The story of Moses Estes begins, actually, generations before he was born.
Moses Estes Sr. was my ancestor, specifically my 6th great-grandfather. I’ve always been fascinated by his name. Moses. It’s Biblical and beautiful, but it’s not common in the Estes family, at least not before my Moses. I always wondered where it came from.
A few years ago, my cousin returned from Deal, in Kent, England, having visited St. Leonard’s church there, with a photo of the gravestone of an earlier Moses Estes.
Moses’s stone had a skull and crossbones at the top, and an hourglass. These are very typical of the mariners in this region, and this church is just up the hill from the ocean. The church even had a Mariners balcony so they could escape down the back stairs when the trouble horn was sounded from the shore so that they didn’t disrupt the service unnecessarily.
The inscription reads:
Here lyeth interred ye body of
Moses Estes who departed
this life 19 of march 1708
age 65 years
Also ye body of Constant Estes
his daughter who departed this life
November 1708 age 36 years
The Moses in Deal died 3 years before my Moses was born.
This is the only other Moses Estes in the Estes family, at least preceding my Moses. My initial thought was that my Moses descended from this Moses, but as it turns out, that’s not even close. I’ve highlighted both of the Moses in the chart below with my Moses in the left column. As you can see, their common ancestor was several generations previous. So how and why did my Moses come to be named Moses Estes?
The answer to that question lies in the old records in England and with the way Abraham Estes, my Moses’s father’s life unfolded.
||Nicholas Ewstas 1495-1533 m Anny, Kent, England
||Sylvester Eastye c 1522-1579 m Jone, Kent, England
|Robert Eastye c 1555 m Anne Woodward, Kent, England
|| < 2 sons >
||Henry Estes b 1549 m Mary
|Sylvester Eastye 1596 d 1647/1649 m Ellen Martin, Kent, England
||Richard Estes 1578-1625/26 m Agnes Dove
|Abraham Estes b 1647, immigrant, m Barbara, d 1720 King and Queen Co., VA
||Richard Estes b 1605 m Sara Norman
|Moses Estes b 1711 d 1787/1788 Halifax Co., VA m Elizabeth
||Moses Estes d 1707/1708 m 2nd to Ellen Estes, daughter of Sylvester Eastye and Ellen Martin
|Moses Estes 1742-1813 m Luremia Combs
|George Estes 1763-1859 m Mary Younger
|John R. Estes 1787-1885 m Nancy Ann Moore
|John Y. Estes 1818-1895 m Martha “Ruthy” Dodson
|Lazarus Estes 1845-1919 m Elizabeth Vannoy
|William George Estes 1873-1971 m Ollie Bolton
|William Sterling Estes 1901-1963, my father
Moses’s father, Abraham was born about 1647, during the English Civil War. We believe Abraham was probably born in Nonington, Kent but his baptism wasn’t recorded. His next older sibling was baptized there in 1644. By 1649, Abraham’s father, Sylvester, was dead. His mother, Ellen (Ellin) Martin Estes was living in Waldershare, probably in the household with her oldest son. On April 5th, 1649, she wrote her will, saying she was a widow, and dividing her worldly goods between her children. From then, for many years, the screen goes blank for Abraham Estes, who was only about 2 when his mother died.
Who raised Abraham? There may be a clue in the fact that Abraham named one of his sons Moses Estes. Abraham’s sister, Ellen, married her second cousin once removed, Moses Estes, in St. Leonard’s Church in 1667. This tells us that the two Estes families remained close, and it also tells us that Ellen’s home church was St. Leonard’s, in Deal. It could mean that the Estes family in Deal, Moses’s parents, Richard Eastes and Sarah Norman Estes could have raised their 1st cousin’s children, at least the younger ones. Ellen, John and Abraham would all 3 have fit right in age-wise with the children of Richard and Sarah.
And after Ellen and Moses married, it’s likely that Abraham lived with his older sister and her husband. And that would explain how Abraham Estes came to name his youngest son, Moses.
As an adult, Abraham Estes immigrated to the colony of Virginia after his first wife died. He remarried in Virginia to a woman named Barbara and lived his life in New Kent and King and Queen Counties, both burned Virginia Counties, so the records we have of his life are extremely scant.
Abraham’s son, Moses, was born in 1711 in King and Queen County, VA. We know this based on a chancery suit involving Abraham’s estate filed many years, decades, after Abraham’s death. In fact, it was Moses himself that filed the suit in 1769 against his brother, Elisha, the executor of Abraham’s estate, nearly 50 years after their father’s death. In the suit, testimony is given about Moses as a child, and when he was born.
Amelia Co Va chancery causes 1785-007
Eastis vs Eastis
Your orator Moses Eastis that in the year of our lord 1721 on the 21st day of Nov your orator’s late father Abraham Eastes departed this life after making and constituting in writing his last will and testament and thereby after specifically leaving? Part of his estate did give or further lend his who personal estate to his wife Barbara during her natural life and to be disposed of amongst his children then living as she might think proper. He further stated? that the said Barbara Eastes agreeable to the trust and in the presence aforesaid reposed in her by your orator’s father on the 25th day of Nov. 1720 she made in writing her last will and testament in writing and surety? after giving an inconsiderable part of her aforesaid husband’s estate to several of her children therein mentioned directly that the remainder should remain in the hands of her executor Elisha Eastes, Thomas Poor and Susana his wife for the sole benefit of your orator and Barbara Eastes your orator’s sister whom she concluded were incapable of getting their living. But with a precise that they should become an ? in their leave? Or either of them should die then the same to be equally divided amongst Sylvester, Thomas, Elisha, Robert, Richard, John, Moses Eastes, Martha Watkins, Susana Poor and Sarah Eastes or the survivors of them as by the said last will and testament will more fully appear reference being that there to and to which your orator for greater certainty refer and on the day of blank departed this life without altering or revoking the will. Your orator further shows that in consequence of the said appointment the said Elisha Eastes did understate the trust and execution of the said last will and testament first qualifying himself as an executor thereto agreeable to law. Your orator further sheweth that sometime after in the blank day of blank your orator’s sister Barbara Eastes died wherefore your orator concluded himself entitled to his proportionate part of his said father’s estate according to the will of the said Barbara and made several friendly applications to the said Elisha the said executor for the same who has hereto refused such reasonable requests pretending that he had expended the whole or the greatest part in the support and maintenance of your orator and his deceased sister. Notwithstanding there is still as your orator charges the truth to be a considerable part still remaining in his hands. Your orator is remedyless and prays that Elisha be compelled to make full answer to these several matters and especially whether your orator’s late father did not make in writing such last will and testament as before mentioned and whether your orator’s late mother and widow of the said father did not in consequence of the trust reported make and ? of the estate before ? and to the uses and purposes aforesaid. Whether the said Elisha did not qualify as an executor thereto and came upon himself the management and execution thereof. Whether he has fully executed the directions of the said will. Whether there is not still a considerable part of the said ? property left in his hand sand how much your orator prays that the said Elisha may be compelled to account for he had managed the same and if on a fair settlement of account there is any part still remaining that he may have his equal portion thereof according to the will of the said Barbara Eastis and that he may have such further and other receipts as may be agreeable to the equity court.
Summons to Elisha Estis, surviving executor of Barbary and Abraham Estis decd to appear in court to answer the case on April 7th, 1769.
