Durham DNA – 10 Things I Learned Despite No Y DNA Matches, 52 Ancestors #167

First and foremost, I want to thank my Durham cousin for stepping up and taking both the Y DNA and Family Finder tests to represent the Thomas Durham Sr. line of Richmond County, Virginia.

My cousin descends from Thomas Durham Jr., son of Thomas Durham Sr. and wife, Dorothy. Thomas Durham Sr.’s parents are unknown, which is part of why we needed a Durham male to take the Y DNA test.

What Might a Y DNA Test Tell Us?

A Y DNA test would tell us if our Durham line matches any other male Durham who had tested. In addition, if we were be lucky enough to find a match to a Durham who knew their ancestor’s location in the UK, where we presume our Durham family originated, we would have significant clues as to where to look for early records of our line.

What Did the Y DNA Test Tell Us?

The Y DNA test told us that our Durham cousin matches exactly no one, at any level, on his Y DNA test.

What, you might be asking? Is that even possible?

Yes, it is. I write the Personalized DNA Reports for customers, and I do still see people with absolutely no matches from time to time. When I drop their DNA results into a frequency chart and look at the percentage of people with their values in their haplogroup at each location, it’s usually immediately obvious why they have no matches. They have several mutations that are quite rare and those, cumulatively, keep them from matching others. In order to be considered at match, you must match other individuals at a minimum number of markers at each panel level, meaning 23, 15, 37, 67 and 111.

Now, this isn’t all bad news. It’s actually good news – because with rare markers, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to match a group of men by chance or just because your ancestor hundreds or thousands of years ago was very successfully prolific. I see some men in haplogroup R that have hundreds and thousands of matches, especially at 12 and 25 markers, so while no match is frustrating, it’s not a disaster because one day, our Durham line WILL have a match and it will be relevant.

The Durham Project

Being a curious skeptic, I visited the Durham DNA project and checked to be sure that my cousin’s DNA really didn’t match anyone, even distantly. I wanted to be sure that my cousins’ results weren’t “just one” marker difference in terms of allowable genetic distance to be considered a match.

Please note that you can click on any graphic to enlarge.

My Durham cousin’s haplogroup is I-M223.

There are no other people in the I-M223 Durham group. Checking my cousin’s markers, they are quite distant as well, so no Durham matches, even at a distance.

Now, here’s some good news.

Looking at the project’s Patriarch’s page, we can see which lines we don’t match.

We don’t match any of these lines, including the two that are from England. Two lines down, several to go.

Autosomal DNA

About this time, I began to have this nagging thought. What if my cousin’s Durham line isn’t really the right Durham line? What if the genealogy was wrong? What if the genealogy was right, but there was an adoption someplace in the 9 generations between Thomas Durham Sr. and my cousin? Those “what-ifs” will kill you, being a genetic genealogist.

So, I decided to see if my cousin’s autosomal results matched any of those known to be descended from the Durham-Dodson line. Thomas Durham Sr.’s daughter, Mary Durham, married Thomas Dodson. This line was prolific, having many children, so surely, if my Durham cousin descends from Thomas Durham’s son, Thomas Jr., some of the Dodson/Durham descendants from Thomas Durham Sr.’s other child, Mary, will match him, hopefully on a common segment.

Perusing my Durham cousin’s Family Finder DNA matches, and searching by Dodson, I found 27 matches.

I checked the Ancestry Surnames of those matches, and yes, 5 included both Dodson and Durham.

Checking pedigree charts, I verified that indeed, these people descended from the same Dodson/Durham lineage.

Thankfully, 4 of 5 matches had pedigree charts uploaded.

I selected those 5 people and viewed their results in a chromosome browser, compared to my Durham cousin.

As you can see, there are two sets of results where more than one person matches my Durham cousin on the same segment.

On chromosome 9, the green and orange person match the Durham cousin on segments of 12.36 cM

On chromosome 21, the pink and yellow person match my Durham cousin with a segment of 8.83 cM.

Now, as we know, just because two people match someone on the same segment does NOT automatically means that they match each other. They could be matching you on different sides of your DNA – one on your mother’s side and one on your father’s side

Next, I utilized the matrix tool to see if these individuals also match each other.

This matrix shows exactly what we would expect.

The bottom person, Gwen, matches the Durham cousin on chromosome 1 and doesn’t match any of the other cousins on that segment. The matrix tells us that Gwen doesn’t match either of these other two cousins either.

The matrix tells us that both kits managed by Ted match each other. This could be one person who uploaded two kits, but the photos are different. These two kits are the chromosome 9 match.

Then, the matrix tells us that Odis and Diana match each other, and sure enough, those are our chromosome 21 matches.

While this alone does not prove triangulation, because we can’t confirm that indeed, Gwen and Odis do match each other on this segment, at least not without asking them, my experience suggests that it would be a rare occasion indeed if this was not a triangulated match – indicating a common ancestor.

Triangulated matches minimally require:

  • Three people or more who are not close relatives
  • All matching each other on a common reasonably sized segment
  • Common ancestors

We Can Do More

We aren’t done yet. Next we can look to see which of these matches might ALSO match someone else in common with our Durham cousin.

Take each match, one at a time, and do an In Common With (ICW) search with them. You can read about the various options for in common with searching in the article, Increasing “In Common With” (ICW) Functionality at Family Tree DNA.

First, I just searched in common with the Durham surname, and none of these folks matched anyone else on the Durham surname match list.

To do this, search for Durham, select a match, then click on ICW, leaving Durham in the search box.

Second, I searched by selecting the match by checking the little checkbox by their name, but removed Durham from the search box so that I could see if my Durham cousin matched this person in common with anyone else on his match list, regardless of their ancestral surname.

As you would expect, many of the people returned on the ICW match list don’t have ancestral surnames listed.

When you have a few people to compare, the chromosome browser is wonderful, but for a lot of comparisons, there’s an easier way.

If I were my Durham cousin, I’d download my full list of matches with chromosome segments and see who matches me on those Durham/Dodson segments on chromosomes 9 and 21.  I would then look to see if they have pedigree charts uploaded, or contact them asking about genealogy.

You can download all of your match results at the top of your chromosome browser by clicking “download all matches.”

This enables you to sort the resulting spreadsheet by segment number and chromosome. You can read more about that in the article, Concepts – Sorting Spreadsheets for Autosomal DNA.

Of course, that’s how genetic genealogy addicts are born. You’re never really done.

What Did We Learn?

What did we learn, even though we had no Y matches, and are understandably disappointed.

  • We learned that the Durham Y DNA is quite rare.
  • We learned that the Y haplogroup is I-M223, found in the following locations, according to the SNP map tool at Family Tree DNA.

  • We can, if we wish, order additional SNP testing or the Big Y test to learn more about the ancestral origins of this line – even though we don’t have any STR matches today. We will very likely have Big Y matches because the Big Y test reaches further back in time, generally before the advent of surnames. Generally, the further down the SNP tree, the smaller the geographic range of where the SNP is found – because it’s closer in time.
  • We eliminated 18 different Durham groups, based on the Durham DNA project, that we now know aren’t our ancestors, including several in the US and some in Europe.
  • We confirmed that this Durham line is the Durham line that also married into the Dodson line- so the Durham Y DNA has not undergone an NPE or undocumented adoption between my cousin and our common ancestor. If there was an NPE or misattributed parentage in this line, then my Durham cousin would NOT match people from Thomas Durham’s daughter’s line – unless they all shared a different common line with my Durham cousin AND on the same segments.
  • We have confirmed some Durham DNA autosomal segments – passed all the way down from Thomas Durham to his descendants today.
  • We can tell our Durham/Dodson lineage cousins that certain segments of their Dodson DNA are actually Durham DNA. How cool is that?
  • Our Durham cousin now knows that those same segments are Durham DNA and not introduced in generations since by other lines.
  • Our Durham cousin can continue to identify the DNA of his various lineages by utilizing matching, trees, the matrix and the spreadsheet.
  • We’re not dead in the water in terms of Durham Y matches. We just have to be patient and wait.

Not All is Lost

I know it’s initially very discouraging to see that someone has no Y matches, but truly, all is not lost.

Not only is all not lost, we’ve learned a great deal. Y DNA testing in conjunction with autosomal is an extremely powerful tool.

Not to mention that our Durham cousin’s Y DNA results are now out their fishing, 24X7, 365 days per year, just waiting for that Durham man from some small village in the UK to test – and match. Yep, that’s my dream and I know, I just know, it will happen one day.

Thank you again, to my Durham cousin. When men Y DNA test, they not only serve their own interests, but those of others who descend from the same ancestral surname line.

James Lee Claxton/Clarkson (c1775-1815), Died at Fort Decatur, Alabama, 52 Ancestors #166

James Lee Claxton or Clarkson was born about 1775, but our first hint of him is found in Russell County, Virginia in the court records that begin in 1799.

The surname, Claxton, has become Clarkson in several subsequent generations – but even today, in Claiborne and Hancock Counties when people refer to this family who spells their last name Clarkson, it’s pronounced like Claxton or Claxon.

I’m transcribing the names as they are spelled in the records, but I’m referring to James as Claxton. His earliest records are found spelled that way, as are most of his DNA matches.

Russell County, VA

In the Russell Co., VA Court Minute Book 3, 1799-1808:

February 25, 1800, Page 47 – James Claxton, Surveyor of the road in place of James LeMarr and that John Tate furnish a list of tithables.

June 13, 1800, Page 62 – John Tate assigned to furnished Thomas Johnson and James Claxton, surveyors of the road with a list of tithables.

August 26, 1800, Page 80 – Commonwealth vs James Claxton, dismissed.

I’d love to know what that was about.to

February 24, 1801, Page 109 – William Tate, Jr. be surveyor of the road in place of James Claxton and that Thomas Johnson furnish him a list of tithables

March 24, 1801, Page 118 – Commonwealth vs James Claxton, dismissed.

Again? Maybe this has something to do with why his position as surveyor of the road was assigned to William Tate.

February 23, 1802, Page 177 – Zachariah Fugate, Peter Counts, Richard Davis, James Claxton, to view a road from the forks of the road where it takes off Davises until it intersects the road the side of John’s cabins.

James couldn’t have been in too much trouble, since he is still given a position of responsibility.

June 22, 1802, Page 195 – Commonwealth vs Nathan Hobbs, presentment, Jury: Littleberry Robinson, Edward Monahon, Jacob Castle, Peter Starns, Thomas Stapleton, William Hall, John Williams, Robert Lawson, James Claxton, Henry Goodman, John Hall and Peter Alley, def found not guilty

The fact that James Claxton is on a jury list strongly suggests that he is a landowner, but no land records for James have ever been found in Russell County.

Tax lists exist for 1787-1800, 1802 and legislative petitions exist for 1785 and 1810. Some are only partial lists.

The first year that we find James Claxton mentioned is in 1800 in the lower district of Russell County. The upper district is missing.

This timetable is reasonable, because that’s about the time he married Sarah Cook, whose father, Joel Cook also lived in Russell County.

In 1801, we again find James in the lower district and Clayton, John and Joel Cook in the upper district.

In 1802, we find James Claxton in the Upper District of Russell County, along with Joel Clayton, George John Cook.  The tax list is in alpha order, so we don’t know the proximity to each other.

However, there were no other Claxtons by any spelling of the name. Where did James Lee Claxton come from, and why?

Don’t I wish I knew!

Not long after they are married, James Claxton and his bride, Sarah Cook, migrate south across the border of Virginia into Tennessee.

In Russell County, Sarah’s father lived near present day Honaker, Virginia. The wagon trip to Claiborne County would have taken between 6 and 11 days and covered about 110 miles. A 2 or 3 hour drive today, through the mountains, but then it would likely have meant that Sarah seldom, maybe never, saw her parents again.

James and Sarah weren’t the only people from Russell County moving south. The Riley family and likely other Cook family members as well accompanied them and are found as their neighbors in their new location on Powell River.

Claiborne County, Tennessee

Claiborne County at that time encompassed the current Claiborne and Hancock Counties. Hancock was split from Claiborne in the 1840s, so the entire time that James Lee Claxton lived there, it was Claiborne.

The northern part of the county, now Hancock County, where James lived, is quite mountainous and the mountain ranges form the border with Lee County, Virginia.

The Powell River, where James Lee Claxton settled snakes between those mountains, having cut its way through granite – undulating back and forth and back and forth. You can see those bends in the river, below.

The location below, with the red arrow, is Claxton’s Bend where James Lee Claxton lived.

We don’t know exactly when James moved to Claiborne County, but we do know that he is not found on Russell County, VA tax lists after 1800. His eldest son, Fairwick, reports that he was born in 1799 and that he was born in Virginia, so that too is a clue.

Mahala, the next oldest child born in 1803 claims that she too was born in Virginia.

We first find James in a Claiborne County record in 1805.

It would be safe to say they moved between 1803 and 1805, although birth locations gleaned from census records have been known to be wrong before.

Claiborne County, TN Court Notes

June 16, 1805 –  page146 – William Bales overseer of the road from Williamson Trent’s to the Bald Hill near Martin’s Creek intersecting the Virginia line – hands Nathan Morgan, William Morgan, Mark Morgan, Zacharish Stephens, James Claxton, William Allen, Charles Rite, George Spencer, Elijah Smith, Joseph Mourning, William Hatfield, Henry Smith, Jacob Smith, William Evans, John Allen, James Allen, John Riley and John Parrot.

Sept 1805 – page 164 – James Claxton appointed constable, took oaths and gave securities John Husk and Isaac Southern

Sept 1805 – Henry Fugate allowed the following hands to work on road on the North side of Wallen’s ridge in Charles Baker’s company:

  • Nathan Watson
  • David Watson
  • James Poe
  • James Hist or Hust
  • James Morgan
  • John Colter
  • Isac Armstrong?
  • John Jones
  • Thomas Jones
  • Elisha Jones
  • John Rash
  • Zach Stephenson
  • William Pice
  • Isaac Southern
  • Charles Baker
  • William Crosedale
  • William Parton
  • Shelton Parton
  • Drury Lawson
  • James Claxton
  • Goen Morgan
  • William Morgan
  • Obediah Martin’s hand
  • William Martin
  • Johnston Hanbleton
  • Gainford Grimes
  • William Rutherford
  • Jacob Smith
  • Elijah Smith
  • Henry Smith
  • Mark Foster
  • Aleander Richie
  • William Dohely?
  • Thomas Harrison
  • Isac Fauster

Road lists are wonderful resources, because they give you in essence a list of the neighbors who live along that road. Everyone was expected to help. Later, we’ll recognize John Riley as a close friend, swearing he had attended James’ wedding, and he’s on both of the above lists.

The Martins are the Martin’s who lived at Martin’s Branch, quite close to the Claxton’s on the Powell River.

Sept. 1806 – page 71 – John Ryla admin of estate of William Ryla decd and for that purpose entered into bond of $1500 for the lawful discharge of his duty – Isaac Southern and James Claxton securities.

Note, that’s really John Riley.

May 1808 –  page 184 – Deed from John Cage to Henley Fugate and John Riley 640 ac – witness James Claxton and William Bails

May 12, 1817 – page 342 – Sarah Claxton to administer the goods and chattels, rights and credits of James Claxton decd – bond Josiah Ramsey

Sarah Claxton be allowed $15 out of estate of James Claxton decd for her serviced rendered in the administration of estate.

August 11, 1817 – Sarah Claxton administrator of the estate of James Claxton decd returned inventory of personal estate – order of sale granted to sell personal estate of deceased.

Is that not sad? It’s bad enough that she lost her husband with a houseful of children, and now she has to lose everything else as well. Men were presumed to own everything and the widow was provided only one third of the value of the estate.

Unfortunately, there is no estate inventory in any of the surviving books.

Feb. 11, 1818 – page 41 – On motion William Graham and Mercurious Cook appointed commissioners to settle with Sarah Claxton administrator of James Claxton decd and make report to the next court.

The great irony is that this was exactly three years to the day after James’s death.

I had always wondered if Mercurious Cook was a relative of Sarah’s, but if he were, he would not have been appointed to settle with her on James’s estate.

James married in 1799, but he was dead by 1817, less than 18 years later. Early deaths always make me incredibly sad, because I know full well what that means to the widow and children.

How did James die? We’ll find out shortly.

Land

By 1810, James owned land in Claiborne County.

1810 – John Hall to James Claxton, 1810, book C-58 (looked up in later Hancock County book for description – 100 acres on the North side of Powell River, Hobbs line, granted in grant 2051 to John Hall from the state of Tn.) – this is the power of attorney to Walter Evans to sell his land entry “after it ripens into a grant” to James Claxton – dated October 29, 1810, registered April 1811

1811 – John Hall to James Claxton, 1811, D-94 for $10 – original states Dec. 4, 1811, John Hall of Sumner County and James Claxton of Claiborne, $300, 100 acres adjacent the land of Thomas Hobbs on the North side of the Powell river, bank of Powell river, up said river, land originally contained in grant 2051 granted to said Hall by the state of Tn. Oct 27 1811. Signed John Hall by Walter Evans his attorney.

By piecing deeds and surveys together over time, we know that the Claxton family all lived adjacent.

Fairwick Claxton, James’s son, was granted land in 1833 which abutted his brother Henry’s and his mother Sarah’s land.

The Claxton’s lived on the Powell River, at a place still known as Claxton’s bend.

We are quite fortunate for an 1834 deed that lists the children of James Claxton and Sarah.

1834 – Fairview Claxton to Sarah Claxton, 1834, Book O-233 for $70.00 – original reads March 27th, 1834, between Farwick Clarkson, Andrew Hurst and wife Mahala, John Plank and wife Elizabeth, Levi Parks and wife Susannah, John Collinsworth and wife Rebecca, Jacob Parks and wife Patsy, heirs at law of James Clarkson deceast of the one part and Sarah Clarkson widow of the aforesaid James Clarkson decd of the other part, all of Claiborne Co. Tn. In consideration of:

  • Farwick Clarkson, $70 (signs with a signature – but all of the rest make marks. Fairwick’s wife is not included for some reason.)
  • Andrew Hurst and wife Mahala – $70
  • John Plank and wife Elizabeth – $70 or 20 (Debra’s note marked through)
  • Levi Parks and wife Susannah – $70
  • John Collensworth and wife Rebecca – $20
  • Jacob Parks and wife Patsy “Polly” – $20

To Sarah Clarkson, widow aforesaid, 100 acres, Claiborne on the North side of Powell river where Sarah lives and land that was conveyed to James Clarkson from John Hall of Sumner Co. Tn. – beginning at Hobbs line, bank of Powell river. Witnessed by John Riley and Johiel Fugate. Registered Jan. 1, 1841

Yep, that’s James original land from 1810 and now Sarah owns it free and clear, in fee simple.

And again, we find John Riley involved with the family.

Visiting the Claxton Land

 In 2005, with the help of a local woman who was able to find the “ford” crossing the Powell River, I was able to visit the Clarkson land. Actually, this was rather happenstance, because I was actually looking for the McDowell Cemetery. What I didn’t realize at the time, is the wonderful vista it would provide of the adjacent lands on the Powell River.

It was also before the days of Google maps, and before my visit to the Clarkson/Claxton cemetery in which I was trapped in the cemetery with a cousin by a lovelorn bull. So, at the time I first visited and forded the Powell River, I didn’t know exactly where the Claxton land was, but I knew that is was nearby because of the hand-drawn surveyor’s map that so helpfully labeled Claxton’s bend.

The McDowell land is within sight of the Claxton land and because the McDowell land is high, appropriately known as “Slanting Misery,” even yet today, you can climb to the top of Misery Hill and view the surrounding lands. And trust me, having done it, not once, but twice, in the dead of summer, it’s very aptly named.

On the map above, the Claxton family cemetery, where I’m sure that Sarah is buried, along with her son Fairwick and many other family members is shown with the left red arrow.

The middle arrow is where I waded, yes, waded, across the Powell River and the right arrow is the location at the top of the hill on Slanting Misery where I climbed to survey the area.

Here’s a closeup on the Claxton Family Cemetery, now called the Cavin Cemetery, named after the current owners. It’s fenced and located in a field at the intersection of Owen Road and River Road, shown above. You can see the square fenced area.

Do you want to come along on my little River adventure?

Actually, I had to go twice, because I was unable to find the McDowell Cemetery the first time. I’ll spare you the story about the bull chasing us away the second time. It seems that every farmer in Hancock County has their own bull. In Indiana, where I grew up, farmers shared one bull – but he was always an extremely happy bull.

The first visit was much more serene, probably because I didn’t realize the level of bull-related danger, so come along.

To begin this chapter of our story, let’s look at the Powell River as seen from Cumberland Gap.

If you wonder why I love this country, one look at this picture and you don’t have to wonder anymore.

Deep breath.

The Powell River cuts a deep swath through the mountains in both Claiborne and Hancock County, Tennessee. This picture is looking east towards Hancock County from the summit and overlook at Cumberland Gap.

The Powell River is certainly not a small river, and it can vary from lazily running along to a raging torrent, depending on the water level and the rain.

It’s pretty daunting to look across this river and not to know how deep it is. However, the only other option was to attempt to drive, and I can swim a lot better than my Jeep.

And yes, for the record, I DO know how difficult it is to get yourself removed from being stuck offroad in Hancock County. Let’s not talk about that right now. I’m still embarrassed.

This is a really bad photo of me screwing up my courage and wading the river. I was half way across when I realized my partner in crime, or supposed partner in wading, was still standing on the riverbank. Her excuse was that she was going to take my picture. I really think she was waiting to see if I was going to have to swim for shore. For the record, it wasn’t deeper than about 3 feet which is why we had to look for the “ford” which is notoriously shallow. The locals told me that the alternative was a 25-mile drive – through the mountains, on two track roads. I’ll wade, thank you.

If you’re wondering what I had in the bag, it was a camera and notes about how previous searchers found the cemetery years before, with a hand drawn map. It didn’t help.

It started out with “cross the river.”

So far, so good.

Then “follow the road…”

What road? Where?

…to the well.”

What well?

“…near the barn.”

Ok, I should be able to see something as big as a barn.

What barn? Where?

You get the idea.

Standing in the middle of the river, looking towards McDowell Shoals. The local folks said there used to be a swinging rope bridge across the river above that island, until it got washed away in a flood. Now THAT made me feel a LOT better. They said it was some hellatious flood.

I don’t know which flood swept this bridge away, but the floods in the region are legendary. The rivers drain the mountains and then empty into each other.

This photo is of the 1977 flood in Sneedville, the county seat of Hancock County where the Clinch River did a great deal of damage. The Powell River empties into the Clinch. Sneedville saw about 15 feet of water and the river was about 33 feet above normal and believed to have been about 10 feet higher than in the previous all time high recorded in 1826.

Here’s a picture of the Powell River somewhat upstream, near the Cumberland Gap, during the 1977 flood. It would have been worse downstream.

So, maybe Slanting Misery wasn’t so miserable after all and provided a safe retreat in a flood.

I do wonder how the Claxton land fared in the floods. It was quite a bit lower.

A report prepared by the US Department of the Interior after the 1977 flood, from which these flood photos were extracted, reported that the 1977 flood resulted from 3 days of rain that saturated the ground, followed by another 4 days of rain a couple days later that caused most of the water to reach the streams as surface runoff. The second rain event dumped more than 15 inches of water on the area.

The 1977 flood levels were the greatest since 1826 on the Powell River. The Claxtons would have been living on their land in 1826, although James.had already died, so Sarah and her children would have had to deal with whatever happened.

In any case, the Powell river can be quite powerful, especially when upstream creeks and rivers receive rainfall. Had I known that, I might have been watchful of the weather – but ignorance is bliss.

I climbed to the top of the hill on Slanting Misery and recorded the vista for posterity.  And am I ever glad that I did, because this is the land of not only the McDowell family, but the Claxtons and (not pictured) the Herrell’s, all of whom intermarried.

The land beyond the barn (yes, THAT barn) is the Claxton land, laying across the river that you can’t see, of course, because it’s in the “dip” between the trees. And yes, you CAN see the barn from on top of the hill, but not from the river level. They probably built the barn where it wasn’t subject to the annual spring floods.

This land is as beautiful as it is remote.

