Thomas Durham’s land ultimately fell into Richmond county, on the peninsula of land known as the Northern Neck of Virginia.
We know nothing about Thomas Durham’s early life, except it’s unlikely that he was born on the Northern Neck of Virginia. In 1652, in Northumberland County, part of which ultimately became Richmond County, all men had to sign an oath of loyalty, and there is no Durham name among the signers.
The Northern Neck area was still inhabited by Indians at that time, and the region was not easily settled, although people were pushing into the area and carving out farmsteads – much to the chagrin of the Indians whose land they were settling upon.
According to “A Tricentennial Portrait” by Robert Harper for the Richmond County, Tricentennial Commission:
In September 1661, the area that would become Richmond County had its own version of warfare when Indians killed 3 men in retaliation for the killing of an Indian man in the spring. The situation escalated and for the next 5 years, raids ensued.
In an unrelated, but threatening incident, the Dutch fleet appeared in the Rappahannock River in 1666. They engaged, and most of the men on the ship were killed. Then, on November 8th, 1666, the worst hurricane to hit Virginia in the 17th century arrived, destroying more than 10,000 buildings and hurling hail the size of eggs.
In case you don’t know, hail the size of marbles descends at about 20 miles an hour, but hail the size of baseballs descends at the rate of over 100 miles an hour. A 100 mile an hour baseball sized piece of hail kills people as well as livestock and wildlife.
A fort was erected at the head of Cat Point Creek to protect settlers within a 20 mile radius, which tells us there were few settlers. Fortunately, a treaty was reached with the Dutch before the fort came into use.
In 1675, war with Indians continues, with 2 settlers being killed in Richmond County by Indians from Maryland. A retaliatory force of 30 men crossed the Potomac River into Maryland and killed Indian King and 10 warriors.
On January 21, 1675/1676, a group of northern Indians went to war with the English and killed 36 people in Rappahannock County. Starting near Port Royal, the Indian warriors fanned out in a circle and destroyed everything English. Turning down the river valley, their objective was to kill 10 men for every Indian who had been killed.
Small groups of planters met for protection and begged Governor Berkeley to send them a commissioned leader. Berkley wrote that no leader could be sent until the next Assembly meeting and ordered the residents to build a new fort at the head of the Rappahannock River (Cat Tail Creek.)
Berkley’s idea was that the Indians would attack the fort in number and not harass the isolated farmers. In February of 1676/1677, the Governor sent an order that no more than 10 men could meet as a group due to fear of a general uprising against him. This act was the fuel that the Indians needed and a number of attacks were carried out on the small groups of settlers.
Richmond County wasn’t very safe and was likely not a location one would choose to settle with a family. A decade later, things had calmed, the remnants of the Indians were gone, and births of many English families were being recorded in the Farnham Parish Church register.
Thomas Durham’s Life
I’ve rebuilt Thomas’s life, as best I can, by extracting the records from the early Virginia counties, beginning with the formation of York County in 1633 and for the next hundred years in Northumberland, Lancaster, Old Rappahannock and Richmond as they were formed from the original York County. Richmond and Essex were both formed in 1692 when old Rappahannock was dissolved and divided into half, with Richmond County being on the north of the Rappahannock River and Essex on the South.
We don’t know where Thomas Durham came from, but we do know that the first record that includes Thomas is found in the Farnham Parish church register with the birth of his daughter, Mary, to Thomas and Dorothy Durham on June 5, 1686.
Additional births attributed to Thomas and Dorothy were for son, Thomas on June 17, 1690 and son John on November 23, 1698.
These records suggest that Thomas was already married to Dorothy who has been reported to be related to the Smoots by sometime in 1685, if not earlier. Dorothy’s history will be reviewed in a separate article.
Farnham Parish was split into two when Old Rappahannock County was split into Richmond and Essex County, with Richmond County becoming North Farnham Parish and Essex County becoming South Farnham Parish.
The North Farnham Parish register transcription, which includes the original Farnham Parish records, does still exist, but is fragmentary and known to be incomplete.
Who is Elizabeth Grady?
In a will written by Elizabeth Grady on March 10, 1693/94 and probated on Nov 4, 1702, Mary Smoot daughter of William Smoot is left all of Elizabeth Grady’s land. The executor of the estate is William Smoot, and the witnesses are Thomas Durham, Richard Draper and John Rankin.
Court Order Book Page 184 July 1, 1702 – Will of Elizabeth Grady proved by oaths of John Rankin and Thomas Durham.
This question of Elizabeth’s identity has further reaching implications than it appears, because the people involved are intertwined.
Thomas Durham’s son, Thomas Durham, marries this same Mary Smoot about 1710. Furthermore, based on a 1700 transaction, Dorothy, wife of Thomas Durham is related to William Smoot in some fashion.
Lastly, Thomas Durham and William Smoot appear to be neighbors and lifelong friends.
To answer the question more directly, I have no idea who Elizabeth Grady is, nor why she would be leaving land to Mary Smoot – but tracking Elizabeth Grady and figuring out who she is and how she was connected might well lead to unraveling other mysteries involving the Smooth and Durham families.
