Eleven Years of Silence, 52 Ancestors #158

My mother, Barbara Jean Ferverda Long, passed away 11 years ago, today.

Some events and the surrounding snippets of time are indelibly burned into your memory, forever, like a movie for replay on your internal screen.

However, looking back those 11 years, it’s not so much what happened then, but the 11 years of silence that has followed. Of all the things, I miss Mom’s voice the most.

The voice who chastised me, a lot.

The voice who congratulated me.

The voice who called in the middle of the night to tell me a family member had unexpectedly died.

The voice who called me just to chat.

The voice I knew would always answer the phone, be there, on the on the other end of the line.

It was Mom that I called from the hospital when crisis hit my young family.

After moving away, it was Mom’s voice that connected me so often.

It was always Mom. Always the rock.

For a long time, I saved one message on my voice mail where she told me she loved me. I replayed it over and over, when I just needed to hear her voice. Then, one day, my carrier made a change and that was gone too – and the silence got a bit deeper and more permanent.

We think to take pictures, but few of us, at least not before the convenience of cell phones that take movies, thought to make recordings.

The last time I talked to Mom before she had a massive stroke in April 2006, she was laughing about me stopping traffic to escort a goose family off the road. Well, she wasn’t laughing at first, she was admonishing me to be careful out in that traffic because there were crazy people who would hit me. Or was I the crazy person for being out there in the first place, she asked. Then we both laughed.

I often called her on my way home from work. Mom couldn’t have a short conversation, and I certainly didn’t have a short commute, so hands-free cell was a blessing for both of us.

Then, one day while I was at a customer site, my cell phone rang and it wasn’t mother, but my sister-in-law, telling me that mother had fallen, crawled into the closet where they found her, and they had called the ambulance and taken her to the hospital. I left immediately and went home to quickly pack a bag and then begin the three and a half hour drive to where she lived.

When I was leaving the house with my suitcase in tow, my sister-in-law called again to tell me that mother had slipped from consciousness. I knew, in the pit of my stomach, what was going to follow.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, they confirmed that mother had suffered a massive stroke. The next 24 hours were critical. She would either get worse or get better. I knew mother’s worst fear was that she would be disabled and reliant on others – read vulnerable to abuse in a nursing home. She feared that far worse than death.

At that time, mother would rouse slightly to my voice, and I think she squeezed my hand once, but she didn’t seem to be able to respond to any requests. When we moved her from a gurney to the hospital bed, her eyelids flew open and much to my horror, I realized that her eyes were entirely sightless. She was blind, couldn’t talk and could only move one hand slightly.

I remember my abject horror at seeing her so terribly impaired – and knowing in that instant what she would have wanted.

She didn’t improve the next day, nor the next.

Then, we had to make a decision. My brother left, unable to deal with the situation, and my sister-in-law and I followed my mother’s advance directive and removed life support.

In spite of my mother’s well-known wishes, it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. I am extremely thankful that there were no family members opposed and I am incredibly grateful for Mom’s signed directive. We don’t think she could hear us, given the depth of her coma – but still I felt someone needed to tell her what we were doing and why, just in case – and that someone was me. Part of me desperately wanted her to sit right up and object. There was no response at all.

Then, the waiting began – for her to dehydrate/starve to death. It took 7 more days. What passes for acceptable care for humans would be viewed as unwarranted torture for a much-loved pet. Until you sit those 7 days and watch the painfully slow process, you don’t realize how barbaric it is. I’ll spare you the details and hope fervently you never discover for yourself.

Mother lived near the hospital, so I stayed in her apartment during my visit. I’m so eternally grateful that my daughter took time off work, which she could ill afford, and joined me for the wait. We took turns sitting watch at the hospital, comforted knowing the other person was no more than 5 minutes away. The initial days of hoping mother would recover and survive were replaced by hoping the call that she had been released would come sooner than later.

My daughter’s dog came along, because there was no one at home to take care of her – and walking Chica, who has now joined Mom across the rainbow bridge, was such a welcome respite from the hospital. There was a little woods behind the church a block from Mom’s apartment, and that walk in the woods provided us some much needed relief.

In contrast to our dark internal gloom, springtime was popping out all over. I vividly remember the cherry tree in front of Mom’s apartment resplendent in all of its pink glory. It’s amazing what we remember in highly emotional times of stress. I can’t see one today without thinking of mother.

Mom didn’t have a computer, so she didn’t have wifi either, but a coffee shop a block or so away did. By the time Mom passed, my daughter and I were regulars and every day when we walked in, the staff looked at us a long time, waiting for a yes or no headshake. The day it was yes, they didn’t have to ask.

April 30th was on Sunday that year. Mom finally breathed her last a little before 9 that morning. My brother, sister-in-law and I were with her, holding her hand, caressing her, telling her to let go – that her mother was waiting for her and so was Dad.

The night shift had been mine, and my daughter was sleeping. I didn’t call my daughter for the end, because I really didn’t want her to remember Mom like that. Seeing death is not anything you ever forget.

As I was leaving, my daughter was coming in the hospital door. She knew immediately when she saw me, and I suggested that she didn’t want to go up to the room. Mom wasn’t there anymore, thankfully. She was free.

We turned around together, returned to Mom’s apartment and went for a long walk with Chica. The church bells rang, and we cried together in the rain. Our already small family, now one person smaller.

Later that day, my daughter packed to drive home and go back to work on Monday, while I began to pack mother’s things into boxes and prepare to go to the funeral home the next day to make final arrangements.

Thankfully, mother had taken care of many of those details. It was her way of removing the burden from the family, and I was oh-so-grateful that she did.

There is no such thing as an “easy” funeral for me, but I got through it as best I could.

We celebrated Mom’s third career of more than 25 years as an Avon Lady. Many former customers came to pay their respects and tell stories about how Mom had helped them over and over again.  Mom viewed her Avon work as her “home visitation” mission, not as a job, which is why she never felt she could take any extended time away. It’s also why she never made a profit. She would drive across the county to deliver a tube of lip gloss and take a gift or food too.

I tucked a tube of Avon’s lip balm in her hand in the coffin – just so she doesn’t run out in the afterlife. She was always so concerned that her family would run short that she was constantly giving us a tube. The last one sits beside me at my desk today.

A couple weeks later, I celebrated the first Mother’s Day without Mom by loading her furniture into a rented truck to bring my portion home. Not exactly how I had planned to spend Mother’s Day. I ate the chocolate I had purchased for mother on the long drive home. She loved chocolate and I know she would have approved!

As I look back, there are several things that make me sad:

  • That I never got to take Mom back to Germany to visit her ancestral homeland. She never felt she could take the time away, and by the time she did, she was suffering from the early stages of dementia and was frail.
  • That Mother died in such horrid, abysmal circumstances – having to lay there and dehydrate/starve until dead. We prayed for another stroke to take her. Had we not discontinued the IVs, they told us it could be 30 days, or more, instead of 10. We had no good choices.
  • That some relationships she cherished were never repaired in her lifetime.
  • That she can’t share the genetic discoveries made since her death – both in general and relative to her ancestors. I would love to tell her about my finds. We enjoyed sharing so much.
  • That I didn’t coerce her into going on even more trips.
  • That I didn’t take advantage of some opportunities to do things together due to my schedule conflicts.
  • That I didn’t call and visit her more often – although I don’t know after someone is gone whether there is an “often enough.”
  • That I found so much literature about loneliness and depression in the elderly among her things. My heart aches knowing she was lonely when it’s too late to remedy.
  • That I was not more forceful in insisting, as in taking her kicking and screaming if necessary, that she see a neurologist. She was apparently having small strokes that went undiagnosed before the big one, but she did not want to admit she was having issues and became very angry with anyone who suggested otherwise.
  • That I had to spend the majority of my adult life living several hours distant, although I came home several times each year. However, coming home to visit is not the same as living a few blocks or miles away where you can pop in and out regularly and be a part of someone’s daily life.

As I look back, there are several things for which I am very grateful:

  • The last time I talked to Mom, we were laughing. That goose adventure makes me smile even yet today.
  • That I talked to Mom often, but not often enough.
  • That I made her several quilts because she covered up with them all the time and they could hug her when I could not.
  • That Mom gladly took every DNA test I asked her to take, and that she was genuinely interested and encouraged me to pursue genetic research. Had it not been for mother’s encouragement, I don’t know that I’d be doing what I do today.
  • That Mom and I went on several trips together, visiting where her ancestors lived, to libraries for research, to antique shows, to quilt shows and to the State Fair. Those days are golden, irreplaceable memories now.
  • I’m glad that I took my daughter, then a child, on many of those trips too – even though she didn’t necessarily want to go at the time. I’d wager that my daughter is glad now too.
  • That Mom and I had the terribly difficult discussion about end of life choices and where things I needed were located – before we needed to have the discussion – because we couldn’t have had that discussion when we needed to have it. I tried not to cry, but I just couldn’t help it that day. She cried too, because I was crying. Then we both laughed at ourselves. I’m laughing and crying just thinking about it!
  • That my daughter simply came to stay with me when Mom was hospitalized. I didn’t realize how much I needed her, and I would never have asked.
  • That my daughter’s dog came along. Fur family members can be infinitely comforting in times of distress.
  • That my son and his wife and child came to visit with Mom one last time – even though she may not have known. Then again, she may have known at some level.
  • That Mom’s funeral arrangements were, for the most part, already made. Thank you Mom.
  • That I knew unquestionably what Mom would have wanted under the circumstances.
  • That the springtime flowers were blooming furiously, because they lifted my spirits, even if just for a minute or two, from a very dark place. I somehow realized they spoke to the future and that there would be life after…

I have far more regrets about what I didn’t do than what I did. Life is about spending time together and on each other. Our time is the most valuable and loving gift that we have to give. Time is what makes memories that at some point will have to be enough to last us a lifetime.

Now, 11 years distant from that rainy spring morning, what remains, aside from those memories, is the loudness of the silence that never ends.

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

We know approximately when Charles Dodson was born, but we don’t know where and we don’t know who his parents are. According to a deposition recorded in March 1699, Charles says he is about 50 years old, so born about 1649 or 1650…someplace. I think that someplace was England, because Charles Dodson was literate and could write his name. If Charles was born in Virginia in 1650, his family would have to have been wealthy to afford a private tutor to teach their children to read and write. Certainly, judging from Charles’ own children, that didn’t happen…and Charles was a large landowner. Yet his two eldest sons signed their names with a mark. Charles grew up someplace where he received at least some schooling.

A search of Find-My-Past which focused on English records shows three Charles Dodson/Dotsons born in 1644, 1645 and 1646, but none later through 1655. Of course, all parish registers aren’t online. Find-My-Past also shows four London apprenticeships for Charles Dodson between 1661 and 1672 – so the name Charles Dodson apparently wasn’t terribly rare.

We have quite a bit of information about our Charles Dodson as an adult, and clues about other things. And we have rumors to evaluate as well. Charles Dodson is a very interesting man.

If Charles arrived with his parents, they would likely have been found someplace near where Charles emerged as an adult. Perhaps Charles arrived as a young man alone, maybe as an indentured servant, or perhaps with a young wife.

Changing County Boundaries

When researching Charles Dodson, I wanted to be quite thorough, so I began with the earliest records in the part of Virginia where Charles Dodson was first found. In fact, I started with records early enough to find any other Dodson male in early Virginia as well.

Settlement in the Northern Neck of Virginia, shown above as the neck of land that today includes the counties of Westmoreland, Northumberland, Richmond and Lancaster, began about 1635 when the area was part of York County, one of the original counties formed in 1634. St. Mary’s and St. Charles Counties in Maryland are just across the Potomac River, on the north side of the neck.

In 1619, the area which is now York County was included in two of the four incorporations (or “citties”) of the proprietary Virginia Company of London which were known as Elizabeth Cittie and James Cittie.

In 1634, what became York County was formed as Charles River Shire, one of the eight original shires of Virginia.

During the English Civil War, Charles River County and the Charles River (also named for the King) were changed to York County and York River, respectively. The river, county, and town of Yorktown are believed to have been named for York, a city in Northern England.

York County land records and probate began in 1633.

In 1648, Northumberland County was formed from York and then in 1652 Lancaster was formed from Northumberland and York. Land records in Northumberland began in 1650 and probate in 1652.

Old Rappahannock County (not to be confused with the current Rappahannock County) was formed in 1656 from Lancaster County, VA. Land records begin in 1656 and probate in 1665. In 1692, old Rappahannock was dissolved and divided into Essex and Richmond Counties, on either side of the Rappahannock River.

This handy chart shows the early Virginia County formation and when surviving records exist for each county.

Old Rappahannock County was named for the Native Americans who inhabited the area, Rappahannock reportedly meaning “people of the alternating (i.e., tidal) stream.” The county’s origins lay in the first efforts by English immigrants to “seat” the land along the Rappahannock River in the 1640s. The primitive travel capabilities of the day and the county’s relatively large area contributed to the settlers’ hardship in travel to the county seat to transact business and became the primary reason for the county’s division by an Act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1691 to form the two smaller counties of Essex and Richmond.

According to the library of Virginia, old Rappahannock wills are with the Essex County wills, although they have been transcribed and published separately.

Richmond County was formed in 1692 from Old Rappahannock, with land records beginning in 1692 and probate in 1699, although many records are lost for unknown reasons.

The earliest mention of Charles Dodson is found in those records. Another Dodson, Gervais, found in Northumberland, Stafford and Westmoreland Counties had died by 1662, leaving a widow who remarried to Andrew Pettygrow. I found no connection between Gervais and Charles Dodson, no will or family information for Gervais, and no Gervais in the Charles Dodson descendants.

Northumberland County Oath

In 1652, all Tidewater Virginia residents that were not Native were required to take an oath of allegiance.

No Dodson, nor the allied families of Durham or Smoot are listed in the 1652 Northumberland County Oaths of Allegiance.

First Sighting

The first sighting of Charles Dodson is in the Old Rappahannock County deeds in 1679. Of course, then it wasn’t called Old Rappahannock County, just Rappahannock County and it’s abbreviated several ways within deeds. All documents included are from Old Rappahannock or Richmond County, depending on the date of the transaction, unless otherwise stated.

Deed Book Page 278 – July 10, 1679 between Peter Elmore of Rappae County, planter, and Charles Dodson, same, planter, and his heirs and assignes, as much plantable land as 3 tithables can tend in corn and tabb, with priviledge of leaving out for partuidge and further that said Dodson shall have the privilege of coopers and carpenters timber for the use of ye plantation for the term of 19 years from date hereof . (Further the said Elmore doth engage to furnish ye said Dodson with apple trees and peach trees suffichant to make an orchard both of apples and peaches) and further at the expiration of ye said terms the said Dodson is to leave a 30 foot dwelling house and a 50 foot tobacco house tennentable with all fencing in repairs that is at the expiration of the time. An further ye said Dodson to pay ye said Peter Elmore 50 pounds tobacco yearly during he said terme but if said Dodson chance to leave ye said plantation before the expiration of the said time that then ye said Peter Elmore shall have ye refusal before any other.

Signed Peter Elmore with mark and Charles Dodson. Witness William Smoote and Charles Wilson. Looks like it was registered July 7, 1680.

This deed puts Peter Elmore, Charles Dodson and William Smoot together quite early. It’s a rather unusual deed. It certainly suggests that Charles anticipated having either indentured servants or slaves if there was enough land for 3 people to work. This looks to be similar to a lease, for a period of 19 years, or until 1698.

In 1679, Charles would have been 29 or 30 years old, certainly too young to have boys old enough to be working on the plantation.

This was an investment for both men, because the trees provided by Elmore and planted by Dodson wouldn’t bear fruit for several years. Apple trees can produce in 3-6 years and pear in 2-4.

A 30 foot dwelling house certainly isn’t large by today’s standards. Many cabins in Appalachia were smaller, though, and yet they were referred to as “mansion houses.” It wasn’t unusual for a house to be 10 by 16 feet. A 30 foot dwelling house, by comparison, was large. It’s also worth noting that this would suggest that there was no house already existing on the land. This would tell us that Charles’ first home was probably one room width by 30 feet long, or maybe a fraction of that until he could afford to add on. It didn’t have to be 30 feet until 19 years later. Houses were often built in stages.

In the transaction between Peter Elmore and Charles Dodson, the tobacco house was referenced, 50 feet in length, ironically, larger than the house for the residents. The tobacco house would have been a special tobacco barn, constructed for the purpose of drying tobacco, an example shown below.

By code poet – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=407542

On many farms today, including the one I grew up on, the barns are still larger than the houses.

This arrangement was probably a good deal for both Peter Elmore and Charles Dodson – each man benefitting. Peter had someone working his land, planting valuable orchards, building houses and barns, and increasing the value of the land. Charles had access to a plantation large enough to support him and his family without having to actually purchase land. Sounds like a win-win situation, probably for a man with a willingness to work but no cash. Charles could have been an indentured servant himself, just finishing his indenture, which, among other possibilities would explain why he had no cash. But you have to hand it to Charles, he had a lot of spunk and was obviously willing to work hard!!!

The following year, Charles witnessed another transaction for Peter Elmore.

Deed Book Page 282 April 24, 1680 – Henry Dawson to Peter Elmore right in a bill of sale. Witnessed by William Dawson and Charles Dodson

Tobacco

Tobacco was the economic foundation of early Virginia as well as the currency. It was, however, a very labor intensive crop, but much prized in England, as this 1595 woodcut of the first known image of a man smoking tobacco shows. The bad news, for the English, is that tobacco could not successfully be grown there, necessitating importation.

Tobacco quickly depletes the land, requiring about 20 years for fields to lie fallow after a few years use, becoming known as “old fields” in regions where tobacco was farmed. According to Encyclopedia Virginia, a planter could plant tobacco for 3 years, then corn, with deeper roots, for 3 years, then nothing for 20 years. The field could then be used again, meaning that any given planter had to have enough land for it to be unused for tobacco for 23 of 26 years.

Each man, meaning planter, slave or indentured servant could work about 2 acres per year, although the work was backbreaking. That meant, in Charles Dodson’s case, to have 6 acres under production for tobacco at all times meant that he had to have a total of 54 acres, plus land for the house and other areas not farmable. Unfortunately, the 1679 transaction between Peter Elmore and Charles Dodson doesn’t say how much land is involved. Pesky details!

You can click to enlarge images.

The graph above shows a crop rotation example of keeping 6 acres of tobacco, enough for 3 men to tend, under production at all times.

Viewed another way, if a man had 54 acres of cultivable farmland, that means he could have 6 acres at any time under cultivation for tobacco and 6 for corn. Only being able to use one ninth of your land for your primary crop was a very land-intensive investment. Adding in the 3 years for corn production, you can still only use two ninths of your land at any one time.

Tobacco plants shown growing in the garden area of the Museum of Appalachia.

After the tobacco was started in trays, transplanted by hand, groomed, weeded and harvested, it had to be dried, graded and then packed into large wooden barrels or casks called hogsheads for shipping to England. The barrels would then be rolled down the roads from the plantations to the docks. Often in these areas, there would be roads called Rolling Roads, or Rowling Roads. Those were the roads utilized to transport the barrels to the ships – literally rolling them along their way. This means of course that the most desirable plantations were the closest to the river, also meaning that they might have docks where the ships could anchor, facilitating trading and commerce for the plantation owner. The bad news was that these areas tended to be swampy and the first to sustain damage when hurricanes and severe weather hit.

The cartouche on the lower right-hand corner of the Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia, below, drawn in 1751, shows tobacco hogsheads being inspected and shipped overseas.

A hogshead was about 3 feet across and had to hold at least 100 pounds of tobacco. The tobacco in the hogshead was graded, and if the tobacco was found to be substandard, the entire hogshead was burned. This was an incredible incentive for planters to produce and ship only the highest quality tobacco.

Son Thomas is Born

The North Farnham Parish register tells us that son Thomas Dodson was born to Charles and Ann Dodson on May 15, 1681. This suggests that Charles was married by at least by sometime in 1680, if Thomas was his first child. However, it’s probable that son Charles Jr. was the first child, or first male child, of Charles Dodson and Ann, pushing the marriage date back to between 1671 and 1676, depending on when Charles Jr. was born.

Thomas is the only child directly attributed to Charles and Ann in the North Farnham Parish church records, which are known to be incomplete. The rest of the records that tell us about Charles’s children are his will written in 1703 and various deeds over the years.

Briery Swamp

Charles witnessed many deeds for neighbors during his lifetime.

Deed Book Page 310 – May 30, 1681 John Harding to Jane Elmore, daughter of Peter Elmore one black cow yearling. Signed with mark. Witness Charles Dodson and Jane Ellmore (signed with mark)

Deed Book Page 330-331 Oct. 23, 1681 from William Fantleroy and wife Katherin to David Fowler 2000 pounds aranoco tobacco in cask 230 acres on the north side of Rappahannock River on the branch of the head of Farnham Neck known by the name of the Briery swamp being part of a greater tract formerly granted to Ambrose Clary pat dates Sept 26, 1667 bounded on corner of John Ingoes below the house and running along the line of said Ingoes land north to a Spanish oak on the line of the aforesaid then N to red oak at a little below the bridge of ye Briery Swamp near Edmund Rylie then NW cross the Briery swamp to a corner tree then NW to another marked read oak by Moartico Creek and then along the old line of William Fantleroy dividend west crossing Briery Swamp to ye place of first began. Signed 1681. Wit Thomas Wills, Charles Dodson. Reg Jan 4, 1681 (82).

This deed witnessed by Charles Dodson puts him in the neighborhood of Briery Swamp.

Briery Swamp is believed to be Marshy Swamp in Richmond County, today. Sadly, the early patents, grants and surveys that do still exist for the Northern Neck do not include drawings of the land, just metes and bounds which make them very difficult to locate on a map today.

The tobacco grown and smoked by Native Americans was too harsh for the English palate. Orinoco (aranoco) tobacco seeds were transported from the Orinoco Valley in Spain and when planted in the rich bottomland of the Northern Neck peninsula, produced a mild yet dark tobacco which quickly became the English favorite.

I took these photos of tobacco flowering in Virginia a few years ago, not realizing at the time how connected my family was to that crop.

Charles Dodson and William Smoot are associated throughout their lives.

Deed Book Page 144-146 I William Smote of Rappahannock County, planter, do stand indebted unto Richard Ellet in the sum of 2400 pounds tobacco and caske to containe the same with all court charges and costs of surveying to be paid at some convenient landing in the parish of Farnham have received a valuable consideration for the same which payment truly to be made I the said William Smothe doe bind ourselves unto the said Ellet. The condition of this obligation is such that is the abovesaid Ellet should loose any part of his land by my survey being land bought of the above said William Smoote that the said Smoot shall make restoration of as much land to the sd Ellet as shall be taken away from him. Provided the said Smooth hath left 200 acres other ways to the said Smoote to restore to the Ellet the abovementioned tobacco and caske to containe the same and for the performance hereof I the aid Smoote to me my heirs and as witness my hand and seal this November 5, 1684. Signed. Witness Charles Dodson, John Ingoe by mark

It looks like the neighbors, William Smoot, John Ingoe and Charles Dodson are all signing as witnesses. It’s always good to know who the neighbors are, because families marry, immigrate and migrate with people they know.

