Monday, January 29, 2018

Fort Norfolk

When my three times great grandfather, John W. Jennings, Sr., served in the War of 1812, he was stationed at Fort Norfolk for the duration of his service.

Fort Norfolk was built between 1795 and 1806 and is the sole remaining example of President George Washington's 18th Century coastal defenses. Even before the fort was built, the citizens of Norfolk fortified the site during the Revolutionary War to defend their harbor.

Fort Norfolk was built where the Elizabeth River narrows and across the river from Fort Nelson. The two forts provided crossfire on any ships bombarding the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth or trying to launch an amphibious assault. However, they were too weak and Lord Dunmore was able to burn Norfolk in 1776.

In 1794 Congress authorized President Washington to built a series of forts and fortifications along the "maritime frontier" to protect 19 harbors. Construction began on Fort Norfolk in 1795 using earthen works built in a combination of the Vauban style star fort and a semicircular bastion. After the HMS Leopold attacked and boarded the USS Chesapeake off Norfolk, the fort was upgraded so
that the walls of the fort were reinforced to 12 feet high and 20 feet thick. The earthen work walls were replaced with brick and masonry. On the landward side a detached ravelin was constructed. The modifications were completed in 1810 and the fort was armed with nine 18-pound cannons.

Diagram of preparations made in advance of the War of 1812; courtesy of Historic Fort

During the War of 1812 a long chain was stretched between forts Norfolk and Nelson to prevent British ships from attacking the shipyard and harbors of Norfolk and Portsmouth. Soldiers were stationed at the fort during the war and were involved in the Battle of Craney Island in 1813. Fort Norfolk, however, never came under attack.

Today Fort Norfolk is a Virginia Historic Site and is open to the public for tours.

John W. Jennings, Sr. (1776-1858): War of 1812 Veteran

Friday, January 26, 2018

52 Ancestors #4: John W. Jennings, Sr. (c1776-1858): War of 1812 Veteran

Ancestor: John W. Jennings, Sr., three times great grandfather
DNA Haplogroup: I-M253

According to his headstone John W. Jennings was born in 1776. He was one of seven known children born to Benjamin Jennings and his first wife. It is likely John was born in the eastern portion of Cumberland County, which became Powhatan County the year after his birth. His father was an overseer on the plantation of Samuel Pankey the year prior to his birth. That plantation became part of Powhatan County when the county was formed. Many genealogists list William as his middle name but I have never seen a record or document which includes a full middle name only the initial "W."

His father fought in the Revolutionary War on two separate occasions. In fact, it is possible his father was on duty with his Militia company at the time John was born. We know he was away fighting with the Continental Army from at least June 1777 through December 1788 in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. We don't know exactly when he came home, but little John was probably walking and maybe even talking -- or trying to.

In 1780 Richmond replaced Williamsburg as the capital of Virginia, but little else changed when the war was over. Powhatan County lay just outside the war zone so suffered little damage. Life continued much as before the war, at least for children. John's father may have been concerned with the economic turmoil that faced the new nation and Virginia's economy.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom separated the church and the state in Virginia for the first time. No longer was the Anglican Church the official church. This may have affected the Jennings family as several of John's siblings were members of a Baptist church after they moved to Chesterfield County as adults.

Marriage to Anna Mariah Walrond

John surely spent his young boyhood with his parents, but we do not know if his father indentured him to someone to learn a trade or if he continued working for his father on the farm. His father married for the second time in 1796. Almost a decade later John followed suit. On 19 January 1805, he took out a bond in order to marry Anna Mariah Walrond[1]. Her father provided surety. At the time, a marriage bond was given to the court by the intended groom prior to his marriage. It affirmed there was no moral or legal reason why the couple could not be married and it also affirmed the groom would not change his mind. If he did, and did not marry the intended bride, he would forfeit the bond. Otherwise, it was void.

Anna Mariah Walrond was the daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Walrond[2]. She was born in 1782 likely in Halifax County, Virginia. Her family moved to Pittsylvania County, Virginia, between 1784 and 1787 the year Anna's mother died. Her father remarried the next year. Her older brother married in Amherst County in 1796 and then for the second time in 1804 in Bedford County. Perhaps Anna lived with him?

Sketch of Buckingham County; courtesy of Slate River Press

War of 1812

We believe after their marriage John and Anna lived in Buckingham County where he likely farmed. They had three of their ten children before the War of 1812. (Three more would be born during the war.) Since Great Britain's war with Napoleonic France began, the Royal Navy had enforced a naval blockade, which the U.S. considered illegal.  When the HMS Leopold fired on USS Chesapeake off Norfolk, Virginia, anti-British sentiments were inflamed. The British began supplying Indians, who conducted raids on the frontier. This hindered expansion and provoked more U.S. ire. Finally, under heavy pressure, President James Madison declared war on 18 June 1812.