There is nothing like looking at the land of your ancestors to make your heart skip a beat.

Three families that lived here, the Claxtons, the McDowells and the Harrells would intermarry to create my grandmother, Ollie Bolton.

Five generations of ancestors lived on this land as neighbors. The blood of my kinfolk waters this land and has for more than 200 years.

James Claxton’s Death

I was invited to Alabama in July of 2006 to give a DNA presentation. I wasn’t too cracked up about that – Alabama in the dog days of summer – but I decided to go anyway. DNA evangelists, in those early days, took every opportunity to spread the word.

My one and only visit to Alabama would prove to be quite interesting, in a very unexpected way, having nothing to do with the speaking engagement.

I realized after I accepted that invitation that my ancestor, James Lee Clarxton, had died at Fort Decatur, Alabama on February 11, 1815, a casualty of the War of 1812, albeit through disease and not direct warfare. Still, he died in the line of duty, a place he would never have been if he were not serving his country, far from home, in the middle of winter, with little or no food.

More than two years later, on August 11, 1817, Sarah Cook Claxton, his wife, was appointed administrator of the estate of James and the estate was settled May 11, 1818.

I wonder if that means that Sarah wasn’t informed of his death until two and a half years later. Surely not, but why the delay in probating his estate? Typically estates were probated within 30 days – generally at the next court session. But not James’s.

In 1815, Sarah would have only been married for about 15 or 16 years. She and James had 8 children, although some of their birthdates are uncertain and conflict, unless there were twins.

  • Fairwick (or Fairwix) was born 1799/1800, died Feb 11, 1874 and married Agnes Muncy sometime around 1819.
  • Mahala was born in 1801, died in March 1892 and married Andrew Hurst.
  • Elizabeth was born about 1803, died in 1847 and married John Plank.
  • Mary Polly was born about 1803, died in 1887 and married Tandy Welch
  • Susannah was born about 1808, died in 1895 in Iowa and married Levi Parks.
  • Rebecca was born in 1808, died in 1880 in Union Co., TN and married John Collingsworth.
  • Martha Patsy was born in 1811, died in 1898 and married Jacob “Tennessee” Parks.
  • James born 1810/1815 in the 1840 census with a wife and 2 daughters, but by the time Sarah die in 1863, neither he nor his daughters are mentioned as heirs
  • Henry was born 1813/1815, died August 1838 and married Martha Patsy Gillus Walker.

Sarah, James’s widow, seemed to be quite independent. She never remarried, even though she had small children. She lived 48 years as a widow, not passing away until December 21, 1863, and did things that most women didn’t do during that timeframe. For example, she obtained not one, but multiple land grants.

In 1834, Sarah purchased 100 acres from the “heirs at law” of James Clarkson i.e. their children: Fairwix, Mahala, Elizabeth, Susanna, Rebecca, and Martha. Children Mary (Polly) and Henry are not mentioned in the deed. Henry probably was still living at home but Mary (Polly) had been married to Tandy Welch for fourteen years. Perhaps she received her inheritance when she married.

James’s Pension Record

Most of what is known about James Lee Clarkson/Claxton and his family is taken from the service and pension files of the National Archives. The pension file is voluminous, containing thirty-nine pages. It’s always a good day when you receive a thick envelope from the archives!

In the 1850’s, Congress passed several acts benefiting military survivors and widows. It was during that period that Sarah Clarkson applied for both his pension and bounty land. We know about his death because Sarah applied for both.

According to the Treasury Department letter dated Dec. 30, 1853, James Claxton enlisted on November 8, 1814 and died on February 11, 1815. His widow, Sarah, had received a half-pay pension of $4 per month under the Act of April 16, 1816.

Hancock Co, State of Tennessee – On this 8th day of March 1851 personally appeared before me a JP John Riley of Hancock Co., Tn. and John Taylor of Lee Co., Va. who being duly sworn according to law declare that Sarah Clarkson is the widow of James Clarkson decd who was a private in the company commanded by Capt. John Brockman in the 4th regiment of East Tennessee militia commanded by Col. Baylis – in the War with Great Britain declared by the United States of the 18th day of June 1812. That said Sarah Clarkson was married to James Clarkson decd in Russell Co. in the St. of Va on the 10th of October 1805 by one John Tate a JP in their presence, that the name of the said Sarah Clarkson before her marriage aforesaid was Sarah Cook, that her husband the said James Clarkson died at Fort Decature on the 20th of Feb. AD 1815 and that she is still a widow, and they swear that they are disinterested witnesses.   Signed by both John Riley and John Taylor and witnessed by AM Fletcher. Sworn before William T. Overton JP

John Riley again. A disinterested witness means that they don’t stand to benefit from the statement.

A second sworn statement is given below:

On March 8th, 1851 personally appeared before me Sarah Clarkson aged 76 years a resident of Hancock Co. Tn. who being duly sworn according to law declares that she is the widow of James Clarkson decd who was a private in the company commanded by Capt. Brock (number of regiment not recollected) regiment of E. Tennessee militia commanded by Colonel (too light to read) in the war with Great Britain declared June 18th, 1812. That her said husband was drafted at Knoxville Tn. on or about the 13th of November AD 1814 for the term of 6 months and continued in actual service as she is informed and believes in said War for the term of 3 months and 7 days and died at Fort Decatur or near there on or about the 20th of February 1815 as will appear on the muster rolls of his company on account of sickness. She further states that she was married to the said James Clarkson in Russell Co. VA on October 10th 1805 by one John Tate JP and that her name before her marriage was Sarah Cook and that her said husband died at Fort Decatur as aforesaid on the 20th of February AD 1815 and that she is still a widow. She makes this declaration for the purpose of obtaining the bounty land to which she may be entitled under the act passed September 25th, 1850. Witness Fairwick Clarkson (possibly others as the bottom of page is cut off) and she makes her mark.

James Lee Claxton’s death date is given variously as February 11 and February 20, by different sources.

In another statement, Sarah gave her marriage date to James Lee Claxton as October 10, 1799 which meshes better with the births of their children. By 1805, James and Sarah were living on the Powell River in what is now Hancock County, Tennessee, raising a family. Their oldest son, Fairwick (Fairwix, Farwick, Farwix), also my ancestor, was born in 1799 or 1800.

A third document tells us a little more about the circumstances of James death.

State of Tennessee, County of Hancock, on the 29th day of August in the year of our Lord 1853, personally appeared before me a JP within and for the county and state aforesaid. Foster Jones and Tandy Welch citizens of said state and county who being duly sworn according to law declare that they were personally acquainted with James Clarkson decd (sometimes called and written Claxton) who was a private in the company commanded by Capt. Brock in the 4th regiment as well as recollected of E. Tennessee militia commanded by Col. Bales in the War with Great Britain declared June 18 1812 and that the said James Clarkson (or Claxton) sickened and died before the expiration of the time for which he engaged to serve in the said war and he belonged to the said company and regiment to which we did and that we each of us have applied under the act of Sept. 28 1850 and obtained land warrants for our service in said war. Tandy Welch and Foster Jones both make their marks, AM Fletcher a witness and Stephen Thompson a witness.

Another statement indicates that both Tandy Welch and Foster Jones witnessed the death of James Claxton.

Tandy Welch, the man who was at James’ side when he died, five years later, on June 22, 1820, married James’ daughter, Mary.

On November 29, 1853, personally appeared before me Mrs. Sarah Clarkston, a resident of Hancock County aged 79 years…widow of James Clarkson…married about 1799…drew 5 years half pay in 1816…obtained 40 acres of land bounty dated Sept. 22, 1853 number 92928.

The War of 1812 is a rather neglected war, as they go. We don’t know a lot about where these men were on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. What follows is a little information about his regiment from The Regimental Histories of Tennessee Units During the War of 1812.

The 4th Regiment, along with Colonel William Johnson’s Third Regiment and Colonel Edwin Booth’s Fifth Regiment, defended the lower section of the Mississippi Territory, particularly the vicinity of Mobile. They protected the region from possible Indian incursions and any British invasion. These regiments were under the command of Major General William Carroll. They manned the various forts that were located throughout the territory: Fort Claiborne, Fort Decatur, and Fort Montgomery, for example. Sickness was rampant in this regiment and the desertion rate was high. The regiment mustered in at Knoxville and was dismissed at Mobile.

And then this from one of the soldiers, Thomas David, at Camp Montgomery who kept a diary:

I now volunteered again and under Capt Henry Lane subsequently attached to Gen McIntosh. [Jones’ Regiment] I think it was the latter part of October 1814 that we were mustered into service at Fort Hawkins, and went soon (well supplied) to Fort Decatur, on the Tallapoosa river. We built boats to carry provisions down the river. We started overland to Fort Claiborne [Louisiana]. We got there eight days before the boats arrived with the food, and there was none at the Fort. We had bad times, some suffered extremely, some died. Before our supplies came reports came that the British had taken Fort Bowyer at Mobile point, and an attack upon the town fort was expected. What were we to do?

Sarah initially had problems collecting James’ pension and bounty land due to the difference in the spelling of his last name, Clarkson, under which she applied, vs Claxton. I fully understand that, because I have issues with James’s records today for the same reason.

Sarah did collect a widow’s benefit of half pay, $3.85 a month, for five years, although exactly when is unclear. During the 1850’s she also received a land grant of forty acres. However, she filed a deposition in March of 1854, claiming she was entitled to 80 acres. The 40 acre grant was cancelled (a copy of the cancelled certificate is in the pension file) and the 80 acre grant approved. In the for-what-it’s-worth category, the scanned version of his pension file at Fold3 is significantly incomplete.  More than half is missing, so I’m glad I ordered it from the National Archives years ago.

Sarah’s monthly pension ceased when the Civil War began. After the war, her son, Fairwick, filed an oath of loyalty in order to apply for restoration as administrator of her estate since Sarah had died. He also vouched for Sarah’s loyalty and testified about Sarah’s “heirs to wit”. Sukey Parks, wife of Lewis Parks, is said to have moved to Iowa some 20 years ago, Farwix and Polly are residents of Hancock County, Patsy and Mahala are in Claiborne County, and Rebecca is listed as living in Union County. Rebecca is reported as “disloyal”, meaning Confederate, but that “cannot be proven from personal knowledge.”

We know from James’s records that he was buried at Fort Decatur, on a hill not far from the fort. He never came home.  I wonder if Tandy Welch and Foster Jones, two of the local men in his unit, bore the responsibility of telling her about his death after they were discharged later in 1815. The war of 1812 ended just a month after James died – on March 23, 1815.

I decided that since I was going to Alabama anyway that I’d like to go and find James’ grave at Fort Decatur and pay my respects to him where he is actually buried.

That sounded much easier than it was to prove to be.

First, I had to find Fort Decatur.

Finding James

I began by trying to find the location of Fort Decatur. After many frustrated attempts, I finally discovered that the Fort was not preserved, but neither was it destroyed. It was simply abandoned and allowed to decay.

In subsequent years, the site had been purchased with a significant piece of other property by Auburn University for their Experimental Agricultural Farm. So one can get to the fort, if one can find the fort, which is another matter altogether. But then again, I thought, how difficult can a fort be to find?

I would discover that the answer to that question is not what it appeared.

I was fortunate to locate two local men who knew the area well and were raised there. Unfortunately, neither was able to accompany me during my visit. I arrived on a Sunday morning in one of the most remote places I’ve ever been. I pulled into the parking lot of a very rural church to ask directions, and the children were actually frightened of me. They literally ran inside to hide. I was both confused and felt terrible.

Then I realized I was literally right down the road from where the Tuskeegee Sylphilis Study infamously took place. Some things cast a very long shadow.

The local people didn’t even know there WAS a fort. Actually, I think they thought I was crazy. And the Experimental Agricultural Farm was completely deserted.

Fortunately, my friend had sent me an old drawing of the fort made shortly after its construction. It is located between the railroad tracks, which were not there when the fort was built, obviously, and the bend in the river.

I would wager that James is buried on that hill behind the fort. The documentation said it was near the spring.

My friend also sent me a photograph of the monument at Fort Decatur.  It was placed there in 1931 by the Alabama Anthropological Society (which ceased to exist long ago).  The inscription on the plaque reads:

FORT DECATUR

1814

Built by the 3d U. S. Inf.

You can see that it is illegible, but illegible or not, monument itself should at least be visible as it’s pretty good size, and fenced – right?

Fort Decatur was built by a contingent of NC militiamen in 1812/1813 as a fortification in the War of 1812 when our country was fighting with the English.

The Indians were backing the British because the British told them that if they won, they would return all of their lands. The Creek Indians were a particular stronghold, and these forts along the Alabama Rivers, plus some in Mississippi and Louisiana and Northern Florida provided protection for the then sparse residents and also for locations from which to fight.

Fort Decatur was relatively small, as forts go, and was only a militia stronghold, not a hospital or supply fort. Many of the soldiers from Fort Decatur traveled between Fort Montgomery and Fort Claiborne in Louisiana. Other contingents built other now defunct forts at the convergence of the Coosa and Talapaloose rivers – Fort Williams and Fort Strothers, also nearby, a large supply fort. Davis’s journal said that his regiment was dispatched, on foot, to Fort Claiborne but they beat the supply boat by almost 2 weeks and had nothing to eat. Getting troops someplace was one thing. Feeding them was quite another.

The regiments that were at Fort Decatur were devastated by famine, starvation and associated diseases. They probably also had typhoid, given the descriptions of what was going on. One soldier said that they lost 50% of their men, which according to the roster, is accurate. Most of the deaths were due to disease and starvation, not fighting the Creeks. All of this was incredibly sad, especially when I think of my ancestor’s last days.

I hate to think his death was for naught, but given that the war ended a month later, and that he wasn’t killed defending his country, but died a miserable death instead – I do feel that his life was wasted in the sense that his death was premature and pointless. I have to wonder what prompted him to join.

Most of these men didn’t even have horses, as soldiers had to supply their own, and they marched from Knoxville to Alabama, on foot, in the winter. Those who survived were discharged in May and then walked home again. In addition to James, there was a drummer and a fifer, typically boys between 12 and 15, as only 16 and over were allowed to fight. One of those young boys was possibly the brother of James’s wife, Henry Cook – so Sarah lost her husband and possibly her little brother or a nephew as well.

Very interesting indeed, and a devastating chapter in a War whose soldiers probably didn’t even understand why they were fighting. They were “drafted” or volunteered in the militia because they had no other choice. Both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War were passionate wars with a purpose, regardless of your perspective. This one was just something that had to be done.

Ironically, the Fort was built across from a very large Indian village that spanned 4 miles on the bends of the river. In 1815, the Indians came to the fort to ask for peace. Eventually, they were removed to Oklahoma along with the Cherokees. Some left and joined the Seminole in Florida.

One of the reasons I was able to find information about the fort is because the Governor of Tennessee, John Sevier, also died at the fort just a couple of weeks before James Claxton. Sevier was buried outside the fort on a hillside. The fort itself was built on the top of an Indian mound. Some years later, a contingent of men returned to Fort Decatur and exhumed Sevier, bringing him back to Tennessee and reburying him in Nashville. The location of Sevier’s body was marked at the time with a marble marker. Other graves were either entirely unmarked, or with wooden crosses. Given that half the men were dead, the other half likely sick, most of the graves were probably unmarked.

During a stop in the Tennessee archives in Nashville on my way to Alabama, I was able to unearth a great deal of information about the trip to exhume Sevier, but nothing that would definitively locate the cemetery or burial location today. Some think Sevier may not have been buried with the rest of the men, but I bet he was.

On the map below, the fort is marked, along with Sevier’s gravesite. Reports of the cemetery said it was near a spring, which is shown on the original drawing.

The roads have changed from the time that the “old Federal Road’ ran alongside the original Fort. The map below shows the current configuration.

A current topo map insert is shown below as well. Armed with all of this information, how could I fail to find the fort? The men who had grown up locally played on and in the fort as a child.

I gave this personal version of a scavenger hunt my best effort.

I found Milstead, which was located right on Highway 40. I found the University of Auburn farms, and the 4 brick houses where I’d guess the students stay. Not a soul was anyplace on the land. I went behind the big yellow building to the brick house back there too, and saw the road going on back. I followed the road, thinking either I’d find someone to ask or I’d find the fort. The road (2 track) went back and then along the railroad for maybe 1/8th mile, then crossed over the railroad track. From the maps I had found, it looked like the fort was between the railroad and the river, and that it was where the river bent to the west leaving the tracks. I have a GPS unit in my car, and I was at that location, and there is a hill, but the kudzu was so thick that I couldn’t see anything. I followed that road on for a ways and it shortly turned towards the river and there were “no trespassing” signs, which I ignored (against my better judgment) and followed the road down to the river. I thought maybe I could see the fort from that road down by the river, but I couldn’t.

I took a photo, which I now can’t find, and I left before someone started shooting at me. The area looked like it was privately owned after crossing the railroad track. In retrospect, I think I probably went too far. With kudzu covering everything, and I mean literally everything, it was impossible to tell.

I returned home very disappointed. It was a relatively miserable and disheartening trip. I seldom fail at finding something – especially a something that large.

I don’t mind tramping through the woods in 100 degree heat to find an ancestor – but not finding something as large as a fort, being miserable and having driven for more than 900 miles for the privilege was hard to bear.

My cousin, Daryl, and I were planning to return the following year, but life interfered and we have been unable to return to find the fort.

Fortunately, an unlikely source, YouTube has come to my rescue. Someone took a video “tour” of Fort Decatur, so we can all enjoy the visit.

Apparently nothing, or not much, is left of the original fort itself, just the earthworks. In part, this explains why I was unable to find a “fort.” Knowing that James died there while watching this video was a very moving moment. I couldn’t be more grateful for this man’s kindhearted posting of this video.

Above is a clip from the video within the “fort” itself, and below, the ditch that surrounded the fort.

And look, there’s that marker in the video! It does still exist.  I guess this is the closest thing to a grave marker that James Lee Claxton will ever have.

I found the location on Google maps, but try as I might, I can’t see the marker or the remains of the fort. However, the bend in the River is distinctive and we know that the fort is located right beside the river, about where the T is in Tallapoosa.

The tiny village of Milstead is in the lower left corner.  The Auburn farm is the circle driveway and the farm to the left of the circle driveway.  I believe they own the area from 40 to the river.

The fort would have been located in the forested area below, between the hill and the river, and the gravesite wouldn’t have been far. Looking at this area today, compared with the map that shows John Sevier’s grave, it certainly looks like the gravesites were near the railroad.

Utilizing the various maps and hints, I think that the fort is right about where the tip of the red arrow is located, below. The green area below the fort would be the hill, as draw on the original map and current day topo. The two blue arrows to the left would be the old road that fords the river, and the road approach on the far bank. The two blue arrows on the right side are the spring and the stream. This leave, of course, the hill in the middle between the fort, the railroad tracks,and the various blue arrows. If James was buried on the hill, near the spring, he could have been buried on the right side of the hill area, probably not far from the road cut today, which you can see between the right blue bottom arrow and the railroad tracks..

Additional research and working with the University revealed that during the time when the railroad tracks were laid that human bones were unearthed and pretty much ignored. I have to wonder if those bones were the bones of the men who died during the War of 1812. We know that several soldiers died at this location, roughly half of the men stationed here were reported as deceased during their enlistment, although only about 6 were noted on the roster as having died in January and February.

However, given that the fort location was near the Indian village and mound, the bones uncovered could also have been Native bones. None were salvaged. They were quickly “reburied” by recovering them with dirt.

I know that the chances of me going back to Alabama AND finding Fort Decatur are slim to none, but I have certainly gotten closer to the gravesite of James Clarkson than any other family member ever has. I paid my respects, such as they were.

I suspect James’ widow, Sarah, always wanted to visit his grave. She never really got to say goodbye. His youngest children never knew him.

Tandy Welch, James’s future son-in-law was with James when he died and was probably one of the men who buried James. Sarah and his children would have had to be content to know that at least James had two old friends with him, Tandy Welch and Foster Jones. James too would have taken comfort knowing that Tandy would help look after his young family. That’s probably how Tandy came to marry James’ daughter.

Sarah never remarried.

James Claxton’s Y DNA

We had two burning questions when we began DNA testing on the Claxton line.

First, were the various groups of Claxton, Clarkson, Clarkston and similar surnames one group, or many?

To some extent, we’ve answered that question.

There are several unrelated groups of men, as you can see when looking at the Claxton Y DNA project. By the way, we welcome all Claxton and Clarkson descendants, so please test at Family Tree DNA and join the project. If you are a male Claxton or Clarkson, take the Y DNA test at 37 markers or above, in addition to the Family Finder test. For everyone else descended from any of these lines, take the Family Finder test and please, join the Claxton project.

What is surprising is that some men found in or near the same geographic locations do not have matching Y DNA, meaning they don’t share a common direct paternal line.

In some cases, based on their genealogy, we know these men who don’t match are truly descended from different lines. In other cases, we may have encountered some new lines, meaning those through uncertain parentage or adoption whose surname has remained Claxton, but their Y chromosome is reflective of a different ancestor.  We consider those “new” Claxton lines, because they are clearly Claxton from here forward.

Our second question was the geographic origins of our Claxton line. Where did our ancestors live before they immigrated? Of course, the best way to tell would be for a Claxton male from that location to take the Y DNA test, and match our line, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

One of our Claxton men took the Big Y test. Thank you immensely!

The Big Y test scans virtually the entire Y chromosome for mutations called SNPs that point to deep ancestry on the paternal line. In our case, the Claxton’s terminal SNP, meaning the one furthest down the tree, is haplogroup R-FGC29371. This by itself doesn’t mean a lot, but in context, it does.

This Claxton cousin’s closest matches on the Big Y test are men with the following last names:

  • Parker
  • Joyce
  • Grigsby
  • Gray
  • Daniel

This suggests that he doesn’t necessarily match these men in a genealogical timeframe, and in fact, he doesn’t match them on the regular STR marker test panel at Family Tree DNA – but it means that those families and his are probably from the same place at some time before the advent of surnames.

Utilizing the SNP utility at Family Tree DNA, we see that there are only three locations of clusters where this SNP is found, so far, and all 3 are in the UK.

Of course, as luck would have it, one is in Ireland, one in Scotland and one near the Scotland/England border.

The Unresolved Mystery

We still haven’t identified the parents of James Lee Claxton. I’m firmly convinced that his middle name, Lee, given in 1775 when middle names were only purposefully given, is a clue. Middle names at that time in the colonies were generally only bestowed when they were family surnames. Everyone having surnames came in vogue not long thereafter, but I strongly suspect Lee is a family name.

Unfortunately, Lee is also a rather common name, but I have been on the lookout for decades now for any Lee or Lea connection. So far, that has been another blind alley wild goose chase…but hey…you never know which of these goose chases might actually net something!  One thing, none ever will if we don’t pursue those geese.

In a future article about James’ potential father’s, I’ll step through what we’ve done and who we’ve ruled out.

In the mean time, nearly 13 years after founding the Claxton/Clarkson surname project, I’m still waiting for that person to test someplace in the UK that will match our Claxton line.

While waiting for that person to test, I’d settle for a definitive line out of Virginia, perhaps!

If you are a Claxton male, please consider both Y DNA and autosomal testing (the Family Finder test) at Family Tree DNA and joining the Claxton project.

Dorothy Durham’s Parents and the Mysterious William Smoot, 52 Ancestors #165

Given the time in which she lived, we know quite a bit about Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham, but we only have hints, and a mystery, about her parents.

Dorothy was born in 1663 – that much we know for sure, or within a year either way, based on a deposition she gave in 1704 regarding the will of one James Gilbert. She died sometime after early 1725 and before 1753 when her second husband, Jeremiah Greenham, died.

Dorothy and Thomas Durham had interactions with several people over the span of their lifetimes that tell us the names of two of Dorothy’s sisters. Other documents tell us that Dorothy was probably closely related to William Smoot, but the fact that Dorothy’s son married William Smoot’s daughter pretty much eliminates the possibility that William Smoot was Dorothy’s father. William could have, however, been her brother or uncle or some other relative.

And then there’s poor James Gilbert. A man so beset by epilepsy that he didn’t remember what was in his will a year or two after signing it. Either he or his wife are also somehow connected to William Smoot as well, because that same William Smoot quit-claimed a deed when Mary Gilbert, widow of James, sold land to Dorothy and Thomas Durham after James Gilbert’s horrible death.