Charles Buys Land

In 1679, Charles transacted with Peter Elmore to improve Elmore’s land, but six and a half years later, Charles had saved enough money to purchase 100 acres of his own.

Deed Book 7, pg 281-283 This indenture made this nine and twentieth day of December in the yeare of our Lord 1685 Between William Thacker and Alice his Wife, Daughter and heire of William Mathews, late of the County of Rappa. in Virginia, Plantr., deced, of the one part and Charles Dodson of the sd County of Rappa., Plantr., of the other part Witnesseth that they the sd William Thacker and Alice his Wife for a valuable consideration to them paid have sold unto the sd Charles Dodson all that tract of land being in the Parish of Farnham in the sd County of Rappa: conteyning One hundred acres as by the survey and plat thereof may appear which said hundred acres is part and parcell of a Dividend of land conteyning Eleven hundred Forty and eight acres called or known by the name of Lilleys, lying and being in the County and Parish aforesaid formerly Pattented by the abovesd William Mathews as by the Pattent bearing date the Eighteenth day of November in the year of our Lord One thousand Six hundred Sixty and eight relation being had doth appeare, and the Deeds Pattents and whatsoever touching the same To have and to hold the sd One hundred acres of land with their appertinances unto the sd Charles Dodson his heires to the only proper use of sd Charles Dodson forever with all profitts in as large manner as expressed in the original Pattent of the whole Divident above specified and the sd William Thacker and Alice his Wife warrant the said land unto sd Charles Dodson against all persons from or under them and shall acknowledge these presents within three Courts next after the date hereof in Court to be holden for the County of Rappa: aforesd In Witness where of the sd William Thacker and Alice his Wife sett their hands and seales

Signed sealed and delivered in the presents of Richard Marshall, William Thacker his marke William Edmonds, Alice Thacker the marke of William Heard, Recognitr in Cur com Rappa. 3 die 9ber 1686 record xxiii die

Know all men by these presents that I William Thacker of the County of Lancaster in Virginia do constitute and appoint my true and well beloved friend, John Ford, to be my true and lawful! Attorney in my place to acknowledge unto Charles Dodson of the County of Rappa: one hundred acres of land in the aforesd. County and ratifying and allowing what my said Attorney shall act and doe in the same In Witness whereof I have put my hand and seale this first day of November 1686

Signed Sealed and delivered in the presents of us Henry Fulton, William Thacker his mark James Kille, Recordr. xxiii die 9hris 1686

This deed is a little more normal – an actual land sale. At Charles death, this is the land he is living on, referred to as “the new dwelling plantation with the 100 acres of land belonging to it” and bequeathed to son “Lambert” who is actually Lambeth.  Lambeth subsequently sells this land to his brother, Thomas, who leaves it to his son, Greenham, who, in 1746, sells it to Jeremiah Greenham (Richmond County Deed book 10-373.)  Tracking this deed forward from Jeremiah might help us locate this land today.

Deed Book May 1686 – Alexander and Elizabeth Newman to William Acers 200 acres part of a 600 acre dividend. Signed wit Thomas Carpenter and Charles Dodson.

Charles witnesses a transaction for neighbors in 1686, then buys 300 acres of additional land for himself in 1687.

Deed Book Page 386-387 – Oct 21, 1687 Samuel Travers and Frances his wife of Rappahannock to Charles Dodson of same, planter, for valuable consideration parcel in Farnham 300 acres by survey part of two dividents of land pat by Col. William Travers decd and commonly known as Traverses Quarter or Old Field and surveyed by one Edward Jonson as his platt dated Dec. 9, 1687. Dodson to pay all quitrents and services which shall become due. Signed by Samuel Travers and Frances his wife (mark) witness Raw. Travers, Elias Robinson (mark) Byran Mullican (mark).

Charles Dodson now owns 400 acres, plus the land under lease from Peter Elmore. Given our calculations, a planter must own 18 acres for one man to keep 2 acres under cultivation with tobacco at all times. Therefore, 400 acres would require about 22 men to work the land. Of course, some of that land would have been taken up by houses, barns and livestock. Other portions may have been too low to cultivate. Still, it was a lot more land than Charles Dodson and his family could work by themselves.

John Lincoln

Charles Dodson apparently had a close relationship or at least a relationship of some sort with John Lincoln. First, we find that John and Charles both assigned by the court to help mediate a dispute.

Court Order Book November 1, 1686 page 1 – ordered Charles Dodson and John Lincolne meet together at the house of Barth: Wood to state and audit ye accompts between Hugh Bell plt and ye said Wood deft and make report thereof to the next court and that the said Wood deliver to the said Wood all his working tooles that are in his custody.

Just a month or so later, John Lincoln dictates his will on Dec. 18, 1686, so his final illness must have come upon him unexpectedly.

Later, in an affidavit of witnesses to the making of the will, the comment was made that John Lincolne, the maker of the will, “would have no other but Charles Dodson as his executor although several insisted that he have his wife.”

And an affidavit by another witness, “John Lincoln…he did urge to have Charles Dodson to be his executor several times when his wife was named.”

Apparently Charles Dodson had other ideas, or there was something bothersome to him about the situation.

Court Order Book Jan. 5, 1686/87 – Charles Dodson in open court relinquished his right of executorship to the last will and testament of John Lincolne decd

Now, the subplots gets even more interesting, because less than 6 months later, which really wasn’t unusual for a remarriage in colonial Virginia, John Lincoln’s widow, Elizabeth, remarries to John Hill. Keep the name of John Hill in the back of your mind. You’ll meet him again in a few minutes.

Court Order Book, Page 22 May 4, 1687 This day John Hill as Marrying the Admistrx. of John Lincolne deced confest judgment to Henry Hartley for Sixteen hundred pounds tobb & caske according to Bill which this Court have ordered to be paid with cost of suit.

Court Order Book Page 160 April 3,1690 – Judgment is granted to William Colston against John HIll as Marrying Elizabeth, the Relict of John Lincolne, for five hundred & sixteen pounds of tobb: upon acct. of Clerkes fees, to be pd with cost of suit als exe.

In 1693, Chares Dodson is again involved with John Hill, this time as a witness to a deed where John Hill sells land on the Northumberland River that apparently shared a property line with the deceased John Lincoln.

Deed Book Page 198/201 Deed 21st day of 7ber 1693 John Hill and Elizabeth his wife planter and John Creele, both of Richmond Co planter, for valuable consideration 60 acres beginning at hickory path going to Bartholomew Woods and a path going to Walter Webb, corner tree of George Devenport and John Hill and along line, main branch of Northumberland River, line of John Linkhorne, 60 acres part of 800 acres patented by John Carpenter, Charles Carpenter and William West and part of it takenup John Hill relaction being thereunto had may more fully appears and the reversion and reversions, deeds, letters escrips touching or concerning the same. John and Elizabeth Hill by marks, Gilbert Croswell witness by mark, Mary Creele by mark and Charles Dodson signature.

Elizabeth Hill wife of John Hill gives power or attorney to John Rankin to acknowledge that she relinquished her dower in that parcel of land.

Unfortunately, I can’t find the Northumberland River on current maps.

It’s unclear whether there was one or two different John Hill’s living at this time. However, John Hill would marry the widow of Charles Dodson after his death. Given Charles Dodson’s close association with John Hill, I suspect that this is the John Hill that would be Charles’ wife’s second husband.

Charles As Estate Executor

Charles served as the executor of more than one estate. About the same time that John Lincoln died, so did Edward Johnson.

Will Book 29 January, 1686/7; Sworn to 27 February, 1686/7 & 2 March, 1686/7.  Edward Johnson of the County of Rappa & Parish of ffarnham. Very Sick of Body but of perfect mind & memory. I leave unto Wm Macanrico three Cowes & one heyfer & one yearling being upon the Plantacon of Ennis Macanrico & one Mare bigg with foale & one bed & what belongeth to it, and all other things that doth belong to me the above ad Cattle to be delivered in kinde when he Cometh to the Age of sixteen & the Mares to Run with encrease from the Day of the Date hereof and do make Charles Dodson my full Executr: to see this my Will fulfilled when my Debts is Satisfied & what is left to Return to Ennis Macanrico. Wit. Danll Everard, Alexander Duke, Peter Elmore

Court Order Book Jan 29, 1686/87 Edward Johnson will, Charles Dodson executor, Peter Elmore witness.

Apparently, all did not go smoothly.

Court Order Book Sept 6, 1687 Rees Evans vs Charles Dodson continued to next court.

Lancaster County Court 12th of October 1687 Whereas at the last Court helde for this County, upon the Peticon of Charles Dodson as Exer, of Edward Johnson (deced), it was then ordered that Agnis, the Wife of William Smith, formerly the Wife of Enis Meconico, late of the County (deced), should render up and deliver unto the said Charles Dodson qualified as aforesaid all that Estate of the said Johnson in her possession of what kinde soever both of goods chattells and Cattle for the use of William, the Sone of the said Meconico, to whome it was bequeathed as by the last Will and Testamt. of the said Johnson it doth appeare, a Probate threof accordingly was granted unto the said Dodson at a Court helde for the County of Rappahannock March the 3d. 1686 and hee haveing given sufficient security to this Court for the said Estate, for the use aforesaid, And the said Dodson complaineing to this Court that the said Agnis (in whose custodie the sd. Estate remaines) in contempt of the aforesd. Order doe therefore hereby order that the Sheriff of this County doe forthwith put the sd. Dodson in possession of all that Estate in her custodie bequeathed as aforesaid; And that the said Agnis bee sworne before the next justice truely to exhibitt the same. James Phillips, William Armes and Mr. John Wade or any two of them are ordered to apprize the said Estate and to bee sworne by the next Justice an Inventory thereof to bee exhibitted to the next Court

Charles in Court

Filing suit in colonial Virginia wasn’t so much a last resort as it seemed to be a way of life.

Court Order Book May 3 1688 order granted Francis Moore against Charles Dodson.

Court Order Book May 3 1688 Judgement granted to Nicholas Ward against Charles Dodson for 1000 pounds tobacco and caske upon obligation to be paid with cost of suit.

Charles Dodson served on a jury twice in 1688.

Going to court was as much entertainment as it was a necessity. Business was transacted and friendships cemented, and sometimes ended, I’m sure.

Sometimes men witnessed deeds of their family and neighbors. Other times, I think the witness was whoever happened to be at the pub, or at court the day the transaction happened to occur.

Deed Book Page 138-140 George Vinson to John Mills, James Gained and Charles Dodson (signature) witness.July 14, 1691

Deed Book Page 138-140 John Mills to William Richardson, John Hooper, Charles Dodson (signature) and Thomas Salsby witness Sept 12, 1692

In 1693, Charles purchases additional land.

Deed Book 2 Jan 1693/4 Samuel Travers and Frances his wife of Richmond Co to Charles Dodson, for 10000 lb tobo and cask, 500 acres, “being part of a patent granted to Mr Thomas Chitwood and George Haselock bearing Date 9th day of July 1662”. This land lying on the main branch of Totuskey Creek beginning white oak in the fork of the said branch…parcel of land sold by said Travers to Daniel Everett to head of another branch…crossing mouth of the same, adj land sold by said Travers to Dan’l Everett. Entry includes “either of our heirs in by from or under Col’n William Travers Father of me the said Samuel Travers”. Signed: Sam’l Travers, Fran Travers. Witness: Peter Hall, Gilbert Hornby (or Fornby), Mary x Wollard. Recorded 20 Jan 1693/4.

Order Book Page 108 Jan. 3, 1693/4 Ordered deed ack by Capt. Samuel Travers to Charles Dodson be recorded

This brings Charles’ land holdings to 900 acres plus the land he leases from Elmore. 900 acres would take 50 men to work the land, if all was farmable.

The Everett family is found adjoining the land of Charles’ grandson, George Dodson, when he sells his land in 1756 that he inherits from Charles’ son, Thomas. This same land would be owned by Dodson men for 3 generations.

Charles Junior Emerges in the Records

Charles Dodson Jr. is first found in conjunction with the 1693 transaction above, when Frances Travers signs power of attorney to John Taverner to relinquish her dower rights. Charles Dodson Jr. and Sr. both witness that transaction, suggesting that Charles Jr. is now age 21, but certainly no less than 16. Therefore Charles Dodson Jr. was likely born about 1672 or no later than 1677, pushing the marriage of Charles Dodson Sr. and Ann back to between 1671 and 1676.

Deed Book Jan. 2, 1693 Frances Travers assigns Power of Attorney to Mr. John Taverner to represent her in court to acknowledge “a certain parcell of land containing Fiver hundred acres sold by my Husband, Samuel Travers, unto Charles Dodson of this County by Deed and purpose. Charles Dodson Jr. signed with mark and Charles Dodson Sr. signed with signature. May 1, 1693

Another deed file the same day also shows Charles Jr. with his father and the Ann presumed to be his mother. Unfortunately, Charles Jr. also married an Anne whose surname is unknown, so it’s unclear whether the Ann below is Ann the mother or Anne the wife.

Deed Book Jan. 2, 1693 I Easter Mills of Richmond County in Virginia do constitute my truly & loving friend, Mr. Edward Read, of the abovesd County to be my lawfull Attorney for me as well in all respects as if myselfe were personally present to acknowledge a Deed made by my Husband, John Mills, & myself unto William Richardson of the abovesd. County of Richmond for One hundred Twenty & five acres of Land in the abovesd. County as Witness my hand and seale this first of May 1693 Easter Mills her marke

Being present Ann Dodson, Charles Dodson Junr., Charles Dodson Senr., Recorded: Cur Corn Richmond 17 die Maii 1693

Nancy, The Brown Cow

While Charles Dodson Jr. was old enough to witness transactions, his brother, Thomas was still a child. Thomas was born in May of 1681 according to the Farnham Church Parish records, making him about 12 when his father deeded him a brown cow named Nancy.

Deed Book Page 165 Charles Dodson convey to beloved son Thomas Dodson brown cow called by the name of Nancy marked with a crop and swallow forke on the left eare and a crop on the right eare together with all her female increase being in exchange with him my said son Thomas for one cow given him by his Godfather Peter Elmore. July 31, 1693 signed, wit William Ward and William Colston

This very interesting transaction tells us that Peter Elmore is Thomas’s godfather, but it does not say grandfather. Since a relationship was identified, if Peter Elmore was Thomas’s grandfather, it surely would have said grandfather, not godfather, since a grandfather is a blood relative and a godfather can be anyone, related or not. It does imply a close relationship between the families, but not necessarily a blood relationship.

This deed does cause me to wonder why the deed was filed at all. There was a cost associated with filing a deed, not to mention the aggravation. Why write this cow-swap up as a deed instead of just letting it be a barnyard transaction?

Clearly, there is something afoot or ahoof that we don’t and never will know.

Hurricane

The History of Northern Neck, Virginia tells us that The Royal Society of London reported that on October 29, 1693, “here happened a most violent storm in Virginia which stopped the course of ancient channels and made some where there never were any.”

Charles Dodson was probably very grateful that his land was not directly on the Rappahannock River.

Totuskey Creek and Ridge Road

These deeds put Charles’ neighbors on Totuskey Creek in proximity to Ridge Road.

Deed Book Page 29-31 May 20, 1694 William Richardson, planter, and Elizabeth wife to John Henly planter, for consideration 50 acres… Thomas Dusin line, part of dividend purchased of John Mills upon a main branch of Totuskey. Signed by marks, wit Ann Dodson signed with plus, Charles Dodson Jr signed with mark CD and Charles Dodson Sr signed.

Deed Book Page 29-31 May 20, 1694 Elizabeth Richardson POA to Thomas Dusin to ack Deed. Signed with mark, wit Ann Dodson by mark, Charles Dodson Jr by mark and Charles Dodson Sr.

Deed Book Page 32-35 June 1, 1694 William Norris and Elizabeth wife of Northumberland Co to Samuel Jones land purchased of Thomas Dusin 52 acres…line of John Ockley, divides land of William Richardson. Signed my mark, wit Henry Hartley, John Hill, John Hendley all signed with mark and Charles Dodson 94 (sic).

It’s interesting that Charles signed his name with the year.

Deed Book Page 32-35 June 1, 1694 Elizabeth Norris POA to Thomas Duzen to ack deed in court. Signed with mark, wit Henry Hartly, John Hill, signed with mark, and Charles Dodson.

Deed Book Page 35-37 June 1, 1694 Thomas Dusin and wife Susanna or Northumberland Co to William Norris paid and 2 hilling hoes to be paid yearly by the said Norris unto the said Duzen so long as he and his wife shall live and if either of them shall die then Norris shall pay but one hilling hoe and to give the said Dusin one falline axe…100 acres by estimation in Richmond Co on branches of Totuskey Creek adj land where said Dusin now lives. Beginning at red oak diving land of William Norris and Thomas Duzen up the branch to corner tree standing near line of William Mathews along Mathews line to the road then to another white oak by the road, then along a line of John Oakley formerly belonging to Thomas Madison then to a gum corner then across the Ridge Road, down line of William Richardson. Signed with marks, Henry Hartley witness, John Hill with mark, Charles Dodson 94 (sic)

I’ve never seen a hilling hoe as a form of monetary exchange before.

Deed Book Page 35-37 June 31, 1694 Power of atty Susan Duson of Richmond Co to appoint my trusty and well beloved friend William Richardson of same to be my attorney to acknowledge the above deed unto William Norris. Wit Henry Hartley, John Hirlly, Charles Dodson. Book 2, page 37

Deed Book Page 144-146 Thomas Dusin and wife Susanna 1600 pounds tobacco in case to Thomas Southerne tract 30 acres part of a patent granted to Thomas Dusin bearing date 21 7ber 1687 at the head of Totuskey branches beginning corner of Old Cone Path formerly belonging to Daniel Oneale along line divides the land of Mr. Spencer and above said Dewsins land, corner belonging to William Mathews, along line dividing land formerly belonging to John Henly and Dusin signed Feb. 26, 1694/5. Signed Wit William Norris, Elizabeth Norris by marks, Charles Dodson signed.,

Deed Book Susanna Dusin POA to William Norris to ack deed. Signed with mark. Wit Charles Dodson signed with mark, William Brokenbrough signed Feb 26, 1694/5

I wish I knew where the Old Cone Path was today.

Ridge Road (also known as 600) today runs from Richmond Road south to the intersection with History Land Highway in the southern part of the county.

Totuskey Creek, today is to the upper left, the spiderlike creeks.

However, we also know that Charles Dodson owned the land referred to as Rich Neck, north of Richmond Road (360), still along 600, probably still called Ridge Road at that time. 600 or Ridge Road dead ends on the north with Oldham Road.

Above, you can see the entire area from the village of Oldhams, past Rich Neck, crossing Richmond Road, on down 600 passing the spiderveins of feeder creeks of Totuskey Creek.

Matthew Ozgrippin and Forcible Entry

In 1695, Charles Dodson did something that sounds very un-Charles Dodson-like.

Court Order Book Page 82 – Aug. 9, 1695 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Matthew Osgrippin is dismissed the plt not appearing to prosecute.

Charles Dodson had some kind of a dispute with Matthew Ozgrippin or Ozgriffin. From the entry above, it looks and sounds like a “normal” suit in early Virginia, but it apparently escalated into something very different.

Court Order Cook Page 113 Jan. 1, 1695/6 Whereas it was represented to this court by a warrant from Capt. William Barber and verdict of a jury thereupon that a forcible entry was made upon Matthew Ozgrifin in his possession by Charles Dodson and for that the said warrant and declaration thereupon was by accident mislayed by the clerk and therefore said matter cannot come to trial. The court for prevention of any further force to be committed by the said Charles do order that the said Charles Dodson do give in bond with good and sufficient security for his good abarance towards the said Matthew Ozgrifin and said matter be returned next court.

And of course, as luck would have it, the papers were missing in a volatile case.

Court Order Book Page 121 March 4, 1695/6 Whereas a warrant and verdict of a jury together with other papers relating to a force committed by Charles Dodson and others upon the posession of Matthew Ozgrippen at last January court held for this county was conveyed away from the court table by Mr. Robert Brent amongst his books and other papers and the said Robert Brent being since dead and by reason of the badness of the weather and other accidents that the said clerk of court has not opportunity to procure them again and for that the said Charles Dodson hath not made his appearance at the said fort to answer the fact aforesaid…for prevention therefore of any other or further force to be committed the court ordered the sheriff do take the body of the said Charles Dodson into safe custody and him so to keep until he shall give bond with good security and sufficient security for his aberrance towards the said Matthew Ozgrippin and further ordered the clerk do use all effectual means for the recovery of the said papers.

And then the lawyer died.

And the weather was bad.

This is beginning to sound like a country and western song!!

Court Order Book Page 124 April 1, 1696 Warrant from under the hand of Capt. William Barber one of the majesties of the county granted unto Matthew Ozgrippin complaining that a forcible entry was made by Charles Dodson upon his possession, the sheriff was ordered to summon a good and lawful jury of the neighbourhood to make enquiry of the force committed, which said jury being impaneled and sworn returned with the following verdict, viz, “We of the jury find a forcible entry made by Charles Dodson and the verdict being returned to this court for judgment thereon, the court having fined the said Charles Dodson 1000 pounds of tobacco for the force committed as aforesaid.”

It appears that Charles did, indeed, commit forcible entry. From the previous statements, it sounds like he wasn’t alone.

Court Order Book Page 134 April 2, 1696 Nonsuit granted to Matthew Ozgrippen against Charles Dodson, he not appearing, to be paid with costs of suit.

Court Order Book Page 134 April 2, 1696 Nonsuit granted to Nicholas Liscomb against Charles Dodson, he not appearing to be paid with costs of suit.

Court Order Book Page 134 April 2, 1696 Order granted against sheriff to Nicholas Liscomb for the nonappearance of Charles Dodson according to declaration.

Next, Charles doesn’t show up for court.

Court Order Book Page 143 June 4, 1696 Reference is granted between Matthew Ozgrippin plt and Charles Dodson def till next court.

If you thought this was over, it wasn’t. By now, Charles is probably hopping mad…again!

Court Order Book Page 143 June 4, 1696 action of waste brought by Charles Dodson against Matthew Ozgripin is dismissed for that the plt hath not discharged the costs of a former nonsuit.

An action of waste addresses a change in the condition of a property brought about by the current tenant that damages or destroys the value of that property. Most likely, Matthew Ozgrippin was a tenant on one of Charles Dodson’s farms. It’s also possible that Charles has sublet the land he leased from Peter Elmore.

Court Order Book Page 144 June 4, 1696 Action of trespass brought by Charles Dodson against Matthew Ozgrippin is dismissed for that the plt hath not discharged the costs of a former nonsuit.

Now, Charles is in trouble with the court for not paying the costs of the original suit.

Trespass in this type of situation would probably be related to nonpayment of rent or fees, or perhaps that Matthew was utilizing ground not included in his lease.

