Moses Estes Sr. did us a huge favor. Both of his wives were named Elizabeth, so when he was an old man, he didn’t have any “jealous wife” memory type issues when he mistakenly used his first wife’s name in a fit of pique (or a fit of whatever) when talking to his second wife. That’s a good thing, because indeed, he was an older gentleman when he married the second Elizabeth, Elizabeth Talbot, a widow, and he had a lot of years experience having said “Elizabeth.” The favor he did was to tell us when, exactly, he married the second Elizabeth. In 1782, they had a prenuptial agreement which was filed with the court. How’s that for ahead of your time!
However, it’s the first Elizabeth I’m interested in, the mother of Moses’s children and specifically, my ancestor, Moses Estes Jr.
Was Elizabeth a Webb?
We’re actually fortunate that we know the first Elizabeth’s first name. It’s her last name that is in question. However, if you take a quick look at the Ancestry trees for Moses Estes, born in 1711 and who died in 1787, you’ll find that the majority of those trees list Webb as her last name, or mistakenly list Elizabeth Jones Talbot, Moses’s second wife.
Those same trees will list another tree as a source…and so it goes. Around and around. For the record – we don’t know the first Elizabeth’s last name. It’s a myth – but a myth that might have a source. You see, there was a reference to a record…someplace.
I have to confess here, I’ve never seen the original record, BUT, someplace, I have seen a researcher’s notes referring to a land record that included Moses Estes and a male Webb. That researcher had made the “connection” that because Moses Estes bought or leased land from the Webb male, that the Webb male was Moses’s wife’s father.
A leap of faith you say? Yes, a leap of something, that’s for sure. But, it could be true and it’s a place to begin further research…if I could only find that doggone reference.
But the problem is that I’ve lost the reference and I don’t remember where I saw it…other than it was in someone’s handwritten notes years ago. I remember thinking to myself “that’s it??!!!” That’s how someone connected some extremely tenuous dots that Elizabeth’s surname was Webb? I remember being incredulous and thinking that there was surely more. Then, in the 1980s, a historical novel was released that included the Estes family, and Elizabeth’s name in that novel was Webb too. The deck was stacked at that point, and in the annals of mythology, and online trees, Elizabeth’s surname became Webb and took on a life of its own.
I’ve pulled every record I have in this house, and didn’t find that reference. Now I’m doubting myself. Did I even see it? Did I dream it? Does it exist at all – even the researcher’s note? And if that researcher’s note exists, does the real record exist? As many Virginia records as I’ve extracted, I’ve never come across an Estes/Webb transaction and neither has my cousin, the retired lawyer who extracted half of Virginia for Estes names. OK, that’s an exaggeration, probably not half, just the early counties, but still, she doesn’t have it in her records either. Of course, not everyone extracts EVERY record by that surname. Some people are sane humans and only extract their own line’s records. So, if that happened, maybe Moses’s record was overlooked by other researchers.
So, if you happen to come across any Virginia land record of a Webb and an Estes – or any other record, for that matter, of a Webb and an Estes between about 1730 and 1770 or so, please, PLEASE send it to me complete with the reference and source. I promise, I will never, ever, lose it again.
Because, you know, Elizabeth’s surname actually might be Webb, but I can’t research it any further until I find that doggone slippery reference that I know I saw at one time or another.
So, if we don’t know Elizabeth’s last name, what do we know about her?
Life in Virginia
We first find Moses Estes as an adult in Hanover County in 1734. He would have been age 23 at that time, and he was purchasing land jointly with his brother Robert and his other brother John served as a witness.
In 1736, Moses patented land adjoining his brother’s land.
In general, men did not purchase land before they married, so it’s quite likely that Moses was married about 1734 to a local gal from Hanover County, the area that would become Louisa and then Amelia as new counties were formed.
Elizabeth’s son, William was born sometime between 1735 and 1740, so Elizabeth was probably born in 1715-1720 or maybe even slightly earlier.
In 1742 Louisa County was formed and the Estes lands fall into this county. That’s a very fortunate turn of events, because Louisa County records exist where most of Hanover’s have been destroyed. Unfortunately, the Hanover records that might include a marriage document, or estate documents for Elizabeth’s parents, are gone.
We know, due to later deeds, that Moses lived in an area between Contrary and Northeast Creeks in Louisa, later Amelia County, between the red arrows. It was here that Elizabeth had her children and raised her three young boys.
1742 is also about the time that Elizabeth’s son John was born. Son Moses Jr. was born about that time as well. Elizabeth and Moses were probably just like all other pioneer couples and had a child every 18-24 months for as long as the female was fertile, which would have been until about 1755-1760 for Elizabeth. However, we only know of three sons.