October 1769 – justices ordered to take depositions
Answer of Elisha Estis to the many untruths of the petition and bill contained for answer thereto or as much of as he feels is material for him to make answer to. He was nominated as one of the executors of Barbary Estis as in the said bill and that after dividing some legacies in her will did direct the remainder to be retained in the hands of the executor for the support of Barbary and Moses Estis the said Moses being very sickly and the said Barbary accustom to have fits and otherwise helpless so that she required to be nursed and dressed as a child. The amount of the appraisement of the estate left by the said Barbary Estis was to the sum of 98 pounds 10 shillings and 9 pence, half? being? exclusive of the slaves and one horse and mare show appraisement amounted to 50 pounds fifteen shillings which after the death of the said Barbary were allotted to the children of the said Barbary and her husband Abram by the will of the said Barbary to which together with the said appraisement this defendant for greater clarity begs leave to refer and prays may be made part of this his answer, this def further saith that he expended a considerable deal of money for doctor’s means in endeavoring to cure the said Barbary and Moses and that for the space of 8 years boarded and maintained the said Barbery and Moses of which the def had made an account to which also he beggs leave to refer and prays may be made part of his answer and whereby it appears that the def. account is considerable more ? the said estate than the said appraisement amounts to, the def denies all combination ? and prays to be dismissed with his costs expended.
Elisha Estis (signature)
June 29, 1770
The deposition of Thomas Poor of full age being sworn…says that about 49 years since Moses and Barbary Estis, orphans of Abraham Estis came to live with Thomas Poor, this deponents father, who was an executor to the decd Barbary Estis and to whom the care of these orphans was committed and this deponent remembers that when these orphans came to his father’s house that Moses Estis was about 10 years old and Barbary Estis was about 8 years old both which children were very sickly the boy being very Buston and commonly seemed inclined to the Kickiosey and for whose benefit three doctors were commonly employed the girl being deponent says lived til she was about 16 years old he also says that she was an idiot having convulsion fits frequently and that this deponent remembers his father was at the expense of 6 shillings a month as satisfaction to Elizabeth Yeates who attended this girl three years. He also remembers that Moses Estis went to school 2 years while he lived with Thomas Poor this deponent’s father and he further says that since the death of Barbery Estis, Moses Estis and several others with him came to his father’s house and were speaking of settling the orphan’s estate upon which Thomas Poor this deponent’s father said he was ready for settlement brought some papers and as this deponent thinks satisfies those people amongst whom was Moses Estis who also seemed satisfied that nothing was due the orphans upon a just settlement.
April 16 1770 Thomas Poor (signature)
Moses came to live with Thomas Poor, his brother-in-law, about 1721, so he was born about 1711 and Barbara his sister born about 1713. This makes his mother’s age about 43 in 1713, so Barbara was born about 1670 and married Abraham probably about 1690. There are 11 children listed in her will, so that is roughly 22 years, plus Abraham who was not listed, if he is in fact her child. Abraham could have been omitted because he received land. Were Abraham’s children from an earlier marriage already taken care of with neither Abraham Jr. nor Samuel being Barbara’s children?
Elisabeth Harris aged about 60 being first sworn…says that about 48 or 49 years ago Moses and Barbary orphans of Abraham Estis came to live with Thomas Poor, this deponant’s father who was an executor to the decd Barbary Estis and that the said Moses Estis was Buston and Kiskififid and that he had 2 years schooling as well as this deponent remembers . The said Barbary Estis was an idiot and quite incapable of taking the least care of her self and subject to fits and that there was medicines had for ? of the said orphans and the deponent remembers that Elisabeth Yates was employed by Thomas Poor to take care of the said Barbary and that the said Barbary damaged two beds considerably in tome of her indisposition. Elisabeth “|” Harris (her mark)
Thank Heavens for those litigious Virginians, and that Amelia County records still exist, except for Barbara and Abraham’s wills, which have disappeared from the Amelia County file boxes!
Abraham’s original will burned in King and Queen County in one of three courthouse fires, but a copy was filed in the Amelia County case. While we don’t have the will itself today, the balance of the chancery suit provides us with the essence of the will.
What we weren’t able to discover, however, is the surname of Moses’s mother, Barbara. It’s in all of the trees on Ancestry as Brock, and that is absolutely incorrect. Or maybe better stated, there is not one shred of evidence anyplace that her surname is Brock. That name seems to have attached itself to Barbara in the 1980s when a historical fiction book that included the Estes family was published and assigned Brock as Barbara’s surname. It also doesn’t help any that Abraham’s believed but unnamed son, Abraham, had a daughter Barbara who married Henry Brock, so indeed there was a Barbara Brock in the family, although she was Barbara Estes Brock, not Barbara Brock Estes.
Based on the depositions, Elisha Eastes says that he paid board for Moses for 8 years, which would have taken Moses to his 18th birthday, about 1719. Men of that time did not tend to marry until they were 25-30 years of age. They set about earning money and courting after they had a little something put aside.
The first actual record we have of Moses is in 1734 in Hanover County where he and Robert Estes jointly purchase a plantation of 100 acres. John Estes, their brother is a witness. I always think of this purchase, with his brother, as their “starter home.” Probably not big enough for one of the families, let alone both – and certainly not enough land to support two families. But, it was a beginning.
Hanover County has suffered substantial record loss. They have deed books from 1734-1736 and 1780-1790 and chancery suits don’t begin until 1831. Most of their records were burned in the Civil War.
In 1736, Moses patents 370 acres in Hanover County, land adjoining his brother Robert’s patent.
Moses lives in the part of Hanover County which split off to become Louisa County in 1742. That’s a lucky break, because Louisa’s records still exist. In 1744 and 1746, we find Moses and Robert assigned as road hands in the court orders.
In 1748, John Compton sells 185 acres that be bought in 1742 from Moses Estes located on Contrary and Northeast Creek. This is in the vicinity where Moses lives, because in 1749, Moses Estes, now listed as “planter, of Amelia County” sells 285 acres in Fredericksville Parish adjacent John Cumpton’s former corner…on said Estes line to Robert Estes line. He signs with an X and his wife Elizabeth, releases her dower on the same day.
Using trusty Google Maps, I was able to locate the area between Contrary and Northeast Creeks in Louisa County.
On the map, Northeast Creek is the creek near the bottom arrow, but it looks like there may be a lake that could possibly have a dam. Only the leftmost creek is labeled Northeast Creek, but all three branches could have been Northeast Creek at that time.
Contrary Creek is at the upper arrow. You can see that there is about a mile, as the crow flies, between these two locations. Present day Route 522 (208) looks to be the old road between the locations. Today, the town of Mineral lies on that route. So does the Louisa County Middle and High School and the Dollar General Store.
Moses would have married by about 1735 or 1740 during the time he was in Hanover County and likely before he purchased the land jointly with his brother, Robert.
Beginning in 1749, we find records of Moses in Amelia County. The initial records, of course are Moses Sr. but after about 1760 or so, Moses Jr. might be present in some transactions.
In the October court session in Amelia County in 1749, Moses records a deed from John Gillintine proved by Nicholas Gillentine, William Southall and John Chisum. This John Chism is likely the father of Elizabeth Chism who married Moses’s son, John Estes. Nicholas Gillentine is her grandfather.
In 1751, Moses sells land to William Compton and Elizabeth relinquished her dower right.
By 1755, Moses and Elizabeth would have been married about 20 years and she had probably born 10 children, although we only know the names of 3 sons. She probably had another couple of children before she was of the age that nature relieved her of that task, which is also about the same time that the oldest children are marrying. All three of their known sons, based on their birth years, were probably born in Hanover or Louisa County.
- The oldest son born to Moses and Elizabeth may have been John, born between their marriage and 1742, or so. We don’t know the year for sure, but what we do know is that John’s eldest son, Abraham, born in 1764, gave the following testimony when applying for a Revolutionary War pension.
“I, Abraham was born in Amelia County, Virginia. My father moved from there to Halifax, Va. where he lived until the fall of 1779, where he moved to the Holston River until 1780.” After that they removed to Warren Co., Ky.
John Estes married Elizabeth Chism, daughter of John Chism and Elizabeth Gillngton. She was remembered in her grandfather, Nicholas Gillington’s will in Halifax County in 1772. John Estes died in 1824 in Warren Co., KY.
