Sharp Family History
History of the Sharp Family of West Virginia by Robert M. Sharp, March 5, 1994 Surnames came into use around the twelfth century in the British Isles, when William’s son became Williamson and John the blacksmith became John Smith. Aside from obvious contractions, other names were given to physical and personality characteristics. Sharp was said to come from quality of mind as did Good, Quick, Wise, etc. The Sharp family is Anglo-Saxon in origin, coming to Britain from what is now Germany or France before the tenth century. In England, the Hundred Rolls of 1273 lists three Sharps (spelled Scharpe). The spelling implies the Saxon origin. The differences in spelling depended on the phonetics of the clerk doing the recording. In England the trailing “e” is most common, while in Scotland the name is spelled without the “e”. The Scots are very thrifty and would not spend an extra “e” without good reason. After the Hundred Rolls there are only scattered reports of the name for the next two hundred years, but the major Sharp lines can now be traced back to 1470 and the War of the Roses in England. I’ll try not to give you too many history lessons as doing it yourself is most of the fun in family research; however, I will tell you that the Dukes of York and Lancaster were fighting over the crown of England and the Sharps in Little Horton were caught in the middle. The village of Little Horton is now part of the industrial city of Bradford. The war scattered the family into three branches. One group led by James Sharp went north into Scotland. Christopher Sharp took another contingent into the Bristol area of western England and the remainder toughed it out in Yorkshire and is still there today. Lines of descent are spotty for the next two centuries and are heavily influenced by the religions of the areas involved. John Knox turned the Scots into Presbyterians, George Fox made the Bristol (Tetbury) tribe into Quakers and the Yorkshire group remained Catholic or became Anglican. This is helpful information in following the migration to America. My interest in the Sharp line came about when my first son, Daniel, was born in 1962 and Nearah Sharp, an aunt, recited our descent from another Daniel Sharp born after the American Revolution. As I studied the descent, there were assumptions that bothered me. Namely, the connection between a poor Presbyterian Virginia family, and a wealthy Quaker Pennsylvanian one, and an apparent generation gap in the connection. So, I started my own investigation that has consumed hundreds of hours—but has given me much pleasure in the process. Let’s start from the bottom up. My father was Vernon Sharp, born March 28, 1900, in Branchland, West Virginia. He had no middle name. My generation is the first to have middle names. Vernon’s father was Otto Sharp, born September 30, 1870, in a lumber camp where the Cabell County Courthouse in Huntington, West Virginia now stands. Otto’s father was Thomas Sharp, Civil War survivor of Andersonville Prison and the Sultana steamboat disaster, who was born in Warm Springs, Virginia January 15, 1840. The father of Thomas Sharp was Robert, born July 1, 1811 near Frost, West Virginia. His father was Daniel, son of John Sharp, a pioneer settler of Pocahontas County, West Virginia. This is about all that we know for certain. The family arrived at Frost in 1802 and was staunchly Presbyterian. They were part of the Scotch-Irish wave of immigration that settled western Virginia in the last part of the eighteenth century. Scotch-Irish means that the Scots may have made an intermediate stop in Ireland before coming to America. A major Scotch-Irish settlement came from a grant made by Governor ***** after 1736 called the Beverly Manor. This was located in what was then Augusta County near present day Staunton, Virginia. Detailed Augusta County records were compiled by Lyman Chalkley into a chronicle of the Scotch-Irish in Virginia. In that chronicle is a record of adoption for four orphans, who were children of John and Margery Sharp. Two boys, William, born 1744, and John, born 1746, are of direct interest. It is pretty well established that William became an Indian scout and revolutionary soldier and was the pioneer settler of Huntersville, West Virginia, near Marlinton, in 1773. This is only 10 miles from Frost. John isn’t as easy to trace. There is a John Sharp in the 1782 census in Greenbrier County. Pocahontas County was later created out of parts of Augusta, Bath, and Greenbrier counties. The John Sharp of Frost came from Rawley Springs, Rockingham county and was reputed to be William’s nephew. Rawley Springs is near Staunton. The Scotch-Irish of Beverly Manor were led by John Craig, who had ministered to the Scots in New Jersey near Philadelphia and who baptized the Sharp children. New Jersey had three prominent Sharp families in the early eighteenth century, but two of these were Quaker and their histories are well documented. Anthony Sharp of Tetbury and Ireland owned nearly one-third of New Jersey at one time. Both families produced judges and legislators. Samuel Sharp was a member of the Continental Congress. Only the poor Presbyterians had reason to risk the wilderness. This Scottish line stems from two brothers, John and George Sharp, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, that came to American in 1684 as indentured servants. They were from the Presbyterian St. Nicholas parish and were sons of Andrew Sharp and Helen Henry. Patrick Henry descended from Helen’s family. John Sharp, the immigrant, was a carpenter, who served his indenture and then lived and worked in Manhattan when it was just a village port. His home was in the same block with Captain Kidd and his property tax bill for 1697 was one fathom of white wampum raised in support of the poor. He must have tired of crime and high taxes as he soon moved back to Perth Amboy where his son John eventually produced John III and Matthew. Circumstantial evidence points to John the third as being