Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

Trouble When First Cousins Marry? Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne- 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #14


Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne, 1790-1854, is my generation’s third great-grandfather. Born in Warwick County, Virginia, he died in Roanoke, Virginia, and was the son of first cousins! Today we are taught that custom is not a good thing to do genetically. In those days, families often fostered the marriage of cousins to keep prestige, land and money in the family. The Langhorne family had all three at that time. Notice historically, Henry was born after the Revolutionary War, when spirits were high in America, and died before the Civil War began. This is the pedigree line of our family tree showing Henry’s descent:

To see this relationship clearly, click on the trees above to enlarge them. Locate Capt. John Langhorne, 1695-1767, and his wife Mary Beverly, b. 1678.  who had two sons and one daughter. Both sons can be seen clearly in our family tree above, because both are our 5th great grandfathers! Their daughter was Lockey Langhorne, b. 1723, brothers were Col Maurice Scarsbrook Langhorne, b.1719, and Maj. William Langhorne, b. 1721, both fought in the Revolutionary War. 


Col. Maurice S. Langhorne, 1719,  married Elizabeth Trotter and they had six children, among whom Elizabeth, 1758-1818 became our fourth great-grandmother by marrying our fourth great-grandfather, Maj. John Scarsbrook Langhorne, 1760-1797. John was the son of Maj. William Langhorne, 1721,  and Elizabeth C. Scarsbrook, 1731–with William being the brother of Col. Maurice Langhorne. Elizabeth, 1758 and Maj. John S. Langhorne, 1760, children of brothers, had a son, Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne, 1790-1854 who became our third great-grandfather, and father of James Steptoe Langhorne, b. 1822–whose family is getting together for a reunion this August, 2014. ( Leave a comment if you want to know more about the reunion.)

According to many public records available on ancestry.com and other genealogical sites, but most importantly in a recently published, 2013, book by James Callaway Langhorne entitled  The Virginia Langhornes, a History, including genealogy, Henry married twice and had 13 children. This book can be purchased from the Historic Sandusky Foundation in Lynchburg, Virginia, http://www.historicsandusky.org/  We are happy to announce that James C. Langhorne will be present at our Langhorne reunion next August! For an autograph,  you must purchase your book ahead of time.

Following is a story, author unknown, circulating on the genealogical  websites, that tells us  about the amazing intertwining of the first families of Virgina:  

“The younger brother Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne, 1790, would surpass them all (his brothers). Although he was first seated on some Cumberland County,Virginia land that he had inherited through his mother, he quickly resolved to move to Lynchburg with his brother Maurice. In 1816 Henry S. Langhorne married Frances Callaway Steptoe, the highly sought after daughter of  Hon. James Steptoe and Frances Callaway of Federal Hill. Here begins a series of interesting family connections that beautifully illustrate the ‘web of kinship’ that existed between Virginia’s ruling families. Frances Callaway was an older sister of Catherine Callaway, wife of Henry Langhorne’s brother William.  Hon. James Steptoe was the eldest son of Westmoreland County planter Col. James Steptoe of ‘Nominy Hall’ (in fact, called Homony Hall) and his second wife Elizabeth Eskridge of ‘Sandy Point’ (a daughter of Col. George Eskridge the guardian of Mary Ball Washington). Hon. James Steptoe had two sisters, Elizabeth Steptoe who married Col. Philip  Ludwell Lee of ‘Stratford Hall’, and Anne Steptoe who married Samuel Washington (brother  of our first President George Washington) and became the mother of George Steptoe Washington, who in turn married Lucy Payne,  the sister of first lady, Dolly Payne Madison. Hon. James Steptoe also had two half sisters by his mother’s first husband William Aylett.  The first sister, Mary Aylett, married Thomas Ludwell Lee, and the second Anne Aylett became the first wife of Thomas’  brother Richard Henry Lee of ‘Chantilly’.  