The 1700 Deed
August 2, 1700 – Deed of gift. William Smoot Sr. of N. Farnham Parish Richmond Co. for consideration received and for the great love that I have and beare unto Dorothy Durham wife of Thomas Durham of same county and her children do give unto her and her children a 62 acre parcel of land bounded by Thomas Durham, branch of Morattico Creek, land of the same William Smoot Sr., land of Rowland Lawson, line of Mr. Grimes and line of Clare. If in case the said Dorothy Durham die that then the land shall come to Thomas Durham eldest son of the said Dorothy and in case that he die without issue that then the land shall come to John Durham second son of the said Dorothy and in case that he die without issue that the land shall come to Mary Durham eldest dau of the said Dorothy Durham and in case she shall happen to die without issue that then the land shall come to the fourth, fifth, sixth and c children of the same Dorothy, but in case of want of issue that the land shall descend to Ann Fox wife of William Fox of Lancaster Co., gent. Wit John Simmons, Thomas Mackey, ack Aug 7, 1700 Book 3 page 57
Aug 2, 1700 – Power of attorney Jane Smoot wife of William Smoot Sr. having appointed Edward Jones my attorney to ack the above gift to Dorothy Durham and her children. Wit Thomas Mackey, Edmond Overton. Book 3 page 58
Court Order Book Page 56, August 7, 1700 – Ordered that the deed for land ack in this court by William Smoot Sr unto Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham, be recorded.
This deed is quite interesting and somewhat perplexing. Just to keep the players straight, William Smoot is the father of Mary Smoot, to whom Mary Grady left her land. Clearly there is a very close connection between William Smoot and Dorothy Durham.
First, this deed names Dorothy’s living children that are documented in the North Farnham Parish registers. The deed was written in August 1700 and John Durham was born on November 23, 1698.
This deed tells us that of Dorothy’s children, Mary is the eldest living daughter rand John and Thomas are the eldest living sons. Given John’s birth date, they have to be the only living sons. What we don’t know is whether or not the children referenced as 4th, 5th and 6th are living or are speculative in case they exist in the future.
It’s certainly unlikely that between 1686 and 1700 and Dorothy only had 3 children. Six or 7, assuming they all lived until weaned, would be more normal. If the children 4-6 noted in the will, were living, they were assuredly females.
Second, this deed tells us who the neighbors are, that Thomas Durham and William Smoot’s lands abut, and that they live on a branch of Morattico Creek.
Third, who are Ann and William Fox? William Fox’s wife appears to be Anne Chinn, daughter of John Chinn and Alice who is suspected of being a Gilbert and who is Dorothy Durham’s sister.
The following will from Lancaster County by Alice Stretchley indicates that Dorothy Durham is her sister and that Tomassin Marshall is as well.
Abstracts of Lancaster County, Virginia Wills 1653-1800 by Ida J. Lee:
Stretchley, Alice, wife of Jno. Stretchley of St. Mary’s White Chappell. 29 Aug. 1701. Rec. 8 Oct. 1701. Daus: Anne Fox the portion bequeathed her by Jno. Chinn, her father, and by Jno. Stretchley, her father-in-law; Catherine Heale. Sisters: Dorothy Durham and Tomassin Marshall. Son-in-law: Capt. Wm. Fox. Son: Rawleigh Chinn “all money in the hands of Mr. Jno. Pemberton, Mercht. of Liverpool.” Cousin: Mary Dodson. Error: Son, Rawleigh Chinn Wits: Jas. Taylor, Lewis Pugh, David Smith. W.B. 8, p. 106.
Alice Stretchley appears to be Ann Fox’s mother who would have been married first to John Chinn and then to John Stretchley. So Ann Fox would have been Dorothy Durham’s niece.
Fourth, why did William Smoot leave this land to Dorothy separately from her husband, meaning that Thomas Durham could not dispose of this land. This is outside the norms and customs of the day.
How was William Smoot related to both Dorothy and Ann Fox, daughter of Alice Quinn Stretchy?
Thomas Durham’s Great Age
Court Order Book Page 475, Sept 7, 1699 – Ordered that Thomas Durham for the future be exempted from payment of leveys by reason of his great age.
I checked the tithable language in the state of Virginia, and it clearly specifies who shall be taxed, and how, and allows for exemptions for people who were disabled and unable to support themselves, and for people who were aged. The state apparently allowed each county court to determine who was exempted. In other locations, I’ve seen men as young as 45, 55 and as old as 70 being exempted due to age, so I’m guessing that the age at exemption was more a combination of age plus ability to work than age alone.
I would think it would be very unlikely that Thomas Durham was less than 50 years old with his age referred to as “great” so this would put his birth likely in 1649 or before.
Men in colonial American typically married about the age of 25, which would have been in about 1674 if he were born in 1649. However, we don’t find Mary’s birth until 1686. Was Thomas not married until 1685 or so, or did he have a first wife we don’t know about, or was Dorothy significantly younger than Thomas, or was Thomas younger than age 50 when he was exempted from paying taxes?
It’s also possible that Thomas Durham was an indentured servant and he was not able to marry until his indenture was complete.
Court and Deeds
The ebb and flow of life in colonial Virginia was marked by court sessions that were attended by nearly all men. Deeds were filed, orders made and drinking all around with camaraderie. Thomas Durham witnessed deeds and was found participating in the normal life of colonial planters.
Multiple records indicate a very close relationship with William Smoot(e.)
Court Order Book Page 218 Dec. 3, 1702 – Nonsuite is granted to Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife for the nonappearance of William Smoote Jr. which is ordered to be paid with costs of suit.
Deed Book March 3, 1704/5 – John Ingo and Martha (Matthew) his wife of Richmond Co. for 36 lb sterling sold to George Glascock of same a 100 acre plantation near the head of Moratico Creek that did formerly belong to John Ingo Sr. father of the same John Ingo and lately purchased of Capt. William Fanteleroy and Catherine his wife bounded by the house of John (blurred), the house of Thomas Durham, house of Edward Ryley, decd and the land of his brother James Ingo. Wit Wells Smoot, John Simmons Ack March 7, 1704. Book 3 page 174
Deed Book Page 352-354 December 1704 – Between John Ingoe and Matthew (sic) his wife and George Glascock…plantation situate near head of Moratico Creek in Richmond County which did formerly belong to John Ingo Sr. father of ye said John Ingo and lately by him sealed with a plantacion together with a considerable quantity of land said John Ingo Sr. purchased of Capt., William Fauntleroy with as much of the said land as lyes within the said John Ingoes bounds beginning ta a marker hickory standing within the house of John Simsted and the said John Ingoes and running along ye line to a swamp issuing out of Miratico Creek hard by the house of Thomas Durham then up said swamp meeting with the line, then NW by the house of Edward Ryley decd then land of his brother James Ingo 100 acres more or less. Signed, John Ingo and Martha Ingo (mark) witness William Smoot and John Simson (mark)
This deed confirmed again that the Durham land was along Moratico Creek.
