A history of the early Portis families in Guilford and Surry Co, NC and Patrick Co, VA

This narrative covers our Portis ancestors who were born and/or resided in these counties before the 1900's. There are a few exceptions, but generally people are not covered after they left these areas.

1 James Parnell Portis (abt 1755 – abt 1845)

James was a son of George Portis (1685 – 1775) who migrated from the Isle of Wight VA to Edgecombe NC (before its subdivision to Nash as other counties). George left a will that does not name James, but he was a son based on DNA evidence (an Ancestry DNA test matched AR Portis Jr, a fourth great grandson, to descendants of George's son John Floyd Portis). Many Ancestry trees have James' middle name as “Parnell”, but documentation of this has not been found. James left Edgecombe Co at an early date and eventually ended up in Surry Co NC. There is a James Portis listed in censuses of 1790 (Chatham, NC - “Pourtis”), 1800 (Hillsboro, Randolph, NC), 1810 (Greensboro, Guil ford, NC) and 1820 (Guilford - “Porter” and Surry - “Parks”, NC ). In the1830 census, James and son Allen are listed as co-heads in Surry Co. A large family is attributed to James (based on age and proximity of other Portis') and he likely had more than one wife.

While in Guilford Co, he apparently indentured three of his sons as recorded in their “Bonds Records and Apprenticeships”. First was Silas age 11, to Richard Hayworth on 22 Feb 1817 until age 21. Second was Isham age 6, to William Lambert on 15 Nov 1819 to make malt and brew beer until age 21. Third was Ira age 10, to Jno Chipman on 21 Nov 1820 until age 21. Silas and Ira are entered as “orphans” but this label may not be correct based on later historical records.

1.x The Children of James Parnell Portis

1.1 Mary Portis (abt 1790 – ?)

Burrell Philips obtained a marriage bond in Stokes Co NC on 29 Aug 1815 to Mary Portes. Stokes is adjacent to Surry and Guilford county and thus Mary is likely a daughter of James.

1.2 William Portis (abt 1790 – abt 1863)

William Portis is in the 1810 Guilford Co Census and the family consists of 2 males <10, 2 males 16-25, 1 female <10 and 1 female 16-25. These family members have not been identified and some of the youngest children attributed to his father James may actually be William's. By 1830 he moved with his father and brothers to Surry Co, NC where the family consists of 2 males 15-20, 1 male 40-50, 1 female 30-40, 1 female 60-70. In the 1840 Surry Census the family is 1 male 50-60 and 1 female 40-50. By 1850 he moved to Peters Creek Dist, Stokes NC where the census lists him as William "Portus" 60, cabinetmaker with wife Edith (née Slade) 31, Alfred 2 and Sally L 4/12.

About 1871 Edith applied for a War of 1812 Pension for service by William in Capt Humphrey's NC Mil.

Rowan Co marriage records indicate that William married twice in a short period. First to Betsey How, 24 Mar 1821 and then to Polly Ward on 30 May 1821, both being witnessed by a William Portis, who has not been identified.

Jump to the children of William Portis

1.3 Allen Portis (1795 – abt 1880)

Allen is first listed as a co-head with his father James in the 1830 Census in Surry Co and the family is (1 male 30<40 and 1 male 70<80 with 2 males <5, 1 male 5<10, , 1 female <5, 1 female 30<40, 1 female 60<70). In the 1840 Surry Census the family is: Allen Portis with 1 male 5<10 (likely James), 1 male 40<50 (Allen), 1 male 80<90 (father James); 1 female 10<15 (possibly Elizabeth), 1 female 40<50 ( wife Anna); 1 female 80<90 (mother unknown).

On Aug 20, 1822 a Marriage Bond was made in Surry Co by Allen Portis and Isaac Reed for a marriage between Allen and Anny Reed. Isaac is likely her brother as he is listed in the 1820, 1830, 1840 and 1850 (age 50) Censuses in Surry Co. The mother and father of Anna are not known. There are many Reed or Reid families in Surry in the census records of the early 1800's. The most likely possibility is Lewis (b 1777) and Sara (b 1777) Reed who are living with a William (b 1815) and Sarah (b 1815) Reed in the 1850 Census. They are the oldest Reed's found in the census records for Surry.

