William S.? Potts
  b: ~1775
  d: ~1845

Spouse: Ann? ***** - b: 1779 - NJ

Child-1: John - b: ~1810 - NJ
          2: George H.

Biographical Details:

The surname "Potts" is identifiable as an English patronymic derived by addition of a terminal "s" to the proper name "Pott".1  Moreover, this proper name is likely a diminuative of a medieval personal name, in particular "Philpott", which itself is a variant or familiar form of the ancient masculine proper name "Philip".2  Alternatively, but less likely the surname may derive from habitational or occupational origins and, as such, is related etymologically to common English nouns "pot" or, perhaps, "pit".  In any case, family tradition asserts that the original immigrant ancestor came from the British Isles in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century and settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey, (which at that time lay in Essex County, but at present is located in Union County and which, of course, is now within the large metropolitan area centered on New York City) and, subsequently, became involved in the shipping business.3  Even so, in later census records George Potts, putative son of the immigrant, indicated that his father and mother had both been born in New Jersey and, therefore, were native born.  This suggests that the original immigrant was, perhaps, George's grandfather rather than his father.  Beyond this nothing more definite is known and, obviously, more research is needed to resolve inconsistencies.

Any inference that William S. Potts was the father of George H. Potts is entirely circumstantial; however, census records suggest this as a reasonable (if not at all certain) presumption.  To be specific, the population schedule of the 1840 US Census for Warren County, Ohio, included the household of William S. Potts, resident in Franklin Township and then consisting of an elderly adult couple both between sixty and seventy years of age as well as two young adult males, one between twenty and thirty and the other between thirty and forty years.  These may be plausibly identified as sons of William Potts, John and George, the latter who apparently married Mariah Hendrickson, perhaps, within this same year.  In addition, a small female child less than five years old was also present in the household, but remains unidentified.  Subsequently, the population schedule of the 1850 US Census for Warren County included Ann and John Potts, aged seventy and thirty-eight years, respectively, both born in New Jersey, and living together in the same dwelling, again, in Franklin Township.  Furthermore, census records of 1860 reveal Ann and John Potts still resident in Franklin Township, although minor discrepancies regarding their ages are evident (viz., eighty-two and fifty-one years, respectively) and, more seriously, instead of New Jersey their birthplaces were given as New York, presumably in error.  Within this context, it is a reasonable presumption that these two individuals were mother and son and, moreover, that they correspond to two of the five individuals who were living in the Potts household in 1840.  Clearly, this further suggests that William S. Potts died between 1840 and 1850 and that his widow, Ann, and son, John (apparently  never married or widowed), continued to reside together.  This hypothesis is further supported by proximate geography implied by the marriage of George Potts and Mariah Hendrickson.  In particular, in 1840 the Hendrickson family was resident in Lemon Township in Butler County, which at its eastern boundary directly adjoins Franklin Township (viz., Lemon Township lies in the northeastern corner of Butler County and Franklin Township in the northwestern corner of Warren County).  Therefore, it seems probable that the Potts and Hendrickson families were neighbors and, thus, could have been well acquainted.  Furthermore, George and Mariah appear to have given their five known sons names corresponding to older male members of their families.  Consequently, since their oldest son was named Peter, presumably after Mariah's father, it would seem significant that their second son was named William.  Of course, none of these suppositions should be regarded as definitive proof, but taken together they provide reasonably convincing circumstantial evidence of a direct relationship between William and George Potts.  (As a matter of clarity it further must be asserted that the brothers, Edward G. and John Potts, who married the sisters, Abigail and Mary Ann Newport, and who were also contemporaneously resident in Warren County in neighboring Clear Creek Township were probably unrelated.)  For completeness, it should be noted that the household of William Potts has not been identified in Warren County census records prior to 1840, which although, again, not definitive does suggest that the family moved westward from New Jersey in the 1830's.  Concomitantly, one may suppose that George and John were younger sons and that any older siblings remained behind, but this is merely speculation.

Source Notes and Citations:
1. Patrick Hanks (ed.), Oxford Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, periodically updated.
     "English and Scottish: patronymic from Pott, particularly common in northeastern England."
     "1. English: from a medieval personal name, a short form of Philpott.
     2. English: topographic name for someone who lived by a depression in the ground, from Middle English pot 'drinking or storage vessel' used in this transferred sense, or a habitational name from one of the minor places deriving their name from this word, in the sense 'pit', 'hole'.
     3. English and North German (Lower Rhine-Westphalia): metonymic occupational name for a potter, from Middle English, Middle Low German pot 'pot'. ...
     4. North German: topographic name for someone living on a low-lying plot, from Low German dialect pot 'puddle'."
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2. ibid.
     "Scottish, Dutch, English, South Indian, etc.: from the Greek name Philippos (from philein 'to love' + hippos 'horse').  In the New Testament this name is borne by one of the apostles; it was also borne by various other early Christian saints.  It owes part of its popularity to the medieval romances about Alexander the Great, whose father was Philip of Macedon.  As a Highland Scottish surname, it represents an Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Fhilib 'son of Philip'.  In North America, this surname has absorbed some cases of cognate names in other languages (e.g. French Philippe, Greek Philippos, Italian Filippi, Spanish Felipe, Catalan Felip, and their derivatives).  As a Jewish name, it represents a borrowing of the personal name from Christians.  It is found as a personal name among Christians in India, and in the U. S. is used as a family name among families from southern India."
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3. These assertions derive from the reminiscences of Dr. William Potts, a former professor at Texas A&M University, who stated that although he did not know the name of his immigrant ancestor, viz., great-grandfather, he did believe that he had come from the British Isles and had settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, where he had owned a fleet of about seventy clipper ships.  However, this final detail does not seem likely since clipper ships were actually not developed until the 1840's and 1850's.  Although they did not carry a large cargo, clippers were noted especially for their speed and ability to sail close to the wind.  This made them particularly useful for rapid importation of high value commodities such as tea or porcelein and, hence, they were used for maritime trade between North America, Europe, and the Far East, departing principally from the ports of New York, Boston, and San Francisco.  Even so, clipper ships were expensive and only a few hundred were ever built.  Indeed, this type of trade went into steep decline after 1860 and few if any more clippers were built after the outbreak of the Civil War.  Clearly, a fleet of seventy of these ships would have been substantial, representing quite a large investment.
     Within this context, no record of any owner of clipper ships named Potts has been found.  This suggests that as is common with oral family traditions, details have become distorted over time.  Nevertheless, it is plausible that the immigrant ancestor of George Potts was more modestly involved in the shipping business in northern New Jersey (or alternatively, perhaps, New York).  Of course, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries overland transport was difficult and coastal shipping among the colonies was the preferred method of commerce.  (William McDaniel Potts, private communication, May, 1968.)
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Additional Citations:

4. 1840 US Census Population Schedule for Warren County, Ohio, National Archives, Washington DC:  pg. 92, (microfilm: roll M704_431; img. 184).

5. 1850 US Census Population Schedule for Warren County, Ohio, National Archives, Washington DC:  pg. 414A, (microfilm: roll M432_737; img. 152).

6. 1860 US Census Population Schedule for Warren County, Ohio, National Archives, Washington DC:  pg. 188A, (microfilm: roll M653_1047; img. 376).

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