Thomas County Chastains


In 1700, Pierre Chastain settled in Virginia colony, and for much of the century Virginia was home to most Chastains in America. About the time of the Revolutionary War, the Chastain families began to leave Virginia, and by the 1840 Census, only 2 of 89 Chastain families lived in Virginia. By that year, the highest concentration of Chastains was in Georgia. In the censuses of 1880 and 1920 Georgia continued to lead with more Chastain families than any other state, and today indicators such as phone book statistics and newspaper articles suggest the situation has not changed. The big influx of Chastains into Georgia began with the opening of the Cherokee lands in Northeast Georgia in 1820, and is associated with some of the descendents of second generation Peter Chastain, Jr. However, by that time descendents of Peter's brother, Rene, were already settled in Thomas County, South Georgia.


Index to Thomas County Chastains
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Rene Chastain, Sr.
Peter Chastain
James and Renny Chastain
Chastain, Georgia
Thomas H. Chastain Cemetery
James M. Chastain Descendants
Notable Thomas County Chastains

Rene Chastain, Sr.

While the massive influx of Chastains into the Cherokee lands of North Georgia in the 1820s and 1830s involved primarily descendants of Peter Chastain, Jr., son of immigrant Pierre Chastain, the Thomas County Chastains descend from Pierre's youngest son, Rene. Among the twelve second-generation Chastains in the new world, only Rene is listed as having died outside the home state of Virginia (PCD Vol 1, page 19). In 1778, or soon after, Rene seems to have moved with some of his family to what would become Abbeville County, South Carolina. This county is on the Georgia-South Carolina border just east of Athens, Georgia. Since Rene would have been about 65, his children were all adults, and it appears that of his five known children, Isaac, Marianne, and Rene, Jr. did not accompany him on the move. In fact, Rene, Jr. is known to have remained in Virginia, and as Rev. Rene Chastain was a significant influence on the new Baptist movement there. Rene, Sr.'s son, Peter, was with him in South Carolina. Rene, Sr. died in South Carolina in 1786.

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Peter Chastain
(1736-ca 1811)

Rene's son, Peter, arrived in South Carolina early enough to serve in the Revolutionary War. He served as a private from South Carolina under Captain Leroy Hammond and is listed as a Patriot by the DAR. Peter had children born in South Carolina between 1780 and 1795. Sometime after Rene died in South Carolina in 1786, Peter moved south into Central Georgia. He seems to be in Washington County, Georgia at least by 1805, and possibly much earlier. His son, James, was married in nearby Warren County, Georgia in 1796, more than twenty years before the 1820 land lotteries of the Northeast Georgia Cherokee Lands which facilitated a strong migration of Chastains into that part of Georgia. Peter's son, Blassingame (and possibly William) served in the War of 1812 from Georgia. Another son, Peter, Jr. was in the Washington County, Georgia militia in 1814. Peter, Sr. died in Washington County about 1811.

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James and Renny Chastain
James (ca 1770/75-before 1850); Renny (ca 1792-ca 1854)

James Chastain, son of Peter Chastain, was born in the early 1770s in Manakintown, Virginia, which immigrant Pierre Chastain helped establish in 1700, and he died in Thomas County, South Georgia before 1850. His life took in the entire migration from Virginia to South Carolina to Central Georgia to the establishment of the Chastain family in South Georgia. As a child, he made the move to South Carolina with his father and grandfather. Subsequently he and his father moved to Central Georgia. Later, James and his brother, Renny, settled in Thomas County, South Georgia and established a strong Chastain presence there that continues today.

James was married in Warren County, Central Georgia in 1796, and his first child, James, Jr. was born later the same year. According to PCD, vol. 1, page 116, his second child was born in 1798 in the Cherokee Lands, Cherokee County, Georgia. Chastain Central has not seen the supporting documents for this statement and does not wish to introduce doubt where there should be none, but it seems unlikely that all the movement of this family would be consistent except for the birth of one child in Cherokee County in North Georgia. Perhaps someone confused the Cherokee Lands of Central Georgia which were ceded in 1783 with the better known Cherokee Lands of Northwest Georgia ceded in the 1830s. These two sons of James are among the first, if not the first, Chastains to be born in Georgia.

Renny, son of Peter Chastain, was born in South Carolina around 1792 and died about 1854 in Thomas County, Georgia. His son Solomon seems to have been executor for Renny's property.

James and Renny finally settled in Thomas County, South Georgia. The first Chastain date associated with Thomas County known to Chastain Central is the birth of Renny's second son, George Franklin Chastain, born in Thomas County about 1816. Renny's first son, Solomon, was born in or after 1813 in South Carolina, so the move to Thomas County may have been made between 1813 and 1816, before the opening of the Cherokee lands of North East Georgia in 1820. After that, Thomas County became well populated with Chastains. According to Karyl Chastain Beal, page 110, the 1850 Thomas County census shows Renny, his wife Martha, and two sons Joseph and Rainey, Jr. to be living right next door to his son Solomon. In the 1870 census, Martha was living in the household of her son Rainey, Jr.

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Chastain, Georgia

The Chastain family left its mark on Thomas County with Thomas Chastain Cemetery, three roads named Chastain, and the town of Chastain, Georgia. Georgia Place Names describes Chastain, Georgia as "a rural community located near the northern border of the county." It further states that "early residents here were J. A. Chastain, a teacher, and B. E. Chastain, a farmer." Chastain Central has not positively identified these two individuals, but Boaz Emory Chastain was born in 1847 and John Albert Chastain in 1857. If these are the intended "early residents", they certainly were not among the earliest Chastains in the county. At the 1890 census, the population of Chastain was 75 (according to Gilbert Bahn, PhD, American Place Names of Long Ago, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 1998).