Court Order Book Page 18 December 6, 1704 – Charles Dodson Jr and Thomas Dodson and Thomas Durham summoned to court for not going to church for two months together.
Court Order BookPage 34 February 7, 1704/05 – Peter Elmore, Thomas Dodson, Charles Dodson Jr. and Thomas Durham summoned to court to answer presentment of grand jury against them for not going to church for 2 months together and not appearing, ordered they be fined according to law and pay same with costs.
The Dodsons, Durhams and Elmores were neighbors and apparently influenced one another, or at least there was comfort among neighbors and safe haven for resistance. Church attendance was mandatory in colonial Virginia.
Court Order Book Page 68 September 5, 1705 – Power of attorney made by John Ingo to James Ingo proved by oaths of William (?) and Dorothy Durham and ordered to be recorded.
The ? is probably William Smoot from other evidence. If so, once again, Dorothy Durham is found with William Smoot.
James Gilbert and the Depositions
Richmond County Misc. Record Book (1699-1724)
Page 26b Deposition Ann Kelly, aged 20 years or thereabouts, says that on last New Year’s Day, Thomas Durham, your deponent’s master, sent her to James Gilbert’s to desire him to come down to pipe it, and as your deponent and said James Gilbert were coming back, by John Mills his plantation, James Gilbert asked your deponent whether this old woman was at your deponent’s master’s house and your deponent answered, yes, she was, and said James Gilbert held up his 2 hand and said, God’s Curse Light upon that family naming John Mills and all his family and said that if it were not for John Mills and his wife, he and his wife would never have lived at variance as they did, and your deponent told said James Gilbert that it was his own fault, living so, and asked him why he had not fought away his chest and confound that will which he made, and the said James Gilbert said that John Mills and his family had robbed his chest so that they would not agree upon any means that he should fetch it away, and that they were ashamed of it, and the said James Gilbert said that there was a will made but swore by God that he knew not what was in it no more than I did, and your deponent asked said James Gilbert whether he was no sent for to sign his will, but said Gilbert answered, swearing by his God, that he did not sign it, and told your deponent that he had not the sense to make a will, and that John Mills was a rogue for making a false will and that made him and his wife live to discontentedly and further your deponent says that she saw said Gilbert last Feb. count 15 head of cattle for 40. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 by mark
Page 27 Dorothy Durham aged about 41 years says that sometime before James Gilbert’s death, being in company of said Gilbert and William Smoote, amongst other discourse, she heard said Gilbert say to said Smoote that he did not know that there was any Resurrection or not, and that had made a will to John Mills, but that it signified nothing, and that your deponent did, several times, hear the said Gilbert say that John Mills was a rogue and that he nor any of his should ever be the better for what he had. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 – Dorothy (P her mark) Dureham
The two depositions above were given in 1704. In 1707, Mary Gilbert, as a widow, was deeding and to Thomas Durham and Dorothy.
26 Apr 1707 Richmond County, Virginia Deed Book 4, 1705-1708 page 109a-110a – This Indenture made the six and twentieth day of April anno Domini 1707 and in sixth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lady Anne by the Grace of God of England, Scotland, France and Ireland Queene, Defender of the faith Between Mary Gilbert of the parish of North Farnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion of Virginia, Widdow of the one part, and Thomas Durham of North Farnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion aforesaid, Planter and Dorothy his wife of the other party. Witnesseth that the said Mary Gilbert for good and valuable consideration in hand payed the receipt whereof the said Mary doth hereby acknowledge and of every part and parcel thereof doth requitt consrate and discharge the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and theire heires by these presents do give grant, bargaine sole alienate entaile and confirme unto the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife theire heirs and assignes a certain plantation tract or parcele of land scituate lying and being in the parish of North Ffarnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion of Virginia upon a Branch of Ffarnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion of Virginia upon a Branch of Ffarnham Creeke called and knowne by the name of the Buory (Briery) Swamp, containing by estimation fifty acres, now in the tenure and occupation of Walter WRIGHT and bounded as followeth: …corner along land of William Smoot… the said Mary Gilbert for her self, her heires, Exors. and Admns. doth covenant promise, grant and assign to the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and their heires and assignes In manner and form as followeth, That is to say, that the said Mary Gilbert att the time of the ensealing and delivery hereof hath true title, full power and lawful authority to grant and convey the said bargained land and premisses as aforesaid and allso from time to times and att all times hereafter …… doth hereby grant unto the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and their heires and assignes with all the rights members and appurtanances thereunto belonging or appurtaining without…..and do Execute and acknowledge any other or further deed or deeds which shall be advised, devised or required by the said Thomas Durham, Dorothy his wife or theire Counsel learned in the law or theire heires or assignes for the better and more sure settlement of all and singular of the premisses hereto granted and every part and parcle of the said land unto the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and theire heires and assignes forever, In Witness whereof the said Mary Gilbert have hereunto put her hand and seal the day and month and year above written. Signed, sealde and Delivered in the presence of: William Smoot, Mil. Walters Mary M. Gilbert (signed with mark) (seal) Recorded 15 May 1707, Teste: J. Sherlock (Supplement to the History of the Dodson-Dotson Family of Southwest Virginia. Compiled and edited by the Rev. Silas Emmett Lucas, Jr. N.p: the author, 1966., pp. 106-107)
P 110a – William Smoote planter, Farnham Parish, consideration to Thomas Durham of same, planter, quit claim a certain plantation and tract or land situate in upon a branch of Farnham Creek called the Bryery Swamp and bounded (same description as deed between Mary Gilbert and Thomas Durham above) April 20, 1707 signed. Wit Anne Kelly and Mil. Waters
(Note Anne Kelly is Thomas Durham’s indentured servant.)
