No one is quite sure where the name “Whiteside” came from though there’s been a good bit of speculation. Our Whitesides seem to trace back to Armagh, an ancient capital of Ireland which by 1625 was being settled by Scots who had been sent to the place by the King of England in order to pacify the countryside. It’s likely that Whitesides originated near Whiteside Hills of Lanarkshire near Glasgow where they have been said to be part of the Bell clan of Scotsmen. Some have suggested that Scots of other surnames upon departing often took the name of the location from which they had originated — the “white side” of some forest, or Whiteside Hills. Others have noted a probability that the name emerged from language shifts to English from the Latin “Quytsyd” during the Roman years before 400 A.D. The “Qu” instead of W is reported to be the Scottish phonetic of “W”.
In any case, it seems that the Whitesides can be considered amongst the Scots-Irish migrants to the New World. Family tradition has it that William Whiteside was born about 1710 in Armagh Ireland and married his English wife there (Stockton) with the families migrating to America in about 1735, though it’s possible that the pair met in Virginia where William Whiteside had secured land by 1741. Don Whiteside, considered the ultimate authority on the Whiteside family believes that William and Thomas may have resided at Lancaster for a period from 1735 and that they may have been accompanied by parents. By then prices for land in Pennsylvania were far higher than those toward the south or inland. North Carolina had passed from being a proprietary, and the governor was a Scots-Irishman who was drawing attention to those seeking cheap land where one wasn’t required to feed stock in the winter season. The climate was mild, the land cheap and productive, hunting and trapping easy, though development of the area would be slow since being so remote from other areas, transportation was always a problem from those who would produce things. Carolina was slow to develop, and it’s population had generally been coastal, though by 1760, many Scots-Irish settlers had entered river valleys and migrated inland to the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, past which were Cherokee villages and the undeveloped areas of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Don Whiteside thinks the family may have migrated to Amherst and Augusta Counties of Virginia by 1741, before moving to Tyron County (Rutherford) sometime closer to 1772. Goochland County had been among the first of Virginia to be set up. It’s western portion toward the Piedmont became Albemarle. This was inland from Richmond along the James River and included tidewater tobacco plantations though well before the Revolution the land was badly eroded with settlers moving on to more remote areas along the lines of Rutherford County where the Whiteheads finally migrated.
We don’t know much about the personalities and character of the early Whitesides, though stereotypes of the long suffering Scotch-Irish may not be far from the mark. Here were a hard working people with a deep commitment to liberty and survival against all odds. They usually showed a deep love of home and family and were known as unemotional and seldom giving voice to emotions — presenting to the world instead an appearance of reserve and austerity. Loyal to kith and kin, they were known to be stern and unrelenting with enemies, deep in commitment to whatever they believed in, and therefor tending to the narrow-minded and bigoted. They were seen as obeying the laws they liked and disregarded those they didn’t, peaceful if possible, forcible if necessary. Most thought them unusually independent, self-reliant, opinionated, and included to lord things over whomever would submit to their aggressions. Whiteside’s in particular were seen as brave community guardians with the instincts of fighters who loved the stir of battle. William Whiteside, the father of the Illinois family had been serving with local militia in Virginia from an early date and was with Captain James Neville’s company of Albermarle during the French and Indian War.
But the time of the American Revolution, the Whitesides of Rutherford County spanned three prolific generations and were prominent in political and military affairs. From 1772 the Whiteside Settlement in Golden Valley Township at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains was home to an expanding family which over two decades provided settlers for many parts of newly opening western regions, and particularly following an active part in most of the military exploits of Southern campaigns during the American Revolution.
