Part 3 of 5: James Trice of Caroline Co., VA, b. by 1712, d. Orange Co., NC by 1789

This post doesn’t really deal with James Trice of Caroline/Orange, notwithstanding the title. Rather, it concerns the line of James Trice of King William County, VA, whose estate was appraised there in 1769. Two Louisa County chancery court files in the Library of Virginia contain documents about a dispute among two grandsons of James Trice of King William. I relied on evidence from those files in Part 2 of this Trice series, which did deal with James Trice of Caroline/Orange. I also promised to provide abstracts of these files.

This article contains two things: (1) a summary of the Louisa County chancery court dispute and (2) abstracts of the documents contained in the two files, indexed by the Library of Virginia as Louisa County #1804-006 and #1804-011.

The chancery files contain some duplication; I did not abstract any document twice. I have omitted many documents that do not appear to have useful genealogical information concerning the Trice family. I also omitted lists of items in estate inventories. There are several in those 2 files, including the estates of William Anderson (Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice’s first husband), James Trice of King William (Dorothy’s second husband), and Dabney Anderson (a son of Dorothy and William Anderson and a stepson of James Trice). You know where to find them if you’re interested in details: see links provided in Part 2. Finally, I’ve also omitted most of the testimony and allegations in pleadings specifically concerning the slaves at issue in the two cases – Bess and her son Dick. I may have omitted some relevant documents. There are 116 pages in the two files, some of which are written in an almost incomprehensible hand. Attorneys also succumb to MEGO.

I have numbered and titled the documents, see below, although they are neither numbered nor titled in the actual Library of Virginia files. These are therefore my own numbers and descriptions. My comments are in italics and do NOT reflect what is in the actual file – the italicized comments contain my own clarifications or conclusions.

Summary of the cases

The dispute concerns the ownership of a slave named Dick, who was the son of a slave named Bess. Dick was convicted of a felony in Hanover County and hanged. Under the colonial law of Virginia, if a slave was executed by the state, Virginia compensated the owner for his or her value. Learning this set me on my heels, since I still recoil whenever I see something involving the equation “human = property.” That’s the way it was, America’s original sin.

The court cases divide into two procedural parts. First, William Trice, son of John Trice and grandson of James Trice of King William, sued Charles Crenshaw in Charles’ capacity as executor of his father, Joseph Crenshaw. Joseph had been the administrator of the estate of James Trice, who was Joseph’s father-in-law. The parties to these cases – William Trice and Charles Crenshaw – were first cousins, both being grandsons of James Trice and his wife Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice.

William apparently filed his claim in 1799, or perhaps late 1788. William sought an accounting of the estate of James Trice from Charles, saying that he (William) hadn’t received his share of the estate. Charles responded that the claim was old and stale and should be dismissed, an equitable defense known as “laches.” William won, and the court ordered an accounting of James Trice’s estate.

Sometime after that, Charles turned up what appeared to be new evidence (it was, it just turned out not to be relevant). He asked that the earlier order be set aside and the case reheard. Charles also filed a cross-claim against William, saying that William had received more than his fair share of James Trice’s estate. The court allowed a rehearing, and the case was tried. William Trice won, and the court ordered an accounting of the estate of James Trice, with the entire value of Dick (plus interest) to be credited in William Trice’s favor.

The archivists at the Library of Virginia created two files for these cases, one reflecting William Trice’s original claim and the other reflecting Charles Crenshaw’s cross-claim. As a practical matter, the two cases concern a single dispute and set of facts, and one needs to review both files to get the entire story.

Here is a summary of the general facts.

In 1720, Dorothy Dabney Anderson, widow of William Anderson, deeded a slave named Bess to her son William Anderson, a minor. The deed provided that ownership of Bess would revert to Dorothy if William died without issue and Dorothy were still alive. William did die as a child, with no children of his own. Ownership of Bess thus reverted to Dorothy.

Dorothy married secondly James Trice of King William County. James apparently did not consider Bess or her children to be his property in fee simple, although that would have been the case under colonial Virginia law. In a lawsuit after Dorothy died, James claimed only a life estate in Bess and her issue. James apparently considered them the property of Dabney Anderson – the only other son of William and Dorothy Anderson, presumably with ownership to revert to Dabney after the expiration of James’ life estate.