The powerful connections of the Steptoe and Callaway families ensured that the Langhornes although newcomers from the Tidewater, were met with constant success in the Virginia piedmont. As the planting of tobacco was no loner as profitable as it had once been, Henry S. Langhorne erected in Lynchburg, the second largest milling firm in Virginia. He never abandoned planting though, and continued to buy numerous plantations in Bedford, Amherst, and Campbell counties, Virginia. In 1845, he retired and relocated to ‘Cloverdale’, the 3,500 acre Botetourt County plantation he had just purchased from his niece’s husband George Plater Tayloe of ‘Buena Vista’.  Henry’s eldest son John Scarsbrook Langhorne, b.1819, married  Sarah Elizabeth Dabney of ‘Edgemont’ a great-granddaughter of William Randolph II of ‘Chatesworth’. John inherited Langhorne Mills, along with the bulk of his father’s estate.  John also became the grandfather of Lady Astor, Nancy Witcher Langhorne through his son Chiswell. The second son, James Steptoe Langhorne, b.1822 (and our 2nd great-grandfather) was given an ample number of slaves and the 13,000 acre ‘Langdale’ plantation located near the border of North Carolina.”  (Today this plantation would be in Patrick County, Virginia.) You might enjoy reading my former post about James Steptoe Langhorne at this link. 

Langhorne, Henry Scarsbrook's home, The White House in Botetourt Co.,Va.

Home owned at one time by Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne called “The White House”, located in Botetourt County, Virginia Source: picture, “The Virginia Langhornes” by James C. Langhorne, information from “Places Near the Mountains (Botetourt and Roanoke Counties, Virginia) by Helen R. Prillaman

Cousins, and more cousins, brothers and sisters, did it cause any health issues?  Possibly, but we do not have a lot of proof at this time. We are told that blindness from the inherited degenerative eye disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa,  affected many members of the family. However, it seems to have come down through the Steptoes/ Callaways  into the Langhorne family perhaps. It seems that Frances, wife of Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne, 1790–daughter of James Steptoe and Frances Callaway lost her sight, as did three of their children, including our own second great-grandfather James Steptoe Langhorne, b.1822, and several of his children including Frances Eunice Langhorne (called Fannie) and her sister Evelyn Langhorne.  Fannie, b.1854, had her first eye surgery in Philadelphia, PA when she was only 23 years old!   Her sister Evelyn, b.1866, was going blind  before her death in childbirth at age 34. One of Evelyn’s children, Harry Langhorne Houchins was blind, and I and one other cousin have severe vision problems. I would appreciate anyone who can identify family members who were blind, or becoming blind, letting me know who that is in a comment here or on facebook, by email, or in person. 

Diabetes is another disease that is prevalent in this family system. Four of six of Evelyn Langhorne’s children were diabetic, four of seven of her grandchildren, and three of four in my own family. I do not know other records. 

There is another disease, porphyria, that is present  in the family.  I know of one cousin today who has it and is beginning to reach out to others to educate us.  She has identified a few Langhorne family members who have died from this disease up to 100 years ago!  In his book, The Virginia Langhornes, James C. Langhorne tells us that our own third great grandfather, Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne, ” for more than ten years of his life, was the victim of a slow, wasting disease,” could this have been porphyria?  Porphyrias are a group of rare, inherited or acquired disorders of certain chemicals in our body that normally help produce porphyrins. The disease can cause neurological complications, or skin problems  and is often accompanied by abdominal pain, vomiting, neuropathy, muscle weakness, seizures, depression and anxiety, even paranoia. Cardiac arrhythmias and tachycardia may develop as the autonomic nervous system is affected. Our cousin with this disease wants to be sure we all know what kinds of things can trigger the disease, and sent this for us to consider (source- the Mayo article cited above):

