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Signature of James L. Dusenbery and several photographs artistically combined.

  • Samuel B. Dusenbery
    (1758 - 10/10/1829)
    Settled in Rowan County, NC, after 1785
    m. first wife, name unknown, by abt. 1776

    m. second wife Leodocia Biles Rounsaville
    (b. abt. 1769) in 3/1790
  • John Dusenbery
    (12/26/1777 - 1/8/1851)
    m. Susana Wassic
    (b. 1792)
    on 10/14/1810
  • Mary Dusenbery
    (abt. 1792 - bef. 1829)
    m. John Brevard
    on 1/9/1815
  • Henry Rounsaville Dusenbery
    (1/7/1794 - 8/11/1852)

    m. Lydia Davis
    (2/24/1797 - 2/4/1857)
    on 10/1/1819
  • Samuel B. Dusenbery
    (1800 - 4/5/1855)
    m. Mary Ray Bowie
    (1814 - 10/25/1881)
    in 12/1830
  • Alice L.
    (1849 - 12/3/1864)
  • Henry D.
    (1/27/1855 - 10/30/1928)
    m. Carrie A. Dill
    (6/12/1859 - 5/14/1949)
    on 6/13/1878
  • Joseph D.
    (b. 1/1861)
    m. Anna E. Clouting
    (b. 1867)
    in abt. 1888
  • William D.
    (1861 - 1898)
  • James H.
    (1865 - 1877)
  • Lilla Bowie
    (2/21/1851 - 8/21/1855)
  • Ann H.
    (b. 1858)
  • Edmund H.
    (4/1/1865 - 4/23/1954)
    m. Bessie Crawford
    (1870 - 1936)
  • Laura
    (11/1862 - 6/20/1863)
  • Elizabeth
    (abt. 1863 - abt. 1864)
  • Grace Cornelia
    (11/20/1867 - 3/12/1939)
    m. John Keen Hankins
    (8/13/1863 - 12/5/194)
    on 8/24/1887

The Dusenbery Family

Erika Lindemann

The Dusenbery family name is variously spelled in sources as Dusenberry, Dusenbery, and Dusenbury. James himself spells his last name as Dusenbery and Dusenberry in the journal, and his tombstone reflects the unique variant Duesenbery. Still, the family's preferred spelling was Dusenbery, the spelling used consistently on legal documents and grave markers for the rest of the family. The name is an Anglicization of Van Doesburg. The Dusenbery's ancestors were Dutch, having emigrated from Doesburg, Gelderlandt, in Holland to New Amsterdam (New York City) in 1650. Hendrick Hendrickson Van Doesburg, the earliest known immigrant in the family, was literate and spent his early years in America as a town drummer and member of the Rattle Watch, a force of night watchmen who carried weapons, lanterns, and wooden rattles that made a distinctive sound to warn residents of fire or other threats.
Van Doesburg's descendants eventually moved to Hempstead, Long Island, and then to New Jersey, where James Dusenbery's grandfather, Samuel Dusenbery (1758–1829), was born (Dusenbery and Porcaro 8–24). In the mid-1750s a number of families from the Hopewell township in New Jersey began emigrating south. They were forced to make a new start after the "Coxe Affair," which saw the New Jersey Supreme Court invalidate deeds to thousands of acres in Hopewell, requiring owners either to buy back property that they had already paid for or relocate somewhere else. These pioneers settled in what was then Rowan County, NC, along the east bank of the Yadkin River. The area became known as North Carolina's Jersey Settlement, or "The Jerseys." In about 1789 Samuel Dusenbery and his son John (1777–1851) by a first marriage also left New Jersey, together with several other families, including the Rounsavilles and Brevards, to settle in Rowan County. In 1790 Samuel married Leodocia Biles Rounsaville in Salisbury, NC, with whom he reared three children—Mary, Henry, and Samuel B. By 1796 he had purchased a 76-acre tract of land near present-day Lexington, NC, and by 1810 the Dusenberys were among 12 families living in that village. A former soldier in the Revolutionary War and well-educated, Samuel Dusenbery became a merchant and farmer, was elected to the NC Legislature in 1800, and died in Lexington in 1829.
Map showing Henry
                            Dusenbery's store, Lexington, NC.Map showing Henry Dusenbery's store, Lexington, NC.

