Alston Family (North and South Carolina)

The Alstons are a family whose ancestors arrived in the Carolinas in the seventeenth century; the different branches settled the Halifax County area of North Carolina, and the Georgetown District area of South Carolina. The family name was spelled both “Alston” and “Allston.” Both families were extremely wealthy, due to their extensive rice plantations and other agricultural interests in the nineteenth century. Of the five Alston men who attended the University of Virginia in the first fifty years of its existence, four were descended from the South Carolina branch, and one from North Carolina.

William Ashe Alston (16 Mar. 1812-30 May 1842), Theodosius Alston (23 Mar. 1816-1836), and John Ashe Alston (14 May 1817-8 Oct. 1858) were the earliest Alston students at the University; William Ashe attended U.Va. in sessions 7-9 (1830-1833), Theodosius in sessions 11-12 (1834-1836), and John Ashe in session 13 (1836-1837). The Alston family tended to use the same names in each generation, but these birth dates and the name “Wm A. Alston” of Georgetown, SC, listed as “parent or guardian” in the U.Va. Matriculation Books, identifies these students as the sons of William Algernon Alston (1782-1860) of The Oaks, a rice plantation near Georgetown, SC — now a part of Brookgreen Gardens — and his wife, Mary (Allston) Young Alston (1778-1844).

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about the lives of William Ashe Alston and Theodosius Alston. Neither man is reliably listed in the family genealogies, and when Theodosius appears, he is sometimes listed in error as a female. Theodosius Alston (1816-1836) died when about 20 years old while at the University of Virginia, though he does not seem to be buried in the U.Va. Cemetery. (Barringer)

What little we do know about William Ashe Alston (1812-1842) is that he attended U.Va. for only a few months in session 7, and was released “by letter” to return home in October 1830; he returned to U.Va. in sessions 8 and 9 to complete his education. (U.Va. Matriculation Books) He became a lawyer, and on 18 Apr. 1840, married Anne Porter (1816-1841), daughter of Alexander Porter of Louisiana. He had just returned from a trip to Europe at the time of his death in New York City. (Winyah Observer)

John Ashe Alston (1817-1858), is mentioned in the Minutes of the U.Va. Board of Visitors (August 17, 1837) when he asked “for permission to keep a horse in the vicinity,” a request that was turned over to the Faculty, with the proviso that they might “grant the permission asked so long as it may be deemed important to the preservation of Mr. Alston’s health, and under such restrictions as they may prescribe.”  He married Frances Buford Fraser (1820-1897); the couple had the following children: Hugh Fraser, Thomas, Dr. Theodosius, John Ashe, Washington, Helen, Algernon (1) (d. young), Algernon (2), Fanny Buford, and Rowland Alston. John Ashe Alston was a rice farmer, though he also served in the state militia: “Lieutenant Col.” John A. Alston was elected Brigadier General to command the 9th Brigade of the South Carolina Militia in 1844. He was also a supporter of the arts, and was instrumental in founding the Carolina Art Association in 1857, and in organizing a show of the work of artist Charles Fraser in Charleston. John A. Alston is buried in the All Saints Protestant Episcopal Church Cemetery on Pawley’s Island, Georgetown, SC.

William Algernon Alston, mentioned above, served as a SC state Representative, and was the son of Col. William “King Billy” Alston, one of the richest men in South Carolina, and Col. William’s first wife, Mary Ashe (d.1789). William Algernon Alston was the full brother of SC Governor Joseph Alston (1779-1816) — husband of Theodosia Burr, the daughter of Aaron Burr — and of SC state representative John Ashe Alston (1780-1812). Col. William Alston married, secondly, Mary Brewton Motte, and among their children was Thomas Pinckney Alston (1794-1861). Thomas Pinckney Alston was the father of Jacob Motte Alston (1821-1909). This man, who went by the name J. Motte Alston, in 1848 married Mary Ann Fitzsimmons (1830-1866), and became the father of Thomas Pinckney Alston (30 April 1849-7 Nov. 1868), who attended U.Va. in session 43 (1866-1867). Thomas Pinckney Alston the younger was a half first cousin once removed of the sons of William Algernon Alston. While studying at U.Va. he joined Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He was a lawyer, and died unmarried within a year of leaving the University.

