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.

Resources on

Witherspoon Ancestry

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
mother’s side to Knox, became one of the most admired preachers of his

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

The first, John
, 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
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.

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.

Select Witherspoon Miscellany

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

Select Witherspoon

John C. Witherspoon was the Calvinist preacher, President of Princeton
College, and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

was an early plantation owner in De Soto, South
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.
, 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).




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