George Estes was born in Amelia County, Virginia to Moses Estes and Luremia Combs on February 3, 1763. He tells us his birth date and his father’s name, among several other very interesting things, in his application for a Revolutionary War pension.
In 1832, Congress passed an act making men who served in the Revolution eligible for a pension. Thank goodness they did, because it caused records to be created documenting the service and lives of these men that would otherwise never have existed.
George applied for his pension on September 14, 1833. In his owns words, he tells us about his 3 tours of duty. Yes, three separate tours of duty.
“I entered the service in January 1781 as a substitute for my father Moses Estes and marched from Halifax County where I then lived under Captain Wall through the counties of Charlotte, Lunenburg, Dinwiddie and Petersburg to Cabin Point on the James River.”
I would think the word “marched” implies on foot. And there is a lot of marching going on.
“At that place I was transferred to Capt. Long’s company of infantry and marched with him to Suffolk on the Nansemond River where I was stationed for some time under Colonel Dick and Gen. Michlenburg. From there we marched to Portsmouth and many other places and arrived at Barrett’s Neck where I was discharged by Capt. Lewis in the month of April 1781 having served 3 months on this tour. My discharge is lost and cannot be found but the service record is proved by Elias Palmer who was a soldier with me during the whole time.
In the month of May 1781 I was drafted to serve my own tour and marched from Halifax County in Capt. Clark’s company through Richmond to New Kent Courthouse where we joined General Mechlenburg’s Company. I was then attached to Capt. Read’s company of cavalry and continued with him marching in various directions until our time of service for 3 months expired. I was discharged by General Waine in the County of Charles City in the month of August 1781. My discharge is lost and cannot be found and I do not know any person living who was in that service with me.
In the fall of 1781 I moved a family of people to the state of Tennessee staid in that country upwards of a year and in the month of October 1782 I entered the service of the United States as a volunteer and marched from the county of Washington in state of North Carolina in Capt. Cox’s company of mounted horsemen under Col. Campbell and Col. Shelby into the Cherokee Nation of Indians. We marched in various directions in the said nation until we arrived at the shoemake town. At that place we received information that a treaty had been reached with the indians and we were discharged. The whole time of service on this term was 2 months and 20 days. I was discharged by Capt. Cox about the end of December and came to Virginia where I have lived in the county of Halifax ever since. My discharge is lost and cannot be found and no person [is] in this country that was in that service with me.
I was born in the county of Amelia on the third day of February 1763. My age was recorded in a family bible that was in my father’s possession but I don’t know what became of it. I lived in the county of Halifax when I entered the service in the said county when the war ended and have lived in the county ever since. Christopher White, Thomas Conner and Peter F. Kent and many others can testify as to my character for veracity and their belief of my service as a soldier of the Revolution. There is no clergyman living in my neighborhood.”
George (X) Estes
Sept. 14, 1833
So George served three times in total, twice by obligation, when his father and his numbers came due, and once as a volunteer. He served in place of his father. War is difficult enough for a young man.
When George filed for his pension, he was 70 years old. While he signed with an X in 1833, in earlier documents, he signed his name, so he was capable of writing.
George’s signature is shown on a petition dated Dec. 10, 1785, above, for an assessment for religious teachers. Note that his name appears very near that of William Younger who lived adjacent his father Moses Estes. George would marry Mary Younger a year later, although a connection between the two Younger families has never been proven.
This petition dated November 17, 1795 shows Moses and his son George Estes both of whom are opposed to the sale of the church glebe lands, in addition to the signature of their neighbor William Younger. Note that George actually spells his own name in two different ways, Estes and Eastis. And we wonder why we are confused today.
Documenting George’s first two tour service records in Virginia was difficult, but finding the third one was next to impossible. Then, quite by accident, when looking for my Dodson family records, I stumbled across the documentation for George’s third tour, where he is listed as George Eastis, in the North Carolina archives, of all places.
From the Book “Tennessee Soldiers in the Revolution” by Penelope Johnson Allen, now digitized at Ancestry.com.
Look at this, George is right across the page, directly from Lazarus Dodson, the man I was looking for. Talk about serendipity.
My cousin, Debbie, wrote to the NC archives and was sent the following document that tells us that George Estes was paid in a specie certificate, a type of credit voucher, on June 12, 1783. His name appears on the 10th line in the third column. Ironically, Lazarus Dodson, whose name appears two entries below George’s is the father of Lazarus Dodson, whose daughter, Rutha or Ruthy, would marry George’s grandson John Y. Estes in Claiborne County, Tennessee in January 1841, 58 years after their grandfathers served together in the Revolutionary War. I wonder if they ever figured that out.
