Tag Archives: Goodrich Lightfoot

The Pamunkey Origins of the FPOC Howell Family

The FPOC Howell family traces directly back to a young woman named Dorothy Howell who lived in the early 1700s. As a “mixed-race” Pamunkey woman, Dorothy became geographically separated from her people when she had to live across the river from the Pamunkey reservation, as a house servant to a leading colonial family. Consequently, the lives of her descendants followed different paths with some leaving the area to intermarry with other tribes, while others who were determined to stay, continued to intermarry with the Pamunkey. This blog post takes a close look at the branch of the Howell family that stayed closely connected to the Pamunkey tribe and who have descendants enrolled in the tribe today. A great variety of records that I have amassed will be used to help document their lives.


Dorothy Howell (b. 1707) of New Kent County

Untitled presentation
Family Tree that shows the descedants of Dorothy Howell. This blog post examines the lineage traced down to John Howell b. 1822 and his wife Susan Pearman b. 1827 whose descendants are enrolled with the Pamunkey tribe.

The earliest documented direct lineal ancestor of the FPOC Howell family was a woman named Dorothy Howell (b. 1707). For me, she is my 7th great-grandmother. What we know about Dorothy Howell comes directly from the Registry Book of St. Peter’s Parish. The parish was formed in 1678 and served New Kent and James City counties. Births, deaths, and marriages are recorded in the Vestry Book, so these records help to establish Dorothy Howell’s approximate birth year, her location, and clues into her ethnic heritage. I know of no surviving records where we get to hear testimony from Dorothy Howell herself to understand her life and identity from her perspective. So this is something important to keep in mind as we review the historical archive.

The earliest record for Dorothy Howell, is when the birth of her daughter Judith Howell was recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish book in 1725:

Judith Howell
“Judith daughter of Dorothy Howell a mallatto servant to Mr. Sherwood Lightfoot born, 1725.” Source: The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish of New Kent County, VA, 1684-1786. Page 473

The next and final record of Dorothy Howell which mentions her specifically by name is for the birth of her son Robbin Howell in the St. Peter’s Parish book in 1730/31:

Robbin Howell
“Robbin a mulatto son of Dorothy Howel born March 18th, 1730/1.” Source: The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish of New Kent County, VA 1684-1786. Page 468

Given the birth dates of her two documented children, Judith born in 1725 and Robbin born in 1730/31, Dorothy Howell was likely born around 1707 (as genealogist Paul Heinegg suggests). In the birth record of her daughter Judith, Dorothy is referred to as a mulatto and in the birth record of her son Robbin, he is referred to as a mulatto. So we know that Dorothy Howell was considered a person of color with a likely “mixed race” background. We also know that she was a free woman because she is called a servant of a man named Sherwood Lightfoot. Notice that in the record for the birth of her son Robbin, Dorothy Howell is not referred to as a servant. The reason for this is that Sherwood Lightfoot died on 26 April 1730. If Dorothy had not already completed the length of her servitude, the death of Sherwood Lightfoot likely released her from service.

It is important to contextualize how the word “mulatto” was used in Virginia in the 1700s. In October 1705 (just twenty years before the birth of Judith Howell), the Acts of Assembly in Virginia defined “mulatto”, “as the child of an Indian, the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of a Negro”. Therefore the term “mulatto” encompassed many varieties of ethnic admixtures. Thus Dorothy Howell could have been mixed European and African, mixed European and Native American, or mixed European, African and Native American. In consideration of the historical analysis that I will provide over the following sections and given that her descendants are well documented as Pamunkey Indians, I believe that Dorothy Howell was a “mixed race” Pamunkey Indian.

The Pamunkey are one of many tribes that compromise the Powhatan Confederacy which once dominated the Tidewater Virginia area.

Powhatan Confederacy
A map of where the various tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy were located in 1607. Source: Helen Rountree

 

Because of the limited documentation on Dorothy Howell, the next section will take a close look at the man whose residence she lived and work in, Sherwood Lightfoot.


Sherwood Lightfoot and St. Peter’s Parish

Sherwood Lightfoot (1686-1730) was the son of Col. John Lightfoot and Ann Goodrich, a wealthy British colonial family. Ann Goodrich’s parents were Major Thomas Goodrich and Ann Sherwood of Old Rappahannock County, VA (present day Essex County, VA). Major Thomas Goodrich played a significant role during a pinnacle event in Virginia colonial history. Goodrich was a top lieutenant for Nathaniel Bacon during a violent episode known as “Bacon’s Rebellion”. In 1676, Bacon and allied colonists, formed an armed rebellion against colonial Virginia Governor William Berkeley. The colonists accused Governor Berkeley of not protecting their interests. During this violent uprising, Powhatan tribal peoples living in coastal Virginia were slaughtered by the rebellious colonists. You can learn more about Bacon’s Rebellion here.

Before becoming a lieutenant in Bacon’s Rebellion, Major Thomas Goodrich was a signatory to a treaty with a Powhatan tribe, dated September 1655 in Old Rappahannock Co, VA. The text reads:

“At a court September 1655 Rappahannock Present Coll Moore Fantleroy Capt Francis Slaughter Majr Thos Goodrich Mr Andrew Gilson Mr. Thos Lucas Senior Mr Richard Loe Capt William Underwood Mr Humphrey Boot The King Masquran Mquanzafsi Caskamino”

Source: http://gedcom.surnames.com/burgess_jim/np247.htm

Another relevant connection between Sherwood Lightfoot and Native American peoples is through his brother Goodrich Lightfoot. In the St. Peter’s Parish records, Goodrich Lightfoot is documented owning an “Indian” slave named Charles:

Charles the Indian Goodrich Lightfoot
“Charles an Indian belonging to Captain Goodrich Lightfoot died October 9, 1722.” Source: Source: The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish of New Kent County, VA 1684-1786. Page 64

Goodrich Lightfoot is also connected to the origins of the “free colored” Evans family of Granville County, who descend from Morris Evans and his wife Jane Gibson the younger. Some of Morris and Jane’s descendants were illegally held as slaves by Goodrich Lightfoot and later sold to other slave owners. The Evans descendants were able to obtain their freedom by proving they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder who was the mother of Jane Gibson the younger. Unfortunately Jane Gibson’s tribe is not specified in those records, but given the location, it’s most likely she was of Powhatan heritage. I have a blog post where I discuss the Native American origins of the Evans family here. Also descendants of the Evans family and of the Howell family often intermarried throughout Virginia and North Carolina, so it is common to find people who descend from both lineages (self included).