Court Order Book Page 144 June 4, 1696 Attachment granted to Charles Dodson against the estate of Nicholas Liscumb according to declaration returnable.

Court Order Book Page 151 August 5, 1696 – Mr. Joshua David appeared attorney for Charles Dodson.

Charles hires an attorney.

And least we’re going to finally find out what happened.

Court Order Book Page 151 August 5, 1696 Matthew Ozgrippen brought his action of trespass upon battery in this court against John Rankin, John Magill and Charles Dodson and declared that he and the said Matthew being the peace of our sovereign lord the Kings Majesty at or near his own dwelling house situate near the head of Maraticco Creek in the county aforesaid in the month of December last past and year of 1695 and the said John Rankin, John Magill and Charles Dodson assisting and abetting the said complaintant with force and arms and contrary to the peace and did assault and beat with his fists striking him several and divers blows so that the said compl was forced to retiree to his house for the better security of his life being then in danger and that the said Rankin, Magill and Dodson the said compl with like force and arms pursiing did break open the door of the said house and then and there the compl his wife and children did beat and bruise with several and divers wounds and other outrageous and unlawful actions did trespasses the said deft did to him then and there do and commit and throwing water on his bulked tobacao destroying his corn and from his said house the complt expelling and putting out whereby the comply sayeth he is damnifying and damage hath sustained to the value of 40,000 pounds tobacco which he prayeth judgement with cost. And the said Charles Dodson one of the deft aforesaid in proper person comes into court and sayeth that he is not guilty in manner and form as in and by the said declaration it is set forth and declared for trial thereof. Jury summoned and brought verdict, “We the jury find for the plt and that the plt is damnifyed 1500 pounds of tobacco with verdict the court have confirmed and order that the said Charles Dodson pay unto the said Matthw Ozgrippin 1500 pounds tobacco together with costs of suit.”

Matthew asked for 40,000 pounds tobacco and the court awarded him 1,500 pounds. This sounds like the kind of lawsuit where everyone walks away unhappy.

The head of Moratico Creek could be either of the two branches near the red pin. Farnham Creek is the large creek above and to the left of the pin.

Court Order Book Page 153 August 5, 1696 Matthew Ozgrippin together with William Norris this day in court did ack themselves indebted to William Tayloe in the sum of 3000 pounds tobacco to be paid unto the said Tayloe in case the said Matthew shall not answer an appeal from an order of the court granted unto him by Charles Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 154 August 5, 1696 Attachment granted last court against estate of Nicholas Liscumb to Charles Dodson according to declaration in continued.

Court Order Book Page 154 August 5, 1696 Foreasmuch as the sheriff of the county made appear to the court that he lawfully summoned John Rankin an evidence in the suit depending between Matthew Ozgrippin plt and John Magill. John Rankin and Charles Dodson def at the suite of the said Charles and the said John not appearing the court have fined the said John Rankin according to act of assembly and order that the same be paid unto the said Charles Dodson alias execution.

Apparently, Matthew sued the other two men as well, although he eventually drops at least one, stating that the “matter is in the past now.”  Not so with Charles Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 155 August 5, 1696 – Foreasmuch as the sheriff of the county made appear to the court that he lawfully summoned John Magill an evidence in the suit depending between Matthew Ozgrippin plt and John Magill. John Rankin and Charles Dodson def at the suite of the said Charles and the said John not appearing the court have fined the said John MaGill according to act of assembly and order that the same be paid unto the said Charles alias execution.

Court Order Book Page 171 Oct. 7, 1696 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Nicholas Liscumb dismissed the plt not appearing to prosecute.

Charles doesn’t show up, again, even though he is the plaintiff.

Court Order Book Page 195 Nov. 5, 1696 Petition of William Colston clerk ord that said Colston be allowed and paid out of the fines leveyed upon Charles Dodson for his force committed up on the possession of Matthew Ozgrippin 180 pounds tobacco being fees arising due to him in the prosecution of said force.

Court Order Book Page 244 June 3, 1697 Order brought against Charles Dodson by Matthew Ozgrippin dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

And so, the drama is finally over in June of 1697, almost two years after it started in court in August 1695, and 18 months after Charles committed forcible entry and apparently assaulted Matthew Ozgrippen.

This behavior of Charles is so aberrant from anything else we’ve seen that it calls into question why. I have to wonder if the problem was so outrageous that Charles resorted to equally as outrageous behavior.

Charles was about 45 years old in 1695, no spring chicken by any means and not likely to be a young hothead, lacking maturity. This type of behavior calls into question things like one’s daughter’s integrity, but Ozgrippen was married with children.

The what is disclosed, but never why.

We will clearly never know the true backstory, other than knowing that Charles was extremely angry for some reason and the two men with him appear to share Charles’ anger or outrage.

The Elmore Lease

According to the July 10, 1679 Elmore lease, Charles Dodson’s lease on Elmore’s land expired in 19 years, which would have been July 10, 1698.

At this time, Charles was supposed to have built a house and barn, planted orchards and fenced the area.

We don’t hear any more about this land, but if Charles vacated in 1698 as stipulated, that might explain his reference in his 1702/03 will to his new house on his plantation.

I’m sure when he was a young man first leasing that land, he never anticipated that 19 years later, he would be in the twilight years of his life.

Back to Normal Lawsuits

For the next year and a half after the Ozgrippin drama ends, Charles Dodson keeps a low profile. He doesn’t sue anyone, doesn’t get sued by anyone, doesn’t sit on a jury, doesn’t witness deeds and doesn’t appear in any court records, but in late 1698, he appears again.

Court Order Book Page 355 Nov. 4, 1698 Attachment granted to Charles Dodson against estate of Thomas Yates.

Court Order Book Page 373 March 1, 1698/9 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Thomas Yates dismissed, the plt not appearing to prosecute.

Court Order Book Page 387 March 3, 1698/9 Action brought by Charles Dodson against William Cambell is dismissed, the plt not prosecuting.

I’m beginning to wonder about this trend of Charles not showing up in court after filing suit. It is one way to have a suit dismissed, but we don’t see evidence of Charles doing this earlier. Does make one wonder.

Specifically, I’m wondering if Charles, in his mid-late 40s has suffered small strokes or maybe what today would be known as a traumatic brain injury. Brain injuries are known to create changes in behavior and impulsiveness. Something like being thrown from a horse could cause that kind of injury. That fact that he is suddenly not interacting with others as someone who has previously been trusted and responsible, after having done so for many years, makes me wonder if his neighbors were all aware.

The Deposition and More Goodies

Richmond Co., VA Miscellaneous Records, 1699-1724 TLC Genealogy Page 4 – Deposition of Charles Dodson Sr. aged about 50 years that about last April 16 being on board the Doublin Merchant in company with John Macgill he did hear the said John Macgill agree with Mr. Francis Moore, Merchant of the said shop, for a man servant named John Conner who had 6 years to serve by indenture and that the said Dodson read the said indenture and further says not. Signed Charles Dodson Recorded March 6, 1699

I called the Richmond County clerk’s office on 4-17-2017 and they don’t know where to look for this document. I was hoping to obtain a copy because it carries the actual signature of Charles Dodson. The Library of Virginia Chancery Records Index shows Richmond County chancery documents beginning in 1748.

Here, we find Charles Dodson in the company of John MacGill once again. Thank goodness for this deposition, which tells us approximately when Charles was born.

The Dublin Merchant with Francis Moore as Captain was a well know merchant ship that traveled back and forth from England and Ireland, transporting tobacco from Virginia and in return, bringing indentured servants.

At least one of those indentured servants worked on Charles Dodson’s plantation.

Court Order Book Page 408 June 7, 1699 Thomas Lane, servant to Charles Dodson, being presented.

When an underage servant became indentured, they were often presented to the court in order to have their age adjudged. This served two purposes. First, the length of the indenture sometimes was dependent on the age of the servant and second, their “legal age” as determined by the court also determined when the “master” had to start paying tithes on the servant, which typically happened for a white male at age 16.

Charles Dodson still “owns” part of this man’s time when his estate is filed in 1706, so apparently this man’s indenture was longer than the traditional 7 years.

Court Order Book Page 473 Sept. 7, 1699 Nonsuit granted against Charles Dodson Sr. to James Lovett the said Dodson not appearing to prosecute and to be paid with cost of suit.

Charles Dodson didn’t show up, AGAIN, and just about the time I think that maybe something is REALLY wrong with him, he’s on a jury. Go figure!!!

Court Order Book Page 485 Oct. 5, 1699 Mr. Charles Dodson on Jury

Of course, conceivably the jury member could have been Charles Jr., but it’s unlikely given that he didn’t yet own land and it the record doesn’t say Jr.

Court Order Book Page 510 Nov. 2, 1699 Order granted against the sheriff to Charles Dodson for nonappearance of William Cambell according to declaration. Attachment hereon granted to sheriff.

Court Order Book Page 510 Nov. 2, 1699 Action brought by Charles Dodson against Mathew Ozgrippin is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Not Ozgrippin again…4 years later. I’d wager Ozgrippin is still Charles Dodson’s tenant, even after their altercation.

Court Order Book Page 511 Nov. 2, 1699 Action brought by Charles Dodson Sr. against William Norris is dismissed the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 11 January 4, 1699/1700 Judgement granted to Charles Dodson assignee of John Bertrand against William Cambell for 531 pounds good tobacco in case upon bill to be paid with cost of suit.

Court Order Book Page 60 October 2, 1700 Ordered Mr. Charles Dodson Sr., Mr. Geo Davenport and Denis Commeron or any 2 of them some time between this and the next court to meet at the house of John Gill late decd (now of Henry Adcock) and inventory and appraise estate. Capt. John Tarply requested to administer oath.

Hmmm, I wonder if this is really John Gill or if it’s John McGill.

Court Order Book Page 68 Oct. 3, 1700 Order granted against the sheriff to William Norris, assignee of Charles Dodson for the non appearance of James Ritchins.

Court Order Book Page 82 – March 6, 1700/01 Judgement granted to William Norris assignee of Charles Dodson against James Kitchin for 450 pounds tobacco in caske upon bill to be paid with cost of suit.

Court Order Book Page 106 May 8, 1701 Order granted against sheriff to Capt. John Lancaster for the non-appearance of Charles Dodson, Sr.

Charles doesn’t show up for court again.

Court Order Book Page 128 Dec. 4, 1701 Action brought by Capt. John Lancaster against Charles Dodson Sr. is dismist ye plt not prosecuting.

Charles Writes His Will

Charles Dodson’s will was written on 11 January 1702/3 and probated on 6 February 1705/06 at North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Colony of Virginia. It’s rather unusual that a will would be written two years before the individual died, but apparently something happened to Charles, caused him to be injured or ill and anticipate that he was going to die, but then he recovered for about 3 years.

In The name of God amen, I Charles Dodson being sick and weake of body but in sound and Good disposing memory praise be given to God for the same do make this my Last Will and Testament in manner and forme following that is to say first & principally I resigne my soul into the merciful hands of almighty God my Greator assuredly hoping through the merritts of my blessed Saviour to obtaine Remission of all my sins and my body I Committ to the Earth whence it was taken to be Decently buryed by the Discretion of my Executrix herein after named and as for the worldly Goods and Estate the Lord hath Lent me I dispose therof as followeth.

I Give bequeath to my son Charles Dodson the plantation formerly call Coll Travers quarter with a hundred and fifty acres of Land to him and to the male heires Lawfully begotten of his body and if the above Charles Dodson should dye without any male heirs that then the Land should Returne to the next heire of the Dodson.

Secondly. I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Dodson a plantation seated in a neck formerly called the Rich neck with a hundred and fifty acres of Land to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his owne body forever and if the above said Thomas Dodson should dye without any male that then the Land should return to the next heire of the Dodson.

Thirdly. I Give and bequeath to my son Bartho: Rich’d Dodson the plantation that Thomas Reeves liveth on knowne by the name of oake neck with one hundred and fifty acres of Land binding upon the Land formerly belonging to Daniele Everard from the head to the foot to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his owne body and if he should dye without male heires that then the Land to returne to the next heires.

Fourthly. I Give and bequeath to my son William Dodson the Plantation in hickory neck with one hundred and fifty acres of land to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his body and if no male heire appeare then to Returne to the next heire of the Dodson the said Land to bind upon brother Bartho Richd Dodson Land from the head to the foot

Fifthly. I Give and bequeath to my son John Dodson two hundred acres of Land it being part of hickory neck and of Indian Cabin neck binding upon his brother William Dodson to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his owne body and if the above said Wm Dodson should die without any male heire that then the Land Returne to the next of the Dodson

Sixthly. I Give and bequeath to my son Lambert Dodson my new Dwelling plantation with the hundred acres of Land belonging to it to him and the male heires Lawfully begotten of his body and if no male heire appears that then the Land to Returne to the next of the Dodson.

Seventhly. I Give and bequeath to my Deare and Loving Wife Anne Dodson and my daughters Anne Dodson and Elizabeth Dodson all my moveable Estate of what kind soever within and without to be Equally Divided betweene them.

Eighthly. My desire is that none of the Land out of the name might be sold Except one Brother selleth to another and if no male appeareth by none of my sons then my Daughters may Inheritt the Land.

Lastly. And all the Rest and Residue of my Estate Goods and Chattells not herein before bequeathed after my Debts and funrall Expenses discharged I do give and bequesth unto my Deare and Loving wife Anne Dodson whome I do make sole Exectrix of this my Last will and Testament Revoking all other wills by me heretofore made. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seale the 11th day of Jan. one thousand seven hundred two three. Charles Dodson Sen (Seal) Proved in Richmond County Court by the oath of Christopher Petty the 6th day of Febry. 1705 and by the oath of John Beckwith the 6th day of March following & Recorded.

signed Charles Dodson

Test J Sherlock CI Cur

Richmond County, Virginia – Wills

Charles will did not have any witnesses, which was rather unusual but perhaps suggested the will was made hurriedly, with the expectation that he might not live long.  The will was proven by Christopher Petty on February 6, 1705/06 and John Beckwith on March 6, 1705/06 even though they apparently did not witness the creation of signing of the will itself.

Charles Sells Land to Sons

Charles wrote his will on January 11th, but apparently 3 weeks or so later, he felt better and realizing that he was not going to die imminently, decided to deed the land he was leaving to both Charles and Thomas instead of waiting for nature to take its course. I would surely love to know what happened to Charles in January of 1702/03.

Deed Book Page 208-210 February 2, 1702 Charles Dodson of North Farnham Parish Richmond Co for natural love and fatherly affection that I have and bear towards my son Charles Dodson Jr of the same county and parish, and for divers other good causes and to the male heirs of his body lawfully begotten plantation and tract of land whereon he now lives in the same county and parish 150 acres formerly known by the name or called Travers’s Quarter it being the one half of the tract of land purchased by me of the said Capt. Samuel Travers containing 300 acres and bounded by a branch that runs up between the said plantation and track of land known or called by the name Rich Neck. Grant to Charles Dodson or to any of the heires male of me that the said Charles Dodson or to the lineally descend from him the said Charles Dodson Jr to the heires male that shall be next of kin by consanguinity so that the same and every part thereof may be and remain and endure in the tenure occupation and possession of the relacons and male issue of the Dodson forever. I do by these presents debar and forever make voyd any manner of sale lease mortgage or conveyance that my said son Charles Dodson Jr or his heires male as aforesaid or the heires male of any or either of them shallmake of any part or parcel of the premises to any person or persons whatsoever (expect it be one of his brothers to whom it shall and maybe lawfull for him to sell and convey the same in case he shall want such issue as it aforesaid) according to the provisions and limitation herein before mentioned and reserved, but to no other use intent of purposes whatsoever. Signed. Wit William Fitzherbert and William Noris by mark Ack Feb. 3, 1702 Book 3 page 104

Deed Book Page 210-212 February 2, 1702 Charles Dodson of North Garnham Parish Richmond Co for natural love and fatherly affection that I have and bear towards my son Thomas Dodson of the same county and parish, and for divers other good causes and to the male heirs of his body lawfully begotten plantation and tract of land whereon he now lives in the same county and parish 150 acres formerly known by the name or called Travers’s Quarter it being the one half of the tract of land purchased by me of the said Capt. Samuel Travers containing 300 acres and bounded by a branch that runs up between the said plantation and track of land known or called by the name Rich Neck that Charles Dodson Jr. now lives on. Grant to Charles Dodson or to any of the heires male of me that the said Charles Dodson or to the lineally descend from him the said Charles Dodson Jr to the heires male that shall be next of kin by consanguinity so that the same and every part thereof may be and remain and endure in the tenure occupation and possession of the relacons and male issue of the Dodson forever. I do by these presents debar and forever make voyd any manner of sale lease mortgage or conveyance that my said son Thomas Dodson or his heires male as aforesaid or the heires male of any or either of them shallmake of any part or parcel of the premises to any person or persons whatsoever (expect it be one of his brothers to whom it shall and maybe lawfull for him to sell and convey the same in case he shall want such issue as it aforesaid) according to the provisions and limitation herein before mentioned and reserved, but to no other use intent of purposes whatsoever. Signed. Wit William Fitzherbert and William Noris by mark Ack Feb. 3, 1703 Book 3 page 105

The area called Rich Neck, today is about 8000 feet across the bottom of the arc created by Marshy Swamp

One mile square by one mile is 640 acres. This area is roughly that size, which means Charles Dodson’s 300 acre property would have encompassed about half of area, if his property were inside the arc. We know it did not fit inside the arc exactly, because a branch separates the land of the two brothers, but we know this is the general area because of the Oldham Community, Oldham Road, the Lyells community and the Lyells Chapel Baptist Church just beneath Rich Neck.

Charles son, Thomas Dodson eventually sold the land to the Lyell family and Thomas’s daughter married an Oldham. So, we know that we’re looking at Charles Dodson’s land, we just don’t know exactly where the boundaries were located. Running the deeds forward in time to current or until a landmark is recognized, such as a church, could locate Charles’ land exactly.

Court Order Book Page 221 Feb 3 1702/3 Charles Dodson ack deed of gift of land to Thomas Dodson and ordered recorded.

Court Order Book Page 221 Feb 3 1702/3 Charles Dodson ack deed of gift of land to Charles Dodson and ordered recorded.

Charles was adamant that this land was forever to be Dodson land, but that determination made it particularly difficult for his sons to sell the land, to anyone, for any reason, except their brothers.

The Rest of Charles Land

We know that Charles Dodson owned at least 600 acres in total, based on the deeds we have found. Deeds equaling 300 acres are missing.

Charles’s will indicates that he owned 900 acres of land that he left to his sons, as follows:

  • 300 acres – Rich Neck, 150 each to Thomas and Charles Jr.
  • 150 acres – Oak Neck, to Bartholomew Richard
  • 150 acres – Hickory Neck, to William
  • 200 acres – Indian Cabin Neck, to John
  • 100 acres – new dwelling plantation, to Lambert

Other than Rich Neck, I’ve been unable to locate the other descriptions on a current map, today, but tracking the land forward in time through sales might be able to determine locations. We do know, generally, that Charles land fell in the following region along Totuskey Creek and its branches including Rich Neck.

At least one of these fields, or probably several, near Rich Neck belonged to Charles Dodson.

Interestingly, the land that eventually belonged to Charles Dodson, according to this map in the book “Richmond County, Virginia 1692-1992 A Tricentennial Portrait” by Robert R. Harper for the Richmond County Tricentennial Commission, was occupied by the Rappahannock Indians until between 1674 and 1676.

Charles Cheats the Grim Reaper

Just when you think the curtain is drawing on the last act, it isn’t, after all.

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.

Charles is apparently still trusted enough to be ordered to appraise an estate inventory and to serve on a jury.

Court Order Book Page 336 June 7, 1704 William Smoote and Charles Dodson on jury.

Court Order Book Page 344 Aug. 2, 1704 Will of Thomas Southerne and proved by oaths of Christopher Petty and Charles Dodson

Charles’s sons, now in their 20s, and neighbor Thomas Durham, somewhat a legendary bad boy, seem to be misbehaving together.

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 Book Page 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.

Looks like they recruited Peter Elmore too.

Court Order Book Page 75 October 4, 1705 Will of Eve Smith presented to the court by son Abraham Goad with oaths of William Dodson, Charles Dodson Sr. and Anne Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 83 October 4, 1705 Action brought by William Lambert against Charles Dodson is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Charles Dodson’s Estate

Some time between October 4th 1705 and February 6th 1706, Charles Dodson died.

Court Order Book February 6, 1705/06 Will of Charles Dodson proved by oath of Christopher Petty

Court Order Book Page 137 March 6, 1705/06 Will of Charles Dodson proved by   oath of John Beckwith.

Charles’s wife remarried to John HIll before July 3.

Court Order Book Page 171 July 3, 1706 Upon petition of John Hill and Anne his wife, exec of the will of Charles Dodson decd ordered that John Rankin, William Smoote, John Mills and Richard Whtie or any 3 of them meet at the house of John Hill and inventory and appraise the estate of Charles Dodson. All sworn plus John Hill and Anne, his wife.

Charles Dodson estate inventory was filed with the court on Oct. 17, 1706, as follows:

  • Feather bed and bedstead and parcel of sheets and one blanket and one rugg – 0600
  • One flock bed and paire of blankets one sheet and rug and bolster and bedstead – 0500
  • One saw and six reep hooks and one paire of old pestells holsters and one old chest and one old bill book – 0200
  • Eight chairs – 0800
  • Two wooden chairs – 0100
  • One chest of drawers and table – 1000
  • Two chest – 0250
  • One small table couch – 0150
  • One warming pan two paire of tongs and one box iron – 0200
  • One pair hilliards – 0250
  • One super table cloth and 12 napkins – 0200
  • Four old napkins and one old table cloth – 0050
  • One feather bed curtains and valens one blankett one pair of sheets and two pillows – 1100
  • A parcel of old books – 0150
  • Ole looking glass and lantron? – 0050
  • One old flock bed 2 blankets rug bolster and pillows – 0400
  • 2 spinning wheels – 0150
  • 3 pots 3 pothooks and 3 pot hangers one spit and one iron pestell – 0450
  • 99 weight of pewter – 0950
  • One bellmettle pestle and mortar 0 0700
  • 7.5 pounds of brass – 0130
  • One servant man 3 years and 8 months to serve – 2200
  • One pare of small hilliards and two smoothing iron and two cutting knives and skewers – 0150
  • One mare and two horses – 2400
  • Parcel of old iron – 0100
  • Pair of cart wheels – 0060
  • Old crosscut saw – 0150
  • One saddle and pillow or pillion – 0120
  • 3 cows and 3 years old – 1800
  • One cow and calfe – 0500
  • 6 two yeare olde – 1200
  • One steere of 5 years old – 0500
  • 2 barren cows and heifer and one calfe – 1400
  • 3 old sheep – 0300
  • 3 lambs – 0200

Total 18780

Signed John Rankin, William Smoot and Richard R. White (his mark)

William Smoot was there in the beginning, and he was there in the end too.