Image courtesy of the North Carolina State Archives

Samuel Dusenbery's son and James Dusenbery's father, Henry Rounsaville Dusenbery (1794–1852), was born in Rowan County and became a successful farmer, tanner, and merchant. He also owned Burkhart plantation outside present-day Lexington. Henry Dusenbery was active in civic affairs. He served as postmaster in 1818, was a justice of the peace and chairman of the county court, and supported partitioning Rowan County to form Davidson County in 1822. When lots establishing the town of Lexington were sold in 1824, he purchased Lot A on the courthouse square for his store. He also was one of the nine founding members of the First Presbyterian Church, formed in 1827. Before his death he invested in a mill and in the North Carolina Railroad, which reached Lexington in 1856. [1] By 1850, according to census data, he owned 800 acres and approximately $10,000 worth of real estate. He married Lydia Davis, the daughter of Joseph Davis and Susannah McCrorie, in 1819. A daughter Mary was born to the young couple on August 6, 1820, but she died at the age of six months and five days on February 11, 1821. By 1837 the Dusenberys had moved into an elegant eight-room house on what was then known as Davie Street in Lexington. The family of William Rainey Holt (1798–1868), a prominent Lexington physician and planter, lived across the street in "The Homestead." The Dusenbery house survives, forming the interior of the Piedmont Funeral Home at 405 South Main Street in Lexington. There, Lydia and Henry Dusenbery reared seven additional children. James had three brothers and three sisters: Edwin Lafayette, Laura Ann, Henry Mcrorie, Cornelia Lydia, William Brevard, and Mary Elizabeth.
The Dusenbery
                            home at 405 South Main Street, Lexington,
                                NC. Built in 1837 by Henry Rounsaville Dusenbery (1794-1852). The woman sitting
                        by the front door is probably James
                            Dusenbery’s sister, Cornelia
                            Dusenbery Smith (1831-1887). The younger woman may be
                            Cornelia’s daughter and James’s niece, Grace Cornelia Smith (1867-1939), who married John Keen Hankins in 1887.The Dusenbery home at 405 South Main Street, Lexington, NC. Built in 1837 by Henry Rounsaville Dusenbery (1794-1852). The woman sitting by the front door is probably James Dusenbery’s sister, Cornelia Dusenbery Smith (1831-1887). The younger woman may be Cornelia’s daughter and James’s niece, Grace Cornelia Smith (1867-1939), who married John Keen Hankins in 1887.

Image courtesy of the Piedmont Funeral Home, Lexington, NC

The Dusenberys were clearly a family of means and influence. They were able to educate all of their surviving children, daughters as well as sons. They owned slaves, 25 according to the 1850 census slave schedules. [2] As the biographical notes for names mentioned in James's journal indicate, the Dusenberys numbered among their friends and associates many of Lexington's elite: physicians, attorneys, clergymen, hotel owners, and other professional and business people. Henry and Lydia Dusenbery were fortunate in living long enough to see all but one of their children grow into adulthood, some entering successful marriages and others launching promising careers. Both parents died before the Civil War and consequently were spared the grief of losing children to the conflict. They were buried in the Lexington City Cemetery.
For James, as for so many others, the war years held considerable personal grief. His brother William succumbed to consumption in 1861. His brother Mack died in March 1862, and his brother Fayette was killed at Richmond a month later. James's youngest sister Lizzie was twice widowed by 1863. In 1864 three nieces—Alice and Laura Norcom, daughters of James's sister Laura, and Elizabeth Smith, the infant daughter of his sister Cornelia—also died.
In addition to mourning the loss of life, survivors of the war suffered significant economic losses. Investments in Confederate bonds were worthless. Many people resorted to the barter system for essentials, and work was difficult to find. James resumed his medical practice in Lexington after the war, but many of his patients were unable to pay him. At the beginning of the war, according to census data, James's assets were considerable. His real estate holdings were valued at $5100, and his personal property, including two male slaves, amounted to $4000. By 1870 the value of his real estate had declined to $3240, and his personal property was worth only $250. By 1886, the year in which he died, an inventory of his property revealed that people owed him $546.01 in uncollectible debts, some incurred prior to the Civil War. What happened to his two slaves—men who were 52 and 18 when the war broke out—is unknown.


^1. Click here and here to see two pages from an 1850-1851 map showing the proposed route of the railroad across Henry R. Dusenbery's property (North Carolina Maps).

^2. In 1827 Henry R. Dusenbery bought from Thomas P. Ives the slaves "Jacob, John and wife, Lettice and Patience, aged 4" (Shoaf). The inventory of Henry R. Dusenbery's estate at his death in 1852 names the following slaves: "Boy Austin, Mary Jane, & Jenny Lind, Pleasant, Mariah & child, Jacob, Hagar, Giles, John, Alfred, Sam, Mary[,] Elvira, George[,] Fanny & Robert" (Davidson County Records).

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