Dearest Great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Mary,
I’d wager that you were born in Hanover County, Virginia given that Amelia County hadn’t been settled yet when you were born. In fact, there wasn’t much out there even a few years later, in 1751 when the Fry-Jefferson map was drawn. Most of the settlement was along the James and other major rivers. Amelia was the hinterlands!
You were probably a late teen or even in your early 20s when your family lumbered along in the wagon, moving the homestead, all the family and probably several animals to what was then the frontier on the slow-flowing emerald green waters of the Sandy River in Amelia County.
You said goodbye to most everything that was familiar, but some of the neighbors and at least a few family members made that same journey to the new frontier.
That must have been some trip!
Bang – crash! Another hole in the trail, carved by the line of wagons moving westward. Another rut. Another broken wagon wheel.
What an adventure!
Your uncle, Matthew Rice, had purchased land and probably lived in Amelia County since 1741, but your father, Joseph didn’t purchase land until 1746. Maybe he wanted to see how Matthew did living past the edge of civilization. Maybe Matthew’s letters back home talked about cheap land and opportunity.
Your father was last mentioned in a merchant’s account book in 1743 and again in 1744-45. It’s possible that you and James Moore were courting or married about this time.
Of course, it’s also possible that you met young James and were smitten after you both arrived in Amelia County.
Your family could have lived with your uncle Matthew for awhile until your Dad decided which land to purchase. Or, your family could have been “sizing up” the land for farmability by living there.
In any case, in 1746, your Dad, Joseph Rice, put down roots in Amelia County and he would never move again.
I think your first son, James, named after your husband of course, was born about 1746. It could have been a little later, but not a lot later based on the fact that in 1767, your son James was listed on the poll tax list with your husband. That means young James was at least 16 years of age. Sometimes the age was “misremembered” to avoid taxes for an extra year or two, so James could have been as old as 20 or 21 that year instead of 16. If James actually was 16, then he would have been born in 1750 or 1751.
Your next two oldest children, Lydia and William Moore were born about this time as well – probably before or right near 1750.
We know you had a child as late as 1767 and may have had two more children after that.
Based on these brackets, your birth year was probably about 1723, give or take a year or two in either direction. I’d say we’d be safe saying 1720-1725.
Given that “you” signed a deed relinquishing your dower right in property sold in 1778, but not in property sold in 1781 and later, you probably died about that time. Your youngest children wouldn’t have yet been adults.
I wonder what happened.
But more than anything, I wonder who you were.
Ironically, we know who your father was, but we don’t really know who you were.
In fact, you might just have been your sister.
You, of course, know the answer to this puzzle, but we’re quite confused.
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
Your father, Joseph Rice died in 1766 and wrote his will on December 14, a few days before Christmas in the winter of 1765. That must have been a terrible Christmas, knowing his death was imminent.
He clearly knew his days were numbered, because at that time, men didn’t write a will until they felt it was necessary. His will was probated on June 16, 1766, about 6 months later, so he was probably in declining health for the last several months of his 66 years on this earth.
In his will, he left 100 acres to your husband, James Moore, stating that James is his son-in-law.
Thank you Joseph! All’s well.
Your Dad then left land to your brothers, all 5 of them.
Still all good.
But then your Dad says a really confounding thing.
“To my well beloved daughter Mary Rice one feather bed and furniture and one cow and calf.”
What the heck?
Your name is NOT Mary Rice. At least not in 1766. The wife of James Moore, if named Mary, would be Mary Moore, not Rice.
So, is your name something else, and your sister, Mary Rice was unmarried in 1766? That’s certainly what Joseph Rice’s will strongly suggests.
Your Dad wrote this will 6 months before he died, so it’s not like he was literally on his death bed. He wasn’t.
There are NO records of you in Prince Edward County – not a single one. When you and James sold land, you never signed to release your dower right.
Furthermore, there is no record of you and James Moore selling the 100 acres that your father left James, nor the other 36 acres you and James owned.
If you had released your dower rights in the land James sold before your father’s will, and James’s wife’s name was Mary before your Dad died, then we’d have the answer to the question.
