42 - John and Catherine HASTON Austin

History, especially genealogical history, is sexist!  

OK, I’m pretty much a traditional-minded person and don’t use the word “sexist” in an accusatory way very often.  But I must say – genealogical history is sexist, and unfortunately so.  

One tradition I wish had caught on 700 years ago in the western world is the tradition of requiring married women to retain their maiden surnames, in the form of double-name surnames.  It’s called “double-barrelled surnames.”  And I wish those names would have been “heritable” (transmissible from parents to offspring). 

Because of (1) the single-surname-adopted-from-the-husband tradition and (2) the male-dominated (or exclusively male) roles in court proceedings, deeds, and other civil documents, it is very difficult to conduct meaningful research on our female ancestors.  For example, in the previous article (“Jacob and Lucinda Haston Mitchell“) you saw that there are several key things that can be known about Jacob Mitchell, but Lucinda Haston is largely hidden to us.  The same is true with other daughters of Daniel Haston.

Colonel Howard H. Hastings, Sr., an excellent 20th Century Haston family researcher, summarized the life of this daughter of Daniel Haston like this:

For starters, her name was Catherine, not Caroline.  In a September 4, 1978 letter from Dave R. and Estelle Haston to Howard H. Hasting, Sr., Dave and/or Estelle told Mr. Hasting that there was a Caroline Haston who married John Austin.  That must have been a simple mis-statement on Dave and Estelle’s part, because they lived in White County where Catherine Haston Austin was buried and probably would have known the correct name.

But, other than the confusion regarding her first (given) name, Colonel Hasting (Haston) was right.  Catherine’s husband, John Austin, appeared regularly in tax records and frequently in court records, but about all we know about Catherine is that she was John Austin’s second wife and mother of some of his children.

Brief summary of the John Austin family, including what is known of Catherine:

January 6, 1779 – According to one source, John Austin was born in Virginia of English descent.[i]  But the 1850 census indicates that North Carolina was his birthplace.  So, who knows!?  His parents are also unknown to us.  

[i] Goodspeed. Tennessee History & Biographies: White County. (1886; reprinted, Signal Mountain, TN: Mountain Press, 1990), 17.

There has been a strong evidence that our John and Nathaniel (Austin) could have been great grandchildren of John and Hannah Austin of Lunenburg County, VA, through a grandson, William, that I am still trying to find traces of after he disappeared from Wythe County, VA about 1793. This record of Austin children, along with their dates of birth, I feel may have been copied from an old family Bible at the time when no one was left on Old Wilderness Road to furnish the names of their parents. So often in those early days, when one was moving away from others of their family, they recorded the names of all their brothers and sisters in their Bible for future proof of their belonging to the family. So far I have failed to find records on any Austin anywhere in this country that did not have plenty of Anderson families in the same vicinity. As to which road across the Allegheny Mountains is referred to is only a guess since it was not stated where they came from or exactly where they went. If it were their entry into Tennessee as we might surmise, then undoubtedly it was the Old Wilderness Road which was cut across the Alleghenies from Grayson County, VA, and this would give strong indications for a connection with the John and Hannah Austin family of Lunenburg County, VA.

Editorial Note:  John and his brother, Nathaniel Austin, probably traveled to the Lost Creek community of White County at different times, from different places, by different routes.

June 21, 1802 – John Austin married Rachel Denny,[i] daughter of James and Ester Denny, on this date in Wayne County, Kentucky.  Rachel was born in 1784.[ii] Rachel was the sister of William Denney, who married Patsy Burnett on February 10, 1806, in Wayne County, Kentucky.[iii]  William Denney was a neighbor of Daniel Haston and his daughter, Jane, married William Carroll Haston, son of David Haston. 

[i] Wayne County, Kentucky First Marriage Book (1801-1813); Kentucky Genealogy Trails, “Wayne County, Kentucky Marriage Records,” accessed May 8, 2020, http://genealogytrails.com/ken/wayne/marriages.html.

[ii] Mabel J. Austin Moore, John Austin, Sr. Family, 1779-1999.  (Sparta, TN: published by author, 1999), 9.

[iii] Frances Marie Thomas Graves, William Denney Descendants, 1984. (LC #: CS71.D412 1984)

Wayne Co KY to White Co TN map

1807 – “John Austin, Sr. and wife Rachel Denny Austin came to Hickory Valley, White County, Tennessee in 1807.  His brother Nathaniel came in 1816.”[i]  Austin family researchers believe that John and Rachel came to White County, from Wayne County, Kentucky, with Rachel’s brother, William Denney.[ii]

[i] Moore, 3.

[ii] Paul Douglas Austin, ed., 40 Years of the Austin Family Association of Lost Creek. (n.p.: Austin Family Association of Lost Creek, n.d.), 6 (toward the back of the book)


John and Rachel had seven children: William (born May 10, 1803), Jude (born 1805), Tamar “Tamsey”* (born September 7, 1804), Hannah (born between 1806-1810), James M. (born September 22, 1814), Elizabeth (born October 16, 1816), and John Jr. (born November 8, 1818).


*Tamsey Austin married Wiley B. Haston, son of David and Peggy Haston.  According to the 1830 census, they had one son of five and under ten years of age and one daughter under five years old.  So they probably married prior to 1824.

1811 – John Austin appears on the 1811 White County taxable property and polls list in Captain Richard M. Rotton’s Militia Company with one black poll,* but no mention of land.[i]  His brother Nathaniel does not appear on the tax list at this time.  Yes, John Austin was a slaveholder, but not on a large scale.