Rutherford County had been part of Old Tyron County until it was divided off in 1779. It was in the Southwestern corner of North Carolina and had first been settled in the 1750s by Scots-Irish streaming down from Pennsylvania or coming inland from coastal Virginia. In terms of location, the area is sometimes described as the Southern Appalachian foothills. It was remote and only sparsely populated with no towns in the area. There were a few Germans and dissenting Congregationalists from England who had headed inland from tidewater areas. This was an area forested with oak, hickory and ash along with dogwoods, maple, walnuts, and a host of other trees — with some cleared land, and some mining. The woods were full of berries , nuts and roots for sarsaparilla and sassafras. Folks tilled the soil and provided themselves the coarsest of food and clothing.
The area played an important role in American history. Following the Battle of Lexington where violence was initiated in Lexington of Massachusetts, 49 residents of Tyron county, including William Whiteside met in 1775 to issue the “Tyron Resolves”, a declaration of resistance which was among the earliest of local colonial declarations calling for action against the Crown.
Though officially at peace with Indians by the 1760s, the county was sometimes the target of occasional raids, usually by Cherokee or sometimes Shawnee and other faraway tribes. William Whiteside had been in charge of Whiteside’s Company, a village of county people in the hills from the early days when people had been arriving on wagons or by foot. There were several stockade forts in the area, including Fort McFadden on Mountain Creek near the county seat, though there were no county or government buildings in the area.
The Whitesides were on the patriot side from the beginning. When war broke the Colonial peace in 1775, William Whiteside, Sr. was appointed Captain of a local militia and the area of the upper First Broad River, including Golden Valley, then known as Whiteside’s Company. William and his son Davis, signed “Association” agreements (known in history as the “Tyron Resolves”) to stand with the Continental Congress after the disturbances at Lexington.
American Revolution started in these parts with conflict with the Cherokees encouraged by the British government. Cherokees were allied with the British during early phases of the War for Independence though most Englishmen joined other locals (emerging patriots) in fighting off raiders. They marched with 2400 militia under General Rutherford, after whom their part of the county would be named in punitive expeditions to devastate thirty-six Cherokee towns across the Blue Ridge Mountains and into Tennessee.
Altogether, six sons of William who had served as Captain of the local militia were involved in the Battle of Kings Mountain, including James Whiteside, the father of many of those who later headed to Illinois. In addition to James, his brothers Davis (who died in the 1780 battle), Thomas, John, and Adam were also involved, as was William Jr. This battle was a decisive one for the patriots as it ended a string of rebel defeats at the hands of Lord Cornwallis and greatly raised the Patriots’ morale. Over 900 patriots in squads of 100 – 200 men each including John Crockett, the father of Davy Crockett caught 1100 Loyalists from Carolina and New York by surprise. In a battle lasting a little over an hour nearly 500 were wounded or killed, and nearly 700 were taken prisoner, with Davis Whiteside being one of eighty or so casualties on the patriot side.
On October 14 of that year, one week after The Battle of Kings Mountain, surviving patriots returning home were strong on avenging war atrocities. Stumbling on a group of Tories they held ‘drum-head’ court-martials and hung nine of their thirty or so prisoners. These and eight other Tories were buried in shallow trenches. A State Historical Marker along Whitesides Road notes the location. Many considered these executions to be unnecessarily cruel though others noted that the hangings achieved their desired effect — few local Tories subsequently joined the British cause.
Following the Revolutionary War, citizens returned to their lands. A good deal of what little had existed in the area was trampled and destroyed during the revolution. Travel was difficult and roads were poor, though some waterways were navigable to Charleston and Columbia of South Carolina. There were small Baptist congregations that met at homes in the area with unpaid preachers though little is known about them. Any meeting houses which might have existed had been destroyed or abandoned during the Revolution. Following the Revolution, various parts of the Whiteside clan seemed destined to find new locations. James, who at some point well before the 1790s had visited the Illinois territory was later selected to be on a Rutherford County commission in 1787 to relocate the county seat. Some Whitesides in the decade after the war had moved nearby in the Carolinas while others were among the early settlers into Kentucky, often in bands with other retired Carolina militia veterans. Sons of Robert Whiteside migrated into Kentucky and operated mills on the Cumberland River before heading to Texas to join a brother and Whiteside nephews of the Austin Colony of Texas before the Alamo.