But we don’t.
Then why do we think your name was Mary Rice, or better stated, why have genealogists assigned Mary Rice as the wife of James Moore? The answer to that lies in Halifax County, Virginia.
By 1770, James Moore and some wife had moved to Halifax County where he proceeded to buy land. Lots of it.
In 1774, James sold land twice, and again in 1778 and Mary Moore, his wife, relinquished her dower rights. However, in 1781 when James sold land, there was no Mary, nor does she ever appear in records again.
The only wife’s name we have for James is Mary.
And of course Joseph Rice left one feather bed, furniture along with a cow and calf to daughter Mary Rice in 1766, not Mary Moore.
So, here’s the question.
We know for sure that James Moore’s wife was the daughter of Joseph Rice. There’s no doubt about that because I and some of your other descendants match descendants of your siblings and Joseph Rice states such in his will.
So, are you really Mary Rice and your father was having a senior moment when he wrote his will and didn’t refer to you by your married name? I don’t think so, because by leaving you property without your husband implies that he didn’t approve of your husband and that clearly was not the case because he left James Moore 100 acres of land.
Were you dead already by the time your father died? I don’t think that’s the case either because your father would have left the land to your children and a guardian would have been appointed for them as your heirs. That didn’t happen either.
So, you were apparently alive in December of 1765, and probably in June of 1766.
James Moore, along with your oldest son, James, was on the tax list in Prince Edward County in 1767 – so you had been married to James a minimum of 15 years by 1765.
Your family was in Halifax County by 1770.
But the question is, were you with them?
Were you still alive in 1774, 8 years later when Mary Moore signed as James Moore’s wife?
If you were, then maybe your father really was having a senior moment and your name really is Mary Rice Moore.
If you died, before 1774, was your death part of the reason that your heartbroken husband picked up and left Prince Edward County between 1767 and 1770?
If so, your death was between December of 1765 and 1774 instead of between 1778 and 1781 when Mary Moore disappears from the Halifax .
Which means, you might not be buried in Halifax County, but someplace in Prince Edward County – likely in the same location as your father. In a little cemetery on his land now long forgotten..
Did your husband have the very bad judgement to marry a second wife named Mary with the full intention of massively confusing your descendants some 250 years later?
Why didn’t you make James register those deeds when you two sold the land in Prince Edward County? Why didn’t you release your dower rights? You folks owned 3 separate parcels. That’s three chances I had to discover your name – but no!
And oh, another question too.
Why didn’t you and James name any children Joseph? Or Rachel? Or wasn’t Rachel your mother?
Or, did you have those children and they died? There are several unexplained multi-year gaps between your children that silently whisper of death.
You also didn’t name any of your children John, Charles or David after your brothers? You did name a daughter Mary and a son William, but then again, William Moore in Prince Edward County was probably your brother-in-law and if Mary wasn’t your name, then your named your daughter after your sister, Mary.
Is the Mary who was married to James Moore in Halifax County your sister, Mary Rice? Did James Moore marry your sister after both your father and then you died?
Am I way out on a limb here?
Why the heck were there no marriage documents filed? Oh, yea, that’s right, you were dissenters.
OK, since we can’t tell for sure who you are, aside from being Joseph Rice’s daughter, let’s at least look at where you and your family lived in Prince Edward County after it separated from Amelia.
That much we can do!
The Lay of the Land
Did you know that a century after you left this land that just a mile down the road, in what is now the Sailor’s Creek State Park, the decisive battle of the Civil War took place? Of course, the battle, more of a massacre actually, raged all over that area, including on your land.
I know that you and James Moore didn’t own slaves, and neither did your father – so you might have been pleased that your land was involved in the battle that swung the victory for the north, resulting in freeing the slaves.
Sadly, almost 8000 men died that April 6th, 1865 when half of Lee’s Army was either killed or captured. You can read more about that here, here and here. Were you watching from the great beyond that day?
I know you thought I never would, but I found your land using DeedMapper.
Let’s start with the land you and James Moore owned before your father died.