I absolutely love estate inventories, because they tell us exactly what was in the household and on the farm when the man died. Inventories included everything owned by the couple, because the man was presumed to own all property except for the wife’s clothes and any land deeded to her, explicitly stating without the husband’s involvement, after their marriage. The wife was entitled to one third of the value of the estate unless he provided for more in his will. However, the actual value was established by the sale of the inventory items, not by the inventory itself.

Charles’ estate is remarkable in a few different ways. First, because there are no slaves – and this man owned 900 acres of land before he gave 300 acres to his oldest sons, leaving him with 600 acres. How did he farm this land? Perhaps he first had tenants, like Ozgrippin and then his sons began farming as soon as possible.

Second, there are no plows, axes, wagons or carriages. There is only one man’s saddle and no woman’s saddle. Perhaps Charles last 100 acres where his new house was built wasn’t an active plantation.

There were a total of 3 horses, and no oxen. Oxen worked the fields. Clearly, Charles Dodson was not farming. I suspect he leased land to others and accepted a percentage of the crops as payment. In the vernacular of the day, Charles had certainly achieved the American Dream.

Of the estates I’ve worked with in the Northern Neck families, this is the first one with any hint of opulence. The table cloth and 12 napkins would have certainly been for entertaining. There is also an old table cloth and a couch, which is certainly not a piece of furniture of necessity.

There were a total of 10 chairs, but only three beds, and only one was a feather bed. One of the beds had bed curtains,

By Allot rené – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19091796

I remember on a tour of a period home several years ago being told that bedcurtains were both for privacy and warmth.

Servants came and went in the bedchamber, and Charles Dodson had at least one servant, although we really don’t know if this man, Charles Lane, worked in the house or on the farm. I’m betting, on the farm, where labor translated into tobacco, the currency of early Virginia – except Charles estate didn’t include any tobacco. Perhaps it had not yet been planted for 1706.

One bed was a feather bed, considered a luxury, but the second and third were a flock beds. Flock was a bed filled with flocks or locks of coarse wool or pieces of cloth cut up finely, according to the dictionary. I found a wonderful article about beds and bedding here, including pictures.

A bedstead was considered to be the bed without the mattress, typically with slats or rope beneath the mattress, reaching from side to side of the bedstead.

A bolster was a stuffed cylinder of fabric that lay beneath the bottom sheet beneath the pillows at the top of the bed.

Blankets were woolen, but bed rugs, although none survive today, were decorative for on top of the blankets.

A warming pan typically means a pan to warm the bed, generally filled with rocks and heated in the fireplace.

However, there are no chamber pots listed.

A smoothing iron was a clothing iron, heated in the fireplace and then used to iron the clothes. Little did I realize I actually own a child’s replica smoothing iron, at least I think it’s a child’s replica.

Above, the base of one iron and a second, smaller iron that is about two and a half inches long, assembled. Below, the smaller iron comes apart into two pieces, the bottom for heating and the top for putting on the bottom so that, hopefully, the ironer’s hands won’t be burned.

This iron did not descend through my father’s family line, so it certainly isn’t Charles Dodson’s.

The spinning wheels certainly weren’t tools used by Charles, but the looking glass may have been a shared resource. Looking glasses were scarce and status symbols.

Charles had cattle and sheep, but no pigs.

There were no kettles or cooking utensils listed other than the 3 pots, although pothooks were accounted for. There were no plates, although the 99 pewter could include plates. Forks would not have been pewter.

There were also no candleholders or other utensils.

And lastly, there was no tobacco, which is what makes me think that Charles leased or rented his land – probably to his sons.

Do you ever ask yourself what you would want from an ancestor’s estate?

In this case, I think I would want the parcel of old books. That, I think, might be the key to understanding more about Charles. I did notice that there is no Bible, although he might have already passed that on. His son, Charles Jr., died 10 years later and there is no Bible in his inventory either.

More than I’d like to own any one thing, I think I’d just like to turn back time and visit Charles’ plantation. Heck, as long as I’m dreaming, I’d like to visit with Charles and Ann in their home and sit with the family at one of the dinners. Yep, that’s what I’d like.

I wonder how many generations back in time Charles knew, and what he knew about his ancestors. Clearly, he would have been able to tell us something about the family in England.

Ann Dodson Remarries

There is no marriage record for Ann Dodson, but by the time Charles estate was ordered to be inventoried in July of 1706, she had already remarried to John Hill. Quick marriages in colonial America were common and in the interest of all parties concerned. The Dodson and Hill families had known each other for years, and there are many documents that include both Charles Dodson and John Hill. Charles would probably have been very pleased, although it appears that not everyone was.

Court Order Book Page 267 April 3, 1707 Action brought by Thomas Dodson against John Hill marrying the Executrix of Charles Dodson, is dismist, Plt. not prosecuting.

Whatever the issue with Thomas, it was settled out of court.  I do wonder if he was upset about his mother remarrying or about something within the estate.  There does appear to be quite a bit missing.

Court Order Book Page 267 April 3 1707 Action brought by Catherine Gwyn executor of the last will and testament of John and Elizabeth, executors of the last will and testament of Charles Dodson, decd, is dismissed plt not prosecuting. (verified text of above in transcribed text)

Court Order Book Page 275 May 7 1707 John Hll and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson confest judgement to Katherine Gwyn exec of will of Majr David Gwyn for 8 pounds 19 shillings and 8 pence 3 farthings and 731 pounds of sweet sented tobacco due upon balance of accounts ordered to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book Page 281 May 8 1707 Imparlance granted in suite between John Harper plt and John Hill and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson decd, till next court.

Court Order Book Page 292 July 3 1707 John Harper against John Hill and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson decd, deft for 500 pounds of tobacco upon balance of accounts, def pleaded they owed nothing and plt asked time to next court.

Court Order Book Page 303 Sept 4 1707 Judgement granted to John Harper against John Hill and Anne his wife exec of Charles Dodson, decd, for 405 pounds tobacco due by account proved by oath of plt ordered paid with costs.

Court Order Book Page 323 Dec 4 1707 John Hll and Anne his wife exe of will of Charles Dodson decd against John Harper dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 40 June 2 1709 Judgment granted to John Davis Sr. against John Hill and Anne, wife, exec of Charles Dodson decd for 136 pounds tobacco due by account ordered paid with costs.

There were quite a few people bringing suit to collect debts, which is quite unusual if the executrix agrees that the debt is valid.

Prices in Virginia

Charles Dodson died in early 1706, and his estate was valued in English pounds. However, the true money of the early Virginia economy was most often tobacco. People paid their debts with tobacco, paid for land with tobacco and paid court costs and taxes with tobacco.

In the court records, I discovered 1709 prices, regulated by the court, for various items, mostly alcohol, which was considered to be totally indispensable, and items like pasturage for your horse and a night’s lodging.

1709 prices county to entertain and sell at:

  • Gallon rum 10 s or 12 tob
  • Quart English beer 15 s of 15 tob
  • Quart of punch, one third rum and good sugar 12 s or 12 tob
  • Good dyet 12s or 12 tob
  • Pasturage or fodder 24 hours 03 s or 3 tob
  • Pottle of corn 3 s or 3 tob
  • Quart of Medera Wine 2 s 6 d or 3 tob
  • 1 night lodging 3 s or 3 tob
  • Small beer p gallon 7 s 1/2 or 7 /.2 tob

It’s interesting to compare items in Charles estate to see what that item could have purchased according to the 1709 prices, which were probably roughly the same as 1706 prices.

Son, Charles Dodson Dies

Ten years after Charles Dodson Sr., dies, his son, Charles Jr. dies as well, just two weeks after the birth of his daughter, Mary. It’s obviously a very sad day for the Dodson family. I believe, but am not positive, that Ann Dodson Hill is still living.

Charles Dodson Jr.’s wife, Anne, surname unknown, does not remarry, so we can tell the estates apart by the fact that Charles Sr.’s wife is now Ann Hill.

The year before Charles Jr. died, he absented himself from church. He certainly could have been ill. In 1715, Charles Jr. would have been in his early 40s.

Court Order Book Page 22 June 1, 1715 Charles Dodson to be summoned to answer the presentment of the grand jury against him for absenting himself from divine service at the church for a month past in the parish of Farnham.

Court Order Book Page 325 July 7, 1715 Charles Dodson being summoned to answer presentment of the grand jury against him for not going to church for one month, but not appearing when called, it is ordered that he be fined 50 pounds of tobacco and that he pay the same to the churchwardens of the Northfarnham Parish with costs.

Given the following land entry, it appears that the reason Charles wasn’t in church is that he was ill, gravely so.

Court Order Book Page 250 Charles Dodson, Farnham Parish, will July 8, 1715, probated May 2, 1716, son Charles all land between spring branch and the branch that parts by land from the land of Thomas Dodson, son Furtunatus all land below by spring branch. Wife Anne, ex: wife; wits Bartholomew R. Dodson, George Petty

Charles Jr.’s will was probated in May, 1716.

Will Book Page 468 May 1, 1716 Last will of Charles Dodson decd presented into court by Ann Dodson, his executrix, who made oath and proved by Bartholomew Richard Dodson, one of the witnesses.

Ann Dodson, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and William Hanks came into court and acknowledge their bond for the said Ann Dodson’s just and faithful administrator of the estate of Charles Dodson, decd.

Joshua Stone, Thomas Dew, William Stone and John Fenn or any 3 of them to appraise the estate of Charles Dodson. All sworn by oath and Ann Dodson.

Court Order Book Page 473 May 2, 1716 Judgement granted Mathew Davis against Ann Dodson executrix of Charles Dodson decd for 456 pounds tobacco due by bill which is ordered to be paid out of the estate, with costs.

Will Book Page 506 June 6, 1716 Appraisement of estate of Charles Dodson decd ordered recorded.

Will Book Page 268 and 269 – Pursuant to an order of the court dated the 2 day of May 1716…being sworn to inventory and appraise all and singularly effects of Charles Dodson as was ? to by executrix Ann Dodson:

  • 2 cows and calfs – 4.0.0
  • 2 barron cows – 3.10.0
  • 1 heifer and 3 yearlings – 3.0.0
  • 2 cow and calf – 2.0.0
  • 5 piggs 7 shotes and 2 old sows – 1?.5.0
  • 16 sheep – 3.15.0
  • 2 iron potts 60 – 0.10.0
  • 1 brass cottoll 2 – 0.0.8
  • 28 ? old putor – 0.7.0
  • 1 pr of floams? and a grato – 0.0.2
  • 6 bowls and 1 tray – 0.7?.2
  • 6 wooden trenchers 0.0.6
  • 2 spinning whells – 0.4.0
  • 2 wedges old pestill spit and pott rack – 0.4.0
  • 1 table 2 chests and a box – 0.7.0
  • 1 old cush? And runlotts – 0.3.0
  • 4 bottols a pail and pig on att – 0.3.6
  • 4 old hoes and 2 axes att – 0.1.0
  • 1 feather bed boosted and cord att – 0.17.6
  • 1 small flock ditto at – 0.5.0
  • 1 old chalf bed and 2 old blankets at – 0.2.0
  • 1 old chamberpot att – 0.0.1

Total inventory estate of 12.14.7

Inventory was taken by Joshua Stone, Thomas Dew and William Stone

The crops of tobacco that was growing at ye time of this document being ye first day of August amount to 129.6

The thing I find most surprising about Charles’ Jr. estate is that, compared to his father, he didn’t have a large estate at all, and he owned no slaves. Indentured servants were typically listed too, with the number of years they had yet to serve. Charles owned 150 acres of land and had owned that land since 1702. How was he farming without either slaves or indentured servants given the intensive labor requirements of tobacco?

Court Order Book Page 20 July 5, 1716 Case between William Gantleroy Gent and Ann Dodson executrix of estate of Charles Dodson, decd, deft, at deft motion an imparlance is granted her till next court.

Court Order Book Page 37 August 2, 1716 Judgement granted William Fantleroy gent against the estate of Charles Dodson in the hands of Ann Dodson, administratrix of Charles Dodson’s estate for 694 pounds tobacco said Fantleroy making oath in court that the same is justly due which is ordered to be paid with costs.

Court Order Book Page 43 August 2, 1716 William Barber action of debt against Ann Dodson, executrix of will of Charles Dodson, decd, for 900 pounds of good sound merchantable tobacco and caske due by bill is dismissed, the plt not prosecuting.

The next entry is quite interesting, given that John Hill is married to Charles Jr.’s mother.

Court Order Book Page 43 August 2, 1716 John Hill his action of case against Ann Dodson executrix of the will of Charles Dodson decd for 313 pounds tobacco due by account is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

Given that there was no prosecution, it looks like they settled their differences out of court.

Court Order Book Page 71 October 4, 1716 William Barber his action of debt against Ann Dodson executrix of the will of Charles Dodson, decd, is dismist the plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 72 John Naylor action of debt against Ann Dodson executrix of will of Charles Dodson decd dismissed plt not prosecuting.

Court Order Book Page 93 Feb. 7, 1716/17 John Naylor action of debt against Ann Dodson executrix of will of Charles Dodson, decd, for 468 pounds of sweet scented tobacco upon balance of a bill is dismissed plt not prosecuting.

In March 1718/19, Ann Dodson dies too. This couple died relatively young. Their youngest child, Mary, wouldn’t turn 4 until in July of 1719.

Will Book Page 78 March 4, 1718/19 Will of Ann Dodson decd presented in court by Charles Dodson, her executor and proved by oath of Bartholomew Richard Dodson.

Motion of Charles Dodson executor of will of Ann Dodson decd his account against decd estate is admitted to record.

Will Book Page 107b – Account: March 31, 1719. An account of what tobacco I have paid for the estate of Ann Dodson, decd. To: funeral charges; burying of my sister, Mary Dodson; Thomas Reed, Mr. Newman Broockenbrough, Capt. Woodbridge, John Simson; Jeames Foushe: Total 1890. Per me – Charles Dodson. At the motion of Charles Dodson this account was AR at April 1, 1719 R. Court

Except Mary never turned 4. Instead, she died the same month as her mother.

The Sons Attempt to Sell

Charles Dodson Sr. intended to keep his land in the family, but in reality, he hobbled his son’s choices by allowing them to sell only to each other and not outside the family. Was this intentional, to keep them in Richmond County, or was this an unintended consequence of his good intentions?

Was there a son in particular that Charles worried might squander his fortune?

In 1720, the sons and their sons begin to attempt to dispose of the land inherited from Charles Dodson Sr. by “leasing” land for 3 natural lifetimes.

Deed Book Page 522-523 July 8 1720 John and Charles Dodson to Robert Matthews, all of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, 4000 pounds tobacco for the term of 3 natural lifetimes and the longest liver of them a tract in Farnham Parish now in posession of Christopher Petty and ye land of Bartholomew Richard Dodson on branche of Totaskee containing 100 acres being half of 200 acres Charles Dodson father of aforesaid John and grandfather of Charles Dodson gave to John Dodson by his last will. Three natural lives to wit Robert Mathews, Sarah Mathewes and Joana Mathews and the longest liver of them paying every year the usual rent due and one ear of Indian corn yearly unto the aid John and Charles Dodson if demanded. Signed both by mark, Charles with C, wit Thomas Reeve and George Petty.

John and Charles Dodson bound unto Robert Mathews for 8000 pounds tobacco…obligation to perform and keep all ye convenants and agreements. Signed with markes wit Thomas Reeve and George Petty July 2, 1720

Deed Book Page 21 May 5-6 1734, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and wife Elizabeth of Weecomoce (Wicomico) Parish in Northumberland County to Thomas Dodson of North Farnham Parish in Richmond County for 4500 pounds tobacco, 150 acres lying between the Oke neck and Hickory Neck Branch in Richmond county which land (is part of 500 acres that) [part in parenthesis lines out in transcription] was formerly sold by Capt. Samuel Traverse to Charles Dodson, father to the said Bartholomew Richard Dodson. Land is bounded by Daniel Everit. Signed by him, her mark, Wit Thomas Legg, H Miskell, Jeremiah Greenham, Rec May 6 1734

DNA

DNA has become an important genealogical tool. The Dodson Y DNA Project at Family Tree DNA tells us that there are least three distinct Dodson lineages in the US today.

One group is haplogroup I from Talbot County, Maryland, whose ancestor died in 1745, and two other groups are haplogroup R. The largest group is the Charles Dodson descendants. There are also several “dangling Dodsons” with no matches today.

No Dodson males that match the genetic profile of Charles Dodson have yet taken the Big Y test, which would help establish deep ancestry, but two have taken some level of SNP testing and have tested R-P25 and R-L2.

Male haplogroups are shown on trees, similar to pedigree charts.

The haplotree looks a lot like a pedigree chart for a very good reason. Mutations happened just like children are born and are recorded the same way, as descendants of the “father” SNP in question.

The Dodson line is confirmed to be R-M269, the most common haplogroup in Europe with almost half the European men carrying this haplogroup. Let’s just say that our distant ancestors were very successful in terms of reproducing and colonization. SNP R-P25 is upstream, or a grandfather to R-M269, but R-L2 is not, being found several generations downstream

Haplogroup L2 is known to be historically Celtic, but it is widely scattered today as shown by this SNP map at Family Tree DNA.

Of course, we know that the Celts settled in the British Isles at one time, so we expect to find L2 in both continental Europe and across the channel, which we do.

Ancestry has a nice feature that allows you to look for clusters of surnames based on various census and other records, both in the US and England.

The Dodson surname distribution in Scotland in 1841 was very small, as shown above.

However, the Dodsons were much more widespread in England in 1891, with the most pronounced region being in the northern portion of the country, primarily Yorkshire and Lancashire and a small area surrounding London where the population is very concentrated.

The surname origin indicates that Dodson is a patrronymic form of Dodd, meaning Dodd’s son, of course.

From the above pages, you can view all immigration records for Dodsons.

This could be very useful, because if a Charles Dodson descendant matches one of the descendants of these people, whose immigration location is known, on a segment proven to be “Dodson,” that’s a huge hint as to the ancestral location of the family.

Unfortunately, these individuals would show up under “Dodson” matches at Ancestry, but not under Charles Dodson, because they don’t descend from him, so no leaf hints.

However, the surname search should work.

The possible Dodson link wouldn’t be any of the people with the green leaf hints indicating that we share a common ancestor in our trees, such as the first two matches shown below.  We would find descendants of these immigrants in the matches without green leaves, such as the third match, below.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that this IS the Dodson family, but there is a match.  Let’s see what that match has to say about their Dodson ancestor.

Lewes, Sussex, not where the majority of the Dodsons are from in England.

The only way to know for sure if this match is valid, and if the common DNA is from Dodson ancestors would be for the match to transfer either to Family Tree DNA or Gedmatch (or preferably both) where we can match and triangulate to other known Dodson descendants utilizing a chromosome browser to confirm the source of the DNA.

Where is the Charles Dodson Line From?

We don’t know. There are four ways to tell.

One way is to find the record of Charles birth in the existent records, and somehow prove that Charles in the church record is the Charles that is later found as an adult in the Northern Neck. Of course, it’s possible that Charles was not in fact born in England, which puts a fly in that ointment. The good news is that now we know that Charles was born within a year or so of 1649, which at least provides us with a reasonable birth range.

A second way is to have a Y DNA match to someone who knows that their Dodson came from a particular small village in England, and search the records in and near that location.

A third way would be to find someone descended from one of the Dodson immigrants from known locations, discover they have autosomal DNA tested (or test them), that there are no other common lines, and that a segment match to that person triangulates to other proven Dodson descendants.

A fourth way is to find a Dodson autosomal DNA match that is NOT descended from Charles, who knows their ancestral Dodson location in England and does not share any other lines.  If that person’s matching segments triangulate to known Charles Dodson line segments, that’s a good indication and could lead us to a Dodson male to Y DNA test to confirm.

Y DNA matching would be so much easier and absolutely indisputable evidence. We need Dodson men from England to Y DNA test!

Unwelcome Discoveries and Light at the End of the Tunnel, 52 Ancestors #156

Mother used to say that things happen in groups of 3. These past couple weeks have proven her old adage to be true. What an emotional roller-coaster!

Sooner or later, every genealogist meets an ancestor they really don’t like. One whose personal values are diametrically opposed to their own in a way that causes the genealogist some amount of…well…let’s just say consternation. Maybe even soul searching as you struggle to understand. And maybe you can’t understand and you wish the ancestor just wasn’t yours.

I met one of those when I wrote about Thomas Day, the probable wife murderer. When I discovered his murderous history, which looks very much like he beat his wife to death, given that he was found sitting by her dead body, I even checked my pedigree chart to see how far back he fell. The answer is 9 generations, meaning that if I carry any of his DNA at all, today, it would be on average 0.195% of his DNA, less than one fifth of 1%. I felt like I dodged that bullet. Whew!!

Coping Mechanisms

It’s interesting to see how people cope with revelations like this. This ancestor is so distant that you can emotionally distance yourself in many ways – by saying he might not be a murderer after all, by compensating for his behavior by making excuses, by minimizing the negative information, by emotionally divorcing yourself from him, or by accepting the evidence, feeling empathy for his spouse and realizing that he, 9 generations ago, really has nothing to do with you today.

But let’s face it. Who wants an icky ancestor?

Each of the ancestors in our tree has bad and good, some more bad than good, and some vice versa. We know so very little about any of our ancestors that we define them by the snippets, good or bad, that we do know. Keep in mind that each of those people did indeed do one thing that was very important to you – and that’s to beget your ancestor who begot another ancestor who a few generations later had one of your parents who had you. You would not exist, as you, without them – regardless of anything else in their life. You are their legacy every bit as much as what they did when they were alive.

We can simply hope we don’t “inherit” the “murderous” proclivity, genes, or whatever brought that person to that place in time in a way that led to that behavior – whether the driving factor was some something social, situational or genetic. We hope that the trait or tendency was not passed to us, today, either through genetics or family dynamics, meaning learned behaviors by example.

Whatever it was, we don’t want it!

Mental Illness – The Untouchable Topic

Of course, there is the possibility that mental illness was involved. Mental illness tends to be the topic that no one, and I mean no one, discusses.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, in my family line, a descendant of Thomas Day, Joel Vannoy, Thomas Day’s great-great-grandson was in fact committed to the Eastern State Mental Hospital for the insane in Knoxville, Tennessee. Joel was my great-great-grandfather.

The people in Tennessee who told me all kinds of things when I first began visiting and talking about genealogy never revealed that. They talked about wife cheaters and wife beaters and women having children not fathered by their husbands and “carrying on” with the preacher, but no one ever talked about mental illness. That was THE taboo subject.

After I made that discovery, quite by happenstance, in the court records, it turned out that people knew. Then the uncomfortable discussion immediately turned to which side of the family the “crazy came down from.” Everyone was very anxious to distance themselves not from Joel himself, but from the possible spectre of mental illness – and by virtue of the unsaid, that it was or could be found in their line as well.

Joel wasn’t dangerous, just “preachin’, swearin’, and threatenin’ to fight,” according to his hospital paperwork, but his grandson, my grandfather might have been a different matter.