Anna died on 3 Jun 1848 according to a hand-carved headstone, which also lists birth (1 Sept 1792), marriage date and husband. It is located (36.37425 N, 80.595722 W) in an abandoned cemetery off of Nurse Rd, in Surry Co with at least four other unidentified graves. Two of these may be her father-in-law James and his wife.

Shortly after her death, Allen moved with his son James to Patrick Co VA as they are listed together in the 1850 Census. On 25 Dec 1850 a Marriage Bond between Allen Portis and Sarah Jones was made back in Surry Co NC. Allen and son James owned small farms (1870 Agriculture Survey) and lived near each other in Patrick Co (1860 and 1870 Census) for the rest of their lives. Sarah died on 11 Apr 1871 as reported by Allen in the Patrick Co death records.

Jump to the children of Allen Portis

1.4 James Porelle Portis (1800 – 1881)

James went to GA before 1827, when he was appointed a Sheriff in Muscogee and also received a land grant there. In 1839 he received a land grant in MS (his middle name is recorded as Porelle and not Parnell on the document) and spent time in AR (1860 Census) but died in MS. He had three wives: Rebecca Gassaway (3 children), Phereby Ross, (2 children) and Sarah M Burns (3 children).

1.5 Abijah Portis (1802 – 1840)

Abijah (named entered as “Higy”) married Dorthy Sapp on 25 Dec 1820 in Guilford Co. In 1822 Abijah received a land deed from James Portis Sr, witnessed by James Portis Jr in Guilford Co. In 1830 Abijah is in the Guilford Co Census with 5 children, but he moved to Knox TN by the 1840 Census (with 3 children). One Ancestry tree has his known children as Evicy (1822), William Franklin (1825), and Bartlett Yancey (1825), all born in Guilford Co. As noted above James Jr had moved to GA by 1827.

1.6 Silas Portis (1808 – aft 1880)

Silas obtained a marriage bond to Elizabeth Lily on 22 May 1828 in Guilford Co, with Abijah Portis as bondsman. In 1830 Silas was in Guilford Co and the family listed as two males 20-30 and 1 female 20-30. The male and female cannot be identified. By 1850 Silas had moved to Patrick Co, VA and in the census he is with Rachel Read (44), John Read (26) and Louisa Read (20), likely Rachel's brother and sister in law. Silas made a marriage bond to Rachel Ried on 28 Jun 1853 in Surry Co. Rachel may be related to Anna Reed, Allen's first wife. Silas and Rachel lived the rest of their lives in Surry Co and appear in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 Census. Silas had no known children.

1.7 Isham Portis (abt 1808 – aft 1870)

Isham married Elizabeth Hoover on 26 Jul 1838 in Randolph NC and they listed there in the 1840 Census. By the 1850 Census, he moved to Hamilton IN and then moved by 1860 to MO, having changed the family name to Porter. He had 8 children and the males kept the family name as Porter.

1.8 Ira Preston Portis (abt 1808 – bef 1883)

Ira moved to Surry Co before the 1840 Census and also appears there in the 1850 and 1860 Censuses. By 1870 he moved his large family to Wythe VA and they also appear there in the 1880 Census. Ira's first marriage was to Mary C Pamplin on 22 Jan 1831 in Guilford Co. In the 1840 Surry Census, there is one male 5-10 (Robert), one male 20-30 and one female 30-40. Mary died about 1840 and he then married Mary Ann Elizabeth Nichols as a Marriage Bond was issued on 10 Jan 1846 in Surry Co. In the 1850 Surry Census they are listed as “Pertus” with Ira 38, Mary 22, Robert 14, Sarah 3 and Rebecca 1. In the 1860 Surry Census they are listed as “Porter” with Ira 44, Mary 32, Robt 29, Sarah 12, Rebeca 11, Martha 10, Josephine 7 and Jno 4.

