The Strange Demise of Branson Colvin and Family: Three Lives Lost With Too Few Clues.


Branson Colvin, wife and daughter, death registry listing. Only the term

Branson Colvin, wife and daughter, death registry listing. Only the term “direct” is given for their sudden deaths. Click to enlarge. Source: http://www.familysearch.org

In 1871, in Guernsey County, Ohio, an unnamed tragedy struck the Branson Colvin household, wiping out its head, Branson Colvin (1802-1871), his wife, Mary Sarah (nee Alloway )(1799-1871) and their first born daughter, Sarah Ann Colvin (1825-1871) – all within the space of a few weeks. The medical record of the period show the trio died that year between June and August.[1] Branson’s wife, Mary Sarah Colvin,  age seventy-two, was the first to die on June 11th, followed by her first born, Sarah Ann Colvin, then aged  forty-five on August 12th,  followed by her father, age sixty-eight on August 28th.  Other than using the term “direct” to describe the deaths, the record is entirely silent regarding the cause.  More frustrating, perhaps, a review of period medical literature offers no context as to what such a term might mean when used in 19th century death registries.

The cause,  however, was both sudden and clearly unanticipated. Among the other records extant for review is Branson Colvin’s  Last Will and Testament, executed a year earlier in March of 1870.[2]  In it he names his several heirs, including  his wife, and his daughter, Sarah Ann Colvin. Clearly,  in so doing,  he fully expected they would survive him. To his wife, for example, he devised the bulk of his estate — including all the lands, buildings, livestock, and chattels. That estate would only go piecemeal to his other heirs  upon her death, and only then with the proviso that any outstanding debts were to be paid first.  Thus it strains credulity to imagine Branson would have  made such bequeths to beneficiaries he thought would not outlive him. The remainder of his heirs – three sons and two daughters , however,  did survive him. The eldest male, Zachary Taylor Colvin, (1849-1923) for example, went on to father seven children — five of whom were sons — who, in turn, continued their Colvin line with their progeny, many remaining in the region for several more generations.

Branson was the son of Charles B. Colvin, (1770-1840,) himself a son of  Charles Colvin, an itinerant Overseer originally of Culpeper County, Virginia,  and whose own familial heritage seems rooted in Virginia’s Piedmont.[3] Records show Branson was born in Stafford County, Virginia, a region where his ancestors had farmed for several generations. Whether he came to Ohio on his own, or with his father or family is currently unclear. What is clear is that by 1840, he was established enough to be  enumerated in that year’s federal census for Guernsey County. However, marriage records also make it clear he had likely settled in the area much earlier. In fact, nearly two decades earlier, he had married a twenty-five year old, Mary Sarah Alloway , in Jefferson County, Ohio on December 30, 1824.[4] She was a few years his senior.  Much later, in the 1850 federal census, he is listed as a farmer.[5] His death registry entry likewise lists his occupation this way.

Although the death registry does not give their causes of death, ongoing research may ultimately reveal the reason – whether by an outbreak of disease or some terrible accident – that lay behind the trio’s sudden demise.

Update: July 22, 2015:

The digitized originals of  the Monroe County, Ohio Personal Property Tax Records of Jackson Township for years 1833-1838 have been reviewed. George Colvin’s name does not appear on these rolls. Source:  “Tax duplicates 1816-1838,” (Monroe County, Ohio,) FHL films No.545128 and 514164.

Sources:

[1]  Branson Colvin et all, entries, digitized original death registry, “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001″  in Guernsey (County, Ohio) Death Records, 1867-1908 database. www.familysearch.org lines 123-125.

[2] Branson Colvin Last Will and Testament, Executed March 22,  1870, Wheeling,  Guernsey County,  Ohio, Will Bk Z: 338.

[3]  Charles B. Colvin was named both in the Last Will and Testament  of Charles Colvin as his son,  but also as one of two executors.  See: Charles Colvin Will, Pendleton County, Kentucky, Deed Book B (1803-1815):287.

[4] Branson Lee Colvin and Mary Sarah Alloway marriage registry listing, December 30, 1824, Jefferson County, (Ohio)  Court of Common Pleas, Marriage Book 3: 16.

[5] Branson L. Colvin household,  digitized original,  1850 U.S. federal census, Washington,  Tuscarawas County, Ohio, household 2517, lines 25-30. http://www.ancestry.com

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Image of Charles Colvin Cabin found on 1997 Google Earth Satellite Image.


