Appendix to The John Willis Family and The Maryland Supply Tax of 1783

An abbreviated descendant chart for John Willis of Wantage with highlighted names of people and tracts of interest. This Appendix supplements the narrative article “The John Willis Family and The Maryland Supply Tax of 1783,” which is located immediately below this posting:

 

….. 1 John Willis b: Bef. 1660, Wantage, Berkshire, England, d: Nov 1712 in Dorchester Co, MD (patented Wantage in 1702)

……….. 2 John Willis, Jr. b: Abt. 1683 in Dorchester Co, MD, d: Bef. May 1765 (1717 land on Marshy Creek, Willis Regulation)

……….. + Mary Unknown d: Bef. 1731, m: Abt. 1702

…………….. 3 John Willis b: Abt. 1703 (25 Old 26), d: likely Bef. 1783

…………….. 3 Mary Willis

…………….. + Unknown Clift (Poss. Joseph or Mark)

…………….. 3 Judeath Willis

…………….. 3 Elizabeth Willis

…………….. + Unknown Killingsworth

…………….. 3 Isaac Willis d: Abt. May 1789 (Letters Admin to Henry & Joshua Willis)

………………….. 4 Henry Willis b: Bef. 1760 (“of Isaac” in Loyalty Oath 1778)

………………….. 4 Andrew Willis b: Bet. 1761-1767 (“of Ic” in 1783 Supply Tax)

…………….. 3 Richard Willis b: Abt. 1718 (15 Old 452), d: 1764 in Dorchester Co., MD

…………….. + Rebecca Granger d: Aft. 14 Aug 1771

………………….. 4 Richard Willis, Jr. b: 08 Aug 1759 in Dorchester Co., MD, d: 14 Feb 1823 in Caroline Co., MD (Sarah’s Delight, New Foundland)

………………….. + Britannia Gootee b: Abt. 1765 in Dorchester Co., MD, d: 03 Jan 1826 in Caroline Co., MD, m: 22 Jan 1788 in Caroline Co., MD

………………….. 4 Mary Willis

………………….. 4 Thomas Willis d: 1795 in Caroline County, MD (Perry’s Delight, New Land)

………………….. + Elizabeth Perry

………………….. 4 Joshua Willis b: Abt. 1765, d: Bet. 1793-1805 (Good Luck, New Land)

………………….. 4 Robert Willis d: 1804 in Caroline County, MD (Perry’s Discovery)

………………….. + Sarah Rumbold b: 31 Oct 1757, m: 08 Nov 1774 Dorchester Co., MD

…………….. 3 Joshua Willis b: Abt. 1720, d: Abt. 1797 (First Constable Caroline Co.) (Painter’s Range, Bank of Pleasure, Willis’s Right)

…………….. + Susannah Unknown poss. Richardson d: Bef. 1774

………………….. 4 Elizabeth Willis b: Abt. 1762

………………….. + William Everngham m: 1786

………………….. 4 Joshua Willis b: Abt. 1763

………………….. + Elizabeth Wright m: 02 Sep 1799

………………….. 4 Frances Willis b: Abt. 1767

………………….. + Charles Baker d: Bef. 1805 in 23 HD 181, m: 1785

…………….. +Deborah Greenhawk m: 1774

………………….. 4 Deborah Willis

………………….. + Joshua Lucas m: 1789

………………….. 4 Charles Willis b: Abt. 1776, d: Bef. 1801

………………….. 4 Peter Willis b: Abt. 1777, d: 03 Oct 1834

………………….. + Elizabeth Holmes m: 1798

………………….. 4 Thomas Willis b: Abt. 1778, d: Bef. 1801

………………….. 4 James Willis b: Abt. 1779

………………….. 4 John Willis b: Abt. 1780

………………….. 4 Annaretta Willis b: Abt. 1781

………………….. + Unknown Fleming

………………….. 4 Mary Willis b: Abt. 1783

…………….. 3 Dorcas Willis

…………….. + Benjamin Nicols

……….. + Elizabeth Sharp d: Aft. Nov 1768, m: 1730

…………….. 3 John Willis III b: 1731, d: Abt. Nov 1794 (inherited Willis Regulation)

…………….. + Keziah Unknown d: Aft. Nov 1794

………………….. 4 Philemon Willis b: 1764, d: 05 Mar 1836 in Talbot Co., MD

………………….. 4 John Willis

………………….. 4 William Willis

………………….. 4 Lewis Willis

………………….. 4 Sarah Willis

………………….. + John Nabb

………………….. 4 Nicholas Willis b: Aft. 1771

………………….. 4 Henry Willis b: Aft. 1771

…………….. 3 Gernay “Jarvis” Willis b: 1735, d: 1799

……….. 2 Grace Willis b: Abt. 1685, d: Aft. 1722

……….. 2 Elizabeth Willis b: Abt. 1688

……….. 2 Andrew Willis b: 1690, d: 1738 in Dorchester Co., MD

……….. + Jennet Jones d: Bef. Apr 1728

…………….. 3 William Willis b: 1717, d: 1782

…………….. + Unknown poss. Elizabeth Hill

………………….. 4 Elizabeth Willis b: Abt. 1736, d: 1793

………………….. + James Buchanan b: 1737, d: 1805

………………….. 4 William Willis b: Abt. 1740, d: 1793

………………….. 4 Jacob Willis b: Abt. 1742, d: 1782

………………….. + Elizabeth Nancy Eaves b: 1756, d: 1782

…………….. 3 Thomas Willis b: 1715, d: 1751

…………….. + Rachel Bullock d: 1757

…………….. 3 Andrew Willis b: 1719, d: 1778

…………….. + Sarah Hill b: 1720

………………….. 4 Andrew Willis b: 12 Feb 1768 in Dorchester Co., MD (Fisher’s Venture)

………………….. 4 Keziah Willis b: 12 Oct 1770 in Dorchester Co., MD

………………….. 4 George Willis b: 03 Dec 1775

………………….. 4 Mary Willis

…………….. 3 Sarah Willis b: 1721

……….. + Rebecca Goostree b: 1697, d: 1746 (inherited land that became New Town)

…………….. 3 Richard Willis b: 1721, d: 1773 (inherited New Town)

…………….. + Rachel Possibly Pritchett

………………….. 4 Mary Willis b: 17 Feb 1754 in Dorchester Co., MD (inherited New Town)

………………….. + Benjamin Meekins b: 03 Oct 1747 in Dorchester Co., Maryland, d: Bef. Sep 1782

………………….. 4 John Willis b: 03 Jan 1755

………………….. 4 Elizabeth Willis b: 08 Dec 1755 in Dorchester Co., MD (inherited Buttons Chance)

………………….. + possibly Budd Shinton (owner of Buttons Chance in 1783)

………………….. 4 Richard Willis b: 20 Mar 1761 in Dorchester Co., MD

………………….. 4 Sarah Willis

…………….. 3 George Willis b: 1723, d: Bef. 1784 without issue

…………….. 3 John Willis b: 1725, d: Aft. 1784 (inherited New Town through George)

…………….. + Ann/Nancy Unknown

………………….. 4 Jarvis Willis b: 06 Dec 1758 in Dorchester Co., MD, d: 1852 in Lawrence, AL

………………….. 4 John Willis b: 21 Apr 1762 in Dorchester Co., MD

……….. 2 Thomas Willis b: Abt. 1692, d: 1722

……….. 2 William Willis b: Bet. 1694-1700, d: Aft. 1746 (inherited Wantage)

……….. + Judith Seward/Soward b: Bet. 1696-1702, d: Aft. 1746

…………….. 3 Thomas Willis b: Abt. 1714, d: Aft. 1784

 

 

The John Willis Family and the Maryland Supply Tax of 1783

A friend recently pointed me toward a great resource, the Maryland Supply Tax of 1783. The Continental Congress periodically levied a tax on each state to pay for soldiers’ salaries and supplies during the Revolutionary War. Many of the Maryland records of the 1783 tax survive and are preserved in the Maryland State Archives (MSA). Best of all, the records are available online so you can review them from home.

MSA published an index of the records for some counties at: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/stagser/s1400/s1437/html/ssi1437e.html

Most importantly, the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (MDSSAR) scanned the surviving records and posted them on their website at: https://www.mdssar.org/membership/marylandtaxlists

Like most tax records of the era, these contain a wealth of information about the property owners. The records list all heads of household along with details such as land holdings, names of the tracts, numbers of slaves by age and gender, numbers of horses and cattle, the value of each asset and the total tax assessed. Some jurisdictions also describe the real property as to location, condition of the soil, and improvements. Additionally, the lists show the number of white inhabitants for each household, sometimes divided by gender. Males without taxable property between the ages of 18 and 50 were listed and assessed a default tax of 15 shillings. Paupers were listed as such and assessed no tax.

I recommend beginning at the searchable MSA index to identify the pages and tax district where a person of interest or a named tract of land is listed. Then logon to the MDSSAR site and scroll to the proper location. The scanned records are alphabetical within each tax district, making the site easy to use. I was pleased to find my family, the descendants of John Willis, listed here.[1]

The John Willis Family

In 1702, the John Willis who settled in Dorchester County patented 50 acres of land named Wantage located on the Little Blackwater River about three or four miles from Cambridge. John had four sons: John Jr., Thomas, Andrew, and William. We know from county land records the following information:

John, Jr. bought land in 1717 on Marshy Creek in what would become Caroline County. John’s land became known as Willis’s Regulation and stayed in the family for several generations.

Thomas purchased land on Marshy Creek adjoining John’s tract. However, he died without issue.

Andrew ultimately lived in Dorchester County on his second wife’s inherited land located west of the main Blackwater River. He expanded his holdings with a patent called New Town in 1730.

William inherited Wantage from his father John, Sr. in 1712 and lived there until 1734 when he sold to William Soward, one of his wife’s brothers.

Sons John, Jr. and Andrew, Sr. had proven children. Son William had one likely son Thomas, who does not appear in the records. The Caroline County assessment lists the following sons of John, Jr.: Joshua, John III, and Jarvis; and his grandsons Henry, Andrew, Richard, Thomas, Joshua, and Robert. The Dorchester County assessment lists three grandsons of Andrew, Jr.: Andrew, John, and Jarvis.[2] That list also shows William Soward as the owner of Wantage, the Willis family’s original tract, and Levin Hughes as the owner of New Town, previously owned by Andrew’s family. Let’s turn to the detail within each county’s assessment.

Caroline County Assessment

The 1783 assessment divided Caroline County into three districts – Upper Choptank, River, and Lower Choptank Districts.[3] All the sons and grandsons of John Willis, Jr. listed on the 1783 rolls are in Lower Choptank. There are other Willis families in the county not related to the John Willis of Marshy Creek. Those Willis groups can be identified and distinguished generally by their lands.[4] Here is what the record reveals about each Willis related to John, Jr., grouped by family:

Isaac Willis, son of John, Jr., was alive until 1789 when Letters of Administration issued on his estate. However, he is not listed in the 1783 tax assessment. We can conclude he did not own land and was too old to be otherwise listed. Therefore, he was exempt from taxation. Neither of his sons owned land either.

Henry Willis, listed as “of Isaac” in the 1778 Loyalty Oath records, is shown in the tax assessment. He does not own land and heads a household consisting of one male and two females. His property including 3 horses and 3 cattle are valued at £30.

Andrew Willis, listed as “of Ic” in the 1783 tax assessment, is shown with no land and a family of one male and three females. His personal property is assessed at £10.

Apparently, these Willis men worked land owned by others, possibly relatives. As seen below, many in the family owned significant acreage.

Richard Willis, son of John, Jr., died in 1764. His four sons listed below owned 1,000 acres of land and total property valued at £727.

Richard Willis, son of Richard, Sr., owned 200 acres called Sarah’s Delight, Addition to Sarah’s Delight and Newfound Land. Only 20 acres was cleared while the rest was forested. Richard lived alone in 1783, however he had a female slave age 14-36 and two older slaves. He did not marry until five years later. His property was assessed at £185.

Thomas Willis, son of Richard, Sr., owned 400 acres being part of Perry’s Delight and part of New Land, 100 acres of which was under cultivation. He owned one slave and 5 cattle. His household apparently consisted of just him and his wife (known from other sources to be Elizabeth Perry). Thomas was one of the more prosperous young men in the region with property valued at £260.

Joshua Willis, Jr., son of Richard, Sr., owned 200 acres named Good Luck and part of New Land adjoining his brother Thomas. The improvements on his land were noted as “Bad,” presumably in need of repair. He owned one slave and 22 cattle with a total property value of £190. He headed a household of two males and four females.

Robert Willis, son of Richard, Sr., owned 200 acres of land, which was part of Perry’s Discovery. The improvements on his land were also noted at “Bad.” His household consisted of three males and three females. Robert’s property was valued at £92.

Joshua Willis, son of John, Jr., owned 464 acres called Painters Range, Bank of Pleasure and Willis’s Luck. Acreage under cultivation totaled 180 acres and property improvements were listed as “Good.” Joshua owned ten slaves, three of them males ages 14-45. He also had seven white males in his household, which explains his ability to farm so much acreage. He had 23 cattle and nine horses. His property assessed at £676, clearly the wealthiest individual Willis on the list. His total household was seven males and five females.

