Halifax County Virginia is stunningly beautiful, a gently rolling mountain area. While visiting there in the fall of 2002, my daughter and I could see why our Estes ancestors were attracted to this area. The land is beautiful, the mountains so sloping that much rich pastureland is available, and there are plenty of water sources. Just being there is nectar for the soul.
Halifax County was established in 1752 from Lunenburg which was originally formed from Brunswick County. Its two major waterways are the Staunton River (known as the Midway in colonial times) and the Dan Rivers, both which are large and navigable. Even today, while there is some industry along the rivers, most of the county is tobacco farmland.
The first surveyors called it the “Land of Eden.” Apparently Moses Estes agreed.
Moses Estes Jr. was the son of Moses Estes Sr. and his wife Elizabeth. Born probably before 1742, in Hanover County, VA, Moses Jr. married Luremia Combs, daughter of John Combs of Amelia County, probably sometime in 1762 since their eldest child, George Estes, was born in Amelia County on February 3, 1763.
By 1766, we find Moses Estes Jr. involved with the buying and selling of real estate in Lunenburg County with his wife’s Combes family.
For a few years, Moses Estes Jr. and Luremia lived in this beautiful location in Lunenburg County on land purchased from Luremia’s brother, George, in 1767 that had been owned by her father, John Combs, before his death in 1762.
On March 30, 1768, this tract of land was processioned and described as lying between “Reedy Creek, Reedy Creek old road, Coxes road and the North Meherrin River.”
Moses Jr. moved to Halifax County in 1769 or 1770. After an initial land investment with his father Moses Sr., on (present day) Grubby Road, Moses Jr. purchased land in what is now South Boston, on what is now Estes Street, and established his own plantation of about 256 acres. His property spanned relatively flat land from the Dan River Church to the South boundary of Oak Ridge cemetery and was ripe with orchards and fields. This wasn’t a trivial amount of land. For purposes of comparison, there are 640 acres in a square mile, so this land would have been slightly less than a half mile by one mile.
Moses produced his own fruit brandy as is mentioned both by descendants and in a chancery suit. The family tells of huge flower gardens and a beautiful home with porches all the way around the lower and upper levels. Several springs provided fresh water. The Estes family would own this land for generations. The burials in the family cemetery located on the Estes land were relocated to the Estes family tract in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, across the street from the original Estes homestead – although still on land originally owned by Moses. According to family legend, all that was left of Moses was a collar bone and a casket handle when his grave was moved.
This photo shows Tom Estes at the old Moses Estes Jr. home place in the early 1900s. Tom is the great-great-great-grandson of Moses Estes Jr. through George, Susannah, Ezekiel and Henry Archer Estes.
This is the only known surviving photo of this home. Descendants describe the house as a large house with lots of family photos lining the staircase as it rose to the second level. Knowing that gallery of photos existed, and burned, just breaks my heart.
This house was special because it had a full porch both upper and lower. You can see the corner in the photo.
The house was surrounded by lush orchards yielding apples, peaches, pears and cherries. There were berries to pick as well. The Estes family made berry wines and brandies. There were 3 springs on the property as well as Reedy Creek, so fresh water was always abundant. This truly was prime real estate. No wonder Moses put down roots and stayed.
The following diagram was drawn by the Estes cousins who visited the Moses Estes home when they were children, before it burned in the 1930s.
House 1 was the original log cabin which later served newlyweds as a starter home. House 2 was the large Moses Estes Jr. home. Houses 3 and 4 were farm houses. Based on what we know from the tax lists and other sources, I’d say that Moses’s sons, George and Bartlett lived in these houses at least until Moses died. Later, John R. Estes likely lived in one before he left for Tennessee about 1820.
Life in Halifax County
In the 1770s, when Moses Estes Sr. and Moses Estes Jr. are becoming established in Halifax County, there were several land transactions where one or both of them was involved.
Moses Sr. and Moses Jr.’s Halifax County land transactions are as follows:
- In 1771, Moses Sr. buys 400 acres of land from John Pankey which is on Miry Creek just west of the Greens Folly property.
- In 1771 Moses Jr. buys 256 acres from John and Elizabeth Owen (the transaction does not say Junior, but Sr. never shows this land on the tax records and Jr. still owns this land after Sr. dies). Moses Jr.’s estate shows this land after his death as well. This is where the landfill is today, located on and behind Estes Street in South Boston across from the cemetery which originally was part of the Estes land too.
- In 1772 Moses Sr. sells 200 acres of the Miry Creek land to his sons Moses Jr. and John Estes for 5 shillings – head of Branch of Miry Creek called the Pole Bridge branch being half the track bought of John Pankey.
- In 1772, Moses Sr. sells other half to son William Estes for 20 shillings. This is where Moses Estes lives and he retains life estate. This is likely where Moses Sr. and William are both buried.
- In 1780, a deed from Micajah Estes to Nicholas Vaughn for 150 acres on Poplar creek mentions it abuts the lands of Moses Estes. Micajah owned the Green’s Folly property and this would have abutted Moses Sr.’s land.
- Moses Jr. and John Estes sell the 200 acres to Robert Bennett in 1777. At the end of these transactions, Moses Jr. is left with the 256 acres he purchased from Owens.
In 1772, Moses Jr. was also a security for the will of Nicholas Gillington, the grandfather of Elizabeth Chism, the wife of Moses’s brother John. In Amelia County, Moses Sr.’s land abutted Nicholas’s land, so the families were well acquainted.
Moses Jr. would eventually file for a 1780 Revolutionary War Claim for 6 bushels of Indian corn worth 15 shillings, 100 sheaves of oats worth#1-13-4, 100 pounds of fodder worth 3 shillings and 11 pounds of bacon worth 11 shillings. This certainly implies that one of the military units was in Halifax County during this timeframe and needed supplies. Given where Moses lived, I wonder if they camped at his place. In the story of Luremia Combs, we discussed a legendary Revolutionary War military campaign that involved Halifax County, right close to where the Estes family lived. At least part of that campaign was literally on their doorstep.
