Friday, March 30, 2018

52 Ancestors #13: Adam Beard (c1727-1777): Constable of Bedford County

Adam Beard, five times great grandfather
DNA Haplogroup: I-M253

Adam Beard was the only known son of John and Elizabeth Beard. His parents were early settlers of what became Bedford County, but it is not known if Adam was born in that county. Adam and his father were paying taxes in Lunenburg County, a portion of which became Bedford County, by 1748 so Adam was born before or in 1727.

He married a woman named Elizabeth whose maiden name is unknown sometime before 1745.

View from the Peaks of Otter, lithograph by Edward Beyer from Album of
1858; courtesy of Internet Archive

Appointed Constable

In 1754 he was appointed Constable of the newly formed Bedford County by the county's Board of Justices. A Constable was appointed for each precinct in the county and were generally responsible for keeping the peace. They had to be literate, knowledgeable about tobacco cultivation and have enough free time to inspect the tobacco crops in their precinct. Their term was generally for one year but the term of service could be extended by the court. After constables were appointed, they were required to appear in court to be sworn into office. The oath required after the 1730 tobacco laws were enacted was as follows:

"I __________ do swear, That I will diligently and carefully view the several fields...whereon tobacco shall be planted...within the precincts whereof I am constable; and will cut up or destroy...all stalks from which any tobacco-plant shall be cut...and all slips or suckers growing from...the same which I shall find any fields...above the height of nine inches from the ground; and that I shall make information of all persons within my precinct, whom I shall know to be guilty of any breach of any law of this colony made against the tending of slips or seconds, to the next court...So help me God."

The 1730 tobacco laws were enacted to regulate the tobacco and improve the quality of the tobacco exported from Virginia due to falling prices. In 1731 tobacco sold for about twelve shillings six pence per hundred pounds. The General Assembly ordered Constables to enforce the law forbidding planters from harvesting suckers after the end of July. Violators were to be heavily penalized. This seemed to have the desired effect -- in 1736 tobacco sold for fifteen shillings per hundred pounds.

Constables were usually paid one pound of tobacco for each tithable person living on the tobacco farm where the constable had inspected the tobacco. Tithes were a capitation tax assessed on every male age 16 and above. Free men, hired hands, indentured servants and slaves (male and female) were counted. Tithes were typically paid in pounds of tobacco.

The colony also encouraged the growth of hemp by paying a bounty to the farmers. Beginning in 1726 and constables were required to provide growers a certificate of weight. Hemp farmers were required to pay constables five shillings per ton.

Constables could also be ordered to by the sheriff to assist in arrests and guarding prisoners or even act as church wardens but these duties were more ad hoc in nature and not performed regularly.

Land and Church

In 1760 Richard Randolph was granted a 6,000-acre patent in the new county of Bedford near the Peaks of Otter. Randolph sold 100- to 300-acre or larger parcels to a number of families including Adam Beard who purchased 413 acres.

A number of Presbyterian settlers formed the Peaks Church about 1761. By 1766 the region's governing Presbytery appointed Rev. David Rice to serve as minister at the Peaks and one other church.[2] Rev. Rice served at the church until about 1784 and described its congregation as "large...covering an infinite space of territory around the Peaks mountains.

Peaks of Otter Presbyterian Church (the original church was destroyed
by fire); photograph by Rev. Ken Barnes
The congregation wanted a full-time minister and decided that could only be achieved if their church used slaves to raise and sell products, according to Peter Viemiester, author of From Slaves to Satellites: 250 Years of Changing Times on a Virginia Farm. Viemiester went on to write:

"In 1774 the Peaks congregation petitioned the Virginia House of Burgesses at Williamsburg for permission to own slaves. One hundred two men signed the petition including" Adam, Jr., David, and Samuel Beard, sons of Adam, Sr., the subject of this post. The Virginia Burgesses granted permission and members of the congregation contributed money to buy slaves named Jerry, Kate, Tom and Venus. The church had a 100-acre tract of land, likely contributed by one of the congregation's large landowners, which those slaves worked.