Look Mary, there it is, outlined in purple. It might not be positioned perfectly, but it’s close. You and James owned the upper part of the purple square which was originally Abraham Womack’s land. William Womack was your neighbor too.
Your Dad, Joseph Rice’s land is shown with the green arrow, and the village of Rice today, Rice’s Depot in the 1800s and Rice’s Station during the Civil War is located where the purple arrow points.
Right beside your Dad’s land is Samuel Goode’s land. Somehow Samuel descends from John Goode and Frances Mackerness. I think they might have been his grandparents. In any case, the Mackness first name in Virginia is tied to this family and the Rowlett family. John Rowlett born about 1705 in Henrico County is reported to have been married to Elizabeth Goode, although I have never seen any documentation for that and don’t know if it’s supposition based on the fact that John Rowlett named a son who was born in Prince Edward County, Mackness. John Rowlett’s father, William was married to Frances Worsham. Of course, those Henrico families all moved to the part of Amelia County that became Prince Edward.
Did I mention to you that our DNA strongly suggests that we are relate to the Womack family? Would you mind telling me how?
By the time these families arrived in Amelia County in the 1740s, they had been intermarrying for 4 or 5 generations. Lord help us ever straighten this out! Maybe you can assist.
Samuel Goode sold his land to Charles Rice, your brother, in 1761. Your son, Mackness Moore was born in 1765 or earlier. I know there’s a connection. There has to be. What is it?
Is this family somehow connected to your parents or your husband’s parents? How?
By the way, who were your husband’s parents?
Who was your mother?
And were you actually your sister?
I need answers, Mary!
I found your brother-in-law’s land too – or at least I think William Moore is your husband’s brother.
In 1752 William Craddock sold this 148 acre tract outlined in purple to William Moore who lived not far from your father (upper left) and adjacent your uncle, Matthew Rice whose land also abutted yours. Your own land is noted upper right with Womack. Everyone lived in close proximity and lent helping hands whenever necessary.
Not only that, another common bond was probably that you were all dissenters – meaning not members of the Anglican church. Your uncle David Rice’s son, the Reverend David Rice, was a Presbyterian minister known as the “Apostle of Kentucky” and your own father built a dissenting meeting house on his property in 1759.
By the time your father died in 1766 and you moved to Halifax County by 1770, your brother-in-law, William Moore, was getting up there in years. William’s son, William Jr. came of age in about 1762, according to the tax list, so William Sr. appears to be older than James Sr. In 1774, William Moore and his wife Margaret sold part of his land to Thomas Vaughan and by 1782, William disappeared from the tax lists. In 1784, he sold more land, except 13 acres. I’d say that William moved on or died about this time. You wouldn’t have heard about this in Halifax County until a letter could have arrived.
You and James must have been close to your brother-in-law William, because you named your eldest son James and your second son, William. Since William was older than James, this makes me wonder if their father’s name was also William.
The Old Neighborhood
The family names of those old patents and deeds on the map look so warmly familiar don’t they? There’s the Certain land and the Richee land too. They weren’t just names to you – you knew these people and were probably related to many.
The Spradling land is just east of the Certain land. These families moved to Halifax County when you and James Moore packed up and left. In Halifax County, James Moore bought his land from James Spradling and another James Spradling lived with you for 2 years in 1774 and 1775 before he enlisted to serve in the Revolutionary War. There’s surely a family connection someplace.
And look, the green arrows below approximate your father’s land. Of course, your Dad owned more than this. Eventually he bought the Atwood land above his original land too.
Here’s the approximate land on Google maps today.
I think, based on the Civil War map that the mill branch was just about where the red star is placed. Did you and James own a mill? Is that why you never sold the last 36 acres of that land?
Here’s the land you and James owned.
Looks pretty boring here, but if you look at the Civil War map, you can see the mill and the millpond.
You can even see the subtle roads from the mill going north and south. Those roads aren’t visible today, but the Mill Branch is mentioned in the 1760 deed where you sold 75 acres to Noel Waddill on Sailor’s Creek, part of the tract that you and James purchased from Abraham Womack, bounded by Ryan, Matthew Rice, and the Mill Branch.