By 1781, a decade after moving to Halifax County, Moses Jr. was well established in the community and was appointed surveyor of the road from Boyd’s Ferry, which is present day South Boston. Boyd’s Ferry is where one crossed the Dan River at South Boston. Moses was surveyor from Boyd’s Ferry to Powell’s Ferry on the Banister River. I’ve been unable to discover where Powell’s Ferry is located on the Banister, but I think it’s just beyond the present day town of Halifax, then called Banistertown.
In 1786, Moses was reappointed and that appointment called for him to be the road surveyor from Boyd’s Ferry to the courthouse, which is located in the present day town of Halifax. Another reappointment mentioned to the lower Banister River bridge, I suspect that was the original Powell’s Ferry. The main road ran right directly through Moses Estes’s land in South Boston.
On the map, above, Boyd’s Ferry was located at the current day railroad tressle in South Boston, at the bottom of the map, shown with the red arrow. Moses’s land is noted in South Boston by the second red arrow. Halifax, where the courthouse is located is pointed out by a red arrow, as is Banister River, now Banister Lake, just above Halifax. In total, this is probably 10 miles of road. Moses is noted in court records as living 5 miles from the courthouse.
The original road through South Boston is present day 129 which started at Boyd’s Ferry. Route 501 was constructed later and was not the main road at that time. Moses owned a significant piece of what would become South Boston.
About this same time, in 1781, Moses Jr. is called upon to serve in the Revolutionary War. Moses’s eldest son, George, served in place of his father, Moses Jr., returning from his father’s 3 month stint just in time to return for his own term of service in October.
This arrangement makes me wonder how both men felt about this. It’s hard not to project how I feel today onto Moses and George who clearly lived in a very different cultural time and place. I wouldn’t want my child endangered in my place – under any circumstances. But then again, perhaps there was a financial incentive that was considered a good opportunity. Perhaps George wanted to go and would have enlisted anyway. We just don’t know what factors went into that decision. Moses and George were obviously extremely close as they lived together or adjacent on the same land for their entire lives, and George was the executor of Moses’s estate. I wish one of these men had kept a journal.
We know, based on the history of the unit where George was serving, that the enemy was indeed camped at Boyd’s Ferry, in South Boston while George was serving elsewhere. This is the very road where Moses was surveyor, meaning he was responsible for the road maintenance. It’s somehow ironic that while George was gone and did not see active battle, his father who remained at home wound up in the middle of the Dan River campaign. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
The tax lists for this time survive, although they are often not terribly robust.
In 1782, Moses Jr. is listed with 11 family members, meaning 9 children, and 1 negro. This is the only time I have ever seen or heard any suggestion of Moses being involved in any way with slavery – although we don’t know that the negro wasn’t free. We only know that the negro was tithed with Moses Jr.
The fact that Moses had 9 children in 1782 tells us that at least one child was born after 1782, probably Judith. We know, according to Moses’s will and estate that he had 10 living children in 1799.
This image is Moses Estes’s signature on a November 6, 1786 petition of vestrymen opposed to a repeal.
Moses first child to marry was Clarissa, in August 1786 to Francis Boyd, of the Boyd’s Ferry family.
Clarissa Combes Estes marriage bond to Francis Boyd, above. Moses Sr. may have signed this, given the shakey handwriting.
In December 1786, Moses Jr.’s oldest son, George, married Mary Younger on the same day that his son Bartlett married Rachel Pounds. There must have been a huge celebration at the Estes plantation with lots of brandy!
Moses did not sign for George, who would have been about 23, but he did sign for Bartlett, which makes me wonder if Bartlett was not yet of age. In fact, Moses penned this note so we have a wonderful example of his beautiful handwriting. It’s very different than the Moses signature above on Clarissa’s marriage bond.
It’s interesting that Rachel Pounds signs for herself, and that John Douglas is her surety. That’s a name we’ll see again
Moses’s handwriting is just beautiful. I can tell you I didn’t inherit that from him. And, I have to wonder, what was Moses’s “urgent business.”
In 1787, George is listed on the tax list with Moses, obviously farming the plantation, and that same year, George’s first son, John R. Estes was probably born on the Estes land. John R. Estes is my great-great-great-grandfather who would marry Ann Moore in 1811 and by 1820, settle in Claiborne County, TN, where he would found that branch of the Estes family.
On the 1787 tax list, Bartlett is shown living next door to Moses. At this point both Bartlett and George are probably living in those farm houses.
On July 19th, 1787, something happened that no child ever wants to witness. Moses’s father, Moses Sr. granted power of attorney and everything he owned to his son, Moses Jr., because he could no longer care for himself. That must have been a terribly sad day.
I, 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, man’s saddle, bridle tools, carpenters, coopers and plantation tools, all household furniture, tubs, pots, pails, kettles, butter pots and everything else in my estate – Moses Estes mark – William Powell, William Younger, Rachel Younger witnesses
Moses Jr.’s father, Moses Sr. died a few months later, in late 1787.
It was also about this time that Moses and Luremia completed their family. They had at least 10 children, and probably 11, between 1763 and about 1787.
In 1790, Moses served on an inquisition into “the death of a negro woman on the plantation of Isaac Coles.”
In 1791, Moses was presented for a misdemeanor to the court, but we don’t know what it was because the charge was dismissed in 1792.
In 1792 and 1793, a responsible and trusted citizen, Moses was appraising estates as his neighbors passed away.
In April 1793, Moses is listed as a defendant in a Chancery suit in Halifax County. I love these suits, because they give us such a flavor of the place and time.
“Daniel Chumbley and Moses Estes at the mansion house of Estes – heard parties make swap of bonds – Chumbley gave Estes bond on William A. Smith and Estes gave Chumbley bond on Thomas Davenport for 45 shillings, Estes to pay Chumbley the difference on some other day which was computed to be at that time, after said Chumbley having some cyder of said Estes 3.3.0 given under my hand Thomas Davenport. Next deposition is from Patience Estes saying Daniel gave Moses Estes the William Smith note upon the condition that if Estes got $$ from Smith he was to pay hisself and then return the balance to said Chumbley and if Estes could not get the $$ and return him the note and he would find property.”
