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Ancient Origins

Ancient Origins
Our earliest known ancestors

Westmorland County was located near the northwest corner of England proper and set-off above in light red.
Our understanding of our lineage has evolved over time. Previously, our earliest known ancestor was Joshua, who lived approximately from 1758 to 1799. However, recent advancements in DNA research conducted in conjunction with The National Society of the Claiborne Family Descendants and Family Tree DNA have allowed us to trace our roots back even further.

Westmorland Roots

Our family tree has its roots in the historic Westmorland County in northern England, now part of Cumbria. This Westmorland group, an “ancient and knightly family,” derived its name from the manor of “Cliburn.”[Howell Purdue and Elizabeth Purdue, Pat Cleburne Confederate General (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Jr. College Press, 1973), 1.] The family held the manor for nearly four centuries, from the early 1200s to the mid-1600s. Today, Cliburn Hall stands near the small village of Cliburn, six miles southeast of Penrith, in what was once Westmorland County. It overlooks the rivulet Leith from its elevated position.

Harriette Threlkeld’s rendition of Cliburn Hall. This is a view from the courtyard.
The grand stone structure, complete with a three-story “pele tower,” was erected in the 1300s by Robert de Cliburn, a knight of the shire for Westmorland. Two centuries later, Richard Cleburne expanded and modified the original structure. The Tudor estate boasted a large deer park, beautiful pleasure grounds, and terraced walks. Across the road from Cliburn Hall stands the Parish Church of Cliburn, a Norman structure built in the 1100s.

The Cliburn family’s founder, Hervey de Cliburn (Cliburn translates to “stream by the bank”), and his descendants held the manor by “knight service.” Around the early-1600s, close to the English reconquest of Ireland, William Cleburne, the second son of Thomas, the fourteenth Lord of the manor of Cliburne, relocated to Moate, Westmeath, Ireland. His son John of Moate Castle was born in Ireland in 1623. Although other family members had already moved there, it was William who acquired castles, towns, and lands. As a result, the Cliburnes (and variations of the name) resided in both Westmorland and Ireland for some time.

The Parish Church of Cliburn, a Norman structure built in the twelfth century.
DNA studies confirm that our family originated from the Westmorland region. However, the path that led members of this family to southeast England, specifically to Monken Hadley, remains somewhat unclear.

Researchers from The National Society of the Claiborne Family Descendants propose a theory involving Sir John Cliburne (1439-1489), the son of Roland de Cliburn and Katherine de Lancaster. Monken Hadley is near Barnet, the site of a significant battle during the War of the Roses on 14 April 1471. Historical records and rolls of arms confirm Sir John Cliburne’s presence at the Battle of Barnet. The King’s army camped there for several weeks. Nine months later, in January 1472, Oliver, our earliest known ancestor, is estimated to have been born.

English Ancestors

Oliver Clyborn, born around 1472 in Monken Hadley, died before 1532. Several court documents firmly place Oliver in Monken Hadley and establish him as Thomas’s father.

Thomas Clybborne, born around 1505 to Oliver Clyborn and Isabel in Monken Hadley, married Joan around 1526. They had at least two sons. Thomas was laid to rest on 10 October 1558 in South Mimms.

William Clybborne was born in 1527 to Thomas Clybborne and Joane in Monken Hadley, a quaint town situated four miles southeast of South Mimms. In 1550, he married Ellen in South Mimms, and they had one daughter and four sons. William passed away and was interred on 13 January 1584 in St. Giles, South Mimms.

James Cleburne, the youngest child of William Clybborne and Ellen, was born in May 1565 in South Mimms, Hertfordshire. He was baptized on 10 May 1565 in South Mimms, a town approximately ten miles west of Waltham Cross. This location holds significance in our family history, as the Isom family, also Cleburne descendants, resided in South Mimms.

James worked as a bargeman, ferrying cargo along the River Lea. This river stretches about 25 miles from the River Thames in London, north to the town of Ware, before veering west and ending in the town of Hertford.