The script of these families living in the Northern Neck of Virginia reads something like the thriller TV series, Dallas, with equally as much intrigue – but without the ability to tune in next season to discover the outcome. It’s like never knowing who shot JR Ewing!

If you’d like to read more about these Northern Neck families that intermarried, along with the history that formed their life and times in the century or so following the settlement of Jamestown, I would suggest the following articles:

The Parents of Charles Dodson, Jamestown Unraveled, 52 Ancestors #163

Anne (probably not) Elmore (c1650/2-c1721), Wife of Charles Dodson, 52 Ancestors #159

Charles Dodson (1649-1706), Forcible Entry, 52 Ancestors #157

Thomas Dodson’s Estate Inventory, A Tallow Sort of Fellow, 52 Ancestors #153

Thomas Dodson (1681-1740), Planter on Totuskey Creek, 52 Ancestors #151

George Dodson (1702-after 1756), Disappeared Without a Trace, 52 Ancestors #145

Raleigh Dodson (1730-c1794) of Dodson’s Ford; Ferryman, Surveyor and Stone Dresser, 52 Ancestors #143

Dorothy Durham (1663-after 1725), No Shrinking Violet, 52 Ancestors #164

Thomas Durham (before 1649-1715), A Governor’s Son?, 52 Ancestors #161

Mary Durham (1686 – c 1746), Scandals and Scoundrels, 52 Ancestors #152

Henry Dagord or Dagod or Maybe Doggett (c 1660/1683 – after 1708), 52 Ancestors #150

Margaret Dagord (1708-?) of North Farnham Parish, 52 Ancestors #147

This article about Dorothy’s parents is the last in this series.

There are several players in our Northern Neck family drama as we try to unravel who Dorothy’s parents were, and weren’t, so let’s talk about each person briefly, then take a deep dive into the details. What you’ll discover is that we don’t have individual stories, we have a tapestry of interwoven lives in tidewater Virginia when it was Rappahannock County and then after 1692 when it became Richmond County.

William Smoot Sr.

William Smoot does play a prominent role in the life of Dorothy Durham, but it most assuredly is not as her father. It’s easy to see how the confusion arose though, because in August of 1700, William Smoot Sr. deeded land to Dorothy and her children for “the great love I have and beare unto Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham.” This does indeed sound fatherly, but it surely wasn’t, because Dorothy’s son, Thomas Durham Jr. marries Mary Smoot, daughter of William Smoot Sr., as proven by William’s 1716 will. Clearly, Dorothy’s son did not marry his mother’s sister, meaning his aunt. However, William Smoot is surely somehow related, as he also mentions Dorothy’s niece through her sister in that same land transaction. We will take a look at the Smoot family to see what gems we can unearth.

James and Mary Gilbert

James and Mary Gilbert are tied into this tapestry by some colorful thread. These families spend a lot of time together, argue like families do, and after James Gilbert’s death, Mary sells her land to Thomas Durham, with William Smoot quit-claiming his interest in that land. Unfortunately, we don’t know what interest William Smoot held in Mary’s land nor his relationship to Mary.

Thankfully, James Gilbert’s will was contested and we find half a dozen depositions that discuss the circumstances involving his will. Unfortunately, none of them tell us exactly who is who, but there are clues to be gathered.

Fortunately, depositions are juicy and make great reading! These remind me of the board game Clue – the butler did it in the kitchen with the candlestick!

John Mills and John Mills Jr.

Somehow, for some reason, James Gilbert leaves his estate to John Mills Jr. Even before James Gilbert’s death, there are extremely hard feelings between the families – so much so that James Gilbert and his wife appear to live apart as a result. This has to be something more serious than hen dung on James Gilbert’s chest. Wait until you hear this story!

Alice and John Chinn

Dorothy’s sister, Alice, married John Chinn. Alice died in 1701 in Lancaster Co, VA and her will is found recorded in will book 8 page 105/106. Her children named in the will were Ann Fox, wife of Capt. William Fox, Catherine Heale and Rawleigh Chinn. We’ll look to see what, if anything we can find about John Chinn and Alice that might suggest who Alice’s parents are.

Thomazin and Abraham Marshall

Dorothy’s sister, Thomazin married Abraham Marshall. We find Abraham also woven into the tapestry of Northern Neck families, in particular, with the Gilberts and Mills. Thomazin is such a beautiful name. I do wonder if it’s the feminine version of Thomas, perhaps in a family who had no male children? I’m very surprised that there is no Thomazin or Alice found in Dorothy’s children, although it’s certain that Dorothy had children that died.

Elizabeth Grady

Elizabeth Grady left her entire estate to Mary Smoot, daughter of William Smoot? Why, and how was Elizabeth related to Mary Smoot?

Charting the Relationships

When doing both Appalachian and Acadian genealogy, one of my favorite sayings is that it’s not a family tree, but a family vine. I think that’s very true of this time period in Virginia, as well, especially in regions that were for some reason rather isolated – like on the Northern Neck peninsula of land. Granted, new people settled there, but the families who owned land adjacent to each other along a creek were destined to interact and intermarry for a generation or two. There wasn’t anyone else close enough and available, so you married your neighbors who may also have been your kin.

I’m not going to kid you – this is one of the most difficult evaluations I’ve ever done. There are partial records and a lot of players that are obviously somehow connected, but the “how” is not obvious. Maybe you’ll have some thoughts after reading the details – and I’d love to hear from you.

If this is not your family line, you may not revel in the details, but if you have a difficult problem of your own to unravel, you might be interested in how I approached this problem and what I was able to glean.

Now, not to scare you, but the chart below represents the players in this drama and the defining events that connect them together, aside from the relationships implied in the pedigree chart used as the base for the activity grid.  Please click to enlarge this or any graphic.

Let me explain how this works. The pedigree chart in the top half of the graphic shows how the various individuals are connected through known/proven relationships. The three individuals in dark rose are Dorothy Durham and her proven sisters, connected to their unknown parents at the top. It’s very likely that their parents are also interacting in the neighborhood. We know that both of Dorothy’s sisters married local boys, so it makes sense that Dorothy’s parents lived there too. You can’t marry someone if they aren’t close enough to court. In fact, Dorothy’s parents may be some of the people at the bottom of the chart – the ones not connected to the people at the top through known relationships.

The green boxes include data, detailed in the extracted records in the next section, but too detailed to include in the person’s pink or blue box in the chart above without making the box too large for the chart.

For example, the green box below James Gilbert details his activities and interactions with others on the grid. The red arrows point from the person who is interacting with someone else. James Gilbert left his entire estate to John Mills Jr., so a red arrow points from James Gilbert to John Mills Jr.

The above chart is meant to be utilized with the extracted records to form a visual of the complex relationships. The red arrows do NOT include what I would consider to be normal activities, such as land transferred between parents and children, wills, etc. In other words, the red arrows only show the interactions between people who are not directly related and whose relationship to others is not immediately obvious based on the pedigree chart itself.

Anyone who does read this entire document, I welcome your thoughts as to how the various individuals are or might be related to Dorothy Durham. Conversely, if you feel something precludes a specific relationship, I’m interested in that as well. And of course it goes without saying that if anyone has additional information, I’m all ears and would be very grateful for anything missing! There may be additional information in other counties that I’m not aware of.

Extracted Records

Not living in or near the Northern Neck of Virginia, I utilized the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana to access the extracted records for Rappahannock and Richmond Counties, but plus select others. In addition, I utilized a site called “Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia’s Northern Neck Counties.” I don’t know who compiled this information, and their conclusions are sometimes incorrect, often suffering from generational confusion, but when they provide notes, they always include sources, which is a very valuable contribution. I’m very grateful for all their hard work.

Some records below that involve two parties are included in the information for both people. I couldn’t really see a better way to handle the information, presented in timeline format, without some level of duplication.

The Smoot Family

Somehow, the Smoot family is related to Dorothy. There is no other reason for William Smoot to give Dorothy land with “great love and affection” and name her sister’s child as an alternate beneficiary if they are not family. The question is, of course, how are they related? In order to attempt to answer this question, I stepped back a generation to William Smoot’s (possible) parents and began there.

My initial perspective was that Dorothy was either a child to William Smoot, as is widely reported in people’s family trees, or a sister. That’s where I began my search.

According to the book, The Smoots of Maryland and Virginia by Harry Wright Newman, William Smoot(e)(es)(s) immigrated in 1646 with his wife Grace Wood, Wood being her previous husband’s name, along with their children: Thomas, Richard, Elizabeth, Anne and Ales (Alice) and Elizabeth Wood his wife’s daughter along with Anne Woodnot, William Smoot’s servant. William patented land for his headrights, naming family members noted above individually, on the west side of the Wicohomico River in Charles County, Maryland in 1652.

William Smoot and family settled in Maryland, across the Potomac from the Northern Neck area. He died sometime after his son, Thomas, died in February 1667/68. Grace died on January 14, 1665/66 according to the Archives of Maryland, Vol 60, page 116.

There is a land record for William Smoot in 1683 in Charles County, MD transferring land to Humphrey Warren and also to William Hungerford. There is no estate record for William Smoot of Maryland.

Based on information I was able to find, mostly from the Newman book, I constructed a tree of William Smoot’s known children.

You will notice that there is no William Smoot Jr. listed in known descendants. This means that William Smoot of Rappahannock County, if he is the son of William Smoot of Maryland, had to be born after 1646 when the list of children for which William Smoot Sr. received a headright was documented, meaning William Jr. (the second) would have come of age no earlier than 1667 if he was born after 1646.

Let’s look at the dates and see if that is possible.

First, Grace Wood Smoot had already borne 6 children who lived, so spanning about 12 reproductive years. Let’s say she first married at age 20. That means that in 1646, she would have been no younger than age 32 and possibly older. If Grace was age 32, she had about 10 years more to bear children, so possibly bore 5 additional children, until about 1656. She could also have been past child-bearing age, but she had no more than 10 reproductive years left.

We know for sure that Dorothy Durham was born in 1663, according to her own deposition, so Dorothy Durham could not have been the child of Grace Wood Smoot. Therefore, if Dorothy and William Smoot are brother and sister, it’s not through William Smoot of Maryland and his wife, Grace.

William Smoot of Rappahannock County is first found in the records as a witness in 1672, in a location where William Smoot of Maryland did not live. He was likely at least 21 by this time. His son, William Smoot Jr. first appears in records about 1700, so this makes sense.

By 1678, William Smoot in Rappahannock County is purchasing land, 150 acres on the Moratico Path, adjoining John Ingoe.

In March 1683/84, William Smoot in Rappahannock County with wife Jane transfers land to Richard Ellett, so William is married by that time.

Over the next many years, William Smoot of Rappahannock County appears repeatedly with Charles Dodson, Thomas Durham and Peter Elmore – families and neighbors all intertwined one way or another.

These records suggest that William Smoot of Rappahannock County was born no later than 1651, so he could potentially be a son of William Smoot of Maryland, but not if Dorothy is his sister.

William Smoot of Rappahannock County died in 1715, mentioning his grandchildren by daughter Mary who married Thomas Durham Jr., son of Dorothy and Thomas Durham Sr. He left everything to his son-in-law, Thomas Durham, and his Durham grandchildren. William Smoot had two other daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, twins, born on March 16, 1698, according to the North Farnham Parish register, but they apparently died, as they are never mentioned elsewhere.

William Smoote and his wife Jane are having children in the 1690s, at the same time as Dorothy and Thomas Durham, so they appear to be about the same age, not offset by a generation.

I have found absolutely nothing to tie William Smoot of Rappahannock County to William Smoot of Maryland other than the same name and living across the Chesapeake from each other.

If William Smoot of Rappahannock County was NOT the son of William Smoot of Charles County, Maryland, then it’s possible that Dorothy was the sister of William Smoot of Rappahannock County.

Given that William Smoot of Rappahannock County’s daughter, Mary, very clearly married the son of Dorothy Durham, Dorothy was assuredly not the daughter of William Smoot of Rappahannock County. If Dorothy had been the daughter of William Smoot, that would have meant that Dorothy’s sister married her son. Ewwww…

However, if Dorothy was the sister of either William Smoot or William Smoot’s wife, and their children married, that would have means that Mary Smooth and Thomas Durham were first cousins. That’s not an unusual marriage in colonial times.

Of course, the speculation about the relationship between Dorothy and William Smoot is all caused by the 1700 deed that reads thus:

Richmond County Deed Book 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 daughter 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 indicates that the land is bounded by Thomas Durham, which suggests that he already owned the neighboring land. If so, that would likely have been the Abraham Marshall land referenced in the 1723 sale of this land by Thomas Durham Jr. No deed exists for the sale from Marshall into the Durham family, although the date of 1692 is provided in the 1723 sale.

This 1700 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 also leaves land. Clearly there is a very close connection between William Smoot and Dorothy Durham.

  • First, this deed is to Dorothy, not Dorothy AND her husband, Thomas Durham together and not to Thomas Durham alone as most land would typically be deeded. This meant that Thomas Durham exercised no authority over this land and could not sell the land. It was Dorothy’s and Dorothy’s alone until her death.
  • Second, William Smoot is also somehow related to Ann Fox, daughter of Dorothy’s sister, Alice who married John Chinn. Alice died in 1701 but Dorothy’s other sister, Thomazin/Thomasin lived until after 1713.
  • Third, 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 and 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 normal. If the children numbered 4-6 noted in the will, were living, they were assuredly females or they would have been listed ahead of daughter Mary in the inheritance order. If they were living in 1700, they weren’t by the time Thomas Durham Sr. wrote his will in 1711.

Furthermore, I can’t find any record of where William Smoot received this land, unless it’s part of this patent found in the Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants, 1694-1742, Vol 1:

2-315 – William Smoot Sr., 262 acres in Richmond Co. adjacent his other land, Bryary Swamp, James Gilbert, Mr. Leuson, Mr. Grimes line, line of Clears, April 29, 1700

This deed indicates the 262 acres are bounded by James Gilbert – but the 62 acre deed to Dorothy says it is adjacent Thomas Durham, so William Smoot’s land grant may not be the same land that he deeded to Dorothy, or the land of William Smoot, James Gilbert and Thomas Durham may all be adjacent each other. The neighbors, except for Thomas Durham, appear to be the same in William Smoot’s deed to Dorothy as his land grant – so the 62 acres must surely be part of his grant.

Why did William Smoot deed land to Dorothy just a little over three months after he patented the land?

In addition, we find the following deed with William Smoot quit-claiming any right he has to 50 acres of land sold to Thomas and Dorothy Durham by Mary Gilbert.

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 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 parcel 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 M 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)

Five items of interest:

  1. Fifty acres is the amount of land awarded for importing one person. Someone would receive this for paying their own passage.
  2. Does the fact that Walter Wright is living on this land imply that Mary Gilbert is not living on the land? Does this perhaps mean this land was “family land” and not the farm where she lived with husband James Gilbert?
  3. Mary does not specify the nature of the “valuable consideration” she received, which is rather unusual. It could have been that the Durhams agreed to take care of her in her old age.
  4. Mary clearly retained this land outside of her husband’s will, which means either she owned is separately from him, inherited it after his death, or his will was overturned. Even so, Mary Gilbert would have been entitled to no more than 30% of his estate and we have nothing to indicate that James Gilbert owned this land.
  5. William Smoot is somehow involved with Mary Gilbert and has some unspecified interest in this land, which he releases.

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. This land is on the same swamp as the land that William Smoot conveyed to Dorothy Durham in 1700.

Court Order Book Page 299 September 3, 1707 – Mary Gilbert acknowledge deed to Thomas Durham, ordered recorded.

Court Order Book Page 299 September 3, 1707 – William Smoot acknowledge release of right and title of parcel of land sold by Mary Gilbert to Thomas Durham and ordered to be recorded.

The only reason William Smoot would be quit-claiming this land is if he had some sort of real or legally perceived interest in the land. That interest would most likely be by inheritance. In other words, we know that William Smoot is not the son of Mary Gilbert, at least not by her Gilbert husband, or their surnames would be the same, so if William Smoot holds an interest in Mary’s land, it would perhaps be because his wife, Jane, is the daughter of Mary Gilbert, he is Mary’s son from an earlier marriage, or because Mary Gilbert and Jane or William Smoot both inherited this land from a common ancestor.

Possibilities for the relationship between William Smoot and Dorothy:

  • Father and daughter – This is discounted because Dorothy’s son, Thomas Durham Jr., married William Smoot’s daughter, Mary.
  • Parent and siblings – meaning that Mary is the mother from an earlier marriage to a Smoot man to Dorothy, William Smoot and Dorothy’s sisters, Alice and Thomasin. This is improbable because Thomasin, still living in 1707, does not quitclaim the land to Thomas Durham along with William Smoot.
  • Siblings – meaning that Dorothy, William Smoot and Mary Gilbert are all siblings. This is possible.
  • Siblings in law – Meaning that Dorothy is the sister of William’s wife, Jane. This is also possible.
  • Uncle and niece, meaning that William Smoot is Mary Durham’s uncle, which suggests that Mary Gilbert is Dorothy Durham’s aunt or mother. This is also possible.

I did find something humorous about Jane Smoot, William’s wife.

In the Richmond County Court Order book, one page Page 83, January 2, 1722/23, the court ordered the sheriff to summon to court Jane Smoot, widow, of Northfarnham Parish to answer the presentment of the grand jury for common and notorious swearers.

Jane was in good company, however, because this list of swearers also included Doctor Robert Taylor, so it wasn’t just peasant people who swore and were reprimanded.

Apparently, William Smoot’s estate wasn’t divided until several years later.

Court Order Book, Page 297.298 July 7, 1735 William Smoot’s estate to be divided. Dominick and Joseph Durham by their petition setting forth that William Smoot, decd, did by his will order his estate should be equally divided between Thomas Durham, Margaret Durham, Joseph Durham and Sarah Durham only that his wife Jane Smoot should have it during her natural life which said Jane Smoot is likewise deceased, thereupon pray that persons maybe appointed to divide the same, whereupon John Woodbridge, William Glascock and George Glascock appointed to divide the estate according to the will of the said William Smoot decd and to settle the accounts between the partys and make report to the next court.

Page 298 July 7, 1735 Upon motion of Sarah Durham, Mary Durham is admitted her guardian giving security whereupon the said Mary Durham together with Jeremiah Greenham, her security, entered into bond and acknowledged same.

The North Farnham Parish church registry tells us that Jane Smoot died on October 4, 1726.

Aside from these land transactions, Dorothy and Thomas Durham were clearly very close to the Smoot family.

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.

One thing I do find unusual is that William Smoot Sr. who died in 1716 does not leave anything to his son, William Smoot Jr. who is mentioned in earlier records. Because he also does not ever deed land to William Jr., and doesn’t mention him in his will, I would presume that William Jr. died sometime before 1716. It appears that William and Jane Smoot had no living children other than Mary Smoot who married Thomas Durham Jr.

Another William Smoot

If two William Smoots at the same time, one in Maryland and one in Rappahannock County weren’t bad enough, there’s a possible third one in the records too.

In the Northumberland County records, we find a William Smoot functioning there, owing corn between 1648 and 1652. There is no William Smoot on the 1652 Northumberland Oaths of Allegiance list.

William Smoot of Maryland was clearly in this area, but William Smoot of old Rappahannock County would likely have been underage at this time, so either this is William Smoot of Maryland or perhaps a third William Smoot.

Now, to make things every more complex, we have another unusual inheritance.

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. Mary Smoot is a child at the time.

Is Elizabeth Grady perhaps a sister of William Smoot or his wife, Jane? If so, Elizabeth could also be a sibling of Dorothy Durham.

Elizabeth Grady’s will was written March 10, 1693/94 and probated Nov. 4, 1702: Mary Smoot dau of William Smoot all land, ex: William Smoot; wits Thomas Durham, Richard Draper, John Rankin

The executor of the estate is William Smoot, and the witnesses are Thomas Durham, Richard Draper and John Rankin. Generally, a son, son-in-law, brother or brother-in-law perform executor functions.

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.

I extracted every Grady record in both Rappahannock and Richmond Counties, and came up exactly empty handed. In other words, we don’t know where Elizabeth Grady obtained this land, who her husband was, nor why she left the land to Mary Smoot, a very young child.

I was not able to discover any land transfer to a Grady in a timeframe in either Rappahannock or Richmond County that would account for how Elizabeth Grady came to own this land which, unfortunately, does not have a description.

Clearly, somehow, Elizabeth Grady was related to Mary Smoot through one of her parents.

Elizabeth Grady and Mary Gilbert both own land that cannot be accounted for.

James and Mary Gilbert

Somehow, James and Mary Gilbert are in this mixture too. One researcher suspects that James and Mary are the parents of Dorothy Durham, and that may in fact be the case. I extracted every single Gilbert entry for Rappahannock and Richmond Counties.

James Gilbert apparently suffered from epilepsy and had for several years according to a deposition sworn in 1704 in conjunction with the contested probating of his will. He may have been “not in his right mind,” as they would say. We know today that untreated epilepsy leads to progressively more brain damage with every seizure. We also don’t know what caused the epilepsy. The testimony indicates he had it for years, but doesn’t say that it was a lifelong problem. It’s possible that a closed head injury resulting from an accident of some type was the beginning of epileptic seizures for James.

Let’s look at what we know about James and Mary Gilbert.

Court Order Book March 5, 1689/90 – Antho: Montades entered his information in this court against James Gilbert for concealing one tithable this last preceding year.

In other counties, I have found that concealed tithables often means that the wife was of mixed race. Anyone not “white” was taxed differently, meaning that white wives were not taxed, but wives of color, or mixed race, were taxed. Therefore, sometimes men refused to pay tax on their wives and were subsequently convicted in court of concealing tithables. Of course, not reporting any taxable person would be concealing tithables, including white males over a certain age (generally 16) and any non-white person, regardless of relationship. Regardless, James was found in 1690 to have more taxable people than he paid taxes for.

In 1690, James Gilbert was assigned jury duty 3 times. If James Gilbert was impaired, he would not have been summoned for jury duty, so we can presume his seizures began or worsened sometime after 1690. This also tells us that James owned land in 1690, because only free white landowners were allowed to sit on juries.

Court Order Book Sept. 2, 1691 – Order granted against sheriff to John Morgan for the nonappearance of James Gilbert according to declaration.

Court Order Book May 5, 1692 – Nonsuit granted to James Gilbert against John Morgan, he not appearing to prosecute to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book May 5, 1692 – Nonsuit granted to James Gilbert against John Thomas, he not appearing to prosecute to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book Sept 8, 1692 – Reference granted between John Morgan plt and James Gilbert deft till next court.

Court Order Book Oct. 6, 1692 – Judgment granted to John Morgan against James Gilbert for 1000 pounds tobacco according to declaration to be paid with costs of suit.

Court Order Book Nov 2, 1692 – John Morgan brought his action to last August court against James Gilbert and complained against him in a plea of the case for that Nathaniel Browne of the county of Lancaster some time in the year 1690 did receive and marke with his own proper marke one hogshead of tobacco at the house of the said James Gilbert and did by noat under his hand transfer the same unto the complainant or his assignee and that the complainant upon the said noat sending for the said hogshead of tobacco the said James wholy refused to deliver the same and that he still doth refuse to the complainants damage 1000 pounds of tobacco and caske for this prayed judgment but the deft not appearing either by himself of his attorney to answer the said suit, a conditional order passed against him for the sum aforesaid, returnable to this court where the said James Gilbert also not appearing the court have confirmed the above recited order and do order that the said James Gilbert do pay unto the said John Morgan the said 1000 pounds of tobacco, damage with all costs of suit.

Colonial planters were quite litigious. The above type of court cases were quite typical, although this suit makes me wonder if his seizures had begun by this time, along with his apparent cognitive decline.