On or about 29 December 1813 John volunteered with Captain William Flood's company of the Virginia Militia from Buckingham County. The company marched 175 miles to Norfolk where the men enlisted. John's company was part of the 100th Regiment (Virginia Militia), which was tasked by the General Assembly with defending Norfolk from the British. In a later affidavit, John claimed to have marched to the Norfolk area where he served until 11 April 1814. The men were encamped in a peach orchard next to Fort Norfolk with men from the North Carolina militia. Originally housed in tents, the soldiers eventually built huts large enough to accommodate several men. In the event of an attack, the men would move into the fort and defend it. He would have been issued a smooth bore flint lock musket, but would have been required to provide his own uniform. Uniform frock coats and pants were blue with red trim and the hat was round with a cockade and red and black feathers.

Plan of Fort Norfolk; courtesy Wikipedia

Upon his return from Norfolk, John's father died. John inherited no land but did inherit one-fourth of his father's personal property valued at $1,334, perhaps less if Benjamin's second wife claimed her dower rights to the personal property. We know she claimed them for the land John's sisters inherited.

John and Anna had four more children. I believe all were born in Buckingham County. He was enumerated in New Canton in 1820, which was about 60 miles west of Richmond on the south side of the James River. Sometime before 1850, John moved his family to Amherst County, Virginia, which was 60 miles southwest of New Canton, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains.

John was not enumerated in the census again until 7 December 1850. At that time he was 74 years old and lived with his wife in Amherst County, Virginia, He had a 90-acre farm on which he raised livestock, wheat, corn and potatoes. The farm also produced 120 pounds of butter during the course of a year. Six of his sons, who also lived in Amherst County, also farmed. His youngest son, George, remained at home. An analysis of the farms of John and his sons leads one to speculate he may have begun dividing his land among his sons prior to 1850.

Analysis of the farms of John W. Jennings, Sr., and his sons in 1850 (click on
image to enlarge); created using Microsoft Excel

One of several bounty land laws was enacted in 1850. It rewarded the service of veterans who had not previously received land and who had served at any time since 1790. The amount of land received was tied to a veteran's length of service. Nine month's service entitled a veteran to 160 acres; four months, to 80 acres; and one month, to 40 acres. The land could be inherited but could not be assigned by the warantee. Another act passed in 1852 enabled veterans to assign the bounty land to whoever they chose. It also extended the 1850 law to men who served in the militia after 1812. John was now entitled to bounty land.

On 7 April 1853 John received a warrant for 40 acres of land. Originally the warrant entitled veterans to land in Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan and later Missouri, but starting in 1852 bounty land could be assigned outside these districts. John was back at court on 16 March 1855. He swore he had received a warrant for 40 acres of land but that it had been lost by the county justice of the peace. Archive records indicated he received a second warrant for 120 of land on 4 September 1856.

All of John's children had married by 1850 except his youngest son George. According to another Jennings researcher his daughter, Martha Ann, died in August of 1855. Three years later, his son Powhatan Perrow, died on 20 August 1858, at the age of 45. A few months later, 85-year-old John became ill with pneumonia and died on 19 December 1858. He was buried in the family cemetery on his land. The cemetery remains on private land now owned by Edgar Fitzgerald. John's widow died a decade later on 24 October 1868 and was also interred in the family cemetery.

Jennings Family Cemetery; the house in the background once belonged to the
Jennings family; courtesy of member jeaniespence77

I know he wrote a will which was filed with the Amherst County court after his death. The index to the county's will books indicate other probate records exist such as an estate appraisal and list of sales the estate made after his death. However, the actual will books in which those documents were filed do not exist on So I have ordered copies directly from the Amherst County Circuit Court.

When I began writing about my three times great grandfather John W. Jennings, Sr., I realized had not spent nearly as much time analyzing the records I had collected for him as I had spent on his father, Benjamin when preparing my application to join DAR. So I made a belated New Year's resolution: Learn more about John, Sr. I have ordered John's bounty land and pension records from the National Archives and Records Administration and I have submitted an application to join the U.S. Daughters of 1812. Therefore, I will likely revisit this post.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. The theme for this week was "Invite to Dinner," and I have many questions I'd like to ask John, such as how did he meet his wife; where was he in 1830 and 1840; when did he move to Amherst County; why; and what did he do with the bounty land he received. But the biggest question so many Jennings researchers would like to ask is, "John, who were your grandparents?"

Using the Ancestral Reference Numbering System, John W. Jennings, Sr., is Ancestor No. 32 on my family tree. His wife, Anna Maria Waldrond is Ancestor No. 33:

32. John W., Jennings, Sr., son of Benjamin Jennings, Sr., born 1776 in Virginia; died 19 December 1858 in Amherst County, Virginia; marriage bond to wed Anna Mariah (Ann Marie) Walrond (Waldron) dated 19 January 1805 in Bedford County, Virginia. 

33.0 Anna Maria Walrond (now spelled Waldron) born in 1782 likely in Halifax County, Virginia, daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Walrond (maiden name unknown); died 24 October 1868 in Amherst County; married John W. Jennings, Sr., on 19 January 1805 in Bedford County.

Known issue:

32.1 John W. Jennings, Jr., born about 1805 (headstone indicates 20 November 1803) in Virginia, likely in Buckingham County; died 1 March 1886 in Amherst County; interred at the Jennings family cemetery; married Elizabeth "Eliza" Ann Vernon, daughter of Jonathan Vernon and Susan Matthews, on 21 November 1832 in Charlotte County, Virginia

32.2 Daniel Webster Jennings, born about 1807 in Virginia, likely in Buckingham County; died 25 December 1892 in Amherst County per his obituary; married Martha Ann Staples, daughter of Charles and Priscilla Staples, likely before 1836.

