Ancestors of Frank Pierce Davis and Mary Hinton Duke
Welcome to the Davis Family Reunion 1998! I volunteered to put together a brief genealogical and historical sketch of the ancestors of Frank Pierce Davis and Mary Hinton Duke. I hope you enjoy reading about our ancestors.
The details of the ancestry of Frank Pierce Davis and Mary Hinton Duke are becoming clearer all the time as new records and documents are abstracted. Our ancestors did us a great favor by staying around the Warren County, North Carolina area for almost 150 years when many of their peers moved to other southern states.
The information contained in this family history is the best I know as of May, 1998 after a significant review of records of North Carolina and Virginia. It seems, at times, that we are related to every lightly documented person in both states, because very little has ever been published that is truly useful.
Some of our ancestors are easier to identify because they lived in areas that have good records available to us today. Identifying the exact relationships of our lightly documented ancestors has been based on best available information, if a reasonably accurate picture can be created from the evidence. For instance, the references to the Coffields, few in number as they are, can still produce a sufficiently predictable pattern to identify our ancestors, but the Powells have so many lines and options that even a guess at this time is unwise. I expect that this update and refinement process of our family history will be continued by those family members who have an interest in genealogy and that additional changes to our family tree will be made as new records become available and/or existing information is better understood.
A word of caution is in order. There are genealogical books on the Alstons, Blakes, Davises, Dukes, Myricks, and Hintons that mention lines of our ancestors. Some of the details from these publications provide excellent insights into our ancestors and are included in the histories. Although well intentioned, the conclusions reached in these books were frequently incorrect in their attempts to identify our progenitors’ immigrant origins. The specific problems with the author’s reasoning will be provided with each family.
The format for the histories is meant to be simple and straightforward. The histories are listed alphabetically by family, with entries in each family listed in descending order from earliest ancestor to the most recent. Each family history begins with summary information and controversies, or in most cases speculation, about their place of origin. These summaries are followed by a history by family unit. The page number next to our ancestor’s name and above each paragraph references the accompanying pedigree charts following the histories. Where there are two or more lines of the same family name, they are grouped together under the family subheading to add continuity. Information about husband and wife is found together in the same history. Unfortunately, women’s activities were seldom recorded before 1900, so the details are scarce.
At the very end of the family histories are a page of map references followed by 3 pages of maps, showing the location of some of our ancestors at various times. These maps show the existing roads of about 1728 and show county boundaries as they exist in later years. I have included the map references into the text as well to add continuity to the history.
Supplemental Information to Assist the Reader
Society Status Overview
The English society prior to the American Revolution was very class sensitive. In Virginia, it was less structured (no lords and barons) but still kept the class groupings. The class of the man determined some of the activities in the community in which he could participate. His widow retained whatever status her husband had attained at his decease. The title “Mr.” was given only to certain individuals and it represented a status in the community.
Persons of the highest level of society made up the smallest group. They were usually educated and by definition could read and write. The men held the important government and church positions typically at early ages or shortly after their arrival in the New World. They were usually the biggest landholders and probably had servants and/or slaves.
The middle class typically owned property, most likely could read and write, were allowed to participate on juries and other routine court proceedings, and were otherwise visible in society. The lower class were servants or otherwise poor individuals who through diligence could ultimately own land. They were illiterate and were rarely documented in the records of their day. It was possible to move up in class, but it didn’t happen quickly or easily.
So why do we care about society status? Take for instance John Hinton. He was reported to be the grandson of Sir James Hinton who was very, very wealthy and a financier of the Virginia Company in the 1620s. This still may be true, but the facts point in another direction. When John Hinton came to North Carolina, someone else paid his way here and he was illiterate, behaviors more typical of the servant or lower class than the upper class. One would expect Sir James’ children and grandchildren to be well educated and to have positions of prominence in the English society, so our John Hinton as a grandchild of Sir James does not make sense. Problems of society status with the Dukes and Blakes are similar in nature, with their activities in the community being inconsistent with the economic class of their supposed parents and grandparents.
We are very fortunate that our ancestors, although lightly documented, mostly stayed in counties where there are good records. There are really only two exceptions where records are poor. The records of Nansemond County, Virginia are essentially nonexistent before 1740, and the court records of Northampton County, North Carolina are missing before 1780. When up against these problem counties, I have tried to make the best of a bad situation by using alternate sources of information where available.
In addition, one could go nuts trying to keep the county borders straight in Virginia and North Carolina from 1630 to 1800. I am going to take a short cut to keep the confusion to a minimum by designating an area by name, rather than worrying about what county the region is in at any given time. The three maps found after the family histories may help to make the process more understandable.
The region in North Carolina where the Dukes, Clantons, Davises, Cheeks, Blakes, and others settled I am calling the “Fishing Creek” region in the narrative below. This Fishing Creek region was located in Edgecombe County, North Carolina until 1746. When the county split at that time, Fishing Creek became part of Granville County. This same region then became Bute County in 1764 and Warren County in 1779.
Here is a brief summary of the county splits that affected our ancestors:
Prince George County split in
1720 and became Prince George and Brunswick.
Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676
One of the impressions left by historians is that the lion’s share of those who were willing to go to war with England were in the New England States. However, there was a deep-seated dislike for English rule in parts of Virginia and North Carolina as well.
Governor Berkeley was the governor of Virginia when Bacon’s rebellion took place. He was a good administrator but had a real tyrannical streak. He also lined his pockets well from trading with the Indians. However, many Virginians had nothing but trouble from the Indians and called on the House of Burgesses, their legislature, for help. They wanted forts erected for their protection. Governor Berkeley did not want to harm his “income stream” from the Indians and would not grant any concessions to alleviate the problem.
A young burgess by the name of Nathaniel Bacon took the law in his own hands and raised a force that defeated the Indians in a battle. He became a hero as a result. His supporters tried again over the next couple of months to get the governor to respond to their Indian problems but Governor Berkeley would not act. Finally, Nathaniel Bacon and his followers began an uprising against the governor about June, 1676 that was initially successful. He chased the governor from Jamestown to eastern Virginia. Unfortunately, Nathaniel Bacon died of dysentery in October, 1676, leaving the rebellion in leaderless disarray. Those loyal to the governor then took control and punished the rebels as they saw fit.
Most of our ancestors who picked sides fought against the governor. It is interesting to note that many of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Nathaniel Bacon’s followers settled around the Fishing Creek region and regions to the west. Governor Tryon of North Carolina found this group to be of a rebellious nature in the 1770s as well. This might explain why there were “no Tories [supporters of the king] in Bute County,” as one author put it.
I want to thank Clarence Davis, Dick Davis, Roy Davis, David Gammon, Irene Harrison, and David Kent for reviewing this material. I also want to thank my wife Marsha for her editing skills and other helpful suggestions, which have made this historical sketch more readable.
Again, I hope you enjoy these brief histories. I have tried to keep them simple and relatively free of genealogical proofs. If you wish to discuss any of this information with me further or receive a GEDCOM providing the details, please send me a note. My address is 9815 Fosbak Drive, Vienna, VA 22182.
A book on the Alston family by Joseph A. Groves written about 1900 has added a lot of good information on immigrant John Alston and his descendants. Unfortunately it also did a real disservice to pre-North Carolina Alston research by speculating incorrectly about his parentage without any real research. The information about John Alston’s spouse was also not correct. Consequently, there is a lot of misinformation on the Alston family that continues in print. It wasn’t until about 20 years ago that the editor of what is now the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal showed fallacies of Mr. Groves’ work.
My best guess as to where the Alstons came from is Wethersfield, Essex, England. It is the only place in England on the IGI where one can find a Solomon Alston along with Johns, Phillips and Williams also being mentioned in the same family. Traditionally the English used the same given names over and over through multiple generations so finding these same names raises the probability of success. This Essex County, England possibility has not been researched to date, so I do not know anything beyond just speculation.
John (page 14)
John Alston was born about 1680, probably in England, and married Mary --- (last name not likely Clark) about 1699. He had obtained upper class status. It is very possible that he is the John Alston mentioned in the Surry County, Virginia Court records in 1700. The reason for this conclusion is that 20 years later he seemed to know the relatives of those same Surry County individuals while he was living in Chowan County, North Carolina.
