FARRIS, William (ca 1765 - 1833)
(3rd great grandfather of GJF)

Information from many sources including: county records from several KY counties, from Fulton and Franklin Co. IL, and from Callaway Co. MO; The Illinois State Archives; Illinois election records; military records; etc. This account includes some assumptions that are not yet proven. The assumptions are derived primarily from the relationships apparent in many of the records abstracted here.


At the time of the Revolutionary War, there were numerous Farris families in VA. William Farris was probably a son of a John Farris, Sr. who lived in Hanover Co. VA, appearing in the 1782 tax list. William and John Farris, apparently brothers, appear in scattered records in Albemarle Co. and in records in several Kentucky counties. This John Farris served in the Revolutionary War in 1779 – 1782 while a resident of Hanover Co. A William Farris lived in what is now Franklin Co. KY from 1789 through 1795. Both John and William Farris were in Mercer Co. during the early 1800s, appearing in Circuit Court records in 1802 through 1806. John Farris is on the Mercer Co. KY tax list beginning in 1799, and William appears there with him in 1809, the year before they both first appear in Green Co. KY in 1810 on the tax lists and in the U.S. census. From there, they both later moved to Franklin Co. Illinois. William remained in Green Co. KY from 1810 until moving to what is now Frankfort Township, Franklin Co. IL about 1814. He appears to have served in the War of 1812 (3rd Reg. Kentucky Detached Militia) while in Green Co. KY - but no pension or bounty land claims exist related to this service.

William Farris was very active in county government in Franklin Co. IL during most of the 1820s. He was a Justice of the Peace there by 1821, a candidate for Sheriff in 1822, the Probate Judge of the county beginning in 1825, and was elected a County Commissioner in August, 1828 and in 1830. He died in late 1832 or in 1833, but there are no existing probate or other death records for that period in existence in Franklin Co. and he is not listed in published cemetery lists there. His wife was listed as “Polly” in Franklin Co. IL deed records. Since very few Franklin County IL records exist for the time period prior to a courthouse fire in 1843, most of what is known about his activities there are from records elsewhere. Three of William's children, Jeremiah, John, and Anne, married children of the Moses Estes family and all later lived in Fulton Co. IL. John Farris, presumed to be William’s brother, was associated with him during most of the above time period. This John died sometime after filing a revolutionary war pension claim in 1834, at which time his age was listed as 77, while a resident of Franklin Co. IL.

Children of William

John Farris - John was born August 10, 1790, probably in Franklin Co. KY (then Woodford Co. VA). He served in the War of 1812 during the time the family lived in Green Co. KY. He married Elizabeth Estes in 1817 in Gallatin Co. IL, at the time the William Farris family lived in what is now Franklin Co. IL. In 1819/1820 they lived for about one year in Montgomery County, MO along with John’s cousin James Farris. In 1827 or 1828 they, along with the Jeremiah Farris family, moved to Fulton Co. IL, where John & Elizabeth remained for the rest of their lives. They had 6 children. John died March 7, 1852 in Fulton Co. His brother, Jeremiah, was administrator of his estate.

David Farris – David was born about 1795, probably in Franklin Co. KY. He married Louisa Little about 1822 in Franklin Co. IL. Their family remained in Franklin County until after 1830 and then joined several of his siblings in Fulton County. He served in the Black Hawk War in 1832 along with his brothers Jeremiah and Joseph B. He died about 1848 in Fulton Co. IL. David and Louisa had nine children. Louisa married Moses Meeker after David died.

Jonathan Farris - Jonathan was born in 1797 in KY. He married Catherine Eveland in Fulton Co. IL in 1829, but she apparently died during or shortly after childbirth in early 1830. They had moved to Morgan Co. IL along with the family of John and Susannah (Bunnell) Handy and Jonathan married their daughter, Sarah Handy, in Morgan Co. in 1830. They were probably first cousins. In about 1842 they moved, along with the Handys, to Gentry Co. MO where Jonathan died in February, 1849. Jonathan had served in the Black Hawk War in 1832 and his widow filed a bounty land claim after he died. She and some of the children later moved to Pettis Co. MO. Jonathan had 6 children, 5 with Sarah and 1 with Catherine.

Unidentified daughter - born before1800 (from census records). Nothing more is known about her.