- Another son, Moses Jr., was born about 1742 or maybe slightly earlier, married Luremia Combs about 1762, whose father, John Combs also lived in Amelia County. Moses Jr. bought land in Lunenburg County from his brother-in-law after John Combs death, but moved with his father, Moses Sr. to Halifax County about 1770 where they both spent the rest of their lives.
George Estes, son of Moses Jr. who was the brother to John of Warren Co, KY, states that in the fall of 1781 he moved a family to Washington Co, TN and stayed a year. George may well have moved his Uncle, John Estes and family, although the years don’t exactly match up. He may have stayed with his Uncle John before volunteering for a third term in the Revolutionary War and then returning to Halifax County.
- The third son of Moses Sr. and Elizabeth, William Estes, was also born in the same 1735-1740 timeframe. William married Mary Harris. He died in 1780 and his estate was probated in Halifax County, VA. Family legend says that he was a drover of horses and drove them to the East coast being gone for long periods of time. He apparently had what was probably an appendicitis attack and became very ill. His wife was sent for, but she was days away and did arrive but he was already dead. She brought his body home and buried him in the family cemetery.
In 1758, the French and Indian War was in full swing. The House of Burgesses passed an act for the defense of the frontier, and in Amelia County, we find Moses, John and William Estes on the roster. This leads me to believe that perhaps Moses Jr. was the youngest of the three sons, not quite old enough to be on the militia roster.
On page 358 of Deed book 7, in Amelia County, on November 22, 1760, we find a deed from Francis Clement of Amelia to Lyne Shackleford of King and Queen County, 288 acres bounded by John Clement, Jacob Seay, Moses Estes and George Hamm.
On December 1, 1760, Moses Estes witnessed the sale of 5 negroes from Robert to John Farguson. This is particularly relevant because Moses Jr’s son, George Estes, married Luremia Combs about 1762. Luremia’s uncle is James Farguson, son of Robert Farguson and brother to both a Robert and John as well. This puts Moses Sr. in contact with the family which gives Moses Jr. the opportunity to meet Luremia.
We know that by 1762, Moses Jr. was married to Luremia Combs because George Estes, their son, is born in February of 1763 in Amelia County.
In 1764, Moses Estes appraises the estate of John Cook Jr.
We know that Moses Jr. and Luremia purchased John Combs’ land in Lunenburg County in February of 1767. What we don’t know for sure is where Moses Sr. lived during this time, although I suspect he was still in Amelia County because he doesn’t sell his land there until in 1772.
In 1768, Moses Jr. sells his land in Lunenburg County and is not on the tax list in 1769. Moses Sr. and Elizabeth witnesses the sale.
In 1769, Moses Sr. files suit against his brother, Elisha who was still living in Amelia County at that time. Moses alleges that his father, Abraham’s estate was never fully distributed. Moses would have turned 18 in 1729 and any balance of the estate would have been distributed to all heirs at that time. It seems odd to wait another 40 years to file suit. The suit said Moses had asked Elisha several times, so maybe it was one of those “now or never” moments. One thing is for sure, if Moses didn’t file soon, he would lose his opportunity because neither man would live forever. Maybe Moses was finishing up loose business before moving south to Halifax County. The suit was not resolved until 1775.
Based upon this lawsuit, I would deduce that Moses and Elisha not only weren’t close in their old age, but that there was friction and resentment their entire lives. I wonder if the older children viewed the younger children as a drain on their parents estate.
In 1771, we find the first evidence of Moses Sr. in Halifax County when Moses purchases land. John and Betty Panke sell to Moses Estes of Amelia 400 acres for #80 – Richard Echols line, George Evins, Terrys line – surveyed for William Powell and conveyed to John Panke with Thomas Tunstall, R. Williams, Moses Estes.
In 1772, Moses (Sr.) sells his land in Amelia County to John Hughes, adjoining Nicholas Gillington. Moses signs with an X and Elizabeth relinquishes her dower right and signs with an X as well.
Interestingly, before Moses sells this Amelia land, he sells some Halifax County land to his son, William, both men noted as “of Amelia,” 200 acres in Halifax County, 100 acres in full possession of as my own during the life of me and my wife where the plantation now is…bounded by Richard Echols line, George Evans line.
After Moses sells his Amelia County land, he assuredly moves to Halifax County, to begin the final chapter of his life.
Because Moses stays in the state of Virginia, we don’t think of him moving significant distances, but he does. The blue “route” on the map below begins (top right) at the present day location of a school that is close to where Abraham Estes settled in King and Queen County, near the Essex County border, where Moses was born. Next, Moses moved to Hanover/Louisa where Mineral, VA is located today. Then, he sells out and moves to Amelia County for several years before finally moving one last time to Halifax County.
In 2005, I returned to Halifax Co., Va. for my 5th or 6th visit, and I’m going to share this visit with you as I wrote it at the time.
Return to Halifax County
By this time, the roads as I neared Halifax Co. felt like I was approaching home. The mountain pass through Lover’s Leap (below) didn’t look quite so ominous.
I know all of the hairpin turns for those 7 miles now.
My favorite place, “Top of the World” awaited my arrival. I love to sit and think of my ancestors looking at this same vista, just a couple miles from the land owned by James and William Moore and on the way from the courthouse in Pittsylvania County on Mountain road to the courthouse in Halifax. Nancy Ann Moore, William’s daughter, would marry John R. Estes in 1811, so we know that our Estes ancestors saw this vista as well.
Top of the World (on 360 near the Halifax/Pittsylvania Co. border) at sunset. – Peaks of Otter in the distance.
Col. Byrd, when surveying this part of Virginia in 1728, referred to this area as the “Land of Eden” because of its beautify. He wasn’t exaggerating.
When I arrived in South Boston, I actually saw my cousin Shirley, (now deceased,) crossing the street and pulled over to talk to her. Made me feel like I belonged there to know someone. She welcomed me back and we went straight away to our cousin Doug’s house. Doug asked why I hadn’t stopped earlier. I told him that I though he had company when I drove by on my way into town. Doug proclaimed that it didn’t matter who was there, I was kin and I was to stop anyhow. Yes, I knew I was back home in Halifax Co., if only for a week. It’s nice to feel like you belong. I have no relatives where I live, so this felt really, really good to me.
It was Doug that told me that he was told as a child that the Estes family once owned all of South Boston, and if they had retained that land, they would indeed be quite wealthy today. We laughed, because we’re certainly not wealthy. I figured that story was at best an exaggeration that some well-meaning older relative had told someone who told Doug. I would find out differently. Indeed, what Doug said was absolutely true – and more.
This week was to prove most memorable. I would find the land of Moses Estes Senior. If you’re reading this from the distance of years and miles, it doesn’t sound impressive. However, the history of this project shines a different light on that accomplishment.
Actually, I view finding this land as a gift – the culmination of a decades long journey – the Holy Grail.
I began looking for the Estes genealogical connection in 1978. Garmon Estes, before me, had already been looking for 25+ years then. During my previous visits to Halifax County, at the intersection of Estes and Main in South Boston, I had found the land of Moses Jr., subsequently owned by his heirs including my ancestor, George Estes, hidden under a modern day landfill. I can’t even begin to express how much this saddened my heart.
Estes Land in Halifax County
Where did Moses Sr. live in Halifax County? He didn’t’ live with his son, Moses Jr. And where is he buried? Surely not the landfill!
The following contemporary map of the City of South Boston shows the general locations of the various Estes land holdings. You can see Moses Jr.’s 256 acres to the right, across from the Oak Ridge cemetery which used to be Moses Jr.’s’ land. At the top of this map, you can also see Greene’s Folly, located on 1150 acres that once belonged not to Moses Estes, but to his older Estes brother, John, and his sons. We knew that Moses lived someplace in this general area. Doug told me that the Estes land used to back up to his land, located at the bottom left arrow. I thought Moses Sr. lived someplace near the upper left hand corner of the map. The Estes land was literally salt and peppered all over South Boston.
