Google maps has been such a gift to genealogists. Today, we can look at the deeds of our ancestors, and if they have landmarks, especially multiple landmarks, we can then check Google maps and sometimes find those landmarks today. Utilizing the satellite view, we can “see” our ancestors land, and if street view is available where they lived, we can even virtually “drive down” the roads and take a look today, providing the road is paved. That rules out about half my ancestral lands right there.
In the 1980s and 1990s, I drove all over the eastern part of the US chasing down deeds in courthouses, road orders and eventually, my ancestor’s land. Google maps makes it tempting not to make the effort to visit if we don’t have to.
Today, I’ve become quite selective about limiting my DNA speaking engagements to places I really want to visit.
Recently, I visited Virginia to speak at a conference and let’s just say this was a home run of unprecedented proportions.
Louisa County, Virginia
Let’s take a look at Louisa County, for example. My Moses Estes lived there when he was first married. We don’t know when he first arrived, because Louisa was created out of Hanover County in 1742. That was a huge benefit, because Hanover County’s early records are almost entirely gone, except for deed books from 1734-1736, but Louisa’s still exist. We do know that Moses is first found in Hanover County when he buys 100 acres land jointly with his brother, Robert, in 1734. Moses married about this time to Elizabeth whose surname is unknown, so his wife’s family likely lived in this area as well.
In 1736, Moses patented 370 acres in Hanover County adjacent his brother, Robert’s patent.
In 1742, Louisa Splits from Hanover, and sure enough, in 1744 and 1746 we find both Moses and Robert assigned as road hands in the Louisa County court order books.
In 1748, Robert Compton sells 185 acres he bought in 1742 from Moses Estes and that land is located on Contrary and Northeast Creek. Then, in 1749, Moses, now listed as “of Amelia County” sells another 185 acres in Fredericksville Parish adjacent John Cumpton’s corner…on said Estes line adjacent Robert Estes line. So we have been gifted with two key coordinates.
When I wrote the original article about Moses Estes Sr., I found this land on a current map based on the description of land that included both Contrary and Northeast Creeks, or parts of them. That was a very lucky break, because there is only one section of land that conforms to that description allowing us to find that land almost 300 years later. That, alone, is absolutely amazing.
Moses would have lived on this land from the time he married in 1734 or 1735 until about 1748 or early 1749 when he moved to Amelia County – about 15 years. He and Elizabeth only have 3 known children, John, Moses Jr. and William, all born between their marriage and 1742 or so. This means that all 3 of those children were born on this land. It also means that probably many more children are buried someplace in this earth – on the land that Moses owned. That’s speculation of course, but given that couples if they were fertile had children every 18 months to two years, that means that Moses and Elizabeth would have had a total of about a dozen children – and we only know of three males.
Here’s what we know about Moses and his land in Louisa County.
This land is rich in minerals, or was at one time. The town of Mineral is either adjacent this land, or on this land, and was named Mineral because of the rich mineral deposits. There were pyrite and sulphur mines, and there are hidden mineshafts lurking today on this land as booby-traps. And there was and is….gold.
It is extremely rough and overgrown today.
The town of Mineral was originally known as Tolersville, but adopted its current name when it incorporated in 1902 due to the mining industry that supported the community. It was the center of gold mining activity in Louisa County, and during its heyday, there were fifteen gold mines located within two miles of the town.
Clearly, Moses Estes never knew the bounty on his land, or he would likely never have sold. Talk about literally sitting on a goldmine.
Ironically, the Native people may have known about this. The current land owner told me that when she was digging to put in a garden, years ago, they dug up many Native artifacts and arrowheads. This is very near the headwaters of Contrary Creek, an area that would be very attractive to both Native people and settlers due to the need for clean, fresh, water. Given that Moses patented this land, it begs the question of whether there was an Indian village there at that time. This was likely the Monacan people, but could also have been Powhatan.
Native people valued minerals for their medicinal value and for both trade and jewelry. We know that when the first Native people visited the earliest settlers and explorers, they wore copper, possibly gold, and pearls. Everybody loves jewelry. It’s not unlikely that the Native people knew about the valuable minerals on Moses Estes’ land – even if Moses never did.
Visiting Moses’ Land
It was a cloudy afternoon in September. I was driving along I64 between Beckley, West Virginia and Richmond, when I saw the sign on the road that announced I had crossed into Louisa County. I had been grateful that this day would only entail about 5 hours of driving, after a hard day the day before – although much of the day’s drive was through extremely hilly mountains. I hate being passed in curves in the mountains. And I hate rain in the mountains too. It had stopped raining by the time that I saw the Louisa County sign – a good omen.
I quickly asked my husband to check on his gadgetry to see how far Mineral was from I64 – because it occurred to me that it would be better to visit “now,” if I could, rather than “later” which would take a special trip. Right? Hubby was not nearly as impressed with my bright idea but we detoured anyway.
It was a bit further than we thought – but we got to see Louisa Court House too, in the town of Louisa, and travel down the road from Louisa to Mineral that Moses would have traveled every time he went to court and back home. Since court days, then, were the primary source of entertainment, all able-bodied men attended when court was held, four times a year – hence the name “Court of Please and Quarter Sessions.”
This was the road Moses would have been assigned to as a road hand too – to keep in repair.
As it turns out, I know all too well what that means – because part of that old road has been abandoned by the state and has returned to its natural state, or at least it’s trying to.
Moses owned a total of at least 470 acres which includes his 370 acre grant and the 100 acres he owned with his brother. There could have been more, but with the loss of early Hanover County records we’ll never know.
First, we found the headwaters of Northeast Creek near Shortman’s Road.
That too is a dead end, but we drove to the end and took photographs. It looks low here, so I’m guessing this land was never directly farmed, but it has clearly been logged since then.
Next, we drove into Mineral and back out again, down 208 to the other end of Chopping Road and then along Chopping road which parallels Contrary Creek back to 208 which is also 22.
Confusing? Think of this as a big triangle. We know that Moses owned the bottom part of the triangle.
Along 208, we crossed Contrary Creek. You can tell by looking at the creek that there are lots of minerals. Keep in mind that the headwaters are only a couple of miles away – and it’s already this mineralized.
The creek and tributaries are beautiful just the same. Look at this stunning boulder.
I can just see Moses or maybe his boys sitting there fishing – can’t you?
We don’t know how far north, but we know Moses owned the land across the road and where the Louisa County High School is located today because that land is between Contrary and North East Creek.
As we drove down Chopping Road, we drove into a subdivision that is just being developed. The lots are for sale, and these would likely have been on Moses land. You can see that some of these very old trees have likely not been logged and may have been here when Moses owned the land. If trees could only talk, what tales they could tell.
When we arrived at the intersection of Chopping Road and 208/22, we noticed a road named “Old County Road” that paralleled 208/22 on the north side of the RR tracks, so we turned down that road to see where it led. It looked to be closer to the headwaters of Contrary Creek than any other avenue we attempted.
We turned east on Old County Road, and came to the end where the pavement ended and as sign said “state maintenance ends” and it turned into a 2 track.
There were houses on both sides of the road, both with no trespassing signs. I wasn’t about to go further, but I did turn into the edge of one driveway to turn around – and to take pictures of the raptors that were flying in circles and landing in a field. I figured that was as close to Contrary Creek as I would get.
But then…a woman came walking down that two track, towards me. I started walking towards her. I was incredibly glad to see her, although I don’t think she was nearly as happy to see me.
She is the landowner of the land beyond where the state maintenance ends – on the part of the road still “au naturalle,” so to speak. Just like it was when Moses maintained that same road and rode his horse up and down that road to town and back. That lady was so nice and helpful, and even gave me a rock from Moses’ land. She too loves rocks.
We had such a nice visit. And she had such wonderful historic stories about the land and its current and former owners.
Sure enough, the old road labeled 745 is the original road, abandoned by the county and state at one point, and then when the road turned into a sea of mud, the residents once again deeded the land back to the government to get it paved. Well, at least partially paved. It seems that the state would only pave the road if everyone deeded their land back – meaning the land that was the original road – and like always there is always one person with a “different” view. One resident deeded the land in front of his house back, but not his land further down because he wanted an assurance that a particular pear tree would not be cut down.
So the road is paved in front of his house, but his neighbors further east not only don’t have a paved road, they have to maintain it themselves and they have assured me, it’s muddy and mucky and in some places, past their houses, impassible. In the aerial photo above, the green treed area is pink and is where the head of Contrary Creek is located. This is also where the old mines are located, and abandoned shafts, and an old pyrite furnace. Not terribly safe there. The owner knows where it is, but I’ll not be hiking back to find it. She was also bitten by a copperhead a couple years ago. No thank you. Moses can keep his copperheads.
But as I look down the abandoned part of this road, I can look into the past and feel Moses there…
Directly across the main road from this area, just to the right of the oval track by the school, sits a log cabin, restored beautifully. The land is for sale today, including the cabin.
I just caught my breath when I saw this, because this was unquestionably Moses land.
Was the cabin there when Moses owned the land? Was this his cabin?
If this was not Moses’s cabin, they it was likely built during that same time period.
Because the cabin and another house are for sale on a 15 acre parcel, I was able to visit it on the web. It’s truly my lucky day.
This chimney has likely been rebuilt. Often the chimneys are rebuilt using the original stones. The cabin has also clearly been rechinked as well. Someone took very good care of this cabin, while retaining its original flavor.
Wouldn’t Moses be surprised to see today’s kitchens? He wouldn’t know what to think.
I’m betting that is the original floor.
If you want this cabin…and oh yes…the house that goes with it, you can have it for an incredible price. Just for the record, I bought an extra lottery ticket, and if I win, this cabin is my new office!!!!
For me, this journey, and in particular, running into the land owner, was an incredible gift. Like I told her, driving down that old abandoned section of county road, the original road, the one where Moses owned land…was like driving back into time. I couldn’t have asked for anything more on this impromptu Louisa County adventure. No google map trip can ever compare to the real thing – it’s only a distant second best – but it’s a wonderful starting and sometimes ending point. Never forego the opportunity to visit in person. You just never know what surprises might be waiting for you!