John Willis III, son of John, Jr. and his second wife Elizabeth Sharp, owned 163 acres called Addition to Willis’s Regulation. This land combined the original tract on Marshy Creek purchased by John Willis, Jr. with other patents and resurveys. John III inherited the land under his father’s 1764 will after the death of his mother Elizabeth. Improvements on the land were in Bad condition, but 100 acres were under cultivation. John had four slaves, five horses and 11 cattle, and headed a household of seven males and two females. His property value totaled £192.

Jarvis Willis, son of John, Jr. and his second wife Elizabeth Sharp, did not own land. He headed a household of one male and three females and had property assessed at £10.

The Willis families descended from John, Jr. owned 1,627 acres and total property valued at £2,105 – quite impressive for a group that began from the humble beginnings of John Willis of Wantage. Sadly, the record also shows that among their “property” were nineteen human beings. Their aggregate white households totaled 24 males and 23 females.[5]

Dorchester County Assessment

The Willis families in Dorchester related to John Willis of Wantage were descended from John’s son Andrew. This branch of the family was not as successful in the state of Maryland as the John Jr. branch. Many of them migrated to the mainland, seeking improved fortune in Virginia, North Carolina and other places. The descendants who remained did not have significant property. The Willises or the lands related to the Willises are scattered among Dorchester County’s three districts – Upper, Middle, and Lower.[6]

Andrew Willis, Jr., son of Andrew, Sr., is not listed because he died in 1778.

Andrew Willis, son of Andrew, Jr., owned 60 acres called Fisher’s Venture located near Staplefort’s Creek in the Lower District. Cleared acreage amounted to 8 acres. Andrew had eight cattle and a total property value of £71. His household included seven people total. Dorchester County records do not indicate gender of the white household members.

Richard Willis, son of Andrew, Sr., is not listed because he died in 1773. He had inherited in 1738 half of land called New Town from his father. Richard willed his half of New Town to his daughter Mary, wife of Benjamin Meekins. Richard willed other land he owned called Buttons Chance to his daughter Elizabeth.

After her husband died, Mary Willis Meekins, daughter of Richard, sold her share of New Town to Levin Hughes in 1782. Therefore, she is not listed.

Elizabeth Willis, daughter of Richard who inherited Buttons Chance, is not listed as its owner. Instead, a Budd Shinton is shown as the owner of 27 acres called Buttons Chance in 1783. I found no purchase of Buttons Chance by Shinton. It is possible that he married Elizabeth Willis. He owned two other tracts: 54 acres being part of Johns Delight plus 93 ½ acres unnamed.

John Willis, son of Richard, is listed as a pauper with no assets yet a household of eight people. There are three Johns who could be this pauper. One is John, mentioned below, who inherited and sold part of New Town. He was not likely to be without assets in 1783. John who inherited New Town also had a son John, but he was too young to have a household of eight people. Therefore, I eliminated both of these men leaving the listed pauper as John, son of Richard.

John Willis, son of Andrew, Sr., is not listed. He inherited the other half of New Town from his father through the demise of his brother George. Andrew’s 1738 will gave New Town to sons Richard and George with their share to fall to son John should either die without issue. George apparently died without children because John sold half of New Town to Levin Hughes at some time before the 1783 assessment. That sale was recorded in 1784. I surmise that John had moved away before 1783. Levin Hughes is therefore listed as the owner of 85 acres called Addition to New Town in the Lower District of Dorchester.

Jarvis Willis, son of John, is listed in the Upper District without any land. He has two horses and five cattle and total property valued at £23. He headed a household of eight people.

The last land of interest to the Willis family is the original 50-acre tract called Wantage. John of Wantage willed it to his son William. William and his wife Judith sold it in 1734 to William Soward, one of her brothers. The 1783 tax list shows William Soward as owning 50 acres being part of Bridge North and 50 acres called Wanton [sic Wantage] both in the Middle District of Dorchester. Improvements on the property included an old frame dwelling, two logged houses and an orchard.

One possible disparity in the record is that the lands are stated as situated on the Little Choptank. That is certainly true of Bridge North, which is located in the neck region of Dorchester on Hudson’s Creek. However, Wantage is located near the Great Choptank River which might be in the Upper District. The custom of the day was that property owners rendered their own property, sending a notice to the tax assessors of the tally of acreage and other taxable property. William Soward likely lived in the Middle District on Bridge North, property long held by his family. I suspect as a matter of convenience, Soward rendered both properties to the Middle District commissioners rather than making separate submissions to the Middle and Upper District. In any event, I am confident the property in question was the original Wantage.

I highly recommend everyone take a look at the data available in these records. They help form a better picture of the life and circumstances of folks who lived so long ago.

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[1]Note: The Willis surnames in Caroline County appeared in the MSA Index but were missing on the MDSSAR site. However, knowing where they should be from the index, I requested and got copies of those pages from the Maryland Archives.

[2] See separate Appendix to The John Willis Family and The Maryland Supply Tax of 1783 for an abbreviated descendant chart for John Willis of Wantage highlighting the names of people mentioned here and related land.

[3] Caroline County’s normal jurisdictional subdivisions or “Hundreds” were Great Choptank, Fork, Tuckahoe, Bridgetown and Choptank. The 1783 tax districts were as follows: 1) Lower Choptank District – made up of Great Choptank Hundred and Fork Hundred. This district encompassed the entire southern part of the county bordering Dorchester and bounded on the east by the Choptank River and on the west by Delaware; 2) River District – parts of Tuckahoe and Bridgetown Hundreds; and 3) Upper Choptank District – the remainder of Tuckahoe and Bridgetown Hundreds and all of Choptank hundred.

[4] The Willis data are found on pages 57-59 of Lower Choptank District, Caroline County.

[5] Other Willis listings in Caroline County include two families descended from Quakers Richard and Frances Willis. Elijah, Thomas and William are clustered around land called Timber Tree Neck. The second group includes Andrew. Joseph, Ezekiel and Thomas associated with land called Friendship Regulation. Needless to say, none of these families owned slaves.

[6] The Upper District included Great Choptank Hundred and Nanticoke Hundred, which bordered Caroline County and Delaware, respectively. I do not know the western or southern boundary. The Middle District covered Transquakin and Little Choptank Hundreds. The Lower District was everything south of Transquakin and Little Choptank.

 

Willis DNA Project … Maryland Group

There are currently about 300 participants in a Willis DNA project. Eleven of those participants are known through Y-DNA testing to descend from John Willis d. 1712 of Wantage in Dorchester County, Maryland. Below is a chart indicating some of John’s descendants. Nine of the current Y-DNA participants are descended from the first seven legs of this chart. The other two do not yet have a paper trail specifying from which of John’s four sons they descend. Currently, none of the participants are from the last two branches, John’s sons Thomas or William.

Willis Y-DNA Chart

 

Thomas Willis … A Descendant of the Quaker Family of Richard and Frances Willis

Another researcher recently asked if I had any information to help connect Thomas Willis to any Willis family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She knew Thomas had purchased land in Dorchester County, and his son William had sold land in Caroline County prior to relocating to Guilford County, North Carolina. I believe Thomas Willis to be part of the Quaker family of Richard and Frances Willis, for two main reasons:

For four generations the Dawsons and Willises, including Thomas Willis and two sons, conducted land transactions among themselves. Frances Willis connected to the Dawson family through her first marriage to Richard Dawson.

Additionally, Frances’s will proves relationships supporting Thomas Willis’s inclusion as part of her family.

Richard Willis Family

The Richard Willis family is a Quaker family of Richard Willis who married Frances, widow of Richard Dawson. They had three children, Richard, John and Frances.[1] Thomas is a likely son of either Richard or John.

Willis and Dawson Land Deals – First Two Generations

Real estate deals in the Colonies often involved family members. Land transactions for the Willis extended family fit that pattern. For example, Richard Willis’s will left land to his sons, who later sold it to a son from their mother’s first marriage. Richard Willis patented a tract called Rondley on the Transquakin River in 1687.[2] His 1689 will devised Rondley to sons Richard and John.[3] In 1699, widow Frances Willis married Edward Fisher, who resided on the Nanticoke River.[4] He died about a year later leaving all his land to Frances.[5] In 1718, widow Frances Fisher conveyed some of her land on the Northwest Fork of the Nanticoke to her sons Richard and John Willis, with the proviso that they convey their ownership in Rondley to John Dawson, a son from her first marriage.[6] In 1721, Richard Willis and his wife Ann sold another tract to John Dawson.[7] This pattern of family deals continued after Frances Fisher died in 1729.

Frances Fisher’s Will

Frances Fisher’s 1724 will proved several family relationships including five identified grandchildren.[8] The will named other people without clearly defining the relationship. For example, the will named Obediah, Anthony and Elizabeth as children of Richard Dawson, but did not state Frances Fisher’s relationship to either Richard Dawson or to his three children. Were these children from her first marriage to Richard Dawson, or were they her grandchildren?

Quaker records show the births of Obediah, Anthony, and Elizabeth Dawson, along with others including Richard and John.[9] Some were likely children of Frances and Richard Dawson, although the parents were not named in the register. The record also shows Obediah Dawson died in 1694.[10] Assuming these records refer to the same Obediah (and I have found no other), Frances’s likely son Obediah died 29 years before she made a will. Clearly, Frances Fisher’s will was providing for her grandson Obediah. This means Obediah Dawson’s father named in the will was Frances’s son Richard, born 1674. That fact helps explain other relationships in the land transactions set out below.

Willis and Dawson Land Deals – The Next Generation

A generation after the earlier real estate deals, the pattern of family transactions continued. A Thomas Willis bought one tract from “John Dawson, son of Richard Dawson” in 1757[11] and another in 1765 from “John Dawson, son of Richard.”[12] The John Dawson in those deeds was not Richard and Frances Dawson’s son John. According to a 1730 deed, their son John died earlier.[13]

That begs the question: who was “John Dawson, son of Richard?” First, a clarifying term such as “son of” following a name almost always meant more than one person in the vicinity shared that name. The clarifying phase specified the exact person involved in the record. The best candidate for “Richard” in this clarifying phase is Richard Dawson named in Frances Fisher’s will, implying that John Dawson is another grandchild of Frances.

But wait, you say! If John were Richard Dawson’s son, why did the will not mention him with Richard’s other three children? For that matter, if Thomas Willis were part of this family, why was he not named in Frances’s will? I think the answer is the same for both men … neither was born before Frances died.

“John Dawson of Richard” was likely a son of Richard Dawson, Frances’s son from her first marriage. Thomas Willis was likely a son of Richard or John Willis, sons from her second. The evidence suggests John Dawson and Thomas Willis were about the same age. Both likely were born in 1730 or later, after Frances had made a 1729 codicil to her will. Further, each must have been at least 21 to execute their first land deal in 1757, so each must have been born by 1736. If correct, they were born between 1730 and 1736 and became the third generation involved in these intra-family land transactions.

Willis and Dawson Land Deals – The Last Generation

The families’ fourth generation continued the tradition of land transactions. The record proves that Thomas Willis had at least two sons, William and Elijah.[14] In addition to several deals between just Thomas and his sons, in 1780, William Willis rented land to a John Dawson.[15] In 1793, Thomas’s son Elijah bought land from a “John Dawson (of Richard).”[16] The record proves the Willis sons in these transactions were from the next generation. It is reasonable to think that the John Dawsons in these deals might have been as well.

Conclusion

I believe direct and circumstantial evidence provide a strong case that Thomas Willis descended from Richard and Frances Willis. The land transactions over two generations between various people named John Dawson and the Thomas Willis family continued a pattern of Willis-Dawson family land deals begun two generations earlier. The evidence in Frances’s will coupled with the land transactions strengthens the case. It is highly likely that Thomas Willis was a child of one of Richard and Frances Willis’s sons, either Richard or John Willis. I have not found record evidence as to which.

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Timeline – Key Events

Est 1682 –        Richard Willis married Frances (LNU), widow of Richard Dawson.

1683 – 1684 –   Richard Willis, Jr. born to Richard and Frances, based on young Richard’s deposition in 1732-3.

1687 –              Richard Willis patented “Rondley” in Dorchester County.

21 Oct 1689 –   Richard Willis made a will leaving “Rondley” to his minor sons Richard and John when they reached 21 years of age. The tract would descend to his daughter Frances if the sons died without issue.

1 Oct 1699 –     Widow Frances Willis married Edward Fisher of Dorchester County at the Quaker Meeting House near Tuckahoe Creek.

25 Oct 1700 –   Edward Fisher, Nanticoke River, Dorchester County, made a will leaving personal property to his brother William Fisher and family. Edward left all real property to his wife Frances. There is no mention of any children. I assume there were none.

26 Jul 1718 –    Frances Fisher conveyed her land, except for her home planation, to sons Richard and John Willis with the proviso that they convey “Rondley” to John Dawson, a son of Frances and Richard Dawson.

7 Aug 1721 –     Richard and wife Ann Willis sold two tracts of land on the Transquakin River to John Dawson.

29 Feb 1723 –   Frances Fisher made a will leaving half her home plantation to son Richard Willis and half to his son Richard, her grandson. The will said some unstated accommodation had been made with her son John Willis. The will identified five grandchildren; three others are proved by analysis.