The transaction that tells us Elizabeth’s first name is a land sale in Amelia County in 1751 in which Elizabeth, wife of Moses, relinquished her dower right in the land. Dower right in Virginia meant that if a man died, his wife was entitled to one third of his estate by right of dower. The husband could not relinquish his wife’s dower rights, so she had to sign to relinquish those. Typically, the wife was “examined separately” from her husband, so the husband could not influence her answer. Of course, she had to go home with her husband, so I’m not sure how effective asking the wife privately if she relinquished her dower actually was. Can’t you just imagine that ride home, had the wife said, “no” that it wasn’t by her own will that she was signing away her dower rights? How many ways can you spell ugly??
A great many deeds don’t have this additional signature, and I know of one case where the man sold his land and died a couple years later. The wife then sued the purchaser for her one third of his land and won. Not only that, but she got the third with the house in which she was living at the time. One gets the idea that maybe she didn’t know her husband sold the land they were living on, especially since it was a mortgage that defaulted, which is how the sale came about – through the default to the mortgage holder. In that place and time, the mortgagee signed a deed that the mortgage holder redeemed if they defaulted. That kind of situation, is, of course, exactly the reason that the wife had to sign, and woe be unto the buyer that doesn’t see to that detail.
In 1758, Elizabeth and Moses are living in Amelia County and the French and Indian War is in full swing. The House of Burgesses passed an act for the defense of the frontier and we find Moses, John and William Estes of Amelia County on the roster. These young men are probably still living at home, as they were late teenagers or in their early 20s and not yet married.
This list suggests that perhaps Moses Jr. was the youngest of the three sons and not quite old enough to serve with his father and older brothers. He probably felt very left out and I’m sure he did not want to be left at home with his mother as his father and brothers got to ride off to war and do all of those “exciting” grown-up manly things – at lease from Moses Jr.’s perspective.
I’m sure Elizabeth was glad to have a son remain at home. He may have been too young to ride with the men, but he was certainly old enough to provide some protection, farm labor and partnership to his mother.
Moses Sr. is mentioned in the court minutes and deed books from time to time, but another decade would pass before we hear from Elizabeth again. In 1768, Moses Jr. sells the land he had purchased from his father-in-law, John Combs’, estate and that sale is witnessed by his father and mother, Moses Estes Sr. and Elizabeth.
By 1768, Elizabeth had attended the weddings of all three of her sons, had gained three daughter-in-laws and had at least half a dozen grandchildren to enjoy.
An Uncomfortable Juncture
In 1769, Moses Sr. filed suit in Amelia County against his brother, Elisha, surrounding his father, Abraham’s, estate distribution – never mind that Moses’s father died more than 48 years earlier. This may be the worst case of procrastination I’ve ever seen. Or maybe, a long-festering boil erupted between the brothers.
I suspect that when one person in a household does something that dramatic, it is reflected via the domino effect to the rest of the family members too. This was probably a highly emotional time, with depositions, threats and high drama. It’s hurtful to think or know that your sibling betrayed and cheated you. Whether it was true or not, it surely appears that Moses believed it to be true. Elisha, in essence, in court documents, called Moses a liar, another upsetting turn of events. Moses surely paced and swore and cried, if he let Elizabeth see his tears. It’s hard to be the one betrayed. And either he was the one betrayed, or he was the betrayer. Either way – a family ripped apart. You know Elizabeth’s household was in a state of upheaval as these unpleasant events unfolded like layers of an onion.
Elizabeth’s three sons were married and had families of their own by this time. They may have been living with Moses and Elizabeth, or on their property, or nearby. If Elizabeth and Moses had other children, they would still have been at home. Elizabeth probably tried to function normally, attending church and other normal social functions of the day. But, assuredly, Elisha’s wife and children were there too. Not only would this suit have divided the family, it likely divided the community as well.
Maybe this court suit and the level of discomfort it caused had something to do with why Elizabeth and Moses moved to Halifax County, taking all three of their grown sons and their families along. Maybe they were trying to put the lingering past behind them with a new beginning.
On to Halifax County, VA
By 1771, the family was moving to Halifax County and Moses Sr. bought land just west of South Boston on the Pole Bridge Branch of Miry Creek.
In 1771, Moses sells his land in Amelia County and once again, Elizabeth relinquished her dower rights and signs with an X, which tells us that she could not write – and probably could not read since the two tend to go together.
However, they may not have moved right away, because in January of 1772, Moses (of Amelia County) sells to William Estes (of Amelia County) 100 acres of his land in Halifax County. Elizabeth signs this document as well.
