We are certain that Charles Speake (spelled a variety of ways including Speak, Speaks, and more) is the father of the Nicholas Speak (or Speaks) who was born in 1782 in Maryland, married Sarah Faires in 1804 in Washington County, Virginia, and founded the Speaks Chapel Methodist Church in Lee County, Virginia around 1820.
However, the question is, “which Charles?”
We know about early and later chapters of Charles’ life. What’s missing is a positive identification.
It’s rare that we have an intermediate gap in a lineage. We know the identity of the Catholic immigrant, Thomas Speak (c 1634-1681), along with the next couple of generations. Thomas married Elizabeth Bowling and their son was Bowling Speak (1674-1755).
Bowling married Mary Benson, whose mother is unknown, and their son, known as Thomas (Speake) of Zachia, died within days of his father in 1755. Their wills were probated the same day, September 13th. Nothing confusing there, right?
Both men, thankfully, did write wills. I do have to wonder what took them both. Dysentery or typhoid would be my first guess. I wonder who else in their families died.
Thomas of Zachia’s will reads, in part:
Also I give and bequeath to my two sons Charles Beckworth Speake & Nicholas Speake all the remaining part of that tract of land called Speakes Enlargement & my remaining part of that tract called Mistake containing both together ninety acres to them & their heirs and assigns forever after the Decease of my wife Jane Speake to be equally divided between them by a line drawn from Jordan Swamp to the opposite line & my son Charles Beckworth Speake to have first choice;
There is and remains debate about whether the actual word is or should be Beckworth, Becworth, or Beckwith, but for this purpose, it doesn’t matter. Long-time researcher and Washington DC Family History Center manager for 25 years, Joyce Candland, truly researched the Maryland families to death, and she reports that while there are no Beckworth families living in Charles or surrounding counties in Maryland, there are several Beckwith families. I’m calling him Charles Beckworth for consistency and because that’s how it was transcribed into the will book by the clerk at the time.
Charles Beckworth Speake was born about 1731 or 1732 in Charles County, Maryland. His mother is unknown, but a betting person would say it’s a female Beckwith – just saying. His siblings were:
- Elizabeth (b c 1725)
- Edward (b c 1727)
- Thomas Bowling (b c 1729)
- John (b 1732 or 1733)
- Nicholas (b c 1734)
- Anne (b c 1736)
- Eleanor (b c 1738)
What’s particularly important here are the names of people NOT among Charles Beckworth Speak’s siblings – specifically Martin and Richard.
Twenty-three years later, Charles appears in Montgomery County, MD in 1778 where he signed an oath of fidelity along with Martin Speake and Richard Speake.
Those men would have been age 21 by 1778, so born before 1757. The men may well be the grandsons of Thomas of Zachia who died in 1755, or possibly descendants of other related Speak(e)(s) men in this part of Maryland.
The Charles on this list could have been and probably was Thomas of Zachia’s son, but Thomas didn’t have sons named Martin or Richard. Martin and Richard could potentially have been sons of Charles Beckworth. Charles Beckworth would have been about 46 years old by this time, give or take.
No Charles Speak by any spelling is found in Maryland again, not on the 1783 tax list nor is he found on the 1790 Maryland census. No estate either.
The recently published book, The Speak/e/s Family of Southern Maryland by the Speak/e/s Family Association, with John S. Morris, III, as editor, reports that a 1924 letter from A. Howard Speake (born 1867 in Maryland) to Charles Washington Speake (born in 1850, great-grandson of Thomas of Zachia), stated that, “In 1787, 6 or 7 of the Charles County Speakes moved to North and South Carolina.”
The western Carolinas were the frontier that had opened after the Revolutionary War. There wasn’t much settlement there as you can see on this 1770 map of Rowan County, except Fort Dobbs.
You can view photos of reconstructed Fort Dobbs and life on the frontier, here.
Of course, no settlers meant there was land and opportunity following the Revolutionary War, something that was in short supply in Maryland. Too many sons and not enough land encouraged migration to the frontier.
Next Stop – North Carolina
This is where it gets confusing.