14 Apr 1729 –   Codicil to Frances Fisher will, proved 7 May 1729.

Before 1730 –    John Dawson son of Frances died. On 9 Mar 1730, Isaac Dawson, likely son of John Dawson, sold land on Transquakin that John Dawson, deceased, had bought from Richard Willis in 1721.

1730 – 1736 –   Thomas Willis likely born during this period to either Capt Richard Willis or his brother John Willis. John Dawson likely born during this period to Richard Dawson.

1732 – 1733 –   Deposition of Capt Richard Willis, age 49, mentions deponent’s mother Frances Fisher, about 29 or 30 years ago.

6 Nov 1741 –     Will of Capt Richard Willis proved 20 Jan 1742.

17 Jan 1757 –   John Dawson, “son of Richard Dawson” of Dorchester sold to Thomas Willis a tract called “Addition to Timber Tree Neck.”

29 Oct 1765 –   John Dawson, “son of Richard” sold part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Thomas Willis.

5 Dec 1773 –     Caroline County formed. The Willis lands are now located in the new county.

25 Feb 1779 –   Gift Deed: Thomas Willis gave to son Elijah Willis the part of “Timber Tree Neck” that Thomas owns. Son William owns the other part.

16 Jun 1780 – Deed of Lease: William Willis rented 6 acres of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to John Dawson for 75 years at a fee of 6 pence per year.

23 Oct 1783 –   Thomas Willis and son William sold 7½ acres of “Addition to Timber Tree Neck” to Elijah Willis.

23 Oct 1783 –   Elijah Willis sold “Levin’s Folly Enlarged” to William Willis.

16 Jun 1784 –   William Willis sold 59¼ acres of “Addition to Timber Tree Neck” and 18¾ acres of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Elijah Willis.

23 Nov 1785 – William Willis sold the rest of his holdings of “Addition to Timber Tree Neck,” “Levin’s Folly Enlarged,” and “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Levin Wright. William then moved to North Carolina.

5 Feb 1793 –     John Dawson, of Richard, sold part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Elijah Willis.

[1] Henry C. Peden, Jr. & F. Edward Wright, Colonial Families of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Volume 5, (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 1999), V: 312.

[2] Peden, Colonial Families, V: 312, and Calvin W. Mowbray & Mary I. Mowbray, The Early Settlers of Dorchester County and Their Lands, (Self published, 1981), I: 171. A patent issued to Richard Willous for a tract in Dorchester County called “Roaley” (Rondley), 260 acres.

[3] James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 3 (Libers Old 4 ½ – Old 5), (Cambridge, MD, 1961), III:1. The will of Richard Willis dated 21 Oct 1689, proved 8 Jan 1689/90, devised to his sons Richard and John Willis at age 21 the 300 acre plantation called “Rondly.” His daughter Frances Willis would inherit if sons died without issue. Dorchester County Deed Book 4½ Old 1.

[4] Lucy Kate McGhee, Maryland Quaker Record of Third Haven (Tred Avon), Talbot County, MD, Marriages, Volume 3, pt 1, p. 60, 1 Oct 1699, Marriage of Edward Fisher of Dorchester County and Frances Willis, widow and relict of Richard Willis, at the Meeting House near Tuckahoe Creek, which was a sub-meeting of Third Haven.

[5] Jane Baldwin (Jane Baldwin Cotton), The Maryland Calendar of Wills, (Baltimore: Kohn & Pollock, Publishers, 1904, and reprinted Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications) 1988, V. II p 223, 11: 117, Will of Edward Fisher, Nanticoke River, Dorchester County, dated 25 Oct 1700, proved 4 Mar 1701, To brother William, sister in law Thomasin, Thomas, James and Mary, sons and daughter of brother William Fisher afsd, personalty; To wife Frances (formerly wife of Richard Willis), executrix, and heirs, home plantation, 50 acre “Western” (Weston), and 50 acre “Fishers Landing.” Witness: Jno Rawlings, Dan’l Cox, Thos Peterson.

[6] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD), 1962, 7 Old 63, 26 Jul 1718, Frances Fisher of Dorchester County sold to Richard Willis and John Willis, her sons, “Weston,” 50 acres; “Addition to Fishers Landing,” 53 acres; “Bartholomews,” 200 acres, and “Fishers Landing, 50 acres. Richard and John Willis to convey “Roadley” (“Rondley”) to John Dawson. Witness: J. Rider, Levin Hicks, acknowledged the same day

[7] Id., at 8 Old 26, On 7 Aug 1721, Richard Willis and wife Ann of Dorchester County, Gentleman, sold to John Dawson, planter, of Dorchester, “Maidens Choyce” on Transquakin River adjoining “Exchange,” 100 acres and White Lady Field” adjoining “Maidens Choyce,” 100 acres. Witness: Cha. Deane, John King. Acknowledged 9 Aug 1721.

[8] Baldwin, Calendar of Wills, V. VI, p. 109; 19: 679, Will of Frances Fisher, Dorchester County, dated 29 Feb 1724, proved 7 May 1729, To son Richard Willis, ½ home plantation on Nanticoke River; To daughter Frances Newton, personalty; To grandson Richard Willis other ½ of said plantation pursuant to an agreement lately made with son John Willis, and personalty at age 21. Son Richard Willis to have charge of estate during minority of said grandson Richard; To granddaughters Frances and Mary (daughters of Edward Newton), personalty; To Elizabeth (daughter of Joseph Thompson), personalty to be delivered to her by her uncle Edward Newton when 18 years of age; To Obediah, Anthony and Elizabeth (children of Richard Dawson), personalty; To sons Richard Willis and Edward Newton, executors, residue of personal estate. Witness: Thomas Griffith, Samuel Long, William Burn (dec’d at date of probate). Codicil: 14 Apr 1729. To granddaughter Elizabeth Thompson, son [sic] Richard and his sister Mary Willis, personalty.

[9] McGhee, Quaker Record of Third Haven, Volume 1, p. 50, Birth dates Obediah 13 Apr 1672, Richard 13 May 1674, Elizabeth 19 Nov 1677, Sarah 15 Sep 1678, John 7 Jun 1681, Anthony 13 Apr 1683.

[10] Id., at 73, Obediah Dawson died 21 Nov 1694.

[11] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 11 (Liber Old No. 15, folios 1 – 368), 1963, 15 Old 449, On 17 Jan 1757, John Dawson (son of Richard Dawson) of Dorchester County, planter, to Thomas Willis of the same, part of a tract on the east side of the Northwest Fork of Nanticoke River, called “Addition to Timber Tree Neck”, located near John Brown’s home plantation and containing 134 ½ acres. Witness: Henry Hooper, Edward Tripp, Justices.

[12] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 16 (Liber Old No. 20), 1964, 20 Old 384, On 29 Oct 1765, John Dawson (son of Richard) and Sarah his wife of Dorchester Co, planter, to Thomas Willis of same: part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” on the Northwest Fork of Nanticoke, 32 acres. Wit: Edward Trippe, Wm. Haskins, Justices.

[13] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), 1962, 8 Old 405, On 9 Mar 1730, Isaac Dawson of Dorchester sold to Joseph Ennalls, of the same, 100 acres, part of lands bought by John Dawson, dec’d, from Richard Willis, on the west side of main branch Transquakin River. Witness: Jno Pitt, Jno Anderton, Richd Dawson. Acknowledged the same day.

[14] Caroline County Deed Records, Liber GFA, Folio 348, Deed of Gift dated 25 Feb 1779 – Thomas Willis to his loving son Elijah Willis a tract of land called “Timber Tree Neck” or “Addition to Timber Tree Neck” and all to the westward of a ditch in the middle now between myself and my son William Willis – has a life clause for he and wife Rebekah to use land.

[15] Caroline County Deed Records, Liber GFA, Folio 487, Deed of Lease – A Deed of Lease dated 16 Jun 1780 between John Dawson and William Willis, rent a tract of land called “Addition to Miles Swamp” containing 6 acres for 75 years at a yearly rent of 6 pence.

[16] Caroline County Deed Records, Deed Book D: 285, John Dawson (of Richard) to Elijah Willis: for £21.19.4, 17 acres, part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” on east side of Northwest Fork of Nanticoke River. John Dawson and Sarah his wife each acknowledged before TW Loockerman, Jos. Douglas, Justices.

New Info – Wm Willis of Dorchester, MD

 

I recently discovered additional information about William Willis, born about 1694. William was the son of the immigrant John Willis who inherited the 50-acre tract in Dorchester County named “Wantage.” William and his wife Judith sold the land in 1734 to Richard Seward, very likely Judith’s brother. The couple then relocated to the Neck Region of Dorchester County, where Judith’s parents John and Mary Seward owned property.

I concluded that William and Judith moved to the Neck Region because they each gave a deposition between 1745 and 1752 about land boundaries in the area. Such testimony would not have been credible unless they were familiar with the property, probably as nearby residents. However, I had not located any deed or other record that placed them in the area. Now we have one: a 1764 deed clearly states that a William Willis was living on Hudson’s Creek at the head of Willis’s Cove.[1] Since there is no record of any other William Willis in the vicinity, this was surely the residence of William and Judith.

Furthermore, we now have circumstantial evidence that William and Judith had a child. A Thomas Willis gave a deposition in 1784 about the boundaries of a tract called “Bridge North,” owned by William Seward. (That land had previously been owned by John and Mary Seward and sold by them to Mary’s sister.) At the time of the deposition, Thomas Willis was 70 years old, meaning he was born about 1714. He testified to being shown the boundary markers in about 1754. He was definitely the right age to have been a son of William and Judith Willis and to have come with them to the Neck Region of Dorchester County as a young man in 1734. If so, he had been a resident of the area for 50 years at the time of his deposition.[2] With no evidence of another Willis family in the area, it is highly likely that Thomas was a son of William and Judith.

I have updated the article previously posted about the second generation of the John Willis Family to reflect this information. You can read the revised version at this link.

[1] McAllister, James A., Jr., Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 15 (Liber Old No. 19, (Cambridge, MD, 1964). 19 Old 343, 11 Jun 1764, John Taylor Sr. of Dorchester Co, Merchant, to Nicholas MacCubbin of Annapolis, Merchant: ½ of “Rosses Chance” containing 42 A. Also 200 A, being part of “Addition to Rosses Chance” on Hudson’s Creek, laid out to said John Taylor for 400 acres. Also “Littleworth” on east side of Hudson’s Creek, at the head of Willis’s Cove near where Wm. Willis lives, 49 A. (Mortgage). Wit: Thomas Taylor, Thos. Harwood. Ackn: Robt. How and Jno. Anderson, Justices.

[2] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 27 (Liber NH No. 5), (Cambridge, MD, 1967), 5 NH 259, 12 Oct 1784 – 8 Oct 1785, Commission to Charles Eccleston, Nathaniel Manning, Stanley Byus and John Trippe of Dorchester Co, Gent., to perpetuate the bounds of Wm Soward’s land called “Bridge North”, and Return. Deposition of Thomas Willis, aged about 70 years, concerning a bounder on a cove of Hudson’s Creek, shown about 30 years ago by Joseph Blades who had possession of the land. Mentions Henry Claridge who was also present when Blades showed the bounder, and who has died in the last two years. The land where the said Joseph Blades lived 30 years ago is the same land where Wm. Lee now lives, called “Bridge North”.

The John Willis Family of Dorchester and Caroline Counties, Maryland … The Second Generation

by Gary N. Willis

An earlier article on this site concluded that John Willis, the Court Cryer of Dorchester County Court and owner of “Wantage” several miles from Cambridge, had six children at the time of his death in 1712. He made a will on 18 September 1712 and died soon thereafter.[1] In his will, John devised or bequeathed the following to his children:

  1. To son William and his heirs, all of John’s land and a mare, a cow, three yearlings, and a frying pan;
  2. To daughter Grace, 2 cows, three yearlings, a young horse, bed & furniture, and his “Great Chest”, and all of John’s land if William died without issue;
  3. To daughter Elizabeth, a mare and colt; and
  4. To son John, 12 pence.

The will named four children … William, Grace, Elizabeth and John. Probate records prove an additional son, Andrew,[2] and circumstantial evidence points to a fourth son named Thomas.

Assigning accurate dates of birth to the children is difficult. Andrew was born about 1690 based on his testimony in a 1730 deposition.[3] Another deposition proves John Jr. was the eldest son.[4] A third deposition establishes that William was born between 1694 and 1700.[5] Grace was named before Elizabeth in the 1712 will, suggesting she might be the elder of the two. It is unclear whether Thomas was older than William. I suspect William was the youngest child. It was not uncommon for the youngest son, the last to leave the household, to serve as a caregiver for aging or ill parents. Such service would put him in good stead with regard to inheritance. The same is true of unmarried daughters who remained in their parents’ household.

Although establishing a birth order is not necessary to this discussion, it provides a picture of the family consistent with the known facts. A feasible order of birth satisfying that criterion is:

1683 – John, Jr.                     1690 – Andrew

1685 – Grace                           1692 – Thomas

1688 – Elizabeth                      1694 – William

Records indicate that of these children, only John and Andrew had offspring. This article discusses the four siblings who had no children before turning to John and Andrew.