Court Order Book June 7, 1693 – In the suit depending between William Smyth Plt and William Richardson def for the better decision thereof, it is ordered that Mr Edwin Conway together with a jury to be impaneled by the sheriff of this county or his deputie and sworn by Mr Thomas Glascock who is requested to be present at the time here under expressed on the 2nd Tuesday in July do meet on the land of the said William Richardson and survey a patent granted to Thomas Madison for 250 acres in Rappahannock now Richmond now bearing the date of of November 17, 1670 having regard to the antient reputed bounds of the said patent and that they make report of their proceedings herein to the next court held for this county. Also ordered that James Gilbert do produce the said patent unto the jury and surveyors at the time and place aforesaid.

The Northern Neck land patents suggests that James Gilbert wound up owning some of the patent land, which would explain why he might be holding the original patent itself.

Court Order Book Nov 4, 1698 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Edward Geffery dismist, the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Nov 4, 1698 – The action brought by James Gilbert against William Norris dismist, the plt. not prosecuting

Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Suit between James Gilbert and Edward Geffery deft upon reading the declaration, the deft. Pleads not guilty in manner and form as in the said declaration. Jury returns after evidence heard find for the plt 550 pounds tobacco with cost of suit and 500 pounds tobacco in cask damage, and that Geffery pay to Gilbert 1050 pounds tobacco together with cost of suit

Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Ordered that James Gilbert pay unto John Mills 12 days attendance according to act being by him subpoenaed an evidence in the suit between James Gilbert plt and Edward Geffery deft.

Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Ordered that Willliam Lawson be paid for 12 days attendance according to act by James Gilbert being by him subpoenaed an evidence in the suit between said James Gilbert plt and Edward Geffery def.

Court Order Book Sept 7, 1699 – the action brought by James Gilbert against William Norris dismist, the plt not prosecuting.

Deed Book P 117-119 Oct 30, 1699 between John Mills, planter and Easter Mills, wife, Richmond Co., to William Richardson 20 acres in Farnham Parish begin at corner white oake in a branch joining upon Thomas Duzin line running along the line SW or thereabouts until the dividing line between James Gilbert and the said Mills, along the line of William Smyth until he comes to the said marked white oak. Mills bought it of George Vincent. Signed by both with their marks. Witness Samuel Jones mark, John Browne.

This tells us that James Gilbert’s land is adjacent to John Mills land. Extreme hard feelings develop between James Gilbert and the Mills family. James Gilbert, for some reason, leaves everything in his estate to John Mills Jr. which causes a huge rift with his wife, Mary Gilbert.

Court Order Book April 5, 1700 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Edward Geffery is dismist, the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Nov. 4, 1702 – Appearing to this court that Elinor Hughes has by her own confession fugitively absented herself out of the service of her master, James Gilbert, the space of 23 days, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes the space of 46 days after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired.

Elinor Hughes, servant to Gilbert Jones (sic) being presented to this court for having a bastard child, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes according to act in consideration for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.

This day James Gilbert confessed judgement to the church wardens of North Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco it being the fine of Elinor Hughes for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child to be paid with costs also.

Ordered that Elinor Hughes servant to James Gilbert by and with her own consent do serve her said master of his assignes the space of one whole yeare after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired in satisfaction for his paying her fie for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child.

Court Order Book Nov. 6, 1702 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Abraham Marshall is dismist the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book June 3, 1703 – Action brought by James Gilbert against William Norris is dismist the plt not prosecuting.

James Gilbert wrote his will on January 31, 1701, with the will being probated January 7, 1704. I actually ordered a copy of the original will, hoping it would be more complete or hold clues that the extracted version did not.

In the name of God, Amen…..I James Gilbert of North Farnham Parish in the County of Richmond being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given unto God…that I be buried in a Christianlike and decent manner, at the Resurrection I shall receive the same againe by the mighty power of God and as touching such worldly estate where in the power of God, and, as touching such worldly estate where it hath pleased God to bless me in this life I give devise and dispose of the same in the following manner and forme:

I suspect the paragraph above was probably standard verbiage for anyone drawing up a will, BUT, I’ve included the verbiage at this time for two reasons. First, in following depositions, people testify that he was not “of perfect mind and memory” and that he told people he was not at all sure that there was a Resurrection. James apparently wasn’t terribly ill, because he lived another three years. James goes on to say, in his will:

I give and bequeath to Mary, my deare beloved wife the summe of twenty shillings of lawful money of England to be raised and levyed out of my estate.

I give to my well beloved friend John Mills Jr. whome I likewise constitute make and ordaine my only and sole executor of this my last will and testament all singular my estate both personal and reall excepted before excepted by him and his heires freely to be possessed and enjoyed and I do hereby utterly disallow revoke and disannul all every other testaments wills legacies and executed by me in any ways before time named? willed and bequeathed. Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament.

In witness whereof I have herunto sett my hand and seale the day and year abovementioned.

Signed:

James Gilbert, his mark

Witnessed by Edward Welch, his mark

Jone Williams, her mark,

Thomas White

Probated ? sacrament White and Welch in ? Richmond 7th die Jany 1704 and recordeded 12 die ?

Unfortunately, James Gilbert’s land is not described in detail.

There are two very important aspects of this will that were not in the published extracted form. First, Gilbert states that is wife’s name is Mary, which helps assure us that the Mary Gilbert mentioned later is his wife. Second, he states that John Mills Jr. is his friend, not his grandson, not his son-in-law, not his nephew, his friend. The relationship between the two men was that of friend. That’s important because it removes speculation about the nature of their relationship.

Based on this language, it seems that James Gilbert and John Mills Jr. expected problems – so the fact that this was James only will and everything else was revoked was stated multiple times in various ways. I do wonder at the motivation of James Gilbert’s choices. Clearly, something is unstated.

My understanding of colonial law is that James Gilbert was unable to summarily cut Mary Gilbert out of her share of his estate, deemed to be minimally 30% by law, unless he left her more.

The book, Brabbling Women: Disorderly Speech and the Law in Early Virginia by Terri Snyder says:

Virginia’s intestacy statutes guaranteed a widow’s dower as one third – or, if childless, to one half – life interest in real estate and absolute interest in personal property, which until 1705 included increasingly valuable slaves. Husbands who wrote wills, of course, could give more than the amounts specified by intestacy statutes, but not less.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been as estate inventory for James Gilbert filed in Richmond County, which is unusual. There is no inventory listed in the book of extracted records that I utilized nor did the clerk return an estate inventory with the copy of the will. I wish the clerk had SAID there wasn’t an inventory so I don’t have to wonder if it was overlooked. An estate inventory is also not noted in the court notes, so I suspect, for some reason, there was none. There is nothing normal about James Gilbert’s estate.

James Gilbert died sometime between June of 1703 and June of 1704. That’s when things get quite juicy!!! The will is probated and Mary is quite unhappy, as one might expect. For us as genealogists, that’s when the good stuff begins.

Court Order Book June 7, 1704 – Last will and testament of James Gilbert being presented to this court by the executor therein named for proofe, the same was proved by the oaths of Thomas White and Edward Welsh and order for probate granted thereon.

Thomas White appears to be the uncle of John Mills Jr.

Court Order Book Page 332 June 7, 1704 – Ordered Charles Dodson, William Smoote and George Devenport or any 2 of them appraise estate of James Gilbert. Sworn plus Mary Gilbert executrix.

Often, or when possible, the appraisers were the largest creditor, someone from the wife’s family and a totally disinterested party.   A child or someone who benefitted from the will was never appointed an appraiser.

Court Order Book Aug 2, 1704 – Petition of Mary Gilbert setting forth ye last will of her decd husband James Gilbert, was only proved in common forme and that the same ought to have been proved in dur forme of law yt: ye executr of the said decd be summed to the next court held for this county to prove y said will in due forme of law.

Court Order Book October 4, 1704 – Order for proving the last will of James Gilbert is continued till morning.

Court Order Book Nov 1, 1704 – Pursuant to an order of court Aug 3, 1704 granted upon the petition of Mary Gilbert for the (C???) of John Mills, executor of the last will and testament of James Gilbert, decd, to prove the will of the said James according to due form of law, it only being proved in (____) form, the said Mills accordingly appeared and Mary Gilbert by her attorney George Eskridge, not insisting on any further proofe by ye said Will than already made but did by his pleading make voyd the same and all dependence and evidences in order to prove the said James in his lifetime revoked and said will. The court on ye consideration of ye whole matter are of judgement that the will of said James Gilbert is a good will and duely proved and that the evidences produced to prove the revocation thereof are not sufficient in the law to prove the said revocation from which judgement (upon reading the order) the said Mary Gilbert by her attorney George Eskridge did appeale to the 5th day of the next general court and upon the motion of the said Mary Gilbert by her aforesaid attorney George Eskridge (the evidence produced to prove the abovesaid revocation being put into writing and severally sworne to in court) are ordered to be recorded.

From which judgment Mary Gilbert by her attorney George Eskridge appeals to the 5th day of the next general court.

This day Samuel Samford and Edward Jones acknowledge themselves indebted to the justices of Richmond county in the full and just summe of 20,000 pounds tobacco and caske to be paid to the justices their exrs and admrs in case Mary Gilbert do not prosecute an appeale by her made from an order of this court this day obtained against her by John Mills exr of James Gilbert to the 5th day of the next general court.

The general court was held at Williamsburg each April and October, and I have been unable to find any references to specific cases or James Gilbert’s among the reported decisions. In 1799, the general court was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg.

A call to the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, a part of the Colonial Williamsburg, confirms that indeed, the general court records from the time period including 1704 have burned. Very unfortunately, this seems to be the end of our information about this case, except for the following depositions which were clearly given in preparation for the general court case.

The following depositions were found in the Richmond Co., VA Miscellaneous Records, 1699-1724 by TLC Genealogy.

Page 26 – Deposition. Thomas Langdale, aged about 24 years, says that one and a half years before James Gilbert’s death, John Mills came over to James Gilbert’s where your deponent then lived and when the said John Mills went away, said Mills told your deponent that James would make his will, meaning your deponent’s master, and sometime after that, John Mills Jr. came to your deponent’s master’s house and your deponent’s master, James Gilbert, went along with the said John Mills Jr. and when the said James Gilbert came back again, your deponent asked him whether he had finished his business and the said James Gilbert answered, yes, and some time after that, your deponent asked John Mills Jr. who your deponent’s master has left his estate to and the said John Mills Jr. answered that he had left it all to him, only 20 shillings and that he had left to his wife, and sometime after that, your deponent met with Thomas White and he told your deponent that his master has set him free when he died. Signed Nov. 2, 1704. Thomas (U his mark) Langdale

This deposition raises far more questions than it answers. We know that James Gilbert’s will was dated January 31, 1701/02. If we calculate his actual death based on this date, this deposition tells us that James Gilbert actually died in about June or July of 1703. Not included in this deposition, but through genealogy, John Mills Sr.’s wife, Hester, was the daughter of Richard White. Therefore, we know that John Mills Jr.’s mother was not a child of James Gilbert. This is in addition to James Gilbert’s will referring to John Mills Jr. as his friend.

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 his 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 hands 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 so 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

Since this deposition was given in November of 1704, I would presume that “last New Year’s Day” would mean New Year’s of January 1704, not January of 1703.

Clearly, the damage from James Gilbert’s seizures, and perhaps whatever caused them to begin with, is taking its toll.

If there is a smoking gun, this might be it relative to Dorothy being the daughter of Mary and James Gilbert, although it alone is very weak evidence. On New Year’s Day, a day of celebration, James Gilbert’s wife was already at the home of Dorothy Durham. By this time, January 1704, James Gilbert was already very angry with the Mills family for some reason. This occurred between one and two years after James Gilbert made his will and left everything to John Mills Jr. By this time, James also claims he doesn’t know what is or was in the will and that he didn’t sign.

Page 27 – Deposition. Lawrence Callahan aged about 21 years says that your deponent being at John Simon’s house on a Sabbath Day, sometime last summer, he heard John Mills and Thomas Landale talking together, and that Thomas Langdale told John Mills that he did not know that he was to be set free by his master’s will until he had met Thomas White coming from Moratico Mill and the said John Mills said that he should be free nevertheless. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 Lawrence Callahan by his mark

James Gilbert had at least one indentured servant, Thomas Landale.

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

Clearly, William Smoot is involved with this family, one way or another. One would think that if James Gilbert was Dorothy’s father that Gilbert would not have informed a daughter, namely Dorothy, that he was left his estate to John Mills Jr. by allowing her to overhear a discussion with another person. Not only does this deposition not state a relationship to James Gilbert, the discussion about the will suggests that Dorothy is not the child of James Gilbert.

Page 27b – Deposition. John Ingo, aged about 29 years, says that James Gilbert, a small time before his death, was at his house and did declare to him that he did intend to fetch away his chest from John Mills’ house, for he said that it lay in such a nasty condition, with hen dung and such like nastiness, that he could not well come at his chest for it and that he was afraid that the chest and goods both would be damnified with the nastiness, and that he did intend to fetch the chest home to his own house and did swear bitterly that John Mills, nor any of his family, should ever be the better for anything of his estate, and that the will that he made did signify nothing, and the said John Ingo further says that a little before James Gilbert was burnt, he asked him whether he was not persuaded to make a will or made drunk when he did make it, and the said James Gilbert answered that he was not, but was as sober as he was at that time, and then the said James Gilbert was sober. Signed Nov. 3, 1704 John Ingo

This deposition, along with the next is disturbing. It appears that James Gilbert burned to death.

Page 28 – Deposition. Martha Ingo says that some small time before James Gilbert’s death, said Gilbert being at your deponent’s house, she asked said Gilbert why he did not alter his will, and Gilbert answered that he would, and at the same time, your deponent heard Gilbert swear, by God’s blood, that John Mills nor any of his family should ever be the better for anything that he had, for he was a very rascal or a rogue, and further, said Martha Ingo says that a small time before the said James Gilbert was burnt, she heard her husband, John Ingo, ask said Gilbert whether he was not persuaded to make a will or made drink when he did make it, and that the said Gilbert answered him and said that he was not drunk, but that he was sober. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 by her mark

Apparently James Gilbert drank, and got drunk, but denied being drunk when he made his will.

Page 28 – Deposition. William Smoot says that James Gilbert was not in his perfect senses by reason of fits, which had followed him for several years, and I having some discourse with him about a will which he had made to John Mills for to had him altered it, and he said he had made a will to John Mills, but it signified not, for it was good for nothing and I advising him to prepare for his end and to make his peace with God and to be reconciled with his wife, and he giving very foolish and cross answers, I told him that if he had a mind to have the Sacrament given to him, that no minister would give it to him if he did not change his mind, and likewise, I asked him if he thought there was a Resurrection or not, and he said he did not know and that he did not go to church nor would not yield to have any reading to him in his sickness, nor at other times did not care for it, as ever I could understand, but it was his delight to be in the woods with his sponsor(?) on the Sabbath day. Signed Nov. 2, 1704

This deposition gives us a possibility of what happened to James Gilbert, and perhaps how he burned to death. He may have had an epileptic seizure and fallen into a fire. Furthermore, the testimony about his “foolish and cross answers” would well signify increasing brain damage as a result of the seizures that he had been enduring for several years. That might also explain why he felt that his will meant nothing, when ultimately, it would be upheld by the court.

The fact that William Smoot does not specify a relationship to James Gilbert certainly suggests that they were not closely related by blood.

Page 28b – Deposition. John Rankin, aged about 38 years, says that about 3 years ago, your deponent being in the woods with Mr. George Devenport, near your deponent’s plantation, John Mills Sr. met there with your deponent and said to your deponent that James Gilbert, late decd, was going to live up in Stafford and the said Mills did request your deponent to persuade said Gilbert not to go. Immediately while the said Mills was in your deponent’s company, and your deponent did, by his advice at that time, persuade said Gilbert not to go, nor did said Gilbert ever go, and further, your deponent some short time after, met with the said Mills and the said Mills said that the aforesaid Gilbert did intend to get your deponent to write the said Gilbert’s will, but your deponent never did. Some considerable time after your deponent met with said Gilbert and after some discourse, the said Gilbert said to your deponent that that will that had made to young Mills, signified nothing, and some time before said Gilbert’s death about 10 days, your deponent went to see said Gilbert at his house and amongst some other discourse said Gilbert told your deponent that the aforesaid will signified nothing. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 John Rankin

I wonder why James Mills Sr. did not want James Gilbert to move to Stafford County in 1701.

This ends the depositions. The court apparently found that James Gilbert’s will held, given that John Mills Jr. continues to be the executor, which then begs the question of how Mary Gilbert later sold land to Thomas Durham. She must have owned it fully in her own right or inherited it after James Gilbert’s death. Otherwise the land would have been part of James Gilbert’s estate.

Court Order Book October 4, 1705 – Action brought by Mary Gilbert against John Ingo dismissed, the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Feb. 7, 1705/06 – In action of case between John Dalton and Mary his wife, admin of William Brockenbrough decd plt and John Mills, Jr., exec of James Gilbert decd, deft for 334 lb tobacco, the deft being returned by sheriff by copy left and no appearing upon the motion of the plt an attachment is granted to him against the estate of the deft for the summe aforesaid

Court Order Book March 7, 1705/06 – Judgment granted to John Dalton and Mary his wife admin of William Brockenbrough decd against John Mills Jr. exec of James Gilbert decd for 335 lb tobacco due by account which is ordered to be paid with costs of suit.

Deed Book Page 109a-110a April 26, 1707 – Indenture between Mary Gilbert of North Farnham Parish, widow and Thomas Durham and same and wife Dorothy – that Mary Gilbert for consideration sell tract of land upon branch of Farnham Creek called the Briery Swamp containing 50 acres now in occupation of Walter Wright bound by corner along land of William Smoote. Signed with mark, Witness William Smoot and Mil. Walters

This deed tells us that Mary Gilbert’s land bordered that of William Smoot. We don’t know how Mary or James Gilbert came into possession of this land. Generally, the widow does not inherit land, only a percentage of the estate, so Mary must have owned this land individually. Fifty acres is the amount of land awarded for one headright.

Deed Book 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

Court Order Book Page 299 Sept. 3, 1707 Mary Gilbert acknowledges deed to Thomas Durham, ordered recorded.

Page 299 Sept. 3, 1707 William Smoot acknowledged release of right and title of parcel of land sold by Mary Gilbert to Thomas Durham and ordered to be recorded.

It appears we need to look at the Mills family to see if there any clues to be found.

John Mills Family

John Mills, the elder, who died in February of 1710/11 was married to Hester White as proven by the will of Richard White probated in July of 1708 in Richmond County naming his children, including Hester Mills. Hester’s brother, Thomas White was continuously involved with the John Mills family.

When John Mills Sr. died in 1711, son John Jr. was of age and inherited the “land where I now live” from his father, but several other children were still underage.

John Mills (Sr.) is first mentioned in January of 1686/87 when he posts bond for Elizabeth Lincolne to administer the estate of her deceased husband, John Lincoln. Charles Dodson is listed as the administer of that estate. John Hill married John Lincoln’s widow and after her death. Charles Dodson’s widow, Ann, later marries John Hill, evidently after the death of Elizabeth Lincoln.

In 1691-1694, John Mills and wife Hester are buying and selling land on Tostuskey Creek.

Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Ordered that James Gilbert pay unto John Mills 12 days attendance according to act being by him subpoenaed as evidence in the suit between James Gilbert plt and Edward Geffery deft.

Deed Book, Pages 117-119 Oct 30, 1699 between John Mills, planter and Easter Mills, wife, Richmond Co., to William Richardson 20 acres in Farnham Parish begin at corner white oake in a branch joining upon Thomas Duzin line running along the line SW or thereabouts until the dividing line between James Gilbert and the said Mills, along the line of William Smyth until he comes to the said marked white oak. Mills bought it of George Vincent. Signed by both with their marks. Witness Samuel Jones mark, John Browne.

I John Mills have nominated and appointed William Smoot Jr. my true and lawful attorney to deliver to Mr. William Richardson a deed of land to him and his heirs. October 1, 1700. Witness Thomas Mackey, William Smoot Sr. signed by John Mills with his mark

I Hester Mills nominate William Smoot Jr. (same as above) including witnesses.

This deed is quite interesting, because it proves that Gilbert did own land and locates the land of James Gilbert adjacent to John Mills.

In March of 1700, John Mills is ordered by the court to be paid for 8 days attendance in a suit where Francis Moore, a ship’s captain who is also a merchant versus William Smoot Jr. and again in 1701 where John Mills attends court 10 days for the same suit.

Court Order Book April 5, 1700 – Action brought by John Mills against Abraham Marshall and Thomasin his wife is dismist, the plt not appearing to prosecute

This is extremely interesting, because Thomasin Marshall is the sister of Dorothy Durham.

In August and October of 1700, John and Hester Mills both give power of attorney to William Smoot Jr. the son of William Smoot Sr., in order for them to prove a land sale to William Richardson and save them a trip to the courthouse.

In July of 1706 when neighbor Charles Dodson dies, and his widow, Ann, married John Hill, John Rankin, William Smoote, John Mills and Richard White or any 3 of them are ordered by the court to meet and appraise the estate of Charles Dodson. These men all lived in the vicinity of Charles Dodson – and each other. Richard White is the father-in-law of John Mills. We don’t know who the wife of Charles Dodson was, but she is very possibly a local woman.

Court Order Book, Page 40 June 2, 1709 – Action brought by Jeremiah Greenham against John Mills is dismissed plt not prosecuting.

Jeremiah Greenham would one day marry Dorothy Durham, but in 1709, Dorothy’s first husband, Thomas Durham Sr. was still living.

Richmond County Will Book P 37 – John Mills, Farnham Parish, will Dec. 30 1709, probated Feb. 7, 1710/11, son John land where I now live, daughters Hannah, Hester, Elizabeth Green, other sons Richard 50 ac, Thomas 50 ac, George (under 21), James (under 21), wife Hester, exec wife, wit Winifred Southern, John Rankin, Thomas White.

The birth of Elizabeth to John and Ester Mills is recorded in the North Farnham Parish Register.

Court Order Book Feb 7, 1710/11 – Will of John Mills, late of this county, decd, proved by oathes of John Rankin and Thomas White, 2 of the witnesses, admitted to record and Hester Mills executrix. Probate granted.

It’s unlikely that James Gilbert left his entire estate to John Mills Jr. because John Jr. was James Gilbert’s son-in-law. Understanding that James Gilbert’s will says John Mills Jr. is a friend, I still had to work through this possibility, because clearly James Gilbert had to have some motivation for leaving his entire estate to John Mills Jr.

If John Mills Jr. was the eldest son of John Mills Sr., given that John Sr. had 2 underage sons at his death, suggesting that the rest of his children were of age, that would put the age of John Mills Jr. at about 30 or 32 when his father died in 1711. If he was 32 in 1711, he would have been about 22 or 23 in 1702 when James Gilbert wrote his will. This would put the birth of John Mills Jr. about 1679.

We know that James Gilbert first shows up in the records in 1690. If Gilbert’s daughter is indeed Dorothy Durham, which is as yet only speculation, she was born in 1663 and was married in the 1680s, as were her sisters. Therefore, James Gilbert would have had to have been in the area, if not in the records, by the mid 1680s.

While women have children for generally 20-24 years, it’s likely that John Mills Jr. is a generation younger than James Gilbert and his wife, Mary – although it would not be impossible for John Jr.’s wife Mary to be the daughter of James Gilbert and his wife Mary, although I think it’s extremely unlikely given James Gilbert referring to John Mills Jr. as his friend and not as anything more.

John Mills Jr. is first mentioned in any records in the will of James Gilbert wherein all of the drama begins.

North Farnham Parish Wills, Richmond County, Virginia – f69r – James Gilbert of North Farnham Parish, will dated 31 Jan 1701/02, probated 7 June 1704 wife Mary; executor: friend. John Mills Jr; wits: Edward Welch, Jane Williams, Thomas White.

Please refer to the James Gilbert section for the depositions and proceedings having to do with James Gilbert’s will.

We don’t know when John Mills Jr. married, nor who his wife was, other than her first name was Mary, but we do know that he was married before March of 1719 when his son George was born. George died in January of 1721. A second child is recorded as Mills Mills (sic) born in 1722.

Court Order Book Page 38, April 4, 1722 – George Davenport, John Mills, Jeremiah Greenham and Thomas Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Thomas Welch. All sworn and also Elizabeth Welch, executrix.

This order would have been John Mills Jr, as John Mills Sr. was deceased by this time.

