Reconstructing a Family: Laban Lupo of Robeson County, NC

Historic map of North Carolina

In putting together a genealogy, knowing who isn’t part of a given family is almost as important as knowing who is. In the case of the Lupos in Virginia and the Carolinas, the exasperating naming conventions make it very difficult to identify who belongs where. Between 1780 and 1820 there were at least four men named William Lupo or Luper in the Carolinas, three of whom were father, son, and grandson, and two of whom were first cousins, close in age, who lived near one another. Two of the sons of James Lupo of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, William and Laban, named sons John, and Laban and James named sons Phillip, who were born within a year of one another. This confusion has led to many errors in attributing descendants. Around 1999, by creating timelines on each individual, I undertook a project to straighten out some of the family lines, and I’m reasonably satisfied that the answers I found correctly sort out who’s related to whom.

One of the best documented of James Lupo’s sons is his youngest, Laban, with much family correspondence to fill in breaks in the official record of estates, land and tax records. Laban Lupo appears in the household of his father, James on the 1782 census of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, and on a tax list there in 1790. James names Laban as one of the executors of his estate in 1789, along with Laban’s brother James, and Samuel Bidgood. Laban later appears on the 1800 census in Robeson County, North Carolina. After 1800, Laban disappears from records, and is not on the 1810 census of Robeson County, NC, though there is a “Beggy Looper” recorded in Robeson County, who appears to be his widow. While Laban is not my direct ancestor, he was the father of a large family of mostly sons, many of whom had large families of their own. I’ve concluded that most of the Lupos in the Carolinas, and many of those in Mississippi and points West are Laban’s descendants.

The 1782 census of Isle of Wight County, Virginia is represented as a listing of heads of household, but I determined that it’s actually a listing of individuals, which means it included minor children. I came to this conclusion by researching Zachariah Lupo, who appears on the list and, based on his age on the 1810 and 1820 census in North Carolina, could not have been born earlier than 1776. Laban is listed with James and Phillip, demonstrating that Laban was still in his father’s household and not married. On the tax list of 1790, Laban is listed with no one in his household between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. In 1800, other than Laban and his wife, no one in his household is over the age of fifteen, suggesting Laban married no earlier than 1785. He appears in Isle of Wight records until 1790, but does not appear in court when his father’s will is presented, nor does he sign off on the acknowledgement of payment for land sold from the estate to John Womble in 1791.

By 1810, Laban no longer appears on the census, but there’s a listing in Robeson County for “Beggy Looper” and the makeup of the household looks similar to Laban’s from 1800, only ten years older. “Looper” is most likely the census takers attempt at Luper, which is a common variant of Lupo, and “Beggy” appears to be a failed rendering of the name Peggy, which is a common nickname for Margaret. There is no one named Margaret or Peggy Lupo listed on the census in 1782, but in 1790, on estate records relating to James Lupo, Margaret Lupo is one of the signers, along with James Lupo, Jr. and his wife, Ann. Combined with the evidence of the 1810 census, and considering that James Lupo did not mention a daughter named Margaret in his will, it’s reasonable to assume that Margaret is Laban’s wife. On the 1820 census, Margaret Luper is found in Richland County, South Carolina, and her age is consistent with “Beggy Looper” in Robeson County in 1810.

Knowing the first name of Laban’s wife, and that Peggy is a common nickname for Margaret, I searched Isle of Wight County records at Ancestry for women named Margaret or Peggy. In 1781, a man by the name of William Robertson of Newport Parish made out his will (recorded 1782) and mentioned son George and daughter Peggy, and stated that George was not yet eighteen. Since I’ve observed that most colonial and post-Revolutionary wills list heirs in order of their ages, I made the assumption that Peggy was also under eighteen, and younger than George. In 1785, Willis Wilson of Newport Parish made out his will and mentioned Margaret Roberts and Mildred “Loopo” — Laban’s first cousin. Apparently, Willis Wilson was guardian to both Margaret and Mildred. Roberts is probably a shortened form of Robertson, as I’ve noted it was common to drop the final “on” in names that ended with “son”. John Johnson, for instance, was often rendered as “John Johns” in official records. Also mentioned are several Bidgoods and William Carrell, both allied families to the Lupos, and, in fact, William Carrell was Mildred Lupo’s grandfather. It also suggests that as of 1785, Margaret Robertson was still regarded as a minor, meaning she was not more than eighteen to twenty years old. “Beggy Looper” in Robeson County, is listed as over forty-five on the 1810 census, meaning she was born no later than 1765, and if she still has a guardian in 1785, this suggests she was born around 1764-1765. While these records do not definitively prove Margaret Robertson became Margaret Lupo, they do indicate that she was known as Peggy, and they put her in close proximity to many families allied with the Lupos, not to mention Laban’s cousin, Millie, who was also a witness to the will of Laban’s father, and they suggest that Margaret was the right age to have been Laban’s wife.

