Aaron Brock/ Red Bird (father of Jesse Brock) vs. the Genealogical Proof System

In this article I will apply the GPS to an 18th century man who is known on the Internet by a variety of names. He is always called Aaron Brock but other names associated with him are: Sizemore, Moytoy, Carpenter, Totsuwha, Atsilagolanv, Fire Raven and most frequently Red Bird. Many people make the claim that this man, Aaron Brock, was the father of Jesse Brock born in Cumberland County, VA in 1751. Jesse's existence is not in question, he is well documented, at least in his later life. This article attempts to answer two genealogical questions.

1. Who was the father of Jesse Brock b. 8 December 1751 in Cumberland County, VA?

2. Was there a man named Aaron Brock who went by the name Red Bird?

The majority of the research done in an attempt to answer these questions was done by Kathie Forbes, a most excellent genealogy researcher. And yes folks, we are talking about genealogy here. This is not the same as family history, written or oral. We are applying the GPS, genealogical proof standard, to our research. If you do not know what the GPS is, look it up. It is the basis of all genealogical work. At its heart, the GPS requires documented proof to support our claim. By documents, I mean a piece of paper in the form of a will, land deed, marriage license, etc. These are the building  blocks of a genealogical proof. So here we go.

Who was the father of Jesse Brock, b. 8 December 1751, in Cumberland County, VA?

Let me start by saying that there were multiple men named Jesse Brock who were contemporaries, living in Virginia and North Carolina between the years 1775 and 1800. There was a Jesse Brock who lived in Duplin County, North Carolina and is found in multiple census beginning in 1790. [1] This man has been confused with Jesse Brock, the subject of this article. So, if your ancestor was a Jesse Brock from Duplin County, this is not your man. There was also a Jesse Brock who lived in Henry County, VA, very close to Jesse Brock of Guilford County, also a different man.

What do we know about our Jesse Brock? Most of  the early information we have on Jesse, including his birth date and place of birth comes from his American Revolutionary War pension files. [2] In his application he was asked when and where he was born  and he gave the above answer. He served three stints in the Revolutionary Army; he was drafted twice and volunteered once. His home at that time was in Guilford, North Carolina some 165 miles to the southwest of his birthplace. We do not know when he left Virginia but there are no records of him as an adult in Cumberland County.

The first record in which this Jesse can be found is the church membership records of the Matrimony Creek Baptist Church in Guilford County, NC; it was a short distance from the Virginia border and Henry County. In a list dated the 17th of September 1776 he and two women, Judey Brock and Hester Brock, were named in the list of parishioners. At that time there were less than 75 members of the church. No other male Brocks were listed as members of this church. Jesse would have been 25 years old at the time. [3] I have to believe that these three Brocks must somehow be related.

Jesse said in his pension application that the first two times he enlisted he lived in Guilford, and the third time he lived in Surrey, North Carolina. After his last discharge he returned to Guilford. In the years after the war he moved back and forth from Guilford, NC to Franklin County, VA. Eventually he moved west to Russell County, VA, and finally to Knox County, KY which later became Harlan County, KY where he died in 1843. [4]

In each county in which he says he lived, in Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky there were other men with the Brock surname. Were any of these men his father or brothers?    The most intriguing man was George Brock who lived in Cumberland County, VA at the same time that Jesse says he was born. [5] Jesse named his first son George. [6] (see the DNA section for more)

Pre-internet, the name Reuben Brock was suggested as the father of Jesse. He seems to have been dropped as a contender. Reuben's wife was supposedly Christian Place. This pair has been converted into mythical Native Americans by the magic of the internet. The forerunner today is Aaron Brock. However there is a roadblock to this claim. Genealogists over the years have combed through court records, church records, land deeds, probate records and military records. There is no document, not a single one, that would even suggest who the father of Jesse Brock might have been.

The single clue that, let's call him Mr. Brock, has left us is his DNA, specifically the YDNA that has been passed down to his male descendants, father to son. Family Tree DNA has a great Brock surname project. The participants include  many documented descendants of Mr. Brock . What their DNA tells us is that Mr. Brock, whose haplogroup is J,  was of European descent. He did not have a direct male ancestor who was Native American. [7] Why is this information important? The reason is found in our second genealogical question concerning Aaron Brock / Redbird. Additionally, Mary/Polly Brock, wife of Ephraim Osborne, has female descendants whose MtDNA is haplogroup H, also European. This means that Jesse's mother, if he shared a mother with Mary, was also of European, not Native American ancestry.