Now can’t you just see these men on a hot summer day, sitting under the trees, sipping “cyder” and making deals? Maybe someone drank a bit too much. Daniel Chumbley was the husband of Moses’s niece, Luana, daughter of William Estes and Mary Harris.
I should note here that the phrase mansion house doesn’t necessarily mean what it sounds like it means. I found this another time, and later discovered that the “mansion house” was something like a 12X20 foot cabin. Mansion house was often used to indicate the primary home on the property, whether it was a mansion or not. Every man’s house was his mansion! Although, given what we know about Moses’s house, maybe by comparison to others – it was indeed considered a mansion.
On a November 17, 1795 petition opposing the sale of the glebe lands we find the signature of Moses Estes along with George Estes and William Younger, their neighbor. I love the old style s that looks like an f.
In the Antrim Parish Vestry book, in 1795, we find a note that 10 shillings was brought forward. What we don’t know is if this entry simply depicts the mandatory payment of taxes or if it also implies church membership.
In 1796, it looks like Moses wound up in jail for a bit of time.
“Alexander Spiers-John Bowman and Company versus Moses Estes, John Douglas surety – deft to pay costs, surety, brought Moses Estes, plaintiff by his attorney and prayed the deft in the custody of the sheriff which was accordingly ordered.”
Now, you know there’s a soap-opera-worthy kind of story buried here someplace.
Since 1791 or 1792, Moses had been feuding with the Douglas family, the families filing dueling lawsuits. He was then an appraiser for a Douglas estate, so there must have been some connection, someplace. I was surprised to see John Douglas as Moses’s surety for this lawsuit – but maybe it wasn’t as innocent as it looks. If your surety thought they were in danger of losing their bond, they could ask the court to take you into custody – and it appears that’s exactly what John Douglas did.
Was he being vindictive or was Moses being difficult or unreliable? Was this a ploy? A misunderstanding? Oh….I’d love to know. That case, whatever it was, was subsequently dismissed in 1797 with no further explanation.
Throughout this time, Moses continued to be a road hand, testified at court in other cases, and continued with the rhythmic, lyrical pace of southern plantation life in Halifax County.
In 1799, the tax lists shows Moses with 2 white males, no blacks and 3 horses.
Also in 1799, when Moses was 57 years old, something possessed him to write his will. Normally, at that time, one didn’t write a will unless one thought they would need it imminently. In his will, he states that he’s in good health, but he also tells us that he is concerned about issues – so maybe all is not well in Eden.
Moses didn’t die until 1813 and he remains actively engaged with the community, signing several petitions, going to court, testifying…doing what southern gentlemen did at that time.
He may have been ill in 1799, because he signed his will with an X, but by 1802, he is once again signing with his name.
Moses signature from a Dec. 21, 1802 petition wherein Alexander Hey, minister of Antrim Parish, was protesting his dispossession of the glebe lands.
In 1800 and 1801, Moses testified in court a total of 8 times, so he was apparently feeling just fine and attending court.
On the tax lists between 1801 and 1806, Moses increased his total number of horses to 5. He obviously has a penchant for horses. His brother, William, who died in 1780, was reportedly a drover of horses.
Moses may have signed in 1806 for his daughter, Judith’s marriage to Andrew Juniel. Notice that his son Moses is now a player and we again see the designation of Sr. and Jr., but now Moses born about 1742 would be Moses Sr. and his son would be Moses Jr. Is this Jr. or Sr. above?
Moses begins to slow down after Judith’s marriage. In 1807 he is a defendant in a lawsuit, which is normal in Virginia in that time and place, and his tithes were ordered to perform road maintenance, also normal.
He isn’t mentioned in the court notes again until 1811 when he is again involved in a debt suit.
We do know, again, from tax lists, that his horse count has increased now to 6 from 1810 until his death 1813.
Moses died in 1813, at the age of about 71. His will was probated October 25, 1813 but was first entered in the court records on October 6th, suggesting that he had perhaps died in September.
His widow, Luremia Combs (Combes) lived for at least some time after Moses’s death, as in 1816 she was at his estate sale and appears to have been living with son George in the 1820 census.
Berryman Green, Moses’s friend refused executorship and testified that the will had been changed or tampered with. Maddenly, he doesn’t say in what way. Moses’ estate was not settled until 1837 and the land not divided until 1842. It appears that Luremia had died by 1830, so the extreme delay wasn’t due to Luremia living to be ancient.
Moses must have had some inkling that his estate would be a problem, because his will specifically states that he does not want issues. Moses’s will is recorded in Halifax County, will book 9, pages 353-355.
I, Moses Estes of the county of Halifax in the Commonwealth of Virginia being of perfect sense and memory and in good health thanks to God for the same but calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appropriate for all men once to die and not knowing when that period will arrive to me have thought it necessary and expedient to make and publish my last will and testament in manner to wit:
It is my will and desire that whatsoever I have heretofore given to any of my children herewith named, be ? and considered ? so much in ordriemee of their position of the distribution of my estate and to the end, that the amount of what they have to receive from me may be justly known and to prevent disputes respecting the same I will mention each respectively.
To George Estes my oldest son I have given a horse, saddle, bed and furniture and a cow value 40 pounds.
To my daughter Clarissa who intermarried with Francis Boyd a horse and saddle, a bed and furniture and a cow values at forty pounds.
To Bartlett Estes my son one mare and saddle, a bed and furniture and a cow valued at 40 pounds.
To my daughter Patience who intermarried with Peter Holt one bed and furniture valued at 8 pounds.
To my son Laban property to the value of 30 pounds.
To Winston Estis my son property to the same value, 30 pounds.
It is my will that whatsoever I may die possessed of that at the death of my beloved wife Luremia Estis and not before be equally divided amongst all my children viz George, Clarissa, Bartlett, Patience, Laban, Winstone, Judith, Josiah, Moses and Patsey (the said Patsey now intermarried with Robert Jackson) in as fair and equitable a manner as possible, counting in the sums advanced to the said George, Clarissa, Bartlett, Patience, Laban and Winstone, as a part of their share as aforesaid, and so distributing the whole, that each of my said children shall in the end the share shall be equal. Wife Luremia Estes to remain in possession of my land and plantation, household and kitchen furniture and property of every kind, and all of my stocks of every kind…unless she should remarry. Executors wife Luremia, son George and friend Berryman Green, signed by Moses Estes his mark – pronounced by Moses to be his last will and testament in the presence of Arm. Watlington Jr, John Barksdale and H. David Greene.