Based on the following entry, John Mills Jr. is dead by 1728 and Mary Mills, his widow, appears to have married Thomas Livack.

Court Order Page 435 October 2, 1728 Action of debt between Frances Hill executrix of will of John Hill, decd, plt and Thomas Livack and Mary, wife, executrix of will of John Mills, decd, for 16,000 pounds tobacco due by bond, the def being called and not appearing the motion of the plt judgement is granted her against the defts.

Yes, this is the same John Hill that married Elizabeth, the widow of John Lincoln and Ann, the widow of Charles Dodson, and who was married at the time of his death to Frances.

Dorothy’s Sisters

We know who two of Dorothy’s sisters are due to the fortuitous listing of relatives in four wills.

  • The first will belongs to John Stretchley, second husband to Dorothy’s sister, Alice.

Abstracts of Lancaster County, Virginia Wills 1653-1800 by Ida J. Lee

Stretchley, John – probated 6 Dec. 1698. Recorded 14 Dec. 1698.

Wife: Alice. Daughters-in-law: Catherine Chinn, Anne Chinn. Son- in-law: Raw. Chinn. Cousin: Edwd. Audley. Sister: Sarah Bambridge. Extrx: Wife. Wits: Wm. Ball, Rich. Ball, Geo. Haile. W.B. 8, p. 87.

In this case, daughters-in-law means daughters by law, or step daughters in today’s vernacular.

  • The second will that of John Stretchley’s wife, Alice, from the same source. Alice’s first husband, John Chinn had been married previously and died in 1691.

Alice died with a will in 1701.

Stretchley, Alice, wife of Jno. Stretchley of St. Mary’s White Chappell. 29 Aug. 1701. Rec. 8 Oct. 1701. Daughters: 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. Wits: Jas. Taylor, Lewis Pugh, David Smith. W.B. 8, p. 106.

  • The third will is by Ann Chinn Fox Chichester, Dorothy’s niece, mentioned above, who first married William Fox who died in 1718, then Richard Chichester. John Fox’s will mentions wife Ann and daughter Mary, but sadly, according to Ann’s will, Mary has apparently died.

Ann’s Will is dated February 9, 1725, and was recorded December 10, 1729 in Clerks Office, Lancaster County, Virginia – Will book no. 12, pg. 123

In the name of God I am Ann Chichester, wife of Richard Chichester of the County of Lancaster…

Item – I give to my Aunt Dorothy Greenham, wife of Jeremiah Greenham of Richmond Co. Planter, my suit of silk crape clothes and a suit of muslin head clothes – with apron, rufels and —

Item – My will and desire is that my Mulatto girl name Mary which is now in possession of Jeremiah Greenham and my aunt Dorothy Greenham his wife remain with my Aunt Greenham until the said mulatto girl Mary shall rise to the years of twenty and one if my Aunt Dorothy Greenham shall live so long and in case my Aunt shall die before Mary shall come to 21 years then my will is that my niece Ellen Heale have ye said mulatto until she arrives to 21 years and at the expiration of 21 my will and pleasure is that mulatto Mary be free from all persons whatsoever.

Item – I give unto Capt. George Heale Junr, William Heale Junr. Ann Heale, Catherine Heale, twenty shillings each.

Item – I give unto Joseph Chinn, son of my brother Rawleigh Chinn, my Negro woman Moriah and her three children viz: namely Hannah, Nanny, Ruth, to him ye said Joseph Chinn and the heirs of his body lawfully begotten but if he shall die without such heirs then my will and desire is that the said Negro woman Moriah and her three daughters, namely Hannah, Nanny, and Ruth and their increase be equally divided amongst my brothers children namely, Thomas Chinn, Chichester Chinn, Ann Chinn, and Sarah Ellen Chinn and their heirs forever.

Item – I give to my brother Rawleigh Chinn my two Negro lads namely Dublin and Cefis until such time my nephew Christopher Chinn shall come to the age of twenty one years and then my will and desire is that Christopher Chinn have and enjoy my two negros Dublin and Cefis to him the said Christopher Chinn and the heirs of his body lawfully begotten forever, but in case he die without heirs then my will is that John Chinn have ye Negro Dublin and Rawleigh Chinn have and enjoy Cefis to them and their heirs forever.

Item – I give to Rawleigh Chinn, son of my brother Rawleigh Chinn twenty shillings.

Item – I give unto Ann Chinn all my plate hereafter mentioned, viz: one large silver tankard market or engraves ISA (?), half a dozen silver spoons and silver ladle marked ACA and one silver tumbler to her and her heirs.

Item – I give to Ann Chinn one suit of my clothes and half a dozen new Rusia Leather chairs.

Item – I give unto Eliza Heale all the remainder of my clothes of the better sort.

Item – I give unto Catherine Lindsey and Catherine Kirk all my usual wearing clothes to be equally divided between them.

Item – I give to Sarah Heale three silver salts and my side saddle.

Item – I give James Atchison six hundred pounds of tobacco to be paid him out of the crop made on the hills plantation.

Item – I give unto my brother Rawleigh Chinn ten Pounds Sterling I have in the hands of Mr. William Dawkins, merchant in London.

Item – I give unto my brother all residue of my estate in what nature forever.

Item – I appoint my loving brother Rawleigh Chinn my sole executor of this my last will and testament, revoking all former wills and deeds by me made and do publish and declare this the last as witness my hand and seale this ninth day of February, One Thousand Seven Hundred twenty and five/six.

Signed, sealed and published in presence of Edmond Carroll, Eliza Heale, Catherine Quick (Kirk?). Rawleigh Chinn audited her est. Feb. 13, 1729, amt. 250 pounds.

  • The fourth will is that of Abraham Marshall, husband of Tomazin, sister to Dorothy, found in Richmond County, VA.

Will of Abraham Marshall, blacksmith written November 3, 1708 and probated July 6, 1709 – Wife Thomasin use of plant. and lands in North Farnham Parish, after her death to daughter Mary Campbell, if she has no heirs, to brother John Marshall of Bradfield in Berkshire in the Kingdom of England, and if he has no heirs to go to John Durham of North Farnham Parish; son in law Alexander Cambell; exec: wife; witnesses: Thomas Morgan, Alexander Thompson, [Mil.] Walters

Tree

Based on the various wills, plus a few birth years from the parish register, we have the following tree for Dorothy and her sisters.

What’s obviously missing are the parents of Dorothy, Thomasin and Alice.

Abraham Marshall

Thomasin was married to Abraham Marshall by the time their daughter was born in 1699. She may have been married to him many years previously, but that is the first record of Thomasin. Abraham Marshall died in 1709 and Thomasin remarried to William Goodridge. Goodridge died in 1713, mentioning her in the will written May 12, 1713 and probated on September 2, 1713, along with his children from a prior marriage. William’s will was proven by Thomas and Dorothy Durham – Thomasin’s sister and brother-in-law.

North Farnham Parish Register – Mary Marshall daughter of Abraham and Thomasin Marshall, January 7, 1699

Court Order Book April 5, 1700 – Action brought by John Mills against Abraham Marshall and Thomasin his wife is dismist, theplt not appearing to prosecute

Court Order Book July 2, 1701 – Katherine Thatchill servant to Abraham Marshall by and with her own consent is ordered to serve her master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.

This day Abraham Marshall confesed judgemtent to the churchwarden of Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds good tobacco in cask which this court have ordered to be aid with costs of suit. Exo. Being the fine ode from Katherine Thatchill for committing the sin of fornication.

Ordered that Katherine Thatchill do serve Abraham Marshall her present master according to act for the care and trouble of her childbirth of a bastard child.

It being evidenctly made appear to the court that Catharine Parry, servant to Abraham Marshall did fugitively absent herself from her said master’ service the space of 15 days and that her said master hath expended 300 pounds of tobacco for percuring her againe, the court have ordered that the said Katherine do serve her said master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time and be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.

Court Order Book May 6, 1702 – Capt. John Tarpley one of the churchwardens of the parish of North Farnham certifying to this court that Thomas Tatchall being a parish charge and Abraham Marshall being willing to discharge the said parish of ye said Thomas, the court have ordered that the said Thomas Tatchall do serve the said Abraham Marshall and Thomazin his wife their heires and assignes until he shall attaine to the full age of 21 years.

Court Order Book Nov. 6, 1702 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Abraham Marshall is dismist the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Aug. 3, 1704 – Motion of Abraham Marshall by his attorney Daniel McCarty setting forth that James Dooling servant to the said Abraham hath by ye persuasion of some of his neighbors absented himself from his said masters service and doth refuse to return home with him. It is heretofor ordered that the said James do forthwith returne home to the service of his said master and that he continue in the same will further order from the court.

Court Order Book Aug. 3, 1704 – Especiall impll. Is granted in the suite betweene Abraham Marshall blacksmith, plt and Robert Renolds deft, until next court.

Court Order Book Aug. 3, 1704 – Daniel McCarthy entered attorney for Abraham Marshall.

Court Order Book October 4, 1704 – Upon petition of James Dolling for his freedome ordered that the said James to returne home to the service of his said master, Abraham Marshall, and that Mr. Francis Moore who imported the said James make oath that he has indentures for the terme of 9 years according to the certificate produced to this court under the hand of the Mayor of the Citty of Dublin.

Court Order Book October 4, 1704 – Imparlance granted in the suite betweene Abraham Marshall, blacksmith, plt and Robert Reynolds deft until next court.

Richmond County Wills by Robert Headley Jr. – F131t – Abraham Marshall, blacksmith, will Nov 3, 1708, July 6, 1709, wife Thomasin use of plantation and lands in North Farnham Parish, after her death to daughter Mary Cam(p)bell, if she has no heirs, to brother John Marshall of Bradfield in Berkshire in the kingdom of England and if he has no heirs, to go to John Durham (son of Thomas Durham) of NFP; s-i-l Alexander Cam(p)bell; exec wife, wit Thomas Morgan, Alexander Thompson (Mil.) Walters.

The birth of Mary Marshall to Abraham and Thomas in was recorded on Jan 7, 1699 in the North Farnham Parish Register (page 126), yet apparently she had married Alexander Cam(p)bell by November 1708. One or the other entries has to be incorrect. The Parish Register is known to have been copied into a new book at least once.

Deed Book Dec 10, 1723 Thomas Durham to Thomas Dodson Sr., 5 shillings 100 acres formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bounded by Spanish Oak corner tree of Charles Dodson part of patent formerly granted to William Thatcher by the main branch of Totoskey and then (metes and bounds.) Signed Thomas and Mary Durham, wit John Hill, William Walker and Jeremiah Greenham

Deed Book Dec 10, 1723 between Thomas Durham to Thomas Dodson Sr. of Richmond Co. 5000 pounds tobacco received by Thomas Dodson Sr. certain parcel of land formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bearing date 25th of 9ber, 1692, containing 100 acres bounded (same as lease above). Signed Thomas Durham, Mary Durham, wit John Hill, William Walker, Jeremiah Greenham

Mary Dodson appeared in court May 6, 1724 and released her dower

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 North Farnham Parish 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, witnesses Robert Reynolds and George Gibson and William Creel, Recorded April 1, 1734

John Chinn

John Chinn’s (Chynn) family was involved in transporting people to Virginia in order to receive headrights. Alice was John Chinn’s second wife, marrying sometime before the birth of their first child in 1682 which puts Alice’s birth about 1662, or earlier. John died a decade later, in 1692, with a will listing his children.

John Chinn is obtaining patents as early as 1664 for land upon Morrattico Creek, by the Dragon Swamp and at the head of Morrattico. In his adult life, he appears to live in Lancaster County, adjacent Richmond County. Given that John was already patenting land about the time Alice Chinn was born, he was probably at least 20 years older than Alice.

Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 4; Pg 436 – John Chinn, 100 acs. Lancaster Co., 24 Aug. 1664, p. 125, (630). Upon Morrattico Cr., adi. his own & land of Henry Davis. Trans. of 2 pers: James Potter, Thomas Coate.

Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 6; Pg 31 – John Chynn, 370 acs. upon a br. of Moratico Cr., adj. land’ of Edward Miles; 17 Mar. 1667/8, p. 113. Granted is David Fox, Gent., assigned to Lambeth Lambethson, who assigned to Alexander Portus, by him assigned to Thomas Williams, who assigned to John Chynn & Henry Davis, & sd. Davis assigned his title to sd. Chynn.

Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 6; Pg 31 – John Chynn & John Gibson, of Lancaster Co., 550 acs. in Rappa. Co., 17 Mar. 1667/8, p. 113. Beg. by the Draggon Swampe & adj. land of John &c. Trans. of 11 pers: John Johnson, James Johnson, Henry Woodbridge, Anne Wilson, Wm. Harman Flering, Francis Dolphin, Rich.Jno. Medler (?), Wm. Baker, Rick. Parker.

Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 6; Pg 70 – Mr. Thomas Wright & John Chynn; 220 acs. N. side of Rappa. Co., near the head of Moratticoe Cr., by the Mill Dam, &c; 26 Apr. 1670, p. 276. Trans. of 5 pers: Ralph Hall, Ben. Davis, Cutberth Taylor, Lyddia Gates, Edward Jones.

Today, we find on Family Search that Edge Hill, nearing Downings Virginia is listed as being the home of the Chinn family, and nearby, we find Chinn’s Pond. This correlates with the location of the above grants and deeds. Edge Hill Road is shown with the red balloon, below. Chinn’s Pond is the body of water to the right of the red balloon.

The two inlets to the north are Farnham Creek and Totuskey Creek, both locations documented in the various deeds. We know that are allied families are living between Chinn’s and Rich Neck, north of 360, near the Haynesville Correctional Center, shown below.

Where Are We?

Ok, we have lots of data, but where are we really?

Good question. I wondered the same thing.

Here’s what we know.

William is NOT Dorothy’s Father

William Smoot is not Dorothy’s father, as proven both by his interactions and his will where he leaves all of his estate to his grandchildren through daughter Mary who married Dorothy’s son, Thomas Durham Jr., highlighted in yellow.

Further evidence of this is that William Smoot’s daughter, Mary, married Dorothy’s son. If Dorothy was William Smoot’s daughter, then Dorothy’s son would have married her sister.

William Smoot and Mary Gilbert are both Related to Dorothy

William Smoot is related to both Dorothy and her sister, Alice, given that William deeds land in 1700 to Dorothy and in the case that Dorothy dies without heirs, Dorothy’s sister’s daughter receives the land.

After James Gilbert’s death, Mary Gilbert sells 50 acres to Thomas and Dorothy Durham, NOT just Thomas Durham. William Smoot quitclaims the land that Mary Gilbert sells to the Durhams. This suggests that the relationship between both William Smoot and Mary Gilbert is to Dorothy Durham, not her husband, Thomas. Otherwise, the deeds would have been to Thomas Durham, not to Dorothy alone in 1700 and Thomas and Dorothy in 1707.

Therefore, William Smoot is probably a sibling of Mary Gilbert. If Mary Gilbert is of the age to be the mother of Dorothy, then Mary Gilbert would have been born no later than 1643 and possibly as early as 1620. That would make Mary between the ages of 64 and 87 in 1707 when she deeds the land to Thomas and Dorothy Durham, and William Smoot quitclaims the land.

William Smoot of Rappahannock County is first found in the records in 1672, so of age and born no later than 1650. He and his wife are having children in the 1680s and his son, William Smoot Jr. comes of age by 1701.

Scenario 1 – Is William Smoot the Son of Mary Gilbert?

Given the ages involved, William Smoot could possibly have been the son of Mary Gilbert by a previous marriage.

If William Smoot is the son of Mary Gilbert and the brother to Dorothy, then Thomasin and Alice’s heirs would both have had to quitclaim the land that Mary sold to Dorothy and Thomas Durham in 1707. This didn’t happen, so I doubt that Mary Gilbert is the mother of both William Smoot and Dorothy Durham.

If William Smoot is the brother of Dorothy Durham, with Mary Gilbert being their mother, then Mary was married to a Smoot before she married James Gilbert.

This would mean that James Gilbert was the step-father of Dorothy Durham and William Smoot, along with Dorothy’s sisters, Alice and Thomasin. That means that William Smoot is also the brother to Thomasin Marshall and Alice Chinn. Not impossible.

It’s also possible that Mary’s child is Jane Smoot, not William. If so, the same laws would apply, given that a husband owns his wife’s land unless she holds the land separately from him.

However, either scenario, William or Jane as the brother to Dorothy, causes me to question why William Smoot would have quit-claimed that 1707 deed, but the other living child known to be Dorothy’s sister, Thomasin, did not quitclaim the deed. Also, Dorothy’s sister Alice mentioned her two sisters in her 1701 will, but did not mention a brother. Unusual, since William Smoot was generous in the 1700 deed towards Alice’s daughter.

Therefore, I find it very unlikely that William Smoot is the brother of Dorothy Durham.

Scenario 2 – Mary Gilbert, sister to William Smoot and Dorothy’s Parent?

Another possibility is that Mary Gilbert, William Smoot (or his wife) and Dorothy’s parent are all three the children of unknown parents. This means the reason William deeded land to Dorothy was because he was her uncle. The reason Mary Gilbert deeded land to Dorothy and Thomas Durham was because she was Dorothy’s aunt and the reason William Smoot quitclaimed the deed was because he owned an interest in that land as Mary’s sibling. This does not explain why Dorothy’s sister, Thomasin, still living in 1707, along with the heirs of Dorothy’s deceased sister, Alice, didn’t also have to quitclaim that deed since ownership would have passed through their parent’s generation. If this is the case, it makes the next scenario more likely.

It’s also possible that ownership of that land was not to all three siblings, meaning Mary Gilbert, William Smoot and Dorothy’s parents, which means that Thomasin and Alice would not need to quitclaim that land if Dorothy’s parents did not own any interest. We would need to know how the land that was conveyed in 1707 was obtained by Mary Gilbert and exactly why William Smoot had an ownership right in that land. A part of that story is also why Mary Gilbert managed to retain that land after James Gilbert’s death and his entire estate being left to John Mills Jr.

This is one of the two most likely scenarios, the second being shown below.

Scenario 3 – William Smoot as the Brother of Mary Gilbert – Mother of Dorothy

In this scenario, William Smoot is the brother of Mary Gilbert, and Mary Gilbert is the mother of Dorothy Durham, Alice and Thomasin, all known to be sisters.

If William Smoot is the brother of Mary Gilbert, or Jane Smoot is Mary Gilbert’s sister, with Mary Gilbert inheriting land from their common parent(s), or even another sibling, then William would have been quitclaiming his interest in his parent’s land. Given that Mary Gilbert deeded this land in 1707, and that William Smoot’s apparent only son, William Smoot Jr., had probably died, William Smoot Sr. would have had no objection to the land from his parents going to his niece who was also a grandmother to his grandchildren through his daughter Mary and Dorothy’s son Thomas. Dorothy Durham was also William’s neighbor, so he had lived beside her for his entire life. The land sold by Mary Gilbert abutted William Smoot’s land as well as Thomas and Dorothy Durham’s land, so it was a perfect fit.

The other possibility is that William is not, himself, the brother of Mary Gilbert, but that his wife, Jane, was Mary Gilbert’s sister. The same laws would apply since William Smoot would have been the person selling his wife’s land. Jane did sign a release of dower. If Jane Smoot was Dorothy’s aunt, would William have said in the 1700 deed that he was transferring land for the “great love” he has for Dorothy? I don’t know.

If he had only added two words, “my niece,” or whatever Dorothy was to him.

In my opinion, the most likely scenario is that Mary Gilbert was originally a Smoot, or is the sister of Jane Smoot through unknown parents, and that William Smoot is not the father of Dorothy Durham, but her uncle, which explains the various relationships in a satisfactory manner that makes sense – including the omission of Thomasin’s quit-claiming the 1707 deed. She held no interest.

Tracking Neighborhood Land

In an act of utter desperation, I created a grid in Excel of all of the land transactions that included anyone with any of the family names I’ve worked with in early Rappahannock or Richmond County. These families were all neighbors.  Mary Gilbert had to acquire that land she sold in 1707 in some fashion – and given that it was bounded by William Smoot’s land, it had to have originated in these early families.

By anyone, I mean anyone mentioned as having land that bounded Smoot or Gilbert, anyone who acted as a witness, and of course, the buyer and seller.

The following grid shows only the first 12 columns of approximately 35, but it does show all of the Gilbert, Smoot or 50 acre involved transactions, highlighted in yellow.

Names on the left with nothing in their rows have entries in the columns not displayed that reflect land sales to and from Charles Dodson, Thomas Durham and others who are neighbors but not directly involved.  My goal was to perhaps find some common links to a neighbor whose land touches Charles Dodson, Thomas Durham and William Smoot – early – before Mary Gilbert obtained the land in whatever manner.

William Smoot’s land that he obtained in 1700 may have been in his hands as early as 1684 and surely was by 1694.  The neighbors are given in the patent bounds as:

  • Rowland Lawson (Leuson)
  • James Gilbert
  • Mr. Grimes (probably John, from other grants)
  • Clears who is probably Ambrose Clary

William Smoot’s land, and that of his neighbors, appears to be complex, based on these 4 entries in the book, Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants (1694-1742) Vol I:

Only two other 50 acre transactions occurred, both in 1694, one from John Mills Sr. to Thomas Dusin and one from Thomas and Susanna Dusin to William Richardson for the same land.

These lands appear to have been in the early Thomas Madison grant or grants.  Madison partnered with Richard White whose daughter Hannah was the wife of John Mills Sr.  Furthermore, James Gilbert in the 1693 court case appears to be in possession of the land grant in question. It appears that the Madison grant(s) and the Griffin grant abutted, based on 3-79, above.

Further research on the various people involved and whose land abutted these transactions produced the following information:

  • Richard White had a will and named two daughters, both of whom were married in 1708 when he died and none were named Mary, Jane, Dorothy or Thomasin.
  • Thomas Madison died in 1674 leaving everything to wife Katherine, mentioning his brother but no children.
  • Thomas Dusin died in 1704, which is after James Gilbert, but leaves his entire estate to his wife, Susannah, mentioning no children.  Dusen, according to a will he witnessed sometime before 1677 was about age 29, so born about 1648 or earlier.
  • John Henley, mentioned as the 1694 purchaser was alive yet in 1709, witnessing a will.
  • Madison also sold land to William Matthews whose daughter, Alice, married William Thacker, another gentleman patenting land in the Northern Neck of Virginia and who sold land to Charles Dodson in 1685. William Thacker was also William Smooth’s neighbor, according to Smoot’s 1694 land patent awarded in 1700.
  • William Matthews sold land to both Abraham Marshall and Charles Dodson. William Matthews died before 1686, his widow married Peter Elmore, long associated with Charles Dodson.
  • William Thacker died in 1698 leaving an underage son, Gabriel and 2 daughters, Catherine and Susanna.
  • Thomas Southern died in 1704, leaving sons James and William and 3 unnamed daughters. However, daughters Susannah (1691), Winifred (1693) and Thomas (1695) are recorded in the North Farnham Parish register for this couple, so they were having children too late to me Dorothy’s parents.
  • Ambrose Clary disappears from the records entirely.
  • Daniel O’Neal is clearly present in the community, but I was unable to find a will after 1699, nor is he present in the Maryland Families data base.  This actually may be he could be a candidate worthy of further research.
  • The Grimes family continues to appear in the records, but I was unable to find anything for John Grimes.  Further deed research would be in order, as well as early wills.
  • I was also unable to find anything further in a cursory search for Edward Riley, meaning that I have not returned to the library to search court records and all deeds.
  • Richard Fowler died in 1718.
  • John Ingo, Sr., died in 1701 leaving sons John, James and daughter Elizabeth Ascough.
  • Rowland Lawson’s father was also apparently named Rowland. One of these men was importing headrights in the 1660s.  Rowland Jr. lived and died in 1706 in Lancaster Co., VA, naming sons Henry and Rowland in his will.  His brother may have been Epaphro.

Needless to say, I’ve struck out with finding any other likely connection for Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin among the neighbor families – at least among the families involved most consistently or with a 50 acre land conveyance.

One possibility yet remaining would be to search for land transactions from both Thomas Madison and William Fauntleroy, husband of Katherine Griffin Fauntleroy, for 50 acre sales to attempt to find the land that was eventually conveyed by Mary Gilbert to Dorothy and Thomas Durham and quitclaimed by William Smoot.