Charles Julian Poydras Alston of Halifax County, NC (12 Mar. 1818-before 1880) was the son of the Hon. Willis Alston (1769-1837) and his second wife, Sallie Madeline Potts (b. ca. 1780). Willis Alston served for many years in the North Carolina State House and Senate, as well as in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was given the nickname “Congress.” Charles attended session 12 (1835-1836), so he was at the University at the same time as his distant cousin Theodosius Alston. The U.S. census gives his profession as “farmer.” On 27 Oct., 1846, Charles married Mary Janette Clark (1824-1894). Their children were: Dr. Willis Alston, Samuel Clark Alston, Leonidas Alston, Charles Julian Poydras Alston, Jr., and Edgar Alston (d. young).


  • “All Saints Episcopal Cemetery [website].” (Accessed 6/13/2011).
  • Alston, Jacob Motte. Rice planter and sportsman; the recollections of J. Motte Alston, 1821-1909. Columbia, SC, 1953.
  • New York Death Newspaper Extracts, 1801-1890 (Barber Collection) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2005.
  • and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1850-1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc.
  • [Announcement re: Lieut. Col. John A. Alston.] Greenville Mountaineer, (Greenville, SC). No. 16 (August 30, 1844), col D.
  • Barringer, Paul Brandon. The University of Virginia; its history, influence, equipment, and characteristics. New York, 1904. Accessed via
  • Beta Theta Pi. Catalogue of Beta Theta Pi. 9th ed. New York, 1917.
  • “Death of a Former Resident [Jacob Motte Alston].” The State (Columbia, SC), no. 6705 (July 17 1909), p. 6. (America’s Historical Newspapers. Newsbank).
  • “The Death of John Ashe Alston (Editorial).” The Charleston Mercury (Charleston, SC) Monday, October 11, 1858; Issue 10,359; col B. (19th Century Newspapers – Infotrac).
  • [Gilman, Samuel]. Catalogue of miniature portraits, landscapes, and other pieces executed by Charles Fraser, Esq. and exhibited at “The Fraser Gallery,” at Charleston during the months of February and March, 1857. Charleston, SC, 1857. Accessed via
  • Groves, Joseph Asbury. The Alstons and Allstons of North and South Carolina. Atlanta, GA, 1901. Accessed via
  • Heyward, Barnwell Rhett. “The descendants of Col. William Rhett of South Carolina [continued].” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, v. 4, No. 2 (April 1903), p. 110-189.
  • Hunting For Bears, comp. Louisiana Marriages, 1718-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2004.
  • “The Relatives and Friends of Mr. and Mrs. John Ashe Alston are Invited to attend the Funeral Services of Mr. Alston, at their house on Sullivan’s Island, this morning, at half-past Nine o’clock (Classified ads).” The Charleston Mercury (Charleston, SC) Saturday, October 09, 1858; Issue 10,358; col A. (19th Century Newspapers – Infotrac).
  • Rush, Benjamin. Letter to Col. William Alston, 29 Aug. 1789, in “Showplaces of Georgetown.” South Carolina Historical Review, [n.d.], p. 1-2.
  • Tombstones of the Alston family, All Saints Episcopal Church Cemetery, Pawley’s Island, SC & The Oaks Cemetery, Murrells Inlet, SC. (Accessed 6/13/2011).
  • University of Virginia. Minutes of the Board of Visitors, Aug. 17, 1837. UVa Text Collection. (Accessed 8/5/2011).
  • University of Virginia Matriculation Books, 1825-1904, Accession #RG-14/4/2.041, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
  • Williams, Mary, “John Alston of Chowan Co., NC – Will?” [email dated 13 Nov. 2001]. (Accessed 6/13/2011).
  • Winyah Observer, June 18, 1842, in Rogers, George C., History of Georgetown County, S.C. Columbia, SC, 1970.
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21 Responses to Alston Family (North and South Carolina)

