James Ballard of Warwick County, Virginia (c.1748-c.1773).

James Ballard of Warwick County, Virginia, the son of Servant Ballard of Elizabeth City County, was likely born c. 1748.  He resided in Warwick County, Virginia on property that passed to him from his father, Servant, that was devised to Servant by his father, Francis Ballard of Elizabeth City County, and later passed to James’ son Servant.  Unfortunately (for us) he must have lived the bulk of his life in Warwick whose records are now lost, for the only mention of him we have found is in the Elizabeth City County Order Books, for on 26 January 1785 we see that Servant Ballard “came into court and made choice of George Hope for his guardian who is approved of by the Court with Bagley his security.”1  That fall, another order dated 24 November 1785 states that “George Hope guardian to Servant Ballard orphan of James Ballard deceased being summoned to render an act. of the said orphans Estate.”2  George Hope was again called to render an accounting 2 December 1785.3

His wife was likely Rebecca Meredith, who survived him.  Confirmation of this remains elusive, but we have evidence from secondary sources that a Rebecca (Meredith) Ballard, a widow, married George Hope c. 1774.

Servant’s choice of George Hope as his guardian is a valuable clue.  Who was George Hope?  According to notes published in The William and Mary Quarterly:4

George Hope, of Hampton, Va., was born in Cumberland, England, March 28, 1749. He came to Virginia from White Haven about 1771, and married Rebecca Meredith Ballard, sister to Capt. Joseph Meredith, who served in the Revolution as captain of the privateer La Fayette.  George Hope superintended the construction of gunboats for the Virginia navy during the Revolutionary war at Warwick on the James, “thus assisting in establishing the independence of our country.”

George Hope married Rebecca (Meredith) Ballard March 5, 1774. Children: 1 George, born June 5, 1775; 2 Sarah, born July 25, 1777; 3 Meredith, born October 5, 1780; 4 Isaac, born April 5, 1782; 5 John, born January 25, 1786; 6 Isaac, born August 3, 1787 ; 7 Joseph, born March 31, 1789 ; 8 Thomas, born November 27, 1790; 9 William, born November 30, 1792; 10 Wilton, born January 1, 1795.

A young male upon reaching 14 years of age, by law, could select their own guardian.  Servant Ballard would have been 14 years of age or older in 1785, putting his birth year at 1771, which corresponds with his sale of the 100 acres in Warwick in 1792, something he could legally do upon reaching the age of 21.

The other important corroborating evidence is the Will of Mary Tarrant that was recorded 22 April 1796, which devises the proceeds of a prospective judgment to her nephews Servant and John Ballard.

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.5

She was probably the widow of Carter Tarrant, whose own will mentions that “my friend William Ballard has died.”  Carter Tarrant was likely born before 1735, for he was appointed appraiser of the estate of Michael Boys on 6 July 1756 (he would have been at least 21 years of age in 1756).6

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.7

We know Mary Tarrant was a widow because she appears holding real property in a real property tax list of 1787 — the same list that includes Servant Ballard as an “orphan.”  Please note that at the time, an orphan was an individual who lost their father; their mother could still be living.  See Bob’s Genealogy Cabinet, Orphans & Guardians.  The will of Charles Bailey, dated 8 March 1794, names his wife Frances and his sons William, Charles and Thomas, confirming that Mary Tarrant’s maiden name was not Bayley/Bailey.  Mary Tarrant and Frances Bayley may very well have been sisters of James Ballard; these were the names of two of the sisters of the elder Servant Ballard and his brother Francis Ballard.

Excursus: Mary Tarrant’s Claim from the United States Government Referenced in the Will

Mary Tarrant was possessed of a slave named Caesar, who during the American Revolution served as a pilot of the schooner Patriot and captured the British brig called Fanny.  After the war, Carter Tarrant re-claimed Caesar as his slave, who was devised to his widow Mary Tarrant in his will of 1784.  The General Assembly, however, wished to reward Caesar with his freedom and appointed a mediator.  Tarrant agreed to his emancipation, and she was given a certificate stating the amount she was to receive for Caesar’s freedom, which she presented to the state auditor of accounts.  In return, she received a warrant to the treasurer who was to pay her from the legislative fund.  Caesar was “manumitted and set free to all intents and purposes” on 14 November 1789.8  Apparently at the time of the drafting of the will, Mary Tarrant had not yet been paid.

