Select Pitt Miscellany

Here are some Pitt stories and accounts over the years:

Pitt as an Occupational Name

Pitt is normally considered as a locational surname, i.e. a name coming from where a person lived (by a pit or hollow).  But one writer, J.R. Dolan, has suggested an alternative occupational origin.  In his English Ancestral Names, he states:

"There are fourteen names beginning with 'saer' and all come from the action of sawing wood.  A tree would be cut down.  If one wanted to make boards out of it, a ditch would be dug five to six feet deep and the log to be sawed would be placed across the 'pit.' 

The 'sawyer' would stand on top of the log, holding one end of the long saw.  His assistant would be down in the 'pit' holding the other end.  He of course would be called 'pittman,' or 'pitt,' or 'pitts.'  The name can also be found with 'carpenter.'"

Pitt and Pitts Names

Both the Pitt and Pitts surnames come from the same pytt root.  Today Pitt is more common in England, Pitts in America.  The table below shows the current approximate numbers. 

Numbers (000's)

Thomas Pitt, His Diamond and His Character

Thomas Pitt was one of the first Englishmen to return from India with a fortune in his pocket.  He had sold his extraordinary diamond to the Regent of France for the unheard-of sum of 135,000.  He became at once a nabob, one who, while not springing from a family of any political importance, died in 1726 as one of the richest men in England. 

Forty years earlier, he had been an ambitious British merchant in India whose activities had brought him into conflict with the British East India Company.  They got him arrested and fined for engaging in trade without their permission.   Pitt then embarked on another trading venture and the Company, unable to check his activities, took him into its service.

He had always been a hard man in business.  He gave his son, on going up to Oxford, some characteristic advice: 

"Let it ever be a rule never to lend any money but where you have unquestionable security.  For generally by asking for it you lose your friend and that too."

And he was also a quarrelsome and parsimonious individual who was fundamentally estranged from his family.  The quarrels in the Thomas Pitt household were almost continuous.  In particular, he pursued his cousin John Pitt with the utmost rancor until his death in 1703, denouncing him time and again as crack-brained and inexperienced.

Douglas Pitt and the British Prime Minister

The Pitts of the Torres Straits of Australia are apparently related to William Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister of England from 1783 to 1804.  It all happened during the time of the slave trade when a Pitt had children with one of his slaves in Kingston, Jamaica.  From this union came Douglas Pitt, the great great grandfather of the present generation of Pitts.

A later Douglas Pitt had to leave Jamaica and he made his way via the French colony of New Caledonia to the islands off Queensland in Australia in 1870.  He was known there as "the black pirate."  It was with Pitt and his sons that the early generations of colonized Islanders cut their teeth in the watery deeps and on the canefields of Queensland.  A Pitt family member recalled:

"He was said to wear a flowing beard.  He did wear two revolvers.  He was six foor four, maybe six foot six.  Did you ever hear Paul Robeson?  He had that kind of voice and he sang more when he got blind.

The reason he left Jamaica was that he shot his sister's fiance.  He settled in New Caledonia where he married Chopa, the daughter of Chief Kalimo from Lifu.  Then he had to leave because he fought in a duel and killed the man.

His island was Halfway Island.  He took his workers there and he bred his own workers.  He got wives for his men because he had to.  He only married strong women to his men and there was no fooling around with another's wife on his island because he ruled them with his revolver." 

Pitt's descendants are to be found today on Erub Island.

Richard Pitt, a Free Settler in Tasmania

Richard Pitt was born in Tiverton in Devon in 1765.  He married Jane Tanner, also of Tiverton, and they had four children.  In 1803 Pitt boarded the Ocean in Portsmouth which was carrying both free settlers (as he was) and convicts to Australia.  He set off with one daughter, Salome, and two of his sons, Philip and Francis, while Pitt's wife and eldest son stayed in England.

The Ocean left Portsmouth for Rio de Janeiro and then sailed through the southern Atlantic and into the Indian Ocean.  She experienced frightening weather conditions.  A passenger recalled:

"For many days we could not sit at table but were obliged to hold fast by boxes and on the floor.  All our crockery was almost broken to pieces, besides many seas into the cabin and living in a state of darkness from the cabin windows being stopped up by the headlights.  I was never so melancholy in my life before." 

The Ocean first made ground at Port Philip Bay where a number of convicts escaped.  The vessel then sailed onto Van Dieman's Land where Pitt and his three children disembarked.

Pitt was granted 100 acres of land at Stainsforth's Cove (New Town).  He grew wheat and barley, built up herds of sheep and pigs, and by 1809 he and his children were no longer relying on the government for support.  He leased grazing land at the Green Ponds (Kempton) district where his children also located grants.

Pitt retained his farming interests, but gave increasing attention to official duties as district constable at New Town.  In 1818 he was appointed chief constable for Hobart Town.  Pitt seized the opportunity of his new standing to ask for a free passage to the colony for his wife.  Governor Macquarie sent the request to London, but Mrs Pitt declined the opportunity.

Richard Pitt remained chief constable until his death at Hobart in 1826.

Pitts, Georgia

The community in Georgia which later became Pitts began as a settlement in the area of the home of L.C. Peebles two miles east of the Alapaha River.  Brock Owens and Ashley J. Pitts operated the first store there in the mid 1880's.  The town was called Kings' Crossing at the time.

When application was made for a post office, the Postmaster General preferred a shorter name.  J.A. King suggested the name Pitts, in honor of his son-in-law, Ashley J. Pitts. The name was accepted, and the post office was established in 1888 with Ashley J. Pitts as postmaster.

The Pitts Family Cemetery in Pittsburg, Texas

The Pitts family cemetery in Pittsburg was established by William Harrison Pitts, founder of Pittsburg. According to family history, the earliest burial on this site was that of Sarah Richardson Harvey Pitts, the third wife of W.H. Pitts and mother of their daughter Ella, in 1862.  Confederate Corporal Joseph H. Pitts was buried here in 1863.  Others interred include W.H. Pitts' mother, Drucilla Neal Pitts, and five of his eight siblings.

These members of the large Pitts family left their Georgia plantations and reestablished their households here on the Texas frontier in the mid 19th century.  They shaped early Camp county and saw Pittsburg grow into a thriving village.  The cemetery remains a chronicle of early Camp county history and culture.

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