A Fine Name
My grandmother, Winnie McWhorter Cox, was the daughter of Zach Davis McWhorter and Anna Lee Nelson. Zach Davis McWhorter was born and raised in Gaylesville, Alabama. His father, Abbott Milton McWhorter, was born and raised in Carroll Co., GA and later moved to Gaylesville. Abbott’s father, Allen Marlin McWhorter, was born in Abbeville Co., SC and later moved to Carroll Co. Allen Marlin’s father and grandfather, Moses Allen McWhorter and Henry McWhorter, were born in Lancaster Co., PA and lived in what was then Mecklenburg Co., NC during the Revolution, and then moved to Abbeville Co.
However, Henry’s father took the name McWhorter from his wife.
In the first half of the 18th Century, as in so many times before and since, Jews were persecuted terribly in Europe. One aspect of the persecution in the area now known as Germany was that Jews were being forced to take last names. Before this time, Jews were merely known by a first name and who was their father, such as, Moses, son of Isaac. The intolerance for the Jewish people reached new heights in the early 18th Century when Frederick II of Prussia enacted a sweeping set of laws that restricted almost every aspect of their lives. Rather than accept these and other indignities being heaped upon him, a young Jewish college student by the name of Moses hid aboard a ship leaving Bremerhaven for America around 1730.
The young stowaway was eventually discovered, but not until after the ship was so far at sea that it would have been murder to toss him overboard. So instead of murder, the crew set Moses to work to earn his passage to the New World. He proved so industrious and capable that the captain and crew grew to admire and like him. Upon arriving at New Castle, De la Ware, they didn’t toss him overboard once they were within swimming distance of shore, as was the custom. His good conduct and hard work during the passage had earned him the privilege to ride dry-shod in a longboat, rather than swim, to the wharf.
Once ashore in New Castle, Moses began searching for work. He happened upon the McWhorters and offered his services as a common laborer at their farm in nearby Cecil Co., MD. Despite only knowing a few words of English, the McWhorters hired him. In a short time, the McWhorters were astonished to discover that what they thought was a common laborer with limited prospects, was actually a highly educated, intelligent, and industrious young man. As befitted his abilities, Moses was given more and more responsibilities at the McWhorter’s farm. Eventually, he fell in love with one of the McWhorter’s widowed daughters and she with him. The McWhorter’s welcomed Moses into their family, as there was always a place for men who were smart and hardworking.
The power of love accomplished what all the princes of Germany could not. Moses gladly took the last name of the Americans who took him into their family and gave him their daughter in marriage.
His legacy of hard work, industriousness, and the value of education has been passed down from generation to generation for two hundred and fifty years.