Depending on who you ask, the Dittos of Alabama, late of Baltimore County, Maryland, were originally from France (“Ditteau”) or Scotland. No one knows for sure, but what is known is that they were on North American soil early (they are considered to be among the founding families of Maryland) and they migrated throughout the south and on into Texas.
My family arrives at the Dittos via the Mariner side of the family, and their history in the US begins sometime before 1700, when James Ditto (b. unknown/d. 22 Jan 1733, Baltimore, Maryland) is listed on the Maryland Census as living on the north side of Gunpowder River; so, roughly in this vicinity:
Little is known about James (or “Jeames”) Ditto – a situation made all the more intractable for the commonness of the word “ditto” in documents of the time. He had three sons, including the better-known Abraham Ditto (b. 14 Sep 1718, Baltimore, Maryland/d. 29 Mar 1794, Kentucky) who founded the quaintly-named plot of land, “Ditto’s Delight,” located on the Maryland coast, and my family’s progenitor, William Ditto (b. 1713, Baltimore, Maryland/d. aft. 1774, Chatham, North Carolina). There’s less known about William, but one tidbit of information comes from the book, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Runaway Servants, Convicts, and Apprentices, 1728-1796 (Farley Grubb, 1992, p. 160), in which we learn that William posted a notice in the Pennsylvania Gazette seeking Willam Smart, a 22 year-old English waggoner who apparently went AWOL from his service on 22 Aug 1771.
On 6 Oct 1736, William (“Detter”) married Jane Quine (20 Jun 1713, Baltimore, Maryland/d. bef. 1748, Maryland), the daughter of William and Elizabeth Quine.
As an interesting aside, the surname Quine is historically associated with the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependent state located in the Irish Sea between Ireland, Scotland, and England. While there’s no definitive proof that William Quine emigrated from Isle of Man, given the rarity of the name it’s a reasonable assumption to make.
From William Ditto and Jane Quine came, among other children, James Ditto (sometimes called “John,” b. 1743, Baltimore, Maryland/d. 30 Oct 1828, Madison, Alabama), who has his own small-but-unique place in American history. As recounted on the historical marker, “Site of Ditto’s Landing and Town of Whitesburg,” located in north central Alabama, near Huntsville:
In 1807 pioneer James Ditto began operating a ferry with landings on both sides of the Tennessee River. Early settlers landed here in order to reach their lands in Madison County. James White, Salt King of Abingdon, Va., established a thriving port at this location, incorporated as Whitesburg on Dec. 23, 1824. Throughout the 19th century this port remained an important cotton shipping center. With the advent of railroads water transportation declined and the town soon disappeared. Its post office closed in 1905
So, from 1807, James is operating a ferry at what he’s perhaps predictably named “Ditto’s Landing.” On 10 Nov 1813, Ditto wrote a letter to General Andrew Jackson, apparently in response to an inquiry from that direction, outlining his services to the approaching army:
The ferry on Tenesee River is very badly attended too people has frequently to wait half a day on the south side of the River lest their burnings be ever so urgent & then perhaps Give an Extravagant fee to get over.
I would suppose that all persons going or comming who is attached to the army woud have their [passage] paid by the publick, should your Honor think it aught to be the case & would wish to apoint suitable hands to be Ready at all times to work the flat or canoe as the case may Require I would only add that I have kept a ferry six years at this and the Lower Landing therefore my two sons must be well acquainted with the management of a flat & should your honor Direct me to have it done it should be done with punctuallity the work is laborious Should your Honor, say so much per day or so much per man hours & also for foot passengers – per day is much the easiest act. I am with all Esteem your most obedient Servant.
10th November 1812
P.S. Major Alex. Gilbreath is acquainted with me – wind at west of the River ? – 3 hands will do – high tide will take five boat is heavy”
(Consider this an open invitation for anyone who can read this better than me to fill in the blanks and/or correct my mistakes!)
Ultimately, James ended up ferrying Jackson and Davy Crockett across the Tennessee River as part of the Creek War (1813-1814, US forces fighting the Creek, Choctaw, and Cherokee tribes), thus cementing his little place in history.
There’s actually an interesting story on the podcast, Alabama Pioneers, in which we learn that, but for the dastardly John Hunt, Huntsville, Alabama might well have been called “Dittoville” instead.
James and his wife, Eleanor Wilkinson (b. 6 Mar 1761, North Carolina/d. abt. 1800), had eight children, of whom Josiah Ditto (b. 1780, North Carolina/d. 1823, Alabama) was our ancestor. Josiah married Jane Starr (b. abt. 1785, North Carolina/d. aft. 1850, Marshall, Alabama) in about 1804, and their daughter, the improbably named Delilah Dillashaw (“Dillie”) Ditto (b. 14 Apr 1809, Tennessee/9 Oct 1887, McLennan, Texas), married Aquilla Jones (b. 25 Dec 1808, Maury, Tennessee/d. 29 Dec 1876, McLennan, Texas), parents of my great-great-great-great grandmother, Lucy Jane Jones, mother of Caleb Jones Shafer (b. 4 Sep 1858, Brown, Texas/d. 20 Feb 1928, Tulia, Swisher, Texas), pictured here with an impressive mustache and friend.
One other interesting little tidbit of information is that Aquilla and Dillie Jones are both listed on the official ancestor roster of the Daughters of the Texas Republic. So, there’s that.
- Bernice Eppy MARINER (1909-2003)
- Dessie Viola SHAFER (1883-1974) m. John Henry MARINER (1875-1965)
- Caleb Jones SHAFER (1858-1928)
- Lucy Jane JONES (1829-unk.) m. Andrew Jackson SHAFER (1827-1880)
- Delilah Dillashaw DITTO (1809-1887) m. Aquilla JONES (1808-1876)
- Josiah DITTO (1780-1823)
- James “John” DITTO (1743-1828)
- William DITTO (1713-1774)
- James DITTO (Aft. 1684-1733)