Jeremiah Farris – Jeremiah was probably born in Mercer Co. KY February 13, 1805. In about 1823 he married Rosanna Estes in Franklin Co. IL. In 1827 or 1828 his family and that of his brother John Farris moved to Fulton Co. IL. In 1832 he served in the Black Hawk War and was involved in the engagement on Sycamore Creek in Ogle Co. IL in which his brother, Joseph B. Farris, was killed. Jeremiah and Rosanna named a son (who was my great-grandfather) who was born in September, 1832, after his brother Joseph Bunnell Farris. Rosanna Estes Farris died in December, 1846, and Jeremiah married Margaret Ann Dean in 1847 in Fulton County. In 1851 Jeremiah led a group of settlers from Fulton Co. to Bremer Co. IA which had just been formed. He helped organize the county government and served as the first County Judge. In 1855 he founded the town now known as Denver, IA. In 1858 he moved to Linn Co. KS where he lived for the rest of his life. He died in November, 1874, and is buried in Richland Cemetery in Linn Co. Jeremiah was the father of 13 children, 6 with Rosanna and 7 with Margaret.

Anne Farris - Anne was probably born in Mercer Co. KY in about 1807. In about 1826 she married Lewis Estes in Franklin County, IL. Lewis was a brother of the wives of John and Jeremiah Farris and he and Anne and their family also moved to Fulton Co. IL. Both Anne and Lewis died in Fulton Co. in December, 1878, and are buried in the Salem Baptist Church Cemetery. They had 5 children.

Joseph Bunnell Farris - Joseph Bunnell Farris was born about 1812 in Green Co. KY. He lived in Franklin and Fulton Co. IL and married Jane Ashby in January 1832 in Fulton Co. A few months after he was married he joined his brothers David and Jeremiah in serving in the Black Hawk War. He was one of the 13 soldiers killed in the Battle on Sycamore Creek on May 14, 1832 in Ogle Co. IL. Ten of them were buried the next day in a mass grave by a company from Sangamon Co. IL which included Private Abraham Lincoln. There is a memorial monument at the site commemorating the event – plus individual memorial stones for each of the ten.

Joshua Farris – Joshua was born about 1815, probably in Franklin Co. IL. In 1840 he married Hetta Kelly in Fulton Co. IL. He died quite young in March, 1850 in Fulton Co. His brother, Jeremiah, was administrator of his estate. Joshua and Hetta had 4 children. Jeremiah became the guardian of their daughter Margaret Ann who moved to Bremer County IA with Jeremiah’s family and was later married there. Records have been found for only one of the three sons of Joshua, that being William, who ultimately ended up in Miller Co. MO.

Samuel Farris – Samuel was born about 1811 in KY and was apparently living with the family of Joshua Farris at the time Joshua died in 1850, and with Joshua’s widow and children in the 1850 census in Fulton Co. IL. Nothing more is known about him.


The references in Virginia are based on meager records. In the 1782 Hanover Co. tax list there is a John Faris, senr. listed with 11 whites who was probably the father of William and John. From a deed reference it appears that this family lived on Allen’s Creek (now known as Mill Creek), a tributary of the South Anna River, near the Louisa County line. A William Farris was in the Albemarle Co. VA tax list in 1785 – and John Farris was married to Anne Bunnell, daughter of William Bunnell, in Albemarle County on July 22, 1785. It is probable that Polly, the wife of William Farris, was also a member of the William Bunnell family. The Bunnells had lived in Spotsylvania Co. VA during the 1770s on Plentiful Creek, a tributary of the North Anna River, about 30 miles north of where the Farrises lived. William Bunnell and his family later lived in Albermarle, Rockbridge and Botetourt Counties, VA and Mercer County, KY. John Farris lived adjacent to the Bunnells in Rockbridge Co. VA for at least 7 years and was also with them in Botetourt Co., VA and Mercer Co., KY. The last record of William Bunnell that has been found is the Mercer Co. tax list for 1805.

The first possible Kentucky reference to Wm. Fairris is in the Fayette Co. KY (then VA) tax list on 7 July 1789. Woodford Co. was formed from Fayette Co. in 1789 and William Farris is listed in the Woodford Co. tax list from 1790 through 1794 (one white male over 21, 1 all other whites, 4 cattle). Franklin Co. KY was formed partially from Woodford Co. in 1795. In 1795 William Faris was on the Franklin Co. tax list. (1 white male over 21, 4 cattle). Also there is a marriage recorded in Franklin Co. on 28 August 1795, John Howe/Sally Farris, for which the bondsman was Wm. Farris. Tax lists for the next several years for Franklin County are missing or unreadable.