Around 1585, James Cleborn began a relationship with Apollonya Isham, and they cohabited. This is where the Isom connection comes into play. By 1590, their relationship had ended, and James married Agnes Jurye in Waltham Abbey. The circumstances remain unclear, but based on Joshua Isom’s research, it seems Apollonya’s family may have disapproved of the relationship and selected a different suitor for her, Robert Lee, whom she married in 1587. It’s believed that the son of James and Apollonya was sent to live with other family members.

The Isham family, who owned prominent businesses in London and the manor of Dancers Hill, located on the southern end of South Mimms, likely provided Apollonya’s residence when she met James.

In 1625, both James and Agnes Jurye passed away. Interestingly, this year also marked a Y-pestis plague outbreak that claimed the lives of 40,000 Londoners. At the time of their deaths, James would have been around 60 years old, and Agnes about 55. Upon James’s death in 1625, his eldest son, James (born in 1598), was appointed executor of the estate and given guardianship of Edward (aged 9) until he reached adulthood.

Edward Cleiborne, born in 1614, was the son of James Cleborn and Agnes Jurye. His baptism took place on 22 May 1614 in Waltham Abbey. Church records in Essex, England, spell the surname as Cleyborne; licenses to pass the seas use Cleiborne; and Barbados church records use Cleaborne.

James, Edward’s father, passed away in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, England, on an unspecified date in 1625. At the time, Edward was 11 years old and his brother, Thomas, was 19. Both were named as executors of their father’s will. However, the probate clerk leaned on Thomas to execute the will, citing Edward’s minority. The will allocated 20 shillings each to the older siblings – Elizabeth (30 and married), James (27), William (24), and Rychard (21). It did not explicitly provide for Edward and Thomas, but as executors, they might have had some discretion to distribute any remaining property after the older siblings received their 80 shillings.

Edward, the youngest in the family, was born when his father was 50 and his mother was 44. By modern standards, his parents were old, but for that era, they were particularly so. Agnes had already passed away by the time James died in 1625.

Following the death of both parents, Edward likely moved in with his brother James. He also remained close with his older half-brother, William Isome, who resided just a mile away in nearby Cheshunt.

A ship from 1638: William Rainsborough’s warship, Sovereign of the Sea, used in the wars of the Barbary Coast.
A decade after James’ death, on an unspecified date in 1635, 21-year-old Edward Cleborne and his 14-year-old nephew, Robert Isome, sailed on the Globe to Henrico, Virginia, in search of new opportunities. The shipmaster, Jeremy Blackman, was a friend and business partner of Edward’s. Also aboard the Globe was John Goodbarne, a devout Christian minister who passed away during the voyage to Virginia, leaving behind a library of Gospel texts.

In 1636, Edward’s sponsor in Virginia, William Julian, received a “headright” land grant in Bermuda Hundred in return for providing Edward with employment and accommodation.

Fourteen years later, on 18 June 1650, another land grant was recorded for Edward’s Virginia sponsor. This grant was made to ship captain William Shipp, who used Edward’s headrights to purchase land. Around 1649, Edward may have returned to England to marry a woman named Mary before returning to Virginia. They had at least two sons, including a son named John, born around 1650. John would go on to marry Mary Sheppey in 1680.

Remains of Blackman’s Mill on the site of the Barbados plantation
Edward dove into the flourishing sugar industry of Barbados. His friend and business partner, Jeremy Blackman, maintained familial ties to the island as the brother-in-law of Jan and Michael Lucie, Dutch siblings who were plantation owners in Barbados. Church archives reveal that both Edward and his spouse took their final breaths there in 1662.

Edward died in September 1662, at the age of 48, and was buried on 15 September 1662 in St. Michael, Barbados.

Edward is an ancestor of the modern Claybourn family and a great-grandfather of John Cleburne of “Dale Parish”, who has a large posterity in Virginia and across North America.