I called the North Carolina archives and asked if the original pay rosters and additional information were available. They said they were, but they did not do “lookup work.” A week later, I was standing at the research desk in the archives in Raleigh, with these papers in hand, and an amazed librarian kind of stuttered and stammered around when I introduced myself and told her where I came from (Michigan) and why I was there. I think they are far more used to people “going away” when told the archives doesn’t do “lookup work” than showing up 1000 miles and a week later. Sadly, that trip was for naught, because while they did have additional records for some soldiers, there was nothing more for George. Don’t even ask how upset I was.
Why, I was then forced to do research on some of my NC lines since I was there in the archives with nothing else to do. I mean…you can’t waste a trip like that!
George’s certificate was issued by the auditors, Bledsoe and Williams, and by referencing the attached documents, you can determine the location where the soldiers served. In this case, exactly as described by George Estes, he served in the Morgan District which included the Washington and Sullivan County areas which eventually became Tennessee.
By putting these three pieces of information together, George’s pay list, which includes the auditor, the auditor and their districts – we can confirm where George was when he served his third service term.
In 1833, from Jasper Co., GA, Clarissa C. Boyd declares that her brother, George Easters, a resident of Halifax Co., VA in 1781, served 6 months in the Virginia militia. On January 15, 1784. George Estes, infantry, Continental Line, was issued a certificate for the balance of his pay.
George was placed on Virginia pension roll at $31.38 per annum, certificate 16886 issued on Oct. 12, 1833.
On April 5, 1855 in Halifax Co., George (X) Estes of said county, age 92, applies for bounty land. He obtains the land and signs the bounty certificate over to his daughter Susannah immediately.
What do we know about what happened to George during his Revolutionary War service?
In his first term of service, serving in place of his father, Moses, George spent time at Cabin Point on the James River about which we discover the following:
By late summer 1780 with South Carolina under their control, the British were ready to push into Virginia and Maryland and deal Washington a final blow. In Virginia, Governor Thomas Jefferson had placed General Steuben in charge of the state’s defense. By January 1, 1781, the British were in Chesapeake Bay and Jefferson was calling up county militiamen to repel the impending attack. Benedict Arnold, now in charge of the British fleet, sailed up the James River and burned Richmond then moved back downriver to settle in at Portsmouth on the Chesapeake Bay. The Halifax County Militia and was sent to Cabin Point on the James River to watch for Arnold’s next anticipated raid up the river. The militia had little to do but sit and wait and worry about the news coming in daily of Cornwallis’ raids in the Carolinas and his impending threat to Virginia.
It seems that all was not well at home in Halifax County during this time. Boyd’s Ferry is the present city of South Boston and the Boyd’s Ferry crossing was very close to the Estes homestead, which was located just above the crossing on the main road.
In a letter to Governor Jefferson dated February 15th, 1781, camped at Boyd’s Ferry on the Dan River, Greene called for reinforcement of militia:
“We have crossed the Dan, and I am apprehensive they will cross it above us…If they should they will oblige us to cross the Stanton branch of the Roanoke…It is by no means certain, that Lord Cornwallis will not push through Virginia.”
Jefferson dispatched letters on February 17 and 18 to a long list of county Lieutenants and Baron von Steuben asking for militia to join General Greene who had “crossed the Dan at Boyd’s Ferry and was retreating before the enemy.” News of the alarming activities of Greene and Cornwallis aligned along either side of the Dan near Boyd’s Ferry must have reached the Halifax County Militiamen shortly after February 18. While they sat on the James River waiting for Arnold to make a move, Cornwallis and his army was camped at the doorstep of their homes in Halifax County.
The record is dated February 23, 1781 Cabin Point, Virginia and states:
“A list of the mens names belonging to Major Jones Battalion of Militia who have deserted. Distinguishing those who carried off their arms from those who did not. Also those who deserted from their post.”
The list of names does not include George Estes. He had a decision to make, and he chose to remain at his post, although one could scarcely have blamed him had he returned home to protect and defend his home place and family. Perhaps the knowledge that his father and siblings were there relieved his mind somewhat.
Now let’s turn to George’s third tour of duty from what would become eastern Tennessee, but was at that time western North Carolina..
In 1782, the Cherokee, who had sided with the British continued to raid. John Sevier banded together a group of men in western North Carolina, now eastern Tennessee, and with Colonels Campbell and Shelby marched on the Cherokee towns. Shoemake town, as it was called by whites, was located in upper Georgia and had previously been burned in May of 1781. The Indians allied with the British because the British assured them that they would stop the encroachment of the Europeans into their traditional territory. The Indians did not fare well in the Revolutionary War, nor afterwards. This “march on the Cherokee” appears to have been one last final grandstand that gave the Cherokee the final nudge to end their part in the war.