Berryman Green was assigned as executor and his bond was $5000 – a huge amount of money at that time. This translates into Moses having an estate that was perceived to be worth a great deal. According to Dave Manuel’s inflation calculator, $5000 in 1813 would be over $75,000 in 2014.
Berryman Green eventually testified that the witnesses changed the will, but by the time Moses’s estate was settled, the witnesses were all dead as were many of Moses’s children. While this was horrible for the families involved, it is a boon for genealogists today. Were it not for this lawsuit, I don’t know how we would have ever pieced this family together.
Moses’ Estate Inventory
It’s easy to skip over things when you’re tired in a courthouse, after a day of aerobic exercise consisting of lifting oversized books for hours on end, and you just want to go back to the hotel and take a hot bath. That’s exactly what I did with Moses estate inventory. I failed to copy it – keep in mind that when I was extracting these records, copying was entirely by hand. At that time, I didn’t understand what a valuable list this was in terms of understanding Moses’s life.
So you know what I got to do. I couldn’t go back, so I retained a very kind genealogist who retrieved the pages from microfilm from the Library of Virginia.
Moses’s estate was extensive and allows us a wonderful glimpse into his life and the time in which he lived.
As I read through this, I had to wonder from time to time what some of these things looked like. I would particularly have loved to have seen the sword, the bed rugs, the pewter dishes and the sewing items.
Halifax County Will Book 9, page 360
- 4 pairs harness
- 2 bridles
- 2 ropes
- 5 old sturips
- 4 ewes bels
- 2 sheep shears
- 1 small bell
- 1 hammer
- 2 backband hooks flat iron marking iron
- Some old copper
- A set of shoemaker’s tools (his grandson John Y. Estes was a shoemaker)
- Socks, stirrups and large parcel of irons
- Hinger? 3 pairs
- 2 rarps?
- 2 files
- 4 bridle bits
- 8 chisels?
- 3 scraping gouges cold
- Chisel ? and several pieces of old iron
- 6 moulding planes and a plough plane
- 5 chisels and 3 gouges
- drawing knife (picture below)
- 2 pistols, 2 hammers
- 2 gimblets (apparently a woodworkers tool)
- 1 pair consrusrer?
- 1 pair tongs
- 1 plumb line
- Purse and heap of Iron
- 6 luers and lantern
- 7 augers and bung boxes and a gouge
- 1 drawing knife
- 6 files
- 1 trowel ring and square
- 1 carrying knife
- 1 sword and 2 plume irons
- 1 addz and small chissel
- 1 stock 5 bits 1 square and line
- 7 plains and iron
- 2 guns
- 1 cross cut saw
- 1 ship saw
- 2 wedges
- 1 tracer?
- 1 pole ax
- 1 broad ax
Halifax County Will book 9, page 361
- 1 Howel
- 1 round shave coopers ax, crew?
- 1 box of old leather and old irons, gourd, nails
- 3 hilling and weeding hoes, 1 grubbing hoe
- 1 cutting box
- 2 knives
- 1 scythe blade
- 3 ploughs
- 1 coulter
- 1 harrow
- 3 swingle trees
- 4 chr
- 1 grind stone
- 2 flax wheels
- 2 pair of breeching
- 2 pair of hermes
- 2 pair of plough gears complete
- 1 saddle and bridle
- 2 half bushels
- 2 baskets
- 1 hogshead
- 4 barrels
- 2 runletts
- 1 half bushel
- 4 old barrels
- 2 barrels rum (did Moses distill rum too?)
- 1 pair stardleards?
- 5 Hevys
- 1 pear flat irons
- 1 kittle and tubit
- 2 tubs
- 1 churn
- 1 can
- 3 pregins
- 1 coffee pot
- 1 candle stick and turnpit and moles
- Knives and forks and pear large shishers (scissors?)
- 1 tin pan
- 2 cups
- 1 pepper box and funal
- 3 pewter basins
- 6 pewter plates and 8 spoons
- 2 pewter beaow? & earth plate
- 2 butter pots
- 1 bottle
- 1 gug
- 1 nogin
- 1 horn bellars
- 2 dishes
- 1 dutch eaven (oven) and lid
- 1 flack weale and hakil (flax wheel)
- 1 loom temples and shuttle
- 1 pot and hooks over cover
- 1 pot
- 1 skillet
- Will Book 9 page 362
- 5 tanned sheep skins
- 1 flax break
- Warping ban and spool frames
- 1 folding table
- 1 chest
- 6 chairs
- 1 pine chest and little trunk
- 9 old books (I’d love to know which books.)
- 1 bed, bedstead, 5 covers
- 1 bed, bedstead, 4 covers under beds
- 4 pairs of cards
- 1 cupboard
- 1 cotton wheel
- 1 pair saddle bags
- 1 bald face horse
- 1 bay horse
- 1 bay mare colt
- 1 bay mare colt
- 1 may mare
- 1 rorrp?
- 1 bee hives
- 2 vials of honey
- 2 revzorz (razors?)
- 1 bottle strap ?? knives
- 12 head sheep
- 1 yoke of steers, yoke and bell
- 1 proted cow
- 1 black and white cow and calf
- 1 cow and black calf
- 1 little steer
- 1 heifer
- 1 small heifer
- 4 pair harmer
- 5 house sheats
- 2 sows and 16 pigs
- 10 young hogs
- Black walnut bed posts
- Parcel of plank
- Meal sifter
Will Book 9 page 363
- Table and flax hackle
- One cart body sheeves and aaletree?
- Lock chain
- 1 waggon
- 2 pr harness
- 4 gun locks (cocks?0
Filed Nov. 24, 1813
Purchasers at Moses estate sale were:
- Dr. Granville Craddock
- Charles D. Fontaine
- Bartlett Estes
- John W. Ragall
- John Thomas
- Woodson ?
