James Hemphill was born November 19, 1749, in Londonderrry County, Ireland. He was the son of John Hemphill and his mother is unknown. James came to America in August 1767, settled in Camden District, South Carolina, and enlisted in Captain William Bratton's company, Col. Thomas Heel's regiment for service in the American Revolution. James Hemphill is listed as one of the founding members of the Bethesda Presbyterian Church in York County, South Carolina. This small community is located a few miles north of the community of Brattonsville, South Carolina, where James Hemphill lived with his wife Elsie Bratton Hemphill. She was the daughter of Robert Bratton and the niece of Col. William Bratton.
After the Revolutionary war James Hemphill lived in both York and Chester Counties in South Carolina. The records of Fishing Creek Presbyterian Church across the York County line in Chester County shows that James Hemphill attended the baptism of an infant son (second youngest son) Christian James Bratton Hemphill on July 12, 1801. In 1814 Robert Bratton, the father of James's wife Elsie Bratton Hemphill, died. The following year James moved with his family to Williamson County, Tennessee, where his son William along with his family were already residents. James remained in Williamson County for nine years before moving to Lincoln County, Tennessee, with the rest of his family. James Hemphill recorded his will in Lincoln County, Tennessee February 13, 1836, and died the same year that Marshall County, Tennessee was formed from part of Lincoln , Bedford, Giles, and Maury Counties of Tennessee.
James Hemphill was buried on his farm in the southern part of Marshall County, Tennessee in the Belle-Hemphill Cemetery located in the community of Catalpa, Tennessee. His will was probated in Marshall County, Tennessee on June 4, 1839. The will mentions his wife Elsie, his sons, John, William, Robert, Nathan, James, and Jessey, and daughters Ester Hemphill, Jane Hemphill Bell, Martha Hemphill Williams, Mary Hemphill McKnight, and Margaret Hemphill.
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