Though the resolution is less than ideal, the Charles Colvin cabin can be clearly discerned in this 1997 Satellite image. Elevation approx. 700 feet.  Source: Google Earth

Though the resolution is less than ideal, the Charles Colvin cabin can be clearly discerned in this 1997 Satellite image. Elevation approx. 700 feet. Click to enlarge. Source: Google Earth

Thanks to a research collaboration between James Carr, longtime Pendleton County, Kentucky resident, and The Colvin Study, the image of Charles Colvin’s cabin built in the late 1790s has been positively identified in older satellite images of land in Pendleton County, situated just a few miles south of Falmouth. Charles is belived to be the progenitor of a line of Colvins which today number several thousands and whose present-day descendants can be found in numerous states including Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, to name a few. Originally from Culpeper County, Virginia, Charles died in Pendleton County in 1810.[1]

Carr was a critical contributor to this latest development as he was able to provide not only a positive eyewitness account of the cabin’s location but was also personally acquainted with its last occupant, Charles “Charlie” Karl Ritter, who died in Harrison County, Kentucky in 1996. Explaining his friendship with “Charlie,” Carr recalled, “I can see it now with the smoke from the chimney curling up through the morning air as Charlie made his own breakfast and prepared to meet the day.” [2]   Records show Charles Karl Ritter, was a lifelong Pendletonian and a first- generation American whose father,  Joshua Ritter, (1850-1910) immigrated to the U.S. in 1869.[3]

Charles Colvin was among some of the first Colvin members of his line to venture into Kentucky. Records show, on August 13,  1799,  Charles purchased over 390 acres of what was considered the Howell Lewis survey paying fifteen shillings an acre or £300.[4]  It was belived his log cabin was located on this acreage.  However, it’s location was mistaken in the 1940s for that of  Henry Colvin by earlier researchers whose dwelling is much further east.[5] Moreover, the log cabin was not within the same area where the  Four Oaks settlement  was established which can be clearly discerned from an 1884 atlas which lists several of Charles’ relatives by name.[6] In addition, many of those same relatives, such as Birkett Landrum Colvin,  (1827-1905) can be found depicted in several photographs taken in 1886, where Birkett and his family can be seen posing inside and outside their home at  Four Oaks.[7]

Charles’ land  was a few miles north, as the crow flies, in an area whose borders began less than a mile outside Falmouth proper. In the days of horseback travel, at a trot, he could have been in Falmouth within twenty minutes.  He also purchased three  one-quarter-acre town lots from the city of Falmouth the same year.[8]

Current Pendleton County land records show the vicinity of  the cabin  within a 200-acre parcel belonging to a Mildred Showalter.[9] Thus, using a combination of  period United Stated Geological Survey (USGS) satellite imagery,  Pendleton County Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping data, and period Google earth satellite images, the cabin’s location was eventually located and an image obtained. Though demolished sometime after 1997, why it was razed is unknown.  It had apparently managed to survive the Great Falmouth Flood of 1996 because, according to Carr, its location  was above the area flood plain. Nevertheless, the cabin is absent in 2003 satellite imagery, which is the next year of available digitized records for the area.  Images post-2003 show a small structure built a hundred yards or so directly in front of the area where the log cabin was located. The address given for the new structure in current land records is 145 Ideal Drive, Falmouth , Pendleton County, Kentucky. Additional research is needed to determine when the land left the Colvin family and why the cabin was eventually demolished post-1997.

Sources:

[1] Charles Colvin Last Will and Testament, March 15, 1810. Recorded  May 24, 1810, Pendleton County, Kentucky Deed Book B[1803-1815]:287. See also,  Pendleton County, Kentucky Court Order Book B:243.

[2] Carr to Colvin email May 14, 2015 wherein James Carr related memories of “Charlie Ritter”.

[3] Joshua Ritter household,  digitized original 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Falmouth District, Pendleton County, Kentucky, line 90, hh 172. www.ancestry.com

[4] Pendleton County, Kentucky, Deed Book A: 38

[5]  Nell Bradford  Woolery, “Some Old Homes of Pendleton County,”  unpublished manuscript,  March 7, 1940, Pendleton County Library Collection. In her narrative of the area’s history Woolery writes, “South of town about 5 miles we find the old Colvin house, which until recently had remained in the possession of that family.  It was this land–part of the Bennett Bartlett patent–that Charles Colvin purchased in 1799 and about 1805 built his house of logs using wooden pegs in place of nails in its construction.” In actuality, what she was describing was the home of  Henry “Harry” Colvin, (1762-1839) who was somewhat distantly related to Charles, but of the same Colvin line. The “Henry Colvin House” as it is known today,  remains intact, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, on Colvin Bend Road, in Pendleton County,  rather east of  Charles Colvin’s original cabin location. See: NRHP website File No. 87000145 which provides images and architectural details. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreghome.do?homesearch=true&term1=87000145&termAttribute1=Use.Identifier/Standard&selectedCollections=NPS%20Digital%20Library&goToFull=True

[6]  “McKinneysburg Precinct 2  Pendleton County ” digitized original, Atlas of Bracken and Pendleton Counties, KY 1884  , J.D. Lake & Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pp 41. www.kentonlibary.org  digital collection.  