However, a general location wasn’t good enough. Where did Moses Estes actually live? Where was his land? I wanted to find it and see what was left. Maybe his grave would be there. I had to know.
I had made many trips to Halifax County without finding Moses’s land and I wasn’t at all sure it could be located. Many old pieces of land don’t track through to the present with titles, especially if they have been sold for debt or by an estate administrator by a different surname than the family. Complicating things further, families often held deeds for generations before registering them, as registration wasn’t free.
The search for Moses land would take me on a labyrinth of adventures, including absolutely incredible “coincidences,” bordering on the unbelievable.
In preparation for previous trips, I had written to every individual in the phone book with the last names I was interested in. I told them a little about my genealogy search, and when I would be visiting the area, just in case they had something interesting and were willing to share. Over the years, I had many meetings in the hotel lobby, at the courthouse and the library. They probably all referred to me as “the crazy genealogy lady.”
Aside from Estes, my Halifax County names of interest are Moore and Younger, although they didn’t marry in for another couple of generations. On a previous visit, in 2004, I had sent many letters and received a few phone calls while I was in Halifax County. I did not receive any hot leads or old photos though, as I had hoped.
One person who called was a very nice, obviously mature, and very talkative lovely southern gentleman named Tommy. He told me he knew where the old Moore cemetery was located, on Grubby road, down from Sinai school. He said you can’t see it from the road, and it’s abandoned, but he could take me right to it. I discerned within the first few minutes, based on location, that this was not my Moore family, who were located probably 10 miles on west, so I felt guilty when I told him thanks, but no thanks. I would leave the Moore cemetery for someone else.
I talked with Tommy about an hour in all, and he shared with me wonderful stories about his ancestor walking back from the Civil War after being wounded and then changing his middle name because he didn’t want a Yankee name. He told me this ancestor is buried in the Moore cemetery. I asked him if it was marked, and he said it used to be, but he didn’t know if it still was or not. He said he grew up there, on the land next door, and could always go down to the cemetery to see the graves. I told him he was lucky to know where his ancestors were buried.
I hung up, wishing this were my cemetery that Tommy knew about, wishing someone would call and tell me where my ancestor were buried, and wishing these were my Moores. I needed to be the “lucky one,” just once.
Little did I know.
Sometimes, I think our ancestors want to be found, and they actually do lead us to them, or to these sites, as best they can. Sometimes we don’t hear the faint calling very clearly.
Before setting out on this trip, I had called my cousin Nancy to tell her that I was coming back and that I wanted to try to locate Old Moses’s land. I told her I thought I had found it on an old grant map, the land being originally granted to a William Powell prior to Moses purchasing it. I needed to work on the deeds, running them forward in time, checking the neighbors in that timeframe to see if Moses Estes did indeed own land next to them, and fervently hoping that there would be some identifying watercourse or road, or both, to help identify where that land is located today.
Nancy indicated that her husband, an Osborne, grew up in that area and could probably help us find the land. Now this area is not finely groomed farms. Much of it is first or second growth timber with patches carved out to mow or farm, typically with tobacco plants. Tobacco is hard on the land and the crops can’t continue there forever, so much land sits fallow.
In Roger Dodson’s reconstructed grant and survey book, it shows that there was a land grant for William Powell, March 5, 1754, for 400 acres on the branches of Miry Creek. The scanned image from the book shows us the location. Note the Peter Fontaine land in the lower right hand corner. This is land that eventually would be owned, in part by Moses Estes Jr. and the land that reaches across the top of this land that looks like an outstretched arm is the land owned by the sons of John Estes, brother of Moses Sr., beginning in the 1750s and eventually sold about 1780, the beginning of the Rev. War period. This land would eventually hold Greens Folly and possibly also Berry Hill.
The following graphic shows the Moses Sr.’s land drawn onto a topographical map. The yellow arrow at the top is pointing to the intersection of this land and Mountain Road (360). The bottom yellow arrow is pointing to the utility easement which is easy to find today and seems to be about the North border of the current property. Grubby Road runs right through this property. The curve in Grubby road above the bottom yellow arrow is where the old Moore house that Tommy referenced is located.
This looked to be Moses original land purchase of 400 acres. Title work would confirm that, hopefully.
I arrived in Halifax County on Sunday and Monday morning I arrived at the courthouse bright and early. I’ve been there so many times the clerks greet me like an old-timer and ask how my trip was. Another “cousin,” Cathy, is deputy clerk there. Yep, I felt right at home. I know where the books are located and went right to work.
In essence, I constructed a timeline of transactions that when combined, create a history of the land that Moses owned.
At the courthouse that morning, when I found the Osborne to Moore deeds, in an epiphany moment, I realized that Tommy and I were talking about virtually, if not exactly, the same location. Could that possibly be?
Moses Estes in Halifax County
Moses Estes Sr. moved to Halifax Co. Va. with his 3 sons about 1772. Prior to that, he had lived in Amelia County. When Moses moved to Halifax., he assured that his sons came along by giving them land, but retaining life estate for himself on part of the land.
John and William moved with him from Amelia, and Moses Jr. sold his land in Lunenburg to join his father in Halifax. Sadly, before Moses died, one of his sons, William would predecease him by 7 or 8 years (1780) and his son John would answer the call of the westward movement (1779). When Moses Sr. died, only his son Moses Jr. was still living near him. It would have been Moses Jr. who helped Moses Sr. bury his son, William Estes. John had already gone west.
I have always suspected that Moses Sr. also had married daughters, but if he did, they have yet to be identified. One possibility is that the wife of William Younger is one of Moses’s daughters. The evidence is very slight, but the fact that he and his wife witnessed the last transaction, akin to a will, of Moses Sr. and that Moses Jr. bought land adjacent William Younger, that Moses Jr.’s son, George, married Mary Younger, and that the Younger and Estes families had been living as neighbors in King and Queen county on the Essex County border at the time Moses Sr. began having children leads to some speculation about earlier alliances of these two families. The first wife of Moses Sr. could also have been a Younger. Given that this is speculation, both ideas could be wrong and unfortunately, there is really no way for DNA testing to help us with this mystery.
1771, Mar. 21 – Moses Estes bought his 400 acres of land in Halifax County that was surveyed for William Powell. He was preparing to move from Amelia County.
1771, August 6 – Moses sells half his land to his son William, it looks like this may have been in order to encourage William to move from Amelia, but Moses retains life estate in the land. William subsequently died in 1780, so this remainder passes to William’s underage heirs, but not until Moses Sr. dies due to his life estate.
Moses Estes of Amelia to William Estes of Amelia – in consideration of him moving and also #20 – 200 acres in Halifax – 100 acres in full possession of as my own during the life of me and my wife where the plantation now is – bounded by Richard Echols line, George Evans line, Terry’s line – signed Moses (M) Estes, Elizabeth (x) Estes – wit John Harris, James Harris, Anne Harris (Aug. 6, 1771).
The fact that William received half of his father’s land may indicate that he is the oldest. His other two brothers split the other half of the land.
In October 1772, Moses sells the other half of his land to his 2 sons Moses Jr. and John. John leaves for Tennessee before 1780, leaving only Moses Jr. in Halifax with the elder Moses Estes.
Moses Estes Sr. of Halifax to Moses Estes Jr, and John Estes, sons of Moses Sr., of Halifax, for 5 shillings conjointly all that Messuage parcel of land bought of John Pankey, 200 acres – head of a branch of Miry Creek called the Pole Bridge branch being a moiety (that means half) of the tract bought of John Pankey containing 200 acres – Moses Sr mark – wit Joseph Collins, John Martin, John Wooding. Thomas Hope came into court and relinquished right title in the land conveyed which he might claim under a deed of trust made to him by John Pankey.
At this point, Moses had conveyed all the land he purchased to his 3 sons. In 1777, his sons Moses and John who did not receive the land in which Moses reserves life estate sell their portion of the land.
