Who Was Jarvis Willis

Introduction

The name Jarvis Willis appears only a few times in the 18th century civil records of Dorchester and Caroline Counties, Maryland. In one instance, a 1764 will names a Jarvis Willis as a son of John and Elizabeth Willis.[1] In a second, a 1768 land valuation records where a Jarvis Willis is living.[2] Third, the 1783 Maryland Supply Tax assessment lists a Jarvis Willis in the upper district of Dorchester County heading a household of eight and a Jarvis Willis in Caroline County with a family of four.[3] Fourth, a Jarvis Willis appears as a head of household in the 1790 federal census for Dorchester County.[4] Further, a 1798 deposition proves that one Jarvis Willis was born in 1735 (“Jarvis/35”),[5] while church records establish that another Jarvis Willis was born in 1758 (“Jarvis/58”). The latter was a son of John and Nancy Willis.[6] Finally, the name Jarvis Willis appears several times in records related to Maryland’s role in the Revolutionary War.

It is not immediately apparent how many different men named Jarvis Willis are represented in this handful of records. However, it is clear that at least two men named Jarvis belonged to different generations of the Willis family: Jarvis/35 and Jarvis/58. It is also clear that two different Willis couples had a son named Jarvis: John and Elizabeth, and John and Nancy. To learn more about these men, we need to correlate other information with the records mentioned above.

The Connection to an Original Immigrant

Two of the Willis men named Jarvis were descended from John Willis (“John #1”). John #1 was very likely the original immigrant to the Eastern Shore of Maryland of one ancestral Willis line. John #1 had several proved children, and two of his sons had proved children of their own. One such son is John (“John #2”), whose proved children include a son Jarvis. Consequently, at least one Jarvis Willis is a proved grandson of John #1.

The other son of John #1 having proved descendants was Andrew, who had a son John (“John #3”). Several researchers have suggested that John #3 is the same man as the John Willis who was the father of Jarvis/58. In fact, DNA evidence indicates that Jarvis/58 is descended from John #1. Thus, the notion that Jarvis/58 was a son of John #3 is, on its face, a reasonable theory. The purpose of this paper is to provide documentary proof of that theory. The evidence will also establish some other Willis family relationships.

Specifically, the evidence will show that Jarvis/58 was the great-grandson of John #1 through John#1’s son Andrew and Andrew’s son John #3. Further, the records will establish that Jarvis, son of John #2, was very likely the same man as Jarvis/35, and was, therefore, the uncle of Jarvis/58.

John #1 Was the Father of Andrew Willis

The records establishing that Andrew Willis was a son of John #1 are fairly straightforward, despite the fact that the 1712 will of John #1 failed to name a son Andrew.[7] Records filed during probate of the will at the Perogative Court of Maryland plainly identified Andrew as a son of John #1.[8] Thus, John #1 was clearly the father of Andrew Willis.

Andrew Willis Was the Father of John #3

At this point, the record trail becomes more interesting. Fortunately, records concerning a tract of land called “New Town” (or, “Newtown”) prove that Andrew Willis was the father of John #3. The New Town record trail starts with Andrew Willis, who was born in 1690[9] and died in 1738.[10] Andrew married first Jennet Jones, and they he had four children: sons William, Thomas, and Andrew and daughter Sarah.[11] Jennet had died before April 1728, by which time Andrew had married Rebecca Goostree. By 1733, when Andrew wrote his will, he and Rebecca had four children: sons Richard, George and John and another daughter Sarah. The following transactions concerning New Town, inherited from Rebecca’s father, establish the relationship between Andrew Willis and John #3:

1728 – Richard Goostree devised 100 acres called Newtown to his daughters Elizabeth, wife of Robert Johnson, and Rebecca, wife of Andrew Willis.[12] Thus, Rebecca and Andrew inherited fifty acres of land from her father.

1730 – the Maryland Land Office granted a warrant for forty-five acres called New Town to Andrew Willis. The tract was located in Dorchester County on the west side of Blackwater River, east of Cattail Swamp, and west of Andrew’s dwelling plantation.[13] This appears to be acreage that Andrew added to the fifty acres inherited from Richard Goostree with the combined acreage still known as New Town.