Rather miraculously, George does not seem to have engaged in any actual battles during his 3 tours of duty. By this late date in the war, most of the actual fighting was in North and South Carolina.
Back Home in Halifax County
After returning to Halifax County, George Estes spent most of his life on his father’s original land. His father Moses died in 1813, but the estate was contested and not settled until 1837, long after many of Moses’s children had died as well.
That land is located in the city of South Boston at the intersection of Estes and Main Street. The following photo is standing in the Oak Ridge cemetery, originally part of the Estes land, looking down Estes Street. Note the blue water tower. It’s a landmark we’ll reference later.
The Estes farm used to be beyond the blue tank on the left and the houses on the right. Today Estes Street is gated, not because it’s an upscale gated community, but because that land is now the landfill. This was heartbreaking to me, until I learned that the graves had been moved. It still makes me sad.
Below is what’s left of the Estes land taken from behind the area (yes, I was in the landfill but I cropped that portion from the photo.) We are looking at the original Estes woods.
In the above photo, for perspective, notice the blue water tower in the upper right corner. In the photo below, you can see the ‘other end” of the now gated “Estes Street” emerging that originates near the blue water tower that can also be seen in the left upper corner of the photo.
The Estes family in Halifax County, Virginia tells the story of when the family moved the graves from the old Estes land shown above to the Estes plot in the Oak Ridge cemetery. This apparently happened in the early 1900s and the only graves not moved were those of two unrelated people, one being an unrelated child whose parents had no place to bury the child and the second, an “in-law” of a descendant whose family did not want them moved.
It turns out that when Moses Estes’ children fought so bitterly over his land, they also apparently established separate cemeteries. One cemetery was the “original” Estes cemetery where Ezekiel, Susannah, Ezekiel’s mother who is George’s daughter, George and probably old Moses himself are buried. The other cemetery was located behind the houses, apparently, down Estes street. I believe that the Oak Ridge Estes plot is the original Estes cemetery, but I cannot definitively prove this through records still in existence today, although an early cemetery history states that this is the case. Oral history says that when they moved Moses’s grave, only a collar bone and a casket hinge were left. Whether this is accurate or a tall tale, we’ll never know, but indeed, whatever remains of the elder Estes clan is buried in the Oak Ridge cemetery directly across the street from the old Estes homestead and at the end of Estes Street. The rest, well, it’s under the landfill or dispersed.
Today Main Street is paved. When they removed the cobblestones to pave Main Street, they used them to construct the beautiful stone wall around the cemetery. George Estes served on many “road crews” as documented in court records and it is entirely possible that he laid these very cobblestones, shaped from the stones found on the Estes land. George was probably glad to get rid of them as they would have made plowing difficult.
The bright white monuments in the cemetery are the Estes family stones, made of marble apparently, after they were cleaned by family members about 2006. Ezekiel who died in 1885 has a stone that proclaims him “an honorable man,” but none of the earlier family members have stones. Ezekiel’s mother Susannah died in 1870 and his grandfather George died in July of 1859, an amazing 96 years of age.
The Halifax County Estes family has a clearly remembered oral history of “Granpappy George who lived to be 108 (or 106 or 115).” Sometimes stories grow with time, and that one certainly did, but he was quite elderly when he passed and obviously legendary.
George lived far from a sedentary lifestyle. He was obviously not afraid of adventure or danger, serving three separate terms in the Revolutionary War, one as a substitute for his father and one as a volunteer. George returned home and married Mary Younger on December 19, 1786 the same day that his brother Bartlett Estes married Rachel Pounds. I wonder if they were married in a double ceremony.
When I first started researching this couple, everyone in the family said that George Estes and Mary Younger could not have been the father of John R. Estes because they only had one child, Susannah. As a novice, I figured those researchers had a lot more information and years of experience, but as one by one, I worked through and eliminated many of the alternative parents, the options became fewer and fewer and I began to wonder how “they” knew that George only had one child. I certainly hadn’t found anything that said he had only one child. And having found only one child doesn’t mean there was only one child. In fact, I’ve become very suspicious of any record before the days of modern birth control that suggests that someone had only one or two children, unless the wife or husband died.
As it turns out, Susannah was the only child that was easily evident. And “they” didn’t know how “they” knew – trying to find the source of that information was like trying to find the elusive fountain of youth. And that was before the days of quick-click trees on Ancestry. If the researchers had looked at the few census records we do have, they would have seen a discrepancy that screamed for an explanation – multiple children living with George and Mary.
George and Mary positively had 7 children who survived to adulthood and probably at least two who didn’t, based on a combination of records, including the 1820 and 1830 census.
