The earliest known documentary record of Benjamin Head is his appointment as overseer of a road on 23 May 1754 (Orange County, Virginia Order Book 6, page 4): “Benjamin Head is Appointed Overseer of the Road in the Room of William Lucas, & that he with the Gang that under the said Lucas clear & keep the same in Repair”. The establishment and maintenance of public roads were among the most important functions of the county court during the colonial period in Virginia. Each road was opened and maintained by an overseer (or surveyor) of the highways, who was appointed each year by the Gentlemen Justices. The overseer was usually assigned all the able-bodied men (the “Labouring Male Tithables”) living on or near the road. These laborers then furnished their own tools, wagons, and teams and were required to work on the roads for six days each year.
Next is an Orange County deed dated 22 May 1755, in which Benjamin Head purchased 200 acres of land in Bromfield Parish, Culpeper County, Virginia on the north side of the Rapidan River, west of Maple Run (Orange County Deed Book B, pages 352-355) from Col. Thomas Chew, Martha Chew (Thomas’s wife), and Timothy Crosthwait (all of St. Thomas Parish in Orange County). Benjamin was living in St. Thomas Parish in Orange County. This was part of a tract of land sold by Capt. Henry Downs to the Chews and Crosthwait on 3 Jun 1751.
Understanding the locations of the counties and parishes in colonial and post-revolutionary Virginia can be challenging, since new counties and parishes were continually being formed from the larger, earlier ones. Orange County was formed in 1734 from western Spotsylvania County; Culpeper County was formed in 1748 from northern Orange County; Madison County was formed in 1792 from southwestern Culpeper County; Rappahannock County was formed in 1833 from northwestern Culpeper County; Greene County was formed in 1838 from western Orange County.
The land described in the 1755 deed was probably located in what is now Madison County. I’m not sure exactly where Maple Run empties into the Rapidan River, but it is near Elk Run, which flows into the Rapidan River just north of Burtonsville. (The Rapidan River forms the boundary separating Madison County and Greene County in that vicinity.) In 1755, what is now Madison County was still a part of Culpeper County and current-day Greene County was still a part of Orange County.
The boundaries of the parishes changed frequently in early Virginia. By an Act of the General Assembly in 1740, the parish of St. Mark in Orange County was divided into two parishes, with the southern part becoming St. Thomas Parish. Upon the formation of Culpeper County in 1748, much of St. Mark Parish was in the new Culpeper County, while St. Thomas Parish comprised much of what was left of Orange County. In 1752, Four years after the formation of Culpeper County from the northern part of Orange County, St. Mark Parish was divided again with the formation of Bromfield Parish. (Most of current-day Madison County, formed in 1792, falls within the boundary of late-18th-century Bromfield Parish.)
Benjamin Head sold his 200 acres in Bromfield Parish on 10 September 1759 (Culpeper County Deed Book B, page 214). He is described as a planter of Orange County, so he apparently didn’t take residence on the land in Bromfield Parish. (Until his death, Benjamin Head’s residence apparently remained in St. Thomas Parish in Orange County – although that part of Orange County became Greene County over 35 years after his death.) For the first time, the name of Benjamin’s wife Martha appears on the 1759 deed. Martha is the daughter of Robert Sharman and his wife Lucy of Bromfield Parish. Robert Sharman, in his 1773 will, appoints his “well-beloved friend and son-in-law, Benjamin Head” as his executor. Benjamin Head and Martha Sharman were probably not married before the 1755 deed, as their eldest son James was born in 1758. (Most deeds of that period did not name the wife as a grantee, but did as a grantor.)
Benjamin and Martha’s second child, a daughter Sarah, was likely born around 1759 or 1760. Their third child, a son William (my 4th-great-grandfather), was born on 25 March 1761. Another son, their fourth child, Benjamin was born about 1763.
During his lifetime, Benjamin Head owned a number of black slaves (as did many of the other planters in that part of Virginia). On 20 May 1764 (Orange County Deed Book 13, page 426), Benjamin (of St. Thomas Parish in Orange County) purchased “one negro man named Bob and three mares” for 81 pounds, 11 shillings, and 5 pence. (Martha’s parents Robert Sharman and Lucy witnessed this deed.)
Two more sons were born to Benjamin and Martha during the late 1760s: John on 25 December 1765 (fifth child) and George Marshall on 9 June 1768 (sixth child).
