Little Otter To Lost River
This book is an attempt to chronicle the history of the branch of the Chastain family that settled in Washington County, Indiana. The known history of this family extends back to 1782 when we find them living on the branches of the Little Otter River in the Blue Ridge Mountain area. This area is now in Franklin County, Virginia. We shall follow them west to Kentucky, where they settled in both Henry County and Shelby County, and then to the banks of Lost River in Vernon Township, Washington County, Indiana, where the first settlement was made about 1814-1815.
The writer, being a fifth generation descendant of George Chastain is primarily interested in the branch of the family of Washington County; however, it should be noted that there were other early Chastain families in Indiana before 1840. The Chasteens of Scott County, Indiana, also descend from the head of the family in Franklin County, Virginia, as three brothers settled in Washington County and three others settled in Scott County and also Jefferson County. This history will also contain information on the three brothers who came to Scott County. There were other Chasteens in Jefferson County who seemingly were not closely related to our branch of the family. They descend from a Samuel Chastain who was born in Tennessee in 1788 and who was in Jefferson County as early as 1812. About 1837, there was a Chastain settlement made in Putnam County, Indiana. These Chastains were descendants of Rene and Judith Martin Chastain who died in the State of South Carolina. Rev. Ren Chastain of Buckingham County, Virginia, son of the above named Rene and Judith, remained in Virginia; entered land in Montgomery County, Kentucky, now Bath County; and his children moved to this area with some of his grandchildren later coming to Putnam County, Indiana.
The last member of our line left Franklin County, Virginia, about 1803 and moved westward to Kentucky. All settled in Henry County with the exception of Valentine Chastain who settled in Shelby County. It appears that, despite living in two different counties, they actually lived close to one another as all attended the same church during most of this period. During the period 1814-1817, all moved to southern Indiana with the exception of George Chastain who remained in Henry County, Kentucky, until 1830.
There are several variations of the spelling of the family name with Chastain and Chasteen being the most common, though one also finds it spelled Chastine on occasion. The family in Washington County has always spelled it Chastain which is the most common spelling. The ones in Scott County started out as Chastain, but over the years the name has changed to Chasteen. The correct pronounciatin of the name, of course, is 'Shasteen" with the initial "Ch" sounded as "Sh." The "Shin' sound causes considerable trouble to the unwary researcher. In early times those recording the name on public documents such as deeds, etc., were prone to spell names as they sounded or as they thought they should be spelled. Thus, one finds the name starting with "5" instead of "C" many times in the early records of Kentucky and Virginia. Instead of the common Chastain, Chasteen, etc., one also finds it spelled Chattain, Chatteen, Shasteen, Shastine, Shattain, Shateen, Shatteen, Shashteen, etc. The name is of French origin and it is known that the family of Washington County is of French descent.
Genealogy of the Chastain family is very difficult. This is not only due to the different spellings of the name, but also the fact that most of the families were large with children of different parents often having the same first names. About 1958, I first started the attempt to record my Chastain ancestors. If I had had any idea just what I was getting into, I doubt that this history would have been made! It was not enough to discover that my great, great-grandfather was a James Chastain for I discovered that all three of the brothers who had settled here all had song by that name! It did not help much to learn that my James had a brother named Barnett Chastain as one of the other James Chastains also had a brother by the same name. To find out which James was mine, I had to trace all three Chastain lines to find out for sure just which James was mine. By the time I had accomplished this, I had accumulated enough Chastain material to start a book. This history is the outgrowth of my early searching as I could not see discarding the history of the other families after all that work. I should point out here that this is not a true genealogy as I have not included much history of the daughters. I have been raked over the coals for this several times by certain ladies, but to include also the information on the families of the Chastain girls married into would make this history about a million pages in length! I think we will find that it will be long enough as it is. I do not mean that I have ignored the ladies of the family, but I have listed them in birth, death and marriage records, that way a person of another family can trace their ancestry back to the Chastain family.
Getting back to difficulty researching the Chastains, problems also arise because of other reasons. One stems from the several families with children of the same names. Some of these children added the names of their father to their own to distinguish them from other members of the family with the same name. William A. Chastain, for example, was known as Will George Chastain to show that he was the son or George and not the William Chastain of another family. The problem arises when one finds a death record of one of his children and it gives the name of the father as William G. instead of the correct William A. Chastain. Sometimes part of a person's physical make-up was also used to distinguish between persons of the same first name, as in "Red Headed Jim," etc. The words "Big" and "Little" were also used frequently. They did not always apply to father and son, but were commonly used to separate persons with the same name. Thus, we find "Big Tine," "Little Tine," "Big George," "Big Barnett" and "Little Barnett," etc. One classic example is found on the tax lists of the 1840s for Vernon Township. Anyone searching for a Barnett Chastain on these lists will run into quite a roadblock for the tax listing is as follows: Barnett Chastain, Senior; Barnett Chastain, Junior, and Barnett Chastain, Senior the 2nd! So it is easy to see why and how easily complications do arise when doing research of the Chastain family!