It seems that several of George’s children regularly pushed the envelope of the day and would have brushes with the law or, perhaps better stated, the court system and “polite society.” It’s thanks to those records that we can add color to our family portrait. I love lawsuits – well – historical lawsuits anyway. I extracted probably 75-100 years worth of court, deed and tax records from Halifax County and reassembled them, like a big puzzle, into family groups.
Of particular interest was the information from the “Younger, Marcus Chancery Suit 1842-057, Halifax Co. Va.” In the documents from that suit, I found the payments made to the various heirs of Marcus Younger, who had died in 1816. In the case of Mary Younger Estes, her heirs are listed in 1842 because she is deceased. This suit was filed almost 30 years after Marcus’s death. Normally would never think to look that far out – but chancery suits are often quite different. It’s not at all unusual for chancery suits to reach back 2 generations, to a grandparent’s will, especially if unmarried children are involved, as was the case with Marcus’s will. When the unmarried child dies, Mary’s sister in this case, sometimes the assets revert to the other children or their heirs.
In the suit papers, it is noted that Mary Younger Estes’s children will receive one sixth of her one quarter share of the 83 acres to be sold following the death of Mary’s unmarried sister.
The children of Mary Younger Estes were listed as: John, William, Susannah, Sally wife of T. Estes, Polly wife of James Smith and a grandchild name Mark Estes. This means that Mary had 6 children either living or who had died but who have heirs. In this case, one child has died leaving one heir, Mark.
Of course, I found this list AFTER I had reassembled what I believed to be the family of Mary Younger and George Estes. You know it didn’t match up perfectly, or I wouldn’t even be mentioning it.
I had all of those children listed, but in addition, I had a Bartlett and Rebecca.
There is no son Bartlett listed in the 1842 document, but there is instead a grandchild named Mark Estes. This implies that Mark’s parent is of the Estes surname, the parent is dead and Mark is the only living child. We know through various records that daughter Susannah has a son, Mark, but this cannot be that Mark because Susannah is very clearly included as living. We also know that George’s son, Marcus, died in 1815 leaving a widow and no children. The Bartlett I have attributed as the son of Mary and George had 7 children, and none known to be Mark, although one male name is unknown.
There are several Bartletts living in this vicinity and I could have the various Bartlett’s confused. However, if daughter Rebecca died and left a son Mark, this would fit perfectly. But, if it is the same Rebecca, she is prosecuted in 1844 for living with a black man, which precludes her from being dead in 1842, so Rebecca is not the child of George Estes, but more likely George’s niece.
This family makes me pull my hair out.
Thankfully, it seems that several of George’s children have lived a bit of a colorful life, meaning they have records that remain about them having had brushes with the law or, perhaps better stated, the court system and running afoul of “polite society.” Here is what is known about the children of George Estes and Mary Younger.
- John R. Estes whose photo we believe is shown below was probably the oldest child and was born sometime between March and June of 1787. He married Ann Moore in 1811 and was on the way to Claiborne Co., TN by 1820 where he died in 1885, like his father, nearly reaching 100 years of age. Obviously, there is a longevity gene in the Estes family. John R.’s great grandson, William George Estes lived to be 98 years of age and William George’s two daughter both lived to be just shy of 100. There’s hope that I’ll live long enough to finish my genealogy research:)
- Marcus Estes was born about 1788 as well and is shown on tax lists in Halifax County from 1811-1814 when he dies, leaving a widow with the beautiful name of Quintinney. In 1815, his estate is assigned to the sheriff to administer. There is also a War of 1812 record for Marcus, but there may be no further service records since no one applied for either bounty land or a pension based on his service. He served in the same unit as his brother, John R. Estes and I have to wonder if he died during that time.
- William Y. Estes was also born sometime in this timeframe. The census says 1785 or 1786, but the census is also often notoriously wrong. In 1815, William married Rebecca Miller and drank to the point where his wife’s father commented on his behavior in his will in a very unflattering manner, forbidding William to ever have any control over Rebecca’s inheritance. William died in Halifax County between 1860 and 1870.
- Susannah Y. Estes was born about 1800 and never married. She had 5 illegitimate children between 1814 and 1835, 2 males and three females. She lived on the old home place and cared for her elderly father, George, until his death in 1859.
- Polly Estes, born between 1801 and 1808 married in 1824 to James Smith. She died in Halifax County after 1880, having had 4 children. We know very little about Polly, because, she was apparently one of the few well-behaved Estes’s. You know that old saying about “well behaved women seldom make history.” I relish my ill-behaved ancestors and their family members because that is often the only way we learn about their lives and put meat on their bones. Below, George’s signature along with James Smith when Polly marries.
This photo is of George’s grandchild, J. E. and wife Mary Anne Smith, the youngest child of Polly Estes Smith.
