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History of the BEST Family of Illinois

by the late Vera Butler Ruffini, of Staunton, IL

Michael Best was one of the first documented Best ancestors to come to Illinois, leaving his native state of North Carolina for Tennessee and moving from there to his permanent home in Illinois circa 1822-1823. Michael owned land in Tyrrell County, NC, as proven by copies of land deeds obtained from the county seat, Columbia. Also, there is a copy of the will left by his father, James, obtained from Tyrrell County.

Michael married Anna Spence in their native state of NC, bought land, had eight known children born there, moved to TN where they must have stayed six to seven years and where two children were born. Then they moved again to IL where Wesley was born. Two of his younger children, John and Mary Ann, claimed Illinois as their birthplace in the 1850 census. The youngest, Wesley, though, was the only child documented to be born in Illinois. All other children gave North Carolina as their birthplace.

Michael began buying land in southeastern Macoupin County, NE corner of section 25. It was located northeast of the crescent site of Staunton, but at the time was wilderness inhabited by Indians. Most of his children settled within a ten-mile radius of the home place, some going across the Madison-Macoupin County boundary line to get land grants on improved land to Omphghent and Olive Townships, which would become good farms. Some of his later descendants scattered to various places, especially Washington state and Oregon, but a large number chose to stay within a fairly close circle of the home base. The early generations were farmers with varying degrees of financial success, but all worked very hard to make a living for their large families.

The Sawyer and Best families came about the same time; whether they came together has not be proved, but pioneer groups did travel together so it would seem reasonable. They had lived in the same area of NC. Bert Sawyer, descendent of Stephen Sawyer, one of the original early Sawyer settlers, said his great grandfather told him a large caravan of Sawyers and Bests came to Macoupin County about 1818 and camped in the area of #7 Coal Mine until they could find land which suited them. It is doubtful that Michael Best came that early. It is more likely that he arrived about 1822-1823.

Vera Ruffini, Researcher

BEST family marriages and deaths

Addendum to the above note: It appears that the Best that arrived in the area before Michael, possibly with the 1818 encampment, was James Best, who is listed in the Macoupin County 1820 Census. There is a Michael Best and family listed in the 1820 Tennessee Census in Williamson County, TN. It is probable that Michael, Anna, and family lived in Tennessee as long as 7 years. There is a discrepancy on the birth date of Michael. His headstone in Staunton, IL lists his birth date as 1777 while the North Carolina State Archives lists his birth date as 1774.

The following children were born in this order in Tyrrell County: Joseph, Ephraim, James, William, Elizabeth J., Phetnea, Kisiah, and Frances, who was born in 1815. The next two children, John (1819) and Mary Ann (1822) were born in Tennessee. They are listed on the fencepost counting in the Tennessee Census. Wesley has been documented as born in Macoupin County, IL. There is also at this point (1998) some speculation that Anna Spence's father came with them on the trip from NC, although he may have arrived later. The Macoupin County 1850 Census lists an 81-year-old man by the name of Spence living with Michael and Anna.

Michael is listed in the Macoupin County Land Deed records as having bought his first piece of land in 1829. It was 80 acres. He proceeded to buy up 200+ acres in the Macoupin/Madison County area, usually 40-80 acres at a time.

Myra Best Christeck, Researcher

Please contact the submitter for info on these folks:

Myra Christeck- mojobuji@triconet.org



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