We know that Moses was living in Halifax County by this time or very shortly thereafter, because in March of 1772, the court authorized paying him as a road hand for building a bridge across Burches Creek, near his land.
Later in October of 1772, Moses sells the balance his land in Halifax County to his 3 sons and Elizabeth does not sign, so her death may have occurred between January and October of 1772. Given that we know that Moses owned the land on Pole Branch, and he is buried there himself, it’s very likely that Elizabeth is buried in the Estes Cemetery on that land as well.
Or, did Elizabeth not sign because the deed was to her sons and she (and they) saw no need for her to go to the courthouse to sign?
Given that Elizabeth’s death seems to have occurred after Moses sells his Amelia land, it’s most likely that Elizabeth did make it to Halifax County, but possibly, just barely. Did she ever get to live in this house that Moses built?
We don’t know for sure that Elizabeth died in 1772, but we do know for sure she had died by 1782. Elizabeth was not an old woman. If she was born in 1715, she would have been 57-67 and if she was born in 1720, age 52-62. She may still have had older children at home. If there were no other living children, then she had likely buried 6 or 7 of her children, or maybe more – and then left their graves behind when she moved to Halifax County. I can’t even begin to imagine that heartache.
Elizabeth may have lived long enough to see the Revolutionary War which began in 1775. In 1778, the focus of the fighting shifted to the south, including Virginia. She certainly lived through the ramping up process that led to that war which was focused on resistance to taxes imposed by England on the colonies which the colonists felt were unjust. All men paid taxes and I’m sure it was the hot topic of conversation for months and maybe years before the war actually began. Halifax County was involved in the fighting by 1780 and 1781, and it’s quite likely that Elizabeth’s son Moses’s land was used as an encampment by soldiers. Elizabeth’s grandson, George fought in that war. Did he come to tell his grandmother goodbye before he left, if she was still living at that time, or did he visit her grave one last time?
If Elizabeth didn’t die before 1780, she would have buried her adult son, William, in the family cemetery on Grubby Road in Halifax County. About that same time in 1780, son John left with his family for the Holston River in what is now Tennessee. At that time, Tennessee was not yet a state and that area was unsettled and wild frontier, with settlers still skirmishing with the Indians. Once a family left, it was forever. No one came back.
I hope that Elizabeth did not have to bury her son. 1780 would have been a year of terrible loss for her. When a grown child left for parts unknown, not only did they leave, but they took with them the grandchildren and the only form of communication was an occasional letter – if that – assuming people could read and write.
Men, in that timeframe, did not remain single for long – so it’s possible that Elizabeth did live to see 1780 – and it may have broken her heart. She was assuredly resting in the cemetery, beside son William, by 1782.
In 1782, Moses remarried (with that prenuptial agreement) and 5 years later, Moses was dead, probably buried beside his first wife Elizabeth and his son, William, in the cemetery on his property. In fact, it appears that Moses second wife predeceased him, so it’s entirely possible that Moses lies between the two Elizabeths. If a man ever had to behave, he does!
I found Moses’ land in the early 2000s when I visited Halifax County several times, working on the various genealogy records in the courthouse. Based on the land records and following them forward in time, I was able to locate Moses’s original land, with the help of a couple of wonderful cousins, an incredibly patient and generous landowner and some unimaginable good luck. I think Moses and Elizabeth were helping me!
I wonder how long Elizabeth lived on this land. Did they live in the house Moses built, or did she die while they would have been living in a cabin. Was the cabin they lived in first the cabin that sat back on the hill where John, Moses and Elizabeth’s son, eventually lived before he headed out for the frontier in 1780?
There are so many questions and so few answers.
Elizabeth had the following known children. I’ve always suspected that she also had some daughters, but to date, none are known.
Elizabeth’s sons are as follows:
1. The oldest son born to Moses and Elizabeth was probably John, born between their marriage and 1742, or so. We don’t know the year for sure, but what we do know is that John’s eldest son, Abraham, born in 1764, gave the following testimony when applying for a Revolutionary War pension.
“I, Abraham was born in Amelia County, Virginia. My father moved from there to Halifax, Va. where he lived until the fall of 1779, where he moved to the Holston River until 1780.” After that they removed to Warren Co., KY.
John Estes married Elizabeth Chism, daughter of John Chism and Elizabeth Gillington. She was remembered in her grandfather, Nicholas Gillington’s will in Halifax County in 1772. John Estes died in 1824 in Warren Co., KY.
2. Another son, Moses Jr., was born about 1742 or maybe slightly earlier, married Luremia Combs about 1762, whose father, John Combs also lived in Amelia County. Moses Jr. bought land in Lunenburg County from his brother-in-law after John Combs death, but moved with his father, Moses Sr. to Halifax County about 1770 where they both spent the rest of their lives. He died in 1813 with a will.
Moses had a son, Moses (the third), who was born between 1775 and 1780 in Halifax County and died in 1875 in Smith County, TN, per the probating of his will in 1875. And no, those dates are not typos. He married Selah Palmer. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only grandchild of Elizabeth whose photo we have. Most of her grandchildren died before the camera was in wide use, after the Civil War. Moses (the third) lived to be over 100, as did his brother George Estes as well as George’s son, John R. Estes. Longevity runs in this family. I look at this man and wonder if he looks anything like Elizabeth and Moses Sr.
John R. Estes, my ancestor, below, would have been this man’s nephew. John R. and his father, George, both also lived to be around 100, as have several of their descendants.
3. The third son of Moses Sr. and Elizabeth, William Estes, was also born in the same 1735-1740 timeframe. William married Mary Harris. He died in 1780 and his estate was probated in Halifax County, VA. Family legend says that he was a drover of horses and drove them to the East coast being gone for long periods of time. He apparently had what was probably an appendicitis attack and became very ill. His wife was sent for, but she was days away and did arrive, but William had already died. Mary brought his body home and buried him in the family cemetery.
Unfortunately, DNA won’t help us with Elizabeth in this circumstance, at least not directly or immediately.
It’s ironic that the one trait that has a huge potential to affect my life, that of longevity, is most likely genetic, yet, we can’t identify that gene (or genes), nor do I know if I carry it. We do know that several people downstream of Moses and Elizabeth lived to the age of 100, and a few slightly older. Two of my aunts and my grandfather are in that group – so I potentially could carry the Estes longevity gene. We also don’t know where it came from – meaning from Moses’s or Elizabeth’s family. All I do know is that Moses’s father’s line does not seem to be responsible for the longevity gene – but we know nothing about Moses’s mother nor Elizabeth’s family.
Elizabeth’s mitochondrial DNA is dead to us unless she had daughters that we don’t know about – and they turn up “proven” in some fashion. I do find it hard to believe that only three sons survived from a marriage that would have produced children for more than 20 years – so at least 10 children and quite possibly more.
Of course, another avenue to find Elizabeth’s mitochondrial DNA would be through her sisters, or her mother’s sisters, if they have any descendants through all females – but of course – I’d have to know who her parents were to identify her siblings, or her mother’s siblings.
I have looked at my autosomal DNA results for Webb, but without knowing the name of the man I’m looking for, I can’t pinpoint anything obvious. Perhaps I should create a “Webb” tree out of my matches trees and see what turns up the most “close” to me since I carry less of the ancestor’s DNA than the generations that are further upstream than I am.
Although since I’m not even sure I have Webb ancestry, those people with Webb in their tree could be solely circumstantial. Webb is not an uncommon surname and it is a Virginia family in close proximity with all of the other early colonial Virginia families – so possibly and probably intermarried.
Right now, my only hope against hope is for an Ancestry NAD – New Ancestor Discovery. As upset as I was that Ancestry gave me an ancestor that wasn’t mine who hung around for months before disappearing, and has now reappeared, I’d be very interested in a Webb NAD – because that might be possible and I could then at least attempt to convince my relevant NAD matches to download their result to GedMatch where I can view the matching DNA segments to see if they triangulate.
Having said that, it would be my luck that I’d get a NAD that really looked to be “real” but wasn’t. However, it I had a NAD, I could at least then attempt to work with the results.
However, regardless of how much I wish for a Webb NAD, it’s probably too far back time. Initially Ancestry was planning to reach back 10 generations in time. Elizabeth’s parents would be 9. However, when the NADs and Circles were released, Ancestry was only reaching back 6 or 7 generations. In some cases, for DNA Circles, I believe this has been expanded by maybe one generation or two, but not to 9 or 10 – at least not yet. But I’m still hoping that Ancestry reaches back more generations as they become more confident and refine their new features. I’m also hoping for a Webb NAD and praying for Ancestry to add a chromosome browser so I don’t have to try to convince my matches (it’s so unbecoming to beg) at Ancestry to transfer to Family Tree DNA and/or download to GedMatch.
While I’m wishing, I’d like for Family Tree DNA to add tree matching as well. They already have the chromosome browser feature and trees, so tree matching would be a very logical follow-on step. And from there, maybe ancestor predictions???
We are truly DNA and genealogy junkies aren’t we! Anything to find those elusive ancestors. I just want to know if Elizabeth is a Webb, and if not, who is she???