Witherspoon


Select Witherspoon Surname Genealogy

The name Witherspoon is Scottish.  Its meaning is uncertain.  "Sheep pasture" has been suggested, wether being an archaic name for sheep and spong being an obsolete English word for a tongue-shaped of land.  But no one is quite sure.

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Scotland.  Witherspoon is to be found in Lanarkshire, Glasgow, and Paisley.  There were many early spellings of the name.  James Wydderspoon, for instance, born in 1435, is the forebear of a family line that has been traced.  But only Witherspoon and, to some extent, Wotherspoon, have survived.  Early 18th century registers show more Wotherspoons than Witherspoons (although the Witherspoons had spread a little more widely). 

Many Witherspoons were weavers by trade; many were clergymen.  In fact, the Presbyterian faith propounded by John Knox had taken a deep hold on the weaving community.  John C. Witherspoon, related on his mother's side to Knox, became one of the most admired preachers of his day. 

America.  Three Witherspoons brought their stern Presbyterian faith to America. 

The first, John Witherspoon, came with like-minded colleagues in 1732 after a lengthy enforced stay in county Down in Ireland.  "These 'poor Calvinists' sailed up the Black river from Charleston to the King's Tree, a white pine on the banks of the river."  They settled in Williamsburg and branches of this family later became plantation owners and politicians in South Carolina.   The actress Reese Witherspoon is a descendant.

The second was John Knox Witherspoon, the preacher who arrived in America in 1768 to be President of what is now Princeton College, attended the Continental Congress, and was one of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence.  His descendants later moved to Tennessee. 

A third immigrant, Thomas Witherspoon, settled in Jefferson County, Indiana in 1818.  He and his descendants are buried in the Caledonia Presbyterian Church which he helped establish there. 

Some Wotherspoons also made it to America.  James Wotherspoon left Glasgow for New York in the early 1800's where he set up a comb-making business.  His son, William Wallace Witherspoon, became a noted 19th century American painter. 

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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John C. Witherspoon, the Calvinist preacher, Preesident of Princeton College, and signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Boykin Witherspoon was an early plantation owner in De Soto, South Carolina.
Jimmy Witherspoon, born in Arkansas, was a master of the blues.  He is probably best known for his blues standard Ain't Nobody's Business, recorded in the late 1940's.
Reese Witherspoon, born in Nashville, made her name as an actress with Legally Blond in 2001.

Select Witherspoons Today
  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lanarkshire)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in North Carolina). 



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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