From Hening’s Statutes at Large, Chapter 13, p. 102.


An act for the purchase and manumitting negro Cæsar.

(Passed the 14th of November, 1789.)
WHEREAS it is represented to this Assembly, that Mary Tarrant of the county of Elizabeth City, hath her life in a negro named Cæsar, who entered very early into the service of his country, and continued to pilot the armed vessels of this state during the late war; in consideration of which meritorious services it is judged expedient to purchase the freedom of the said Cæsar; Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that the executive shall appoint a proper person to contract with the said Mary Tarrant for the purchase of the said Cæsar, and if they should agree, the person so appointed by the executive shall deliver to the said Mary Tarrant a certificate expressing such purchase and the sum, and upon producing such certificate to the auditor of accounts, he shall issue a warrant for the same to the treasurer, to be by him paid out of the lighthouse fund. And be it further enacted, that from and after the execution of a certificate aforesaid, the said Cæsar shall be manumitted and set free to all intents and purposes.

A biography of Caesar Tarrant (given below) gives additional insight into the Tarrant family.  According to this biography, Caesar Tarrant was devised by Carter Tarrant to his wife Mary for life, and after her death to his son Francis.  It is not clear from the abstracts consulted whether the Mary Tarrant who left a will dated 1790 is indeed Carter Tarrant’s widow; had she named the same children in her will as Carter had, there would be no question, but in her will she devised what are essentially unpaid debts to her sister and nephews and niece.  It could be that Carter’s will was fairly comprehensive and she had no property to dispose of herself apart from the bonds and the claim against the United States Government (perhaps she received a life estate for all personal property).  Given that the action to manumit Caesar Tarrant originated with the Commonwealth of Virginia and not the United States Government, it is not clear what the subject of the claim might be.  Additional research is warranted.

Caesar Tarrant (c. 1740-1797), patriot, was born into slavery, probably at Hampton, Virginia. The identity of his parents is unknown. In his early adulthood, Caesar was sold to Carter Tarrant upon the death of his master Robert Hundley. His purchase price exceeded the normal price for male slaves because Tarrant had a particular skill, that of a river pilot. Just how Tarrant acquired the skill is unclear. Typically, the Tidewater area river pilot was white and passed the skill on to his son. In any case, Tarrant would eventually use this skill to parlay his freedom.

Sometime prior to the American Revolution, Tarrant married Lucy, the slave of neighbor John Rogers. This so-called “broad”marriage of slaves who resided apart from one another produced three children.

Throughout his life, Tarrant longed for his family’s freedom. The American Revolution provided Tarrant with the opportunity to secure his own freedom. As a pilot his knowledge of the waterways could have been valuable to either side. John Murray, Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor of Virginia, promised in his 1775 Proclamation freedom to all runaway slaves who would join his “Ethiopian Regiment.”

Many African Americans decided to do just that. Indeed, many more African Americans actively supported the British than the patriots. Tarrant, however, for reasons that are not known, chose to support the patriot cause. This was fortunate for the patriots, as Tarrant quickly demonstrated his abilities. His skill induced the Virginia Navy Board to appoint him a pilot in the Virginia State Navy, one of seven such appointments. For three years Tarrant successfully piloted a number of vessels, enhancing his reputation as a skilled and valiant pilot.

Among the several ships Tarrant piloted was the tender Patriot. In 1777 a group of ships commanded by Commodore Richard Taylor encountered the British naval vessel Lord Howe. When it appeared that the British privateer would escape, Taylor personally took command of the Patriot, piloted by Tarrant. Tarrant skillfully maneuvered the faster ship, which succeeded in ramming the larger and better-armed British vessel. Fierce fighting resulted in numerous deaths and injuries on both sides, including Taylor, who was shot. Nevertheless, Tarrant’s skill and bravery in the face of enemy fire earned him praise from his captain, who stated he had “behaved gallantly.”

