Thursday, April 12, 2018

52 Ancestors #15: James Harvey Beard (1780-1869): A Long Life Lived

Ancestor: James Harvey Beard, three times great grandfather
DNA Haplogroup: I-M253

James Harvey Beard was born on 7 September 1780 in Bedford County, Virginia, to Samuel Beard and his wife Mary Mitchell. He was their second son but eldest child to live to adulthood. Months before his birth, his father had been sworn in as a captain in the Virginia militia and in March 1781 was called into emergency service to fight at the battle of Guilford Courthouse. Captain Beard returned to his family shortly thereafter and he and Mary had five more children together.

James Harvey, who seemed to have gone by Harvey most often, grew up in Bedford county. His father managed a comfortable plantation and Harvey, his siblings and cousins were all members of the Peaks of Otter Presbyterian Church, which was led by Rev. James Mitchell[1] after 1783. Rev. Mitchell was Harvey's uncle -- a brother of his mother.

Harvey married Mary McMullin (or McMullen) on 21 June 1811. Her father, Matthew, paid surety for the marriage bond. Her mother's name was Margaret but her maiden name is unknown. Their first child was born on Christmas Eve 1812 and another son followed in 1813. On 7 October 1814, Harvey enlisted as a private in a Virginia militia battalion of artillery. He served for five weeks before being discharged.

Harvey's father died in October 1814 and a will has not been found. If he died intestate, there were no issues within the family for how his affairs were settled as no case was found in the Bedford County Chancery Court records.

After Harvey returned home from the War of 1812 he and Mary had two more sons, who lived to adulthood. An examination of Harvey's household in the 1820, 1830, and 1840 census records, reveals there were likely other children who did not live to adulthood.

Analysis of the 1820, 1830 and 1840 census records for the household headed
by James Harvey Beard; created using Microsoft Excel

In 1837 the Presbyterian church in the United States split into New School and Old School over the issue of slavery. My assumption is James Harvey stayed in the Old School as he continued to own slaves at least through 1840.

Chancery Court Causes

Mary (McMullin) Beard's brother, Matthew, Jr., died in 1826 after selling land he had purchased from his siblings but before he paid his siblings or conveyed title to the purchaser. Another brother, Daniel, began a case in Chancery Court against his brother's estate, but died before it could be heard.  His executor was James Harvey Beard, Mary's husband. This suit dragged on until 1845. It was a convoluted case because Daniel McMullin died unmarried and without children. His heirs were his siblings. So Matthew, Jr.'s estate was being sued for $400 plus interest, but as an heir to Daniel's estate, they would have received a portion of that amount back.

The extended Beard family had resided in Bedford County for several generations, but Harvey's uncle, Capt. David Beard and his family moved out of the county after the Revolutionary War, eventually settling in Sumner County, Tennessee. His aunt, Rachel (Beard) Dickson/Dixon, and her family migrated to Maury County, also in Tennessee. Some of his siblings also left Bedford County. His brother, Robert Mitchell Beard, and his sister, Mary "Polly" Beard, married siblings, Nancy C. Webb and Bird S. Webb, respectively, and lived in Franklin County, Virginia. Those Webb families migrated to Missouri sometime in the 1840s and lost touch with the Beard family members remaining in Virginia.

His mother Mary (Mitchell) Beard, died on 28 July 1843 and Harvey became the administrator of his parents' estate. There were four enslaved people, who Mary received as part of her portion of her husband's estate. Harvey wanted to sell them and distribute the proceeds among his mother's heirs. However, he did not know where some of the heirs lived. On 22 January 1844, Harvey filed a bill of complaint in Chancery Court. He wanted permission to sell his mother's dower property and he wanted his siblings, whose location was unknown to him, to be made defendants so that the court would advertise and perhaps his siblings would respond. The chancery court appointed a commissioner who oversaw the sale of Henry, Wallace, Dick and Rachel, and the proceeds were distributed to the known heirs. Those heirs who removed from Virginia received nothing. This case took until 1852 before the court issued a final decree.

Poor House Steward and Remarriage

Sometime before the 1850 census was enumerated, Harvey Beard's wife, Mary, died. He was the steward of the county poorhouse, which housed 19 people, all listed as paupers. His real estate was valued at $4,000.

Poor houses were traditionally a responsibility of county governments and provided social services for needy residents. The federal government did not participate in social welfare until 1934. Poor houses frequently included poor farms, which those who were able work work and contributed food to the house.