This land may yet be the key to unlocking the identity of Mary Gilbert and her relationship to Dorothy Durham and William Smoot.

Revisiting James Gilbert

What remains is the question of why James Gilbert willed his estate, except for 20 shillings, to John Mills Jr. It’s possible that the reason is because he and Mary Gilbert had no children and he was the step-father to her children. This act would have upset his wife terribly, which it obviously did, but could be logically explained in this manner, although clearly this is speculation. Of course, the other possibility is that the cumulative brain damage caused him to become either irrational or confused. This is certainly a valid possibility, given that one of the depositions indicated that he couldn’t successfully count cows, mistaking 15 for 40.

It’s also possible that Mary Gilbert had no children and was the sibling of William Smoot and Dorothy’s parent – so James Gilbert felt he had no one to leave his estate to – meaning no children. Although that still doesn’t explain why he attempted to omit his wife.

In some way, Mary Gilbert and William Smoot (or his wife) came to own land jointly, probably from common parents, which is why William quitclaimed his interest in the land when Mary sold the land in 1707 to Dorothy and Thomas Durham. This also suggests that there were no additional invested property-owners in that land, because no one else conveyed or quitclaimed that land. We know that if William Smoot was Mary’s child, he would have had no vested interest in the land unless he was left that land by James Gilbert, and James Gilbert only left land to John Mills Jr. If Mary Gilbert has previously been married to a Smoot who left land to William, Mary Gilbert would not have been able to sell that land, because she would have had no interest. Widows only obtained life estate and did not own their husband’s land in fee simple. We also know that if William Smoot was Mary’s son, and Dorothy’s brother, that the third living sibling, Thomasin should also have quitclaimed that deed, and she did not, nor did the heirs of Alice, Dorothy’s other sister who had previously died.

If Mary Gilbert is William Smoot’s sister, and the mother of Dorothy and her two sisters, then Mary Gilbert had to be born before 1643, given that Dorothy was born in 1663 and may not have been the oldest of the three daughters.

If Mary Gilbert was born in or before 1643, and was the sister to William Smoot, then neither William Smoot nor Mary could have been the children of William Smoote who settled in Maryland, because we know that in 1646, when he immigrated, he did not have a daughter named Mary.

William Smoot could be the son of William Smoot of Maryland if Mary Gilbert is not his sister, but is instead the sister of his wife Jane. If that is the case, then who William Smoot descends from is irrelevant to the search for Dorothy Durham’s parents.

It’s possible that William Smoot’s wife is the person related to Mary Gilbert, and that Jane Smoot and Mary Gilbert’s parents are also the grandparents of Dorothy Durham through an unknown parent.

Having sifted through all of the available information, the best fit is that William Smoot (or his wife) and Mary Gilbert were siblings, and that Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin were the daughters of Mary Gilbert, possibly through an unknown first husband, given James Gilbert’s discussion about his will with Dorothy within hearing. That’s not exactly how you want to inform your daughter that she has been disowned. Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin could have been the daughters of James Gilbert as well, although it seems somewhat doubtful.

If Dorothy and her sisters were step-daughters, that might be one reason why James Gilbert felt no compunction to leave any of his estate to Dorothy, Alice or Thomasin – but it does not explain why he only left 20 shillings to his wife and the balance of his estate to a friend. How was his wife supposed to survive after his death? If Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin were his children, we’ll just have to chalk James Gilbert’s decision up to cumulative brain damage due to epilepsy.

The other scenario that fits equally as well is that Mary Gilbert had no children, William Smoot had only one living daughter, Mary, who married Thomas Durham Jr., and that Dorothy’s parent was the sibling of both Mary Gilbert and William Smoot (or his wife.)

I am still hopeful that someday more information will emerge, such as previously undiscovered records out of Williamsburg from the general court or early chancery suits from Richmond County.

Until that time…this is the best we can do.

My Opinion

My opinion, barring further evidence, is that the most likely scenario is Scenario 3 and that Mary Gilbert is the mother of Dorothy Durham and that James Gilbert may or may not have been her father – and that either William Smoot or his wife Jane and Mary Gilbert were siblings.

My second choice would be Scenario 2 where Mary Gilbert is the sibling of William Smoot or his wife Jane, and both are siblings of Dorothy’s parent, whoever that was.

DNA

Unfortunately, the only way to prove the theory that Mary Gilbert is Dorothy’s mother would be to utilize the mitochondrial DNA DNA of Mary Gilbert through her daughters, but since we have no idea if Mary Gilbert had any children – there are no known daughters for us to track their descendants to current.

Dorothy and her sisters had the following female children whose descendants may be candidates for testing.

If Jane Smoot’s daughter, Mary Smoot that married Thomas Durham Jr. is the sister to Dorothy’s mother, or to Dorothy, the mitochondrial DNA of her daughter, Mary, through all females to the present, would match the mitochondrial DNA of the lines shown above.

Mary Durham Dodson had two daughters, Alice born in 1711 that married an Oldham and Mary born in 1715 that married William Creel.  Nothing more is known about these lines.

However, if Mary Durham Dodson’s mtDNA matched that of Dorothy Durham’s daughter’s descendants or that of Dorothy’s daughter’s descendants – we would then know that the relationship of William Smoot to Dorothy was through his wife and not him.  Conversely, we would also know that if the mtDNA did not match, then the relationship was not directly matrilineal and probably through William Smoot and not his wife.

We can’t verify William Smoot’s Y DNA line because he had no surviving sons.

Unfortunately, we can’t use autosomal DNA in this instance to universally search for Smoot, because the descendants of Thomas Durham Jr. will match a Smoot line. The descendants of Thomas Dodson who married Mary Durham MAY show a Smoot line, because Dorothy Durham is shows in so many trees to be Dorothy Smoot.

Smoke or Fire?

However, searching at both Family Tree DNA and Ancestry for matches with the Smoot surname has produced what I would classify as smoke. But you know that old saying about smoke and fire.  The question is, do we have fire?

At Ancestry, Smoot matches break down as follows:

  • 38 total
  • 10 are private
  • 10 are either the Thomas Durham/Dorothy line
  • 9 lines are too late to be useful
  • 9 descend from the Charles County, Maryland Smoots. One of these lines matches me on a known line that is not related to the Northern Neck families.

Those from the Charles County Smoot line share from 6.1cM on one segment to 18.7 cM on two segments.  The person with 18.7 cM on two segments is known to be related through another line, although they could be related through two separate lines. Five have shared matches, but none of the shared matches are useful meaning we don’t share common ancestors in trees and there are either no common surnames, they don’t have trees, or the surnames in common don’t seem to be from the same lines.

Unfortunately, Ancestry has no chromosome browser.

Those 11 matches to people who descend from the Smoot line in Charles County, Maryland are an awful lot of smoke for there to be no fire. Because of the interrelated families and because of the distance in terms of generations and time, we would need to carefully triangulate any autosomal DNA matches to Smoot and they would have to NOT be related to me through any other line – meaning the testers would need to have a pretty complete pedigree chart.

At Family Tree DNA, Smoot matches break down as follows:

  • 8 total
  • 2 no tree BUT they are assigned to my father’s side through family match phasing
  • 4 are from Thomas Durham/Dorothy line
  • 2 are from the Charles County, Maryland Smoot line with longest blocks of 8 and 9 cM

Fortunately, I have more tools to work with at Family Tree DNA, including a chromosome browser that allows me to view the matching DNA segments of the 8 people who match me.  Unfortunately, neither of the two Charles County matches match me on the same segment as another person from my known Durham line, nor do they match anyone else is the Smoot group using the matrix tool.

So, if the matches to Smoot descendants of the Charles County, Maryland group is fire and not smoke, we still need proof.  That means we’ll need more testers to match and some to triangulate on my known Dodson segments.

Let’s hope that in time, between additional DNA testers, advances in technology and perhaps more genealogical records becoming available, that one day we’ll be able to solve the mystery of the relationship of William Smoot and Mary Gilbert to Dorothy Durham, and identify Dorothy’s parents!

The Last Father’s Day

The heat was oppressive. The air wasn’t moving, hanging like a hot wet blanket, engulfing you, making it difficult to breathe.

In the days before air conditioning, you woke up hot and sweaty, and that was before the sun was even on the horizon. You tended the livestock early, weeded the garden out behind the chicken house and picked whatever produce was ready by 7 AM or so, because the heat and humidity only got worse as the day progressed.

Home sweet home. The farm in Indiana.

In fact, it was so hot on the farm in summer that children were allowed to run around in their birthday suits except for their underwear, and play in the sprinkler or a tub outside, filled from the hose or the well pump. Sometimes the adults indulged in the hose too, putting their thumbs over the end to cause “spray,” or stuck their feet in a bucket of cool water. It was just that hot. 

This particular Sunday, June 20, 1993, just happened to be Father’s Day.

My life in 1993 was very different than it is today. Every June, I spent a week at Rockome Gardens, an Amish “park” in the countryside of heartland Illinois, at a Cross Stitch Festival, teaching and learning and enjoying the camaraderie of my friends.

A group of us met at Rockome from across the country every summer, like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. Mind you, Arcola, the closest town, a few miles distant was so small that there was only a railroad crossing, a bowling alley and one small Mom and Pop motel. Of course, there were grain silos and an elevator along the railroad tracks, because after all, this is farm country.

By Daniel Schwen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3448414

The area around Rockome Gardens was much like the area in Indiana where I grew up, corn, soybeans and farm after farm, so I was quite comfortable driving between the fields and avoiding Amish buggies sharing the road. Everyone waved at each other. Life was simple. I loved it there – it felt and smelled so comfortable.

The needlework show ended on Sunday afternoon, but I packed up early and hit the road so that I could drive to central Indiana in time to see my step-father, the man I knew as Dad.

I knew he wasn’t expecting me, because he knew that I was busy at the show, but I wanted to be sure to get there in time to celebrate Father’s Day.

Dad was 72 years old and had been having health issues off and on for a couple of years. A lifelong smoker, he had been in and out of the hospital with COPD. He would give up cigarettes, certainly while he was in the hospital, and for awhile afterwards, but he always started again. He thought that we didn’t know, because he only smoked when he was at the barn. I know he always thought he’d have “just one” but that one always led to another, which led to another, which eventually led to another ambulance ride to the hospital. Up until this time, the EMTs and doctors had always managed to revive him, patch him back together and home he would come with new resolve among our fervent pleas to spare his own life.

I was so grateful that Dad was still with us, seemed to be doing as well as possible, and was excited to surprise him. I had arranged with my husband to celebrate Father’s Day with him the following weekend by planting two maple trees at our house, so hubby didn’t expect me home until very late on Sunday.

The only place that afforded air conditioned comfort was a car, store or a restaurant. No place else in farm country had air conditioning, including the farmhouse that was always “home” to me, even years after moving away.

As I drove cross country, enjoying the cool of my Mom-van, back road to back road, watching the shimmering heat waves rise up from the pavement, I relished the thought of how surprised Dad would be. I had a small gift of some sort all tucked away, even though I had already send a card and gift certificate to Red Lobster.

Dad’s favorite thing to do at Red Lobster was to order something, add a side of crab legs, which he dearly loved, and then see how many meals he could get out of that one meal via leftovers. Red Lobster was a luxury he never allowed himself unless he had a gift certificate – which is why I gave him one at every possible opportunity.

As people age, they are infinitely more difficult to buy for. First, they have most everything they need. What they want has far more to do with people they love, time and visits that any “thing.” I knew that, which is why I was going home, even though it meant arriving at my own home late that night and getting little sleep before work on Monday morning.

The look on his face would be worth it!

I knew Mom and Dad were going to Red Lobster to eat after church on Father’s Day, so I timed my arrival for after they returned home. That worked perfectly.

As I drove, the baking sun gave way to storm clouds gathering on the western horizon. Heat induced summer storms were mixed blessings, as they brought much needed rain for the crops and sometimes a brief respite from the heat, but they also brought tornadoes and this was tornado alley. We learned what to watch for, and when to run to the basement and dive for safety. Tornadoes were a fact of life and I’ve lived through several.

I watched the western sky as a wall cloud approached, rolling towards me, hoping the downpour that was sure to come would be swift and fleeting, because driving in blinding rain is difficult. Many summer storms were violent, but passed quickly, leaving the vegetation refreshed and beautifully green.

I drove in front of the wall cloud for quite some time, at about the same speed apparently, but when I turned north, it overtook me and I found myself in a hail-filled downpour. In the open country, there is no place to “go” and the best you can hope for is to find someplace to pull off the road so someone won’t hit you. No one can see.

Normally, I find summer storms refreshing. I woke up to so many storms, both during the night and to gentle early morning rains when I was a kid that rainfall feels soothing to me, and so do storms, unless they are particularly violent.

But this day, the storm and the greyness didn’t lift.

I arrived “home” in the mid-late afternoon and walked in, just like I had done for decades. I knew where the key to the back door was hidden, but I never had to use it. The door was never locked. I don’t even know if the key worked, truthfully. The lock probably would have been considered antique and there was only one key in existence for everyone to share. Generally, someone was home, and if they weren’t the dog wasn’t going to let anyone but family in anyway. The front door, not once in my entire recollection, was ever used. This was farm country and that’s how farm country worked!

Dad’s two favorite places, other than the barn, were at the kitchen table and in his recliner. Beyond any doubt, he could always be found in one of those three places. This day, he was seated in his chair in the kitchen wearing his ever-present overalls. He looked up to see who was walking in his back door, and I could see the surprise on his face turn to pure joy as he recognized me.

He had no other visitors.

I walked up to him and hugged him and declared, “Happy Father’s Day, Dad.” He beamed, thunked me on the head with his thumb and tousled my hair. All was right with the world. He may have been a quiet, soft-spoken prairie farmer that time passed by, but he was the most important person in the world to me that day.

He was infinitely strong in his silence, a granite pillar, a mighty example of kindness and good. He stood steadfastly for what he believed, even when it wasn’t convenient or popular. He believed in his family, equality and what was right.  In fact, he believed in me when no one else did.  It was Dad who told me, another hot summer day, years earlier, “You can be whatever you set your mind to – and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.” He didn’t have to say any more. He had said it all and changed my life with one sentence.

Thanks Dad.

He asked what I was doing there and I told him I had come to see him on Father’s Day. He immediately began to worry about me driving home late at night.

Yep, that was Dad.

I told him I came to visit and the drive didn’t matter. I could tell, in spite of his protests, he was secretly pleased.

I’m not sure where Mom was. She was there, I’m sure, but these 24 years later, what I remember of that afternoon was sitting at the old kitchen table and visiting with him. I don’t remember what we talked about, except the storm (of course) because farmers always talk about rain, and about what he ate at lunch at Red Lobster. I think I brought him a mug or something like that as well, and he complained that I shouldn’t be spending my money on him.

That was always Dad.

That was the same man who would patch anything and everything together with duct tape until it simply could not be fixed again, and then begrudgingly purchase a used replacement, but gave me his last $20 when I left with my young children to move away – to pursue that career he encouraged me to follow. He desperately fought tears that day and asked if I was sure I didn’t need more money. I tried to refuse his $20, but he wouldn’t let me. I later found a $100 bill tucked in my purse, which he adamantly disavowed any knowledge of when I tried to pay him back.

That was Dad.

Dad’s sense of humor never failed him. Sitting at the table that day, I recalled that one year I gave him a hairbrush with no bristles for Father’s Day, because he was bald. He pretended to use that hairbrush for years, which would always cause peals of laughter.

Dad, smiling at me as I tried to get one of my kids ready for Halloween. He was wearing a wig, so I wouldn’t “recognize” him – and to let me know he wasn’t bald anymore!

Yea, that was Dad.

We laughed in the heat that day, sitting at the kitchen table with the whir of a very ineffective fan in the background, as we recalled many funny stories, some of which both of us didn’t agree were funny. But we laughed at all of them anyway!

That was Dad. Never malicious or hurtful with his humor, but always a practical joker.

At some point, Mom came in to fix dinner, called supper on the farm. Dinner was at lunch and the word lunch didn’t exist in that world. I told her I couldn’t stay to eat. I had many hours ahead of me, on those same back roads in the rain.

Dad walked me to the car and uncharacteristically told me how much he really appreciated me finding a way to stop. He told me he loved me.

That was not Dad. He was a man of very few words, and never “those” words. Never.

I looked at him a long time, in silence, and he looked at me too. Straight in the eyes. Tears welled up. I knew how much he loved me.

I had always known.

I know he knew how much I loved him too. I tried to tell him with my actions always. As Dad would say, “actions speak louder than words.” I’ve lived by his simple “farmer’s wisdom” my entire life. It never fails me.

I tried to speak. I couldn’t. My voice cracked as I told him I loved him and I simply couldn’t say goodbye. The tears streamed down my face, mixed with sweat, in spite of my attempts to stop them. I felt his rough thumb, calloused by decades in the fields, as he tried to gently wipe my tears away.

Dad was of course sweating, not crying.

I finally got into the car. Dad stepped back a couple steps, between the house and the old building that passed for a garage, and began waving to me, very slowly. He just stood there waving. He never did that.

I knew I had to leave, but for some reason, I was transfixed in that moment in time. Time simply stopped.

Finally, I backed out of the driveway and pointed the car north. As I passed the little white church at the crossroads, on the land he donated, I braked to look in the mirror, and I saw him, still standing there watching me disappear, still waving.

I saw the storm clouds gathering again, and I knew I had to hurry or they would overtake me. I wanted Dad to go inside, out of the storm. He had already weathered too many. I desperately wanted him to be safe, and to be there went I went back the next time, waiting for me at the kitchen table.

I drove away, down that lonely grey road as the storm began. I had no idea I was crossing a divide.

The day after we planted those maple trees, my life changed forever.

That was the last Father’s Day.

It was also the last Father’s Day my husband would be with me.

And the last time I ever visited Rockome.

A year later, I would be on the other side of that terrible divide, and all I could do was to look back in life’s rear-view mirror, longing to see Dad waving. Wanting desperately to turn around and go back. Aching inconsolably for what was forever lost.

I’m so incredibly glad that I found a way to make it home on that sticky hot Sunday for what would be the last Father’s Day.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and thank you.

Eloise Lore, my grandmother’s sister, Barbara Jean Ferverda (at right) and Ralph Dean Long holding Spot. Garage, burning barrels and outhouse in the background.

Dorothy Durham (1663 – after 1725), No Shrinking Violet, 52 Ancestors #164

Dorothy, born in 1663, was the wife of Thomas Durham by sometime in 1685, because their daughter, Mary, was born on June 5, 1686 in what was then Rappahannock County, Virginia, now referred to as Old Rappahannock. We don’t know if Mary was Dorothy’s first child, but Mary was the first of Dorothy’s children recorded in the North Farnham Parish church records which are known to be incomplete.

We also know that Dorothy had two more children that lived, Thomas Durham born on June 17, 1690 and John Durham on November 23, 1698. By that time, Richmond County had been formed and Rappahannock County was dissolved.

Dorothy appears to be somewhat younger than Thomas Durham, her husband, who was probably born sometime before 1649 based on the fact that he was exempted from paying levies by the court in September of 1699 “by reason of his great age.” Dorothy was all of 36 years old at that time. It wasn’t uncommon for second wives to be significantly younger than their husbands and it looks like Thomas was probably at least 25+ years older than Dorothy, if not more.

Thomas died before June 1, 1715 when his will was probated, leaving Dorothy with children still at home. Dorothy did what colonial wives did, she remarried quickly, in February 1715, before Thomas Durham’s will was probated. Probate of a will generally happened no later than 90 days after the person died although in this case, Thomas had obviously died sometime prior to February when Dorothy remarried. Someone had to manage the plantation, plant the crops, maintain tobacco which necessitated a lot of manual labor and TLC at just the right time, and harvest the tobacco when ripe. Dorothy married Jeremiah Greenham, a well-respected gentleman who had been involved with the family and neighborhood for years.

Jeremiah Greenham died in 1753 and we know that his wife at the time was named Mary. Dorothy was last recorded in a document in 1725 and died sometime between then and 1753, a span of 28 years. Dorothy died between the ages of 62 and 90.

It’s possible that Dorothy had passed away by January 13, 1726 when Jeremiah Greenham sold his Stafford County land to brothers Thomas Dodson and Greenham Dodson. No wife signed a release of dower, so we can’t tell if the lack of a signature was because Jeremiah was unmarried at the time, or it was an oversight. I think this at least suggests that Dorothy might have been deceased by this date.

However, Dorothy was alive a year earlier on February 9, 1725 when Ann Chinn Fox Chichester, Dorothy’s niece who had no children wrote a will wherein she left “my suit of silk crape clothes and a suit of muslin head clothes, with apron, rufels and —“ to her Aunt Dorothy Greenham. Ann’s will was probated on December 10, 1729 but we can’t tell if Aunt Dorothy was alive to collect her suit of silk crepe.

Clothes were expensive in colonial Virginia, and silk crepe, by whatever spelling, would have been a very nice gift that Aunt Dorothy surely would have appreciated.

We don’t know when Dorothy died, but we do know that Jeremiah retained a close relationship with John Durham, Dorothy’s grandson through her son Thomas Durham. Jeremiah Greenham left John Durham his “Great Bible.” Sadly, Jeremiah had no children of his own.

Dorothy Durham had two known sisters, Alice who married first to John Chinn and second to John Stretchly and Thomazin who married first to Abraham Marshall and second to William Goodridge. Dorothy could have had more siblings, but those are the only two mentioned in 1701 and 1725 wills.

The oft-repeated story about Dorothy’s parents is that she is the daughter of William and Jane Smoot, but working with the records, I can tell you that I’m nearly positive that Dorothy is not William Smoot’s daughter, although she is clearly somehow related to William Smoot. I even have some idea about who Dorothy’s parents might have been, but there is no smoking gun yet today. Maybe in due time, utilizing advanced DNA methodologies. Or maybe someone’s “great Bible” will turn up on e-Bay or records from another location will be found. There is always hope!

Colonial Northern Neck Virginia

What was life like in the Northern Neck of Virginia when Dorothy would have lived there?

This area was still suffering from Indian warfare in 1676 when Bacon’s Rebellion gained a foothold. Servants and slaves took the opportunity to escape. Plantations were burned, as was Jamestown, depicted in the engraving below.

Armed men gathered, eager to fight and emotions ran high. In 1677, the Northern Neck settlers dared not venture from their plantations for fear of their lives. If Dorothy’s family lived in tidewater Virginia then, it would have been a frightening place. Dorothy would have been about 13 at that time.

Militia units were formed and frontier patrols were maintained in this region until about 1700 to protect the families from Indian attack from hostile northern Indians. These patrols were reinstituted in 1704 across the Rappahannock River in Essex County. Plantations were distant from each other, and although the area was sparsely settled, it was still in many ways a frontier.

Bacon’s Rebellion resulted in the courts removing the ability for men without land to have a vote. It would be more than 200 years before non-landowners recovered that right. Dorothy’s husband, Thomas Durham, wouldn’t have been able to vote until 1700, when William Smoot deeded land to Dorothy, if indeed Dorothy’s land would have been considered Thomas Durham’s land for purposes of voting. Furthermore, to sit on a jury, one had to be a landowner, so the lack of land was a handicap and detriment to Civil liberties we all take for granted today. Serving at court and voting was reserved for the more successful male residents, in essence creating a defacto class system. While Thomas and Dorothy don’t appear to be poor, based on Thomas’s estate inventory and the fact that they eventually owned land, they certainly had to work their way up the social and economic ladder.

There is no record of Thomas Durham ever purchasing or patenting land although in 1723, Thomas Durham’s son, Thomas Jr. sells land that looks for all the world like it might have originally belonged to his father. If indeed this was Thomas Durham Sr.’s land, the deed was never filed at the courthouse, just passed down by hand.

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. Recorded May 6, 1724 and Mary Durham appeared in court to relinquished dower.

Abraham Marshall is Dorothy Durham’s sister’s husband. By 1723, Thomas Durham Sr. had died and Dorothy was married to Jeremiah Greenham.