In addition to this engagement, Tarrant piloted the vessel when the Americans captured the British ship Fanny, which was attempting to bring supplies to British troops in Boston. Although the Patriot was later itself captured, no record indicates that Tarrant was on board at the time.

Following the Revolution, Tarrant returned to the status of slave despite the heroism he had displayed. His master Carter Tarrant continued to make money from his slave’s important skills. When Carter Tarrant died in 1784, Caesar Tarrant was willed to Mary Tarrant, Carter Tarrant’s wife. The will stipulated that Caesar Tarrant was to remain her slave for her natural life and, further, he was to be given to Francis Tarrant, their son, upon the death of Mary. If it had not been for the intervention of the Virginia General Assembly, Caesar Tarrant might not have seen freedom for himself.

In 1789 the Virginia General Assembly moved to secure Tarrant’s freedom. The reason for this action is not clear, though numerous possibilities exist. Other pilots who were his friends may have petitioned in his behalf, the navy board may have taken some action, or Tarrant may have petitioned. What is clear, however, is that Tarrant was finally free by 1789.

By the act of the assembly, “in consideration of which meritorious services it is judged expedient to purchase the freedom” of Tarrant, a representative contacted Mary Tarrant and expressed the assembly’s intention to manumit Caesar Tarrant. After the purchase price was agreed upon, a certificate manumitting Caesar Tarrant was issued to Mary Tarrant. Having become a free man, Caesar Tarrant, infected with what Benjamin Quarles termed blacks’ “contagion of liberty,” then worked to secure the freedom of his family.

At the time of Tarrant’s manumission, his wife and children were held in bondage by John Rogers. In 1793 Rogers manumitted Lucy and their fifteen-month-old daughter Nancy. The other children, Sampson and Lydia, remained enslaved, presumably because of their high value. What prompted the manumissions is not clear. It is not known if Caesar Tarrant worked for Rogers, Tarrant raised the money through his own efforts, or Rogers felt some need to liberate the mother and young child. The “Reason for Manumission” expressed in the records of Elizabeth City County simply state that Lucy was the “wife of Caesar Tarrant” and Nancy was the “daughter of Caesar Tarrant.” Payment of some specified amount or “faithful service” as indicated for others manumitted were not listed as reasons for Lucy or Nancy’s freedom.

With part of his family free, Tarrant purchased a lot in Hampton in a section where white river pilots lived. This further indicated how highly regarded Tarrant was among this closed brotherhood of river pilots. Indeed, these white river pilots petitioned the legislature in 1791 to include skilled black river pilots among those granted licenses. They more than likely thought of Tarrant as they fashioned this request.

Yet freedom proved ephemeral. Although Tarrant had the respect of his peers, was now a property holder, and apparently continued to pilot the rivers, he, like other free African Americans, could not fully enjoy the benefits of liberty. As an African American he could not vote or hold public office, neither could he testify against any white person nor serve on a jury. Full citizenship was reserved for others; “freedom” for African Americans was limited. Robert Francis Engs has argued that Hampton may have been something of an anomaly among southern communities as there appeared to be a strong “cordiality between” the races. Yet even there Tarrant’s dream for his family went unrealized.

Tarrant died in Hampton, Virginia, only eight years after receiving his freedom, while his two older children remained in bondage. The thirst for freedom–Tarrant’s legacy–was not abandoned by his descendants and heirs. His will specified that all his property be given to his wife and upon her death the proceeds from the sale of that property be used to purchase his eldest daughter’s freedom. Whatever remained was to be given to Tarrant’s son, Sampson. In a concluding comment, Tarrant asked the county court to “see justice done my children.”

After another twenty-five years, Lydia obtained her freedom. Prior to that, she was sold to a Norfolk resident for the sum of $250. When in 1822 her mother was able to purchase her freedom, Lydia herself left a child in bondage. The fate of Sampson is unclear, because his name disappears from the records. It is possible that he died still enslaved. What is clear, however, is that despite Tarrant’s contributions to American freedom, he, like so many antebellum African Americans, was unable to secure justice for his children.