Jump to the children of Ira Preston Portis

1.9 Uriah Portis (abt 1809 – aft 1880)

Uriah (entered as Urias) made a marriage bond to Sarah Reed on 12 Aug 1827 in Surry Co. Sarah may be related to Anna Reed (wife of Allen Portis). By the 1850 Census he is in Burke Co, with a new wife Priscilla. Uriah Portice enlisted in Co B, NC 54th Infantry Reg. in McDowell Co on 21 Mar 1862, aged 54 with occupation of shoemaker.

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1.10 Henry Portis (12 Oct 1815 – 14 Jun 1896)

Henry is mentioned in the probated will of Benj Roberts (1844 Wayne Co IN), as the son of his daughter, Margaret. This indicates that Margaret was a wife of James Parnell Portis. Both families were in Guiliford Co in the 1810 census. Henry received a land grant in Indiana in 1837 and thus left NC sometime earlier. Henry married Saloma Caylor in 1836 Indiana and had 5 children.

1.11 Josiah Portis (abt 1818 – bef 1850)

Many Ancestry Trees say his name is William Josiah and he may be confused with his brother William (1.2 above). A marriage bond (as “Portice”) was made on 6 Sept 1832 to Rachael Albertson in Davidson Co. In the 1840 Davidson Census the family consisted of 1 male <5, 1 male 5<10, 1 male 20<30; 1 female <5, 1 female 5<10, 1 female 20<30. In the 1850 Davidson Census he as absent but his wife Rachel 39, and children Emeline 17, Silas 15, Elizabeth 14, and George W 11 are listed. Finally in the 1860 Guilford Census, he is again missing and Rachael “Porter” is living with Elizabeth 23, George 20, Louisa 4 and RY 1 near her married daughter Emaline Gurley.

Jump to the children of Josiah Portis

1.12 Patsy Portis (1818 – ?)

On 2 Dec 1831, James Moore made a marriage bond to Patsy “Portice” in Surry Co. They next appear in the 1860 Surry Co Census where Patsy 42 and James Moore 46 have "taken to raise" Elizabeth Portis 25 (a likely daughter of Allen Portis).

1.2.x The Children of William Portis

1.2.1 Alfred William Portis (1848 – 1880)

The son of William Portis (1850 Census), AW Portice (12) is in the family of Wash Cox in the 1860 Surry Co Census. He married Elizabeth Ann Marsh on 12 Jan 1869 in Surry Co. He cannot be found in later censuses, but Elizabeth had remarried in Dec 1883 to Milton Fulp and they are in the 1900 Surry Census, with her son Henry A Portis (29), his wife Emaline (20) and daughter Ever (1) as boarders. His death is from Ancestry Trees with no documentation provided and the date conflicts with the birth of one child.

Jump to the children of Alfred William Portis

1.2.2 Lucy Portis (abt 1850 - ?) &
1.2.3 Sarah L Portis (abt 1850 - 1895)

These two children cannot be clearly separated in the existing records. In the 1850 Stokes Co Census, their father William 60 and mother Edith 31 are listed with Alfred W 2 and Sally L 4/12. In the 1860 Surry Co Census, Sarah L is 12 and living with the Exum Peal family, while Lucy 8 is living with the Timothy Peal family. In the 1870 Surry Census, they are back together with an Elizabeth Portis 49 and Lucy is entered as 17 and Sarah as 19. Elizabeth could be the divorced wife of Silas Portis. VA marriage records have Sherwood King 19 marrying a “Lucy Potis” 19 on 4 Aug 1875 in Wythe Co. In the 1880 Wythe Census Sherwood King 23 and Lucy King 23 are listed. The last known record is a headstone for “Lucy Potis” in Wythe Co with the dates of 21 Jul 1856 – 5 Jul 1895.