Sailor’s Creek old road is mentioned too in the tax descriptions. In fact, the 1759 description says that your land is between Ligon’s Rolling Road, Sailor’s Creek Old Road, Sailor’s Creek and Sandy River.
James was clearing land in 1745 with the Ligon men who owned land on the south and west of your father. In fact, your Dad’s land abutted theirs.
It’s ironic that there are two cemeteries on your Dad’s land today. Of course, 100 acres of this 400 would become yours. We just don’t know which hundred.
One cemetery is located at the Pisgah Baptist Church and another on the west side of the property, on Highway 460, in green. That cemetery looks to be new, but I wonder about the history of the Pisgah Baptist Church Cemetery. Is that your original family cemetery where your Mom and Dad are buried? It looks too perfectly square, but you never know. I wonder where the dissenting meeting house was located that your Dad built in 1759. I’d wager the cemetery is someplace close to that.
Now that I think of it, if you died in Prince Edward County, you’re probably buried someplace on this land as well.
Your Dad left one fourth of this land to you and James, although we don’t really know which fourth other than it was not the eastern portion that William inherited.
Your brothers, John, William and Charles owned the other 300 acres and your mother lived there, probably with Charles, judging from the way the will is constructed. On the other hand, in 1767, John is listed as living with Rachel Rice – probably because he was underage but 16 or over, so taxable.
On the Civil War map, we can see several houses on your dad’s land.
I’d wager that your father’s house was at Rice’s Station, in the present-day village of Rice. That makes sense since he built a church here. A nice crossroads would have delivered travelers perhaps for a bit of a business. This was the main road at the time.
Did you and James live in one of those houses too? I’d bet that you did. We know your brother inherited the east part of the land, and your other brother’s land abutted yours. I’d almost bet that you had the north portion.
The Battle of Rice’s Station took place here the same morning as the infamous Battle of Saylor’s Creek.
This map shows the battlefield area, right where your family lived – exactly 100 years earlier.
A few years ago, I visited Rice, quite by accident actually. I remember at the time thinking that this was somehow significant. Too much to be happenstance. I didn’t really realize just how significant at the time, or that I was literally on Joseph Rice’s land.
I guess he summoned me home.
Actually it wasn’t just Joseph’s, but also yours and James’ land.
Let’s drive along the old Rolling Road headed north out of Rice.
This looks like it could well be the old Ligon Rolling Road referred to in the deed – in fact, the locals told me it was called the Rolling Road. I thought it was named that because of the rolling hills, but it was because these roads were used to roll tobacco hogsheads, or casks, to the docks for shipping downriver.
This very old building was being restored. The owners told me that it dated from before the Revolution. This is on the property that would either have been Joseph Rice’s or just north of his land.
Did you or a family member live here? You surely would have been familiar with this house and probably visited. Maybe another family member lived here, because it appears that the Rice and Moore families owned this entire region.
Looking across the fields.
This old building is or was at the Rice crossroads with Prince Edward Highway. It was pretty dilapidated years ago and appears to be gone today. It wouldn’t have existed in the 1700s, but I had to wonder about the history of this structure.
Unfortunately, Google Street View doesn’t include any of the roads in this area except for what is today Prince Edward Highway. Ironically, the road then would have been dirt and much smaller, but it too was probably the equivalent of a colonial highway – bring people into and out of Prince Edward County.
Today, Prince Edward Highway circumvents the sleepy village of Rice, which is probably the manifestation of Joseph Rice’s plantation.
Google maps shows Rice to be above the highway, but it isn’t. The center of Rice is the location of the old depot, near the Post Office today. At upper right, Saylor’s Creek Road reaches towards your old homestead. You and James would have traveled this road, now named Gully Tavern Road, many, many times to visit your parents and attend church on your father’s property. Of course, except when you were in “child bed.”
It’s about two and a half miles distant using today’s Gully Tavern Road, County Road 619.
Today Gully Tavern Road just looks like typical farm country.
