Col Joshua Fry Misconception
I have seen many family trees trying to connect our Henry Fry family with that of Col Joshua Fry. If it were true, this would surely make an impressive connection considering the circles that Col Joshua Fry traveled in. He was a close friend of Peter Jefferson, father of President Thomas Jefferson, and together they are famous for producing the first surveyor’s map of Virginia. In later years, Col Fry was the commander of the Virginia Regiment which included George Washington. When Col Fry died in 1754, he left the command to George Washington.
This assumed connection seems to be the product of several biographical articles published long ago about Henry Peck Fry & his father, Col George Thomson Fry, grandson of our James Fry of Abbotts Creek.
Unfortunately, this connection is proving to be untrue.
The most conclusive piece of evidence we have that there is no possible connection to Col Joshua Fry comes from DNA tests of several Fry descendants. Donors include a descendant of Col George Thomson Fry’s brother, James Patrick Fry, who has traced his lineage back to James Fry, the son of our Henry Fry Sr of Abbotts Creek. Another donor is descended from Henry Fry Jr, brother to James. Two other donors are known to have ancestors who immigrated from Germany. Every biography I have seen of Col Joshua Fry claims he is of English descent.
The conversation should really end there, but, because the issue just seems to keep reappearing, let’s take some time to dissect it.
The Offending Articles
The thing that keeps getting us into trouble are the articles written many years ago about Henry Peck Fry & his father, George Thomson Fry.
- East Tennessee: Historical and Biographical, published 1893
- “The K. P. Magazine” obituary for Colonel Geo. T. Fry, probably published soon after his death in 1897
- Notable men of Tennessee: Personal and genealogical, with portraits, Volume 1, published 1905
Each of these articles claim that George Thomson Fry is a descendant of Col Joshua Fry of George Washington & Virginia map fame.
Article #1 claims:
- George Thomas Fry was born on March 13th, 1843, in Jefferson County, Tennessee.
- George Thomas Fry was a Confederate Colonel during the Civil War.
- George Thomas Fry’s father was Henry Fry and his mother’s maiden name was Peck.
- George Thomas Fry’s grandfather was James Fry who was a Major during the Revolutionary War.
- George Thomas Fry’s great-great-grandfather came from England to Virginia.
- George Thomas Fry’s great-great-great-grandfather was a Swiss, John Fry.
Article #2 claims:
- George Thompson Fry was born on March 12th, 1843, in Jefferson County, Tennessee.
- George Thompson Fry was the 11th child of Henry Fry, b. 1802, Virginia, & Elizabeth Peck.
- George Thompson Fry’s grandfather was James Fry, a Major in the War of 1812.
- George Thompson Fry’s great grandfather was James Fry, a General in the Revolutionary War.
- George Thompson Fry’s great-great-grandfather was Col Joshua Fry, an Englishman who came to Virginia.
Article #3 claims:
- Henry Peck Fry was born September 27th, 1880, in Atlanta, Georgia.
- Henry Peck Fry was the son of George Thompson Fry of Jefferson County, Tennessee, & Mary Anna Amelia Cooley.
- George Thompson Fry was a Confederate Colonel during the Civil War.
- Henry Peck Fry’s grandparents were Henry Fry & Elizabeth Peck.
- Henry Peck Fry’s great-great-grandfather was Col Joshua Fry.
It is easy to compare the claims of these articles to what is known of Col Joshua Fry to see that there is no connection. For instance, for article #2 to be true, Col Joshua Fry would have had to have had a son named James, which he didn’t. For any of the articles to be true, Col Joshua Fry would have had to have had a grandson or great grandson named Henry who married an Elizabeth Peck, which is also not documented anywhere in his family tree.
Again, though, since the topic keeps coming up, it seems to require an even closer look.