From American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies.

Servant Ballard’s Guardian, George Hope

George Hope left a will dated 1818, which indicates that his wife Rebecca was still living  Unverified sources online state that she died in 1821.

Will of George Hope, 1818

In the name of God, amen, I George Hope of the Town of Hampton and County of Elizabeth City, being of sound mind and perfect memory, praised be God, but calling to mind the shorting of life and certainty of death, do make and ordain this my last will and testament and thereby dispose of such worldly estate as God of his great mercy has been pleased to bestore upon me in the manner following:

I give unto my son George Hope one hundred and twenty nine acres of land bought of William Cary and Mary Smallwood, adjoining the land of Thomas Jones.

I give unto my daughter Sarah Wills, the plantation known by the name of Round Ponds.

I give unto my son John Hope, one hundred and fifteen acres of land adjoining Capt. William Armestead. Known by the name of Gustwoods, which I bought of Worledge (?) Westwood and Thomas Latimer. I also give him Isaac and Charlotte and at his mother’s death give him George Washington.

I give unto my son Thomas Hope, one hundred and fifteen acres of land known by the name of the Gustwoods being the other half of the tract which I gave my son John Hope and adjoining him on the East. I also give him at his mother’s death Abraham and a part of the plantation known by the name of Bethel, extending from the southwest end of the barn and running from thence along the road to the line between Thomas Jones and myself, from hence down the line as far as Back River and bounded on the North by a ditch being the line between him and his brother Wilton Hope.

I give unto my son William Hope he Academy and lot whereon it stands, bounded by my son George Hope on the east and the upper falls in the Mill Garden, which said falls is the line between William and George Hope, from thence extending Westward until it joins by son Thomas Hope on the South by Charles M. Collier and on the North by a line leading to the Academy. I also give him one hundred and nineteen and a half acres of land known by the name of Sawyer’s Swamp together with the houses and orchards thereon. I also give him Peter and at his mother’s death I give him Poimu and Mary.

I give up to my son Wilton Hope a lot in the shipyard bounded on the East by John Hope, on the South by Hampton River, on the West by William Hope and on the North by the street with a reservation between him and John Hope of seven feet for a road to the shipyard and at his mother’s death I give him the other part of the plantation known by the name of Bethel, including all the houses thereon with an apple and peach orchard adjoining his brother Thomas Hope on the South and Thomas Watts and Henry on the North and Back River on the West. I also give him the house on the shipyard which was formerly occupied as a schoolhouse and at his mother’s death I give him Merica, Caesar and Lucy.

I give unto my daughter-in-law Ann Pool [the widow of his son, Joseph Pope] sixty acres of land adjoining Robert Armestead on the East and William Hope on the West being a part of the same tract.

I give up to my beloved wife Rebecca Hope, Jinny. I also lend her during her natural life the plantation known by the name of Bethel. Also Merica, Pincus, Caesar, George Washington, Abraham and Lucy. Also the choice of two rooms in the house of her son William Hope. I giver all the stock of a cattle of every description with all my books and furniture of every kind. At the death of my beloved wife that part of the plantation known by the name of Bethel, with Merica, Caesar and Lucy returns to my son Wilton Hope. The other part of said plantation with Abraham to be possessed by my son Thomas Hope. Primus and Mary to be possessed by my son William Hope. George Washington to be possessed by my son John Hope. I do hereby nomate and appoint my sons George and William Hope joint executers of this my last will and testament in witness there of I have hereunto put my hand and seal, this twenty-third day of November in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and eighteen.

