As a woman, I often wonder what will define my life when I’m gone. For our ancestors, it was often a woman’s husband and sometimes, her children. That’s pretty much it.
Of course, today, living on the “right side” of women’s lib which ushered in many opportunities for women, I am much more in control of my own life. I can make my own choices about important and not-so-important matters, without anyone’s agreement or blessing required. Key word is required.
I selected a career, purchased and sold property without my husband’s or father’s “permission” and gasp, I vote. My ancestors would probably be both ecstatic and horrified, depending on who they were and when and where they lived😊
Social media provides me with the opportunity to share choices and record my daily life as I type into the ether.
For better or worse, someday my descendants may be mining Facebook to see what great-grandma was doing on July 4th, a hundred years in the past. They’re going to be awfully bored, but it’s the mundane day to day things that cumulatively weave together the threads of our life. Isn’t that really what we long to know about our ancestors?
I want to know that my great-great-grandmother picked green beans and snapped them sitting under the shade of an old oak tree in a heat wave that was “hotter than Hades, like never before” with her 3 sisters while their small children playing in the creek nearby under their watchful eyes.
There might not have been cameras, but I can paint a powerful mental picture.
My descendants, if I have any, will probably have a good laugh at the fashions, automobiles and old-fashioned technology of the time in which I live. I already cringe looking at the styles of the 60s and 70s.
See, you’re laughing already!
At some point far into the future, styles won’t just be old-fashioned, they will have no comprehension of life today. Our life will be entirely unfamiliar.
Picking 3 or 4 events at random from my life, I ask myself if those few items, with no additional information would truly be representative of who I am? Probably not, yet that’s what we find, if we’re lucky, about our ancestors.
The further back in time we search, generally the less we can discover about any ancestor, and women are more difficult than men – beginning with the fact that they change their surnames when they marry. Add to that the fact that they couldn’t vote so aren’t on voter lists, rarely lived outside the home of their father, husband or finally, their children and seldom if ever made purchases like land. Often they weren’t mentioned by name in wills.
Lucy Moore broke the rules. Not all of the rules of the colonial society in which she lived, but a great many. Probably out of necessity – but nonetheless – thankfully, it created records.
I like Lucy, a lot. She was spunky and I can’t help but wonder if that is indeed her legacy to me.
In the Beginning
Nothing about finding Lucy was easy – not even her name. It wasn’t recorded in any family records and was only revealed in deeds. Were it not for that, she would have slipped forever beneath the waves of anonymity.
I suspect, but don’t know, that Lucy is short for Lucinda.
I have calculated Lucy’s approximate birth year by using the birth dates of her children in combination with the tax lists.
I discovered her death date or at least the year quite by accident, after missing it the first time around. Thank goodness for these 52 Ancestors articles which force me to reread everything about each ancestor.
In 1782, William Moore and Lucy had 6 “white souls” in their household in Halifax County, VA, which tells us that they had 4 living children. We don’t know the actual birth dates of any of her children, but information provided in later census and other documents gives us a range or approximation.
If they were married a year before the first child was born, and a child was born every 2 years, their marriage occurred in approximately 1773.
Looking backwards, we know that Jane Moore who married in 1823 was born in 1797. Her sister, Rebecca married in 1825, so she was likely born before 1805. She could have been born about 1799. If that’s the case, then Lucy would have been having children from about 1774 to 1799, a span of 25 years. If Lucy’s first child was born about age 20, then the final child was born at 45.
Of course, children could have been born closer than every 2 years, and some children probably died.
We know that 4 were living in 1782 and 5 were living in 1785.
Therefore, if Lucy was age 45 in 1799, she was born approximately 1754. The census tells us that she was born between 1750-1760, so 1754 works. It’s possible that Lucy was a little older, but not much older because we know, based on the census, that Jane was born in 1797.
Where Was Lucy Born?
We don’t know where Lucy was born, but I can pretty well tell you where she wasn’t born.
Lucy lived her married life in what is today the Vernon Hill community, at the intersection of Oak Level Road and Mountain Road (Highway 360) in Halifax County, VA. Today, at this intersection, we look south and west over the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church and cemetery which was once the land owned by William and Lucy Moore.