1733 – Andrew Willis devised New Town to his sons Richard and George to be divided equally. Andrew’s will provided if either son died without issue, then the deceased son’s part would go to Andrew’s son John #3.[14]

New Town can, therefore, be tracked from Rebecca’s father, to her husband Andrew Willis, and then to their sons Richard and George, with a contingent right to the land held by their son John #3. Thus, Richard and George each received about forty-seven acres, half the ninety-five acres Andrew held. Subsequent records confirm Richard’s possession of the land. However, the record shows that by 1784 Andrew’s son John #3 held an interest New Town, rather than George. Apparently, George had died without issue, triggering John #3’s contingent right. These records are as follows:

1759 – the Maryland Land Office granted a special warrant to Richard Willis to resurvey New Town. The resurvey certified a total of eighty-seven acres.[15]

1773 – Richard Willis devised Newtown to his daughter Mary Meekins. If she were to die without heirs, the land would descend to Richard’s daughter Sarah.[16]

1782 – Mary (Willis) Meekins sold land, including New Town, to Levin Hughes of Dorchester County.[17]

1784 – John #3 sold his ownership in New Town to Levin Hughes, ending the Willis family’s ownership of any part of the tract.[18]

In short, the Willis family’s transactions involving New Town began in 1728 when Andrew and Rebecca first acquired ownership and ended in 1784 when Andrew’s son John #3 sold the final parcel of the land. Tracking this ownership conclusively proves that Andrew was the father of John #3.

John #3 Was the Father of Jarvis/58

As we already know from church records, a man named John Willis was the father of Jarvis/58. Compelling circumstantial evidence proves the father of Jarvis/58 to be John #3.

The Old Trinity Church Birth Register confirms the birth date of a “Jarvey” (Jarvis) Willis born 6 Dec 1758, son of a John and Nancy (a common nickname for Ann) Willis.[19] The parish records, however, do not directly prove that the John Willis who was named in that register was John #3, i.e., the son of Andrew. Nevertheless, we can reasonably come to that conclusion from other entries in the record. First, the register also contains the record of birth of “John,” another son of John and Ann (Nancy) Willis.[20] Second, the parish record contains names of other Willis parents who were of the same generation as John Willis. During the period 1754-1775, a couple named Richard and Rachel Willis had six children, while a couple named Andrew and Sarah Willis had three.[21] There were, therefore, three Willis men – Richard, Andrew and John — who attended the same church during the same time period. We know from the will of Andrew Willis that he had sons named Richard, Andrew and John. It is reasonable to conclude that these men who attended Old Trinity Church were all sons of Andrew Willis. Consequently, the John Willis named in the church register as father of “Jarvey” was almost certainly John #3.

It follows that Jarvis/58 was a son of John #3, a grandson of Andrew Willis who owned New Town, and a great-grandson of John #1, the original immigrant.

 Additional Relationship

We can also conclude that the Jarvis Willis who was born in 1735 — Jarvis/35 — was the son of John #2 and an uncle of Jarvis/58. Several facts make that likely.

First, we know from his will that John #2 and his second wife Elizabeth had a son named Jarvis.

Second, Jarvis/35 was born at the right time to have been a son of John #2. John #2 would have probably been 45 and 50 years old when Jarvis/35 was born.[22] That age for a new father is not uncommon, especially since Jarvis was a child of his second wife.

Third, the name Jarvis was extremely rare in the Willis line. The instances named at the beginning of this paper are almost the only record of that name in Dorchester and Caroline Counties during a 100-year period. We can safely conclude there were few men with that name.

Fourth, the 1790 federal census shows only one Jarvis Willis in the region, while the 1800 census shows none. That record agrees with the fact that Jarvis/35 lived in the region until at least 1798 when he gave a deposition in Caroline County. Furthermore, as will be shown later, Jarvis/58 had moved to North Carolina by 1790.

Finally, a 1799 estate administration in Caroline County for a Jarvis Willis names a Joshua Willis, Jr., as administrator. John #2 had a son named Joshua, who also had a son Joshua. Thus, the administration records indicate a possible connection to the Willis family that included John #2.[23]

We can reasonably surmise that the Jarvis who died in 1799 was also the Jarvis who was deposed in 1798 at age 63, that is, Jarvis/35. Furthermore, by process of elimination, there are no good candidates other than John #2 to be the father of Jarvis/35. The indirect evidence, therefore, indicates it is highly probable that Jarvis/35 the Jarvis Willis who was the son of John #2. Consequently, we can say with a large degree of assurance that Jarvis/35 was the grandson of John #1, the original immigrant, and that Jarvis/35 was an uncle of Jarvis/58.

