Washington County, Virginia Will Book 1, 1777-1792, with Annotations
Washington County, Virginia Will Book 1, 1777-1792, with Annotations.
The Introduction to this work is provided below:
This Will Book (WB) 1 begins with the inventory of the estate of Henry Carswell [Cresswell], decd., which was recorded at Washington County Virginia (WCV) court, 26 Aug 1777, and ends 188 pages later (two pages being numbered 148 (148A) and 149 (149A) with the Power of Attorney from Joseph Martin of Henry Co VA to General James Robertson of Davidson Co (now TN) to sell land in Davidson Co to William Edmiston (Edmondson), recorded at WCV court, 21 June 1792. This WCV WB 1 was restored in 1936 through the efforts of the DAR and contains, at the beginning of the WB film, 5 pages in addition to the 188 pages of the WB itself. Four pages are barely legible and illegible in parts but have been transcribed as nearly as possible and placed at the end of this WB. Two of the pages appear to be the beginning of a petition for states or commonwealths east of the Allegheny Mountains to relinquish their western claims in order that new states could be formed to join the confederation.
As “mother” of early WCV, and source of the greatest number of its early inhabitants, the Dutch (03 Jun 1631), Swedish (1638) and eventually English Colony claimed 12 Mar 1664 through a grant from King Charles II and on 28 Feb 1681 chartered to William Penn, known today as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, has no close competition. Immigration from Wm. Penn’s colony flowed down the Valley from Carlisle to present day Bristol in successive waves, often stopping and occasionally dwelling a generation in such areas as Orange, Frederick/Berkeley, Augusta (and daughter counties of Rockbridge and Botetourt) and also via Western NC into SW VA. The Pennsylvanians were of Ulsterite, Scottish, English, and German (primarily Pfaltz/Palatinate) stock principally. Other areas also contributed to a lesser degree to the population of early WCV. From DE and MD came many, often via the National Road to briefly dwell in (present day) Berkeley Co (W)VA/Frederick Co VA before beginning their decent down the Valley. While in the Frederick/Berkeley area they mixed with colonists from the North, principally PA, NJ and NY. From the Northern Neck of VA, migration generally often followed an arc form through present day Stafford, Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun and into the Valley, thence to what became first Fincastle, then, WCV. Migration from the Middle Peninsula produced somewhat fewer early colonists to WCV, often entering the central Piedmont counties of the Commonwealth, and thence to WCV via one of the few water gaps. The areas of St. Clair and Hazel Spring were among those populated by New Englanders, often having first lived a period in the State of NY. Migrations into the area from the South were very light and often consisted of persons with Eastern Virginia roots whose ancestors had migrated Southward only relatively recently.
The WB 1 contains the following types of documents which have been fully transcribed:
LWT: Last Will and Testament: Varying in size and details (from a few lines to more extensive documents, these almost always provide the name of the testator, the date the will was written and date proved (enrolled; probated; proved at court), to whom and what the testator has left his estate (occasionally and sadly containing only wording such as “to all my children”… “to my dearly beloved wife”, etc.), and frequently the executor or executrix and witnesses, followed by the proving (enrolling; probating) of the LWT in court by oaths of the witnesses, and the subsequent granting of the letters of administration by the court after (usually; unless otherwise requested in the LWT) the posting of bond; and, finally, the admission of the LWT to court record by the Court Clerk. In this WB, dates are sometimes omitted and clauses of exhibition and admission of record of the LWT were not inscribed into the WB. Generally speaking, a good idea of the death period of the testator or others is usually provided by the date of probate of the LWT, usually within 1-3 months after the decease of the testator.
Inventory and Appraisement of Estate (Real and Personal) of the Deceased: This contains an enumeration of articles belonging to the estate and the appraised value of each article, usually set by three appraisers (selected from a pool of 4 or 5 persons appointed by the court) who have taken an oath administered by the county court. Although the estate inventories very greatly in size, the contents of each are usually comprised of household and kitchen items, farm animals, farm and trade implements and slaves. Very frequently there is no grand total of the inventory. Interpretation of handwriting and definition of some of the articles (sometimes written in dialect) is sometimes more than a challenge (as well, occasionally, as how the clerk arrived at a particular line total!)
Sale Bill of the Estate of the Deceased: These are far less numerous in this WB1 than succeeding WBs, and contain the list of the items which were sold at auction (generally repetitive of the inventory and appraisal of the estate, with some variations), the name of the purchaser and the price they paid for the item[s].
Power of Attorney: From one person, usually not an inhabitant of the county or commonwealth, to another authorizing him to serve as their legal representative (frequently to sell land located in WCV) in legal matters.
Binding Out as Apprentice: Children, most particularly from less affluent families, were often bound to a person who was obligated to feed, cloth, provide rudimentary education and teach them a trade, giving them a small payment and suit of clothes upon the completion of their contract. This contract was binding upon both the master and the person bound out.
This work has been annotated, primarily using information from our own publications (Hockett, Helton) as well as those of Mr. Tom Colley, and others from private contributors (see bibliography included with this work), and other sources, as cited. The following have been prepared to assist with the reading of this WB: (a) a bibliography of the principal sources of the annotations; (b) a dictionary of terms (especially drawn from the inventories); (c) appears directly below; and a list of abbreviations used frequently in the annotations as well as credits to the many kind individual contributors are also included.
The WB 1 contains the typical “locator index” which has also been transcribed. As well, an every name index has been prepared by Mr. Donald Helton who, in order to assist the reader, has also indicated by “**” the person whose LWT is being presented.