- William Fitzgivens?
- ? Boyd
- Isaac Hart
- Henry Thomas
- Robertson Owen
- John Petty
- Joseph Estes
- James Smith
- William Arnett or Jarrett
- Moses Palmer
- Anthony Green
- Daniel Perry
- John Hughes
- Branch Sally
- Elizabeth Perkesson
- Thomas Kent
- Samuel Landrum
- William Huntin
- Edmund Chisholm
- William Abbot
- John W. Rice
- Miles Perkison
- James Dicken?
- William Owen
- Richard Throgmartin
- John Standley?
- Moses Dunkley
- Peter Hudson
George Estes bought:
- 1 bay colt bought by G. Estes and J? Holt
While Moses’s widow, Luremia, legally, may have been entitled to one third of her husband’s estate, and according to his will, she was to be left with the use of everything – she clearly wasn’t. She had to purchase items at the estate sale. Apparently at that time, it was perceived that everything, literally, except for his wife’s clothes belonged to the husband – and if the wife wanted anything at all, she had to purchase it at the estate sale. She even had to buy her coffee pot, dishes, silverware, pots and pans back. These sales must have been devastating for the widows.
Lurana (Luremia) Estes bought:
- 2 stays?
- 1 kettle and trivit
- 2 tubs and a churn
- Coffee pot
- Candle molds and sticks
- 6 pewter plates and 8 spoons
- 2 pewter basins
- 2 dishes
- 1 flax wheel and hackle?
- 1 pot
- 1 skillet
- 5 tan sheep skin
- 1 flax loink?
- 1 warping bars and spool frames
- 1 folding table
- 1 chair
- Books (does this imply she could read?)
- 1 bedstead
- 5 bed covers
- 1 bed, bedstead, 4 covers under bed
- A cupboard
- 1 cotton wheel
- 1 bay mare
- 1 sheep
Sale filed with the court July 22, 1816.
What does this inventory list tell us about Moses’s life?
He owned books, a rare commodity at that time. We know he could write, so we can suppose he read those books. I’d love to know what they were.
And speaking of books, where is Moses’s Bible in this list? We know he had one, because George refers to it in his Revolutionary War pension application when referencing proof of his birth.
We know Moses was a carpenter and probably a shoemaker too – at least he had the tools for both.
Moses had diverse farm animals including sheep, cows, horses, pigs and bees. He tanned the skins for leather.
Luremia and the women spun thread. There is specific mention of both a flax and a cotton wheel. There are also sheep in evidence which means wool was available for spinning as well. The family also owned a loom and various tools for the loom. It must have been a very interesting household. I wonder if Luremia made the bed rugs. What I wouldn’t give for a peek.
One thing notably absent, especially with an estate of this size, is slaves. Moses could clearly have afforded slaves. I wonder what kept him from utilizing slave labor. If it wasn’t money, it had to be morals. While Moses’s father-in-law did own slaves, Moses’s father did not, at least not to the best of our knowledge.
The will lists Moses’s children, and the settlement lists their children when they have died in the interim. Moses children are listed as follows, in order stated in the will:
- George Estes, stated as the oldest son – born in 1763, died in 1859. He married Mary Younger (daughter of Marcus Younger) in 1786. Because George is alive, his children, other than Susannah, are not involved in the estate settlement.
- Clarissa Combs Estes was born before 1770, probably about 1765. She married Francis Boyd August 8, 1786 with Moses Estes as surety (with very shakey handwriting – probably Moses Sr. before he died) and William Maclin as witness. She was not living in VA in 1837. In 1835 she signs a document from the state of Georgia as to her brother George’s Revolutionary War service.
- Bartlett Estes born approximately 1764. Bartlett and George, his brother, were married on the same day in Dec. 1786, George to Mary Younger and Bartlett to Rachel Pounds. Bartlett lives near his father for many years, but before the estate settlement, has moved to Tennessee. Bartlett dies during the estate settlement in about 1836, and prior to his death lives outside the commonwealth. His heirs are listed as Allen, John, William and Thomas Estes and Jane Boyd.
- Patience Estes born about 1777 married Peter Holt and went to Smith Co. TN. She was dead by 1824. Her daughter sells her portion of the estate to Elisha Hodge. Her heirs were in Smith Co. TN in 1837 and were listed as John Holt, Richard Holt and Cintha Holt married to Johnson Moorefield. It has been thought that Patience married Peter Holt before 1797 due to her oldest daughter’s marriage date. However, looking closely at the records, her eldest daughter’s last name was Estes, so was apparently born before her marriage to Peter Holt. Cintha Estes married John (Johnson) Moorefield on January 23, 1817 in Halifax County. Patience Estes witnessed a deed as late as 1798 with her father Moses, and in his will in 1799 he does not refer to her as married, but he does with Patsy.
- Laban Estes born approximately 1768 and married Priscilla Chism in 1804. By 1837 they were in Davidson Co. TN. His heirs are Barbara Buchanan, Josiah Estes, Susan (John) White, Prisciana (Joshua) Neely, Susan Estes, and Patience Estes.
- Winston C. Estes born approximately 1770 (pre 1780) and in 1837 was not living in Virginia. His share was conveyed to Susannah, daughter of George. He left for either Tennessee or Arkansas.
- Judith Estes was born pre-1785 and married Andrew Juniel on Jan. 24, 1806 with Laban and Moses Estes as witnesses, and Moses, her father, as surety. She signs her own consent meaning she was over 21 (born before 1785). She was dead by the time the estate was settled in 1837, probably by 1834 and her heirs were listed. She went to Henderson Co. KY. Her children are noted as Nancy who married John Hust?, Jane who married Charles Winfrey and Sally who married Benjamin Hicks.
- Josiah Estes (also occasionally called Joseph) born approximately 1774-1777 married Elizabeth Chism (Chisum) (born circa 1789 – died after 1870) March 4, 1814 in Halifax. In 1834 he sells land from Giles Co. TN. Laban married a Chism also – were they sisters?
