Friendship Andrew Willis – Part II, the Last Man Standing

Researcher Ann Wilson recently received Y-DNA results for two male Willis cousins that placed her lineage within “The Maryland Group” in the Willis DNA Project. That lineage descends from “Wantage John” Willis, died 1712, who occupied 50 acres called Wantage in Dorchester County, Maryland. Ann’s paper trail, however, leads to “Friendship Andrew” Willis, died 1777, who is not currently tied to Wantage John. Those facts launched the search for Andrew’s parents among a couple of Willis families. Part I of this analysis posted earlier concluded that Andrew Willis did not descend from the family of Quaker Richard Willis.

Part I Recap

The analysis showed the following as to Friendship Andrew:

    • He may have been born between 1720 and 1730, or likely sooner.
    • His first appearance may have been 1743 when an Andrew Willis posted a bastardy bond.
    • He was a planter of Dorchester County when he bought land called Friendship in 1753.
    • Friendship was located in Caroline County after 1773.
    • Friendship Andrew died in late 1777 or early 1778.
    • His eldest son distributed per his father’s direction Friendship Andrew’s land among five heirs including four surviving sons.
    • Andrew was likely Quaker. Two of his sons were Nicholite, or New Quakers, a sect which later merged with the Quaker

And as to the Quaker Richard Willis family:

    • Quaker Richard had a daughter Frances and sons Richard II and John:
      • Richard II had a daughter Mary and a son Richard III, who had no children.
      • John had no children.
    • Quaker Richard “daughtered out” with no male descendants beyond Richard III.
    • Friendship Andrew is not descended from Quaker Richard.

Part II

This post continues the search for Friendship Andrew’s parents within Wantage John Willis’s family. This analysis will try to eliminate men who could not have fathered Friendship Andrew, concluding with “the last man standing” as his parent. Wantage John had four sons:

    • Andrew – six known sons, one named Andrew
    • William – possible sons William and Thomas
    • Thomas – no children
    • John Jr. – six known sons, none named Andrew

Neither Andrew Willis, Son or Grandson of Wantage John, is Friendship Andrew

Andrew Willis, son of Wantage John, was born in 1690.[1] His well-documented family lived in southern Dorchester County, and he died in 1738.[2] He had a son named Andrew born around 1719, about the right time to be Friendship Andrew.[3] However, that son Andrew lived until at least 1781 in southern Dorchester, not the part that became Caroline County in 1773.[4] Moreover, young Andrew was not Quaker. Three of his children were baptized at Old Trinity Church between 1768 and 1775. His children were not the known sons of Friendship Andrew.[5] Therefore, neither Andrew Willis born 1690 nor his son is Friendship Andrew.

William Willis, Son of Wantage John May Be Friendship Andrew’s Father

William inherited the family homestead under Wantage John’s 1712 will and lived there with his wife Judith (neéSeward/Soward). In 1734, they sold the property to Judith’s brother Richard.[6] Dorchester records do not show them buying or inheriting other land. However, deed records show they gave a deposition in 1748 about the boundaries of a tract in the Neck Region of Dorchester County.[7] William testified he had known the property for about 25 years near Hudson’s Creek. William and Judith must have moved there even before they sold Wantage, maybe as early as 1723. Such a move makes sense because Judith’s family owned land in that region.

Dorchester records do not show William and Judith had any children. However, two deed book entries indicate they may have had sons. In 1764, a sale of land on Hudson’s Creek locates the tract at the head of Willis’s Cove near where William Willis lives.[8] This reference could be to William husband of Judith, or it could be to a son of that couple. Second, a Thomas Willis gave a 1784 deposition about the boundaries of Bridge North, property of William Soward.[9] At the time, Thomas was about 70 years old, therefore born about 1714. He stated he had been shown one boundary marker of the tract about 30 years ago. Thomas is the right age to be a son of William and Judith.

Beyond those two instances, the records give no clue about children of William and Judith. Regardless, the couple is the right age to have had a child Andrew, a relatively common name among William’s extended family.

One factor not in their favor, besides the lack of circumstantial evidence, is geography. Friendship Andrew Willis in 1753 purchased land a considerable distance from the Neck Region of Dorchester County. That distance brings into question how a son of William would know about the land or the owner from whom he bought it. Two siblings, Thomas and John Jr., lived much closer to Andrew’s land purchase and are thus more geographically desirable.

 Thomas Willis, Son of Wantage John, Is Not the Father of Friendship Andrew

Thomas and Grace Willis are not Friendship Andrew’s parents. They are in the right place, the part of Dorchester County that became Caroline. However, there are no children in the record and circumstantial evidence indicates there were none.

No Children in the Record

In 1717, Thomas Willis purchased 50 acres of land, one half of a tract called Sharp’s Prosperity, adjacent his brother John Jr. in what would become Caroline County. Thomas died intestate in 1722, and Grace Willis administered his estate. His brothers Andrew Willis and John Willis signed the inventory of his estate as kindred. John was on the adjoining property. Andrew was not too distant, living at the time on Shoal Creek some fifteen miles away. The record does not state whether Grace Willis is Thomas’s widow or his sister, nor does it indicate if he had children. However, the inventory of Thomas’s estate lists only one bed and bedstead suggesting Grace is his widow, and they were childless.[10]

Land Records Also Suggest No Children

The ownership history of Sharp’s Prosperity also suggests the couple had no children. Various parties paid the rents on the tract after Thomas’s death.[11] The last such entry, thirty-four years after Thomas’s death, shows payment by “heirs of Thomas Willis.”[12] If Thomas and Grace had children, those children would be the heirs. If there were a single child, that child at maturity would have taken over the land and payment of rents, which did not happen. If there were multiple children, they likely would have sold the land and divided the proceeds. The record shows no such sale.

If there were no children, Thomas’s siblings and his spouse would be the heirs. In that case, Grace may have been living on the tract, and her in-laws farmed the land and helped pay the rents. The debt books show no rent payments after 1756.[13]Upon non-payment of rents the land reverted to the proprietor. We do not know why the heirs quit making payments. Possibly, Grace died. Also, her brother-in-law John Jr. acquired some additional land in 1756. Both of those events would be reason to let the land go.

Clues in the Probate Record

Thomas’s probate record reveals a couple more facts about Grace. First, she was not a Quaker. The inventory states that she took an “oath on the Holy Evangels”, that is, swore on the Bible, that her inventory filing was true and correct. Quakers did not swear on the Bible, they “affirmed” or “testified according to law” and the record usually noted that fact. The couple’s religious affiliation is significant because Friendship Andrew was probably Quaker. Two of his sons were members of the Nicholites, or “New Quakers.”

Secondly, Grace’s maiden name may have been Bexley. Her administration bond listed William Woods and William Bexley as sureties.[14] Normally, bondsmen assuring probate administration performance included one or more relatives and, if necessary, a non-relative wealthy enough to be good for the bonded amount. It surprised me to see no Willis as a surety. In 1693, a William Bexley in Talbot County made a will naming a son William. That son may be the listed bondsman.

Thomas’s estate inventory shows total assets of only £12.10.4, including a debt William Bexley owed the estate of 2 shillings, 4 pence. William Bexley’s debt suggests he may be a relative. No one else owed money to the estate. In colonial Maryland, wealthy people loaned money on a regular basis. Non-wealthy people like Thomas Willis did not, except to family. However, Thomas’s inventory of cobbler tools and leather shows he was probably a shoemaker. One explanation for the debt might be that Bexley bought a pair of boots and had not yet paid for them. We just do not know. However, we do know that there are no hints in the record that Thomas and Grace had children or that they were Quaker.

All things considered, we can be relatively certain that Thomas and Grace were not Friendship Andrew’s parents.

John Willis Jr. Could Be Friendship Andrew’s Grandfather

John Willis Jr. had six sons, none named Andrew. However, his eldest son John III is a candidate to be Friendship Andrew’s father. John Willis III was born to John Jr. and his first wife Mary about 1704.[15]  Documentary evidence does not help us here. History does not record a marriage, land purchase, children, or even the death of John III.

If John III were Anglican, the records of St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish might have that information. However, those records do not survive. If Quaker, John III likely would have attended Marshy Creek Meeting established in 1727 near his family’s home. However, I cannot find records of that meeting. Other meetings he may have attended such as Northwest Fork Meeting do not record his name.

John III died sometime after 1771, likely during the period 1776-1790 when there is a gap in the Caroline County probate records. If Friendship Andrew were born between 1724 and 1732, John III was about 21 to 29 years old at that time. That makes John III a reasonable candidate to be his father. John III is the only son of John Jr. that fits as a possibility. The other sons are either too young or their families are well documented and do not include a son Andrew.

 Conclusion – The Last Man Standing

Two of Wantage John’s four sons cannot be the forebearer of Friendship Andrew:

    • Direct evidence shows Friendship Andrew did not descend from Wantage John’s son Andrew.
    • Solid circumstantial evidence rules out son Thomas.

That leaves William and John Jr.

    • Son William is geographically undesirable but has a proved marriage and likely children. William could be Friendship Andrew’s father.
    • Son John Jr. had a son John III the right age to be Friendship Andrew’s father. John III is in the right place at the right time, but nothing else in the record argues either way as to his parentage.

Between William and John III, the latter is more likely the father of Friendship Andrew based on location, but we cannot prove it. Possibly down the road more facts will emerge. Until then we have two “last men standing,” and cannot conclusively prove either one.

 

[1] Dorchester County Deed Book 8 Old 404 – 4 Sep 1730, Deposition of Andrew Willis, aged about 40.

[2] Maryland Will Book 21:918 – 24 May 1733, Will of Andrew Willis submitted to probate 23 Aug 1738

[3] Birth year estimated.

[4] Dorchester County Deed Book 28 Old 356 – 22 Sep 1781, Andrew Willis of Dorchester County, planter, purchased  for £60 current money 49½ acres from Benedick Meekins of Dorchester County, planter, and Mary his wife, being part of a tract called Addition to Adventure and part of a tract called Adventure

[5] Palmer, Katherine H., transcribed Baptism Record, Old Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church, Church Creek, MD, Cambridge, MD – Children of Andrew and Sarah Willis: Andrew 12 Feb 1768; Keziah 12 Oct 1770; George 3 Dec 1775.

[6] Dorchester County Deed Book 9 Old 214 – ­­­­15 Aug 1734, William Willis and wife Judeth of Dorchester County, planter, for £6 current money sell to Richard Seward of Dorchester County 50 acres called Wantage near the head of Blackwater River adjoining Littleworth. Signed William (M) Willis, Judeth (+) Willis

[7] Dorchester County Deed Book 14 Old 658 – 3 Sep 1748 Judah [sic Judith] (+) Willis age 50 stated she had heard of the tracts Rosses Range and David Ropies but did not know the bounders; Wm (M) Willis age 52 stated he has known the place for 25 years but not the bounders.

[8] Dorchester County Deed Book 19 Old 343 – 11 Jun 1764, John Taylor Sr. of Dorchester County, Merchant., to Nicholas Maccubbin of Annapolis, Merchant for £285.14.6, three tracts totaling 291 acres on Hodsons Creek, at the head of Willis’s Cove near where Wm. Willis lives.

[9] Dorchester County Deed Book NH 5:259 – 4 Dec 1784, Deposition of Thomas Willis, aged about 70, regarding the boundaries of Bridge North, property of William Seward/Soward.