32.3 Benjamin W. Jennings, born about 1809 in Virginia, likely in Buckingham County; died after 1894; married 1) Martha (maiden name unknown) likely before 1835 and Elizabeth Lawrence on 25 November 1894 in Polk County, Texas.

16.0 Powhatan Perrow Jennings, born 25 December 1812, per his headstone, in Virginia, likely in Buckingham County; died 11 October 1858 in Amherst County; interred at Tudor Hall Cemetery in Fancy Hill in Amherst County; married 1) Catherine Jewell, daughter of Thomas Jewell and Sarah Downs, on 23 February 1836 in Amherst County and 2) Elizabeth A. Rhodes, daughter of Jonathan Rhodes and Lucretia Harrison on 10 May 1854 in Amherst County.

32.4 Permelia Ann Jennings, born about 1813 in Virginia, likely in Buckingham County; died after 1865; married Jesse Jones on 5 September 1832 in Campbell County, Virginia.

32.5 Martha Ann Jennings, born about 1813 in Virginia, likely Buckingham County per another Jennings researcher; died in 1855 per another Jennings researcher; married Livingston Chenault, son of John and Eliza Chenault, on 21 December 1846 in Amherst County.

32.6 Henry Palmer Jennings, born about 1818 in Virginia, likely in Buckingham County; died 8 August 1886 in Amherst County; married Nancy A. maiden name unknown before 1841.

32.7 Pleasant Jefferson Jennings, born in 1820 per headstone in Virginia, likely Buckingham County; died 29 September 1887 in Walker County, Texas; interred at Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville, Walker County; married Martha A. C. D. Kelley, daughter of Radford Kelley, on 17 September 1839 in Campbell County, Virginia.

32.8 Patterson Gilliam Jennings, born about 1824 in Virginia, likely Buckingham County; died 2 August 1899 in Amherst County; married Caroline Matilda Kidd, daughter of Robert Kidd and Nancy Pamplin, on 22 February 1847 in Nelson County, Virginia.

32.9 George W. Jennings, born about 1830 in Virginia, likely Buckingham County; murdered on 1 July 1890 in Polk County, Texas; may have married Mary C. A. Clement on 8 July 1853 in Campbell County, Virginia.

[1] Now commonly spelled Waldron.
[2] Many public trees list Elizabeth Jennings, John W. Jennings, Sr.'s sister, as the first wife of Benjamin Waldron and as the mother of Anna Marie Waldron, John's wife. This is not correct. It is true that Benjamin Waldron's first wife was named Elizabeth, but her maiden name has never been discovered. Elizabeth Jennings did marry a Benjamin Waldron but not until 1810. Ann Marie Waldron was born in 1782; therefore Elizabeth Jennings cannot be her mother. In addition, there were three men named Benjamin Waldron who lived in Virginia in 1810. Benjamin Waldron, Sr., father of Ann Marie, was married to his second wife, Lucy Ellington, when Elizabeth Jennings married. Benjamin Waldron, Jr., brother of Ann Mare, was married to his second wife, Martha "Patsy" Owen, when Elizabeth Jennings married. So she had to have married the third man named Benjamin Waldron. For more details and other proof, read Did John W. Jennings, Sr., (c1777-1858) Marry His Niece?