[7] Digitized original photograph, “Colvin Family at Four Oaks,” 1896,  Carol Kirkwood to author. In this image is a small gathering of  members of Colvin and Wiggins families among whom are:  Birket Landrum Colvin (1827-1905) , his wife, Sarah “Sallie” E. Beckett (1840-1918) and their children.

[8] Pendleton County, Kentucky Deed Book A: 74.

[9]  Pendleton County Property Records, GIS interface,  showing parcel: 051-00-00-020.00, 145 Ideal Drive Falmouth,  Kentucky.

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George Colvin Land Identified On Modern Google Earth Map


George Colvin's two forty-acre parcels in Monroe County, Ohio as seen for the first time on a modern satellite image.  Calculations by A. Colvin.

George Colvin’s two forty-acre parcels in Monroe County, Ohio as seen for the first time on a modern satellite image. Calculations by A. Colvin.

For those of you who may have wondered when George Colvin, who has often been defined as the progenitor of the Ohio Colvin branch of this line,  came to Ohio and where he settled, the Colvin Study has found not only the  track book entry for what is belived to be his second  land purchase among  Marietta Land Office records but, through a combination of Google Earth and Earth Point software – a GE plug-in, the precise location of George’s land, as given in both patents, 1837 and 1843 respectively have been identified. [1] (See inset).

Finding land precisely on modern day maps using the legal description in early 19th century patents is never particularly easy because, by  2015, the original land has typically changed hands many times. In addition, while the survey system in place – in George’s case, the 7-Range System of the Ohio River Survey – gives us the grid system to work within,  that system does not show us where to find it on a modern satellite image  since those images do not provide coordinates which correspond to the 7 Ranges survey system or any survey system.  Older map do offer the layouts which show the grid and other features. An 1898 atlas, for example, offers  a detailed Jackson township map, complete with  range,  township,  and section,  and many other features  where George’s land was located, but it also shows clearly  a new owner in possession of the same land.[2]

What was needed was software which could overlay the 7-Range system, Ohio River Survey coordinates atop a satellite image of  the area in question. Luckily, the Colvin Study was able to access Earth Point software which uses Bureau of Land Management (BLM) data  to generate a grid which mimics the original Ohio River Survey which was what government officials used to sell parcels of land to folks hoping to settle within the 7-Range  lands being offered up. With this grid in place, we were then able to then use the original Patent legal descriptions to narrow down the correct southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of  Range 4,  township 2,  sections 19 and  20 respectively, where George’s two  40 -acres parcels were located. The results are seen in the first image.

Digitized original George Colvin 1829 entry, Marietta land Office, Book 1. Highlighting by researcher. Source: www.familyserch.org.

Digitized original George Colvin 1829 entry, Marietta Land Office, Book 1. Highlighting by author. Click to enlarge. Source: http://www.familyserch.org.

In addition to locating both of George’s forty-acre parcels, the date of George’s purchase of his second parcel has also been established: February 12, 1839. This is deduced from his track book entry, when he applied for his patent for that land, paying $49.00.[3] According to his patent, when he went to the federal land office at the Ohio river town of Marietta, he was apparently already settled in Monroe County. When he permanently settled is hard to pinpoint because the tract book entry for his first patent, certified in 1837,  has not yet been found in period records. However, that patent hints that George was likely staying at some earlier period in  the small river village of Bellaire in  Belmont County, itself roughly 80-98  miles from the Marietta Land  Office along the Ohio river in Ohio. He’d journeyed from Stafford County, Virginia — a distance of some 300 miles at a time when horseback was the prevailing overland mode of travel —  as evidenced by his appearance in the 1830 Stafford County, Virginia federal census.[4] After securing his land, whether he returned to Stafford where his wife, Sophia and his two children were located, or remained in Monroe County to begin the business of homesteading his land for his arriving family is unknown. This second scenario seems more likely. What is known  is that by 1835, George and Sophia and their two sons, Charles and Roseberry,  had traveled to Pennsylvania where Sophia gave birth to the couple’s first  known daughter, Eliza Jane Colvin, after which time, they likely moved on to Ohio to settle permanently on their new lands in Jackson township.