Other references to Benjamin Head in Orange County during this period can be found in the Orange County Order Books and Court Minutes, relating to maintenance of the roads in the area:
Orange Co., Order Book 7, 28 March 1765, page 263 (Orange Co., Minute Book 1, p. 52):
“On the Petition of Henry Beverley for Leave to Turn the road from Beverdam run that goes by Benja. Heads Ordered that John Haskew Wm. Lucas Robert Johnson & Thomas Shackleford or any three of them being first Sworn as the Law Directs do veiw the said Way that the said road is intended to go and make return to the court of the conveinence & Inconveinences Attending Same”
Orange Co., Order Book 7, 23 July 1767, page 447 (Orange Co., Minute Book 1, p. 140):
“On the Motion of David Vawter to have a Veiw for a road to turn out at the dividing Line between Benjamin Head and Richard Durrett and to keep the Line of the said Heads & Durretts to the River at Crawfords foard Ordered that Robert Johnson, May Burton Jeremiah White and James Wayt or any three of them being first Sworn before a Justice of this County do Veiw the said Way and Make report to the Court of the Conveinences and in-conveinences attending the Same”
Orange Co., Order Book 8, 23 November 1769, page 47 (Orange Co., Minute Book 1, p. 253): “On the Motion of Robert Johnson to renew his Ordinary Leicence it is granted him he giving Security Whereupon he with Benja. Head his Security Entered into Bond for the Same”
Orange Co., Order Book 8, 26 April 1770, page 60 (Orange Co., Minute Book 1, p. 267):
“Henry White the Younger is appointed Overseer of the Road in the room of Benjamin Head and that he With the Hands that was under the sd. Head do clear the Same precints and keep the same in Good Repair”
It is clear that Benjamin Head was living in the area, but no deeds have been found up to this time indicating where in St. Thomas Parish, Orange County he resided or whether he owned any land there. The names of the geographic features (“Beverdam run”, “Crawfords foard”) would be helpful if they could be located on a map. The people whose names appear with Benjamin Head in these court minutes will appear with his name frequently in records during the remainder of his life, so we know that he already did live in the same area of Orange (later Greene) County in which he later died and left his estate.
On 1 July 1767 and 22 March 1769, Benjamin Head participated in land auctions in St. George Parish, Spotsylvania County, for 14,678 acres of land in Orange County on the south bank of the Rapidan River. This land, owned by Harry Beverley, was a part of the 24,000-acre Octonia Grant granted by England’s King George I in 1722. Benjamin Head’s winning bid of 307 British pounds for 1,325 acres resulted in a deed dated 28 November 1771 (Orange County Deed Book 15, page 461) in which he obtained the land from Harry Beverley, through trustees George Taylor, James Madison, and John Carter.
“This indenture made the twenty eighth day of November one thousand seven hundred and seventy one between George Taylor, James Madison and John Carter, Gentlemen three of the trustees named and appointed in and by an Act of Assembly made in the fifth year of the Region of his present Majesty inititated and let to dock the . . . of Certain lands where of Harry Beverley Gentlemen is seized and for selling slaves to be purchased in lein thereof to the same uses of the the one part and Benjamin Head of the County of Orange of the other part. Whereas at a Public Sale of the lands in the said Act mentioned previously advertised in the Virginia Gazette the said Benjamin Head was the best bidder for and became the purchaser of one thousand three hundred and twenty five acres of the said lands for the sum of three shundred and seven pounds current money of Virginia and bounded as folooweth towit Beginning at two sycamores an the River side (in Lot No. 16) comes to May Burton running thence with Burtons line south ten degrees west one hundred and fourteen poles to four pines in a little valley thence south ten degrees east one hundred and twenty four poles to two red oaks and hickory saplings on the south side of Rippon run thence south thirty two degrees west three hundred and twenty eight poles between a pine white and red oak on a hill in Joshua Shapps line thence north farty three degrees west four poles to Shapps corner red and white oak saplings thence south seventy five degrees west one hundred and twenty two poles to a pine thence west twenty four poles to a hickory and two Spanish oaks in Pearson line thence north forty three degrees east one hundred and twenty seven poles to two pines corner to Pearson thence with Pearson line north forty seven degrees west one hundred and twenty seven poles to a pine thence south forty three degrees west two hundred and forty nine poles to pine sapling on a ridge in the Patent Line thence north fifty three degrees west forty four poles to three red oak saplings on a hill side and corner to James Wayt thence north twenty two degrees east five hundred and ninety four poles to a maple and . . . by the great run thence down the said run about one hundred poles to a . . . and five . . . trees. Thence north twenty six degrees east one hundred and twenty eight poles to two pines . . . north two degrees west thirty poles to river thence down the river to the Begining which course includes the Lot No. 15, 16 & 30 . . . said down in a plot by Joseph Brock Gentlemen. Now this indenture witnesseth that for and in consideation of the said sum of three hundred and seven pounds current money in hand paid by the said Benjamin Head to the trustees aforesaid and by them applied to the . . . in the said lot directed they the said George Taylor, James Madison and John Carter to the power to them given in and by the said Act of Assembly have granted bargained and sold and by these presents do grant bargain and sell unto the said Benjamin Head his heirs and assigns the said one thousand three hundred and twenty five acres of land to purchased by him with allways and water privileges and improvements and the revisions remainders and profits thereof to Have and to Hold the said land and premises and every part thereof unto the said Benjamin Head his heirs and assigns forever to his and their own proper use and this George Taylor, James Madison and John Carter for themselves their price Executors and Administrators do convenant and grant to and with the said Benjamin Head his heirs and assigns that the said George Taylor, James Madison and John Carter have not made committed done or omitted any act matter or thing whereby or by means ow which the premises hereby conoyed may be effected or encumbered in Title Charge or Estate or any Way What ever In Witness where of their investors have hereunto set their hands and seal the day of year above written. Signed. sealed and delivered in the presence of George Taylor (S.So) James Madison (S.S.) John Carter (S. S.)
“At a Court held for Orange County an Thursday the 28th of November 1771 This Indenture from Harry Beverly Trustees to Benjamin Head was acknowledged by James Madison and John Carter two of the Trustees and at another Court held for . . . County the 26th of March 1772 was further acknowledged by George Taylor another Trustee . . . and ordered to be recorded. Teste George Taylor, Clerk of Court”
(The James Madison who signed this deed was a wealthy landowner in Orange County whose son James Madison would become the fourth President of the US in 1809.)