Smoke and Fire

My grandfather, William George Estes, seemed to have a somewhat distant relationship with a moral compass. He not only cheated on my grandmother, Ollie Bolton, but with her own young cousin. After my grandmother divorced him, he married that cousin. They moved to Harlan County, Kentucky where he was a moonshiner and then cheated on her with her cousin. See a pattern here, perhaps? Divorced and married again, he treated that third wife very poorly, according to my mother who visited a grand total of one time. Mother was horrified and did not wish to discuss the situation.

Sometimes oral history is right, and sometimes it’s wrong, but there is often some sort of fire where there is smoke. In the case of William George Estes, there are troubling whispers about the murder of a revenue agent. I have no idea if that story is true, but I do know that one of his children starved to death, according to the death certificate. No one talked about that either. In fact, until I found the death certificate quite by accident, I never knew the child existed. I wanted to believe that the cause of death was wrong, but then I recalled that my father’s sister reported that when they were young, they didn’t have enough food and the children were fed moonshine to keep their hungry stomachs from hurting and so that they would sleep.

Imagine hearing this about your parent and grand-parents. Imagine living like that as a child. Imagine being my father.

Then, add to that the fact that the Aunt, who was somewhat inclined to embellish, said that when your grandparents divorced, when your father was about 12, neither parent wanted your father or his brother who was younger by two years. The boys, desperate, hopped on a freight train with the hobos, finally making their way back to Tennessee, from Indiana, to their grandparents’ home. They arrived very hungry and dirty. I didn’t want to believe that, but after being told the same thing by three different people with personal knowledge, I realized it was true.

Mind you, the mother who didn’t want him is the mother my father cared for, at home, for months, in her final lengthy illness in 1955. He did not betray her as she had betrayed him.

That unwanted 12 year old child turned into a 14 year old who lied about his age to enter the service in World War I. Anything was probably better than trying to scavenge. It’s no wonder he spent the majority of his life, “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places” and trying to pretend everything was OK when it wasn’t.

I have never believed, nor do I believe today, that the past is necessarily a predictor or deterministic of the future. I don’t believe that parents’ actions dictate what the child will turn out to be, either bad or good, although they certainly have an influence. The world is full of examples that disprove that logic, in both directions. I fully believe that nurture can either overcome or mediate nature – excepting of course for barriers like Down’s Syndrome that people are born with – and that our own personal decisions are what drives and determines our lives. Of course, sometimes there seems to be no nurture, but still, we have the ability to choose and to change – to create our own destiny.

My father was no angel. He was human. I have no idea how much of his behavior sprung from his early environment, but I know that later he made choices that were not in his own best interest and he paid dearly for them.

The Father I Knew

The father I knew loved me, doted on me in fact, for just short of 8 years. He was killed in an automobile accident in 1963.

He spent quality time with me when I did see him. He made special meals and I got to have special “coffee” with him. Coffee parties instead of tea parties. Of course, “coffee” was really warm milk and sugar with enough coffee to look like today’s latte. He played dolls with me, pulled me in my red wagon and often held me as I slept. I have no bad or negative memories of him.

My parents separated when I was young. While my father was a doting father to me, he was also doting in a different way, it appears, on women other than my mother.  A long-time pattern with my father it seems, as with his father.

My “half-brother,” Dave, who also knew my father, remembered him in the same affectionate way.

The father we knew took us fishing and was a man we adored. Our father rescued animals in need, a raccoon whose mother was killed on the road, an orphan duck and a little dog named Timmy. He rescued people too, including two orphan children from the orphanage in Knightstown, Indiana with his last wife, Virgie.

Dave and I who were born when my father was in his 50s have very different memories about my father than my sister, Edna, who was born when my father was in his 20s.

Edna did not know our father as a child and her opinion of him was formed entirely from her mother’s perspective.

My father did find Edna as an adult and tried to establish a relationship, as best you can after a prolonged absence. Pictured above, my father with Edna’s children between about 1958-1960.

I surely don’t blame Edna’s mother for how she felt, as my father was anything but a model husband – at least until his last marriage.

His last wife, Virgie, a lovely woman, knew him, understood him and loved him. In a letter to me after his death, she wrote that no matter what anyone said about him, no one knew what he had survived as a child and that he was not all bad. Perhaps he at last finally found the love he sought so desperately. I hope so. He was killed two years and 3 days after their marriage.

Our Identity

Our identity, in many ways, is tied to our family – to our parents. It’s tied to knowing that our parents are our parents, that our father is our father, that our siblings are indeed our siblings. It’s rooted in what we believe to be true and in good memories that make us feel warm, wanted and loved.

Our identity is uprooted when we discover something that contradicts, challenges or disproves that identify, and to say it’s upsetting is just about as big an understatement as can be made.

It shakes our very worldview, of ourselves and our place in the family. It makes us question if we are somehow less worthy because of circumstances beyond our control. We wonder if we were unwanted, a mistake, or an inconvenience.

We question who we really are. These types of discoveries are life-shaking and life-altering.

Grief

I’ve always felt that many times, I’ve been brought to and through something to provide me with perspective so that I can help others. Perhaps that’s one way of making bad things alright – of finding a plateau for acceptance – or maybe it’s just my justification for why bad or painful things happen. The silver living, so to speak. Regardless, it’s a way of helping others through situations that are almost impossible to understand without having walked a mile in those shoes.

Sometimes that mile is awfully long, uphill and freefalling at the same time, and treacherous, let me tell you. The worst roller-coaster ride you’ll ever experience.

Such was the case with the discovery that my brother, Dave, wasn’t really my brother. I then spent months doubting that my father was my father, only to discover that he was my father, and not Dave’s father. It was a miserable few months filled with doubt, dread and anxiety. The end was a mixture of relief for myself and anguish for Dave’s loss – information I never shared with him because he was terminally ill at that point.

In essence, I twice, within a few months, lost the brother I so loved.

That experience gave me the opportunity to experience the agony that others would as well, but also to learn that love really has nothing to do with biology. The depth of suffering is equal to the depth of love.

When we lose what we believe, there is grief involved. Grief over the lost truth, over the part of what we believed ourselves to be that isn’t, doesn’t exist, and dies before the rebirth of a revised identity.

Sometimes grief over the fact that someone lied to us, or hid the truth – even if they believed it was for our own good or their own protection. Grief has many reasons and many forms. But when we lose something we held dear, in any form, we grieve.

The Double Whammy

When grief is mixed with betrayal, it’s even worse. Betrayal takes a couple of forms too. Betrayal of oneself, of a moral compass, or personal betrayal by someone we love and thought we could trust.

Think of betrayal of a moral compass as occurring when someone does something that they know they shouldn’t – and do it anyway. And I’m not talking about eating chocolate here – but actions that are socially, culturally or legally unacceptable – generally addressed by legal or severe personal consequences.

Think of personal betrayal as when you discover that your spouse cheated on you.

Sometimes betrayals involved both kinds of issues. Those are particularly ugly.

Times Three

This past week or two, I’ve gotten to experience up close and personal three different betrayal/grief situations – although they are not all three mine. Two belong to close friends, which means I share their pain as I have been involved in their respective journeys.

In one case, a woman accidentally discovered through DNA that her mother and her uncle are half instead of full siblings. Yes, there are all kinds of reasons why that might be, but the first assumption out the gate is always that grandma cheated. That may not be the case, but other options, like the possibility that nonconsensual sex might be involved is also disturbing. Most of us clearly know what is involved in begetting, but we really don’t want to know the details of grandma’s sex life. TMI.

Regardless of why, the revelation that the person you grew up with believing was your full sibling is not, and the entire family lived in ignorance, except for one person, who probably lived a lie – is very disturbing on several levels. It means rethinking everything and everyone involved. It also means you’ll probably never know what really happened, but you get to deal with all of the possibilities. A homework assignment no one signs up for.

Been there, done that. It’s ugly and it takes time to get used to your new identity that you don’t like nearly as well as your old one. Your family members get new identities too. And grandma? You’re just confused about her, at the same time remembering that women at that time had very few options. All I can say is try not to judge.

It takes time to process through all of this very emotional high drama, especially when you suddenly realize you’ve spent several decades working on the genealogy of a line that isn’t yours. One more thing to grieve.

In the second case, a friend discovered the identity of his father, after decades of looking, being one of two brothers. Along with that, he discovered why the secret was closely guarded by his mother for her entire life. It’s one of those stories that would make a wonderful soap opera or reality TV show – so long as it’s not your own story. It’s also incredibly sad on so many levels.

My friend is well adjusted. He’ll absorb this, he’ll deal with it and go on. He now owns the truth he sought for so long. However, I know he was hoping that maybe his father had “only been a married man.” At one time, his mother having an affair with a married man seemed scandalous, but compared to the truth, it’s the tame option.

While these types of events are extremely interesting and colorful if they aren’t your ancestors, they are far from amusing when you discover that they pertain to your parent.

Which leads me to the third situation. My own.

Let’s just say that sometimes you have to go through a really dark tunnel to emerge into the light.

The Dominoes Fall

There is a great irony to the fact that I am probably the only person, ever, that knows, or will know when I’m finished, the truth about my father’s life. Except for my father, William Sterling Estes, himself, of course.

The dominoes began to fall a couple weeks ago. And they haven’t stopped. Just when I think there can’t possibly be any more left to discover, there is. It there a bottom to this barrel?

While the two circumstances with my friends involved DNA, one as the accidental medium of discovery, and one as the solution to the long-standing question of paternity, my situation, ironically, has nothing at all to do with DNA.

What are the chances, right?

Sometimes people think that only DNA reveals unsettling surprises, but that’s not the case. Unmasking the truth is as old as genealogy and research itself.

I’ve been prepared for years to find an unknown sibling, or two, or maybe three. Kind of hopeful, actually, since all of the ones I know about are deceased. Nope, that didn’t happen via DNA.

What I have discovered is why there was such a big gap in my father’s life.

Pandora’s Box

Let’s just say I’m struggling through this. I am extremely grateful for the woman who sent me the information, but man alive, has it ever opened a Pandora’s box. Like my friend who unveiled the identity of his father, I got what I wanted but the situation discovered is very disturbing on several different levels – which is obviously why it was hidden by anyone who knew.

The information revealed that my father was using an alias, and was prosecuted for statutory rape after marrying a 15 year old girl. The female in question had listed her age on the marriage license as 18, and had previously told him she was 24 when they met. The testimony asserts that the girl’s mother told my father that the female in question was 15 five days before they were married, which means that he committed statutory rape, because he was an adult. And yes, he went to prison for a felony – for having sex with his wife, who was less than 30 days away from being 16 which was the legal age of consent in that state at that time.

Scratching your head as to how that makes sense? Me too.

The first thing I did was to have a huge meltdown when I saw the words statutory rape. I mean, the second word is horrible enough, before the addition of the first word. That was before I discovered the details, almost two weeks into this nightmare, specifically the age discrepancy issue and the fact that the wife lied about her age on the marriage license – and that the “event” was consensual. I breathed a huge sigh of relief about the consensual part, because I really did not want to think of my father in the way I typically think of a rapist.

There had been vague rumblings in the family about a situation like that, but I thought I had disproved those rumors years ago, based on when and where my father applied for his Social Security card. I was wrong. This was something entirely different. The original rumbling was probably two stories conflated together or someone who only knew a tidbit. That old smoke and fire thing again.

I found it difficult to believe that my father was sentenced to prison under the stated circumstances, so I talked to a historian at the archives in the state where this occurred and then visited the county where the trial proceedings remain.  The verdict; yes, that is exactly what happened and why. If a male over the age of consent had sex with a female under the age of consent, it was considered statutory rape. There was absolutely no legal differentiation between that and forcible rape, and the mandatory sentence was the same too.

The woman who sent me the original information assumed I knew about “it” and had omitted the information from his timeline because of what “it” was. Believe me, “it” was news to me.

If you’re saying “Holy Cow” or the same phrase with another word in place of cow, so was I. I walked around for days shaking my head and doing the facepalm. I desperately want to grab ahold of my father, shake him, and scream, “What the hell were you thinking?”

An alias and an underaged girl – what was he thinking? My mother had a saying about that kind of behavior too – something to do with thinking with the wrong body part.

Of course, I’m assuming here that my father did in fact know her true age, but I suspect that he had no idea he could be prosecuted if they were married. Perhaps that’s why they married. Or maybe he believed the girl’s version of her age. His testimony is not included in the case because he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.

Why did he do that, considering the length of a sentence for statutory rape? Perhaps to spare his wife from having to testify about very private things? Maybe he didn’t fully understand. We’ll never know, because I clearly can’t ask him what he was thinking.

I do know, based on his letters, that he didn’t realize that his wife divorced him a couple years later. How sad is that?

And in the greatest of ironies, the judge who sentenced him wound up trying to help him, saying that his hands were tied in the situation by the guilty plea and the mandatory sentence required.

The Maze

I feel like I’ve spent the past two weeks or so living in a twisty-turny maze that rivals any spine-tingling gripping can’t-put-it-down novel I’ve ever read. Except this is no novel.

As any good genealogist knows, there are clues to be followed. And yes, because I can’t not know, I dug into every clue with the tenacity of a beagle after a fresh bone.

It’s been a productive search too, finding records at state and county archives. Many records. Some with depositions and testimony. Some include heartbreaking letters…from my father.

My father did go to prison, but he was not a violent man. He seemed to have been somewhat impulsive and he loved too many women, the wrong women, too closely together. I can’t help but wonder if there are more wives and marriages yet to be discovered, but because he was using an alias or aliases, I’ll likely never know. If you’re up for some high drama entertainment, you can read more about my father’s story here.

I’m guessing alcohol played a part in his errant decisions too. I’m not surprised, given what we know about his childhood. Both of his brothers had alcohol issues as well. Maybe nature and nurture were both stacked against them.

My mother and others said that my father fought with the demon, alcohol, and tried repeatedly to “get clean.” Those were the days before AA. At his death, Virgie, his wife at the time, said he was clean and had “dried out” in the VA hospital in Fort Wayne. Her daughter said he had fallen off the wagon. Regardless of whether he ultimately won that battle in his 60s or was defeated one last time by alcohol, alcoholism surely informed many of his decisions and negatively affected the relationships in his life in the years my mother knew him – and probably earlier as well.

Yes, my father’s life was “colorful” in a very sad way and the price he paid was heart-wrenching and dark. I shudder to think about his life in prison. I’m still struggling with the reality of my father and prison and all of the associated connotations and baggage.

A history of prisons in the state where he served exists, and it’s so horrid I haven’t been able to read more than a few paragraphs at a time. Yes, prisoners deserve to serve time, but they don’t deserve to be chained together for up to 18 hours a day, working on road construction in the unrelenting heat as, one by one, they fall and die. That’s torture, not punishment or rehabilitation.  He served during that time. Is it any wonder that the prison’s detailed inmate records for this time period have somehow disappeared over the years?

More than once in these past couple of weeks I have wondered if it would have been an easier discovery to find out he wasn’t my father at all – rather than to discover my father was not quite who I thought he was.

Conflict

I will be sharing more with you as I can, while respecting the privacy of people who may still be living. When you’re doing genealogy, you really never expect the big reveal to be your parent – and certainly not in quite this way.

But first, before I can share more, I have to finish the research and get through this dark space and out of the tunnel into the light.

I’m both very angry with my father for his behavior that can’t be called anything but massively stupid, at best, and predatory at worst. It’s very difficult to wrap my head around that and to know that I’ll probably never really know whether he was in some ways a victim himself or whether he was, in truth, a slimy bottom feeder. Or some combination of both.

At the same time, my heart aches terribly for him based on some of the evidence that has come forward. He was, after all, my father, the man I loved and adored. The thought of him being tortured, for years, tears at the very fabric of my soul. Yet, he survived, and so will I.

It’s hard to feel this conflicted about someone you dearly loved and idolized as a child and who was ripped from your life by death. It’s also very difficult to reconcile the man I knew with the man in the impersonal black and white words of the legal proceedings staring back at me resolutely and unblinkingly from paper yellowed with age.

I am sharing this most difficult journey because I want others who find themselves in this darkness, regardless of the details of what put you into this space, to know that you are not alone.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

For all of you who might make or have made an inconvenient or unwelcome discovery – through DNA or through traditional genealogical records – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And yes, it’s really dark and ugly and lonely in the tunnel, because it’s a tunnel you have to walk alone.

As you struggle in that dark place, I want you to remember something.

You are YOU, not someone else. You may be a biological product of your parents, but more so you are a product of your own hard work and your personal decisions. Your accomplishments and your decisions are yours. Parents don’t get the credit and they don’t get the blame.

Whatever the dark space, you are the awesome outcome, regardless of anything else. You have the opportunity and potential to shine.

Unwelcome discoveries like this may cause you to doubt or devalue yourself. Don’t.

Just. Don’t. Go. There.

There is a fork in the road, multiple forks in the road, for all of us, and it’s the choice you make at those forks that matters. Those forks define your life.  Your forks – your decisions, not theirs. Their forks do not reflect on you.

Your life is your book. Your parents only get an opening chapter. You get to write the rest. Those are your blank pages to fill. Yours. Only yours.

You are only in control of you. Your ancestor’s decisions, while they clearly affect your life in terms of your existence, where you were born and your economic circumstances, do not define who you are or dictate the kind of person that you evolve to be or the choices you make.

Regardless of the creepy critters in the dark haunted tunnel, the trap doors and the spider webs, there is a light at the end and you will emerge a better and more empathetic person than you entered. It’s painful, but not fatal.

Just keep walking, putting one foot in front of the other, and don’t be afraid. The discovery is the worst part, and by the time you’re walking in that tunnel, the discovery is over. You’re now in the healing process. Your wounds will become scars that testify to your strength and survival. Be proud of your resilience.

Just. Keep. Walking.

As I used to say to my kids, “the only way to it is through it.”

Feel the feelings you need to feel, but don’t let those consume you or define you either – and don’t wallow there. No good will come of that. Purposefully walk through the tunnel and out the other end into the warmth and light. The rest of your life is waiting for you, and you ARE the light for others.

Easter is, after all, a time of resurrection and redemption – of the earth when flowers joyfully spring from their long sleep and as our souls emerge from colorless hibernation as well.

Take heart, spring always arrives, no matter how long, cold or bleak the winter in the tunnel!

WWI – 100 Years Ago – Thou Art Gone, 52 Ancestors #155

World War I was billed as The War to End All Wars, except, of course, it didn’t. This past week saw the commemoration of 100 years since the United States entered WWI. 100 years, a century…and to think my father served.

After three years of keeping the United States out of the war, on April 2, then President Woodrow Wilson appeared before Congress and called for Congress to declare war on Germany, saying that “the world must be made safe for democracy.” Four days later, Congress did just that.

On April 6, 1917, the United States entered WWI by declaring war on Germany after the sinking of 8 neutral US ships by German submarines in February of 1917 along with the discovery of a German plot to encourage Mexico to wage war on the US. The war no longer belonged only to Europe. We were involved, whether we wanted to be or not.

Shortly thereafter, more than 4.7 million Americans rallied to the cry and enlisted. A sampling of the recruitment posters is shown below.  You can click to enlarge.

Twenty-one months later, Germany was defeated and an armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.

That’s the short dry version of America’s involvement in WWI, but there was more, so much more.

Families

Those 4.7 million men – they were our fathers and grandfathers and uncles and great-uncles and cousins. Every one of those men left families behind and went to war. 53,402 of those men would be killed in battle, and another 63,114 men would die in service from non-combat injuries and illnesses, including the Spanish Flu which struck with a vengeance beginning about March 1918.

Soldiers, stationed and living in close quarters, were particularly susceptible. This photo from 1918 shows a hospital ward of soldiers suffering from the Spanish Flu in Fort Riley, Kansas. Many military hospitals couldn’t handle the onslaught of patients and temporary hospital quarters were set up in gymnasiums and anyplace additional space could be found.

Ultimately, about one third of the world population became infected, and of those, 10-20% died.

For the soldiers who were taken ill, not only were they very sick, sometimes gravely so, they were far from home and loved ones. They must also have been worried about family at home, if they contracted the flu, and how they fared. Were family members alive or dead?

Both of my father’s paternal grandparents died in July and October of 1918, while he was serving his country.

The Agony of Departure

No matter how much one believes in the cause and wants to fight for all that is right, no matter how patriotic the family, the agony of departure with its uncertainty of return is universal.

This screen shot from The History Place shows soldiers and their families with such poignancy.

My father, a young enlistee, left behind a girlfriend, Virgie…who…as fate would have it, he married not as a young man, but some 44 years later in his sunset years, just two years before his death. The heart-wrenching photo below is of my father, but the handwriting is hers.

Virgie kept and cherished this photo for 44 years until they were reunited, and it was then passed to me after her death, more than another 30 years later – when they were both truly gone.

The Draft

Voluntary enlistments didn’t provide enough manpower. Beginning May 18th, 1917, men born between 1872 and 1900, between the ages of 18 and 45, regardless of citizenship status, were required to register for the draft, providing genealogists today with a peek into the lives of those men sometimes not otherwise available. After all, it was a full century ago.

24 million men registered, or about 25% of the total population.

Today, those registration cards are available at Ancestry and additional information is available at www.fold3.com. At the Ancestry link, be sure to scroll down for history about the registration itself and hints for searching. If your ancestor isn’t present in the draft cards, perhaps it was because he had already enlisted.

The Records

My grandfather’s draft card is shown below. I didn’t know where William George Estes was living at that time, as he moved between Indiana and Tennessee and eventually settled in Harlan County, Kentucky. However, I did know his birthdate, so it was relatively easy to find his draft card with a combination of name and birthdate. Will, as he was called, didn’t use his middle name on his draft registration, but he did sign the card. This is the only copy of his signature that I have.

He was white, 45 years old, his nearest relative was his wife, Joisie (Joyce) and he was of medium height and build with brown eyes and black hair.

While I do have a few photos of my grandfather, you can’t ascertain much of that information from photos.

Will and my grandmother had divorced in Indiana, and I wasn’t sure if he was married at that time, or not. The date of his registration is September, 12, 1918, which gives us a snapshot of him at that point in time. He was never called to serve.

Sons

William George Estes had 3 living sons:

  • Charles Estel Sebastian Estes born November 1, 1894
  • William Sterling Estes, my father, born October 1, 1902
  • Joseph “Dode” Harry Estes born September 13, 1904

Of those sons, only one would have been required to register for the draft initially, Charles, who went by the name Estel, was the only son old enough. I was unable to find his draft registration, even though I think I know where he lived at that time.

The other two sons, far too young to enlist, did just that – enlisted.

Enlistment

How could William and Joseph “Dode” have enlisted? They were too young. No place near 18 years of age.

Both boys “adjusted” their birth year.

My father recorded his birth year upon enlistment as 1898 and his brother, two years younger, did the same. We know, positively, via the census and later Social Security records that neither was born before 1900.