Those researching the family of Laban Lupo owe a great debt to Edmond Summers Lupo and his grandson James Foster Lupo, both ministers in the Methodist church, and to Foster Lupo’s nephew Harold Homer Lupo, who also spent many years researching the family. In an undated letter to a relative, Summers Lupo provides extensive documentation on the family of his father, John Lupo of Lexington County, South Carolina, which is said to have come from his father. In this letter, Summers Lupo names an uncle, Laban, who he states “went to Mississippi” and an Uncle James, who went to North Carolina when Summers was a young child. He also states some of his father’s family settled in Marion County, SC, which is just across the border from Robeson County, where Laban was active until around 1800-1805. Summers Lupo also states his grandfather died before his father, John — said to have been born in 1798 — was old enough to remember his father. This is consistent with Laban’s disappearance after the 1800 census.

Laban’s oldest son appears to be the William Lupo/Luper who went to Marion County, South Carolina between 1810 and 1820. Here again, the naming conventions in the family create a great deal of confusion, as many researchers have made the assumption that the William Luper who went to Marion County, is the same William Luper who appears on the 1800 census in Robeson County. However, I believe the William Luper from 1800 died not long after 1804, when he witnessed the will of Mary Bell. In April of 1805, a woman named Treacy Luper, who appears to be William’s wife or widow, sued a neighbor, Britton Britt, for maintenance of a “base born” child. This appears to have been Gilbert Luper, who showed up in later Robeson County records before moving to Tennessee with his brother Allen. Treacy proves to be an interesting figure, and I’ve concluded her name must have been Teresa or Theresa, which yielded the nickname Treacy. Those researchers who believe William went to Marion County, cite Treacy’s affair with Britton Britt as the cause of William’s departure, but a considerable amount of time elapsed between when Treacy sues Britton Britt and when William shows up in Marion County. Also, there is a William Luper recorded in 1811 as having been appointed to work on the road, suggesting someone by that name still lived in Robeson County well after Treacy’s relationship with Britton Britt ended. No property, tax, or estate records have been found for a William Lupo or Luper in Robeson County, between 1804 and 1811, and if this was the William from 1800, he should have left behind more of a paper trail. Most of the records that have been found relate to Treacy Luper.

A word should be said for Treacy, who comes across in the records as a fairly remarkable woman. In a time when women were lucky if they were even mentioned by name in their husbands estate records, Treacy married twice, and both times seems to have retained the property given to her by her father possibly as part of her dowry. In general, once a woman married, all her property reverted to her husband. The fact that she had sons by her first husband may have been a factor, since they had a valid claim to any property that had belonged to their father and grandfather. Around 1820, Treacy and her son John sold their interest in a slave identified as “Dol” in records. A year later, son William sold his interest, and then he moved with his brother John to Mississippi. My speculation on the situation with Britton Britt was that he may have promised to marry Treacy after her husband died, then backed out after she became pregnant. Young widows with small children didn’t stay single for very long. It says a lot about Treacy that, in a time when women had almost no rights whatsoever, that she was willing to stand up in open court and accuse Britt of getting her pregnant and demand support from him, and she prevailed. Records indicate Treacy married Silas Ivey shortly thereafter, as she’s identified in court records as Treacy Ivey after 1807.

Examining the records left behind yields important clues that help separate William in Robeson County from William in Marion County. William Luper was no older than twenty-five in 1800, meaning he was born no earlier than 1775. In 1797, he witnessed a deed between Gilbert Cox and another individual, meaning that by 1797, William was already associated with Gilbert, and his association was that he was Gilbert’s son-in-law. This indicates that, by 1797, William was already married to Treacy, which meant he was at least twenty to twenty-one years old. This places his birth between 1775 and 1777, too old to have been Laban’s son as some researchers have speculated. If this was the William who went to Marion County, SC, in 1840 he’d have been over sixty, not in his fifties as was William in Marion County. It makes more sense that the William Luper from 1800 was the son of Laban’s brother, William, who was active in Johnston County, North Carolina until around 1795 and who had sons in the right age range to have been Willliam Luper. Laban, on the other hand, had a son between ten and fifteen in 1800, and Beggy Looper had a male in her household listed between sixteen and twenty-five in 1810. This son would have been in his fifties in 1840. Since Laban had a brother named William, and Margaret most likely had a father by this name, it makes sense they’d name their first son William.