  • Triggers that can cause an attack (from the Mayo Clinic article cited below):
  • Drugs (barbiturates and sulfonamide antibiotics are most often cited, but others such as tranquilizers, birth control pills and sedatives also may cause symptoms)
    Dieting or fasting
  • Smoking
  • Infections or other physical stress
  • Stress
  • Alcohol use
  • Menstrual hormones
  • Sun exposure
  • Excess iron in your body

You can read more about this disorder at the Mayo Clinic site online at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/porphyria/basics/definition/con-20028849.  Again, if  you have this disease,or any other inherited disease, or know of anyone related to the Langhornes who does, please let me know privately so that the family can stay informed. Iif  you leave a comment asking me to get in touch with you privately, I will. 

How amazing to learn that you descend from such illustrious families!  It is hard to believe sometimes, as I go about my very modest lifestyle, that once upon a time, my family were wealthy, influential leaders in my home state of Virginia! Lest you think I don’t recognize their strengths–let me tell you, they are an intelligent group of people with many professors, lawyers, engineers, artists, musicians and people with other incredible talents! Their strengths, weaknesses, and character run through our veins–and I hope my children, grandchildren, and ad infinitum will profit from knowing these stories and these people! 

Wishing you the best in your discovery of your own family history, and hoping  you will share those stories and journeys with me, Helen










Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

10 thoughts on “Trouble When First Cousins Marry? Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne- 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #14

  1. Helen, you do indeed come from an impressive group of folk. Not really surprising! I suspect you may be more Republican than you would wish to be! (Just kidding, you know!) Love and hugs, Linda

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. LOL! Linda McLaughlin! I suspect you are right. Those wealthy businessmen might not like or approve of, this liberal, anti-corporate flower child wanna-be perhaps! LOL But now, falling in love with a cousin…having a beautiful farm, I could live with that! LOL


  3. Thank you…printing and saving!!!!!


  4. Dear Betty, thank you so much for taking the time to come by and to leave a comment! I love you dearlycousin! Helen


  5. Helen, what an informative blog focusing on your impressive ancestors! Your stories “vivify” the history, making it more inviting and interesting to your diverse readers. Thanks for enlightening us over and over again. XXXOOOOO


  6. Dear Carol, I learned from the best! You! –
    my PhD medical professional! You have been my friend, my mentor, and my expert consultant so many times over the years, thanks for spending some of your precious minutes reading my blog! Love you, helen


  7. Hi Helen, Really nice site you have, which I happened upon from a websearch on James Callaway Langhorne’s book, The Virginia Langhornes.

    I have been working on the ancestors of my husband, Duncan Work — who, it turns out, comes from quite a few of colonial Virginia’s fancy-folk founding-families.

    RE: Langhornes: My husband’s people share ancestry with [your gr-gr-father James Steptoe Langhorne (b.1822)’s sister-in-law] : Sarah Elizabeth Dabney (1821) — wife of James’s bro John Scarsbrook Langhorne (1819-1886). (Sarah Dabney & John Langhorne were among Lady Astor’s ancestors.)

    You probably already know that James & John Langhorne were 3rd cuz with Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) (1835-1910).

    Do you have any idea of the origin for the “Langhorne” in Samuel Clemens’ name? I have not (yet) found any Langhornes ancestors in his lineage.

    Again, nice site you have,


  8. Hi Lisa, just so that you know, I sent you an email in response to this wonderful comment, but it was returned to me so that I could “verify” I was a person not spamming you. I tried three times to verify as directed, but failed all three times! I don’t know if it would be in your spam folder or not. Just thought you’d like to know.

    In response to your question about the Langhorne name, i wrote:

    Many, many scholars have wrestled with the name Langhorne for Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

    Yes, I did know that he was a 3rd cousin of Capt. John Langhorne, 1695, making him the 7th cousin of John and James Steptoe Langhorne your husband and my brothers/grandfathers. I am his 11th cousin and I would guess your husband is a similar number. I’ll share my relationship chart below, and would love to see your husbaand’s if you have it available.