Before we go on the second question, I need to answer the first. Who was the father of Jesse Brock? The answer simply put is, we do not know. There is no evidence whatsoever that gives us his name. The father of Jesse Brock is unknown.

Was there a man who went by the names Aaron Brock and Redbird?

As I explained in the first genealogical question, “Who was the father of Jesse Brock?,” there is not a single document that would identify this man. The only thing that can be said for certain about him is that he was of European descent, he was not descended from a Native American male. Despite any evidence, the internet abounds with claims that Aaron Brock was his father. And, Aaron Brock was not just any old English colonist. He was also a Cherokee Indian Chief named Red Bird. Jesse's mother is frequently said to be Susan Caroline Prieber, daughter of German utopian Christian Prieber and a Cherokee woman. How did we get from an unnamed man to Aaron Brock Indian Chief?

Part indian
In 1941 a man named Elijah Brock was interviewed by a woman named Annie Walker Burns. In this interview he said, "Jesse Brock was the first white settler on Wallins Creek  Kentucky. He was about a three-quarter Indian."  That is all the information he had about his great grandfather Jesse. And he seems to make two opposing claims in one sentence. First that Jesse was a 'white man' and second that he was almost a full blooded Indian. If he knew the name of Jesse's father, he didn't mention it nor that he was an  Indian chief. The interview was done almost 200 years after Jesse's birth when Elijah was ninety years old. Two hundred years in which information can be lost, altered or fabricated.  

Elijah goes on to say that Jesse had, "had so much Indian blood in him, that he had no trouble in living among the Indians who were thickly settled in the mountains when he first came, raised his family among them, hunted along with them, with no trouble whatever."  [8] In this sentence he makes two claims;  first, that the area of Wallins Creek was thickly settled with Indians and second, that Jesse raised his family among them with 'no trouble'. Can this be true?

For the first 50 or so years of his life, Jesse lived as a white man. He was born in Cumberland County, Virginia which was not home to the Cherokees. In 1751 they were living in Tennessee, Georgia, and the mountains of North Carolina. . See this map for the boundaries.  Jesse lived in white towns and settlements in North Carolina. He attended a Baptist church.  He was drafted and enlisted as a soldier in the American Revolution, relatively uncommon for a Cherokee. The majority of Cherokee sided with the British.  Following the war Jesse followed traditional white settlers routes into Kentucky, possibly going through the Cumberland Gap from Virginia into Eastern Kentucky. When he arrived there  around 1798, his children were mostly grown. Clearly he did not 'raise his family among them.'

Were there Cherokee living in Wallins Creek and would relations between them and the settlers have been peaceful?  A series of treaties beginning in 1770 negotiated ever shrinking Cherokee tribal lands. The boundary of Cherokee territory at the close of the revolution was south of the towns of Williamsburg, Barboursville and Pineville, Kentucky all along the Cumberland River. From Pineville the border dove down towards the Cumberland Gap. Wallin's Creek was not in Cherokee territory when the Brocks arrived. The 1798 Treaty of Tellico pushed the Cherokee south of the Cumberland River into Tennessee. Jesse was deeded his land on Wallins Creek in 1802.

Jesse and his sons are listed in the census from the year 1810 and on. They are always reported to be free white males.

Brocks in writing
A Brock sketch  in a 1961 book on early families of Kentucky stated “None of the records that have been examined reveals whom, when, or where he married.” The sketch is totally silent on who Jesse’s parents might be, and makes no mention whatsoever of any Indian connection. [9]

An article on the Brock family written in 1972 says [referring to the 1794 Cherokee attack led by Bob Benge on the Livingston family]: “This was the last known Indian raid in Southwest Virginia. Being a newcomer to the area the event made a deep impression on Jesse Brock, for, according to a descendant, James Brock of Leslie Co., Ky, the old man told and retold the story.”  This seems to be very odd behavior for a man whose purported father actively attacked and killed white settlers. [10]

The assumed relationship between Aaron Brock  and Jesse Brock was first put into print in 1958 in an unsourced family booklet written about the Strong family of Kentucky. The author wrote, "The Strong family of Breathitt and Owsley Cos., KY, was established by William, who was born about the year 1768 in VA and died about the year 1848. He was married about the year 1790 to Jennie Callahan (commonly called Jane), who was born about the year 1779 and died about the year 1815. She was a daughter of Edward and Mahalah Brock Callahan. Mahalah was a daughter of Aaron Brock  and a sister of Jesse Brock, who lived in Harlan County. The Brocks were part Indian."[11] This book is not sourced.