I suspect that Elizabeth died between August 6, 1771 when Moses conveyed half of his land to son William, and Elizabeth signs to release her dower and October 1772 when Moses sells the other half of his land, and she does not sign, releasing her dower.
In 1772, the court binds one Littleberry Daniel, a child, the son of William Daniel, to Moses Estes. Moses would have been responsible for feeding and clothing the child, and teaching him a trade. I wish the court has been more explicit – because we could have identified what trade Moses was known for based on the trade he was teaching Littleberry. Littleberry must have been quite young, because he doesn’t marry until 1790. He clearly did not live with Moses that entire time because Moses died in 1787.
Also, in 1772, Moses was to be paid #18.5 (or 1910 lb tobacco) for building a bridge over Burches creek, not far from his home. I wonder whether he took the money or the tobacco. Moses would have been about 61 at this time.
A pair of 1773 records are a bit confusing, in part because we don’t know which Moses, Sr. or Jr., this court record is in reference to.
On complaint of James Mitchell against his master Isaac Coles, Gent, released from service of his said master, the indenture appearing to be insufficient and it ordered that the church wardens of Antrim Parish bind said James to Moses Estes according to law, he confessing himself to be 18 years of age.
John Mitchell, slave, vs Moses Estes, def summoned. On complaint of John Mitchell against his master Moses Estes for the terms of his indenture not being complyed with ordered that the said Moses be summoned to next court to answer complaint and it is also ordered that said Moses do not beat or ill treat the said John on this account.
This says slave, but this cannot be a slave per se, because a slave would not have a surname. In the first record, the situation is referred to as an indenture, which would imply indentured servitude. Indentured servants did have rights. Slaves in bondage did not. The other confusing aspect of these records is that one says James and the other says John – and I checked these repeatedly in the original records. Lastly, it never tells us an outcome, so we have no idea what happened. It’s a very unusual court entry and I saw no others that were similar. Was the language directing Moses Estes not to harm John Mitchell standard under these circumstances, or was there something unusual? It must take a very brave (or desperate) man to file against the very man who can make your life a living hell in too many ways to count.
In 1774, Shadrack Powell is bound to Moses Estes.
1777 – Moses Estes Jr. and his brother John Estes sell their 200 acres to Robert Bennett. This is not the half that Moses Sr. is living on. That half is still held by William Estes.
Moses Estes, John Estes, his wife Elizabeth to Robert Bennett 200 acres – witnesses John Pound, Robert Estes, Alexander Moore (Moses signs, John’s mark, Robert’s mark, Alexander signs)
In 1775, 1779 and 1780, there are lawsuits involving Moses – I suspect for debt, which is the most common suit, but these don’t specify.
The Revolutionary War begins about 1775 and reaches Halifax County in earnest in 1780. In the winter of 1780 and the spring of 1781, Moses Jr. finds himself directly in harm’s way. I wrote about this in Luremia Combs article, as the soldiers marched right past her doorstep. Moses Sr. would have been an old man by now, 70 or so, and certainly would not have wanted anything to do with warfare. Fortunately, his house was not on the main road and he may have escaped notice.
Moses Sr. did contribute to the cause however, likely when Greene’s forces crossed the Dan River on Valentine’s Day, 1781. Moses Sr. furnished the soldiers with 45 pounds of bacon worth 2# 5 shillings.
This 1780 record is quite disturbing, especially given that Moses is 79 years old.
Moses Estes vs Luke Williams, Thomas Brady, John Nash and Morris Martin for having the said Moses beat, maim’d and wounded and him ill treated against the peace of the commonwealth. – summons issued.
It sounds like 4 against 1, which isn’t a fight but a gang beating. Moses is lucky to have survived. 1780 seems to be a really bad year for Moses, between the War itself, his son John leaving, his grandson George serving in the war, the beating and then his son, William, passing away. Moses was alone, with Elizabeth having died some 8 years earlier. He probably walked to the cemetery, within view of the house, to share these difficult times with Elizabeth.
1780 – William Estes, son of Moses Estes Sr., dies and leaves a will, which, judging from the sentence structure and cadence, was not written by an attorney, but probably by William just before his death:
Lend to my beloved wife Mary Estes the plantation whereon I live together with one third part of my land I now posses and allso won third part of that where my father Moses Senr now lives after his deceas adjoyning the aforesaid plantation during her naterall life and after her deceas I give the said land to my son John Estes. To my son Ezekiel Estes won third part of my land together with the plantation where on my brother John Estes lived and also won third part of the land that my father proses after his deceas To my son Patrick Eastis the remaining third part of the last my father now poseses after his decease. To my beloved wife Mary Estes my sorrel mare and my riding hors in order to assist her in raising my small children. To my son Ezekiel one sorrel horse colt which is now called his. To my dafter Luana Estes won sorrel mare colt with a blasé face. My other oldest sorrel horse colt to be sold to pay my debts. To Ezekiel Estes won cow and heffer earling. Also my desire is that my dafters Leana, Levina, Sala and Drusila Estes shall each of them have a cow and calf out of my stok with either of them maries. Like ways to my two sons Partrick and John Eastes won cow and calf when either of them marrieth. To son Ezekiel one feather bed and furtniture also my gun. To daughter Leana Eastis won feather bid and furniture. Allso to dafter Levina, Sala and Drusila Eastes allso Partrick and John Estes my two sons shall each have a feather bed and then the rest of my estate to eaquale divided between my sons Ezekiel, Partrick and John Estes and my dafters Leana, Levina, Salla and Drusila after the decease of my wife Mary Estes. Executors Ezekiel and Mary Estes and Daniel Gill – Witness James Hardwick and Elizabeth Harris – Presented April 21, 1780 – Securities Micajah Estes and Moses Estes
1782 – Moses Sr. remarries to Elizabeth Talburt with a prenuptial contract. He was a true Renaissance man. His first wife Elizabeth probably died between Aug. 6, 1771 and the October 1772 transaction where Moses sells his land to Moses Jr. and John, as Elizabeth does not sign for that transaction, relinquishing her dower. Regardless, she is clearly dead by 1782 when Moses Sr. remarried. I just love how this is written phonetically.
Moses Estes of Halifax to hereby jointer Elizabeth Tallburd, widow of Halifax, with one half of my estate, together with her one [own] estate, consisting of 1 mare, 1 feather bed and furniture, in consequence of said Elizabeth Tallburt joining with me in the whole [holy] estate of matrimony and becoming my lawful wife. I hereby confirm to her as her joynter, in order to support her after my death, and I divest myself of power to transfer the abovesaid joyntered estate, either by will or other means, from the said Elizabeth after we are married. Moses (M his mark) Eastis. Wits James Hardwick, Daniel Gill, Thomas Dobson. Recorded 19 Sep 1782.
Thomas Dodson was the neighbor of Moses Estes. Three generations later, the Dodson and Estes lines would intermarry in Claiborne County, Tennessee when Rutha Dodson married John Y. Estes. Indeed, a small world.
After the Revolutionary War, the tax system changed in Virginia. Beginning in 1782, there was both a poll tax and a land tax. Moses is exempt, according to the records due to his age. He is shown in 1785 with two tithables and 2 buildings, but never any negroes. I am so grateful that Moses was not a slave-owner.
We may have a signature of Moses, although for most of his life, he signed with an X.
In 1786, Clarissa Combs Estes, granddaughter of Moses Sr., married Francis Boyd. We know what the beautiful loopy signature of Moses Estes Jr. looks like, and this signature is certainly not that of Moses Jr. By process of elimination I think this has to be the signature of old Moses Estes Sr. Look how shakey that handwriting it. He probably welcomed the opportunity to go to the courthouse with his granddaughter and sign for her. I can just see the grandfather proudly signing his name for his granddaughter – feeling quite special.