Here’s the old split, with Saylor’s Creek Road, now Gully Tavern, to the right. You probably knew this well, as did your horses.
Did you marry at your father’s house, taking this road to your new home as a bride?
On down Sailor’s Creek Road, it looks like the old mill branch and pond would have been here, with the mill too of course, but nothing remains today. Was this where your house was located before you and James lived on your father’s land?
Looks like current Sunshine Lane might have been the old road, or near to it, with the mill pond below.
We know that by the time your father died, in 1766, you and James lived on his land because in his will, he said, “To my son-in-law James Moore 100 acres land whereon he now lives to be divided from the tract I live on by a line that was run by Robert Farguson to him and his heirs forever.”
Today, the road out of Rice, leading away from your father’s land, down Saylor Creek Road looks like this, punctuated by the ever-present Dollar General store.
The road to the left leads right onto the plantation from the east, but of course, that’s gone today.
Driving west across your Dad’s land.
Not widely cleared today.
The old road into Rice on the left. Of course, this “new road” we’re driving on didn’t exist then.
The old train track is now a hiking trail. It’s probably thanks to the railroad going through Rice that the name was preserved.
A typical Virginia byway. I wonder, was this more cleared when you lived here, or has this really never been entirely cleared?
The Exxon Station today marks the old road as well.
I guess you’ll have to think of this as our current livery stable for our gasoline horses.
To the west, there’s some cleared land peeking through, but it doesn’t look like this was very great farm land. It’s hilly, swampy and wooded. Maybe that’s why you chose to leave for Halifax County after your father died. I’d bet your Mom died shortly thereafter.
This must have been a very sad time for you, especially if you also buried children named Joseph and Rachel. Somehow, I’m guessing that you did.
Towards the western edge of your Dad’s land, today, we find the Trinity Memorial Gardens. Of course, when you lived on this land, there was a cemetery someplace too. Today, your family cemetery is lost to time.
You probably went back to the family cemetery one last time, visiting the graves of your parents and perhaps those of some of your babies as well, before leaving that final time for Halifax County. You would have been about 47 years old then.
There weren’t gravestones except for field stones, but you didn’t need stones with names. Who could ever forget where their parents are buried.
Once gone, you probably never went back. What today is a day trip in a car was a week’s journey, one way, for you, over badly rutted roads – if you can even call them that.
Nope, the ticket to Halifax County was one way.
By far, the largest portion of your life was spent in Prince Edward County. In fact, I wonder whatever possessed you to leave.
What happened after your father’s death?
Did you make it to Halifax County?
Did your husband marry your sister, Mary Rice?
Or are you Mary Rice?
If not, what was your first name?
If you made it to Halifax County, the landscape wouldn’t have looked a lot different, with the exception that the hills seem to be steeper and you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. It’s not too far until you begin to climb upward in the foothills. Some would consider these ridges the foothills.
This is your land in Halifax County, although it was probably much more wooded then, at least until James Moore and your sons cleared it.
As you can see, it’s very hilly. In fact, a place on the main road just northwest of your land is called “Top of the World” because you can see straight to the Peaks of Otter some 50 miles away.
Those mountains in the distance aren’t good farming area, so you wouldn’t have wanted to move that far west. Although several of your children would do just that.
They crossed those mountains to the next frontier of Tennessee. They too had a one-way ticket, but I don’t think any of them left until after you passed away. You didn’t have to wave goodbye to them as the horses strained to start the heavy wagon on it’s journey.
It seems that the Womack family once again preceded you to the ever westward-shifting frontier – this time in Halifax County. In fact, you and James bought land in Halifax County from James Spradling in 1770, but he had obtained the land patent from Isham Womack. Of course, both men were Prince Edward County neighbors.
It seems that a subset of the Amelia and Prince Edward families moved together – and kept moving together.
They probably all attended the dissenting church on Joseph Rice’s property. Maybe these are the neighbors who constructed the old Moore Meeting House where your son William would begin preaching in Halifax County before 1775.