Halifax County was formed in 1752 from Lunenburg County, and the area around Vernon Hills hadn’t yet been settled. Land grants for that area began to be obtained a decade later and it wasn’t until between 1765-1770 that that area was actually cleared and people began taking up residence there.
The families that inhabited this community didn’t move out from Banister Town, as the town of Halifax was called then, or South Boston but migrated from counties like Amelia and Prince Edward which were further north and east where the desirable available land was all taken.
An hour and a half drive today took 10 days in a wagon with no shocks, bumping and jarring all the way in 1765.
Halifax County was the new frontier, a land of opportunity, and the generation to which Lucy’s parents belonged hitched up the wagon, applied for a land patent, and moved. They built log cabins, some of which still stand today more than 250 years later. They cleared the land, backbreaking work, in order to sew small patches of tobacco.
Tobacco drained the land of nutrients in just a 3 or 4 years, creating “old fields” that had to lie fallow for roughly 20 years, so the need to keep clearing land was incessant.
Tobacco was a high-maintenance crop. On top of depleting the soil, it also required massive amounts of labor and sold for pennies.
Where Lucy lived, everyone worked in the fields and everyone was poor. The larger plantations owned by wealthy settlers who also owned slaves were located along the Dan River, close to South Boston. Vernon Hill was 15+ miles away, a day’s ride and there was no reason to go there. Roads were mud pits and South Boston or Banister Town existed in another far-away world. It’s entirely possible that Lucy never once made the trip to town.
Lucy would have moved to the Vernon Hill or Oak Level area with her parents probably sometime between 1765 and 1772/1774 when she married William Moore. Most of the families who bought land in that region were neighbors from Prince Edward County, so there’s a good possibility that she might have known William before arriving in Halifax County.
Many of the people were also dissenting families. The Rice family is recorded in 1759 in Price Edward as building a meeting house for a dissenting religion. Mary Rice married James Moore, the parents of William Moore, Lucy’s eventual husband. William himself was a dissenting Methodist minister, at least in the beginning.
Dissenting was a binding cause among like-minded families.
If Lucy began having children about 1774, give or take a year or so, she likely married between 1772 and 1774, age 18-20.
William Moore had been living in Halifax County since about 1770, so it’s likely that Lucy’s family was a Halifax County family as well.
There was no marriage return filed with the clerk, perhaps because as “dissenters,” they were not an Anglican church-attending family or possibly because some of the records were destroyed during the Revolutionary War. It’s also feasible that during the War, people just didn’t bother to file those marriage returns because it was a long ride to the courthouse, the filing wasn’t free and who knew what the outcome of the war might be.
Now, we’re left to try to fill in the pieces of information that our ancestors knew quite well.
At that time, all property-owning men were required to donate one day per year for road maintenance. Keep in mind that at the time bridges didn’t exist and wagons regularly got mired axle deep in ruts and mud.
The first road hand list in the 1782 court records includes the Moore men and shows us who the neighbors are:
John Pankey surveyor from Walton’s Mill path to county line, tithes John Sloane?, James Ferguson, Hugh Ferguson, Thomas Jeffress, Lewis Halay, Benjamin Halay, Daniel Trammell, Thomas Trammell, Richard Lamkin, Richard Thompson, William Yates, Jesse Spradling, Isaac Farguson, John Farguson, Nimrod Farguson, Charles Spradling, Mack (Mackness) Moore, Rich Moore, William Moore, Thomas Williamson Jr. and Sr., Edward Henderson, William Pankey, Nathan Sullins, John Mullins, Wiliam Ashlock, James Moore, Bartholowmew Harris, Benjamin Edwards, William Edwards, Thomas Dodson Jr. and Sr., George Dodson, Robert, Mathis, John Tolles, Martin Palmer, William Walton.
The county line would have been Pittsylvania County which was roughly 5 miles west on Mountain Road
Was Lucy’s family among these road hands?
The most likely candidates for William Moore’s wife were the neighbors, of course. Those are the young ladies that William would have seen most often – at church, perhaps at school if there was one, in the neighborhood and at entertainment events like corn shuckings. Of course, that’s assuming they grew corn in Halifax county. I know they grew literally tons of tobacco and tobacco picking was not a mixed-gender social event.