In 1787, Charles Speak or Speaks, I’m not differentiating between the various spellings at this point, is found on a tax list in Rowan County, North Carolina.
The next year, Iredell County was formed from Rowan,
In the 1790 census, there is a Charles Speak living in both counties.
Pardon me while I facepalm.
That’s certainly possible given that we know that Thomas of Zachia had several sons. He also had a brother, William, whose descendants, if any, are unaccounted for.
Charles Beckworth Speake, born about 1731, could have had a son, also named Charles, born after 1752 who could have been in his 30s by 1790 and could well have been found on the census. While they may have been in different counties, they could have both lived very close to the county line.
I know there’s a lot of “could” in that paragraph, but what we do know is that there are two men named Charles among the Maryland Speake family members who migrated from Maryland. We also know that there was only one Charles Speak in 1787, so perhaps the younger man was either not yet there, not married, or living in another household.
The 1850 census of Lee County, Virginia confirms that Nicholas Speaks was indeed born in Maryland in 1781 or 1782.
Which of course means his father came from Maryland too.
Nicholas is tied to the Charles in North Carolina. But which Charles is which?
Speak Families of Rowan County, NC
Thomas Specks/Speeks is listed on the 1779 Rowan tax list. He then purchased land in 1782. In 1785 he applied for a patent on Brush Creek
On August 13, 1779, Richard Speaks entered a land grant on both sides of Bear Creek which included a small improvement, which was issued in May of 1789, when the land fell into Iredell County.
In 1784, Richard was paid for NC Revolutionary War military service.
Iredell County was formed in 1788 from Rowan.
On July 16, 1789, Charles Speaks obtained a license to marry Jane Connor. This man is Nicholas’s father.
Clearly, Charles’s first wife who would have been the mother of Nicholas Speaks had died sometime after his migration from Maryland to North Carolina. He wouldn’t have made that journey with small children and no wife.
In the 1790 census, Charles Speaks of Rowan County is shown with 1 male over 16, 4 males under 16 and 3 females, which included his wife. At most, one child would have been born to that marriage by this time, which means that there were at least 5 children born to his first wife. I’d wager several more were born and died or were perhaps already adults.
Four males under 16 suggests that the youngest son was born about 1780. If that is the youngest child in the family, and his first wife was his same age, then she would have been born no earlier than 1735. That’s possible. If those sons were the eldest, then their mother would have been born about 1754, which means this Charles could be a generation offset from Charles Beckworth Speake who was born in the early 1730s.
Charles is enumerated 6 houses away from Martin Speaks with 1, 3 and 3 in his family, who is, in turn, 22 houses from Richard Speaks with 2, 2 and 4.
Susan Sills, another long-time researcher, DAR Chapter Regent (among other positions,) and president emeritus of the Speaks Family Association, tracked Martin and feels he was born 1750-1755. He was still living in 1812.
In 1790, we also find an Ann Speaks with 2 males under 16 and 3 females, living beside one Asa Martin which may or may not be relevant given the first name of Martin Speak. Adam Speeks (sic) is 14 houses away with 1, 2 and 3. Is Ann the widow of Thomas who was on the 1779 tax list? Susan Sills feels that this Thomas is probably Thomas Bowling Speake, brother of Charles Beckworth Speake, given that they both disappear at the same time from Maryland. There is no proof one way or another.
By 1800, only Martin Speak is left in Rowan county, with 12 family members, including 3 older boys 16-25.
Speak Families in Iredell County
The 1790 census in Iredell County shows Charles Speaks with 1, 3, and 2 in his family. This man appears to be younger than the Charles in Rowan County, although that could be an errant assumption if some or all of the other Speaks men nearby are his adult sons or, perhaps, his other children died.
We do know, based on the number of children, that this Charles in Iredell in 1790 is not the Charles Speak who dies in 1794. What happened to the Charles in Iredell in 1790? Is the Charles in Iredell Charles Beckworth Speak, and the Charles in Rowan his son?
Also, in the same county in 1790 we find Luke (probably actually Lucky) Speaks with 1, 2, and 3, and Thomas Speaks with 1, 2, and 2.
