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Hatcher History

The Hatcher Name and Family Origin


There are two versions of the origin of the name Hatcher.  One is that it was an Anglo-Saxon name for a family who resided near a hatch or gate which in most cases led to a forest, water sluice, or some other area that needed to be guarded, watched, or controlled. The name is derived from the OE word haecce, which means “hatch.”


The second version of the name is that it comes from the Norman-French word hache and means “a light battle axe” (hatchet).  After the Norman invasion the name was anglicized to Hatcher.  Version I gives the Hatchers roots in England; Version II would put them with the Vikings who invaded Scotland in the Ninth Century and then, a century later, moved to France and invaded Paris.  The French king, Charles the Simple, gave them the northern part of France which was renamed Normandy meaning “Land of the North Men” (or Vikings).  About a hundred years later, in 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, took his followers and invaded England, defeated the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Hastings, and became King of England. 


These two stories cause a dilemma in that they put the Hatchers on two opposing sides:  (1)  Part of the native defending forces or (2) Part of the foreign invading forces. If the Hatchers were in England  before the Battle of Hastings, they are probably of Anglo-Saxon or possibly Celtic origin.  If they came in 1066, they may be of Scandinavian (Viking) descent.  In addition, the first version finds the family named after a gate, the second after an axe; here we find a difference in occupation or livelihood—one pastoral or governmental, the other military.


 We can’t have it both ways, but whichever is true, the Hatchers--one way or the other--ended up in England.


Hatchers in England


The first recorded Hatchers that we can perhaps claim were found in Careby, Lincolnshire, England.  A monument dated 1564 at a cemetery in Careby indicates that members of the Hatcher family have been buried there since ancient times.  They were seated as Lords of the Manor of Careby from (some say) before the Battle of Hastings


According to one source, Sir John Hatcher of the Careby Hatchers was High Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1610, and his eldest son was Sir Thomas Hatcher, a Member of Parliament in Cromwell’s time (1649-1658)  Sir Thomas was sent as a commissioner to Scotland with Sir Thomas Vane.  Their task was to form a stronger union between England and Scotland. According to this source, that Thomas’ son was our William Hatcher who was born on the Careby estate in 1613 or1614 and immigrated to the American colonies in 1635 when he was about 22 years old.   Others say that our William was the son of Sir William Hatcher, a Member of Parliament who was arrested for treason in 1643.  Still other sources say that there is no definite proof linking our William to the Careby Hatchers, unless there is perhaps a link to Henry Hatcher who “disappeared” from public records and therefore cannot be proved or disproved as a possible father.


Why William Hatcher decided to journey to the colonies has not been determined, but England was a place of unrest, turmoil, and eventual conflict after Charles I ascended the throne.  In 1627 Charles married a French Roman Catholic princess.  This upset the protestant British and Scottish population.  Charles embroiled England in the Thirty Years War and when opposed on some of his decisions, dissolved Parliament.  He ruled without Parliament for what was called the Eleven Years Tyranny.  He played favorites, raised new taxes, argued over religion, fought with Scotland, imposed cruel punishments (executing some people and chopping off others’ ears) and in general caused problems that led to the English Civil War in 1642.  From our William’s success in Jamestown, we know that he was perceptive and had common sense.  He probably foresaw what was going to happen in England and chose to remove himself  in 1635 before the war began,


Hatchers in America


Whatever his reasons for coming and whoever his parents were, our first Hatcher-- William  (1613-1680)--came to the Jamestown Colony of Virginia in about 1635 already  a man of some means.   Like the names of his parents, the name of his wife is disputed, but he and his wife had six children and became quite prosperous.  They established a large tobacco plantation—one of eleven plantations along the James River—and William was elected to the House of Burgesses.  He had a fiery temper and was once chastised for defaming the Speaker of the House of Burgesses.  He was also once annoyed with poachers who stole fish from his ponds and ordered his servants to destroy any canoes they found in the swamps. In addition, he participated with his neighbor Nathaniel Bacon in the ill-fated Bacon’s Rebellion and was fined for his involvement.  (See “Ancestor of the Month” article about William Hatcher for more information.  Go to the AOM page on the navigation bar, and when you reach that page, click the sentence at the top of the page that says “To see previously published AOM articles, click here.”) William was apparently well to do from the time he arrived in Jamestown, for he paid for the transportation of three “importees” when he arrived and received 50 acres per importee plus fifty acres for himself.  He used this method of acquiring more land several times during his life.