Thomas Durham Sr.’s will is confusing. He directly addressed the 50 acres of land deeded to him in 1707 by Mary Gilbert, but he also makes indirect reference to additional land in this statement:

“If said Thomas Durham doth refuse and will not release the said 50 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.”

Was the land Thomas and Dorothy dwelt on the Abraham Marshall land of 100 acres or the 62 acres deeded by William Smoot?  By all rights, Thomas should not have been willing the Smoot land, because Dorothy owned that land severally.  However, I was never able to discover what happened to Dorothy’s 62 acres. Dorothy did not have a will.

Unruly Virginia!

Dorothy and Thomas Durham began their married life at what was economically, probably the worst time possible. Beginning in the early 1680s, too much tobacco caused a glut in the market and tobacco prices plummeted. Planters called for the Virginia government to limit planting and restore prosperity, and when that didn’t happen, plant cutting riots erupted. If the governor wouldn’t help them, then they would take matters into their own hands, literally.

In May of 1682, rioting spread up and down the Rappahannock River and the Northern Neck peninsula, resulting in militias from other counties being called in to keep the peace. This was about the time that Dorothy and Thomas would have been courting and marrying.

One burgess blamed the time of year and cider brewing for the riots, according to the History of Essex County, Virginia, by James Slaughter, stating that, “All plantations flowing with cider, drunk so unripe by our licentious inhabitants that they allow no time for its fermentation but in their brains.”

According to Slaughter, half the tobacco crop was destroyed in Rappahannock County that summer and tensions ran high. Thankfully, tobacco prices rose in 1683 but the specter of “renewed rebellion hung over an unruly Virginia until the end of the century.”

Unruly Virginians, indeed – but the specter of those angry frontiersmen brings a smile to my lips. Yep, those would be my ancestors.

In 1684, a French visitor to Rappahannock County did us the favor of recording his travels and attendance at a wedding celebration, thus:

“The Virginians eat almost no bread, seldom drink during meals, but they did nothing afterwards for the rest of the day and all night but drink, smoke, sing and dance. They had no wine. They drank beer, cider and punch, a mixture of beer, three jugs of brandy, three pounds of sugar and some nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix these well together and when the sugar has melted they drink it and while making away with the first, they prepare another bowl of it.”

Anyone want to try that recipe?

The Frenchman then reported that the next morning he “did not see one who could stand straight.” Guests spent the night at parties in colonial Virginia because travel was difficult. Probably also because people were highly intoxicated. Ladies slept on beds and men on the floor.

The French visitor also mentioned that one “could not enter a house without being served venison. It is very good in pies, boiled and baked.” This tells us that hunting was an important part of the culture of colonial Virginia, and domestic livestock had not yet taken the place of wild game on the tables of the planters and their families.

At least twice, the Rappahannock court sponsored county-wide parties. In 1683, the county declared a public feast to celebrate the birth of a son to King Charles II and in 1689, the birth of a Price of Wales in England.

More than 100 gallons of “rum or other strong liquors with sugar proportionable” so that the party could “be done with all the expressions of joy this county is capable of” were ordered by the court and consumed – mostly on the north side of the Rappahannock River, now Richmond County, where court was in session at the time. I bet that was one very interesting court session!

(Sir Walter) Raleigh’s First Pipe in England, an illustration in Fredrick William Fairholt’s Tobacco, its history and associations

Tobacco smoking was also quite in vogue, according to our traveling Frenchman:

“Large quantities of it are used in this country, besides what they sell. Everyone smokes while working and idling. I sometimes went to hear the sermon. Their churches are in the woods and when everyone has arrived the minister and all the others smoke before going in. The preaching over, they do the same thing before parting. They have seats for that purpose. It was here I saw that everyone smokes, men, women, girls and boys from the age of seven years.”

I must say, I knew that adult men smoked tobacco as a social pastime, and to some extent, it doesn’t surprise me that some women smoked. However, I was taken aback to think about my 7-year- old ancestors, both boys and girls, smoking. It would be another 300 years before we understood how harmful that habit is, and how difficult to break once established. At that time, it was not only popular, tobacco smoking conveyed that one was of the upper class. Tobacco was also believed to have medicinal and curative properties.

Education, if it happened at all, was a private matter. Public schools did not exist in this part of Virginia until after the Civil War, and most people could not read or write. In fact, according to Slaughter, Governor Berkley (1642-1677) said, “I thank God that there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both.”

Wealthy planters sent their sons to England to be properly educated, but the Durham family certainly did not fall into that category. Dorothy in her 1704 deposition where, among other things, she gave her age as “about 41 years,” signed with a “P” for her mark. Thomas Durham signed his will with a mark as well.

The Deed

In 1700, something quite unusual happened.

William Smoot Sr. deeded land to Dorothy Durham in her own right, meaning the land was in her name only. Her husband could not sell it or otherwise control that land. This is an extremely unusual circumstance and begs the question of why. Unfortunately, any clue we might have is entirely mute.

Richmond County VA Deed Book, 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.

It’s also obvious that somehow, William Smoot is related to Dorothy. Not only does he convey this land for “the great love that I beare unto Dorothy…and her children,” but he also reverts the land ownership to Anne Fox, who just happens to be Dorothy’s niece through sister Alice, if Dorothy dies without heirs.

The Deposition

James Gilbert died in 1704, having made a will in January 1701/02 leaving his entire estate to John Mills Jr., instead of his wife and family. James suffered from “fits,” as seizures were called at the time, and based on the 1704 depositions of various neighbors and (possibly) family members, he verbally revoked his will, but didn’t seem to believe that he needed to do so in writing, officially.

Therefore, as you might imagine, there was quite a hullaballoo after his death regarding his will and estate.

Dorothy Durham gave a deposition about the matter in 1704, which is how we discover her age. From the Richmond County, VA Miscellaneous Record Book, we find the following:

Page 27 – Deposition. 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

Furthermore, in 1707, after James Gilbert’s estate is (presumably) settled, Mary Gilbert, James Gilbert’s widow sells 50 acres of land to Dorothy and Thomas Durham, with William Smoot quit-claiming the deed.

How are Dorothy, her sister Alice, William Smoot and Mary Gilbert related? We don’t know exactly, but we’ll discuss the various options and data in a separate article about Dorothy’s parents.

Dorothy Was No Shrinking Violet

Women don’t appear much in county records, except for an occasional release of dower rights when their husbands sold land. Even then, most women appointed a male as her power of attorney in order to release her dower right so she did not have to attend court in person.

Dorothy was unique in a couple of ways. She not only owned land in her own right, she also personally appeared in court in a rather controversial case. I can just imagine Dorothy waltzing before the burgesses, in spite of the gasps of the assembled men because of her audacity, showing up in court like that…and taking care of business

The drama that unfolds in 1708 casts Dorothy in quite a different light than any other colonial women I have ever encountered in the records.

The drama didn’t begin as anything unusual. Ann Kelly’s indenture to Thomas Durham begins like normal in 1699 when she was determined to be 14 years old. The court determined Ann’s age so that the length of her indenture could be determined and so that she could be taxed appropriately. In 1704, Ann 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, nine years later, Anne was 23 and circumstances had changed.

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.

Imagine how intimidating this must have been for Ann. Not only did all those men, dressed in their finery and powdered wigs “know what she had done,” they were pressuring her for the name of the child’s father. Ann, a servant with nothing of her own, probably dressed in hand-me-down clothes, if not rags, didn’t even have the right to direct her own body.  Ann faced them down and stood firm, probably shaking with fear, even when sentenced to goale (jail.)

Having none of this, Dorothy steps in.

Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – This day Dorothy Durham for on 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.

I can’t even begin to explain how unusual this was. Not only did Dorothy appear at court, of her own volition, she clearly defied her husband to do so. Not only that, but Dorothy apparently controlled some financial aspects of the household, because there seemed to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Dorothy was capable and authorized to pay the 500 pounds of tobacco – even though Dorothy did say she was acting “on behalf of her husband.” In every other similar case, some male community member steps forward and posts bail, or not, but no female ever steps forward like Dorothy did.

I’m convinced that posting bail, in most cases, wasn’t so much to help the poor woman who had the child as it was to retain the services of the woman and not be inconvenienced by her absence. In Dorothy’s case, we’ll never know what motivated her to attend court alone, step up in place of her husband AND pay the fine for Anne Kelly. But she did!

Furthermore, in most cases, the female willingly named the child’s father. In this case, we do discover the name of the father the following March, and I wonder if Dorothy knew all along.

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.

In March of 1708/09, Anne Kelly was dragged before the court a second time. This time, however, she named the father of the children – Thomas Durham Jr., the son of Dorothy and Thomas Durham Sr. While Thomas was summoned to post bond to the churchwardens so they would not incur future costs on behalf of the children, Thomas Jr. was not fined for fornication nor did he have to pay Anne Kelly’s fine for fornication and having a bastard child. Men were never fined, prosecuted for the sin of fornication, nor treated with or sentenced to “goale.” I guess those women somehow managed to get pregnant all by themselves!

This time, it wasn’t Dorothy who paid Anne Kelly’s fees, nor Thomas Durham Sr. or Jr., who should have by all rights paid her fines – but Thomas Dodson who was married to Mary Durham, Dorothy’s daughter.

No place in any of this does Thomas Durham Jr. step up – not once.

I’m proud of Dorothy and her chutzpah in defiance of the social norms of the day and for her courage to do what was right, in spite of whatever the personal consequences.

I can just hear the conversation:

Dorothy: “Thomas Durham, if you won’t pay the fine for Anne Kelly, I’ll just go to court and do it myself.”

Thomas: <Chuckling> “Thou will, will thou?”

Dorothy: “Indeed, I will.”

Thomas: “I think not.” <Frowning, not chuckling anymore.>

Dorothy: “The Hell I won’t. You watch.”

Thomas: “Bet me? I forbid it.” <Menacing>

Dorothy: “Bloody Hell. Hold my beer!”

Thomas: <Calling after Dorothy’s back as she whooshes out the door, climbing on their only horse and not bothering to ride side-saddle, as becoming to a respectable gentlewoman.> “Dorothy, it’s not nice to swear.”

Thomas: <Drinks Dorothy’s beer.>

Dorothy, you go girl!!!

Dorothy’s Children

Dorothy had three children that lived and very likely many more that didn’t.

All three of Dorothy’s children’s births are recorded in the North Farnham Parish Register.

  • Daughter Mary Durham was born June 5, 1686 and married Thomas Dodson, the neighbor lad, on August 1, 1701. She would only have been 15 years old. Their first child, and Dorothy’s first grandchild, was George Dodson, born on October 31, 1702. With mother and baby both safe, the Durham and Dodson households were both celebrating!
  • Son John Durham was born on November 23, 1698. John was somewhat of a challenging child. He may have been troubled by the death of his father in 1715, because in 1716, John and his brother, Thomas sued his mother, Dorothy, who had remarried to Jeremiah Greenham. Custody of John was awarded by the court to his brother, Thomas, and John’s share of the estate was distributed. What the heck does a teenage boy need with a bedstead? Regardless, John went to live with his brother Thomas, taking with him all of the items his father left him in the will. It could be argued that perhaps brother Thomas coveted some of those items along with brother John’s labor and hence, encouraged the suit against their mother. John never married and was dead by 1722.
  • Son Thomas Durham was born on June 17, 1690 and died on December 3, 1734. He would have been 44 years old. He married Mary Smoot, daughter of William Smoot and wife Jane sometime around 1710, when his “bastard children” by Ann Kelly would only have been a couple years old and when Ann would still have been indentured to his father, probably serving her additional time for fornication with Thomas. Talk about awkward!

1734 was a terrible year for Mary Smoot Durham, Thomas Durham Jr.’s wife. She gave birth to her youngest child, Millicent on August 4th, buried daughter Wilmoth, 4 years old on October 2nd and her husband, Thomas Durham (Jr.), died on December 3rd, leaving Mary with a 4-month-old baby and 8 other children, although it appears that daughter Margaret was already married by this time and some of the other children may have died.

The Silent Spaces

Understanding that women are typically married and fertile for about 24 years, and presuming all children live to the age of weaning, approximately 12 children are born to each woman before the days of birth control. If some children die at birth or before they are weaned, then more than a dozen children can be born.

We know that Dorothy was born in 1663, so we can presume she would have begun having children about the time she married, with the first child arriving probably about 1684. Therefore, we have many spaces in which she probably had children that died and were buried at the Farnham Parish church in the old location, lost today, with only a general location known.

In the cemetery in the now-lost churchyard, we would find several of Dorothy’s children born in about the following years:

  • 1684
  • 1688
  • 1692
  • 1694
  • 1696
  • 1700
  • 1702
  • 1704
  • 1706
  • 1708 possibly

That’s an awful lot of babies to have died. Nine, maybe ten. Some may have lived long enough to smile, to play, even to talk and run in the warmth of the sunshine. Then they died, taking a piece of their mother’s heart with them. Every single one.

Every child was buried in a tiny grave, probably with a small wooden cross. Each one had a name.  Dorothy probably held each one as they died, cleaned their tiny body and dressed them in the best way she could afford.

One baby girl was probably named Dorothy, her own namesake. Other baby girls would likely have been named Alice and Thomasin, after Dorothy’s sisters. Two more would have been named after her parents and two more after Thomas Durham’s parents as well.

Dorothy probably visited the graveyard to tend the graves of her children, then to visit Thomas, for the duration of her life. She is probably buried beside them. Knowing in her heart she would be reunited with them one day is probably the only thing to relieve her grief, even a little, and only for a short time.

Those children’s birthdays and death days are never forgotten, even if they are unspoken.

Dorothy’s DNA

Dorothy only had one daughter, Mary, that lived. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on. Dorothy’s mitochondrial DNA would have been passed through daughter Mary to her daughters, and so forth on to the current generation, where male children carry it as well.

Mary Durham Dodson had the following daughters:

  • Alice Dodson married William Creel about 1729. It’s unknown what happened to Alice Creel after her father, Thomas Dodson’s death in 1739.
  • Mary Dodson was born in 1715 and married an Oldham by the time her father wrote his will in 1739. Nothing more is known of this line.

It Dorothy’s mitochondrial DNA was passed on, it was through Mary, through one of these daughters.

Dorothy’s and her two sisters both carried their mother’s mitochondrial DNA.  Dorothy’s sister’s mitochondrial DNA was the same as hers, so we can look at descendants of Dorothy’s sisters who descend through all females to view Dorothy’s mitochondrial DNA.

Sister Thomasin who married Abraham Marshall had only one known daughter, Mary, who married Alexander Campbell in 1708. I have not traced this family thoroughly, but what I have found shows only two male Campbell children. If this is the case, then Thomasin’s mitochondrial DNA is no more. Perhaps Mary Marshall did have additional children by Alexander Campbell and daughters would be discovered if the line was thoroughly researched.

Dorothy’s sister Alice who married John Chinn had two daughters. Anne Chinn had no children, but Catherine Chinn married William Heale and had several, including daughters:

  • Ellen Heale married David Ball
  • Anne Heale
  • Catherine Heale married John Canaday
  • Sarah Heale married Lindsay Opie
  • Elizabeth Heale married William Davenport and had 2 daughters, Judith Davenport born April 4, 1747 and Elizabeth Davenport born Dec. 27, 1749, both in Richmond County, Virginia. Nothing more is known about Judith or Elizabeth. Hopefully there are descendants through all females living today.

The females who could have passed Dorothy or her sister’s mitochondrial DNA to currently living descendants are shown in the chart below.  You can click to enlarge.

If anyone (male or female) descends from these females through all females from Dorothy or her sisters to the current generation, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you through Family Tree DNA. You carry the mitochondrial DNA of Dorothy Durham and her mother, whoever she was. Perhaps you carry the answer to the secret of her mother’s identity too!

I’d love to hear from you.

The Parents of Charles Dodson, Jamestown Unraveled, 52 Ancestors #163

First, let me say right out and straight up that we have absolutely NO EVIDENCE whatsoever for who the parents of Charles Dodson ARE. But we do have evidence that strongly suggests who they aren’t!

Having said that, let’s look at the various rumors that persist and let’s see if we can address them.

The most common rumor, and by the way, I fell for it hook, line and sinker too, initially, because I was making the assumption that earlier researchers certainly would have had evidence or they would not have made fantastic claims, is that Charles Dodson is the grandson of John Dod’s of Jamestown through son Jesse Dodson who married Judith Hager.

Furthermore, Ann Dodson, Charles’ wife is rumored to have been his first cousin through Benjamin Dodson, brother to Jesse Dodson.

If anyone ever had evidence, it has disappeared today along with the documentation of whatever it was.

If you have or come across evidence, please, by all means contact me, because I’m still searching and I would actually LOVE to find some evidence that is documented.

What I will share with you is what I and other researchers have been able to assemble from records.

The Reverend Silas Lucas

The go-to resource for the Dodson family is the Dodson Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia, an exceptional two volume set by the Reverend Silas Lucas published in 1988. He had written an earlier book in 1958 that preceded this more comprehensive set. Reverend Lucas spent 30 years sifting through primary records in every county in Virginia and many other states as well. Dodson researchers owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

On page vi of the introduction, here is what Rev. Lucas has to say:

A word of warning about trying to claim kinship with people with whom we cannot prove a relationship, i.e. “Are we kin to the John Dodson, d (sic, but he meant circa) 1607” of Jamestown, Virginia or Benjamin Dodson c 1652 of Essex County, Virginia? Some people would like to say that these men are the direct ancestors of Charles Dodson who died in 1701(sic). They state that a John Dodson came with Captain John Smith in 1607 and the John Dodson had sons Jesse and William Dodson. It is further stated that the aforementioned Jesse Dodson was the father of Charles Dodson, born about 1649 and died about 1701, in Richmond County, Virginia. Some of these people further state that our Charles Dodson of Richmond county, Virginia married one Anne Dodson, daughter of Benjamin Dodson of Essex County, Virginia. Regardless of how much one would like to claim descendancy from these aforementioned Dodsons, it must be stated unequivocably that no legal records exist to prove this hypothetical descendancy of Charles Dodson. Others have said that Gervais Dodson of Northumberland County, VA c 1650 was the progenitor of our family, but this also has not been proved.

To show how ridiculous this type of false claiming of kinship is, when I first heard of the above claims, I telephoned a lady in Texas who had been making these claims to Dodson descendants who had written her for possible help. I asked her where she got this proof, and she told me that several people who had joined one or more patriotic organizations had used these claims in their affidavits of descendancy, and she told me that it had to be true if one of these patriotic organizations had accepted the person for membership. I tried to point out that some of these organizations were of very recent beginnings and many had no hard-and-fast membership requirements, as to the DAR, Colonial Dames of America, as far as authenticating each detail of descent. Needless to say, I was unable to convince her of the questionable validity of these organizations and her desire to be associated or claim kinship with persons of the Jamestown era was too overwhelming for her to accept the basic premise of genealogical research concerning documenting proof of family descendancy by legal records.

Of course, for any genealogist reviewing this information, the first issue is that Essex County, Virginia didn’t exist in 1652. Neither did Richmond County.

The history of the counties that ultimately became both Richmond and Essex in 1692 when Old Rappahannock was dissolved, is as follows.

Dods and Dodson

From the book Domesday People: Domesday Book by K.S. B. Keats-Rohan, we find that a man named Aluuin Dodesone lived in Hertfordshire in 1086.

The book The Quest for a Lost Race by Paul B. Du Chaillu who proposed the theory that the English were descended from Scandinavians rather than the Teutons – Normans rather than Germans provides the following:

Dodson – The son of Dode, Alwinus Dodesone, occurs in Domesday as a tenant-in-chief. It is an open question whether it is Scandinavian or Anglo-Saxon. Even Lower is doubtful. There is a large connection of this name in Maryland and Kentucky. One branch is connected with the Botelers of Virginia. A good English stock.

The following publication from the Oxford University Press also provides information.

Is this the same as what would become Dodson, and if so, is it our Dodson line? We know positively that there was more than one, according to Y DNA. We have no way of knowing if this line would become our Dodsons.

Ancestry provides us with the following information about the source of the Dodson surname.

Jamestown

For the past two or three years, I’ve been focused on the Virginia and Maryland ancestors. I had the opportunity to visit Jamestown in 2015. When there and in the Virginia archives in Richmond, I checked for Dod, Dods, Dotson and Dodson in early records of both Jamestown and also of the area that became surrounding counties.

I really wanted to find proof, or even a probable trail that indicated my ancestor actually was John Dods who had been at Jamestown.

The following digitized book includes transcriptions of the original early documents.

The original lists of persons of quality; emigrants; religious exiles; political rebels; serving men sold for a term of years; apprentices; children stolen; maidens pressed; and others who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700 : with their ages and the names of the ships in which they embarked, and other interesting particulars; from mss. preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, England

Jamestown Biographies

When I found the Jamestown Biographies project, and discovered that John Dods, wife Jane, was listed among the available biographies, I quickly purchased one. Thankfully, it was only $5.

It documents that John Dods was in Jamestown and that oral history says that Jane was an Iroquois, daughter of chief Eagle Plume. Oral history? Seriously? And I paid for this? Their source, personal correspondence with Dodson researchers. My heart sank.

A second page repeats the lore that Jane was reported by the family to be the daughter of Chief Eagle Plume, an Iroquois.

There is some good news in this report and that is the additional research. If we, meaning the Charles Dodson Y DNA descendants, ever get a Y DNA match to someone overseas, these very early references may become invaluable because one of them could potentially be our ancestor – whether through John Dods or not.

Jamestown lists two wills, both in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.  The first dated February 6, 1560 is the will of John Dodd, gentleman of Little Illford, Essex, and the second dated May 7, 1652 is for John Dodd, gentleman of Enfield, Middlesex.

If John Dodd’s on the lists is actually John Dodson, then the Dodd wills, above, are irrelevant.

Dispelling Rumors

Some genealogists contend that John Dodds wife was Jane Dier who came over after the first settlers and that John Dodds then lived and died in Richmond Co., Virginia.

The second part of that contention is impossible, since Jamestown was settled in 1607 and Richmond County was formed in 1692, which would have made John Dodds about 100 years old when Richmond County was formed. Oh, those pesky details.

John Dods did survive the Indian massacre at Jamestown which occurred on March 22, 1622.

According to the Persons of Quality book by Hotten:

The List of Living and Dead on February 16, 1623 shows John Dod’s and Mrs. Dod’s living at “ye neck of land.”

In 1624, at Neck of Land Corporation of Charles Cittie, John Dod’s is listed on the muster as being 36 years old and arriving on the Susan Constant in April 1607. His wife, Jane is listed as age 40 and there is no arrival ship beside her name, which is probably much of what fuels the speculation that she is Native.

In 1626, John Dodd’s is listed with 50 acres at Charles Cittie and with 150 acres at Tappahanna against James Cittie.

There is absolutely no evidence or records to suggest that John had children. The various lists do include “infants,” meaning underage children, and there are no other Dod individuals listed by any surname spelling, and nothing even close.

Other families on this same list had children listed, such as John Price, wife Ann, and Mary, a child aged 3 months. Very few families have children. Many woman arrived between 1620 and 1623.

Most women are younger than Jane. She along with one other woman is 40, and one woman is 50. Not all women have ages. Most are listed with the names of the ships they arrived in. The other woman, aged 40, does not.

There is no evidence that John and Jane, or John and anyone had any children who survived. There are no records of Jesse and/or William, their supposed sons, whatsoever. If other couples with children have their children listed, John and Ann would too. The oldest child born on American soil was age 8, and there was only one. Two children aged 7 were born in Virginia. It appears that there were very few females in the early colony and that children did not survive the 1722 attack. According to Jamestown historians, only three of the original settlers were still living and found on 1723 list of the living – and none with known children.

Given the information we do have, combined with the fact that Jane was age 40 in 1624, it’s reasonable to surmise that John Dodds and Jane never had children that lived. If they did, it would have had to have been in very short order, given Jane’s age.

Given that children are listed among the dead, and there is no Dod, Dods or Dodson listed by any spelling, it’s reasonable to presume that they did not have a child or children that died. Given that there are no other individuals listed with the Dodds surname, it’s reasonable to conclude that there were no other Dodds or Dodson individuals in the colony in 1624.