George Hope

Test; William B. Armistead, William Skinner, James Thomas

George Hope Will, 1819 July, proved by the oath of Mr. Skinner, one of the witnesses. Proved on the twenty-sixth day of Augest 1819 by the oath of James Thomas and William B. Armistead. Recorded and examined by W. Armistead, Clerk.9

James Ballard and Rebecca Meredith had issue:

Servant, born c. 1771, died after 1794.  A “Servant Ballard (orphan)” appears on a property tax list for Elizabeth City County dated 1787.  If he were an “orphan” that year, this indicates that he was younger than 21 years of age, but by 1792, by a deed dated 29 February 1792, he conveyed 100 acres in Warwick County to Isaac Avery. If he was able to sell land in 1792 (note that the land had been entailed in the devise from Francis Ballard, but entails were abolished after the American Revolution), that would put his birth date at approximately 1770.10

This last record is the conveyance of the land that was devised to an elder Servant by his father, Francis Ballard in 1719/20.  We find in the Elizabeth City County Order Books that on 26 January 1785 that Servant Ballard “came into court and made choice of George Hope for his guardian who is approved of by the Court with Bagley his security.”11  That fall, another order dated 24 November 1785 states that “George Hope guardian to Servant Ballard orphan of James Ballard deceased being summoned to render an act. of the said orphans Estate.”12  George Hope was again called to render an accounting 2 December 1785.13  A child age 14 could select their own guardian, which dovetails with our other observations about Servant.

We know from the will of Mary Tarrant that she had two nephews, Servant and John, so absent proof to the contrary (for now) we are assuming that James Ballard had sons Servant and John, and possibly William Ballard, a pilot who met an untimely end in 1784.

This indenture made and executed this 29 day of February anno domini one thousand seven hundred and ninety two between Servant Ballard of Elizabeth City County in the State of Virginia of the one part, and Isaac Avery of the County of Warwick of the other part …

That the said Servant Ballard for and in consideration of one hundred pounds current money of Virginia, in hand paid by the said Isaac Avery to the said Ballard, the receipt whereof he doth hereby acknowledge hath given, granted, bargained, sold, conveyed, confirmed and doth by these present give, grant, bargain and sell, convey and confirm unto the said Isaac Avery and his heirs and assigns forever, a certain tract or parcel of land in the said County of Warwick containing one hundred acres, bounded northwesterly on the lands of the said Isaac Avery, Southwesterly on the lands of Miles Carey, and Westwardly on James River.

To have and to hold (etc.) … [signed] Servant Ballard

Signed and sealed in the presence of Samuel Thomas, Snr., Samuel Dubroe (sp?), Saml. Selden, Nancy, Dalley, John Flax (his mark); Jacob _________ (his mark). Proved at Warwick Court July 12, 1792 by oaths of Samuel Thomas and John Flax; at a Court held Sept. 13, 1792 the same were further proved by oath of Samuel Dubroe (sp?) and ordered to be recorded. Signed: Miles Carey, Cl. Cur.

Other records from Elizabeth City County follow:

In February 1789 his name appeared among a list of persons who purchased items from the sale of the estate of Col. Francis Mallory and Mary Mallory; the accounting was not recorded until 25 October 1798.14

Servant was witness to an indenture between Francis Ross and Miles King on 10 March 1791, for 50 acres on Back River, three slaves, 12 head of cattle, 10 head of sheep.  With John Hunter, Edward Face, David Saunders and John Bean, recorded 22 September 1791.15

On 4 December 1791, he witnessed a deed for the sale of slaves bequeathed by their father, William Parish by Elizabeth Parish, John Parish Jr, William Parish and Mark Parish to Grace Elizabeth Bowery.  The other witnesses were Henry Dunn, Rob. Brough and James Baker.  Recorded 23 February 1792.16

On 2 January 1792, Servant Ballard witnessed an Indenture for a lot in Hampton between David Pierce of Norfolk and Warren Hopkins.  The other witnesses were George Hope, J. Smith, Robert Brough, William J. Hunger and John Rogers.  The deed was not recorded until 23 January 1793.17

On 17 April 1792, Servant Ballard witnessed an Indenture for 50 acres between Thomas Hatton and Wilson Miles Cary, with Miles King, Thomas Jones, John Perry, George Minson, and Robert Elliott.18

On 25 May 1792, he witnessed an Indenture for the sale of slaves and livestock between John Applewhaite and Miles King, with William Kerby.  Recorded 24 January 1793.19

