Thursday, May 31, 2018

52 Ancestors #22: Daniel Mitchell, Sr. (c1750-c1821): Tavern Keeper

Ancestor: Daniel Mitchell, Sr., four times great grandfather
Haplogroup: R-M269

Daniel Mitchell was born sometime before 1765 in Bedford County, Virginia, to Robert "the Elder" Mitchell and Mary Enos. Many family trees put his birth in 1750, but he may have been confused with his first cousin, also named Daniel Mitchell, who served in the Revolutionary War, married Judith Pruitt (or Prewitt), and removed to Kentucky by 1792, and died before 15 Jul 1822 when his will was proved in Shelby County.

"My" Daniel Mitchell grew up attending the Peaks of Otter Church where his father was a ruling elder and his brother, James would later be the church's minister in 1786.

According to a RootsWeb site called The Duffy Papers, Daniel married Margaret Bryan in Rockbridge County in 1772. She was the daughter of John Bryan, II, and Mary Morrison. According to Rev. James William Shearer's book, The Shearer-Akers Family Combined with the Bryan Line, the couple kept a tavern near the Bedford county line with Rockbridge County.

Colonial era tavern scene by sketch artist Sydney King; courtesy of
National Park Service

During the Colonial Era and following the Revolutionary War, Americans drank at their meals at home but also frequented taverns if one was located nearby. Taverns provided food and drink and were frequently inns, bringing travelers and news to communities in the frontier. They were often the first permanent structures in new settlements. Often they were used as churches, courtrooms and post offices until separate buildings could be constructed. Unlike in England, tavern keepers were respected in their communities and would often become quite wealthy.

The Tavern Keepers and Brewers of Early America project on Geni described the essential role a tavern fulfilled in a community:

"The English government in the colonies encourage the proliferation of taverns and inns as a means [sic] building social cohesion, and taverns became important centers of trade and commerce. Training of the militia also center on a town's tavern and during the Revolutionary War, inns and taverns were used as command centers by both sides."

We know Daniel and Margaret's tavern was located in Bedford County because he paid taxes to the county in 1783.

In 1785 Daniel and his father provided the security for a bond which James Mitchell executed to purchase 500 acres of land from James Hylton. Daniel and James were later sued by Jeremiah Hylton, the heir of James Hylton for payment. They countersued, claiming James would be happy to pay as soon as he received clear title to the land, which he did not get from James Hylton before he died. The cases were resolved in 1809.

In 1799 Daniel's father died. In his will, written almost two decades previously, he left Daniel the 100 acres of land where Daniel lived. His father had purchased 300 acres from James Hylton and divided it among three of his sons in his will. However, he never received clear title to the land before James Hylton died. Daniel and his brother, Samuel, were executors of his father's will so they sued James Hylton's heirs to get clear title to the land. A final decree was filed in 1808 but the outcome of the suit was not included in the case file.

When the 1810 census was enumerated, there were five people who lived in Daniel's household. He and his wife were listed as over 45 years of age. Living with them were two males between 16 and 25 years of age and one female, who was between 10 and 15 years of age.

Daniel was not enumerated in the 1820 census in Bedford County. There was one man named Daniel Mitchell living in Bedford County who was listed in that census but his age was between 26 and 44 years of age. I believe this is Daniel's son, Daniel, Jr. Also, in the home of that Daniel Mitchell was a woman over 45 years of age. Perhaps she was his mother?

On 26 November 1828 Daniel's son, Stephen, filed a bill of complaint in Bedford County Chancery Court. In it, he stated that his father had been dead for some seven years and left a widow, nine children, and 133 acres, more or less, of land. If the land were divided among all the heirs, it would not be worth more than $50 nor would it afford a living to anyone. Therefore, he wanted his mother and siblings made defendants and compelled to decide whether to sell the land or not. They agreed in their answer to the bill and a commissioner was appointed to sell the land at public auction. This was accomplished and the land was sold for $316 to Stephen E. Mitchell, his son or a nephew[1]. The commissioner filed his final report in 1831.

Snippet of Chancery cause 1831-019; courtesy of Library of Virginia

When Stephen initiated suit in Chancery Court, he placed his father's death at about 1821 with the phrase "dead for some seven years." I suspect Daniel actually died before the 1820 census was enumerated, which would explain why his household was not included in the census and why a woman over 45 years of age lived in Daniel Mitchell, Jr.'s household.

On 26 July 1834 Archibald Wade and Stephen E. Mitchell filed the finale estate account with the Bedford County Court. After tallying up all the debits and credits, they determined Daniel, Sr.'s estate did not have enough assets to pay his debts.

After Daniel Sr.'s death his widow, Margaret, married Patrick Gibson, who had been allowed 2,356 pounds of tobacco for building the county courthouse for Campbell County soon after its 1782 formation.