1.3.x The Children of Allen Portis

1.3.1 James Allen? Portis (1834 – aft 1900)

James married Julia Ann Puckett in 1861 (from 1900 Census). In 1860, July A Pucket (17) is listed with her mother Jane (35) and James Gunnel (38) in Patrick Co along with several younger Gunnel children. In the 1870 Patrick Co Census, James Portice (37), Julia A (30), John (10), James (8), Ann (6), Robert (4) and Mary (1) are listed just below his father Allen. In the 1880 Patrick Co Census they are listed as James (46), Julia A (36), John R (18), James L (16), Annie J (14), Robert W (12), Sarah M (8), Rufus M (6) an Cusie L (4). The final appearance of the family is in the 1900 Patrick Co Census where James (66), July A (57), Mary F (29), and grandson Silel M (3) are listed. Daughter Mary appears to have adopted Sewell Monroe Portis, the oldest son of her brother Rufus Monroe Portis and his first wife, who died in 1899. Mary and (Sewell) Monroe appear together again in the 1910 Patrick Co Census. The families of James' son William R Portis and daughter Anna J Howlett are living nearby. No documentation for the middle name of Allen has been found, which is stated in several Ancestry trees.

Jump to the children of James Allen? Portis

☠️ Portis Cemetery in Patrick, VA

This cemetery was probably started by Allen and son James on the farmland they owned (1870 Agriculture Census).The family home of James Portis existed until the late 1990's and could be seen from the cemetery. It is likely the Allen, second wife Sarah, James and his wife Julia are buried there. The earliest dated maker is for Rhoda Ann Marshall Portis (1878 – 1899), the wife of Rufus Monroe Portis, but the current marker is not that old. The oldest markers are for Peter Howlett (1910) and Annie L Howlett (bef 1910, but date not inscribed), two children of G.O. Howlett and Annie Jane Portis Howlett.

James Portis homestead near the Portis Cemetery in Patrick Co before it was demolished.

1.3.2 Elizabeth Portis (abt 1835 – ?)

Elizabeth is assumed to be a child of Allen based on a 1860 Surry Census record, where she is “taken to raise” by Patsy Moore (a sister of Allen). Subsequent census and marriage records are confusing as to who she may have married.

1.3.3 John Portis (abt 1838 – bef 1880)

The father of John is uncertain. Census records do not support him being the son of William (1.2), Allen (1.3), Ira (1.8) or any others. He served in the Civil War (Surry NC, Co A 28th Inf Regiment, NC; enlisted 5 Apr 1861, deserted 1 Mar 1863). He married Francis Draughn on 21 Dec 1865 in Surry. She was widowed (McKinney) and already had three children. They are listed in the 1870 Surry Census.

1.8.x The Children of Ira Preston Portis

1.8.1 Robert Allen Portis (1831 – 1887)

Robert was living with his father and step-mother in Mt Airy, Surry Co in the 1860 Census. He served in the Civil War with his cousin George W Portis, and both deserted Jan 23 1864 and were released on Jul 5 1864. Both then went to Morgan IN.

1.8.2 Sarah C Portis (1847 – ?)

Sarah was born in Surry, but moved with her father by the 1870 census to Wytheville VA. She married William Thompson.

1.8.3 Rebecca Jane Portis (1848 – ?)

Rebecca was born in Surry and married first Manuel G Midkiff on 06 Fef 1864 in Surry. She married second Robert Schafer on 17 Jun 1880 in Wytheville.

1.8.4 Martha Emily Portis (1852 – aft 1954)

Martha was born in Surry Co and married William Peter Fisher in 1866 in Wythe VA.

1.8.5 Josephine Portis (1855 – 1933)

Josephine was born in Surry Co and married Robert Franklin Williams on 14 Nov 1883 in Wythe VA

1.8.6 John Walter Portis (1856 – 1939)

John was born in Surry Co and married Zilpha Catherine Peebles on 14 Oct 1876 in Wythe VA.

The other known children of Ira were born in Wythe VA:

1.9.x The Children of Uriah Portis

One Ancestry Tree has Uriah and his first wife Sarah Reed having two children in Surry Co; Lucinda in 1829 and William in 1830. Nothing more is known about them.

1.11.x The Children of Josiah Portis

1.11.1 Emaline Portis (1833 – 1877)

Emaline or Emeline was born in Davidson NC and married Devro Charles Gurley on 9 Nov 1858 in Guilford NC. They are in the 1860 Guilford Census but had moved to Hendricks IN by the 1870 Census.