In another book published in 1979, author Francis Dunham writes, "Jesse Brock may have been a son of Aaron Brock, b 1721. Mahala Brock, who married Edward (Ned) Callahan, may have been Jesse's sister (Davidson, 1961). [12] This book is not sourced.

The source of the name Aaron Brock in unknown and no document is given as a source for this claim. So, we have the name of a potential father, Aaron, but there is no Aaron Brock found in any of the places where we find Jesse. There is no Aaron Brock in Cumberland County, Virginia in 1750. Why not? Some would have us believe that it was because he was actually a Native American man - Redbird.

Red Bird
Who then was Redbird? Let's start with the Internet genealogy sites, Wikitree in particular as there are five different versions of Aaron Brock/ Redbird. These profile are found as of 8 June 2017.

1. Brock-1660: This profile is all but empty. It gives a birthdate of 8 December 1721 in Tennessee and death date of 10 Feb 1797 in Clay County, KY.  No sources are given. He is attached to a profile for a mother who is called Crisian Place Brock. Her profile is also empty and unsourced. Note that the date 8 December is the birthday of Jesse Brock, this should raise a big red flag. 🚩

2. Brock-3534: This is the profile for Aaron Totsuwha "Chief Red Bird" Brock. b. 8 December 1721, 🚩 Cumberland County, VA. d. 10 Feb 1797 in Kentucky. This profile is almost empty with no sources. It does say that he had a daughter Morning Dawn Brock Teaders.{See this website for Princess Morning Dawn} His bio contains only the question/statement that he was murdered over fur. Nothing else. There are no parents.

3.Moytoy-159: Chief Red Bird Red "Aaron Brock" Brock I formerly Moytoy. This profile states that this man was b. 1734 in Cumberland County, VA. His parents were: father Wilenawa "Great Eagle" Moytoy and mother Wurteh Woman of Ani'-Wadi Moytoy. Date of death is 1797 in Taluegue, Clay County, Kentucky. This profile is long on Indian names and short on sources. The ancestors of Moytoy-159 stretch back to the 9th century to a man named Hucbold "Count of Ostrevant" Ostrevant aka von Ostrevant from Normandy, France. Quite impressive, I must say. Of course I don't believe a word of it, but that is a story for another day. The place, Taluegue, cannot be found on a map. A google search results in websites about Red Bird and the Princess Morning Dawn Teaders story. A search of Google Books brings up the discredited Don Greene Shawnee Heritage books. This profile has three wives, Rebecca Howard, 🚩Susan Prieber and Rhoda Sizemore. Rebecca Howard is believed to be the wife of Jesse Brock.

4. Sizemore-204: Aaron Brock formerly Sizemore. b. 8 Dec 1721 Cumberland, VA d. 1820 Kentucky. wife was Rhoda Sizemore. This Rhoda has six husbands, three are variations of Aaron Brock and three others, whew. 🚩There are no sources and no explanation for the Sizemore name.

5. Redbird-5:  I just adopted this profile, he too is married to Rhoda Sizemore. b. 31 August 1758 and d. 20 July 1865. I do know quite where he fits in but I threw him into the mix anyway.

What do all these profiles have in common: a complete lack of sources. The Moytoy profile gives the illusion of being well sourced and has lots of information. But is any of it true?  I don't think so. What possible reason is there to think that the father of Jesse Brock was an Indian named Redbird? And was there really a man named Redbird? Let's see.