Mercer County KY Circuit Court records include suits by both William and John Farris against William Ray for trespass and assault – beginning in 1802 and continuing through1806. Witnesses in these suits included Joseph Bunnell and William Bunnell, Jr. – brothers-in-law of John Farris as well as Polly Bunnell (nee: Mary Allin) wife of William Bunnell, Jr. The Mercer Co. KY tax lists for 1799 - 1802 list John Faris, 1 white male over 21. In 1803 - 1805, the listing for John Farris also includes a second white male 16-21. In 1799 he was listed with one horse, increasing to four horses by 1805. He is missing from the 1806 - 1808 tax lists, but reappears in 1809. William Farris also appears in this list with four horses, the enumeration being dated June 30, 1809. Both of these families then disappear from the Mercer Co. tax lists.

By 1810, both the John and William Farris families had moved from Mercer to Green County, KY. At the same time, Peter Bunnell moved to Green County, William and Mary Bunnell moved to adjoining Hardin Co. and Jeremiah Bunnell moved to adjoining Hart County. Also, Joseph and Rebecca (Bunnell) Lyon were in Green County from 1810 through 1813. All of these were members of the William Bunnell, Sr. family of Virginia and Mercer County, KY. William and Polly Farris had a son born in Green Co. who was named Joseph Bunnell Farris and at least three (and possibly five) other children who appear to have been named after other members of the Bunnell family – Anne and Jeremiah, both probably born in Mercer Co. and David, probably born in Franklin Co. KY – also Jonathan and Samuel who were probably sons of William & Polly. During the 1820s, some of these children of William and Polly Farris lived in Fulton Co. IL – and the family of one of the William Bunnell daughters (Susannah Bunnell Handy) lived near them. From these Farris/Bunnell interactions it seems probable that the wife of William Farris was also a member of the William Bunnell family. In later deed records in Illinois she is listed as “Polly” (Mary). No marriage record has yet been found for William Farris and Polly Bunnell – but they were probably married somewhere in Virginia before 1790.

1810 United States Census - Green County Kentucky:
William Phariss - males: 1 <10; 1 16-25; 1 26-45; females: 2 10-16; 1 26-45
John Phariss - males: 2 10-16; 1 16-25; 1 26-45; 1 45+; females: 1 <10; 2 16-25; 1 45+
Both the William and John Farris families appear in the 1810, 1811, and 1812 Green Co. tax lists, William was shown with 90 acres on the waters of the Little Barren River in 1810. John is listed on the Green River and also is included in the 1813 and 1814 tax lists. Some of the listings show his land on Green River and some on Little Russell Creek - so it appears that it was located about 5 miles west of Greensburg. After William left for the Illinois Territory in about 1814, John moved into Hardin Co. where he appears on the tax lists for 1816 and 1817. At that time, he still owned the land in Green Co., it being listed in the Hardin Co. tax list. The next year, 1818, he also appeared in Franklin Co. Illinois and disappeared from the Kentucky records.

In the War of 1812, William Farris served with Capt. Liberty Green's company of Miller's 3rd Regiment, Kentucky Detached Militia, from 1 September 1812 to 25 December 1812. There were no pension or bounty land claims filed for this service. However, John Farris, the oldest son of William, also served in the War of 1812 from Green Co. KY and there are bounty land claims associated with his service. John was on the roll of Capt. Warner Ellmore's company of Col. James Simrall's 9th Regiment, Kentucky Mounted Volunteer Militia, July through October, 1813. Bounty land claims were filed by John in 1850 and 1851 and by his widow Elizabeth (Estes) in 1855 when they were residents of Fulton Co. IL. The 1851 claim file includes John’s discharge document.

From the History of Franklin Co. Illinois: "Early settlers of Frankfort Township were ..., William Farris, ..., who entered their lands in 1816-17. All of these probably settled several years previous to the entry of their lands at the land office." The original land entry by William, which was recorded on 14 October 1816, was for the NW 1/4 of section 36 in Frankfort Township. The patent deed for this land was issued to William on May 21, 1827. The BLM tract records for this land show that he made an initial payment of $80 in 1816 when he entered the land at the Shawneetown Land Office and completed the payment in 1825, after which the patent deed was issued. The final payment was made by means of land certificates for three other tracts that he had acquired in the intervening years – two in what is now Williamson County that had originally been entered by Abraham Tippey and one in current White County in Township 5S of Range 4E. In addition, in 1819 he bought 80 acres of land in what is now Williamson County (then the southern part of Franklin County) which is now in the southwest part of the city of Marion. He also obtained a patent deed for that land in 1825 and also used credit for other land tracts which he had acquired to make the final payments. This land may be where the John Farris family lived when they moved from KY to IL. It was sold by William and Polly in 1829.