Court Order Book Page 299 Sept 3, 1707 – Mary Gilbert ack deed to Thomas Durham, ordered recorded.
Court Order Book Page 299 Sept 3, 1707 – William Smoot ack release of right and title of parcel of land sold by Mary Gilbert to Thomas Durham and ordered to be recorded.
I’ve grouped the information about James Gilbert together, because it becomes very important in the story of Dorothy, Thomas Durham’s wife.
The Lay of the Land
We have references to land off of a Branch of Farnham Creek and also Moratico Creek. You can see both of these on the 1859 Bucholtz Map, just below Toreskey and Corbin’s Creeks. Briery Swamp that I believe became Marshy Swamp appeared to be on Totuskey Creek, based on previous Dodson Deeds, and is shown such on this map, but these deeds refer to Briery Swamp off of Farnham Creek, so who knows exactly.
This contemporary map shows Totuskey Creek, Farnham Creek and Morattico Creek. Thomas Dodson lived as far north as Rich Neck and we have Thomas Durham mentioned as far south as Morattico Creek. Both men owned multiple pieces of land that likely did not abut each other.
On the map above, Rich Neck is at the top, then Totuskey Creek, then Farnham Creek near Sharps, and the lowest arrow is Morattico Creek. As you can see, these creeks have many small feeders across about half of the width of the peninsula.
Today this area is dotted by cleared areas for farming, woodlands and small villages.
The Scandal of Ann Kelly
Ann Kelly’s indenture to Thomas Durham begins like normal in 1699 when she was determined to be 14 years old. The court determined her age so that the length of her indenture could be determined. In 1704, she gave her age to be 20, which would have put her birth in 1684. If she were 14 in 1699, then she would have been born in 1685.
Court Order Book Page 406, June 7, 1699 – Ann Kelly servant to Thomas Durham being presented to this court to have inspection into her age is adjudged 14 years old and ordered to serve her master or his assigns according to act.
However, by 1708, things had heated up quite a bit.
Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – Anne Kelly, servant to Thomas Durham, being brought before the court by her master for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child and said Anne refusing to confess who was the father of the child, the court have ordered she be committed to the county goale there to remaine until such time as she shall confess who is the true father of her child and it is also ordered that she serve her master or his assignes after her time by indenture custome or otherwise shall be fully expired according to law in compensation for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.
Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – This day Dorothy Durham for an the behalf of her husband Thomas Durham confessed judgement to the church wardens of Northfarnham parish to the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco the same being the fine of Anne Kelly for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child which is ordered to be paid with costs.
Court Order Book Page 4, March 2, 1708/9 – Anne Kelly came into court and made oath that Thomas Durham Jr. is the true father of 2 bastard children borne of her body in the time of her service with his father, Thomas Durham the elder. Upon motion of the Queen’s attorney ordered that Thomas Durham Jr be summoned to next court to enter into bond with security for the indemnification of the parish and what charge may acrew to the parish for or by reason of the children aforesaid.
Questions and More Questions
I have so many questions.
Thomas Durham Jr. was born in 1690, so he was 17 when he impregnated Anne Kelly who was then 22 or 23, assuming the child was born in 1708. Given the timing of the second child’s birth, it’s certainly possible that the first child was born even earlier, as in 1706 which means Anne would have gotten pregnant as early as 1705 when Thomas was 15. Why was she protecting Thomas, even to her own detriment? Did she believe she would one day marry him? Or was she fearful? And if she was fearful, of whom? And why?
Why did Dorothy step in “on behalf of her husband,” an extremely unusual move for a woman in colonial Virginia? Why didn’t Thomas Durham step in for himself, or sign a power of attorney? Instead, Dorothy rode all the way to the court house and appeared personally, instead of Thomas. This suggests a very strong woman defying her husband’s wishes. Why? Did she secretly know that Ann’s child was her grandchild? Or was it exactly the opposite? She had no idea and was appalled to make that discovery, which might explain why Thomas Dodson posted Ann’s bond for the second child.
To their credit, between Dorothy Durham and Thomas Dodson, they did not allow Ann to go to jail for something she was only half responsible for, while the non-servant male child of the plantation owner went scot free. Thomas Dodson was, of course, Mary Durham’s husband and the fact that he posted Anne Kelly’s bond made her indentured to Thomas Dodson after her original indenture ended, according to court order. Mary Durham Dodson, Thomas’s wife, was the daughter of Thomas and Dorothy Durham.
Oh, what a web we weave!
Then, to add insult to injury, Thomas Durham Jr. married Mary Smoot (who had inherited Mary Grady’s land) about 1710. Ann Kelly was still serving her additional indentures for having two “bastard children” when Thomas married, given that the additional time to serve was typically 5 years, per child. She still had years to go. If Ann had any thought that she would one day marry Thomas Durham Jr., they were assuredly dashed by this point. Ann is left with two small children, serving additional time as a servant, and Thomas Durham Jr. marries the neighbor girl who inherited land. After Thomas Durham Jr. and Mary Smoot were married, he legally controlled her land.
This isn’t the first or last time Thomas Durham Jr.’s character would be called into question.