On October 26, 1793, Charles purchased 200 acres of land on Hunting Creek in Iredell County from James Maiden, but that deed was not filed until 1795, after Charles’ death. Witnesses were Christopher Houston and Mary Hughes, and the deed was proven by Howard Barker.
Locating Hunting Creek in Iredell County was challenging. I found it above Iredell, but the portion within Iredell seems to intersect with the South Yadkin and is called the South Yadkin today. Regardless, it’s not far from the Wilkesboro area. The other Speaks men owned land nearby.
I found this lovely Iredell County map on WikiTree, here, with some of the early landowners mapped. You can see Hunting Creek meandering across the northeast corner of the county. A HUGE thank you to whatever anonymous person created this.
John Maiden, the man Charles purchased land from, is shown in the upper right corner living nearby other people that Charles interacted with, including Christopher Houston and Andrew Mitchell – so we know we have the right neighborhood.
Settlements at that time were located along rivers and streams for easy access to water.
This current map helps us locate both Long Branch and Hunting Creek, now the South Yadkin.
Even today, much of this land is still heavily wooded.
Today, Powell Bridge Road approaches and crosses the South Yadkin near where Charles Speaks lived.
The land along Hunting Creek appears to be flat and fertile – a perfect place to homestead.
In 1800, we find Thomas Speaks, with 1 male 26-44, 1 male under 10, 2 males 10-15, 2 males over 45, 1 female over 45, 2 females under 10, and 2 females 10-15.
We also find Luckey Speaks two houses away with 11 people in his household, including 5 sons and two women 26-44, the same age category he falls into. We know from land grants that Aaron Luckey Speeks applied for land on a branch of Hunting Creek in August of 1787, and later also obtained land on Brush Creek. Aaron Luckey died in 1825 when his wife, Lucretia petitioned the court to have her dower land set off.
Thomas and Aaron Luckey seem to be in the same age bracket and clearly live very close to each other, which suggests they may be brothers.
They may be the nephews of Charles Speak. It’s clear that they are somehow related.
Charles Speak died before August 26, 1794 when his estate was probated in Iredell County court and administration granted to his wife, Jane. This would be the same Jane who he married in 1789 in Rowan County. Charles was enumerated in Rowan County in 1790, but clearly, by 1794, he was living in Iredell. Based on his known children and their ages, he cannot be the Charles in Iredell in 1790.
Charles had probably died within 90 days of when his estate was probated, and quite unexpectedly, based on the fact that he had no will. On September 24th, his personal property was sold.
|Jean Speakes||1 woman’s saddle and bridle|
|Jean Speakes||1 quantity pewter|
|Jean Speakes||1 bed and furniture|
|Jean Speakes||3 beds|
|Jean Speakes||1 flare (flax?) Wheel|
|Jean Speakes||1 pot of hooks|
|Jean Speakes||1 Dutch oven and hooks|
|Jean Speakes||1 bay mare|
|Jean Speakes||1 pail|
|Jean Speakes||1 pair cotton cords|
|Jean Speakes||2 hogs|
|Jean Speakes||1 cradle|
|Jean Speakes||1 table|
|Jean Speakes||1 pig|
|Jean Speakes||1 ? brake|
|Susana Speaks||1 bed|
|Susana Speaks||1 flare wheel|
|Susana Speaks||1 coter ?|
|Susana Speaks||2 books|
|Claiborne Howard||2 plains|
|Claiborne Howard||Crooked links?|
|Claiborne Howard||2 ax|
|John Maiden||1 bare mattock|
|John Maiden||Quantity tobacco plough and shire|
|Will Gill||1 bay more|
|Larriner Maiden||1 handsaw, draw knife|
|Jeremiah Gaither||1 ? sole leather|
|Willl Howard||1 lath?|
|Robert Luckey||1 cow and heifers|
|Robert Luckey||1 ? edge and draw knife|
|Arch. Young||1 pair bowl ?|
|James Gibson||1 pail and churn|
|Solomon Hays||1 ? iron|
|John Harvey||1 quantity tobacco|
|Thomas Bill||1 jug|
|Francis Holing?||1 loom|
|James Holman||1 G stick 1 ?|
|Thomas Morgan||1 looking glass and stoole?|
|Thomas Bill Sr.||1 grindstone and cow|
|James McCord||3 lythes|
|Francis Barnard||1 loin and shote|
|Solomon Parker||1 shire|
|Halbert Hobart||1 flat wheel|
|James Lovelace||1 cow|
|Edward Jacobs||2 sheep|
|Will Anderson||2 ewe?|
|John Hudson||2 ewe|
|James Maiden||1 colt|
|Will Partrick||1 sheep|
|Katy Holman||2 sholtes|
|James McCord||1 bay hide|
|Jean Speaks||1 clock|
That cradle just tugs at my heart. Did Jean have a baby? She did purchase her cradle from his estate, given that the husband legally owned everything.