It is important to take a moment to study the geography of where Sherwood Lightfoot and his brother Goodrich Lightfoot lived and how this factors into understanding the heritage of Dorothy Howell.  Sherwood Lightfoot’s estate was located on the banks of the Pamunkey River, directly across from the Pamunkey Indian reservation. In 1707, Col. John Lightfoot died and his sons Goodrich and Sherwood Lighfoot inherited his large land holdings along the Pamunkey River which he originally purchased in 1686.

Pamunkey_map 1
Brothers Sherwood Lightot and Goodrich Lightfoot lived on properties that were about 1 mile apart and directly across from the Pamunkey Indian reservation. Sherwood resided at “Ricahock” and Goodrich resided at the “White House”. Source: http://archive.wetlandstudies.com/newsletters/2016/January/Pamunkey.html
Pamunkey River
A recent photo taken from the shores of the Pamunkey Indian reservation along the Pamunkey River. The land directly across the river is where Sherwood Lightfoot and his servant Dorothy Howell lived. Photo courtesy of Azie Dungey

The geographical proximity of Sherwood Lightfoot and his brother Goodrich Lightfoot to the Pamunkey Reservation is also evident in a diary entry from Col. William Byrd. On September 22 and 23, 1712, Byrd described staying at the homes of both brothers before going to the Pamunkey reservation to meet the Governor.

Byrd and Lightfoot brothers
Excerpt from Col. William Byrd’s diary which demonstrates that Sherwood Lightfoot lived directly across from the Pamunkey reservation, commonly called “Pamunkey Town”. Source:  “Old New Kent County [Virginia]: Some Account of the Planters, Plantations, and Places, Volume 1” by Malcolm Harris. Page 123.

Additionally, Sherwood’s father Col. John Lightfoot who had previously owned the land before Sherwood, is noted for having “difficulties” with the Pamunkey Indians who lived across the river from him.

Lt John Lightfoot and Pamunkey
Col. John Lightfoot, the father of Sherwood Lightfoot, is noted for having “difficulties” with the Pamunkey Indians who lived across the river from his estate. Source: “Old New Kent County [Virginia]: Some Account of the Planters, Volume 1” by Malcolm Harris. Page 122.

Pamunkey Origins

So what does this tell us so far? We have the Lightfoot family whom in successive generations have a number of notable interactions with Powhatan peoples – Major Thomas Goodrich who was a signatory of a treaty and also fought in Bacon’s Rebellion; Col. John Lightfoot whose estate was across the river from the Pamunkey reservation and had difficulties with the tribe, and brothers Sherwood and Goodrich Lightfoot who inherited their father’s estate from across the Pamunkey reservation and are noted for enslaving local Native American peoples.  Dorothy Howell was a free woman living and working as an indentured servant in Sherwood’s household, and I do believe her heritage is from the Pamunkey reservation. Perhaps she or one of her parents was the offspring of a Howell colonist and a Pamunkey Indian woman? Or even a Howell woman and a Pamunkey Indian man?

At this time, Dorothy Howell’s parents are unidentified. Her birth was not recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish records and for Dorothy to be a free-born person means that her mother was also free.

I looked through earlier records to see if I could find any Howells who lived in the area and who had any interactions with Native Americans. It was not uncommon for some Native Americans to adopt the surnames of “friendly whites”, so it’s possible the Howell surname entered the local Native American population through that manner.

In court records for neighboring Charles City County, there was a John Howell who in 1659 received permission from the courts to hire an “Indian”. This person is not identified by name or by tribe.

Lt John Howell
John Howell was allowed to employ an “Indian” on 3 Aug 1659 in Charles City County, VA. Source: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/jame1/moretti-langholtz/chap10a.htm

The John Howell named in this record was a man named  Lt John Howell (1623-1679) who was a Welsh-born colonist. Some additional information about him can be found here.

There was also an Edmund Howell who lived in nearby Surry Co, VA who was a participant in Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, just like Sherwood Lightfoot’s grandfather Major Thomas Goodrich. This same Edmund Howell left a 1679 will which named his godson Gibson Gibson. This Gibson Gibson was a mixed race Native American and a relative of Jane Gibson the elder whose Evans descendants were illegally enslaved by Goodrich Lightfoot. Edmund Howell had a son named William Howell who left a 1718 will which named sons William, Thomas, Edmund, and Joseph. Perhaps Dorothy Howell (or one of her parents) was a mixed race offspring of one of these Howell men and she ended up as an indentured servant with Lightfoots who were family friends? You can read more about Edmund Howell and his relationship to the Gibson family here.

I also found another record which offers precedence for Pamunkey Indians desiring to leave the reservation to live with the nearby white population. On 27 Oct 1709, in neighboring James City County, a Pamunkey Indian named Robin asked permission to remain among the white population so that he could continue his shoemaking business. His request was granted:

Robin Pamunkey
Source: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/jame1/moretti-langholtz/chap10a.htm

 

I also found another record in the St. Peter’s Parish register that could possibly pertain to Dorothy Howell:

Thurs Dec 20, 1722 – Sherwood was paid 500 lbs of tobacco for keeping a “mollatto child of the parish”.

The Sherwood referenced here is Sherwood Lightfoot. Could this mulatto child be Dorothy Howell? In 1722, Dorothy Howell would have been about 15 years old, so still a minor. Because Sherwood Lightfoot was paid for taking in this child, we know that this child was not a slave.