Let’s first examine the family tree that each of these articles create.
|Article #1||Article #2||Article #3|
|Henry Peck Fry b. 27 Sep 1880, Atlanta, GA|
|Col. George Thomas Fry b. 13 Mar 1843, Jefferson, TN||Col George Thompson Fry b. 12 Mar 1843, Jefferson, TN||Col George Thompson Fry, Jefferson, TN, & Mary Anna Amelia Cooley|
|Henry Fry & Miss Peck||Henry Fry b. 1802. Virginia, & Elizabeth Peck||Henry Fry & Elizabeth Peck|
|Major James Fry, Rev War||Major James Fry, War of 1812||not named|
|not named||General James Fry, Rev War||Col Joshua Fry|
|not named, came from England to Virginia||Col Joshua Fry, Englishman, came to Virginia|
|John Fry, Swiss|
This quick comparison shows enough discrepancies between the claims made by the articles to cast considerable doubt all on its own.
Again, the first glaring issue is that Col Joshua Fry had no son named James. Col Joshua Fry’s line is clearly documented & no son James is to be found. And if he was a General as stated in article #2, I doubt he would have been left out.
That brings us to several claims made in the articles about military service.
Article #1 states that George Thompson Fry’s grandfather, James Fry, was a Major in the Revolutionary War.
Article #2 claims that George Thompson Fry’s grandfather, James Fry, was a Major in the War of 1812 & that his great-grandfather, James Fry, was a General in the Colonial Army.
Clearly some confusion here.
First, George’s grandfather is identified as a Major in the Revolutionary War & in the War of 1812. We do agree that George’s grandfather was a James Fry, but he was born about 1780. This means he was potentially a participant in the War of 1812, but certainly not in the Revolutionary War. No record has been found of our James Fry’s rank as Major in the War of 1812, however.
Secondly, according to our records, George’s great-grandfather was our Henry Fry Sr, not a James Fry. No record of any Revolutionary War service has been found for him at any rank to date.
Col Joshua Fry did have a son named Henry who was born born in 1738 in Madison County, Virginia, and died there in 1823. His life in Virginia is well-documented. He was a well-known & respected Minister and also a member of the house of burgesses, clerk of Albemarle County, and delegate to the general assembly from Virginia. His own autobiography makes no mention of Abbotts Creek in Old Rowan County. He is not the same Henry who obtained his land on Abbotts Creek in 1778 and lived a relatively uneventful life there raising his family.
Just in case this is not persuasive enough, we also know that Col Joshua Fry’s son Henry is not the right age to be our Henry Fry Sr. Our Henry Fry Sr obtained his land on Abbotts Creek in 1778. He must have been at least 21 at the time. The 1800 census then shows his age 26-44. These two facts combined put his year of birth at about 1756.
Col Joshua Fry’s son Henry did have a son named Henry. He was born in Virginia in 1773, which makes him too young to be our Henry Fry Sr. He then died in Virginia in 1815 making it impossible that he is the Henry Fry Sr that signed his grandchildren’s Guardianship papers in Rowan County in 1820.
There is just no way to put the lineages presented in these 3 articles together to make them agree with each other or with anything that is known of our Henry Fry Sr’s family or Col Joshua Fry’s family.
There is a small amount of agreement between the articles. These seem to be the same facts that match with what we have documented in our family tree.
|Our Tree||Article #1||Article #2||Article #3|
|Henry Peck Fry||Henry Peck Fry b. 27 Sep 1880, Atlanta, GA|
|Col George Thomson Fry b. 12 Mar 1843, Jefferson, TN, & Mary Cooley||Col George Thomas Fry b. 13 Mar 1843, Jefferson, TN||Col George Thompson Fry b. 12 Mar 1843, Jefferson, TN||Col George Thompson Fry, Jefferson, TN, & Mary Anna Amelia Cooley|
|Henry H Fry & Elizabeth Peck||Henry Fry & Miss Peck||Henry Fry & Elizabeth Peck||Henry Fry & Elizabeth Peck|
|James Fry||James Fry||James Fry|
|Henry Fry Sr|
We agree that Henry Peck Fry was the son of Col George Thomson Fry & Mary Cooley. George Thomson Fry was born in Jefferson County, Tennessee, in 1843, and lived there until the Civil War. George’s parents were Henry Fry & Elizabeth Peck and Henry’s father was James Fry.