- Moses Estes born approximately 1776 and married Selah Palmer in 1802. He is in Smith Co. TN. in 1834 when he sells his interest in his father’s estate.
- Patsey J. (Martha) Estes – born about 1780 married Robert Jackson pre 1799 – Moses specifically says in the will “now intermarried with Robert Jackson.” This must be the Martha who later marries a Lax and sues the estate as “Martha Lax”.
The following “child” is not mentioned in the will, but is referenced in the lawsuit, but not consistently. However, in several places the will and lawsuit very specifically say that Moses has 10 children and then specifically names each one. Who is Maga? We may never know. Maga is a mystery!
- “Maga Estes,” born about 1772, which could really be Martha, married William Patrick Boyd on Feb. 1, 1792. Moses gives consent for his daughter saying “we”, implying her mother is alive. William Lampoon Is witness and Edward Wallington? as surety. Records surrounding this person are confusing. There is clearly a marriage record and an estate distribution, but little in-between. She is not mentioned in Moses will. This omission, whether intentional or not, may be the source of some of the controversy, but she is not one of the siblings contesting the will.
Moses wife’s name was Luremia (sometimes spelled Lurana) Combs. Some records indicate that there was an earlier wife Susanna Combes, but I found the source of this misinformation to be a mis-transcribed name in a deed. Luremia would be easy enough to misinterpret given the state of early handwriting as it is a rather unusual name.
Surprisingly, Moses didn’t name any of his children Luremia, unless the child died. Given the ages of Moses children, the only logical break in their ages seems to possibly be between Clarissa born 1765 and the next group of children who were born in the 1768, although we don’t know their birth years for sure. We do know that three were born in the 1760s, George in 1763, Bartlett about 1764 and then Clarissa about 1765. Laban was born about 1768, then the next group of 5 in the 1770s, then 2 more in the early 1780s (pre 1785). This would be the span of years that one woman would be expected to be bearing children, from about 1763 through about 1785.
Moses Jr.’s Estate Settlement
Moses estate settlement from the chancery suit reads as follows:
“Lax vs Estes – subpoena awarded against defendants George Estes and Elisha Hodge and they not having answered the plaintiff’s bills within 4 months from the filing thereof and still failing to answer the same the said bill is taken as confessed as to them. Plaintiff’s appearing to have proceeded against defendents; Winston C. (Combs?) Estes, Clarisa Boyd, Moses Estes, Josiah Estes, John Holt, Richard Holt, Cintha Holt, who are not inhabitants of this commonwealth and have not appeared – plaintiff’s bills taken as confessed. Came on this day to be heard on the bill and answers of the defendents William Boyd and Jane, his wife, Allen Estes (where does he live?), John Estes, Thomas Estes and William Estes and ex? and was agreed by counsel that Joseph C. Terry, Henry Terry and John Jennett or any 2 of them the older Joseph C. Terry being one of them are appointed commissioners for the purpose to ascertain value of the land of which Moses Estes decd died siezed of and to divide into 10 parts by metes and bounds in such quantities in each lot in valuation as well make an equal division amongst the divisees named in the will or among such as are alive and the legal heirs at law of such taking into consideration the advancements made to the divisees particularly as follows; to George Estes advancements to the value of 40#, Clarisa Boyd 40#, Bartlett Estes 40#, Patience Holt 8#, Laban Estes 30#, Winston Estes 30#, and that they assign to Martha Lax one share to Jane Boyd, Allen Estes, John Estes, Thomas Estes and William Estes, children and heirs of Bartlett Estes 2 shares to wit and the share of George Estes sold to said Bartlett, to Clarissa Boyd one share, to John, Richard and Cintha Holt the children and heirs of Patricia Holt one share, to Elisha Hodge purchased from the children and heirs of Laban Estes one, to the plaintiff Susannah Estes (George’s daughter to whom George conveys his interest in the estate) and share to wit of Winston Estes transferred to Susannah, to Elisha Hodge purchased from the heirs of Judith Juniel one share, to Josiah Estes one share, to Moses Estes one share.”
Does the above mean that Bartlett gets two shares plus the one George sold him? If so, why? After analyzing the estate settlement and survey and related court records, I believe that George initially sold Bartlett his share, but that Bartlett probably never paid for it, and after Bartlett’s death, George conveyed his share to his daughter Susannah. Was this an above-board deal, or did George take advantage of the fact that Bartlett had died and there was no proof of ownership? Did Susannah pressure her father, as George’s response to the lawsuit hints that he is offering this land to Susannah who sued her father as part of his response for not settling the estate sooner. Was there some other reason why Susannah would wind up with the shares of both Winston and her father, with no record of money changing hands.
The heirs of Moses Jr., his living children and his deceased children’s heirs, are listed in the estate settlement in 1837 as follows:
|Moses Child/Spouse||Child’s Heirs||Advance||Shares Awarded||Sold To||Comment|
|George||40#||1 share||Bartlett, then Susannah||*see below|
|Winston C||30#||1 share||Susannah||Winston not resident, share transferred to Susannah|
|Clarissa Boyd/ Francis Boyd||40#||1 share||Not resident|
|Moses||1 share||Smith Co, Tn.|
|Josiah||1 share||Giles Co., Tn.|
|Patience Holt (dead)||John Holt||8#||1 share to children & heirs of Patricia||Not resident|
|Richard Holt||Not resident|
|Cintha Holt||Not resident|
|Bartlett (dead)||Jane/Wiliam Boyd||2 shares and the share of George Estes sold to Bartlett – eventually gets one share||Children and heirs of Bartlett|
|Allen Estes||40#||Children and heirs of Bartlett|
|Thomas Estes||Children and heirs of Bartlett|
|John Estes||Children and heirs of Bartlett|
|William Estes||Children and heirs of Bartlett|
|Laban (dead)||30#||1 share to Elisha||Elisha Hodge||Elisha purch share from Children and heirs of Laban|
|Maga and William Boyd||1 share||Implied Maga dead|
|Judith Juniel/Andrew Juniel||1 share||Elisha Hodge||Purch from children and heirs of Judith Juniel|
|Patsy (Martha) Jackson Lax|
*George (04) Estes – defendant for not acting (executor) – got 40# advancement of inheritance – initially sold his share to Bartlett, later Susannah winds up with George’s share.