In 1820, Margaret Luper can be found in Richland County, SC which bordered Lexington County, where John Lupo married Mary Price in 1819. These were the parents of Edmond Summers Lupo. William and Phillip Luper show up in Marion County, SC on the 1820 census. Both William and Phillip had very large families. On the 1830 census, William’s age is listed as of 40 and under 50, and in 1840, he’s listed as of 50 and under 60, which would indicate he was born 1781-1790. On the 1880 census, his sons Alexander and Alfred record that their father was born in Virginia, where records indicate Laban lived as late as 1790. If William is the male in Laban’s household listed between ten and fifteen in 1800, this would place his birth between 1785 to 1790, or fifty to fifty-five years old in 1840. Records indicate he died in Marion County around 1843. The correspondence from Edmond Summers Lupo indicates his “uncle Laban” moved to Mississippi, and in 1850, a Laban Lupo can be found on the census there.

Many of Laban’s descendants became ministers in the Methodist church, and there’s a strong possibility that Laban himself was a minister, though there are no definitive records to back this up. Professions aren’t listed on the 1800 census, and records have not been found that indicate Laban bought or sold much land in Robeson County, unlike his brother William, who left a considerable paper trail in Johnston County, NC, that suggests he was a tobacco farmer.

Laban Lupo
born 1761-63, Isle of Wight Co., VA;
died before 1810, Robeson Co., NC

m. Margaret (probably Robertson) between 1785-87
born 1764-65, Isle of Wight Co., VA;
died after 1820, Richland Co., SC

Their suspected children:

William, born 1785-90
m. 1. Martha Pittman
m. 2. Desdemona Campbell

Two daughters, born 1784-90

One daughter, born 1791-1800

Laban, born ca. 1794
m. Delilah Johnson

John, born 1798
m. Mary Price

James, born 1799-1801

Phillip, born 1799-1801
m. Sarah Anna Campbell


1782 State Census of Virginia Virginia Land, Marriage, and Probate Records, 1639-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.

1800 & 1810 United States Federal Census of North Carolina

1820 – 1880 United States Federal Census of South Carolina

1850 United States Federal Census of Mississippi

Estate records from Marion County, South Carolina, 1843

Personal correspondence from Edmond Summers Lupo, Laban’s grandson, which was preserved by James Foster Lupo and Harold Homer Lupo.

In the 1990s, I maintained a mailing list of Lupo researchers who exchanged records and research. Among those active on the list were Lou Pero, Kathy Anderson, Melanie Kelly, and Clay Luper. Much valuable information on the family was exchanged via this list.

I also must acknowledge Jo Church Dickerson, who first introduced me to Laban and his family way back in 1988, and Michael Dale Lupo from Dahlonega, Georgia, with whom I corresponded in the late-80s and early-90s and who supplied me with valuable information and leads.

7 thoughts on “Reconstructing a Family: Laban Lupo of Robeson County, NC

    1. Much of the research came from the mailing list I maintained in the late 90s, and involved quite a few individuals sharing what they’d gathered, mainly via hands-on research at archives and libraries. The Internet was relatively new and Ancestry hadn’t quite acquired the vast library it has today. Since I’d already determined that Laban wasn’t my direct ancestor, I relied on the research of direct descendants to fill in what I knew about him and his family. My biggest innovation was in analyzing the information. Developing timelines helped immensely.

  1. I’m looking for any information I can find on my great grandfather, James Laban Lupo. He was born in 1852 and died in 1939. I can’t seem to find any information other than where he is buried.

    1. I’ve seen the name before. Was he in Mississippi? If you’ll give me some details on where he lived and is buried, I’ll see what I can find on him.

  2. Hello Matt,
    We haven’t been in contact for a while. I am Jane of the Mississippi Lupers – your only exact match. I have a question about trying to trace back beyond Ambrose. Would you please email me when you have time. I realize from this site that you must be incredibly busy but I hope you can spare a few minutes.

    Would you still like the Mississippi info?

    1. Thanks, Jane. Yes, please send me the info. I’ll need to figure out which email address you had (it’s probably one of two), and I’ll send you a note if my Internet connection is working when I get home.

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