On 24 October 1850 Harvey, James F. Johnson, and Rhoda Parker executed a deed which stated Harvey and Rhoda intended to marry shortly. Rhoda owned and controlled property and an estate and the purpose of the deed was for her to retain control of the property after her marriage. In addition Harvey Beard turned over one feather bed, bedstead, chest of drawers, table, trunk, lady's saddle, and chairs, several bonds, which were promises for payment of money he had lent, and one share of stock in the Bedford Savings Bank to James Johnson. He was to sell everything and proceeds where to be for the "separate use of Rhoda Parker both before and after the intended marriage."

He and Rhoda were enumerated in the 1860 census. Harvey continued to work as the steward at the Bedford County Poor House and his personal estate was valued at $1,200. No mention was made of any real estate. The Poor House was home to 48 people in addition to Harvey and Rhoda.

Civil War

James Harvey Beard was 81 years old when the Civil War began with those first shots fired at Fort Sumter. He would lose at least one grandson to the carnage of the war. The Virginia & Tennessee Railroad came to Bedford County in 1852 with depots in Forest, Liberty and Buford's Station. During the war Liberty citizens saw thousands of soldiers come through their town on their way to war. The ladies of the town often fed them. If the soldiers were required to stay overnight before continuing their journey, they stayed with families in Liberty and the nearby environs. I like to think that some enlisted men were sent to the Poor House over which James Harvey supervised.


James Harvey Beard wrote his will on 14 November 1863:

Last Will and Testament of James Harvey Beard; courtesy of

I James Harvey Beard of Bedford County Virginia do make and ordain this my last will and testament hereby revoking any and all wills by me at any time heretofore made.

Item 1st: I direct my just debts to be paid.
Item 2nd: I give to my beloved wife Rhoda Beard in lieu of her dower and distributive share in my estate the sum of $1,200 to be paid her by my executor herein named from the first money that may come into his hands after the payment of my debts, to be held by her in absolute estate.
Item 3rd: All the residue of my estate I give equally to my four sons Granville L. Beard, David F. Beard, Robert Beard and Charles Beard and my executor is hereby empowered to sell any and all of my property for distribution as herein before directed in this will.
Item 4th: I nominate and appoint James F. Johnson executor of this last will and testament.

In testimony whereof I hereto subscribe my name this 14th day of November 1863.

James H. Beard

Rowland D. Buford
James A. Aunspaugh

James Harvey died in October 1869 in Bedford County. He was 89 years old. When the 1870 census was enumerated, his widow, Rhoda lived in Liberty, which is now a town named Bedford, with her brother Caleb and his family.

On  26 September 1871, Rowland Buford and James Aunspaugh swore in court that the will was James Harvey Beard's last will and testament.

Rhoda (Parker) Beard died on 9 March 1875.

James Harvey Beard lived to the ripe old age of 89. When he was eight years old, Virginia became the tenth state in the new United States of America in 1788. Seventy-three years later, James Harvey saw that country torn apart and fighting a Civil War. Quite a lot of history to pack into one long life.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. The theme for this week was "Taxes," which I did not follow.

Using the Ancestral Reference Numbering System, John Beard is Ancestor number 36 on my family tree:

36 James Harvey Beard, born 7 September 1780 in Bedford County, Virginia, to Samuel Beard and Mary Mitchell; died October 1869 in Bedford County; signed marriage bond to marry 1) Mary McMullin, daughter of Matthew and Margaret McMullin on 21 June 1811 in Bedford County, and entered into a deed with 2) Rhoda Parker, daughter of James and Rhoda Parker, on 24 October 1850 which indicated they planned to soon marry.

18 David Fleming Beard, Sr., born 24 December 1812 in Bedford County to James Harvey Beard and Mary McMullin; died 4 July 1878 in Bedford County; married 1) Ann Dooley, daughter of Moses Dooley and Hulda Sharp, on 16 Feb 1842 in Bedford County, and 2) Barbara Ann Mitchell, daughter of Daniel Mitchell and Sarah "Sally" Wood, on 6 December 1866 in Bedford County.

36.1 Granville Lacy Beard, born in 1813 in Bedford County; died after 1873; married 1) Elizabeth Dooley, daughter of Moses Dooley and Hulda Sharp, on 17 October 1838 in Bedford County; and 2) Rachel Ellis on 31 May 1873 in Bedford County.

36.2 Robert M. Beard, born about 1818 in Bedford County; died after 1880; married Elizabeth A. Pollard on 28 June 1841 in Bedford County.

36.3 Charles Edward Beard, born 26 January 1827 in Bedford County; died 14 February 1900 in Bedford County; married Ann Elizabeth Key on 19 November 1849 in Bedford County.