As already noted, George applied for two patents; the first one certified in 1837, and a second one, applied for in 1839 which was certified in 1843.[5]  Both forty-acre parcels  are near each other – though not conjoined. The first track book entry has not yet been located and is under query.[6] Today, the area where George’s land was originally located is hilly, densely wooded, and sparsely populated with few roads. It is located within what is today considered Wayne National Forest. In the 1930s much of this area was reforested by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, as a federal New Deal response to deforestation by generations of farmers and timber industrialists which had stripped the hills of timber causing erosion and other issues. Unfortunately the types of trees used by CCC workers were not the same as those originally cut such as Black cherry, and White Oak. Aerial views of the region, however, make it clear the land is today very lightly inhabited with what appear to be small homesteads, some quite old. One home on a modernday parcel within the region once owned by George Colvin is over 150 years old. Between the two parcels is the Locust Grove Cemetery, a small church cemetery, in Jackson township where William Colvin, (George’s first cousin, ) along with his wife and three of their eight children are buried.[7] The earliest grave among this family group is William Colvin,  who died October 14, 1887. William, like George, was originally from Virginia, the grandson of Charles B. Colvin, himself a son of Charles Colvin, Sr.  who died in Pendleton County, Kentucky in 1810, according to extant records.

In addition to locating one of his  original entries in the track books, tax , land, and probate records are also under query which may aide in helping to establish when George died and perhaps where he is interred, which has long been a mystery. It is belived he expired between 1840 and 1850 based on his last appearance with his family in the 1840 Monroe County Census, and his absence from the same census by 1850.[8] In that census, Sophia, his wife,  appears along with their children, but as head of household enumerated as a widow. [9]

Update 7/22/15 : The digitized originals of the Jackson Township, Monroe County, Ohio Personal Property tax rolls for years 1833-1838 have been reviewed. George Colvin is not listed among them. Source: “Tax duplicates 1816-1838″ (Monroe County, Ohio.) Vols. 946-951. FHL reels 545128, 514164.

Sources:

[1] In this image, the orange border represents the Township (Jackson); the  upper violet square is section 20, and the lower violet square is section 19. The inside upper colorized square  is the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of each section, as called for in each patent.  Data accessed via http://www.earthpoint.com and the Bureau of land Management Ohio River Survey records. GPS coordinates as well as a .kmz file is available from the author at ajcolvin@uh.edu

[2] “Jackson, Texas” map, Monroe County,  Ohio, digitized original, in Caldwell’s Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio, Atlas Publishing Company, Mt. Vernon, Ohio, 1898 pp 41-42. See also, “Directory of landowners: this volume pp 46. digitized Historic Map Works,  http://www.historicmapworks.com

[3] George Colvin entry,  February 12, 1839,  digitized original, United States Bureau of Land Management Tract Books,  Book 1, (1820-1902) Marietta Land Office: SW ¼ of the NE ¼  of Range 4,  TWP 2, Section 19, http://www.familysearch.org

[4] George Colvin, digitized original of 1830 U.S. Federal Census, Stafford County, Virginia. http://www.Ancestry.com

[5] George Colvin digitized original, patent certificate No. 5893,  March 9, 1843, Bureau of Land Management Patent Records database. http://www.glorecords.blm.gov

[6]   Volume 1 of Marietta Land Office Tract Book is arranged in sequential order, beginning with Range 1, and coninues in ascending order through, range, township, and section. Expecting to find George’s 1837 patent among entries in Range 4, Township 2, Section 20, it was inexplicable absent. There are two additional tract books recording entryman; however, they are arranged in no particular order.

[7] The virtual memorials of William Colvin, (1823-1887), Cazanda Bradfield Colvin (1826-1895), and three of their eight children, Roby Colvin (1851-1899), Lucinda Colvin (1853-1892) and Sophia Colvin (1865-1944) can be found at www.Find-a-Grave.com

[8] George Colvin, digitized original of 1840 U.S. Federal Census,  Jackson Twp., Monroe County, Ohio. http://www.ancestry.com

[9] Sophia Colvin digitized original of 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe County, Ohio http://www.ancestry.com

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Anna Eliza Colvin (1835-1928): A Letter


Transcription to pages 10-11 of letter from Anna Eliza Colvin to Lucille Dale ca. 1926

The following was received in 1926 by Lucille Dale (nee Drake), from the letter-writer, Anna Eliza Colvin. The letter was photocopied by Lucille’s son, John T. Dale, and sent it to Deborah Dale who posted it to her personal web blog at: www.broncriders.blogspot.com  who provided the digitized copies to this researcher. Although this letter serves to confirm many findings in The Colvin Study, this example also serves to demonstrate how, even with the best intentions, family histories often relay the wrong information and how that information gets passed along the family circuit in un-corrected form. At the time of the letter, Anna Eliza was ninety-one years old. Because of its poor genealogical constructs, corrective annotations have been supplied  in the footnotes. See inset for digitized original letter.