Court Order Book Page 92, May 6, 1713 – Ordered Thomas Durham officiate as constable for this ensuing year in the roome and stead of Bartholomew Richard Dodson between Moratico and Farnham Creeks and that he repaire to some Justice to be sworn accordingly.
There is no Jr. mentioned, so this looks to be Thomas Durham Sr. This further confirms the area where Thomas Durham was actually living.
Thomas Durham’s Will
In 1711, Thomas Durham wrote his will, but he didn’t pass away until in 1715.
Thomas Durham’s will was dated August 4, 1711 and proved in court June 1, 1715.
In the name of God Amen, I, Thomas Durham of Northfarnham in the County of Richmond being sick in Body but of sound and perfect Memory. Praise be given unto God therefore calling to Mind His Mortallity of my body and that it is appointed for all Men once to Die, Do make and Ordain this my Last Will & Testament, That is to say– Principally & first of all I Recommend my soul unto the hands of God that gave it and my Body to the Earth to be Buried in Christian and Decent manner at the Discretion of my Executors hereafter named; nothing Doubting but at the generall Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty Power of God; And as touching such Worldly Estate wherewith it hath Pleased God to Bless me in this Life—–
Item. I give and Bequeath unto my Dear & Loving wife Dorothy Durham the use of my Plantations, together with all my Lands & Tenements with all and Every of their Appurtenances–Proffits and Commoditys __________ Belonging or appertaining for & During the _____________ of her natural Life and after her Decease if my Son Thomas Durham and Mary his wife do by some sufficient Instrument in writing under their hands and seals and affording to due forme of Law Release and acquitt all and singular their Right, Title and Interest in and unto Fifty acres of Land being the same Tract & Plantation which we had conveyed us by Mary Gilbert unto my son John Durham and his heirs or pay him the said: John Durham Eight Thousand Pounds of Tobacco in Lieu of His said Land and also pay unto my Daughter Mary Dodson Fifteen hundred pounds of Tobacco that then and upon this consideration——-aforesaid: I do give and bequeath unto my said son Thomas Durham and his heirs Lawfully Begotten and for want of such issue unto my son John Durham and his heirs Lawfully Begotton and in _______ of such issue unto my GrandSon Thomas Dodson and his heirs, But if my said son Thomas Durham doth refuse and will not release the said fifty acres of Land nor pay the Tobacco aforesaid: I do will and Bequeath the said Plantation whereon I now dwell with all my Lands unto my son John Durham and his heirs—
Item. I give and Bequeath unto my Son John Durham Fifty acres of Land more or less being the Plantation with all the Tract and Parcell of Land that was Conveyed us by Mary Gilbert, to have and to hold the said Tract and Parcell of Land with the appurtainances unto my said son John Durham and his heirs Lawfully begotten and for want of such issue unto my GrandSon Thomas Dodson and his heirs—
Item. I give and bequeath unto my Son John Durham one Feather Bed and Furniture, one Cow and calf, one Mare and Iron Pott, Two ____ Dishes and half a dozen Plates
Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Mary Dodson Five Thousand Pounds of Tobacco; Fifteen hundred Pounds of the same to be paid by my son Thomas Durham within Nine months after the Decise of my wife and Five hundred the Rest of the said Tobacco to be paid by my Son John Durham at the Decease of my Wife—-
Item. I give and Bequeath all the Residue of my Estate, Goods, Cattle and Chattells unto my wife Dorothy Durham for & During her widowhood, but if she doth Marry that _____ off my Personall Estate, Except what is herein given to John Durham shall be Equally Divided between my wife and my three Children, and I do make and Ordain my Dear & well beloved Wife Sole Executrix of this my Last Will & Testament—Rattifying and Confirming this & none other to be my Last Will & Testament. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this Fourth Day of August in the year of our Lord, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eleven. Signed, Sealed & Published and Declared in the presence of us– Joan O Searles her mark, Arthur Kay his mark, Miles Walters Thomas Durham his mark (seal)
Att. at a Court held for Richmond County ye first Day of June 1715 This Will was approved in open Court by the oaths of Arthur Key & Joan Searles ______ of the Witness or tthereto be on admitted to Recored…Tests M: Beckewith C.C.O.”
Thomas Durham’s will entry in the will book looks like the clerk reproduced Thomas’s own mark.
Does this mean that Thomas Durham could never write, or that he was simply too ill or old to sign his will? He didn’t pass away for another 4 years, so he certainly was not on his deathbed when he wrote his will in 1711, although he might have thought he was. He does say that he is “sick in body” but he apparently recovered enough to be appointed constable in 1713. Although there is no Jr. or Sr. mentioned, so the 1713 constable entry could have been for his son.
And speaking of his son, Thomas Jr., Thomas Sr. left an inheritance only to the children “lawfully begotten” with his sons, excluding his grandchildren by Anne Kelly, if either of those children were still living. In that era, illegitimate children could not inherit from their father unless there was specific verbiage to the contrary.
Thomas Durham, according to his will, apparently has two parcels of land – although the will is confusing and he only mentions the 50 acre parcel obtained from Mary Gilbert specifically. The second, referenced rather obliquely, must surely be the 62 acres that he is living on conveyed to Dorothy from William Smoot in 1700. The fact that Thomas Durham does not include this second piece specifically in his will is likely because William Smoot conveyed the land directly to Dorothy, omitting Thomas.
As it turns out, which of his two sons obtained the land becomes irrelevant, because John died without issue in 1722.
P 212 – Thomas Durham inventory July 6, 1715
We don’t know exactly when Thomas Durham died, but by the time his will was probated, which is typically within 90 days of death, Dorothy was remarried. This seems soon by today’s standards but wasn’t at all uncommon in colonial Virginia.
The fact that Dorothy had remarried meant that she would only receive a child’s share of Thomas’s estate, one fourth, except for the land which he had already bequeathed to his children.
