Is Barefoot an Indian Name?

Posted on Nov 1, 2011

The question I am most often asked at public talks or book signings is this: Is Barefoot an Indian name? The short answer is no— not at least in any Native American tribe with which I’m familiar. The Barefoots came to the Virginia colony from England in the 1600s— which, I’m proud to say, makes it a very old Virginia name. That’s the short answer. Here’s the longer answer.

The line of Barefoots from which I am descended settled in Virginia in the mid 17th century, later moved into North Carolina and eventually southern Georgia. According to Barefoot Families of the South (2005), a number of Barefoots came to Virginia from England in the early to mid-1600s. They tended to be “middling” or middle-class farmers, never owning much more than a few hundred acres.

The first Virginia Barefoot for which we can show a direct ancestral link to my family is Noah Barefoot (born about 1650 and died about 1711). This Noah Barefoot is my great x7 grandfather.

Noah Barefoot and his wife Grace Johnson had four children, the youngest of which was George, who was born about 1692 in Surry County.

Noah’s son George later moved his family south in the first quarter of the 1700s and established what would become the Barefoots of Columbus County, North Carolina. George’s eldest son William was born about 1745 and died about 1783 in what is now Columbus County.

William Barefoot (George’s son, Noah’s grandson) married Amelia (Milly) Joyner, and their eldest boy was named James O. Barefoot, who was born about 1759. As a young man, this James Barefoot of North Carolina fought in the American Revolution.

James O. Barefoot married Delilah Mims (originally of Kentucky) and they had ten children together. Their first child was a boy, believed to have been born in 1791, the year the Bill of Rights was ratified. His name was John B. Barefoot, and he went by “Jackie.”

Like his ancestors before him, Jackie Barefoot labored as a middling farmer in what is now Columbus County, North Carolina. He lived through the dramatic first half of the 19th century, witnessing the Industrial Revolution first-hand. Jackie and his wife Nancy had 11 children, the fifth of which was Thomas— born on February 4, 1826 and died December 12, 1904.

Thomas Barefoot married Sarah Flynn, and they are buried side by side in the Flynn Cemetery just east of Whiteville, North Carolina. This Tom Barefoot fought for the Confederacy in the United States Civil War. Tom Barefoot is my great-great grandfather.

Tom and Sarah’s oldest son, George Mandon Barefoot, was born on November 11, 1856 and died June 10, 1919. George, my great-grandfather, lived as a small child through the Civil War.

George and his wife Melissa Victoria Corbett had 9 children together, the oldest son of which was named Robert Earl Barefoot— my paternal grandfather (see photo at right). Robert Earl was born October 19,1887 and died on March 27, 1961. Private First Class Robert Earl Barefoot fought in France in World War I with the “Wildcat Division,” Battery C, 316th Field Artillery.

Robert Earl married Sarah Jane Smith in 1911, but she passed away just a year later. He met and married his second wife, Eloise Fisher, in the small farming community of Moultrie, Georgia. They had two sons: my father, Robert James, and my Uncle Coy, for whom I am named.

My mother, Elaine Chilton, met my father at The Varsity in downtown Atlanta in the summer of 1954. They were married two years later, June 9, 1956.

I was born almost ten years later, the third of three children, on March 26, 1966— the great, great, great, great, great, great, great-grandson of Noah Barefoot of Virginia.

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