Dabney Anderson must also have thought the slaves were his, because he devised them in his will to his stepbrother John Trice. John Trice died intestate. William Trice was John’s only child, so William inherited John’s entire estate. James Trice, Dabney’s executor and the administrator of John Trice, apparently considered the slaves William’s property, as he reportedly said at one point that he wished William would come get his slaves.

William Trice based his claim for Bess’s child Dick (or his value as determined in the wisdom of the Colony of Virginia) on (1) Dabney Anderson’s devise of Bess to John Trice in Dabney’s will and (2) William’s inheritance of all of his father John’s estate. Charles, bless his heart, threw lots of factual issues at the court – e.g., Bess wasn’t listed in the inventory of James Trice’s estate, nor was she listed in the inventory of Dabney’s estate, and other matters, all to no avail. He lost. When the facts are on your side, pound the law; when the law is on your side, pound the facts; when neither is on your side, pound the table. Charles Crenshaw was in the unenviable position of having neither the facts nor the law on his side.

With that introduction, here are the abstracts. They contain more genealogical information than included in the above summary.

File # 1804-006

  1. Cross-complaint of Charles Crenshaw dated April 1802?
  • Charles Crenshaw was the executor of the will of Joseph Crenshaw.
  • Slave Bess was a gift (sic, a devise in a will) from Dabney Anderson (son of Dorothy Dabney Anderson and William Anderson) to John Trice (son of Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice and James Trice).
  • There is a gift deed in King William Co. by Dorothy Anderson giving Bess to her son William Anderson. However, if William died without children, and Dorothy was still alive, then Bess reverted to Dorothy. Deed dated 15 Feb 1720.
  • William Anderson died without children in Dorothy’s lifetime.
  • Asserts that William Trice (named as defendant) has received more than his just share from the estate of James Trice.
  • Joseph Crenshaw married the sister of John Trice. Plaintiff Charles Crenshaw, “in right of Joseph, being entitled to one moiety thereof” (e., one half of the estate of James Trice), because “the said James Trice, the father of them both (i.e., both John Trice and Joseph Crenshaw’s wife) died intestate.”
  • Seeks an accounting of James Trice’s estate.
  1. Deposition of Henry Edwards and wife Mary Edwards dated 14 Sep 1802.
  • John Trice died at less than twenty years old. Summary of this deposition in the other case says that he died less than age 21.
  • James Trice was John Trice’s father.
  • William Trice of Louisa County was a son of Mary Edwards and John Trice. William was their only child. Mary LNU Trice remarried to Henry Edwards after her husband John Trice died.
  • Mary Trice is age 77. She met James Trice when she was 9. Some researchers believe that Mary was probably nèe Anderson, a daughter of William and Dorothy Dabney Anderson. For what it’s worth, I agree.
  • Henry Edwards (Mary’s husband) was guardian of William Trice. Henry once sued James Trice on William’s behalf in a dispute concerning slaves. Henry did not recover Bess, because James Trice prevailed on his claim that he owned a life estate in Bess.
  • James Trice’s wife had died before that suit.
  • Joseph Crenshaw was the administrator of James Trice when James died.
  • Bess, the slave into dispute, came into the estate of James Trice by virtue of his marriage to Dorothy Anderson.
  1. Deposition of Susanna Crenshaw, 28 Oct 1802.
  • Dorothy Anderson who married James Trice was living in King William County about December 1742.
  1. Appraisal of the estate of James Trice, dec’d, dated 22 Feb 1769 and recorded in King William Co., April 1769.
  • Appraisers were Thomas Crenshaw, George Dabney Jr., and Thomas Baker.
  1. Answer of Defendant William Trice to Charles Crenshaw’s Cross-Complaint dated 11 May 1802.
  • Admits to 1720 gift deed of a slave from Dorothy Anderson to William Anderson and that William Anderson died without issue.
  • James Trice married Dorothy Anderson and took possession of the slave during his life.
  • About five years before William Trice was born, Dabney Anderson died leaving a will that was proved in Caroline County, James Trice, executor. Dabney Anderson’s will was presented for probate by the executor James Trice (Dabney’s stepfather) on 13 Feb. 1735/36, see Caroline Co. Order Book 1732-40 at 319.
  • Dabney Anderson’s will devised a slave to John Trice, the son of James Trice.
  • William Trice is the only child of John Trice, who died intestate at less than age 21.
  1. Gift deed dated 15 Feb 1720.
  • Deed signed by Dorothy D. Anderson, widow of William Anderson, dec’d, of St. Johns Parish, King William County.
  • Gift of slave to son William Anderson, a minor.
  • If William dies without issue and Dorothy survives him, then the slave reverts to Dorothy.
  1. Deposition of Dorothy Hicks in Albemarle Co., 23 Sep 1799.
  • Dorothy lived with James Trice from the time she was a child until a grown woman.
  • Her parents were Godney Trice and Judith Trice. Judith Trice was nèe Anderson (see receipt from Godney and Judith in File #1804-011) and was a child of William and Dorothy Dabney Anderson. Some researchers speculate that Godney Trice was a son of James Trice. However, Godney (who also appears in records as “Goodwin”) was not one of the heirs of James Trice, which means either (1) he wasn’t a son of James or (2) he did not survive James and left no children. However, Godney’s father was definitely not James Trice of King William because Godney left at least one child – Dorothy Trice Hicks – who survived James Trice. If Godney had been James’ child, Dorothy (and any other children of Godney) would have been heirs of James Trice since James died intestate. I don’t know who Godney/Goodwin’s parents were and can’t even speculate intelligently.
  • Dorothy was about 10 – 12 years old when Dabney Anderson died. That would make her b. abt. 1722-23. She is now about 67. That would make her b. abt. 1732. There is clearly some inconsistency in her testimony.
  1. Deposition of Gravet (?) Edwards, 25 Oct. 1802. Dorothy Trice was alive 5 or six years after 1727. Another deponent testified she was still alive in 1742. Another deponent testified that she died before James Trice, so she clearly died by 1769.