Court Order Book Page 283, June 1, 1715 – Last will and testament of Thomas Durham decd presented into court by Dorothy Greenham, his executrix who made oath and proved by the oaths of Arthur Key and John Searles, two of the witnesses.
Jeremiah Greenham, Dorothy Greenham, John Doyle and Richard Fowler came into court and ack bond for the said Dorothy Greenham admin for the estate of Thomas Durham, decd.
Thomas Griffin, Thomas Glascock, William Downham and George Davenport or any 3 of them to appraise the estate of Thomas Durham, decd. Oath of appraisers to be sworn and also of Dorothy Greenham, the executrix, for her true discovery thereof.
Thomas Durham’s Estate Inventory
Court Order Book Page 62-63 – Jeremiah Greenham and Dorothy, his wife, John Boyle and Richard Fowler of Richmond Co. held and bound for 200 pounds currant money of Virginia condition that Dorothy Greenham executrix of last will of Thomas Durham decd to make a true and perfect inventory of estate of said decd. Signed Jeremiah Greenham, Dorothy Greenham her mark as a D, John Doyle and Richard Fowler
Court Order Book Page 292 July 6, 1715 – Appraisement for estate of Thomas Durham decd returned and recorded.
Thomas’s inventory was taken on June 27, as follows:
- One feather bed, bolster, 2 pillows and cafos? (cases?), 3 blankets and one rug, one par of cotton cheets, curtains, valances and bedstead – 6.0.0
Rugs at that time meant bed rugs, which were wool and decorative and functioned as both a layer of warmth and decoration on top of colonial beds.
- One large table and form – 1.0.0
A form was a type of bench.
- One small “ – 0.05.0
- Six wooden chairs and one flagg – 0.10.0
- One Bible and two old books – 0.05.0
I sure would like to know the names of the books. It would tell us a lot about Thomas.
- One butter pott, ditto plate and pann – 0.02.06
- One brass candlestick and one iron pann – 0.01.0
Just one candlestick?
- One bedstead – 0.05.0
- One pair small styl’ds (probably stillyards) – 0.02.06
- One looking glass – 0.01.03
- One Huckaback table cloth and one dozen of napkins – 1.11.06
Huckaback was a type of course absorbent cotton or linen fabric typically used for making towels.
- One small old table cloth, 4 old cotton napkins and 2 linen towels, one sheet of the same cloth and one cotton sheet – 0.12.0
- One feather bed, bolster, curtains, valances, 1 rugg ? pair of blankets – 02.10.0
- One old couch bod an old blanket and a cadord? – 0.10.00
- One rug, two pillows and one bolster case – 0.15.00
- Three chests – 0.10.00
In the Kitchin
- One flock bed and bolster, two blankets, one rug and bedstead – 01.0.0
- One old “, one blanket, one cadoro – 0.05.0
- One spinning sheel and hoop of cards – 0.10.00
- A parcel of old tubs – 0.05.00
- A parcel of iron work – 0.04.02
- One large iron pott and hooks, qt 9 gal 4 ? p’s – 01.12.00
- Five small “with four pair of hooks qt 1345 at “ – 02.04.02
- Two pair of old pott racks – 0.02.00
- A pair of tongs, one spit – 0.08.0
- Two smoothing irons – 0.02.0
- One old musket and one old frying pann – 0.05.06
If the musket was in the kitchen, it probably wasn’t for self-defense.
- One pofflo? – 0.05.00
- Two bags 1’b:6’l a and one old sadle 2’b:6’l, one old chest 1’b:6’l – 0.05.06
- Five hodgos? 8’b, two pailed, two piggins, one old tubb 5’l – 0.13.0
- A parcel of white salt a’l 2 bushels 2’l, one cart sadle and harness 1’d:6’l – 0.03.06
- 35 of good pewter at 10’l pr p’d – 29 of old ditto at 6’l ? pd – 02.04.01
- Three dozen of pewter spoons at 6’b, 16 of wools at 9’l ? pd, one old sauce pann 2’d – 0.18.02
- Two cows and calves at 2 each, three yearlings at 15’l each, one bull at 3’l 10’s – 06.15.0
- Five cows at ? 15’s each, one steer 6 years old in 2’l 10’s, two heifers at ? each – 13.05.00
- Eight sheep at 6 each, one large mare at 3’l – 5.08.0
- A servant boy two years and 7 months to serve – 08.0.0
Thomas Griffin, Thomas Glascock, George Davenport on June 27, 1715
Apparently Anne Kelly long ago completed her indenture, or at least she is not listed as a servant in 1713. She would have been about 33 by this time.
I love this inventory because it tells us where various items were located in the house. For example, we know that there is an upstairs, and it’s large enough for a bed that included curtains and valances, so no shoddy place to sleep.
The main living quarters, downstairs, included a bed with all the trappings, a second bedstead, but perhaps without a mattress, 2 tables complete with tablecloths and napkins, chairs, butter molds, a looking glass, but only 1 candlestick.
There’s another bed in the kitchen, maybe for the servant boy. It’s flock instead of a feather bed. Flock is a type of filling made of scraps and wool. The spinning wheel is in the kitchen too.
I’m guessing this house had two rooms downstairs, one room “above the stairs,” and the kitchen which may or may not have been attached. There doesn’t seem to be any furniture for more rooms.
There was no mention of tobacco or any farm implements associated with anything except livestock, although tobacco was mentioned in Thomas’s will, so he clearly farmed tobacco in 1711.
Furthermore, there was no cart or wagon. There is only one horse and an old saddle. There are no pistols, which “gentlemen” would have had, and the old musket is in the kitchen. There is no women’s saddle either.
Thomas Durham does not appear to be a wealthy man, yet he does have pewter and tablecloths.