In summary, all of these records present possible scenarios for how Dorothy Howell acquired her Howell surname and how she became an indentured servant for a prominent colonial family.


The Howells Descendants Diverge

As discussed earlier, Dorothy Howell had a daughter named Judith Howell who was born in 1725. 27 years later in 1752, we find Judith Howell a few counties over to the West in the Amelia County, VA records. And the following year in 1753 her son Matthew Howell (1752-1793) was bound out. Judith Howell lived in the Amelia County area at the same time it was reported a group of Saponi Indians lived in a small village built of cabins. I discussed this in an earlier blogpost here. It was in Amelia County that Judith Howell’s branch of the Howell family, first began to intermarry with the Saponi who were gradually moving away from the former Saponi reservation called Ft. Christanna. Matthew Howell continued to move further into the Southside counties of Virginia and his descendants continued to intermarry with the Saponi descendants in the area. Descendants of Matthew Howell’s daughter Elizabeth Howell b. 1783 relocated to Ohio and today are found among the Saponi-Catawba Nation in Ohio. Descendants of his son Freeman Howell (1777-1870) are the North Carolina branch and spread first into Granville County with some moving into Orange, Person, and Alamance counties. This is my branch of the Howell family and you can read more about Freeman Howell’s descendants here.

From the St. Peter’s Parish and Revolutionary War records, we learn that there was a branch of the Howell family that remained in New Kent County and therefore continued to intermarry with the Pamunkey. Please note that the genealogy that I will present here diverges a bit from the genealogy presented by Paul Heinegg about the Howell family. I found additional documents to corroborate the timeline and dates that I am presenting.

Robert Howell (1730/1740 – 1780) and his wife Mary are shown as the parents of several “mulatto” children whose births were recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish registry. I have estimated that Robert Howell was born between 1730 and 1740 based upon the ages of his children and other life events. And given Robert Howell’s approximate age, it makes the most sense that he was a son of Dorothy Howell (Heinegg tentatively believes that Robert Howell is Judith Howell’s son). The maiden name of Robert Howell’s wife Mary is unknown. From the St. Peter’s records, we learn that Robert Howell was the father of John Godfrey Howell born 12 July 1768 and twin daughters named Betsey and Sarah Howell who were born 22 March 1771. We also learn from Revolutionary War bounty land records that Robert Howell enlisted while living in New Kent County and died a year or two into his service. No dates are given, so I have estimated that he died around 1780. Thomas Howell was named as the heir at law of Robert Howell and that his parents were legally married. So this means Robert Howell had another son named Thomas Howell (more on him below). You can read Robert Howell’s transcribed Revolutionary War records and see the original images  here.

Thomas Howell b. 1760 who is documented as Robert Howell’s heir, was also a Revolutionary War soldier and there are records from his service which help document his life. Thomas Howell filed for a pension in 1836 while living in the city of Richmond, VA. He stated that he was 76 at the time, thus he was born around 1760. He enlisted while living in New Kent County and said that his birth was registered at St. Peter’s Parish. This is a key detail because it is consistent with Thomas Howell being a son of Robert Howell who we know was living in New Kent County and whose children were recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish records. After the War, Thomas Howell states he resided in the city of Richmond through to the present. You can read a transcribed version of Thomas Howell’s pension application here. Thomas Howell’s testimony is consistent with the census records which show him as the head of a “free colored” household in Richmond in the 1810 and 1820 censuses and in Henrico Co in the 1830 census (Richmond was enumerated in Henrico Co that year). I found no other Thomas Howells living anywhere in the Richmond from this time period, so I’m confident that this is him recorded in the census.

Fold3_Page_6_Revolutionary_War_Pension_and_BountyLand_Warrant_Application_Files
An excerpt from Thomas Howell’s Revolutionary War pension application. His answers to the first three questions provide key details about where he was from. “1. I was born in St. Peter’s Parish New Kent County Virginia 2. I believe there is a record of my age in New Kent Clerks Office. 3. I resided in New Kent when called into service, since that I have resided in this City.” Source: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files; R5300, Page 6

The births of Thomas Howell’s children were recorded in the St. Peter’s Parish records as well, so we are able to continue to trace his line forward. His wife was named Lucy, but her maiden name is unknown. Son Robert Howell was born 20 Feb 1785 and the births of his daughters were recorded: Susannah in born 17 Apr 1787, Rebecca in born 27 Apr 1790 and Elizabeth in born 12 Mar 1794.

Robert Howell b. 1785 married Kitty Didlake on 22 Dec 1810 in Henrico County and that same year is enumerated in the census for Henrico County, head of a household of 2 “free colored” persons. It is his lineage who brings the Howells full circle back into the tight-knit Pamunkey tribal community


The Pamunkey Howell Family From the 1800s Onward

During the 1800s, Pamunkeys who lived off the reservation in neighboring New Kent County, began to emerge as a group referred to as the “Cumberland Indians”. Cumberland is a town in New Kent County where many off reservation Pamunkey families resided. In her book “Pocahontas People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries”, historian Helen Rountree refers to the Pamunkeys residing in New Kent County as “fringe Indians” and includes the Howell family in this group. The term “fringe Indians” seems to imply that those living off the reservation, lost their tribal identity and this is simply not the case. Historian Arica Coleman and others have pushed back against Rountree’s “fringe Indians”, and instead I will refer to the Pamunkeys living in New Kent as the “Cumberland Indians”.

John Howell b. 1822 was the son of previously mentioned Robert Howell b. 1785. It is John Howell’s family who emerges as a leading and integral family among the Cumberland Indians. John Howell was married to Susan Pearman and they are enumerated in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses in New Kent County and sometimes classified as “mulatto” and sometimes classified as “Indian”. Susan Pearman was also an Indian woman and the daughter of Michael Pearman and Lucy Jarvis. The descendants of John Howell and Susan Pearman intermarried with just about every other Pamunkey family: Collins, Langston, Cook, Stewart, Dennis, Allmond, Wynn, Dungee, Miles, Tupponce, Adkins, Bradby, Custalow, etc (some of these surnames and families are also found among the neighboring Chickahominy and Mattaponi tribes).