I’m dying to know about that eye patch.
- Sally Estes was born sometime around 1800 and married her first cousin, Thomas Estes, son of Bartlett Estes and Rachel Pounds. Marrying cousins was a common practice of the time. They removed to Tennessee shortly after their marriage. George and Thomas both sign the marriage bond, below.
I initially thought Rebecca Estes was George’s child because of her proximity in the census where in 1830, a Rebecca Estridge with 3 daughters is living near George Estes and Susan Estes, all living in separate households. In 1835, a Rebecca Estes is in the court notes with Robert Rickman for support of her child, and in 1844, Rebecca is “indicted for felony, report of grand jury – a white woman living together in open adultery with a negro man, James Bird, free man of color, as presented by Jacob W. Farguson and William Ingram.” I cannot find Rebecca nor James Bird after this time. If this is the same Rebecca in 1844 as in 1830 and 1835, then she cannot be the child of George Estes because in 1842, Rebecca would have been dead.
It’s very unlikely that either Bartlett or Rebecca are George’s children and we are simply missing one child who had son Mark. It is certainly possible that this Marcus was born posthumously to George’s son Marcus. Given that Marcus’s estate went entirely to debt, there would have been nothing left to leave to a child, so no guardian would have been appointed. We’ll likely never know, but this is the most likely explanation. There is no Mark or Marcus Estes in the 1840 or 1850 census.
Life in Halifax County with Daughter Susannah
We don’t have a lot of information about life as George knew it, but thanks to Susannah, we do have a couple of glimpses into what their life was like.
Susannah Estes never married, lived on the old homeplace and wound up with all of George’s assets which caused problems with his other children. By the time George Estes died in 1859, there was nothing left, so he had no will. He had already deeded his land to Susannah, plus anything left from his pension or his Revolutionary War service.
On February 12, 1833, George Estes grants to Susan Y. Eastes, “my daughter, all my right, title, claim and interest which I have for military services rendered during the War of the Revolution.”
Much to my shock, in early 1837, Susannah brings suit against her father forcing him to answer to the court why he, as executor, has not distributed his father, Moses’s estate.
On March 25, 1837, George Estes deeds to Susannah Y. Estes “for $100 land on both sides of road from Halifax to S. Boston on Dan River adjoining Adam Toot, John Ransom, John Jinnett, tract of land that my father Moses died seized of.” This occurs immediately after George’s father’s estate was settled.
If you look at a map of South Boston plotting the locations we know, this is a huge tract of land.
We know the land went as far north at present day Waddell Woods (top arrow) because Waddell spring is mentioned in deeds. The Oak Ridge Cemetery is the green area pointed out by the second arrow from the top. The blue water tower is across the street, to the right of that arrow. The main road is 129 and is pointed to by the third arrow from the top, running from the Dan River (at the bottom) through the Estes land and on North. Today, this land includes most of South Boston, then Boyd’s Ferry.
We get a glimpse of their possessions, when, in 1842, Susannah, who now owns her parents land, takes a mortgage which is void if it is paid. Apparently, the mortgage is paid, because nothing more is ever mentioned in any of the deed or court books.
“Tract of land where we now live, one three-horse wagon and gear, 1 bay mare, 1 grey horse, hogs and sheep, all of our present crop of corn and fodder, tobacco, 4 feather beds and furniture, household and kitchen furniture, plantation tools for debt of $50.16.”
In addition to the land George inherited from Moses, George continues to assist Susannah.
On April 15, 1857, George Estes deeds to Susan Y. Estes the bounty lands he is entitled to “by late acts of Congress and a part of proceeds being in the hands of Easley Holt and Co. In consideration of natural love and affection and value received…all right and interest to any balance that is remaining at my death after paying my debts with him.”
When she died on August 23, 1870, Susannah was not a poor woman and left a nontrivial estate, including land. Her personal property inventory probably included many items inherited from her father and mother:
Appraisement of property of Susan Estes:
- walnut chest
- flax wheel
- 3 pots
- 2 skillets
- brass kettle
- tea kettle
- 4 jars
- 4 jugs
- 2 water buckets
- 3 axes
- lot tin
- 2 pitchers and bottles
- 1 jar vinegar
- lot tableware
- pot rack
- 1 press
- 1 desk
- 1 looking glass
- 7 chairs
- 1 bed
- 1 blanket
- 1 counterpin and sheet
- 1 quilt
- 1 barrell cider
- small chest
- 2 bee hives
I can’t help but wonder what the quilt looked like and who made it. Was it from a time when she and her mother and sisters perhaps gathered around a quilting frame?