William’s son, Edward (c1636-1711) was our ancestor of the second generation.   He was born at Varina Plantation and married Mary Ward about 1659 in Henrico Co., VA.  The couple had seven children.  Edward helped to amass more land for the family and served with his brother Benjamin as an administrator of his deceased father’s estate.


Edward’s son William was our next ancestor.  William (c1660-1736/37) married Anne Burton 25 Sep 1682 in St. John's Church, Henrico Co., VA.  They had four children.  William’s grandfather had acquired extra land by paying for the passage of new citizens to the colony.  These people worked as indentured servants over a number of years to pay off their debt.  The colony awarded fifty acres per importee to the person who paid their passage. On 2 May 1705, William did the same thing as his grandfather and paid for the passage of eleven colonists.  He received 550 acres for his action.


William’s son William (1695-1770) married Obedience Unknown, and they had six children. William was quite prosperous.  He inherited and acquired land, was a tobacco planter, and was involved in business. Obedience outlived her husband by only two or three years.


Edward Hatcher (1726 –1781/1782)  married Sarah Heil.   The couple lived in Bedford County, Virginia and had eleven children.  Their son William was the first Hatcher to bring his family to TN.  There is dispute over William’s parentage and over his mother’s surname, but he and his siblings are listed in Edward’s will, and  a number of William’s children have names that are the same as Edward and Sarah’s children.


 William Hatcher (1776-1850) was the first Hatcher to be considered a “Tennessean.”  However, much of what is now TN was at one time North Carolina.   About 1790 William married Mary Elizabeth (Polly) Crowson  who was the daughter of William Crowson and  Mary Thomas.  William Crowson was a  Revolutionary War veteran  (See “AOM” article about William Crowson for more info.)  William and Polly established a large farm in the Wears Valley section of Sevier County.  Their farm has been passed down through the family and is still owned by a Hatcher.  It is a Century farm.  William and Polly had eleven children


William’s son Reuben (1798-1878) continued the Tennessee Hatcher traditions of farming and having a large family.  He married Martha McGill 01 Jun 1821 in Blount Co., TN.  As his parents had done, Reuben and Martha had eleven children.  Much of daily life in Sevier County during Reuben and Martha’s tenure as head of the Hatcher clan depended upon the barter system.  A look at “The Hatcher Papers” which consists of receipts, bills, letters, and other documents covering over 100 years shows what daily life must have been like in early Sevier County.  Reuben displayed his common sense and wisdom in his will when he described how his daughters should divide the articles he had left to them.  Two of the girls (Reuben named which two) were to divide the property; the two other girls (Reuben listed the order) would get first choice of the four portions


Reuben’s son “Pete” (James H. Hatcher—1839-1900) also had a family farm in Wears Valley.  He married Mary McInturff, a descendant of German immigrants (yes, German--their surname was originally Meckendorfer), and the couple produced ten children.   Pete served in the Civil war as a soldier in the Union army.  Earlier Hatcher families in Virginia had had both indentured servants and slaves.  Slavery, however, was not a widely accepted social institution in Sevier County.  Most people preferred not to take sides, but those who did were generally for the Union rather than the Confederacy.


Israel Alexander Hatcher, next in line, was Mamaw’s father.  (See “AOM” article on Israel Hatcher for further information).  After a “wild” life as a young man, Israel became an Elder in the Primitive Baptist church and served over 60 years as a pastor.  His first wife, Susan Sutton was Mamaw’s mother.  Susan was the daughter of Russell Merritt Sutton and Elizabeth Ann (Betsy) Headrick.  His second wife, Sariah McCarter, daughter of Thomas Hill McCarter and Marriah Reagan,  was Mamaw’s sister-in-law as well as her stepmother. 


In 1908 when Israel’s daughter Mary Elizabeth Hatcher was fifteen years old, she married Eli McCarter (who was also destined to become a minister) and left Wear’s Valley and her father’s farm.  She moved with Eli to Cartertown, near Gatlinburg, and reared a family of twelve children—two of whom died in infancy.  She is the matriarch of our family and is a good example of the strong heritage we share.




“Descendants of William Hatcher 1613-1680”


“England Hatcher”              


Hatcher Family Charts and traditions


Hatcher Family Resource Center


House of Names.


Nugent, Nell Marion Cavaliers and Pioneers.  Vol. III, p. 95


Summary of “The Hatcher Papers”  photocopy. 


Symonds, Rev. Francis Campbell, DD.  “The Hatcher Family.  William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, 2nd Ser. Vol. 16, No. 3. (Jul 1936), pp.457-468).


Virginians: The Family History of William Hatcher (c.1615-c.1679)

Eli and Betsy McCarter Family Web Site
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