Below is a picture of John Howell and Susan Pearman’s daughter Pinkie Howell b. 1865. She married fellow Pamunkey Simeon Collins b. 1859 and so they are shown here with their children. The photo was taken during an anthropological survey of the Pamunkey reservation.

Simeon Collins with wife Pinkie Howell and children. New Kent Co, VA. Identified as Pamunkey Indians. Smithsonian Archives
Simeon Collins b. 1859 seated in the middle with wife Pinkie Howell b. 1865 to the left and their children. Pamunkey Indian reservation in King William County, VA. Circa 1899. Identified as Pamunkey Indians. Smithsonian Archives

Simeon Collins and Pinkie Howell’s family were enumerated in the 1900 census, living on the Pamunkey reservation:

Pinkie 1900 census
Simeon “S” Collins and his wife Pinkie Howell and children were enumerated in 1900 census, living on the Pamunkey reservation. The first column identifies their tribe as “Powhatan”. The second and third columns identify the tribe for their father and mother, respectively. The parents of Simeon and Pinkie are both identified as Powhatan. The next column indicates how much “white blood” they have. The entire family is noted for having 1/2 “white blood”. Thus both of their Powhatan Indian parents were also mixed with European ancestry. This indicates that Pinkie Howell’s parents John Howell and Susan Pearman were both of mixed Pamunkey and European heritage. Source: Year: 1900; Census Place: West Point, King William, Virginia; Roll: T623_31077_4117892; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0043; FHL microfilm: 1241714.

Another daughter of John Howell and Susan Pearman was named Lena Lucy Howell (1857-1936). She was married to another Pamunkey named John Solomon Wynn b. 1855. Lena Howell and John Wynn had a daughter named Kate Wynn (1887-1969) who married outside of the tribe to a white man named Otho Floyd Gray.

Lena Lucy Howell
Lena Lucy Howell (1857-1936) was the daughter of John Howell and Susan Pearman. She was married to John Solomon Wynn.  Source: Robert Gray
Kate Wynn
Kate Wynn (1887-1969) was the daughter of John Solomon Wynn and Lena Lucy Howell. She is shown with her husband Otho Floyd Gray and her son Luther Gordon Gray.  Source: Robert Gray

In 2015, the Pamunkey Tribe became the first tribe in Virginia to receive federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In support of their recognition application, the tribe submitted hundreds of pages of documentation to prove their identity and status as a sovereign indigenous nation. Included in these records was interesting information about a member of the Pamunkey Howell family. We learn that John C. Howell (“J.C. Howell”) who lived outside of the reservation in New Kent County, did not want a school built for Pamunkey children in New Kent in 1870, to have a “colored” teacher. John C. Howell (b. 1849) was the son of John Howell and Susan Pearman. For Howell it was important that the Pamunkeys keep their distance from “colored” people in order to maintain their status as “Indian” in the eyes of their white neighbors.

BIA Pamunkey 1
An excerpt from the Preliminary Positive Decision that the Bureau of Indians Affairs provided for the Pamunkey tribe. Source: https://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/xofa/documents/text/idc1-024801.pdf (page 42)
BIA Pamunkey 2
Continuation of the excerpt from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Preliminary Positive Decision for the Pamunkey Tribe Source: https://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/xofa/documents/text/idc1-024801.pdf (Page 43)

The Pamunkey’s tribe attempt to keep a clear racial distinction between themselves and “colored” people was complicated by Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924.  I previously wrote a blogpost about Walter Plecker (1861-1947) who was the Registrar of Vital Statistics in Virginia from 1912 – 1946. He was a proponent of white supremacy, racial segregation and eugenics and believed that only two races of people existed in Virginia: “White” and “Negro”. In his view, Indian peoples no longer lived in Virginia and “Negro” people simply identified as “Indian” as a racial stepping stone towards whiteness. Plecker’s racial policies were in direct conflict with the Indian identity of the Pamunkey and other tribal peoples who still lived in Virginia. In order to combat people from self identifying as “Indian” on vital records, Plecker sent out a list to the heads of vital statistics in counties across the state. On his list, Plecker identified surnames by county, of families whom he felt were trying to “pass” as “Indian” and “White”. The Pamunkey Howell family made the Plecker list:

Plecker letter 2
Walter Plecker’s 1943 Letter to the Registrars of Vital Statics across Virginia counties, included a list of surnames of families that Plecker determined should be categorized as “Indian”. Unsurprisingly, many of the surnames listed here make up the families of Virginia’s Native American tribes. Source: http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/lewisandclark/students/projects/monacans/Contemporary_Monacans/letterscan.html

The fallout from Plecker’s policies, meant that there were some Pamunkey Howells who did “pass” for white instead of suffering the social disadvantages of being identified as “Negro”. Some families in order to avoid being pinned between two racial categories that they did not identify with, simply left the state. The racial identity of one Pamunkey Howell named Herbert Clayton Howell (1916-1979) is an interesting example. Herbert Howell was identified as “white” in the 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses and identified as “white” in his World War II draft and enlistment records, thus it appeared that he had successfully “passed” for white. However it was his marriage to a white woman, that eventually “outed” his identity as a person of color. On 28 March 1945, just 5 years into their marriage, Herbert Howell and his wife Margaret Shadoan received an annulment. The reason for the annulment is stated clearly on the record: “Defendant was a person of the negro race.”