This family wasn’t poor. There were 5 beds, a looking glass, and a clock.
I find it very interesting that a man named Robert Luckey is purchasing, and we have a mystery person by the name of Luckey Speak, also written on his land grant as Aaron Luckey Speak. This leads me to think that some Speaks man was married to a Luckey woman, pardon the pun.😊
A land grant in 1778 to Robert Luckey shows his land on the “waters of Hunting and Bever Creek and Burr Creek” which also places him in the same proximity. I wonder if he came from Maryland.
The writing on the original estate sale document was difficult, at best, so if you can correct or figure out anything that I missed, please let me know.
Susanna Speak purchased immediately after the widow. Was Susannah a daughter that was of age, so not listed as an orphan two years later? If so, what happened to her? If not, who is she?
On November 16, 1794, the court ordered Burgess Gaither, Christ. Houston and William Young, Esq., to settle Charles’s estate. I would LOVE to see that estate settlement, but it’s not in the estate packet nor are settlements detailed in the court notes.
On March 14, 1795, Charles’ widow, Jane, purchased 5 acres on Hunting Creek from James Maiden including the house where she lives. Was the house that Charles built not built on his property? Or, somehow, did Jane wind up not living on his property? Normally, Charles property would have been managed by the children’s guardians and she would have remained living there as well – at least until the children were of age. We don’t know because there’s no record of the disposition of Charles’ land. Furthermore no guardian had been appointed for the children, which suggests she is filling that role.
More than a year later, in May of 1796, Richard Speaks was appointed guardian for Charles’ orphan sons Joseph, Thomas, Nicholas, John, and James Speaks. Charles’ only daughter mentioned, Elizabeth, was put under the guardianship of Elizabeth Speaks. We have no idea who Elizabeth was, but she could have been the widow of one of the other Speaks men who had arrived or died since 1790.
If any of these children were born to Charles’ second wife, Jane Conner, they weren’t living with her after May of 1796 – or – if there were additional children that were living with Jane or Jean, they weren’t mentioned in the estate, which is entirely possible.
Something must have happened to Jane, or in her life, to keep those children for more than a year, then for the court to assign guardianship.
Jane bought the few acres with her house, but what happened to the rest of Charles’ land?
Clearly, Jane was not doing well, because on November 2, 1799, she allowed Aaron Butler to have her property if he would support her forever. Neither Aaron nor Jane are found in the 1800 census. My heart aches for that woman.
Charles’ Estate Packet
Fortunately, we find Charles’s signature on promissory notes in his estate packet. I’ve never been so grateful for debts owned!
I sure would like to know what he purchased from Anthony Bitting.
This note is for carpentry services to William Howard in 1789, witnessed by Thomas Prather. Did Charles spruce up the house for his new bride when he remarried?
Another transaction in December of 1792 was to John Larkin Hodgson(?) for wool hats – 2 for boys and 1 woman’s, probably for his wife or perhaps his daughter. They were finished two months later, in the dead of winter when they would have been sorely needed. It snows in Iredell County. That brandy might have been to keep warm too!
This receipt submitted in May of 1796 for payment shows Charles’ wife paying taxes for 1793 and 1794. Does this mean that he died in 1793, or were taxes simply paid the following year?