father of the Staunton orphans that eventually settled Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Aberdeen had several Sharp families by the time that John and George immigrated. The most famous is that of James Sharp, Archbishop of St. Andrews and leading church authority of Scotland. He was imprisoned by Oliver Cromwell in the Tower of London and upon release was instrumental in restoring Charles II to the throne of England. In 1679 James Sharp was ambushed on the moors and murdered by radicals opposed to Charles. James Sharp descends from his grandfather, David Sharp, a leading merchant of Aberdeen and his father, William, who was Sheriff-Clerk of Banffshire. James was born in the castle and his mother was Isabell Lesley, daughter of a prominent baron. Our line ties in there somewhere, but we don’t know where at this time. A descendant of the archbishop, General William Sharp, traces the family back to Little Horton. If it is established that we descend from David or his brother, then we will have a fairly solid lien back to 1450. The descent goes like this: 1. James Sharp of Little Horton came to Bullhill in Perthshire in the reign of King James III of Scotland around 1470. 2. His son Patrick was the baron of Bullhill in the time of James IV and V of Scotland. 3. Patrick’s son James died before 1550 in the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. 4. James’ son John succeeded his grandfather as baron of Bullhill and had two sons, James and David. 5. David Sharp, who as younger brother of James didn’t inherit, made his way to Aberdeen. 6. There are two generations missing here as David was born around 1570 and Andrew around 1635. 7. (6 &7) 8. Andrew’s 1659 marriage and family is well documented in parish records. 9. John the immigrant was christened November 20, 1664. 10. The immigrant’s son, John was the first American Sharp born about 1690 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. 11. John the third moved to Beverly Manor about 1740. 12. John the fourth was the orphan born 1746. 13. John the fifth married Margaret Blaine, daughter of prominent Rawley Springs Presbyterian minister. John moved his large family to Frost in 1802 and there is some census evidence that his father came along. 14. Daniel was one of twelve children. Six girls, six boys. He married Peggy Palmer October 2, 1804, with Daniel Blain as minister. Pocahontas history has him moving to Leading Creek, Lewis County sometime between 1837 and 1850. The 1850 census lists him as a mechanic and we think he may have followed the railroad west. 15. Daniel’s son Robert moved to New Martinsville, Wetzel County just before the Civil War. He died June 24, 1892 and we recently discovered his gravestone in Williams Cemetery buried under a yucca plant laced with poison ivy. 16. Thomas joined the Union Army at Parkersburg, and after the war conducted sawmill operations along the Ohio River as did his brother James in New Martinsville. Thomas died July 28, 1922 and is buried in Hatfield Cemetery at Inez, West Virginia. 17. Otto, like his family before him, worked with lumber and settled five miles south of Barboursville. He died September 20, 1967, just ten days short of 97 years and is buried in Ridgelawn Cemetery, 3 miles west of Barboursville. 18. Vernon spent his life in an automobile business and died in 1993 at the age of 93. He is buried at Oaklawn Cemetery north of Barboursville. 19. As number 19, I have two sons, Daniel Robert and David Vernon, with Daniel’s son Austin Robert, born October 10, 1991, the only male Sharp in the twenty-first generation of the line from Little Horton to Barboursville. Little Horton produced a number of successful Sharps. While James Sharp was famous as a Presbyterian leader, John Sharp became the Anglican Archbishop of York and his likeness is memorialized on the east wall of the York Minster. He was noted as a lecturer and the statue incorporates his fondness for delivering sermons out-of-doors with his love of books—notably the Bible and Shakespeare. Another Yorkshire John Sharp became a Roman Catholic Divine and Abraham Sharp, a contemporary and close relative of Archbishop John Sharp was renowned as a royal mathematician and astronomer. In America, Walter Benoa Sharp drilled the famous Spindletop, Texas oil well and his Producers Oil Company later merged into Texaco. He collaborated with Howard Hughes senior on a rotary drill bit through Sharp-Hughes Tool Company that later became the source of Howard R. Hughes fortune. Now for the puzzles: Where is Daniel Sharp buried and when and where was be born? He was married in 1804 in Rockbridge County, later owned land in Pocahontas County and moved to Lewis County before 1850. His son Robert ends up in Wetzel County before 1860. Did Robert join Daniel or only leapfrog him? It would be nice to know more! John, the orphan is a mystery. There are lots of John Sharps in Virginia in the late eighteenth century and it’s hard to sort them out. The Pocahontas history of Price says that John of Frost was a native of Ireland, but he also says that he was the nephew of William and it is well known that the two large Sharp families did not intermarry! William was definitely born in Virginia as attested by military records. It isn’t likely that John, the orphan, had John, of Frost, in Ireland! More research is needed on our ties to the Aberdeen family. St. Nicholas Parish records show a number of marriages and christenings going back to 1570. The Lesleys were prominent in the congregation, with more than one marrying Sharps, including the archbishop’s mother. There were 225 Sharp entries in the Aberdeen Phone book in 1992. In 1684, it was a small fishing village and the Sharps in a single congregation had to be related within a couple of generations. Today that church stands in the shadows of downtown Aberdeen, a major oil producing city. Genealogy is an open ended science—never complete—and I would challenge present and future generations to add to the body of knowledge.