1820 US Census (database and images), FamilySearch, Harvey Beard, Northern District, Bedford, Virginia; citing p. 34, NARA microfilm publication M33, (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration), roll 133; FHL microfilm 193692 (accessed 16 Jun 2014).
1830 US Census (database and images), FamilySearch, Harvey Beard, Bedford, Virginia; citing 124, NARA microfilm publication M19, (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration), roll 194, FHL microfilm 29673 (accessed 16 Jun 2014).
1840 US Census (database and images), FamilySearch, Harvey Beard, Southern District, Bedford, Virginia; citing p. 271, NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration), roll 550, FHL microfilm 29683 (accessed 16 Jun 2014).
1850 US Census (database and images), Ancestry, James H Beard, Southern Division, Bedford, Virginia; citing p. 272B, NARA microfilm publication M432, (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration), image 543 (accessed 17 Jun 2014).
1860 US Census (database and images), Ancestry, James H Biard, Southern Revenue District, Bedford, Virginia; citing p. 660, NARA microfilm publication M653, (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration), FHL microfilm 805335 (accessed 17 Jun 2014).
1870 US Census (database and images), Ancestry, Rhoda Beard, Liberty, Bedford, Virginia; citing p. 263A, NARA microfilm publication M593, (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration), FHL microfilm 553134 (accessed 18 Jun 2014).
Bedford County, Virginia, Wikipedia (accessed 19 Mar 2018).
Bedford County, Virginia, Deed (member story), Ancestry, James Beard, Rhoda Parker, James F. Johnson 24 Oct 1850, Bedford, Virginia (accessed 17 Mar 2018)
Hinshaw, William Wade. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. VI, (Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1936), page 877.
Kerby, Robert L., The Militia System and the State Militias in the War of 1812, Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 73, Issue 2, June 1977, Indiana University Department of History (accessed 20 Mar 2018).
Poor Farms, Revolvy (accessed 19 Mar 2018).
Samuel Beard (1750-1814): Revolutionary War Veteran, Tangled Roots and Trees (accessed 9 Apr 2018)
US War of 1812 Service Records, 1812-1815 (database), Ancestry, Harvey Beard, Battalion of Art'y, Vir Mil, 1813-14, citing NARA microfilm publication M602, (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration), 234 rolls (accessed 18 Sep 2017).
Viemeister, Peter. Historical Diary of Bedford, Virginia, USA from Ancient Times to U.S. Bicentennial, (Bedford, VA: Hamilton's, 1993), page 9-11, 14-31.
Virginia Chancery Court Records, 1786-1961 (database and images), Library of Virginia, Bedford County, 1845-017, Admr of James McMullen v. Admr of Matthew McMullen etc. (accessed 3 Jan 2018).
Virginia Chancery Court Records, 1786-1961 (database and images), Library of Virginia, Bedford County, 1852-049, James H Beard, etc. v. Samuel A Beard, etc. (accessed 1 Mar 2015).
Virginia Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1912 (database), FamilySearch, J. H. Beard, husband of Roda Beard, 9 Mar 1875, Bedford, Virginia, citing FHL microfilm 30600 (accessed 18 Jun 2014).
Virginia Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917 (database), Ancestry, Jas S Beard, Oct 1869, Bedford, Virginia, citing FHL microfilm 30600 (accessed 18 Jun 2014).
Virginia Marriages, 1740-1850 (database), Ancestry, Henry Beard 21 Jun 1811, Bedford, Virginia (accessed 16 Jun 2014)
Virginia Marriages, 1785-1940 (database), FamilySearch, James H. Beard, father of groom, Granville L. Beard, citing FHL microfilm 30597 (accessed 27 Jun 2014).
Virginia Marriages, 1785-1940 (database), FamilySearch, Jas. H. Beard, father of groom David F. Beard, citing FHL microfilm 30597 (accessed 21 Jun 2014).
Virginia Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983, Ancestry, James H. Beard, 14 Nov 1863, Bedford, Virginia, citing Will Books, Vols. 22-23, 1870-1876, page 230 (accessed 17 Mar 2018)

The Elizabeth Beard First Cousins: Which Is Which?
Samuel Beard (1750-1814): Revolutionary War Veteran
The Several Elizabeth Beards
Adam Beard (c1727-1777): Constable of Bedford County
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


  1. Isn't it amazing how much detail can be added to our ancestors' lives with the Chancery Records. I am in awe of the work you are doing for your 52 Ancestors posts this year, Schalene.

    1. Thank you, Cathy. I find old history books have been extremely helpful in providing the context of the times in which they lived. I was lucky with the Beard line as they were included in one of the books.

  2. In the absence of a will or probate file, I wonder if Bedford County land records might include a quitclaim deed for any land that Harvey's father owned and that was sold by his heirs at law following his death?

    1. That's an angle I hadn't considered. I will have to check which books are online. Some are and some aren't.