 The Military Service of Jarvis Willis – Jarvis/58 or Jarvis/35

One last issue to clarify is the military service of Jarvis Willis. Some researchers have confused the military records of these men. However, analyzing the military records in conjunction with census data clearly distinguish the two. To begin, other researchers indicate that both men served:

Dora Mitchell states that Jarvis Willis (son of John #2, i.e., Jarvis/35) served in the Revolutionary War.[24]

William Hunt states that Jarvis Willis (son of John #3, i.e., Jarvis/58) served in the 1st Carolina [sic] Company … under Capt. Joseph Richardson, citing The History of Caroline County, p. 75.[25]

The History of Caroline County states the company in which Jarvis Willis served was one of seven formed by various counties in Maryland during the period July to September 1776. These units were designated as part of the “Flying Camp,” a militia regiment from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware tasked with operating from Maryland to New York. In that role, the Caroline County contingent fought in the Battle of Harlem Heights. The soldiers were then discharged according to their enlistment terms on 1 Dec 1776 after only a few months service.[26]

Background

A little background is helpful in understanding the various military records of Maryland. Initially, the state organized militia companies from each county. These were generally “Minute Men,” called to duty for defense of their local area. Subsequently, the states abandoned the Minute Man concept, opting for organized militia committed to larger operations and centralized control, i.e., the Flying Camp. While the Flying Camp was an improvement over previous organizations, the limited enlistment term of just a few months significantly hindered its effectiveness. Finally, the Continental Congress determined that the war effort required a standing army with longer-term enlistments. Thus, Congress directed each state to organize and field a certain number of battalions. Each county in a state supplied one or more companies depending on the size of the county. In addition to these actions, Maryland required men age 18 and older to sign an oath of fidelity. That endeavor not only induced a pledge of loyalty to the state, but also provided a list of potential future recruits for the war effort.

Appearance of Jarvis Willis(es)

The records generated by these activities provide information about many of the men in the region, including both Jarvis Willis/35 and Jarvis/58. The name Jarvis Willis first appears in Joseph Richardson’s company of militia assigned to the Flying Camp. Thomas Wynn Loockerman enrolled a Jarvis Willis in that company by at least 17 Jul 1776.[27]

Second, that name appears twice in companies of militia organized by 13 Aug 1777 in Caroline County as part of the 14th Battalion. Company Captain Joseph Richardson enlisted one Jarvis Willis.[28] At the same time, Captain Joseph Douglass enlisted a second Jarvis Willis in a different company.[29]

Also, the name Jarvis Willis appears three times in the 1778 loyalty oaths of Caroline County. The evidence suggests those three occurrences represent two different men. Various officials in the county collected signatures of men who swore allegiance to the state. The Constable for each political district, or “Hundred,” then combined the names collected by these officials into a consolidated list and submitted it to the county court. Charles Dickinson, Justice of Caroline County, prepared one document indicating that a Jarvis Willis signed the oath with his mark (signifying he could not read or write).[30] On 28 Feb 1778, Thomas Wynn Loockerman, Constable of Great Choptank Hundred, a district in the southwest part of Caroline County, submitted to the court a consolidated list for the Hundred, incorporating names collected by others including Dickinson.

The name Jarvis Willis appears twice on Loockerman’s consolidated list, with one occurrence presumably coming from Dickinson, and the second occurrence indicating another Jarvis Willis. That second instance provides an additional piece of information. That listing indicates Jarvis Willis lived in Forke Hundred, a district neighboring Great Choptank to the east.[31] Thus, the record establishes two men named Jarvis Willis: one who lived in Choptank Hundred of Caroline County, and the other who lived in Forke Hundred. One researcher from Caroline County states that “Jarvis Willis (Forke)” was Jarvis Willis, son of John #2.[32] Meanwhile, the name Jarvis Willis does not appear on any loyalty oath list from Dorchester County. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the Caroline County list contains the names of both Jarvis/35 and Jarvis/58.

In addition, the name Jarvis Willis appears on the Muster Rolls as a corporal in Williams’ battalion, having enlisted 17 Feb 1777 and serving until discharged 14 Feb 1780.[33] This unit was part of the Maryland Continental Line. Significantly, only one Jarvis Willis appears in that record. It is logical to conclude that this man was Jarvis/58 rather than Jarvis/35. While both men would have signed loyalty oaths and likely served in the local militia, when the state began recruiting for the Maryland Line it would have sought soldiers the age of Jarvis/58, not Jarvis/35.

