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John Harrison and Jane (Barrett) Reynolds of North Carolina

by Donna Jane Parker

John Harrison Reynolds, b. 1807 North Carolina, d. aft. 1870 Carroll County, Tennessee

John Harrison Reynolds (who my older family members have told me was called “Hal”) was born around 1807 in North Carolina. I haven’t been able to determine conclusively what county in North Carolina he was from, but I’ve always suspected it was Montgomery County, as so many branches and associated families came from there.

The earliest written documentation I have found for John is a land purchase on Bradley’s Creek in Wilson County, Tennessee in July of 1827. On October 17, 1828 in Wilson County, he married Jane Barrett, who was born in Nelson County, Kentucky around 1809. Her parents, William Barrett and Nancy Turnham, were in Wilson County, Tennessee with John and Jane and later traveled with them to Carroll County, Tennessee. According to early tax records, John and his family were still in Wilson County in 1836. Also living nearby in Wilson County, Tennessee was Selby Reynolds (who I also have seen referred to as Silby, Shelby, Shelly, Zeb and Zebulon.) Selby married Elizabeth Barrett, daughter of William and sister of Jane. By 1839, the families, including both Reynolds brothers and the Barretts, were living in Carroll County, Tennessee.

William Barrett died in 1841 in Carroll County, TN and John H. Reynolds was appointed Administrator of his estate. Sureties of the administrator’s bond were Shelly (sic) Reynolds (son-in-law), Thomas Barrett (son), Nancy Barrett (wife) and John Merritt. I’m unsure at this point whether there was a relation between John Merritt and William Barrett, but he is a critical point in identifying John Harrison Reynolds’ parents, which is discussed later.

After William Barrett’s death, his widow, Nancy, and her three youngest children are found on the 1850 census in District 10 of Carroll County near John and Jane Reynolds. Nancy died sometime after 1850.

John and Jane had eleven children, all born in Tennessee. Their children are:

  1. George Washington Reynolds, born July 27, 1831 in Wilson County, Tennessee, died November 14, 1903 in Stringtown, Red River County, Texas (near the Texas/Arkansas line.) He married Sarah Frances Laster, on February 21, 1857 in Henry County, Tennessee.
  2. William H. (probably Harrison), born in May of 1833 in Tennessee and died sometime after 1900 in Carroll County, Tennessee. He is my second great grandfather. He married Sarah Edwards in Carroll County, Tennessee in 1855 and they had six children. William and Sarah (Bill and Sallie) both died sometime between 1900 and 1910.
  3. John M. was born in 1835 in Tennessee and died in 1893 in Tennessee. He married Martha Laster, who is a sister to Sarah Laster, wife of George, above. They had five children.
  4. Martha J. was born in 1837. She married William Laster, the brother of Sarah and Martha, in Carroll County, Tennessee on November 26, 1856.
  5. Eli (probably Elijah) was born in 1840 in Tennessee. He is last found in the 1850 census and I don’t know whether he moved away or died young.
  6. Henry Harrison, was born September 1, 1841 in Tennessee and died April 16, 1915 in McKenzie, Carroll County, Tennessee. He married A.J. Perkins and had two children. After A.J. died, he married Jemima (or Mima) Brown, and they had ten children.
  7. Frances was born in 1843 and married W. R. Jones in 1876. I don’t know if they had any children, as she died sometime before 1900. The 1880 census does not show any children living with the family.
  8. Robert B. was born in 1845 in Tennessee and died sometime after 1900 in Carroll County, Tennessee. He married Pennie L. Williams in 1870, and they had four children.
  9. Margaret Jane was born in May of 1848 and died sometime after 1920. On January 25, 1877, she married James A. Shepherd in Carroll County, Tennessee. They lived in Carroll County throughout their lifetime and had no children of their own, but took in Lucy Bell Reynolds, the daughter of her nephew, John Henry Reynolds.
  10. Allen Justice, called “Bud”, was born in 1850 and died in 1920. He married Elizabeth Winsett on December 17, 1869. Elizabeth was a few years older than Allen and she died in 1907. Allen died in 1920 and they are both buried in McBride Cemetery, noted on his death certificate as “the family burying ground.” They had three children. The 1880 census shows that Jane Barrett Reynolds, lived with Allen Justice and Elizabeth after her husband, John Harrison, died.
  11. Joseph Lee was born October 13, 1852 in Carroll County, Tennessee, and died March 24, 1943. He married Margaret Savannah Joyner and they had eight children.