The hills of North Carolina are a long ways from American Bottom — the swampy Mississippi shores of Southern Illinois across the river from where the town of Saint Louis was about to grow. This had been an area inhabited by French settlers and traders and was the far western reaches of Ohio or Northwest Territory before the Louisiana Purchase. Bottom lands below bluffs along the banks of the river were rich though often flooded. Things grew easily and well, though so did mosquitoes and assorted health hazards. Out of the “bottom” were old French communities and small towns of newer settlers congregating around springs — such as Belle Fountaine, and a community called New Design on somewhat more elevated plains twelve miles inland and to the north of old Kaskaskia. Over a considerable sweep of country new emigrants and small French encampments were scattered.
James Whiteside, a son of Captain William Whiteside Sr who died in Rutherford had visited this remote part of the Northwest at some point and described it’s benefits to the North Carolina clan. He’d visited Piggott’s Fort, the outpost of a veteran who had served under “Mad Anthony” Wayne during the Revolution. James and a number of visitors at the fort that season signed a petition to George Washington asking for land in 1787. These petitioners were not alone, for while many who visited the area moved on, the area was already populated by squatters hoping to secure fertile land although much of the area had been granted to Indians whose titles had not been extinguished. Profiteering lawyers were already securing contracts with settlers and promising to lobby Congress for land grants on their behalf though it would be decades before secure land titles were issued by courts.
Five or so years following James’ visit to Piggott’s Fort, he migrated with over thirty Whitesides out of those hills of North Carolina on a long migration across mountains and hills to the Ohio River, a float to the Mississippi, and the grueling task of poling heavily laden rafts up the Mississippi River to a small portage near what would become Harrisonville of Illinois. There seems to be no complete inventory of the family members involved, but James, John, and William Jr. — All sons of Captain William Whiteside, together with at least three sisters and the all of their growing families seem to have been along for the journey. Davis M., the father of the Mary Whiteside who would later marry Christian Iman was eighteen years old at the time, and a son of James.
The large Whiteside clan in 1792 took over an abandoned fort where an earlier settler by the name of Flannery had been slaughtered by Indians along the Kaskaskia to Cahokia trail.
This fort, known as Whiteside Station since it was a stage stop along what remained a busy road, was home for many Whitesides for several years, though parts of the family migrated to a variety of nearby locations over the next decades. John and his family moved to the abandoned French village of Bellefountaine which was later called Waterloo while by 1800 a number of Whitesides had moved to the Goshen Settlement near today’s Edwardsville, Illinois. Branches of the Whiteside family moved several hundred miles north in Illinois and had a county named after them. Others crossed the river into the Spanish territory which became Missouri and remained on good terms with others of the family.
In coming to Illinois, the Whitesides had not exactly headed for untamed wilderness, since the Mississippi (Upper Louisiana) had long been settled by the French, a good number of whom remained, along with remnants of a government. The French hadn’t all moved out, and American government was only weakly established. The area had become part of the Northwest Territories when it was liberated from the British and their Indian allies near 1778 by General George Rogers Clarke and his handful of Virginia militia volunteers.
The French had ceded the area in 1763 to the British at the Treaty of Paris at the end of the French and Indian War, and this was a western arena of the Revolutionary War where the British and their Indian allies needed to be routed by Virginia militia. Following Clarke’s Campaign, the State of Virginia claimed the territory as its own, though before long they let the land revert to the federal government as part of Northwest Territories. Indians, both those who had been allied with British and those who had remained neutral were far from finished by the end of the Clarke Campaign in 1778, or even for another decade.
Through the middle 1700s, the French had reigned in the Mississippi Valley. Their men had ranged the continent widely as trappers and traders, for they had been adventurers for the most part, rather than settlers. There were slave laden mining works and long narrow plots of land tilled as French and creole planters did. There were Catholic parishes tied to the Saint Lawrence and there was river traffic and trading with New Orleans, though after 1763 trade in the region was more often managed by the Spanish or even by American merchandisers packing their goods all the way from the East coast by mule train or down the Ohio River.
