While randomly searching the newspapers available on the website Newspapers.com, we stumbled upon a news item describing the untimely demise of a Mr. William Ballard of Norfolk, Virginia, appearing in The Philadelphia Packet of Thursday, 11 March 1784 (p. 2), which, for ease of reading, given the antiquated typeface, we have transcribed below. The paragraph has been broken into several parts for ease of reading. A link at the end takes you to an image of the original.
By a gentleman from Northampton county, we are informed, that several vessels have been wrecked on the coast during this intense weather, amongst which he mentions a brig from Dublin, with goods and servants, intended for Philadelphia; several of the people died with the severity of the weather, but they had got great part of the goods on shore, which were to be sold at public sale. A schooner from Martinique was likewise lost, and some of her people perished. A large French ship from the same port, was drove ashore in the snow storm which happened on Monday the 19th of January last, and ten of the people were frozen to death.
On board of this ship was Mr. William Ballard, a noted pilot belonging to Hampton; he piloted out a French ship some considerable time since, and the wind blowing very hard, could not be put on shore, and was carried to France, from whence he got to Martinique, where he was recommended to the captain of this ship as a good pilot, and shipped himself in her to come home; but on being off our capes when the snow storm came on, the ship struck on the Middle Ground and sprung a leak; he advised the captain to run her ashore, which was done, but the captain feeling himself and crew in danger of being drowned, he struck Mr. Ballard on the head with a spy glass, and afterwards had him stripped naked and killed him with the pump brake.
This is reported by a young Scotch sailor who was on board, and brought over Mr. Ballard’s watch to Norfolk with him, which his relations knew. They have taken the young Scottish sailor over to the Eastern shore, to enquire more particularly about the murder, that it may be brought to light.
He has been confused (by this compiler) with William Ballard Sr of Hampton (c.1721-1782), whose will was probated 28 February 1782 and 9 November 1782. The William Ballard who met his end on the wrong end of a spy glass is probably the William Ballard whose estate was probated in 1785 in Elizabeth City County. The will (if there was one) is lost, but there is an entry in the Elizabeth City County Order Book of 1784-1788, which is indexed in the online records of the Library of Virginia (Order Book 1784-1788 (Reel 19). A number of Ballards residing in Elizabeth City County had connections to several members of the Tarrent family, and we have confirmation of William’s relationship with the Tarrant family in the 1783 will of Carter Tarrant. A William Ballard (very likely this one) was named executor of the will, which was dated 28 July 1783; note that this is after the death of William Servant Ballard. A codicil to the will dated 15 October 1784 recites “Whereas my friend William Ballard has died,” and names alternate executors.
Will of Carter Tarrant (abstract). Dated 28 July 1783. Legatees: wife Mary; son Leonard; son Francis; daughter Jane Talbot; daughter Mary Carlton; daughter Kitty, debt due me from the estate of John Riddlehurst. Executors friend William Ballard and son Francis Tarrant. Witnesses: Elizabeth Brough, Ann Brough, Robert Brough. Codicil dated 15 October 1784: Whereas my friend William Ballard has died, executors wife Mary, friend Robert Brough and son Francis Tarrant. Witnesses: Elizabeth Brough, Ann Brough, Sally Wilson. Recorded 28 October 1784. Original Will. Blanch Adams Chapman, Wills and Administrations of Elizabeth City County, Virginia 1688-1800 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2008) p. 92.
The will of Carter’s sister Elizabeth Tarrant helps us better understand the Tarrant family.
Will of Elizabeth Tarrant (abstract). Dated 13 January 1778. Legatees: niece Jane Seaton, daughter of my sister Ann Seaton; niece Priscilla Mitchell, daughter of Mary Carlton; sister Jane Talbott; sister Catherine Tarrant; brother Francis Tarrant; to my relation Mary the daughter of Nicholas Powell. Witnesses: Moss Armistead, William Ballard, Jr. Original Will. Chapman, p. 92.
Mary Tarrant’s will includes her nephews Servant and John Ballard (probably brothers, but we don’t really know). Note that she is not named in either of the Tarrant wills above; she was probably a cousin.
Will of Mary Tarrant (abstract). Dated 1790. Legatees: Frances Bayley; nephew William Bayley, a bond due me from James Latimer; nephew Charles Bayley, a bond due me from Miles King, Esq., nephew Thomas Bayley; if a claim due me from the United States Government be recovered to be divided between my nephews Servant and John Ballard and niece Rebecca Baker. Executors: George Wray and John Ashton Wray. Witnesses: Pascow Herbert, William King, Samuel Healey. Recorded 22 April 1796, Book 1787-1800, p. 297. Original Will. Chapman, p. 92.