His first recorded North Carolina transaction was the purchase of 50 acres in Chowan County about 1713 (Map B Number 4). He was a member of the county militia and rose to the office of colonel. He was also appointed to be an assistant to Chief Justice Gale of the North Carolina State Court in 1726. He was a vestryman in the local parish. He was also a large landholder and passed much land on to his children at his death about 1758 in Chowan County. His son Solomon and his daughter Sarah, who married Thomas Kearney, were both ancestors.
Solomon (page 4)
Solomon Alston was born about 1701 in Virginia or England. He married Ann “Nancy” Hinton about 1729. He grew up in Chowan County, lived in Edgecombe County for a period of time, and eventually moved to the Fishing Creek region in the 1750s. He was a justice in Granville County from 1761 to 1763. He was an extensive land owner who bought and sold land in several different counties and passed a lot of land on to his children. He had a son who fought in the Revolutionary War. He died about 1785 in Warren County.
James (page 4)
James Alston was born in Edgecombe County on 1 Feb 1754. He first married Sarah Kearney on 24 Jan 1780 and later married Sallie Macon, widow of John Hawkins, in Sep 1804. Sarah Kearney came from a wealthy family. James inherited quite a lot of land from his father and had 31 slaves in the census of 1790. However, he did not live long enough to enjoy it much. Nearly all of his children were under age at his death on 27 Feb 1805. He owned 3,600 acres and 32 slaves when he died. His daughter Mary Hinton married Robert Tynes Cheek.
Virginia has plenty of Blake families in various counties before 1700. There are Blakes in York, Surry, Nansemond, and Isle of Wight counties, to name a few. It is reported that one of the Nansemond Blakes was provoked by a series of events and ended up moving to the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia. He then changed his name to Black and later donated the land for the town of Blacksburg where VPI (Virginia Tech) is now located.
One genealogist has tried to tie us to Sir Robert Blake, a famous English war hero. Unfortunately, our ancestor Thomas Blake was illiterate, meaning that he was probably in the lower class. It may be possible to gain some additional insight into his ancestry because he may have had a brother or close relative named John Blake who immigrated to the same vicinity about the same time as our Thomas.
Thomas (page 13)
Thomas was born about 1644 possibly in England and married Alice --- about 1669 after he migrated to Virginia. He did bring with him a little money because his first appearances in the records were a purchase of 240 acres (Map A Number 13) and another land purchase shortly thereafter. He sided with Bacon in Bacon’s Rebellion and was later required to sign an oath of loyalty to the crown in 1677. For the most part, he stayed out of the records and went about his life in a quiet way. He died about 1709, leaving a will which bequeathed his land to his wife. She sold this land after his death.
William Sr. (page 13)
William Blake was born about 1670 in Isle of Wight County, Virginia and married Mary Sessums of Surry County about 1703. Both families lived next to the county line, a probably only a couple miles apart. Possibly as a wedding gift, his father-in-law Nicholas Sessums gave him and his wife 200 acres of land to start off life with. William wasted no time buying more land in both Surry and Isle of Wight Counties. Some of his children are only mentioned in the will of his father-in-law. William died about 1746 in Isle of Wight County. He does not mention son William Jr. in his will, which has caused some confusion as to their relationship. However, son William is referred to as William Blake Jr. on several occasions and is mentioned in William Sr.’s estate records. It was a common practice to give children their inheritances when they left home, not waiting for a distribution only as a result of a will.
William Jr. (page 4)
William Blake was born about 1706 in Isle of Wight County, Virginia and married Elizabeth ---, possibly a Coffield or a Tynes. He bought and sold a piece of property in Isle of Wight County before migrating to North Carolina.
He was probably the first of our ancestors to purchase land in the Fishing Creek region when he bought 300 acres in 1745. He assisted in building a new road into the Fishing Creek region in 1753. There are conflicting records as to whether he was a mill operator. He did not leave a will, but Granville County tax lists and his gift of land to his son-in-law William Cheek enabled me to identify some of his children.
Just to make his genealogical trail a tad interesting, he moved from Fishing Creek region to Johnston County, North Carolina for a few years before returning back to the Fishing Creek region. He sons ended up living in Johnston County on a permanent basis. He was dead by 1780. His daughter Sarah married William Cheek.
There are three Blunt/Blount families that one has to grapple with in Virginia and North Carolina. The largest group I refer to as the “notable Blounts.” They moved to North Carolina before 1700 and had lots of male progeny. Most of the Blounts of eastern North Carolina and the early Tennessee politicians of that name come from this family. The second family are the Blunts of Surry County, Virginia. They are a very large family with lots of male progeny as well. This group did not venture much into North Carolina. Our ancestors, whom I affectionately refer to as the “tiny Blounts,” immigrated to the Isle of Wight. For the first few generations, they were few in number.
The Blounts probably came from England. One genealogist has guessed that they lived a while in Maryland, but no proof was given for that conclusion. The family name was called Blunt in Virginia and was changed to Blount when the line relocated to North Carolina. Anyway, a contemporary to our first Richard Blunt was a William Blunt. He could very likely be a cousin, brother, or uncle of our Richard Sr., but that is speculation at this time.
Richard Sr. (page 11)
Richard Blount Sr. was born about 1660 and married Susannah Crews about 1684. Susannah’s family were Quakers. He may have been a participant in Bacon’s Rebellion. Richard lived a very short time, dying about 28 years old. He had at least two children. Before he died, he entered into a 99-year lease with one John Giles for 400 acres of land. This lease passed on to his son Richard Jr. His wife Susannah spent several years settling his estate; it is not known if she remarried.
Richard Jr. (page 11)
Richard was born about 1685 and married Mary Browne about 1709 in Isle of Wight County. He was orphaned at the age of two or three years; nevertheless, he was well watched out for. In 1698, his uncle John Crews gave him the “land and house” that his father had been leasing when he died. As time went along, he purchased other pieces of property that he passed along to his sons. He must have been very well thought of because he was very actively involved in settling the estates of his relatives. One of these relatives was brother-in-law John Davis who married his sister Susannah. Both Richard’s and John’s children moved to the same place in Edgecombe County, North Carolina and continued their acquaintance. Richard died in Isle of Wight County about 1741.
Richard III (page 11)
Richard Blount was born about 1711 and married Ann --- about 1731. He got a good start in life when his father gave him 110 acres of land, probably shortly after he reached the age of majority. In 1744, he migrated to Edgecombe County, North Carolina and purchased land. He bought and sold a couple of pieces of land over the next few years. His land became part of Halifax County when it was created in 1759. He did not have a will, but he did give his land to his children. He died about 1761. His wife may have married secondly a George Bell, and if so, she left a will in 1764.
Richard IV (page 3)
Richard was born about 1732 in Isle of Wight County, Virginia and married about 1753; the name of his wife is not known. He had a couple of sisters who seemed to have been given land by his father Richard Blount III. He eventually purchased 100 acres from his sister Patience, which may have been all the land he ever owned. He was also subpoenaed to appear in court in 1768. He died at a young age, leaving 7 very young children. His wife then married Arthur Davis, who is also an ancestor by another line (see below).
John (page 3)
John Blount was born in Halifax County in 1765 and married Martha Davis about 1785. Martha was a daughter of John’s stepfather Arthur Davis. John was about 5 when his father died. John relocated to Nash County after 1790 where he died about 1793. He had two daughters. We descend from Sarah Blount (not Martha Blount as has been reported in some genealogies). Sarah married Benjamin Powell.
The origin of the Briggs family is not known but is suspected to be England. When Richard Briggs arrived in Surry County, Virginia there was already another Briggs family living in the area. It is not known whether there was a relationship between the two families but the odds are against that being the case. Both families coincidentally dealt extensively with families named Browne, but those families also appear to be unrelated to each other or either Briggs family.
Richard (page 29)
Richard was born about 1634 and married Margaret --- probably in England about 1656. Their first four children seemed to have been born in England before they migrated to Virginia about 1665. About 1669, he purchased 500 acres of land in Surry County (Map A Number 5). He migrated from Surry County to Isle of Wight County about 1676. He was very active in the Isle of Wight County records until his death in 1679. All of his children were under age at the time of his death. He left one of his children in the care of Dr. John Spier of Nansemond County, another of our ancestors. His wife Margaret died four years later. His daughter, whose name is not known, married William Browne.