He does not own any slaves which was very common for plantation owners in that time and place.
What I wouldn’t give for that Bible and the information it contained. We wouldn’t have to wonder who his parents were, or question his wife’s maiden name. We might even know who his grandparents were, and where they were from in England. I wonder what ever happened to that Bible.
This looks like some tension might have existed between John, the youngest son, Thomas Jr., the eldest son and Dorothy along with her new husband, Jeremiah Greenham. Daughter Mary was already married to Thomas Dodson.
Page 351, October 5, 1715 – This day John Durham by his petition prayed that his brother Thomas Durham might be admitted his guardian which was granted and said Thomas Durham gives security. Whereupon the said Thomas Durham together with John Harris and Thomas Elmore acknowledge their bond for the said Thomas Durham’s true performance of his guardianship.
Judgement granted to Thomas Durham as guardian for his brother John Durham against Jeremiah Greenham and Dorothy his wife, executrix of the last will of (page 352) Thomas Durham, decd for 1 feather bed and furniture, 1 cow and calf, 1 mare, 1 iron pott, 2 pewter dishes and half a dozen of plates being legacies left him the said John Durham buy the said Thomas Durham, his late father, decd, in his last will and testament, which is ordered to be paid.
Here, we find the source of the issue. John who was only 17, wanted his share of the estate, even though he would have still been living at home. This probably means that John went to live with Thomas…and took with him the bed, furniture, cow, calf, mare pewter and other items. Thomas obviously did not release the 50 acres to John.
Dorothy probably argued that John, as yet underage, was yet living at home so not yet entitled to any of the estate until he came of age. Clearly, this was not settled and went through the court process, probably causing very hard feelings between Dorothy and both of her sons.
Thomas Durham sells Land
In 1723, Thomas Durham Jr. sells land which could have been his father’s to Thomas Dodson, his sister’s husband.
Deed Book Page 240 Dec 4-10, 1723 – From Thomas Durham of Richmond County to Thomas Dodson Sr of same 5000 pounds tobacco parcel of 100 acres formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bearing date of Nov 25th 1692 situate in Richmond Co and bounded by Charles Dodson, being part of the pat formerly granted to William Thatcher by the main branch of Toteskey. Signed Thomas and Mary Durham. Wit John Hill, William Walker, Jeremiah Greenham. Rec May 6, 1724 and Mary Durham appeared in court relinquished dower.
Abraham Marshall is Dorothy Durham Greenham’s sister’s husband.
In 1733, the 100 acres is sold to the Lyell family
Deed Book Page 12, Lease and release, Dec 6-7, 1733 – From Thomas Dodson Sr. and Mary his wife and Thomas Dodson Jr. and Eliza his wife all of NFP to John’n Lyell of same in consideration of a negro woman to be delivered to said Dodson as soon as any comes to Virginia to be sold as the said Dodson Jr. wished about 130 acres in NFP and bounded by Charles Dodson by the main swamp of Totuskey. The other 30 acres of land is bounded by old Cone path formerly belonging to Daniel Oneal, a line of trees that divides the land of Mr. Spencer and the land of Thomas Dusin, corner oak formerly belonging to William Matthews, along Matthews line the land formerly belonging to John Jenly. Of the 130 acres, 100 acres formerly belonged to Abraham Marshall by a deed dates 25 9ber 1692 and from thence conveyed to Thomas Durham and by the said Durham sold to Thomas Dodson Sr. The other 30 acres was formerly sold by Thomas Dusin to Thomas Southern by deed dated 21 7ber 1687. Signed Thomas Dodson Sr. his mark T, Mary her mark M, Thomas Dodson Jr., Elizabeth her mark, wit Robert Reynolds and George Gibson and William Creel Rec April 1, 1734
Deed Book Page 25, May 4 1734 _ From Jane Lawson, John Steptoe Jr. and Joanna his wife of Christchurch parish in Lancaster Co. to Robert Mitchell of St. Mary’s Whiteside in Lancaster 18,000 pounds tobacco and 50# and divers other causes 450 acres in North Farnham Parish bounded on west by a branch of Moratico that divides this land from the land of John Mills, Thomas Durham on the north side, Abraham Goad on the NE, William King and Mr. Anthony Sydnor on the east side, Isaac White on the south. Land part of a patent granted to Thomas Madison dated 1770 (sic) by him sold to Capt. John Purvis and by Purvis to John Ockley and by Ockley given by will to said Jean Lawson. Signed by all.
Drunk at Church
Court Order Book Page 11, Nov. 7, 1721 – Ordered sheriff to summon Thomas Durham of North Farnham Parish to answer presentment of the grand jury against him for coming to his parish church drunk on the 29th day of October last past.
Apparently, Thomas Durham’s son, Thomas Jr., now age 31, was a bit rowdy or couldn’t hold his liquor, or both. Apparently now he’s attending church, but not sober. He obviously did not like to attend church. Perhaps his earlier escapades weren’t quite forgiven nor forgotten by parishioners.
We’ll leave Thomas’s life and times on this rather humorous note. Well, it’s humorous if you weren’t there and are looking back from a perspective of nearly 200 years. Perhaps Thomas felt that showing up drunk was better than not showing up at all, a fineable offense, as we already know. Or perhaps Thomas had a drinking problem. Drinking alcoholic beverages during that time was a daily affair, especially if the water was suspect in terms of cleanliness – but drunk on Sunday morning to the point that he was actually fined?
The Durham family seems determined to leave us with questions!
The Persistent Rumor about Governor Henry Thomas Durham
If you sign on to Ancestry or any other site and look at trees, you’ll find the persistent rumor that Thomas Durham is the son of Governor Henry Thomas Durham who had a son, Thomas, born about 1634.