[10] Perogative Court of Maryland Inventories, 9:9 – Inventory of the Estate of Thomas Willis, 15 Oct 1722.

[11] Skinner, V.L. Jr., Abstracts of the Debt Books of the Provincial Land Office of Maryland, Dorchester County, Volume I and II, Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, MD, 2016

[12] Ibid, Vol II, p 234, 1756, Book 20:159, Heirs of Thomas Willis, Sharp’s Prosperity, 50 acres.

[13] Ibid, Vol I and II, Rent entries, which include the years 1758, 1766, 1767, and 1770, show no property named Sharps Prosperity nor any payments on behalf of Thomas Willis.

[14] Testamentary Proceedings of the Perogative Court of Maryland, 26:77, on 28 Nov 1722 John Pitts, gentleman, of Dorchester County exhibited bond of Grace Wallis administratrix of Thomas Wallis. Sureties William Bexley, William Woods, dated 29 Sep 1722. Also filed inventory of the estate.

[15] Dorchester County Deed Book 25 Old 26, 13 Nov 1770 -2 Aug 1771, Deposition of John Willis the Elder of Dorchester Co, aged about 67 years, mentions his father John Willis and a bounder of land called Painters Range on Hunting Creek Mill Pond.

Friendship Andrew Willis – Mystery Man, Part I

Researcher Ann Wilson recently received Y-DNA results for two male Willis cousins that placed her lineage within “The Maryland Group” in the Willis DNA Project. That lineage descends from John Willis, died 1712, who occupied 50 acres called Wantage in Dorchester County, Maryland. We refer to him as Wantage John. Ann’s paper trail, however, leads to Andrew Willis, died 1777, who is not currently tied to Wantage John. This article explores how John and Andrew might be related.

What We Know About Andrew

In 1753, Andrew Willis “of Dorchester County, Planter,” bought a 28-acre tract for £6.10.00 in Dorchester called Friendship, so let’s call him Friendship Andrew.[1] He was therefore a resident of the county at the time of the purchase. He was not a yeoman farmer who tilled the land. A “Planter” had others, sometimes enslaved people, doing the hard work. Frustratingly, Dorchester records do not show Friendship Andrew before 1753, so there is no indication how he qualified as a “Planter.”Friendship Andrew’s first appearance in the record may have been ten years earlier. In 1743, an Andrew Willis posted a bastardy bond in St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish.[2] That parish covered the region of Dorchester County that included the tract called Friendship.  After his initial 28-acre purchase, Andrew had his land resurveyed twice to confirm boundaries and add vacant land, resulting in a tract that by 1764 totaled 304 acres called Friendship Regulated.[3]

Friendship Andrew had five sons. He orally directed that should he die without a will, his son Thomas was to divide Friendship Regulated among the five, with 100 acres each to Thomas and Andrew, 70 acres to Ezekiel, and the home plantation to his youngest son Elijah except for a parcel to Joseph.[4] Friendship Andrew died intestate in 1777 or 1778. In Aug 1778, Thomas essentially followed his father’s request and deeded parts of Friendship Regulated to Andrew, Ezekiel, Joseph, and to Isaac Collins.[5] Thomas did not deed any land to Elijah, who must have died before 1778. Likely, Isaac Collins married Elijah’s unnamed daughter, who would be entitled to a share of the land under the Maryland law of intestacy.

Between 1783 and 1786, Joseph, Andrew Jr., and Ezekiel sold all or part of their inherited land.[6] Each was most likely at least 21 years old at that time. Therefore, all were born by 1765. If their father was 25 – 35 years old at that date, he would have been born between 1730 and 1740. Since Friendship Andrew was a “Planter” by 1753, his birth date was probably sooner, maybe in the range of 1720-1730.

What we do not know are Friendship Andrew’s parents. Two groups from which he might directly descend are the family of Wantage John Willis and the Quaker family of Richard and Frances Willis. This article will examine Quaker Richard’s family. I will address Wantage John in a later post.

Quaker Richard married Frances, widow of Richard Dawson, about 1683.[7] Quaker Richard died in 1690 leaving a will that proved their sons Richard Jr. and John and a daughter Frances.[8] Based on the following analysis, it is highly unlikely that Friendship Andrew descended from either son of Quaker Richard.

 Friendship Andrew Is Not Descended from Richard Willis Jr.

Richard Willis Jr. was born 13 Oct 1684.[9] He is the right age to be Friendship Andrew’s father. However, Richard Jr.’s mother Frances wrote a will in 1723/4 and a codicil in 1729 in which she named three children, two sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren. She did not name an Andrew as a son of Richard Jr. Instead, she identified Richard (III) and Mary as Richard Jr.’s children.[10] Frances divided her real property between her son Richard Jr. and his son Richard III.[11] In 1741, Richard Jr. made a will that, like his mother Frances, did not name a son Andrew.  Richard Jr. left all his property to his wife and at her death to a grandchild, with a nephew as a conditional devisee.[12] Surely, if Andrew were a son of Richard Jr., that child would have been named in either his father’s or grandmother’s will, if not both. We can reasonably conclude that Friendship Andrew was not a son of Richard Jr.

Furthermore, Andrew was not a son of Richard Jr.’s son Richard III. In his 1737 will, Richard III gave everything to his sister Mary, except some bequests to two cousins.[13]  Clearly, he had no widow and no children. Thus, neither Richard Jr. nor Richard III, son and grandson of Quaker Richard, was Friendship Andrew’s father.

John Willis Is Not Friendship Andrew’s Father

Quaker Richard’s son John was born 7 Sep1686 and married Margaret Cox 10 Jul 1712.[14] He died intestate in 1723 almost certainly without surviving children. First, there is no mention of children in the record. Second, there was no division of his estate as required by the laws of intestate distribution if children are involved.

No Mention of Children in the Record

If John and Margaret had any children, the eldest would have been about ten when John died. The accounts filed by his widow, however, do not mention any children, who are often identified in such filings.[15] Further, there are no guardianship records as required for minor children … no guardian bond, no guardian accounts, no distribution of the estate to indicate an heir other than Margaret.

Division of Estate

If John and Margaret had children, John’s estate would have been allocated by law one-third to the widow and two-thirds to the children.[16] Margaret died just three years after John, and her personal property was almost identical to her husband’s. John’s estate inventory totaled £103.14.04.[17] Hers amounted to £102.17.11, rather than a third that amount.[18] Having no portion carved out for any children indicates there were none.

If John had no children, the widow would get one-half the personal estate according to law and the other half would go to the deceased’s siblings Richard Jr. and Frances.[19] In that case, one would expect Margaret to have controlled only about £50. However, with no minor children involved, the adult heirs could easily have forgone receiving anything immediately from their sister-in-law. Taking their share would have only made her life more difficult. It makes sense that they would put off a distribution until a later date. In this case, the delay was only three years until Margaret died.

Land – The Final Evidence

The final argument against Friendship Andrew descending from Quaker Richard’s sons is that Andrew received no land from them. Families almost always passed down land from father to son. Maryland Provincial Land Office records show the subsequent owners of the lands of Quaker Richard and Frances Willis and their sons. Friendship Andrew Willis inherited none of that land.[20] Were he in the line of succession, he most likely would have ended up owning some of their land.

Conclusion

It is safe to conclude that the mystery man, Friendship Andrew Willis, is not descended from the line of Quaker Richard and Frances Willis. Neither Richard Jr., his son Richard III, nor John Willis is Andrew’s father. The next article will look at the sons of Wantage John for a possible father.

 

[1] 15 Sep 1753, Dorchester County Deed Book 14 Old 738 – Thomas Hackett of Dorchester County, Planter, and wife Sarah for 6 pounds, 10 shillings, paid by Andrew Willis of the same place, Planter, sell part of a tract of land called Friendship adjoining Grantham and containing 28 acres.

[2] Wright, F. Edward, Judgement Records of Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties, Delmarva Roots: Lewes, Delaware, 2001, p 34 – Aug 1743, Dorchester County Court Judgment Records, p 231 – Presented that Sarah Willis of St. Mary’s White Chappel Parish, spinster, on 10 May 1743 committed fornication and begat a bastard child. Fined 30 shillings. Andrew Willis her surety to indemnify the inhabitants of the county for 7 years from keeping and maintaining a bastard child.

[3] 6 Apr 1754 survey, 23 Sep 1760 patent, Dorchester County, 113 acres, Patented Certificate 1174, MSA S1196-1317, the survey found Friendshipencroached on an elder 1,000-acre tract patented in 1684 called Grantham located in “woods near Catarine Creek.” The resurvey eliminated the encroachment, realigned his tract adjoining Grantham, and added vacancies for a new total of 113 acres then called Friendship Regulated. And 23 Mar 1764, Dorchester County, 304 acres, Patented Certificate 1175, MSA 21196-1316 added vacant lands for a total of 304 acres called Friendship Regulated.

Note: The reference to Catarin Creek is an error. The land was located about five miles north of Federalsburg, estimated by the location of “Davis’s old field,” “lands of Abraham Collins,” “Collins Crossroads,” and Raccoon Branch referenced in other tracts adjoining Grantham and Friendship Regulated.

[4] Caroline County Deed Book D:381, 27 Aug 1793 – 10 Dec 1793, Deposition of John Walker, carpenter, age 52, said he was at the house of Andrew Willis, father of the late Thos. Willis dec’d, of whom Sina Willis is widow, and heard Andrew say he intended 100 acres of his land for Thomas, 100 acres for son Andrew, 7 [sic 70] acres for son Ezekiel, and the home plantation for his youngest son Elijah excepting a parcel to be laid off for the said Andrew’s son Joseph; and that in the event of his death without a will, that Thomas would so convey; to which Thomas agreed and so did. The deposition was requested by Abraham Collins who bought part of Friendship Regulated from Ezekiel in 1786.

[5] Caroline County Deed Book GF A:285-287, 21 Aug 1778. Rather than the instructions conveyed in the above 1793 deposition, Thomas conveyed 87 ½ acres to Andrew, 50 acres to Ezekiel, 32 ½ acres to Joseph, and 29 ¾ acres to Isaac Collins. This left Thomas holding 104 ¼ acres for a total of 304 acres contained in Friendship Regulated.

[6] Caroline County Deed Books, A:650, 659 – Joseph, 1783; A:773 – Andrew, 1784; B:116 – Ezekiel, 1786.

[7] Marriage date estimated based on the 13 Aug 1684 date of the birth of Richard Willis Jr.

[8] Dorchester County Deed Book 4 ½ Old 1 – Will of Richard Willis dated 21 Oct 1689, probate 2 Jan 1690. 300 acres called Rondley to go to his sons.

[9] Quaker Birth Records, Third Haven Monthly Meeting, 1665-1930, p 21, Richard Willis 8th Mo 13th 1684. Note: 1st month for Quakers is March.

[10] Maryland Will Book 19:679 – Will of Frances Fisher dated 28 Feb 1723/4, codicil 14 Apr 1729, probate 7 May 1729. Note: the widow Frances Willis married Edward Fisher who predeceased her.