Due to the loss of most of the early records for Franklin Co. IL in a fire in 1843, most of the information regarding the William Farris family there is from other records. However, as a result of a Commission appointed by the State of Illinois to attempt to recover some of the records in 1845 and 1846 there are copies of four deed records involving William from the 1831-1833 period. ,

On 1 July 1817, John Farris, the oldest son of William, was married to Elizabeth Estes, daughter of Moses Estes, in Gallatin Co. IL. An 1818 Illinois Census (at the time IL became a state) lists William Faris (1 free white male over 21, 6 all others) in Franklin Co. The 1820 United States Census for Franklin Co. lists William Farris (2 free white males over 21, 5 all other white). (In 1820 their oldest son John & wife Elizabeth were in Montgomery Co. MO, where their first son, William, was born.)

The Illinois Executive Record states that a commission was issued to Wm. Farris on Dec. 9, 1821, as Justice of the Peace for Franklin Co. On 8 April 1822, William Farris, Justice of the Peace for Franklin Co. IL, acknowledged a document by William Elmore assigning Power of Attorney to John Farris of Franklin Co. IL to obtain money owed by John Estes of Callaway Co. MO as administrator of the estate of Moses Estes. William Elmore was the husband of Mary "Polly" (Estes) (Neill), sister of Elizabeth (Estes) Farris. Both were daughters of Moses Estes.

The Illinois Secretary of State record of election returns (Vol. 2, p. 68) states that " At an election held for the County of Franklin at the seats of Justice over the several precincts on the 5th day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty two, the following persons received the number of votes annexed to their respective names for the following offices: ... For Sheriff - David W. Maxwell - one hundred twenty five votes; William Farris - one hundred five votes; ..." Another commission to William Farris as Justice of the Peace was issued on 14 Jan. 1823. On 17 November 1824, William Farris, Justice of the Peace for Franklin Co. IL, acknowledged a Power of Attorney by Jeremiah and Rosanna (Estes) Farris of Franklin Co. IL regarding recovery of Rosanna's part of the estate of her father, Moses Estes, who had died in Wilson Co. TN in 1815, from John Estes of Callaway Co. MO, administrator of the estate of his brother, Moses Estes.

On 12 January 1825, a joint session of both houses of the Illinois State General Assembly elected the Illinois Attorney General, the State Treasurer, and the Judges of Probate for the several counties then existing in the state. William Farris was elected Judge of Probate for Franklin County. On 18 January 1825, William received his commission as Judge of Probate for Franklin Co. IL, apparently continuing in that office for several years. The next person on record as occupying that position began his term on 23 January 1829. (From the WPA Historical Records Survey for Franklin Co. IL, published in 1941. The election is documented in both the Illinois House Journal, p. 265, and the Illinois Senate Journal, p. 226, for the 1824 - 1825 session.) The Illinois Executive Record also documents that William Farris received commissions as Justice of the Peace for Franklin Co. on August 10, 1826, August 10, 1827, and July 19, 1828.

On January 9, 1827, the Illinois General Assembly passed “An Act to Locate the Seat of Justice of Washington County” and appointed a commission to fix the site for the new county seat. The three person commission included William Farris of Franklin County. The state record of election returns (Vol. 9, p. 19) records an election on August 6, 1827 for Justice of Peace "for Franklin District 3, including the town" which was won by William Farris. William Farris, J.P., Franklin Co. Illinois, acknowledged the oath of John and Sarah Adams in which they gave a power of attorney involving settlement of the estate of her father, Moses Estes, on 4 August 1828. Also on 4 August 1828, William Farris, J.P. for Franklin Co. IL acknowledged a power of attorney by Lewis Estes regarding settlement of the estate of his father, Moses Estes, in Callaway Co. MO. Lewis was the husband of William Farris's daughter Anne.

The Illinois Department of State election returns contains the following record (Vol. 10, p. 65): "At a special election held in the County of Franklin and in Franklin District on the 24th day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty eight, to fill the vacancy of a Justice of the Peace occasioned by the resignation of William Farris, esq., the following named persons received the number of votes annexed to their respective names: ..."

The minutes of the Muddy River Baptist Association include details of association meetings including those of September 1828 in Gallatin Co. and September 1829 in Jefferson Co. For those two years, the lists of churches comprising the association include Town Mount Prairie Church in Franklin Co. The Messengers (delegates to the association meetings) for Town Mount Prairie include William Farris for both of those years. The church then seemed to have gone out of existence until another church of the same name appeared in the records several decades later. However, in July 1829 the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church was formed in Franklin Co. (and it still exists there). Founding members included David and Louisa Farris. (A stone there is inscribed with the names of the founding members.) An undated early list of the members includes the notation "William Farris, restored".

