Feature Story August 1, 2007
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Did the Davis Family inspire the term
"Hillbilly"?


by Sharon Sprouse Bramhall
©  2007
      If the lines in my Davis family tree were threads of yarn, I'd have myself an afghan! We have a lot of Davises marrying Davises. In bygone days, first and second cousin marriages were not only acceptable, but quite common and preferred.   That old West Virginia joke about everybody being related isn't so far from the truth in this case!  But it was also true for most people of these earlier generations living in small, isolated communities. Surnames sometimes mask that fact.

         Because so many descendants of immigrant ancestor Rev. William Davis of Wales (1663-1745) named their sons "William" - it became necessary to the inhabitants of Harrison and adjoining Doddridge County, WV,  to find a way to distinguish one "William Davis" from another.   Hence the nick-names such as  Greenbrier Billy,  Bottom Billy, Buckeye Billy, Flint Billy, and Jarsey Billy - named for the run on which each settled, or in the case of "Jarsey Billy", where he came from.   I have often wondered if our Davis family didn't inspire the term "Hill Billy"!!

     So, it always tickled me when my mother, Mary Virginia (Davis) Sprouse, would sometimes sign her genealogy correspondence, Hillbilly Gin Sprouse. Somehow, it just seemed to fit...

May 18, 2007
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