1.11.2 Silas P Portis (1834 – 1904)

Silas was born in Davidson NC and married Rebecca J Holaway on 23 Jul 1856 in Guilford NC. In the 1860 Guilford Census, Rebecca (20) with her children Louise A (3) and Charlotte (1) are listed as a family below “Cilus” who is working as an engineer for a mining company. Silas moved to Morgan Co in 1870 according to a Morgan Co Guidebook. Brother George was already living there. At some point he divorced and on 18 Nov 1877 he married Mary A Thompson Bray. They are in Hendricks IN in the 1880 Census.

1.11.3 Elizabeth Portis (1836 – ?)

Elizabeth was born in Davidson NC. Nothing else is known, but many Ancestry Trees confuse her with Martha (1.11.5).

1.11.4 George W Portis (1839 – 1916)

George was born in Davidson NC and married Mariah Elizabeth Minton on 29 Jan 1865 in Morgan IN. George and his cousin Robert Allen Portis (son of Ira Preston Portis) deserted from the Confederate Army in 1864. They both moved to Morgan Co shortly after their release from Camp Nelson TN.

1.11.5 Martha Portis (1841 – abt 1915)

Martha was born in Davidson NC and in the 1850 Davidson Census she is living with the Clinard family, separate from the rest of the family. She married Calvin Gurley on 13 Jan 1859 in Guilford NC with her name recorded as “Pourtas”. He is believed to have died in the Civil War and she next married Charles H Walker on 25 Sept 1865 in Guilford NC. By the 1880 Census they are in Hendricks IN.

1.11.6 Louisa J (1846 – ?) &
1.11.7 R Y Portis (1849 – ?)

They only appear in the 1860 Guilford Census with their mother, George, and Elizabeth. Louisa may have married a John Read or Reed according to VA marriage records of one of their children.

1.2.1.x The Children of Alfred W Portis Henry Anderson Portis (1869 – 1913)

Henry was born in Surry Co and married first Emaline Joyce on 13 Feb 1898 in Surry. In the 1900 Census they are living in Surry with his mother Eliza and her second husband Milton Fulp. On 01 May 1904 he married Ida Florence See in Lawrence KY. Sadie A Portis (1879 – 1954)

Sadie was born in Surry Co and married John Franklin Fuller on 29 Jun 1898 in Surry. They are in the 1930 Surry Census and Sadie is widowed in the 1940 Surry Census. She may have been born in 1878 according to the 1900 Census. Ella Lee Portis (1881 – 1957)

Ella was born in Surry Co in 1881 according to her death certificate and marriage record. This conflicts with the death of her father in 1880 for which no documentation as been found. Ella married Charles Edward Holleman on 27 Dec 1902 in Surry. By the 1910 Census they had moved to Winston-Salem NC.

1.3.1.x The Children of James Allen Portis John R Portis (1863 – 1903)

John is listed in 1900 Patrick Co Census with wife Dora A (27), sons Henry (8), Floyd S (5) (actually Claude Swanson!), Walter (1) and half sister Zina B Smith (14). A Patrick Co Marriage certificate (Dec 2, 1886) lists the parents as James & Julia Portis and Texana Smith. In the 1880 Patrick Census, John R is listed with his younger brothers and sisters: James L, Annie J, Robert W, Mary F, Sarah M, Rufus M and Cusie L. No documentation of his middle name has been found as yet, but it is probably Robertson – the same as his son, Henry. After John's death, Dora moved the family to Surry Co by the 1910 Census where her brother-in-law Rufus M was also located. There she married Joseph M Snow in 1914, but he died in 1915. By the 1920 Census, Dora had moved the family to Winston-Salem where she ran a boarding house and her sons [Claude 25, Walter 20 (& wife Myrtle 18) and Joe Bill 18] and nephew Jeff (21) were living with her and working for RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. Her oldest son Henry had married and remained in Surry. James Little Portis (1865 – 1914)