The location of this land can be determined by the known extent of the Octonia Grant and the references to the “[Rapidan] River” and “Rippon run” (Rippin Run). It is on the south side of the Rapidan River in present-day Greene County, bounded (approximately) on the west by Highway 29 (running between Burtonville and Ruckersville) and extending east a little over a mile towards the Orange County-Greene County line. (See map below from The Octonia Grant in Orange and Greene Counties, by J. Randolph Grymes, Jr. (Ruckersville, VA: Seminole Press, 1977), available from the Orange County Historical Society.) Ruckersville was named for John Rucker. Burtonville was (I think) named for May Burton, Jr. John Rucker’s daughter Mildred married George Marshall Head (Benjamin’s and Martha’s son) in 1789. May Burton, Jr. married Sarah Head (Benjamin’s and Martha’s daughter) in 1776. Lots 15, 16, and 30 are referenced in the deed. Later deeds will show that the manor house was located between the Rapidan River and “great run”, on the north side of the tract.
Harry Beverley’s father Robert Beverley, received the entire 24,000 acres of the grant. In order to hold onto the grant, he was required to make significant improvements on the land. One of those involved in settling the land and making improvements to it was Anthony Head, acting as an overseer for Robert Beverley. According to Grymes in The Octonia Grant, “In November 1730 Anthony Head moved his wife and seven children 80 miles to Octonia to set up “. . . a new place beyond the little mountains . . .” (Southwest Mountains), and he and three other men apparently built a house in 17 days. Later in 1731 he and his wife and daughter took eight days to drive cattle to Octonia. A dwelling house with two outside chimneys and two rooms was built and a tobacco house, barns, a dairy, cornhouse, hen house and 800 panels of fence were erected; 67 acres were cleared and 50 acres were used for woodland pasture for the 13 head of cattle. Head evidently put out 1,000 peach, cherry, and apple trees.”
Robert Beverly died in May 1733 and the Octonia Grant was divided up according to his will, which was probated in Spotsylvania County. (Orange County was not formed until the following year.) One of those mentioned in Robert Beverley’s will was Anthony Head, to whom was left 200 acres “to be laid of on the upper side of the bleu run in an exact square and to include the Plantation the said Head now lives on”. See the tract labeled “C” in the map below. (Click to enlarge the map.) This is about seven miles east of the 1,325-acre tract that Benjamin Head purchased over 35 years later. Where did Benjamin Head grow up? What was the connection between him and Anthony Head? The only Head names associated with the history of the Octonia Grant (in Grymes’ book) are those of Benjamin and Anthony. Crawford’s Ford does not appear on this map, but Beaver Dam Run (along which Benjamin Head lived in 1765) was about midway between the two tracts of the Octonia Grant (i.e., Anthony in 1733 and Benjamin in 1771). What became of the tract owned by Anthony Head? He (and his wife Sarah) sold it on 21 September 1736 (Orange County Deed Book 1, pages 345-349) to Jeremiah Murdock of King George County for 2,000 pounds. Anthony was granted 150 acres on Maple Run and the north side of the Rapidan River on 27 June 1739, which he and Sarah sold to Henry Downs of Orange County on 21 February 1742 (Orange Co., Deed Book 7, pages 103-106). This is likely the same land that Benjamin Head subsequently purchased in 1755 (in what was by then Culpeper County), or very close to it! Anthony Head is mentioned in a Culpeper County road order as late as 1763, so he apparently remained north of the Rapidan River.
Benjamin and Martha’s seventh child Henry, another son, was born 22 April 1773 and was baptized 30 May of that year. (Where was the church? Was it near the watercourse named “Church Run”.)
On 24 August 1773, Benjamin Head again purchased land in Culpeper County, 160 acres “at the upper corner of the Rapidan River” from Martha’s father Robert Sharman (Culpeper County Deed Book G, page 157). One of the witnesses to this deed was a James Head, probably the eldest son of Benjamin and Martha. Robert Sharman’s will (in which Benjamin Head was named executor) was written 21 January 1773 and proved 18 April 1774, so this land may have been part of his legacy to his daughter Martha. It appears that Robert Sharman was still living at the time this deed was executed. Benjamin Head and Martha (of Orange County) sold this land to Richard Quinn (of Culpeper County), whose land was adjoining to it, on 15 September 1777 (Culpeper County Deed Book H, page 517).
Sometime around early 1774, Benjamin Head agreed to sell the southernmost 450 acres of his tract of land in Orange County to his neighbor Durrett Oliver for 56 pounds and sixpence. After having paid Benjamin Head 28 pounds and 19 shillings, Durrett Oliver died, before the land was partitioned. Durrett Oliver died intestate, leaving his widow Tabitha Oliver, eldest son Achilles Oliver, and several younger children. To settle the disposition of the property, the proportion already paid for (232.75 acres) was marked off and given to Durrett Oliver’s heirs. The remaining proportion (217.25 acres) was put up for public sale, the highest bidder being Robert Beadles for the amount of 33 pounds, 5 shillings. The southwestern section of the property (1325 acres) bought by Benjamin Head in 1771 went to Beadles and the southeastern section went to Oliver’s heir, leaving the remainder along the Rapidan River in the hands of Benjamin Head. (Orange County Deed Book 16, pages 234 and 276)
On 27 October 1774, Benjamin Head was again appointed overseer of a local road (Orange County Minute Book 2, page 19): “Benja. Head Appointed Overseer of the Road in the Room of James Wayt to Clear the Road from the great Run up to a place call’d Boxin Camp”
On 5 December 1775, James Head (eldest child of Benjamin and Martha) was married in Orange County to Elizabeth Janet Powell (daughter of Simon Powell and his wife Martha). Benjamin and Martha’s eight and last child Tavener, another son, was born 2 June 1776 and was baptized 28 July. On 29 September that same year, Tavener’s sister Sarah married May Burton, Jr. in Orange County.