Unfortunately, there is not one shred of evidence to connect the two. Several trees also have the Governor passing away in 1694 in North Farnham Parish in Richmond County. I can assuredly tell you that there are absolutely NO records to corroborate this information.
The one piece of evidence I did find was posted in 1999 on GenForum by Gene, as follows:
Sorry, guys, LDS records notwithstanding, Thomas DURHAM 1661/1715 of Richmond Co.VA married to Dorothy ??? is NOT the son of Gov. Henry DURHAM of Bermuda. I bought that story too, but couldn’t prove it was the same Thomas.
Finally, I wrote Bermuda Archives, and received an abstract of a lawsuit filed in Bermuda in 1734 that definitely proved that the Thomas who was born to Gov. Hunt lived and died in Bermuda where he had a son “Richard Durham of Sandys tribe marriner Eldest son and heir of Thomas Durham Late of the same Gent: dec’d, who was the son of Henry Durham, Esq.” The suit was in regard to property in Bermuda lately in the possession of Judith DURHAM, Henry’s wife. I would love to know also who the parents of our Thomas of Virginia were, but they weren’t Henry and Judith Hunt Durham of Bermuda. I will say there is an outside chance there could be a collateral relationship, since the father of Henry Durham of Bermuda also named Thomas had other sons, who also may have had a son named Thomas, and of course there was trading, etc. between Bermuda and Virginia during that time, of which scant records were kept. Gene in Gotha.
What Gene didn’t mention is that Thomas is a very common first name.
In case you’re having trouble with all the characters, I charted the relationships of Henry Durham, the Governor.
I think we can put the rumor of Thomas Durham of Richmond County being the son of Henry Durham, the Governor of Bermuda, to bed. Furthermore, a Governor’s son would not show up penniless and not own land until 8 years after he was beyond “a great age,” according to court records.
I was unable to find any evidence in the Durham DNA project that any male Durham descendants of Thomas Durham had done the Y DNA testing. I was quite hopeful, because, needless to say, a match to a Durham from England would give us someplace to look for the origins of our Thomas.
The Y chromosome is passed from father to son, with no admixture from the mother, so Thomas’s two sons, would have passed their Durham Y chromosome to their sons and so forth to the current generation of Durham men descended from Thomas.
It appears that Thomas Durham’s son, John, died unmarried on September 23, 1722.
Son Thomas Durham, Jr., aside from the illegitimate children he had with Anne Kelly, whose genders are unknown, according to the North Farnham Parish records had several children, as follows, with Mary Smoot:
- Durham, John son of Thomas and Mary Durham, Dec. 14, 1724/5 (sic)
- Durham, Mary daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, May 14, 1728
- Durham, Susanna daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, May 14, 1728
- Durham, Margaret and Dominick Newgent, Dec. 2, 1729 (identity of Margaret who is marrying is entirely unknown)
- Durham, Wilmoth daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, May 21, 1730
- Durham, Kathrine daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, March 18, 1731
- Durham, Millicent daughter of Thomas and Mary Durham, Aug. 4, 1734
- Durham, Willmoth Oct. 2, 1734 (death)
- Durham, Thomas Dec. 3, 1734 (death)
Poor Mary – a new child born in August, a daughter dead two months later and her husband two months following that.
These births and deaths leave us with Thomas Durham Jr. having only one known son, John, born in 1724. John is reported to have married Sarah Hightower and had three sons, Joshua Durham (1748-1816), Charnel Hightower Durham (1753-1836) and Daniel Durham (1777-1868). The births of both Joshua and Charnel are recorded in the North Farnham Parish records, but Daniel is not. I’m hopeful that a male Durham descends from one of these lines and has tested or is willing to Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA. If that’s you, please let me know. I have a testing scholarship for you!!!
I have this nagging feeling that we are missing the first half of Thomas Durham Sr.’s adult life.
The first mention of the Durham surname is in 1686 with the birth of Thomas and Dorothy’s child, Mary. She may have been their first child born and she is the first recorded, but the records are known to be incomplete.
In 1699, we find Thomas exempted from taxes due to his great age, but his wife, Dorothy, in 1704 says she’s about 41 years of age, which would put her birth year at about 1663.
If Thomas was of “great age” in 1699, he would have been at least 50, if not 60 or older. In 1699, Dorothy would have been 37.
Furthermore, Thomas Durham owns no land at all until in 1700 when William Smoot deeds 62 acres to Dorothy, omitting him in the deed, and then in 1707, Mary Gilbert adds another 50 acres.
We know, based on Thomas’s will in 1711 he still owns two pieces of land, one of which is the 50 acre tract.
However, there are some rather unusual things about Thomas. He never, not once, sits on a jury. In Virginia, at that time, I believe you had to be a white landowner to do so. That would likely mean he was not eligible until 1707. Either he or his son were appointed constable in 1713, which means they were respected and trusted within the community.
In 1723, Thomas Durham Jr. sells 100 acres of land that belonged to his mother’s sister’s husband. However, there is no record of either Thomas Jr. or Thomas Sr. purchasing that land. Where Thomas Jr. obtained it is a mystery. If the 1692 notation in the deed refers to when Abraham Marshall sold the land to Thomas, it would have had to be Thomas Sr. because Thomas Jr. was still a child, born in 1690.
In other words, there seems to have been some transactions that were handled by family that were never recorded at the courthouse.
While we know quite a bit about the life of Thomas Durham from 1686 on, we know absolutely nothing about his life before that time. Was he perhaps an indentured servant, fulfilling his obligation before he could marry?
He certainly did not come to the Northern Neck with any money, because he did not purchase land until 21 years after his presence is the area is first known. He never owned slaves which was very common for plantation owners, although he did have at least two indentured servants – one of which gave him two grandchildren.
Thomas Durham Sr. remains, in very large part, a mystery.