Elizabeth Willis

Beyond the 1712 will there is no further mention of an Elizabeth Willis in the Dorchester County records in the early 1700’s. However, one item of interest is a corrected interpretation of her name. Several abstracters have called this daughter Eliza, but a close review of the Dorchester Will Book entry suggests otherwise. The hand-written record shows the letters “Eliz,” followed by a colon, and then followed by a superscript that appears to be “th.” I interpret this writing as shorthand for Elizabeth, not Eliza.

Thomas and Grace Willis

A Thomas Wallis [Willis] bought 50 acres of land from John Sharpe in 1717 on Marshy Creek. This land was half of a 100-acre tract called “Sharp’s Prosperity” that Sharpe patented a year earlier.[6] Thomas’s purchase adjoined the other half of the same tract that Sharpe sold on 10 Mar 1717 to John Willis.[7]

There is no record of a marriage or children for either Thomas or his sister Grace.[8] I speculate that neither brother nor sister married and that they lived under the same roof on the land Thomas bought. Thomas Wallis [Willis] died intestate five years later and a Grace Wallis [Willis] administered his estate.[9] Nothing further is known of Grace, except that she likely died before 1734, based on the sale of Wantage mentioned below.

William Willis

William married Judith (likely Seward/Soward), and they probably lived at Wantage, devised to William by his father in 1712. In 1734, William and Judith sold Wantage to Richard Seward for six pounds. Two weeks earlier, William’s brother John Willis sold the same land to Henry Ennalls for 20 shillings.[10] It is unclear from the extant records how John and William could both sell that same land to different people. The de minimis price paid to John suggests his transaction may have been to clear the title rather than to sell the land. John had filed a will contest back in 1712, which must have been unsuccessful. Otherwise, John would have been in possession of Wantage rather than William. But, that old suit may have been enough to cloud the title. I speculate that the document missing from the record is a Power of Attorney whereby Henry Ennalls acts on behalf of William to buy any claim John might have to the property. That action would clear the way for William to sell to Seward.

The sale of Wantage also suggests that sister Grace Willis may have died before the date of the transaction. The 1712 will devised the land to Grace if William died without heirs. There is no record of Grace having signed away that conditional interest, which would have descended to her heirs, if any. Two possibilities exist to explain William being able to sell the land without a quitclaim deed from Grace. Either William and Judith had children, or Grace died before 1734 and without issue, extinguishing her potential ownership. In the absence of a quitclaim deed or proof of children of William and Judith, it would be more likely that Grace had died. However, William and Judith likely had at least one son, as we shall see.

Between 1746 and 1752, William and Judith each testified regarding the boundaries of a tract of land located in Casson’s Neck or Ross’s Neck. [11] The so-called Neck Region of Dorchester County is on the north side of Little Choptank River about 10 miles west of Cambridge and 14-15 miles from Wantage. Ross’s Neck lies east of Hudson’s Creek with Casson’s Neck to the west. William and Judith must have lived nearby to give credible testimony about those property boundaries. While there is no record that they bought land in this area, a William Willis is definitely living on Hudson’s Creek at the head of Willis’s Cove.[12] With no evidence of any other Willis family in the vicinity, I conclude that this is the home of William and Judith.

Either the Willis’s deed for that land is lost or they rented the land, possibly from a relative. In that regard, various facts suggest a family connection between Judith and the Sewards. First, William and Judith sold Wantage to Richard Seward. Second, a woman named Mary Seward testified in the 1746 boundary proceeding along with William and Judith. Mary was 68 years old at the time of that deposition and Judith was 50, so Mary was old enough to be Judith’s mother. It is probably not a coincidence that the Willises sold land to a man named Seward, and then, a dozen years later, lived near a woman named Seward. The following records suggest a family connection rather than a coincidence:

  1. In 1669, a tract called “Bridge North” located west of Hodson’s [Hudson’s] Creek was first surveyed.[13]
  2. In 1710, John Seward and his wife Mary conveyed an interest in land called “Bridge North” on Hudson’s Creek to a sister Clare and her husband.[14]
  3. In 1749, Richard Seward administered the estate of John Seward, deceased.[15]
  4. In 1750, widow Mary Soward [Seward] made a will leaving land on Hudson’s Creek to her son Richard Seward.[16] The devised tract was named “Bridgeworth” [“Bridge North.”]

Those facts establish that John and Mary Seward were husband and wife, and they had a son named Richard. Mary named him as a son and executor in her will, and he was administrator of John’s estate. The Sewards owned land west of Hudson’s Creek, which qualified Mary to testify in the boundary dispute. William and Judith sold Wantage to Richard Seward for only £6, a favorable price suggesting a “brother-in-law” deal. Finally, after selling Wantage, William and Judith Willis lived in the vicinity Richard’s parents John and Mary Seward.

One explanation for the Willises’ sale of Wantage and move to the Neck Region might have been to help farm Bridge North and to care for Judith’s parents as they aged. Perhaps to assist in the Willises’ transition, the family arranged for Richard to buy Wantage. At her death, Mary gave Bridge North to Richard, and William and Judith may have lived at the head of Willis’s Cove until they died. In any event, I believe there is enough circumstantial evidence to conclude that Judith who married William Willis was the daughter of John and Mary Seward and the sister of Richard. Richard Seward still possessed Wantage as late as 1755.[17]

Circumstantial evidence also suggests William and Judith had a son. A Thomas Willis gave a deposition in 1784 about the boundaries of Bridge North, owned by William Seward. At the time of that deposition, Thomas was 70 years old, meaning he was born about 1714. He testified that he was shown the boundary markers in about 1754. Therefore, Thomas was definitely the right age to be a son of William and Judith Willis and to have come with them to the Neck Region of Dorchester County as a young man in 1734. If so, he had been a resident of the area for 50 years at the time of his deposition.[18] With no evidence of another Willis family in the area, it is highly likely that Thomas was a son of William and Judith. We can also speculate that Thomas’s parents were deceased by 1784 (they would have been 88 – 90 years old) or they also would have been deposed about the boundaries. Possibly, Thomas was living at the head of Willis’s Cove.

John Willis, Jr.

Even before the death in 1712 of John Willis, Sr., his eldest son John had established a large family. He married Mary (last name unknown) probably by 1702, and they had several children. He was a carpenter and likely also farmed on rented land. Five years after the unsuccessful contest of his father’s will, John Willis, Jr., bought a 50-acre tract of land from John Sharpe on Marshy Creek Branch, about 15 miles from Cambridge upstream on the Choptank River.[19] As noted previously, less than five months later, Sharpe sold an adjoining 50 acres to Thomas Wallis (Willis).[20] In 1723, John expanded his property. That year, John sought a warrant to survey an additional 50 acres that he named “Willis’s Right;” the patent for the land issued in 1726.[21] In 1728, John Willis engaged John Edmondson to build a new house, probably on this new land. A lane from his new home opened onto Marsh Creek Road, which ran westward from Hunting Creek Mill past John’s property.[22]

John eventually discovered that some of his land encroached on earlier surveys. In 1736, he resurveyed Willis’s Right and his half of Sharp’s Prosperity. The resurvey found Willis’s Right ran into an elder tract called “The Plains” to the south and east. Furthermore, Sharps Prosperity ran into an elder tract to the north and east called “Bennett’s Purchase.”[23] About half of Willis’s 50 acres purchased from Sharp fell within the Bennett survey, and a few acres of Willis’s new land overlapped The Plains. The consolidated resurvey compensated for the loss of land to the elder surveys and added some vacant land for a total of 111 acres. The new patent, named “Willis’s Regulation,” included some of the land that now falls within the town of Preston.[24]

John and Mary had at least eight children who were alive in 1764: John, Mary, Judeath [Judith], Elizabeth, Isaac, Richard, Joshua and Dorcas. There is no record of Mary’s death, but she probably died between 1720-1725 based on John’s subsequent marriage and children. After Mary’s death, the senior John Willis married Elizabeth Sharpe, a daughter of his neighbor John Sharpe.[25] John and Elizabeth had two children, a son also named John born in 1731 and a son Jarvis born about 1735.[26]

John Willis’s 1764 will named all of these children.[27] Significantly, his will referred to him as a planter rather than a carpenter. “Planter” most often applied to those who had others working the land for them, and denoted a more elevated status than “carpenter,” “farmer,” or “yeoman.” John’s will left a very small amount of money to the children of his first wife: five shillings to John, Jr. and two shillings, sixpence to each of the other seven. He devised a life estate in his land to his second wife Elizabeth and then to their son John 3rd after her death. Also after her death, John 3rd and Jarvis were to split the remaining personal property.

All the children of his first wife were not only grown but were relatively old by the time John passed away. In effect, he had two families separated by almost a generation in age. Most of these children lived to see the formation in 1774 of Caroline County from parts of Dorchester and Talbot Counties. Some were involved in governance of the new county. Others added land to Willis’s Regulation or established other farms in the region. They also witnessed or took part in the formation of a new country as the Colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and established a new republic.

Andrew Willis

While John, Jr. moved his family north up the Choptank River and further into the county, Andrew initially remained closer to his father’s original land on the headwaters of the Little Blackwater River. Andrew married Jennett Jones, the daughter of neighbor William Jones, who was one of the executors of John, Sr.’s will. The 1718 will of Thomas Ennals and a 1722 land sale both mention Andrew Willis and William Jones as having previously lived on adjacent tracts at head of Shoal Creek.[28] That location is about three miles from Cambridge (near the current Cambridge-Dorchester Airport), and a mile or so from the headwaters of the Little Blackwater River. Those records establish that, prior to 1718, Andrew occupied a 50-acre tract owned by Thomas Ennals called “Ennalls Purchase.” Presumably, Andrew was a tenant farmer. There is no record of Andrew’s family residence for ten years after leaving the Ennals tract. He may have moved to new farmland purchased by his father-in-law, or he may have rented elsewhere. In 1718 and 1719, William Jones bought 250 acres on Cabin Creek, which flows into the Choptank River further upstream of Cambridge and Shoal Creek, but not as far upstream as Marsh Creek where brothers John and Thomas had moved.[29]

Andrew’s and Jennett’s four children were Andrew, William, Thomas and Sarah. Doubtless they named the sons for Andrew and two of his brothers, and daughter Sarah for one of Jennet’s sisters. Jennet died about 1725. William Jones died in 1729 and devised 100 acres of his land on Cabin Creek to his son William, and 150 acres to his daughters Sarah and Elizabeth. He gave 1 shilling each to his four grandchildren by Andrew and Jones’s deceased daughter Jennet.[30]

Shortly after Jennet died, Andrew married Rebecca Goostree, daughter of Richard and Rebecca Goostree. It is unclear where Andrew and Rebecca met. Later generations of the Goostree and Willis families attended Old Trinity Church at Church Creek.[31] It is possible Andrew and Rebecca attended as well and their names are just not in the record. In any event, the couple had three sons, Richard, George and John. Those names honor her father, her brother George, and Andrew’s elder brother and father John. In 1728, Rebecca’s father died, and she inherited half of a 100-acre parcel named “Newtown” near the Great Beaver Dam.[32] I have not located the deed record for Goostree’s acquisition of Newtown. However, land records indicate in 1694 he surveyed 100 acres called “Goostree’s Delight” between Cattail Marsh and Russell Swamp, which he devised to his wife during her lifetime.[33] Current Maryland maps show Russell Swamp and Beaverdam Creek located close together about 12 miles southeast of Cambridge west of State Highway 335. Richard Goostree’s Newtown property was in that vicinity, some 20 miles or more from Cabin Creek.

Within two years after Rebecca inherited the 50 acres from her father, she and Andrew had established their residence on the land. At that time, Andrew patented an adjoining 45 acres named “New Town.”[34] The land office record locates the new 45 acres on the west side of the Blackwater River, east of the Cattail Swamp and adjacent Andrew’s dwelling plantation, presumably the inherited land.

 Andrew Willis, Sr., died in 1738 leaving a will naming his wife and all seven of his children. He devised New Town, divided equally, to his sons Richard and George. If either died without issue, his share would descend to son John. Andrew gave a pewter plate each to Sarah, William, Thomas, Andrew, and John. He left a featherbed and iron pot to Richard. Andrew named his wife Rebecca executrix and left her the residue of the personal estate as long as she was single. If she remarried, the remainder of the personal estate was to be equally divided among Richard, George, and John.[35]

Some of Andrew’s children would expand New Town and occupy the land for almost another 50 years. Some of the children and grandchildren were active supporters of the coming revolution, while at least one opposed it. However, those are all stories for the next generation.

 

[1] Cotton, Jane Baldwin, The Maryland Calendar of Wills, (Baltimore: Kohn & Pollock, 1904, reprinted Westminster, Maryland: Family Line Publications, 1988), IV:23 – 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 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.

[2] Wright, F. Edward, Judgment Records of Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties, (Lewes, DE: Delmarva Roots, 2001), 33, L36A:203, Inventory of John Willis, Dorchester County – £23.14.1 – Appraisers John Kirke, Arthur Smith. Next of Kin: Andrew Willis (son), William Willis (son). FHL 975.2 P28w

[3] McAllister, James A., Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD, 1962), V:145. 8 Old 404, 13 Jun-30 Sep 1730 – Commission to John Hodson, Mark Fisher, Thomas Nevett & Henry Ennalls, Jr to perpetuate bounds of Patrick Brawhaun’s land at the head of Blackwater called “Hoggs Island.” Deposition of Andrew Willis, about age 40, regarding the first bounder of “Littleworth” or “Stevens.”