William Estes’s widow, Mary, marries John August by 1786 when he is appointed the guardian of her children and Mary requests her dower be laid off. Shortly thereafter, they too leave Halifax for points west. The Halifax cousins still recall the story of “the widow Estes” who put all her kids and belongings in a covered wagon and went west, never to be seen again. It’s amazing that this snippet of a story survived for more than 225 years – and we figured out who it was.
July of 1787 was a sad month for the Estes family. Moses Sr. signs a power of attorney (POA) saying he can no longer handle his own affairs which is more suggestive of something debilitating, like a stroke, than an illness. This is the last transaction or record of Moses Sr.. His second wife, Elizabeth, appears to be already dead as well. Moses dies not long after that in late 1787 or 1788.
I find this document incredibly sad. My heart sank for old Moses when I read it. On the other hand, had Moses not signed this POA, we would have had no idea what his “estate inventory” looked like.
Moses Estes Sr. unable to take care of such worldly estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me – give to my son Moses – grant full power of attorney – all stock of cattle except 1 white cow yearling, 1 white mare, 1 grey horse, 2 sows, 2 barrows, 2 goats, mans saddle, bridle tools, carpenters, coopers and plantation tools, all household furniture, tubs, pots, pails, kettles, butter pots and everything else in my estate – Moses mark – William Powell, William Younger, Rachel Younger witnesses.
At this point, Moses Sr.’s son William is already dead and John has gone to Tennessee – so Moses Jr. is the only one left to help his father.
Note that William Younger is a witness, along with Rachel, which may indicated that they took any warm body to be a witness if this document was created hurriedly, or just in the nick of time. Females typically don’t witness wills unless it is an emergency situation and the will is nuncupative, or oral only. However, this document is not a will and it does not seem to be something that would be rushed. So William and Rachel Younger’s signatures may be significant.
William Younger is a neighbor of Moses Jr, and in fact the Street that the landfill is actually on is Younger Street which would have intersected Estes street. However, I have always wondered about a close family connection between these families. We have never established who Moses Estes Sr.’s first wife was, nor who William Younger’s wife was. The Younger family owned land very, very close to the original Estes land on the border of King and Queen County and Essex County, in the vicinity of the map shown below.
We find these families together in 1738 in that location, then later as neighbors in Halifax County. In 1786, and the son of Moses Jr., George, would marry Mary Younger, the daughter of Marcus Younger, the probable grandson of Alexander Younger of Essex County. Is William Younger’s wife, Rachel, an Estes, perhaps a daughter of old Moses? Was Moses’ first wife a Younger? Is William Younger related to Alexander Younger? We may never know the answers to these question. All we can say for sure is that these families clearly knew each other before settling in Halifax County.
Tracking Moses’s Land
Feb. 1788 – Moses probably died in late 1787 or very early 1788. Evidence of this is given by the fact that his grandson, Ezekiel, son of William who died in 1780, upon which land Moses Sr. reserved life estate, sells his share of the 200 acres, 66 acres. This land was held in a life estate given by Moses to William, so I don’t believe this could have been sold had Moses Sr. been living. Given that these family members had moved west, I’m sure they sold it at the first possible opportunity – as soon as that letter arrived saying Moses has passed over. They could use the money to purchase much more land in the west.
Feb 1788 – Ezekiel Estes of Spencer Co., NC to Daniel Chumbley of Halifax – 66 acres on Miry creek – Bartlett Crenshaw’s line, Hendricks line, Chappells line – witnesses David Parker, George Eastes, Isaac Easley, Mary Ann Parker.
1790 – Moses Jr. and John Estes sell their 200 acres to Robert Bennett. This is not the land that Moses Sr. lived on.
Deed book 10-190, Moses Estes, John Estes, his wife Elizabeth to Robert Bennett 200 acres – wit John Pound, Robert Estes, Alexander Moore (Moses signs, John’s mark, Robert’s mark, Alexander signs)
1790, Sept. 27 ( Bk 14- pg 709) – In 1790 Daniel Chumbley (the son-in-law of Moses Jr.) sells this 66 acres on Miry creek to Lovill Poindexter for 35# Va. money adjoining Bartlett Crenshaw, Hendricks, Chappels, no witnesses.
Jan. 24, 1791 – Lovill sells it back to Daniel Chumbley for 25#. Daniel made a quick 10#.
September 1793 – Patrick and John Estes, William’s remaining two sons sell their shares in 1793.
From this point, I can no longer differentiate this 66 acres nor is it evident what Daniel Chumbley does with this land.
However, the next transactions deal with the balance of the land, 119 acres, except for 15 acres that I’ve never been able to find.
Sept 23, 1793 – Partrick Estes and John Estes both of Hawkins Co. NC (which in 1796 became Tennessee) to David Chumbley – 119 acres on branches of Miry Creek – Bartlett Crenshaws line, James Hadwick line, Stephen Locketts line, Ann Bennetts line, Daniel Parkers – Partrick and John sign with their marks – wit William Parker, Daniel Parker and George Estes.
This 119 acres would appear to be the same 119 acres that is presently owned by the people I visited (in 2005.) This is where the original house stood, where the graveyard is, and where the second house was located behind the first on the ridge. This is the land where Moses lived and died. He is almost assuredly buried in the cemetery right beside the old house. I wonder if he knew we visited him today (June 22, 2005), 218 years after he was put in his own ground, not far from his house, and likely beside his son, William. Moses’ first wife Elizabeth is assuredly buried there as well. There were over 25 graves evident in the old cemetery. It made me feel good to know they were together, and not under the landfill.
1797, Sept. 25 – Daniel Chumbley and wife to William Osborne, 119 ac on Miry Ck 100 pounds Virginia money, lines of Bartlett Crenshaw, signed X, witnesses George Hamblin, Skearn Osborne and John Osborne.
That’s it, the smoking gun.
Maynard Osborne indicates that William Osborne is buried in the cemetery on his land. William Osborne’s land is Moses’ original land where he lived and where he died. This is also known as the Old Osborne place. Maynard, Nancy’s husband, descends from Skearn Osborne. This stranger-than-fiction story gets stranger yet.
1825, March 28, deed book 22-209, William Osborne to Thomas Osborne, land purchased by William and Thomas Osborne of John Bennett and Clayborne Lester on April 26, 1813, signed William and Mary Osborne. This is the 119 acres.
This land apparently stays in the family for decades. When we next find it being conveyed, it is in relationship to an estate and the heirs conveying their various shares. Apparently, it remained undivided, as there are still 119 acres today.
Notice that this land suddenly adjoins Moore land. This would turn out to be the land described by Tommy, next door to the cemetery where his Moore ancestors are buried. Tommy reports that Moore family members are buried in that cemetery as well, including at least one Moore Civil War veteran.
1902, June 18, deed book 95-456, William Ballard Osborne to James H. Guthrie, 1/6 interest on land in Banister district on waters of Little Miry Cr. Adjacent land of William H. Moore, J.R. Moore, J.R. Hart and others, 63 acres, William Ballard, divided by the will of John Guthrie to Ann J. Osborne, decd, the mother of said William Ballard Osborne.
The photo below is the Moore home. Nancy said there was a brick in this building that held a date and dates back to before the Civil War. This house is located on Grubby Road north of the Moses Estes land across the road on a bend.
At this point, we have connected the original Moses Estes land with both the Osborne family and the Moore family.
Placing Moses’ plat on a current topographical map, we see that this is on Grubby road and looks to take in the utility easement. During this visit, we confirmed that the easement runs across the north end of the property.
The land of Moses Estes Sr. is exactly at the intersection of the utility easement and Grubby road which is exactly at the tip of the purple arrow. The first driveway south of the easement on the west side of the road leads to the current home. The old Estes home was in the rear, beyond the current house.
Moses’s original land appears to have extended as far north as 360 (Mountain Road), as evidenced by the earlier plat drawing. Neighbors at that time included Richard Vaughn, Charles Clay, Richard Echols, Alexander Moore, and James Terry.