[11] Ibid, ­­­679 and 680

[12] Maryland Will Book 22:439 – Will of Richard Willis dated 6 Nov 1741, probate 20 Jan 1742 – To wife Mary the dwelling plantation which at her death to pass to granddaughter Elizabeth Jolley and heirs. Should Elizabeth Jolley die without heirs the plantation would go to Willis Newton son of Edward Newton [and Richard’s sister Frances Willis Newton]. Personal property bequeathed to wife Mary and to Elizabeth Jolly at age 16. Wife Mary executrix. Wit: Thomas Smith, James Billings, Robert Jenkins Henry. [Note: at the time of his will, Richard Jr.’s son Richard was already dead. Richard Jr.’s daughter Mary’s husband Francis Jolly had died (with his estate underwater), and she had married Hugh Rimmer. Richard, Sr. was guardian of grandchild Elizabeth Jolly. At Richard’s death, Major James Billings became guardian. Elizabeth Jolley died without heirs, and the land went to Willis Newton and eventually his son Thomas Newton.]

[13] Maryland Will Book 21:814 – Will of Richard Willis, wheelwright, of Dorchester County dated 11 May 1737, probate 19 Nov 1737 – To sister Mary, executrix, entire estate except legacies of personal property to cousins John Newton and Margaret Newton children of Edward Newton [and Frances Willis Newton]. Wit: Richard Webster, Sr, Sarah Whaland, Anna Webster.

[14] Quaker Records, Third Haven Monthly Meeting, 1665-1930, p 21, John Willis 7th Mo 7th 1686, and Marriage Book 1668-1938, p 100, 10 Jul 1712 at their Meeting House in Dorchester County. Note: The record is in the books of Third Haven Monthly Meeting in Talbot County.

[15] Perogative Court Accounts 5:280, 19 Sep 1723 – Account for estate of John Williss of Dorchester Co, total account £103.14.4, payments made £25.15.8, dated 19 Sep 1723. Payments to William Ennals, John Orell, Dr. William Murray, William Hemsley, John Hodson Jr., Capt John Rider. Administratrix Margaret Williss.

[16] “An Act for the better Administration of Justice in Testamentary Affairs granting Adminisrcons recovery of Legacies Secureing filiall portions and distribution of Intestates Estates” (1715)  (Ref: Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly of Maryland, Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly of Maryland, April 26, 1715 – August 10, 1716, Acts of the Assembly, April 26-June 3, 1715, Archives of Maryland, Volume 30, William Hand Brown, Maryland Historical Society, 1910, pp. 331-347) – “… one third part of the said Surplusage to the wife of the Intestate and all the residue by Equall portions to and amoungst the Children of such persons dying Intestate and such persons as Legally represent such Children …”

[17] Perogative Court Inventories 8:191, 9 May 1723 – ­­­­Inventory of the estate of John Willis, £103.14.04 appraised by Thomas Hides, Charles Dean; creditors Jno Rider, W Ennalls; kindred Richard Willis, Daniel Cox: filed 16 July 1723 by Margaret Willis administratrix, who “gave testimony according to law” that the inventory was true and correct.

[18] Perogative Court Inventories 11:399, 4 Jul 1726 – Inventory of the estate of Margaret Willis, £102.17.11 appraised by W Ennalls, Edward Newton; creditors W Ennalls, John Rider; kindred Dan’l Cox, Betty Cannon; filed 5 Jul 1726 by Richard Willis administrator.

[19] Testamentary Affairs Act, “And in Case there be no Child or Children nor any Legall representatives of them then one Moyety of the said Estate to be allowed to the wife of the Intestate the residue of the said Estate to be Distributed Equally to Every of the next of kindred of the Intestate who are in Equall Degree and those who Legally represent them(Provided there be no representatives admitted among Collatteralls after brothers and Sisters Children) …”

[20] Skinner, V.L. Jr., Abstracts of the Debt Books of the Provincial Land Office of Maryland, Dorchester County, Vol I, Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, 2016 – p 152, Richard III tracts owned by Phil. Covington, p 193, Richard Jr.’s tracts owned by John Leatherbury “for his wife.”

[21] Dorchester County Deed Book 7 Old 63 – 26 Jul 1718, Frances sold all her real estate to sons Richard and John Willis for 2,000 pounds of tobacco. The deed provided that when ready to make a division, John would have first choice as to the part he would take. The deed also required them to sell Rondley to John Dawson, possibly Frances’s son from her first marriage.

[22] John received 2,000 pounds of tobacco “on account of the land” and another 2,000 pounds as compensation for not receiving an enslaved person (Frances willed five enslaved people to various legatees).

[23] Jenkins, Dan, Baja Oklahoma, Antheneum, division of Simon & Schuster: New York, 1981

Do You Know a Noah?

I certainly did not until I bumped into Noah Willis who married Eliza Blake on 31 Jan 1827 in Talbot County, Maryland. He appears three years later in the 1830 census for Talbot heading a household of a whopping 16 people. What gives?

Thanks to detailed records at FamilySearch.org, the Maryland State Archives Online, and at MDLANDREC.net, we can answer many questions about this man and his descendants. The record reveals that he was born in Maryland, but not his family of origin.[1] We have no clue about his parents and cannot connect him to my ongoing project identifying descendants of “Wantage John” Willis who died 1712 in Dorchester County, Maryland.

But let’s go back … what does the record show about Noah?

First, there is his marriage in 1827 to Eliza Blake.[2] Then, there is the 1830 census for Talbot that shows the following household residents:

  • Seven white boys – 1 male under 5 years, 3 males age 5-9, 3 males 10-14,
  • Two white men – 1 male 30-39, and 1 male 40-49
  • One white girl – 1 female under 5
  • One white woman – 1 female 30-39
  • One free black woman -1 female age 10-23
  • Two enslaved girls – 2 females under 10
  • One enslaved teenage girl – 1 female age 10-23
  • One enslaved woman – 1 female 24-35

Further investigation shows Eliza had been married before and Noah may have been. Noah Willis at age 26 to 44 appears in the 1820 census for Talbot County with a woman age 45+, presumably his wife but maybe his mother or sister. The remainder of that household are 43 enslaved people … 16 males and 27 females, with 17 members of the household employed in agriculture. I have not identified the woman in Noah’s household, but there were no children. Furthermore, the woman disappeared before Noah married Eliza in 1827, or at least before the census in 1830.

Talbot County deed records show Noah purchased 140 acres of land in 1823.[3] Likely, he was renting and farming that same land at the date of the 1820 census. He sold that land in 1828 after his marriage to Eliza, and they lived on her property.[4]

As to Eliza’s first marriage, on 20 Nov 1816 Eliza Ray wed John Blake.[5] The 1820 census lists the Blake household near the Willis lands. It shows John Blake and his wife both at age 18-25 with three children, a girl age 10-18 and two boys less than 10.[6] The rest of the household consists of 8 enslaved males and 9 enslaved females. John Wilson Blake purchased more than 400 acres of land in 1821 in the Miles River Neck for $10,500, entering into a fifteen-year mortgage for about half of that amount.[7] The Blake couple had three more sons before John died intestate in 1826 leaving his widow and six orphan children.[8]

In 1828, Samuel Roberts, administrator of the estate of John W. Blake, deceased, began filing annual reports as acting guardian of Blake’s six orphan children … five boys and a girl, naming each one.[9] His reports include an item of expense for each child as “Board and clothing paid to Noah Willis.” Obviously, these six children are in the Willis household in the 1830 census. The personal property attributable to each orphan is a one-sixth share of the annual rent derived from the land owned by their deceased father (net of their mother’s dower). Eliza Blake Willis nee Ray is clearly the mother of these children.[10] In about 1828, Eliza gave birth to a son by Noah, James Willis. With this information we can name all of the white occupants of the household except one man and one boy, whom we can reasonably assume are related to Noah or Eliza, possibly her brother and his child:[11]

  • Noah Willis – age 40-49
  • Unidentified male – 30-39
  • William Blake, John Blake, Theodore Blake – 10-14
  • Richard Blake, Thomas Blake, unidentified boy – 5-9
  • James Willis – under 5
  • Eliza Ray Blake Willis – 30-39
  • Mary Ann Blake – under 5

Talbot County guardian accounts show that from 1833 through 1836, Noah Willis served as guardian of the six children. I am uncertain why Samuel Roberts vacated that office. Appraisers periodically assessed the real estate of the deceased John W. Blake and submitted to the Orphan’s Court a fair annual rental for the property. The property descended through the laws of intestate descent and distribution to Blake’s orphan children, subject to their mother’s rights during her lifetime. The Willis family occupied the property and Noah Willis “rented” it from the estate. Had a third party occupied and rented the farm, an arms-length transaction would have established the value and the annual rental. However, Noah’s renting the farm necessitated the third-party appraisals. Noah’s guardian accounts dutifully tabulated each orphan’s one-sixth share of the rental income (after dower). The deducted expenses attributable to each child were a share of taxes and filing fees, with the difference between income and those expenses listed as the cost of boarding and clothing the child. Therefore, the resulting balance due each child was zero. Noah “paid” rent into the guardian account and then “paid” himself from the account for caring for the children, so no money really changed hands except for the taxes and fees paid to the county.

The appraisal process established an annual rental of $400 in 1831, $350 in 1834, and $275 in 1836. The record shows a detailed description of the land and improvements.[12] The land amounted to about 430 acres of which 200 was forested. The rest was arable with the soil ranging from very good to thin. The farm had three fields. The first contained 220,000 hills of corn, and the other two about 140,000 to 150,000 hills. Two apple orchards existed. The older one with 152 trees was in a bad state of decay; the second with 50 trees thrived. A fenced vegetable garden was under a new rail fence, strong and good.

The appraisers described the farms buildings in this manner, a “frame house with two good rooms and a passage and stair case on the first floor and three rooms above, good cellars, a good brick lodging room adjoining and a good brick kitchen. All these are in pretty good repair. A good frame smoke house about 12 feet square, a good corn house of about 12 by 24 feet, and four other out houses, such as poultry houses, a stable and quarters, all wretchedly dilapidated. There is a large barn of about 60 by 28 feet, good frame but suffers for want of a good roof.  There is also the roof of a corn house, quite good, but no house or underpart. This roof is about 50 or 60 feet long. The fencing on the farm is tolerably good, but the general state of the farm is somewhat out of order.”

Noah and Eliza had two more children, Margaret (who died an infant) and Eliza A., before Noah Willis died about 1837. On 31 May 1838, Noah’s widow married William T. Stitchberry in Talbot County.[13] She and Stitchberry entered into a prenuptial agreement stipulating that she was seized of property in Miles River Neck and the property was to remain hers separately. Any rents and profits from the property she could invest as she saw fit and could dispose of the profits during her life as she determined. The investments would be made in the name of John B. Ray, Trustee, [likely her brother] or whoever she designated in the future.[14]

The Stitchberrys appear in the 1850 census in Talbot County with the two surviving Willis children, James E. and Eliza A., plus two children of their own, William G. and Sarah E. Stitchberry.[15]

Noah’s only son, James E. Willis married by 1870 when the census lists him as a farmer with a wife Martha W. Willis. He has $600 of personal property but no real property and is living very close to his stepfather Stitchberry’s farm. Possibly, he was still working there. The 1880 census lists James and Martha with six children, a daughter … M. E. age 9, and five sons … Jas E. age 8, Wm Geo. age 5, T. F. age 4, N. A. age 2, and H. C. age 3 months born in April 1880. Other researchers have attributed the following names to James’s and Martha’s children … M. Emily, James E., William George, T. Frank, Albert Addison, and H.C.

That is all the time I have now for the mysterious Noah Willis. If anyone has more information, please share it! My next step will be to convince Robin to help find a living male descendant of one of James Willis’s five sons … someone to take a Y-DNA test. She is very good at finding such candidates and I hope she will help.