(10)

Anna Eliza Colvin, age 91, digitized from copy of tintype.  ca. 1926.  Source: Deborah Dale, living descendant.

Anna Eliza Colvin, age 91, digitized from copy of tintype. ca. 1926.
Source: Deborah Dale, living descendant.

Now I am going to send you a few names of the Colvin family that your aunt Fannie &nd I have thought up guess I will make a labor out of it trying to explain it to you on paper but will do the best I sure we can’t remember very far back as we were both small when we left Va.

first my Grandfather Richard Colvin, who was your Great Great Grand “father.” his Brothers were William Colvin, Lawson Colvin, George Colvin, Edwin Colvin, Sisters, Mary Colvin Holmes, and Polly Colvin Peters who was my fathers mother. [1]

Digitized original of pages 10-11,  personal letter, Anna Eliza Colvin.  Source: Debra Dale, living descendant.

Digitized original of pages 10-11, personal letter, Anna Eliza Colvin.
Source: Debra Dale, living descendant.

(11)

Now Grand [?]other Colvin. His wife was Fannie Howison Colvin and her brothers were Sanford Howison, Colvin Howison, and Sallie Howison Thomas.[2]

Now Grandfather and Grandmothers Children was my mother

Annie Colvin Peters [3]

India Colvin Laws [4]

Mary Frances Colvin Gustus[5]

Clinton Colvin[6]

Richard Colvin[7]

George Colvin [8]

Henry Colvin[9]

Stephen Colvin[10]

I believe this is all that I can think of now If I could see you I might tell

[end of letter]

[1] Anna’s paternal grandparents were Richard Colvin, [Sr.] (1762-1825) and Lydia George.(1775-1855) Both are interred in the Colvin Cemetery in Catlett, Fauquier County, Virginia. Of the “Brothers”  she names,  two were omitted. The brothers of her father, Richard Colvin, Jr. (1818-1869) were (in birth order): George Colvin (1802-1873);  Hayward Colvin (1806-1872);  Lawson Colvin (1806-1860); William Colvin (1812-1888),  and James W. Colvin (1815-1892). Richard’s Colvin, Jr.’s sisters were (in birth order): Mary Elizabeth “Polly” Colvin (1790-1852);  Francis Colvin (1795-1858), and Margaret Peggy Colvin (1798- ?) Each of Richard Colvin Sr.’s children, including Richard Colvin, Jr. (1810-1869) received generous land parcels when his estate was probated in 1828 in Fauquier.  See: Richard Colvin, plat and survey of estate division , September 4, 1828 (microfilm), Surveyor, Zachery Cox, Fauquier County Will Book 12, 1831-1832,  pp 407, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

[2]  This lists refers to Anna’s mother, Francis “Fannie” Howison (1811-1901) and her siblings. Among period records there is evidence of a Will for Stephen Howison, III (1776-1862)  who was Frances’ father. An examination of  document in Prince William Will Book R, pg 2, will be necessary to help determine the names of Frances’ siblings. Nos. 3-10 represent the children of Francis  “Fannie” Howison, beginning with Anna Eliza, the letter writer and proceeding through her siblings.

[3] Anna Eliza Colvin (1835-1926) m James Mauzy Peters (1825-1891) May 11 , 1853, Fauquier County. They are interred in the Granbury Cemetery, Granbury, Hood County, Texas.

[4] India Colvin (1845 – 1908) m. Joseph Author Laws (1848-1910) January 21, 1869 in Fauquier County. They are interred at the Catlett Methodist Cemetery, Catlett, Fauquier County, Virginia.

[5] Mary Frances Colvin (1850 – ?)  m. William. S. Eustace (1845-1891) January 28, 1868. Their internment place is under query.

[6] Clinton Columbus Colvin (1837 – 1898) m. Sarah “Sallie” E. Cash (1844- ?) February 23, 1865, Fauquier County, Virginia. Some records referred to Clinton’s burial place vaguely as “Catlett.” He and Sarah’s internment location is under query.

