Longtime chief of the Midwest Saponi Nation, James Dewey Keels, passed away on January 28, 2016. He served as chief of the tribe for 19 years and just stepped down this past year due to health concerns. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and community. Chief Keels served his tribe well and held a number of important political positions including mayor, councilman, and state treasurer. He was also a veteran of the U.S. Army. Below is the full text of the Chief Keels’ obituary. Afterwards, I will explain his family connections to the Native Americans in Granville County, NC.
James Keels (1930 – 2016)
RIO GRANDE — James Dewey Keels, 86, of Rio Grande, formerly of Cincinnati, passed away Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016.
Born Jan. 12, 1930, in Blackfork, he was the son of the late G. Dewey Keels and Huldah A. Howell.
After his service in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of Cincinnati studying business law. Keels was employed with the United States Postal Service, retiring as postal area manager with 37 years of service.
Keels was elected councilman and was the first black mayor in the village of Woodlawn, serving two terms. As mayor, Keels developed a 50-acre park, constructed a new municipal building, police station, fire house and swimming pool. He was elected the first black state treasurer and second vice president of the Ohio Mayors Association; executive vice president of the National Alliance Federal Employees; and was the first black chairman of the Cincinnati Postal Credit committee. Keels was instrumental in designing the village of Woodlawn flag which continues to be displayed in the village.
Community and civic involvement includes: Member and deacon of New Hope Baptist Church, president of the Gallia Economic Development Association, member of Gallia-Meigs Community Action, minority representative of Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, Woodlawn Youth Association, post commander of John R. Fox 631 American Legion, commissioned Kentucky colonel (twice), Ohio Rural Development Partnership, and member of the Midwest Saponi Nation, serving as chief for 19 years.
Recognition includes: Who’s Who in Government, Profile of Black Mayors in America, Who’s Who in Ohio, Who’s Who in Black America, Who’s Who in Government, Profile of Black Mayors in America and Honor Commendation for Outstanding Community Service by the Ohio State Senate.
He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Wilmore Keels; daughter Tawana Keels; son Col. (ret.) James D. (Tara) Keels Jr.; stepson Kendall A. Gault; grandchildren; step-grandchildren; sister Gladys D. Grant; brothers Lloyd E. Keels, Russell E. (Annette) Keels and Raymond K. Howell; and a host of family, relatives and friends.
James was preceded in death by brother-in-law Charles “Foxy” Grant.
Visitation will be 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, at Thompson, Hall and Jordan Funeral Home, 11400 Winton Rd., Forest Park, Ohio, followed by funeral services at 11 a.m. Interment with military honors, Vine Street Hill Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the James D. Keels Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 446, Mason, OH 45040; or at any Fifth Third Bank.
Local arrangements are entrusted to Cremeens Funeral Chapel, Gallipolis. Please sign registry at www.thompsonhalljordan.com
The obituary lists the names of Chief James Keel’s parents – G. Dewey Keels and Huldah Howell. His father G. Dewey Keels descends from the same Stewart family found in Granville County’s Native American community that I blogged about here. His mother Huldah Howell is from the same Howell and Scott families of Granville County’s Native American community.
James Keels’ maternal great-grandparents were Wesley Howell (1843-1910) and Elizabeth Scott (1846-1916). Wesley Howell was born in Charlotte Co, VA and moved to Ohio with his mother Elizabeth Howell (1814-1912) and siblings in the 1850s. Wesley Howell was locally known as a medicine man and he married Elizabeth Scott, who was the daughter of Jefferson Scott (1810-1907) and Caroline Hockaday (1821-1892) who relocated their family from Halifax Co, NC to Ohio.
Elizabeth Howell (1814-1912) was the daughter of Elizabeth Howell (b. 1783). This elder Elizabeth Howell was the sister of Freeman Howell (1777-1870). Freeman as you will recall from this blog post, is the progenitor of the Native American Howell family found in Granville County.
Jefferson Scott (1810-1907) was the son of Sterling Scott (b. 1750) Revolutionary War veteran. Sterling was the son of Abraham Scott (b. 1710). Abraham had a brother named Francis Scott (b. 1720) who in turn had a son named Exum Scott (1754-1823). Exum is the main progenitor of the Scotts found within Granville’s Native American community.
I have a major update and correction to the genealogy of Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) of Granville County. This is a big breakthrough for Chavis, Gibson, and Granville County researchers. And what I will discuss below is a major correction to the genealogy that researcher Paul Heinegg has provided for Jesse Chavis. As I’ve shown in other blog posts, researchers sometimes conflate the records of multiple people who happen to share the same name into a single person. I can confirm that Jesse Chavis of Granville County was NOT the son of Elizabeth Chavis of Amelia and Mecklenburg Counties, VA. Instead Jesse Chavis was from the family of Granville community founders William Chavis and his wife Frances Gibson.
The Wrong Jesse Chavis
In his section on the Chavis family, Paul Heinegg wrote about a woman named Elizabeth Chavis (b. 1751) who lived in southside Virginia and was the mother of several children born out of wedlock. On 13 November 1769, Elizabeth Chavis had a son named Jesse Chavis who was bound out. No other information is provided as to what happened to Jesse Chavis after he was bound out. As you can see from the text above, no additional records are provided on this Jesse Chavis of Mecklenburg County. What Heinegg then does is assume that a Jesse Chavis who appears in the Granville County records is the same Jesse Chavis who was bound out in Mecklenburg County. This is not an unfair assumption to make because Mecklenburg County shares an important border with Granville County and many of the Native families in Granville that I have discussed came from Mecklenburg. However Heinegg provides no records to demonstrate that the Jesse Chavises are indeed the same person. In the following sections, I will examine the records of Jesse Chavis more closely and present some new records that I found which help to sort out this mix up.
The Family of William Chavis (1709-1777)
I have referenced William Chavis (1709-1777) many times in previous blog posts though I have yet to write a full blog solely dedicated to him. The reason for this is that I’m still gathering and analyzing records related to William Chavis. He is such an important ancestor not only for Granville County but for other Native communities as well, so I want to make sure I get it right.
William Chavis was the original land owner of a massive, continuous tract of land that he likely received directly from John Cateret, 2nd Earl of Granville in the 1740s. Local Granville/Vance County historian Oscar W. Blacknall(1852-1918) wrote about the Native American identity of William Chavis and his massive land holdings which I previously discussed here. It is the Chavis land tract that provided the original land base for the Native community. William Chavis’ wife was Frances Gibson(1700-1780),who was the daughter of Gibby Gibson (1660-1727) originally from the Charles City County, VA area. Before marrying William Chavis, Frances Gibson had a son named John Smith.
Perhaps most importantly, William Chavis was part of a group of Saponi Indians who were documented several times in the colonial records in the 1750s and 1760s, living in Granville County next to the land of Indian trader Col. William Eaton. I have previously blogged about these records here and here. I can’t stress enough how important this documentation is for establishing that not only were these individuals identified as Saponi, but they were collectively identified as a recognized Saponi Nation. These were not random individuals living together who just happened to be Native Americans. These were individuals that were deeply connected through a shared national identity. And these documents are from the 1750s/1760s which is many decades after the closure of Fort Christanna located in Brunswick County, VA which was the site of the Saponi reservation that the colony established.
Together William Chavis and Frances Gibson had the following children (birth dates are approximations):
1. Phillip Chavis(b. 1726)– executor of his father William Chavis’ estate and sold what was left of his father’s land. Philip moved around a lot between North Carolina and South Carolina, eventually settling in Bladen Co (later Robeson Co). He is the common ancestor of the Chavises of the Lumbee Tribe and Tuscarora of Robeson County.
2. Sarah Chavis(1730-1785)– married to Edward Harris and received a parcel of her father William Chavis’ land which her children later sold. Many of Sarah’s descendants remained in Granville and Wake Counties. Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris were also my 6th great-grandparents.
3. Gibby/Gideon Chavis (1737-1777)– namesake of Gibbs Creek in Granville/Vance Co off of the Tar River. He was married to Ann Priddy and because he died somewhat young (according to historian O.W. Blacknall, he was killed as a result of a horse race), his three children were looked after by his widow’s family. One of his sons named William Chavis eventually moved away by 1785 to South Carolina or Georgia (according to a letter written to the British Claims Commission). Heinegg guesses but does not firmly assert that Gibby’s son William Chavis married Sarah Kersey in 1790 and lived in Wake Co but this is not correct. After William Chavis sold his father Gibby Chavis’ land in 1785, he moved out of state.
4. William Chavis Jr (b. 1741)– was married to a woman named Ellender (maiden name not known) and by the 1780s, relocated down to Bladen (Robeson ) Co with his brother Philip Chavis. It is unknown if he had any surviving children.
5. Lettice Chavis(1742-1814)– was married to Aquilla Snelling and their descendants are mostly found in neighboring Wake Co and some relocated to Tennessee and Kentucky.
6. Keziah Chavis(b. 1742) – was married to Asa Tyner. Asa Tyner and his father-in-law William Chavis had a very tumultuous relationship which will be discussed in more detail below. Keziah’s descendants remained in Granville Co and many later moved out to Stokes/Forsyth Cos, NC.
7. Fanny Chavis – she appears on a tax list in her father William Chavis’ household in 1761 but nothing is known about her after that and she is not named in William Chavis’ estate papers.