After Susan’s death, a lawsuit followed regarding a debt incurred before her death and the validity of the debt based on her mental state. She was deemed competent. Aside from the depositions, which were in themselves very enlightening as to Susannah’s life, and death, the list of items she purchased at the store, on account, I found very interesting as well:
The following are items appearing on the store account of “Miss Susan Estes”:
- Linen shirt
- 2 linen collars
- 5 yards calico (total 1.06)
- 3 yard gingham
- 1 bottle ? oil
- 20 yards oznaburg
- 75 yard pant goods
- Weeding hoe
- Shelves for buster
- Coffee pot
- Tin bucket
- 1 oz indigo
- 1 # soda
- Sole leather
- 2 oz indigo
- Pale cotton
- Rubber tuck combs
- 2 yd cambric
- Flex thread
- 6 8×10 window glass
- Seed oats
- Frt and drayage
- Paid on acct with bacon from house
- Goods box
- Plow point
- Fine iron
- Goods box
- Hat for Buster
- Pants for Buster
- Coat for Buster
- Vest for Buster
- Bacon sides
- Pole exe
- Pale Box
- Stamped envelope (.04)
- Bacon sides
- 2 doz henning??
- Paid with Reg. 162 old casting
Obviously, Buster is a nickname for someone, but who? Whoever, he was, he had a vest, hat, coat, pants and shelves.
In addition, Ezekiel Estes submitted a bill to the estate for $21.18 for shingling the house and Susannah’s doctor bill was $51. She died a slow death of a heart ailment.
Above, George Estes’s granddaughter, Susannah’s daughter, Mary Mildred Estes born April 3, 1828 and died Jan. 20, 1917 in Lynchburg, VA., married William Greenwood and second, Jesse Jacobs..
Susannah’s son, Ezekiel Estes, below, born in 1814 and died in 1885 in Halifax County, married Martha Barley.
A few years after I published this original article, Jerry, one of Ezekiel’s descendants contacted me and provided this amazing watch case that was owned by Ezekiel.
This beautiful pocket-watch case is made of Iroquoian beadwork, causing me to wonder how he obtained it, and if there is more significance than a simple watch case. Regardless, it’s beautiful and a huge thank you to Jerry for sharing so that everyone can enjoy this treasure.
George Estes himself had a few encounters with the legal system. People at that time seemed to be quite litigious, and George was involved with no fewer than 14 nonfamily cases, generally as a defendant, and went to court even more often as a witness.
Court days, which initially happened quarterly, then monthly, were quite the social event in the 1700s and 1800s in Virginia. Anyone who was anyone attended, and much business was transacted outside the courthouse and in the taverns. It was also one of the best ways to hear the news as well as see the news being made. The original reality TV!
I recall that when my daughter and I first went to Halifax County, we visited the clerk’s office asking asked about the various record books and such. My daughter had the book of court notes out, and was looking in the plaintiff’s index. We told the lady that we were looking for Estes and she said “Oh, well then, your people are in this book”, and retrieved the defendants ledger. Things haven’t changed much over the years apparently. The Estes family is legendary, or at least infamous!
George’s first court appearance was in 1786 when he was prosecuted for “profane swearing.” In one case, George and his father Moses were involved as witnesses in a lawsuit where someone signed a document they later regretted after partaking of the fruit brandy at the Estes home. The Estes family was well known for its fine orchards. The fruit brandies were kept cool in a special compartment under the foundation of the house.
In 1802, George put a mortgage on his household items which included 2 feather beds and furniture for 9 pounds, 2 shillings and 2 pence. You can tell that of their household goods, the coveted items were the feather beds.
In 1837, George gave a deposition in the chancery case of Light vs Yuonger wherein the descendants of Thomas Younger battled, for years, over the estate of Thomas Younger after his daughter Rachel Younger died. Thomas was likely the great-uncle of George’s wife, Mary Younger. While the outcome of the case actually doesn’t involve our family directly, we do find a deposition given by George in 1837 over the value of a slave named Peter who in 1812 had been disabled with elephantitis. George, age 74 at that time, signed his deposition.
Most of the court cases, not included in the 15 non-family cases mentioned above, involved years and years of appearances having to do with Moses estate settlement which was finally settled in 1837, 24 years after Moses’s death. George, the eldest son, was 74 years old when his father’s estate was settled and he immediately deeded his portion of the land to Susannah.
This family battled over land and inheritance for generations, beginning in 1813 with Moses’ death, followed by George’s children and then Susannah’s and continuing into the present generations whose parents were still involved with that land until the county took the land by eminent domain. At least one person refused to sell the land and instead has a ‘long-term lease”, although what they think they’ll do with a stinky landfill is beyond me. I suspect it was a matter of principle.