[1] 1880 Census for Talbot County lists James E. Willis, son of Noah and Eliza, showing both of James’s parents as born in Maryland.

[2] Maryland State Archives Online, Talbot County Marriage Licenses, by the Reverend Mr. Thomas, 1825-1840, p 18.

[3] Talbot County Deed Book 44:385, Noah Willis paid $300.00 to William Watts and James Saulsbury, Sr., for 140 acres lying at the headwaters of St. Michaels River, parts of tracts called St. Michaels Fresh Run, Carter’s Range, and Carter’s Forest near the mill pond at the headwaters of the St Michaels River and on the main road to Potts Mill.

[4] Talbot County Deed Book 48:131, Noah Willis and wife Eliza Willis sold to William T. Clark for $400.00 the property Noah bought in 1823.

[5] Maryland State Archives Online, Talbot County Marriage Licenses, by the Reverend Mr. Thomas, 1794-1825, p 241.

[6] The census also lists an older John Blake in the vicinity.

[7] Talbot County Deed Book 43:104, 16 May 1821, Fayette Gibson sold to John Wilson Blake for $10,500 tracts near the waters of Saint Michaels River [i.e., Miles River] called Batchelor’s Branch, Batchelor’s Branch Addition, Thief Keep Out, Bennett’s Neglect, Bennett’s Neglect Resurveyed, part of Triangle and as much of the adjoining Halls Range to make up 400 acres … also some small acreage called Partnership and Spring Field in Miles River Neck. At DB 43:107 Blake mortgages the property as security for the repayment of $5,500 in fifteen equal annual installments plus interest to be paid before 1 Jan 1837.

[8] Talbot County Guardian and Administration Bonds, 1813-1829, p 159, 2 Sep 1826, Samuel Roberts bound at $10,000 as administrator of the estate of John W. Blake along with E. Roberts and Andrew Skinner. Subsequent account filings show a net personal estate of more than $4,500.

[9] Talbot County Guardian Accounts, Vol 10, pp 106-110.

[10] The land confirms this Eliza is the mother of the orphan children of John W. Blake. That would have been an easy conclusion to make had she been the only Eliza in the Ray and Blake families. However, the record is a little more complex. William Blake, Sr. who died in 1813 had five children: son John Wilson Blake who married Eliza Ray on 2 Nov 1816; daughter Eliza S. Blake who married William Ray on 28 Sep 1813; son William Blake who married Elizabeth Hardin on 8 Nov 1821; daughter Frances Blake; and son James Blake. The land helps prove that the Eliza Blake who married Noah Willis was the Eliza Blake nee Ray who married John W Blake and not the Eliza Ray nee Blake the daughter of William Blake, Sr. nor the Elizabeth Blake nee Hardin who married William Blake, Jr.

[11] I cannot identify the enslaved persons by name. Samuel Roberts’ 1828 guardian filing records the sale of four slaves: Garrison, age 9; Betty, age 6; Levina, age 19; and Harriet age 6 months, presumably Levina’s daughter, both sold to the same person. The remaining population of 60 enslaved people from the Blake and Willis households in the 1820 census are unaccounted for.

[12] Talbot County Guardian and Administration Bonds, 1830-1838, pp 239, 296, 321

[13] Talbot County Marriage Licenses, 1825-1840, married by the Reverend Mr. Potts, MSA Reference C1890-5, p 92.

[14] Talbot County Beed Book 54:1, signed 31 May 1838 by William (X) Stitchberry, E. R. Willis, and John B. Ray, recorded 1 Jun 1838. While the document states she is seized of the land, she only held it during her lifetime. Upon her death it descended to the children of Eliza and John Blake.

[15] 1850 Census, Talbot County, William T Stitchberry, 37, farmer, $1,600 of real estate, cannot read or write; Eliza Stitchberry, 49; James E. Willis, 22, farmer; Eliza A. Willis, 14, attended school; William G. Stitchberry, 11; Sarah E Stitchberry, 10.

WILLIS or WILLEY – A Critical Misread

Occasionally, we each run into difficulty interpreting handwriting in old documents. It comes with the territory. Modern genealogists are not the only ones affected by the problem. Decades ago, clerks who hand copied original documents ran into the same issue. Worse, publishers then printed typeset versions of those recopied texts (or abstracts of them). Once a misinterpreted word gets into print, it becomes accepted wisdom and resistant to change.

The situation is particularly vexing when the misinterpreted word is a person’s name. Willis and Willey provide a good example. Families of each surname lived close to each other in early Dorchester County, Maryland. The handwritten name Willis in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries often ended with a downward swooping tail on the “s,” which made it look like a “y.” [1]

The following illustrates the script anomaly. Parties to legal documents of the era often took an oath on the “Holy Evangels of Almighty God,” meaning the Christian Gospels. Here is the way that phrase appears in a Dorchester County Will Book:

 

There is no discernable difference in the “y” at the end of the words Holy and Almighty and what is supposed to be an “s” at the end of Evangels. The scribe who recopied this deed into a nicely readable volume misread a long-tailed “s” in the original, writing it as a “y.”

No harm done. We know there is no such word as “Evangely,” so we can just move on … maybe tsk, tsk-ing under our breath. But what of the poor Willis and Willey families? A similar misread could easily convert a Willis into a Willey, or vice versa. In fact, an authoritative source of marriages in early Maryland states that Francis Insley married Keziah Willey on 27 Oct 1785 in Dorchester County.[2] However, a land sale by that couple twenty years later provides evidence that the bride’s name was actually Keziah Willis, not Willey.

In 1805, the Insleys’s sold 60 acres of land called “Addition to Adventure.”[3] The Willis family had owned that parcel for four decades, dating back to Richard Willis’s purchase in 1764.[4] The 1805 Insley deed recites that Benedict Meekins and his wife Mary [nee Willis] had sold the land to Andrew Willis, who devised it to his son Andrew. The deed does not state how Francis Insley and his wife Keziah got title to the land from the younger Andrew, and there are no other deeds that explain their ownership.

Explaining the Insley’s ownership is simple, however, if Keziah’s maiden name were Willis rather than Willey. Keziah was one of four children of the elder Andrew Willis and his wife Sarah.[5] The elder Andrew willed the land to his son Andrew, Jr. The younger Andrew subsequently died without a will and without children some time after 1796. His estate therefore passed to his heirs as defined under the Maryland laws of intestate descent and distribution, i.e., his siblings and the children of any already deceased siblings.

Keziah Willis Insley and her husband possessed the land in 1805 because she was Andrew’s only surviving sibling, and her brother George and sister Mary had each died without surviving children. Dorchester records make no mention in the relevant time frame of either George or Mary — no marriage, deed, death, or migration information. Their absence from the record supports the theory that they both died young and without issue.

The circumstantial evidence is sufficient to conclude that 1) a transcriber erroneously interpreted Keziah’s last name in the marriage record, 2) that Francis Insley married Keziah Willis in 1785, and 3) she was a party to the sale of Willis family land twenty years later.

The critical misinterpretation of Keziah Willis’s name will never be corrected in most published sources, but some of us will know the truth.

 

[1]Lower case “i” and “e” are also hard to distinguish.

[2]Palmer, Katherine H., Dorchester County, Maryland: Marriage License Records, 1780-1855, 1960.

[3]McAllister, James A., Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 42 (Liber HD No. 21), Cambridge, Maryland, 21 HD 569

[4]McAllister, Abstracts, Volume 15 (Liber Old No. 19), Cambridge, Maryland, 1964, 19 Old 163

[5]Old Trinity Church records show that the elder Andrew Willis and his wife Sarah baptized three children — Andrew, Keziah, and George — between 1768 and 1775. The couple also had a fourth child, Mary.

Foster Willis, Maryland to Missouri, 1804-1850

One rewarding aspect of genealogy is meeting wonderful people while digging up those pesky dead relatives. I had that privilege several months ago when the Reverend Charles Covington introduced himself via the Internet. The Rev (as he asked to be called) and I are related by marriage. One of his Covington ancestors married a descendant of my ancestor John Willis of Dorchester County (d. 1712). The Rev previously documented the descendants of his earliest known Covington ancestor down to the present and gifted the finished product to his children. He proposed that we do the same thing, generation by generation, with the descendants of John Willis. This joint project has led to many discoveries I would not have found on my own.

Case in point is the subject of today’s article. Foster Willis has always been of interest because he is the twin of my great-great-grandfather Zachariah Willis. This project forced me to focus on Foster for the first time. Deed, probate, and census records tell most of Foster’s story. The tale is typical of an early nineteenth century farmer/craftsman who achieves some success, raises a large family, and moves west seeking other opportunities. However, like most stories constructed after the fact, there are gaps and mysteries.

Born into a Farming Family

Two days after Christmas in 1804, Foster and Zachariah were born in Caroline County, Maryland, to Richard (1759-1823) and Britannia Willis, née Goutee (1765-1826). Richard was a successful farmer who amassed several hundred acres of land on the upper reaches of Hunting Creek northeast of the present town of Preston. He willed adjacent parcels of land to his four surviving sons Senah, Foster, Zachariah, and Peter. Foster’s share of the land was about 75 acres, part of a tract called Battle Hill.[1]

On 23 Mar 1826, Foster married Sarah Emerson. They had one child, Thomas Foster Willis born 16 Nov 1827. Tragically, Sarah died 15 Dec 1827, most likely from complications of that birth. Foster remarried 12 Jul 1828 to Anna Andrews who lived on adjoining land. Over a period of twenty years, they would have ten children, six of whom reached maturity.

Move to Town

Foster grew to some prominence in the county, but not as a farmer. The 1830 and 1840 censuses list his occupation as “manufacturing & trades” indicating he was a craftsman, although the exact trade is not specified.[2]His craft probably dictated his move from the countryside into a population center providing more access to customers for his services. Foster and Anna sold small pieces of Battle Hill in 1831 and 1832, including one-half acre as the site for the Friendship Methodist Church and a schoolhouse.[3]In 1834, they sold the remaining seventy acres to their neighbor Caleb Bowdle for $250 and bought a house in the town of Federalsburg where five of their children would be born.[4]

In Oct 1829, his elder brother Senah declared insolvency, and under a Deed of Trust Foster took control of all Senah’s assets except his wearing apparel. This was an unusual development, especially since Senah had only four months earlier sold his inherited land for $300 to Caleb Bowdle.[5]We do not know where Senah’s money went.

Foster was appointed Justice of the Peace for Caroline County, serving two terms in 1835 and 1836. However, the next year, he and Anna sold their house and lot in Federalsburg to Steven Andrews, presumably a relative of Anna, and moved to Cambridge in Dorchester County.[6]Deed records do not indicate Foster and Anna purchased property in Cambridge, so they must have rented a home.

Foster last appeared in Maryland records in the 1840 census for Dorchester. That census shows Foster as head of household with his wife and six children.[7]The household also includes a young couple, possibly Foster’s younger brother Peter W. Willis and his wife Susan.  A William P. Flint and his wife Sarah were neighbors of Foster and Anna Willis in the Dorchester 1840 census. Flint owned several lots and houses in Cambridge and in Church Creek. Flint was a likely doctor and quite possibly Foster’s landlord.[8]

Move to Missouri

In 1843, Flint and his wife sold their Cambridge properties. In 1845, they were noted as being “of Buchanan County, Missouri” when they sold the Church Creek land and houses. It is possible that Dr. Flint attended the Willis family and was there at the birth and the death of two Willis children born in 1842 and 1843 in Cambridge. It is further likely that the families migrated together to Missouri in the 1843-1845 timeframe.

