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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