Patsy Jackson must be the same person as Martha Lax. Otherwise there is a child missing in Moses will? If not, Patsy Jackson must have died with no heirs between 1792 and 1799? Martha Lax is definitely NOT listed in the will in any capacity. Is this part of the lawsuit issue? Is this part of what was changed by the heirs causing this decades-long lawsuit?
In 1842, the land was finally surveyed and divided, ending the 29 year long wait to settle Moses’s estate.
When I first visited Halifax County, Moses’s land was the first Estes land that I found by running the deeds forward in time until I found the deed for the Oak Ridge Cemetery.
The Estes plot is located just inside the entrance, shown here by the bright white stones. As an aside, the beautiful cobblestone wall surrounding Oak Ridge was created for the cemetery out of the cobblestones from the main road when it was originally paved. Knowing that Moses Estes was responsible for road maintenance on this segment of road, it’s not only likely that some of these stones were from his property, it’s also likely that he laid them himself. I’m so glad that they were preserved in this manner.
It’s a genealogists dream to find a landmark adjacent to or on ancestral land – because it means the land is readily identifiable today. This was this same visit where I met two Estes cousins who knew where Moses’s land was, having played there as children – and who told me about Estes Street and how it used to lead down to the Estes farm – still in the family beyond the 1930s. According to the cousins, some descendants refused to sell to the city of South Boston when they purchased the land for the landfill and still retain ownership, having granted the city a long-term lease for the landfill.
Today, the water plant sits on the left of Estes Street, and the landfill has replaced the Estes farm at the end of Estes Street, which is now gated.
The family sold off some lots on the main road years ago, and those homes still stand, but behind them, and behind the trees, where the Estes plantation once stood is the landfill today.
In the photo above, Main Street is hidden behind the cobblestone wall, and Estes Street runs perpendicular to Main Street beside the blue water tower on the left. This was once all Moses’s land.
I really wanted to see what I could of the original Estes land. All that was left in the early 2000s was some woods. I went behind the landfill and photographed across that area in order to catch at least a glimpse of the woods and Reedy Creek which ran though the Estes property, and still does.
In these photos, you can orient yourself because you can see the blue water tower to the right in the first photos, and to the left in the second photo – so the two form a panorama.
The road that you see coming from near the water tower is an extension of the original Estes street that led to the homes. Reedy Creek is running left to right on the forest side of the landfill access road in the bottom of this photo.
Further north, we see more forest and a meadow. I wonder if this land was ever entirely cleared.
A Google Maps view of this area today. The Estes plot in the Oak Ridge Cemetery is marked with an arrow.
On this enlarged map, you can see Reedy Creek to the right, and you can also find it on the 1842 survey map. The main road is 129 today. The landfill where the houses stood is that brown bare-earth patch.
This enlargement shows the area where Estes Street remains today, the blue water tower, and the place where Estes Street is now gated, just beyond that water tower.
I was able to speak with the man who actually did the bulldozing of the buildings on the Estes land after the city made the purchase, and he indicated that the houses were located where the landfill is today, along with the original cemetery. This makes sense, looking at the photos.
Note that Younger Avenue is shown at the bottom center of this image. Moses Estes’s land adjoined that of William Younger, and Moses’s son, George, married Mary Younger, daughter of Marcus Younger in 1786. No link between William and Marcus Younger has been established, but it’s a coincidence too unusual to be ignored. Finding Younger Avenue also helps us establish the boundaries of Moses’s land.
Reading the various deeds involved, we discover that one of the springs on the Estes land was called the Waddell Spring. Today, Waddell Woods is a subdivision created to the far north of this piece of property, shown with the upper arrow in the satellite view below. Indeed, it includes a spring, called Waddell Spring
Based on the information from various sources, including the 1842 land division survey and subsequent deeds, I believe that Moses’s land extended roughly from the west side of 129 including Oak Ridge Cemtery, north through Waddell Woods, south to Younger Avenue and then east to about the right arrow. Of course, those survey lines weren’t straight – but this gives us some idea. To make sure I wasn’t terribly askew, I converted acres to square feet and compared to the Halifax County map dimensions, and this looks very close. He could have owned slightly further east.
The Graves and the Landfill
During my early trips to Halifax County, I was haunted by the knowledge that my ancestors were not only under the landfill, but that their bones, or what were left of them, were probably dug up and scattered. I was very relieved during later visits to hear the stories told by my cousins of the graves being moved, and the oldest grave, that of Moses, holding only a collarbone and casket hinges. We know they were moved to the Oak Ridge cemetery, across the street from the original Estes land, but we don’t know exactly where they were buried on the Ezekiel Estes family plot. This cemetery was established in 1885, and Ezekiel, who died that year, may have been the first burial in the official “Oak Ridge” Cemetery, owned by the city of South Boston. Now, his ancestors, as well as his children, rest with him.
On the Estes plot, some graves are well marked and others are only marked with a stone.
Or marked by a flower…
There is a large area of unmarked graves. Of course, among these would be Moses Jr., his wife Luremia Combs, his son George Estes and George’s wife, Mary Younger. There are probably children of these couples buried with them as well.
About ten years ago, the Estes cousins in Halifax Co. cleaned the markers and discovered that they are all white marble. Look at the difference in the Estes plot 3 photos above, taken in 2002, and the photo below, taken in 2005. Unfortunately, all the early graves aren’t marked. We still don’t know where Moses Jr. and his son George are buried, but we just have to have faith that they were moved and buried someplace on this family plot.
There is also a possibility that the Oak Ridge cemetery, established in 1885, was actually the or an original Estes family cemetery. In fact, I found information that said exactly that in a historical article on Halifax County cemeteries at the local library. If this is the case, then there were 2 different Estes cemeteries on the same original plot of land. This does not surprise me, especially given the long and difficult settlement of Moses’s land and the subsequent dividing of his property between his heirs. Furthermore, there seems to have been a lot of drama in this family. Our Estes family makes Oprah and Dr. Phil look boring!