In the 1900 census, above, you can see that neither William nor Joseph were members of the family.  Only Estel and Robert, the son who died when the house burned.

In the 1910 census, Sterl is age 8, so born in October of 1901, and Doad is age 5, born in September of 1904. These years may be off by one year, as Joseph’s SS record says he was born in 1903 and my father’s says he was born in 1902 – but still, they were far younger than 18 years old in 1917.

How the heck did those boys pull that off? I have no idea, but they unquestionably did.

Unfortunately, my father’s military service records burned in the July 1973 fire in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. That blaze was so intense that it burned for 2 days and most of the records were destroyed. However, between various alternate record sources, the Veteran’s Administration and I were able to piece some of his information together.

For example, we know that William Sterling Estes enlisted on May 14, 1917 at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, near Indianapolis, giving his age upon enlistment as 18 years and 24 days of age. He was actually 14 years, 6 months and 13 days old. So young to be trained how to kill.

Fourteen. Years. Old.

Enrolling in the military.

Fighting a war.

And that is assuming that my father was actually born in 1902, not 1903 as some records, such as his delayed birth certificate, sworn to by his father and with the family Bible as evidence, state. So, he could have been 15 years old if he was born in 1901 as the census suggests, 14 based on other records such as social security, or 13 years old if he was born in 1903.

Giving his birth year as 1898 would have made him old enough to enlist. So, yes, there are primary source records that show my father’s birth year ranging from 1898 through 1903.

William Sterling Estes during WWI, above.  His brother, Dode, was two years younger.

Joseph “Dode” Estes during WWI.

I don’t have Dode’s service records, so I’m not sure whether he actually enlisted with his brother, or later, but the family story is that they enlisted together and “Dode was 12.”  It’s hard enough to believe my father enlisted and served at 14, but he did, let alone Dode at age 12.

Fort Benjamin Harrison

Fort Benjamin Harrison was a welcome center and training ground for recruits before they were sent elsewhere.

Men were assigned to housing known as cantonments.

They were trained in combat skills.

Training and study took place outside, between the cantonments.

Including inspections.

Quarters were close.

The mess tent was camp style.

You can see additional photos of Fort Benjamin Harrison at the World War I Museum, here.

To the best of my knowledge, my father never served overseas and never had to use his bayonette skills. I don’t really know though, because his military records were destroyed.  He died in 1963 and there is no one left to ask. On his funeral home record, it does record a war injury, so the question of overseas service remains unanswered.

After training was complete, the men were sent to their assignment.  I know that my father spent most, if not all, of his first enlistment at Camp Custer, near Battle Creek, Michigan, where he was honorably discharged on May 19, 1919 and re-enlisted the following day.

Camp Custer

Camp Custer was built in 1917 for military training during World War I. Named after Civil War cavalry officer General George Armstrong Custer, the facility trained or demobilized more than 100,000 troops during World War I.

Construction began on July 1, 1917 and on December 5, less than six months later, the completed camp was turned over to the government.

A booklet, “Souvenir of Camp Custer,” published in 1918, gives an excellent contemporary view of the camp and its resources.

Camp Custer was called a “national university that takes a young man from the farm, the shop and the office and in a few short months graduates soldiers, trained and equipped, ready to fight the battles of democracy.

Camp Custer is a wonder place. Nothing like it was ever built in America before — and this is one of thirty-six such cantonments, all built in an amazingly short time to meet the country’s emergency needs.

The site of Camp Custer was as peaceful and quiet stretch of countryside as existed in America. Then came the declaration of war, and in five months a complete military city of two thousand buildings, with comfortable quarters for 36,000 men, stretched its length over four miles of territory.

This aerial view taken in 1918 shows what was at that time an expansive complex.

From my father’s letters to Virgie, we know that he contracted the Spanish Flu and was hospitalized at Camp Custer, at least twice in 1918. It was during that time that he met a hospital volunteer, Martha Dodderer, who was destined to become his wife and the mother of my half-sister.

In 1918, displays of patriotism became very popular. At that time, a human shield was formed at Camp Custer, utilizing 30,000 men and officers dressed for their position in the shield. My father would have been in this photo, someplace.

According to the brochure, this photo was taken from the top of the water tower.

I wish I knew more about the role my father played during the war. I know nothing other than his occupation was listed as a fireman.

The last veteran of WWI has died. It’s unusual to find someone whose father served. I was a very late in life child for my father causing me to be a generation off-shifted.

Your Tree

Take a look at your tree to see who was of the age to either serve in WWI or register for the 1917 draft.

In my tree, only one other male qualified, my Brethren grandfather. Brethren were pietists, but he did register and not as a conscientious objector.

This registration does solve one long-standing question about John Ferverda’s middle name. Was it Whitney or Whitley? Since he signed this card himself, his middle name is clearly Whitney! I also didn’t know he had grey eyes and light hair. By the time I knew him, his hair was clearly “light,” as in grey. There is only one color photo and it’s late in his life.

John Whitney Ferverda is shown below.

Earlier photos don’t really show his hair to be remarkably light.

John Whitney Ferverda never served, but, surprisingly three of his brothers did, and two more registered for the draft, telling me that several men in his family had grey eyes and dark hair. One had blue eyes and light hair. I really had no idea this family was more fairly complected with lighter skin and eyes. I guess we always think of our family as similar to ourselves.

The three stars in the window found in this picture of Evaline Miller Ferverda indicate that this family has three sons serving in WWI. That’s pretty amazing for a Brethren family.  If I hadn’t actually looked, I would have assumed that none of their sons served…and I would have been dead wrong and overlooked a great deal of information.

Siblings

Take a look in in the WWI draft registrations for your ancestor’s siblings as well. You never know what you might discover. WWI draft cards are an underutilized resource.

Samuel Bolton was my father’s uncle – his mother’s brother. He was born on June 12, 1894, so he was relatively close to my father’s age.

Samuel turned 23 years old a week after his draft registration. Samuel did serve in the war, being inducted on September 20, 1917, just 3 months after registering. He was sent overseas in May of 1918 and was killed on October 8, 1918, on the battlefield, in France. Sadly, there are no photos of Samuel, nothing, other than this one.

I was able to discover the name and number of Samuel’s unit, which allowed me to track Samuel, with his unit, to that fateful day in France. If you can find the unit name and number in which your family member served, you can figure out where they were, when, and put together the story of what happened to them during that time in their life.

Honoring Our Veterans

Thankfully, WWI was not on American soil. It was not the war to end all wars. In fact WWII followed just over two decades later. Sadly, as we have seen since, warfare seems to be a perpetual state someplace in the world and even as I write this, American men and women are serving in harm’s way.

Other than the short-lived Spanish American War in 1898, in which comparatively few American men participated, WWI was the first conflict since the Civil War in the 1860s. The Civil War produced some draft registrations for northerners, but did not produce draft registration cards on this scale, so WWI is the first resource that offers genealogists a type of nationwide census of military eligible men.

How did WWI touch your ancestors? Was it through their own service, or the service of a spouse, brother or parent? Did they return home, or are some buried in cemeteries like the one at Camp Custer or even on foreign soil?

Please take a minute to silently honor those who served and to think about how our lives today might have been different had WWI not occurred, or had the outcome been different in either a global or personal sense.

April Fool Meltdown Thanks to William Sterling Estes – 52 Ancestors #154

You tell me, is this a good day or a bad day, genealogically speaking?

  • You discover that your father was married under an alias. Ugh, not probably good.
  • You discover the alias that your father was married under. That’s good, sort of.
  • …in a newspaper article about him going to jail. That’s bad.
  • Where his wife testified. Uh oh.
  • Before she divorced him. Ough.
  • Oh, that’s going to jail…again…according to the article. That’s really bad.
  • You discover that your father had yet another, earlier, alias too. Getting even worse.
  • And another, very young, wife. Holy chimloda.
  • Who he married when she was 15 and lied about her age. Not looking good.
  • Before he was arrested the day they married for having intimate relations with her a few days before they were married, according to her mother.
  • Who testified to send him to jail. Marriage didn’t save him. I don’t think his new mother-in-law liked him, at all.
  • A few months later, the young wife divorced him, for cruelty, while he was in prison…asking for her maiden name back…in 1939. Did they even do that in 1939?
  • You discover his prison number…#24884.
  • And cry, for all kinds of reasons.

Who says that ancestors cannot reach from beyond the grave to play April Fools jokes on you?

  • Oh yes, and did I mention I apparently have a half-sister too?
  • Who’s deceased…
  • Whose mother is neither wife above and appears to have been married to someone else when the half-sister (if she actually is my half-sister) was conceived. And yes, she still has two living children who would be candidates to DNA test. No, I have not attempted to contact them.  What exactly do I say, all things considered?
  • At the time my half-sister was conceived, my father was married to the first wife mentioned above. Maybe that’s part of why she testified against him in court???

If you’re saying Holy Smokes about now…uh, me too.

I swear, my family has given me a working example of every possible situation.  Maybe that’s the silver lining. It was already difficult enough to discover that my brother wasn’t my brother. Now this.

Um, I think my father might have been a scoundrel.

I have only one thing to say to my father as I try desperately to unravel and wrap my head around this.

NOT ONE DAMNED BIT FUNNY!!!

It’s OK if you’re laughing. I will be too, eventually, as soon as I get over the shock. But talk about rocking the world as you think you knew it. You know, it might have been easier to simply discover he wasn’t my father. But he is my father, warts and all.

My mantra has always been to “not judge” the ancestors, because you can’t walk a mile in their shoes and you don’t live in the timeframe and society they did.  But I never thought of my father as an “ancestor” in that sense and this would be a lot easier had I not known him.  He died when I was 7 and it’s easy to idolize someone who is gone. I never saw his warts up close and personal, only through others and painful revelations like this.

But look at it this way…you’ll eventually get one heck of an article out of this one. I believe in the truth and it wouldn’t be fair not to share this part of the journey with you too. And I must admit, it IS very interesting!

I’m considering titles for the new article(s):

  • Veritas (hat tip to Rosario)
  • Uncomfortable Truths (hat tip to Shannon)
  • Be Careful What You Ask For (hat tip to my husband who is even more confused than I am, even after the full explanation)
  • Rock My World
  • An Inconvenient Truth (hat tip to Janet)

Other suggestions? What do you think?

It’s certainly an April Fool’s Day I’ll never forget. I would have been happy solving a brick wall, you know, 200 years ago or so. Scoundrels are fun when you didn’t know them personally and you didn’t inherit half of their DNA.

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

We met Thomas Dodson in his original article, and we know that he was born in 1681 and died in 1740. What we didn’t have then, and have since acquired, is Thomas’s estate inventory.

On April 6, 1741, the estate inventory was submitted to the Richmond County, Virginia court for Thomas Dodson who had died on November 20th of the previous year, and whose will was probated on February 6th, 1740/41.

Estate inventories are very often overlooked resources, with just the date of the inventory being recorded. Many books that transcribe records don’t include the details, but those details are so very important. Don’t presume that the records don’t exist because they weren’t transcribed because that’s exactly what happened with Thomas Dodson.

I was fortunate that the original records remain in Richmond County and the clerk’s office was willing to make me a copy. I didn’t know that there was a detailed inventory until the envelope arrived.  I was doing the happy dance by the mailbox in the snow, once again.  Not everything is online, and some of the best records aren’t! You’ll never know if you don’t ask.

Why Estates?

When a person dies, the items that they own must be filed with the court. In some locations, the only record is that the inventory was filed, and in others, or at other times in history, the entire estate inventory is copied into the record book.

In some locations, the estate sale, including who the items were subsequently sold to, and how much they paid, are also included, which helps immensely to determine relatives based on who attended the estate sale, and to track important items forward in time. For example, the family Bible.

At this time in history, and throughout the entire colonial era and beyond, when a man died, everything owned by the couple was considered to be owned by the man. The very few exceptions are when something was willed or deeded specifically to the female in her own stead, generally after she was married, and prohibiting her husband was having influence or control over the item. That rarely happened, so when a man married a woman, everything that was previously hers became his, including anything she actually owned from a previous marriage. He could not sell land without the wife releasing her dower right, meaning her right to 30% of the value when he died – but otherwise, he could do anything he pleased with whatever he wanted.

The good side of this situation is that when a man died, his estate inventory literally included everything except his actual land. Therefore, the woman’s spinning wheel, loom, pots and pans…everything…was listed, except for her clothes.

This provides us with a view of the entire family at that point in time. Rather than skimming over the estate, take time to really become one with it. By this, I mean, analyze it, look things up, and research. What did an ox cart or a pewter plate look like in 1740?

You can learn information about your ancestor through their estate inventory that you could never learn any other way – unless you’re lucky enough that they kept a journal.  Raise your hand if your ancestors kept a journal?  Mine neither!

I utilize Google extensively, as well as Wikipedia. I enter the item I’m searching for, with the word “antique” included. This often gives me sites on e-bay and antique dealers. So for stillyard I would enter “stillyard antique 1700s.” In the case of colonial Virginia, I often add the word colonial, or try different word combinations in different order. By the time I’m done, I discovered a lot about my ancestor’s world just from the items he owned. I found a lot more than is included here, but when I’m writing for my blog, I have to worry about copyright.  When you’re just researching for yourself, you don’t have to worry about that.

After you’re finished, you can then figure out a lot more by what kinds of items were missing. Let’s do this for Thomas Dodson, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Thomas Dodson’s Estate Inventory

Thomas Dodson’s estate wasn’t particularly large and includes the following bulleted items with their estimated values in pounds, shillings and pence. Spelling preserved as it was in the original.  You can click to enlarge any image.

I don’t know what some of the items are, so any help is appreciated.

  • 4 cows and 4 yearlings – 4.8.0
  • 3 heifers and 1 stear – 1.10.0
  • 8 cows and young stear – 4.0.0
  • 1 cow and calfe 0.10.0

I noticed that commas were not used in the inventory, as there should be a comma between oxen and cart in the item below.

  • 1 yoke of oxen cart and wheels – 4.15.0

Teams of oxen were rarely split as they learned to pull together and were most effective as a team. In this case, they were sold with their cart and wheels and were a relatively high value item. You can read about oxen, carts and wagons in this Colonial Williamsburg article, complete with pictures.

  • 32 hoggs and 8 pigs – 4.0.0
  • 14 sheep and 3 lambs – 2.0.0

Slavery

I don’t even know what to say about the next inventory entries. I try very hard to simply review my ancestors lives and attempt to understand them in the context of the timeframe in which they lived, from their perspective – but the vile institution of slavery rails against everything I believe in. I realize that perspectives were much different then, and I realize that had the slaves not been sold into slavery, they would probably have died at the hands of their tribal captors in Africa, but nothing can justify the institution of slavery – especially not in hindsight. I can only hope that Thomas was a kind and gentle man and that he had a caring relationship with the humans over whose lives he exercised complete control in every way possible.

  • 1 negroe man named Harry – 22.0.0
  • 1 old negroe woman named Sue – 12.0.0
  • 1 negroe woman named Bess – 23.0.0
  • 1 negroe child named Joe – 7.0.0
  • 1 negroe lad named Dick – 22.0.0
  • 1 negroe girl named Sarah – 16.0.0
  • 1 negroe girl named Nan – 14.0.0

In 1726, the North Farnham parish register shows Thomas Dodson as a slave-holder, but it doesn’t say whether Thomas Dodson is Jr. or Sr. Slave births were not recorded by the name of the slave, but by the master to whom the slaves belonged.

We know based on a 1733 deed entry that Thomas’s son, Thomas Dodson Jr. was to own at least one slave “as soon as any comes to Virginia to be sold.”

There simply weren’t enough slaves, or indentured servants, to go around for the labor-intensive tobacco crops.

The chart above is compliments of the Jamestown/Yorktown Foundation educational material.

Slaves were heavily utilized in the production of tobacco on the Virginia plantations, as shown by this advertisement showing tobacco workers in Virginia.

It wasn’t until Thomas Dodson’s will that we knew for certain that he too was involved in the slave trade. His will sets forth negroes named Sarah, Harry, Bess, Joe, Sue, Dick and Nan and Thomas’s children to whom the slaves were to descend.  I was relieved not to find my ancestor, George, among those receiving slaves.

From the time Thomas wrote his will on February 17, 1739/40 and when his estate inventory was probated 14 months later, the negroes he owned had not changed. I chafe at even using the word “owned” in context of humans.

Bess and Joe were to descend to the same heir, suggesting perhaps that Joe was Bess’s child. Bess’s value suggests that she is of an age to have additional children, which makes me wonder if Harry is Bess’s husband since their value is almost equal and they live on the same plantation. Clearly both are in the prime of their lives. Let’s say they are age 30, which means they would have been born about 1710.

Sue and Dick were also supposed to go together. In the inventory, Sue is referred to as an old woman and Dick as a lad, where he is referred to as a boy in the will. His inventory value suggests he is older and capable of hard and productive field work almost equal to that of an adult.

I’m left wondering what would have been considered “old” at that time.

Perhaps the history of slavery in Virginia would lend some perspective here. I’d wager, in general terms, someone 60 or older would have been considered old.

In 1741, a 60 year old person would have been born in about 1681.

In 1650, there were only about 300 Africans living in Virginia. Originally imported Africans were treated as indentured servants. Some Africans did complete an indenture, were freed, purchased land themselves and later, purchased slaves as well.

By 1640, at least some Africans were slaves and by 1660 slavery had become part of the culture, at least in practice if not in law. In 1662, a Virginia suit ruled that children would carry the status of their mother, regardless of their race, paternity or if they were of mixed heritage. The 1660s begin to show signs that Africans were clearly slaves. For example, one African servant who attempted to escape with white servants could not have his indenture time extended, as the white indentured servants did, so he was punished by branding. The only reason an indenture could not have been extended is if the man could never have become free.

If the slave Sue was considered old and was born about 1680, she could have been born into slavery in Virginia, or she could have been born in Africa and imported as either a child or adult.

By the end of the 1600s, Africans were being imported in quantity for sale by the Dutch and English, in particular, and by 1750, it is estimated that there were 300,000 African slaves in Virginia, although many were not first generation. We know that in 1733, there was more demand for slaves than there were slaves available and there was a waiting list to purchase slaves.

More of Thomas’s Estate

  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 5.0.0
  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 3.0.0
  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 6.0.0
  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 5.0.0
  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 2.10.0

We don’t know anything about Thomas Dodson’s plantation, including whether or not his slaves lived in the house with the family or whether they had their own quarters.

A document produced by Colonial Jamestown tells us that small planters typically had 5 slaves or less, including children, and indicated that slaves on small farms often slept in the kitchens or an outbuilding or sometimes in small cabins near the farmer’s house. This document shows some reproduction photos of slavery in colonial Virginia, including slave quarters. Thomas Dodson owned 7 slaves, of which 4 were children, one was old and 2 were adults. Maybe he was slightly larger than a small farmer, but if so, not much.

One thing is for sure, the feather beds and furniture were not for the slaves.

Does this means that Thomas Dodson’s house had 5 bedrooms? That’s unlikely for the timeframe, especially given that children of that time were expected to share bedrooms, and often, to share one bedroom. And sometimes, that bedroom was the attic loft.

However, the fact remains that Thomas Dodson owned 5 feather beds and furniture and they had to fit someplace. Poor people slept on straw beds on the floor.

Thomas Dodson clearly wasn’t poor.

  • 2 chists (chests) table and forum – 1.0.0

A chest in this context probably means a chest of drawers, but I don’t know what forum would be.

  • 1 chist trunk – 0.8.0

A chest in this context probably means a chest like a trunk, probably wooden.

  • Cash – 6.8.2

Given that almost all of the transactions in Northern Neck Virginia were paid using tobacco, it’s amazing that Thomas actually had this much cash on hand.

Here’s the second half of the first page of Thomas’s estate.

  • 2 mares and 1 horse – 8.15.0
  • 1 cubbord – 1.0.0
  • 1 old rugg – 0.2.6

In colonial Virginia, rugs were not used on floors, but hung on walls or used on beds for warmth. Bed rugs, according to the “History of Quilts,” in the 1700s, were of a low grade wool and manufactured in England. In 1755, Samuel Johnson described them as “course, nappy coverlets used for mean beds.” They may have been knotted shag, although no examples remain today.

  • 6 qll? (pounds?) Best puter – 8.9.0

There is no way for us to know if the best pewter and the other pewter is a function of quality, decoration, or wear, or maybe some combination. The pewter plate above, for sale by an antique dealer, is from the 1700s and actually has scratches on the surface from usage.  Lead was originally used in the production of pewter.

  • 3 yll? Of puter – 0.17.0
  • 1 old oval table – 1.0.0
  • 9 old chairs – 0.9.0

Given that there is no other table, this had to be the kitchen table and chairs.  Thomas Dodson had 9 children, so the family had 11 in total.  No spare chairs, that’s for sure.

  • 1 large Bible – 0.15.0

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for this Bible. I’m guessing that this Bible may have originally belonged to Thomas’s father, Charles Dodson. Thomas couldn’t read, but his father could. It would not be unlikely that the Bible was given to Thomas by his father, or by his older brother, Charles at or before his death in 1716, if father Charles had left the Bible to son Charles.

The Bible was probably oversized and leather bound as was the custom with Bibles of the time. It was also worth as much as some of the pewter and more than the 9 old chairs, not quite as much as the oval table, but exactly as much as a pair of cart wheels with the parts to finish.

I have to wonder, if Thomas could not read, and we know he signed his name with a “T” mark, what did he do with a Bible? Perhaps it was sentimental in nature.

  • A parcel of tools – 0.18.0
  • 1 chist 2 small cask – 0.7.0

Wooden boxes during that time were called caskets. Given the chest context above, I suspect that’s the kind of cask being referenced. However, the 13 lid of cask below probably references lids to tobacco casks, which were used to pack full of tobacco and roll the tobacco down the road, termed rolling roads, to the docks where the casks would be loaded for England.

  • 13 lid of cask – 2.12.0

A tobacco cask was called a hogshead, shown below and was often quite large, almost 3 feet wide holding 1000 pounds of tobacco.

  • 1 still and tub – 6.0.0

There’s no doubt about the meaning of a still. Alcohol at that time was believed to be medicinal as well as recreational. You can read a fun article by Colonial Williamsburg here about drinking and distilling in colonial America. George Washington’s distillery at Mount Vernon is wonderfully preserved, although certainly much larger and involved than a single still.

People regularly drank beer, because typhoid was passed in water contaminated with fecal matter. Beer was much safer, and was often consumed in place of water. Oh, and by the way, cider at the time was alcoholic too, so don’t think your ancestor drinking “syder” was a teetotaler. He wasn’t..

All things considered, it’s amazing that fetal alcohol syndrome wasn’t rampant with the estimate that people of that time drank roughly 8 ounces of alcohol daily. Maybe women didn’t consume as much alcohol as men.

This photo below is the copper pot from a still displayed in the Museum of Appalachia.

And the still itself.

The still was obviously considered quite valuable, as much so as a feather bed and furniture or the smallest slave child.