Because William Chavis was a substantial land owner, tax payer, and had a close relationship with Indian trader Col. William Eaton, his children are well documented since they all at some point owned parcels of their father’s land and/or appear in his estate papers.
Newly Discovered Records for Jesse Chavis
William Chavis died in 1777 and his estate papers are digitized and available on Ancestry.com. Please be aware that the index for Ancestry’s North Carolina Wills and Probate collection is not so accurate, so the stop and end points of folders are not indexed properly and there are pages from different folders mixed in together. William Chavis’ estate papers are a necessary read if you are a William Chavis descendant and/or researcher. Heinegg only makes brief references to the content of the estate papers and so they are definitely worth a look because you will learn a lot more.
So while I was reviewing William Chavis’ estate papers, I came across a very interesting page. It was a court order from 5 February 1777 that called for several people to report to court to settle William Chavis’ will. The following people are named to report to court: Frances Chavers (William Chavis’ widow), Phillip Chavers (William Chavis’ son and executor of the estate), Anna Chavers (I’m not yet sure who she is), Joseph Hill, John Nevil, William Mills, John Kittrell, William Ashley, and Major Evans (from the Native America/”free colored” Evans family who intermarried and had several land transactions with the Chavises). And scribbled in between these names is a “Jesse Chavers”. (Chavers is another common spelling of Chavis).
The court order does not specify Jesse Chavis’ relationship with the deceased William Chavis but I found another page in the estate files that does help clarify. William Chavis owned a lot of land and property, so it took a number of years to finally settle his estate. His widow Frances (Gibson) Chavis died in 1780 which likely added to the complications of William Chavis’ estate. A page dated 9 Aug 1780 named Jesse Chavis as an orphan of William Chavis, deceased, and ordered that Jesse Chavis be bound out to Thomas Person until the age of 21 years.
Perhaps the reason why Jesse Chavis was not originally bound out in 1777/78 when William Chavis died was that Frances (Gibson) Chavis was still living and was financially secure from her husband’s estate to raise Jesse. But when Frances died in 1780, Jesse Chavis was truly orphaned.
However, with that said, I don’t believe that Jesse Chavis was William Chavis and Frances Gibson’s son despite being called their “orphan”. For one, Jesse Chavis was born in the 1760s since he was still a minor in 1780. Frances was born around 1700, making her too old to give birth in the 1760s. And second, in the many estate records dealing with transfer of land ownership and with companies attempting to collect outstanding debts from William Chavis’ estate, Jesse is never mentioned as a son to potentially collect debt from. William Chavis’ sons are consistently listed as Phillip, Gibson, and William Jr.
So if Jesse Chavis was not William Chavis and Frances Gibson’s son, then what was his relationship? I believe the most likely scenario is that he was their grandson that they were raising. I’m not 100% certain which of William Chavis’ children was Jesse Chavis’ parent, but we can definitely eliminate a few. Again, keep in mind that Jesse Chavis was born in the 1760s and based on other biographical information discussed later, I have estimated his birth at around 1766.
Phillip Chavis was married to wife Celia before Jesse was born, was living in Bladen County and then South Carolina around the time of Jesse’s birth, and lived long past his father William’s death, so he’s not a candidate.
Sarah Chavis was married to Edward Harris by about 1750, so she couldn’t be Jesse’s mother.
Gibby/Gideon Chavis died in 1777, however Gibby’s children were named in their maternal grandfather Robert Priddy’s will. Gibby’s own will which was written in 1777 only names one son named William, so we can rule him out.
William Chavis Jr moved down to the Bladen (Robeson) Co area in the 1770s and lived long after his father died, so he doesn’t seem to be a possibility.
Lettice Chavis was married to Aquilla Snelling by 1761 and her children are named in her will, so she couldn’t be Jesse’s mother.
Keziah Chavis was married to Asa Tyner in 1766 (according to tax lists and testimony from William Chavis’ estate papers). If Jesse was born before Keziah Chavis married Asa Tyner, then it is a possibility. I will explore this some more below.
And finally there is Fanny Chavis who we know very little about because she only appears in a tax list once in 1761 and no additional records for her. It’s quite possible she was Jesse’s mother and she died a short time after, thus Jesse’s grandparents raised him.
Mixed in with William Chavis’ estate papers, I found a sworn deposition provided by Joshua Hunt on 9 August 1780. Mr. Hunt was a witness to a proposed marriage contract some 15 years earlier between William Chavis and his future son-in-law Asa Tyner. It appears Asa Tyner never received his payments from William Chavis and sued the estate to be fully compensated. According to Joshua Hunt, William Chavis offered Asa Tyner: 500 £, two slaves (“Dick” and “Dilcie”), 644 acres of land that included two plantations, a large quantity of cattle and hogs, and an assortment of household items if he married William’s daughter Keziah Chavis.
Offering a dowry to marry off a daughter was certainly not unheard of for this time period, but that is quite a lot to offer to pay. I don’t know if William Chavis made similar offers to his other son-in-laws such as Edward Harris or Aquilla Snelling. So this leaves me wondering why he offered so much? Could it be that Keziah Chavis was already an unwed mother to Jesse Chavis, so William had to offer more to persuade Asa Tyner to marry her? We also know from court records that Heinegg provided, that when William Chavis was still living, he and Asa Tyner were involved in a number of legal disputes. So it appears they had a hostile relationship and some of it may stem from William Chavis never fully compensating Asa Tyner for marrying Keziah.
So at this time, my best leads are that Jesse Chavis was a son of either Fanny Chavis or Keziah Chavis. Hopefully additional research will clarify exactly who Jesse’s parents were.
Jesse Chavis and His Family
Let’s continue reviewing the additional records that Heinegg provided for Jesse Chavis and you will see they are consistent with him being from William Chavis’ family. In 1787, Jesse Chavis was a tithable in Hugh Snelling’s Granville County household. 1787 is also the year that Jesse Chavis was 21 years old, so his indenture to Thomas Person was over. Hugh Snelling was a grandson of William Chavis through his daughter Lettice Chavis and her husband Aquilla Snelling. Aquilla Snelling was deceased by 1779, so oldest son Hugh Snelling acquired most of his parent’s possessions. Hugh was a substantial land owner in Granville County and it makes sense that Jesse Chavis would reside with his first cousin Hugh Snelling. This is yet another confirmation that the Jesse Chavis of Granville County was not the same Jesse Chavis of Mecklenburg County.
By 1790, Jesse Chavis was the head of his own household in the Fishing Creek district of Granville County. Fishing Creek was the heart of the Native community and the location of most of William Chavis’ family and their land holdings. In August 1794, Jesse Chavis was charged with having an “illegitimate child” with Nelly Bass.Absalom Bass (b. 1760) and Benjamin Bass (b. 1756) were his securities for the “bastard bond”. Nelly, Absalom and Benjamin were from the Native American/”free colored” Bass family that I previously blogged about here. Absalom and Benjamin were brothers and Nelly was likely their sister or niece which is why they were the sureties for the bond. I don’t know the name or gender of the child that Jesse Chavis had with Nelly Bass or what happened with that child.
In his Jesse Chavis discussion, Heinegg included a record from 8 April 1798 which states a Jesse Chavis of Petersburg sold 8 heads of cattle in Granville County. This is most likely a different Jesse Chavis, perhaps the one living in Mecklenburg Co or yet another Jesse Chavis that was contemporary to one we are discussing. The fact that the record says this Jesse Chavis was of Petersburg, indicates that he was not local and instead was from Petersburg and came to Granville County to sell cattle.
In the 1790s, Jesse Chavis also fathered an “illegitimate child” with Rhody Anderson (b. 1770). The name of that child was Henry Anderson (1790-1850). We know this because Rhody Anderson went on to marry Darling Bass (1771-1845) and Darling’s will makes mention of his step-son Henry Anderson. Rhody Anderson was the daughter of Lewis Anderson Jr(1743-1805) and Winnie Bass (1752-1809). Winnie Bass was a sister of Absalom Bass and Benjamin Bass discussed above and Lewis Anderson Jr. was from the Anderson family that I blogged about here.
Jesse Chavis was a tithable in 1802 and appears in the Granville County census in 1810, 1820, and 1830. His 1810 household included 6 people which would indicate that by 1810 Jesse was married and had several children (the 1810 census does not provide age and sex of household members). In 1820, Jesse is listed in the Fishing Creek district and is the head of a household of 8 people. In this census we can see the age and gender breakdown of the household and it appears to include Jesse, 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls ages 14 and under), and 3 women in the same age range as Jesse. One woman is likely a wife but I’m unsure who the other 2 women are. Perhaps siblings or in-laws or even a mistake by the enumerator.
In 1830, Jesse Chavis is the head of a household of 5 people (Ancestry has this incorrectly indexed as 15 people). The household looks to include Jesse (age 55 or over), a wife (female age 55 or over), two adult sons (one age 24-36 age, one age 36-55), and a daughter (age 10-24). Though the 1830 census did not name districts, I know from looking at Jesse Chavis’ neighbors that he was still in Fishing Creek. In fact he is listed two households over from my 5th great-grandfather Sherwood Harris (1761-1833). Sherwood Harris (who was the son of Sarah Chavis and Edward Harris) and Jesse Chavis were first cousins.