In Missouri, Foster Willis applied for and was granted a quarter section of land located a few miles southeast of St. Joseph, Missouri.[9]Not coincidentally, William P. Flint and his wife Sarah owned adjoining land. In 1849, the Willises had their last child, a daughter Sarah E. A. Willis, probably named in part for their friend Sarah Flint. However, tragedy befell the Willis family during this period. Eldest son Thomas Foster Willis died in November 1849, and Foster died in April 1850 without leaving a will.[10]

The widow Anna Willis probably did not outlive her husband by more than a year or two. She appears as head of household in the 1850 census in Buchanan County with real estate valued at $3,000 and personal property of $1,000.[11]However, Anna never appeared in the probate records. She never received any moneys from the estate, leading to the conclusion she passed away during the probate period.

Probate of Foster’s Personal Estate

After Foster died intestate, the court appointed Erasmus F. Dixon administrator of the estate on 3 June 1850. The probate records are extensive, but in many ways unrevealing. The records do not include an inventory of Foster’s personal property. A list of his tools might have defined Foster’s tradecraft. A list of crops in the field, livestock, or farm implements would provide an understanding of his life on the land. Without this detail, we are left to wonder if he maintained his tradecraft. In fact, one wonders if even his tradecraft in Maryland were successful. If it were, why would he move to Missouri and acquire farmland? Did he plan to entirely depend on farming, at which he previously had not shown success? A clue to the answer may be that the 1850 census lists his widow Anna as a farmer, and the 1860 census lists each of his sons as farmers. Whatever Foster’s craft, he did not hand it down to his sons.

Furthermore, the probate record lists about 50 claims against the estate, many of them filings by claimants directly in the county court.[12]However, few claims indicate the basis, such as a note, an account at a store, or a time purchase of equipment or inventory. The few details that are available paint a picture that is fuzzy around the edges.

Take for example the following three items. First, one asset of the estate in 1851 was an “Amount against William P. Flint … $116.34.” Second, Flint filed a demand against the estate in 1853 for $136.00, which the court allowed to offset the estate’s claim. Third, Buchanan County in 1852 had entered its claim against the estate for $138.63 for the unpaid balance of Foster’s quarter section of land. We can conclude from these items that Foster and Flint each signed a bond ensuring payment for the other’s land purchase, and that those two obligations offset in probate. The record also shows Foster still owed money for his land. This makes sense because the sale did not become final until 25 Dec 1850, eight months after Foster had died. The balance due became an obligation of the estate.

The record also shows claims of $120.60 against the estate by a firm named “Donnell, Saxton, and Duvall,” a retail mercantile enterprise. Another firm, “[illegible]tor & Riley,” claimed $137.69. To have $160 debts outstanding to a couple of stores seems excessive. However, Foster died in the Spring. These debts may have been related to farming during the upcoming season, such as the purchase on credit of seed and equipment. Additionally, Foster owed money to numerous individuals. Several individuals claimed amounts ranging from $25 to $80, which may have been personal loans.

In the final analysis, Foster owed a lot of money to a lot of people. His personal property was valued at $991.52 in October 1851 but proved insufficient to satisfy the estate’s debts, resulting in the need to sell some of the estate’s land. In 1854 and 1855, the administrator sold with the court’s permission a total of about 40 acres of land, netting an additional $880 to the estate. Despite that, the final personal estate settlement in April 1855 does not show any residual amount paid to the heirs, nor does it even list the heirs.

In fact, Foster’s widow Anna does not appear in the probate record. Instead, the couple’s eldest surviving son, James R. Willis, filed a $195.00 claim against the estate. We can conclude that Anna died shortly after her husband and that James became head of household at age 20 or 21. Logically, he received money from the estate to support his younger siblings.

Disposition of the Land

By 1860, all the heirs resided outside Buchanan County. Each apparently still owned a share of the remaining family homestead of 118 acres. Even eleven year-old Sarah is listed in the census as owning $900.00 worth of real estate. Five heirs were in three households in Doniphan County, Kansas Territory, just across the river from Buchanan County[13]One heir, Harriett, was with her husband in Andrew County, Missouri, just north of Buchanan.[14]

Sarah Willis’s $900 interest in the land represented one-sixth of its total value in 1860. Therefore, the whole parcel was worth $5,400. Regardless of Foster’s success or failure as a craftsman or farmer, his and Anna’s investment in the land proved a good legacy for their children.[15]

I have not yet located the final sale of the land by the heirs of Foster Willis. However, they likely sold it to a Mr. A. M. Saxton.  An 1877 atlas of Buchanan County shows him as owner of the former Willis land and the quarter section north of it. The atlas states Albe M. Saxton operated a mercantile partnership in St. Joseph with Robert W. Donnell.[16]Foster’s estate owed their firm $130.60 back in 1850. Saxton became extremely wealthy from the store and other ventures, including banking, steamship building, and land holdings of more than 1,000 acres. Saxton not only owned the Willis property but also the Flint lands, since the atlas states he married in 1856 “Mrs. Sarah Emeline Flint originally of Dorchester County, Maryland.”[17]

As the story circles back to a connection with Maryland, it seems like a good place to end this discussion of my great-great-great-uncle Foster Willis.

[1]Caroline County Will Book,Liber JR-C, Folio 465 and subsequent Deeds

[2]Manufacturing and Trades would include cobblers, blacksmiths, silversmiths, wheelwrights, wood carvers, carpenters, cabinetmakers, etc. Other occupation categories in the 1840 census were Mining; Agriculture; Ocean Navigation; Canal, Lake, River Navigation; and Learned Professions & Engineers.

[3]Caroline County Deed Books, Liber Jr-R, Folios 115 and 130.

[4]Caroline County Deed Book Liber JR-S, Folios 340 and 402

[5]Caroline County Deed Book Q: 259.

[6]Caroline County Deed Book T: 524.

[7]The age ranges in the census indicate the children are Thomas F. Willis from Foster’s first marriage, and James R. born 1830, Harriett A. born 1832, Peter M. born 1835, John F. born 1837, and William H. H. born 1840, from the second. Deceased are Foster and Anna’s eldest son John W. born in 1829 and their daughter Louisa born in 1833. The couple had two more sons who died as infants: Charles E. born 1842 and Samuel A. A. born 1843.

[8]Flint’s occupation in the 1840 census for Dorchester County, MD, was “Learned Professions and Engineers.”

[9]The southwest quarter of Section 19, Township 57, Range 34, surveyed at 158 acres priced at $1.25 per acre for a total cost of $198.00. The land transaction completed on 25 Dec 1850.

[10]Thomas F. Willis may have been married. There is no marriage record and no probate record, which argues against there being any heirs at law. However, a Rebecca J. Willis, age 26, appears in the 1860 census in brother James Willis’s household. She is possibly the widow of Thomas, although she would have been age 15 at the time of his death.

[11]Living with Anna, age 44, are James, age 20; Harriett, age 18; Peter, age 15; John, age 13; William, age 11; and Sarah age 1. Sarah, by the way, is listed as Sarah E. H. (sic} A. Willis in a later census. I originally thought she was the daughter of Foster’s deceased son Thomas Foster Willis, who named the child after his mother Sarah Emerson Willis. However, the 1880 Cole County, MO, census of her brother James R. Willis’s household lists her as “Lizie A. Willis, age 31, sister.” She is clearly the child of Foster and Anna, and her full name is likely Sarah Elizabeth Anna Willis.

[12]Volumes A and B, Buchanan County, MO, Probate Records

[13]The Doniphan County, Kansas census shows the following, including the value of their real estate: James R Willis, age 30, $3,000, Married with four children; Peter M. Willis, age 25, $2,500, Single; John F. Willis, age 23, $1,000, Single, residing with the following two: Wm H. H. Willis, age 20, $1,000, Single, and Sarah E. Willis, age 11, $900, Single. Curiously, Peter and Sarah are listed a second time in James’s household.

[14]The Andrew County, Missouri census lists John Speed S. Wilson, age 36, $3,200, and Harriett A. Wilson, age 28, Married with four children.

[15]As a final comment regarding the estate administrator, there is no apparent familial relationship between Erasmus F. Dixon and the Willises. He served as a court appointed administrator for the estates of several unrelated parties. In any event, James R. Willis clearly held him in high regard for his handling of the estate and support of the family. James named his first son Erasmus D. Willis, obviously honoring Mr. Dixon.

[16]Published online by The State Historical Society of Missouri, “An Illustrated Historical Atlas Map of Buchanan County, MO, 1877,” p. 31

[17]The atlas does not state that Mrs. Flint was a widow, but we can presume that to be the case.

Andrew Willis of Washington Co, MD

A researcher contacted me about an Andrew Willis who died in 1823 in Washington County, Maryland. My contact wondered if we could trace Andrew back to the immigrant John Willis who owned “Wantage” in Dorchester County and died in 1712. The answer is no. Revolutionary war pension files, census records, deeds, and probate filings prove that Washington County Andrew is not related to Wantage John.

Washington County Andrew served as a private in the 5th Regiment of the Maryland Line. While in Washington County he was awarded a pension paid from 31 Mar 1818 through his death on 4 Dec 1823. Beginning in 1825, his pension was paid to his wife Lettie Willis from the date of the last payment to Andrew. In an 1820 court appearance related to his pension, Andrew stated he resided in Washington County, that he was 68 years old (thus born in 1752), was impoverished, and that his wife was old and frail. He stated they lived with a son whom he did not identify.[1]

Census records in Washington County support Andrew’s statements in his pension application.

  • Andrew appears in the county for the first time in the 1800 census. That census lists Andrew heading a household with three other males and three females. The census shows that he and his wife were 26-44 years old and with two sons under 10, one son age 10-15, and two daughters under 10.[2]
  • The 1810 census shows Andrew with the same family members, whose ages track almost perfectly from a decade earlier.[3]
  • As expected from his pension application, Andrew is living with a son at the time of the 1820 census. That census lists Edward Willis as a head of household in the county for the first time. His household contains two men age 26-44 and one over 45, and three females … one 15-25, one 26-44 and one over 45.

The older man and woman in the 1820 census are Andrew Willis and his wife Lettie. The two younger men are their sons Edward and Isaac. The youngest female is their daughter Elizabeth. The woman age 26-44 is Isaac’s wife Nancy LNU.

By 1830, the family has disappeared from Washington County. Andrew died in 1823, Edward died in 1825, Lettie died probably between 1825 and 1829, and the surviving family members moved to Ohio.

A second Revolutionary War benefit application proves Isaac Willis as a son of Andrew. Isaac applies in 1850 for bounty land due Andrew for his service in the war. Isaac files from his home in Ohio on behalf of himself and the other the heirs of Andrew Willis.[4]

Deed and probate records prove Edward died with no wife or children and the name of Isaac’s wife and his sisters. In 1812, Edward purchased a small tract of land on Antietam Creek.[5]I suspect that he became head of household at about that time. He died intestate in 1825 with a very small estate.[6]

In 1829, Edward’s heirs at law sold the Antietam Creek land. The participating heirs included Hezekiah Donaldson and his wife Sarah, Nehemiah Hurley and his wife Elizabeth, and Isaac Willis and his wife Nancy.[7]Since Edward died intestate, his estate would go to any existing wife or children. Absent either, his estate would go to his siblings.