[7] Richard Howison Colvin (1840-1933) m. Clara C. Coldwell (1848-1939) May 5, 1874, Kerr County, Texas. Richard is interred at the High Street Cemetery, Benson, Cochise County, Arizona. Clara’s burial location is under query.

[8] George Washington Colvin (1842-1905) m. Mollie B. Melson (1852-1930) September 17, 1884, Gillespie County, Texas. They are interred at the Nichols Cemetery, Ingram, Kerr County, Texas.

[9] William Henry Colvin (1848-1925) m. Virginia Catherine Colvin, a 1st cousin (1848-1912) January 21, 1869, Fauquier County, Virginia. They are interred in the Colvin Cemetery, Catlett, Fauquier County, Virginia.

[10] Stephen Charles Colvin (1853-1917) m. Lydia N. Maxwell (1858-1927) December 14, 1876, Hood County, Texas. They are interred in the Granbury Cemetery, Granbury, Hood County, Texas.

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George Davis consent for Nancy Davis marriage to George Colvin, December 26, 1810


George Davis consent for Nancy DavisIf you’ve never seen an actual parental consent note from the early 19th century, now is your big chance. This one shows George Davis, father of Nancy Davis (1791-1861). informing the clerk of Harrison County, Kentucky, that his daughter has his permission to marry George Colvin.(1784-1863). [1] If the child was under-age, (under 21) they had to get parental consent which came in the form of a permission slip like this.  There are several reasons why these documents are important. Firstly,  they can clear up uncertainties. Often times, when one finds a marriage listing in an index, there is often no information about the original record, and sometimes the county where the marriage took place is wrong, or the date is wrong. Original records clear that up nicely. In this case, a twenty-six-year-old, George Colvin,  was  marrying a nineteen-year old girl. That wasn’t particular unusual, but without this records, we’d never know.

The note reads:

“Please to let Mr. George Colvin have licence to mary [sic] my Daughter Nancy Davis and with so doing you will much oblige your George Davis.”

William More,  clerk of  Harris County signed and sealed and recorded the note, and George Colvin’s name was also attached, as were those of witnesses who signed with a mark.

Note also, the date at the bottom: December 26, 1810 as well as the language in use: that syntax was somewhat standard  in these kinds of notes with oft-repeated legal phrases such as  “Please to let…to have license… to marry my …and you will much oblige….”  Curiously, here the clerk omitted the phrase, “your humble servant,” which one usually sees in consent forms only twenty years earlier, as in:, “and you will much oblige your humble servant,” . But this note is from 1810, and these folks were no longer under British rule, so here’s clear evidence of a shift in  language use as the idea of non-servitude under an aristocracy takes root.  Thus  the phrase in use becomes, “you will oblige your George Davis,” which sounds rather clunky, but it’s very telling, reflecting the language changes clerks were adopting.

Records from this period were always hand written and space was always at a premium as was ink and paper. Thus,  for these simple documents  you grabbed whatever was handy to scribble these notes on and dashed it off. Note there is no particular order to where  “Mr. William More[sic]”  the clerk of  Harrison County signed his name. It’s just there to make it official. He even seals it with his own little scribbly-mark. Also, if you look at the bond just above the note, notice the spelling and handwriting difference.

The actual registry listing for this marriage has not yet been located, but in all likelihood the couple married within a few days.  Nancy’s brother, Steven Davis, along with her fiancé, George Colvin,  paid the £50.00 to the clerk for the standard surety the next day, and that stage of the marital process was complete. All that remained was for the couple to take the un-signed licence to the minister who’d  perform the wedding ceremony, for the couple to sign the marriage registry, and for the minister to “return” the signed licence to the same clerk who’s issued the bond but who would now record the signed licence among his list of ministers “returns.” From this process we get the idea of civil records of marriage “bonds and returns” in older records.

Original records like these offer more than just genealogic data; they also offer a small window into the lives of those involved in their creation in a way a simple  index entries compiled years after the event never can.  Unfortunately, too few genealogists seek out these primary sources, preferring instead to use less reliable records: un-cited online indexes and family trees. The accuracy of their results, needless to say,  are rather predictable.

Sources:

[1] George Davis digitized original consent,  December 26,  1810, Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954, http://www.familysearch.org.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity: Sanford Colvin vs. Sanford Carter, and an evidentiary conflict resolved.


Mary Colvin household, 1850 Federal Census, Stafford County, Virginia.  Many researchers have confused Sanford for a Colvin, thanks to this census..

Mary Colvin household, digitized original of the 1850 Federal Census, Stafford County, Virginia. Many researchers have confused Sanford (line 12, hh 258, ) for a Colvin, thanks to this census.