DNA has been invaluable in reassembling this family. Many descendants today know they carry the surname Estes, or a derivative, but they have no idea how they connect back to any ancestral line. If they have a male Estes to test, we can easily confirm their membership in the ancestral Estes group (or not) by testing their Y chromosome at Family Tree DNA – and joining the Estes DNA project, which is free for anyone who tests at (or transfers results to) Family Tree DNA. We have connected several people with their specific lines utilizing line marker mutations, when they exist, in combination with autosomal testing.
In the article about Moses Estes Sr., I discussed the Big Y test and how I’ve utilized it to likely dispel the rumor about the Estes family being descended from the House of d’Este in Italy.
Something else we can learn about is the in-between time – from the time surnames end, in the 1300s or 1400s, and back as far as we can go in terms of who our DNA tells us we match relative to different surnames. In other words, we’re related, but adopted different surnames when that time came.
One of the ways we can know if we descend from a group of people who are found in a remote location is to utilize the Big Y test and look for others whose deep ancestry is found in that location.
Not only did we find no Italian or Iberian DNA matches on either the regular Y DNA STR panel markers or the SNPs, we found our closest deep SNP match to be to the Gallagher family. They are Irish. Ireland was settled by the Celts, and our DNA looks to be Celtic as well – so we are likely related to the Gallaghers BEFORE they settled in Ireland. How about those potatoes? Not only do I love to discover more about my Estes ancestors after they adopted the surname Estes, but I love to discover their history before we were Esteses.
I wrote about this experience in the article, Estes Big Y DNA Results.
Perhaps the most surprising finding based on the Big Y was that we share an ancestor with Niall of the Nine Hostages, a very early Irish king from the 4th or 5th century, an ancestor of the Ui Neill family dynasty. You just never know what kind of secrets your DNA is going to surrender!
One Line Complete
This article completes a series of 13 articles about each of my Estes direct line ancestors – meaning those who carry the Estes surname, beginning with my playboy father, William Sterling Estes and ending with my eleven times great-grandfather, Nycholas Ewstas, born in 1495, probably in or near Deal, Kent, England. As you can see, this is the line of the surname I carry – so I am heavily invested in researching this line and discovering as much as possible. It’s what brought me to genetic genealogy initially.
In order, my Estes line and the associated articles are:
William Sterling Estes (c1902-1963), The Missing Years, 52 Ancestors #5
William George Estes (1873-1971), You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive, 51 Ancestors #53
Lazarus Estes (1848-1918), Huckster and Gravestone Carver, 52 Ancestors #59
John Y. Estes (1818-1895), Civil War Soldier, Walked to Texas, Twice, 52 Ancestors #64
John R. Estes (1787-1885), War of 1812 Veteran, 52 Ancestors #62
George Estes (1763-1859), Three Times Revolutionary War Veteran, 52 Ancestors #66
Moses Estes (c1742-1813), Distiller of Fine Brandy and Cyder, 52 Ancestors #72 – this article
Finding Moses Estes (1711-1787), 52 Ancestors #69
Abraham Estes (c1647-1720), The Immigrant, 52 Ancestors #35
Sylvester Estes (1596-c1647), Sometimes Churchwarden, 52 Ancestors #31
Robert Eastes (1555-1616), Householder in Ringwould, 52 Ancestors #30
Sylvester Estes (c1522-1579), Fisherman of Deal, 52 Ancestors #29
Nycholas Ewstas (c1495-1533), English Progenitor, 52 Ancestors #28
It’s quite ironic that I don’t have the requisite Y chromosome to be tested myself – but thankfully, I found Estes cousins who did. Several in fact, which enabled us to do the Y DNA project along with, eventually, the Big Y study. The Y DNA results, combined with autosomal DNA allowed me to prove my connection to the Estes line – even without that elusive Y chromosome.
Genealogy research is a combination of both genetic genealogy and plain old traditional paper gruntwork research – the more courthouses, the better. During this decades-long Estes adventure, I’ve visited countless states, counties and courthouses in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. My search finally took me to Deal, in Kent, England. Although initially hesitant, I can’t tell you how glad I am that I went. Deal is the birthplace of our Estes family as we know it today. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like standing and walking where your ancestors trod, lived, loved and died. Knowing that a part of you not only sprung from there, but remains there, with them, is incredibly powerful.
However, in our Estes line, we’ve literally exhausted all of the available records. In England, there are no earlier records in Kent where we first find our ancestors. I’ve scoured, along with other cousins, the Virginia County records that aren’t burned counties. There is and was no place left to look, except in our DNA – the ultimate gift from our ancestors.
The DNA aspect of this project enabled us to do several things we would otherwise have never been able to do:
- Confirm that lineages are ancestrally Estes.
- Establish what the Y DNA of our oldest progenitor looked like by triangulating the Y DNA of the various descendants on each marker.
- Confirm through autosomal testing that people who do not carry the Estes Y chromosome and therefore who cannot take the Y test are Estes descendants – through the Family Finder autosomal DNA test.
- Learn which families we are the most closely related to before the advent of surnames.
- Determine the migration path of our Estes ancestors in Europe.
- Dispel the myth that the Estes family descends from the d’Este family – although I’d be much happier if we could just find a male from the paternal d’Este line to test directly on the Y chromosome.
- Discovered that we are probably Celtic.
- Discovered that we share an ancestor with Niall of the Nine Hostages.
It has been quite a journey and one that would have been sorely lacking…no…impossible… without the DNA tools that we have at our disposal today.
It is with more than a tinge of sadness that I end this series about the direct Estes line. Of course, that’s mixed with a dash of relief to finally have this done. I was more than a little concerned that if I continued to delay this publication project, all of my research would either go to my grave with me, or be found sitting beside the trash can on the curb – a wall of boxes, a few days after my passing.
Thankfully, that’s not going to happen. And I have lots more ancestors to document. Please continue to join me for more of my ancestral journeys, wanderings, musings and DNA adventures in my continuing 52 Ancestors series.