Clearly, Sarah Donaldson, Elizabeth Hurley, and Isaac Willis are Edward’s living sisters and brother. Conversely, anyone not included in the deed is not a sibling. That last point is important in eliminating as Edward’s possible siblings two Willis males who lived concurrently in Washington County. William Willis and Levin Willis who appear in census and deed records of the era are not children of Andrew and Lettie Willis. Likewise, an unnamed son of Andrew and Lettie appears with them in the 1800 and 1810 censuses but is absent from the 1820 census of Edward’s household. I conclude this son has died. If alive, he would have participated in the 1829 sale of land with the other siblings.

In sum, the evidence in Washington County proves the following nuclear family:

  • Andrew Willis       b 1752         d 1823
  • His wife:
  • Lettie LNU Willis  b 1756-65    d likely between 1825-29
  • Their children:
  • Edward Willis       b 1785-90    d 1825
  • Isaac Willis           b 1785-90    d after 1850
  • Sarah Willis          b 1791-94    m in 1818 to Hezekiah Donaldson[8]
  • Son FNU Willis     b 1791-99    d before 1820
  • Elizabeth Willis     b 1800         m between 1820-25 to Nehemiah Hurley
  • Their daughter-in-law:
  • Nancy LNU           b est. 1790   m before 1820 to Isaac Willis

We cannot track this group back to Wantage John Willis even though he had two great-grandsons named Andrew, one in Caroline County and one in Dorchester. The ages of the children in Washington County Andrew’s family disprove any connection to either great-grandson.

Caroline County Andrew

One great-grandson Andrew (the son of Isaac Willis, son of John, Jr.) lived in what became Caroline County. With a father named Isaac, this Caroline County Andrew seems a likely candidate to be the same person as Washington County Andrew, who named one of his sons Isaac. Furthermore, Caroline County Andrew appears in the 1790 census in Caroline and disappears from the county before the 1800 census. Could he have moved to Washington County?

Sure. But records argue against that possibility. The 1783 Tax Assessment shows Caroline County Andrew with no land and a household of one male (himself) and three females. That does not fit the nuclear family above where the male children are older than the girls, and where no child was born before 1785. The 1790 census for Caroline County Andrew also records a family inconsistent with the one shown in Washington County and the Caroline County 1783 Tax List. The 1790 census in Caroline lists Andrew’s household with five males age 16 or older, six males under 16, a total of four total females, and one slave. Arguably, the household could balloon from the 1783 to the 1790 level if another family (or two) moved in with Andrew. Regardless, the numbers don’t match the man who appears a decade later in Washington County with a relatively young family and no slave. I think this rules out Caroline County Andrew.

Dorchester County Andrew

The other great-grandson Andrew (son of John, son of Andrew Willis) lived in Dorchester County. One of Dorchester County Andrew’s brothers (Jarvis Willis) served during the Revolution in the same regiment and at the same time as Washington County Andrew, although in a different company. A logical theory is that after the war these two former soldiers left the Eastern Shore together. Dorchester County Andrew and Jarvis appear in the county in the 1783 Tax Assessment. Andrew has 60 acres of land called Fishers Venture with a household of seven people. Jarvis owns no land and has eight people in his household. And voila! Neither Jarvis nor Andrew appears in the 1790 census in Dorchester.

They both appear to be in Stokes County, North Carolina by 1790. That census lists Jarvis Willis with his family of eight, including two males younger than 16 years and five females. Andrew Willis does not appear in that census but shows up on a tax roll in Stokes County in 1791 with 250 acres of land.[9]By 1793, Andrew shows up on the Stokes County list of “insolvents” owing £5.10 in taxes. Often this meant that the party listed had abandoned their land and left the county.[10]It is possible, though highly unlikely, that Dorchester County Andrew had migrated back to Maryland. However, his family does not match the ages of the Washington County clan. Dorchester County Andrew apparently had six children born before 1783, per that year’s Tax Assessment, while Washington County Andrew had none.

Friendship Regulated Andrew

There is a third Andrew related to a Quaker family that lived near Federalsburg. Thomas Willis gifted 87 ½ acres of a tract called Friendship Regulated in Caroline County to his brother Andrew Willis in 1778.[11]The Tax List of 1783 shows Andrew in possession of that land and with a household of five males and five females. Andrew and his wife Sarah sell the land in 1784 to George Hutton of Sussex County, Delaware and do not appear in Caroline County again.[12]

Conclusion

None of the three men named Andrew Willis in Caroline and Dorchester Counties head a family that matches the size and structure of Washington County Andrew. That issue alone argues strongly that Washington County Andrew is not one of these three men. Additionally, the 1850 letter sent on behalf of Isaac Willis seeking bounty land states that Isaac believes his father was from Kent County. There is another Willis family in Kent that is not related to Wantage John. In sum, the evidence does not support any connection between Washington County Andrew and Wantage John.

[1]See Pension File S35141

[2]If born in 1752 per his pension application, the census understates Andrew’s age by four years, which is not a serious discrepancy.

[3]Ages of all family members track to the next appropriate age category except for the youngest daughter who remains at age under 10. I suspect she was an infant in 1800 and is actually 10 years old in 1810.

[4]31 Dec 1850 letter from Bennington & Cowan on behalf of Isaac Willis, online at Fold 3 pension file of Andrew Willis.

[5]Washington County, MD Deed Book Y: 439

[6]Washington County, MD Bond Book C: 427 and Administrative Accounts Book 7: 413. Nehemiah Hurley was administrator, Nehemiah Hurley, Hezekiah Donaldson and Isaac Willis were bonded.

[7]Washington County, MD Deed Book KK: 610

[8]Morrow, Dale W., Marriages of Washington County, Maryland, Volume 1, 1799-1830, Traces: Hagerstown, MD, 1977, D64.

[9]Harvey, Iris Moseley, Stokes County, North Carolina Tax List, 1791, Raleigh, NC, 1998, p 11

[10]Harvey, Iris Moseley, Stokes County, North Carolina Tax List, 1793, Raleigh, NC, 1998, p 43

[11]Deed Book GFA: 269

[12]Deed Book GFA: 777

The Heirs of Joshua Willis Sr. – Proved by Petitions, Patents, Depositions, and Deeds

John Willis bought land on Marshy Creek in 1717 in what became Caroline County, MD. One of his sons Joshua was born about 1720 and died in 1797. Joshua left a 1790 will that has not been located. However, several legal documents … petitions, patents, deeds, and depositions … combine to identify accurately Joshua’s children and provide other details about the family. These records emphasize the need in genealogy to “Follow The Land.”

Joshua acquired during his lifetime several hundred acres of land. He devised all the land he possessed at the time he made his will. Thankfully for us, Joshua did not amend the will to devise the tracts he acquired subsequent to 1790. The tracts not disposed of in the will fell to Joshua’s heirs at law under the law of intestate descent and distribution. This led to petitions, patents, deeds and depositions that identify those heirs. Since the will is lost, those other records relating to two specific tracts of land are the only evidence we have. Luckily, they are all we need.

Willis’s Landing

Joshua acquired land he called Willis’s Landing in two transactions in 1793. On 8 Jan 1793, John Nicolls assigned to Joshua 7½ acres of a 26-acre tract that Nicolls had acquired under a special warrant. Pursuant to a special warrant dated 20 Apr 1793, Joshua surveyed 69 ¾ adjacent acres, and named it Addition to Willis’s Landing. Petitions and subsequent land sales prove that Joshua’s will did not devise these parcels acquired after 1790. Further, his will clearly did not contain a “residuary clause” whereby property not specifically devised or bequeathed would fall to an identified beneficiary. In effect, Joshua’s estate was “intestate” as to this particular land.

Joshua Willis Jr. cited those facts in a petition seeking a patent for the land in the names of the heirs. He showed that his father properly acquired and paid for the tracts and that he died intestate as to those lands, leaving “Elizabeth Everngham, Joshua Willis (your petitioner), Frances Baker, Deborah Lucas, Charles Willis, Peter Willis, Thomas Willis, James Willis, John Willis, Annaretta Fleming, and Mary Willis his only children and heirs at law.” The filing stated that Charles Willis and Thomas Willis had died without issue and that Annaretta also died, leaving Mary Fleming and Robert Fleming her only children and heirs at law. Note that Joshua Sr.’s wife must have predeceased him, otherwise the petition would have named her as an heir.[1]

Joshua Jr. filed this petition on 14 May 1805, and an order issued the same day naming the living heirs. The order called for a patent to be issued to the ten named individuals, with the first eight (the living children of Joshua Sr.) each having an undivided one-ninth interest in the property and Mary Fleming and Robert Fleming to share the remaining ninth.[2]

An earlier deposition also names Joshua’s eleven children and notes that four of the five daughters had married, identifying their husbands:

  • Elizabeth married William Everngham
  • Frances married Charles Baker
  • Deborah married Joshua Lucas
  • Annaretta married Silas Fleming

That deposition also stated that Charles and Thomas Willis had died intestate and without issue, and that Annaretta and Silas Fleming had died leaving children Mary and Robert.[3]

A short aside … Annaretta’s husband made a will dated 1 Feb 1804 naming his brother-in-law Peter Willis executor. This will reveals that Annaretta predeceased Silas because she was not named, as well as the fact that the two Fleming children were minors.[4]

On 17 Jun 1805, the heirs sold Willis’ Landing and recorded the sale in Dorchester County (the tract fell partly in Caroline and partly in Dorchester). The signatories were William Everngham and his wife Elizabeth, Joshua Willis, Frances Baker, Joshua Lucas and his wife Deborah, Peter Willis, and John Willis.[5]

We are missing a few signatories in this list: Frances’ husband Charles Baker; James Willis; the two Fleming children; and Mary Willis. What does this tell us? Likely the following:

  • Frances’s husband Charles Baker must have died before this sale. A husband represented a wife’s interest in legal transactions. Frances would only represent herself if no longer married.
  • James Willis made up for his absence by filing in the Dorchester County Court acknowledging and recording the sale on 9 Dec 1805.[6]
  • Regarding the Fleming minors, we can assume that Peter Willis probably signed on their behalf. I have not found a record of an official guardianship, but the children lived in his household.
  • The mystery is Mary Willis. Where is her signature? I believe that Mary was still a minor at the date of this sale (therefore born after 1784). I find no official guardian appointed, but there is not one for the Fleming children either. The lost will of Joshua Sr. may have designated one of the siblings to be her guardian.

The record related to Willis’s Landing proves the children of Joshua Willis. However, we can learn a bit more by examining the documents surrounding a second tract called Willis’s Luck.

Willis’s Luck

Joshua Sr. acquired 229½ acres he named Willis’s Luck under a special warrant in 1763. He sold 100 acres shortly thereafter, simultaneously buying a small tract named Bank of Pleasure that provided access to Hunting Creek for the larger tract. A 1793 resurvey of his land defined 136½ acres that he called Addition to Willis’s Luck. The resurvey included 25 vacant acres, which turn out to be genealogically significant.

Joshua Sr.’s 1790 will devised Willis’s Luck, Addition to Willis’s Luck, and Bank of Pleasure to his son Charles. Sons Joshua and Peter were contingent beneficiaries and would share the land if Charles died without issue. Several records confirm this provision of the lost will.