1820 US Census, database with images,, John Jennings, New Canton, Buckingham, Virginia; citing page 147, NARA Roll M33_132, Image 124 (accessed 16 Apr 2016)
1850 US Census, database with images, FamilySearch, John J Jennings, Amherst county, Virginia, USA; citing family 984, NARA microfilm publication M432 (accessed 16 Apr 2016)
1850 Selected Non-population Schedule,, John W Jennings, Eastern District, Amherst, Virginia (accessed 16 Apr 2016)
1850 US Census (Slave Schedule), database with images, FamilySearch, J W Jenning, Amherst county, Virginia, USA; citing line numbers 13-18, NARA microfilm publication M432, FHL microfilm 444,973 (accessed 4 Aug 2017)
About the Virginia Land Office, Library of Virginia (accessed (4 Jan 2018)
Bounty-Land Warrant Application Index, database, Fold3, John Jennings, Private, 1812, Warrant No. 55-120-84903 (accessed 18 Oct 2014)
Butler, Stuart L. Defending the Old Dominion and Its Militia in the War of 1812, (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 2013), pages 558-594 (accessed 13 Feb 2016)
Descendants of John Flood, (accessed 14 Jan 2018)
Doughtie, Beatrice, Documented Notes on Jennings and Allied Families, (Decatur, GA: Bowen Press, 1961), pages 637-641).
Find a Grave, Memorial ID 148941949, Ann Marie Walton Jennings, 1782-1868 (accessed 27 Nov 2014)
Find a Grave, Memorial ID 148941888, John William Jennings, Sr., 1776-1858 (accessed 27 Nov 2014)
Fort Norfolk, Wikipedia (accessed 14 Jan 2018)
Grose, F. (editor), Amherst County, Virginia, Heritage Book: Family Section, (Amherst County, VA: Amherst County Historical Society, 2000), page 94.
History of Virginia, Wikipedia (accessed 3 Jan 2013)
Interactive Map of Virginia County Formation History, Map of U.S. (accessed 3 Jan 2019)
Tangled Roots and Trees, Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Last Will and Testament (accessed 18 Jan 2018) 
Tangled Roots and Trees, Did John W. Jennings (c1777-1858) Marry His Niece?, 4 May 2016 (accessed 4 Jan 2018)
Third Auditor's Office (editor). Virginia Militia of the War of 1812, (Richmond, VA: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1999), pages 223-225
Virginia Deaths and Burials, 1853-1912, database FamilySearch, Jno. Jennings, 19 Dec 1858; citing Amherst, Virginia; reference page 92, FHL microfilm 2,056,972 (accessed 12 Dec 2014)
Virginia Compiled Marriages, 1740-1850, database,, John Jennings and Anna Walrond, 19 Jan 1805; citing Bedford County (accessed 5 Dec 2014)
Virginia Marriages, 1785-1940database, FamilySearch, John Jennings in entry for Livingston Chenault and Martha Jennings, 21 Nov 1846; citing Amherst, Virginia, reference page 398; FHL microfilm 30.273(5 Dec 2014)
Virginia Marriages, 1785-1940, database, FamilySearch, John Jennings in entry for P. P. Jennings and E. Rhodes, 10 May 1854; citing Amherst Co., Virginia; reference Mar Reg 2 p 1; FHL microfilm 30,311 (accessed 5 Dec 2014)
Virginia Select Marriages, 1785-1940, database,, John Jennings and Anna Wa...ond, 19 Jan 1805; citing Bedford County (accessed 5 Dec 2014)
Virginia Select Marriages, 1785-1940, database,, John Jennings in entry for P. P. Jennings and E. Rhodes, 10 May 1854 (accessed 5 Dec 2014)
Virginia Militia Line Infantry, Historic Fort Norfolk (accessed 14 Jan 2018)
Virginia Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983, database, Ancestry.comBenjamin Jennings 27 Mar, 19 Jul, 24 Jul 1815, Powhatan County Virginia, images 11, 236-238, 241-242 (accessed 1 Jan 2018)
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Agricultural Schedules: 1850-1900 (accessed 5 May 2014)
War of 1812, Wikipedia (accessed 14 Jan 2018)

Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Last Will and Testament
Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Morgan's Riflemen
Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Beginnings and Endings
Who Was the Original Jennings Immigrant?
Did John W. Jennings, Sr. (c1777-1858) Marry His Niece?
Discovering my Local History Center

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Horse Tale: Pankey v. Jennings

I absolutely love Virginia Chancery Court records, some of which are available on the Library of Virginia's website. Two cases helped me prove my descent from Samuel Beard (c1750-1814), and I am in the process of getting him reinstated as a Revolutionary War patriot with DAR. Others have sorted out familial relationships. And some just make me smile. This horse tale is one of the latter.

Horses on a farm in Virginia; courtesy of HorseClicks

On 19 October 1805, Samuel Pankey, Sr. and his son, Samuel H. Pankey, sometimes known as Samuel Pankey, Jr., were ordered by the Powhatan County court to pay Benjamin Jennings, Jr., eldest son of my four times great grandfather, Benjamin Jennings, Sr., $128.59, plus interest from 7 August 1805, until payment was made. However, if the judgment against them was dissolved, then their debt would be void.

So on the same day Samuel Pankey, Sr., signed a $250 injunction bond and filed a bill of complaint with the Chancery court against Benjamin Jennings, Jr. This bill, I believe was his attempt to "dissolve the judgment" and void his debt to Benjamin, Jr. On 24 October 1805 Benjamin Jennings, Jr., was summoned by the court to answer the complaint and 2 November of the same year, Benjamin, Jr., was enjoined from all further attempts to collect on the debt until Pankey's newly filed complaint could be heard.

At least that's my best guess at what happened...

Benjamin Jennings, Jr., acquired a horse from someone. Then, in 1804, Samuel Pankey, Sr., borrowed that horse so his son could ride to Ca Ira, a small community in Cumberland County, to obtain the services of a magistrate. A few days after Pankey's son returned home, the horse died. That's about the only parts of the tale that are not in dispute.

What is in dispute is the health of the horse before the trip, how hard he was ridden during the journey to Cumberland County and back; what and how the horse was fed; what exactly was wrong with the horse after the trip; the value of the horse; and if Mr. Pankey ever offered to make Benjamin Jennings, Jr. whole financially.

Snippet of the initial bill of complaint filed in Virginia Chancery Court case
Powhatan County 1806-003; courtesy of the Library of Virginia

In the initial bill of complaint, Samuel Pankey, Sr., said his son rode the horse "moderately," fed it three or four times a day and took as much care as if the horse were his own -- maybe better care because it was borrowed -- but it did appear to be sick when his son returned home. The previous owner of the horse, who Pankey said was Duke McGary, had offered it to another prospective buyer for $50 before Benjamin, Jr., bought it. Before Pankey borrowed it, the horse was being kept with seven or eight horses owned by John Haskins which all died of yellow water (a distemper type disease) and it was the only horse that survived.