  1. Buz Etheredge says:

    Hello; I am researching the prior owners of my son’s home for the National Historic Register. It is Rockford Plantation here in Marietta, GA built between 1839-41. The Abstract shows a Dr. William Alston of Charleston, SC (Jan 1829-July 1904) purchsing the property in July, 1882 from Octavus Cohen–a prominent and wealthy family in Savannah. William Alston then sold Rockford to Matthew Cannon in May 1889. Is Dr. Alston related to your family? There was also a Lee Alston here during the War that was a Confederate soldier–a cadet at the Ga Military Institute. Are you able to provide me any information on these gentlemen and their families? Thanks very much. L.B. (Buz) Etheredge

    • jlc5f says:

      Hi – I’ll have to look at the information I have on the Alston family. I can’t immediately place this Dr. William Alston, but he sounds like he should be part of the Alstons of South Carolina. — Jean Cooper

    • jlc5f says:

      Dr. William Joseph Alston (b. 1829), was the son of Thomas Pinckney Alston (1795-1861) by his second wife, Susan Elizabeth Smith (the sister of his first wife). He married Marianne Porcher Smith. There are more details in “The Alstons and Allstons of North and South Carolina,” by Joseph A. Groves, p. 84-87 at this URL:

      This means he was the half-brother of the Jacob Motte Alston mentioned in my essay.

  2. Sherron Alston says:

    I have been searching for my family for years and I know for a fact that there are other Alston family members that are connected to me and my family. We are from Baltimore, however our family stems from Virginia and North Carolina.

  3. Antoinette Davis says:

    Are these Alston’s related to the Alston’s that settled in North Carolina?

  4. Laura Lisa Alston says:

    My last name is Alston. I need to do some genealogy research to see if these people are my ancestors. Does anyone know the best place to start? Is a good place to start?

    • When researching genealogy, one must start with the present and work backwards. First, talk to all your living relatives and get the facts from them. Ask them if they remember their parents talking about their older relatives. Here are some free forms to get you started: Start with the Family Group sheet and fill it out as completely as possible for each family.

      After that, I would look at the U.S. Census, which is available from several sources. has it, but that’s pretty expensive and the search engine is hard to use. I personally would recommend instead, because it is free(!) and easier to use.

      If you want to find out more about the Alstons in general, try this book, available free on the Internet Archive, The Alstons and Allstons of North and South Carolina, by Joseph A. Grove:

  5. L.B. (Buz) Etheredge says:

    Laura; Jean was very helpful in my research. Below is what I discovered about the branch that owned my son’s home in Marietta. Long since forgotten, they seemed to be very well respected citizens of the community and raised a lot of kids. Maybe your lineage rest here. Good luck.
    Buz Etheredge

    Dr. William Joseph Alston (1829-1904) born in Charleston, S.C., was the son of Thomas Pinckney Alston (1795-1861), whose family owned the famed Marietta Plantation in Georgetown, S.C.—named after Thomas Pinckney Alston’s mother, Mary Brewton Motte Alston. Dr. Alston’s grandparents, Colonel and Mrs. Alston—Revolutionary War heroes—and family members were memorialized by several important portrait painters of the time. (See A-8 above: American Portrait Painters–1765-1860)

    Dr Alston’s uncle, Joseph Alston was the 44th Governor of South Carolina (1812-1814). He was married to Theodosia Burr (1773-1812), daughter of Aaron Burr, the third Vice President serving under Thomas Jefferson. Admired at the time, Burr is mostly associated with having killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. On a stormy night in 1812, Theodosia vanished along with the schooner Patriot somewhere off the Outer Banks, NC. Her fate remains a mystery with the most common belief being that she and the crew were hijacked and murdered by pirates.

