Whisenhunt Archive

Maj. William Young Porter
December 7, 1829 - November 17, 1899
Swannanoa, Buncombe County, North Carolina

by Iris Teta Eubank Wagner

I listened to my mother remember her young years, living in the heart of the family, along the Swannanoa River in Black Mountain, North Carolina.  She remembered family conversation of how Uncle Will Porter had  made a gift of his farm at Swannanoa to his niece, Rachel Jane.  I remember my mother's  kind words in describing her Uncle Will.  Bonnie knew him through the memory of her grandmother, Rachel Jane Stepp Jones, with whom she lived, until Rachel's death in 1919.

During years of research, I've studied documents and censuses on which Uncle Will Porter is listed.     The following article is from The Asheville Daily Gazette (Asheville, North Carolina) Saturday, November 18, 1899, one day after the death of Maj. Porter :  

 . . . Major Porter was born and reared in Buncombe County and was widely known.  He enlisted at the beginning of the Civil War, and was later made Major of the home guard, which position he filled with credit until the surrender.  He was then appointed Justice of the Peace, which office he retained until a few years ago, and he was also a county commissioner at one time.

Major Porter was generally liked by his neighbors, his chief characteristic, generosity, which was exemplified in numerous events which occurred in the course of his life's history.

Guardian to Nieces Rachel Jane, Rose, and Elizabeth
William Y. Porter was among the several relatives appointed by the Buncombe Court to the Guardianship of his nieces, Rachel Jane, Rose, and Elizabeth Stepp, daughters of his sister, Isabella Anna Porter Stepp, and her husband, Joshua P. Stepp, who died in August,1862, during the Civil War.   Rachel's story tells in more detail the story of the gift of a house and farm by Major Porter.

The Family Photographs
The photograph, above, of
William Y. Porter, was one of  the pictures not identified in my great aunt Frances Whisenhunt's photograph  album.
   So, what  a  pleasure  it  was to discover a photograph of Uncle Will posted on ancestry.com, taken at the same photo sitting as the one in Aunt Frances' album. 

Until this lucky discovery, Uncle Will Porter had been only a name, an abstract place in my mind.  But now, I knew this handsome, thoughtful gentleman, and he was looking back at me. 

I very much appreciate being able to identify my photograph of  Uncle Will.  The similar photograph is owned by a descendant of William's brother, John Harvey Porter.

 William's Brother, John Harvey Porter 
Sarah Malinda Hemphill Porter (below left) was the wife of  William's brother, John Harvey Porter.  When I found this photograph of Sarah, it was included with the photo of William on ancestry.com. 

John was two years older than William; he was  born on January 13, 1828.   He and Sarah were married on September 16, 1856, in  McDowell County, North Carolina. They had two sons, William Y. Porter, born December 9, 1857, who died on October 9, 1922.  My great aunt, Frances B. Whisenhunt, was a cousin, friend, and classmate of William Y. Porter's son, John Porter.  Another son, Thomas Porter, was born  in December, 1859. 

John H. Porter died in Buncombe County on April 18, 1862.  He is buried in the Patton Meeting House Cemetery (Patton Cemetery).
Photo of Sarah Hemphill Porter courtesy of the Porter family,  descendants of John H. Porter

Swannanoa Valley Museum, Black Mountain, North Carolina 
Alexander Porter and Jane Young Porter
William Y., John H., and their six sisters, were born at the family home at Swannanoa. The Alexander Porter home was located at the  intersection of Old Hwy. 70, and the present Lake Eden Road (map above), which, in the mid-1800's was referred to in documents as a wagon road.   Old Hwy. 70 was the main road, the Stage Road, that connected travelers going to Asheville in Buncombe County and to the town of Morganton in McDowell County.

Jane Young Porter was a daughter of John Young, Esq. and  his wife Rosannah Hemphill Young, and granddaughter of Capt. Thomas Hemphill, one of the most prosperous and prominent men in old Burke County in the area that became McDowell County in 1842. Capt. Hemphill commanded a company of Patriots from Burke County in the Battle of King's Mountain in October, 1780, under the command of Maj. Joseph McDowell and Maj. George Wilfong.  Capt. Thomas Hemphill is buried in McDowell County, Old Siloam Cemetery.  A very nice memorial and biography is presented on Find-a-Grave.