Federal Pension Records

Finally, only one Jarvis Willis appears in the Federal pension rolls. He can be clearly identified as Jarvis/58 and as the corporal who served in the Maryland Continental Line. In that regard, the first pensions were only for veterans disabled during the war and unable to earn a living. Neither Jarvis/35 nor Jarvis/58 qualified under that criteria. Congress loosened the criteria in 1818, but by that time Jarvis/35 had died. However, Jarvis/58 was able to apply under the 1818 act, and is, therefore, the man who appears in the record. His pension application indicates the following:

Jarvis Willis (#S39128) of the Maryland Line applied for a pension 24 Nov 1823 in Franklin County, TN, at age 60. In 1837, he had moved to Alabama because his children had moved there (his P.O. address was Moulton, AL).[34]

There is an age discrepancy in this application. The 60-year age Jarvis gave at the time he applied is not correct. That age indicates he was born in 1763 not 1758. A five-year error in estimated age is not terribly significant. However, the error was perpetuated in the Pension Roll of 1835. That listing shows the following:

Jarvis Willis, Corporal, was entitled to $96.00 per year and had collected thus far $1,050.93. He served in the Maryland Continental Line. He was placed on the Pension Roll on 9 Jun 1824, and his pension commenced 25 Nov 1823. It states his age as 71.[35]

The information for this publication was gathered in 1834. Therefore, a stated age of 71 would again indicate Jarvis Willis was born in 1763 not 1758. Despite the age discrepancy, I am convinced that Jarvis/58 is the Jarvis Willis who appears in the Muster Rolls and the Pension Rolls.

Federal census data provide further proof that the man in the pension records is Jarvis/58. Those data confirm that a Jarvis Willis lived in the places mentioned in the pension records, and also that he was inconsistent in estimating his age. Researchers have identified him in the census at the following locations: Stokes County, NC, in 1790 and 1800; Franklin County, TN, in 1820; and Lawrence County, AL, in 1840 and 1850. The birth years indicated in those census data range from 1750 to 1765. Regardless of the birth year discrepancy, it is clear from the record that this pensioner was the Jarvis Willis born in 1758 who served in the Maryland Continental Line.

Unanswered Questions

A few questions not answered in this analysis are as follows:

  1. Why did Jarvis/58 join a Caroline County militia company? I thought at age 17 he would still be living at home with John #3 in Dorchester County. That county, of course, fielded its own company of soldiers for the Flying Camp under Captain Thomas Burk[36] and for the subsequently organized Maryland Line. Why did he not join Captain Burk’s company?
  2. Or, am I mistaken that John #3 and Jarvis/58 resided in Dorchester at this time? Even though John #3 held an interest in New Town until 1784, he certainly could have lived elsewhere, possibly in neighboring Caroline County.
  3. In that regard, Jarvis/58 and his brother John (born 1762) were the only births John #3 and Nancy/Ann recorded at the Old Trinity Church in Dorchester Parish. Is this a sign that the couple had no additional children, or moved away after 1762, or just stopped going to church?
  4. And what about Jarvis/58’s age as a corporal? During his years of service, 1777-1780, he would have been only 19 to 22 years old. I thought that more mature men held these noncommissioned officer ranks.
  5. Finally, is there a third, younger, Jarvis Willis indicated in the 1790 Federal Census for Dorchester County, or does Jarvis/35 head that household? In 1790, Jarvis/35 may have been living in Caroline County with someone else or, maybe, the census taker missed him. After all, the deposition Jarvis/35 gave in 1798 indicates he a resident of Caroline County not Dorchester. If there is a third Jarvis Willis, how is he related to Jarvis/35 and Jarvis/58?

These questions will just have to wait.

[1] Jane Baldwin Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, (Baltimore: Kohn and Pollock, 1904, reprinted Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1988), XIII:58. Will of John Willis proved 23 Jan 1764. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 33:27

[2] James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, (Cambridge, MD, 1964), XIX:21. Report recorded 26 Nov 1768 stated Jarvis Willis was living on land called Richardson’s Choice owned by Peter Edmondson. Dorchester County, MD, Deed Book 23 Old 184.

[3] 1783 Maryland Supply Tax, http://www.mdssar.org/membership/marylandtaxlists, Dorchester County Upper District, p. 21, and Caroline County, p. 58. Neither is shown as owning land. Presumably, each lived on rented land, possibly rented from a relative.

[4] Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790, Maryland, (Washington, DC: GPO, 1908, reprinted Bountiful, UT: AGLL, Inc., 1977), 57.

[5] Irma Harper, Heirs and Legatees of Caroline County, (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1989), 20. Deposition of Jarvis Willis given at age 63 in 1798. Caroline County, MD, Deed Book B:105.

