The family legend is that the family was English and owned a shipping company that was quite successful. It was the owner's intent to pass the business on to his son, but the son was completely unwilling to become a shipping magnate. To escape his fate, he ran away from home (on a ship!). The family was embarrassed, for the sons of gentlemen did not do such things in those days. They threatened to disown the young man, and he defied them, even changing the spelling of his name to show his total separation from the family.
My husband says he was told that the family name was originally WATT, but his parents do not recall this. His mother does remember that the spelling of the name has changed, probably from WIATT to WYATT.
During John E. Wiatt's life span (1849-1929), the spelling was changed from WIATT to WYATT, and this may be the spelling change that remains in the family "memory." There are some problems with the family legend, primarily that at this point we have not been able to confirm the existence of a shipping company owned by a WATT or WIATT family in England. We have, however, learned that one of the descendants of Sir Francis Wiatt, Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia, had a descendant (William Wiatt) who returned to (Liverpool) England to become a shipping company owner and a Sea Captain. Might this be the father of our missing relative? Might his son have returned to the Colonies where he would assuredly have had friends?
I believe that the family name was originally WIATT, and that the spelling change was from WIATT to WYATT. It is very possible that the family is actually descended from Sir Francis Wiatt, the Royal Governor of Virginia, or his brother, the Rev. Haute Wiatt. All of the men's names in our WYATT branch are historically and regularly used by the descendants of these men, and some descendants of the aristocratic WIATTS lived in the same areas of Mississippi as our branch of WYATTs.
Sir Francis and Haute were descendants of Sir Thomas Wiatt, who was both the son of the world-renowned Poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder, and the aristocrat who led the rebellion against Mary, Queen of Scots. Sir Thomas was imprisoned in the Tower of London for his "treason" and later was executed. When Elizabeth came into power, she rewarded his faithfulness by granting many favors to his descendants, including the Royal Governorship of Virginia.
"The ancestral home of the Wyatt family is
Allington Castle, located in Kent County, five miles from the city of Maidstone.
It stands on the bank of the Medway River and is surrounded by a moat."
(1) The Virginia Wiatts seem to be centered in Gloucester County
and Spotsylvania County in Virginia, while groups of Wyatts have moved
on to the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi,
in all of which places large concentrations of Wyatts can be found.
Very few of the families have retained the WIATT spelling, most of them
being found in Virginia.
1. page 8, "The Wiatt Family of Virginia", by Alexander Lloyd Wiatt; McClure Printing Company, Inc., Verona, Virginia, 1980; Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 80-51401.
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We have learned from the 1880 Federal Census that in June of 1880 John E. Wyatt, my husband's great-grandfather, was living with Thomas C. Wyatt, presumably an older brother. John was 31 years old at this time and still single. It would be another 8 years before he would marry. Thomas, however, had a wife named Eliza and a one-year-old daughter named Annie. According to census, Thomas was a merchant in Meridian and John was a clerk in his store. The census shows that Thomas and John were both born in Mississippi, that their father was a Virginian (!), and that their mother was a native Mississippian.
We have also learned that Thomas C. "Chiz" Wyatt, John's brother, was in the Civil War as a soldier at the tender age of 16. He was blinded in both eyes during battle, but went home to be the owner of a "large furniture store" in Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi. This is apparently the store that John was working in at the time of the 1880 Census.
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