Of course, the fly in this ointment might be that William began preaching before 1775, which means that he might have met Lucy in a different church someplace on his circuit outside of this immediate community.
However, if Lucy was from one of the local families, the following families, in alphabetical order, were involved with the Moore family by living adjacent or witnessing documents during that time-frame.
Dodson – The Dodson family was in Halifax County before 1774 when James Moore sold Thomas Dodson land bounded by James Spradling and James Henry. I have proven Dodson ancestors, so I could DNA match through those folks. If Lucy was a Dodson, this could be nearly unsolvable using DNA, especially so far back in time.
However, if I have overlapping DNA matches between known Dodson segments and segments that descend from the Moore line, that could be a clue using DNAPainter.
Ferguson – The Ferguson/Farguson family also hails from Prince Edward and Amelia County and witnessed deeds in Halifax County for the Moores for years beginning with Joseph Ferguson in 1773 when James Moore sold land to Thomas Ward.
I do DNA match several descendants of the Ferguson line although not all through Halifax County. I suspect that my Combs family was intermarried with the Fergusons in Amelia County. If Lucy was a Ferguson/Farguson, this too could be complex.
Henderson – The Henderson family is intermarried with the Moores. James Moore’s daughter, Lydia, is all but certain to be the wife of Edward Henderson who was from Prince Edward County and owned land adjacent to James Moore. In 1786, James Moore sells land to Edward Henderson bounded by the “old fields,” James Henry, William Moore, Nathan Sullings and was witnessed by Mackness and William Moore along with John Poindexter.
I do DNA match members of the Henderson family, but some of Edward Henderson’s children intermarried with descendants of Marcus Younger through the Clark family. How I match the Henderson line descendants would be critical information, meaning through those Henderson children who married Clarks or other Hendersons.
Henry – In 1776, James Henry is listed in a deed as “of Accomack County” when he sold land to James Spradling which bounds James Moore’s plantation. The Henry family shares lines with the Moore family in 1774 and family members, including women, witness deeds over the years, including 1778. In 1780, James Henry is listed “of King and Queen County” when he sells additional land to James Moore via his power-of-attorney William Ryburn. Henry family members may not have lived in Halifax County.
DNA matches do not suggest a connection with a Halifax County Henry family.
McDaniel – Henry McDaniel witnessed a deed in 1773 for James Moore’s sale to Thomas Ward along with James Thompson and Joseph Ferguson.
I do DNA match with descendants of Henry McDaniel.
Pankey – James Moore sells land to John Pankey in 1778 intersecting with Colonel Henry’s line, witnessed by Joseph Dodson, Charles Spradling, Edward Henderson and William Moore. In 1780 Moore sold Pankey additional land and in 1781 when the deed was witnessed by William Parker, Jonathan Colquitt and Charles Crenshaw. In 1784, James Henry of King and Queen County sold more land to James Moore against Pankey’s line and Nathan Sullins. Witnesses were John Poindexter, Howard Henderson and William Walter. The Pankeys were involved with the Moore clan for years, including a suit for slander in the 1800s.
Pankey is an unusual surname and I do have DNA matches from the Halifax line.
Slate – The Slate family has some type of relationship with the Moore family. They were in the area by 1770 when Samuel Slate witnessed the original deed for James Moore when he purchased his initial land from James Spradling and then again in 1774. William Slate counter-signed a debt document for William Moore in 1824, and two of William’s daughters married Slate men.
Given the Slate marriages, I expected to DNA match Slate descendants, but surprisingly, I don’t, at least not yet. Either these daughters had few children, their descendants haven’t tested or we don’t share DNA segments.
Spradling – The James Spradling family shared a property line with the James Moore family, witnessed deeds and a Spradling son lived with James Moore for 2 years before enlisting for the Revolutionary War. James Moore bought his original land from James Spradling in 1770 but Spradling patented the land in 1765. However, this patent was the exact same patent filed by Isham Womack in 1762, so a change of hands happened between 1762 and 1765. Spradling witnessed deeds in 1774 and conveyed land to James Moore again in 1778 and 1785.
There is one DNA match that descends from a Rachel Spradling born in 1730 and died in Halifax County. I would expect more if Lucy was a Spradling.