On 1 January 1793, he witnessed an Indenture for a lot in Hampton between Warren Hopkin and George Hope for a lot bounded by Wilson Wallace, westerly by William Hunt, northerly by a street commonly known by the name of the Poack Street, and southerly by a branch of the Hampton River.  The other witnesses were T. Smith and Jno. Banks.  Recorded 24 January 1793.20


A curious record appears in an unexpected place — the diary of one Thomas Lloyd (1756-1827), who was an American Revolutionary and is best known as the creator of American Shorthand.  The diary has been preserved at Villanova University.  Lloyd was incarcerated in London for seditious libel and sentenced to three years in Newgate Prison (from 1794 to 1796).  While in prison he kept a diary with near-daily entries on topics ranging from prison life to recipes for medicines, shipping manifests and the prices of goods.  One such entry in May of 1794 mentions a Servant Ballard:

Ship Ann Servant Ballard at Iron gate mooring ties 2 deck measures 203 tons per Register 9 years dd sails fast to be sold … May at 1/2 past 2 at New Lloyds.

It was common for entries published about shipping to name the ship and its’ commander.  It’s likely this younger Servant Ballard, like many of his cousins, was also a pilot.  This last record from 1794 is the last this compiler has found; perhaps he met his end at sea, or chose to remain in England or some other place he encountered during his travels.

John, who was named a devisee with Servant Ballard in the 1790 will of Mary Tarrant. Mary Tarrant’s will named her sister Frances Bayley; nephew William Bayley, “a bond due me from James Laitmer”; 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 were Pascow Herbert, William King and Samuel Healy.  Recorded 22 April 1796.21  Note that the will of William Ballard who died c. 1782 mentions John Ballard and his daughter Mary Ballard, but fails to state their relationship; presumably they are cousins, but subsequent records dating from 1817 (below) refer to a John and Mary, but if Mary were living in 1782, she would no longer be an infant by 1817.

There is preserved in the Library of Virginia an undated petition (though it appears, according to the cataloging, to date from 1817) of a Mary Ballard, widow of John Ballard, seeking permission to sell a Lot in Hampton that her husband John Ballard died seized of for the benefit of their infant daughters, Mary Ann and Sally — and please note: anyone under age 21 at the time was legally an “infant”:

Petition of Mary Ballard Widow Etc. Index No. 1817-004

To the worshipfull the justices of Elizabeth City sitting in Chancery humbly complaining unto your Worship your ??.

Mary Ballard widow of John Ballard. Mary Ann & Sally Ballard infant children of said John Ballard departed this life some time in the year seized & possessed of a lot in the town of Hampton with a house thereon. intestate leaving your ??? Mary his widow & your ??? Mary Ann & Sally his only children. Your ??? are informed that whatever lands descend to two or more any of whom is an invent or femme cours, and the of each will not amount to more than one hundred dollars if sold that the court designated by the law shall have power to sell said land and divide the proceeds between those entitled. Your ??? have to show that from the small size of the lot being a fourth only of an acre, and from the ??? of the house being almost in a state of ruin, they are of an opinion that the shares of each will not amount to more than $100. They therefore pray your worship to decree a sale of the house & lot mentioned and a division of the money among your overseers in their proportion as the law requires. And your order is in duty bound will ever pray –

On the petition of Mary Ballard & others praying for the sale of a house & lot in the Town of Hampton of which John Ballard died seized, it is ordered adjudged and decreed that Bagwell W. Pryor & John L. Westwood be and they are hereby appointed commissioners who are hereby directed after advertising twenty days publicly to sell the said lot & house on a credit of six months taking bond with security & a lien on the premises for the payment of the purchase money – After selling the house & lot aforesaid the said commissioners are directed to assign to Mary Ballard in right of her dower one fifth of said sale and to each of the other parties the remaining four fifths in equal portion, to be paid to the guardians of said Mary Ann & Sally Ballard.