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

Using the Ancestral Reference Numbering System, James Mitchell is Ancestor number 76 on my family tree:

76 Daniel Mitchell, Sr., was born before 1765, perhaps as early as 1750 in Lunenburg County, in the part that became Bedford County a few years later, to Robert "the Elder" Mitchell and Mary Enos. He was one of supposedly 13 children; died before or about 1821; married Margaret Bryan, daughter of John Bryan and Mary Morrison, in 1772 in Rockbridge County.

76.1 Mary "Polly" Mitchell, born 6 February 1778 in Bedford County; died 8 July 1859 in Franklin County, Virginia; married Gabriel V. Mattox on 27 August 1801 in Bedford County. She was married by her uncle, Rev. James Mitchell.

38 Daniel Mitchell, Jr., born about 1781in Virginia; died after the 1860 census was enumerated; married Sarah "Sally" Wood on 4 June 1816 in Bedford County. He was married by his uncle, Rev. James Mitchell.

76.2 James H. Mitchell, born about 1783 in Bedford County; died on an unknown date; married 1) Elizabeth Citty, daughter of Jacob Citty/Zetty and Elizabeth Runyon, on 10 February 1807 in Bedford County and 2) Elizabeth Wood on 3 October 1811 in Bedford County. The officiant for both marriages was Rev. James Mitchell.

76.3 Jesse Mitchell, born about 1787 in Virginia; died after the 1850 census was enumerated; may have married Mary "Polly" (Farris) Layne, a widow on 8 April 1813 in Bedford County. He was married by Rev. James Mitchell.

76.4 Stephen Mitchell, born 23 March 1795 in Virginia; died 29 November 1871 in Bedford County; married Sinah Elizabeth Ross, on 27 February 1816 in Bedford County.

76.5 Matilda Mitchell, born about 1797 in Virginia; died on an unknown date; married William W. Stevens on 29 December 1818 in Bedford County. She was married by Rev. James Mitchell.

76.6 Robert Mitchell, born on an unknown date; died on an unknown date; may have married Mary Hales on 11 August 1812.

76.7 Samuel Mitchell, born on an unknown date; died on an unknown date; may have married Sally Robertson on 28 January 1811.

76.8 William Mitchell, born on an unknown date; died on an unknown date.

[1] Stephen E. Mitchell (c1783-after 1860) may one of the two sons of Rev. James Mitchell, brother of Daniel, Sr.


1810 US Census (database and images), FamilySearch, Daniel Mitchell, Bedford, Virginia, United States; citing p. 14, NARA microfilm publication M252 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration), roll 67, FHL microfilm 181427 (accessed 16 May 2018)
Bedford County, Virginia, Wikipedia (accessed 12 May 2018).
Campbell County, Virginia, Wikipedia (accessed 12 May 2018).
Lunenburg County, Virginia, Wikipedia (accessed 12 May 2018).
Mackenzie, George Norbury (editor). Colonial Families of the United States, 1607-1775, (New York, NY: The Grafton Press, 1907), Vol.VI, Bryan Family, pages 105-106 (accessed 13 May 2018).
Rockbridge County, Virginia, Wikipedia (accessed 12 May 2018).
Shearer, James William. The Shearer-Akers Family Combined with The Bryan Line through the Seventh Generation, (Somerville, NJ: The Somerset Messenger, 1915), pages 12-14 (accessed 11 May 2018).
Tavern Keepers and Brewers of Early America, Geni (accessed 16 May 2018).
Virginia Chancery Court Records, 1761-1969 (database and images), Library of Virginia, Daniel Mitchell, James Mitchell v. Jeremiah Hylton, 1809-012 (accessed 10 May 2018)
Virginia Chancery Court Records, 1761-1969 (database and images), Library of Virginia, Executors of Robert Mitchell v. Jeremiah W. Hylton Etc, 1808-011 (accessed 10 May 2018)
Virginia Chancery Court Records, 1761-1969 (database and images), Library of Virginia, Stephen Mitchell v. Margaret Mitchell, Widow Etc, 1831-019 (accessed 9 May 2018)
Virginia Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983 (database and images), Ancestry, Account Current of the Estate of Daniel Mitchell; citing Will Book 8 (1831-1834), pages 396-398 (accessed 8 May 2018).


  1. Schalene, I had Massachusetts ancestors who were tavern keepers and found a wonderfully informative book, In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts by David W. Conroy. There is much that may be applied to Virginia taverns as well, once you get past the conflicted feelings of the Puritans regarding what would be allowed in taverns. It definitely supports your conclusion that tavern owners were important members of the community.

    1. Vera, it’s funny you should mention Massachusetts, since i’ve spent the last several days researching people in that state. I’ve never had to research New England Pilgrims and Puritans before. I am so jealous of the records versus what is available for Virginians of the same period! I will look for the book; it sounds interesting and I so enjoy learning about occupations of the time period.