However, I have numerous matches to descendants of the Womack family that I can’t explain.
Stubblefield – The Stubblefield family also came from Prince Edward County. George Stubblefield witnessed the original James Moore land purchase in 1770. Sally, James Moore’s daughter married Martin Stubblefield in about 1787. This family may have been related before coming to Halifax County.
A Lemuel Moore which may have been James Moore’s son or grandson married Ann Stubblefield in Grainger Co., TN in 1804. The Stubblefield and Moore families migrated from Halifax to Grainger together.
I DNA match lots of people from this line, which I would expect with the multiple marriages into the Moore line and migration together on into Tennessee. However, if I don’t match through known Stubblefield marriages into the Moore family, the Stubblefield DNA matches may mean something more.
Thompson – The Thompson family was in the area by 1773 when James Thompson witnessed a deed for James Moore. In 1798, James Moore’s son, Mackness, married Sarah Thompson and his daughter Mary Moore married Richard Thompson, both in 1789.
I do DNA match some people with Thompson ancestors from Halifax County, but this is expected due to the known Moore-Thompson marriages. Ancestry trees suggest that James Thompson was married to an Elizabeth Rice, although her ancestry needs work and could be a different Rice line, not related to Mary Rice, James Moore’s wife.
Walton – Walton’s Mill path had to be someplace close because Walton deeds tell us that William and Spencer Walton owned land on the Second Fork of Birches Creek, the same waterway where the Moores lived. The Walton family was also from Prince Edward County and various members witnessed deeds for the Moore family for years including 1781. In 1781 Stephen Pankey sold land to William Walton which was bounded by Spencer Walton and the Henry line.
I have no DNA matches to the Walton line out of Halifax County.
Ward – James Moore sold land to Thomas Ward in 1774 which was noted as adjacent to Thomas Ward and James Henry. I do have one DNA match to a James Ward descendant from this time-frame in Halifax County, plus a few later Ward matches as well.
The Surname/DNA Exercise
I’m not sure how useful this exercise was or wasn’t. What I do know is that I could probably narrow or eliminate some of these surnames as possibilities if the tester descends from other known Moore family members or other ancestors such as Dodsons or Youngers.
My DNA matches to these people, of course, could be from an entirely different line. Unless the person has tested at a vendor where we can see segments, I have no way to determine how I match the individual. Vendors reporting both segments and trees are Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and third party site, GedMatch.
This intermarrying grapevine effect, of course, represents the problem of endogamy or less pronounced, what happens with a common migration path over a century or so. We just have no idea who married whom in the past, not to mention the ever-lurking NPE (non-parental event.).
We still don’t know who Lucy’s parents were, but we do know something about her life.
A Preacher’s Wife
Lucy was a preacher’s wife from very early in their marriage, if not for their entire marriage. I’m guessing that one of the reasons she married William was because of his religious zeal. He may have had a very charismatic personality as well.
Without TV or any outside influences like radio, the preacher was just about the only organized drama that existed in rural Virginia. Fire and brimstone was both exciting and impressive! People traveled for miles to watch preaching and to see their neighbors and catch up on the gossip of course.
Who got “saved” and went to the confessor’s bench? Who got baptized? Who wasn’t at church? Who was sick? Who was drunk on Saturday night? Tsk, tsk, tsk.
According to an article about William Moore, in 1805 he had been preaching “more than 30 years,” which means that if Lucy and William were married between 1772 and 1775, he preached nearly their entire marriage which spanned more than half a century, until his death in 1826.
Being married 50 years today is remarkable. Being married 50 years then was flat out incredible!
I wonder if William met Lucy at a church function.
We can surmise from William’s profession, aside from farming, because of the added burden that being a circuit-riding minister placed on Lucy that she was every bit as devoted to their religion of choice as was he. She too was a dissenter, so it’s a small leap of faith to surmise that her family was as well. Many dissenting families from Prince Edward County moved to Halifax and it’s unlikely that her father would have approved the marriage if their family hadn’t been of like minds.
When William was absent, which was probably quite often, especially in the early years, the farm work, the animals and the children all fell to Lucy. Not to mention that she had to be prepared to handle any emergency by herself.