After their arrival in Carroll County, Tennessee around 1839, John’s family lived in either Carroll County or adjoining Henry County, Tennessee until their deaths. They likely lived on the same land, but the county boundaries changed over the years, which put them in different counties on the census records. They were of modest means, and John was shown on various census records as both a farmer and a miller. He also served several times as a county juror in Carroll County and received court appointments for things such as commissioner for administrations and road overseer.

It’s important to note that there are two men who have been identified as “John Harrison Reynolds”, who were born around the same time. The Tennessee John (my third great grandfather) married Jane Barrett in Wilson County, Tennessee; the Arkansas John married Jane Ray Lampkins. To make matters even more confusing, several of their children had the same or similar names. However, if the two families are tracked through census records, it is clear that they were two different families.

DNA surprise

Because the Reynolds line of my family comes from my mother, I tracked down a male Reynolds cousin who agreed to submit a sample for the yDNA test. When the results came in, I was shocked to see that there were no Reynolds matches whatsoever. The closest match was to James Merritt and Nancy Ann Coggin(s) from Essex County, Virginia. James was born in 1745 and Nancy was born around 1748. Oddly, this couple was already in my family tree, as Nancy’s sister, Martha Coggins, is my fourth great grandmother through another family branch on my maternal side. Oddly, at the same time, the Family Finder DNA results did match the Reynolds surname.

I e-mailed the contact person for the Merritt match. She is descended from one of the Merritt family members who moved from Wilson County, Tennessee to Carroll County around the same time as my John Reynolds. She filled me in on much of the Merritt research she had done over the years, including family stories told to her by her grandfather, Granville Harrison Merritt. Most importantly, she told me that her grandfather, Granville, had always said that James and Nancy Coggins Merritt’s oldest son, John, married Elizabeth (or Betsy) Reynolds/Runnels. They had two sons prior to their marriage being formalized and, as was the custom, these two sons were given the mother’s maiden name as their surname. After the marriage was formalized, they kept their mother’s maiden name as their surname and subsequent children of this marriage had the surname “Merritt.”

The two sons with the Runnels surname were both born before 1810 in North Carolina. One son was called Hal and his wife, according to family stories, was “Jennie” Barrett. The other son’s wife was “Betsy” Barrett, and the two Barrett girls were sisters. They were married in Wilson County, Tennessee.

I have seen John Harrison Reynolds’ wife’s name on various documents and records as “Jane”, “Janie” and “Jennie.” I have seen Selby Reynolds’ wife’s name on various records as “Elizabeth”, “Betsy” and “Lizzy.”

Additionally, James and Nancy Coggins Merritt’s son, Mark (brother to John Merritt who married Betsy Runnels), had two sons who moved from North Carolina to Wilson County, Tennessee and settled in Carroll County, Tennessee. These brothers were John Merritt (cousin of John Harrison Reynolds) and Sherrod Merritt.

The court minutes from the 1841 administration of William Barrett’s estate, for which John Harrison Reynolds was appointed administrator, showed that John Merritt was one of the sureties on the administration bond. I believe this John Merritt was the cousin of my John Harrison Reynolds.

Because of these similarities, the DNA test results, the family stories my grandmother Reynolds used to tell about the “Runnels” side of the family, and many more connections between these families which are too lengthy to mention here, my working theory is that John Harrison Reynolds and Selby Reynolds’ parents were John Merritt and Elizabeth Runnels.

If anyone is interested in knowing more about any of the people mentioned here, they can feel free to contact me at and I’ll be happy to share any information.


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