From there our story diverges from that claimed in the Articles. Article #1 states that George’s family on his father’s side was from Virginia and Article #2 states specifically that his father, Henry, was born in Virginia. And, actually, George (or whoever answered the door) did tell the 1880 census taker that his father was born in Virginia. The fact is, though, that George can be found living with his father, Henry, in Jefferson County, Tennessee, on the 1850 & 1860 censuses. They both state that Henry’s place of birth was North Carolina. Henry can still be found living in Jefferson County, Tennessee, on the 1870 & 1880 censuses and they both state that his place of birth was North Carolina. The 1880 census also states that both Henry’s mother & father were born in North Carolina.
Article #1 also claims that the father of our subject came to Tennessee in the year or about 1797. Translation… George Thompson Fry’s father, Henry Fry, came to Tennessee about 1797.
What we know is that Henry was not born until about 1805. This is confirmed by census records from 1810 through 1880. Henry’s father James married Margaret Northern in Rowan County, North Carolina, in 1802. James owned land there near his family on Abbotts Creek and he can be found on census records there in 1810 & 1820. James sold his Abbotts Creek land in 1822 to his neighbor Jacob Stoner. It is assumed that that’s when he headed out with his family to Jefferson County, Tennessee. Henry can then be found on census records there in 1830.
It seems that this is where the Articles veer from documented history. George’s father Henry and his family before him were from North Carolina, not Virginia. George’s wife’s family spent some time in Virginia, though. He took a leave from the Army during the war and traveled to Virginia in order to marry and then returned there after the War to obtain his law degree. Maybe this is part of the confusion?
It does seem that what the articles’ claim about the connection to & accomplishments of the Peck family are true.
Established Joshua Fry Genealogy
Just to clear up any final doubt, we can compare again the lineages defined in these articles with established and accepted Joshua Fry trees.
Below is the genealogy of Joshua Fry as contained in the Memoir of Col Joshua Fry written in 1880 by Rev. P. Slaughter.
I have posted a descendant chart of Joshua Fry that I created directly from this genealogy so that it is easier to see.
It is clear by using the Search function of your browser or the search function in the below document that no Pecks or Cooleys are found. It is also clear that there was no son James at all, especially not one who was a General, and no grandson James who was a Major.
There is also no Henry the right age to be our Henry Fry Sr.
Where did it come from?
Well, that is the question. If we knew that, we might know it all. It seems to have started with the biography found in the book East Tennessee: Historical and Biographical, which was published in 1893. According to the preface, the biographical sketches were provided by the subjects themselves. Does this mean that by 1893, George Thomson Fry himself believed that he was descended from Col Joshua Fry? He was just about 50 years old at that point and the article claims that it was his great-great-grandfather who came from England to Virginia in Colonial days. I might be reaching 50 years old at some point soon and, if it weren’t for my genealogical pursuits, who knows what I would know about my great-great-grandfathers. Probably nothing. Surely, a lot of information can be lost in that span of time.
I find it interesting that this first article doesn’t state explicitly that this ancestor who came from England was the Col Joshua Fry. In fact, he is not named at all. Odd then that it would name his 5th ancestor as a Swiss, Sir John Fry. If you were attempting to adulterate your history to make it more impressive, would you leave out the important details like the name of Col Joshua Fry, but then name drop a Sir John Fry? Was he someone extraordinary that we would have known about in 1893? Not to mention that Col Joshua Fry’s father is currently believed to be a Joseph Fry of Somerset, England. Was this not known back in 1893 or is the article not even referring to Col Joshua Fry, but some other Fry who came from England to Virginia in Colonial days?
The article also mentions that the subject’s grandfather, James Fry, was a Major in the Revolutionary War. But again, according to the census records that James can be found on, 1790-1830, he was born about 1780. Surely this eliminates any possibility that he was in the Revolutionary War in any capacity.
This is also the article that states that George’s father Henry came to Tennessee with his father in or about 1797. But we know that George’s father Henry wasn’t even born until 1805 and the family didn’t leave North Carolina until after 1820.