Under the list of Thomas Dunthorne’s muster, we find “Thomas an Indian Boaye” under the subtitle, “servants.” This suggests that if Ann had been an Indian, a notation beside her name might have said “Indian.”

Following further rumors, the marriage between John Dodson’s son, Jesse Dodson and Judith Hagar is supposed to have occurred on May 7, 1645 in Jamestown. The problem with this information is that there appear to be no records whatsoever of Jamestown marriages that have survived. Furthermore, there is no record of Judith Hagar arriving in Jamestown, either. Nor is there any record of Jesse Dodson. This rumor has struck out altogether.

Another rumor is that Jesse Dodson died in 1680 in Old Rappahannock County, Virginia, but you guessed it already, there is no record of any Jesse Dodson ever living in Rappahannock County or dying in Rappahannock County in 1680 or anytime, for that matter. Furthermore, Charles Dodson had no sons named Jesse.

Where is Charles Cittie?

John Dods owned land in Charles Cittie and James Cittie.  Charles Cittie is now Charles City County.

James Cittie is now James City County, adjoining Williamsburg and including Jamestown, which is, indeed, on a neck of land.

James City County abuts Charles City County.

On the map below, you can see both Jamestown and Charles City, along with the Northern Neck of Virginia, at the top of the map, north of the Rappahannock River, near 360, where Charles Dodson lived.

Jamestown and Charles City are 23 miles distant. John Dod’s land could have been anyplace along this route. His 2 parcels of land could actually have been very close if they were located near the border of Charles Cittie and James Cittie. Given that John Dodd was one of the original settlers, few of whom survived until 1623, my presumption would have been that he would have been allowed land in the original Jamestown settlement, if he wanted land there.

Where Did These Rumors Come From?

In determining whether there is any truth to a rumor, it often helps to determine the source. For example, if this line of descent had been reported in every one of Charles Dodson’s children’s lines, recorded repeatedly before the days of easy access to other people’s work, I would be more likely to consider the possibility that the story actually descended from the original settlers and wasn’t somehow later manufactured or surmised.

I discovered that I’m not the first person who asked that question. Glenn Gohr back in the 1980s and 1990s posted a significant amount of research on his Rootsweb page involving the various Dodson records.

Glenn first found the Dodson information involving Jamestown in a 1908 document:

Ege, Thompson P. Dodson Genealogy, 1600-1907. Philadelphia, PA: Deemer & Jaisohn, 1908.

Page 4 of the above book does have a good clue:

“Colonial Annals of Virginia mention ‘Dodson’s Plantation’ in 1632.”

Some say this is a reference to the plantation of a John Dodson, who they list as the grandfather of Charles Dodson (c1649-c1704) of Rappannock County and North Farnham Parish in Richmond Co., VA. I do not see enough evidence at this time to establish Charles Dodson’s progenitors.

Pages 363-364 lists origins of early Virginia branches of Dodsons. It says:

“The annals of Virginia record the name of a ‘Dodson Plantation’ in 1632. And the traditional story in a large and widely scattered line of descendants is that their ancestor settled along the James River and was one of the early Jamestown Colony.”

This document goes on to give partial more recent lineages for the Tennessee Dodsons, not going back as far as Charles of Richmond County and his sons. The more I read, the less reliable this source seemed to be.

Glenn continues with the following:

No documentation is given for any of the above. Much more is given on descendants in each of these lines. They do not show Charles Dodson of N. Farnham Parish in the lineage, but some of these names, especially the ones in Estanalle Valley of TN are listed in Rev. S. E. Lucas’s 2-vol. book (but) the lineage in the Ege book does not line up with the lineage in the Lucas book. The connection to Jamestown is interesting, and these lineages may provide some clues for researchers, but they cannot be taken as fact.

The above book also covers Dodsons in Maryland and Dodsons in Pennsylvania, and some unplaced Dodsons. There is also mention of 3 early Dodson settlers (2 brothers and a sister–John Dodson, b. March 1655; Mary Dodson, b. 11 Nov. 1664 md. Richard Boyes; Thomas Dodson, b. 19 Oct. 1669; md. Katharine Savill) who settled in New Jersey and were Quakers and children of a Daniel Dodson, b. ca. 1635 of Knaresborough, Yorkshire, England. These appear to be the ancestors of Dodsons in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland.

The information about the New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland Dodsons is useful relative to Y DNA testing in the Dodson DNA Project which shows that the Talbot Co., Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania Dodson’s don’t match either the Charles Dodson line, or each other.

Glen then notes another book which repeats the Jamestown story

Ancestors of Robert Dodson and His Descendants, written by Mrs. C. T. Dodson; Illustrated by Miss Oneida Uzzell. Privately published, [1964?]. She included this information:

“The year 1619 brought three important events to Virginia and the colonists. Virginia was permitted to enjoy a measure of self government; a ship load, eighty, of prospective wives arrived from England (probably Jesse (2) Dodson and William (2) Dodson married two of these women). The colonist could secure a wife, with her permission, and by paying her transportation, in the amount of one hundred and twenty pounds of tobacco–about $500 dollars worth; and the first Negro slaves landed in Virginia.”

Glen then provides the information from an application for the Daughters of Colonists that seems to be part of the source for the rumors.

SOURCES FROM MRS. C. T. DODSON’S BOOK

Here follows information on records to get into Daughters of the Colonists by Lillian E. Dodson.

  1. 72-73 (This is quoted word for word from the book, including mispellings or question marked items–gg):

Copied 9 February, 1966 by Edith Wolf Standhardt from handwritten copy lent by O. H. Schwanderman.

From Records to get into Daughters of Colonists by Lillian Elanine Dodson [I think this should be Daughters of the American Colonists– gg]

Name of Ancestor – John Dodson of James River or Jamestown. Served in the Council and General Court of Jamestown, 1622 – 1629.

The undersigned have investigated and approve the applicant and her application

Signature of St. Louis Chapter Officers:

Chapter Regent: Maude Bryan Jenneinzo (?) (Jennings?

E.S.)

Chapter Registrar: Gertrude L. Wingert

Chapter Sec: Clara Sizer Nevling

Date: Nov. 21, 1949

Signature of Missouri State Officers:

State Regent: Mrs. Edwin Lamont Barber

State Registrar: Nell Downing Norton

State Sec: Acenath M. Booth

Date: Nov. 21, 1949

Fee received by National Society: Mabel S. Stoyer, Nat. Treas. Dec. 15, 1949

Signature of National Officers:

Natl. President: Margaret F. Powers

Natl. Registrar: Lillian M. Sanford

Natl. Sec.: Mabel Puffer Martin

Date of Acceptance: Jan. 31, 1950

Endorsed:

Mrs. Clyde Nevling, 4259 Maffit Ave., St. Louis

Mrs. Joseph Jannuzzo, 8016 Seminole Place, Clyton 5, Mo.

Miss Lillian Elanine Dodson, born 4 Feb. 1901, Wayne Co., KY. herein apply for membership in Society by right of descent from John Dodson, a member of the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia, who is mentioned in Va. Mag. Vol. 23, p. 11 in St. Louis Public Library Ref. Room., of Jamestown, Virginia, born in England, died in Virginia, served in Council and General Court of Jamestown 1622-29.

I was born in Steubenville (Wayne Co.) Ky. I am the daughter of John Cornelius Dodson of Steubenville, Ky., born 22 Feb. 1869, died 31 Jan. 1931 – married 22 Feb. 1900 to Nancy Kelly, born 19 Dec. 1869 d. 18 Dec. 1939.

John Cornelius Dodson, son of John Dodson born 23 Nov. 1831, died 11 Aug. 1885, married Sara Phillips, born 23 Nov. 1828

John Dodson is the son of Jesse Dodson born 26 Dec. 1802, died 3 Jan. 1864, married 14 July 1824 Elizabeth Small, born 12 Oct. 1805, d. 12 June 1876.

Jesse Dodson is the son of Thomas Dodson, died prior to 1836. married Jemima Randall.

Thomas Dodson is son of George Dodson of Richmond Co., Va., born 31 Oct. 1737, died 1825 Pittsylvania Co., Va., married twice, Margaret and Elizabeth.

George Dodson is the son of George Dodson, married 30 April 1726 in Richmond Co., Va. to Margaret Dagord.

George Dodson is son of Thomas Dodson born 15 May 1681, died 21 Nov. 1740.

Thomas Dodson is son of Charles Dodson of Richmond Co., Va. born 1649, died 1704.

Charles Dodson is son of Jesse Dodson, Richmond Co., Va. married to Ann.

Jesse Dodson is the son of John Dodson of Jamestown Settlement born in England.

Records to be found: Genealogy traced in “Dodson Genealogy 1600 – 1907” page 364, St. Louis Mo. Library. Will on record in Pittsylvania Co., Courthouse, Va. proved 19 Dec. 1825. Named in father’s will proved 2 Mar. 1740 in Richmond Co., Va.

Named in father’s will (Charles) in Richmond Co., Va. Courthouse, 1704. Abstracts of Richmond Co., Va. Also “Dodson Genealogy”, Ege. Lineage in “Dodson Genealogy 1600-1907” by Rev.. T. P. Ege, Local Library. Mentioned in “Dodson Genealogy”, also Virginia Mag. of History.

Children of Ancestor

Jesse Dodson)

   ) sons of John Dodson

William Dodson)

Authorities proving services of Ancestor: Virginia Mag. of History, Vol. 23, p. 11; his name given in minutes of the Council and General Court, 1622, 1629, and the fact stated that he was a passenger on ship Ann, that he came to Jamestown in the original settlement. He was called to report in the Council on conditions of the ship and provisions for the voyage. He is reported to have been a hunter of some note, a good citizen, and the father of at least two children, sons William and Jesse, listed above in Dodson Genealogy.

Copied by Oliver H. Schwanderman of Fort Recovery, Ohio, Route 3, 4 Feb. 1964. She is a cousin to me by Dodson lineage from Rutha Mary Dodson Schwanderman, 1870 – 1959, Wayne Co., Ky. Champaign Co., Ill.

Ancestors of Robert Dodson and His Descendants. Written by Mrs. C. T. Dodson; Illustrated by Miss Oneida Uzzell. Privately published, {1964?] (Note: This book is 115 p. and is located in the Dallas Public Library, Dallas, TX, call # R929.2 D647d), pp. 73-74:

Article in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol.23 (1915), pp. 11-12, as quoted in:

*Note: I am quoting this directly from the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography article–there is more than what is quoted, here, but this is the part that refers to John Dodson.–gg

Minutes of the Council and General Court

[ink folio 105]

Mr. Thomas Edwardes beinge Demanded wt he could sayd concerninge the Accomodatinge of passengers yt cam in the shipp called the Ann said that he wold never Desire to be better vsed Yt is ordered Yt mr Daniell Lacye shall haue four acres of grounde in the Islande adioyne on the grounde of mr Kingsmells, wch is the rather granted for that mr Kingsmell Doth Desire the same Moris Thomsone and John Dodson sworne and Exand sayeth that for ye they were a fortnight or three weeks abourde befor they had any breckfast Drinke allowed them, And after they had Complayned, they had to smale Cans of beere for breckfast to 5 men wch Contynued soe for some six weeks or two moneths And they had a quarter can of beere to a meale for 5 men wch Contynued for the space of sixteen weeks, And after that for the space of Six weeks a three weeks they had three smale cans of beere to A messe. And a pounde and a halfe And that they had three pownd of bred a Daye to A messe for the space of some sixteene weeks. And after till theyr cominge in thre bisketts a meale to A mess. And for A sixteen weeks they had thrree flesh Dyes A week, And after that for about a moneth fortnight they had too flesh Dyes a week and after yt 2 flesh meales a week till theire Cominge in foorther they say that ther beere was well condicioned except a butt or two (ink folio 106) And fovrther they say have harde some of the passengers Complayne but wt cause they had they know nott….

Glenn closes by stating the following:

Mrs. Dodson does try to list and include sources about the information she has listed, but there is NOTHING besides “family tradition” which definitely links the John with the 2 sons, William and Jesse. Also nothing besides tradition to link Jesse with Charles Dodson of N. Farnham Parish, Richmond Co., VA.

Still it is fascinating reading, hoping that it all could be true and proven true. I, personally don’t see enough proof for the links.

At least now we know where this came from, thanks to Glenn’s detective work.

The Reverend Elias Dodson, writing about 1859, penned a manuscript titled “Genealogy of the Dodson Familes of Pittsylvania and Halifax Counties in the State of Virginia.” Reverend Lucas had a copy of that document and used it extensively when writing his book. However, Reverend Elias Dodson says nothing at all about Jamestown or John Dods. This is the earliest known family document or history of the Dodson family – and it stands mute.

If Elias had heard about Jamestown, and that Charles was descended from John Dod or his son, Jesse, Elias surely would have included that information.

However, there are records of some additional Dodsons that we should review.

Thomas Dodson of Northumberland County

There is a Thomas Dodson found in Northumberland County in 1658.  Because Charles Dodson names his second eldest son Thomas, and because the eventual Richmond County is taken from part of the original Northumberland, these records deserve close scrutiny.

Thomas Dodson patents land on Dividing Creek in 1658 in Northumberland County, but the patent expires and nothing more is known of Thomas’s land until 1694 after he has lost the land and died. Unfortunately there are no records in this part of Virginia that speak to his death, so he may have died elsewhere.

The book Cavaliers and Pioneers volume 1 by Dennis Ray Hudgins, page 383, documents that Thomas Dodson was granted 1200 acres on Nov. 29, 1658 in Northumberland Co., VA for the transportation of 24 persons. His name appeared on the list, which suggests that he is one of the 24. The fact that he transported (or paid for the transportation of) 24 people suggests that Thomas Dodson is wealthy.

Researcher Michelle Ule found the following:

Patent Thomas Dodson grantee 29 Nov 1658 Northumberland County 1200 acres on the high lands above the head of the Dividing Creeks. Source: Land Office Patents No 4 1655-1664 pg 340 reel 4) Dividing Creeks is south of the Great Wicomico and the river flows into the southern Chesapeake Bay.

1200 acres would be the exact amount, at 50 acres each, for transporting 24 individuals.

Grant Walter Jenkin grantee 30 Nov 1694 Northumberland County 500 acres escheat land part of a tract of land of 1200 acres granted to Thomas Dodson 29 Nov 1658. Southermost &c of sd 1200 acres, adjoining to the lands of Colo. Lee and John Cousins. Source: Northern Neck Grants No 2 1694-1700 pg 88-91 (reel 288)

Grant John Lewis grantee 26 Mar 1695 Northumberland County 150 acres escheat land beginning on the land of Charles Lee, Walter Jenkins, Peter Hammon, and Thomas Haydon. Thomas Dodson, died seized of 1200 acres patent dated Nov. 29, 1658. Source: Northern Neck Grants No. 2, 1694-1700, p. 146-147 (Reel 288).

Grant Grantee Hammon, Peter grantee, Date 26 March 1695.  Note  Location: Northumberland County.  Note  Description: 150 acres escheat land, Thomas Dodson died seized of 1200 acres of land, patent dated Nov. 29, 1658, the 150 acres abutting southerly on the land of Walter Jenkins westerly on the land of Thomas Williams. Source: Northern Neck Grants No. 2, 1694-1700, p. 144-146 (Reel 288)

Source: Land Office Patents No. 6, 1666-1679 (pt.1 & 2)

http://www.lva.lib.va.us/

Another researcher reports the following information pertaining to Thomas of Northumberland.

1663 March Northumberland County land record sale of land by Wilbur and Sarah Mauder to Thomas Dodson – the land upon which he lives.

1664 Northumberland County Power of attorney from Jane Wiley to Symon Dodson.

The above record is the only record that involves Symon Dodson.

One Thomas Dodson apparently lived in Northumberland County between 1658 and 1663, but he was not living there in 1652 when the loyalty oath was taken.  He may have had a relative named Symon.  We don’t find anything about either man after 1664, in Northumberland or any of the spinoff counties.  We do know that by 1694, Thomas had died, apparently still owning his land, and the land reverted, probably due to lack of tax payments or because he never paid the fees or had the land surveyed.  If Thomas had an estate that included underage heirs, such as Charles Dodson, a guardian would have been appointed to protect the assets of the heirs and the land would not have been allowed to escheat back to the colony.  No such records exist, so it’s extremely unlikely that Charles is the son of Thomas.

Charles, born in 1649, would have been age 14 in 1663 when Thomas last appears in the records, obtaining land from Wilbur and Sarah Mauder.

Thomas Dodson died sometime between 1663 and 1694.  Charles never owns or sells land in Northumberland County, nor do we find any record of Thomas’s land from the Mauder’s being sold.

Englishmen non-resident in England had their wills probated through the Canterbury Court. One Thomas Dodson’s will is probated in Canterbury in 1672, but his wife’s name is Sarah, as well as his daughter, and he lived in Great Warley, Essex.  Other Thomas Dodson’s are found in Yorkshire, Kent and one buried in London in 1668.

There is no Charles born in 1649 in any of these locations, and no Charles born to a Thomas in any records that are indexed yet today – although future researchers should check these records again.  There is a Charles born in 1645 to Northamptonshire to John and Joanne Dodson and in 1655 in Shropshire to Edward and Frances Dodson – neither of which look promising, given naming conventions.

Charles first appears in Old Rappahannock County in 1679 in a lease type arrangement with Peter Elmore.  Charles does not purchase his own land until 1686, so he clearly didn’t have funds until that time. Nor did Charles patent land, so apparently someone else took credit for his 50 acre headright.

Other Dodsons

Gervais Dodson appears before Charles Dodson in the records of Northumberland County, VA in 1658, but he appears to have died without issue. Furthermore, there is no Gervais in any of Charles children nor their offspring.

There is a John Dodson line in early Maryland which, via DNA testing, we know does not match our Charles Dodson.

Another researcher reports several other Dodsons:

1622 – 31 July Robert Dodson Jr. came to Virginia at the expense of Robert Dodson Sr aboard the ship James.

I was not able to find any evidence of this Robert Dodson Jr. He is not among the list of living taken in 1623.

1623 – 30 April Robert Dodson Jr. said that he had firsthand knowledge of the plantations east of Jamestown.

I have not been able to confirm this informaton, and he does not appear on the 1624 muster list.

1643 – Thomas Dodson by Richard Richards, Charles River Virginia. Source:  Greer, George Cabell. Early Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666. Richmond VA: W.C. Hill Printing Co., 1912. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1978. Repr. 1982. Page: 96.

Charles’s wife Ann, Daughter of Benjamin?

A secondary Dodson rumor is that Charles married his first cousin, Ann, daughter of Benjamin Dodson, son of John Dodson, of Jamestown.

If you’ll notice, the original rumor has changed. Originally, John Dodson and Jane had two sons, Jesse and William. However, when Ann’s story got added, she became the first cousin of Charles through Benjamin, the brother of Jesse. Therefore, John Dods (Dodson) of Jamestown would have had three sons, Jesse, William and Benjamin. The rumors aren’t adding up, especially considering that John and his 40 year old wife had no children in 1624.

And then there’s the pesky issue of the fact that we have an immigration record for Benjamin in 1635.

1635 – Benj Dodson Place: Virginia Source:  Greer, George Cabell. Early Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666. Richmond VA: W.C. Hill Printing Co., 1912. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1978. Repr. 1982. Page: 96.

1635 – 22 June: Captain William Pierce, Esq received 2000 acres for the transportation of 40 persons including Benjamin Dodson.  Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.

Another researcher takes this a step further, providing the following:

Charles Dodson, born about 1649, d 1705 Richmond, Co., Va. m Ann Dodson (dau. of Benjamin Dodson, who gave his daughter a legacy of land on the James River in Essex Co., Va., May 1652.  This joined John Hill, Sr.’s land.  (This Benjamin probably came from England.)  Ann m before 1680 to Charles Dodson (2nd) John Hill, Jr., after Charles’ (3) death.

One thing I can confirm is that indeed, Ann did marry John Hill after Charles died. I can’t confirm that it was John Hill Jr.

I can state unequivocally that there was no Dodson in Northumberland County in 1652 when the loyalty oath was signed, so Benjamin must have been elsewhere at that time.

Capt. Hill does patent land, according to the Virginia County Records Quarterly Magazine March 1911, Vol. IX #1:

Capt John Hill land grand 1669 Rappahannock Co for 650 acres, also in 1670 for 1200

However, Essex County wasn’t formed until 1692, so it’s impossible for Benjamin Dodson to leave anyone a legacy in Essex County in May of 1652. In 1652, this area would have been part of Northumberland or Lancaster.

I review the Essex County records, which includes the original Old Rappahannock records prior to 1692, and there is absolutely no mention of Benjamin Dodson in any type of record, including land, court, church or will/probate.

There is absolutely no record to substantiate the claim that Ann was the daughter of Benjamin Dodson, or that there were any transactions between John Hill and Benjamin Dodson, or that John Hill even owned land in what would become Essex County.

Charles Dodson’s wife was clearly Ann.  Later, in online trees, she rumored to be the daughter of Peter Elmore, which I wrote about here.

Dodd is Not Necessarily Dodson

The Dodd family is also found in Richmond County, VA. It has never been suggested that the Dodd and Dodson families are one and the same, nor am I suggesting that now, but while we Dodson researchers have been incredibly focused on the Dodson surname, we need to be cognizant that the Dodd surname in Richmond County is equally as likely, if not moreso, to be descended from John Dodd at Jamestown – if anyone is.

I did find evidence of John Dod(d) who was married to a Jane in the Richmond county records, according to records beginning in 1696/97 in both deed and court records. This record at the Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia’s Northern Neck Counties site reveals more information about this John Dodd, including that he is the son of Richard Dodd who was born in 1634 in England and died in 1678 in Charles County, Maryland. So, clearly, this is not the Jamestown Dod family, nor is he related to our Dodsons.

Summary

Not only do we have absolutely not one shred of evidence that John Dod, Dodd or Dodson of Jamestown is an ancestor of Charles Dodson, we have evidence that he isn’t.

Probably the most compelling evidence is that John and his wife are listed in the 1624 muster without children, where other people are listed with children. Given that Jane is 40 at that time, it would be very unusual for her to bear 3 additional children, Jesse, William and Benjamin, and for all 3 to live.

There is also no information about what happened to John Dod or Dodson, or what happened to his land.

There is no evidence whatsoever that a William, Jesse or Benjamin Dodson lived in Virginia before the record of Benjamin’s arrival in 1635. Neither Jesse nor William are ever reported in any record.

It is possible that some Dodson was living in Virginia by 1632 when Dodson’s plantation was reportedly referenced, although I have not been able to confirm that record.

However, given the fact that Charles Dodson can write suggests strongly that he was not raised in early Virginia. If Charles could write, then he would have been the son of a gentleman. He would likely have been sent back to England to be schooled, and when he returned, it would not have been as a penniless man who contracted to work and improve another man’s land 1679 for a period of 19 years. The son of a gentleman would simply have purchased land. Charles did not – at least not for another 6 years, in 1685. Nor did Charles ever claim a 50 acre land grant for transporting himself, so either he was transported by someone who claimed his headright, or he arrived as an indentured servant.

The best we can piece together is that Charles was probably born in England. I’m hopeful that eventually, a parish record will emerge that shows a Charles born in about 1649, a year revealed by Charles’ own testimony in 1699 stating that he was about 50 years old.

Until then, all we can say is that the parents of Charles Dodson were almost certainly NOT Jesse Dodson and Judith Hagar who supposedly married in 1645 in Jamestown. Unless new information is forth coming with actual documentation of some sort, this couple must be relegated to the annals of myth – along with Charles Dodson being the son of John Dods of Jamestown.

I’m hopeful that one day either a parish register of Charles’ birth will emerge or a Y DNA match to an English Dodson whose lineage is located in a small village and has been since records began. Either one would go a very long way in terms of helping us bridge the gap between Charles and his parents by providing us with a search location in England.  Those records may be waiting in a small village church in England for Dodson researchers to find them – along with Charles’ ancestors in the church cemetery!

Thomas Durham (before 1649-1715), A Governor’s Son?, 52 Ancestors #161

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.

Constable

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

Dorothy Remarries

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

Above Stairs

  • 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

Kitchin

  • 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

Signed:

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.

Guardian

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.

DNA

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!!!

Summary

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.