Notice that between Moses Estes Sr., the land owned by John Estes at Poplar Creek at Key Fork, and the land owned by Moses Estes Jr. on the East side of South Boston, the Estes family owned most of the North part of current South Boston. Add to that the 175 acres owned by Richard Estes at one time further to the east and the Estes family held even more land.
The above plat map shows with the yellow arrows the land of Peter Fontaine, part of which would be purchased by William Younger and Moses Estes Jr.
Further east is the land that would be owned by Richard Estes, brother to Moses Sr. and John Estes Sr. who originally patented the land adjacent to Moses Sr. and Jr., eventually to be owned, lost, regained, and eventually sold by his sons Elisha, Micajah, John, Moses and Robert. But that is a story all its own. Drama was never in short supply in the Estes family.
The photo below shows the green arrow pointing to Richard’s lands, the purple arrow pointing to part of John’s son’s land, and the top yellow arrow pointing to the Northern boundary of Moses Jr.’s land. The middle yellow arrow is pointing to the actual headwaters of Reedy Creek. Notice that it is across (directly east) from Oak Ridge cemetery, once owned by the Estes descendants and directly across from Estes Street, which is where the bottom yellow arrow is pointing. The purple arrow points to the area owned by John’s sons. The Southern border of Peter Fontaine’s land plot actually came out slightly north of where it actually was located. We know this because we know that Moses owned to the current road on the South side of the cemetery where Younger Street intersects. However, Roger Dodson did an excellent job of recreating these plots and maps and his 24 years of labor on this project is not unappreciated. It’s amazing that they are as accurate as they are.
The Poplar Creek land, shown below, which includes Green’s folly, bordered the land of Moses Estes Jr. The Estes men were no small landholders in the late 1700s in Halifax Co. Virginia. Sadly, most of this land was lost or sold during the timeframe of the Revolutionary War. The plot map below shows the lands that would be owned by John’s sons using purple arrows and shows Peter Fontaine’s holding with yellow. The green arrow shows approximately the location of the southern border of Moses Estes Sr.’s land.
The topographical map below shows these lands drawn and located by the green arrow still showing the approximate location of Moses Sr.’s land, the purple showing the land holdings of John’s sons. We know that the northern border of John’s land is actually slightly too far south, because the yellow arrow below is pointing to the current location of Green’s Folly, which we know both from deeds and historical accounts written by historians alive at the time, was the land originally owed by the Estes men who were sons of John. There is actually some question about whether the mansion still standing (as a clubhouse for a golf course, and needing restoration badly) on this land was built by the Estes family or Berryman Green, depending on which purchase dates you use and the date the house was built. However, it’s not called Estes Folly, so we won’t complain too much and will likely never know. This house was large enough to hold court in, was in fact larger than the courthouse of that time, and they did in fact hold court here from time to time.
Greene’s Folly today, above. This land was at one time owned by Estes men, and the house may have been built by Moses’s brother, John, and his sons.
The next topographical map shows the various locations of Estes land involving Moses, Sr., Moses Jr., John and his sons assembled using the magic of transparent tape.
The green arrow points to the lands of Moses Sr. The yellow points to the lands of his son, Moses Jr. adjoining the lands of William Younger to the east.
The top purple arrow points to Green’s Folly. The Key Fork is just left of that, intersects Sinai road, then leads to the second purple arrow which points to Berry Hill plantation. Given we know that the boundary line shown is too far south, if you shift it north to include Green’s Folly, you encompass the lands of Berry Hill as well. The Bruce family owned and apparently built this plantation, acquiring much of the land between Berry Hill and South Boston, which of course includes the lands owned by John’s sons. And yes, as cousin Doug had said, these original lands did butt up against the land Doug owned. So far, those old family stories have been proven true.
There has been speculation in the Estes descendants living in South Boston for years that the middle name of the original Berry Hill owner was Estes. I have been able to find no documentation to substantiate this, but given that some of the land owned by the Estes men is still unidentified, and many of their children are unidentified, it’s certainly probable that daughters, especially, married in the area and remained. There were Estes families here from 1752 until after the Revolutionary War whose children have never been identified. Many women passed their maiden names on as middle names of their children.
Looking at the map above, which does not show the Richard Estes lands to the east, we see that the Estes family at one time owned most of the lands across the northern half of South Boston. John’s sons died and those who remained sold out before the Revolutionary War, some moving to South Carolina. Micajah, who didn’t sell, was ruined financially. He died in 1786, his son Micajah Jr. selling the last of his land in 1794 from what would eventually become East Tennessee. Moses seemed to be particularly close to his nephew, Micajah, as there were several transactions over the years where the men appear together. Moses signed as witness and bond for Micajah more than once.
Standing on Moses’s Land
At the end of that fateful Monday at the courthouse when I found all of these deeds and attempted to put them together like a giant jigsaw puzzle (without the aid of the above plats and maps), I met Maynard and Nancy outside the courthouse. We had arranged to go out on Grubby road to see if we could find the land.
I shared with Maynard what I had found that day, and the realization dawned on all of us that the Osborne house was in fact the Moses Estes house. We were discussing this, when Maynard said, “I have a picture of that house”, reaching into his car and pulling out a binder with the photograph of the above house on the front. This painting was created from a black and white photo. This is a photo of the painting that is in Maynard’s family.
I stood there, shaking, as the realization dawned on all of us that we had, in fact, found Moses land, and I was looking at his house some 225 years later. This was truly an epiphany, un unbelievable revelation. I was absolutely stunned, truly speechless, a decidedly rare event. This was one of those synchronistic events that happen only a few times in any given lifetime. The genealogical stars had aligned.
Now, we wanted to go and find his actual land, not just on paper. Maynard, Nancy and I set out to do just that. Maynard had been there years before. After all, it was the old Osborne land. He just needed to get his bearings.
Eventually, after a few false starts (and difficult turn-arounds on 2 track roads), we found the property. The current owners were very gracious with their entirely unexpected guests. They showed us the skeleton of the original Estes/Osborne home, and told us that the chimney of that original house had recently fallen in. Some people had come and taken some foundation stones for a pond, and they were in fact going to bury the remainder because they couldn’t mow their field for the rubble. The aerial view with the small white balloon marks the location in the field of the homestead, I think. It’s difficult to tell more than a decade later, not knowing how much has changed on that farm from when we visited and when the google aerial was taken.
Nancy, Maynard and I were ecstatic. Maynard said they always knew that the Osborne’s didn’t build the house, but he didn’t know who did build it. Nancy and Maynard also use stones in their landscaping, so I loaded foundation stones and bricks from the hearth into my brand new one-week-old Jeep and they made arrangements to get a truck and salvage the stones for their land as well.
The current owners were glad to be rid of a problem in their field and shared our excitement of our wonderful, historic, find. Part of Moses’ house lives in my garden, above, now, more than 240 years and 1000 miles away and in cousin Nancy’s as well.
Nancy Osborne selecting rocks from the old Moses Estes homesite.
As we walked out into the field, we all stood quietly, listening over the decades, actually, over the centuries, to the voices from the past carried on the wind. We listened for the sounds of Moses time. This was as close to a genealogical spiritual nirvana experience as I would ever have. Standing on his land, looking at his house, visiting his grave was a religious experience of sorts, the genealogist’s Holy Grail. And we would never have found the land or the graves without all of the disparate pieces of information from several sources, all coming together at exactly the right time, in the right place. It was as if Moses had called us and we had found him, or at least his grave, is spite of everything.
We stood where Moses’s house once stood and looked up the hill, “above” where Moses lived, where John’s house would have been, and sure enough, there was a clearing. The current owners said there used to be a structure there too, but it was completely gone now. John would have left from here in 1779 for the Holston River in Tennessee, their wagon slowly creaking out of sight. Moses stood, alone, knowing he would never see his son again. The land Moses gave him wasn’t enough to keep him in Halifax.
