawha Valley in 1862. It was in the Kanawha Valley where Ann Ryan’s brothers had migrated in 1830. Many in that family supported the Union. Gideon’s first cousin, Edward W. Ryan, served in the Constitutional Convention for the formation of West Virginia in 1862. So the cousins may have opposed each other literally or figuratively in West Virginia. Gideon Eli Proffitt was captured and sent to a Federal POW camp in Delaware in March 1865. In June 1865, he was released, and he returned to Nelson Co.
2. Page Ryan
Little is known about “Page” Ryan. Given that he has a nephew above named Littlepage, his real name might have been Littlepage. According to WE Ryan, Page Ryan was named for Governor John Page of Virginia. This may have been the case, but John Page didn’t become Governor of Virginia until 1802 (Page Ryan was born 1799). John Page was, however, a prominent patriot. He was a boyhood friend of Thomas Jefferson, and a Congressman. So Page Ryan still could have had John Page as his namesake. It is interesting that in 1850, Page Ryan’s father is listed in the census as “Page” Ryan. So perhaps Page was named in some way for his father. William Ryan, Jr was born in 1774, and likely did not have John Page for a namesake.
Page Ryan married Lucinda Willoughby in Nelson Co in 1825. In 1829-1830 Page Ryan and his brother reportedly left Nelson Co for Fayette Co in the Kanawha Valley of present day WV. The year is in some doubt since William W. Ryan (WW) is listed in the Nelson Co, VA census index in 1830, not Fayette Co. Page Ryan is not listed in either census index. The 1830 Nelson Co census index lists several other Ryans, namely Charles and Nathan. It is therefore possible that Page was a middle name. In any event, according to WE Ryan, Page Ryan left Fayette in 1831 and “went down south and was never heard from again”. No further mention is made of Lucinda Willoughby either.
3. Lucy T. Ryan
Like her siblings, Lucy Ryan was married in Nelson Co, VA. It is interesting to note that she used her grandmother’s name in the marriage record. Thus, she is listed as Lucy T. Damron. She and William Johnson reportedly had 8 children:
a. Elizabeth W. Johnson m. Moses Walters
b. William H. Johnson m. Jane ???
c. Sarah Jane Johnson m. Walter Perry Proffitt (First cousin)
d. Ann Theaney Johnson m. James Oliver
e. John BW Johnson Died young
f. Lucian M. Johnson
g. Lucy Francis Johnson m. William T. Kiger
h. Volney Curtis Johnson m. Annie Woody
4. William W. Ryan (WW Ryan)
This is the author’s line. William W. Ryan married Sarah Hundley in Nelson Co, VA in 1825. Sarah’s father, Nehemiah Hundley, was a Revolutionary War Veteran. The Hundleys are an old Virginia family, their arrival dating back to the early-mid 1600’s. As indicated above, William and Sarah moved their family with William Ryan’s brother Page Ryan to Fayette Co in about 1830. There were other Hundleys in Fayette at the time that were likely relatives of Sarah, including a John Hundley who was probably her brother. William W. Ryan was a farmer and schoolteacher in Fayette Co.
William W.Ryan and Sarah Hundley had 11 children.
a. Page Ryan
b. James R. Ryan m. Diannah Neal
c. Ann T. Ryan m. Henry Brown
d. Mildred H. Ryan m. Jesse H. Hundley (Cousin?)
e. William W. Ryan, Jr m. Jeanne Ann Kincaid
f. Thomas Perry Ryan m. Adaline Harper
g. Sarah Elizabeth Ryan m. John T. Morton
h. Edward Winston Ryan m. Susannah Cherrington (Author’s gg grandparents)
i. Mary D. Ryan m. Thomas Bennett
j. Jane Ryan m. Thomas Henderson Ramsey
k. Lucy Ryan Died young
William W. Ryan and Sarah lived in Fayette until the 1870s, and moved to neighboring Clay Co, WV before Sarah died in 1884 and WW in 1885.
5. Gideon Ryan
Very little is known of Gideon. He may have died young. There is one
nephew of his sister Ann that may be named for him. The only mention of
Gideon was in the Proffitt source.
This concludes this article at this time. The author continues to research this subject. A great deal of information exists for the subsequent generations (#4-present), primarily for the William W. Ryan descendants. Questions or discussion can be forwarded to:
Mark R. Rain
128 Notch Rd
Oak Ridge, NJ 07438
October 4, 1998
Descendants of William Ryan, Sr.
Generation No. 1
1. William2 Ryan, Sr. (John?1) was born Abt. 1750 in Near London, England?, and died Aft. 1820. He married Antheney? Damron Bef. 1774 in Buckingham Co, VA.
Notes for William Ryan, Sr.:
Ancestral home of the Ryans was the counties of Tipperary and Clare in Ireland? - Phoebe Ryan Schubert.
Notes for Antheney? Damron:
Could she have been Ann (Toney) Damron?
Generation No. 2
2. William3 Ryan, Jr (William2, John?1) was born June 01,
1774 in Buckingham Co, VA, and died July 14,1860 in Rockfish Depot, Nelson
Co, VA. s/o William Ryan, Sr & Antheney? Damron
He married (1) Elizabeth Damron May 14, 1794 in Buckingham Co,VA?, daughter of Michael Damron and Lucy Thomas.
He married (2) Sallie Mawyer November 19, 1843 in Nelson Co, VA.
Notes for William Ryan, Jr:
Two different birthdates are documented:
From WE Ryan's conversation with William W. Ryan before his death -
June 1, 1774
From John M. Proffitt's Proffitt family history - July 24, 1773
More About William Ryan, Jr:
Fact 1: 1812 Vet - Served under Lunsford Loving
Fact 2: Illegitimate child of William Ryan, Sr?
Fact 3: 1813, Enlisted for 1812 at Lovingston, VA
Children of William Ryan and Elizabeth Damron are:
3 i. Ann T. (Antina) (Anita)4 Ryan, born March 24, 1797; died May 14, 1860. She married Obadiah Proffitt January 21, 1816 in Home of Wm. Ryan, Nelson County, Virginia.
More About Obadiah Proffitt:
Fact 1: April 04, 1785, Born?
Fact 2: April 26, 1876, Died?
Cause of Death: Old age
4 ii. Page Ryan, born July 01, 1799; died Aft. 1850. He married Lucinda Willoughby April 25, 1825 in Nelson Co, VA.
5 iii. Lucy T. Ryan, born October 31, 1801; died March 27, 1877. She married William Johnson Oct 07, 1822 in Nelson Co, VA.
6 iv. William W. RyanIII, born November 12, 1803 in Nelson Co,
VA; died Sept 13, 1885 in
Clay Co, WV. He married Sarah (Sally) Elizabeth Hundley January 25, 1825 in Nelson Co, VA.
7 v. Gideon Ryan, born March 07, 1805.