 1859, Alexander and Jane Young Porter deeded the farm where the Mountain Orphanage was later built, to their daughter, Elizabeth Louise Porter Gilliam.  Elizabeth's husband was  William C. Gilliam.
(03/23/1859 - Bunc. Co. Db 26/p 498)

Elizabeth Gilliam died in 1862.  Her husband, William, died in 1865.  Elizabeth's brother, William Y. Porter, became guardian for the Gilliam's  minor children.  

Alexander and Jane Porter's children :
  Rosannah Jane Porter :  Dec. 30, 1823 - July 19,1862
                   (Wm McDonald Hemphill)
  Mar. 2, 1820 - Jan. 29, 1892)
  Isabella Anna Porter 
Oct. 28, 1825 - Feb. 26, 1903
  (Joshua P. Stepp)
: Dec. 26, 1824 - Aug. 27, 1862
  John Harvey Porter :
Jan. 13, 1828 - Apr. 18, 1862
(Sarah Malinda Hemphill) : Feb. 14, 1832 - May 21, 1907
Wm Young Porter : Dec. 7, 1829 - Nov. 17, 1899     
  Elizabeth Louise Porter : July 29, 1831 - Aug. 17, 1862 
                        (William C. Gilliam) : July 30, 1821 - Dec. 15, 1865
  Martha M. Porter
 : Nov. 10, 1833 - June 19, 1876                          (Richard J. Fortune) : Feb. 18, 1827 - March 26,1863
 Nancy S. Porter
: Dec.19, 1835 - Apr. 8, 1863            
(John Stepp)
             (William Stepp)   

Three of the Porter daughters married Stepp men

William's sister, the second-eldest daughter, was Isabella Anna Porter Stepp, whose husband Joshua P.  Stepp, according to my research of documents, died, most likely, at Richmond, Virginia, of typhoid fever on August 27-29, 1862. 

Joshua's parents, Joseph Stepp and Rachael Waters Stepp, were  among the prosperous families in east Buncombe.  During the 1830's, they built, what was referred to by descendants, as the Old Stepp House on upper North Fork.  The house was torn down in mid-20th century.  Their youngest son Joseph M. Stepp, who survived the Civil War, built one of the large hotels (below) in Black Mountain, when the town was formed and the railroad brought tourists to the mountains.  'Joe' Stepp was one of Black Mountain's first commissioners and mayors. 

 Library of the Town of Black Mountain, Black Mountain, North Carolina
   Joseph M. Stepp's Hotel

William Porter Buys Alexander Porter's Farm
Maj. Porter's farm and dwelling, where William and his siblings were born and grew up, was built on land Alexander acquired in 1830.  A deed, recorded in 1859, at the Buncombe County Courthouse, proves William bought his father's house and 150 acres of  land in 1859.

On March 22, 1859, an indenture was agreed to between Alexander Porter, grantor, and W. Y. Porter, grantee, for a sum in hand paid by the said W. Y. Porter of $2,000.00. . . for a certain piece or parcel of land  lying on the north of Swannanoa River, including the dwelling house of said A. Porter . . . containing 150 acres more or less . . . on the bank of said river at the end of the conditional line made by J. H. and W.Y. Porter . . . at the same reserving a lifetime Estate for said house for himself the said Alexander Porter and his wife Jane Porter.   

The deed is transcribed below in the original text - Deed Book 26, pages 619, 620 - Date filed Jan. 1, 1860:

This indenture made the 22nd day of March, 1859 betweenAlexander  Porterof the county of Buncombe and State of North Carolina of the first part, and W. Y. Porter of the said county and State of the second part, Witnesseth that the said Alexander Porter for and in consideration of the sum of Two-thousand Dollars to him in hand paid by the said W. Y. Porter the receipt whereof is hereby fully acknowledged hath this day bargained sold and conveyed and by these presents doth convey to the said W. Y. Porter his heirs and assigns a certain piece or parcel of land lying on the North of Swannanoa River including the dwelling house of said A. Porterbeginning on an oak on the northwest bank of the North Fork of Swannanoa River and runs down the meanders of said river 190 poles more or less to a small Poplar on the bank of said River at the end of the conditional line made between J. H. and W. Y. Porter, thence North 19 degrees West with said conditional line 257 poles to a small black oak in the forks of a branch; then North 60 degrees East 57 poles to a Pine on a small flat Ridge; then South 40 degrees East 242 poles to the beginning containing 150 acres more or less, Together with all  woods, waters, mines, and minerals, and the said A. Porter doth bind himself, his heirs, executors and administrators to warrant and forever defend
 ___ (p620) the assigned Premises with every appertenance thereunto belonging or in anywise thereto pertaining clear and free from himself his heirs and assigns or the lawful claim unto the said W. Y. Porter his heirs and assigns forever at the same reserving alife time Estate for said house for himself the said Alexander Porter and his wife Jane Porter.
   In testimony whereof he has this day present set his hand and affixed his seal.                               Alexander Porter (seal)

         Signed sealed and delivered in presence of
         J. L. Weaver, clk

State of North Carolina  [Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions
Buncombe County    Jan. Term 1860

The execution of this Deed was duly
executed in my presence and ordered to be registered.
                J. L. Weaver, clk

1860 U.S. Federal Census, Swannanoa Township, Buncombe County, North Carolina 

Isabella and Joshua P. Stepp, and daughters, Rachel Jane, Rose, and Elizabeth, are living with Alexander and Jane, and William Y. Porter in the family home at Swannanoa.

The earlier 1850 census shows Isabella and Joshua were living on Stepp family land on upper North Fork.  By 1860, they had moved to the Porter homeplace, retaining separate households, likely to help manage the entire homeplace and farm.  By 1860, Alexander's health had  deteriorated, for he died in 1861.  John Harvey's family also lived nearby, and was likely helpful, as well in the care of the farm, and care of Alexander and Jane.

My great-grandmother, Rachel Jane, is age thirteen in 1860.  It was probably at this time that Rachel came to love the home of her grandparents at Swannanoa, and the nearby home of her Aunt Elizabeth Gilliam, where, in later years, Rachel would live, and where her children would be born and grow to adulthood.

 Maj. William Y. Porter's service to the Confederate Army
The Civil War began in April, 1861, and was in its ninth month when Alexander Porter died on December 28, 1861.   Jane Porter lived for another seven years, and died May 5, 1867.  Alexander and Jane are buried in the old  Patton Meeting House Cemetery at Swannanoa, called also the Patton Cemetery. 

 By 1863, William's rank was Major in the 108th Regiment, North Carolina Militia. (document above)

1870 U. S. Census, Buncombe County, North Carolina, William Y. Porter.
Residence 118 . . .

On the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, William was at home on the Porter homeplace, with two nephews : Andrew Hemphill (son of his sister, Rosannah) and Thomas Gilliam (son of his sister, Elizabeth).  William's sister-in-law, Sarah Hemphill Porter, widow of his brother John, lives at Res. 116 with her two sons, William Y. Porter and Thomas A. Porter.

The farm adjacent to the west of Maj. Porter is Residence 119, the George C. Alexander, and son, George N. Alexander, family owners and proprietors of The Alexander Inn, Swannanoa's major stage coach stop.

Guardians of Joshua's daughters' Estate
By appointment of the Buncombe County Probate Court in October, 1862, William Y. Porter, Isabella, and their brothers-in-law, William M. Hemphill amd John M. Stepp, became Guardians of the Estate of the daughters of Joshua P. Stepp. 

Major Porter's residence in 1880 is in the Upper North Fork Neighborhood, as shown on the  Census (below).

1880 U. S. Fed. Census, Black Mountain, North Carolina


Maj. Porter's residence in 1880 was a mile or so from his residence in 1870.  As shown on this 1880 Federal Census, he lived in a residence close to his sister, Isabella Stepp.   Isabella lived with her daughters Elizabeth and Rose at
Res. 112.  From their youthful years, the two siblings, Isabella (Anna) and William Y. had remained close.  Maj. Porter likely felt a responsibility to his nieces and to his sister, to be near and to be concerned for their welfare, just as Isabella and Joshua had aided in the care of Alexander and Jane Porter, aging parents during the crisis of Civil War. 

Maj. Porter lived at Res. 116, and the next residence, Res. 117, Lewis Ingram, who built the Ingram house at the present, main entrance to Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain. 