Edward’s nephew, Robert Isome, also returned to England, possibly on a voyage that Edward made. Unlike his Uncle Edward, Robert chose to remain in England. He married Jane Clubber in Green’s Norton, Northamptonshire, in 1643 and raised a family there. Y-DNA tests today reveal a close relation between paternal line descendants of Edward Cleborne and those of Robert Isome.

From this point, there is a gap in the lineage that necessitates further research. However, our next known ancestor is Joshua Clyburn.

Joshua Clyburn

Joshua Clyburn was born around 1758. While we know of Joshua’s distant origins, his parentage remains largely speculative. However, several theories have been proposed. Historian Angela Clyburn hypothesizes that Joshua descended from a John Clyburn of Henrico and Brunswick Counties, Virginia, and later Bladen County, North Carolina.[Angela Clyburn, Cliburne: The Story of an American Pioneer Family (Clyburn, 2006).] This John Clyburn, born around 1712, married Jean Clarke, the daughter of his neighbor Robert Clarke, in Brunswick County around 1732. John served as a private in the militia during The French and Indian War in Colonial Granville County, North Carolina, and died on 7 March 1785 in Bladen County, North Carolina.

Angela posits that Joshua Clyburn was the son of John and Jean, primarily because they lived in the same vicinity and their birth and marriage dates align. John’s father, also named John, had a step-father named Joshua Stapp, who may have been Joshua’s namesake.[Joshua Stapp’s will, which was made on 23 December 1689 and proved on 1 April 1695, indicates that Joshua Stapp’s son-in-law (at that time “son-in-law” had the meaning that we now call stepson), John Clyburn, was born in about 1677.] DNA evidence from a study conducted in collaboration with the National Society of the Claiborne Family Descendants confirms that Joshua’s descendants are genetically closely linked to Cliburns/Clyburns from Henrico County, lending further credibility to Angela’s theory.

It’s crucial to differentiate the John Clyburn mentioned above from a John Cliborn of Dale Parish, Chesterfield County, Virginia, also born around 1712 (often referred to as “John of Dale Parish”), who is believed to have over a million descendants.[Lolita Hannah Bissell, Cliborn-Claiborne Records (Nashville: Bissell, 1986). See also The Descendants of James Monroe Sills, James Cliburn & Allied Pitman Family by Isom L. Stephens (1972), wherein the author estimates that John of Dale Parish has upward of a million descendants living in the United States in 1972.] Various sources list John of Dale Parish as having seven children, none of whom were named Joshua.[Sue Cliborn Forbes, “John Cliburn of Old Henrico Co.,” The Claiborne Society Newsletter.] However, DNA evidence confirms that both John Clyburn and John of Dale Parish were closely related and shared a common ancestor.

In her later years, historian Harriette Threlkeld suggested that Joshua originated from Ireland, primarily because family tradition, particularly in the Arkansas branch, held the same belief.[See the entry for John B. Claiborne.] Harriette found a 1796 Petition of Naturalization from Ireland for a ‘Joshua Clibborn’ (the naturalization papers are on file with the Philadelphia Department of Records). For unclear reasons, she suspected they were the same person. However, since Joshua resided in North Carolina from 1778 to about 1799, it’s unlikely he would have been naturalized in Philadelphia in 1796. Even if Joshua descended from John Clyburn, it’s possible that his ancestors lived in Ireland for a period.

Assuming Joshua was at least twenty when he received his first land grant in North Carolina, he would have been born in 1758. As Joshua does not appear in the 1800 census, we believe he died shortly before then. If he was born in 1738 and died around 1799, he would have been sixty-one. His wife’s name was Sarah, but her parentage, birth time, and birthplace remain unknown. Evidence from a deed discussed later indicates she was still in Robeson County as late as 1835.

The American Revolution

Joshua Clyburn’s lifespan overlapped with the American Revolution. Although he reached military age during this tumultuous era, no records indicating his service in the conflict have surfaced. As delineated in the following section concerning Joshua’s siblings, a potential brother, Ephraim, might have espoused British loyalist convictions. If accurate, Joshua could have echoed these sentiments.