1830 is the last census that Jesse Chavis appears in, so he died sometime before the 1840 census. I do not have a precise date of his death and have not located a will or estate papers for him.
We do know that Jesse Chavis was married at least once. On 2 May 1812, he married Nancy Mitchell (b. 1775). Interestingly, Darling Bass was the bondsman for the marriage, so Jesse appears to have been on good terms with his son Henry Anderson’s step-father. Nancy Mitchell was the wife living in Jesse’s household in the 1820 and 1830 censuses, but she couldn’t have been with him in the 1810 census as that was before they were married in 1812. Recall that the 1810 census included 6 individuals in the household, so Jesse Chavis was most likely married before Nancy Mitchell and had children with that wife. I have not located any other marriage records for Jesse, so I don’t know the identity of this first wife.
I did find Jesse’s widow Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis in the 1850 and 1860 censuses in the Beaver Dam district in Granville County. Beaver Dam is right below Fishing Creek, on the other side of the Tar River and was a location that some of the Fishing Creek community members moved into, including other descendants of William Chavis.
In the 1850 census, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is shown living with a Redding Chavis, age 49 years and a married couple – Benjamin Anderson age 60 and Franky Anderson age 52. Redding Chavis was Jesse Chavis’ son from his first unknown wife since he was born in 1801, which is before the 1812 marriage date with second wife Nancy Mitchell. Franky Anderson’s maiden name was Franky Mitchell and she was Nancy Mitchell’s daughter from before marrying Jesse Chavis. In the 1830 census, Franky Mitchell’s husband Benjamin Anderson is also shown only living two households away from Jesse Chavis. Benjamin Anderson was also the younger brother of Rhody Anderson, the woman who Jesse Chavis had a child with.
In the 1860 census, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is shown again living with her step-son Redding Chavis in Beaver Dam district in Granville Co. That is the last time she appears in the census, so she died sometime before 1870. Redding Chavis was never married but he did father a child with Fanny Harris b. 1815 named Emily Harris (1834-1907). Fanny Harris was also a descendant of William Chavis, and in fact Redding Chavis and Fanny Harris were second cousins. Emily Harris married Thomas Evans(1827-1911) and their family like many other Saponi families from Granville County, relocated to Ohio and later Michigan where the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation are today.
So to recap, Jesse Chavis was from the family of William Chavis and Frances Gibson and most likely a grandson of theirs. He was bound out to Thomas Person and then lived with his first cousin Hugh Snelling. He had a child with Nelly Bass, a child with Rhody Anderson named Henry Anderson, a first unknown wife with whom he had at least one son named Redding Chavis, and then later married Nancy Mitchell.
Looking at his household numbers in the census records, it’s quite apparent Jesse Chavis had other children. He likely had more children with his first unknown wife and children with his second wife Nancy Mitchell.
I can confirm that William Chavis (1801-1854) was a son of Jesse Chavis. And given his approximate birth date of 1801, he would be from Jesse Chavis’ first unknown wife. Census records and tax lists place William Chavis in very close proximity to where Jesse Chavis and his known family lived in the 1830s and 1840s. William Chavis married Delilah Guy (1819-1860) on 16 Oct 1834 and the Guy family as well lived in Fishing Creek and were neighbors to Jesse Chavis. William Chavis’ will makes mention of giving his mother title to the land that she was already living on in the Beaver Dam district. The text of the will was transcribed by fellow Granville County researcher Jahrod Pender:
Will of William Chavis
Jan. 26 1854 proved Feb. Court 1854
William Chavis wills to his mother the land in Beaverdam district where she now lives for her life then to my wife if she be living and if not to my children; To wife Delilah Chavis, for life or widowhood, all else I own but if she marry again then to be taken over by my excr. For use of my wife and children, and after her death to all my children.
Exrs. Col Lewis Parham
Wts W.W Dement, W H Paschall.
Though the will does not give the name of William Chavis’ mother, Nancy (Mitchell) Chavis is the only elder female Chavis who is listed in the census for Beaver Dam district in 1850 and 1860. Nancy was actually his step-mother but was the mother that raised him for most of his life since she married his father Jesse Chavis when William was about 10 years old. And this explains why in the census records for 1850 and 1860, Nancy was the head of the household and not her adult step-son Redding Chavis who resided with her.
I hope this blog post was informative and clarifies exactly who Jesse Chavis of Granville County was. I especially hope it’s a helpful reminder for researchers to be patient with the records and to carefully review all of the content. This is the best way to avoid mistakes such as conflating records of different individuals.
This is a special blog post for me because Freeman Howell (1777-1870) was my 4th great-grandfather. He was also the progenitor of all of the Native American/”free colored” Howells living in Granville, Orange, Person, and Alamance Cos so it is important to correctly identify all of his descendants. Freeman Howell’s descendants married into most of the Native families in and around Granville, including: Pettiford, Anderson, Evans, Curtis, Brandon, Cousins, Tyler, Day, Richardson, Goins, Bass, Chavis, Guy, Hedgepeth and more. Thus if you are also researching these families, you’ll want to keep reading.
What has recently aided me in documenting Freeman’s descendants are the new wills and probate records that are available on Ancestry.com. These records have helped me verify his family as well as add in new family members I was previously unaware of.
Freeman’s father Matthew Howell died in 1793, and as a result Freeman and his siblings were bound out as apprentices in the Charlotte County courts on June 3, 1793 to William Flood (1752-1806):
On 3 June 1793 the Charlotte County court bound her (Peggy Howell) “Mulatto” children Freeman, John and Peggy Howell to William Flood“
William Flood (1752-1806) was from the Native American/”free colored” Flood family and I suspect that he was Freeman Howell’s maternal uncle. Like the Howells, William Flood moved from Amelia Co, VA to Charlotte and Mecklenburg Cos, VA. Also Freeman’s brother Matthew B Howell (b. 1784) married for a second time William Flood’s daughter Mary “Polly” Flood b. 1796 which would have been a first cousin marriage – a somewhat common occurrence in the community during this time period. So this would mean that Freeman’s mother Peggy Howell was originally Peggy Flood. If I find more evidence to support this theory, I’ll be sure to update this blog post.
Freeman Howell’s niece Betsy Howell (1814-1912) relocated her family to Gallia Co, Ohio where their descendants are “core” families of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and Midwest Saponi Nation. Betsy’s son Wesley Howell (b. 1843) was a know medicine man:
Over the next few years, Freeman Howell appears in the tax lists for Charlotte County. He then appears in the tax lists for neighboring Mecklenburg Co, VA. It is there that he likely marries his wife Susan (Maiden name unknown) 1777-1870. Regrettably, I have not been able to locate their marriage record so I cannot say for certain what year they married or have confirmation of Susan’s maiden name. I have speculated in the past that Susan may have been the Susan Brandon who was the daughter of Thomas Brandon (1746-1834) and Margaret Evans/Walden (b. 1753, she used both surnames) of Mecklenburg Co, VA. Freeman Howell appears on the same tax lists as his potential father-in-law Thomas Brandon in Mecklenburg Co. He is counted in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA, head of a household of 8 “free colored persons”. However, I am still looking for more solid documentation on Susan, so these connections aren’t solid yet.
In the 1820s, a number of Saponi families including the Howells, Brandons/Branhams, Guys, Cousins and Chavises living in Mecklenburg Co, VA moved just a couple of miles across the border to Granville Co, NC. There may have been a particular historical event that precipitated this move because I don’t think it was a coincidence that all these families moved into Granville’s Native community in the 1820s. The first records for Freeman Howell in Granville County are in 17 Jan 1824 and 2 Feb 1824, when he received $150 and a land deed from Robert Cousins (b. 1796). Robert Cousins was the brother of Freeman’s son-in-law Nelson Cousins (b. 1794). Nelson Cousins was married to Freeman’s daughter Julia Howell (1797-1870).
Freeman Howell’s household, which included his wife Susan and children, appears in the Granville County census in 1830, 1840, 1850 and 1860. By 1870, Freeman was deceased but he did not leave a will. And this is where the estate records help identify Freeman’s heirs, so let’s take a look.
Freeman Howell’s Estate Records
Lewisford A. Paschall (also known as Lunsford Paschall and L.A. Paschall), Granville County’s clerk was assigned as administrator of Freeman Howell’s estate on 19 Nov 1870. As administrator, he was responsible for selling Freeman’s assets which included 100 acres of land and any personal property. After paying off any outstanding debts, the remaining balance was to be divided among Freeman’s living heirs. On 2 Oct 1871, Freeman’s 100 acres of land was sold to his white neighbor John Greenway for $499 cash.
After paying off Freeman’s debts with the $499 received for the land sale, administrator L.A. Paschall had a remaining balance of $117.17 to be divided among Freeman’s heirs. A white woman named Milly Wilkerson(1810-1879) received a judgement of $210.82 against Freeman Howell’s estate which accounted for most of Freeman’s debt. I’m unsure of Milly’s exact relationship to Freeman, but in the 1850 census she was residing in his household. Milly Wilkerson was a single woman, but she had children with Native American/”free colored” men from the community. I know one man was Burton Cousins because he paid for her “bastard bond” in Feb 1835, but maybe she was also involved with a Howell. After all the debts were paid, an additional $25.60 was paid to county clerk Calvin Betts which brought down the remaining balance further.
