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










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