Pankey went on to say that when Benjamin Jennings came to his retrieve his horse, Pankey offered to keep it until it was well again, but Benjamin said he would take the horse home and if it died, it was his loss -- probably the least believable part of the complaint in my non-legal opinion. Several witness for the plaintiff were deposed and their affidavits became part of the case file.

Those witness were Seth Hatcher, Benjamin Jennings, Jr.'s employer; John Pankey; Stephen Hubbard; Samuel H. Pankey, the plaintiff's son; John Woolridge; and William Sublett. They testified to all or part of the following:
  • Benjamin Jennings acquired the horse from Duke McGary.
  • The horse had been kept with a pack of other horses that all died from distemper and was the only horse from the pack that lived.
  • Jennings was treating the horse for some unspecified illness; many of the witnesses thought the horse had hooks or yellow water.[1]
  • Seth Hatcher would not allow Jennings to keep his horse with his own horses because it had been sick.
  • Samuel Pankey borrowed the horse for a trip his son made to Cumberland County.
  • His son had treated the horse well and ridden it only moderately and fed it three or four times a day.
  • Pankey offered to keep the horse and care for it until it was well again but Jennings took the horse home and said if it died it was his loss.
  • Joseph Salle borrowed the horse for a trip to Manchester after Pankey borrowed it.
  • Jennings asked Pankey's son to "cut the hooks off" the horse.
  • Several witnesses put different valuations on the horse, ranging from $40 to $80 before it got sick and died.
Not surprisingly, Benjamin, Jr.'s story, which was provided in his answer to the complaint, includes several key differences. He turned down previous Pankey requests to borrow the horse until he got a promise that Pankey would pay the damages if anything happened to the horse. Benjamin didn't believe his horse had hooks or yellow water but rather died as a result of injuries sustained during the Pankey's trip to Cumberland County. (Of course he would say that!) He believed the horse had been ridden over a 100 miles in the course of a day. Benjamin informed the court that Pankey's son was not a small man. He also thought his horse was not capable of a hard ride because he had not been fed on grain or dry forage.

Snippet of Benjamin Jennings, Jr.'s answer to the bill of complaint in Powhatan
County Chancery Court case 1806-003; courtesy of the Library of Virginia

When he brought the horse back to his home, he believed it was just tired but the next day realized the horse was ruined. He took the horse back to Samuel Pankey's place and said Pankey should give him $110 for the horse. Later he saw the horse in Pankey's wheat patch and the horse was in pain so he took the horse back home and it died about ten days later. Benjamin, Jr., went on to say that Pankey had offered him $100 for the horse before he borrowed it. He reminded the court that in the previous trial, three witnesses swore the value of the horse was between $80 and $100. He and Pankey agreed the debt would not have to be paid until fall, but the agreement fell through when Benjamin wanted part of the money sooner. Benjamin finished his answer by expressing surprise that the Pankey's now wanted void the previous judgment altogether.

Like Samuel Pankey, the plaintiff, Benjamin Jennings, Jr., had several witnesses who were deposed and provided affidavits to the court. Those witnesses were Arthur Bowles, Joseph Salle, John Cheatwood, Henry Bowles[2], Mary Gates[3], Joseph Roper, and Susanna Bowman[3]. Their depositions were taken in Chesterfield County, where Benjamin, Jr. lived, and they testified to all or parts of the following:
  • Benjamin Jennings, Jr., acquired the horse from Joseph Roper, who paid Duke McGary $70 for the horse.
  • The horse was worth more than Roper paid for it and witnesses thought the value ranged from $100 to $110 before it got sick and died.
  • Pankey's son had seen the horse before he borrowed it and thought it was a well, sound horse; other witnesses had seen the horse themselves and thought the same.
  • At least two witnesses examined the horse after Pankey borrowed it; both thought it was not ill but rather suffered from over use, over feeding, or an injury sustained during Pankey's journey to Cumberland County. All agreed it was in a terrible condition.
  • That Pankey and Benjamin had agreed to arbitrate the value of the horse so that Pankey could compensate Benjamin for it, but Pankey did not show up on the appointed date.
  • Some witnesses allowed their horses to be pastured with the horse when they were visiting Benjamin and their horses did not get sick.
And there the case file ended! My horse tale became a horse mystery at the end of page 41.

[1] I have been unable to determine to my satisfaction what "hooks" and "yellow water" may be in terms of equine diseases.
[2] I believe Henry Bowles, but have not yet proved, was the father of Benjamin Jennings, Jr.' second wife, Sarah "Sally" Bowles. Bowles was frequently spelled Boles in documents. Another witness, Arthur Bowles, was also likely related.
[3] I believe Mary Gates and Susanna Bowman were married daughters of Joseph Roper and the three were probably related to Benjamin Jennings, Jr.'s first wife Kisiah "Kisey" Roper and her father, Shadrach.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Slave Name Roll Project: Releasing Betty, Billy and Mary

I have had an abstract of the last will and testament of Benjamin Jennings, Sr., for years and knew that he bequeathed his personal property to be divided equally among four of his children. From the will abstract I also knew that personal property included "Negroes."