The current owners said the creek was fresh and always ran, and was down the gully past the graveyard and between John and Moses’ houses. You can see the gulley in the photo below. Moses had chosen his land well.
The clearing “up the hill” where John Estes’ house stood.
Maynard remembered where the graveyard had been, although today you’d never know it was a graveyard. The current owners said they thought there was one grave “back there” in the underbrush, pictured in the woods across the remains of Moses’ house, below.
The graveyard, featured in the photo below, is hidden in the overgrowth. The only hint is the day lilies growing.
Facing the graveyard, looking North, our backs to the location of Moses old house. Probably 50 to 100 feet away from the old house.
We waded through the waist high weeds into the sacred space of the cemetery, stepping backwards in time. Maynard and I worked our way into the darkened sanctuary of the box elders. Indeed, we found the one marked grave, an Osborne.
The only grave with a tombstone in the graveyard.
After we got into the wooded area, we discovered probably 25, maybe more, graves, some inside a grouping of box elder. This looks to be the graves of Moses, our progenitor, being honored. There were many newer graves outside of this area, although all graves appeared to be pre-1900, many much older. The box elders were so large and overgrown that it looked dark, like a child’s dream hideaway, a cathedral of sorts.
Standing inside the box elders, probably looking at Moses grave.
I should have used my flash, although there were only field stones that look like ghostly silhouettes in this picture. Someone had once clearly cared greatly about the people buried here as they intentionally encircled this area with the box elders. The rest of the fieldstones were outside this area, but still within the treed area as a whole. The box elder area clearly looked like the “progenitor” area. I wonder if Moses Jr. came back here to visit his father’s grave. I wonder if George and John R. Estes visited this grave too. John R. Estes was born probably the same year as old Moses, his great-grandfather, died. Did George visit his grandpa before he left for the Revolutionary War, not knowing if he’d ever be back to see him again? Did they wonder which of them would die first? Was George home for the funeral of his Uncle William Estes in 1780, or was he already gone to war? Did Moses Sr. plant these box elder bushes when his wife, Elizabeth died, and then when his son, William, died?
I can feel old Moses’ sorrow burying his adult son. Moses was already an old man himself by this time – 69 years old. Moses must have had more children than 3 sons, so burying William left him with only 2 children that we have been able to identify, one of whom had already gone west, never to be seen by his father again. That must have been a truly sad day for Moses.
Finding the cemetery was a dream come true alright. Moses had called to us in muffled whispers through Tommy and Maynard, and we finally had found his home and his final resting place. I hope he is at peace on this beautiful land. His grave is no longer lost. And I too am at peace knowing where he lived, loved and died. I have found a part of myself in finding him.
Thanks Moses for the help. Without Tommy and Nancy and Maynard and the pieces falling into place just so, we could never have found you.
Moses DNA – Answering Questions
Moses Estes was bedrock. His descendants spread from Halifax County across the south, the Midwest and finally the western states. His descendants probably number in the thousands today. Moses had 29 grandchildren from the three children we know about. The only reasons we know about these sons is because Moses sold land to them. I would bet there are daughters we know nothing about – and there could be additional sons as well.
Thankfully, some of Moses’s descendants are interested in genealogy. One of the first Estes researchers I ever met, some 30+ years ago, was Garmon Estes. Garmon descends from Moses, through Moses Jr., George and then John R. Estes. It’s only fitting that the DNA of Moses’s descendants, along with that of other Estes men, would be utilized to answer one of the long-standing questions to plague Estes researchers.
I surely do miss my research buddy and cousin, Garmon, but he would be thrilled to know that he had an active role in resolving the long debated Estes family mystery.
Because of the persistent similarity of Estes to the name d’Este, it has been rumored for years, centuries actually, that the Estes family is descended from the royal lineage of the d’Este family of Ferrara, Italy.
Of course, that would be extremely exciting and we loved that rumor. Many researchers dug for years to find that elusive piece of confirming evidence. That piece, of course, remains elusive, probably because it doesn’t exist.
With the advent of Y DNA testing, Garmon was the first Estes male to test when I first established the Estes Y DNA project. Of course, having his DNA without other Estes men to compare to was futule, so many other long-time genealogists viewed this as a prime opportunity to prove or disprove a number of lines, along with that tantalizing d’Este family rumor.
The problem was, and is, that we were never able to find a male d’Este to test. Seems the direct male line has died out, with a couple of exceptions. However, famous people (royalty) are not inclined to talk to us mere mortals, let alone participate in DNA testing. There is no upside for them. They already have their genealogy, on paper, due to their royal lineage, and the only thing they are left to question is whether or not there was a biological break in the lineage, also known as an NPE (non-paternal event,) circumstances which I call undocumented adoptions. And if you’re a royal, you really don’t want to know if one has occurred. Plus, I’m not sure the royals really want any new cousins clamoring for whatever they might think they are entitled to, if the Estes family would match the royal line.
Instead, we had to try to discern the heritage of the Estes family utilizing the historical nature of the Y DNA.
Several men from the Estes line tested, including Garmon and other family members from Moses’s line. Because we know that the Y chromosome is not admixed, and is passed intact, except for an occasional mutation, from father to son, we can tell a great deal about where our ancestors were in times past, both recent past in terms of surname matches, and more distant past in terms of haplogroup or ancient clan matching.
Generally, haplogroups tend to be measured in the thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of years, and STR markers, meaning the 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 panel tests through Family Tree DNA, generally tend to measure relationships in the 400-800 year range. We were hoping for something in the middle, because we wanted to know where our family was during the time of the d’Este reign from about the year 900 to 1495 when we first find our Estes family in Kent, England. Records before that time are very scant.
We knew we didn’t have any STR DNA matches to anyone in Italy, but what we didn’t know was whether we would match anyone in Italy a little further back in time.
The Big Y test introduced by Family Tree DNA in 2013 reads the majority of the Y chromosome to find not only known SNPs, which are used to identify haplogroups and subgroups, but to find any personal SNPs not previously found. In other words, it’s a test of discovery – just perfect for our Estes family.
In the parlance of Family Tree DNA, these new discoveries are called “novel variants.” That’s just until it can be determined if novel variants are truly a family mutation or if they are pertinent to larger groups of people. Most novel variants will become named SNPs in time, if not already. Those novel variants not found in other families will become Estes specific line markers, perhaps indicating our own private Estes mutations. Maybe the Estes haplogroup:)
Looking at the novel variants for the Estes line, and at the SNPs discovered, we can find no relationship of the Estes DNA (by that or any other surname) to that region of Italy. It’s extremely unlikely that the Estes family swooped in for 500 years (or longer) and left no DNA in the region. We’re not just talking about matching STR markers, but matching the Big Y and matching the haplogroup subgroup results. In fact, I would be happy with ANY matching of ANY kind. It just isn’t there
I wrote about the details in an article called Estes Big Y DNA Results. Generally, one can’t prove a negative, so while we potentially could prove that the Estes and d’Este DNA is the same, if a male d’Este were to test, we can’t prove that they aren’t without the test. To prove the negative, we must use the preponderance of evidence.
The longer lookback into history suggests strongly that the rumor that the Estes male line descends from the d’Este family is unfounded. However, all genealogists are always anxiously awaiting new information to be unearthed, and I am certainly interested in anything new that develops. I would love to prove or disprove this conclusively and put this rumor to bed forever. Today, the only known direct lineal d’Este paternal line descendant is Ernst August, Prince of Hanover, husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, who also has 2 sons. So, there is hope. In the mean time, I think the Big Y results have put the family myth into permanent cold storage – at least for now.
If you are descended from any Estes ancestor, we’d love to have you join us for Y testing if you are a male who carries the Estes surname. If you are descended from any Estes through any line, we’d love to have you join us in the Estes project after you take the autosomal Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA. If you have already tested at Ancestry.com, you can transfer your autosomal raw data file to Family Tree DNA for $39. Hope to see you there!