43071_162028006071_0327-00235
Margaret Shadoan received an annulment from her marriage to Herbert Clayton Howell. The stated reason: “Defendant is a person of the negro race.” Source: Virginia, Divorce Records, 1918-2014
43006_172028004422_0335-00264
Herbet Clayton Howell’s death record from 1979, lists his race as “American Indian”. He died after Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act was overturned, so it became legal again to self identify as Indian. Source: Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014

Final Thoughts

I think it is quite amazing to look back to see that all of us Howells descend from one woman named Dorothy Howell who lived right in the epicenter of a burgeoning colony. I wish there was a way to access more about her life and experiences. I wonder how she felt living so close, yet across the river from her people. In the end, the decisions that she made did result in many of her descendants still staying connected to the tribe and having an integral part in its political and cultural revolution in the 20th and 21st centuries. Modern DNA testing is having a tremendous impact on genealogy as a way of confirming the paper trail with genetic evidence. As a direct lineal descedant of Dorothy Howell’s daughter Judith Howell who moved away from the Pamunkey, I am finding DNA cousin matches who descend from the Pamunkey Collins, Dungee, and Custalow families. The Howells who remained among the Pamunkey appear to be the genetic link. Dorothy Howell’s legacy lives on in the DNA of her many descendants and it is helping us find our way back to one another.

image (1)
A group of Pamunkeys including members of the Cook, Dennis, Miles, Allmond, Page and Bradby families. Circa 1881. Source unknown.
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Evans Family of Granville County – descendants of Jane Gibson “a free Indian woman”

The Native American/”free colored” Evans family of Granville County directly descend from Morris Evans (1665-1739) and Jane Gibson (1660/1670 – 1738) of Charles City County, VA. The Evans family resettled in and became a core part of Granville County’s Native American community in the 1760s immediately following the initial settlement of the founding  Chavis, Harris, Hawley, Pettiford, Anderson, Bass, and Goins families. In this blog post I will document the Evans family from their earliest documented origins from a “free Indian woman” known as Jane Gibson the elder, to their settlement in Granville County. A word of caution: “Evans” is among the most common surnames dating back to colonial times, therefore not all “Evans” families are genealogically related. There were a few “free colored” Evans families originating in Virginia and it is not known if an how they may all be related. The focus of this blog post is about documenting the branch of the Evans family that begins with Morris Evans and his wife Jane Gibson. I do discuss two additional Evans families at the end, that may or may not be related.


Jane Gibson the Elder, “a free Indian woman”

Morris Evans’ (1665-1739) wife Jane Gibson (1660/1670-1738), had a mother also named Jane Gibson. To distinguish between the two women, the mother is referred to as Jane Gibson the elder (born 1640/1650). The elder Jane Gibson was called “a free Indian woman” by some of her descendants who were illegally enslaved. Though the Evans and Gibson families were free-born, that did not prevent some colonists from illegally enslaving them. Apparently, some of the descendants of Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s  daughter Frances Evans (1700-1771) were enslaved by a colonist named Goodrich Lightfoot. They were originally “bound out” to Lightfoot to be indentured servants but he instead enslaved them and after his death, they were subsequently sold to several slave owners.  The enslaved Evans later sued for their freedom and provided information that they descended from a free Indian woman – Jane Gibson the elder.

The petition of Charles Evans, Amey Evans, Sukey Evans, Sisar Evans, Solomon Evans, Frankey Evans, Sally Evans, Milly Evans, Adam Evans and Hannah Evans holden in slavery by Lewis Allen, of the County of Halifax humbly sheweth: that your petitioners are descendants from Jane Gibson, a free Indian woman..

Source: http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genealogyfriend/evans/gib_evans.htm

You can review the documentation on Deloris Williams’ website where she has graciously transcribed the chancery court documents and it is really worth a read, if you’re not familiar with these records.

I also found in the Saint Stephen’s Parish records for New Kent County, that Goodrich Lightfoot (the man who enslaved the Evans) owned an “Indian” slave named Charles who died on October 9, 1722. I’m unsure if this Charles is from the Evans family, but it certainly appears Goodrich Lightfoot enslaved multiple Native Americans.

Source: The Parish Register of Saint Peter's, New Kent County, Va. from 1680 to 1787
Source: The Parish Register of Saint Peter’s, New Kent County, Va. from 1680 to 1787

Also noteworthy, the Native American/”free colored” Howell family of Granville County descends from a woman who was a servant in the home of Goodrich Lightfoot’s brother Sherwood Lightfoot of Saint Stephen’s Parish in New Kent County, VA. And after both the Evans and Howell families came to Granville County, they intermarried.

The exact tribal origin of the Evans family has also been a subject of a lot of debate among researchers. Morris Evans was noted as being a free person of color and we know from DNA testing that he was of at least partial African descent. It is unknown if his background included any Native American ancestry. Although he was born around 1665, the first confirmed records for him were at the end of his life in 1738. So there is a lot about Morris Evans’ early life that we do not know about.

However Morris Evans’ wife’s mother Jane Gibson the elder and thus his wife were noted as being “Indian”, yet no tribe specified. Charles City County, VA which is where Jane Gibson the elder resided, is located in the heart of Powhatan territory and perhaps that is where her tribal ancestry comes from. There is another Powhatan (specifically Nansemond) descended family of Granville County – the Basses, that I blogged about previously and the Evans intermarried with them in Granville. There was also a Walter Gibson recorded as a chieftan in the Tuscarora “Indian Woods” reservation land deeds in Bertie County, NC in the 1770s. However, I have not seen any credible information that names his parents or children, so I’m not sure if he is at all connected to Jane Gibson of Charles City County. Another matter to consider is that Morris Evans and Jane Gibson’s son Charles Evans moved to southside Virginia by the 1730s, about a decade after the Saponi reservation at nearby Fort Christanna was closed. Charles Evans and his family  intermarried with the Saponi descendants residing in Virginia. The maiden name of Charles Evans’ wife is unknown, so more research into her identity is needed.


The Evans Move from the Tidewater to Southside Virginia

The Evans family line that came to Granville were not enslaved and as a result, they are well documented. Morris Evans and Jane Gibson also had two sons named Charles Evans (1696-1760) and Morris Evans Jr (1710-1754). Charles and Morris Jr were born in the Tidewater area of Virginia (York County) like their parents, but relocated to the southside Virginia counties of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and Lunenburg (Lunenburg was formed from Brunswick in 1746 and Mecklenburg was formed from Lunenburg in 1765). Charles Evans moved first in the 1730s and his younger brother Morris Evans Jr moved later in the 1750s. Living next to the Evans families in Southside Virginia during this time period were other notable “free colored”/Native American families such as: Walden, Kersey, Harris, Brandon/Branham, Stewart, Chavis, Guy and Corn. I point this out because the Evans intermarried with most of these Southside families and they then moved together into the North Carolina border counties, including Granville.