A few weeks ago I found the probate package for Benjamin Jennings in Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983, collection held by Benjamin Jennings wrote his will 27 March 1815. It was brought to the Powhatan County Court to be proved and filed on 19 July 1815 and an executor was approved by court and tasked with conducting an inventory and appraisal of Benjamin's personal effects. The executor submitted that appraisal on 24 July and the three enslaved people were identified by name:

A snippet of the inventory and appraisal of the estate of Benjamin Jennings, Sr.;
courtesy of

And so I am releasing Betty, Billy, and Mary, formerly enslaved by Benjamin Jennings, Sr., in Powhatan County, Virginia.

The 1783 Powhatan County Tax List indicated Benjamin had no "black" people in his household. However, the 1810 Census showed that three slaves were part of his household. My assumption is those three people were Betty, Billy, and Mary. Unfortunately, the 1810 census did not ask about the age ranges or sex of enslaved persons.

Benjamin Jennings, Sr., (c1740-1815): Last Will and Testament
Slave Name Roll Project

Thursday, January 18, 2018

52 Ancestors #3: Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Last Will and Testament

Continued from #52 Ancestors 2: Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Morgan's Riflemen.

Ancestor: Benjamin Jennings, four times great grandfather
DNA Haplogroup: I-M253

In 1793 Congress established probate and surrogate courts, and in 1795 an act requiring the recording of deeds, wills and other important instruments was enacted. These new laws were fashioned after British Common Law under which the colonies had been operating since their creation. The main differences were the laws regarding primogeniture and entail. Thomas Jefferson led way for these elements of British Law to be abolished. Otherwise the inheritance laws of the new United States differed little from it's former "mother country" in terms of the status of widows, widowers and lineal descendants.

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983, Powhatan County, Wills,
Inventories and Accounts, Vol. 4-6, 1811-1824, pages 405; courtesy

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983, Powhatan County, Wills,
Inventories and Accounts, Vol. 4-6, 1811-1824, page 406; courtesy of

On 27 March 1815 Benjamin Jennings wrote his last will and testament. He would have been at least 75 years old, perhaps older, and maybe he was ailing:
In the name of God, amen, I Benjamin Jennings, Senr., being in common health and perfect mind and memory, make this my last will and testament, in manner form as followeth:

First, I give to my Daughter Elizabeth Walrond, the other half of my land whereon I now live, being the remainder, after the one half already given to my Daughter Dorotha Pemberton by Deed recorded in Powhatan Court, to her and her heirs forever. --

And, as I have already given as above mentioned to Dorotha Pemberton, the one half of my tract of land, I do not give her any more of my Estate. --

Item, I give to my son Benjamin Jennings, Junr. one Dollar, to him and his heirs forever. --

Item, I give to my son Daniel Jennings, one Dollar, to him and his heirs forever. --

Item, I give to my sons, Edmund Jennings, John Jennings, James Jennings and my Daughter Patsey Jennings, all the rest of my Estate, consisting of Negroes, horses, cattle, hogs, and all my household and Kitchen furniture of every description, plantation utensils and all debts due me at my decease and all monies in hand, to be equally divided among, and their heirs forever. -- Lastly, I constitute my faithful friends John Depp and Edward B. Jennings Executors of this my last will and testament: in testimony whereof I have set my hand and seal hereunto this 27th day of March 1815. --

Benjamin [his mark] Jennings (Seal)

Signed, sealed, and published in the presence of:

James Atkinson
Benj. Burton
John Roper
Wm. Atkinson
I had known Benjamin owned land and slaves from an abstract of his will included in Beatrice Doughtie's book, Documented Notes on Jennings and Allied Families. But there is something satisfying to a genealogist when you have the source document and not just an abstract from someone else. Doughtie's book did not include any further information and there was more to learn. And, I've had questions about this will for a long time.

Was Benjamin trying to disinherit his sons, Benjamin, Jr., and Daniel, by giving them $1 dollar?
Why did he not mention his second wife, Elizabeth (McGruder) Jennings? She was still alive.
Why divide his land among his married daughters? Why not give it to his sons? Or to all of his children equally?

Benjamin died not long after writing his will. His executors and subscribing witnesses filed the will with the Powhatan County Court clerk on 19 July 1815. His "faithful friend," John Depp, relinquished his right to act as an executor and James Atkinson, Benjamin Burton and William Atkinson swore an oath that the will filed with the clerk was the last will and testament of Benjamin Jennings. On the same day, Benjamin's widow, Elizabeth, relinquished her rights under the will and instead claimed her dower rights:
To the Court of Powhatan County:--

My husband Benjamin Jennings Senr. decd. not mentioning me in his last Will and testament, I do hereby claim by Dowery which the law hath provided in that case, to wit, my thirds of land and all other property of which my husband held at his death:-- The one half of the land my husband gave to Dorotha Pemberton by deed, in his life time: one third of which I claim, as I did not relinquish my right in the Deed; also one third of the other half of his land, which he gave in his will to Elizabeth Walrond:-- Also, it is my wish and desire that the Court appoint commissioners today to have my thirds of said land laid off immediately, that I may provide thereon for a crop of small grain.

