Francis Browning (1780-1858)

Paternal 4th Great Grandfather

Maternal 3rd Great Grandfather

Francis was born on December 25, 1780 (some sources report 24th) to Enos and Jenny (Trim) Browning in Washington County, Virginia. His father, Enos, was a 29 years old soldier in the Continental Army and May well have been away from home at the time of his birth. His mother, Jenny, was 30 years old with three young children at home; 8 year old Edmund, 4 year old John and 2 year old James. Christmas celebrations of colonial Virginia were much more low key than what we know today and the Browning family are reputed to descend from one of the old Puritan families of Virginia, so they may not have celebrated at all. Nonetheless, it would have been a busy household with a baby and 3 young boys living on what was then the western frontier.

1797:  Francis married Tabitha Vance who was the daughter of Abner Vance of Virginia. He was 17 and she 15 years old.

1802 and 1810: Francis shows on the Russell County, Virginia tax lists.

1812: Francis and his brother, Edmund, along with a brother-in-law, Barnabus Curry settled near Cow Creek near Horsepen Mountain (now WV) around 1812 according to early histories of Logan County (VA/WV).

1815:  Russell County Tax List shows Francis with one farm at Elk Garden with outbuildings valued at about $1300 and one farm at Mockerson (Mocassin) Creek of $240 acres at about $350. Is this our same Francis?

1820: The census of Logan County shows Francis with a household of one male less than 10,  2 males between the ages of 16-26, 1 male between the ages of 26-45, 4 females less than 10, 2 females between the ages of 10-26, and 2 females between the ages of 26-45.

1830 and 1840: Francis and family continue to show on the Logan County Census lists in in the same Pine Creek/Island Creek area.

1850: The census finds Frances and Tabitha living with Mary aged 44 (possibly an unmarried daughter?) and mother-in-law, Susannah Vance aged 83.

The children of Francis and Tabitha born between 1801 and 1818 include Rebecca (who married her cousin James and had a daughter Nancy Ann who married Reece Phillips my paternal ancestor), William, Nancy Ann, Malinda (Miltilda?), Margaret (my 3nd great grandmother who married David Wilburn Robinson my maternal ancestor), Mary, Amy, Frances, Jesse and Andrew Jackson.

Naughty or Nice?

There are other families reporting that Frances had a second wife by the name of Elizabeth Minton (b.1794-d.1850) and fathered 4 children with her between 1823 and 1830 while married to Tabitha Vance. This group of children were born after the births of Francis and Tabitha’s children by a space of about 5 years. How was Francis able to support 2 families. Was he separated from his first wife. Did he have 2 wives/families simultaneously. There are many questions unanswered.

There is separate family in Kentucky by the surname Sword who claim that Francis fathered several children out of wedlock with Sarah (b.1772-d.1832) while living in Kentucky. I have not yet found records of Francis’ life in Kentucky but could have been before his move to what is now Logan County, WV.

I do not have records showing Francis as the father of these children. It would not be out of the question except for the logistics of caring for multiple families. So was Francis naughty or nice?  Kentucky and western Virginia were certainly isolated frontiers during his lifetime, so other than DNA testing, we may never know the full story. We do know that Francis and Tabitha married young and spent a lifetime together.

B1F8F56D-074E-4FE4-A9AC-B73D17C64435Francis died in 1858 and is buried in Lincoln County, WV along with his wife, Tabitha, and daughter and son-in-law Margaret and David Robinson. There are researchers who found and recorded their grave sites in the early 2000s. Photos are located on on numerous family trees. I will reprint them to this page when permission is received from the owners of the photos.


  1. History of Logan County by Henry Clay Ragland 1896
  3. Numerous family accounts
  4. Photo with permission of Kathi of

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