On or about August 24, 1850, a Federal enumerator visited his 258th  household in the Eastern Census District of Stafford County, Virginia.[1] That day he met with or was told about the occupants. There was Mary Colvin, the head of household, sixty years old allegedly, overseeing a home composed almost entirely of females – all of them her descendants – three generations worth. There were also men folk. One, her son Alfred Colvin, at thirty  years old, was a seeming confirmed bachelor. And there were two other men: Richard Carter, and an odd duck, Sanford Colvin. These two, Richard and Sanford, according to how they were tallied in the census, appear to be oddly similar. They are, for example, the only two “laborers,” on what was clearly a subsistence farm – the term in such records implying day laborers — men hired by the day, week, or season, typically when there was planting or harvesting to do. Alfred, Mary’s son, conversely, was listed as “farmer” which implied he was a permanent resident of the location. The two laborer males were also some thirteen years apart in age – close enough to pass for siblings. But with different surnames, that appear, at first glance, unlikely. Thus far, compelling but indirect evidence strongly suggests Mary Colvin was the likely spouse of John Colvin in whose household, according to the 1820 U.S. Federal Census, three young males (most likely sons,) resided.[2] Two members of the trio were between 0-10 years old; the third was age 16-18. Careful analysis of that census and other records from 1810-1860, reveal that George Colvin (who by 1840 had relocated with his family to Ohio ) and Alfred Colvin, (who died in 1870) are very likely the two sons of John who appear in the 1820 census.[3]

That obviously leaves Sanford Colvin as the 3rd son – or does it? To answer that question, a little cross-referencing is in order: we must return to the 1850 Federal Census where Sanford is enumerated as being age “43.” If correct, Sanford would have to have been age thirteen in 1820. If correct, however, this also creates a conflict since no male appears in the 1820 John Colvin census age 10-16, despite there being a column for such a listing. Further, if age thirteen  in 1820, that would mean that by 1823 — when Sanford would turned sixteen — one would expect to find him as John’s tithable beginning in that year’s annual county personal property tax lists, and every year thereafter for at least another four or five  years. Yet Sanford never appears in these lists as John’s tithable. The reason for Sanford’s conspicuous absence from the tax lists cannot, however, be deduced by studying census records where Sanford does not comfortably fit into the John Colvin household. His absence from those records is better explained instead by analyzing the tax list of the 1820s where Sanford first turns up in a  March 9, 1829 entry.[4] His surname, like Mary Colvin, (who rather expectedly appears,) was misspelled Calvin. Yet analyzing these lists over subsequent years, reveals that Sanford’s surname was misspelled in a way different from Mary’s. After following the entries, the pattern becomes clear: Sanford’s surname was not being misspelled, like Mary’s, by the single letter “a” but by several letters. Although it was on more than one occasion listed with the Colvins, it more rightfully belonged with the Carters. In fact, from 1839 – 1850 Sanford is routinely listed by tax enumerators as a Carter with the exception of 1829 and 1841 when his surname was mutated into Calvin.[5]

Like census enumerators, tax commissioners and their aides, made multiple copies of their lists. In Virginia at least four copies were required – each likewise being hand-written. But unlike the census, the names were not listed in the order in which the homes were visited, but in alphabetical order – and even then not entirely in orderly fashion — all occurring after the commissioner’s rounds were made to collect the sworn statements of who owed what, and their tallies returned to the clerks. In Virginia, the original 1st and 3rd copied sets of lists are no longer extant; thus, the microfilmed copies ordinarily consulted by researchers are those of the 4th and final copied list – those that went to the state Auditor’s office in Richmond. Ergo, from a purely clerical perspective, it’s easy to imagine how all the required hand-copying (hundreds of names copied four times each,) was destined to generated errors. Fortunately, because more often than not the clerks managed to spell Sanford’s surname correctly as Carter, the pattern in the tax lists explains why, after all, he doesn’t (and shouldn’t,)  fit comfortably in the John Colvin census of 1820, and why, moreover, he is absent from John’s tithes in the tax lists thereafter. He was not a Colvin. It also explains why, in the Mary Colvin household of 1850, he and Richard Carter seem so similar in age and occupation: they were very likely brothers.

Sources:

[1] Mary Colvin household,  1850 U.S. Federal Census,  August 24, 1850, Eastern District, Stafford County, Virginia, (microfilm) Line 11-19, household 258. Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, TX. Hereafter “CLCGR”.