  • On 28 Feb 1799, Joshua Jr. sold to Peter Willis 150 acres, part of Bank of Pleasure and part of Addition to Willis’s Luck. The record states this was half the land that fell to them at the death of their brother Charles.[7]
  • On 7 Aug 1804, Joshua Jr. sold to Peter Willis 150 acres, parts of Bank of Pleasure, Willis’s Luck, and Addition to Willis’s Luck. This record recites that the land fell to Joshua by the demise of his brother Charles.[8]

Charles clearly received this land through the will, and when he died without children, Joshua and Peter inherited under the terms of the will. Absent such a contingency provision, the death of Charles would have entitled all his heirs — his siblings — to a share of the land. An 1800 petition confirms those facts but with an interesting twist. The vacant land added through the 1793 resurvey was notcovered by Joshua Sr.’s prior ownership of the tracts. The will could not devise those added acres. Here we go with another petition, since these “intestate” acres descend to Joshua Sr.’s heirs at law.

In 1800, Joshua Willis and Peter Willis petitioned for a patent related to the vacant land. They cited their father’s acquisition and patent history of the tract. They specifically stated their father Joshua made his will in 1790. They stated that the land was devised to their brother Charles and fell to them divided equally should Charles die without issue. Finally, they noted that the vacant land added to the tract in 1793, subsequent to the date of the will, was not covered by the devise of land in that document. The estate was intestate as to that extra 25 acres. They therefore asked that a patent issue for that land in the name of the heirs at law. On 10 Dec 1800, the Chancellor of Maryland ordered the patent issued as requested, which happened on 20 Feb 1801.[9]

Nine years later the heirs sold that small acreage for $87. William Everngam and his wife Elizabeth, Deborah Lucas, Peter Willis, James Willis, John Willis, and Matthew Hardcastle and his wife Mary signed the 25 Jan 1810 deed of sale. The deeds and petition related to Willis’s Luck reveal some details about these people other than just their names:

  • Charles Willis obviously died before the first sale from Joshua Jr. to Peter in February 1799.
  • In the 1810 sale, only six of the nine shares appear to be represented. The three missing shares are as follows:
    • Joshua Willis did not participate in the 1810 sale. Joshua must have died before 1810 and left no issue, or he transferred his interest to one of the other heirs. There is no record of a conveyance from Joshua to an heir or anyone else. Since there is no such record, Joshua must be deceased.
    • Frances Willis Baker did not participate and was likely also dead.
    • The Fleming children did not sign. If alive, they must still be minors and therefore born after 1789. In that case, Peter still represented them.
  • Mary Willis was by then married to Matthew Hardcastle.[10]Her absence as a signatory on the 1805 sale of Willis’s Landing established she was born after 1784. She might have married Hardcastle as early as age 16, which would mean she was born by 1790, when her father wrote his will. I put her likely birth range at 1785-1789.

It would have been nice if Joshua Sr.’s 1790 will survived and had been updated over time to cover all his property. Had that occurred, however, we might not be privy to these additional details about this family. The lesson, as always, is “Follow The Land.

[1]Joshua outlived two wives, Susannah LNU, mother of his first three children, and Deborah Greenhawk whom he married 20 May 1774.

[2]Maryland State Archives Online, Dorchester County Circuit Court, Patented Certificates, MSA_S1196_3662

[3]This deposition by Captain William Haskins states the will was made in 1797. The petition seeking a patent in the name of Joshua’s heirs at law filed in 1800 gives the date as 1790. The earlier date is correct based on the subject matter of the petition, that is, to provide proper title to lands acquired in 1793. If the will were made in 1797, it likely would have devised those lands making the new patent unnecessary.

[4]Keddie, Leslie and Neil, Caroline County, Maryland, Register of Wills, 1800-1806, Liber JR Bi, Transcript& Liber LR C, i,(The Family Tree Bookshop, 2001), 48.

[5]Maryland State Archives online, Dorchester County Land Records, MSA_CE 46-48,(Liber HD No. 23: 181

[6]IdatHD 23:183

[7]Leonard, R. Bernice, Caroline County Maryland Land Records, Volume F, 1797-1799, (St. Michaels, MD: Helen E. Seymour), F:448.

[8]Leonard, Volume I, 1804-1809, I:090.

[9]Maryland State Archives Online, Caroline County Circuit Court, Patented Certificates, MSA_S1192_18.

[10]Marriage records indicate she married in Caroline County on 17 Sep 1806.

Revised – A Surprising Willis – Quaker Connection

Subsequent to the original posting of this article, significant new information came to my attention requiring a substantial rewrite. I have deleted the original and post this revised version in order to clear the record of incorrect information. 

During the 18thand 19thcenturies, several Willis families on the Eastern Shore of Maryland were Quakers. I have long believed that the John Willis family who lived on land called Wantage in Dorchester County was not one of them.[1]The evidence I had found to date supported that conclusion.

For example, Wantage John’s eldest son John, Jr. lived on Marshy Creek in what became Caroline County. Several Quaker Meetings and the Anglican St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish served the region. The Anglican records do not survive, so whether John Jr.’s family attended there is lost to history. On the other hand, numerous Quaker Meeting records of the period exist. John, Jr.’s family does not appear in any of them. Apparently, the family was not Quaker.

The record for Wantage John’s son Andrew is more straightforward. Andrew lived in Dorchester County. Three of his four sons appear in the records of Old Trinity Church near Church Creek at the baptism of several children between 1754 and 1775.[2]No Quaker record names any of these people. This family was clearly Anglican and not Quaker.

The elder John had two other sons, Thomas and William. Thomas lived adjacent John Jr. on Marshy Creek. William inherited Wantage from his father and lived there until moving close to his wife’s family on Hodson’s/Hudson’s Creek in the Neck Region of Dorchester County. Neither of these sons appears in any religious record, Anglican or otherwise. Therefore, no evidence suggests a connection to Quakerism for anyone in the Wantage John family for the first couple of generations. And, there is evidence that one family group was Anglican.

Beyond these first generations, descendants of John of Wantage and related families were prominent in Methodism. Barratt’s Chapel in neighboring Kent County, Delaware was the birthplace of Methodism in America.[3]Lydia Barratt, granddaughter of Philip Barratt who built the chapel in 1780 is the great grandmother of Henry Fisher Willis, a direct descendant of Wantage John. Henry was a significant supporter of the Bethesda Methodist Church in Preston, Caroline County, Maryland, with a stained glass window honoring his service in the late 1800s. Henry’s father Zachariah Willis was a trustee of the Methodist Church whose twin brother Foster gave land for a church in 1831.[4]

I concluded from this data it highly unlikely that any of Wantage John’s descendants belonged to the Society of Friends. In fact, I used membership in the Society as a screening tool to eliminate various Willis lineages as being related to John of Wantage. For example, there is a Quaker Willis line in eastern Dorchester County and in the Federalsburg region of Caroline County.[5]Another Willis line in Talbot and Caroline County attended the Tuckahoe Monthly Meeting. Indeed, many researchers have conflated a Richard Willis in that line, who married Margaret Cox, with a Richard Willis in Wantage John’s line. A third line of Willises who lived in Kent County, Maryland were also Quaker. None of these families are related to John Willis of Wantage at least on this side of the pond.

With a high level of confidence in the religious affiliation of the John Willis family, or at least its lack of affiliation with the Quakers, imagine my surprise when I came across the following entries reportedly from the birth records of the Wilmington Monthly Meeting, New Castle, Delaware.[6]Oops:

  • Richard Willis 24 of 1 mo 1794    Son of Richard Willis and Britanna his wife
  • Ann Willis 2 of 6 mo 1799      Daughter of Do & Do
  • Senah Willis 19 of 4 mo 1802    Son of Do & Do
  • Zachariah Willis and Foster Willis     27 of 12 mo 1804   Sons of Do & Do
  • Peter Willis 21 of 4 mo 1811    Son of Do & Do

The same document contains the following burial records:

  • Richard Willis 27 of 5 mo 1820    in 26thyear
  • Richard Willis 2 mo 14 1823        63rd
  • Britanna Willis 1 mo 2 1826          in the 59th

The listed parents Richard Willis and Britanna (Britannia Goutee) are well known to me, but I had no inkling they were Quakers. Richard, born 8 Aug 1759, is the son of Richard Willis, died 1764, and the great grandson of John of Wantage.  Richard and Britannia, born about 1765, married in Caroline County on 22 Jan 1788.[7]She is descended from John Gootee and Margaret Besson/Beeson, who came to the colony from France with Margaret’s father and became naturalized citizens in 1671.[8]So, have I been wrong all along about this Willis line and Quakerism?

Well, I don’t know. Certainly, I was wrong about Richard and Britannia, however, these seem to be the only Quaker records online for the family … no marriages, no grandchildren’s births, no deaths recorded after Britannia’s in 1826.

This particular record does reveal some other information. First, the record is handwritten … an Index plus a section of Births and one of Burials. However, the cover page is typewritten, stating that it is from the Wilmington Monthly Meeting.[9]An examination of the contents reveals, however, that the cover page is incorrect. The record is actually from the Northwest Fork Meeting in Federalsburg based on the following. For one thing, the record noted that two of the listed people were “Elders in the NW Fork Monthly Meeting.” Additionally, surnames in the record, such as, Charles, Dawson, Kelley, Leverton, Noble, and Wright, are of Quaker families known to have lived near the Northwest Fork of the Nanticoke River. Finally, the record indicates the residence of a few of the listed persons. The record mentions only three counties: Caroline and Dorchester, Maryland, and Sussex, Delaware. Federalsburg is located at the intersection of those counties. Clearly, the record is from that Meeting and not Wilmington.

The second thing apparent from this register is that it is a copy and not the original register. The handwriting is identical throughout, both in the index and the birth and death entries. Had the entries been made at the times the events occurred from 1790 to 1828, the person making the entries surely would have changed from time to time. Therefore, the handwriting would have varied. Furthermore, many entries relating to a single family are grouped together regardless of date. For example, all the Willis birth entries are on a single page.[10]The same is true of some other families. One would expect the original register to be in chronological order with the family names mixed together. Apparently, a clerk prepared a copy of the original register, reorganized and indexed it. Likely, this document was intended for the files of a Quarterly or Yearly Meeting to which the Northwest Fork Meeting was subordinate. That would have been the Southern Quarterly and the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting during the years in question.[11]

One additional Quaker reference to this family is Kenneth Carroll’s Quakerism on the Eastern Shore.That source lists under the Northwest Fork Monthly Meeting the birth of Ann Willis, daughter of Richard and Britannia and the death of Ann Willis “daughter of Richard.”[12]If this is the same Ann, she died unmarried at age 35. Interestingly, Carroll’s work does not include the other data found in the mislabeled Northwest Fork record. Obviously, he did not have access to that register.

In conclusion, it is clear that Richard and Britannia Willis affiliated with the Quakers. Apparently, the Friend’s connection ended with Ann’s death. Possibly she was the motivating factor for the family’s involvement in the sect.

_____________________

[1]John Willis, died 1712, patented a 50-acre tract named Wantage in Dorchester County in 1702.

[2]Palmer, Katherine H., transcribed Baptism Record, Old Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church, Church Creek, MD, (Cambridge, MD), 19, baptisms of son Richard’s children Mary (1754), John (1755), Elizabeth (1758) and Richard (1761); son John’s child Jarvis (1758); son Andrew’s children Keziah (1770) and George (1775).