  • 2 raw hides and side of leather – 0.9.0

I wonder if these hides were from domestic animals or from wild animals. My suspicion is that they were domestic. Nothing was wasted. A hide would have been untanned and leather was ready for working.

  • 2 pr cart wheels part to finish – 0.15.0
  • 1 pr spoon moulds grasp (or prasp or trays) and pinchers – 0.8.0

I looked for spoon molds and found molds for spoons. I doubt that is what was meant. Anyone have any ideas?  There are no candle molds in the inventory, but spoon molds aren’t candle molds, are they?

  • 7 old books – 0.75.0

I looked at this two or three times. Seven old books were worth more than a gun? And maybe the reason they were old books is because they had belonged to Thomas’s father, given that Thomas was not literate. Did he keep his father’s books for sentimental reasons? Why did a man that couldn’t read own old books?  I’d love to know the titles.

  • 1 gun – 0.10.0

Would the gun have been a pistol? If so, this tells us distinctly that Thomas wasn’t hunting. I suspect by the time that the Northern Neck had been settled for 50 years or more, by the time Thomas was born, the wildlife was pretty well hunted to extinction in that region.

This flintlock pistol was from circa 1700-1730.

  • 1 box iron heaters and spit – 0.8.0

I’m not sure what iron heaters were at the time, but a spit would have been used to turn meat in the fireplace (or in an outside kitchen) while cooking. You can see photos of lots of colonial American furniture here, as well as fireplace apparatus.

  • 2 pair tongs and candle sticks 2 pottacks 2 narrow ? – 0.19.6

I wish they had said what the candlesticks were made of. Obviously, some kind of metal but they were not included with the pewter. Perhaps brass?

  • 1 cross cut saw wrost? and file – 0.10.0

A cross-cut saw is designed to cut across the grain of wood and is usually quite heavy duty. This example is a two man saw with a springboard.

By Eugene Zelenko – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8452686

  • 4 broad hoes and 2 narrow do (ditto, meaning hoes) 1 frying pan 13 old hoes 2 old axes – 0.16.0

An ax from the 1700s. Men forge fond alliances with their long-time favorite tools.

A story from the farm where I grew up was about the old ax. There are only 2 parts to an ax, the handle and the blade. At some point, the handle got replaced, and at another point, the blade got replaced, but it’s still considered and referred to as the same “old ax” even though neither of the original ax parts remain.

  • 1 womans saddle and bridle 1 old saddle pistols holsters and bridle – 1.0.0

I notice that there is one less saddle than horses in the inventory.  In colonial times, horses were not used in the fields.  Oxen were.

At that time, women rode sidesaddle, with the pommel being located to the left of the saddle instead of in the center.  This would have been Thomas’s wife’s saddle and probably also used by his daughters from time to time.

I do wonder if it was the woman’s saddle that had the pistol holsters, or if this just happened to be listed together. All sorts of thoughts flew through my head.

This article by Colonial Williamsburg shows a saddle pistol holster at the bottom, along with saddles and bridles from The Saddler’s Shop.

And this fellow, being the original gun collector, apparently, sports several holsters as this year’s new fashion look on the front of Pirates Illustrated:)

  • 1 pair hand irons 1 frying pan 4 roap hooks 8 ½ brass 1 lavie? Pam (pan?) – 0.18.9

I have absolutely no idea what a lavie? Pan might be, but I know what a frying pan is!

This item, below, found at an antique shop and now sold is a plantation size frying pan. I swear, it’s large enough to make paella for everyone, although paella wouldn’t have been on the menu in early Virginia.

I had presumed that a frying pan would be cast iron, but obviously, I was wrong.

  • 2 tin pans kittle and lanthorn 127 lb? pott iron – 18.6

I’m thinking this probably was not a tea kettle.

Lanterns were the only form of lighting other than candles. Many lanterns were designed to be carried outside and were sometimes hung outside. Lanterns enclosed the flame to reduce the risk of fire.

The second page of Thomas’s estate begins, below.

  • 1 basting ladle 1 iron Do (ditto) and flesh forks pr stillyards 1350 nails – 1.0.6

A stillyard is a weighing and balancing device. This picture actually shows a stillyard from Pompei, but they changed very little over the years.

Nails were individually hand forged on plantations by blacksmiths. Each nail, at this time, was square headed and nails were valuable commodities. There is no evidence of blacksmith tools, so Thomas would have purchased or traded for these nails. I wonder if he was planning to build something.

This photo is not from Thomas Dodson’s property, but it’s from a restored Virginia property built around the same time, using square nails and construction probably similar to that found in Thomas Dodson’s home.

  • 2 punch bowls 1 earthen dish 2 pieces earthen ware – 0.12.0

I wonder if a punchbowl suggests entertaining.

  • 2 tubs 3 pails 1 piggin 6 trays 1 moal tubb – 0.12.0

A piggin is a small pail with the handle on the side used for measuring grain.

These items all look to be for maintaining livestock

  • 2 old sefters? 1 old rundlet 1 old dripping pan 2 meal bags 1 leather wallet – 5.0

This leather wallet is from the 1700s. When open, it contains pockets much like wallets today.

A rundlet is a small barrel which may contain from 3 to 20 gallons. As a measure for wine, it often contains 18.5 gallons.

  • 1 grinding stone and some triflets 12 lb? wool 1.5 lb? yard 1.5 lb? cotton – 0.13.6

A grinding stone would have been something used on the farm, like a grinding wheel, or something closer to the Native American grindstone which consisted of a smaller stone to be used with the hand and a larger stone that the smaller stones crushed or pounded corn or grain against.

A triflet is another name for trinket or trifling item.  I sure would like to know what those triflets were.

  • Looking glass 1 slate a parcel knives and forks – 0.6.0

A looking glass, another term for mirror, was most definitely a luxury item, but it’s the only luxury item in Thomas’s estate. We don’t know if this was a handheld item or a larger wall-mounted mirror.

I sure would like to know how many knives and forks were in that parcel. Often estates had fewer silverware pieces than people, which makes me wonder at the mealtime protocol.

Does a slate infer education of children, perhaps? I believe, but am not sure, that George Dodson, my ancestor who was the son of Thomas could write.

  • Old spinning wheel 1 old shoot – 0.3.0

Spinning wheels were essential to colonial households. Everything had to be spun into thread or yarn before it would be woven or made into something else. You can read an article about weaving, spinning and dyeing at Colonial Williamsburg, here.

I don’t know what a “shoot” is.  Any ideas?

  • 10 lb? taoller (tallow?) 6 bottles 2 dunking glasses – 0.4.8

Does anyone know what a dunking glass is?

Women made candles of tallow using cotton or linen wicks. However, tallow candles were odiferous, given that they were made from rendered animal fat, and not odiferous in a good way. I’m surprised that there are no candle molds given that he has tallow, although wicks could also be dipped in liquid tallow to form candles. However, this methodology was generally for those too poor for candle molds, and Thomas’s doesn’t seem poor.

Wealthier people could purchase candles made of beeswax. Apparently Thomas Dodson was a tallow sort of fellow.

  • 10 cups and salt seller – 0.2.8

A salt seller, today termed a salt cellar, is quite close to my heart. I’ve been infatuated with salt cellars since I was young and have a small collection today. Salt cellars are items of tablewear used to hold and dispense salt. In the 1800s, each individual person had a cellar set at their place beside a pepper shaker, but earlier, everyone shared one cellar, dipping salt with a small spoon or pinching with their fingers the amount of salt they wanted. Family sizes cellars were maybe 2 inches across, with personal cellars being an inch or so. We don’t really know what this “seller” was made of, but since it is listed separately from the pewter and with the cups, I’d wager it was glass or china and not silver or metal. Salt is corrosive, so glass was a much more utilitarian device. This beautiful English salt cellar is from about the 1720s.

  • Old broad ax 1 iron wedge 1 goudge – 0.3.0

A gouge is a type of woodworking chisel, shown below, being utilized to make a dovetail joint.

By Aerolin55 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8266918

Contemporary gouges of different shapes and sizes and a wooden mallet used to strike the gouges.

Thomas’s inventory was dated April 4th, and signed and recorded by the court on April 6th, 1741.

Charles Dodson, John Hightower and William Everett were the appraisers.

The Charles Dodson listed would not have been Thomas’s son, Charles, as heirs were never appraisers. Thomas’s brother, Charles was deceased already, so the Charles Dodson in question was Thomas’s nephew, Charles Dodson.

Tobacco

By now, you’re probably wondering where the entry for tobacco was on Thomas Dodson’s inventory.

On August 3rd, 1741, apparently Thomas Dodson’s tobacco crop had been picked and appraised at a value of 3,986 pounds and was further registered with the court.

The most interesting information is that we now know about how much tobacco Thomas’s plantation produced in a year. This tobacco crop had to support the entire household for the entire year.

If one adult male could work about 3 acres of tobacco, let’s say that 2 children could work the same as one adult. We know that Thomas Dodson had 3 adult or nearly adult slaves and 3 slave children, plus one old woman slave. Let’s say that was equivalent to 4 or 5 adults, we know then that Thomas had 12 or 15 acres of tobacco under cultivation. If we divide 3986 pounds of tobacco by 4 people, roughly 1000 pounds of tobacco was produced by each adult. If we divide 3,986 by 5, then about 800 pounds of tobacco produced per person, or about 266 pounds per acre under cultivation.

Of course, we don’t know if Thomas Dodson’s youngest sons were also working in the fields. I would wager than any male living at home was expected to do just that, so Thomas’s two youngest unmarried sons may have also been working the crops. A third son was reported to be blind.

What’s Missing?

Notice there is no entry for corn on Thomas’s inventory, nor was there an additional inventory filed, at least not that made it into the record book and was transcribed.

Corn, hay and grains would have been required to overwinter cows, pigs, sheep and horses. While some cows and pigs would be slaughtered each fall, farmers couldn’t slaughter all of them or there would be none left to reproduce for the following year. Furthermore, horses were extremely valuable and utmost care would be taken of the horses.

Speaking of horses, there weren’t many, and there was no buggy or wagon – which is kind of odd considering this was a plantation.

How did the women get to town or to court, or is this one of the reasons why we seldom see their names in court records? Men rode horses to court and there were no wagons or buggies? There was, however, a woman’s saddle in the inventory. Almost every time a female releases her dower rights in the Richmond County records during this timeframe, she appoints a male power of attorney to represent her in court. Perhaps this tidbit shines additional light on why.

There were no trade tools, such a carpenter’s tools, blacksmith’s tools or cobbler’s tools. This tells me that Thomas had to trade for all of those items and services. His only commodity to trade, other than livestock and perhaps corn, although there was none listed in his inventory, was tobacco.

There were no weaving looms, so cloth would have to be purchased.

There was no table other than the old oval table and no chairs other than 9 old ones.

There were no couches or other furniture that would suggest any sort of aristocracy or that Thomas was anything more than a general farmer in today’s vernacular.

Growing up on a farm, the farmer was always at risk; from insects, from weather, from equipment breaking down, from the markets crashing. Never, ever was the farmer not at risk and never, ever did he not worry incessantly about the crops.

Cost of Goods in Colonial Virginia

Thomas had available cash, meaning sterling. It’s difficult to understand how much items cost, so let’s take a look at the pricing for standard items that was set by the Richmond County court on March 6, 1727.

  • One gallon good syder (cider) – 12 pence or 10 pounds tobacco
  • One quart of punch made with good sugar and lime juice one third rum – 12 pence of 10 pounds tobacco
  • One quart of Madeira Wine – 2 shillings or 20 pounds tobacco
  • One gallon of French Brandy – 14 pence of 14 pounds tobacco
  • One quart of French Brandy Punch made with white sugar – 2 shillings or 20 pounds tobacco
  • One quart of French Clarret – 3 shillings or 30 pounds tobacco
  • One good dyet (diet) – 1 shilling or 10 pounds tobacco
  • Pasturage for a horse – 24 hours 6 pence or 5 pounds tobacco
  • One night’s lodging – 6 pence or 5 pounds tobacco
  • One gallon Indian corne – 7 and one half shillings or 6 pounds tobacco
  • One gallon rum – 8 shillings or 80 pounds tobacco
  • One quart bottle of English beer – 12 pence or 10 pounds tobacco

It seems most of these items had to do with alcohol, but that’s OK, because we know our colonial ancestors consumed a lot. And look, now we have a recipe for two kinds of punch that were likely in that punch bowl in Thomas’s inventory.

I equalized the sterling currently of the time and then calculated how much Thomas Dodson had at his death.

A pence was equal to roughly a pound of tobacco, according to the court order, so 2,402 pence would have been equal to about 2400 pounds of tobacco. Therefore, it appears that Thomas had a little more than one half of a year’s worth of cash on hand, assuming that 3.986 pounds of tobacco was a year’s income.

Extrapolating from that, it looks like it took about 10 pounds sterling for Thomas Dodson to run the plantation for a year, and feed everyone, assuming the 3,986 pounds of tobacco was a representative year.

What We’ve Learned

Based on Thomas’s estate inventory, it appears that he wasn’t poor, but he certainly wasn’t rich, considering that he didn’t own any luxury items other than a looking glass.  He didn’t own a buggy or wagon or even beeswax candles. He had one gun and fewer saddles than horses. He didn’t own enough chairs for his entire family to sit at the table at once, and there is no bench listed in the estate.  There is only one table and no couches or anything else suggestive of anything beyond a relatively spartan farmer lifestyle other than 5 feather beds.

The family story was that the Dodsons of Richmond County were wealthy plantation owners.  Maybe not so much – at least not Thomas. Thomas’s wealth, sadly, was in the value of his slaves which were valued at 116 pounds as compared with approximately 94 pounds for the rest of his estate, less the tobacco crop, which of course could not have been produced with only the labor of family members. It was in the best interests of a small farmer to treat his slaves and indentured servants well.  I hope Thomas did.

I think I’ve milked every iota of information out of Thomas’s estate records by this point. If you can think of something I didn’t, I’d welcome your input.

It’s amazing what can be discovered by systematically and carefully analyzing your ancestor’s estate inventory, especially in conjunction with Google search to see similar items of that date and time, and understanding the history and customs of the time and place where your ancestor lived.

Do you have some estate inventories that you could look at again? Hope you didn’t have anything else planned today!

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

Mary Durham, daughter of Thomas Durham and Dorothy Smoot was born June 5, 1686 in North Farnham Parish in what was then Old Rappahannock County, Virginia.

Most of what we know about Mary Durham is related to her husbands, mostly her first husband by whom her children were born, Thomas Dodson.

Mary grew up along Totuskey Creek, red pin below, on the peninsula of land in Virginia known as the Northern Neck, surrounded on three sides by water; the Rappahannock River, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. It was then and remains rather insular. At that time, the economy was driven by tobacco.

Neighbors Married Neighbors

Based on deeds of her father as well as her brother, husband and husband’s father, it appears that Mary’s parents were neighbors with her husband’s parents, and she married the boy from across the fence. Mary and Thomas probably saw each other during their daily life, and on Sunday’s dressed up for church at North Farnham Parish, although the current church wasn’t built until 1737. Mary and her family would have attended the original church, located a few miles north of the present-day church, in a now forgotten location.

We don’t really know how Mary dressed or much about her lifestyle, but in general, the colonial Virginians attempted to keep up with the styles in England. The Durham family was not poor, but they also weren’t aristocratic. The lady above is fashionably dressed in 1700 in England. All I can say is that I hope it was winter with all of that fabric. She would have sweat to death in the summer, and washing machines were still an invention of the future.

Mary was quite young when she married Thomas Dodson. Their marriage was recorded on August 1, 1701 in the North Farnham Parish parish register. Mary was all of 15 years old, specifically 15 years and almost 3 months. That’s awfully young to marry, even in colonial Virginia. Thomas Dodson was all of 20 years old, young for a colonial male to marry too.

Of course, that raises the question of why they married so young. The first thought would be pregnancy. We can’t really rule that in or out, but here’s what we do know.

The first child recorded in the Farnham Parish Church registry for Mary and Thomas was George, born on October 31, 1702, a year and almost 3 months after their marriage. That means Mary did not get pregnant until they had been married 6 months. That too is unusual, as effective birth control did not exist at that time and there was no reason in that time and place not to begin a family immediately.

However, there’s son Thomas Dodson Jr. whose birth is not recorded in the Farnham Church register, which is known to be incomplete. Typically, the first male child is named after the father. If Thomas Jr. was the first child born to Mary and Thomas, then Mary would have to have been VERY pregnant when she married Thomas, in order for there to be enough time to have Thomas Jr., conceive George and give birth to him in October of 1702.

Mary’s son, Thomas Dodson Jr.’s birth is unrecorded, but he was married before 1725 to Elizabeth Rose, suggesting he was born before 1705.

If Thomas was the second born, who was the first born, George, named after, and why?

Land

In February 1702/03, Thomas Dodson’s father, Charles Dodson, deeded land to Thomas. A month earlier, Charles had written his will and included that same land for Thomas. He apparently decided to go ahead and deed the land before his death. On the same day, he also deeded land to son Charles Dodson and indicated that Charles was already living on his land – so it’s likely that Thomas was too.

The land deeded to Thomas was half of Charles Dodson’s 300 acre tract and the half that brother Charles lived on was called Rich Neck. The other half is the land Thomas received, separated from Rich Neck by a branch of the creek.

In the article about Thomas Dodson, we identified where Rich Neck was located.

At age sixteen and a half, with a four month old baby, if not two children, Mary was now the mistress of a plantation.

Scandal

In 1708 and 1709, and probably somewhat before and after, the Durham family was embroiled in a whopper of a scandal. In 1699, Thomas Durham, Mary’s father, had “purchased” an indentured servant named Anne Kelly. She was almost exactly Mary Durham’s age, 14 at that time, as judged by the court. I don’t know if the girls would have been allowed just to be girls, at least part of the time, or if their class difference would have kept them apart, even though they lived under the same roof.

However, Anne Kelly and Mary’s brother, Thomas Durham Jr. had no problem with class differences, it appears, at least not initially. In 1708, Anne was brought before the court, presented by her “master, Thomas Durham Sr.,” charged with fornication and bringing a bastard child into the world. Keep in mind that indentured servants were prohibited from marrying before their indenture was complete, so if they engaged in any intimate activity and a child resulted, the child was legally prevented from being legitimate because of their mother’s indentured status.

Anne refused to reveal the name of the father, and was fined and sentenced to jail. We’ll never know of course, if Anne was protecting someone, or if she was fearful. One way or another, she was certainly vulnerable.

Dorothy Smoot Durham, Thomas Durham Sr.’s wife came into court that same day and paid Anne’s fine, preventing Anne from having to spend time in jail. Why Dorothy performed this brave feat is unknown. It could have been out of the goodness of her heart. It could have been because she knew the identity of the father, or it could have been because she did not want to have to deal with an infant whose mother was in jail, and a servant who couldn’t serve. Regardless, Dorothy did what she needed to do – and reading between the lines, what her husband would not..

Just 10 months later, Anne Kelly was back in court again with another “bastard child,” but this time she told the court that both children were begotten by Thomas Durham Jr., Mary’s brother – although he would only have been 17 or so when the first child was conceived, if not younger. Given that there was only 10 months between Anne’s first court appearance the her second, for the second child, it’s feasible that the first child was born perhaps a year before she was actually brought into court initially. If so, then Thomas Durham Jr. would have been 16.

The second time Anne was fined, it wasn’t Dorothy that intervened, but Thomas Dodson, Mary’s husband. He paid Anne’s fine, and it appears from the court record that Anne was already serving at Thomas Dodson’s house. In any event, after her original indenture, Anne was obligated to serve additional time working for Thomas Dodson because he paid her fine. The added time to an indenture for each child was 5 years, typically, and the indenture for the fine might have been 5 years as well.

So, in addition to her own family, Mary had Anne living with them with her two children that were Mary’s nieces or nephews. In 1710, this means that Mary had at least 4 children under the age of 10 in the household and possibly as many as 8.

What is that Chinese blessing/curse? “May you live in interesting times.” Certainly these days were, especially in light of the fact that Thomas Durham Jr. married the neighbor girl, Mary Smoot about 1710 while Anne Kelly was still indentured to the family, serving extra time and raising HIS two children to boot. I’d wager Anne was none too happy for various reasons which would have added more drama to Thomas Durham’s wedding when he married Mary Smoot, related to his mother.

So 1708, 1709 and 1710 would have been very interesting years in the Durham family as well as at the Dodson’s plantation next door.

Mary’s Father Dies

In 1711, Mary’s father apparently became ill and wrote his will on August 4th, 3 days after Mary would have celebrated her 10 year wedding anniversary. In Thomas Durham’s will, among others, he mentions daughter Mary Dodson and her son, Thomas Dodson. We now know unquestionably that Thomas was born before August of 1711 and probably named after Thomas Durham, his grandfather.

We can guess, based on the average of one child every other year that Mary had born 5 children by this time. However, given what we know about the rest of her children, and who was living in 1739 when Thomas Dodson made his will, the children born between the first two sons and 1710 or 1711 died. There would have been three children whose names are unknown today that Mary gave birth to and buried, if not as children, then within her lifetime, before Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739. Many children died in an age with no inoculation’s and no antibiotics.

Daughter Alice Dodson’s birth is unrecorded, but about 1729, she married William Creel who was born in 1712, so we’ll count her as being born about 1712 as well.

Thomas Durham, Mary’s father, did not die until 1715, with his will being probated in June of that year. This suggests that he was ill from 1711, 4 years. Thomas would have been about 55 when he died, certainly not old by today’s standards.

Mary would have been 5 months pregnant for daughter Mary when she buried her father. She would have stood at her father’s grave beside her mother with at least three living children, if not more. It would have been a sad day in later winter or spring.

I wonder if Anne Kelly joined the family, bringing Thomas Durham Sr.’s two illegitimate grandchildren, if they were still living, to his funeral.  If so, I’d bet you could cut the tension with a knife between Anne Kelly, Thomas Durham Jr. and his wife who probably had at least one child herself by this time.

Births and Remarriage

Daughter Mary Dodson was born a few months later on October, 5 1715. We know she lived because her father’s will in 1739 mentions her as Mary Oldham.

In February 1716, just 8 months after Mary’s father’s will was probated, her mother, Dorothy remarried to Jeremiah Greenham. This marriage was apparently not a negative turn of events, because the Dodsons and Durhams and Greenhams appear in many documents together. Even more telling is that Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson named a son Greenham, so obviously Jeremiah Greenham was much loved. Greenham Dodson was born sometime between the 1716 marriage and 1720, so let’s assign him to the 1717 slot, given that he was married by 1740.

That means that son David, who wrote a will with a possibly pregnant wife in 1740 would have likely been born about 1719.

A child who would have been born about 1721 is missing, so was probably born and died at some point before Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739.

Son Abraham Dodson was born April 4, 1723 in North Farnham Parish. He married Barbara, surname unknown and moved to Faquier County where he died in 1768.

