Why Annapolis, Maryland?


With our upcoming Reunion taking place in Annapolis, Maryland, you may ask yourself - - why was it that John Gaither relocated to Maryland from his Virginia homestead? What could possibly have forced him out of that valuable holding, which he settled as virgin land, and had held for 14 years? Was it a natural disaster, need for better land, adventure? The answer is a broken promise of freedom.

In Virginia, John was part of a community known as Non-Conformists who had come to America for land and freedom from the restraints of Royal rule in England. They sought religious freedom, representation in governance, and relief from taxation. By the 1640s, many of these Non-Conformists were followers of Oliver Cromwell, supporters of the English Revolution, and increasingly chafing at an abridgment of their freedoms under the rule of Virginia's Royal Governor, Sir William Berkeley.

When England’s Civil War broke out in 1642, Governor Berkeley, ever loyal to the Crown, became nervous about the Non-Conformists in his midst and began to take increasingly severe actions against them. Those actions included banishing their ministers, fining those who did not attend Anglican services, forbidding assembly, jailing Non-Conformist leaders, and finally requiring Non-Conformists to sign an oath of allegiance or be banished from the Colony.

The leaders in the Non-Conformist community took their case to the Virginia General Assembly and lost. Governor Berkeley ruled that they must "conform" by the end of 1649, or have their property confiscated or worse. Fortunately, the Non-Conformists, anticipating this terrible outcome, had been exploring a solution in the Colony of Maryland.

During this period of unrest in Virginia, Cecil Calvert, the Lord Baltimore, was having difficulty colonizing Maryland. Without colonists, and the revenues they generated, Lord Baltimore's Royal charter was in jeopardy. And so, in a fortuitous confluence of events, Lord Baltimore invited the Virginia Non-Conformists to Maryland. The colonists negotiated for, and were granted by Lord Baltimore, greater liberties than in Virginia, and acreage equal to their Virginia land grants.

And so, it was that in 1649, the entire Non-Conformist community of Virginia, comprising some 200 families out of a Virginia population of about 2,200 Colonists, moved "en masse," to the frontier, virgin lands along the Severn and South Rivers of Maryland - - the lands around, and including what is now Annapolis.

Abington – The Gaither Family Seat Since 1649


At our June 2018 Reunion in Annapolis, Maryland, a highlight of our activities will be visiting "Abington", the Gaither family seat beginning in 1649 - - 369 years ago!

John Gaither and Robert Proctor were the original patentees of the 875 acres of what they named "Abington". Its size and Gaither family ownership has waxed and waned over the succeeding centuries. While I have not yet completed my research into the chain of title for the property, as late as 1855, a Thomas and Rebecca Gaither sell 46-1/2 acres of Abington, which were conveyed to them by Rezin and Sarah R. Gaither in 1853. Gaithers, by far, have enjoyed the longest period of ownership at over 200 years!

Today, Abington is a horse farm in private hands, with a fraction of the original acreage remaining under that name. In 1975, it was accepted into the National Register of Historic Places. The land's wonderful fundamentals, which surely motivated John Gaither's astute selection, are still apparent.

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We hope you'll join us at the 2018 Society of John Gaither Descendants' Reunion in Annapolis, Maryland, June 14 - June 17! We've planned an exciting time in the land of our earliest forefathers. Visit historic sites where John Gaither, and his children from whom we all descend, made their home in 1649 - - 369 years ago! As a 'first family' of Maryland, we all share our deepest American roots in this region.

We'll kick-off on Thursday evening with a delicious barbeque dinner at Mike and Nancy Jones' house to 'meet and greet' and stoke ourselves for a packed itinerary over the next three days.

Friday, we'll celebrate our heritage with a visit to the historic All Hallows, Old Brick Church where over 60 Gaither births, marriages and deaths are recorded from its establishment in the 1600s. We'll then have lunch at a classic Maryland Crab House on the shores of the South River, in the heart of South River Hundred. This is where John Gaither and Robert Proctor chose their 875 acres of land after leaving Virginia. A highlight of the day will be our visit to that original Gaither homestead, which they named "Abington," at the headwaters of the South River. Remarkably, "Abington" was occupied by Gaithers for at least 200 years.