It’s estimated that loyalists constituted between fifteen and twenty percent of the colonists, while approximately forty to forty-five percent supported the patriots’ cause. The remainder typically evaded involvement.[Robert M. Calhoon, A Companion to the American Revolution (Blackwell Publishers, 2000), 235.] Loyalist sympathies surged predominantly in the middle colonies, like the Carolinas. Older residents and recent immigrants, particularly Scots, often aligned with the loyalist cause, although these affiliations spanned all demographic divides.[Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (Oxford University Press, 1985), 550.]

For loyalists who chose to remain in the United States during and after the war, harsh repercussions frequently ensued, including death, imprisonment, asset confiscation, and even tarring and feathering. With revolutionaries wielding control over state governments in the South, suppression exerted considerable pressure.[Calhoon, A Companion to the American Revolution, 235.] The destruction of loyalists’ homes and records was commonplace, prompting roughly 46,000 loyalists, including Ephraim and his family, to find asylum in Canada — 34,000 of these settled in Nova Scotia.

Despite this mass exodus, the majority of loyalists chose to stay in the States after the war. If Joshua had loyalist inclinations, it’s plausible he would have followed his brother’s path to Canada. Yet, upon the war’s conclusion, Joshua elected to remain, even expanding his land ownership.

In the absence of definitive evidence, Joshua’s potential involvement in the American Revolution remains speculative. Despite at least one sibling siding with the British before fleeing to Canada, Joshua stayed and thrived in the burgeoning nation. Thus, his true revolutionary sentiments continue to be shrouded in mystery.

The 1790 Census

Joshua was listed in the first census of the United States in 1790, in Robeson County, North Carolina [1790 United States Census, Robeson County, North Carolina, accessed through under the following entry:

Joshua Clyburn

  • 1 fee white male 16 years of age and upwards, including head of family [This is a reference to Joshua himself.]
  • 2 free white males under [One of these males was Ephraim, who was born in 1788.]
  • 4 free white females, including heads of families [One was his wife Sarah and another was their daughter Sarah (Sally).]

No slaves were listed. In North Carolina, as in Virginia, there were social distinctions. “Planter” on deeds meant one of the gentry, usually with large land holdings and slaves. “Laborer,” “Saddler,” or “Blacksmith” appearing on deeds meant the person was not one of the gentry.[Verner M. Claybourn and Harriette Pinnell Threlkeld, The Claybourn Family (A-1 Business Service, 1959).] Neither Joshua nor Ephraim was designated a planter in any deeds found. Joshua received 500 acres in three grants and bought 200 acres adjoining some of their land for their son Ephraim. Yet there were no slaves to work it, so he was probably a stock raiser as most of the “farmers” of Robeson County were. Famed North Carolina historians Lefler and Newsom wrote:

“The North Carolina farmer was a self-sufficient and versatile jack-of-all trades. He was a combination farmer, engineer, hunter and trapper, carpenter, mechanic, and businessman. The small farmer seldom owned more than two to three hundred acres of land. Most of them held no bond servants or slaves, though a few possessed a small number. Connor has described these small farmers as a ‘strong, fearless, independent race, simple in taste, crude in manners, provicial in outlook, democratic in social relations, tenacious of their personal liberties, and when interested in religion at all, earnest, narrow, and dogmatic.'” [Hugh T. Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome, North Carolina: The History of a Southern State (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1954).]

The same authors note that the times were very hard. In 1780 inflation had depreciated money by 800%. Most farmers raised live stock and had to drive them to distant markets, fifty to two hundred miles away, making little profit. Paying taxes was a constant struggle as well, and land deeds indicate that Joshua was not immune from such hardship.[See the section concerning land transactions, where certain transactions indicate land had to be sold to pay taxes.]