At this time, the American Revolutionary War had broken out. Benjamin Head was probably at least 45 years of age. The particulars of his involvement and service in the war are not totally clear. Some sources maintain that he enlisted in Captain George Stubblefield’s Fifth Virginia Regiment in 1777 and served out his enlistment under Colonel Bland until the end of the war in 1781, eventually being promoted to Captain. The bounty land claim filed by this Benjamin Head’s heirs in 1834 were denied by the government, as no record of any appointment of Benjamin Head to a commissioned officer’s rank could be found in the Army records. According to the heirs’ claim and written reports by four longtime acquaintances, this Benjamin Head was raised in Spotsylvania County and died there on 17 August 1808. This is clearly not the same person as our Benjamin Head. No mention is made of Orange County and our Benjamin Head’s death (as we’ll see later) definitely occurred by 1803. Since Orange County was formed in 1734 and much of our Benjamin Head’s life was spent along the Rapidan River at least 20 miles west of the Spotsylvania – Orange county line, there could be no confusion about him having grown up in Spotsylvania County. So, what was our Benjamin Head doing during the war from 1776 to 1781? Is there any evidence that he served in the military during this time, and was he made a Captain?
Orange County records show that at least one person named Benjamin Head was present in Orange County during most, if not all, of the period from 1776 to 1781; so was Benjamin Head’s eldest son James, by then in his mid-20s, at least, and daughter Sarah’s husband May Burton, Jr.:
Orange Co., Minute Book 2, 23 July 1778, page 88
“On the Petition of Benja. Head to keep an Ordinary at his house at the Old Trap it is Granted him Whereupon he With Jos. Parish his Security Entered into and Acknowledged their Bond for the Same According to Law”
Orange Co., Minute Book 2, 26 November 1778, page 97
“May Burton jr is appointed Oversr. of the Road in the Room of Benja. Head & that the hands of Colo. Thortons Thos. Daughaney, Thos. Ballard & Moreman Ballards be Aded to his Gang”
Orange Co., Minute Book 2, 28 January 1779, page 98
“On the Pet. of John Moore for a Road from Crawfords foard into the new Road above John Snells Ordered that Jere. White, Benja. Head, May Burton & May Burton Jun or any three do Veiw the sd. Intended Way & make report to the Court of the Same Accordg. to Law”
Orange Co., Minute Book 2, 25 November 1779, page 121
“May Burton jr Granted Ordinary Licence Whereupon he With James Head his Security Entered into & Acknowledged their Bond for the Same”
Orange Co., Minute Book 2, 24 February 1780, page 123
“On the Petition of John Beadles to keep an Ordinary at his house it is Granted him Whereupon he With James Head his Security Entered into Bond for the Same According to Law”
Orange Co., Minute Book 2, 23 March 1780, page 126
“On the Petition of Wm. Walker to have a Veiw for a Road from Crawfords ford on the Rapadan into the Road by Robert Sanford Ordered that Jere. White, Ben. Head Robt. Miller & May Burton jr. or any do Veiw the sd. Intended Way and make report Accordg. to Law”
Orange Co., Minute Book 2, 24 March 1780, page 129
“James Head appointed Oversr. of the Road in the Room of Wm. Ludspick”
Orange Co., Minute Book 2, 26 May 1780, page 136
“The Veiwers have made report of the Road Petition for by Wm. Walker from the Crawfords Ford to Robt. Sanford to leave the Road from the uper End of May Burtons jr Field on the left then Across the great run Between the sd. Burtons & Jamesons Land from there the Best Way into the Church Path then along the sd. Path leaving Robt. Pearsons Jacob Ehart & Mordicai Bruce on the Left into the Church Road about a Quarter of a Mile below the Church thence up the sd. Road the Common Waggon Way into the Road by Robt. Sanfords the sd. Way is Ordered to be Opened Ordered that Robt. Pearson With the hands that are under him as Ovr. of a Road also With hands that is in the Precints that Robt. Sanford was Oversr. of and the hands Under Benja. Head Wm. Lucas & Henry White Oversr of Roads”
Orange Co., Minute Book 2, 24 August 1780, page 141
“On the Petition of Benja. Head to renew his Ordinary Licence it is Granted him Whereupon he With Jno. Mitchell his Security Entered into Bond for the Same”
The Benjamin Head who ran an “ordinary” (tavern) at “Old Trap” was not the same Benjamin Head who lived along the Rapidan River. Old Trap was probably near where the community of Locust Grove is now located, in eastern Orange County. However, it is clear that Benjamin’s son-in-law and close neighbor May Burton, Jr. kept an ordinary near the home place.