    Dr. Alston married Marianne Porcher Smith in 1852. Shortly thereafter, the couple moved to Marietta, GA, where they made their home for forty years as valued members of the community. Dr. Alston received his A.B. Degree from the University of South Carolina in 1842. During the Civil War, he was an Assistant Surgeon, Medical Staff Infantry Regiment, C.S.A. William and Marianne had eight children between the ages of 11 and 30 yrs. of age when they purchased Rockford in 1882.

    From Dr. Alston’s obituary in the Marietta Daily Journal July 1904: “ Quiet and retiring in disposition, he did not mingle to a great extent with his fellow men; but was fond of the society of friends. Being a man of culture, he was fond of communing with great authors, especially did he search the Book of Books. Perhaps no better idea of our departed friend can be given than that of the following lines selected and copied by him into his scrap book: “Sure the last end of the good man is peace! How calm the Exit! Night dews fall not more gently to the ground. Nor weary, worn out winds expire so soft. A Friend”

    Marianne Alston was equally admired within the Marietta community. Her obituary in the Marietta Daily Journal read: “She was a most estimable woman, of great energy, and remarkable intelligence, a loyal wife and affectionate mother. She was a member of the St. James Episcopal Church and lived the life of a consecrated Christian. Her many virtues, acts of charity and kindness are treasures laid up in heaven, where she has gone to receive her reward. Her life was one of usefulness and great benediction to others, and she will be sadly missed, not only to her immediate family, but to all others who knew her.”

    Wm. Alston & Sons (William, William Jr., Rutledge, and Pinckney) ran the Alston Farm (Rockford) during the seven years of ownership selling cotton, seasonal groceries and steam feed for cows and horses. Having paid $4000 for the farm in 1882 and selling it in 1889 for $6500, it is probable that the Alstons made substantial improvements to the farming capabilities. Upon the sale, the Marietta Daily Journal reported; “This is one of the best and most productive farms in the county. Dr. Alston, we regret to learn, will move to Atlanta.” Both the main barn and the farm machinery garage appear to have been constructed during the 1880s so it is possible these improvements can be attributed to Dr. Alston. Dr. and Mrs. Alston are buried in the St. James Episcopal Church cemetery in Marietta, GA.

  6. Denise says:

    Does anyone know about the black Alston’s in Bucksport SC (close to City of Conway, SC: Horry County) and Burgess Community (which is in city of Murrells Inlet, Horry county still). I’m tracing my tree and was hoping for some info on slave owners or any info at all!!!

    • Dawn Alston says:

      Denise, I am a black Alston. My family is from Conway SC. Please contact me.

      • Michael Gilbert says:

        Hi Dawn,
        Would you contact me, I would like to compare out notes.

      • Mary McCullough says:

        You should contact – a genealogist and also a black Alston descendant researching her own history. I am a white direct Alston descendant – my mother was an Alston. I do not personally have any black information for you, but I have read that the Alston plantation owners kept extremely detailed records of those who worked their lands. Unfortunately when I read this no specifics were provided on how to proceed to actually see or learn more about those records. Could be that they are in public records near the Alston plantations. Sometimes those things are buried deep and take an actual visit to uncover. I know my mother used to do research in Charleston at a historical genealogy repository called the Fire House. Good luck with your search.

        Mary McCullough

    • Michael Gilbert says:

      Hello Denise,
      I am on the same path as you, please contact me.

  7. Mary McCullough says:

    My genealogy shows a black Susan Elizabeth Alston (1855-1912). She was the loved oldest child of the white William Joseph Alston (1829-1904) and white Mary Porcher Smith (1831-1900). I have one of her photos and saw another a relative showed me several years ago. She never married and had no children. She lived in South Carolina and Georgia.

  8. marcus alston says:

    I’m also a Alston but I’m back mixed.My family is from Roanoke Rapids and Littleton,NC

  9. Zina Alston says:

    I am also a Alston. I was born in Philadelphia., Penna. My family in from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

  10. William E. Alston says:

    I am also an Alston, My Grandfather is Samuel Alston who was from Conway SC, and moved to Philadelphia PA, Reno St. My Father is Allen Delano Alston.

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