Tim Chastain, a resident of nearby Thomasville, Georgia, says that though Chastain was a town at one time, there is nothing there today to suggest it even existed—not even a building. Only a bridge over the Little Ochlocknee River and the cemetery remain. When the railroad came through Thomas County, Chastain was in competition with Coolidge. Coolidge got the railroad and Chastain faded away. The site of Chastain is a tiny spot in South Georgia east of Thomasville Hwy (202), on Bee Line Road, and it sets at the intersection of Bee Line Road and Old Bee Line Road West. Bee Line and Old Bee Line separate at Chastain, but both go east and eventually converge on Coolidge, Georgia about five miles from Chastain. Chastain is about 16 miles north of Thomasville, Georgia, and 50 miles NE of Tallahassee, Florida. Map

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Thomas H. Chastain Cemetery

Now that Chastain, Georgia has disappeared, the old Tom Chastain Cemetery in the woods nearby is difficult to find, but Winnette Stinson has posted a list of readable names from the cemetery. There are four Chastains listed. Thomas H. Chastain (09-06-1806 to 10-22-1891) is Thomas Harvey Morgan Chastain, son of James Chastain, and Priscilla M. Chastain (04-07-1814 to 05-29-1900) is Thomas' wife, Margaret Priscilla Stanaland (PCD, volume 1, pp. 287-288).

Daniel W. Chastain (11-21-1803), stillborn son of B. E. & A. G. Chastain, is a potential first reference for Chastains in Thomas County, pushing the date back 13 years from the next earliest known date of 1816. However, the date must be incorrect. An 1803 burial date is 74 years earlier than any other burial date listed, and in fact earlier than the birthdates of others buried there. This might be explained in that unmarked graves are present which conceivably could be older, but there seems to be only one likely identity for the parents, B. E. & A. G. Chastain (PCD, volume 2, p. 463). Chastain Central speculates that the parents are Boaz Emory Chastain and Georgia America (Luke) Chastain. Boaz is son of the Thomas and Priscilla Chastain who are also buried in the cemetery, and Boaz' wife is the fourth Chastain on the cemetery list, America C. (should be G.) Chastain (05-22-1853 to 11-09-1877). Since America Chastain died early at 24 years old, perhaps the correct date for her stillborn son is 1873.

Dorothy S. Culpepper (09-25-1838 to 11-13-1909) is the daughter of Thomas and Priscilla Chastain, and J. S. Culpepper (12-04-1832 to 06-06-1900) is Dorothy's husband, John (PCD, volume 1, p. 288). The other names on the list are unknown to Chastain Central.

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James M. Chastain Descendants

Pierre Chastain and His Descendants, volume 1, page 116 lists James M. Chastain as the first son of 4-James; 3-Peter; 2-Rene; 1-Pierre. However, no descendants of James M. are shown. The only information listed is: "James M. Chastain - born 17 November 1796. He married Ellafair Oliver."

WDC GenWeb lists descendants of James M. Chastain as below. Note the match in both sources to his wife Ellafair or Ellfair. but note the discrepancy in birth dates for James M. Chastain. Chastain Central assumes accuracy of the date from Pierre Chastain and His Descendants. Chastain Central is inquiring into the GenWeb contributor's documentation.

James M Chastain b. abt 1822 GA; 1880 living in Columbia Co FL
m. Ms Ellfair b. abt 1823

1. James Thudens Chastain b. Jan 23 1845 d. Jan 28 1904 Lafayette Co FL
Son of James M based on Civil War info and 1850 Baker Co GA census. Civil War: 3rd FL Inf. Co. I, enlisted Oct 19 1861 at Fernandina, present on most rolls, captured at Nashville Dec 16 1864, released on oath Jun 12 1865 from Camp Chase Prison
m. Nancy Caroline Elizabeth Miller Jan 1864 Thomasville GA; b. Sep 23 1844

2. John Morgan Chastain b. abt 1847

3. Paul Chastain b. Oct 1847; Not sure if this Paul belongs to this family
m. Sarah Ann Summers abt 1875, b. Jul 1854 SC 1900 census: eight children with five living

4. America Chastain b. abt 1849

5. Henry F Chastain b. Jan 1853
m. Lizzie A Chastain Feb 15 1881, b. Mar 1859 1900 census: eight children and seven living

6. Redding F Chastain b. Aug 1854 d. aft 1900
m. Permelie Cook Oct 20 1878, b. Aug 1852 d. aft 1900 7. Addison W Chastain b. abt 1859
m. Piety A Dortch Nov 18 1886

8. Mary Chastain b. abt 1863; 1900 census: nine children with three living
m. David Dortch Mar 13 1881 Lake City FL, b. May 1857

9. Charles Chastain b. abt 1864
m. Mary Bostick Apr 14 1889

Contributor: Diane Wallis
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Notable Thomas County Chastains

Among the descendants of the Thomas County Chastains are sportswriter and author Bill Chastain, philanthropist Sam Chastain, publisher John Thomas Chastain, and other notable Chastains:

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Major Sources

Data on the early movements of Chastain families is found in Pierre Chastain and His Descendents, Volume 1, published by the Pierre Chastain Family Association.

The source for state comparisons is Chastain Central's Top Chastain States. We find that in 1840, the highest concentration of Chastain families was in Georgia with 29% of families, followed by Indiana with 20%, South Carolina with 18%, and Kentucky 8%. 1880 shows Georgia 31%; Indiana 14%; Arkansas 9%; and Missouri 9%. For 1920: Georgia 20%; Indiana 13%; Texas 7%; and Oklahoma 7%.

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