A History of Orange County, Virginia, by W. W. Scott (Richmond, VA: Everrett Waddey Co., ca. 1907) provides additional information from the Orange County records regarding the military involvement of the Orange County Militia during the Revolutionary War:
Officer’s commissions granted in the Orange County Militia:
1777 – James Head, Ensign
1778 – Benj. Head, Captain, vice (Jere. White, resigned)
1778 – May Burton, Lieutenant
1779 – Robt. Miller, Captain, vice (Benj. Head, resigned)
1779 – May Burton, Ensign (promoted)
1780 – May Burton, Captain (promoted)
In 1781, Ordered, agreeably to Act of Assembly for supplying army with clothes, provisions, and wagons, that each tithable person pay the sheriff seven pounds, current money, to purchase a wagon and team and hire a driver. This tax realized about $50,000, and the purchase was made and the outfit delivered to Benjamin Winslow, deputy commissioner. The sheriff was ordered to pay James Madison $6,500 for repairing public wagons, Benjamin Head $36,000 to purchase a wagon and team for the public, and Edmund Singleton $800 for collars for the team. . . . In 1782 the companies in the County were commanded by Captains Miller, Burton, Buckner, Herndon, Hawkins, Lindsay, Waugh, Graves, Stubblefield, and Webb. . . . There is incontestible evidence that the Orange militia were several times in actual service in the field, a fact that no history of the Revolution discloses, certainly not so as to identify them. How long and on what occasions they served can not now be ascertained, but these selected entries prove the fact: William Hawkins furnishes supplies to Prettyman Merry, lieutenant Orange militia for I8-months men marching from Orange to Fredericksburg; allowances to William Webb, for beef for Orange militia on march to camp; to James Coleman, for supplies impressed by William Thomas, commanding officer of guard at Brock’s Bridge; to William Morton, for wagon impressed for Orange militia from August 17 to October 31, 1781, and for ? wagon impressed at Guilford courthouse, North Carolina, October, 1781, by order of General Stevens; to Zachary Herndon, for wagon with Orange militia 27 days, October and November, 1781, and to same in May, June, and July, 1781, 75 days; to George Morton, for wagons impressed for Orange militia 13 5 days, John Taylor, colonel commanding. . . . These examples must suffice. They seem to indicate that certainly part of the service was at the seige of York, as Yorktown was then called.”
Our Benjamin Head was, then, a Captain in the Orange County Militia from 1778 to 1779. Orange County court records dated 28 May 1778 state “Benjamin Head appointed Captain in the room of Jere White, who has resigned. Robert Miller, 1st Lt., May Burton, Jr., 2nd Lt., and Richard White, Ensign. Ordered that the court be adjourned till court in course. James Madison”. This is the Robert Miller who assumed the rank of Captain upon Benjamin’s resignation the following year. It was May Burton, Jr. (Benjamin’s son-in-law) who would become Captain in 1780 until the end of the war a year later. Apparently the members of the Orange County Militia remained in or around Orange County during a good time of their service.
The 1782 Orange County tax lists clearly show that there were two different Benjamin Head households in the county at that time.
The Number of People Taken in Orange County by Benj. Grymes, Gent October 1782.
Name White Black BENJAMIN GRYMES 5 40 ROBERT GAINES 9 2 JOHN SPOTSWOOD 8 39 ROBERT C. JACOBS 2 13 CHURCHILL JONES 2 23 WILLIAM HUME 6 4 JOHN WOOLFOLK 4 GEORGE WILLS 4 JOSEPH ROSSEN 2 ELISHA HAWKENS 2 HENRY MARTIN 7 8 GEORGE CHAPMAN 3 1 STEPHEN SMITH 8 4 NATHL. SANDERS 13 2 JOSEPH PARISH 9 GEORGE BLEDSOE 2 WILLIAM SULLIVAN. 7 JAMES SMITH 5 1 REUBEN MORRIS 1 THOMAS MORRIS 5 RICHARD C. WEBB 6 3 JOHN C. WEBB 9 OBEDIAH OVERTON 6 GEORGE OVERTON 6 MAJOR OAKES 12 THOMAS LUCAS 8 TIMOTHY CONNOR 9 1 JOHN RHODES 4 JOHN JENNINGS 10 JOHN JONES 1 BENJAMIN BRADLEY 4 1 JOSEPH RICHARDS 5 JOHN ROBINSON 9 1 BENJAMIN HEAD 3 1 DANIEL SINGLETON 1 5 JOHN BLEDSOE 2 WM. HUMPHREYS 4 JESSE SMITH 8 JAMES GORDON 1 15 WILLIAM HAWKINS 7 3 JOHN LANCASTER 7 PEIRCE PERRY 8 REUBEN HAWKINS 5 JOHN WOOD 4 JAMES WOOD 3 JOHN PROCTER 3 3 MOURNING PIGG 7 ELIJAH JONES 7 PHILEMON RICHARDS 5 AMBROSE RICHARDS 4 THOMAS JONES 5 HENRY PERRY 2 MOSES BLEDSOE 4 EDMUND ROW 8 4 THOMAS ROW 6 GEORGE WHARTON 9 THOMAS FAULCONER 11 1 Total 313 184
The Number of People Taken in Orange County by Jeremiah White, Gent., October, 1782.