[4] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 9 (Liber Old No. 13: Liber Old No. 14, folios 1-373), (Cambridge, MD, 1963), IX:36, 14 Old 130, 14 Mar 1746 – Deposition of Thomas Pierson, planter of Dorchester County, aged about 60 years, states that John Willis now living in St. Mary’s White Chappel Parish near Hunting Creek was to the best of deponent’s knowledge the eldest son of John Willis who lived on Blackwater River about 4-5 miles from Cambridge, and who was formerly Cryer of Dorchester County Court.

[5]  McAllister, Land 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.

[6] FHL 13080, Maryland Land Office, v. FF 7:23 – Survey Certificate 22 Nov 1716 for 100 acres to John Sharpe called “Sharp’s Prosperity” in Dorchester County beginning at a red oak in the woods on south side of the head of Marshy Creek Branch that issues out of south side of Great Choptank River above Hunting Creek. Beginning at a red oak, then S 13 deg E 80 perches, then S 85 deg E 80 perches, then N 38 deg E 145 p, then N 13 deg W 46 p, then by a straight line to the beginning. Patent issued 6 Aug 1718

[7] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD, 1962), at 23, 7 Old 68, no day or month 1717 – John Sharp of Dorchester Co sold to Thomas Wallis, of the same county, 50 acres, part of “Sharps Prosperity” on south side of the head of Marshy Creek branch out of Great Choptank River above Hunting Creek. Bounded on one side by land sold to John Willis. Wits Jerem? Thomas, J Lookerman. Acknowledged 19 Aug 1718

[8]  The land on Marshy Creek was located within St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish. Unfortunately, the church records for that locale which might prove the marital status of Thomas or Grace do not survive.

[9] Skinner, Testamentary Proceedings of the Prerogative Court, XVI:60, 61 and 151. Filings by John Pitts, gentleman, of Dorchester County, bond of Grace Wallis, administratrix of Thomas Wallis, and inventories of the estate of Thomas Wallis, and Skinner, Administration Accounts of the Perogative Court, Libers 1-5, 1718-1724, (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1995), 138. L5:38, Account of Thomas Wallis of Dorchester dated 13 Mar 1723 – Account total £12.17.7, Payments totaled £18.5.2 made to Patrick Mackalister, Mr. Charles Ungle, John Sharp, John Pitt, Edward Billeter, William Edmondson. Administratrix Grace Willis.

[10] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 6 (Liber Old No. 9), (Cambridge, Maryland, 1962), 9 Old 223, 30 Jul 1730 [or 1734], John Willis of Dorchester County, planter, for 20 shillings to Henry Ennalls, of same, gentleman, “Wantage,” 50 acres, originally taken up by John Willis, dec’d, on Blackwater Riv., adjoining “Littleworth.” Signed by mark, John Willis. Witnesses: William Murray, Bw. Ennalls. Acknowledged 30 Jul 1734, and 9 Old 214, 15 Aug 1734, William Willis and wife Judith of Dorchester Co., planter, for 6 pounds to Richard Seward, of same, “Wantage,” 50 acres near head of Blackwater River adjoining “Littleworth.” Signed by marks, William Willis, Judith Willis. Witnesses: Henry Trippe, Cha. Lowndes. Dorchester County Court (Land Records) MSA CE46 10, http://mdlandrec.com

[11] McAllister, Land 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.

[12] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 15 (Liber Old No. 19, (Cambridge, MD, 1964). 19 Old 343, 11 Jun 1764, John Taylor Sr. of Dorchester Co, Merchant, to Nicholas MacCubbin of Annapolis, Merchant: ½ of “Rosses Chance” containing 42 A. Also 200 A, being part of “Addition to Rosses Chance” on Hudson’s Creek, laid out to said John Taylor for 400 acres. Also “Littleworth” on east side of Hudson’s Creek, at the head of Willis’s Cove near where Wm. Willis lives, 49 A. (Mortgage). Wit: Thomas Taylor, Thos. Harwood. Ackn: Robt. How and Jno. Anderson, Justices.

[13]         Keddie, Leslie and Neil, Dorchester County, Maryland, Rent Rolls 1659 – 1772 Volume #1, (The Family Tree Bookshop, 2001), 35, “Bridge North” surveyed 8 Apr 1669 for John Tench, lying on the west side of Hodsons Creek.

[14] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 4 (Liber Old No. 6), (Cambridge, MD, 1961), 6 Old 154, 13 Jun 1710 – John Seward of Dorchester County, planter, and Mary his wife, to their sister Clare and to Aaron Tunice of said county, planter, her husband, part of two parcels of land of the west side of Hudson’s Creek called “Bridge North” and “Addition”, containing 98 acres more or less. Conveyed to Aaron and Clare Tunice for the lifetime of Clare, and after her death to Edward Tunice their son. Wit: Jno Snelson, Theo. Bonner, Jno Hambrooke. Acknowledged 14 Jun 1710

[15] Skinner, V.L., Jr., Abstracts of the Inventories and Accounts of the Perogative Court, 1744-1750, (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1994), 131 – Admin Accounts of John Soward, dec’d, of Dorchester County, 10 Sep 1749 – Account Balance £29.9.6, Payments £35.3.1; Received from: Joseph Harrington; Payments to: Foster Cunliff & Sons per John Caile, Thomas McKeel, Henry Ennalls, Henry Hooper, Jr.; Administrator Richard Soward.

[16]         Cotton, v. 10 at 218, Will of Mary Soward, widow of Dorchester County, 5 Oct 1750 – To son Edward Soward 1 Shilling; to son William Soward 1 Shilling; to son Richard Soward dwelling house and plantation, which is part of two tracts “Bridgeworth” and “Addition”. Executor: son Richard. Wit: Thomas Calwell (or Caldwell), Abraham Walker, and Cornelia Jones. Probate 4 Nov 1751. 43. V.10, P 218 28:323

[17]         McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 11 (Liber Old No. 15, folios 1 – 368), (Cambridge, MD, 1963), XI:52, 15 Old 247, 11 Aug 1754 -15 Mar 1755, Commission to perpetuate the bounds of Richard Soward’s land called Wantage. A deposition of Thomas Soward, about 30 years old, mentions the widow Brawhawn; John Stevens grandfather of the present John Stevens; Richard Soward, brother of the deponent; and a bounded tree of Littleworth and Wantage between Roger Woolford’s plantation and Brawhawn’s, about 15-16 years ago.

[18] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 27 (Liber NH No. 5), (Cambridge, MD, 1967), 5 NH 259, 12 Oct 1784 – 8 Oct 1785, Commission to Charles Eccleston, Nathaniel Manning, Stanley Byus and John Trippe of Dorchester Co, Gent., to perpetuate the bounds of Wm Soward’s land called “Bridge North”, and Return. Deposition of Thomas Willis, aged about 70 years, concerning a bounder on a cove of Hudson’s Creek, shown about 30 years ago by Joseph Blades who had possession of the land. Mentions Henry Claridge who was also present when Blades showed the bounder, and who has died in the last two years. The land where the said Joseph Blades lived 30 years ago is the same land where Wm. Lee now lives, called “Bridge North”.

[19] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD, 1962), 16. 7 Old 51, 10 Mar 1717 – John Sharp of Dorchester Co sold to John Willis, of the same county, carpenter, 50 acres, part of “Sharps Prosperity” on Marshy Creek Branch above Hunting Creek. Wits Thomas Noble, Jane Noble. John Nichols, attorney for John Sharp. (Note that Thomas Noble and John Nicols co-owned “Hampton” located on west side of Hunting Creek, bought from Richard Bennett 15 Jan 1713, 6 Old 230)

[20] Clerks frequently varied the spelling of the name Willis, sometimes within the same document. Those variants include Wallis, Wallace, Wallice, Willace, Willes and Willous. In fact, John Willis Sr. appears in early rent rolls as John “Wallis” in possession of “Wantige.”

[21] Maryland Land Office – Warrant for 50 acres surveyed, called “Willes’s Right,” beginning at red oak standing in the woods on south side of Great Choptank River and west side of main road from Hunting Creek Mill [Murray’s Mill] to Parsons Landing, then N 82 deg W 40 perches, NNW 30 perches, SW 24 perches, SE 26 perches, SW 66 perches, SE 98 perches, NNE 11 perches, and then straight line to the beginning. Patent issued 5 Jul 1726

[22] Mitchell, Dora, A History of the Preston Area in Lower Caroline County, Maryland, (Denton, MD: Caroline County Historical Society, 2005), 122

[23] Maryland Land Office – Warrant granted John Willis 1 Jul 1736 for resurvey of “Willis’s Right” of 50 acres and one moiety of “Sharp’s Prosperity” of 100 acres. Resurvey of 14 Oct 1736 found: 1) “Willis’s Right” was adjacent Sharps property but ran into an elder tract called the Plains; 2) “Sharps Prosperity” began on the south side of the head of Marshy Creek and two legs ran into an elder tract called “Bennett’s Purchase.” The consolidated survey for John Willis contained 111 acres including some vacant land and is called “Willis’s Regulation.” It adjoins “Bennett’s Purchase.” Patent examined and allowed 21 Nov 1737; fees collected and patent issued 21 Oct 1743.

[24] Mitchell at 122

[25] Mitchell at 122, in 1732 probate records for John Sharpe, deceased, indicate a next of kin as Elizabeth Willis.

[26] Mitchell at 123

[27] Maryland Calendar of Wills – 23 Jan 1764 – Will of John Willis, Sr., Planter, Dorchester County – Wife Elizabeth; Children: elder son John Willis, Jr. (born of first wife, Mary) (5 shillings), Mary Clift, Judith, Elizabeth Killingsworth, Isaac, Richard, Joshua, Dorcas Nichols (each 2 sh, 6 p) Wife Elizabeth got all remaining personal property for her life, and then to be divided equally between John Willis 3rd, son of Elizabeth, and son Gervey [Jarvis]. Wife Elizabeth to have all land known as “Willis’s Regulation” for life and then to go to John 3rd. Executrix: Wife Elizabeth Willis, Wit: Henry Turner, John Barton, 33. V.13, p.58; WB 33:27

[28] Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, IV:167-9 – Will Book 14:631, Will of Thomas Ennals dated 7 May 1718 – To Thomas Hayward and heirs, 50 acres part of “Ennalls Purchase” (plantation where Andrew Willis lived), at head of Shoal Creek, and on branch lying between Wm Jones and Andrew Willis’, proved 13 Aug 1718, and, McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 1 (Libers Old No. 1 – Old No. 2), (Cambridge, MD, 1960), I:71. 2 Old 161, 13 Mar 1722 – Land sale from Thomas Hayward to Henry Ennalls, land devised to grantor by Col. Thomas Ennalls, dec’d, at head of Shoal Creek where Andrew Willis lived adjacent land where William Jones lived, part of “Ennalls Purchase”, 50 acres more or less.

[29] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 1 (Libers Old No. 1 – Old 2), (Cambridge, MD, 1960), 2 Old 16, 2 Feb 1718 – Thomas Gray and Mary his wife to William Jones: Goodridges Choice on Cabin Creek containing 101 A more or less. Wit: Richard Hooper, Bartholomew Ennalls, and Henry Ennalls. Acknowledged 2 Feb 1718 before Henry Ennalls and Levin Hicks, Justices, by Thomas Gray, And, McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 1 (Libers Old No. 1 – Old 2), (Cambridge, MD, 1960), 2 Old 27, 15 Nov 1719 – Jacob Gray, planter, and Isabell his wife to William Jones: Part of “Guttridg Choice” on Cabin Creek containing 150 A of land. Wit: Edward Verin, Goovert Loockerman. Assignment from Philadelphia Williams to William Jones of her “third part of ye within mentioned lands,” dated June 15, 1720.

[30]                     Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, VI:127 – Will Book 19: 765 – Will of William Jones, planter, Dorchester County, 10 May 1729. 1) To son William and heirs, 100 acres on north side of Cabbin Creek being part of a tract bought from Jacob Gray; he dying without issue, to daughters Sarah and Elizabeth; and personalty; 2) To daughters Sarah and Elizabeth, 50 acres of afsd tract; they dying without issue, to son William; and 100 acre dwelling plantation illeg., bought of Thomas Gray; and personalty; 3) To daughter Rebecca Vearing, personalty; 4) To four grandchildren, issue of daughter Jennet Willis, deceased, 1 shilling each; 5) To wife Jennet, executrix, use of dwelling plantation illeg., and residue of personalty during life; at her decease to pass to son William and daughters Sarah and Elizabeth. Probate 5 Sep 1729.

[31] Palmer, Katherine H., transcribed Baptism Record, Old Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church, Church Creek, MD, (Cambridge, Maryland), 7 and 19.