Near the time of final Whiteside arrival in 1792, there were in Illinois about a thousand people of European stock mostly French speaking, about 600 African American slaves, and a thousand Indians living in villages along rivers or wandering through the territory. There were old veterans of Clarke’s Campaigns attempting to stake claims to land, and there were plenty of squatters. Other settlers were moving through to what would become Missouri, though Spanish governors of Upper Louisiana discouraged settlement by non-Catholics. In the absence of anything like effective government, merchants and many French and creole families were migrating to the village of Saint Louis. The village of Kaskaskia, to the south from Cahokia and Waterloo (near the Whitesides settlement), had over 500 French persons had dwindled by two-thirds by 1790.
Problems with Indians were far from settled when the Whitesides arrived at Southern Illinois. In fact, problems persisted in this part of Illinois until the Treaty of Greenville in 1814 and even until 1820 — long after Lewis and Clark had departed from Cahokia and Saint Lewis in 1804 on their expedition to the Columbia. Although treaties were signed in 1795, incidents continued to happen as Indians wandering through the area, or on their way from Ohio to Spanish areas across the river stole horses, drove off cattle, and sometimes killed or scalped children. The Whitesides were known to be particularly aggressive at seeking revenge. In the fall of 1795, after one such treaty had been signed, a Frenchman dropped by Whiteside Station and reported having seen a group of Osage Indians crossing the Mississippi. Whitesides rounded up fourteen family and friends, mounted and headed out to find a group camped at a nearby creek in a long lodge house covered with rush mats — surrounding them in the middle of the night and continuing a volley of fire until sixty Indians were killed and left where they fell. They were prosecuted but never tried since a jury could not be raised in the area which thought that killing an Indian was a crime.
One of the Whitesides involved in the melee noted above was Samuel, who several years before had been a boy of ten years when three Indians crept up on shot his 16-year old brother and tomahawked and scalped companions, with only Samuel escaping. Samuel, a son of John Whiteside had walked from North Carolina with the rest, and retained the family’s renown as soldiers. In 1811 during Tecumseh’s War, Samuel was put in command of a company of the 17th Illinois Infantry and served during the war of 1812. Samuel also added to the family’s renown as “Indian killers”. When a woman and her six children were killed in nearby Alton of Illinois, Captain Whiteside pursued them doggedly and killed one of them hiding in a tree.
Their aggression was generally celebrated in their communities. Samuel was a signatory of treaties with the Kickapoo and Osage in 1815 and served on a commission to select a new state capital in Vandalia where he served in the General Assembly from 1819 to 1821. He was a brigadier general of Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War and commissioned a 23 year old Abraham Lincoln as a captain in his militia. Lincoln served under General Whiteside for one month.
The community that the Whitesides had moved to grew slowly as new settlers moved to the area. It was about four years after the Whitesides had arrived that Abraham Eyman and his close friend Daniel Stookey appeared in 1796 as scouts with the Reverend David Badgley from the South Branch. Following their good reports, a large migration of newcomers headed to nearby New Design from the South Branch of the Potomac in Hardy County of Virginia. Abraham Eyman it’s thought farmed land just outside Piggott’s Fort at American Bottom in 1797 — short miles from Whiteside Station, though within a few years, Eyman had migrated up onto prairie land near Turkey Hill, along an old trading path on Indian claim. Abraham was joined by 1815 or so with other Eymans and Imans out of Hardy who migrated from Hardy to American Bottom. All of these families were among congregations of the Baptist churches founded by Badgley and the Lemens of New Design. What would become the Richland congregation of the church first met at the home of William Whiteside in 1806. It was the son, Christian, of the Christian Iman of Hardy who had been born about 1790 who married Mary Whiteside. Their eldest son, Felix Grundy would walk to the Pacific Northwest with an ox in about 1853.