Land Transactions

Land transactions offer a detailed record of a person’s activities throughout much of history, and the same applies to Joshua’s lifetime. His first land record dates back to 17 July 1778, when Archibald McClain detailed a 100-acre plot on “First Swamp,” including “Joshua Cliburn’s” improvements.[A.B. Pruitt, “Abstracts of Land Entries, Bladen County, North Carolina.”] Harriette Threlkeld discovered copies of land grants and surveys for Joshua in Bladen (later Robeson) County, revealing Joshua’s ownership of three land tracts totaling 500 acres.[Claybourn, The Claybourn Family, citing the Department of Archives and History of North Carolina in Raleigh.] Using field descriptions and a map, Harriette pinpointed the general location near the town of Rowland, North Carolina, and close to the South Carolina border, nestled between the Shoesheel Swamp and the Ashpole Swamp.

An “Index to Real Estate Conveyances in Robeson County” led Harriette to the county’s deed book pages involving Clibourns, spelling inconsistencies notwithstanding. One deed revealed that James Rowland sold Joshua 200 acres near Ashpole Swamp for “twenty pounds specie,” still operating with English currency.[Robeson County, North Carolina Deeds, Book E, 25 February 1794, 17.] Interestingly, the land deed was in the name of ‘Ephrain Cliborn.’ Beginning at a post oak on Joshua Clibourn’s corner, the deed conveys land “to Ephraim Cliborn, son of Joshua and Sarah Clibourn.”[Ibid.] Dated 1794, Ephraim would have been just six years old, and the reason for Joshua purchasing land on his behalf at such a young age remains unclear.

The 1794 deed, signed by James Rowland and witnessed by William (X) Clibourn and Charles Ingram, doesn’t clarify William’s relationship, though he was likely a brother, as discussed later. James Rowland, a prominent landowner in the area, likely lent his or his family’s name to Rowland, North Carolina.[James Rowland received a grant of 2100 acres at ten pounds per acre east of Ashpole Swamp in 1790. See Robeson County, North Carolina Deeds, Book A-C, 1786-90. This land adjoined 200 acres he already had and was next to Joshua’s.]

Joshua’s absence from the 1800 census suggests he likely passed away just before this year. His death led to a struggle within the family to cover taxes. A deed dated 18 November 1802 indicates “Joshua Clibourn Heirs,” represented by the county sheriff, sold 339 acres of Joshua’s land for taxes to Matthew James.[Robeson County, North Carolina Deeds, Book N, 18 November 1802, 3.] This sale, advertised in at least three issues of the Raleigh Register, implies a wider economic hardship in the area.[Here is the text of two such notices, the first from Vol. 2 of The Raleigh Register, 25 August 1801, 97: “Notice of a sheriff’s sale at the Courthouse in Lumberton for a long list of property to be sold for non-payment of taxes on Wednesday, August 10, 1801. For taxes due for the year 1800, they not being sent in for that year: Among them: 150 acres near Ashpole Swamp, the property of the heirs of Joshua Clibourn.” Another notice from The Raleigh Register, 20 July 1802: “Notice of a sheriff’s sale on Saturday 21 day of August next at the Courthouse in Lumberton, the following tracts of lands so much as will pay the taxes and charges for the year 1801. Among them: 27 acres on the south side of Ashpole Swamp near or adjoining Thomas Townsend’s land, supposed to be the property of heirs of Joshua Clibourn; 100 acres near or adjoining the above, the property of the above heirs.”] The land ultimately sold for only two pounds, sixteen shillings, and ten pence (approximately two and a half English pounds). Twenty-five acres of the plot were not sold, as taxes were paid on them; this land might have been the family’s homestead.

The final parcel of Joshua’s land was sold by Ephraim in 1811. “Ephraim Clibourn” of Knox County, Tennessee, sold the land deeded to him in 1794 to Matthew Jones for 50 pounds — the same individual who purchased Joshua’s land in 1802 to aid in tax payment.[Robeson County, North Carolina Deeds, Book P, 23 January 1811, 338.] This transaction occurred two years after Ephraim’s 1809 marriage in Knox County, indicating that Ephraim had already relocated from North Carolina.