Name White Black LEWIS BIDDLE 3 6 EDM’D SHACKLEFORD 7 4 EDWARD ANSILL 6 3 JAMES RIDDLE 9 10 SAMUEL HAM 6 THOMAS LAMB 7 JAMES HAINEY 1 WILLIAM COLLIER 3 MARTIN COLLIER 5 WILLIAM ROGERS 8 ALEXANDER OGG 9 2 SAMUEL ESTIS 6 2 JOHN GOODALL 9 11 WILLIAM COX 9 4 JOHN LAMB 11 JOHN HODGHELL 12 RICHARD LAMB 11 WILLIAM LAMB 7 JOHN OGG 4 4 JAMES EARLEY 10 33 DAVID WILLIAMS 6 JOHN HANEY 3 SAMUEL HAM. JR 5 MARTIN PETTUS 3 WILLIAM SMITH 10 RICHARD RAINES 2 EDWARD LANE 6 4 JOHN WHITE, JR 12 4 HENRY DAVIS 7 LITTLEBERRY LANE 8 1 JOHN SHEFLETT 3 H. SHACKLEFORD 6 THOMAS SNOW 13 JOHN BRYSON 7 WILLIAM EASTER 9 2 THOMAS HARVEY 4 EPHRAIM SIMMONS 7 MARGARET DOUGLAS 2 FRANCIS HERRING 4 ELIZA. BRUCE 4 2 AGNESS SLATER 6 JAMES HEAD 5 8 JOSEPH HARVEY 4 THOMAS BROOK 3 JEREMIAH WHITE 12 16 WILLIAM BELL 2 17 EPHRAIM SIMMONS 4 5 Total 299 138
The Number of People Taken in Orange County by Thomas Barbour, Gent.. October 1782
Name White Black THOMAS BARBOUR 10 30 JOHN BROOKES’S 24 MAY BURTON, JR 5 7 JOHN BURTON 8 4 AMBROSE BURTON 9 1 JAMES BURTON 4 1 DAVID BRUCE 9 THOMAS BALLARD, JR 7 ROBERT BEADLES 4 3 PHILIP BALLARD 10 3 PHILIP BALLARD, JR. 5 PHILIP BALLARD, the younger 1 ELIJAH BALLARD 6 JAMES BEAZLEY, JR 3 1 WILLIAM BALLARD 8 MAY BURTON 4 7 MORDECAI BRUCE 3 WILLIAM COLLINS 5 1 JOHN CARTERS, JR 16 30 JAMES CONNOLEY 6 6 JOSEPH CHAPMAN 7 3 JOHN CARRELL 6 BELFIELD CAVE 4 5 JAMES COFFER 12 CHARLES CREEL 5 1 THOMAS DAUGHONEY 11 13 JAMES DAUGHONEY 5 JACOB EHART 4 ENOCH GULLEY 5 LEWIS GARR 3 7 BENJAMIN HEAD 8 11 BENJAMIN HANEY 5 THOMAS HERRING 4 BENJAMIN JOHNSON 5 18 MARTIN JOHNSON 3 7 WILLIAM JONES 7 JOHN LUCAS 10 WILLIAM LUCAS 8 17 NATHAN MALLORY 9 3 TABITHA OLIVER 6 5 ROBERT PEARSON 8 2 JOHN PAYNE 10 3 JOSEPH PATTERSON 6 RICHARD PAYNE 6 5 JOHN RUCKER 10 6 PETER RUCKER 4 4 EPHRAIM RUCKER, JR 4 JOHN ROGERS 7 THOMAS SMITH 4 3 ROBERT SANFORD 11 14 JOHN SNELL, JR 11 10 JOSHUA STAFF 1 7 JOSHUA STAFF, JR 9 3 THOMAS STAFF 1 ACHILLES STAFF 1 JOEL HODGHELL 4 RICHARD SEBREE 2 1 RICHARD SEBREE, JR 7 WILLIAM SEBREE 6 1 JOSHUA UNDERWOOD 8 JAMES WAYT 13 2 JOHN WILHOIT 8 WM. LUCAS, JR 5 Total 401 285
The names of the neighbors of each household and the different lists on which they occur help us to differentiate the Benjamin Heads mentioned in the Orange County records. The Benjamin Head who petitioned to keep an ordinary at his house at Old Trap in 1778 and 1780 had Joseph Parish as his security. Both Joseph Parish and this other Benjamin Head are included in the Benjamin Grymes list, while our Benjamin Head is on Thomas Barbour’s list. The will written by “Benjamin Head of Orange County” in 1784 and proved in Culpeper County in 1790 (witnessed by Edmund Row) is the Benjamin Head of the Grymes list. (This is the one who was married to Grace and whose youngest son Benjamin got the one black slave named Tom.)