James was born in Patrick Co and married Mahulda E Gardner on 31 Mar 1898. They probably married in Carroll VA, where Mahulda was born and where they are listed in the 1900 Census. By 1910 they are back in Patrick Co, living next to Robert, James' brother. By that time, they had two children, but neither was living. One of them, Annie L Portis has a marker in the Patrick Co Portis Cemetery with no dates. Annie Jane Portis (1866 – 1954)

Annie was born in Patrick Co and married George Osborne Howlett on 18 Dec 1895 in Carroll VA. They had several children and lived most of their lives in Patrick Co (1900, 1910, 1940 Censuses), but in 1920 they were in Rockingham NC. Annie and George are buried in the Portis Cemetery along with two children who died as infants. Mary Francis Portis (1867 – 1953)

Mary was born in Patrick Co and married John W Garner on 27 May 1910 in Carroll Co VA. In the 1900 Patrick Census she is living with her father James, having adopted her nephew Sewell Monroe Portis (oldest son of Rufus Monroe Portis). In the 1910 Patrick Census she and Sewell are living next to her sister Annie J Howlett. By the 1930 Census, John and Mary had moved to Rowan Co NC. Robert William Portis (1868 – 1921)

Robert was born in Patrick Co and first married Jezebelle Gardner on 19 Sept 1894 in Carroll VA. In the 1900 Patrick Census they are listed as William (32), Bella (26), and William J (1). They are living near his father James and his sister Annie J Howlett. Bella had two children but only one was still living. By the 1910 Patrick Census Robert W was widowed, with Jeff (11), Luzany (8), Johnnie (6), Matokey (4) and Bessie (3/12) in the family. They are living next to Robert's brother, James L Portis. Jezebelle appears to have died giving birth to Bessie (Beth). Beth is buried in the Portis Cemetery with the dates 1908-1910. Robert married next Rachel E Brady on 25 Jul 1910 in Patrick Co. Rachel had two children by her first husband (James Cloud). Rachel soon died of tuberculosis on 2 Feb 1913 from her death certificate. Strangely, her marker in the Portis Cemetery says Rachel Brady Porters with a death date of Nov 1908. Robert was living in Rockingham Co by 1918 according to his son's (Jeff) Draft Registration. In the 1920 Rockingham Census his children (Luzany, John A and Matokey) lived with him and worked in a cotton mill. Sarah Matilda Portis (1872 – aft 1930)

Sarah was born in Patrick Co and married William E Edwards on 28 Aug 1897 in Patrick. In the 1900 Patrick Census, they have one child and are living next to her sister Kathleen Howlett. By the 1920 Census they had moved to Rockingham Co NC where William and several of their children were working in a cotton mill. Rufus Monroe Portis (1873 – 1938)

Rufus was born in Patrick Co and married first Rhoda J Marshall on 29 Dec 1895 in Carroll Co VA. They had one child, Sewell (1896 – 1970), before she died. Rhoda is buried in the Portis Cemetery, but with the name Rody Ann Marshall. He married second Amelia Anne Gardner on 20 Jan 1904 in Wythe Co VA. In the 1910, 1920 and 1930 Censuses they were in Mt Airy, Surry Co NC where Rufus worked in a granite quarry. They had the following children: Roy Lonzo (1905), Elvira (1908), Maggie Vivian (1914) and Roscoe (1916). It is interesting that four Portis siblings (Rufus, Robert, Mary F and James L) married four Gardner siblings (respectively Amelia, Jezebell, John W and Mahulda). Kathleen Louise Portis (1875 – 1955)

“Kaziah” or sometimes “Kuzy” was born in Patrick Co and married first William Plove Howlett on 8 Nov 1896 in Carroll VA. Her sister Annie J married William's brother, George one year earlier. In the 1900 Patrick Census she is with William and sons Rufus and Edward. In the 1910 Census in Patrick she is “Kaziah” with 4 children, 3 living (Rufus, Viola and Lawson). William died in 1910 and by 1915 she had married John Shouse and had one son John Wilson Shouse by him. John died in 1917 and in 1919 she married Frank C Bush in Forsyth Co NC. By the 1930 Census, she had moved to Delaware with husband Frank. By the 1940 Delaware Census, she was married to her fourth husband, Ollie Willey.