The Will of William Ballard of Roane County, Tennessee (1850).

While researching Ballard families in Southern Tennessee, we chanced upon records of a William Ballard who appears in a Roane County tax list in 1805.  The county was formed 6 November 1801 from Knox County.  The Roane County tax list is the earliest mention we’ve found of him.  Images of the original are available on Ancestry but difficult to read; a helpful transcription appears here.  William Ballard appears as No. 196, and its worth noting that his future father-in-law, John Eblen, is No. 175.  William Ballard married Polly Eblen on 22 May 1807. Tennessee State Marriage Index, 1780-2002 (FamilySearch database).  The 1850 Federal Census shows that William was born c. 1781, which means he was about 24 years old in 1805.

Federal Census records for Knox County for the hear 1800 has been lost, and the Federal Census records for Roane County for the years 1810 and 1820 have been lost, though substitutes are available.  William Ballard appears in the 1830, 1840 and 1850 census; in the last his age is given as 69 (born c. 1781), and appears with a wife, Rosannah Ballard; a child is in the household, named Jesse Brazzeal.  This appeared strange until we noticed that a box was checked indicating that they were married within the year, and we found a marriage record proving the marriage of Rosanah Breazeale and William Ballard on 6 November 1849.

Curiously, a memorial in Findagrave.com states (without sources) that Polly Eblen Ballard died 3 December 1849, which is nearly a month after the date of his marriage to Rosanah Breazeale.  It’s also curious that William’s will does not mention his second wife Rosannah, who is shown on Findagrave.com to have survived him until 1856, yet there is no mention of her in subsequent estate matters in the will books.  Needless to say, additional research is needed to get the facts straight.

An aside about Findagrave.com — while it is often a tremendous resource, we are inclined to only trust those entries that include a photograph of the tombstone.  That site allows users to post memorials to any individual they wish, and place them anywhere they think prudent.   These “made up” memorials aren’t always easy to distinguish from actual burials, which results in the dissemination of erroneous information.  As with all secondary sources, it’s best to verify information found on Findagrave.com with original records.

What is interesting to us, however, is the fact that the 1850 Federal Census indicates that William was born in Virginia (his wife Rosannah was born in Tennessee), and that records of actual tombstones in Findagrave.com show that Washington Ballard, William’s eldest son, named children Samuel C. Ballard and David J. Ballard (both died young), which are names commonly used among descendants of John Ballard of Albemarle County, Virginia (c. 1719-1780).

It’s difficult to know with any degree of certainty that this is the correct family.  However, the evidence allows us to narrow the search, namely: (1) a recent male descendant of this William places him squarely in Lineage Group I; (2) naming patterns in later generations point to descendants of John Ballard of Albemarle; (3) The descendants that would be of the right age among Thomas Ballard of Albemarle, John’s brother, are for the most part accounted for.  The problem is that the descent of two sons hasn’t been properly traced.

John Ballard of Albemarle left a will dated 11 June 1779, and in it he names his sons Thomas Ballard and William Ballard as his executors.  Obviously the William whose will appears below is not the same William if he was born in 1781 (though some online genealogies place him there).  However it is possible that our William is the grandson of John of Albemarle by way of the two sons whose descendants have not been traced: the William identified as living below Mechum’s Depot in Albemarle, or William’s brother Samuel, who last appeared with any certainty in a record dated 1784.

Could the secondary information on William Ballard of Albemarle be incorrect, and the three brothers traveled together to Rutherford County? A William Ballard appears in a Rutherford, North Carolina Tax List dated 1782, though his connection to this family is unknown.  Further complicating things: there were two William Ballard households in Albemarle in 1810, and two in Rutherford that same year.   Research on the ground in Albemarle and Rutherford Counties may provide an answer.


Will of William Ballard
Roane Co. Tenn. Settlements, Wills, 1847-1855, Book E, p. 363

I William Ballard of the county of Roane and state of Tennessee planter do make and publish this my last will and testament hereby revoking and making void all former wills by me at any time heretofore made.