Elizabeth Jennings


Wm. Atkinson
John Depp
William C. Dance, deputy clerk, recorded her request for dower rights in the county will book on the same day.

If heirs contested a will or any action taken by an executor, they filed a bill of complaint in the county Chancery Court. I looked for a case in which one or more of Benjamin's children expressed issues with his will. Several of Benjamin's children had moved to Chesterfield County before and after his death. Unfortunately, the chancery cases for that county have been indexed by the Library of Virginia but the digital images of the case files are not yet online. Son, John, had moved to Buckingham County and those files have not yet been indexed or digitized. I can find no evidence that any of the children who remained in Powhatan County tried to overturn their stepmother's claim. Dower rights protected Elizabeth's right to profit from some portion of her deceased husband's estate and typically were in effect until her death or remarriage.

On 24 July 1815 Edward B. Jennings, executor of Benjamin's will submitted an estate appraisal to the court:

Benjamin Jennings Estate Appraisal
Description Value
Betty 50.00
Billy 500.00
Mary 150.00
Sorrel horse 15.00
Bay mare 30.00
3 Head of cattle 30.00
2 Sows and 6 pigs 19.00
3 Bed steads and furniture 60.00
Parcel of barrels and old bed steads 3.00
3 Cotton wheels 3.50
2 Flax wheels 4.00
Grindstone 2.50
One wheat riddle 0.25
One chest 2.00
One chest 4.00
One cupboard 6.00
Table 2.50
One looking glass 1.25
3 Jugs and one butter pot 3.00
1 [illegible] hatchel [sp] and comb 1.50
1 Pair of flat irons 0.75
2 Pair of sheep shears 0.50
5 Pair of Cards [sp] and baskets 3.00
1 Piece of Leather 0.25
4 slays [sp] 2.50
10 chairs 3.50
1 Loom, warping box and [illegible] 7.00
2 Trays and meal sifter 0.75
1 Table 0.12
2 Tubs, piggins [sp] and nogan [sp], 1 can and water pail 3.00
1 Pot, hooks, skillet and oven 2.50
1 shovel, tongs, and fire iron 1.00
1 Gun 2.50
1 Lot of tin ware 1.50
Parcel of Pewter viz. 2 dishes , plates and 5 spoons 5.00
1 Casther [sp] dish, 3 plates, 1 pitcher and bowl 1.00
1 Decanter, 1 Bottle and one mug 0.70
1 Decanter, 5 Sauces, 4 Tea spoons, 3 cups, one pepper box and [illegible] 0.50
2 saddles and one bridle 2.50
1 Cutting knife 0.50
1 Scythe 1.00
3 hilling hoe and grub hoe 2.75
5 knives and forks 0.75
One half share plow, harrow, Trowel hoe, and N. G. Coulter 4.50
3 Pole axes, chopping ax and spade 3.00
3 augurs, 1 hand saw and drawing knife 1.50
1 Sock chain, 1 Pair wedges, and painboxes 1.75
2 par of hawes [sp], 1 collar and cart saddle and single tree 2.50
3 Basketts 0.75
One pot, one Kettle, steaming iron and lot of Hatter’s tools 2.50
1 Pot and Lubute [sp] 2.00
1 Hogshead 0.50
Parcel Book of Gin [sp] number 1.50
1 Table cloth and Towel 1.50
2500 [illegible] of Oats (supposed) @ C/p hundred 25.00
12 Barrels 4.50
1 Note Given by Edwd. B. Jennings to the decd. Benjamin Jennings dated the 4th day of Octr.1814 for the sum of $142.50  142.50
Cr. on the above note for the sum of $9.25
Due bill of Leroy Hall’s for Payable 25 December 1813 4.67

The deputy clerk recorded the appraisal on 16 August 1815 and with that record, the file was complete. Benjamin Jennings lived a long, eventful life -- and that just the portion of his life we've been able to uncover -- but the documents end.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. The theme for this week was "Longevity." Outliving the average life expectancy in the first half of the 17th century by at least 38 years qualifies!

Using the Ancestral Reference Numbering System, Benjamin Jennings is Ancestor No. 64 on my family.

64. Benjamin Jennings, born circa 1740[1] in Virginia; died in 1815; will written on 27 March 1815 in Powhatan County, Virginia and proved on 19 July 1815 in Powhatan County; married 1) to an unknown woman (many people believe Sally Dickerson, or Dickinson/Dickenson, before 1765 and 2) to Elizabeth McGruder, daughter of William McGruder, on 10 Feb 1796 in Powhatan County. Known issue are listed in order they appear in Benjamin's will:
      64.1 Elizabeth "Betsey" Jennings married Benjamin Waldron[2 and 5] on 11 January 1810 in Powhatan County. This Benjamin is not a known relative of Anna Maria Waldron[3], John W. Jennings' wife.    

     64.2 Dorothea Jennings born circa 1777-1779; died after 1860; married John Pemberton on 18 February 1796 in Powhatan County.