Our Benjamin Head, in 1782, had eight whites in his household, along with 11 black slaves. By this time, two of Benjamin and Martha’s eight children, James and Sarah, had married and were living in separate households in the county. During the 1780s, four more of their six children would marry:
ca. 1783 – William Head to Margaret Kirtley (daughter of Thomas Kirtley)
21 August 1784 in Orange County – Benjamin Head to Margaret Gaar (daughter of Lewis Gaar and Catherine Weaver)
26 November 1787 in Orange County – John Head to Nancy Ann Sanford (daughter of Robert Sanford and Ann Durrett)
11 November 1789 in Orange County – George Marshall Head to Mildred Rucker (daughter of John Rucker and Mary Burton)
The next division of Benjamin Head’s Orange County property occurred on 22 February 1787 (Orange County Deed Book 19, page 195), when he sold 265 acres to his son-in-law May Burton, Jr. for 186 pounds, 16 shillings, and six pence. This lot was on the western part of the property, south of the “great run” and north of the dividing line established in 1774 between Benjamin’s property and that of Durrett Oliver. Benjamin still retained the land between the “great run” and the Rapidan River, as well as the lot south of the “great run” and to the east of May Burton, Jr.’s property. Adjoining May Burton, Jr.’s property to the west was Jeremiah White, whom we see mentioned frequently in the Orange County records in association with Benjamin Head. Among the witnesses to this deed were William Head (Benjamin’s and Martha’s third child) and Jesse Plunkett (whose daughter Jane would later marry Benjamin and Martha’s youngest child Tavener).
By the early 1790s, Benjamin Head’s three oldest sons (James, William, and Benjamin) had departed Orange County and moved their families to Elbert County, Georgia, along with a number of other families from this part of Virginia. James died in Elbert County not long afterwards, by December 1795.
A mortgage deed dated 22 January 1791 (Orange County Deed Book 19, pages 483-484) records the sale of 537 acres of land in Orange County from James Head (of Orange County) to Philip Seal and Michael Lower (of Orange County). The land was purchased with a mortgage for 200 pounds provided to Seal and Lower by Michael Kyser [Kiser] (of Rockingham County). The land is described as adjoining “the lands of William Stannard, James Riddel, John Goodall & Francis Kirtley”. The names of the neighbors look similar to those on the 1782 tax list of Jeremiah White, and the land is probably located in what is now Greene County west of Stanardsville. On 26 November 1778, James Head had purchased 210 acres from William Stanard (founder of Stanardsville) “on the Swift Run Road where it goes up Powell’s Mountain joining the lands that were formerly Powell’s and are now the said James Head’s” (Orange County Deed Book 17, page 79).
James Head’s wife Elizabeth Janet Powell (daughter of Simon Powell) was raised by her paternal aunt Elizabeth (Powell) Kirtley, wife of Francis Kirtley who died in 1774. The Francis Kirtley lands adjoining James Head’s lands in 1791 may be those of the widow Elizabeth (Powell) Kirtley or a son or nephew of her deceased husband. Francis Kirtley’s niece Margaret Kirtley (daughter of his brother Thomas Kirtley) had married James Head’s brother William Head about 1783. Michael Kiser of Rockingham County (just to the west on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains) had a 3rd-great-grandson Demus Cornelius Kizer (born 1900, died 1977) who was married in Mulberry, Crawford County, Arkansas in 1924 to Cora Ruth Shambarger (born 1903, died 1992). Demus and Ruth were my maternal grandparents. She was a 3rd-great-granddaughter of Benjamin Head through his son William. Demus and Ruth had no idea that their ancestors were from the same part of Virginia, or that they knew each other.
On 1 November 1794 (Orange County Deed Book 20, pages 522-523), Benjamin Head bought 195 acres of land in Orange County from John Ferguson (of Orange County), adjoining John Snell and Matthias Smith. Benjamin Head’s son John was a witness to this deed. The location of this property is not known for sure, but later land tax records show it to be “near Mechanic” (whatever that means) and along the Richmond Road, about 16 miles west of the Orange County courthouse (i.e., about a mile west of his other property). The Richmond Road is probably near the route of present-day Highway 33 between Stanardsville and Ruckersville in Greene County.
Benjamin Head, on 25 Jul 1795 (Orange County Deed Book 20, pages 518-519), sold the remaining 295-acre portion of his property south of the “great run” to his son John. This was just to the east of the section he sold to May Burton, Jr. in 1787. Of the original 1,325 acres purchased by Benjamin Head at auction in 1771, he still held onto the land north of the “great run” and south of the Rapidan River. The plantation’s manor house stood approximately in the center of this remaining plot.
Benjamin’s and Martha’s youngest two sons married in the 1790s:
5 November 1794 in Orange County – Henry Head to Elizabeth Ann Sanford (daughter of Robert Sanford and Ann Durrett)
20 December 1798 in Orange County – Tavener Head to Jane Plunkett (daughter of Jesse Plunkett)
Benjamin Head (of St. Thomas Parish, Orange County) made his will on 21 October 1801, leaving “unto my son Tavner Head, my land and plant[at]ion whereupon I now dwell . . . after the death of my loving wife . . . unto my daughter, Sarah Burton, my negro woman, Betty and all her increase . . . all the residue of my estate, not already mentioned, after the death of my loving wife, to be equally divided between my sons, namely, William Head, Benjamin Head, John Head, George Marshall Head, Henry Head, and the representatives of my son, James Head . . .”. Sons George Marshall Head and Henry Head were named executors. Witnesses were Richard Cave, Benjamin Spicer, and James Alexander. (This will was transcribed by June 1938 by Mrs. Audrey Kemper Spence, but its whereabouts are not currently known, or if it is even still in existence.) The will was apparently never recorded. On the back of the will was the endorsement “1803. July 25th. Offered to be recorded but being opposed by Hy.[Henry] Head, sundry witnesses were sworn and examined and parties fully heard. On consideration, it is the opinion of the court that the same is not the will of Benjamin Head, and that the same be preserved by the clerk.” One witness to these proceedings (Tavener Head, Plaintiff vs. Henry Head and John Head, Defendants), Sarah Ham, testified that while she was present Benjamin’s wife Martha persuaded Benjamin (apparently against his wishes) to make a will granting the entirety of land to their youngest son Tavener Head as he “was not able to get a living and wished him to have a negro fellow extraordinary”. The partition suits that resulted and were promptly settled appeared to be “friendly” as they were not protracted, nor does language appear in the documents that would indicate a bitter court fight over the property. Since Benjamin was still living when the 1802 Orange County land tax list was drawn up, his death occurred in either 1802 or early 1803.
