38 - Mystery of the Father of Montgomery Greenville Haston

Based on the evidence cited previously, I think we can confidently assume Polly Haston was the mother of M.G. Haston, the child who was born out of wedlock on October 16, 1823, or 1824.  But who was the birth-father of M.G. Haston?

Due to the limited mobility of people in those days, especially for females, the man who fathered M.G. Haston was almost certainly someone from the general neighborhood where David Haston’s family lived—maybe someone who lived very near them, maybe someone they went to church with, maybe a boy she attended school with, or maybe even a close relative.

Was M.G.’s birth-father William (Black Bill) Lewis, the man Polly married a few years later?  He certainly was not, as you will soon see.

The DNA Investigation

DNA testing, particularly Y-DNA testing, provided a means for beginning to identify M.G. Haston’s father.  DNA tests were not available to earlier Haston researchers, which probably explains why M.G.’s father’s identity was unknown for so many years.  Y-DNA is only passed from father to sons.  And because it is passed down virtually unchanged for several generations, from one generation of males to the next generation of males, it is a very reliable means of determining patrilineal (male line) connections back into historic times.

In April 2020, William Lowell Haston, a descendant of M.G. Haston (through M.G.’s son William Riley Haston) submitted a Y-DNA test to FamilyTreeDNA in order that we might begin to answer M.G.’s birth-father question.  The Y-DNA of a David Henry Mitchell matched perfectly (111 of 111 markers) with the DNA of Lowell Haston. 

In November 2020, Marlin Shelton Haston, a male-line descendant of M.G. Haston (through M.G.’s son Isom B. Haston) submitted a Y-DNA test to FamilyTreeDNA to check to see if another male line from M.G. Haston traced back to the same Mitchell family.  The Y-DNA of a David Henry Mitchell was an extremely high match (109 of 111 markers) with the DNA of Lowell Haston.  And the two mis-matched markers were only slightly off of a match.  Apparently there were a couple of minor mutations down Marlin’s line but Lowell and Marlin’s results were essentially the same. 

Note: William Lowell Haston, Marlin Shelton Haston, and David Henry Mitchell all gave me permission to use their names in reference to their DNA data.

Two different male-line descendants from M.G. Haston matched the same Mitchell family!  It’s now a “no brainer” that Montgomery Greenville Haston’s father was a Mitchell from the same general family that David Henry Mitchell descended from.  But which man, from this extensive Mitchell family of early White County, Tennessee, was the father of Montgomery Greenville Haston?

From DNA to Historical and Genealogical Evidence

Y-DNA cannot pinpoint the specific paternal ancestor who was the father, grandfather, great-grandfather, etc.  It can only tell you the general family and give you an idea of how long ago he lived.  From the Y-DNA test results, we were able to focus on the Mitchell family that lived in southern White County, Tennessee at the time M.G. Haston was conceived.  That would have been the family of Arthur Mitchell, Sr. who had two sons that lived near (just across and north of the Caney Fork River from) David Haston’s family–Spencer Mitchell and David Linn Mitchell.  At some point fairly early, David Linn moved out of Hickory Valley and into the town of Sparta.  Spencer remained in southern Hickory Valley and was a co-founder, with David Haston, in the founding of the Union Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

There is not space in an article such as this to tell you all of the evidence that points to the probable father of M.G. Haston.  That will be much more fully developed in the M.G. Haston chapter of my upcoming book.  But here’s the gist of what we know:

First: Spencer Mitchell’s son, Arthur Mitchell, Jr., married David Haston’s oldest daughter, Malinda Haston, the older (by less than 2 1/2 years) sister of M.G. Haston’s mother, Mary/Polly.  Arthur and Malinda were about two years apart in age, so they would have grown up together, from childhood, as friends attending the church where their parents were key leaders.  

Second: Beginning in the mid-1820s, Arthur Mitchell owned land on the south side of the Caney Fork River,* not far from David Haston’s family, Malinda’s folks.  Arthur and Malinda would have been in and out of David and Peggy Haston’s house often.  

Third: Family records indicate that there was a five year gap between the births of Arthur and Malinda’s first and second (known) children.  Margaret/Peggy Emeline was born in 1821 and Elizabeth was born in 1826.[i]  We don’t know the reason for the gap—perhaps there were tragic issues with pregnancies or births.  But possibly there were marital problems during those gap-years.

[i] Jacalyn McCoy, “Arthur Mitchell,” MyHeritage Family Tree, accessed June 6, 2020, https://www.myheritage.com/research/record-1-228636901-1-500170/arthur-mitchell-in-myheritage-family-trees?s=755697951.

It may be significant that Polly Haston’s illegitimate child was born in the middle of that gap, October 16, 1824 (or 1823), if M.G. Haston was the child. 

Fourth: And this is Important!  There must have been an overwhelming reason for Polly’s refusal to name the birth-father of her child—that was the most common procedure.  If the father of Polly’s son was her sister’s husband and a co-member of her church, that would explain why Polly resolutely refused to reveal his identity.  

And, given David Haston’s code of Christian morality, if the father of Polly’s child was single, David would probably have forced him to marry his daughter.  But, due to the potentially family-destructive nature of the situation, David probably thought it wise to keep the secret a secret. 

How Close were the DNA Matches?

Comparing Y-DNA marker results with another DNA donor can reveal the probability of a common ancestor and thus, a familial relationship.  The more generations that separate donors from the common ancestor, the greater the probability of their relationship.

Assuming that Arthur Mitchell, Jr. was the father of M.G. Haston, the six generations that separate Marlin Haston and Arthur Mitchell, Sr. tell us there is a 95.69% probability that Marlin and David H. Mitchell had a common ancestor, in this case Arthur Mitchell, Sr. 

At seven generations between Lowell Haston and Arthur Mitchell, Sr., the probability increases to 99.53%!

These probability percentages hold true regardless of when or where two people live or lived in the world and how far apart they were geographically.  But when you add the fact that they lived in the same county, or even the same neighborhood within a county, the probability of an ancestral connection increases significantly.

Bottom line: The Y-DNA submissions of these three men proved to be very high matches, indicating a near-certain paternal line connection.  Montgomery Greenville Haston was, by paternal birth line, a Mitchell.  By known historical evidence, with a fairly high degree of confidence, we can  assume that he was the son (and nephew) of Arthur Mitchell, Jr., husband of Malinda Haston.



"Totality of Circumstances"

In United States law, the totality of the circumstances test refers to a method of legal analysis where decisions are based on all available information, especially in situations where direct evidence is not available.  When the totality of circumstances standard is applied to the question of Montgomery G. Haston’s birth-father, the historical circumstantial evidence points to Arthur Mitchell as having been M.G. Haston’s father. 

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