Red Bird(s)
There is a historical marker in Clay County Kentucky, #908. [13] The marker is for Chief Red Bird and says as follows (emphasis mine) “ Was a legendary Cherokee Indian for whom this fork of the Kentucky River is named. He and another Indian, Jack, whose name was given creek to the south, were friendly with early settlers and permitted to hunt in area. Allegedly they were killed in battle protecting their furs and the bodies thrown into river here. The ledges bear markings attributed to Red Bird.”  Although the marker does not say it, the date of his death is said to be 10 February 1797. This is the date most frequently given for the death of Aaron Brock. The murder of these two men was written about by Louis Philippe, future King of France, in his diary which has been published as a book. [14] The murder was also the subject of letters to and from John Sevier, Governor of Tennessee and James McHenry at the War Department,  they  are also found here. Sevier wrote about the two Indians calling one "the red bird"  and the other Will, which is different from the historical marker. Clearly this incident did occur and that there was a Cherokee called Red Bird. [15]

There was also a man named Red Bird who lived in Chilhowie, a Cherokee Indian town in Tennessee. In 1788 he and a fellow Chief, Slim Tom, killed the family of John Kirk at his home on Little River, 12 miles from present day Knoxville, Tennessee.  He may or may not have been the Red Bird who is said to have been from Chota another Cherokee town in Tennessee.

In 1805 a man named Red Bird, Tochuwar, signed a treaty in Tellico in Tennessee. This cannot be the same man who was murdered in 1797, but it does prove that there were multiple men who went by the name Red Bird.

In the 1835 Cherokee Rolls, there are eight men named Red Bird. Clearly, it was not an unusual name. There are no Brocks on the Rolls. In 1851-52 there was only one Cherokee family, named Coleman, recorded as living in Kentucky.

Someone posted this query on ancestry.com:
Looking for any information anyone may have on Chief Red Bird of the NC Cherokee. He was my GGGrandfather. He married Nancy Spurlock b.~1854 of Clay Co. KY and they had a child named Susan Spurlock. The story is that Chief Red Bird was killed and thrown into the River that was from then on called Red Bird River in Clay Co. The entire area is called Red Bird. I would appreciate any book info or anything at all on him or his Cherokee family . Thank you.

What do we really know then about Red Bird?  One, a man named Red Bird was killed in Kentucky in 1797 and two, a man (men) named Red Bird signed a treaty in 1805 and 1806. That's it. We don't know where or when he was born or who his parents were or who he was married to.

Can we connect one of them with Jesse Brock?  No. Can we prove that a man named Aaron Brock was the father of Jesse and his sister Susan?  No. Can we prove Aaron Brock was Red Bird? No.

Desperate lengths
Some people just really-really-really want this story to be true. One person turned to forgery to make it true.  Around 2005 the Brock message board was buzzing about a will that seems to solidify all the unsolved connections between Brock, Moytoy, and Prieber as well as the Yawhoo Falls Massacre myth. The will is supposed to be that of John Atsilagolanv Carpenter, who in the will states that he was the son of Aaron Tuchowor, son of Willenawah Ehgwa'wehali....and so on and so on. The will is dated 7 December 1844; written in Adrian, Missouri. It was entered into probate on 11 December 1844 in Van Buren County, Missouri. John left land to various men whom he said raised his brothers and sisters, who he says are now dead. John apparently had land in Missouri, Virginia and Kentucky. He then goes on to describe a murder and names the victims and their killers. He lists his dead relatives as well. It is a genealogist dream document. But it's not real, it is chock full of glaring errors.

The town of Adrian, Missouri was platted and named in 1880 after the railroad came through. There was no Adrian, Missouri in 1844. The land which is  now Adrian is in Bates County which was formed in 1841. According to the will, it was probated in Van Buren (now Cass) County, why? A quick check of the Van Buren probate records show that no will was probated for a John Brock or John Carpenter. The will says that it was entered into probate by Clerk Robert Tucker. The clerk of the probate court for Van Buren County at that time was James Jackson. [16]

Not only are the mechanics of the will false, but the whole verbiage is wrong. Who writes a list of their ancestors in their will? Who names a bunch of dead people in their will? His will says he has no heirs but the witnesses are Brocks. He claims to own land in Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri. How can he own land in Virginia? Where are the deeds? Where are the tax records? He claims to have written the will himself, where did he learn to read and write? Who writes about murders in their will? Clearly this is just a fake document  crammed with as much information as possible. Other less discerning people have taken this false info and run wild with it.