It is hoped that the errors in this history are few in number, but I will not be surprised if someone spots several of them. I think they are as accurate as I can make them. It may be wise to keep in mind the words of a fellow researcher in Kentucky who wrote in her effort on the Chastains: "About the only thing Chastain researchers agree on is to disagree with each other!"
For over 150 years the Chastain family has been a prominent family of Vernon Township, Washington County, Indiana. For the most part, they have been industrious farming people, active in the social, political and religious affairs of their community.
They have always been numerous in the township despite the fact that over the years many have moved to other localities. When I was a young man, it seemed to me that almost every house from "Lem Chastain's corner," two miles south of Campbellsburg, to a point south of Lost River on the Livonia Road, as well as miles to the east and west, was lived in by a Chastain. After years of researching this family, I am convinced this boyhood idea of mine was wrong. I am now convinced that all of these houses were lived in by either a Chastain or a near relative! The story has been told of an old Jewish peddler who returned to the town of Campbellsburg after his first trip through Vernon Township who reportedly said: "Faith! Adam must have been a Chastain and Eve must have been a Maudlin!" -On January 10, 1900, the Salem Democrat noted that the Chastain family was represented 20 times on the subscription books and that over half received it through -the Campbellsburg Post Office. In the 1930s the mail carrier on Route 2 out of Campbellsburg served 32 different Chastain families. In his 17 years of service, due to route changes, he served 54 Chastain families. He and the Postmaster also had to know the proper addresses of numerous other Chastain families whose mail was sent to Campbellsburg but delivered from other nearby offices. In the Campbellsburg Graphic of September 14, 1932, we note that the annual Chastain reunion was held at the Vellom Grove at Saltillo on Labor Day with an estimated 800 persons present to hear speaker Bert Chastain of Omaha, Nebraska. In 1967, the name Chastain was still the most numerous in the Washington County telephone book, there being a total of 59 Chastains listed, all but one living in the Campbellsburg and Salem area.
In politics, this family usually are Democrats. Several have held minor offices at the township and county levels. On July 25, 1856, the Salem Washington Democrat announced a meeting of Democrats to be held at the barbeque grounds at or near the home of Peter Chastain, Esquire.
Most of the early Chastain men seem to have been able to read and write and one has to assume that at least the first two or three generations were at least wealthy enough to educate their own children in a subscription school. There was a school in Vernon Township known as the Lost River Vernon School as early as 1827. This school had elected trustees, but nothing more is known of it. When the public free schools issue became so large in the l840s, it is interesting to note that the Chastains, almost without exception, voted against free schools. I assume that their viewpoint was that they had paid for educating their own children and that others could do the same.
While many of the Chastains in Virginia, Kentucky and those who migrated to the southern states did own slaves, I have found no evidence that those who came to Washington County owned any as far back as 1782. Despite this, the Chastain men of Washington County showed very little enthusiasm for joining the Union Army during the Civil War. Their only active service during the way came shortly during and after Morgan's Raid through Salem and southern Indiana. Records show that Andrew J., Calvin, Barnett, Barnett G., Francis M., Ed, Henry,
J. H., and Silas Chastain all served nine days in Company G, 113th Indiana Infantry. They entered the service at Cainpbellsburg, July 9, 1863, and were sent to North Vernon in pursuit of Morgan. The 113th was made up of men from local militia outfits of the Indiana Legion.
As far back as the late 1790s and early 1800s, the Chastains who came to Washington County were members of the Baptist Church. After coming to Washington County, most were probably members of what was known as the Union Baptist Church on Lost River which was organized in 1816 and went out of existance in 1864. One of the first in the family to move to another church was Peter Chastam, the son of the elder Barnett Chastain, who was instrumental in forming the present Mt. Tabor Christian Church about 1865. I will say little about the religious element here as it will be mentioned in more detail later.