Who was this Mary Tarrant whose sister married a Ballard? She figures in a handful of documents; on 25 February 1786 she witnessed the will of Moss Wallace Armistead, with John Ashton Wray and Francis Riddlehurst (Chapman, p. 6); we should note that a William Ballard in November 1761 proved the nuncupative will of John Riddlehurst, in which he leaves his whole estate to his brother Francis Riddlehurst (Chapman, p. 74). Indeed, a Mary Tarrant is named granddaughter in the will of Francis Riddlehurst, which also includes Carter Tarrant as a witness.
Will of Francis Riddlehurst (abstract). Dated 16 October 1756. Legatees: wife Ann; son Francis; son John; son Richard; grandson Francis Bright; grandson William Powel; daughter Ann; granddaughter Mary Tarrant. Executors wife Ann and sons Francis and John Riddlehurst. Witnesses: Thomas Tabb, Carter Tarrant and Thomas Tabb. Estate appraised by Joseph Selden, James Wallace, James Naylor and William Latimore. Recorded 7 December 1756, Order Book 1755-1760, p. 84 (Chapman, p. 74).
The will of the younger Francis Riddlehurst might be of some interest. The Mary Carlton named here may be daughter of Carter Tarrant.
Will of Francis Riddlehurst (abstract). Dated 7 May 1796. Legatees: Francis Riddlehurst Bright, son of Robert and Mary Bright at twenty-one; with reversion of bequest to his brother John Bright; reversion to Frances Tarrants then eldest son; to Ann Toomer, daughter of Thomas Butts and wife Ann, as long as she remains a widow; to Susanna Selden, wife of Samuel Selden; to Hannah Drew, the widow of William Drew; rest of my estate to be equally divided between Samuel Selden, Priscilla Johnson and Mary Carleton. Executors: George Hope, Sr. and Pasccow Herbert. Witnesses: Wilson C. Wallace, I. Hardeman, James Cunningham. Codicil in which a provision is made to fulfill a contract with William Armistead, Sr. Samuel Selden qualified as Executor. Book 1787-1800, p. 311. Original Will. Chapman, p. 74.
Mary Tarrant also witnessed the will of Ann Moore, which names Ann Moore’s sister Mary Ballard.
Will of Ann Moore (abstract). Dated 27 December 1767. Legatees: sister Lucy Loyall; nephew Lewis Meredith; niece Jenny Barron, reversion of bequest to her son Archibald Bordland; sister Mary Ballard; niece Sarah Webb; sister Sarah Cowper; sister Elizabeth Jeggitts; to Anne Armistead, the daughter of James Armistead the money he owes me. Executors: Lewis Meredith and Lucy Loyall. Witnesses: James Cunningham, Mary Tarrant. Book 1763-1771, p. 187. Original Will. Lewis Meredith qualified, security, Roe Cowper. Chapman, p. 61.
The 1747 will of Ann Roe, Ann Moore’s mother, proves the name of Mary (Roe) Ballard.
Will of Ann Roe (abstract). Dated 31 October 1747. Legatees: daughter Grisel; daughter Mary Ballard; daughter Ann Moore; daughter Sarah Cooper; daughter Elizabeth Merriday; daughter Catherine Boutwell; daughter Margaret Merriday; daughter Ellenner Mitchel; daughter Luce Loyal. Executors: Mr. John Moore and Abraham Cooper. Witnesses: Robert Brough, John Bennett. Abraham Cooper qualified, security, Samuel Jones and Adam Boutwell. Book 1737-1749, p. 292. Chapman, pp. 76-77.
What’s to be made of this? Where does this William “fit?” He is not the son of John Ballard of Yorktown, whose son William was born 31 October 1743 and who by 1770 had removed to the Borough of Norfolk, according to a deed record in York County. On 21 July 1760 when he was 16 years of age, he placed himself apprentice to David Jameson of York “to be instructed in the art of merchandize and book keeping until he arrives at the age of 2[ ]…” We find confirmation that William, son of John of Yorktown was still living in 1785 when his mother Elizabeth Ballard wrote her will in Norfolk (see The Will of Elizabeth Ballard of Norfolk, Virginia (1785)) This William proved to be a merchant like his father, not a sailor, for we find an announcement of his death in the Norfolk Gazette and Public Ledger on 20 March 1812.
Much more likely he was the son of one of Francis Ballard‘s other sons — Servant or Francis. Very likely Servant Ballard, the eldest son of Francis Ballard. The 1792 conveyance by a Servant Ballard of 100 acres in Warwick County is likely a son or grandson of Servant (son of Francis), and could be the same Servant named in the 1790 will of Mary Tarrant with his likely brother John Ballard. Francis’ son Servant or Francis (or a grandson) must have married a sister of Mary Tarrant. Perhaps the Order Book that documents William’s probate in 1785 could provide the answer. See The Pennsylvania Packet, 11 March 1784, p. 2