File #1804-011

  1. Complaint of William Trice v. Charles Crenshaw as Executor of Joseph Crenshaw
  • Plaintiff William Trice (called William Trice Sr. in various other records in these two files) was the only child of John Trice, dec’d, who was the son of James Trice.
  • Dabney Anderson of Caroline County died sometime in 1735, will dated 16 Dec 1735. Dabney appointed James Trice (the father of John Trice and grandfather of William Trice) executor of his will.
  • Dabney Anderson devised to John Trice 3 slaves in fee, including Bess. John Trice died intestate and William Trice claims the slaves under Dabney’s will.
  • James Trice administered the estate of his son John Trice.
  • John Trice, father of William, died under age (less than 21) and intestate, so that William Trice became entitled as John’s heir at law to the slaves bequeathed to John.
  • Joseph Crenshaw was administrator of James Trice’s estate. Joseph Crenshaw died and Charles Crenshaw was Joseph’s executor.
  • William Trice names Charles Crenshaw the defendant in this lawsuit.
  1. Sale, estate of James Trice.
  1. Answer of Charles Crenshaw to the complaint of William Trice dated 12 Mar 1799.
  • Admits that he is the executor of Joseph Crenshaw, who was the administrator of James Trice, who was the executor of Dabney Anderson.
  1. Inventory of the estate of Dabney Anderson dated 13 Feb 1735.
  • Signed by Joseph Woolfolk, Jos. Martin, Jacob Burrus, and James Trice. Recorded 12 Mar 1735.
  1. Two receipts on one piece of paper, both dated 25 Feb. 1736
  • Godney Trice and Judy Trice acknowleded receipt from James Trice of a slave who was a legacy given them by Dabney Anderson. Evidence that Judith Trice was Dabney’s sister.
  • Joseph Ashburn and Sarah Asburn acknowledged receipt from James Trice of “our part of Dabney’s estate,” a slave who was a legacy from “our brother Dabney Adnerson dec’d.” Evidence that Sarah Ashburn was Dabney’s sister. 

 

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