Tradition tells us that the settlement on Lost River was started by three brothers: George, Barnett, and Ren Chastain. This is true, but all three did not come at the same time. Barnett evidently came in the fall or winter of 1814, although he did not enter land until the following August of 1815. Church records in Kentucky indicate Ren came at or near the same time as Barnett did. These same church records indicate that another brother, John Chastain, also came at or about this same time, but about 1817 this John moved to Scott County to join the other Chastain settlement over there. It was not until 1832 that my ancestor, George Chastain, came to Lost River to join his two brothers. I. often think of George as "the reluctant one" as he was the last to leave Virginia, the last to leave Kentucky, and the last to come to Indiana. For two years previous to his move to Lost River, he had lived in Edgar County, Illinois, where most of his own children lived during this period. George was about 64 years old when he came to Lost River. When he moved to Illinois and again when he moved to Lost River, the family crossed the Wabash River at Terre Haute, Indiana, the town at that time consisted of only a few huts.
The three brothers who came to Washington County all had large families and, as far as I can find, all the Chastains in the county today stem from one of the three; however, I should mention that in the early records of the county, we note the name of two other men of the Chastain name who, as far as known, were not children of either of the three who settled here. These were John and Isaac Chastain who are thought to be sons of another brother, Robert Chas- tam, who moved to the Scott-Jefferson County line area in 1817. Church records in Scott County and the 1840 census of Washington County indicate that it is probable that Robert Chastain came to Washington County and died there in the early 1840s. John Chastain was in Washington County as early as 1827. Isaac Chastain came in 1836 and about 1845 both moved to Martin County, Indiana, where they joined with other cousins from Washington County in establishing the large colony of Chastains in that county in the l840s. Other Chastain settlements in Indiana that can be traced back to Washington County were made in Orange, Lawrence, Dubois, Clay, Tipton, and Sullivan Counties. The Chasteens of Scott County spread out over Jefferson, Clark, Jennings and Bartholomew Counties in Indiana. Some, of course, moved to other states. Absalom Chastain of Washington County moved to the Clay-Marion County, Illinois, area about 1842 and still has descendants living there. John Chasteen of Scott County also moved to Clay County, Illinois, after the Civil War. The large settlement of Chastains now living in Laclede County, Missouri, trace their ancestry back to Martin County, Indiana. Joseph F. Chastain of Martin County moved to Nodoway County, Missouri, where he died and members of his family later lived in South Dakota and other parts of the midwest and northwest. Daniel Chastain of Washington County moved
to Christian County, Illinois, before 1860. A daughter of George Chastain, Sarah Bond, as well as two of his Chastain grandchildren, migrated to Oregon in 1852-1853 and descendants still live there. This is not an entire list of removals, it merely gives some idea of some of the Chastains who have removed from the area. Today, of course, there are descendants of the three brothers living in many other states.
Information on George, Valentine, Robert, Ren and John Chastain will be found in sections of this book devoted to them, as will information on Elizabeth Chastain Manning and Malinda Chastain Toney, who are thought to have been sisters of the above named men.
As previously stated, the family name Chastain is of French origin. It is a fairly common name in France. The standard form is Chataignier, but, as in America, it has numerous variants in spelling. The name derives from the chestnut tree, which is the meaning of the name, or an attempt to describe the color of the hair of the first bearers of the name. One source gives the first finding of the name Chataignier in France about 1084 and the finding of the shorter form of Chataign in 1322. Among the first names that were common in early France were Jean, Pierre, and Rene Chastain. In America, Jean became John, Pierre became Peter, and Rene is the name that has been corrupted to Renny, Ren, Rane, Rainey, etc. Notice that John, Peter and Ren, etc., are often used in the line of the family that came to Washington County, Indiana.
The original Chastain, from whom we all descend, according to all the learned researchers, was a Pierre (Peter) Chastain who came to Virginia in 1700. He came from the town of Charost in the Province of Bern, France; fled to Switzerland; and then probably to England before coming to Virginia. The Director of Archives of Bern Province at Bourges, France, states: "Peter Chastain very probably was from Charost as the Swiss Archives declare. There were many Chastain families at Charost who have given many notaries to the town. There were also merchants and vineyard keepers of the name there. I suppose, with some likelihood that these Chastains descended from a notary Chastin, who in the days following the St. Bartholomew massacre of the protestants on August 24, 1572, had to undergo in Bourges the excesses of the Catholics. It is known that his house in Bourges was pillaged and sacked on that occasion. It is probable that, fearing for his life, he fled from Bourges and moved to Charost. Later the Chastain family divided into many branches. The Catholic Registers mention them very rarely as they were heretics. (Protestants) There being no Protestant temple at Charost, they had to go to see a pastor at either Bourges or Issoudun." It is interesting to note that in 1730 in Virginia, John Chastain, the son of the above Peter, had a slave named Charo, who could have been named for the ancient homeplace in France.
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