Possibly William.  He was probably the William Ballard who proved the nuncupative will of John Riddlehurst, in which he leaves his entire estate to his brother Francis Riddlehurst, November 1761.  Original Will.22

He may be the William Ballard who appeared on list of tithables for Elizabeth City County for 1782, which notes “paid for by Charles Baylis”23   One may assume that he was likely at sea, and so the tax was paid by a friend or family member.  “Charles Baylis” may be the Charles Bayley named in the will of Mary Tarrant.

William Ballard was named executor with Francis Tarrant of the will of Carter Tarrant, dated 28 July 1783, but a codicil notes that “Whereas my friend William Ballard has died …” and so he names an another executor: wife Mary, friend Robert Brough and son Francis Tarrant.  Original Will. (the will names wife Mary; son Leonard; son Francis; daughter Jane Talbot; daughter Mary Carlton; daughter Kitty, “debt due me from the estate of John Riddlehurst.”)24  Given that the will was drafted after the death of William Ballard of Elizabeth City in 1782, we know this does not refer to him.

A news story 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.

See The Pennsylvania Packet, 11 March 1784, p. 2

William Ballard may have been administrator of the estate of Francis Leanis, but having died, was obviously unable to attend to his duties so alternates were appointed to complete the work on 22 July 1784.  “Ordered that John Hunter, Roe Cooper, Wm. Brough and Robert Brough or any three of them examine state & settle William Ballard’s administration of the estate of Francis Leanis deceased and they are to make report thereof to the next Court.”25

We do not know if William had a will (there is no mention whether there was an Executor or Administrator attending to his estate), but none survives, and his estate was probated in 1785, when “An Inventory and appraisement of the estate of Wm. Ballard deceased was returned & by the Court ordered to be recorded.”26



1. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Order Book 1784-1788, p. 781.

2. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Order Book 1784-1788, p. 201.

3. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Order Book 1784-1788, p. 204.

4. The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Apr., 1900), pp. 257-258.

5. Recorded 22 April 1796, Book 1787-1800, p. 297.  Original Will.

6. Blanch Adams Chapman, Wills and Administrations of Elizabeth City County, Virginia 1688-1800 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2008), p. 17.

7. Chapman, p. 92.

8. Oscar Reiss, Blacks in Colonial America, McFarland: Jefferson, N.C., 1997, p. 250.

9. Recorded Elizabeth City Co. Va. Will Book 4, 1701-1859, p. 490.

10. Lost Records Localities Digital Collection, Warwick Co., (Va.) Records, Servant Ballard to Isaac Avery, Deed 1792, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia 23219.

11. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Order Book 1784-1788, p. 781.

12. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Order Book 1784-1788, p. 201.

13. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Order Book 1784-1788, p. 204.

14. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Deed Book 1787-1800, pp. 436-37.

15. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Deed Book 1787-1800, pp. 46-47.

16. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Deed Book 1787-1800, p. 62.

17. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Deed Book 1787-1800, pp. 423-24.

18. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Deed Book 1787-1800, pp. 66-67.

19. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Deed Book 1787-1800, pp. 112-13.

20. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Deed Book 1787-1800, pp. 113-14.

21. Elizabeth City Co. Va. D.B. 1787-1800 (No. 34), pp. 297-98.

22. Chapman, p. 74.

23. Chapman, p. 147.

24. Chapman, p. 92.

25. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Order Book 1784-1788, p. 1.

26. Elizabeth City Co. Va. Order Book 1784-1788, p. 781.


3 thoughts on “James Ballard of Warwick County, Virginia (c.1748-c.1773).

  1. HI my name is Madeline Potter i have a newspaper dating all the way back to 1180. Looking at your post there are a lot of similar names regarding family property that appears to have been in my family for a very long time. Eliza, Edward Dwyer, Henry Booker, Margaret, Clara, land of Gibbs, Chancery Lancer vs Lancer, John D Lacy…Carrs…Anyway there is definitely a connection here. If you don’t mind I would love to speak with you regarding the information I have ,bibles birth certificates, baptisms. My email is mmpotter79@gmail.com

    • That’s very interesting. I’m out of the country on vacation. Let’s touch base when I return after May 16. Thanks.

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