First I direct that my body be decently interred at the graveyard at Prospect Church in said county in a manner suitable to my condition in live and as to such worldly estate as it hath pleased God to intrust me with I dispose of the same as follows.

First. I direct that all my debts and funeral expenses be paid as soon after my decease as possible out of any monies that I may die possessed of or may first come into the hands of my executor from any portion of my estate real or personal.

Secondly, I give and bequeath to my beloved son Washington Ballard the sum of two hundred dollars.

Thirdly, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Elizabeth now Elizabeth Taliaferro one black girl named Rachel that received when married at two hundred dollars.

Fourthly, I give and bequeath Eliza now Eliza Pryott the sum of one hundred dollars and one hundred dollars received in a short time after her marriage making the amount of two hundred dollars.

Fifthly, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Ann now Ann Harvey two hundred dollars.

Sixthly, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Francis now Francis McPherson the sum of two hundred dollars.

Seventhly, I give and bequest to my beloved daughter Caroline now Caroline Bacon the sum of two hundred dollars.

Eighthly, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Lucinda now Lucinda Bacon the sum of two hundred dollars.

Ninthly, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Lavina now Lavina Oliphant the sum of two hundred dollars.

Tenthly, I give and bequeath to my beloved son John E. Ballard one hundred and sixty acres of land lying & being in the county and state first mentioned situate in the second range East of the Meridian first fractional township nineteenth section and the north east quarter of said section, Hiwassee District on which he now resides and for which has received a deed of gift from me which is to be his portion of my estate real and personal.

Eleventh, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Sophia E. now Sophia E. Rose the sum of two hundred dollars.

Twelfth, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Mary Jane now Mary Jane Taliaferro the sum of two hundred dollars.

Thirteenthly, I direct the remainder of my estate real or personal money or monies that may come into the hands of my Executors after defraying all lawful expenses, to be equally divided between all of my heirs with the exception of my son John E. Ballard who has received by Deed of Gift his portion in full as above stated.

Lastly I do hereby make ordain and appoint my esteemed & beloved son Washington Ballard and my esteemed son in law James Oliphant executors of this my last will and testament in witness whereof I William Ballard the said testator have to this my will written on one sheet of paper set my hand and seal this fourth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty.

Signed sealed and published in the presence of us who have subscribed in the presence of the Testatator and of each other.

William Ballard (his mark)

Witnesses: Thomas B. Matlock, Thomas Osborn, James M. McNabb

Recorded December Term 1852, “Witness my hand at office in Kingston the 1st Monday of December A.D. 1852” Austin S. Greene, Clk.

Estate Inventory entered March Term 1853. Property reported sold 28 & 29 December 1852 (p. 387).

Final accounting entered 13 January 1855 (p. 510).


William’s son Washington Ballard died relatively young, at age 52. A descendant posted a biography in Findagrave.com:

Washington Ballard was the first child of William and Polly Ballard. He was the clerk of the session of Prospect Church where he is now buried. We know that he was a dedicated Christian from his devotion to his church and from the gift of land that he made to the church for the cemetery. Also his brother, John Eblen Ballard, gave land to the church.

Washington was around 18 years old when his family moved to the farm south of the TN. River in the Hiwassee District about 1826.  He lived in the two-story log cabin just over the hill from the Prospect Church.

He married Sarah Pursley on November 7, 1833. He then bought fifty acres of land for $300. adjacent to his fathers farm (Roane Cty Register, Book G. pg. 331). Washington and Sarah had nine children.  All of their sons were named after famous people.  He later married Harriet Oliphant and they had two children.

My great-grandfather apparently died unexpectedly at the age of 52. I wonder if his death was accidental or did he have a heart attack. His eldest son, Thomas Jefferson Ballard, was the executor of his estate and the inventory was listed in Roane County Wills and Estate Book Vol.F,pg 375,380-381,439 dated July 1861. It is interesting that his widow, Harriet Oliphant Ballard, had to buy goods from the estate.

Washington Ballard is buried in the Prospect Cemetery with a large stone bench as his grave marker.

This was written by my father, Fred B. Ballard (FAG # 148622034) about his great-grandfather.

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