Each of Freeman Howell’s children received $9.45. His son James Howell received $10.08 and I’m unsure why he received slightly more money. Because Freeman Howell lived to be almost 100 years old, he outlived many of his children. So the shares for his deceased children were divided among their living heirs. For example, Freeman Howell’s son John Howell was deceased but had 11 living children, so each child received 1/11 of $9.45 which equaled 85 cents.
Some of Freeman Howell’s children signed over their shares to pay off outstanding debts, and this included the estates of some of Freeman Howell’s deceased children. For example, Freeman’s daughter Elizabeth (Howell) Fain who was still living, signed over her $9.45 to A.H. Bumpass. And the estate for Freeman Howell’s deceased son William Howell signed over his share to James Amis.
What also further complicated the distribution of Freeman Howell’s estate was that many of his heirs had relocated to other counties and to the state of Ohio where many other Saponi descendants had resettled. Today they are the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation. As a result, administrator L.A. Paschall was required to publish in the newspaper the names of Freeman Howell’s heirs who had moved away to alert them of the land sale. For example:
In the account book for the Freeman Howell’s estate, we can see that his heirs who were still local received their cash share from the sale of his land. It also appears that those who had moved away and lost contact did not receive their shares. Here is the account for Freeman Howell’s estate:
Freeman Howell’s Descendants:
In the following sections, I will provide an overview of Freeman Howell’s descendants. This is a chart of Freeman Howell’s children, more detailed charts are included in the sections below.
1. Julia Howell (1797 – 1870)
Julia Howell was the wife of Nelson Cousins (b. 1794). Nelson appears in the 1820 census for Mecklenburg Co, VA next to his father-in-law Freeman Howell. In 1830 and 1840, Nelson is counted in the Granville Co census. And by 1850, the family moved next door to Person Co, NC.
Starting in the 1860s, several of Julia Howell and Nelson Cousin’s children relocated to Ross Co, Ohio. And Julia Howell herself joined her children in Ohio because her death was recorded in Ross Co, OH on April 15, 1870.
Julia (Howell) Cousins’ children who relocated to Ohio were: John Cousins (1820-1891), Edmund Cousins (1824-1886), Robert Cousins (1830-1907), Elizabeth (Cousins) Day (b. 1832), Wiley Cousins (b. 1836) and William Cousins (b. 1838). The children who remained in North Carolina were: Frederick I Cousins (b. 1817), Emily (Cousins) Day (b. 1827), and Nelson Cousins Jr (b. 1844).
Because Julia predeceased her father, her share was divided among her heirs and her three children who remained in North Carolina each received a share of $1.33 of Freeman Howell’s estate. $9.45 divided by 7 shares, is $1.35. This indicates 7 living heirs of Julia (Howell) Cousins and according to my records, Elizabeth (Cousins) Day and William Day were deceased by 1870. And that would leave 7 living heirs.
Son Edmund Cousins (1824-1886) lived long enough to file a Civil War pension in 1881 and his widow Julia Cousins filed one in 1890. If you’re a descendant of his, you’ll want to order the file from the War Department.
And son John Cousins (1820-1891) also fought in the Civil War and filed a pension in 1879 and his widow Martha (Hansberry) Cousins filed in 1892.
2. Elizabeth Howell (1801- about 1874)
Elizabeth Howell was the wife of James Fain (b. 1789), a man who was born enslaved but became emancipated in 1822. There is likely no official record of their marriage because of James Fain’s enslaved status, but any children born to them would be free because Elizabeth Howell was a free-born woman. James Fain’s brother was Jacob Fain (1775-1837) and a transcription of his emancipation record in 1805 can be found here. Jacob Fain’s widow Sally Fain, named James Fain as her husband’s brother in her 1814 will that was proved in 1854. A transcription can be found here.
From the census records it appears Elizabeth (Howell) Fain and her husband James Fain resided in Jacob and Sally Fain’s household in 1820, 1830, and 1840. In the 1850 census, Elizabeth Howell and her husband James Fain resided next to their sister-in-law Sally Fain. By 1870, Elizabeth (Howell) Fain was widowed and residing in Person Co, NC. She died in 1879, when her estate was administered by A.H. Bumpass. This is the same man who Elizabeth signed over her $9.45 share from Freeman Howell’s estate to several years earlier. Elizabeth’s estate was divided among James H Cousins, Fanny (Cousins) Davis, William A Cousins, and Sally Ann Cousins.
Because Elizabeth Howell and her husband James Fain resided with their brother/sister-in-law Jacob and Sally Fain, I’ve had difficulties differentiating their children. There’s a strong possibility that James Fain and Elizabeth Howell’s son was William Fain (b. 1824) who married Arabella Wilkerson (b. 1832) on 8 Nov 1848 in Granville Co. Freeman Howell’s son Alexander Howell 1811-1881) paid the bond. Arabella Wilkerson was a daughter of the previously mentioned Milly Wilkerson, a white woman who lived with Freeman Howell.
3. William Howell (1804- before 1860)
William Howell married Margaret Pettiford (b. 1805) on 22 Mar 1828 in Granville Co, NC. Burton Cousins was the bondsman. William Howell appears in the 1830 and 1840 censuses for Granville Co. In 1850 his household was in Caswell Co, NC. With Magaret Pettiford, William Howell had three children: Freeman Howell b. 1830, John Howell b. 1834, and Margaret Howell b. 1838. His wife Margaret died sometime before 1858 because on 30 Dec 1858, William Howell remarried Parthena Cousins b. 1833 in Person Co. With Parthena Cousins, William Howell had one additional son: Asa Howell (1860-1929).
William Howell died around 1860, so he predeceased his father Freeman Howell. William Howell’s estate received the $9.45 share and signed it over to James Amis:
William Howell’s son Freeman Howell (b. 1830) lived in Hillsboro, Orange Co and Pleasant Grove township, Alamance Co among ancestors of the present day Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation tribal members. He was married to Eliza Simmons (b. 1820) who was originally from Fayetteville, Cumberland Co and had been previously married to Henry Goins. After Goins death, Eliza and her three daughters relocated to Alamance Co and she married Freeman Howell.
William Howell’s son John Howell (b. 1834) also lived in Pleasant Grove township, Alamance Co among ancestors of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. John Howell does not appear to have ever married or had children. He last appears in the census in 1900.
And William Howell’s youngest son Asa Howell (1860-1929) lived most of his life in Fishing Creek township, Granville Co. He was married three times: Dora Norwood (b. 1860), Virginia Crews (b. 1875) , and Nancy Howell (1871-1949).
4. Edward Howell (1805-1874)
Edward Howell was not married and did not have any children. He appears in the 1850 and 1870 censuses for Pleasant Grove township, Alamance Co, NC which is where the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation is located. He received his $9.45 share of his father Freeman Howell’s estate. Edward died in 1874 and because he did not have any children, his estate was divided among his siblings and their living heirs. The administrator of Edward Howell’s estate published a notice in the newspaper regarding the estate.
5. John Howell (1805-1867)
John Howell married Jane Harris (1817-before 1900) on 5 Aug 1836 in Granville Co. He then appears in the census for Granville Co in 1840, 1850, and 1860. John died around 1867 and so he predeceased his father Freeman Howell. Jane (Harris) Howell continued to live in Fishing Creek, Granville Co and assisted in raising her grandchildren.
John Howell and Jane Harris had 11 children: Julia Howell (b. 1838), James E Howell (1840-1912), Indiana Howell (b. 1842), Polly Ann Howell (1844-1914), Harvey Howell (b. 1846), Christopher C Howell (1848-1920), Sally Howell (1850-1923), Missouri Howell (1851-1918), Joanna Howell (b. 1852), Ida Howell (1855-1928), and Lucy Virginia “Jennie” Howell (b. 1858). Each of John Howell’s 11 living heirs received a share of the $9.45 payment which came to 85 cents but not all came to collect their shares.
Julia Howell (b. 1838) was married to Henry Chavis (1815-1882) and continued to live in Fishing Creek, Granville Co. James E Howell (1840-1912) was my 2nd great-grandfather and he was married first to Betsy Ann Tyler (1851-1869) on 6 Apr 1867 but she died soon after. He next married my 2nd great-grandmother Virginia “Jinnie” Richardson (1850-before 1880) on 11 Nov 1869 in Warren Co and they had three children: Edward Brodie Howell (1870-1942), Francis Ellen Howell (1872-1923), and Lucy J Howell (1873-1952). Virginia “Jinnie” Richardson Howell died and James E Howell remained a widow until he remarried Mary McGlemdon on 9 Aug 1887 in Granville Co and had one additional son William Isaac Howell (b. 1891). James E Howell spent his entire life in Fishing Creek, Granville Co and was once nominated as county coroner on the Radical Republican ticket.
Indiana Howell (b. 1842) was married to William Kersey(b. 1939) and lived in Townesville on the current Vance/Granville Co border. All of their children relocated to Brockton, MA by 1900. Polly Ann Howell (1844-1914) was first married to Aaron Curtis (1842-1883) and had a son named Harvey Curtis (b. 1885) who moved to New Haven, CT. She became widowed and second married John Green (1850-1915).
Harvey Howell (b. 1846) moved up to Danville, VA and married a woman named Sallie Burnett (b. 1848). Christopher C Howell (1848-1920) married Harriet Goins (b. 1850) and lived his whole life in Fishing Creek, Granville Co. He owned an insurance company named Masonic Insurance and most of his children relocated to Brockton, MA and New Haven, CT.
Sally Howell (1850-1923) was first married to Lunsford Williford (b. 1847) and second married James Berry Cousins (1854-1926). She lived in Granville Co her entire life. Missouri Howell (1851-1918) was not married but had two daughters Plummer Howell (1880-1930) and Mittie Howell (b. 1888) born out of wedlock.
Joanna Howell (b. 1852) received a share of her grandfather Freeman Howell’s estate but I’m not sure what happened to her after that and if she married and had children. Ida Howell (1855-1928) married James Mayo (1847-1910) on 22 Dec 1874 and continued to live in Granville Co. Lucy Virginia “Jennie” Howell (b. 1858) received a share of her grandfather Freeman Howell’s estate but I’m certain if she married and had children.
6. Matthew Howell (1806 – before 1860)
Matthew Howell married Mary Pettiford (b. 1807) on 29 Mar 1831. He appears in the 1850 census for Alamance Co with his wife and children. Matthew died before the 1860 census, and his children are found spread among Orange Co, NC, Guilford Co, NC, Danville, VA, And it appears they became disconnected with the rest of the Howell family because although Freeman Howell’s estate published their names in the newspaper, none of Matthew Howell’s children came back to collect on their share of the estate.
7. James Howell (1810 – before 1870)
James Howell married Ann Troler b. 1810 (also spelled Toler) on 14 Aug 1834 in Granville Co. He was counted in the 1850 and 1860 censuses for Granville Co and died sometime before 1870 so he predeceased his father Freeman Howell. As a result, James Howell’s estate was granted his share of Freeman Howell’s estate which was $10.08, slightly higher than the $9.45 that the rest of Freeman’s children received.
James Howell and Ann Troler’s children were: Minerva Howell (b. 1836), Louisa Howell (b. 1845), Margaret Howell (1849-1915), William Howell (1852-1926), Mary Eliza Howell (1856-1926), and Juda Howell (b. 1858) who continued to live around the Sassafras Fork/Oak Hill area of Granville Co.
8. Alexander “Doc” Howell (1811-1881)
Alexander Howell married Betsy Ann Anderson (b. 1825) on 4 Jul 1839 in Granville Co. Alexander was a preacher and resided in Fishing Creek, Granville Co for his entire life. He was still living when his father Freeman Howell passed away, so Alexander received his $9.45 share of the estate. He had a large family that included 10 children and his family often appears living adjacent to the family of his brother John Howell (and wife Jane Harris).
Daughter Polly Ann Howell (b. 1840) was not married but had a son named Ben Howell (1867-1949). Son Elijah Howell (b. 1841) was first married to Harriet Evans (b 1847) and second to Eveline Watkins (b. 1854). Daughter Frances Howell (b. 1842) was married to Civil War veteran of the 54th Regiment Varnell Mayo (1837-1900) whom I previously blogged about here.
Son Freeman Howell (b. 1844) was also a preacher and was married first to Nancy Ash (b. 1849) and second to Mary Cowell (b. 1866). Son James A Howell (1846-1934) was first married to Emily Evans (b. 1853), second married to Mary Eaton (1865-1887), and third married to Sally Pettiford (1856-1934). Son Junius Thomas Howell (b. 1848) was married to Pantheyer Brandon (1851-1934).
Daughter Mickins Howell (b. 1850) does not appear in the records again as an adult. Daughter Judith Howell (1852-1924) was married first to Nehemiah Mayo (b. 1850) and second married to John Hedgepeth (b. 1860).
Son Henry Howell (1857-1916) was married to Amanda Brandon (1858-1922) and lived in Fishing Creek, Granville Co and Kittrell, Vance Co. And daughter Adeline Jane Howell (b. 1858) was married to Dennis Stanley Hedgepeth (b. 1852).
Alexander Howell died on June 15, 1881 and his obituary appeared in the newspaper:
9. Mary Ann Howell (b. 1815)
Mary Ann Howell married Owen Hart (1810-1881) on 18 Sep 1832 in Granville Co. By 1850, the family was residing in Person Co, NC and by 1860, the family relocated to Pike Co, Ohio. Their children were: Susan Hart (b. 1845), Nancy Hart (1845-1869), Abigail Hart (1849- before 1880), Lorenzo Hart (1857-1870), and Robert Owen Hart (b. 1862).
Mary Ann (Howell) Hart was still living when her father Freeman Howell died but she had relocated to Ohio, so her name was published in the paper to alert her of the land sale. It does not appear Mary Ann received her $9.45 share of the estate likely because she had moved away.
10. Additional Howell Descendants
There are a few Howells that I know directly descend from Freeman Howell (1777-1870) because they are named in the estate files, but I have some questions about exactly how they are related to Freeman Howell.
Allen Howell (1820-1850), married Malinda Parrish (b. 1827) on 12 Mar 1847 in Granville Co, NC, James Floyd bondsman. They had one daughter together – Elizabeth Howell (b. 1850) but Allen Howell died the same year. Allen Howell’s sister Eliza Howell (b. 1825) married James Floyd on 6 Sep 1845 in Granville Co, NC. This is the same James Floyd who was the bondsman for his brother-in-law Allen Howell’s marriage. James Floyd and Eliza Howell had two children: William Floyd (b. 1847) and Willie Ann Floyd (b. 1849) but James Floyd died in 1850. You can find the widowed sister-in-laws Eliza (Howell) Floyd and Malinda (Parrish) Howell living together with their children in the 1850 census:
Malinda (Parrish) Howell remarried Dennis Anderson (b. 1813) on 18 Jun 1852 and had additional children with him. Dennis was a preacher and presided over many marriages for people in the community. I don’t know what happened to Eliza (Howell) Floyd. When Freeman Howell passed away, Allen Howell and Malinda Parrish’s daughter Elizabeth Howell (b.1850) received $1.58 for her share of the estate. And Eliza (Howell) Floyd’s daughter Willie Ann Floyd b. 1849 (she was called “Willie Ann Howell” in the estate records), received $1.05 for her share of Freeman Howell’s estate. So we know Allen Howell and Eliza Howell Floyd were related to Freeman, but I’m unsure if they were his children or grandchildren. I’m also unsure of how their shares of Freeman Howell’s estate were calculated.
There was a Margaret Owen who received a share of $3.15 of Freeman Howell’s estate. That is 1/3 of the $9.45 that was distributed to Freeman Howell’s children which suggests that this Margaret Owen was one of three siblings, who were grandchildren of Freeman Howell.
There was a Lucy Chavis who received a share of $1.58 of Freeman Howell’s estate. This is Lucy (Howell) Chavis b. 1843 who married Lawson Chavis (b. 1833) on 20 Nov 1865 in Person Co, NC. I’m not sure who Lucy Howell’s parents were because the first time I find her in the census she’s living in the household of Nelson Cousins (b. 1794) and Julia Howell (1797-1870). So we know Lucy Howell is definitely a descendant of Freeman Howell. It’s also worth mentioning that both Lucy (Howell) Chavis and the previously discussed Elizabeth Howell (b. 1850) received $1.58 each, suggesting a close (sibling?) relationship between the two.
And finally there is an Elizabeth Haithcock who received a share of 85 cents from Freeman Howell’s estate. Her husband William Haithcok signed the receipt for her and stated that his wife Elizabeth’s maiden name was Howell. I found a William Howell (a blacksmith) and Bettie Howell in the 1860 census in Granville Co and they seem to fit. But this same William Haithcock appears in the 1870 and 1880 census as a blacksmith with a wife name Isabella Haithcock. Also Elizabeth (Howell) Haithcock received 85 cents which is the same amount that the children of John Howell and Jane Harris received. However there is no record of John Howell and Jane Harris having a daughter named Elizabeth. So I’m also not sure what to make of this.
On November 8, 1737, a land deed recorded in Amelia County, Virginia contains a report of Saponi Indian cabins. This historical record is quite significant because it documents a very specific date and location of Saponi people. Throughout the 1700s, documented sightings of Saponi people continued to diminish, so any and every reference to the Saponi is important in tracking their location. In a previous blog post, I discussed the multiple reports of Saponi Indians in Granville County living next to Indian trader Col. William Eaton in the 1750s/1760s and I proposed that this was the foundation of the Native American community in Granville. (If you have not already read that blog post, I strongly suggest you do to make better sense of the content here). In this blog entry, I will look to see if any of Granville’s Native American families and nearby tribal communities can be tied to this record of Saponi Indian cabins in Amelia County.
Fort Christanna (1714-1718), the Saponi reservation:
Before discussing the Saponi living in Amelia County in 1737, some background information on where they were located before is needed. In 1714, Virginia Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740)created Fort Christanna on the outskirts of what was then the Virginia Colony, to create a “buffer zone” between the English colonists and tribes they deemed as “hostile”. The fort was located is what is now Brunswick County, Virginia. The Saponi along with other related Eastern Siouan speaking tribes were invited to live on a reservation next to the fort. After gathering at Ft. Christanna, the various tribes were all referred to collectively as “Saponi”. I will do a future blog post specifically on Fort Christanna so I will not delve into all the details about the fort here. However what is important to know is that in 1718, the fort closed due to financial pressure from Great Britain and from competing Indian traders.
After the fort closure in 1718, it is evident the Saponi fractured into smaller family groups. Some Saponi (Tutelo) allied with the Haudenesaunee and relocated to upstate NY and were adopted into the confederacy. We also have multiple reports of Saponi in the 1730s moving to and from the Catawba reservation. So it is important for researchers to understand that after 1718, one report of the Saponi living in a specific area does not mean the entire Saponi Nation was located there. So the 1737 land deed which recorded the Saponi Indian cabins, does not mean that every Saponi Indian was living in Amelia County. Instead it means that a group of Saponi people were living there. Okay, let’s proceed…
1737 Land Deed in Amelia County and Saponi Indian Cabins:
On November 8, 1737 (19 years after Ft. Christanna closed) in Amelia County, a land transaction took place between seller John Taylor of Surry Co, Va and buyer Alexander Bruce of Amelia Co, VA. The exact language of the deed reads as follows:
Beginning at a white oak above the Sappone Indians Cabbins, thence south 10 degrees, east 302 poles to a corner hicory near a branch of Winnigham Creek, thence east 10 degrees north 164 ples to a corner shrub white oak, thence noth 10 degrees west 218 poles to two corner Spanish oaks a the fork of a small spring branch thence down the said branch as it meanders to the said creek, thence up the creek as it meanders to the first station.
Previous research published by archaeologist C.G. Holland in 1982, identifies the precise location of the Saponi Cabins – on the south side of Winningham Creek and just west of State Route 617 also called “Winningham Road”. The closest municipality to this location is the town of Crewe which is located a few miles to the West. The approximate GPS coordinates of this site: 37°10’32.1″N 78°04’38.7″W
This area now falls within the borders of Nottoway County which was formed from the southern portion of Amelia County, VA called Nottoway Parish in 1789. It is also important to remember that the area where the Saponi cabins were located in 1737, is the section of Amelia Co that was formerly Prince George Co just 2 years prior in 1735. Therefore to find potential additional records related to the Saponi Indians residing off of Winningham Creek in 1737, we need to look at Prince George Co, Amelia Co, and Nottoway Co records. The land deed does not indicate how long previous to or how long after 1737, the Saponi resided off of Winningham Creek. It’s within reason to deduce that the Saponi had lived there at least several years before and after 1737, as cabins are permanent structures and the land deed would likely not rely upon a temporary point of reference.
A Cluster of Indian Traders and the Saponi Indians:
A closer look at the Anglo residents who resided in Amelia Co/Prince George Co in the years leading up to 1737, reveals a lot about why some Saponi lived in the area. In the 1720s and 1730s, Prince George Co was served by Bristol Parish. Fortunately the Bristol Parish vestry book has survived to the present. A number of noted Indian traders and other Anglo colonists who had frequent dealings with local Indians resided in Prince George Co and served as the churchwardens and vestrymen of Bristol Parish. Many of these Indian trading families were related to one another. Here follows a summary of these men:
Col. William Eaton (1690-1759) was born in York Co, VA, and resided in Prince George Co, VA for most of his life. He is recorded many times throughout the Bristol Parish records. Eaton was an Indian trader who traded with Saponi and Catawba Indians. By 1746, Eaton relocated to Granville Co, NC and in a previous blog post, I discussed the numerous reports of Saponi Indians living next to his land and enlisting in his regiment. One of these Saponi men was William Chavis (1709-1778), who owned a substantial amount of land that formed the land base for the Native American community in Granville. Clearly, Col. William Eaton had a close relationship with the Saponi when he lived in Prince George Co, VA which continued when he moved to Granville Co, NC.
Other churchwardens of Bristol Parish included Colonel Robert Bowling Jr (1682-1749), Major Robert Mumford (1674-1735), Major Peter Jones III (1691-1753), Captain Buller Herbert (1680-1730), Major William Kennon (1685-1735), William Poythress (1694-1763), and Captain Henry Randolph (1689-1726).
Colonel Robert Bolling Jr. (also spelled “Bowling”) was an Indian trader and son of Robert Bolling Sr. (1646-1709) and his second wife Anne Stith. Robert Bolling Sr.’s first wife was Jane Wolfe – granddaughter of Powhatan Indian “Pocahontas” and Englishman John Rolfe. Jane Wolfe died shortly after giving birth to their son John Fairfax Bolling. Robert Bolling Sr. remarried Anne Stith (a white woman) and he had several more children with her including Robert Bolling Jr of Bristol Parish. Robert Bolling Jr. was married to Anne Cocke.
Major Robert Mumford was an Indian trader who along with William Byrd II, John Bowling, Robert Bowling, John Evans, Peter Jones, Thomas Jones and Richard Jones traded with Indians along the Great Indian Trading Path (aka the Occaneechi Path) in North Carolina. Robert Mumford’s son James Mumford (1705-1754) was married to Elizabeth Bolling (1709-1755), daughter of the above mentioned Robert Bolling Jr. and Anne Cocke.
Major Peter Jones III was a vestryman for both Bristol Parish and Raleigh Parish (Raleigh Parish served Amelia Co after it split from Prince George Co in 1735). Peter Jones was an Indian trader and accompanied William Byrd II on at least two expeditions on the Virginia-North Carolina border line. He was also the namesake for the city of Petersburg. Major Peter Jones’ father Captain Peter Jones II (1661-1727) was also a vestryman for Bristol Parish. Peter Jones III’s paternal grandmother Margaret (maiden name not known) was second married to Thomas Cocke after Peter Jones I died. Thomas Cocke was the uncle of the previously mentioned Anne Cocke, the wife of Robert Bolling Jr.
Captain Buller Herbert was captain of the Prince George Co militia and vestryman for Bristol Parish. William Byrd II writes about visiting Buller Herbert’s home which was a short distance from Major Robert Mumford’s. Buller Herbert was married to Mary Stith, daughter of Col. Drury Stith. Drury Stith was the brother of previously mentioned Anne Stith, wife of Robert Bolling Sr.
Major William Kennon was an Indian trader whose sister Mary, was the wife of Indian trader John Fairfax Bowling, son of the previously mentioned Robert Bowling Sr. and his first wife Jane Rolfe. William Kennon was married to Anne Eppes, daughter of Col. Francis Eppes.
William Poythress was an Indian trader and came from a large family of Indian traders. His wife was Sarah Eppes, sister of the previously mentioned Anne Eppes who was the wife of Major William Kennon.
Captain Henry Randolph was a vestryman for Bristol Parish and married to Elizabeth Eppes, sister of the previously mentioned Anne Eppes and Sarah Eppes.
Lastly there is Robert Hicks (1658-1759) who was an Indian trader and resided in Prince George Co before moving to Emporia, VA. His surname is spelled both “Hicks” and “Hix” in colonial records. In 1708 Robert Hicks purchased land in Prince George Co from the previously mentioned Peter Jones and made another land transaction in Prince George Co in the same year with Joshua Irby (1664-1746). In 1709, Robert Hicks purchased a land tract along the northside of the Meherrin River that has been previously surveyed by Arthur Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh was under investigation for misleading agreements between the Saponi Indians and the English.
Also noteworthy is that at the conclusion of the Tuscarora War in 1713, Robert Hicks lead an expedition that included 50 “tributary Indians” (meaning Indians who had been made treaties to not take up arms against the British such as the Pamunkey, Chickahominy, Nansemond, Meherrin, Nottoway, Saponi, Tutelo, and Occanecchi) to locate Tuscarora Indians who were hiding out from the war. Hicks successfully brought the Tuscarora Indians into Williamsburg with a delegation that included leaders from the Tutelo, Nottoway, and Saponi. When Fort Christanna opened in 1714, Robert Hicks was named captain of the fort and he relocated his family to the area. His homestead “Hick’s Ford” is close to the modern city of Emporia in Greensville Co, VA. Robert Hicks was married to Winnifred Evans, daughter of the previously mentioned Indian trader John Evans. Hicks also accompanied William Byrd in the 1722 expedition of the Virginia/North Carolina border. Included in this expedition was Saponi guide Ned Bearskin.
Clearly Prince George Co was home to a number of wealthy and influential Indian traders who had dealings with Saponi and other regional tribes. Close proximity to the Great Trading Path is also what brought all of these Indian traders into the Prince George Co area. Additionally, there was strong incentive for the Saponi to settle close to these Indian traders and the Great Trading Path in order to sustain a trade and “tributary” relationship with the Virginia colony. With all of this in mind, I think we have thoroughly explored and contextualized why a group of Saponi Indians were residing in cabins in Amelia Co in 1737.
Identifying the Saponi Indians in Amelia County:
With the identification of the Saponi Indian cabins in 1737 and the discussion of the numerous local Indian traders, we may be able to identify who some of these Saponi families were. The land deed did not provide any names of the Saponi Indians living in Amelia County in 1737, so we may never be able to fully verify their identities. However I was able to identify several Native American families, many who have descendants in Granville County and neighboring Native communities, that could very well be part of the Saponi Indian living in Amelia Co. And to no surprise, most of these families have intermarried with one another over many generations.
CHAVIS Rebecca Chavis (1721-1768) first appears in the Bristol Parish records on Nov 11, 1734 when she was bound out to John West (1673-1743). On that exact same day a Sarah Chavis is bound out to William Macewen, so there is a strong probability that Rebecca and Sarah were sisters or some other close family relation. I don’t have any solid leads on who the parents of Rebecca and Sarah Chavis were. It is likely that their mother was an indentured servant and became pregnant during her servitude which is why her children were bound out by law. We know that both John West and William Macewen lived in the section of Prince George Co that became Amelia County the following year in 1735, because they are next found in the Amelia Co records. (A published copy of Amelia Co road orders found here, is what I frequently used to help locate where individuals lived). John West’ wife Mary asked the previously mentioned Indian trader Robert Mumford to represent her interests in a land deed. Furthermore, John West and William Macewen are on a list of tithables located below Deep Creek. Winningham Creek, the site of the Saponi cabins, runs northeast into Deep Creek. In 1740, the churchwardens of Raleigh Parish in Amelia County, bound out Rebecca Chavis’ son Adam Chavis. And in 1756, 1760, 1763, 1764, and 1768, the churchwardens of Nottoway Parish in Amelia Co, bound out more of Rebecca’s children. Rebecca Chavis is also mentioned in Dec 1760 in neighboring Lunenburg County, when the churchwardens of Cumberland Parish bound out her son Ned. So Rebecca Chavis lived in the immediate area of the Saponi cabins before, during, and after their documented reference in 1737.
All of Rebecca Chavis’ children were bound out repeatedly and it appears her Chavis family moved slightly southwest into Mecklenburg, Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties as they start to appear in those county records in 1768. At least two of Rebecca’ Chavis’ children – James Chavis (1749-1824) and Elizabeth Chavis b. 1751 had children who were well documented, so we are able to trace Rebecca’s line forward. James Chavis moved to Mecklenburg Co as early as 1782, when he first appears as a tithable and continued to be listed as a “mulatto” tithable through 1820. James Chavis’ and his wife Fanny were named in a May 14, 1800 order from the Mecklenburg County court, to have Frederick Gowen/Goins pay them $1.06 for being witnesses in a suit. James Chavis appears in the 1820 Census as a head of household of 10 “other free” in Mecklenburg Co. He died before 1824, when his estate was settled. James Chavis’ children – James, Lydia, Jincy, William, Thomas, Ann, Pleasant, Henry, Ellison, and Elizabeth were named in a 1832 chancery suit.
All of James Chavis’ children intermarried with other local Native American families and appear to have remained in Mecklenburg Co. Some of these Chavises are the ancestors of the contemporary Occoneechee-Saponi community located in Mecklenburg/Brunswick Co, VA. One of James Chavis’ children – Lydia Chavis(1779-1865) married Jeremiah Harris(1775-1855) and moved to Jackson County, Ohio by 1830. Their Harris family is a core family of the modern Midwest Saponi Nation, Saponi Nation of Ohio, and Catawba of Carr’s Run tribes all located in Ohio. The Catawba are a closely related tribe to the Saponi and a number of Saponi allied with the Catawba after the closure of Fort Christanna.
Going back to Rebecca Chavis, she also had a daughter named Elizabeth Chavis b. 1751 who was bound out by the churchwardens of Raleigh Parish in Amelia County on Aug 26, 1756. By 1760, Elizabeth Chavis was in Lunenburg Co, and by 1782, she was living in Halifax Co, VA. Elizabeth had two children born out of wedlock, Jesse Chavis (1766-1840) and Bartlett Chavis (born 1776). Elizabeth Chavis’ son Bartlett Chavis (born 1776) continued living in Halifax Co, VA as well as neighboring Pittsylvania Co, VA and married Elizabeth Matthews on Feb 10, 1803 in Halifax Co, VA. Elizabeth Matthews is of the Native American Matthews family that I discuss below. Bartlett’s probable children – Cole Chavis and Benjamin Chavis, were listed as tithables in the same household that Bartlett was a tithable in.
I should also include that since I don’t know who Rebecca Chavis’ (1721-1768) parents are, I don’t know if and how she is related to Granville community “founder” William Chavis (1706-1778). But certainly if the two are related, it lends additional credence that Rebecca Chavis was related to the Saponi Indian cabins. And it would explain why some of Rebecca’s descendants later moved to the Granville location of her relative William Chavis where the Saponi were also reported.
On Oct 30, 1732, Ruth Matthews was bound to Robert Downing in Bristol Parish, Prince George Co. She next appears in the records as a “free mulatto”on Mar 7, 1756 when her daughter Elizabeth was baptized at St. James Northam Parish in Goochland County, VA. Ruth Matthews was then called an “Indian” on Sep 26, 1737 when her children Betty, Jemmy, Bristol, and Judith were bound to William Flemming of St. James Northam Parish in Cumberland Co VA (formerly a section of Goochland Co, VA).
I have not been able to identify who “Robert Downing” was and cannot locate him in any other historical records of Virginia from that time period. I also cannot locate any other Downings in the Brisol Parish records. I think it’s probable that his name has been mis-transcribed and the entry in the original vestry book should be reviewed for accuracy. Maybe the name should have been transcribed as “Robert Bowling” – as in Col. Robert Bolling Jr (1682-1749) – the Indian trader who we already know was a churchwarden of Bristol Parish. Without knowing exactly who “Robert Downing” was, it’s hard to identify exactly where in Prince George Co Ruth Matthews resided. But if it turns out to be Robert Bolling Jr, then that situates Ruth Matthews in close proximity to the Saponi Indian cabins and living with a known Indian trader.
Ruth Matthews’ son James (called “Jemmy” when he was bound out) Matthews was born around 1750 and moved to Halifax Co, VA by 1787. On Jul, 20 1790, he married Molly Cumbo with David Gowen/Goins providing the surety. James Matthews last appears as a tithable in 1813 in Halifax Co, VA and likely died shortly after that. I have not located any records of descendants.
Bristol Matthews, another son of Ruth’s was born around 1752 and remained in Goochland Co, VA when he married Ann “Nanny” Lynch on Sep, 25 1775. Bristol Matthews likely fathered Ann Lynch’s children who were born before their marriage and when she was still bound to George Payne. The reason being that while she was still an indentured servant, she could not marry. However when her service was complete, she immediately married Bristol Matthews. One child was Thomas Lynch b. 1772 who married Sally Banks on July 29, 1801. Another possible child of Bristol Matthews and Ann Lynch’s was Patsy “Martha” Lynch b. 1774. Patsy Lynch is the progenitor of the core Lynch family of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. Patsy first appears in the Halifax Co, NC minutes in 1798 and I have not located her in the Virginia records so I don’t have any further verification that she was the daughter of Ann Lynch and Bristol Matthews.
Returning to Ruth Matthews – her father was most likely William Matthews who is mentioned a few times in the Bristol Parish records. On Nov 17, 1722, William Matthews’ stepson William Snelgrove was bound out to Robert Lyon. In that record William Matthews was identified as an “Indian”.
And on July, 24 1727, the churchwardens of Bristol Parish, including all of those Indian traders that I discussed earlier, bound Mary Bibby to William Matthews. The dates of both of these records would make William Matthews an appropriate adult age to be Ruth Matthew’s father, given her approximate birth year was 1728.
The Native American Bibby family in Granville/Franklin Cos, NC descend from Mary Bibby who as previously mentioned in the Matthews section above, on July 24, 1727 was bound by the churchwardens of Bristol Parish to William Matthews.
Mary Bibby’s parents are unknown, but it is likely her Bibby surname is connected to the Bibby family descending from William Bibby, an Englishman who arrived in Accomack Co, VA in the 1620s. I think it is also possible that William Matthews was Mary Bibby’s father since she was bound out to him. We know from other Bristol Parish and Goochland Co records that William Matthews and his Matthews family were documented as “Indian” and it seems highly unlikely the colony would bound out a child to an “Indian” that was of no relation to the child.
It is not known how long Mary Bibby stayed in Prince George Co but by 1759 she was living in Granville Co, NC. In 1762 she wa a tithable in Joshua Ingram’s household and had married his “negro slave” Charles. The part of Granville Co that she lived in became Franklin Co in 1779. Mary Bibby had several documented children: Edmund Bibby b. 1758, Fanny Bibby b. 1759, Solomon Bibby (1764-1846), Absalom Bibby b. 1764, and William Bibby b. 1766 who all continued to live in Franklin Co. Solomon Bibby (1764-1846) married Charity Young b. 1768 on Dec 25, 1789 in Franklin Co. Charity was from Bertie Co, NC and from the Young and Demery families that have connections with Nottoway and Tuscarora people (and the modern Lumbee community). Solomon Bibby was a pensioned Revolutionary War veteran, along with his brothers Absalom and Edmund.
Local Granville Co historian Oscar W. Blacknall (aka David Dodge) wrote about the Indian identity of the “free negroes” of the area which I blogged about previously here and the Bibby family was included in his writing. In Blacknall’s October 12, 1895 letter to the editor of the News and Observer, he talks about a “free negro” Revolutionary War soldier named “Dibby” and his son who strongly protested the 1835 state constitution which disenfranchised all “free people of color”. There are no Dibbys in the area and given that Blacknall misspelled other names in this same letter, I’m certain he meant to say “Bibby”. And I’m confident Blacknall is referring to Solomon Bibby (1764-1846) because he is the most well known of the Bibby siblings and neither Edmund or Absalom Bibby had any documented sons. The descendants of Solomon Bibby continued to intermarry with Granville’s Native American community.
The Brandon family (also spelled Branham, Brandum, Brandom) descends from several Brandons living in Bristol Parish, Prince George Co, as well as surrounding areas of Brunswick Co. and Henrico Co. who first appear in the records in the 1720s, 1730s, and 1740s. It is not known exactly how all these Brandons relate to each other but a few Brandons who were born in the household of Godfrey and Elizabeth Ragsdale in Bristol Parish were most likely siblings and could be connected to the Saponi Indian cabins. Edward Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on July 9, 1730 and in 1751, Edward Brandon was a tithable between the Flatt and Deep Creek districts of Amelia Co. As you will recall, Winningham Creek the site of the Saponi cabins runs off of Deep Creek in Amelia County. Margaret Brandon was born on Nov 7, 1720 and was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Oct 10, 1722. Doll “Dorothy” Brandon was bound to Godfrey Ragsdale on Jul 24, 1727.
Contemporaries to siblings Edward, Margaret and Doll Brandon, who are probably of some family relation to them include: Benjamin Branham b. 1721 who lived in Louisa Co, and Eleanor Branham/Brandon b. 1728 and who lived in Brunswick and Lunenburg Cos. There was an Edward Branham b. 1760 who was likely related to Benjamin Branham and Eleanor Branham/Brandon. Edward Branham first appears as a tithable in Amherst Co, VA in 1783 and he is the progenitor of the core Branham family of the state recognized Monacan Tribe in Amherst Co. The Monacan are another Eastern Siouan tribe that are very closely related to and allied with the Saponi at Fort Christanna.
Eleanor Brandon/Branham is the common ancestor of the Brandon family of Granville County. She also has descendants who remained in Mecklenburg Co and who removed to Ohio and are part of the Midwest Saponi Nation and Saponi Nation of Ohio. Eleanor’s surname is spelled both “Branham” and “Brandon” in the records, but her children more often used the “Brandon” spelling. The Brandons in Granville County intermarried with the Native community and became a core family.
STEWART/STUART Elizabeth Stewartb. 1695 had several children whose birth, baptisms, and indentures were recorded in Bristol Parish from 1721-1741 – Edward b. Aug 19, 1721, William b. 1723, Matthew b. Sep, 19 1726, Mary b. Sep, 19 1732, Martha b. Oct 3, 1741. Her son Edward Stewart b. 1721, was bound to the previously mentioned Indian trader Buller Herbert in Bristol Parish, Price George Co. By 1747, Edward had moved to Chesterfield Co, VA. His son James Stewart b. 1760, was counted as an “Indian” on the 1795 Goochland Co, VA tax list. A possible son of Edward Stewart’s named John Stewart (1758-1812), married Pamunkey Indian Frances Dungey. In fact John Stewart or a brother of his, may be responsible for the Stewart family currently found in Chickahominy and Pamunkey tribes. Many of John Stewart and Frances Dungey’s documente descendants relocated to Ohio and are found among the Midwest Saponi Nation and the Saponi Nation of Ohio.
Elizabeth Stewart’s son William Stewart b. 1723 who is the progenitor of most of the Stewarts found on Granville’s Native American community, was bound to Indian trader Col. William Eaton in 1739 by the churchwardens of Bristol Parish. Several years later Eaton moved to Granville Co living next to the Saponi so it makes sense that some of William Stewart’s descendants later ended up in Granville. By 1779, William Stewart was a resident of Mecklenburg Co when he purchased land in the county. His wife was Mary Harris was the aunt of the previously mentioned Jeremiah Harris who married Lydia Chavis. Another son of Elizabeth Stewart’s named Matthew Stewart b. 1726, had a son named Titus Stewart b. 1753 whose descendants are also found in Granville Co.
There is another Stewart lineage that descends from a John Stewart (17175-1765) and his wife Martha Patty Harris (b. 1730) who lived in neighboring Lunenburg and Mecklenburg Cos, VA. Their son Thomas Stewart (1742-1818) is the progenitor of the core Stewart family of the Sappony Tribe of Person County.
BIRD/BYRD Elizabeth Birdb. 1720 was called a “mulatto woman” when her daughter Molly Bird b. 1738 was bound out by the churchwardens of Bristol Parish on Dec 9, 1740. The person who Molly Bird was bound out to was not named, so we don’t know the exact location of Elizabeth or Molly. Next on On Nov 24, 1757, she sued for her freedom from Alexander Bolling in Amelia Co. Alexander Bolling (1720-1767) was from the Indian-trading Bolling family and the grandson of the previously mentioned Col. Robert BollingSr. and his second wife Anne Stith.
Molly was also called Mary Bird and is next found in the Brunswick Co, VA records where her children were bound out by the churchwardens of Meherrin Parish on Feb 28, 1780. Her children all appear to have moved to Charlotte Co, VA: Joseph Bird b. 1765 married Nettie Jackson on Aug 20, 1790, Catherine Bird b. 1769 married Isaac Jackson on 22 Sep 1797 in Lunenburg and then moved to Charlotte Co, Peggy Bird b. 1770 did not marry and appears in the tax lists, and William Bird b. 1775 married Polly Carter Nov 19, 1796. Molly Bird’s descendants’ that remained in the Charlotte Co area can be found among contemporary Occoneechee-Saponi tribe in the area and some descendants moved to Ohio and are part of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and Midwest Saponi Nation.
Three contemporary “Indian” Lawrences who lived in Amelia Co. and Brunswick Co. and were likely siblings: Martha Lawrence b. 1730, Drury Lawrence b. 1734, and Robin Lawrence b. 1735. Drury is the only one mentioned in Amelia Co when on Jun 26, 1755, he asked to be discharged from his indenture to Charles Irby (1695-1763). Charles Irby was a justice and prominent land owner in the area of Amelia Co where the Saponi cabins were reported. By 1772, Drury Lawrence was living in Lunenburg Co, VA when he taxed as an “Indian” in Cumberland Parish. Martha Lawrence’s son Richard Littlepage Lawrence b. 1747 was called an “Indian” when he was bound out to Drury Stith Jr. in 1751 in Brunswick Co, VA. Drury Stith Jr. was the son of the previously mentioned Col. Drury Stith and nephew of the previously mentioned Anne Stith who married Robert Bolling Sr. When Robin Lawrence’s son Wood Lawrence b. 1767, registered as a “free negro” in 1811 in Charlotte Co, VA, his father Robin was called an “Indian”. The Lawrences intermarried with other local Native American families including : Jumper, Flood, and Barber. Descendants are found among the Occoneechee-Saponi tribe in Mecklenburg/Brunswick Co, VA.
There were quite a number of Valentines who first appear in the records in the early-mid 1700s in neighboring counties in southside Virginia that may be related. Only one was found in area of the Sapon cabins and that was John Valentine b. 1721.John Valentine first appears in the Amelia Co records in May 1743 when he accused Charles Irby of keeping him as a slave despite being a free person. This is the same Charles Irby who the previously mentioned Drury Lawrence asked the courts to relieve him of his servitude in 1755. There are no known records for John Valentine before 1743, but if he was an indentured servant to Charles Irby before 1743, then he also lived in the area of the Saponi Indian cabins in 1737. There are Valentine descendants in Granville’s Native American community who first appear in the Granville records in the first decades of the 1800s. Unfortunately because it is not known how all of these early Valentines are related to one another, I’m unsure where the Granville Valentines exactly fit into the larger Valentine family tree.
HOWELL Judith Howell’s 1725 birth was registered in St. Peter’s Parish in New Kent Co as a daughter of Dorothy Howell, a “mulatto” servant of Sherwood Lightfoot. Judith Howell does not appear in the records again until 1752, when she complained to the Amelia Co, VA courts that John Thomas was keeping and detaining her as a slave despite being a free woman. The following year in 1753 she was taxed in the Nottoway Parish, Amelia Co household of Abraham Cocke (1690-1760). Abraham Cocke was a relative of the previously mentioned Anne Cocke who was the wife of Indian trader Robert Bolling Jr. Both John Thomas and Abraham Cocke lived in the area of the Saponi Indian cabins and were neighbors with the previously mentioned Charles Irby. There is a thirty year gap between Judith’s birth and her complaint against John Thomas, so I’m not sure where she was living during those years. I do believe Judith Howell was of the Pamunkey tribe, because the Pamunkey reservation was situated directly across the river from where she was born in 1725 and historian Dr. Helen Rountree calls the Howell family “fringe Pamunkey”. However Judith Howell ended up living in Saponi territory with descendants who intermarried with Saponi families. It could be the Howells, were similar to the Stewarts and Dungeys who have early tribal roots with both the Pamunkey (or Chickahominy) and Saponi people.
In 1753, Judith’s son Matthew Howell (1752-1793) was bound out by the churchwardens of Nottoway Parish, Amelia Co. Matthew Howell moved to Charlotte Co, VA and his son Freeman Howell (1777-1870) is the progenitor of the Howell family in Granville’s Native American community. Other descendants of Matthew Howell remained in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Co area and some moved out to Ohio to form core families of the Saponi Nation of Ohio and the Midwest Saponi Nation.