[6] Katherine H. Palmer, Birth Register of Old Trinity Church, Protestant Episcopal, Dorchester Parish, Church Creek, MD, 19.

[7] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, IV:23. Will of John Willis dated 18 Sep 1712, proved 24 Nov 1712, naming sons William and John (John #2) and daughters Grace and Eliza. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 14:12.

[8] V.L. Skinner, Jr., Abstracts of the Inventories and Accounts of the Perogative Court (Westminster, MD, Family Line Publications, 1994), X:33. June 1714 inventory of John Willis of Dorchester County named Andrew as John’s son. Liber 36A:203.

[9] McAllister, Land Records, V:145. 1730 deposition of Andrew Willis, age 40. Dorchester County, MD, Deed Book 8 Old 404.

[10] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, VII:259. Will of Andrew Willis dated 24 May 1733, proved 23 August 1738. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 21:918.

[11] Id. at 259.

[12] Id. at 80. Will of Richard Goostree dated 30 Apr 1728, proved 12 Nov 1728. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 19:501.

[13] FHL Film No. 13086, Maryland Land Office Records of Warrants, Surveys and Patents, Book EI 2:164.

[14] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, VII:259.

[15] FHL Film No. 13102, Maryland Land Office Records of Warrants, Surveys and Patents, Book BC 14:350. On 23 Mar 1759, the Maryland Land Office granted a special warrant to Richard Willis of Dorchester County to resurvey New Town. The resurvey certified 39 original acres and 48 acres of vacant land for a total of 87 acres in Dorchester County on the west side of Blackwater River, east of Cattail Swamp and west of Willis’s plantation.

[16] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, XV:141. Will of Richard Willace dated 4 Jun 1772, proved 13 Oct 1773, devised a tract called Newtown to daughter Mary Meekins, but if she died without heirs, then to daughter Sarah. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 39:692.

[17] McAllister, Land Records, XXVI:11. On 25 Sep 1782, Mary Meekins, widow of Benjamin Meekins, sold to Levin Hughes 87 acres on Blackwater River at Cattail Swamp, and all lands devised to her by her father Richard Willis. Dorchester County Deed Book 2 NH 88.

[18] Id. at 60. On 13 Oct 1784, John Willis sold to Levin Hughes land on west side of Blackwater River, east side of Cattail Swamp, called New Town, devised to John Willis by his father Andrew Willis. Dorchester County Deed Book 2 NH 546.

[19] Katherine H, Palmer, Birth Register of Old Trinity Church, Protestant Episcopal, Dorchester Parish, Church Creek, MD, 19.

[20] F. Edward Wright, Maryland Eastern Shore Vital Records, 1751-1775, (Silver Springs, MD: Family Line Publications, 1984). John Willis was born 21 Apr 1762, 34.

[21] Id. at 33-39.

[22] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, IV:23. John #2, named in the will of John #1, was the eldest son. He was, therefore, born before 1690, the birth year of his brother Andrew.

[23] Sandra Willis, Caroline County Original Inventories, Box 9450 (1792-1799), http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mdwillis/CCInventory.htm Inventory filed 26 Jun 1799 in the estate of Jarvis Willis mentions the following: Joshua Willis, Jr., administrator; next of kin, Ann Trice, John Carrol; creditor, Peter Willis. Note: Sandra Willis collected data directly from the Maryland Archives and posted it on her website prior to her death in 2007.

[24] Dora W. Mitchell, A History of the Preston Area in Lower Caroline County, Maryland, (Caroline County Historical Society, Inc., 2005), 123.

[25] William P. Hunt, “A Documentary History of One Branch of the Willis Family of the State of Maryland, c.1680-c.1805,” (New York: Copyrighted as an Unpublished Manuscript, 1975), 2.

[26] Caroline County School Teachers and Students, The History of Caroline County, (Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company, 1971), 70-75.

[27] Maryland Archives, Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, 1775-1783, (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1900, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1972), XVIII:69.

[28] S. Eugene Clements and F. Edward Wright, Maryland Militia in the Revolutionary War, (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1987), 154.

[29] Id. at 156.

[30] Bettie Sterling Carothers, 1778 Census of Maryland, (Chesterfield, MD), 1.

[31] Id. at 6.

[32] Mitchell, History of Preston, 123.

[33] Maryland Muster Rolls, 254.

[34] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume 3: N-Z, (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Company, 1992), 3876.

[35] United States Senate, Pension Roll of 1835, (Washington, DC: GPO, 1835, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1992), III:543.

[36] Maryland Muster Rolls, 70.