Last Will and Testament

Like his father, Adam died while the Revolutionary War was raging. After the colonies declared their independence, Thomas Jefferson drafted the statute that ended entail, the act of protecting land from the debts incurred by spendthrift offspring, in 1776. He also drafted the statute that ended primogeniture in 1784. These changes to British Common Law would become law throughout the United States when Congress established probate and surrogate courts and 1793 and in 1795 required wills, deeds and other important instruments be recorded. So I find it fascinating that when Adam Beard wrote his will in 1777, still before primogeniture was abolished, he divided his lands among his three sons.

Last Will and Testament of Adam Beard; courtesy of

In the name of God Amen. I Adam Beard being sick in body but of perfect mind and memory, knowing it is appointed for all men once to die do hereby make and ordain this my last will and testament.

First of all I recommend my soul to God who gave it, and my body I recommend to the dust to be buried at the discretion of my executors in a Christian like manner. Nothing doubting but I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God and as touching [?] such worldly estate as it been pleased Good to bless me with in this life. I hereby dispose of the same in the following form and manner to wit:

Item: I give and bequeath to my beloved wife, Elizabeth Beard, all the planation I now live upon with all my stock of every kind as well as all my plantation materials [?] and all my household furniture together with my four Negros, Henry, Martin, George and Fanny during her natural life.

Item: I give and bequeath to my son David Beard all my survey of land lying on the branches of Goose Creek adjoining Ewing and Reed's lines with my Negro Martin after his mother's death to him and his assigns forever.

Item: I give and bequeath to my daughter Rachel Dickson my Negro girl Fanny to her heirs and assigns forever. Only she shall not get possession of said Negro girl Fanny until her mother's death.

Item: I give and bequeath to my son Samuel Beard all my lands adjoining and south of the survey I now live upon together with my Negro George at his mother's death to him and his assigns forever.

Item: I give and bequeath immediately after my beloved wife's death to my son Adam Beard, Junior, all the survey and plantation I now live upon together with my Negro Henry with my black horse colt called Bolton to him and his assigns forever.

Also it is my further will and pleasure that provided my son Samuel Beard possess my father's lands on Falling River as a legatee that in case the lands I now give him adjoining that I now live upon shall then [illegible] unto and become the absolute property of my son Adam Beard to him and his assigns forever.

Likeways if my son Samuel should die before his return from the war also in that case I give said above mentioned land to my son Adam Beard to him and his heirs and assigns forever.

Item: I give Mary Vance now living with me her bed and furniture with one cow and yearling with three head of sheep to her and her heirs and assigns forever.

Item: It is further my will and pleasure that all the remainder of my moveable estate at my beloved wife's death be divided between my children at my said wife's discretion.

I hereby appoint my wife Elizabeth Beard executrix of this my last will and testament revoking and disannuling all wills and testaments heretofore by me made [illegible] or executed confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament. Witness whereof I hereunto set my hand and affix my seal this second day of December 1777.

Signed and acknowledged in presence of

Adam Beard (seal)

Robert Ewing
William Armstrong
Alex Armstrong
William Soarby [?]

At a court held for Bedford County the 23rd day of March 1778
This last will and testament of Adam Beard, deceased, was proved by the oaths of William Armstrong, and Alexander Armstrong witnesses thereto subscribed and ordered to be recorded and on the motion of David Beard one of the Executors therein named who made oath thereto. Certificate is granted him for obtaining probate in due form giving security whereupon together with David Wright, James Buford, and James Patterson his securities. Entered into and acknowledged their bond in the penalty of two thousand pounds for the executors due and faithful administration of the said decedent's estate and performance of his will. Adam Beard the other executor having liberty to join in the probate when he shall think fit.

J. Steptoe, Clerk

Adam died sometime between 2 December when he wrote his will and 6 December 1778 when his wife Elizabeth wrote hers. In her will she referred to Adam as her late husband. Both of their wills were proved in Bedford County court on 23 March 1778. Elizabeth had named two of her brothers-in-law, David and Adam, Jr., executors. Their other son Samuel was away fighting in Continental Army regiment under Gen. George Washington.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. The theme for this week was "The Old Homestead," which as usual I didn't follow.