[3]See www.barrattschapel.org

[4]Caroline County, MD Land Records, Liber JR-R, Folio 115, 29 Oct 1831 deed for ½ acre from Foster Willis and Wife Ann to trustees of the Methodist Church, proved 31 Jan 1832.

[5]Actually, this family were Nicholites, or New Quakers, until that sect reunited with the Quakers in 1798. See Carroll, Kenneth Lane, Joseph Nichols and the Nicholites: A Look at the “New Quakers” of Maryland, Delaware, North and South Carolina (Easton, Maryland: The Easton Publishing Company, 1962), 78, Births of the children of Andrew and Sarah Willis: Andrew, 3 Nov 1774; Mary, 5 Dec 1770; Rhoda, 18 May 1766; Roger, 14 May 1768; and Shadrick, 15 May 1772. Births of children of Thomas and Sina Willis: Anne, 5 Dec 1770; Elic, 1 Feb 1785; Jesse, 15 Feb 1773; Joshua, 15 Dec 1774; Milby, & Aug 1768; Milley, 3 Feb 1784; Thomas, 28 Oct 1776; and William 20 Sep 1771.

[6]Ancestry.com, U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935: Births & Deaths, 1790-1828, Wilmington Monthly Meeting, New Castle, Delaware. Birth records are all at p. 19; Burial records at pp. 7, 8, and 10, respectively.

[7]Cranor, Henry Downes, Marriage Licenses of Caroline County, Maryland, 1744-1815(Philadelphia: Henry Downes Cranor, 1904), 18.

[8]Browne, William Hand, Archives of Maryland v.2, Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly of Maryland, April 1666 – June 1676(Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1884), 270, Naturalization of John Gootee and Margarett Gootee his wife of Dorchester County and Stephen Besson of Dorchester County all born in the Kingdom of France. Act read as being passed by the Assembly at 19 Apr 1671 closing of the session on the General Assembly, which began 27 Mar 1671 in St. Mary’s County.

[9]The typewritten text on the cover page reads, “II Department of Friends’ Records, 302 Arch Street, Phila., PA, Wilmington Monthly Meeting, Del., Births and Deaths, 1790-1828, Births 22 pp.; Deaths 11 pp.; Index 32 pp.”

[10]This record, however, does not include the couple’s two eldest daughters, Rebecca, born 9 Nov 1788, and Dorcas, born between 1790 and 1793.

[11]Jacobsen, Phebe R., Quaker Records in Maryland(Annapolis: The Hall of Records Commission, State of Maryland, 1966), 78, In 1800, by permission of the Southern Quarterly, a Monthly Meeting was established at Northwest Fork, consisting of Marshy Creek [Note: later named Snow Hill and then Preston], Centre, and Northwest Fork Preparative Meetings … When the Separation occurred within the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in 1827, the Southern Quarterly Meeting was simply dissolved by the Orthodox.”

[12]  Carroll, Kenneth Lane, Quakerism on the Eastern Shore(Baltimore: The Maryland Historical Society, Garamond/Pridemark Press, 1970) 255, Ann Willis daughter of Richard and Britana [sic] born 19 Apr 1799; 260, Ann Willis daughter of Richard died 22 Sep 1834.

John Willis’s Parents … A New Look

Previous articles (see links  here  and here) about John Willis who died in 1712 in Dorchester County, Maryland proposed that he was born in Wantage, Berkshire, England. That theory rested on two essential facts. First, Maryland colonists often named property after their former home in Europe. In John’s case, he named his 50-acre tract Wantage. Second, the Berkshire Parish Registers for Wantage include several marriages that might be John’s parents. One of those couples was John Willis and Elizabeth Chapman, who married in Berkshire Parish on 11 Apr 1664.[1]

New Information

One earlier article estimated John’s birth year as 1667-68, although I rounded the year to 1660 in the discussion.[2]Now I have found more precise information on the issue. Specifically, birth and christening records for Berkshire Parish show that John and Elizabeth Willis baptized a son named John on 3 Jan 1668.[3]

That record does not prove that the child born and baptized in 1668 is the same person as John Willis who died in Maryland. Nevertheless, it is significant circumstantial evidence. Importantly, subsequent parish records do not show an adult John Willis in Wantage during the period he likely would have married and had children. That at least suggests that baby John may have left Wantage when grown … perhaps for the colonies. Therefore, as a working hypothesis pending further evidence, John Willis who died in Maryland is now in my tree with a birthdate of 3 Jan 1668 and with parents John Willis and Elizabeth Chapman of Wantage, England.[4]DNA testing provides additional support for this theory. My autosomal test shows several matches with people having the Chapman surname. At least one of these has some connection to English Chapman families.

As with any unproved hypothesis, there are problems with the theory that John, son of John and Elizabeth, is the same person as John of Dorchester County, Maryland. According to the register entry, baby John Willis was baptized on the same day he was born. Most entries in the list show either a date of birth or of christening, but not both on the same date. Immediately baptizing a newborn may indicate the child was ill and not expected to survive. That might have been the situation with baby John. On the other hand, no record exists showing his death.

Children of John Willis d. 1712

The will of John Willis presented for probate in Dorchester County on 24 November 1712 proved four children: sons William and John, and daughters Grace and Elizabeth.[5]Two sons not named in the will are Andrew, proved by probate records, and Thomas, supported by circumstantial evidence. The will does not name a spouse, so we can assume that she predeceased John. Were she alive, he likely would have named her in the will with a life estate in the land or otherwise provided for her care. Further, the will does not use a married surname for either daughter, so probably they were unmarried as of 1712.

The earlier article estimated the birth years of the various children to provide a theoretical picture of the family consistent with known facts. Those estimates now need revision to account for John’s hypothetical birthdate of 3 Jan 1668/69. As mentioned in Footnote 2, son Andrew was born in about 1690, and John Jr. was born at least by 1689. I have used those two dates here. William was born between 1694 and 1700 according to a deposition.[6]I used the earlier date, which would make William 18 years old at his father’s death. Grace was named before Elizabeth in the 1712 will, possibly indicating she was the elder of the two. Since neither was married at the time of John, Sr.’s death, I have estimated birth years that would make them 16 and 14, respectively. The relative ages of Thomas and William are uncertain, but I suspect William was the youngest. Revised birthdates and their ages at 1712 are as follows:

1689 – John            age 23                           1694 – William      age 18

1690 – Andrew     age 22                           1696 – Grace            age 16

1692 – Thomas     age 20                           1698 – Elizabeth    age 14

I welcome any questions or comments about this and other articles. Please contact me at redmarker181969@yahoo.com.

[1]W.P.W. Phillimore, editor, Berkshire Parish Registers, Marriages, Volume 1, (London:Phillimore & Co., 1908), p. 41, John Willis, Junr [?] and Elizabeth Chapman, 11 Apr 1664.

[2]A 1730 deposition established that Andrew, one of John’s sons, was born in 1690, and a 1746 deposition stated that son John, Jr. was the eldest, making him born by at least 1689 to be older than Andrew. If these sons were 22 and 23 years old at the time of John Sr.’s death, a reasonable minimum age for him would be 44 or 45 when he died. In that case, John Sr. would have been born by 1667-68.

[3]Walls, Mary, transcriber, “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” FHL Films Number 88468, 88469, at Ancestry.com, 3 Jan 1668 (Birth and Bap), John Willis, parents John and Elizabeth Willis.

[4]Actually, the year is 1668/69. Until 1752 with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar by England and its colonies, the year began on 25 Mar. Thus, the date of 3 Jan 1668 in the register would be 3 Jan 1669 in the modern calendar.

[5]Cotton and Henry, Calendar of Wills, IV:23. Note that the date given in this source for the submission to probate is 24 Nov 1714. This date conflicts with the date John Willis, Jr., filed a protest to the will (3 Dec 1712) and the dates of activity in the Perogative Court records. I conclude the correct date for submission to probate is 24 Nov 1712. Dorchester County Will Book 14:12.

[6]James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from theLand Records of Dorchester County, Maryland,Volume 10 (Liber Old No. 14, folios 374-741), (Cambridge, MD, 1963), X:74. 14 Old 658, 11 Nov 1746 to 27 May 1752, Commission to perpetuate the bounds of John Harrington’s land called “Rosses Range” and “David Ropies”, and Return. Nine men and women give depositions regarding this land on Hobson’s Creek. Among them are William Willis, age about 52; Judah (Judith) Willis, age about 50; and Mary Seward, age 68.

Westward Ho the Willises

A Willis family moved from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Ohio in the early 1800s. Another moved first to North Carolina then to Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. A third migrated to Missouri. The underlying incentive to migrate was almost always to find cheaper land. But why these places? The chosen destinations pointed to the Land Acts related to the Northwest Territories.

Great Britain ceded millions of acres of land to the United States after the Revolutionary War. Most of the land was west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River, which Congress established as the Northwest Territory in 1787. The territory encompassed all or part of what would become six states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

The government took several steps to entice new settlers to the area. First, it surveyed the area into a standard grid of 640-acre sections. This survey aided the organized pricing and sale of the land to individual settlers or to groups of investors. Next, Congress passed a series of Land Acts providing for land sales. The Territory’s representative to Congress, the future President William Henry Harrison, presented one of the early proposals, which Congress adopted as the Harrison Act of 1800.

The Harrison Act required buyers to purchase at least 320 acres at a price of $2.00 per acre. The buyer had to pay at least half the purchase price at the date of purchase with the balance due in equal annual installments over four years.

The required upfront payment was pretty steep for most settlers. Therefore,  Congress created the Land Act of 1804, which kept the other purchase terms but cut the minimum acreage in half, reducing the upfront payment by 50%. Settlers could better afford this arrangement, and most were able during good economic times to keep up with their payments.

The economy suffered in the late 1810s when peace came to Europe. The warring nations had been a strong market for agricultural production from the United States. That demand disappeared when armies disbanded and returned to their farms in France, Germany, and England. As a result, many farmers in the Northwest Territories could not sell their crops and could not make payments on their loans. Congress responded with the Land Act of 1820 and the Relief Act of 1821. The Relief Act let existing settlers give back land they could no longer afford to finance, and it extended the installment period an additional eight years.

The Land Act of 1820 cut the minimum purchase acreage for new settlers to 80 acres and cut the price to $1.25 per acre. The act required the total cost to be paid at the time of purchase. Settlers found this acceptable as most could afford the $100 minimum purchase under the new act without a time payment plan. The Act also applied to lands in the Missouri Territory.

These government programs helped people from the Eastern Shore acquire property in far away places just as headright incentives helped populate Maryland and other colonies 100 years earlier. Maryland residents also benefited from one of the easiest routes into the lands beyond the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains. The Cumberland Narrows in Maryland’s Allegheny County (not to be confused with the Cumberland Gap near the border of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia) provides the best east to west access in the mountain range for potential settlers from the northern tier of states. Beyond The Narrows, emigrants soon found the Ohio River and a watery highway to the West.

We know that some Willis families took advantage of these purchase opportunities. Foster Willis of Caroline County, Maryland died in Missouri. Tilghman Willis of Dorchester County, Maryland died in Ross County, Ohio. And Shelah Willis, a son of William from Maryland, was probably born in North Carolina, married in Warren County, Ohio, and died in Berrien County, Michigan. We will look in depth at Foster, Tilghman and Shelah Willis at a future date.