Joseph Henry Whitnah, Sr. and Ruth Southwood Burns

Joseph Henry Whitnah, Sr. Ruth Southwood Burns
Birth: 1792/1793 Birth: abt. 1795
Marriage: After Aug 1820 and before Feb 1821
Death: 22 Sep 1862 Ironton, Iron, Missouri Death: 1854
Burial: Cove Cemetary, Iron County, Missouri Burial: Bellville Cemetary, Richland County, Ohio
Father: Henry F. Whitenah Father: Robert Burns
Mother: Margaret Burns Mother: Rebecca Southwood

Joseph Henry Whitnah, Sr. is the son of Henry F. Whitenah and Margaret Burns. He was born in either 1792 or 1793(1), presumably in Berkely County, Virginia where his father and mother lived and died. By 1818 or 1819 Joseph moved to Livingston County, New York(2), where his uncle, Robert Burns, had previously moved. Joseph possibly lived with his uncle until he married Robert's daughter, Ruth Southwood Burns(3).

Ruth Southwood Burns is the daughter of Robert Burns and Rebecca Southwood. Ruth was probably born in 1795 in Berkeley County, Virginia(4). By 1807, the Burns family had moved to Groveland, Livingston County, New York(5). Kate Garrett Campbell tells the following story of Ruth and her family:(6)

Rebecca Southwood married Robert Burns and Frances Southwood married John Burns but they lived very different lives for the brothers were very different men... These brothers were entirely different in disposition, John being a good man in every way and Robert, the opposite.... Robert was a man of a cruel, violent temper. Rebecca and Robert moved to Ohio.

They had one child, a daughter [Ruth], and while she was quite small, one day he took her and her mother for a horseback ride, pretending to go on a visit or on business. After riding on and on, a great distance, he suddenly dissappeared, leaving her alone in the forest. He thought she could never find her way out. She lived on herbs and roots for several days, wandering around, trying all the time to find her way home. At the close of one day, she heard the tinkle of a cowbell and going in the direction of the sound she, at last, saw a cow. She followed it and came to a settler's cabin... How thankful she was! They treated her very kindly and finally restored to her father's home in Virginia. (7)

Ruth Southwood Burns married at least once and possibly twice before she married her cousin, Joseph Whitnah. In 1809/1810 she possibly married David Blair and had one child, Sophia. Around 1815 Ruth married David Coursen and had three children, Robert B., William, and Mina. David Coursen died 8 Aug 1820 in Livingston County(8). (See Burns of Berkeley Co., WV, Livingston Co., NY, and Richland Co., OH for details about the Robert Burns family and Ruth's possible previous marriages.) In late 1820 or early 1821, Ruth married Joseph Henry Whitnah(9).

Joseph and Ruth bought, sold, and farmed the land in Livingston County where three children were born to their family(10).

Presumably in 1838, Joseph and Ruth, along with the Robert Burns family, moved to Richland County, Ohio(11). In Jefferson Township Joseph and his wife farmed the land(12). It was here that Ruth passed away in 1854. She is buried in the Bellville Cemetary, Richland County, Ohio(13). After Ruth's death, Joseph moved to Ironton, Iron County, Missouri where he passed away at 70 years of age on 22 Sep 1862. Joseph is buried in Cove Cemetary, Iron County, Missouri(14).

Joseph Henry Whitnah, Sr. and Ruth Southwood Burns are the parents of the following children:
  1. Margaret Whitnah
  2. Rebecca Whitnah
  3. Joseph Henry Whitnah, Jr.


  1. Joseph was 58 years old in the 1850 Census and 70 years of age at death in 1862.
  2. Joseph could have been in Livingston County as early as 1810. Personal property tax lists for 1809 through 1819 list no more than 3 males over 16 in Berkeley County. At this time, there should have been four Whitnah males: Henry, John, William, and Joseph. Beginning in 1816, John is listed separately, while William appears in 1819. At the estate sale of Henry in 1819, both John and William bought items, while there is no mention of Joseph. Between the years of 1809 and 1818, one or both of William or Joseph no longer lived at home.
  3. Robert Burn's will mentions his granddaughter Margaret Leedy (nee Whitnah).
  4. See Burns of Berkeley Co., WV, Livingston Co., NY, and Richland Co., OH by Worth S. Anderson. Robert Burns married Rebecca Southwood on 15 Dec 1794 in Berkeley County. Ruth was likely born shortly thereafter. Although Robert remarried, Ruth is the daughter of Robert and Rebecca, as illustrated by the Will of Edward Southwood.
  5. Ibid.
  6. History of the Campbell Family in Berkeley County West Virginia (formerly Virginia) Written by Kate Garrett Campbell (Kate Campbell) for her Nephew, James Wilson Campbell. She writes two accounts of this same story in this history (both nearly identical).
  7. This story might not be entirely true in all regards. Kate writes that Robert and Rebecca moved to Ohio. If this is true, then Robert and his daughter were later reunited in New York and later moved to Ohio again. It should also be noted that Robert was likely several years older than Rebecca, but Rebecca died relatively young and many years before her husband.
  8. Edward Southwood's will points out the following relationships: Ruth Whitnah was Edward's granddaughter, daughter of Robert Burns and Rebecca. Ruth's heirs included Sophia Blair, Robert Coursen, William Coursen, and Jemima Coursen. The fact that all four children are listed as Ruth's heirs, and the obvious omission of any of Joseph and Ruth's children, seems to suggest that Ruth was indeed their mother and that their father(s) had passed away.
  9. David Coursen died 8 Aug 1820. Margaret Whitnah, Joseph and Ruth's first daughter, was born 12 Oct 1821.
  10. The family appears in the 1830 census, and in several land sale records in the county.
  11. Anderson, Burns. The last deed bearing Joseph and Ruth's name appears in 1838, when it appears they sold all the land they possessed in Groveland.
  12. 1850 Census, Jefferson Township, Richland County, Ohio.
  13. Richland County, Ohio Cemetary Records, pg. 76.
  14. Iron County Cemetary records.