Using the Ancestral Reference Numbering System, Adam Beard is Ancestor number 144 on my family tree:

144 Adam Beard, Sr. born before 1727 in Virginia; died between 2 December 1777 and 6 December 1777; will proved in Bedford County, Virginia, on 23 March 1778; married Elizabeth maiden named unknown. She died between 6 December 1777 and 23 March 1778.

144.1 David Beard born 1745 likely in Brunswick County (now Bedford County), Virginia; died on 11 January 1815 in Sumner County, Tennessee; married Isabella Carson, daughter of John Carson and Ann Dixon/Dickson.

144.2 Rachel Beard likely born about 1747 in Lunenburg County (now Bedford County), Virginia; likely died about 1810 in Maury County, Tennessee; said to have married George Dixon/Dickson .

72. Samuel Beard born in 1750 in Lunenburg County (now Bedford County), Virginia; died in October 1814 in Bedford County; married Mary Mitchell, daughter of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell and Mary Enos, on 5 September 1778 in Bedford County.

144.3 Adam Beard, Jr., born about 1755 in Bedford County, Virginia; died between 9 October 1787 and 25 February 1788; will proved in Bedford County on 25 February 1788; married Margaret Mitchell, daughter of Robert "the Elder" Mitchell and Mary Enos, on 29 July 1780 in Bedford County.

[1] In 1746 the western portion of Brunswick County became Lunenburg County and in 1753 the northwestern portion of Lunenburg County became Bedford County.
[2] Rev. David Rice was another five times great grandfather. For more about his ministry at the Peaks Church, read Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: His Comfort and Success Among the Peaks of Otter

An Act Declaring Tenants of Lands or Slaves in Taille to Hold the Same in Fee Simple 1776, Encylopedia Virginia (accessed 9 Mar 2018)
An Act for Regulating Conveyances 1785, Encyclopedia Virginia (accessed 9 Mar 2018)
Ancestry DNA and Finding a New Cousin, Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 7 Mar 2018)
Beard, Irene. History of Adam Beard and His Descendants, (Salt Lake City: UT, Genealogical Society of Utah, 1982), pages 1-93.
Bedford County, Virginia, Wikipedia (accessed 9 Mar 2018).
Brunswick County, Virginia, Wikipedia (accessed 9 Mar 2018).
Glossary of Colonial Legal Terms, Milam in Virginia (accessed 9 Mar 2018).
Herndon, Melvin. Tobacco in Colonial Virginia: The Sovereign Remedy, Project Gutenberg, 2008 (accessed 9 Mar 2018)
Interactive Map of Virginia County Formation History, Map of the U.S. (accessed 7 Mar 2018).
John Beard (c1705-178): A Man of Means, Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed Mar 2018).
Lunenburg County, Virginia, Wikipedia (accessed 9 March 2018).
Memoirs of Rev. David Rice: His Comfort and Success Among the Peaks of Otter, Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 9 Mar 2018)
Primogeniture and Succession, Bob's Genealogy File Cabinet (accessed 9 Mar 2018)
Thomas Jefferson and the Practice of Law, Encyclopedia Virginia (accessed 9 Mar 2018)
Viemeister, Peter. From Slaves to Satellites: 250 Years of Changing Times on a Virginia Farm, (Bedford, VA: Hamilton's, 1999), pages 21-36.
Virginia Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983 (database and images),, Adam Beard, 23 March 1778, Bedford County, Virginia, citing Will Books Vol. 1 1763-1787, images 193-194 (accessed 3 Jan 2018).
Virginia Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983 (database and images),, Elizabeth Beard, 23 Mar 1778, Bedford County Virginia, citing Will Books Vol. 1 1763-1787, image 194 (accessed 3 Jan 2018).

John Beard (c1705-1780): A Man of Means
Who's Your Daddy, Adam Beard?
Beard and Jennings: More Interconnected than I Thought
The Court Case Regarding the Slaves of Mary (Mitchell) Beard
Proving James Harvey Beard's Father
Slaves of John Beard (1705-1780) of Bedford County, Virginia
The Court Doth Adjudge, Order and Decree
The Mother Nobody Knew
George Washington Spoke to Him
Ancestry DNA and Finding a New Cousin

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