Your son, the Reverend William Moore must have made you proud, because he became a Methodist minister, as did your son Rice Moore. Even your daughters were known as incredible exhorters in Hawkins County, Tennessee.
I wonder if the process of changing dissenting religions, probably Presbyterian in Prince Edward County to Methodist in Halifax was smooth or fraught with heartache. Could this be part of the reason why your family along with a few others moved away?
I sure wish I had answers Mary.
I am going to leave you here, in the peaceful Henderson Cemetery that almost no one knows about, located on your original land in Halifax County.
Of course, the Mary Moore buried here by James Moore in an unmarked grave might not be you. Or maybe it is.
Was your grave the first one dug in this cemetery as your family gathered ’round?
Are you the Mary Moore that was married to James Moore when he lived here?
Are you Mary Rice Moore?
Or are you really Mary Rice’s sister whose name we don’t know?
Mary Rice Moore’s Daughters
Whatever your actual name, I’m calling you Mary Rice.
That’s what all of the family trees say, and it’s entirely possible that Mary Rice indeed was married to James Moore as his only wife. It’s a given that James Moore’s first wife was Joseph Rice’s daughter. It’s also entirely possible that James just happened to marry a woman named Mary as his second wife.
Given that Joseph Rice could have told us the name of James Moore’s wife that was his daughter, the joke’s on us these 253 years later because all we can do now is to speculate. There’s no way to ever confirm either way, short of finding a long-lost letter or Bible. Regardless of what James Moore’s Rice wife’s first name was, she was a daughter of Joseph Rice – that’s much is for sure. So the older genealogy is intact either way.
Some people have wondered if Joseph Rice’s wife at his death, Rachel was his first or second wife, and that perhaps both of his wives named a daughter Mary. It sounds improbable, but it wouldn’t be the first time that two children had the same name from two different wives.
One way or another, for genealogy, it really doesn’t matter because James Moore’s wife’s parents were the same regardless of whether she was Mary Rice or her sister.
Mary Rice Moore’s Mitochondrial DNA
I’d love to be able to document the mitochondrial DNA line of James Moore’s wife, referred to as Mary Rice Moore.
Her mitochondrial DNA would have been passed through her daughters to the current generation, if any descendants matching that description exist.
- Lydia Moore, wife of Edward Henderson, is almost unquestionably a Moore and was born about 1762. Edward Henderson has a lifelong relationship with the Moore family and owns land which is sold to him by James and abuts both James and William Moore’s land. Edward and Lydia named a child Rice Henderson. Daughters were named:
- Sally (1796-1870) married William Shelton and had daughters Elizabeth Shelton (1822-1900), Frances Fuqua Shelton (1829-1901) and Jemima Ruth Shelton (1837-?)
- Peggy (c1786-1840) married Thomas Clark
- Oney (c1782-after 1860) married William Frederick Ferrell and had daughters Emilia Mildred Ferrell born in 1815, Margaret Ferrell born in 1820 and Susan Jane Ferrell born in 1822
- Mary (c1804-?) marred William Clark
- Sally (Sarah) Moore was born about 1767 and married Martin Stubblefield in October 1788 with James Rice as surety. This family migrated to Grainger Co., TN, naming their daughters:
- Nancy Stubblefield (1794-1836) married James Lebow
- Rebecca Stubblefield (1798-1862) married Abel Wilson
- Mary Stubblefield (1806-1888) married Henry Countz (Counts)
- Elizabeth Ann (1807-1885) married William Chaen (Chain) Jr.
- Mary Moore, probably born before 1769 was married to Richard Thompson in February 1789 by the Rev. William Moore with Edward Henderson as surety. The Richard Thompson family is found in Grainger Co. with the other Moore siblings. Their daughters were named:
- Mary Thompson
- Frances “Fanny” Thompson
If you descend from any of these women to the current generation through all females, I have a free DNA testing scholarship for you. The current generation can be male, because females contribute their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on.
Are you a direct maternal descendant of Mary Rice Moore, or whatever her name is? If so, your DNA may hold the key to the next breakthrough! I’d love to hear from you!
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