So, for an article that was written during the lifetime of the subject and whose facts were supposedly obtained from the subject himself, there are a lot of discrepancies. It seems reasonable that George would not know much about his great-great-grandfather, but does it seem reasonable that he would not know facts about his father & grandfather? Actually, George joined the Army at age 18 and it seems that he never did return to live with his family in Jefferson County, Tennessee. Maybe he did just lose touch. Maybe he didn’t really know the facts at that point.
Another clue is that the article spells his name George Thomas Fry instead of the way it appears on his tombstone & military records, George Thomson Fry, or the way it appears in the other 2 articles, George Thompson Fry. This makes me think there may also have been some shoddy editing involved. Who knows.
The author, Dr James M Fry
Another suggestion I have heard is that this connection between Col George Thomson Fry and Col Joshua Fry came from the writings of a Dr James M Fry.
I would like to give credit where credit was due, so, from what I can ascertain, these notes were written by a Dana whose great grandfather was James Patrick Fry, the eldest brother of Col George Thomson Fry. They were passed down to me by another Fry descendant. I don’t have all the details but they seem to have been written before the advent of the internet.
A Dr. James M. Fry was born 13 October, 1850, Greene Co., Tenn. and died 10 September 1911» Vanzandt Co., Texas. He wrote a book and was working on his Memoirs when he had a stroke and died.
Dr. Fry was the son of Capt. William F. Fry, Sr. Dr. James as a 13 or 14 year old boy acted as a courier for Morgan in his Morgans raiders. Wm. F. Fry organized Co. I, 29th Tenn. Inf. They lived at Greenville, Tenn. until after the Civil War when they moved to Indiana. In 1874 they moved to Texas.
Somehow Dr. Fry seemed to know about Henry Fry, James Fry and Col. George T. Fry.
Dr. James Fry was a descendant of Joshua Fry. Dr. Janes Fry also wrote “The Genealogy of Joshua Fry of Virginia and Some of his Descendants.
It was confirmed by yet another long-time Fry researcher that, yes, years ago people did have notes by this Dr James M Fry that they were attempting to verify.
So, now let’s take a look at this.
Dr. James M Fry was born on October 13th, 1850, in Greene County, Tennessee, to a William Fry and died on September 10th, 1911, in Van Zandt County, Texas. In 1860, he can be found on census records in Greene County, Tennessee, which is a little far from where Morgan’s Raiders traveled through Tennessee in 1863. William Fry was actually a Captain in the 29th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry, when it was formed in 1861. I can’t really see where their paths would have crossed with Morgan, but Capt William’s 4th child was born in Indiana in November of 1861, so I guess it’s possible that he was headed that way & met up with Morgan in Indiana.
Dr James M Fry, however, is not the author of The Genealogy of Joshua Fry of Virginia and Some of his Descendants. The book was actually called Colonel Joshua Fry of Virginia and some of his descendants and allied families. It was written by George Walter Fry and published in 1966.
What I did find on James M Fry with regard to Morgan’s Raid was an article published in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Volume 19, in 1960. It was called The death of John Hunt Morgan : a memoir of James M. Fry. Even though James M Fry is listed as an author, it appears that the article is actually an excerpt from the memoir of James M Fry that was edited by W A Smith & Wallace Milam. I haven’t been able to get my hands on this just yet, but the one excerpt that I could dig up reads, “He knew because a small boy escaped from Confederate scout James M. Fry and rode to Bull’s Gap with news of Morgan’s troop placement. Scout Fry and our pamphlet-writer Fry are the same man. Let him report in his own words what happened:” This leads me to believe that the James M Fry who wrote anything pertaining to General John Hunt Morgan was not a 13 year old boy at all, but I will wait to get a copy of the article before I decide for sure.
Apparently, though, the genealogical notes of this Dr James M Fry who was born in Greene County, Tennessee, in 1850, are given special credence because he was thought to have traveled with Morgan’s Raiders. Was that how he was acquainted with Col George T Fry and knew about his father & grandfather? Did he hear Col George T Fry tell the story of being descended from Col Joshua Fry? This does sound to me like the kind of stories that are told between soldiers waiting to go into battle.