*“All slaves [“black polls”], male and female, between the ages of twelve and fifty were taxed.”[ii]

[i] White County, Tennessee Property and Poll Tax, 1811-1815, 1821-1825. (TSLA Roll #123)

[ii] Tennessee State Library and Archives, “Tennessee Taxation Information and Chart,” accessed May 24, 2020, https://tnsla.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/search/asset/22341/0.

1817 – John Austin now owned 154 acres on the “waters of H. Valley.”  He was taxed a total of $2.83 ¼ for one white poll and one black poll.  For the first time, John’s brother Nathaniel Austin appeared on a White County tax list for one white poll.  He owned 175 acres on “Lost Creek.”[i]

[i] White County, Tennessee Property and Poll Tax, 1816-1818, 37.

About 1818 – Rachel Denny Austin, John’s wife, died about 1818.  Rachel was probably the first person buried in the Austin Cemetery on the Nathaniel Haston farm.

About 1819 Catherine married John Austin, Sr. in approximately 1819 and became the stepmother of Rachel’s seven children.  In addition to the children she inherited as stepchildren, in the next 14 years or so Catherine had six children of her own.[i]

[i] Moore, 10-11.

Birth Place and Date for Catherine Haston

Probably Early 1790s

Austin family records assert that Catherine Haston was born on December 25, 1776 in Virginia.  But Haston researchers have, to my knowledge, never discovered a specific date of her birth.  I have never seen any documentation that supports the December 25, 1776 date.  The birth date ranges for Catherine in the 1830 and 1840 census records indicate that she was born between 1791 and 1800.  If so, she was born in Tennessee, probably in Washington County or Knox County.  That would be consistent with what her oldest son, Pleasant Austin, reported regarding his mother: “She was a native of Tennessee and her entire life was passed in the State.” 


Because she had at least two brothers born in the mid-1790s and decline of child-bearing potential occurs when a woman reaching her 40s, I suggest that Catherine was probably born in the early 1790s.  Depending on how early in the 1790s she was born, would determine whether she was born in Washington County, Tennessee, Knox County, or somewhere in between.

How Did John Austin Become Acquainted with Catherine Haston?

Where John Austin lived in the Lost Creek community of upper northeast Hickory Valley, White County, TN, was a journey of ten miles to or from the Haston Big Spring Branch.  So John Austin was not a close neighbor to Daniel Haston’s family, but the distance wasn’t insurmountable even by horse or foot.  Even though the Big Spring Branch (Cummingsville) area was 10 or so “traveling miles” from Lost Creek, there was quite a bit of movement back and forth between the two communities.  Lost Creek was considered to be in “upper” Hickory Valley. 

But Daniel Haston’s neighbor, William Denny, may have been the key to connecting the widowed John Austin to the single Catherine Haston.  Remember – John’s deceased wife (Rachel) was a sister of William Denny.  

September 8, 1820 – Pleasant Austin, first son of John and Catherine, married Mary E. Warren on September 14, 1852.  He died on July 6, 1900 and is buried in the Old Union Cemetery in White County, Tennessee. The 1850 census indicates that he was 27 years old.  His tombstone and published biography[i] say he was born on September 8, 1820. 

[i] Goodspeed, 17.

Pleasant Austin - Son of Catherine and John

Pleasant Austin, a prosperous agriculturist of the Second District, was born September 8, 1820, on the farm upon which he now resides.  His parents were John and Catherine (Haston) Austin.  The father was born January 6, 1779, in Virginia, of English descent.  He immigrated to Tennessee at a very early day, where he died February 28, 1858.  The mother is thought to have been of Dutch [German-speaking] descent.  She was a native of Tennessee and her entire life was passed in the State.  Our subject was brought up on the farm, and educated in the school of the vicinity.  After attaining his majority he purchased land in the county and farmed about six years.  At his father’s death he bought the homestead and moved to it, where he has since resided.  He is a substantial, honorable, and worthy citizen.  He is interested in the advancement of education and all beneficial enterprises.  He is a Democrat.  September 14, 1852, he was united in marriage to Mary E., daughter of Bluford and Sarah (Yates) Warren.  The father was raised in Halifax, NC and the mother in Halifax, VA.  The grandfather Yates lived to the unusual age of one hundred and twelve years.  Mrs. Austin was born October 15, 1825, in Tennessee, and is the mother of John W., William Bluford, Robert S., Sarah Alice (wife of Norman Gist, who resides near Sparta), Flora C. (wife of Lewis Akins), James Mc. and Frank P.[i]

[i] Goodspeed, 17.


June 27, 1843Catherine Haston Austin died at this time and is buried in the Austin Cemetery in the Lost Creek Community.  Other than the births of her children and her home context in the John Austin family, nothing more is known about the life of Catherine.

Austin-Anderson Cemetery

February 27, 1858 – At age 79, John Austin, Sr. died in an accident on his farm.  He is buried in the Austin Cemetery in the Lost Creek community. 

May 31, 1858 – Mary Ann Todd Austin, third wife and widow of John Austin, was granted a dower (widow’s share of her late husband’s estate) of 142 ¼ acres, which amounted to approximately one-third of John Austin’s land.  This included “the late residence of the said John Austin, deceased.”  Her land crossed “the road that leads to Sparta” and “the Lost Creek Road.”[i]

[i] White County, Tennessee Estate (Probate) Records, Books A-F (1807-1899).  (TSLA microfilm Roll #152)

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