Morris Evans Jr (1710-154) was married to a white woman named Amy Poole, who was the daughter of William Poole. After Morris Evans’ death, Amy remarried a John Wright and became known as “Amy Wright”. Her father William Poole in 1753, gave land in Lunenburg Co, VA to Morris Evans Jr and Amy Poole’s son named Richard Evans (1750-1794). This same Richard Evans later moved to Robeson Co, NC and is the most likely ancestor of the Evans family found within the Lumbee Tribe of Robeson Co.

Charles Evans (1696-1760) remained in southside Virginia until his death in 1760 and we have a good record of who his children were through land transactions and wills. Unfortunately not much is known about Charles Evans’ wife aside from her first name being Sarah. Charles Evans’ children were:

  1. Thomas Evans (b. 1734) – tithable in his father’s 1751 Lunenburg Co household. Was in very poor economic standing as his children were bound out because he could not provide for them. Thomas only received one shilling from his father’s will because he was “undutiful”. His wife may have been a Stewart. Some of his children intermarried with the “free colored”/Native American Jeffries family and moved to Orange Co, NC. This is the same Jeffries family that is a core family of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation.
  2. Major Evans (1733-1814) – moved to Granville Co, NC and is the primary ancestor of the Evans of Granville Co. Will be discussed in the next section.
  3. Charles Evans (b. 1737) – remained in southside Virginia. In 1782, he was compensated for beef he provided to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. His daughter Nanny Evans married Eaton Walden.
  4. Richard Evans (b. 1740) – remained in southside Virginia. He did not leave a will, so his apparent children are not verified. He may be the father of Richard Evans b. 1772 who relocated to Chatham Co, NC. An earlier Isaac Evans (b. 1735) was the first “free colored” Evans to appear in the Randolph Co (which borders Chatham) records, so some of the apparent descendants of Richard Evans may in fact be the descendants of Isaac Evans. And it is not currently known if and how Isaac Evans may be related to the family of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson.
  5. Sarah Evans (b. 1742)  – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
  6. Joyce Evans (b. 1743) – mentioned in her father’s will but unknown what happened to her next
  7. Erasmus Evans (b. 1745) – had two sons named Anthony and Isham who were bound out. Anthony was called “Anthony Chavis”, so Erasmus’ wife was likely a Chavis. Anthony Evans/Chavis moved around a bit before settling in Chatham Co where he left a will but apparently no heirs.

From here, we will focus our discussion on Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-1814) who is the main progenitor of the Evans in Granville County.


Major Evans (1733-1814) comes to Granville County

Charles Evans’ son Major Evans (1733-1814) who is the direct lineal ancestor of the vast majority of the Granville County Evans first appears in the Granville tax lists in the 1760s. By the 1780s and 1790s he had recorded several land transactions in Granville and short-lived Bute County (modern Franklin and Warren). Notably in 1780, he purchased 100 acres of land from Phillip Chavis off the Tar River in an area known as the Buffalo Race Path near Buffalo Creek. Phillip Chavis also sold Major Evans an additional 500 acres along the Granville/Franklin line. Phillip Chavis (b. 1726) was the son of William Chavis (1706-1778) – the original Granville land owner and founding community member. Phillip Chavis had numerous land transactions with his father William Chavis around Buffalo Creek and he also settled his father’s estate. In fact, Major Evans’ wife Martha Ann (maiden name unknown) may have been a Chavis given the close relationship between Major Evans and the William Chavis family.

It’s also important to remember that William Chavis’ wife was Frances Gibson was the daughter of Gibson Gibson (1660-1727) of Charles City County, VA. Perhaps Jane Gibson the elder and Gibson Gibson were related, given the shared Gibson surname in the same location. We know from witness testimony that Jane Gibson the elder had two children – Jane Gibson the younger who married Morris Evans and a son named George Gibson (born 1665) who died without having children. So William Chavis’ father-in-law Gibson Gibson could not have been a son of Jane Gibson the elder, but perhaps a brother or nephew. This is only speculation at the moment and hopefully some more documentation may confirm these suspicions.

Phillip Chavis land sold to Major Evans in 1780. Buffalo Race Paths - Granville County.
16 Feb 1780 Granville County, North Carolina – Phillip Chavis sells land along the “Buffalo Race Paths” to Major Evans. This land is very close to the Granille (now Vance) and Franklin County border
Major Evans land purchase on the Buckhorn Branch in Newlight Creek in far southeastern Granville County, close to the Franklin and Wake County borders.
Major Evans land purchase on the Buckhorn Branch in Newlight Creek in far southeastern Granville County, close to the Franklin and Wake County borders.
Circled in red are the approximate locations of Major Evans land purchases in and around Granville County.  There are at least two locations named
Circled in red are the approximate locations of Major Evans land purchases in and around Granville County. There are at least two locations named “Buffalo Race Paths” – one in Shocco township, Warren County where the old Bute County courthouse was located and one located on the Granville (now Vance) and Franklin county line. Major Evans’ “Buffalo Race Paths” land appears to be the latter one. This land bordered the Chavis family land and Snelling family land. The Snellings are Chavis descendants and intermarried with the Evans.
Source: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ncmaps/id/3569

Whatever the exact relationship between Major Evans and the Chavis family turns out to be, these land transactions placed Major Evans and his family in the heart of the Granville County Native American community. It’s also important to note that Major Evans still owned land in Mecklenburg County, VA and appears on the tax lists there in the 1780s, so he likely was moving back and forth (a very short distance) between his Mecklenburg County property and his Granville County property. This close relationship between the two locations explains why many other the Native American/”free colored” families from the Mecklenburg area including the Howell, Guy, KerseyBrandon/Branham, Cousins, and Mayo families (most of whom had intermarried with the Evans) continued moving into Granville up through the first couple of decades of the 1800s. There was a Major Evans recorded in the Warren County tax list for the Six Pound District in 1814 and if this is the same Major Evans which it likely is, then it shows he moved yet again in his final years.

