John Bryson vs. The Heirs of Thomas Ballard, dec’d.

A researcher forwarded this item that appeared in the North Carolina Star on Friday, March 17, 1820:


Surry County.

In Equity.

John Bryson, vs. the heirs of Thomas Ballard, dec’d.  David Blackwell and Elizabeth his wife, David Hains and Mary his wife, Ann Ballard, Charles Ballard, Sadell B. Brooks and Sarah, his wife, William Ballard, and ——– Roberts, and Susannah his wife — Petition to compel a conveyance of land.

It appearing to the satisfaction of the Court that these defendants are not inhabitants of this state.  It is ordered and decreed by the court that publication be made in the Raleigh Star for six weeks, that the said defendants appear at our next court of equity to be held for said county, on the first Monday in March next, at the Court House in Rockford, and plead, answer or demur to said petition or the same will be heard exparte at the next term.

Witness, JAMES PARKS, Clk in our said court, at office the fir[s]t Monday in Sept. 1819.

North Carolina Star, Fri, Mar 17, 1820

I had been sent a blurry copy of this by a researcher, asking for an opinion.  Her copy must have been scanned multiple times, because several names were extremely difficult to make out.  Our friend Brenda Ballard Pflaum found it on (thank you!), and I was able to retrieve a better copy.

The fact that all of the children resided elsewhere suggests that this Thomas moved to Surry County from some other place.

We know from records in Orange County, Virginia, that a John Bryson is named as the former owner of tract adjacent to a Thomas Ballard of Orange County, who had acquired the parcel from John Snow.  And we know (from a quick online search of Bryson genealogies) that Bryson family researchers believe John Bryson removed from Orange County, Virginia to Surry County, North Carolina.  Could this Ballard family have followed suit?

A state census of 1784 recorded two Thomas Ballards then residing in North Carolina, both in Surry County. The next question, given the common name, of course, is “How can we distinguish them”?  Assuming names are recorded in the order they were found as the census taker made his way through the county, a 1784 census records a Thomas Ballard four names away from John Bryson, Sr; this was in Captain Humphre’s District.  The other Thomas Ballard, residing in a different enumeration district (Captain Gaines’), is in the same district as “Morm Ballard” (Moorman Ballard).  State Census of North Carolina, 1784-1787, by Mrs. Alvaretta Kenan Register (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1971).

We know from another source that in 1790 there were still two Thomas Ballards living in Surry County.  This online search engine provides information from the 1790 census in Surry county.  Search for Bryson, and there are three entries: Alexander, 100 acres; James, 400 acres; John Snr, 135 acres in Captain Humphrey’s District.

Search that database for “Ballard”, and there are again two Thomas Ballards.  One in Captain Edward’s District (no acreage indicated); another in Captain Humphrey’s District with 140 acres.  We find in Captain Lovill’s District David Ballard (303 acres), German Ballard (200 acres) and Moreman Ballard (150 acres).

The Quaker Ballards who resided in Surry are relatively well documented, and Charles does not appear to be among them — at least his name does not appear in any Quaker record abstracts I have examined.

The Quaker Ballard first names span a couple of generations; David and Moreman/Moorman appear to have been sons of William Ballard of Bedford County (1715-1794), while German Ballard is probably their nephew, the son of their brother Thomas Ballard of Surry County, born 1735/6.

To summarize the Quaker families: William Ballard and his wife Mary ___________ had the following children:

THOMAS, b. 12, 11 [January] 1735/6.

Frances, b. 12, 12 [February] 1737/8.

BYROM [Byram], b. 27, 2 [April] 1740.

Delphin [Delphia], b. 1, 5 [July] 1742.

MOORMAN, b. 10, 3 [May] 1747/8.

DAVID, b. 9, 4 [June] 1750.

BARCLAY, b. c. 1751.

Mary, b. after 1752.


Thomas Ballard, (son of William Ballard and Mary _________)  and Elizabeth __________ had the following children:

Garman [Jerman, Jarman, German] b. 5, 2 [February] 1765.

Byrum, b. 1, 4 [April] 1766. On 9, 11 [November] 1790.

Archer, b. 12 , 8 [August] 1768.

Mary, b. 19, 1 [January] 1771.

Frances, b. 11, 1 [January] 1774.

William, b. 8, 11 [November] 1776.

Thomas, b. 10, 3 [March] 1783.

Elizabeth, b. 30, 5 [May] 1785.


A check of the North Carolina Manuscript & Archives Reference System (MARS) database shows two patents to Thomas Ballards in Surry County.  One for 150 acres in Surry was assigned to him by Isaac Cloud, who was assignee of William Lankford, who was assignee of Micajah Clark.  Micajah Clark is a known Quaker, which suggests the 150 acres belonged to the Quaker Thomas.  this grant was Entered 29 November 1799, Entry No. 1103, Book No. 126, p. 80.  Curiously, the database states that the Grant was issued 16 December 1899 (that seems awfully late; one wonders if this is an error).

The other patent (File No. 2005, Thomas Ballard) was a grant of 200 acres in Surry county, issued 17 December 1799 (Entry No. 2093, Book No. 106, page 214) (no entry date).

We should note other grants to Thomas Ballards in other counties.

100 acres, Sampson County, Entered 17 August 1779, Issued 10 July 1788.

150 acres, Chatham County, Entered 15 August 1784, Issued 7 August 1787.

From this vantage point it is difficult to know if these are the same men already identified, or additional patents taken by them.  More research is needed here.

