There appear to be big errors in the account of the Stephen Holland Tilghman line as represented in the book The Tillman Family by Stephen Frederick Tillman and often repeated by numerous researchers. I don’t believe that “Joshua ‘Belitha’ Tillman” was the son of Stephen Holland Tillman. I also have doubts that Joshua “Belitha” Tillman was the father of Jeremiah Tillman, father of John Tillman and progenitor of Tillman families in Lowndes and Colquitt counties, Georgia.
Stephen Holland Tilghman (1738-1809) did appear to have a son named Joshua but he was not the same person as Joshua Tilghman of Chatham County, North Carolina. Stephen lived in Craven and Jones County in North Carolina from about 1764-1796. In 1796 he and a person who is probably his actual son Joshua both disposed of large amounts of land in Jones County after permanently relocating to York County, South Carolina.
In 1790 Stephen Tilghman is living in York County, South Carolina. There were other Tillmans/Tilghmans living in Upstate South Carolina at the time, many around Edgefield where the first name Stephen was often used. Researchers looking for NC connections may have been confused by this. But we know from Stephen Holland Tilghman’s will, later made out in Kentucky, that he owned land along the Catawba River:
“To my son Joshua Tilghman of the state of North Carolina, a tract of land where I lately lived on the Catauba River, Mechlenburg County, North Carolina, all cash notes due me in that state, 1 shot gun (and then to grandson Stephen Holland), my wearing apparel and $50.00 cash, and cash received from Kentucky for education of grandson Stephen Holland Tilghman.”
The Catawba River runs along the Western border of Mecklenburg County. Near the bottom of Mecklenburg County it also serves as the part of the NC/SC border for about a 9 mile stretch before that border becomes a surveyed line around the area of Tega Cay. Many families who lived in this area owned tracts of land technically located in both states. Mecklenburg County, North Carolina is the county North of York County, South Carolina. In the 1790 Census, Stephen Tillman was the 6th-to-last person enumerated in York County. If we imagine the census taker working from one end of the county to the other, this would be consistent with a household that would have been located in the NC/SC borderland region along the Catawba (a border that’s still in dispute today). I also found him on a document dealing with a ferry that ran across the Catawba between York and Mecklenburg.
In 1800, we have (presumably) the same Stephen “Tilman” living up the road, in the town of Salisbury, Mecklenburg County. Also in Salisbury is a George “Felman” (mis-transcribed) who would fit as another son mentioned in Stephen Holland Tighman’s will. Back in York County, South Carolina, Joshua “Tilman” is enumerated with his wife, 3 males under 10, and 2 slaves. I found a record for an 1833 will for Joshua Tilghman in York County. It lists the following children: Stephen, Elizabeth, Ivy (a son), John, Robert, and Synthia. Son Stephen would fit as the grandson mentioned in Stephen Holland Tilghman’s will. This Joshua clearly spent the rest of his life in this area, not hundreds of miles away in Chatham County. The fact that Joshua and Stephen were both mentioned in the same line of that will also seems to indicate that Joshua was the father of Stephen the grandson. It’s important to note that “Joshua ‘Belitha’ Tillman” did not, according to his will, have a son named Stephen.
But what’s more important in separating these two Joshua Tilghman’s is the next census. In 1810 we have a Joshua Tilman living in York County, SC (26-44 with a wife younger than 25) and another Joshua (Tillman) living in Chatham County, North Carolina (over 44 with a wife 26-44). The second Joshua seems to clearly be the Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman who was old enough to have fought in the Revolution while the younger Joshua from York County is clearly the son of Stephen Holland Tilghman who had also lived in York County and died in Kentucky. Researchers have confused and combined two different individuals.
I believe the mistake was made by an early researcher who made an educated guess after seeing Stephen Holland Tilghman list a son named Joshua “of the state of North Carolina” in his will. Checking the NC census, there’s only one Joshua found in North Carolina at the time of the will (Joshua "Belithia" Tilghman). If you overlook the Catawba River connection, you miss that there was another. To further compound things, I believe the man mistaken to be Stephen Tilghman’s son (Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman) also lived in Jones County, NC around the same time as Stephen before moving to Chatham County, NC. There were several other Tilghman families living in that area at the time. I believe all of them were ultimately related to the Gideon Tilghman (of Maryland) line. Stephen Tilghman was probably an uncle of Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman.
As for Jeremiah Tillman…
I’m still double-checking records but I also have doubts as to the claim that Jeremiah Tillman (1798-1886 of Lowndes County, Georgia) was the son of Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman of Chatham County, NC as stated in so many of the same family trees. The only hard evidence that I’ve seen is that a son named Jeremiah is mentioned in Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman’s will. Joshua was said to have been born in 1762. Jeremiah Tillman was born abt. 1777. I suppose it’s possible he fathered a son at 14-15 but is it likely? Again, I think early researchers may have made an educated guess after seeing Jeremiah list North Carolina as his birthplace in the 1850 census, then finding Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman list a son named Jeremiah in his will. As to the rest, I’ve never been able to find original documentation for the claim that Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman was married twice and to sisters (Patsy and Chloe Taylor). Where did this information come from? It’s repeated in books but no footnotes or references. I can find the second marriage in Jones County records but not the first. Making matters more confusing, in one book (A History of Savannah and South Georgia), the author states that Jeremiah Tillman was a native of South Carolina and living there when the war of 1812 was declared, then moved to Ware County, later to Colquitt where he lived the rest of his life. We have no evidence that Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman was ever in South Carolina so this seems to contradict the other story. Lastly, I also have a hard time believing the associated story regarding Joshua Tilghman (of Chatham County) having his name mispronounced as “Belitha”. Not only does this not make sense phonetically but Joshua (ostensibly) served with a unit made up mostly of his neighbors. The Tilghmans were a fairly well know family in the area and several relatives were officers in the militia. I’d have a hard time believing they didn’t know his first name. The entire story may be a house of cards.
If anyone has any hard evidence I’ve missed that might prove Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman was the father of Jeremiah Tillman of Lowndes and Colquitt County and/or the son of Stephen Holland Tilghman, I’d love to hear what you have. Otherwise, I believe researchers should take a hard look at what’s been passed along in books (and subsequently placed in hundreds of family trees)without much evidence. There’s still a chance that Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman may have been the father of Jeremiah Tillman. But I think the evidence points beyond all reasonable doubt that, at the very least, Joshua “Belithia” Tilghman was definitely not the son of Stephen Holland Tilghman.