Essex County, Virginia Order Book 8, 1729-1733/4, and Executions


This work presents a verbatim transcript of Essex County, Virginia Order Book 8, that runs from court terms 20 May 1729 to 19 February 1733/4. At the end of the original book is found a group of pages on which are recorded returns of how local sheriffs executed the court’s orders. The dates of these executions range from 1728 to 1734.

The order book contains the usual variety of items that occur during the daily business of the county court. Entries include: adjudgements for age of negroes, slaves or servants; appointment of officials (including constable, sheriff, road overseer, or vestryman, etc.); appointment of estate administrators; apprenticeships; exemptions from levy; guardians (may be chosen by ward at age fourteen); ordinary licenses; periodic county expenses for buildings, roads, repairs, salaries, etc.; presentment by churchwardens of drunkards, those not frequenting their parish church as the law required, swearing, or even women claimed to have produced a bastard child; probate of wills; status of court cases (civil and criminal); tithables; and more. In addition, one will find claims for taking up fifty acres of land, or “importation rights,” which indicates the likelihood of a foreign birth for the claimant. There is much activity about suits for debt, as the absence of banks left the court as the arena for settlement of many financial disputes.

Order book entries often provide detail not found in any other record. Oftentimes the age of a person can be estimated based on what the law allowed them to do. With little exception, one would be an adult to sue, receive power of attorney, buy and sell land, witness documents, or administer an estate, etc. Copies of ordinary licenses granted are generally found in deed books, but the order book entry may provide additional details. Keep in mind that the name of the ordinary (or tavern) didn’t necessarily track to the name of the business.

Of additional interest is that the entries here, for 1729–1733/4, frequently refer to Chancery court cases, but only seven cases files survive previous to 1772. An index to full-names, places and subjects adds to the value of this work.

Wesley E. Pippenger

2023, 8½x11, paper, index, 282 pp.

ISBN: 9780788444395