Brothers seems to be a very peculiar surname. However, there are no less than three different Brothers families in Virginia and North Carolina before 1720. All families had to be studied to determine which one we descended from. The origin of the family is not known but England is suspected. Our family lived for several generations in Nansemond County, Virginia so records about them are scare.
John (page 17)
John Brothers came to Nansemond County, Virginia. The name of his wife is not known. He first appears in the records about 1685, when he bought 100 acres on the western branch of the Nansemond River in Nansemond County (Map A Number 17). He had sons John Jr. and Richard. John Sr. was probably dead by 1700.
John Jr. married and had three children. John Jr. and his wife and children were all dead by 1710. Richard’s son Richard Jr. ultimately became the heir to the estate of immigrant John Brothers Sr.
Richard Sr. (page 17)
Richard Brothers Sr. was born about 1681 in Nansemond County, Virginia; the name of his wife is not known, although it could be Catherine ---. He shows up in the record books primarily because of his land purchases and witnessing of land transactions. He also buys and sells land in Bertie County, North Carolina. He died about 1732.
Richard Jr. (page 17)
Richard Brothers Jr. was born about 1712 in Nansemond County. The name of his wife is not known, but it is possible she was a daughter of William Sumner. We know that he was a grandson of John Brothers because he received his grandfather’s land by being the next of kin. He bought and sold land in addition to what he had inherited. Sometime while growing up in Nansemond County, his family must have become acquainted with the Kearney Family for his daughter Sarah to have married Edmund Kearney.
There are several Brown(e) families in Isle of Wight and as an understatement they have not been all sorted out yet. Additional research could bring about a better understanding of this family.
William (page 11)
William Browne was born about 1656 probably in England and married --- Briggs about 1680. His goal in life must have been to see how many estate appraisals he could help complete. That is about the only way he shows up in the records. We learn of his daughter Mary’s marriage to Richard Blunt Jr. because it is mentioned in William’s estate record. He was dead by 1709.
In the Virginia Genealogist, there is a long series of articles by Alberta M. Dennstedt called “The Cheatham Family of Colonial Virginia” which provides much detail about the background on this family. The best guess as to the origins of this family is England.
Thomas (page 25)
Thomas Cheatham was born about 1645, probably in England. His first wife’s name is not known; he married secondly Margaret ---. The first wife appears to be the mother of his large family of children. He first migrated to York County before 1670. By 1677, he had relocated to Henrico County where he lived the remainder of his days. He purchased several pieces of land (Map A Number 11) which he willed to his children. He died in 1720 in Henrico County.
Benjamin (page 8)
Benjamin Cheatham was born about 1693 in Henrico County, Virginia and married firstly Elizabeth --- and secondly Grace Williams in 1747. His father had given him a good start in life and consequently he was able to start accumulating land at an early age. His land became part of Chesterfield County when it was created. He died about 1765. His daughter Angelico married Samuel Pitchford Jr.
Our Cheek family first appears in Virginia about 1724 in Spottsylvania County, Virginia. That county and the surrounding counties were the home of all the Cheeks in Virginia at the time. After careful review of all of these other Cheek families, it is my opinion that we are not related to any of them very closely if at all. They do not associate with the same members of the community as our Cheek ancestors or have any obvious commonality.
Richard (page 4)
Richard Cheek was born about 1695 probably in England. He married Jane --- also probably in England. He appears to be of the upper class. He first appears in the record books purchasing 70 acres of land in 1724 (Map A Number 7). While in Spottsylvania County, he served as a constable and deputy sheriff. He was also respected in the community, and that is how he is distinguished from the other Richard Cheek (eventually convicted of arson) who relocated to Spottsylvania County about 1728 from neighboring Essex County.
Sometime about 1735, he moved from Spottsylvania County, Virginia to Edgecombe County, North Carolina. This was a most uncommon migration trek for that time. The only possible guess as to why he made this move is that some of his family had become sympathetic to the Quaker religion and wanted to join the North Carolina congregation. Richard was an active member of the Church of England in Spottsylvania County and possibly had his feelings hurt. He purchased 400 acres on a creek that separates Beaufort and Edgecombe counties (Map B Number 3). He evidently built a grist mill on this creek. As a result, this creek was called Cheek’s Mill Creek for at least 50 years after his death. He died about 1745.
William (page 4)
William Cheek was born about 1722 probably in Spottsylvania County, Virginia. He married Sarah Blake after his family’s move to North Carolina. He was given 150 acres of land in his father’s will and bought and sold land most of his life. He was also given land by his father-in-law William Blake. He located in the Fishing Creek region before 1754, because he was a member of the Granville County militia in that year. He performed a number of services for the community such as overseeing road construction and helping to find locations for the building of grist mills. On one occasion, he was asked to build a bridge over Fishing Creek sufficient to support “wheeled carriages.” He was a constable in the year 1775 as well as performing other civic duties. His son William fought in the Revolutionary War. Toward the end of his life, he began disbursing his estate to his children and grandchildren. He died about 1799 in Warren County.
Robert Tynes (page 4)
Robert Tynes Cheek was born about the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He married Mary Hinton Alston. He was very active in the community and was found frequently on legal documents. He owned an establishment called Eagle Tavern in Warrenton. He seemed to have been a guardian to a number of individuals. He died in May, 1841. He was the first family financier. In his inventory taken at the time of his death, there is mention of his owning shares of stock in two local manufacturing facilities. His wife Mary outlived her husband by 23 years.
James Augustus (page 1)
James Augustus Cheek was born in Warren County and lived his entire life there. He married Emily Marshall about 1832. He lived to see several of his children fight and die during the Civil War. He was the last slave holder in the Cheek line. He himself died during the Civil War period. His daughter Mary Coffield Cheek married James Alfred Davis.
The origin of the Clantons is unknown. The best guess would be somewhere in Great Britain.
William Sr. (page 23)
William first appears in Surry County, Virginia about 1686. He married Mary --- probably in Virginia. He is not known to have purchased any land but did leave us a will in 1725 in Surry County which was a great help in tracing his seven children.
Edward (page 23)
Edward Clanton was born about 1697 in Surry County, Virginia and married Sarah --- about 1721. His first land purchase was in Surry County about 1725 (Map A Number 15). In 1738, he had relocated to Brunswick County where he started to accumulate additional land. Unfortunately he did not live very long to enjoy it because he was dead by 1741. His wife survived him by 8 years and left a very detailed will.
William Sr. - son of Edward (page 6)
William Clanton Sr. was born about 1722 in Surry County, Virginia. He married about 1744 in Brunswick County, Virginia but his wife’s name is not known. Shortly after the death of his mother in 1749, he migrated to the Fishing Creek region where he died about 1764 leaving children who were under age. His daughter Elizabeth married Matthew Duke Sr.
William Jr. - son of William Sr. (page 6)
born about 1745 in Brunswick County, Virginia and married Francis ---.
She outlived him and married secondly Thomas Lanier and then thirdly
another of our ancestors William Duke. She outlived William Duke as
well and died in 1821. William Clanton stayed very quiet in the
records, only buying and selling land and normal appearance in the tax
records. His died in 1789. William’s daughter Susannah
married William Gunn.
The Coffields came from England and may have been living in the London area prior to immigrating. It is unfortunate that the Coffields took up residence in Nansemond County for about their first 100 years in Virginia. Nansemond County records are pretty much nonexistent during that period of time. Nevertheless, there are enough records to give us some idea of their genealogy because there was so few of them and they behaved in a understandable fashion.
Gresham Sr. (page 31)
Gresham Coffield arrived on the ship “Tristram and Jane” that left London in April 1637. This was a shipload of servants being delivered to Virginia. He may have been our first ancestor to permanently settle in Virginia. He and a Thomas Stamp purchased 200 acres of land in August, 1638 (Map A Number 3) so he either had a little money with him when he came or he was well paid as a servant. This land was in Isle of Wight County when it was purchased but became a part of Nansemond County by some form of border change. He or his son Gresham was on this same land 25 years later.