An apparent connection, however tenuous, between Thomas Ballard and John Bryson appears in the records of Orange County, Virginia.  On 24 March 1742, John Snow of Louisa County, planter, conveyed to Thomas Ballard of Orange County planter, Lease and release for £25 current money. 200 acres in St. Thomas Parish near the Head of Blew Run corner to a tract formerly belonging to John Bryson. . . brow of a hill. . . Mathias Gale’s corner.”  Signed: John Snow.  Witnessed by John Allen, George Taylor, Thomas Scott.  Recorded Orange Co. Va. Deed Book 7, pp. 209-211.

This 200 acres conveyed by John Snow to Thomas Ballard of Orange County was conveyed by Thomas to a William Ballard by “deed dated 15 February 1758 from Thomas Ballard of Orange Co. & William Ballard of same, for £20; 200 acres near head of the Blue Run … bounded land formerly belonging to John Bryson.” Witnessed by Frs. Jones, Barnett Franklyn, Jas. Griffith. Recorded 23 February 1758, Orange Co. Va. Deed Book 12, pp. 432-36.

Thomas Ballard, son of the Quaker William Ballard of Bedford County was born 12, 11 [January] 1735/6 according to the scrupulously kept records of the Society of Friends, and would have been just six years old when the Thomas Ballard of Orange County purchased the land referenced above from John Snow in 1742.  William’s son Thomas removed from the Cedar Creek Monthly Meeting in Hanover County, Virginia to the Tom’s Creek Monthly Meeting in Surry County, North Carolina in 1777.   A probate record in Surry County, North Carolina dated 1794 is an inventory of the estate of Thomas Ballard by his wife Elizabeth Ballard, who was appointed Administratrix, which tells us that Thomas died without a will (if he had one Elizabeth would have been Executrix, if named so in the will).  We have an accounting of his belongings, but apart from the name of his wife, there is no information of genealogical value.

There is on record a will of Thomas Ballard of Stokes County, recorded March Term 1804.  Stokes County was cut off from Surry in 1789.  This is the will of the Quaker Thomas Ballard, and a transcript can be viewed here.

No wife joined in Thomas’ 1758 conveyance, which means Thomas Ballard of Orange County was (at the time) single.  Had he been married, a wife would have been required to join in the conveyance to release her dower interest.

What about other Thomas Ballards in other counties?

The Thomas Ballard of commonly identified as being of Albemarle had two wives; his first wife, Sarah, died between 1743 and 1758, his next wife Susannah joined in the conveyance of his original patent 25 March 1758, one month after this Orange County sale; in that transaction, he is identified as Thomas Ballard of Louisa County.  Further, this Thomas didn’t have a son named William.

John Ballard of Albemarle’s son Thomas was born in 1751 (and this is documented in a Revolutionary War Pension Application), so it couldn’t be him.

By process of elimination with what we know about these families, this leaves Thomas Ballard, son of Bland Ballard of Spotsylvania the one most likely to be “Thomas Ballard of Orange County, Planter.”  Yet it isn’t quite right —  unresolved is the true nature of the conveyance in 1758 of the 200 acres between Thomas Ballard and William Ballard; their relationship is not disclosed, but they could have been father and son.  Perhaps Thomas sold his farm to his son William before removing to Surry County, North Carolina.  Also, Bland devised Thomas a slave and her increase; there are no slaves in Thomas’ inventory. Also, it’s worth noting that Bland’s son Benjamin named one of his sons Charles, which reinforces the former conclusion, since we have the repeating of a family name.  But then the name figures prominently among one of the Maryland lines.

While some of the evidence points to Thomas Ballard from Orange County being the son of Bland Ballard of Spotsylvania County, Virginia, its entirely possible that he belongs to some other as yet not satisfactorily documented Ballard line.

To purchase land in 1742, Thomas would have had to have been born in 1721, or earlier (he would have to be 21 years of age to do so legally).  And if William were Thomas’ son, in order for them to complete that conveyance in 1758, Thomas would have to have been born in 1716 and William in 1737, for William to be aged 21 at the time (and for Thomas to be of age to marry).

Since Thomas died in 1794, why would John Bryson not initiate his suit against the heirs of Thomas Ballard until 1819?  We believe it is because his widow continued to live on the land (as she was entitled) — essentially claiming a life estate, and on her death, Bryson had some sort of claim — perhaps for farming it for her, even paying the taxes.  Given that he did not even know the names of all her relations suggests that his connections with her children were rather tenuous.

Then there is the matter of this Thomas having removed to North Carolina while it appears (based on the language of the text) that all of his children “were not inhabitants of this state,” which suggests that perhaps this Thomas left his family behind.  Or perhaps they all moved elsewhere to start lives in places where fertile land was becoming available, like Alabama and Louisiana.

Ballard family tradition (brought down from descendants in Kentucky) claims that Bland was born c. 1700.  Other theories of his origin — that he was the son of Thomas Ballard and Mary, the widow of James Mann of Stafford County (and circumstantial evidence points to her maiden name being Bland) — if true, make this conclusion problematic, since they married c. 1705. Taken altogether, there isn’t quite enough evidence to form a conclusion.  Nevertheless, in spite of all the loose ends and conjecture, its a very interesting record and the matter needs additional study.  It would be a great help if a male Ballard descendant of this line came forward and produced yDNA test results.


2 thoughts on “John Bryson vs. The Heirs of Thomas Ballard, dec’d.

  1. WOW WOW WOW! I’m just getting back into the country and checking my emails. I’m excited. I believe the Brenda you mentioned is a lady I have worked with extensively in the past many years ago. Is she descended from a NC BALLARD?

    Thank you so much for everything. I’ve got my fingers crossed. DeeDee DiBenedetto

    Sent from my iPhone


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