When I visited Halifax County, two elderly living cousins, Doug and Shirley, both now deceased, remembered the land from their childhood. Shirley told me that the original home burned in about 1933, complete with all of the family photos, Bibles, etc. She remembers that someone on the school bus told her that her grandparents’ house burned the night before.
Shirley explained that the original home had 8 rooms with 2 fireplaces. Photos of “all the family” hung there – but of course burned in the fire which is why none exist today, according to Shirley. The home had a cellar – which is reflected in a chancery suit where it’s mentioned that Moses Estes stored his fruit brandy in the cellar. Apparently, one night, someone drank too much and signed something they regretted at Moses’s house. Although Moses wasn’t the signer, Shirley mentioned that the Estes men liked their alcohol a bit too much and alcoholism ran in the family.
Shirley said there were blackberries, raspberries, huge mulberry trees “three foot through,” grapes and 5 cherry trees. I suspect there were apple and peach trees too back when Moses planted his orchard.
Shirley said that there were three springs, making this property quite desirable for homesteading. The Walker spring is about half a mile away, the Waddell spring, and a small spring by the house which had a spring-house built over it to cool things like milk. They grew gourds, and there were always “dipping gourds” by the springs so anyone could get a cool drink of water.
The Estes family used to haul ice, cut from the river, hoping it would last until at least partway through the summer. One time Ezekiel Estes, Moses’s great-grandson through granddaughter Susannah was hauling ice for one Mr. Willingham using steers instead of oxen. When asked if he couldn’t make those steers go faster, Zeke said “no, cause I need them tomorrow.”
The man who bulldozed the property after the city purchased it told me there were 3 houses “back there,” all “farm type” homes. Apparently the first home built was a log cabin, probably about 1782 when the family first arrived from Amelia County, and it was later used for the young couples after they were first married.
The home that burned was described as a large 2 story home with upper and lower porches all around. Porches are important in the south.
There has been a great deal of speculation about why George provided only for his daughter Susannah. It could be because she was not married and he felt protective towards her, wanting to provide for her and his grandchildren after his passing. She was very young, 13 or 14 when she became pregnant, and it would be easy to see how he could have been especially protective of her and her children whom he had lived with for their entire lives. In essence, George raised her children as his own, especially Ezekiel who was the eldest. Ezekiel was born right about the time that George and Mary stopped having children, so Ezekiel probably just fit perfectly into the stair-steps of children.
It could also be that George gave his worldly good to Susannah because she took care of George in his old age – although that wouldn’t explain the 1830s deeds. George’s wife Mary probably died sometime between 1820 and 1830, and certainly before George started deeding to Susannah in 1833, because Mary signed no release of dower rights.
Others have suggested that perhaps Susannah might have been an opportunist and perhaps manipulative or devious. Some have questioned the propriety of the situation. Susannah had only two male children. Her oldest, Ezekiel, has descendants who have DNA tested and they match a Moore family that lived in the area, although not the same Moore family that Susannah’s brother, John R. Estes married into.
I think it suffices to say that George, Susannah and Ezekiel were extremely close and given the social stigma attached to illegitimate birth in that era, let alone 5 illegitimate children, the family was probably increasingly subject to harsh scrutiny, discrimination, criticism and were socially marginalized. One hint may be held in George’s 1833 Revolutionary War pension application where he states there is no clergy in his neighborhood, but the oldest church in the county is but a few blocks down the street from his home, within walking distance. One can certainly understand why and how George could and would feel a great deal of affection for his grandchildren in particular, as he apparently lived with them as they grew up. There are several records that involve both George and Ezekiel who probably looked up to his grandfather as a role model.
In fact, it was Ezekiel Estes who reported the death of George Estes and said that he was 100 years and 4 months old, born in Amelia County. I hope, for George’s sake, that the family had a bang up 100 year old birthday celebration where everyone came to visit and eat that fine southern food, even if we know today they were a few years early. Or maybe George really was 100 years old in 1859 and simply misstated his birth year in 1833. Regardless, I hope they had a wonderful celebration and he had many guests who sat and visited and imbibed some of that fine Estes brandy! I wish I could hear the stories of his hundred years of life. What a gift that would be.
George is reportedly buried here in the Estes section of the Oak Ridge Cemetery immediately to the right just inside the entrance. The Estes family markers are all bright white here after being cleaned by now deceased cousin Nancy Osborne. We don’t know exactly where Susannah, George with his wife Mary Younger and Moses with his wife Luremia Combs are buried, but rest assured that they are here among their descendants and family members.
It’s believed that George and Mary are buried in the unmarked area, below.
In the following photograph, the picture is taken from behind the stones, before they were cleaned and restored, with the original Estes land showing across the street. The Estes homestead was behind these houses which stand on part of Moses’ land that was sold off by descendants. The original homestead is now the landfill, although some forest was preserved as a barrier between these homes and the landfill the last time I in visited in 2006 or so. The cobblestones showing in the wall below are the original road cobblestones that George probably helped to lay.