It is possible that Gresham Sr. and Gresham Jr. are the same person. If that be the case, then Gresham would have had to marry twice and the second wife would have to be 20 years younger than the first wife in order to reconcile his children’s ages.
Gresham Jr. (page 19)
Gresham was born about 1640 in Nansemond County, Virginia; his wife is not known. Because of the lost county records, he only shows up in the records two times. The first time is as a resident on the land that his father purchased in 1665. The other time he was on a jury in 1676 that decided who should be the owner of a particular piece of property. He may have been the father of four children and the ancestor of all the Coffields in eastern North Carolina as well as our branch. His son William wandered over to neighboring Norfolk County to get married , helping to better document this family.
Gresham III (page 19)
Gresham Coffield III was born about 1668 in Nansemond County, Virginia; his wife is not known. He shows up in the records once as owning 350 acres in Nansemond County in 1704. William seems to have been the only known son of Gresham Coffield III and seems to have inherited his property.
William (page 19)
William Coffield was born about 1700 in Nansemond County, Virginia. His wife’s name is unknown but she probably was related to or was a member of the Spier family. Records on him are sketchy, but he appears to have lived his life in Nansemond County and died there sometime after 1745. It is not proven that he is the father of Benjamin mentioned below, but that appears most likely at the current time after studying the available options made easier because Coffield is such an uncommon name.
Benjamin (page 5)
Benjamin Coffield was born about 1720 in Nansemond County, Virginia. He married firstly Beatrice Spier about 1745 and later Rosannah ---, the widow of Jacob Summerell. About the time he reached the age of majority, he migrated to Edgecombe County, North Carolina. He bought and sold several properties over the course of his life (Map B Number 10). He somehow managed to upset the local leaders because he and two others were sued in court by the “King” in 1756. Their crime must not have been too serious because no unfavorable results of this suit were recorded.
The name of his
daughter who married Elijah Pitman, from whom we descend, is unknown.
She is not mentioned by name in Benjamin’s will and can only be placed as
a daughter of Benjamin by inference. This might be another case where she
received her inheritance from her father when she left home and then was
not mentioned in his will. None of Benjamin’s brothers and sisters,
being the only other Coffields in the reasonable vicinity, can be the
mother or father of our ancestor.
The Crews family were of English stock and religious in nature. They were Quakers and their religious convictions may have provided the impetus for their coming to Virginia.
John (page 28)
John Crews was born in England
about 1635. The name of his wife is unknown. He first appeared
in the records in 1663 as a landholder (Map A Number 6). It
is not known when he purchased the land. He died sometime before
1684. His daughter Susannah married Richard Blunt Sr.
My grandmother, Vesta Davis, had told me several stories over the years about my Davis ancestors, some of which are found in the Davis book by Agnes H. Davis and Lulu H. Skillman. It seemed straight forward enough to document these stories since someone else had done most of the work already. For instance, there is a family story that Peter Davis, while living in the same house, was a resident of 4 different counties beginning sometime before 1746. The land, tax, and court records of all 4 counties are excellent, so I began my in depth analysis. I found no record of Peter Davis until 1754, no land purchase of his until 1755, and he even sold this land 4 years later and moved from that property a short distance away to the other side of Fishing Creek where he seems to have lived the rest of his life. All in all, to my great surprise, my research of the records brought me to conclusions that were very much different than family folklore.
Davises are typically identified as having come from counties within Wales; perhaps ours did as well. However, it is interesting to note that the majority of Davises who came to Virginia, whose origins in the Old World are known, can be traced to counties of England and not Wales. There is circumstantial evidence that our Davises came from one of possibly four or five parishes on the northwest of London. These parishes provided quite a large number of immigrants to the colonies. In addition, there are quite a few Peter and Arthur Davises on these parish rolls. This avenue of searching for Davises in England has not been pursued.
Research in Virginia can get confusing with the many different Davis families running around, but they can be sorted out by careful study of the available records. In Isle of Wight County alone, there are at least 6 different adult John Davises were living in the year 1720.
Peter (page 10)
Peter Davis and his brother Arthur were of the servant class. Arthur immigrated to Virginia before 1675. It is not known when Peter arrived or if he was born in Virginia (unlikely possibility). Both appear in households in Surry County near where Lawnes Creek empties into the James River (Map A number 1) very close to where Bacon’s Castle is today. Arthur was working on the Swann plantation and Peter was working on the nearby Rogers plantation by 1675.
Arthur was very active in Surry County records. He married three times and seems to have increased his social position with each marriage. Peter remained very stealthy his entire life, disappearing from the records for many years at a time which is not uncommon for servants. His wife is not known but is possibly named Anne ---. Peter was a farmer by occupation and eventually moved to North Carolina by 1713 and may have been living on someone else’s land. His brother Arthur followed a few years later.
Peter had started to purchase some land in Chowan County by the time he wrote his will in 1719. He died about 1720 before his land purchase was complete (Map B Number 2); fortunately for us, he left a will. He mentions a wife (not by name), daughter Sarah, (who was under 16 at the time and who later completed his land purchase and took possession), brother Arthur, and two step-nephews then living in Virginia. His wife was dead by 1721.
Without Peter Davis’ will, the Davis puzzle would have been really confusing. However, it is unfortunate that he did not list all his children in his will (they may have received their portion earlier). Lewis Davis was a known son not mentioned in the will. An Arthur Davis is also strongly suspected to be a son since this Arthur and Lewis frequently relocated at the same time to the same place. Furthermore, I believe that there was a third son named John Davis who married a Susannah Blount, sister to the Richard Blount Jr. mentioned above. John Davis was the father of Thomas Davis who later migrated to Edgecombe County, North Carolina, died by 1765, and became the progenitor of a large group of Davises in neighboring counties.
Lewis (page 2)
Lewis Davis was born about 1693 in Surry County. The name of his wife is unknown. She is thought to be a Dawson or Dawson relative because of how often the middle name Dawson is used in the Davis line. He was an adventurous person who moved around quite a bit.
He first appeared in the records in Chowan County, North Carolina in 1715, having a power of attorney from another of our ancestors, John Hardy. He evidently tried his hand at the law for about 5 years, representing several clients in land purchases both in North Carolina and Virginia. He was illiterate, which may have been one reason for his law career not working out.
He earned enough money that he was able to start buying land on his own by 1720 (Map B Number 1). He lived in Chowan County, which in 1723 became a part of Bertie County. In 1730, he and brother Arthur moved to Tyrrell County (Map B Number 11), which was his home until about 1747 when he moved slightly westward into Edgecombe County. He then started to unload some of his land in other counties, including land inherited from his sister Sarah when she died without heirs.
In 1754, he purchased 640 acres on Fishing Creek about the same place and within three months of Peter Davis of Warren County’s first appearance (Map C Number 1). I believe that Peter Davis’ 1755 land purchase near Fishing Creek was next door to Lewis’ purchase. Peter’s land record only provides his neighbors’ last name “Davis” without giving a first name. There is no other Davis that is known to own land on Fishing Creek before 1755. Since Lewis had a father named Peter, it is very likely that Peter is the son of Lewis. Further work needs to be done to validate this hypothesis. Lewis Davis died about 1761.
Peter (page 2)
Peter Davis has been our most mysterious ancestor and the one who has attracted the most concerted effort to seek his identity. His obituary tells us he was born about 1727. His first documented appearance is on a tax list of the Fishing Creek region in July, 1754 (Map C Number 1). He was a resident of the community and was on the Granville muster list of that fall. He was able to buy property by 1755 next to a Mr. Davis (best available information is that this Davis is probably father Lewis) and continued his residence near this general vicinity until his death in January, 1804. As a farmer, he raised a wide variety of crops including cotton. For the most part, he chose to stay out of the court records. He occasionally was on a jury or helped with the tax collecting process. His son Buckner was a justice for Warren County.
He married twice and perhaps three times. The name of his first wife (or wives) is not known but there is a tradition, albeit undocumented and perhaps speculative, that one wife’s name was Amy. The oldest five children have mostly common Virginia names, indicating that his first wife could have been of Virginia origin. Ten years after the births of the oldest five children, another four children were born. This 10-year age gap indicates a possible additional unidentified spouse.
One interesting thing that has come to light recently on a Granville tax record is another son for Peter. His name is Stephen and he has to be the oldest child since he was probably born in 1747. He lived to be at least 16 years old but probably did not reach 21.
Peter married lastly Hannah Turner before 1780 who was about 20 years younger than he; there were 5 children from that marriage. Family folklore has him eloping with Hannah. The marriage to Hannah and the subsequent will of his father-in-law Thomas Turner provided him with his first set of slaves.
Burwell (page 2)
Many details about Burwell Davis are available because of his Revolutionary War pension request. He was born in the Fishing Creek region on 14 Aug 1756 not far from where he died in 1846. He married Martha Hawkins who was a few years younger. He was drafted twice into the Revolutionary War. On his first tour, he was enlisted for six months. His unit was sent to South Carolina but was not required to engage the enemy. His second stint included the battle of Guilford County Courthouse. This battle was lost by the Colonials but had a significant impact by slowing British momentum and changing the course of the War. Somehow, according to court records, Burwell was not called on to fight on this occasion either.
Burwell was a farmer and a slaveholder. He lived to be almost 90 years old, outlived his younger wife, and died on 11 Aug 1846 in Warren County.
John Shakespeare (page 1)
John Shakespeare Davis was born right before the War of 1812. He married Martha Blount Powell. He was the last of the Davis line to be a slave holder for most of his life. He inherited 200 acres of land from his father and seems to have been in the farming business. Several of his children fought in the Civil War. He died 14 Oct 1873. His will left his children land rich but cash poor. His son James Alfred Davis, the executor (who made quite a few court appearances sorting things out), had to sell land to pay off debts, which brought him more legal problems, but he ultimately got the job done.
James Alfred (page 1)
James Alfred Davis lived his life pretty much in Warren County. He married Mary Coffield Cheek. He was a farmer by trade and raised various crops. He spent the entire Civil War as a soldier and spent a period of time as a prisoner of war in New York State. His wife Mary was a school teacher in Warrenton for a few years. He died about June, 1895.
Frank Pierce (page 1)
Frank Pierce Davis was born three years after the Civil War and lived his early years in the Warrenton area. In 1890 he was married to Mary Hinton Duke by one of her uncles, George Mark Duke. Frank started married life by working for his father, who was superintendent of the Warren County Court House. Shortly after joining the Mormon Church, he took his family to Union County, Oregon before settling in Box Elder County, Utah. He passed away in Garland, Utah on 22 Sep 1951.
Arthur Sr. - son of Peter Davis (page 12)
Arthur Davis Sr. was born about 1694 in Surry County; the name of his wife is unknown. He and his brother Lewis become “twins” -- they seem to buy land together and relocate to other counties at the same time. He moved to Chowan County, North Carolina before 1720. He did return to help settle his brother John’s estate in Isle of Wight County, Virginia in 1721. He moved to Tyrrell County with his brother Lewis about 1730 (Map B Number 11).
Arthur did not live as long as brother Lewis or maybe we would have some additional insights into our Davis ancestors. In fact he died before 1740 in Tyrrell County. His only known child, Arthur Jr., moved shortly thereafter to Edgecombe County, North Carolina to join his Blount relatives who had moved there from Isle of Wight County, Virginia.
Arthur Jr. (page 3)
Arthur Davis was born about 1725 in Bertie County and married about 1744, but the name of his first wife is unknown. When he was of age, he relocated from Tyrrell County to Edgecombe County. He purchased land on a section of Fishing Creek that became a part of Halifax County in 1759. He bought and sold a number of pieces of property during his lifetime. When he married secondly the widow of Richard Blount IV about 1774, he took over guardianship of Richard’s children and gave them all items in his will. He died about 1790. His daughter Martha married John Blount, a stepson by his second marriage.
Matthew - son of Peter (page 8)
Matthew Davis was born on August, 1748 in North Carolina. He married Mary Maddray about 1770. By 1772, he was buying land near where his father Peter lived on Fishing Creek. He got embroiled in an in-law court case with the death of brother-in-law Moses Maddray but that seems to have been a short term problem. According to his obituary, he fought in the Revolution but I have not found any records describing what he was called on to do.
He tried unsuccessfully to get permission to build a grist mill on Fishing Creek but was turned down by the county. He died 23 Dec 1826. His wife and children were willed his property, and his children seem to divide up the rest of the estate rather amicably without guidance or oversight from the court. His daughter Elizabeth married Sterling Pitchford.
The origin of the Duke family is still being determined, but most likely they came from England. To add to the difficulty of determining their origins, there are several different Duke families in Virginia in the late 1600s. Evelyn Brandenberger argues in her Duke Family book that William Duke, our ancestor, is a son of James Duke and Mary Byrd. James Duke was sheriff of James City County and Mary Byrd was a daughter of William Byrd, who was notable in Virginia history. The essence of her argument is that William cannot be placed anywhere else because all other available options have been reviewed and are not possibilities.
It is my opinion there remain options yet to be explored; the jury is clearly out. If our William Duke was a nephew of William Byrd, one of the most powerful people in Virginia, he went out of his way to keep it a big secret. His behavior in court records was that of a commoner or just possibly middle class. It is possible that he may not even have been literate. None of these behaviors would have been consistent if he were a child of James Duke, who was clearly a member of the upper class. It is my opinion that he is related to the Surry County, Virginia Dukes, but that remains a theory for the present time.
William (page 21)
William Duke was born about 1701 and married firstly Thamar --- about 1720 and secondly Elizabeth ---, the widow of John Bartholomew, about 1736. The name Thamar became a common name used in the Duke family by his descendants. He made his first appearance as a landholder on the Meherrin River in Isle of Wight County, Virginia in 1727 (Map A Number 18, Map B Number 12). Shortly thereafter, he relocated a little west to Brunswick County and became a landholder there. In Brunswick County, he served on juries and helped with the construction and maintenance of roads near his house.
Sometime about 1745, he relocated to the Fishing Creek region along with several of his sons. He bought and sold several pieces of property in North Carolina. It is not clear whether he or his son William was an undersheriff in Granville County about 1748. By June 1759, he was referred to as an “ancient and infirmed” man. He probably died shortly after 1765.
John (page 6)
John Duke was probably born in Isle of Wight County, Virginia about 1723. After his family relocated to Brunswick County, Virginia he married Mary Myrick about 1742. John migrated from Virginia to the Fishing Creek region about 1744 and became a substantial landowner. He was dead by 2 Sep 1755. His two sons had many children so he left quite a legacy. Mary outlived John and married secondly Matthew Edwards about 1762 and relocated to Northampton County.
Matthew (page 6)
Matthew Duke was born in Brunswick County, Virginia about 1743 and made the trip to North Carolina as an infant. He married firstly about 1775 Elizabeth Clanton and then a widow Frances (---) Lanier on 29 Oct 1809. He also held several hundred acres of land during his lifetime. He was very generous with his posterity and began dispersing his estate before his death about Feb 1819.
William Myrick (page 6)
William Myrick Duke was born about 1789 and married Dorothy Gunn on 9 Oct 1812. They were parents of 8 children. He died in 1848 before the youngest child reached the age of majority. Dorothy left a will that was very useful in identifying the marriages of her children.
Mark Clanton (page 1)
Mark Clanton Duke was born about 1815 and married firstly Martha Ann Pitchford on 20 Nov 1838, followed by Mary Elizabeth Williams on 10 Apr 1865. Shortly after his first marriage, he took in his wife’s half sister Sophronia Pitchford, acting as her guardian until she reached the age of majority. He must have been good at being a guardian because he also had the opportunity to do that for three of his younger brothers at the death of his father. A son fought in the Civil War. He died 8 Jun 1887.
Matthew Thomas (page 1)
Matthew Thomas Duke was born
on 19 Jul 1849 and spent his whole life in the Warren County area.
He married Annie Hinton Pitchford on 27 Mar 1872; they were the proud
parents of 10 children. Unfortunately only 5 of these children reached
adulthood. Upon the death of his first spouse, he married Laura
Isles on 2 Jan 1892. His daughter Mary Hinton Duke married Frank
There were only a few Gunn families in Virginia before 1750. Unfortunately, it is not clear which family we are related to. I am not sure where or when our Gunns came to Brunswick County, Virginia.
William Sr. (page 6)
William Gunn was born about 1735; the name of his wife is not known. He showed up briefly in Brunswick records, but not enough to help us learn very much about him. He died during the summer of 1797, leaving a will which listed his 6 children.
William Jr. (page 6)
William Gunn was born about
1760 probably in Virginia. He married Susannah Clanton in 1782.
He seemed to wander back and forth between Brunswick County, Virginia and
Warren County, North Carolina. He was dead by 1795 in Brunswick
County, Virginia, where his wife processed his estate. He had
one known child, but there is reason to believe from his father’s will
that there was at least one other child by this marriage. There are
a couple of Gunns in Warren County who would be of the right age to be his
children but that has not been proven yet. His wife married secondly
a Mr. John White. His daughter Dorothy married William Myrick Duke.
The Hardy family is another one where a questionable connection between the old world and Virginia Hardys has been suggested and widely published in a genealogical work. John Hardy is supposed to be a son of a John Noble Worthington Hardy of England. John of Virginia’s wife is stated to be Charity O’Dwyer whose parents migrated to Maryland and Westmoreland County, Virginia. This relationship is still possible but there appears to be no direct proof of that theory linking John Noble to John Hardy of Virginia.
John (page 15)
John Hardy was probably born
in England and married Charity --- before coming to the New World.
He first showed up in the North Carolina records in 1695 when he
petitioned the court for 350 acres of land (possibly Map B Number 9),
50 acres each for himself, his wife, and his five children. He was
very active in community affairs: Sheriff in Chowan County in 1711,
signer of petition raising money for protection against the Indians, and
vestryman for the parish located in Edenton which had only been started
about three years earlier about 1714. He also did a stint as a
justice of the Chowan County Court about 1718. He died about 1723.
His daughter Mary married John Hinton.
There are several Hawkins families in Virginia, but it is currently unclear which one we descend from. The best bet would be one of the families from Prince George County, Virginia. Our Hawkins family, probably headed by John Hawkins, came to Bute County sometime in the 1760s. He may have had sons Isham and Wyatt. If our ancestor is John Hawkins, he is hard to identify in the records because there is another very large Hawkins family in the community who also used the name John Hawkins as well. There is no known relation between those two Hawkins families.
Isham (page 2)
Isham Hawkins was born about
1752 probably in Virginia and married Amy --- about 1769. He first
appeared in the Warren County tax records in the mid-1770s. Shortly
thereafter, he migrated to Halifax County, North Carolina, where he lived
out the remainder of his life. He frequently bought and sold small
pieces of property (Map B Number 7). He died in 1817.
His daughter Martha married Burwell Davis, probably before Isham relocated
to Halifax County.
The Hintons are another family where a genealogist has connected our ancestor to one of the noble class in England. This published genealogy has John Hinton as a grandson of Sir John Hinton of Wiltshire County, England, one of the owners of the Virginia Company. The theory states that three of Sir John’s grandchildren (supposedly including our John) migrated to Virginia before 1700 and bought land. Eventually, all three grandchildren moved to North Carolina.
By 1715, the name John Hinton is showing up on both sides of the Virginia-North Carolina border at the same time. The Virginia John Hinton (even if he were a grandson of Sir John Hinton) can be differentiated easily from the North Carolina John Hinton. The Virginia John was a good-sized landowner who owned land in Nansemond County up into the 1720s. The North Carolina John (our ancestor) had his transportation expenses to the colonies paid for by another individual, indicating that he probably did not have much wealth. John of North Carolina has a brother William whose passage was also paid for by the same individual previously mentioned.
John (page 15)
John Hinton was born about
1673 probably in England and married Mary Hardy after his immigration to
North Carolina. He showed up first as a juror in 1715. He was
able to accumulate a little land during his brief lifetime (Map B
Number 5). He attained the rank of colonel in the local militia.
He was also a justice of the peace in Chowan County in 1725. He was
primarily a farmer, but he also had carpentry and cooper skills. He died
about 1732. His wife Mary married Thomas Holiday and had children by
that marriage who relocated to Connecticut. His daughter Ann Nancy
married Solomon Alston.
The Kearneys came from the upper class of English society and were very religiously inclined. Similarities in family names and religious behaviors indicate that they may be related to Kearneys of the Perth Amboy area of New Jersey. The Perth Amboy Keaneys also had connections to the State of New York. Our Kearneys probably came directly from England.
Edmund (page 16)
Edmund Kearney was born about 1678 and whom he married is not known. He was a member of the upper class and first appeared in the records as a merchant in Hampton, Virginia in 1712. He also became a property owner in the town (Map A Number 8). He financed the religious work of Giles Rainsford, who was tasked with establishing the first Episcopal Parish in North Carolina in 1714. By 1719, he had moved to Nansemond County, Virginia and had started trading with individuals in North Carolina. In 1721, he took possession of some land patented by his brother Michael (Map B Number 6) in Chowan County, North Carolina but evidently died shortly thereafter. Our Thomas Kearney came to court to “claim” this land in 1727, and that is why I believe that Thomas is a son of Edmund Kearney.
Thomas (page 16)
Thomas Kearney was born about 1705 probably in England. He married Sarah Alston about 1730. His first appearance in the records came as an auditor in 1725. Not long after, he was made a Bertie County justice. He bought and sold numerous large properties during his lifetime. He was also a member of the Edgecombe County Court in 1744. He died in 1764.
Edmund (page 4)
Edmund Kearney was born in
Bertie County about 1731. He married Sarah Brothers about 1754.
He bought and sold very large tracts of land during his lifetime. He
relocated to the Fishing Creek region by 1770. He was also very
generous to his children and grandchildren through his will and other
gifts recorded in court records. He died in the fall of 1794.
His daughter Sarah married James Alston.
The spelling of the family name for most of the first 10 years in Virginia was Lanquesher or close variants. It is unknown where the family immigrated from. A possible clue to their origin can be had by studying the Clary family of Surry County, Virginia. That family was either related to or married into the Lancasters.
Robert (page 18)
Robert’s first wife is not
known by name; he married secondly Sarah ---, widow of Daniel Lewis and
Richard Bennett Sr. His children were by his first marriage.
Robert first appeared in the tax lists of Surry County in 1670. He
seemed to be well respected in the community because he was frequently
called on to witness court documents. He was even called on to
arbitrate a dispute between two individuals. He took his turn at
being a surveyor of county roads. In about 1713, when he was in his
later years, he migrated to Isle of Wight County, where he died in 1720.
His will is helpful in providing input to the Pitman family puzzle.
His daughter Elizabeth married Thomas Pitman IV.
The origin of the Maddray family is unknown but is probably England. The first James Maddray probably came over as a servant.
James Sr. (page 26)
James Maddray came to Isle of Wight County, Virginia prior to 1680. He probably married after his arrival; the name of his wife is unknown. By 1681, he purchased 100 acres of land from John Murray. His neighbors were Quakers, but it is unclear whether he was a follower of that religion. He had two sons. James is the ancestor of the Isle of Wight County, Virginia/Warren County, North Carolina Maddrays. His son Zachariah is the ancestor of the Surry County, Virginia/Northampton County, North Carolina branch of the family.
James Jr. (page 26)
James was born in Isle of Wight County about 1695 and married Mary --- about 1718. He did not buy or sell land during his lifetime, but he did seem to have inherited some from his father. He helped to appraise a couple of estates. He was dead by 1727, leaving no will. His wife, Mary, outlived him but is not known to have remarried.
James III (page 8)
James Maddray III was born
about 1726 in Isle of Wight County, Virginia and married Anne Ward about
1750. He was a shoemaker by profession but was wealthy enough to
have slaves. Very shortly after his marriage, he migrated to the
Fishing Creek region and purchased land. He was not able to enjoy it
long because he was dead by 1760. His wife took over his outstanding
land transactions and seemed to have been adept at making those sales
happen. By 1765, she had married Randolph Hazelwood. She
outlived him by 20 years and left an estate in 1811. James’ daughter
Mary married Matthew Davis.
There are several different lines of Marshalls in Virginia. Most of these lines have branches that lead into North Carolina. Circumstantial evidence suggests that we descend from the Brunswick County, Virginia Marshalls who migrated to Halifax County, North Carolina. The Warren County Marshalls come from the same county in Virginia, but it is not apparent that we are closely related to them.
Jeremiah (page 5)
Jeremiah Marshall has not left us with many fingerprints. He made a couple of appearances in court in Halifax and Edgecombe Counties, North Carolina. He married Elizabeth Pitman, widow of John Carter Knight. He died about 1811. He left sufficient detail in his estate records to document that he is our ancestor, but few other records exist about him. Jeremiah’s daughter Emily married James Augustus Cheek.
Marshall administered his estate in 1812, she was still dealing in English
coinage even though it had been 25 years since the Constitutional
Convention. When Jeremiah’s estate was administered, lots of people
had their hands out, and they ate up quite a bit of the available money
left by her husband. She had to go to court in neighboring Franklin
County to collect money owed to her husband. Elizabeth married a
third time to a Shugan J. Davis, a grandson of Peter Davis of Warren
The Story of the Myricks by Allie Bowden provides a lot of details about our ancestors and is interesting reading. However, her conclusion that the first Myrick ancestor was Thomas does not seem to be supported by Virginia records. There is also an Owen Myrick who made a brief appearance in the Charles City County records, but there does not seem to be any connection to our Owen Myrick. Our Myricks are probably from Great Britain.
Owen (page 22)
Owen Myrick was born about 1652 probably in England or Wales and married firstly Joan --- and then Mary ---, the widow of Francis Gray. He had children by both marriages. He was a shoemaker by trade. He appeared in the records shortly before the outbreak of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. He sided with Bacon and that got him in “hot water.” He and a friend were taken to court for joyriding and possibly abusing a horse that belonged to a loyalist. I have not found a record that says whether he was found guilty of any offense in this regard. For this little endeavor, he comes the closest to being our “family horse thief.”
He bought and sold small plots of land (Map A Number 9), but for the most part he is known for his constant trips to court, being involved in lawsuit after lawsuit. He had the unenviable job of sorting out the financial affairs of Mary’s first husband Francis Gray. It took him about 6 years of court appearances to complete that process. He was once sued in court for, would you believe, for delivery of 9½ pairs of shoes. He was also sued by Thomas Swann because his pigs did some damage to Swann’s fence and property. He lost a suit to a John Nichols and then got even with him by coming into court to show that John was not taxed when he should have been. He was also fined for not going to church. He died after 1705.
Francis Sr. (page 22)
Francis Myrick was born about 1682 in Surry County, Virginia; his wife is unknown. He was a child of his father’s second wife. By 1722, he had migrated to Isle of Wight County, Virginia following his brother Owen. He received 250 acres of land there for services rendered for making a settlement for the Sapone Indians. When the county boundaries were redrawn in 1735, he found himself in Brunswick County. He bought and sold several pieces of property during his lifetime and died sometime before 1749.
Francis Jr. (page 22)
Francis was born in Surry
County about 1703. He married Rebecca --- about 1725. (Rebecca
is not the daughter of William Carroll, as some genealogists have
theorized.) Very shortly after his marriage, he migrated to Bertie
County, North Carolina where he bought land in 1735 (Map B Number 8).
This land fell into Northampton County when it was formed. For a time, he
operated a grist mill near Lizard Creek in Brunswick County. His
children seem to have relocated to Bute County, North Carolina before
1760. He eventually moved to Bute County, where he died about 1776.
His daughter Mary married John Duke.
The Pitchfords first appeared in Virginia in Henrico County about 1727. It is unknown how, where or when they came to Virginia. It is possible that Samuel Pitchford Sr. lived in Northumberland County, Virginia for a short period.
Samuel Sr. (page 7)
Samuel Pitchford Sr. was born about 1705 and married Amy --- before 1730. He evidently received some education as a child, because shortly after arriving in Henrico County he was made clerk of the local parish. He held that position for a couple of years and then moved on to Amelia County, Virginia by 1743. He was assigned to help develop a new road in 1743. He finally settled down in Chesterfield County, Virginia where he died after 1760. His children became very dispersed. Some stayed in Virginia, some went to North Carolina, and one ventured into South Carolina.
Samuel Jr. (page 8)
Samuel Pitchford Jr. was born in Henrico County, Virginia about 1734. He married first Angellico Cheatham about 1755 and secondly Eleanor Hall in 1782. His first land purchase was in 1759 (Map A Number 10), across the river from the current town of Petersburg, Virginia. He lived in Amelia County for a while and then returned to Chesterfield County. He stayed in Chesterfield County while some of his brothers ventured to neighboring counties. Shortly before 1790, he did make a hop to Wake County, North Carolina, where he is recorded in the first U. S. census. About 1795, he moved to Warren County to join some of his relatives who had relocated to the Fishing Creek region, where he began to grow cotton on the property that he had purchased. He died about 1803.
Sterling (page 8)
Sterling Pitchford was born in Virginia at about the start of the Revolution. When he was about 12 years old, his father moved to North Carolina. He married Elizabeth Davis on 4 Sep 1809. He appeared many times in the Warren County Court records. He died about 1822.
Thomas Jefferson (page 1)
Thomas Jefferson Pitchford was born 13 Jun 1810 and married Matilda Hinton Cheek on 15 Mar 1833. He was a medical doctor, having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1834. His schooling was paid for by his “rich uncle” Peter R. Davis. He was busy in the community and was called on frequently to witness various legal documents. He also served a term in the North Carolina State Senate. Several of his sons fought in the Civil War. He died on 18 Nov 1883. His daughter Ann Hinton Pitchford married Matthew Thomas Duke.
Daniel - son of Samuel Sr. (page 7)
Daniel Pitchford was born in
Henrico County, Virginia near the James River about 1743. He married
firstly Ritty --- about 1762 and Mildred --- about 1805 in Warren County
and had children by both marriages, including a child born after his
death. We descend from the second wife who may have been 20 years
his junior. He lived in the part of Henrico County that became
Chesterfield County. He bought and sold land on several occasions.
He made the migration to Warren County, North Carolina near where his
brother Samuel lived about 1800. He was a farmer in his days in
Warren County. At his death about 1822, he passed along land,
slaves, and other property to his children. His daughter Martha Ann
married Mark Clanton Duke.
Sorting out the Pitmans has been a real struggle. The first Pitman to leave a will or estate was Thomas Pitman IV in 1730. With the dedicated help of genealogists Beverly Williamson and Betsy Pittman, we think we have a reasonable picture of what the family looks like. It was a real challenge to discover and sort out four generations of Thomas Pitmans particularly since they seemed to be a long-lived group.
Thomas Sr. (page 30)
Thomas Pitman was born in 1614, probably in England, and was married three times. His children seem to be from the first marriage. He married first Frances ---, widow of Mr. Wall, about 1633, then Martha (---) (Atkinson) Gwaltney in 1666, and finally Lydia ---, widow of Samuel Judkins, in 1672. With the last two marriages, prenuptial agreements were signed. It is not clear what these agreements were designed to accomplish, but it helped his stepchildren receive their inheritances from their natural father when 21 years old.
His first appearance in the Surry County records was of a military nature. He was ordered to take a group of armed men and three weeks’ provisions to Jamestown in 1651. The mission of these armed men is not clear. A little while later, he and a John Rawlings purchased 5 acres and built a mill (Map A Number 4), which they managed for about 10 years. When he sold his portion of the mill, the buyer was very suspicious of something and made Thomas perform a much more detailed inventory than was usually required.
He was a carpenter by trade. He had contracted to build a house for a Daniel Hutton. For one reason or another, it was not done to the expected standards of the day. Daniel Hutton dragged him into court to insure that the agreement was appropriately honored. The court required the jury to go the property and take a look. Evidently in spite of there being no building codes, the jury did not like what they saw and found for the plaintiff. Thomas was frequently in court as a witness to many documents. He also rose to be a captain in the Surry County militia. Shortly before his death, he was called a very aged and poor man. He died about 1682.
Thomas Jr. (page 18)
Thomas Pitman was born about 1634 in England; the name of his wife is not known. Like his father, he was in the Surry County militia and also attained the rank of captain. Although this was an accomplishment for him personally, it makes him very hard to distinguish him from his father in the records.
He did one thing clearly different from his father. He followed Bacon in Bacon’s Rebellion and was forced to apologize in court for his misdeeds. He found himself in court frequently, both doing civic duty kinds of things or in lawsuits. In 1682, he was required to pay Owen Myrick, another of our ancestors, 50 shillings for services rendered. He died about 1691.
Thomas III (page 18)
Thomas Pitman was born about 1659 in Surry County, Virginia. The name of his first wife was unknown and he married secondly Mary (Chambers) Holloman, the widow of William Holloman. Mary has been placed by some genealogists as the spouse of Thomas Pitman IV, but this is not the case as can be easily shown from Surry County records.
Thomas only shows up a couple of times in the records. He neither bought nor sold land. He was required to go to Jamestown for three days to testify as to the manner in which someone died. He also built a house, so the carpentry skill must have come down from his grandfather. His son Thomas is referred to as Thomas Pitman Jr., which is a big help in sorting out the Pitmans. Thomas Pitman III died after 1725.
Thomas IV (page 18)
Thomas Pitman IV was born about 1683 in Surry County and married Elizabeth Lancaster about 1701. They had about 14 children. He started to accumulate land in Surry County early on but then chose to sell what he had and move to Isle of Wight County. He had accumulated quite a bit of land in his life which he willed to sons in 1730. His will must not have been clear enough for somebody’s liking because a court hearing was held and brother-in-law Samuel Lancaster was required explain what the will meant.
Ambrose (page 5)
Ambrose Pitman was born about 1718 in Surry County, Virginia. He married about 1742 in North Carolina; his wife’s name is not known. Some genealogists have identified her as Elizabeth Streeter, but there is no proof to that claim. He migrated to North Carolina with a couple of his brothers and some of his cousins. This exodus has made sorting out the North Carolina Pitmans a real challenge and it still has not been completely done. Ambrose had a long history of buying, selling, and witnessing land transactions. Some of his land purchases ultimately became part of Halifax County. He died about 1786.
Elijah (page 5)
Elijah Pitman was born about
1745 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina and married --- Coffield about
1770. He came from a large family and is constantly found buying,
selling land, or witnessing the sale of land with his brothers. He
appears to have lived his entire life in Edgecombe County. He was a
farmer by occupation. He died in 1799 and was very generous to his
children in his will. His daughter Elizabeth married secondly
The Powell family is still being sorted out. Originally it was thought that we descend from the Benjamin Powell family of Warren County, but that has been proven not to be the case. There are quite a number of Powell families over the border in Virginia as well as neighboring Halifax County, North Carolina, but it is not obvious which one we are related to. Work continues in determining which branch is ours.
Benjamin (page 3)
Benjamin Powell was born about
1782 somewhere in North Carolina, perhaps neighboring Nash County.
Until he moved to Warren County, nothing is known about him. Most of
what is known comes from his will and census records. He was a
farmer by profession. He also built his own house. He married
Sarah Blount in Nash County about 1806 and died about 1858 or 1859.
In his will, he pretty much gave away his property and goods to his
grandchildren. His daughter Martha Blount married John Shakespeare
Very little is known about the Rayner family. The best guess is that they came from England.
Francis (page 27)
Francis Rayner was born about
1644, probably in England. He married Joanna --- about 1679.
He first showed up in the Isle of Wight records appraising the estate of
John Godbehere in 1669. He only shows up in the records a couple of
times for things like jury duty, but he did leave a will. He died in
1719. His daughter Joanna married Thomas Ward III.
In the 1670s, a Thomas and Nicholas Sessums migrated to Surry County, Virginia. It is very probable that they were related, but that relationship has not been proven. They probably came from England, but that is a guess as well.
Nicholas (page 13)
Nicholas was born about 1649, probably in England, and married firstly Hannah --- after arriving in Virginia and then married Katherine --- about 1692. He was in Virginia by 1674. He was probably of the middle to upper class of English society, even though he appeared to be a farmer by trade. He demonstrated both piety and a free spirit. He did a lot of work as vestryman of the local parish but also got in trouble for his Sabbath-breaking activities. He must have had a quick tongue and a short temper. He was in court several times, either accusing or being accused of slander, and lost nearly all cases.
He had a number of servants at
various times. He had a bit of wealth because he accumulated a fair
amount of land in his lifetime (Map A Number 12) which he passed on
to his children. It is possible that his gift of land to son-in-law
William Blake was a wedding present at the time of William’s marriage to
Nicholas’ daughter Mary. Nicholas died about 1716.
The origin of the Spier family is unknown. It is suspected to be England. Unfortunately, the Spiers lived in Nansemond County, where few records are available before 1725.
John Sr. (page 20)
Dr. John Spier was probably born in England; he married Frances ---. He first appears in Virginia in 1678 but must have come a few years earlier. He was an apothecary by trade (a pharmacist in today’s terms). This position may have put him in the upper class of society. There were apothecaries in neighboring counties who seemed to know him, so that might provide a clue as to where he came from. Richard Briggs, also an ancestor from neighboring Isle of Wight County, knew him because he trusted John to be guardian for his son Edmund after Richard died. John also purchased 600 acres of land (Map A Number 16), which has made identifying his children a little easier. He was probably dead by 1684 when his wife was trying to collect a debt due his estate in Surry County.
John Jr. (page 20)
John was born about 1673. The name of his wife is not known.. He was probably the oldest son, because he inherited most of his father’s land. By 1702, he was justice in the Nansemond County Court, showing that his family was of upper class status. In 1710, he was a sheriff in Nansemond County. He had relocated his family to Chowan County, North Carolina by 1715. Shortly thereafter, he was made a captain in the county militia. In North Carolina, he became a very active buyer and seller of land. Identifying him in the records is a little difficult because he had a son and two nephews named John. He died after 1735. His daughter Beatrice married Benjamin Coffield.
There are only a few Ward families early in Virginia. Unfortunately, Thomas was the prevailing name. There was a Thomas Ward in Surry County who owned land in Isle of Wight County, and there was a Thomas Ward in Isle of Wight County who owned land in Surry County. Both Thomas Wards died in 1675. The easiest way to distinguish between them is to watch who their children knew and did business with, but even that gets a little tricky.
Thomas Sr. (page 32)
Thomas Ward was born about 1637 probably in England; the name of his first wife is not known. He married secondly Jane --- about 1670. He showed up in the records of Isle of Wight County, Virginia in 1664, helping with the estate of one Edward Powell. Over the next 10 years, he was involved with several estates, but none of the owners appear to be relatives. He died in 1675. Unfortunately, he did not provide us with the names of his children in his will. His wife Jane died in 1681.
Thomas Jr. (page 27)
Thomas Ward was born about 1658 possibly in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. He married firstly Anne --- about 1678 and secondly Mary --- about 1688. He may have had children by both marriages. His first appearance in the records is when he received a legacy from a Thomas Moss, whose relationship to the Wards is unknown. This is one of several clues about possible relatives that have yet to be unraveled. He bought and sold several pieces of property (Map A Number 2). At his death about 1692, he passed his land to his children in his will.
Thomas III (page 27)
Thomas Ward III was born about 1674 in Isle of Wight and married Joanna Rayner about 1694. He started married life as a resident of Isle of Wight County and then migrated to Surry County. The jaunt to Surry County was short lived; two years later he was back in Isle of Wight County to stay (Map A Number 14). The confusing thing about those two years was that it made it just that much harder to keep the Thomas Wards straight. He died in 1728.
Joseph (page 27)
Joseph Ward was born about 1695 in Isle of Wight County and married Elizabeth --- about 1718. They had seven children. He must have been a responsible person because he was given charge of his grandfather’s estate until his cousin became 17 years old. He bought and sold a few pieces of property in his lifetime as well as participated in settling several estates. He died in 1768 leaving a will that was very generous to a large group of individuals. His daughter Anne married James Maddray III.
Map References Showing the Location of Our Ancestors
Map A - Southeast Virginia
Map B - Northeast North Carolina
Map C - Central North Carolina
© Forrest King 2001 All rights reserved.
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