     64.3 Benjamin Jennings, Jr. born before 1762[3]; married 1) Kisiah Roper, daughter of Shadrach Roper, on 4 December 1792 in Powhatan County and 2) Sally Boles, daughter of Henry Boles, on 9 January 1804 in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

     64.4 Daniel Jennings born between 1771-1780; married Martha Watkins, daughter of Joseph Watkins, on 17 December 1800 in Chesterfield County.

     64.5 Edmund (or Edward) Jennings born between 1771 and 1780[4]; married Jemima Chappell, daughter of Ann Chappell, on 23 May 1798 in Chesterfield County.

     32.0 John W. Jennings, Sr. born circa 1776-1777; died 19 December 1858 in Amherst County, Virginia; married Anna Mariah (or Anna Maria) Waldron[3 and 5], daughter of Benjamin Waldron, Sr., on 19 January 1805 in Bedford County, Virginia.

     64.6 James Jennings married Rebecca Waldron[*] on 8 April 1811 or 1816 in Bedford County, Virginia. Rebecca is likely a sibling or cousin of John W. Jennings, Sr.'s wife, Anna Mariah or Anna Maria Waldron.[3 and 5]
     64.7 Martha "Patsy" Jennings born circa 1795 to Benjamin Jennings' second wife; died in 1854 in Amelia County, Virginia; married Benjamin Burton, son of Benjamin Burton, on 11 November 1816 in Powhatan County.

The information about the three slaves owned by Benjamin Jennings, Sr., at the time of his death has been included in the Slave Name Roll Project.

[1] The birth date for Benjamin Jennings, Sr., is from another researcher and I do not know the reasoning behind it. The only document that notes his age is the 1810 census, which categorizes him as 45 and older.
[2] There were three men in Virginia, who were alive at this time named Benjamin Walrond. All three used the Sr. and Jr. suffixes on different occasions. Anna Maria Waldron's father, Benjamin, Sr.,  lived in Pittsylvania and Campbell counties and her brother, Benjamin, Jr., lived in Bedford County. Elizabeth Jennings' husband was neither of these men. He lived in Powhatan and Chesterfield counties. His possible relationship to Anna Maria is not known. (See Did John W. Jennings, c1777-1858, Marry His Niece? for more details.)
[3] Benjamin Jennings, Jr., appeared on the 1783 Powhatan County Tax List as a head of family. Assuming he was at least 21 years of age, then the latest he could have been born was 1762.
[4] Based on Edmund Jennings being 50-59 years of age in 1830 and 60-69 in 1840.
[5] Waldron was most commonly spelled Walrond before the Civil War.

Doughtie, Beatrice, Documented Notes on Jennings and Allied Families, (Decatur, GA: Bowen Press, 1961), pages 637-641).
Haertle, Eugene A. The History of the Probate Court, 45 Marquette Law Review 546, 1962 (accessed 19 January 2018)
Tangled Roots and Trees, Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815), Beginnings and Endings (accessed 11 January 2018)
Tangled Roots and Trees, Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815), Morgan's Riflemen (accessed 16 January 2018)
Tangled Roots and Trees, Revolutionary War Soldier (accessed 16 January 2018)
Virginia Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983, database,, Benjamin Jennings 27 Mar, 19 Jul, 24 Jul 1815, Powhatan County Virginia, images 11, 236-238, 241-242 (accessed 1 January 2018)

Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Morgan's Riflemen
Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Beginnings and Endings
Who Was the Original Jennings Immigrant?
Did John W. Jennings, Sr. (c1777-1858) Marry His Niece?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Winter at Valley Forge with Gen. Washington

In my recent post about the Revolutionary War service of Benjamin Jennings, I gave short shrift to the winter at Valley Forge in 1777-78. Much has been written about that terrible time for the soldiers and about privations and disease the men "battled" while there, but I thought I would describe in more detail the patrol area for which Col. Daniel Morgan's men were responsible.

Morgan's Riflemen, a light infantry corps composed of men selected for their marksmanship abilities, including my four times great grandfather, Benjamin Jennings, Sr., were responsible for patrolling the area from Gulph Mill to the Radnor Meetinghouse. The mill was about 9 miles southeast of the encampment at Valley Forge and about 6 or 7 miles north of the meetinghouse.

The patrol area of Morgan's Riflemen during the winter of 1777-78; created
using Google Maps

The mill was built in 1747 and supplied flour to Gen. Washington's soldiers at their winter quarters. Flour from the mill was probably used to make the infamous "firecake," a tasteless mixture of flour and water when supplies were inadequate, which was often the case that winter. Washington's men spent a week in the area around the Gulph Mill before Gen. Washington decided the higher ground at Valley Forge would be more suitable for a winter encampment.

Gulph Mill c1922; courtesy of Wikipedia

The Radnor Friends Meetinghouse, built in 1717, was about 6 miles south of Gulph Mill. During the winter of 1777-78, it was used as an outpost by the Continental Army.

Radnor Meetinghouse c2009; courtesy of Wikipedia

Based on the patrol area assigned to Morgan's Riflemen, I do not know if the men spent much time at the main camp in Valley Forge. It is quite possible, they were the soldiers using Radnor meetinghouse as an outpost during the winter of 1777-78.

52 Ancestors: Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): A Morgan's Riflemen