Facts and Events
From: The Annals of Tennessee to the End of the Eighteenth Century, J. G. M. Ramsey, A. M., M.D. 1853, pp 141-142
Thus begins the legend of Julius Caesar Dugger, pioneer settler of Tennessee. What is quite interesting, and indeed, outrageous, is that this text, published in 1853, is the only document up to that time that mentions this supposed pioneer. Why is that? Well, quite simply it is because the author was mistaken. There was no Julius C. Dugger. What? Yes, that is right, this man (as described) did not exist. Oh there was a man named Julius Dugger who did live in that very area that Dr. Ramsey described. However he was born in 1760 and died there in the 1830's. He is indeed the ancestor of many of the Duggers of that region. But he wasn't there in 1766 with Andrew Greer, unless as a very small child.
The public records of Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina have been scoured for traces of Julius C. Dugger. No one of that name ever appears on any public record prior to the Revolutionary War when a Julius Dugger served as a soldier. Well couldn't that be him? No, that is the younger Julius Dugger (1760) as proven by his own Revolutionary War Pension application.
Some will say that there is a preponderance of evidence in that many early researchers and authors refer to Julius C. Dugger, so therefore he must have existed! However all of those "early" writings are merely building on what Dr. Ramsey published. None pre-date him, nor do any offer proof of any sort. So therefore if Dr. Ramsey can't be considered a primary source, they certainly can't either. If you build on an imaginary foundation, all you are going to have is an imaginary house or a magical floating structure. Unfortunately that is what we have with Julius C. Dugger.
How did this legend start? It would be nice if we had something to go on other than the few lines Dr. Ramsey wrote. Where did he get his information? One would assume he spoke to some of the old timers in the Watauga area and they told him the story. This is a big assumption though it could be correct. Unfortunately Dr. Ramsey's home burned down and all of his original correspondence and other source material has been forever lost.
The most likely scenario and explanation is that it is a case of mistaken identity. The story could be correct, but the name could be wrong. Someone was telling the story about their ancestor Dugger, and referred to him as Julius, confusing him with the younger man of that name, who was also their ancestor. This sort of juxtaposition is extremely common in family tradition, even today. The story might be correct, but it is being told about the wrong person.
Another scenario, though less likely, but possible, is that the Dugger in question did exist, and "Julius C." was only a nickname and not his proper name, therefore no public records exist using Julius C. as his name.
The third scenario, hopefully not the case, is that whomever gave the information to Dr. Ramsey just didn't know what they were talking about, and were making up stories to inflate their own families importance. Unfortunately this kind of thing happened a lot in those days, and indeed today as well.
Of the three scenarios, one and two are the more likely explanations. If either of them is the true, then who was this person referred to as Julius C. Dugger?
The public records show three early Duggers in the Watauga region. The general consensus is that the three were siblings. No direct evidence of that relationship has been found, but the three were associated with one another and probably were very closely related, if not siblings. They were William Dugger (1750-1839), Mary Dugger (1750s-1836) and Julius Dugger (1760-1838). There is also evidence of a fourth sibling, Benjamin Dugger (c1751-1815) who didn't live in Tennessee, he did live close by in what is now Watauga Co., NC.
These four had to have parents, and some genealogists in the early 20th century naturally assigned them as children of Julius C. Dugger, for wasn't he there early on? Well it is a natural mistake, but one we have to fix. Was there any older Duggers in the area? There was indeed. There was a William Dugger (in addition to the one born 1750) who appeared in Surry Co., NC in 1771 and 1772, apparently dying there ca 1773 leaving an apparent widow Mary. Now this William is almost certainly the same one found in Pittsylvania Co., VA just before then, and elsewhere before that. He left a number of records showing a common migration of that era. He originated in Brunswick Co., VA where there were other Duggers.
Could William Dugger (c1720-c1773) be person referred to as Julius C. Dugger? He certainly could be. Can we prove it? No, not so far we can't. Circumstantially speaking, William is much more likely to be the father of the Dugger siblings than anyone else, since no other older Duggers were in the region as far as we can tell from primary, or even secondary source documentation.
What about Benjamin Dugger? There was an older Benjamin Dugger in Virginia with William, and they are probably siblings. This Benjamin vanished from public records after 1756. There is no evidence that he ever came to North Carolina or Tennessee. Or is there? A mysterious tombstone at the Howell Cemetery in Watauga Co., NC has caused much confusion and debate. It says "Benj. Dugger died 1797." Now who is that? It is hand carved stone so very old (though a newer stone has also been placed there with the same information).
That stone is either for Benjamin Dugger (c1751-1815) and they got the death date wrong (which means that even though it was old, it was placed many years after the fact); or it isn't that same Benjamin Dugger who died in 1815. If not him, then who? Two possibilities spring to mind. One, since there is no birth date or age, it is a child named Benjamin Dugger who was born and died in 1797. That would be the best choice. Second, it could be the older Benjamin Dugger who was last heard of in Lunenburg Co., VA in 1756. I doubt it is him for where had he been during those intervening 40 years?
The mystery stone has led some to believe that the older Benjamin (c1724-c1756) could be the elusive Julius C. Dugger, pioneer. It is certainly possible, but unfortunately, unprovable.
For now we will have to exist with knowledge that there is no primary, or even secondary evidence that Julius C. Dugger, pioneer of 1766, ever existed. It is hoped that perhaps someday some piece of evidence will be found to explain this genealogical mystery to everyone's satisfaction.
Refer to the pages below for more information on the documented portions of the family: