Thursday, August 18, 2005

Braxton Mabry III: Eighteen years along the Tennessee-Kentucky Border

Braxton and Nancy Mabry and their three children left Pittsylvania County, Virginia in about 1808, when Braxton was 58 years old. The Mabrys headed west, settling near the Kentucy-Tennessee border. According to Braxton's declaration in his pension application he was "in Tennessee eighteen years".

The four children who accompanied Braxton and Nancy were James (born between 1790 and 1800, Sarah or Salley (born ~1792, married Reuben Clevenger), Maximillian (born ~1794) and Joel (born between 1800 and 1810). The family name was spelled several different ways during this period, including Mabry, Maberry and Mayberry.

Where exactly did the Mabrys settle? I have not found any record of Braxton Mabry and family in Tennessee or Kentucky prior to 1813. When the 1820 Census was taken, the Mabrys were recorded in Cumberland County, Kentucky. A year later, the family was recorded in Overton County, Tennessee. So where were they exactly?

Perhaps it isn't surprising that Cumberland County, Kentucky and Overton County, Tennessee shared a border in the early 19th century (What was the northern part of Overton County is now part of Clay and Pickett Counties). Indeed, the border between Tennessee and Kentucky was not officially settled until 1818, so, until that time, even the Mabrys may not have known what state they were living in. (It should be noted that the 1810 census was lost for most Tennessee counties, including Overton, so the Mabrys could have been living there at that time).

It appears that by (at least) 1813 the Mabrys were living along the Wolf River, which zigzagged across the border of Cumberland County, Kentucky and Overton County, Tennessee. The evidence for this is summarized below (spellings as in the original records).

Records prior to 1820
In an 1813 Legislative Petition from Overton County, Tennessee James Mabry volunteered "To have a part in the Present War with Britanic Majesty's Savage Allies, Viz. The Creek Nation of Indians" (The Creek War was an offshoot of the War of 1812).

• Reuben Clevenger was granted 50 acres of land in Cumberland County, Kentucky, surveyed September 1, 1818, on "S s Wolf R" (South side of Wolf River?).
From Book L Page 303, iindexed in THE KENTUCKY LAND GRANTS Volume 1 Part 1 CHAPTER VI KENTUCKY LAND WARRANTS (1816-1873) THE COUNTIES OF KENTUCKY, page 507 (at

1820 Census
Note that only the head of household was named. Household members could include relatives as well as servants, farm hands, and lodgers. Reuben Clevenger was listed in both Cumberland County and Overton County.

Paoli, Cumberland County, Kentucky
- Braxton Mayberry: one man and one woman age 45+, one man age 16-26 (probably Joel) and three women age 16-26 (one might be Joel's wife, but the others?). (transcription , image of the census record)
- Maximillian Mayberry: one man and one woman age 16-26, one boy under the age of 5
- Reuben Clavenger : one man age 45+, one woman age 26-45 (Sarah), two girls and three boys under the age of ten (transcription, image of the census record)

Paoli was in the southeastern part of Cumberland County, which is now part of Clinton County, Kentucky. The census entries probably included farmers that lived in the area surrounding Paoli. The Mabrys and the Clevengers are listed as "working in agriculture". Neither family had any slaves.

Overton County, Tennessee
The Census does not give any specific locations within the county.
- James Mabrye : one man and one woman age 26-45, one man age 16-26. (transcription)
- Reuben Clavenger : one man age 45+, one woman age 26-45 (Sarah), two girls and three boys under the age of ten (transcription)

(note that a Jacob Mayberry was also living in Overton County in 1820. He was the son of Frederick Mayberry from Germany, so was not related to our Mabrys.)

Records After 1820

• In May 1820 Clear Fork Baptist Church in Cumberland County, KY "received by experience"James Maberry, Joel Maberry and Rebecca Maberry. Marjera (Maximillian?) and Sarah Maberry were "received" in July of that year. It isn't clear which (if any) church the Mabry family attended prior to 1820.

• In April 1821 Clear Fork Baptist Church dismissed a number of congregants including Maxmillian Mabery, Christianna Mabery, Joel Mabery, Rebecca Mabery, Reuben Clevenger, and Sarah Clevenger "to join a church more convenient for them". In May 1821, letters of dismission were also granted to "Dexter Mabery and wife Nancy" (is this Braxton?) as well as James Mabery and Sally Mabry.

• In May 1821 the Wolf River United Baptist Church was founded in Overton County, Tennessee. Reuben and Sarah Clevenger, MaxMillan and Rebecca Maybery were among the founding members.(the current address of Wolf River Baptist Church is 1390 Jones Chapel Rd, Byrdston (Pickett County), TN

• Joel Mayberry was granted 50 acres of land in Cumberland County, surveyed August 29, 1822, with the nearest watercourse "N s Wolf Cr" (North side of Wolf Creek?).
From Book L Page 300, indexed in THE KENTUCKY LAND GRANTS Volume 1 Part 1 CHAPTER VI KENTUCKY LAND WARRANTS (1816-1873) THE COUNTIES OF KENTUCKY, page 640 (at

• On September 15, 1825 Reuben and Sarah Clevenger "of Overton Co., Tennessee sold land to John Reneau. (Cumberland County, Kentucky Deed Records Book E page 509, cited on the Clevenger Family Genealogy Page).

In about 1826, when Braxton was 76 years old, he, his wife, their children and grandchildren decided to leave Tennesse, heading west toward Illinois and Missouri (leaving Braxton's military papers behind).

Learn more in the next installment!

Note that the Cumberland Co.-Overton Co. border area in which the Mabrys lived is now probably the Clinton Co.-Clay/Pickett Co. border area. This area was partially flooded by the creation of Dale Hollow Lake in the 1940s.

Mohawk Valley Document (describing the early settlement of northern Overton County,TN)
Tennessee in the Creek War (1813-1814) (be sure to look at the slide show).
Historical marker of the Clear Fork Baptist Church, just south of Albany, Kentucky
• Information about the Primitive Baptist Church which includes Clear Fork Church in Clinton Co., KY and Wolf River Church in Overton Co., TN
1807 Survey map (made before the Mabrys arrived in the area)
1839 map of Tennessee and Kentucky (the Cumberland Co-Overton Co area is to the right of the center of the map)
Current map of Clay County, Tennessee
Satellite map of area (if you don't see the satellite image, click "Hybrid").
The World of Dale Hollow

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Braxton Mabry II: Life in Pittsylvania County, Virginia

From Braxton Mabry's Revolutionary War pension application we learn that he moved from Brunswick County, Virginia to Pittsylvania County, Virginia between 1776 and 1779. It was about this time that Braxton married the daughter of Jeremiah White, who moved from Dinwiddie County to Pittsylvania County in 1778.
Braxton's oldest son, Robert Smith Mabry, was born on October 27, 1777, but it's unknown whether he was born in Brunswick or Pittsylvania County.

Braxton's oldest daughters, Polly Braxton Mabry and Jane Stanback Mabry, were born in about 1779 and 1781, definitely after Braxton moved to Pittsylvania County.

The earliest record of Braxton Mabry in Pittsylvania county was the 1782 county census, in which the household of "Braxton Maberry" had 5 white members and 6 black members. While in Virginia, Braxton, like his father before him, were slave owners, so the 6 black members of the household were certainly slaves. In that same year, the Pittsylvania County Land Tax list shows that "Braxton Mabrie" owned 302 acres.

This was a small holding compared to his father-in-law, Jeremiah White, who oned 908 acres and had a household of 11 white members and 17 black members.

In 1784 Braxton's father Joel died in Greensville (formerly Brunswick) County, leaving him "my Negroe fellow Robin and One Pot and two Dishes and Six Pewter Plates", similar to the inheritance given his sisters. The Mabry land and plantation was bequeathed to Braxton's younger brother Lewis. It's not clear if this represents a rift between Braxton and his father, or whether it simply reflected the fact that Braxton had already purchased land and set up a household in a different county.

Four years later, Braxton is mentioned in the will of his father-in-law Jeremiah White, inheriting "the negros he has in his possession with household goods, stocks of all kinds, also 200 acres of land on Lick Fork of Horsepen Creek, adjoining Joshua Chafing in Charlotte County, part of a tract of 400 acres." Other sons-in-law of Jeremiah, William Clark and James Hinton, as well as White's sons, also inherited property. It is unlikely that Braxton's wife was deceased; the son of Mary (White) Hardaway inherited property, rather than her widowed husband.

From looking at records of the period, it appears that 18th century Virginians had as many lawsuits as their present-day defendants. The Pittsylvania Court Order Books record that, on November 25th, 1791, Braxton Mabry lost a suit brought by his brother -in-law William Clark and David Clark. The record merely states that the "defendant" confessed, possibly to a debt, and the Court ordered B raxton to pay thirty pounds, one shilling, five pence and one farthing, plus the plaintiffs' costs, attorneys fee, and tax, totaling 100 pounds of tobacco "at 12/6 pc", plus 52 pounds of tobacco "at 10/5 and 16/6". (I'm not sure what the fractions mean, although they appear to be commonly used on records this type - maybe they indicate a type of tobacco?).

One month later, on the 19th of December 1791, William Clark gained custody of Braxton's children Robert, Polly and Jean. The implication is that Braxton's wife had passed away before then. There is no indication that Braxton ever regained custody.

Braxton's second family

It was about this time that Braxton started a second family with a woman named Nancy. Some family histories give her last name as "Day", however, in November 1797 Braxton was brought before the Pittsylvania County court for "living in adultry with Nancy Baker".

Braxton and Nancy had four children between about 1891 and 1800: James, Sarah "Sally", Maximillian, and Joel. I haven't found any evidence that Braxton and Nancy ever married.

Braxton continued to have trouble in the courts. In October 1797 he failed to appear, resulting in the plaintiff Benjamin Stanfield automatically recovering three pounds, sixteen shillings and six pence of debt plus costs.

Braxton is listed on the Pittsylvania County tax rolls through at least 1804 (but is not included in the 1805 list). By then the children from his first marriage were grown, married and had families of their own. It isn't clear whether they even had contact with their father.

In 1808, when Braxton was 58 years old, he, Nancy and their four children joined the many families migrating west, initially settling near the border between Kentucky and Tennessee (look for more information in the third installment of the life of Braxton Mabry).

Walking and driving tours in Pittsylvania County

• Will of Joel Mabry: Will Book 1, page 60, Greensville CO, VA
• Will of Jeremiah White: Information from "Abstracts of Pittsylvania County, Virginia Wills, 1762-1820, pp.113-115"
• Court records: Pittsylvania Co, VA Court Order Book vol. 7, pp. 56-57, 71 and 74 and Pittsylvania Co, VA Court Order Book vol. 8 p. 421 and 428.
• Personal property tax lists of Pittsylvania County 1782-1804.

Thanks to Nicki Beatty for sharing the information she found in the Pittsylvania County Court Order books.

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Braxton Mabry I: The Revolutionary War

Braxton Mabry was born on May 22, 1750 in Brunswick County, Virginia, the son of Joel and Winnifred (Smith) Mabry. We know little of his youth. However, we have his own words as to his service during the Revolutionary War.

In 1838, at the age of 86, Braxton appeared before a judge in order to obtain a pension for his military service. At the time he was infirm and blind, so his words were taken down for him at the Taney County, Missouri court. He testified that he served a total of 15 months as a private and 18 months as a Lieutenant. (note that all quotes below use the spelling in the original document)

First Enlistment

• In February or March 1776 he enlisted in the service of "a minute company under Captain James Mason which was commanded by Col. Marshal". The company was sent to Williamsburg "to defend that place & the American Magazine which was at that place from being destroyed by the British".

• On July 1, 1776 Braxton's unit marched to Yorktown under the command of Col. John Marshal, and command was shifted to Col. John Ruffin.
When we got to Yorktown it was thought proper to leave Two companies there. The Two companies left there were Captain James Mason’s Company of Minutemen & Captain Alexander’s Company of Regulars. These Two companies were left under the command of Col. John Ruffin in which company of minuteman this Declarant was & served. In a few days Gen. Scott marched with the Regulars to the assistance of those who first went to Guin's Island. The canonading was very severe and Lord Dunmore & his army were drove off, we continuing then until between the middle & last of September following as well as my memory serves me & were then discharged.
Excused service

• "In the year 1778 in the month of March I was called in Captain Stephen Coleman’s Company of Militia. I was called for & upon proof that I had served a Tour, I was discharged."

Second Enlistment

• "In March 1779 I was called for again. I then hired a substitute who entered the service under the command of Captain Henry Conway in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, delivered said substitute to the Captain & took my Discharge for nine months."

Third Enlistment

• "In a short time in the Spring or Summer of 1779 I received a commission of First Lieutenant Signed by Thomas Jefferson who was then Governor. Some short time after that orders came to Captain Waters to march to an old stone near Dan river then to hold himself in readiness to march when called for. We accordingly marched to that place. And when the day came at which Captain Waters was to march we marched to Boyd’s Ferry on Dan river. And between sunset & dark the last of September 1780 as well as I recall it we received orders to discharge the men, our time being so near out it was thought needless for us to go any further, which was accordingly done & we returned home."

Fourth Enlistment

•"In March as well as I recollect 1781 an express came for three companies from Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Captains Charles Williams, Charles Hutchinson & William Dicks[sic] commanded the three companies. Williams’ & Hutchinson’s companies were made out men & officers; Capt. Dick’s[sic] company was made out the First Lieutenant & Second Lieutenant of which company made excuses which were received. I then volunteered & took the place of First Lieutenant in said company & marched the men myself."

• After the battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina, Braxton's unit marched from Pittsylvania to Petersburg, then on through Jamestown to Yorktown. According to Braxton's account, he commanded a company along side William Dix.
"We then marched to York & then we joined the army. When we got there Capt. Charles Hutchinson & his ensign deserted & the three companies were thrown into two. This was the fall of 1781 and I think on the seventh of October in that year. I think our hundred pieces of cannon were let loose upon the British at York, a severe cannonading in which I was engaged & on the seventeenth I think the articles of capitulations were concluded & on the nineteenth the british marched out & grounded their arms."
"There were Two companies of us in the Fort I commanded one & Capt. Wm Dicks commanded the other all under the command of Col. Hardiman we were there engaged in laying the foundation for the Cannon & throwing up the breastwork. During the day we were then we were exposed to the British Redoubts & the Americans laing in the Rear of us could not fire that day owing to our situation at the Fort. In a night or Two after that Washington commanded the British Redouts to be stormed which was done, one by Gen. LaFayette & the other by a Col. who as I understood was a Frenchman, as commanders at that time. I was in the rear of Gen. Mulinburg’s command, Gen. of the Regulars." [referring to General Peter Muhlenburg]
After Cornwallis' surrender, the Revolutionary War was over.
"We were placed under the immediate command of Brg. Gen. Edward Stephens, Col. Meriwether was under his command & I acted the whole time a Lieutenant. After this the militia officers of Virginia were all paraded & were divided by lot, some to march with the prisoners & some were to be discharged to go home. It fell to my lot to march with the prisoners."

Unfortunately, Braxton's pension claim was denied because he was unable to furnish any documentation. According to his own testimony, he carried his discharge and commission papers for many years, but left them to the care of his son, who left them in Overton County, Tennessee. This was confirmed by his son James.

While he gave many details of his service, it is worth noting that Braxton himself stated that "his memory is fading & therefore he is unable to call to memory as many circumstances of his services as he formerly could, nor can he recollect the names of as many officers as he once could, nor can he on account of loss of memory remember the precise times of his services except as above specified." Not surprising, when trying to recall events almost 60 years in the past. Of course today it is much easier to dig out information on the events described by Braxton.

Service from Brunswick County: First Enlistment

I haven't been able to substantiate Braxton's description of his service during 1776.

• Sixteen minutemen battalions were established in Virginia beginning in 1775. I haven't found details of any such battalion in Brunswick county.

• The British, under Lord Dunmore, removed the gunpowder from the magazine at Williamsburg in April 1775. It is unclear whether troops were sent to guard the Magazine in 1776 (maybe Braxton was a year off). In the summer of 1776 Lord Dunmore did attack Guin's Island, but I haven't been able to find any details.

• It isn't clear that the names Braxton listed were accurate: There was a James Mason, Captain of the 15th Virginia from November 1776 to February 1778. He was subsequently Lieutenant-Colonel of Virginia Militia. In 1776 there was a Colonel David Mason leading the 15th Virginia Regiment. John Marshall was in the Culpeper minutement in 1775-6, then 1st Lieutenant of the 3rd Virginia (30 July 1776), then Captain-Lieutenant of the 15th Virginia (December 1776). He does not appear to ever have been a Colonel (although later he was famous as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court).
The only "General Scott" I have found is Charles Scott, who was not made a general until 1777. In 1776 he was a Colonel of the 5th Virginia Regiment. I haven't found an appropriate Captain Alexander or Col. John Ruffin.

More information from this period is needed to confirm Braxton's account.

Service from Pittsylvania County

By 1779, Braxton was living in Pittsylvania County. In the Pittsylvania County Court Records of June 1780 is the notation:
"Clement M. Daniel is appointed first Lieutenant, Braxton Mabberry, Second Lieutenant, in Captain Stephen Coleman’s Company."
So, it is clear that Braxton was indeed a Lieutenant in 1780.

The men of Pittsylvania County played an important role in the fighting leading up to the battle of Yorktown which led to the ultimate surrender of the British forces by Cornwallis. However, I have found no details of the Pittsylvania troops at Yorktown, nor record that indicates Braxton lead a company there.

All we can say for sure is that Braxton Mabry did serve as a Lieutenant in the fight for independence from the British.

• Transcription ofBraxton Mabry's Pension Application number R6569 published in the White River Valley Historical Quarterly
Revolutionary War in Virginia
Call to Arms in Virginia
The Magazine at Williamsburg
Pittsylvania's Military History
(Incomplete) Roster of Pittsylvania soldiers in the Revolutionary War
Timeline of the Yorktown campaign (with maps)
American Military Units at Yorktown
Map showing the defensive works of Yorktown
Seizure of British Redoubts 9 and 10
Plan of the entrance of the Chesapeake, with the James and York Rivers showing the positions of the British Army, American and French Forces

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