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Obituary – Catherine Osborne Gaither

Catherine Osborne Gaither, 94, passed away Sunday, February 11, 2018. Catherine was born in Rowan County on June 29, 1923 to Robert Charlie Osborne and Merlie Safley Osborne. She married Willie Lemuel Gaither, son of James Martin Gaither, grandson of John Martin Gaither and in the line of Greenberry, Jeremiah, John V, John IV, John III, John II, and John Gaither I.

She was a homemaker, a member of Midway Baptist Church and was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Willie Lemuel Gaither (12/08/2009), a daughter Beverly Lorraine Gaither and a grandson Mickey Durham. Surviving are her sons, Tony Gaither (Debbie) of Clemmons, Gene Gaither (Brenda) of East Bend, Mike Gaither (Debbie) of Winston-Salem; daughters, Irene Durham of Mocksville, Gerry Hartsell of Winston-Salem, Colleen Hunt (Winfred) of Winston-Salem, Nell Benoist of Reeds, Winona Gaither of Winston-Salem, Elaine Richardson of Lexington, Faye Gaither of Lexington; sisters, Blanche Misenheimer of Salisbury, Frances Ennis of Newton, Juanita Guessford of Salisbury; 32 grandchildren, 68 great-grandchildren and 26 great-great-grandchildren.

Obituary – Elizabeth Koontz Woodward

Elizabeth “Lib” Koontz Woodward, 87, formerly of Country Lane, Mocksville, North Carolina died Sunday, October 22, 2017, at Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem. She was born March 11, 1930, in Davie County to Marshall Wilson and Laura Hesseltine Campbell Koontz.  Lib was the grand-daughter of Mary Ellen Gaither, great-granddaughter of George Washington Gaither, in the Gaither line of Basil E, Walter, Basil, Edward, Benjamin, John II, and John Gaither I.

Mrs. Woodward was a member of First Baptist Church of Mocksville where she was very active as long as she was able. She was a member of the Mocksville Garden Club and loved to cook for her family and friends.

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Obituary – Jerry Forrest Gaither

Charter SJGD member Jerry Forrest Gaither, age 89, passed from this life on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 after a brief illness. Jerry is the son of Jesse Edward Gaither, grandson of Isaac Raines Gaither, in the Gaither line of Amos F, Edward, Benjamin, John IV, John III, John II and John Gaither I.

He was born on a farm in Auburntown, Tennessee as the youngest of ten children to Jesse Edward and Jodie Nugent Hawkins Gaither. He graduated from public school in Auburntown, graduating from Auburn High School in 1945. Immediately upon graduation he joined the U.S Navy and served until the end of WWII. He graduated from MTSU with his undergraduate and later Masters Degree in Education.

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Obituary – Marie Swiggett

Marie Swiggett, 95, went to her heavenly home on Monday, January 1, 2018, freed from the debilitating effects of dementia. Her sweet smile and disposition will be missed by her family and friends. She was born in Greensboro on May 17, 1922, to Ellen Gaither Swiggett and Henry Grady Swiggett, Sr. and spent the majority of her life in Greensboro until moving to Kaukauna, WI ten years ago for care in an assisted living and dementia center. Marie was the granddaughter of William Henry Gaither, in the Gaither line of William Henry, Elijah, Zachariah, Benjamin, John III, John II, and John I.

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President’s Message

Dover, FL, October 15, 2017 - Greetings and salutations from the President's cubical and Howdy to all my Gaither cousins. First and foremost, as your new President, I would like to take a moment to give a huge thank you to our out-going Officers and Directors for a job well done in your service to the Society. You have set the bar high, as it should be, and I will strive to continue to build upon the firm foundation laid down by you and those that preceded you. I welcome this opportunity to serve the Society.

Goals, everyone needs Goals.

I think everyone will agree that to enhance and grow the Society, we should be willing to change and adapt with the times. The following is what I and others that I have spoken with see as means to accomplish these goals.

Grow Membership. Folks everyone knows that any organization is only strong as its membership. Without the continued contributions of its current members and the infusion of new members, we will slowly die on the vine, so to speak. Let’s all be proactive and renew our membership and encourage others to do so. Encourage other family members especially any children or grandchildren to get involved and join. With the holidays fast approaching a membership would make a great stocking stuffer. Continue reading