This would make it even more important for her to have family members present in the community.
Lucy even managed through the Revolutionary War, part of which was fought in Halifax County. Without communications like we have today, she would never have known when the Red Coats might be arriving, or what they would do if they did.
Lucy also lived through the War of 1812. At least one of her sons, Azariah and a son-in-law, John R. Estes, both served in the War of 1812.
Lucy didn’t just marry William, she married the church. William was even absent on Christmas. The 1784 Methodist Christmas Conference was held in Baltimore, Maryland and William is recorded as having been in attendance. The ministers arrived and worked for 6 weeks in advance. That 300 mile trip would have taken roughly a month in each directly. Lucy was probably pregnant at the time. We know that between 1782 and 1785, William and Lucy had at least one child that lived. She would have had 5 children under the age of 10.
Lucy had to be incredibly self-sufficient to survive.
I wonder how many of her children were born while William was away.
Halifax County Records
I don’t know if the story is true or a tall tale, but when I was in Halifax County at the courthouse, I was told that the only reason the records were spared during the Revolutionary War when the British marched through was because the clerk or other official draped his Masonic apron over the record books.
This unmistakable message to other Masons would have spoken volumes that nothing else could have done. If this is indeed a true story, that apron is responsible for preserving the records of my ancestors.
Without deed and court records, we would never have known anything about Lucy.
Lucy in the Records
We first discover Lucy in the records in 1786 when she witnessed the sale of land from James Moore to Leonard Baker. William Moore and wife Lucy were witnesses, as was Mackness Moore, William’s brother. Lucy and James both sign with an X in this document, but neither are recorded as signing with an X in others. Go figure.
Maybe they could write, but it wasn’t something they did often, so was difficult. William, of course, being a minister, would have had occasion to write often.
In 1794, Lucy witnessed the sale of land from Edward Henderson to Isaac Barr. The deed says the land shared lines with William Moore and James Henry. William and James Moore were also witnesses. Edward Henderson’s wife, Lydia, is William Moore’s sister, so Lucy’s sister-in-law. There is no mention of signing with marks in this document.
In 1801, William Moore and wife, Lucy, sell 100 acres for 85 pounds to Arthur Slaton, which may actually be Slate, “except where the meeting house stands.” The meeting house is directly across the road from the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church today. Property lines were shared with Isaac Barry and “across the mountain.” Ritchie McGregor, John Farguson and Pheby Walton serve as witnesses.
Obviously, these deeds were signed in the neighborhood, probably by whoever was in the kitchen (or the church, or tavern) at the time, and transported later to the clerk’s office to be recorded. Of course, that’s assuming they were recorded at all.
Generations of deeds were sometimes passed from hand to hand.
Records in Halifax County do exist, but they are often incomplete. Tax lists are partial in many cases and they don’t exist at all for some years
The 1790, 1800 and 1810 census are all three missing, a devastating blow.
Significant gaps in marriage licenses recorded, especially around the Revolutionary War, suggest that records are missing.
Chain of property ownership is frustratingly incomplete. It’s clear that not all deeds were registered.
Property transferred by either commissioner or estate administrator or executor whose last name is not the same as the owner is almost impossible to track.
And worse yet, for me anyway, there were multiple Lucy Moores living in the same place at the same time. Lucy is not a common name, unlike William or James. How could I be this unlucky?
I discovered two Lucy Moores and thought I had them sorted out, but as I was writing Lucy’s story, I discovered a third Lucy which meant I had to reevaluate everything.
The second Lucy Moore was added in 1817 when Lucy Akin married James Moore, son of William and Lucy Moore.
These two Lucy’s shouldn’t be terribly difficult to tell apart.
Lucy, wife of William Moore would have been in her mid-60s by this time. Lucy Akin would have been a young woman.
However, the lives of these two Lucy’s were bound together by tragedy. Then a third Lucy was discovered in the resulting court records.
Lucy Moore’s most interesting years, in a very unexpected way, were just beginning.
Lucy’s most defining moments came in the 1820s when she was in her late 60s and 70s.
All I can say is that Lucy Moore was not a well-behaved woman, at least not by the standards of the time in which she lived! I must have inherited that from her!
Join me for the next article to find out what Lucy did!
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