I would like to have a Revolutionary War marker placed for George Estes in the cemetery so that he will be honored and his grave will be marked for future generations.
George certainly lived an amazing life. He was born in Amelia County during the French and Indian war, as his father and uncles serving in that conflict. About 1770, the Moses Estes family migrated in mass, it seems, to Halifax County where his father and grandfather, both named Moses, established homes, albeit a few miles apart.
About the time George came of age, he volunteered to take his father’s place in the Revolutionary War. After returning home, just a month later, his own “slot” came up, so he then served for himself.
Many Estes men were pushing the new frontier. In fact, George moved an Estes family to Hawkins County, TN, probably offering to help in order to see a bit of the world. He stayed for almost a year, and it was from there in October of 1782 that he enlisted as a volunteer to serve his third stint in the military in the Revolutionary War. George obviously saw a lot and probably talked about that part of the country to his children when telling tales about his great adventure. He’s one of the very few men I’ve ever heard of going BACK home from the frontier, and staying there. His son, John R. Estes would eventually settle in Claiborne County, TN himself, some 30+ years later, near where his father was in what would become Eastern Tennessee.
We don’t know much about George’s religious leanings. When he was young and first married, church attendance was required in the Anglican church. That’s also about the time he was prosecuted for “profane swearing.”
We know that his wife, Mary Younger’s family was probably Methodist, a dissenting religion, but one that was “legal” by the 1780s. Given that his son, John R. Estes married the minister’s daughter, in all likelihood, this family was Methodist. Whether George was enthusiastically Methodist too, “went along” begrudgingly and slept through services in the back row or simply stayed at home, we’ll never know. We do know, per a deposition, that George Estes was with the Reverend William Moore’s family on Christmas Day, 1811. George’s son, John R. Estes was married to Reverend William Moore’s daughter, Ann Moore.
At least two of George’s children ran badly afoul of either the law of the social norms of the time. Son William drank to excess and daughter Susannah had five children out of wedlock, as a pattern occurrence. This would have made it difficult for the rest of George’s children to “marry well” because something like that paints the entire family with the same brush.
Today, it’s inconceivable to us, but at that time, people who were born “out-of-wedlock” really could only marry others of their same social status. Interracial marriages were outlawed and the choices people had, both legally and in reality were much more limited than today. Remember, I told you that the county clerk still knew that the Estes’s would be found in the “defendants” book??? Maybe this is part of why so many descendants left for lands where there was less judgment waiting and one could start anew, without stigma already attached from the behavior of others.
George’s wife Mary would pass away sometime between about 1820 and 1830. George would have been between 60 and 70 years old at that time, and would live almost another 30-40 years.
After Mary’s death, it appears that Susannah took care of George. Given that by this time, Susannah had 5 illegitimate children she had to provide for, George’s pension probably took care of Susannah as well. I wonder how military pensions were figured at that time. I would have thought they would all have been relatively equal for the same rank (private), and if unequal, perhaps George received something for each of his three stints in the military. By way of contrast, his son, John R. Estes who served in the War of 1812 was collecting a pension at the same time received $8 a month as compared to George’s $31 year, which breaks down to $2.58 per month. In the end, Susannah wound up with all of George’s assets although, clearly, his pension stopped when he died.
By the time George died, his son Marcus had passed away, possibly in the War of 1812, and there are a couple of children I lose in the records, but as far as we know, most of George’s children outlived him. Some had moved west but George still had Polly, Susannah and William Y. nearby, although William Y. seemed unable to even help himself, due to his drinking, based on numerous court records.
The good news is that because of where Moses’s land was located, and the ability to locate the Oak Ridge Cemetery today, then track through the landfill deeds and family records, we were able to find the original Estes land.
Furthermore, we know that graves were moved from the Estes cemetery, now under the landfill, to the Estes plot in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, which may have been the original Estes cemetery in the first place.
All I know is that when cousin Nancy started talking about having moved the graves and finding the collar bone of Moses Estes, I just couldn’t stop myself from thinking about DNA. I know fully well that today, even with enough money, that the retrieval of ancient DNA for consumer purposes really isn’t a viable option. But I also know that in another decade, with the advances in technology and the associated drop in prices, combined with what has been able to be accomplished with sequencing ancient genomes – that eventually – that collarbone would have been useful.
I know, bad genealogist, bad genealogist. Bad, bad, bad. I can’t help it. It’s that nonconformant Estes side coming out! It’s in my genes. I can’t help it. In fact, I know where there’s a bone we can dig up to prove it….
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