[32] Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, VI:80 – Will Book 19: 501 – Will of Richard Goostree, planter, Dorchester County, 30 Apr 1728 – To wife Rebecca, executrix, dwelling plantation “Goostree’s Delight” during life; at her decease to son George and heirs; he dying without issue to pass to grandson Robert, son of Robert Johnson; and 1/3 of personal estate – To son George, personalty; – To two daughters, viz, Elizabeth, wife of Robert Johnson, and Rebecca, wife of Andrew Willis, and their heirs, 100 acres “Newtown” near the great Beaver Dam – To children of son-in-law Phillip Phillips, 1 s each – To son George and daughters Elizabeth Johnson and Rebecca Willice, residue of personal estate – Overseers: Sons-in-law Robert Johnson and Andrew Willice. – Test: Redman Fallen, John Shenton (Shinton) Acknowledged: 12 Nov 1728 –

[33]         Keddie, Rent Rolls 1688-1707 Volume #3, 7 – 2 Mar 1694, Goostree’s Delight, 100 acres surveyed for Richard Goostree, lying in the woods between Cattail Marsh and Russell Swamp.

[34]         FHL 13086, Maryland Land Office – Book EI 2:164 – Warrant for 45 acres called New Town granted Andrew Willis 8 Oct 1730, in Dorchester County on west side of Blackwater River and on the east side of Cattail Swamp and on the west side of Andrew Willis’s dwelling plantation. Survey certified 21 Oct 1730, Henry Ennalls, Deputy Surveyor Dorchester Co. Patent issued 13 Jun 1734

[35] Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, VII:259, Will Book 21: 918 – Will of Andrew Willis, Dorchester County, 24 May 1738. 1) To two sons Richard and George, “New Town” divided equally, should either die without issue to pass to son John; and personalty; 2) To sons John, William, Andrew and Thomas, and daughter Sarah, personalty. He left a pewter plate to each child plus a feather bed and iron pot to Richard; 3) To wife Rebecca, executrix, residue of personal estate, should she marry to be divided between sons Richard, George and John. Test: Robert Johnson, Mary Carway (Carriwy), John Pritchett Fisher. Probate 23 Aug 1738.

died without issue, his share would descend to son John. Andrew gave a pewter plate each to Sarah, William, Thomas, Andrew, and John. He left a featherbed and iron pot to Richard. Andrew named his wife Rebecca executrix and left her the residue of the personal estate as long as she was single. If she remarried, the remainder of the personal estate was to be equally divided among Richard, George, and John.[35]

 

Some of Andrew’s children would expand New Town and occupy the land for almost another 50 years. Some of the children and grandchildren were active supporters of the coming revolution, while at least one opposed it. However, those are all stories for the next generation.

 

 

 

[1] Cotton, Jane Baldwin, The Maryland Calendar of Wills, (Baltimore: Kohn & Pollock, 1904, reprinted Westminster, Maryland: Family Line Publications, 1988), IV:23 – 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 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.

[2] Wright, F. Edward, Judgment Records of Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties, (Lewes, DE: Delmarva Roots, 2001), 33, L36A:203, Inventory of John Willis, Dorchester County – £23.14.1 – Appraisers John Kirke, Arthur Smith. Next of Kin: Andrew Willis (son), William Willis (son). FHL 975.2 P28w

[3] McAllister, James A., Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD, 1962), V:145. 8 Old 404, 13 Jun-30 Sep 1730 – Commission to John Hodson, Mark Fisher, Thomas Nevett & Henry Ennalls, Jr to perpetuate bounds of Patrick Brawhaun’s land at the head of Blackwater called “Hoggs Island.” Deposition of Andrew Willis, about age 40, regarding the first bounder of “Littleworth” or “Stevens.”

[4] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 9 (Liber Old No. 13: Liber Old No. 14, folios 1-373), (Cambridge, MD, 1963), IX:36, 14 Old 130, 14 Mar 1746 – Deposition of Thomas Pierson, planter of Dorchester County, aged about 60 years, states that John Willis now living in St. Mary’s White Chappel Parish near Hunting Creek was to the best of deponent’s knowledge the eldest son of John Willis who lived on Blackwater River about 4-5 miles from Cambridge, and who was formerly Cryer of Dorchester County Court.

[5]  McAllister, Land 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.

[6] FHL 13080, Maryland Land Office, v. FF 7:23 – Survey Certificate 22 Nov 1716 for 100 acres to John Sharpe called “Sharp’s Prosperity” in Dorchester County beginning at a red oak in the woods on south side of the head of Marshy Creek Branch that issues out of south side of Great Choptank River above Hunting Creek. Beginning at a red oak, then S 13 deg E 80 perches, then S 85 deg E 80 perches, then N 38 deg E 145 p, then N 13 deg W 46 p, then by a straight line to the beginning. Patent issued 6 Aug 1718

[7] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD, 1962), at 23, 7 Old 68, no day or month 1717 – John Sharp of Dorchester Co sold to Thomas Wallis, of the same county, 50 acres, part of “Sharps Prosperity” on south side of the head of Marshy Creek branch out of Great Choptank River above Hunting Creek. Bounded on one side by land sold to John Willis. Wits Jerem? Thomas, J Lookerman. Acknowledged 19 Aug 1718

[8]  The land on Marshy Creek was located within St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish. Unfortunately, the church records for that locale which might prove the marital status of Thomas or Grace do not survive.

[9] Skinner, Testamentary Proceedings of the Prerogative Court, XVI:60, 61 and 151. Filings by John Pitts, gentleman, of Dorchester County, bond of Grace Wallis, administratrix of Thomas Wallis, and inventories of the estate of Thomas Wallis, and Skinner, Administration Accounts of the Perogative Court, Libers 1-5, 1718-1724, (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1995), 138. L5:38, Account of Thomas Wallis of Dorchester dated 13 Mar 1723 – Account total £12.17.7, Payments totaled £18.5.2 made to Patrick Mackalister, Mr. Charles Ungle, John Sharp, John Pitt, Edward Billeter, William Edmondson. Administratrix Grace Willis.

[10] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 6 (Liber Old No. 9), (Cambridge, Maryland, 1962), 9 Old 223, 30 Jul 1730 [or 1734], John Willis of Dorchester County, planter, for 20 shillings to Henry Ennalls, of same, gentleman, “Wantage,” 50 acres, originally taken up by John Willis, dec’d, on Blackwater Riv., adjoining “Littleworth.” Signed by mark, John Willis. Witnesses: William Murray, Bw. Ennalls. Acknowledged 30 Jul 1734, and 9 Old 214, 15 Aug 1734, William Willis and wife Judith of Dorchester Co., planter, for 6 pounds to Richard Seward, of same, “Wantage,” 50 acres near head of Blackwater River adjoining “Littleworth.” Signed by marks, William Willis, Judith Willis. Witnesses: Henry Trippe, Cha. Lowndes. Dorchester County Court (Land Records) MSA CE46 10, http://mdlandrec.com

[11] McAllister, Land 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.

[12] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 15 (Liber Old No. 19, (Cambridge, MD, 1964). 19 Old 343, 11 Jun 1764, John Taylor Sr. of Dorchester Co, Merchant, to Nicholas MacCubbin of Annapolis, Merchant: ½ of “Rosses Chance” containing 42 A. Also 200 A, being part of “Addition to Rosses Chance” on Hudson’s Creek, laid out to said John Taylor for 400 acres. Also “Littleworth” on east side of Hudson’s Creek, at the head of Willis’s Cove near where Wm. Willis lives, 49 A. (Mortgage). Wit: Thomas Taylor, Thos. Harwood. Ackn: Robt. How and Jno. Anderson, Justices.

[13]         Keddie, Leslie and Neil, Dorchester County, Maryland, Rent Rolls 1659 – 1772 Volume #1, (The Family Tree Bookshop, 2001), 35, “Bridge North” surveyed 8 Apr 1669 for John Tench, lying on the west side of Hodsons Creek.

[14] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 4 (Liber Old No. 6), (Cambridge, MD, 1961), 6 Old 154, 13 Jun 1710 – John Seward of Dorchester County, planter, and Mary his wife, to their sister Clare and to Aaron Tunice of said county, planter, her husband, part of two parcels of land of the west side of Hudson’s Creek called “Bridge North” and “Addition”, containing 98 acres more or less. Conveyed to Aaron and Clare Tunice for the lifetime of Clare, and after her death to Edward Tunice their son. Wit: Jno Snelson, Theo. Bonner, Jno Hambrooke. Acknowledged 14 Jun 1710

[15] Skinner, V.L., Jr., Abstracts of the Inventories and Accounts of the Perogative Court, 1744-1750, (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1994), 131 – Admin Accounts of John Soward, dec’d, of Dorchester County, 10 Sep 1749 – Account Balance £29.9.6, Payments £35.3.1; Received from: Joseph Harrington; Payments to: Foster Cunliff & Sons per John Caile, Thomas McKeel, Henry Ennalls, Henry Hooper, Jr.; Administrator Richard Soward.

[16]         Cotton, v. 10 at 218, Will of Mary Soward, widow of Dorchester County, 5 Oct 1750 – To son Edward Soward 1 Shilling; to son William Soward 1 Shilling; to son Richard Soward dwelling house and plantation, which is part of two tracts “Bridgeworth” and “Addition”. Executor: son Richard. Wit: Thomas Calwell (or Caldwell), Abraham Walker, and Cornelia Jones. Probate 4 Nov 1751. 43. V.10, P 218 28:323

[17]         McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 11 (Liber Old No. 15, folios 1 – 368), (Cambridge, MD, 1963), XI:52, 15 Old 247, 11 Aug 1754 -15 Mar 1755, Commission to perpetuate the bounds of Richard Soward’s land called Wantage. A deposition of Thomas Soward, about 30 years old, mentions the widow Brawhawn; John Stevens grandfather of the present John Stevens; Richard Soward, brother of the deponent; and a bounded tree of Littleworth and Wantage between Roger Woolford’s plantation and Brawhawn’s, about 15-16 years ago.

[18] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 27 (Liber NH No. 5), (Cambridge, MD, 1967), 5 NH 259, 12 Oct 1784 – 8 Oct 1785, Commission to Charles Eccleston, Nathaniel Manning, Stanley Byus and John Trippe of Dorchester Co, Gent., to perpetuate the bounds of Wm Soward’s land called “Bridge North”, and Return. Deposition of Thomas Willis, aged about 70 years, concerning a bounder on a cove of Hudson’s Creek, shown about 30 years ago by Joseph Blades who had possession of the land. Mentions Henry Claridge who was also present when Blades showed the bounder, and who has died in the last two years. The land where the said Joseph Blades lived 30 years ago is the same land where Wm. Lee now lives, called “Bridge North”.

[19] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD, 1962), 16. 7 Old 51, 10 Mar 1717 – John Sharp of Dorchester Co sold to John Willis, of the same county, carpenter, 50 acres, part of “Sharps Prosperity” on Marshy Creek Branch above Hunting Creek. Wits Thomas Noble, Jane Noble. John Nichols, attorney for John Sharp. (Note that Thomas Noble and John Nicols co-owned “Hampton” located on west side of Hunting Creek, bought from Richard Bennett 15 Jan 1713, 6 Old 230)

[20] Clerks frequently varied the spelling of the name Willis, sometimes within the same document. Those variants include Wallis, Wallace, Wallice, Willace, Willes and Willous. In fact, John Willis Sr. appears in early rent rolls as John “Wallis” in possession of “Wantige.”

[21] Maryland Land Office – Warrant for 50 acres surveyed, called “Willes’s Right,” beginning at red oak standing in the woods on south side of Great Choptank River and west side of main road from Hunting Creek Mill [Murray’s Mill] to Parsons Landing, then N 82 deg W 40 perches, NNW 30 perches, SW 24 perches, SE 26 perches, SW 66 perches, SE 98 perches, NNE 11 perches, and then straight line to the beginning. Patent issued 5 Jul 1726

[22] Mitchell, Dora, A History of the Preston Area in Lower Caroline County, Maryland, (Denton, MD: Caroline County Historical Society, 2005), 122

[23] Maryland Land Office – Warrant granted John Willis 1 Jul 1736 for resurvey of “Willis’s Right” of 50 acres and one moiety of “Sharp’s Prosperity” of 100 acres. Resurvey of 14 Oct 1736 found: 1) “Willis’s Right” was adjacent Sharps property but ran into an elder tract called the Plains; 2) “Sharps Prosperity” began on the south side of the head of Marshy Creek and two legs ran into an elder tract called “Bennett’s Purchase.” The consolidated survey for John Willis contained 111 acres including some vacant land and is called “Willis’s Regulation.” It adjoins “Bennett’s Purchase.” Patent examined and allowed 21 Nov 1737; fees collected and patent issued 21 Oct 1743.

[24] Mitchell at 122

[25] Mitchell at 122, in 1732 probate records for John Sharpe, deceased, indicate a next of kin as Elizabeth Willis.