The Death of Major Porter
William Y. Porter died on November 17, 1899. 
This notice of the  funeral service for Maj. William Y. Porter appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Wagner 1990
Tombstone of Maj. William Y. Porter, CSA
Patton Hill Cemetery, Swannanoa, NC
Maj. Porter's epitaph  :  
    Gone But Not Forgotten


Original Narrative, Research, and Website © Iris Teta Eubank Wagner 2007 - 2018


Bonnie Katherine Jones Eubank and  Frances Burroughs Jones Whisenhunt archive (photographs, memories, and documents) of life at Swannanoa and Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Tombstone inscriptions, Patton Meeting House Cemetery, Established     1794  (Patton Cemetery, Patton Cemetery Road, off Bee Tree Road,   Swannanoa, North Carolina) 

John C. Inscoe, Mountain Masters, Slavery, and the Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, copyright 1989.

John C. Inscoe and Gordon B. McKinney, The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War.

Dale Wayne Slusser, Asheville author and historian - research and history of homes along Swannanoa River's North Fork. 

Descendants of the Family of John H. Porter, brother of Maj. William Y. Porter,  for sharing the photograph of Sarah Malinda Hemphill Porter.   

Ancestry.com. 1790 - 1940  United States Federal Censuses [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000.

Henry P. Scalf. The Stepp/Stapp Families of America, 1973, Privately printed by the author, Box 107, Stanville, Kentucky 41679.

Thomas Perkins Abernethy, From Frontier to Plantation : A Study in Frontier Democracy, Southern Historical Publication #12, University of Alabama Press, p 174.

Lillian Ledbetter Grumpp, Marriages of Buncombe County, North Carolina  1851 - 1899. 

Nancy Alexander, Here Will I Dwell : The Story of Caldwell County, Rowan Printing Company, 1956, Salisbury, N.C.

Dorothy R. Hyde, Old Buncombe County Heritage, Article # 411, The Joshua A. Jones Family [son of Stephen Jones, Sr.], Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society, Asheville, North Carolina.

Johnson J. Hayes, The Land of Wilkes, p. 37

John Hammond Moore, Albemarle: Jefferson's County

Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Albemarle County Deeds 1761-1782

Robert Bell, The Book of  Ulster Surnames, p 106

Culpeper County Courthouse, Culpeper, Virginia, Culpeper  County Register of Deeds, Will Book A ; 1759-61  Estate Probate of Will of Robert Medley, pp 203-205, 263-264 ; 1763 Estate Probate of Will of John Medley, pp352-354.

Buncombe County Courthouse, Asheville, NC, Buncombe County Register of  Deeds, Deed Book 26, page 449, Deed of Gift of Stephen Jones to  his sons, April 9, 1859.

Buncombe County Courthouse, Asheville, North Carolina, the Wills of William Jones and his brother Thomas Jones.

Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society, Bingham Road, Asheville, North Carolina.
Also:  OBCGS  online.

Kenneth Israel, Children of Israel.

Joyce Justus Parris, A History of Black Mountain, North Carolina, and Its People, copyright 1992, Black Mountain Centennial Commission, Black Mountain, North Carolina.

William Nathan Jones, great-great-grandson of Russel Jones [ Joshua and Elinor's son ], By the River and Beyond, a history of the Del Rio community in Cocke County, Tennessee. Copyright by the author, 1996.  Printed and Distributed by Newport Printing Company, Newport, Tennessee.

Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal  Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Adm. 1850. M432, 1,009 rolls.

GenWeb, Burke County, North Carolina page, History of Burke County, North Carolina, Burke County Annexation to Wilkes County, 1789.

W.W. Scott, The Annals of Caldwell County [North Carolina].  Originally published in 1930.  Reprint of the manuscript in 1996 by The Caldwell County Genealogical Society, Caldwell County, North Carolina.

Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Eighth Census of the United States, 1860. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1860. M653, 1,438 rolls.

Carolyn C. Aslund & Billie C. Ledbetter, compilers, Cemetery Inscriptions of Buncombe County, N.C., Vol. 1, 1984.

Mrs. W. O. Absher, Wilkes County, N.C., Deed Books D, F-1, G & H,1795-1815.  Pages 154, 213, 233, 244.

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