Joshua’s cause of death remains speculative. His departure from this world retains the same aura of mystery as his arrival.


There is evidence to suggest that Joshua had at least two brothers, and possibly even three:

  1. William: Since William, John, James and Thomas were popular names in the family, it is very difficult to discern which are connected. Nevertheless, William (X) Claybourn was a witness to a deed for Joshua, suggesting some sort of link as possibly a brother or son.[Robeson County, North Carolina Deeds, Book E, 25 February 1794, 17.] DNA evidence closely links the descendants of this William to the descendants of Joshua and his son Ephraim, further suggesting a link. A William Clyburn appears on the 1790 census of Robeson County, apparently in the same part of the county as Joshua.[1790 United States Census, Robeson County, North Carolina, accessed through] This William is listed as having two males over sixteen, counting the head of the family, and two males under sixteen, along with what may be six females. Therefore, with a family that large, it seems more likely that this William would be a brother to Joshua. According to historian Angela Clyburn, once married to one of his descendants, he is believed to have been born in about 1747. Angela also believed that William and Martha had ten children together: William Clyburn Jr., Lewis Sr., Nancy, Charity, Mildred, Sarah, Martha, Stephen, James Sr., and Jesse.

    Like Joshua, William left a trail of land transactions. The first recorded transaction occurred in 1768 when he paid taxes on land in Bladen County, North Carolina.[Angela Clyburn, Vol. 24 of Clyburn Family News, 8 October 2006.] On 10 January 1793, Alexander McDaniel of Georgetown District, South Carolina, sold to William Clibourn, Saddler, “66 acres beginning on the west side of Indian Swamp at a Post Oak on Edward Flowers line near the mouth of the swamp” for 50 pounds.[Robeson County, North Carolina Deeds, Book C, 10 January 1793, 295. [Deed witnessed by Joshua Barefield and Jesse Jernigan.]] On 21 June 1793, Cornelius Wingate sold William Cliburn 100 acres lying on the south side of Drowning Creek (Lumber River) in the fork between Ashpole and Indian Swamp, “fully described in the Patent dated October, 25 1788.”[Robeson County, North Carolina Deeds, Book C, 21 June 1793, 297. [Deed witnessed by John Rowland and George Smith.]] Another deed dated 15 July 1793 documents a transaction between William and Charles Ingram,[Robeson County, North Carolina Deeds, Book D, 15 July 1793, 82. [It read “William Clibourn of Robeson” sold to Charles Ingram, for 120 pounds, 100 acres on the form of Ashpole and Indian Swamp (part of what was granted to Joshua Lamb by Patent, 1758) and 33 acres of a tract adjoining the land granted to Alexander McDaniel on the end that lies next to Ashpole divided by a branch and “Agreed as containing 33 acres more or less.” It was signed William (X) Claibourn (note this spelling is different even within the same document). Witnesses were Frances L. Hayes, Ebinezer Ellis and Moab Stevens.]] and another dated 6 January 1795 describes a sale by William to Noah Pitman.[Robeson County, North Carolina Deeds, Book D, 6 January 1795, 139. [William Clibourn sold to Noah Pitman, for 100 pounds, a piece of land and plantation of unkown acreage on the west side of Indian Swamp and east of another point (writing indecipherable). The witnesses were Theopholis Griffin and Hardy Pitman. It was signed William (X) Clybourn.]]