Nearly all of Major Evans’ children and descendants intermarried with families from the Granville Native American community. Below is a list of his children and their spouses:

1. * Morris Evans (1750-1834) married second Lydia Anderson, his first wife is unknown.

2. * Gilbert Evans (1757-1827) married Phoebe Lumbley. Phoebe was apparently white, and Gilbert appears in tax and census records as white as do their children. Because of strict laws forbidding interracial marriages, it could be that Gilbert “passed” for white in order to have a white spouse. This is a pattern that I have seen before.

3. Burwell Evans (1758-1820) married Mary Mitchell.

4. * John Evans (1759-1781) unwed and died in battle during the Revolutionary War.

5. Elizabeth Evans (1780-before 1860) married Isaac Chavis but they later separated.

6. Nelly Evans (1762-1849) married William Taborn

7. * William Evans (1764-1823) married Sarah Hays who was apparently white. Like his brother Gilbert, William “passed” for white and it was likely because he had a white spouse.

8. Sarah Evans (1770 – before 1860) married George Anderson.

* Paul Heinegg in his Evans family sketch on his website freeafricanamericans, lists the brothers Morris, Gilbert, John, and William Evans as the *possible* sons of Gilbert Evans b. 1730. However genealogist Deloris Williams has more up to date research on the Evans family and I agree with her conclusions.

Most of these families resided in Granville and Wake Counties. It is likely Major Evans’ land purchase in Newlight Creek which borders Wake County, precipitated the movement of many of his descendants into Wake.

The interconnectedness of the Evans family to the Granville County Native American community is also evident in the division of the estate of William Evans (1789-1871), a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Deloris Williams has transcribed his estate record here. William was the grandson of Major Evans. Though William Evans had been married to Frances Anderson, by the time of his death he was widowed and had no living heirs. So instead he divided his estate among some members of the Native American community including the Anderson, Boon, Pettiford, Hawley, Mayo, Curtis, Taborn, Jones, and Evans families.

Below are some pictures of Granville County Evans who are directly descended from Major Evans (and further back descended from Morris Evans and Jane Gibson):

Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934). She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon. Because her parents were unwed, she took her mother's last name. Though Pantheyer's marriage record to Junius Thomas Howell lists her father as
Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934) of Fishing Creek, Granville County. She was the daughter of Hilliard Evans and Betsy Brandon. Because her parents were unwed, she took her mother’s last name. Though Pantheyer’s marriage record to Junius Thomas Howell lists her father as “unknown”, Hilliard Evans identity was confirmed through Pantheyer’s brother Osh Brandon’s marriage record. Pantheyer’s sister Hilliard “Hettie” Brandon was also named after their father. Pantheyer’s mother Betsy Brandon later had several more children with William Peace. Hilliard Evans later married Louisa Mitchell and relocated to Ohio. Probably only his oldest children with Betsy Brandon had memories of him before he moved out of state.
Source: Ancestry, Username: rthomas1973

Pantheyer Brandon’s lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:

Pantheyer Brandon; Hilliard Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans.

She is also descended from the Brandon, Bass, and Anderson families.

John Evans (1830 - 1892) and his wife Martha Harris. John was the son of Polly Evans and an unknown father. His mother Polly later married Johnson Reed. The family relocated to Ohio by 1860. Source: E. Howard Evans
John Evans (1830 – 1892) and his wife Martha Harris. John was the son of Polly Evans and an unknown father. His mother Polly later married Johnson Reed. The family relocated to Ohio by 1860. John Evans was first cousins to Pantheyer Brandon pictured above.
Source: E. Howard Evans

John Evans’ lineage back to Major Evans is as follows:

John Evans; Polly Evans; Thomas Evans; Morris Evans; Major Evans

John Evans is also descended from the Bass and Anderson families.

Standing on the left if John Evans' son Thomas McDaniel Evans  (1861-1929). Standing to his right is Thomas' son Howard Evans and seated is Thomas' daughter Ruth Evans. John Evans moved to Ohio by 1860, where his family continued to live. Source: E. Howard Evans
Standing on the left is John Evans’ son Thomas McDaniel Evans (1861-1929). Standing to his right is Thomas’ son Howard Evans and seated is Thomas’ daughter Ruth Evans. John Evans moved to Ohio by 1860, where his family continued to live.
Source: E. Howard Evans
Mary Etta Guy (1866 - 1965) a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Mary Etta descends from several Granville County Native American families. She descends from the Evans (Morris Evans-Jane Gibson), Taborn, Guy, and Chavis families and was married to a Tyler. Mary Etta spent her entire life in Fishing Creek until after her husband's death in 1943 when she joined some of her family who had relocated to New York. Source: Carole Allen
Mary Etta Guy (1866 – 1965) a resident of Fishing Creek, Granville County. Mary Etta descends from several Granville County Native American families. She descends from the Evans (Morris Evans-Jane Gibson), Taborn, Guy, and Chavis families and was married to a Tyler. Mary Etta spent her entire life in Fishing Creek until after her husband’s death in 1943 when she joined some of her family who had relocated to New York.
Source: Carole Allen
Ira Evans 1879-1968
Ira Evans (1879-1968) was the son of Lewis Evans (1847-1917) and  Zibra Bookram (b. 1859). His is a direct lineal descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson through their grandson Major Evans. Ira descends from the Evans, Gibson, Bookram, Bass, Anderson, and Scott families and lived in Durham Co, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: LaMonica Williams.
Ada Evans
Ada Evans (1885-1954) was the daughter of Thomas Evans and Mary Bookram. She is double first cousins with Ira Evans pictured above. Ada was first married to Earnest Day and second married to William Glover. She lived in Granville and Durham Counties. Please note that most family tree on Ancestry have confused this Ada Evans for her older first cousin Ada Evans ( b 1877) who was the daughter of Sallie Evans.  Source: Ancestry, Username: MichaelSmith493

What about the families of Thomas Evans (1723-1788) and James Evans (1720-1786)??