How to answer our genealogical question. There is no documentary evidence for a man named Aaron Brock who also went by the name Red Bird. There were multiple men named Red Bird. There is no reason to believe that Aaron Brock/Red Bird was the father of Jesse Brock. Let's just stop and think a moment about what it would mean if Red Bird, a Cherokee Indian was the father of Jesse Brock. Why would Jesse be living the life of a white settler if his father was a Cherokee Chief hell bent on driving white men out of the south? Jesse was drafted as a soldier twice during the Revolution and volunteered once. Did the states have the ability to draft Indians? Why would Jesse turn his back on his people and fight for a cause that would be to his own detriment? See this article on Indians during the Revolution.

Back to the DNA
So let's go back to the DNA. The Brock FTDNA website has dozens of Brock males who have done their YDNA. Based on these results,  the descendants of Jesse Brock share identical DNA with George Brock b. about 1680. His son George Jr. lived in Cumberland County, Virginia, the same place where Jesse was born. There was also a son named Joshua who lived in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. This is just across the border from Guilford County, North Carolina. It seems likely that Jesse's father was one or the other of these men.

Where does this leave us?  Jesse Brock was the son of a Brock. If he or his children have any Indian ancestry, it is not through the male line. The story of Red Bird is a 21st century one. In 1908 a Brock descendant, Savannah Miller, was applying for a share of the Eastern Cherokee payment (commonly called the Guion Miller Roll). She claimed her native ancestry through Susan Brock purported sister of Jesse Brock. She stated she knew nothing of Susan other than that she lived in Kentucky and died there.  She did not claim Aaron/Red Bird as the source of her native blood, provided no evidence of any Cherokee connection, and unsurprisingly, her application was denied.  

See this article on Christian Gottlieb Priber


[1] "United States Census, 1790," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHK1-XKH : accessed 6 June 2017), Jesse Brock, Duplin, North Carolina, United States; citing p. 37, NARA microfilm publication M637, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 7; FHL microfilm 568,147.

[2] U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900, database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 June 2017), Jesse Brock, Kentucky, citing p. 124, NARA microfilm publication M804, roll 347.

[3] Matrimony Creek Baptist Church Records, 1776-18, digital images; University of North Carolina (http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/01825/#folder_1#1 : accessed 6 June 2017) folder 1, scan 56.

[4] U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900, database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 June 2017), Jesse Brock, Kentucky, citing p. 124, NARA microfilm publication M804, roll 347.

[5] Abstracts of the Cumberland County, Virginia, Court Order Books from June 1749 to May 1756, by Sheila Fretwell, 1987, pp. 48, 61, 74, 80, 118, and 205. (can be purchased on amazon.com)

[8] Elijah interview

[9]William Kozee, Early Families of Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky and their Descendants. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1973) pp. 91-93. Originally published in 1961

[10] Luther F. Addington, The Brocks Ephraim and Aggie Caldwell of  Eastern Kentucky and Southwest Virginia and their descendants, (Wise, VA : The Historical Society of Southwest Virginia, 1972). digital images, Ex Libris Rosetta.  Click here for link to this book.

[11] Mrs. J. C. Hurst, The Strong Family of Kentucky, (Lexington, KY, 1958). This is a 19 page manuscript.

[12] Francis Yeager Dunham, The Howards of Southeastern Kentucky, (University of West Florida, published by Kathleen White, Panama City, FL (1979, reprinted 1985).

[13] Historical Marker Program, searchable database, Kentucky Historical Society
(http://history.ky.gov/bring-khs-to-your-town/historical-marker-program/ : accessed 8 June 2017) marker #908.

[14] Louis Philippe, King of the French, 1773-1850. Diary of My Travels In America. New York: Delacorte Press, 1977.

[15] Papers of the War Department, database with transcriptions and images, (http://wardepartmentpapers.org/index.php : accessed 8 June 2017) letter from James McHenry to John Sevier, 20 April 1797.

[16] Cass County Probate Records, 1836-1859, Vol A-D, Missouri Probate Files, 1750-1998, digital images, Family Search (www.familysearch.org : accessed 9 June 2017).

Additional reading/sources:

[1] Great article explaining DNA results and Native American ancestry : Are You Native?

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