The number of acres of the Octonia grant property held by Benjamin Head at the time of his death is not clear. The Orange County land tax lists show 310 acres. However, the original 1,325 acres minus the acreages in the known subsequent four sales of this property (217.25, 237.75, 265, and 295) results in 315 acres remaining. To further confuse things, a deed dated 24 September 1803 (in which John Head bought the shares of his older brothers William Head and Benjamin Head) says that the tract, at Benjamin’s death, contained 327.75 acres. He also held the 195 acres from the 1794 Ferguson purchase, though this is not mentioned in his estate settlement (at least in the documents I have examined).
An inventory of his personal estate included 13 “negroes”: Toby, Harry, Peter, Tami, Abram, Pike, Yorke, Syrus, Gabrie, Ann “and her child Clary”, Dinah, and Sarah. Also included were eight horses, 42 hogs, 32 cattle, 22 sheep, various farm equipment, furniture, numerous personal items, “1 large Bible” (what became of it???), and six books (including “Tom Jones 3 vols.”).
Benjamin was ruled to have died intestate, and the litigation resulted late in 1803 in Benjamin’s widow Martha being given her dower of 150 acres of land, one-third part of the slaves and other personal property, paying 100 pounds to Tavener Head, and dividing the residual portion of the estate equally among the seven surviving children of Benjamin and Martha, with the heirs of James Head also getting a 1/8-share (taking into account the advancements already made to the legatees.
The dower (portion of a deceased husband’s real property allowed to the widow for her lifetime) of 150 acres was in the western portion of the remaining 327.75 acres. This included the manor house. The other 177.75 acres (adjacent to its east) were divided into eight equal shares. James Head’s heirs, William Head, and Benjamin Head (all of whom were living in Elbert County, Georgia) sold their shares to John Head. George Marshall Head, Henry Head, and Tavener Head sold their shares to their brother-in-law May Burton, Jr.
Where all of the 13 slaves ended up is not known, but a 29 October 1803 deed shows that three of the male slaves (“Peter, York and Tamer”) had been assigned to Martha “as her right of dower”. In this document, the other heirs sold their “right, title and interest” in these slaves to Tavener for the sum of 25 pounds each. This would result in the ownership of the slaves being transferred to Tavener upon the death of Martha. An October 1804 deed conveyed the female slave Dinah to Tavener.
Martha’s date of death is given in Idress (Head) Alvord’s book as 24 November 1821, but neither a location nor documented source are given. Martha does not appear in the 1820 Georgia or Virginia censuses, nor is there a female “age 45 and upwards” in any related household where she would likely have lived at the time. The 1820 Georgia Land Lottery does list a Martha Head as a drawer from Elbert County, which is where several of her sons and her brother and sister moved to from Virginia. (This Martha may actually have been her granddaughter Martha Head, oldest child of Benjamin Head, Jr.)
Sarah (Head) Burton was the only one of the eight children of Benjamin and Martha to remain in the home county. She died on 14 September 1842 in Greene County (four years after it was formed from the western portion of Orange County in 1838). Presumably, she remained living at or near the home place until her death.
William Head died in the fall of 1821, probably in Elbert County, Georgia. Benjamin Head, Jr. died around 1827, probably in Hinds County, Mississippi. John Head died 20 September 1852 in Randolph County, Missouri. George Marshall Head died after 1840, probably in either Albemarle County, Virginia or in Todd County, Kentucky. Henry Head died 8 February 1852 in Sumner County, Tennessee. Tavener Head died in the 1840s, probably in Fayette County, Georgia.
More research in the Orange County and Greene County, Virginia deeds needs to be done to determine the disposition of the real estate that Benjamin Head owned at the time of his death. When did the dower of 150 acres pass out of the hands of Martha Head and what happened to the lands owned there by John Head and May Burton, Jr.? Did everyone sell their lands to Sarah and her husband May Burton, Jr. prior to leaving Orange County?
The 195 acres that Benjamin Head purchased in 1794 were still carried in his name on the land tax lists long after his death. Between 1812 and 1813, that amount was reduced to 55 acres. It was whittled down to 31 acres in 1819, which is where it stood as of 1828 (the last land tax list I examined). In 1828, the remaining Benjamin Head family landholders in Orange County (in the part that was to become Greene County) were May Burton, Jr. (who had expanded his holdings to 1,623 acres), John Head (who still retained 385 acres), and John Head, Jr. (son of John, who owned 145 acres). May Burton, Jr. was dead by the time of the 1830 census, survived by his widow Sarah. John Head and his sons had left for Missouri between 1830 and 1840.