 

Evans Migration Map.004
Map following the movement of the Evans family. The Morris Evans-Jane Gibson line is shown in red, the James Evans line is shown in blue, and the Thomas Evans line is shown in purple. The dates indicate the earliest records for the Evans family in those locations. © Kianga Lucas

 

So as I mentioned at the beginning of the blog post, there were other early “free colored” Evans families in Virginia that may be related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. In particular, there are two two early Evans’ ancestors that need to be discussed.

 

Thomas Evans (1723-1788):

One family begins with a Thomas Evans (1723-1788) who lived in the southside Virginia counties of Lunenburg and Mecklenburg. His parents at this time are unknown. His wife’s name is also unknown but she was a Walden.  Thomas Evans and his descendants usually lived close to the known descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. In fact, this Thomas Evans (1723-1788), Charles Evans and Major Evans (grandsons of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson) all together on 9 April 1782 in Mecklenburg County court proved their claim to be paid for 225 lbs of beef they each supplied the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. This suggests a close relationship between the three men (two of whom are documented siblings).

All of Thomas Evans’ children married other closely related Native American families of the area including Chavis, Brandon, Drew and Kersey. Thankfully Thomas Evans left a 1787 (proved 1788) Mecklenburg County will that named his heirs. His heirs were also named in a subsequent lawsuit. Many of Thomas’ descendants moved into and intermarried with the Native American community in Granville including his grandson Isaac Chavis who married and later separated from the previously mentioned Elizabeth Evans who was the daughter of Major Evans. Additional surnames that Thomas Evans’ descendants married into when they moved to North Carolina include: LocklearIvey and Hawley. All of this suggests a close relationship between Thomas Evans and the descendants of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson but I’m not sure what it is. I feel fairly confident that this Thomas Evans is related to Morris Evans/Jane Gibson but I’m still working on seeing where exactly he fits in.

Sally Kersey
Sally Kersey (1828-1911) was the daughter of Benjamin Kersey and Sally (maiden name not known). Her grandparents were William Kersey and Polly Evans. Polly Evans was a daughter of Thomas Evans (1723-1788). She was married to William Tyler and was a lifelong resident of the Native American community in Granvilly, in Fishing Creek township. Source: Ancestry, Username: wanhiehol

James Evans (1720-1786):

And second there is James Evans (1720-1786) who first appears in the records in Surry County, VA in 1746. In that year he was charged with adultery for living with Eleanor Walden. Eleanor is presumed to later be his wife and mother of his children. Unfortunately, Surry County suffered major record loss, so further details on James Evans’ early life may have been destroyed. Such records may have named his parents, because James’ parents are unknown. By the 1750s, James Evans was living in Edgecombe County, NC as indicated by land purchases and militia records. Notably James Evans is listed next to several members of the “free colored”/Native American Scott family that was of Saponi descent and these families later intermarried. This part of Edgecombe became Halifax County in 1758, and James Evans continues to appear in the Halifax records. By 1786, his wife Eleanor (Walden) Evans was listed as a head of household in the Halifax records, indicating that James had died some time previous to that date.

James Evans’ descendants continued living in the Halifax County area. Again, please note that Paul Heinegg has different information for the descendants of James Evans. Instead I’m using the genealogy provided by Deloris Williams which I believe is more accurate. James Evans had a son by the same name James Evans Jr (1750-1830) who lived in Halifax Co. James Jr had a son named Leven Evans (1775 – before 1850) who is the main source of the Evans found within the state-recognized Haliwa-Saponi tribe in Hollister. Leven Evans’ first wife was Kizzie but her maiden name is unknown. His second wife was Harriet Scott (b. 1811). Harriet was from the same Scott family that her grandfather James Evans (1720-1786) enlisted in the Edgecombe Co militia with. Leven Evans’ descendants continued to intermarry with “core” families of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe including Richardson, Lynch, Silver, Mills, and Copeland.

Recent DNA testing suggests that Leven Evans (1775-before 1850) is not a descendant of Morris Evans/Jane Gibson. At least 7 direct male lineal descendants of Morris Evans have done yDNA testing and their haplogroup is E-M2 which is a sub Saharan African haplogroup. At least one direct male lineal descendant of Leven Evans has done yDNA testing and his haplogroup is R1b which is Western European (most commonly Irish). This means we know that Leven Evans and Morris Evans do not share a common male Evans ancestor. But it’s possible that the Leven Evans branch may descend from a female Evans ancestor which would account for the different yDNA haplogroups. Like the paper trail, DNA results can offer a clue but not the full story about one’s heritage.

Fox Evans
Fox Evans (1882-1932) was the son of Elijah Evans and Jane Cornelia Richardson. He is a direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through Leven Evans. Fox Evans was married to Leacy Silver and lived in Halifax County, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: lynnmcaldwell1
image1
Major Blake Evans (1879-1959) is pictured with his first wife Adeline Virginia Richardson (1876-1920). Major Blake Evans was a brother to Fox Evans pictured above. He is a direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through his grandson Leven Evans. Major Blake Evans lived in Halifax Co, NC his entire life where some of his descendants are among the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Source: Desmond Ellsworth
image2
Pictured are children of Major Blake Evans (1879-1959) who resided in Halifax Co, NC. Source: Desmond Ellsworth

 

Mollie Evans
Mollie Evans (1892-1938) was the daughter of William Evans and Martha Richardson. She is also direct lineal descendant of James Evans (1720-1786) through Leven Evans. Mollie was married to Arch Silver and lived in Halifax County, NC. Source: Ancestry, Username: GwendolynJohnson84