One promissory note in August of 1793 for a yard of linen and something else was submitted by William Taylor to Charles’ estate for payment. It appears that this might be a merchant account.
Another note is for blacksmith work at “sundry times” and mending a “riffle,” or is that roofe, in 1792. Looks like he may have traded a cow at one point for payment of part of the account. It also appears that he might have been building a cabin, given that it looks like there is a reference to logs. That would make sense given his land grant in 1793 on Hunting Creek.
Two more payments are to James Maiden and Isaac Holeman for bushels of corn.
Another is paid to James Gaither from the estate, but the receipt doesn’t say what it’s for.
Another to Elias Lovelace (constable) for what appears to be stud service for a horse?
A bill submitted to his estate for payment in 1795 was dated October 26, 1793 from Charles Speak to Andrew Mitchell for making one pair of leather breeches. We know Charles was still living at that time. We also know the leather breeches weren’t in the estate sale.
Andrew Mitchell is shown on the Iredell County early settler map, also along Hunting Creek.
There are other payments to or from William Taylor and James McCord, but no note is included in the packet. This could be from the estate sale.
We don’t know who Richard Speaks was, but it’s clear that he was a relative of some sort, and it’s tempting to presume he’s Charles’ brother. However, there are problems with that assumption.
To begin with, if this Charles is Charles Beckworth, then he has no brother, Richard.
If we are a generation further down the tree, then indeed, this Charles could be the son of Charles Beckwith, and Richard could be his brother. Another possibility, of course, is that these men are uncle/nephew, or, that Richard is Charles’s oldest son.
We do know that Charles, Martin, and Richard all appear together in North Carolina, and that they all sign the Maryland oath before leaving.
In 1796, Richard sold his land on Bear Creek in Rowan County, along with another parcel in 1797, which gave his residence as Washington County, TN, which was essentially most of the eastern portion of Tennessee upon Tennessee’s formation.
Bear Creek is now in Davie County, formed in 1836 from Rowan, adjacent the eastern border with Iredell, and very near where Hunting Creek intersects with the South Yadkin, also near Beaverdam Branch. In 1791, Martin Speaks bought land on Beaverdam and in 1800, on the South Yadkin. This locates Richard, Martin and Aaron Luckey all together in this area.
This area is called Cooleemee Junction in Davie County, today.
While Google Maps calls this entire stream system the South Yadkin, other topo maps still call it Hunting Creek and Bear Creek.
Richard and Aaron Luckey probably lived within 1000 feet of each other, but it’s several miles up Hunting Creek from Cooleemee Junction to the area where James Maiden owned land.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that James Maiden didn’t own additional land further south in what is today Davie County that he sold to Charles Speak and his widow. However, I don’t think that happened, because we find the neighbors, including James Maiden, purchasing at Charles Speak’s estate sale – which pretty much tells me Charles lived several miles upstream of Richard on Hunting Creek. Of course, that new cabin could have been closer to Richard. There’s just no way of knowing today.
What we do know is that Richard moved on, to Washington County, TN, with Charles’ orphans in tow.
In 1804, we find Nicholas Speaks, then 22, marrying Sarah Faires in Washington Co., VA.
There is absolutely no further record of any of Nicholas’s siblings, nor of his guardian, Richard. It’s like they just disappeared off the face of the earth. Perhaps they did during a time of significant churn or their disappearance is due, in part, to record loss.
It’s worth noting that Charles’ son, Nicholas, named his children, in birth order as best I can group them:
- Sarah Jane
- Samuel Patton (Where did that middle name come from?)
- Jane V.
- James Alan
- Frances “Fanny” J.
The names bolded are the same names as Nicholas’s father and brothers. Only sister, Elizabeth is missing and there’s certainly room for a baby to have died.
And, ironically, there is no Richard, which certainly begs the question of how Nicholas was related to Richard, and what happened.
I’ve completed a grid that, I hope, helps sort these North Carolina relationships.
Ann seems to be Thomas’s widow. Adam is only found once and could be Thomas’s son. We know that Thomas Bowling Speak’s wife’s name was Ann from the Maryland records.