    As far as his name Langhorne, I have searched for information also, and have read other’s thoughts, but it is a family name, afterall, his Langhorne cousins were cousins of his father and grandmothers as well. Benjamin Clement and Capt. John Langhorne were peers and 3rd cousins who lived in fairly close proximity. Being family, their Mom’s being second cousins, Ann Cary and Ann Taylor, makes me think it is likely the families were well aware of their relationships to the leaders of their times.
    ” John Langhorne served as a Justice of the Peace, a member of the House of Burgesses, Sheriff of Warwick County, and Presiding Justice of Warwick County from 1749-1762. In addition to his numerous political duties, John Langhorne III continued to expand his land holdings by purchasing new plantations in Chesterfield County, and was also a highly successful merchant,” excerpt from story from hannonse of the Hannon Family Tree on ancestry.com.

    “1748 he (Benjamin clement) moved the family to Pittsylvannia County,then Lucenburg built his home “Clement HIll”
    Captain of Rangers for Halifax for defense against the Indians in the French Indian Wars,1775
    He was a partner of Charles Lynch in the manufacturing of Gun Powder”

    Just saying, that Samuel’s ancestors for four generations before his birth were involved with and related to the Langhornes. They were kin, which in my book makes them ancestors, even if they were not his direct pedigree line. the Clements and Langhornes were both well known in colonial times. What do you think? Does this seem logical and true to you as well?

    Hope you’re having a great day, Helen

    Samuel Langhorne “Mark Twain” Clemens (1835 – 1910)
    is your 11th cousin 4x removed
    John Marshall Clements (1798 – 1847)
    father of Samuel Langhorne “Mark Twain” Clemens
    Samuel B Clements/Clemens (1770 – 1805)
    father of John Marshall Clements
    Adam Capt Clement (1738 – 1811)
    father of Samuel B Clements/Clemens
    Benjamin Clement (1700 – 1780)
    father of Adam Capt Clement
    Ann Taylor (1679 – 1720)
    mother of Benjamin Clement
    James Taylor (1652 – 1729)
    father of Ann Taylor
    John Taylor (1607 – 1652)
    father of James Taylor
    Thomas Taylor (1574 – 1618)
    father of John Taylor
    Anne Taylor (1620 – 1657)
    daughter of Thomas Taylor
    Henry Cary (1650 – 1720)
    son of Anne Taylor
    Anne Cary (1674 – 1719)
    daughter of Henry Cary
    Capt. John Langhorne (1695 – 1767)
    son of Anne Cary
    Maurice Langhorne (1719 – 1791)
    son of Capt. John Langhorne
    Elizabeth Langhorne (1758 – 1818)
    daughter of Maurice Langhorne
    Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne (1790 – 1854)
    son of Elizabeth Langhorne
    James Steptoe (blind) Langhorne (1822 – 1905)
    son of Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne
    Evaline (going blind when died young)) Langhorne (1866 – 1900)
    daughter of James Steptoe (blind) Langhorne
    Katherine Steptoe Houchins (1883 – 1943)
    daughter of Evaline (going blind when died young)) Langhorne
    Margaret Steptoe Kerse (1918 – 1980)
    daughter of Katherine Steptoe Houchins
    Helen Spear Youngblood Holshouser
    You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse


  9. I’m also descended from Henry S. Langhorne via Maurice/John Archer through my grandmother, who was diabetic (as is my mom – her daughter) and I’m just about the only person on my mother’s side who doesn’t need glasses and I’m the oldest cousin/sibling. Guess there was something to this whole “don’t marry your first cousin” thing…


  10. Hi Sara H. goad to meet a cousin! Henry S. Langhorne, b. 1790, was my third great-grandfather also. Interestingly, I am dabetic, as are two siblings and Mom and five sisters on that side of the family!, Amazing!

    Thanks for reading, and commenting. Helen


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