Surely, this Dr James M Fry knew nothing of Col Joshua Fry’s genealogy. Morgan’s Raid happened in 1863 and Col Joshua Fry died over 100 years before that. Maybe after the War Dr James M Fry set out to find a connection between Col George T Fry and Col Joshua Fry thinking that he might also be connected.
Unfortunately for him, not only was Col George T Fry not descended from Col Joshua Fry, but, from just a quick look, it seems that the Frys of Greene County, Tennessee, and, therefore, this Dr James M Fry, were also not descended from Col Joshua Fry. From what I have found, the Greene County Frys are descended from Gregorious Frey. Oddly enough, this is the other Fry family that we are often confused with. I have not really had the time to verify this completely, though.
At this point, I can’t say for sure why Dr James M Fry would have been found to be an expert on either our line of Frys or Col Joshua Fry’s line of Frys. There must be more to be had in his notes that I have not yet seen.
Just for the sake of our endeavor here, according to our original researcher Dana, Dr James M Fry’s notes do apparently say:
Henry Fry II, son of Col. Joshua Fry and Mary Kill MIcou, was born October 19, 1738, married Sulkey Walker, daughter of Dr. Tom Walker of Albemarle Co., Va., June 16th, 1764. She was in her 17th year. They had 15 children:
Reuben, born July 9, 1766 – died May 29, 1805
Martha, born Dec. 21, 1767 – died Oct. 17 1828
Joshua, born May 17, 1769 – died Oct. 17, 1838
Thomas Walker, born Oct. 24, 1770
Henry married Mildred Murray
Margaret (1st) born, May 29, 1765
John, born June 1775
Wesley, born March 25, 1779
Thornton, born 21, 1786
James ( See pg. 11)
Of the 15 children of Henry Fry, some moved to Kentucky and one son James to Salisbury, North Carolina. There he married Margaret Northern, daughter of Samuel Northern, a native of England. In 1821, he moved to Jefferson Co., East Tenn., had four sons and one daughter. In 1828 all of the family but Henry moved to Randolph, Tipton Co., Tenn. Henry was the father of Col. George T. Fry of 3oth Tenn. Inf. and 7th Confederate, CSA.
The Rev. Henry Fry, son of Col. Joshua also had a son named Thomas Walker Fry, the progeniator of one branch of the East Tenn. Fry family, His brother James was the progeniator of another branch in East Tenn.
Dr James M Fry states that James Fry who married Margaret Northern was the son of Col Joshua Fry’s son Rev Henry Fry.
As discussed, though, the 1880 census record of Henry H Fry, James’ son, states that James was born in North Carolina, not Virginia. I’ll admit this isn’t much to go on, so, luckily, there have been others looking into this connection.
It seems that Dana, the great granddaughter of James Patrick Fry, who wrote these notes about Dr James M Fry, also apparently corresponded with none other than George Walter Fry, the actual author of Colonel Joshua Fry of Virginia and some of his descendants and allied families that was published in 1966.
According to her, George Walter Fry stated that:
I have tried very hard to determine the parentage of your ancestor Henry H. Fry; but, without any success. Henry Fry had 15 children, 13 of whom can be proved, It has been assumed that 2 probably died at birth or in infancy. If he had a son James who grew to adulthood some evidence of it surely would have endured since the rest of his children have been fairly well documented.
Dr. James Fry was undoubtedly an honest and learned man but his Genealogy of Joshua Fry of Va. contains some inaccuraces, as do all genealogies.
I went to Virginia, stopped at the old Henry Fry homestead and the old Fry family cemetery there, talked to many of his descendants who still live on the old Fry grant and never have I discovered a James, son of Rev. Henry.
James Patrick Fry’s great granddaughter Dana also includes information from Rev Henry Fry’s Will in her notes.
Henry Fry did not name a son James in his will. Have copy of Henry Fry’s will; Will Book 4-, pg. 226.
In the name of God Amen– I Henry Fry of Madison County, do make and ordain this my last will and testament. Be it remembered that those of my children not herein named, have received their portion and have no claim for the score of patrimony-
Item – I give to my son William two hundred dollars to cornpleat his quota.