[26] Mitchell at 123

[27] Maryland Calendar of Wills – 23 Jan 1764 – Will of John Willis, Sr., Planter, Dorchester County – Wife Elizabeth; Children: elder son John Willis, Jr. (born of first wife, Mary) (5 shillings), Mary Clift, Judith, Elizabeth Killingsworth, Isaac, Richard, Joshua, Dorcas Nichols (each 2 sh, 6 p) Wife Elizabeth got all remaining personal property for her life, and then to be divided equally between John Willis 3rd, son of Elizabeth, and son Gervey [Jarvis]. Wife Elizabeth to have all land known as “Willis’s Regulation” for life and then to go to John 3rd. Executrix: Wife Elizabeth Willis, Wit: Henry Turner, John Barton, 33. V.13, p.58; WB 33:27

[28] Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, IV:167-9 – Will Book 14:631, Will of Thomas Ennals dated 7 May 1718 – To Thomas Hayward and heirs, 50 acres part of “Ennalls Purchase” (plantation where Andrew Willis lived), at head of Shoal Creek, and on branch lying between Wm Jones and Andrew Willis’, proved 13 Aug 1718, and, McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 1 (Libers Old No. 1 – Old No. 2), (Cambridge, MD, 1960), I:71. 2 Old 161, 13 Mar 1722 – Land sale from Thomas Hayward to Henry Ennalls, land devised to grantor by Col. Thomas Ennalls, dec’d, at head of Shoal Creek where Andrew Willis lived adjacent land where William Jones lived, part of “Ennalls Purchase”, 50 acres more or less.

[29] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 1 (Libers Old No. 1 – Old 2), (Cambridge, MD, 1960), 2 Old 16, 2 Feb 1718 – Thomas Gray and Mary his wife to William Jones: Goodridges Choice on Cabin Creek containing 101 A more or less. Wit: Richard Hooper, Bartholomew Ennalls, and Henry Ennalls. Acknowledged 2 Feb 1718 before Henry Ennalls and Levin Hicks, Justices, by Thomas Gray, And, McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 1 (Libers Old No. 1 – Old 2), (Cambridge, MD, 1960), 2 Old 27, 15 Nov 1719 – Jacob Gray, planter, and Isabell his wife to William Jones: Part of “Guttridg Choice” on Cabin Creek containing 150 A of land. Wit: Edward Verin, Goovert Loockerman. Assignment from Philadelphia Williams to William Jones of her “third part of ye within mentioned lands,” dated June 15, 1720.

[30]                     Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, VI:127 – Will Book 19: 765 – Will of William Jones, planter, Dorchester County, 10 May 1729. 1) To son William and heirs, 100 acres on north side of Cabbin Creek being part of a tract bought from Jacob Gray; he dying without issue, to daughters Sarah and Elizabeth; and personalty; 2) To daughters Sarah and Elizabeth, 50 acres of afsd tract; they dying without issue, to son William; and 100 acre dwelling plantation illeg., bought of Thomas Gray; and personalty; 3) To daughter Rebecca Vearing, personalty; 4) To four grandchildren, issue of daughter Jennet Willis, deceased, 1 shilling each; 5) To wife Jennet, executrix, use of dwelling plantation illeg., and residue of personalty during life; at her decease to pass to son William and daughters Sarah and Elizabeth. Probate 5 Sep 1729.

[31] Palmer, Katherine H., transcribed Baptism Record, Old Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church, Church Creek, MD, (Cambridge, Maryland), 7 and 19.

[32] Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, VI:80 – Will Book 19: 501 – Will of Richard Goostree, planter, Dorchester County, 30 Apr 1728 – To wife Rebecca, executrix, dwelling plantation “Goostree’s Delight” during life; at her decease to son George and heirs; he dying without issue to pass to grandson Robert, son of Robert Johnson; and 1/3 of personal estate – To son George, personalty; – To two daughters, viz, Elizabeth, wife of Robert Johnson, and Rebecca, wife of Andrew Willis, and their heirs, 100 acres “Newtown” near the great Beaver Dam – To children of son-in-law Phillip Phillips, 1 s each – To son George and daughters Elizabeth Johnson and Rebecca Willice, residue of personal estate – Overseers: Sons-in-law Robert Johnson and Andrew Willice. – Test: Redman Fallen, John Shenton (Shinton) Acknowledged: 12 Nov 1728 –

[33]         Keddie, Rent Rolls 1688-1707 Volume #3, 7 – 2 Mar 1694, Goostree’s Delight, 100 acres surveyed for Richard Goostree, lying in the woods between Cattail Marsh and Russell Swamp.

[34]         FHL 13086, Maryland Land Office – Book EI 2:164 – Warrant for 45 acres called New Town granted Andrew Willis 8 Oct 1730, in Dorchester County on west side of Blackwater River and on the east side of Cattail Swamp and on the west side of Andrew Willis’s dwelling plantation. Survey certified 21 Oct 1730, Henry Ennalls, Deputy Surveyor Dorchester Co. Patent issued 13 Jun 1734

[35] Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, VII:259, Will Book 21: 918 – Will of Andrew Willis, Dorchester County, 24 May 1738. 1) To two sons Richard and George, “New Town” divided equally, should either die without issue to pass to son John; and personalty; 2) To sons John, William, Andrew and Thomas, and daughter Sarah, personalty. He left a pewter plate to each child plus a feather bed and iron pot to Richard; 3) To wife Rebecca, executrix, residue of personal estate, should she marry to be divided between sons Richard, George and John. Test: Robert Johnson, Mary Carway (Carriwy), John Pritchett Fisher. Probate 23 Aug 1738.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The John Willis Family of Dorchester and Caroline Counties, Maryland

John Willis Sr. was born about 1660 in Wantage, Berkshire County, England. He grew up with fond memories of this village before immigrating to the Province of Maryland as a young man. He gained employment with the Dorchester County Court at Cambridge and married in about 1683. He and his wife initially lived on rented land, raising a family and working off the cost of his passage to the New World. He farmed the rented property as a primary livelihood since the part time nature of work at court sessions did not provide steady or sufficient income. In 1702, John was able to patent his own property and acquired 50 acres, naming it “Wantage” after his hometown.

By the time the family moved onto Wantage, John and his wife had six children: Grace, John Jr., Eliza, Andrew, Thomas and William. With two teenage girls and two teenage boys to help with the house and the land, the Willises farmed corn and wheat for cash, tended a truck garden and raised chickens and livestock for their own use. There were plenty of chores for the younger sons. The Willises formed a close friendship with the families of neighbors William and Jennet Jones and with John and Dorothy Stevens who resided at “Littleworth.”

 As the years went by, John Jr. learned the carpentry trade and married Mary LNU. They moved to rented land close by. Andrew married Jennet Jones, the neighbors’ daughter, and rented land near William Jones’ property on Shoal Creek. William, the youngest son, married Judith LNU, and they lived at Wantage with the elder Willises and Grace, Eliza and Thomas. Soon, Thomas went to live with his brother John to help farm his rented land. William took over running Wantage, while Judith helped care for an ailing Mrs. Willis. Before long, Mrs. Willis passed away leaving William and Judith along with Grace and Eliza living at Wantage with John Sr.

 As John Sr.’s health began to fail in 1712, he made a will rewarding William (and his wife Judith), Grace and Eliza for their steadfast support. John Jr. contested the will, but it was allowed to stand. John Jr. and his brother Andrew each had several children. For the next three hundred years, descendants of these two brothers intermarried with families on the Eastern Shore. The family history is a rich and interesting story of women and men. A handful fought in the revolution. Some were instrumental in establishing the early Methodist church in the region. Most were farmers. Some became doctors.

This italicized narrative contains some speculative details about John Willis and his family. However, it is consistent with the provable facts. The following article about the family’s humble beginnings in the New World will present that proof. It is the first installment in a series I hope to publish over the coming years.

The Provable Facts

John Willis Sr. lived from circa 1660 until his death about November 1712. The date of his will in Dorchester County and the beginning of probate prove his date of death. I estimate his birthdate from two facts. First, a deposition in 1730 establishes that one son (Andrew) was born in 1690. Second, a 1746 deposition states that another son (John) was the eldest, making him born by at least 1689 to be older than Andrew. If these sons were only 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 in 1667-68 at the latest. To use a round number and allow for a longer lifespan, I estimated John’s birth date at about 1660.

John Sr. had six children surviving at the time he wrote his will. However, the will only names four of the six. Eldest son John contested the will in part because two children were not named.

John Sr. served as the Court Crier at the Dorchester County Court and lived on land a few miles from Cambridge, the county capital. His land named “Wantage” was located on the upper reaches of the north branch of the Blackwater River (now known as the Little Blackwater). Wantage can be tracked to three of his sons, and its name is the best clue to John Sr.’s home of origin.

If John, Sr. followed the custom of many of his peers, the name Wantage likely came from his hometown. A village of that name within the Church of England’s Parish of Berkshire is located in Berkshire County, England, about 50 miles west of London and 80 miles from the city of Cambridge. Internet research shows the village currently is home to several Willis families. The Parish Registers for the church at Wantage list marriages from 1538 forward. Among the marriages are three generations of men named John Willis, the last of whom might be the father of John Willis Sr. of Maryland.[1] However, with no conclusive proof this article does not focus on John’s possible parents.

John Willis Sr. was not the only person from Wantage, England, in the Province. A common laborer named Henry Willis came to Maryland in August 1684 at age 21 on the John & Elizabeth bound to John Moore of London for four years.[2] The ship’s record names Henry’s father as Leonard Willis.[3] Evidence that another person immigrated from Wantage supports the theory that John Sr. did as well.

 Possible First Appearance – 1694

The possible first appearance in Dorchester County records of John Willis Sr. is in 1694 when a man by that name was an appraiser of the estate of William Pritchett.[4] A John Willis served as appraiser again in 1700 and 1703.[5] It is logical to assume the appraiser in all three cases is the same John Willis. An appraiser had to be sworn to this duty and served only with the approval of the court. We know that John had connections at the court since he served as Court Crier.[6] On the other hand, John Sr. signed his 1712 will with a “mark.” He did not know how to read and write. It is likely that men appointed as appraisers were more educated than John Sr.

 Land Acquisition – 1702

John Willis patented land from the provincial land office in 1702, acquiring 50 acres called Wantage on the Blackwater River.[7] As already discussed, John may have named this tract after his hometown. John Willis appeared on the 1704 rent rolls as a planter, indicating he was a landholder.[8] Wantage would remain in the family until 1734.

 Will of John Willis – 1712

John Willis made a will on 18 September 1712 and died soon thereafter. The will was presented for probate on 24 November 1712.[9] In his will, John provided that:

  1. Son William and his heirs would inherit all land and some personal property,
  2. Daughter Grace would inherit certain personal property and all the land if William died without issue,
  3. Daughter Eliza would inherit certain personalty, and
  4. Son John would inherit 12 pence.
  5. The will named William Jones and Rice Levena as executors.

John Willis Jr., eldest son of the deceased, filed a will contest on 3 December 1712, asking that administration not be granted the executors because there were only two witnesses to the will one of whom was an executor making his witnessing inappropriate. Further, John stated there were two children not mentioned in the will suggesting that his father was not of sound mind at the time of making the will. William Jones, one of the witnesses to the will and a named executor, appeared in support of John Jr.[10]

The Court ordered on 20 February 1712/3 that all parties appear in April 1713 to give evidence regarding John Sr.’s mental condition at the time he made his will.[11] I have found nothing resolving the dispute in the Dorchester County court records, nor any reference to the contest in the probate records of the Perogative Court. However, apparently the Court ruled against the contest because probate continued under the named executors. Had the Court sustained the contest, the Court would have nullified the will, appointed an administrator, and the estate would have been distributed according to the rules of intestate distribution … which would have been far more favorable to John Jr. Instead, Inventories and Administration Accounts filed by the named executors for the estate of John Willis in 1714 and 1715 indicate that probate moved forward apace.[12]

A few other comments regarding the terms of the will and its administration are in order. First, the will does not name a spouse of John Willis. We can logically 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 by their adult children. Last, the will does not use a married surname for either daughter. We conclude that they were unmarried in 1712.

 Unnamed Children of John Willis

 Andrew – Andrew is a proved son of John Willis, Sr.

1. An inventory of the estate of John Willis filed at the April 1714 Perogative Court Session names Andrew as a son.[13]

2. Andrew continued to live reasonably close to Wantage and William Jones, his father-in-law, was a former neighbor. Jones, one of the executors of John’s will, owned land adjacent Wantage and is the father of Jennett Jones who married Andrew Willis. Also, Andrew Willis and William Jones are noted in the 1718 will of Thomas Ennals and in a 1722 land sale as having had land adjoining each other at head of Shoal Creek.[14] The head of Shoal Creek is about three miles from Cambridge (near the current Cambridge-Dorchester Airport) and a mile or so from the headwaters of the Little Blackwater River.

3. In a 1730 deposition, Andrew Willis, then about age 40, gave a sworn statement about the location of a boundary marker for a tract of land called “Littleworth” or “Stevens”. Littleworth frequently appears in the land records as having been adjacent Wantage. Andrew’s knowledge of the boundary would logically derive from having lived at Wantage as a youth.[15]

Thomas – Circumstantial evidence supports Thomas as the remaining unnamed child of John Willis Sr.