  2. Ephraim: An Ephraim Clyburn lived from about 1746 to 1823 and in the DNA studies previously discussed, his descendants are closely linked to those of William and Joshua. This Ephraim married a woman named Sophia and is believed to have been a British Loyalist during the American Revolutionary War. Historian Peggy O’Neal-Thurston, a descendant of Ephraim, has spent much of her life researching Epharim’s line. With Peggy’s help Angela Clyburn found a history of the King’s Carolina Rangers where this Ephraim is documented as having been recruited and enlisted with the British forces in the area of Cape Fear, North Carolina (not far from where the Clyburn family is known to have lived). Following the war many British loyalists fled to Canada and this Ephraim appears to have been one of them. He was granted 200 acres of land in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1784.[A land record is recorded on 4 June 1784 for EPHRAIM CLYBURN and Family for 200 acres at Country Harbor. They landed in Stormont with the North Carolina and South Carolina Regiments, reportedly on Christmas Day. Many of them died that first winter. They are buried at Mount Misery Cemetery.] He and Sophia are believed to have had the following children: John, William, Ann Violet Jane, Mary, Esther Hattie, Sarah, Ephraim Simon, Joshua, and Joselina. All but John were born in Canada. A deed dated 26 September 1823 is the last known record for Ephraim in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia. He likely died soon thereafter. Click here for a brief description of Ephraim by Angela Clyburn.
  3. James: Peggy O’Neal-Thurston believed an additional brother, James, belongs in this clan.[All research concerning James (the alleged brother of Joshua, Ephraim, and William) reported here is the product of Peggy O’Neal-Thurston.] Her tireless research uncovered that a James Clyburn fought in the same ranks as Ephraim, was garrisoned in the same place of St. Augustine, Florida, and then made the long ship ride to Canada arriving on Christmas Day in 1784 in Country Harbour, Nova Scotia. Peggy indicated that his name is listed on the muster lists of Country Harbour, Nova Scotia for 1784 and 1785, and on one list he appeared with a wife and child/children. In 1784 he is listed but in 1785 at the final muster list he does not sign for his land. Nearly 900 people perished that first winter in Nova Scotia due to lack of food, weather, and poor supplies. James may have been among those who perished. All who died that winter were buried on Mt. Misery, across the harbour from Country Harbour. In her correspondence Peggy noted that Ephraim and Sophia were attributed with having an abnormally large number of children; it is possible that, following the death of James, they raised his remaining children.


Although we are certain Ephraim is the son of Joshua and Sarah, other offspring are not so clear. Some research suggests that Joshua and Sarah had as many as five children. Here are sketches on what we know and/or suspect were their children:

  1. James
  2. Sarah (“Sally”) Claybourn Brown (click name for seperate biographical sketch) was born in about 1785 and died in 1853 at the age of 73.[1850 United States Census, District 10, Jefferson County, Illinois, accessed through]
  3. Rhoda and Elias Atkerson’s tombstones at Blackjack Cemetery near Franklin, Kentucky.
    Rhoda (or “Roda”) Clyburn was born on 8 March 1785 in Bladen, North Carolina.[Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records – Microfilm (1852-1910), Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky, Microfilm rolls #994027-994058.] On 23 November 1801 she married Rev. Elias Atkerson, a Methodist minister who was born on 15 December 1781 in Bedford, Virginia. Their wedding occurred in Amelia, Virginia, but eventually the couple moved to Simpson County, Kentucky. Rhoda died on 15 July 1854 and is buried at Blackjack Cemetery near Franklin, Kentucky. Elias followed in death on 5 September 1855 and is buried near Rhoda.[Some information on Elias and Rhoda is derived from their headstones, as well as contributions by their descendants.] Rhoda and Elias had at least eight children together, including five sons. Four of those sons fought in the Civil War (two for the Union and two for the Confederacy). None of the four returned after the Civil War to Tennessee or Kentucky. The fifth son, George (born in 1818), moved to live with his father in Simpson County, Kentucky.
  4. Mary “Polly” Clyburn is alleged to have been born in 1787 in Robeson County, North Carolina, and died on 16 May 1876 in Franklin, Virginia.
  5. Ephraim Claybourn (click name for seperate biographical sketch) was born on 7 December 1788 in North Carolina and died on 11 May 1850.

References and Notes