Item – I give to my son-in-law Hugh Walker fifty dollars for some old furniture he left with me when he departed for Ky.
Item- I give to my friend John Kobler my silver framed spectacles.
Item- I give to Henry Fry son of ( cannot make out) my negro boy Thornton, to him his heirs and assigns forever.
Item -I give to my son Wesley all other property I die possessed of, to him his heirs and assign forever and do appoint him Executor of this my will. Witness my hand and seal this twelth day of May eighteen hundred and twenty one.
Will proved in court 28 August, 1823.
Ordered Grantee and Grantor Index to Deeds, Trust Deeds, etc. -Madison County, Virginia for Fry Sept. 26, 1793 to Dec. 28, 1843. No James Fry listed.
Had hoped since James was not listed as an heir that I would find a deed of love or something listing James as an heir. No James.
We know that while Col Joshua Fry’s son Rev Henry Fry was busy with his work & family in Virginia, our Henry Fry Sr was living on Abbotts Creek in Old Rowan County, North Carolina. And his son James is listed next to him on the 1810 census.
By discovering our Henry’s land entry in 1778, his signature as Witness to Ralph Owen’s Will in 1785, and his grandchildren’s Guardianship papers in 1820, we have simply introduced another Henry Fry possibility into the mix. It seems that years ago there were a few well known Fry families of the late 1700s and it made sense to attempt to use them as a starting point in some way. Not to mention that it made for good Biographical sketches if you could include the name of a Colonel or someone who knew George Washington or both.
New information means that we now have new options. We know that there was another Henry Fry family altogether, the one that lived on the west side Abbotts Creek in old Rowan County. They were neighbors with the Warfords, Howells, Smiths, Elstons & Cornelissons. They were probably friends with the Congers & Rosses. They married with the Smiths & Briggs families. This is our Fry family.
The DNA says it all
DNA has connected a descendant of James Fry to a descendant of Henry Fry Jr. Both of these lines can be traced back to Abbotts Creek in old Rowan County and then to our Henry Fry Sr. It is only possible that these three are descended from Col Joshua Fry if they fit into his tree somehow as a unit, Henry Fry Sr b. abt 1756 and his sons James b. abt 1780 and Henry Jr b. abt 1782. As we have seen, they do not.
More importantly, DNA has connected us to Nicholas Frey who immigrated from the German Palatinate with his parents aboard the Britannia in 1731. This is the family that we should be endeavoring to connect ourselves with now.
In the end
Who knows what really happened or where this rumor got started.
It seems to me that George Thomson Fry & his son Henry Peck Fry were prominent & accomplished men whose paternal line were humble farmers. I can imagine that, once you are associated with a family like the Pecks, with their distinguished military records, it would be easy to find yourself saying that you descend from a great man who was a friend & mentor of the George Washington, father of our country. Or maybe it started with Henry. Back then, it was important that your social rank was equal to that of your potential spouse. Was it important that he be a man of some standing in order to marry Elizabeth Sharkey Peck? Or maybe this was the story created by the authors of these articles. Who wants to write an article that gets to recount all the military & political accomplishments of the mother’s line, but then is left with simple farmers on the father’s side?
To me, the DNA resolves this issue immediately, but this became as opportunity to examine how things get printed or posted somewhere and then somehow take on a life on their own. They eventually become accepted as fact simply because they have been repeated over & over. Or they sound so good that no one wants to attempt to corroborate it for fear of disproving it. The beauty of genealogy is that there is always more to know. It’s a puzzle that never runs out of pieces and every new piece helps create an ever evolving picture.
Technology is providing us with access to new pieces like never before. And the internet is providing us with access to other researchers like never before. Years have been spent by diligent & patient people who had to order census records in the mail & wait weeks just to get the information for one entry. Those generous people have provided us with the framework for our puzzle. It is time now for us to take a look again at the pictures that we have come to accept and ask ourselves if the pieces really fit together that way. What an exciting opportunity for us to basically rewrite our history.