On 2 August 1830, William Farris was elected County Commissioner for Franklin County IL. (Illinois Department of State election returns, Vol. 13, p. 57). At that time, the County Commission was comprised of three Commissioners. There were eleven candidates in the 1830 election, and those receiving the largest number of votes were Dancy Odums (295); William Farris (272); and Braxton Parrish (197). There are no state or county records for the election of the County Commission in 1828 for Franklin Co. However, his resignation from the Justice of Peace position, and the reference to him as William Farris, Esq., indicates that he had been elected to a higher position, most probably to the County Commission, in 1828. If so, then he was re-elected in 1830 - but was not listed as a candidate for any position in the election of 1832. There is one existing deed record dated March 5, 1832 signed by William Farris as a County Commissioner.

The 1830 United States Census for Franklin Co. Illinois lists both a John Farris, Sr. and a William Farris. The William Farris listing in that census is as follows: males: 2 0-5, 1 5-10, 1 15-20, 1 20-30, 1 40-50; females: 1 5-10, 1 10-15, 1 30-40. This listing doesn't appear to be consistent with William's family. His age should be in the 60-70 range and this appears more likely to be David and Louisa Farris and their family.

From the federal land sales records for Illinois, William Farris bought 80 acres of federal land on 27 February 1828 for $1.25 per acre – it being the W 1/2 of the NE 1/4 of section 24 of Denning Township, and is now a part of the city of West Frankfort.

On 27 April 1829, William and Polly Farris sold 80 acre of land in a part of Franklin Co. which later became Williamson Co. IL. This deed was originally recorded in Franklin Co. deed book A, pages 141-143. It was copied into Williamson Co. deed book A, pages 20-22 when Williamson Co. was formed in 1839.

On 7 April 1831 William Farris bought a 20 acre tract and an adjacent 15 acre tract in the NW 1/4 of Section 20 in Frankfort Township. He mortgaged this property to James C. Stoo on 14 September 1832.

From Franklin County Deed Book C, Page 16, on 24 September 1832 William Farris and Polly, his wife, sold the 80 acres in West Frankfort, Denning Township, that they bought in 1828 to John Gasaway of Gallatin Co.

On 5 December 1833, James C. Stoo and his wife Judith sold the 20 acre and 15 acre parcels in Frankfort Township that had been bought by William Farris in 1831 to Ralph Elston. In this deed it is stated that James Stoo “by a power contained in the said mortgage from the said Faris binding his heirs and made irrevocable is authorized to sell and convey in the name of the said Farris or of his heirs, he being dead, without foreclosure in Chancery and whereas the said William Faris has departed this life since the execution of this said mortgage deed ...” (Franklin County Deed Book C, page 468) Because of the lost Franklin Co. probate records we have no other record of the death of William Farris. The above deed records show that he died sometime between 24 September 1832 and 5 December 1833.

The November 22, 1834 issue of the Illinois Journal and State Intelligencer, published at Shawneetown, included a "list of lands lying in the County of Franklin on which taxes remain due and unpaid on the 1st day of September, 1834 ..." The list includes Wm Farris 80 acres, W 1/2 of NE 1/4 of section 24, township 7 south, range 28. This was the land which William bought from the federal government in 1828 and sold to Gasaway in 1832 – but which was apparently still in his name on the tax rolls.

On 2 June 1834, John Farris, age 77, of Franklin Co. IL (presumed brother of William), filed a pension claim for service in the revolutionary war, 1779 -1782, while a resident of Hanover Co. VA. Since William had been a J.P. and county official, it is significant that he was not involved in John's pension claim - the claim was signed by all of the Franklin Co. Commissioners. From the above deed records it’s is apparent that William had died prior to John’s pension claim.

Two of William's sons, John and Jeremiah, were also active in county government later. In Fulton Co., they served in various township and county positions - John served as a Justice of the Peace, and Jeremiah was a member of the County Board of Supervisors. In 1853 Jeremiah was elected the first County Judge in Bremer Co. Iowa, serving in that office for two terms. It would appear likely that they learned a lot about county government and obtained a good bit of their education from their father William during the time the Farrises lived in Franklin Co. IL.


George J. Farris
1104 West Outer Drive
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Revised: July, 2014

© Copyright 2016, George J. Farris, All rights reserved.