The Next Generation

Mary’s son, Thomas Dodson Jr. was apparently married in 1724, because on February 21, 1725, Mary’s first grandchild, a grandson, Joseph was born to Thomas and his wife, Elizabeth Rose. Mary was pregnant herself at that time, so her grandson Joseph would be older than her own two youngest children.

Son Joshua Dodson was born May 25, 1725 in North Farnham Parish, three months after her first grandchild was born.  Joshua was living in Faquier County in 1762 with wife Ruth when the Broad Run Church was constituted.

On April 30, 1726, George Dodson left the fold and married Margaret Dagod. That December, a daughter, Mary, named after her grandmother of course, was born to George and Margaret. I wonder if Mary felt particularly close to her namesake granddaughter.

Mary’s last child, Elisha, was born in 1727 when she was 41 years old. Mary had been bearing children for 25 years, a quarter century, risking death with each birth, for herself and the child as well.

Elisha Dodson was born February 22, 1727 in North Farnham Parish. He married Sarah Averitt (Everett) whose parents were William and Margaret Everett.

Four days apart in October of 1728, Mary’s second and third grandchildren arrived, son Lazarus to George Dodson and Margaret Dagod and son Thomas to Thomas Dodson and Elizabeth Rose. What a week that must have been!!! Babies and toddlers everyplace in the Dodson family, as the next generation had begun in earnest.

The Westward Movement Begins

In December 1733, Thomas Dodson Sr, wife Mary, Thomas Dodson Jr. and his wife Elizabeth sold land on the main swamp of Totuskey to Johnathan Lyell. That land sale is actually very helpful, because just below Rich Neck, today, there is a Lyell Church and about 3 or 4 miles northwest of Rich Neck is a Lyells crossroads. This deed which was originally the Thomas Durham Sr. land helps us to locate where this family group lived. You can click to enlarge the map below.

Mary signs this deed with her mark, an M, indicating that she cannot write her name. Education for women in terms of reading and writing was deemed unimportant and unnecessary for women in colonial America.

After this land sale, Thomas Dodson Jr. moved to Prince William County, the part that became Faquier County in 1759 and was a founding member of the Broad Run Baptist Church in 1762.

The Broad Run Church was about 105 miles from Rich Neck, but 100 miles in a wagon was about a 10 day journey, or a couple days if you were just riding a horse. By stage, at least two days, if not 3. Mary may not have seen Thomas’s family again. Perhaps he returned for an occasional visit by horseback. I hope so, for Mary’s sake, but it was very unlikely that his family came along.

Daughter Alice married William Creel about 1729 and by 1746, they too were buying land in Prince William County.

Blindness

About this time, Mary’s son Elisha experienced a devastating eye injury that blinded him for life. We don’t know exactly what happened, but we do know from the Reverend Elias Dodson who wrote about the Dodson family about 1860 that Elisha was blind from an accident or event dating from Elisha’s childhood. I have to wonder what could have been so devastating as to blind him entirely, not just in one eye. Measles, uevitis and trachoma are all 3 diseases known to cause blindness. Some type of accident could have as well, but I suspect an accident would have been more likely to only blind one eye.

Death, Death and More Death

Daughter Mary would probably have married about 1735 and son David, about 1737 or 1738, given that he had one child in 1739 when Thomas Dodson wrote his will.

On February 7, 1739/40, Thomas Dodson penned his will saying he was sick and weak of body. He left Mary the plantation along with all of the negroes and moveable estate during her natural life. He does not say anything about reducing her inheritance to one third or a child’s portion that if she remarries. Clearly, he loved Mary dearly and provided for her as best he could.

Thomas leaves land and other items to their children. Thomas’s will is the only way we know about son David, because David’s birth is not found in the North Farnham Parish register, nor is his marriage, and he lives in another county.

Thomas does not pass away immediately after writing his will. His death is shown in the North Farnham Parish register as occurring on November 21, 1740. Thomas was apparently ill between February and the end of November when he died. Mary would have cared for him for these nine months. Ironic, nine months to bring a child into the world and nine months to usher Thomas to the other side.

Mary’s heart must have been sick with worry and grief. Her son, David, living in Prince William County, wrote his will on April 27, 1740, just 2 months and 20 days after his father wrote his will. David’s will was probated three months later on July 28th, so before Thomas’s death. In February, when Thomas Dodson wrote his will, he left 20 shillings to his granddaughter, the daughter of David Dodson, but two months later, when David wrote his will, the daughter was apparently deceased, because David leaves his slaves to his wife during her lifetime and then to his child, “if my wife should prove to be with child.” I wonder what caused the deaths of David’s child, and David himself, and if they died of the same thing. I wonder if wife Amey was with child, and if so, what happened to Amey and the child.

Of course, communication at that time was by letter, and if the people involved did not read and write, they would have had to have someone write the letters for them, as well as read them when received. News traveled slowly, so the granddaughter may have already died when Thomas Dodson wrote his will. Regardless, that child was dead by the time David Dodson wrote his will, and we don’t know if David’s wife was with child, nor what happened to her. Clearly, Mary couldn’t go to help, had she known, because she had her hands full at home. Mary’s youngest child would have been 12. At least the children were old enough to be of assistance. I would wager that during this time Mary spent many tearful nights alone by the fireplace after everyone else went to bed.

As the months and years rolled on, after Thomas’s death, more grandchildren were born in the rhythmic two year cycle of pregnancy and birth. I hope Mary enjoyed those children in the bright sunshine of the Northern Neck summertime.

Was Robert Galbreath A Scoundrel?

Mary’s life seems to have taken a downturn after Thomas’s death. Thomas’s will was probated on March 2, 1740/41 with Mary and son, Greenham, as executors.

Mary received the plantation with son Elisha inheriting it after her death. We don’t have any record of what happened to that plantation, unfortunately.

Thomas Dodson’s estate inventory should be interesting, if it is detailed, because all items were deemed to have been owned by the man when he died. Therefore all kitchen items, bedding, cloth, spinning wheels, and anything owned by the “couple” or the “woman,” except her clothes and unless it was specifically deeded to her, without him, was legally the mans and inventoried as part of his estate. Even though this practice of exclusive male spousal property ownership, by today’s standards, is barbaric, it does serve to give us a peephole into their lives.  Looking at a man’s estate inventory tells us how the entire household lived.

Eighteen months after Thomas’s death, on September 29, 1743, Mary Durham Dodson married Robert Galbreath and sure enough, lawsuits followed – just 10 months later. Robert Galbreath or Galbraith is not a known name in the neighborhood. One wonders where he came from and how Mary met him and became familiar enough to marry.

On July 3, 1744, in chancery court, Greenham Dodson files on behalf of himself as executor of the estate of Thomas Dodson, and others, against Robert Galbreath. (Court Record Book 11-406)

On May 7, 1745, the suit was resolved and the court decided that the petitioner, Greenham Dodson, should “take possession of the coverture, according to the intention of the testators will” and that he should use it for the benefit of Mary Galbreath during her coverture. Robert Galbreath refused to give security and was ordered to pay costs. (Court Record Book 11-458)

I checked the Virginia Chancery Suit index site for Richmond County, and either those records never made it to the State Library, or they aren’t online yet. I would love to see the entire case file for this suit. More specifically, I want the juicy tidbits. What was the problem? Was Mary in danger, and if so, why? The court’s position is rather extreme, as these judgements go in early Virginia – especially given that women in essence lost rights and property to their husbands when they married. The only saving grace was that at least the land owned by Thomas Dodson wasn’t owned by Mary in fee simple, so Galbreath couldn’t dispose of it, as it was a life estate to go to Elisha at Mary’s death. The balance of the moveable estate that Thomas left, not so. Galbreath would have had the legal right to do anything he wanted with everything not left to someone other than Mary. For the court to remove that right from a colonial male would have been a decision not reached lightly and only due to a serious problem.

That suit doesn’t sound friendly at all, and it wasn’t resolved between July of 1744 and May of 1745 by the parties involved, as is often the case. The term coverture means the legal status of a married woman, considered to be under her husband’s protection and authority. Perhaps the Dodson children felt that Robert Galbreath was utilizing the estate of Thomas Dodson for himself, not for Mary. Mary would have been 57 years old.

This entry is the last record of Mary. After that, the screen goes dark. I worry, posthumously of course, that Mary was in danger or ill and not taken care of in the last months of her life.

I feel good about the fact that Greenham took a stand and was sticking up for his mother, whether it was for the benefit of his mother or whether it was to preserve his father’s estate. Regardless, someone was looking out for Mary’s interests, which were the same as the Thomas Dodson estate’s interests, and was willing to go to court to do so.

We don’t know what happened next. Divorce was unheard of, but Greenham could have “had a man to man talk” with Robert, as it appears that Robert might have hightailed it back to Lancaster County. Mary could simply have continued to live on the land in Richmond County, until she died and the land fell to Elisha, as Thomas’s will indicated. Son Elisha would have been 13 when his father died, so a young man that within just a few years would have been able to run the plantation quite effectively.  By 1744 Elisha would have been 17 and in 1745, 18 years old.  He didn’t need Galbreath to run Thomas Dodson’s plantation.

Following the Trail to Prince William County

In 1746, both Greenham Dodson and William Creel, husband of Alice Dodson Creel are buying land in Prince William County. I feel that Mary likely died about this time, being the impetus for several of Mary’s children to pull up stakes and move west, with nothing holding them in Richmond County any longer.

Elisha would have turned 20 in 1747. Apparently moving west was more attractive than living on the family plantation, because he too moved to Prince William County, although we don’t know when, other than it was before 1762.

Galbreath’s Death

Robert Galbreath died 4 years after Greenham filed and won the suit, but with no mention of a wife. Does that indicate that Mary had died by this time? Did Mary move with Robert to Lancaster County? Or maybe after the suit, she moved with her children to Prince William County? Or did she live with George Dodson in Richmond County, or remain on her own plantation? We’ll never know.

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

Galbreath, Robert. Will. 10 Oct. 1749. Rec. 9 March 1749. Cousin, Richard Weir; Ezekiel Morris; Margaret Carter. Extr. Cousin Richard Weir. Wits; Isaac White, Michael Dillon. W.B. 14, p. 274.

Inventory of above, returned by Isaac White, admr 11 May 1750. W.B. 14, p. 285.

Suit: Isaac White, Pltf. vs Katherine Jones, Defd. Robert Galbreath had made a gift to his daughter-in-law Katherine Carter, since intermarried with Humphrey Jones. Dated 29 Sept. 1752. Rec. 18 June 1753. W.B. 15, p. 139.

The end of Mary’s life may have been difficult, at best. I hope her children sheltered her from whatever storms she encountered.

Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson’s Children

Thomas Dodson and Mary Durham were married on August 1, 1701. Some of their children are well documented, and others are virtually unknown.

George Dodson had a son, Rawleigh born in 1731. The name Rawleigh was shared in Richmond County by Rawleigh Travers, a family member of the Travers family that Charles Dodson, father of Thomas, bought land from, Rawleigh Downman, neighbors of the Dodsons, and Rawleigh Chinn, the son of Alice Smoot born in 1642 who married a Chinn. Alice Smoot was Mary Durham’s aunt. Sir Walter Raleigh may have popularized this name in the early 1600s. I’ve always wondered where the name Rawleigh came from in the Dodson family. Perhaps this is a clue.

  • Thomas Dodson Jr.’s birth is unrecorded, but he was married before 1725 to Elizabeth Rose, suggesting he was born before 1705. About 1733, Thomas moved to Prince William County, the part that became Faquier in 1759 and was a founding member of the Broad Run Baptist Church in 1762. In 1766, Thomas moved to Halifax County, wrote his will in 1779 and died in 1783. In later years, in Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties, the records of various Thomas Dodsons are intermingled and confused.
  • Alice Dodson’s birth is unrecorded, but about 1729 she married William Creel, born in 1712. They had children, one being John Creel born in 1732. Daughter Alice Creel was mentioned in Thomas Dodson’s 1739 will. By 1746, William Creel was buying land in Prince William County and in 1757, William died with Thomas Dodson (Jr.) being one of the men to appraise his estate. His wife was listed at that time as Anne, with Alice apparently having died sometime between 1739 and 1757.
  • Mary Dodson born October 5, 1715 had married an Oldham by the time her father wrote his will in 1739. Nothing more is known about this line.
  • David Dodson’s birth is unrecorded. His wife’s name is Amey, surname unknown. David died in Prince William County in 1740, his will dated April 27th that year and probated in July. He left his wife the use of his slaves and then to his child if his wife should prove to be with child. Thomas Dodson left 30 shillings to his granddaughter, the daughter of David Dodson, but nothing more is known of this child. She probably died between the time that Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739 and David Dodson’s will in 1740. Either that or David omitted his daughter from his will, or the David who died in 1740 is not the son of Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson.
  • Greenham Dodson’s birth is unrecorded, but he was married to Eleanor Hightower by 1740, meaning he was probably born 1715-1720. In 1746, Greenham sold his land in Richmond County and moved to Amelia County. He had moved to Halifax County by 1772 and in 1777, a Greenham Dodson signed a loyalty oath.

I have always wondered about the genesis of the name, Greenham. Jeremiah Greenham married the widow Dorothy Durham in 1716, probably not long before Greenham Dodson’s birth to Thomas and Mary Durham Dodson. Jeremiah would have been Greenham Dodson’s step-grandfather and possibly also his godfather.

  • Abraham Dodson was born April 4, 1723 in North Farnham Parish. He married Barbara, surname unknown and moved to Faquier County by 1762 where he died in 1768.
  • Joshua Dodson was born May 25, 1725 in North Farnham Parish and was living in Faquier County with wife Ruth in 1762 when the Broad Run Church was constituted. Joshua may have lived in Halifax County on his way to Surry County, NC where he settled and may have died there before 1790. It’s also possible that he moved on to South Carolina.
  • Elisha Dodson was born February 22, 1727 in North Farnham Parish. He married Sarah Averitt (Everett) whose parents were William and Margaret Everett. He was left land after his mother’s death, by his father’s will, but there is no record of the disposition of the land. By 1762, he was in Faquier County when his brother, Thomas, released his claim on his father’s estate. In 1774, Elisha moved on to Halifax County where he died in 1796 or 1797. According to the manuscript of the Reverend Elias Dodson, Elisha was blind due to an eye injury as a child.

All of Mary’s sons eventually moved from Richmond County. Thomas Jr. first in 1733 when he sold his land and move to Prince William County, the part that became Faquier in 1759. His siblings would follow over the years.

David left before 1740. Greenham left in 1745, after he filed and won the suit against Robert Galbreath on behalf of his mother and his father’s estate. Did Mary perhaps die at this time or shortly thereafter? Was her ill health what caused Greenham to file suit? Was Robert not caring for her properly? Did Mary’s death free Greenham to move to Prince William County in 1746 along with Mary’s daughter Alice Creel as well? Did Mary’s three youngest sons move with their siblings at this time, or did they stay in Richmond County until later? There is no record of land ownership to help unravel that question.

Given the 1745 lawsuit and the fact that both Greenham, who was obviously looking after his mother’s interests, and daughter Mary left for Prince William County in 1746, I suspect Mary died between 1745 and 1746.

Mary’s son George sold his land in 1756 in Richmond County and appears to have been the last to leave, although we don’t know what happened to George and Margaret after that sale, because they are never recorded elsewhere.  Their children, by virtue of who they married, had to have been living nearby their Dodson cousins. Two of George’s children married other Dodson family members..

In 1762, Thomas Dodson of Faquier County, released his right to his claim on the estate of his father, Thomas, to his brothers; Greenham Dodson of Amelia County, Abraham, Joshua and Elisha of Faquier County. Brother George is notably absent and is not found again after selling his Richmond County land in 1756. One could presume that Mary has died by 1756 – otherwise it’s unlikely that George would have sold and left his mother. By 1762, when Thomas relinquished his right to his share of his father’s estate, and with all of her sons gone from Richmond County, Mary was assuredly buried in the churchyard beside Thomas Dodson.

In 1745, Mary would have been 59 years old, in 1756, age 70 and in 1762, 76 years old.

Where is Mary Buried?

Both Mary and Thomas Dodson died after the new Farnham Parish Church was built in 1737, although their children died before the new church was constructed.

They could have been buried where earlier family members rested but the most likely location for their burial is the cemetery behind the church.  There are no marked graves from this early date. The other possibility of course is that there was a family cemetery, now lost to time, although family cemeteries did not seem to be prevalent in this part of Virginia at this time.

It looks like there is room for lots of unmarked burials in this location.

Mary’s Grandchildren

Eventually, Mary’s 9 children that lived to adulthood would give her a total of 47 known grandchildren, and probably many more. We don’t know how many children Alice Dodson Creel or Mary Dodson Oldham bore. Furthermore, we know that more than 47 had to have been born. Using the known children’s births and a reproductive span of 24/25 years for each woman, giving them the opportunity to have approximately 12 children, spaced 2 years apart, assuming all children lived long enough to nurse for the first year (in many cases, effectively preventing conception of another child,) we calculate that at least 37 additional grandchildren were born and died.

If you add the 47 grandchildren we know about, the 37 that had to have been born and died, and 20 additional births through Alice and Mary, if they survived beyond 1739 when they were recorded in their father’s will, that’s 104 grandchildren.

Of the 34 grandchildren for whom we have documentation, 21 were born in Mary’s lifetime. Two of Mary’s children didn’t begin having children until about the time she died, or after. Mary’s son, George remained in Richmond County and had several children that Mary would have been close to, as he lived on land adjacent to Mary.

Son Thomas left in 1733, taking his grandchildren, aged 8 and under, along with him. That must have been difficult for Mary, seeing her grandchildren leave and knowing she might well not see them again. Mary’s daughters Alice and Mary would have been marrying about that time though, so perhaps those grandchildren that we don’t know about helped to sooth the ache in Mary’s heart. We also don’t know if Alice and Mary remained local or left as well with their husband’s while Mary was still living.

What we do know is that son George stayed, with his children who were probably very close to Mary. Son Greenham stayed until between 1745 and 1746. Mary would have known his children as well. Abraham, Joshua and Elisha were only just beginning their families in the mid-1740s when Mary was aging and probably died.

Mary’s grandchildren’s births spanned roughly half a century, from 1725 to about 1772.

Mary probably had at least one great-grandchild when she died, although she wouldn’t have known the child. Grandson Joseph who was born in 1725 had son Thomas in about 1746, beginning the next generation. Unfortunately, Thomas Jr. had moved to Farquier County in 1733, so unless Mary went along as her sons moved westward, she would never have gotten to hold her great-grandchild.

At least 8 grandchildren died within Mary’s lifetime, meaning that except for David who lived distantly, she would have stood at the funerals and gravesides of 7 grandchildren, and probably 5 of her own children as well. Plus her parents, in-laws, husband and probably at least some of her siblings and their children as well.

Not an easy life, by any means.

Life and Death in Colonial America

I created the chart below to visualize what the “typical” family looked like, in terms of birth, survival and death of children. Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson’s children are listed across the top. The ones in red died or are slots in which we know children would have been born. Mary’s grandchildren are listed in the columns under each child, the red ones known to have died or are unfilled slots – silent sentinels to children who were born and died with no record that they existed except for the blank spot on the chart.

Mary’s two daughters married, but their descendants have never been traced. If the daughters lived after their father’s 1739 will, they would have had additional children as well, not shown below. You can click to enlarge the image.

  • ? Before the name means I’m uncertain if this child is in this family. If not, another child would have filled that slot.
  • ? After the nickname means I’m uncertain if that is this person. For example, there are multiple candidates for “Second Fork” Thomas and the various George nicknames are confused.
  • ? After a first name means that the person’s surname is unknown.
  • Reverend Silas Lucas was unable to differentiate between the later generations of George Dodsons – there is a significant amount of confusion regarding who married whom.
  • Green = my lineage
  • Red = young deaths or children unaccounted for in the birth order, probably born and died
  • No birth years are known for Greenham’s children – placed at 2 year intervals based on estimated marriage and birth dates of their childen, and continued for 25 years.
  • Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739 and died in 1740.
  • Mary Durham Dodson was living in 1745, but in 1749 when her second husband Robert Galbreath wrote his will, she is notably absent, although they may have been living separately.
  • Grey = children who married cousins

Just looking at the amount of known red – that’s a lot of death. At that time, it was considered normal to lose roughly half your children before they reached adulthood.

Looking at this another way, the death of 6 of the children of Mary Durham Dodson reduced the number of descendants a few generations downstream by half, which is literally thousands. Just in the first generation, had those children lived to fully reproduce, that would have been another 72 grandchildren for Mary.

Taking a look at this phenomenon in a chart, you can see the potential in the reduction of descendants with just one missing child, or conversely, the potential addition of descendants in a few generation with just one added child. I stopped around 1900, because that’s the timeframe that birth control became popular and family sizes began to shrink.

Five surviving children per generation is certainly reasonable. Ten is likely too optimistic.

It’s no wonder, though, with that number of descendants in just one generation why people with heavy colonial ancestry have high numbers of autosomal DNA matches.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA, which could tell us a great deal about Mary’s heritage on her direct matrilineal line is MIA. Why is it MIA? Women pass their mitochondrial DNA to each of their children, but only female children pass it on. In order to find Mary’s mitochondrial DNA, we would need to test a descendant of Mary through all females to the current generation, when males are eligible as well.

And of course, it’s the two daughters that we don’t know anything about.

If anyone has done research on the daughters, Alice Dodson married to William Creel, or Mary Dodson who married an Oldham, please speak up. Not only can we update their information, but we may be able to find an appropriate person to test for Mary’s mitochondrial DNA. I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first eligible person.

Summary

Mary’s was probably a typically colonial wife, albeit marrying very young. Depending on the family social standing, Mary’s life could have ranged from helping in the fields to overseeing the household and the “domestics” inside. We do know that at least by the time Thomas Dodson died, he did own slaves in addition to at least one indentured servant during his lifetime. Most of the labor would have been for the growth and harvesting of tobacco, and not for household labor. Their “plantation” was probably modest. The Northern Neck was not Tara and they did not own one of the mansion houses.

Mary’s life was probably defined by church and children. While church attendance was mandatory, and men were fined for non-attendance, religion seemed to sooth the heart of those who endured devastating losses. And pretty much everyone who had children experienced devastating losses. In Mary’s case, probably 5 or 6 children died in her lifetime, possibly more, not to mention several grandchildren, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and her husband. Death is a part of the cycle of life, but that’s an awful lot of death to endure, at least by today’s standards.

Yet, Mary continued to function. She had more children. She went to church and when necessary, she went to the cemetery which was certainly a place far too familiar.

The early cemeteries, whether on plantations or in churchyards are lost to time. Few stones exist on the Northern Neck for people who were born before the mid-1800s. The location of the early Farnham Parish Church is lost to us today, too, and that may have been where family members were buried before the present church was built in 1737. Plantations, and all farms then were considered plantations, may have had their own cemeteries, now reclaimed by Mother Nature or development.

In many ways, the fact that the Northern Neck is a peninsula and not easily accessible has protected it from development, so the unmarked and unknown graves of the colonial planters may still remain unmolested as they rest in peace on one of the first American frontiers.