Richard, Charles, and Martin, in blue, are together in Montgomery County, MD, then arrive together in North Carolina.
There are two Charleses enumerated in 1790, one in both Rowen and Iredell County. The Charles in Rowan in 1790 and earlier seems to be the man who died in Iredell in 1794, which begs the question of what happened to the Charles enumerated in Iredell in 1790. Was he Charles Beckworth Speak?
The blue group and last three grouped together with a black border overlap.
Martin, Luke (Lucky) and Thomas are all three found in very close proximity, as is Richard, before he leaves.
I strongly suspect that Thomas who arrived in 1779 was Thomas Bowling Speak, and that he was accompanied by his brother Charles Beckworth Speak, which is why we have two Charles in 1790. One could be the son of Thomas Bowling Speak, or the son of Charles Beckworth Speak.
Who Was Charles, the Father of Nicholas?
I surely wish I had the answer to that question.
- Charles could be Charles Beckworth or Beckwith Speaks, son of Thomas of Zachia named in the 1755 will.
- Charles could be the son of Charles Beckworth or Beckwith Speaks.
- Charles could be the son of Thomas Bowling Speake who disappears from Maryland records after selling his land in 1766 and is likely the Thomas who appears in Rowan County in 1779.
Whoever Charles is, he seems to have left Maryland with both Martin and Richard – and all three men were of age in 1778.
Given that we don’t have a will for Charles Beckworth Speak, it’s possible that Richard was his eldest son, which is why he was appointed as the guardian of the younger children. If this is the case, then Richard would have been born in the 1750s and the youngest children, as late as 1780. For a guardian assigned in 1796, the children would all have been under 21, so born after 1775. That means that Charles would probably have had two wives before Jane Conner if he was having children from 1755-ish through 1780.
We have no indication of this, but it’s also possible that William Speak, son of Bowling Speak, brother to Thomas of Zachia might have had children and one of the Charles might have belonged to him or been his grandchild.
One thing we do know, positively, thanks to Y DNA is that Nicholas Speaks, Charles’s son, does indeed descend through the Bowling Speak line and not the John the InnKeeper line, both sons of Thomas the immigrant.
Given that Bowling only had two sons, Thomas of Zachia who died in 1755, and William whom we know nothing about, that limits the options.
Of Thomas’s sons, we believe that both Thomas Bowling Speak and Charles Beckworth Speak migrated to Rowan County in 1778, right as the Revolutionary War was ending.
Thomas of Zachia did have two other sons, Edward and Nicholas who stayed in Maryland, so the Charles who appears in Rowen County is less likely to be their son.
My bet is that Charles, the father of Nicholas and the other orphans is either:
- Charles Beckworth Speak himself, although I’m inclined to think that perhaps the Charles who disappears after the 1790 census may have been the elder Charles who settled in close proximity to his sons.
- Charles Beckworth Speak’s son by the same name. Probably the most likely option. This man might well be brothers with Martin and Richard found in Maryland. This would also explain the Richard who is appointed guardian of the orphan children in 1796.
- Charles, a son of Thomas Bowling Speak whose widow was Ann found on the 1790 census.
How might we proceed? The best bet would be to search the DNA matches from Nicholas’s descendants to find any matches with Beckworth or Beckwith families. Of course, multiple lines of descent are certainly possible, so caution would be in order. This would be especially useful if the tester has painted their segments and identified which ones descend through the Speaks line.
Of course, the lack of those matches wouldn’t prove a negative, but multiple matches within the Beckwith/Beckworth family to multiple people in Nicholas’s line, preferably triangulated matches, would be an incredible piece of evidence suggesting not only that Nicholas’s father is Charles Beckworth/Beckwith Speaks, but also might point the way to the correct Beckwith family.
Another possibility is to search the autosomal DNA matches of the Nicholas Speaks descendants to see if they have any matches with the Luckey family, either in Maryland or early in Rowan/Iredell County.
We don’t know who Charles Beckworth Speak married, nor do we know the surname of Thomas Bowling Speak’s wife, Ann.
Could I be lucky enough to find this information in Nicholas’s matches’ trees?
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