1. John Sharp sold a 50-acre tract of land on Marshy Creek Branch above Hunting Creek to John Willis Jr. on 10 March 1717.[16] Less than five months later, Sharp sold an adjoining 50 acres to Thomas Wallis (Willis).[17] Since families often moved as a group, a reasonable conclusion is that there was a relationship between John and Thomas, and that they were likely brothers. Of course, it is possible that the two were unrelated … the last name Wallis was an alternate spelling for the name Wallace as well as Willis. However, clerks frequently varied the spelling of the name Willis, sometimes within the same document. Those variants include Wallis, Wallace, Wallice, Willace, Willes and Willous. In fact, John Willis Sr. appears in early rent rolls as John “Wallis” in possession of “Wantige.”[18] For purposes of this article, I assume this is Thomas Willis. If I am wrong, then we can state we have no information about him, however, since he seems to have had no children, it does not matter.

2. Grace Wallis (Willis) administered the estate of Thomas Willis in 1722-1724.[19] The 1712 will proves a Grace Willis as a daughter of John Willis, and there is no record that she married.[20] Furthermore, there is no record that Thomas Willis married, nor a record of any offspring. These two unmarried siblings possibly shared the same roof on Thomas’s land, and upon his death intestate Grace handled the estate. On the other hand, it is possible that administratrix Grace was Thomas’s wife. But, again with no offspring, it does not matter to this analysis.

3. As we will see later, Andrew Willis named sons with his first wife Andrew, William and Thomas. Presumably, he named one for himself and the others for two of his brothers. He named sons with his second wife Richard, George and John.

In conclusion, the John Willis Family of Dorchester and Caroline Counties included sons John, Andrew, Thomas and William, and daughters Grace and Eliza. Assigning accurate dates of birth to the children is problematic. Andrew was born in about 1690. John Jr. was the eldest son and therefore born at least by 1689. A deposition given sometime between 1746 and 1752 establishes that William was born between 1694 and 1700.[21] Grace was named before Eliza in the 1712 will, indicating she was likely the elder of the two. The relative ages of Thomas and William are also uncertain, but I suspect William was the youngest. It was not uncommon for the youngest son, the last to leave the household, to serve as a caregiver for aging or ill parents. Such service would put him in good graces with regard to inheritance. The same could be said of a daughter who remained in the household and unmarried.

Establishing a birth order is not necessary to the analysis, but provides a theoretical picture of the family consistent with the known facts. A feasible order of birth satisfying that criterion is:

1685 – Grace                           1690 – Andrew

1687 – John                                     1692 – Thomas

1688 – Eliza                                     1694 – William

Disposition of Wantage

William Willis and his wife Judith apparently lived at Wantage until 1734, when they sold it to Richard Seward for six pounds. However, two weeks prior to that sale, eldest son John Willis sold the same land to Henry Ennalls for 20 shillings.[22] The two sales are a puzzle that is not solved by the deed or probate records.

By 1734, John Jr. lived many miles from Wantage in what later became Caroline County and had no apparent claim to his father’s former tract. However, John Jr.’s earlier will contest and the fact he was the eldest son may have created some cloud on the title in the eyes of Richard Seward, the prospective buyer. William Willis or Seward may have asked John to relinquish any claim to the land prior to Seward buying it. John could comply by conveying his interest, if any, in the land to William (or Seward), clearing title so his brother’s transaction could proceed. Such a transaction would account for the very low price paid in John’s deed. The 20 shillings paid to John likely compensated him for his time and travel between his home and Cambridge to complete the transaction.[23]

However, the puzzle is that John Jr. deeded his interest to Ennalls and not to William or Seward. Something is missing in the record – a power of attorney under which Ennalls was acting on William’s or Seward’s behalf, or a subsequent transaction from Ennalls conveying John’s interest to either Seward or William. Regardless of this mystery, the record is clear that the Willises had no connection to Wantage after 1734 since Richard Seward still possessed the land twenty years later.[24] _____________________

Thus ends the first installment of the John Willis Family of Dorchester and Caroline Counties, Maryland. In future articles, I hope to tell the story of the descendants of John Jr. and Andrew, some of whom played a significant role in the history of Preston, Maryland, and the surrounding area.

[1]  W.P.W. Phillimore, editor, Berkshire Parish Registers, Marriages, Volume 1, (London:Phillimore & Co., 1908), I:17, John Willis and Annis Robinson, 31 Mar 1600; I:30, John Willis and Alice Lindsey, 19 Aug 1639; and I:41, John Willis, Junr [?] and Elizabeth Chapman, 11 Apr 1664.

[2]  Peter Wilson Coldham, The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1661-1699, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1990), II:471.

[3]  Id. at 471, and Phillimore, Berkshire Registers, I:34, Leonard Willis and Margaret Powell, 8 Sep 1652; I:39, Leonard Willis and Anne Bell, 10 Sep 1659. Henry, born in 1663, fits as a son of either marriage. There is no proved connection between John Willis Sr. and Leonard and Henry of Wantage.

[4] Skinner, Testamentary Proceedings of the Prerogative Court, VII:61. Court Session 1694 – In the probate of the estate of William Pritchett, John Haslewood of Dorchester County exhibited the bond of Hannah Charlescroft, administratrix of William Pritchett. Securities Richard Owen, Jarvis Cutler. Also inventory by appraisers John Frank and John Willis. Probate Book 15C:125.

[5] Skinner, Testamentary Proceedings of the Prerogative Court, VIII:180. Court Session May 1700 – In the probate of the estate of Patrick Donelly, attorneys exhibited the inventory of Patrick Donelly by appraisers David Jenkins and John Willis, Probate Book 18A:62, and XI:4. Court Session Oct 1703 – In the probate of the estate of Daniell Seare of Dorchester County, attorneys exhibited Inventories of the estate of Daniell Seare by appraisers John Willis & William Walker. Probate Book 20:4.

[6]  McAllister, Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 9 (Liber Old No. 13: Liber Old No. 14, folios 1-373), (Cambridge, MD, 1963), IX:36. 14 Old 130, 14 Mar 1746 – Deposition of Thomas Pierson, planter of Dorchester County, aged about 60 years, states that John Willis now living in St. Mary’s White Chappel Parish near Hunting Creek was to the best of deponent’s knowledge the eldest son of John Willis who lived on Blackwater River about 4-5 miles from Cambridge, and who was formerly Cryer of Dorchester County Court.

[7] FHL Film No. 13078, Maryland Land Office, 194. On 10 Sep 1702, John Taylor assigned to John Willis all right, title and interest in 50 acres of land, part of a warrant for 2,389 acres granted Taylor on 15 Oct 1792, Book CD4/194, and Id. at 194. On 3 Mar 1702/3, the Maryland Land Office issued a survey certificate to John Willis for a tract of 50 acres called Wantage on the Blackwater River, beginning at lowermost bounder of Littleworth, then N 36 deg E 100 perches, N 36 deg W 80 perches, S 36 deg W 100 perches, then straight line to the beginning. Book CD4/194.

[8] Hunt, 1. John Willis is mentioned in the “Quit Rents” of 1704 as being a “planter,” on file in the Library of Congress and the London Public Record Office, and Keddie, Leslie and Neil, Dorchester County, Maryland, Rent Rolls 1688-1707 Volume #3, (The Family Tree Bookshop, 2001), 75. Wantige was surveyed for John Wallis on 3 Mar 1702, lying on the Blackwater River beginning at the lowermost bounded tree of “Littleworth.” It encompassed 50 acres and the rental was 8 shillings.

[9] 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 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.

[10] Id. at 23.

[11] http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mdwillis/DCWillsWillis.htm#John1712, Sandra Willis who abstracted numerous documents from primary records in Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot Counties created this site.

[12] V.L. Skinner, Jr., Testamentary Proceedings of the Prerogative Court, Volume XIII, 1712-1716, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2008), 113, 124, 132, 153 and 157, Probate Book L22:256, 368, 378, 452 and 456.

[13] F. Edward Wright, Judgment Records of Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties, (Lewes, DE: Delmarva Roots, 2001), 33. L36A:203, Inventory of John Willis, Dorchester County – £23.14.1 – Appraisers John Kirke, Arthur Smith. Next of Kin: Andrew Willis (son), William Willis (son). FHL 975.2 P28w

[14] Jane Baldwin Cotton, The Maryland Calendar of Wills, IV:167-9. Will Book 14:631, Will of Thomas Ennals dated 7 May 1718 – To Thomas Hayward and heirs, 50 acres part of “Ennalls Purchase” (plantation where Andrew Willis lived), at head of Shoal Creek, and on branch lying between Wm Jones and Andrew Willis’, proved 13 Au 1718, and, James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 1 (Libers Old No. 1 – Old No. 2), (Cambridge, MD, 1960), I:71. 2 Old 161, 13 Mar 1722 – Land sale from Thomas Hayward to Henry Ennalls, land devised to grantor by Col. Thomas Ennalls, dec’d, at head of Shoal Creek where Andrew Willis lived adj land where William Jones lived, part of “Ennalls Purchase”, 50 acres more or less.

[15] James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD, 1962), V:145. 8 Old 404, 13 Jun-30 Sep 1730 – Commission to John Hodson, Mark Fisher, Thomas Nevett & Henry Ennalls, Jr to perpetuate bounds of Patrick Brawhaun’s land at the head of Blackwater called “Hoggs Island.” Deposition of Andrew Willis, about age 40, regarding the first bounder of “Littleworth” or “Stevens.”

[16] Id. at 16. 7 Old 51, 10 Mar 1717 – John Sharp of Dorchester Co sold to John Willis, of the same county, carpenter, 50 acres, part of “Sharps Prosperity” on Marshy Creek Branch above Hunting Creek. Wits Thomas Noble, Jane Noble. John Nichols, attorney for John Sharp. (Note that Thomas Noble and John Nicols co-owned “Hampton” located on west side of Hunting Creek, bought from Richard Bennett 15 Jan 1713, 6 Old 230)

[17] Id. at 23. 7 Old 68, no day or month 1717 – John Sharp of Dorchester Co sold to Thomas Wallis, of the same county, 50 acres, part of “Sharps Prosperity” on south side of the head of Marshy Creek branch out of Great Choptank River above Hunting Creek. Bounded on one side by land sold to John Willis. Wits Jerem? Thomas, J Lookerman. Acknowledged 19 Aug 1718

[18] Keddie, 75.

[19] Skinner, Testamentary Proceedings of the Prerogative Court, XVI:60, 61 and 151. Filings by John Pitts, gentleman, of Dorchester County, bond of Grace Wallis, administratrix of Thomas Wallis, and inventories of the estate of Thomas Wallis, and Skinner, Administration Accounts of the Perogative Court, Libers 1-5, 1718-1724, (Westminster, MD:Family Line Publications, 1995), 138. L5:38, Account of Thomas Wallis of Dorchester dated 13 Mar 1723 – Account total £12.17.7, Payments totaled £18.5.2 made to Patrick Mackalister, Mr. Charles Ungle, John Sharp, John Pitt, Edward Billeter, William Edmondson. Administratrix Grace Willis.

[20]         The land on Hunting Creek was located within St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish. Unfortunately, the church records for that locale that might prove the marital status of Thomas or Grace do not survive.

[21]         James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from the Land 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.

[22] Maryland Land Records, 9 Old 223, 30 Jul 1730 [or 1734], John Willis of Dorchester County, planter, for 20 shillings to Henry Ennalls, of same, gentleman, “Wantage,” 50 acres, originally taken up by John Willis, dec’d, on Blackwater Riv., adjoining “Littleworth.” Signed by mark, John Willis. Witnesses: William Murray, Bw. Ennalls. Acknowledged 30 Jul 1734, and 9 Old 214, 15 Aug 1734, William Willis and wife Judith of Dorchester Co., planter, for 6 pounds to Richard Seward, of same, “Wantage,” 50 acres near head of Blackwater River adjoining “Littleworth.” Signed by marks, William Willis, Judith Willis. Witnesses: Henry Trippe, Cha. Lowndes. Dorchester County Court (Land Records) MSA CE46 10, http://mdlandrec.com

[23]         I believe the date of John’s transaction to be 30 July 1734, not 1730. The extant deed book is a copy of the original. The recopied document states the date of the deed in words rather than numbers, “One thousand seven Hundred and thirty.” I believe the scribe who recopied it missed the last two words of the date, which under the style of the day should have been “and four”. If John intended his transaction just to clear title for to William’s sale, the following logically occurred. John showed up at the Dorchester County Court when it was in quarterly session. Henry Ennalls drafted a deed that John signed (by mark, like his father he could not read or write). The court justices, including Henry Ennall’s brother Bartholomew, witnessed the signing, and John acknowledged the deed in open court, verifying its validity. All this occurred on a single day, 30 Jul 1734, which limited the inconvenience to the citizen who traveled some distance from Hunting Creek to Cambridge. The payment in the deed was for time and expenses. Sixteen days later Richard Seward bought the land from William and Judith Willis with assurance that John would not be able to successfully protest the sale.

[24] James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 11 (Liber Old No. 15, folios 1 – 368), (Cambridge, MD, 1963), XI:52, 15 Old 247, 11 Aug 1754-15 Mar 1755, Commission to perpetuate the bounds of Richard Soward’s land called Wantage. A deposition of Thomas Soward, about 30 years old, mentions the widow Brawhawn; John Stevens grandfather of the present John Stevens; Richard Soward, brother of the deponent; and a bounded tree of Littleworth and Wantage between Roger Woolford’s plantation and Brawhawn’s, about 15-16 years ago.