[2] For John Colvin household composition, see: John “Calvin” entry,  February 11, 1828, Stafford County, Virginia., Personal Property Tax List, (microfilm) Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. This is John’s last appearance in the tax lists.  See also: Mary Colvin entry,  March 9,  1829, Stafford County, Virginia. Personal Property Tax Lists, Library of Virginia. Given the intersection of John’s last appearance and Mary’s first appearance, this is the strongest (though indirect,)  evidence that Mary was John’s widow. See also: Mary Colvin household, 1830 U.S. Federal Census, Falmouth, Stafford County, Virginia. Mary appears as the head of household because only single widowed females or those of legal age and unmarried with property would have been counted in the tax or census records as heads. Ordinarily, females were not a part of the tallies.  See also: John Colvin household, 1820 U.S. Federal Census,  Stafford County, Virginia. CLCGR, Houston, Texas.

[3] George Colvin household, 1840, U.S. Federal Census, Jackson, Monroe County, Ohio; Alfred Colvin entry, August 12, 1870, Stafford County, Virginia Death Register, 1853-1875, Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

[4] Sanford “Calvin “entry, March 9,  1829, Stafford County, Virginia., (microfilm) Dept. of  Taxation, 1814-1838, CLCGR, Houston, TX.

[5] Mary “Calvin” entry, February 14, 1831, Stafford County, Virginia. Department of Taxation, 1814-1838, (microfilm) CLCGR, Houston, Texas. As with previous entries, the Colvin surname is misspelled “Calvin” due to obvious clerical errors. See also: John “Calvin” entry, February 11, 1828, for another example. For Sanford with his correct surname “Carter”  see entries, March 11,  1839; March 18  1840; March 5,  1842; 1847, [no date]; 1848 [no date] 1849 [no date] and 1850, [no date] Stafford County, Virginia Personal Property Tax Lists (microfilm) 1839-1850 CLCGR, Houston, TX. Of the eight  times Sanford is listed between 1839-1850,  on only two occasions is his surname misspelled as “Calvin”.  Most telling of the two incidents, however, in that of the  March 20, 1841 list where Sanford  is among the Carters.

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George Colvin and the 1820 Ohio Land Act


George Colvin land patent 1 of 2

George Colvin Land patent — one of two — issued 7 November 1837.

A recent inquiry by a living Colvin descendant pointed me in the direction to George Colvin – long believed to be the progenitor of the Ohio branch of this family. Family lore has it that George left his Piedmont-area Colvin clan, disturbed by the idea of chattel slavery and whippings and headed in the 1830s with his wife Sophia ____  in tow, northward to Pennsylvania where he stayed briefly, where Sophia bore a daughter, Eliza Jane Colvin (1835-1915)  and from whence he headed West finally settling in Ohio. While difficult to determine his motives, George has been tracked in the federal census and land records, and it is known that he fathered at least three children – Eliza Jane, Charles, and Roseberry Colvin between 1835-1842, Eliza Jane Colvin truely having been born in Pennsylvania in 1835.[1] Much is known of these heirs as well as of George’s spouse, Sophia ______, including where and when she died and where she is interred.[2] Much less is known of George aside from that bit of family lore already noted. We know a bit of his family composition from census records. But thus far no marriage records have been found regarding his marriage to Sophia or, for that matter, even where she was born – although un-sourced claims abound.[3]

Yet, sometimes even land records offer clues to a person’s whereabouts, and George’s patent records offer a worthwhile lesson in how to begin establishing one’s ancestor at a fixed time and place.

In George Colvin’s case, the first thing one notices on the patent is the Land Act under which the land was purchased. In other words, the  piece of legislation that governed the land sale offer. In George’s case, it was the Ohio Land Act of 1820, which we can tell because of the language used: “…according to the provisions of the Act of Congress… 24 April 1820.”[4]  That’s boilerplate legalese for Land Act.

Next, it’s necessary to know something of that bit of lawmaking, to understand its historical context. In other words: what caused that law to come into being?

The Land Act of 1820

During the early 1800s, many Ohioans purchased land on credit. During the War of 1812 and afterwards, for example, farmers bought many acres of land from the federal government. This land had been part of the Congressional Lands, set aside by the national government as it organized the Northwest Territory. It was not difficult for Ohioans to make payments on their loans as long as the economy remained strong, but by the late 1810s the state was in the midst of severe economic problems. During the Panic of 1819, for example, there was a shortage of currency that made it impossible for many farmers to make the necessary loan payments. In addition, other parts of the nation were also experiencing these economic problems, making it difficult for farmers in Ohio to sell their crops. Many people feared that they would lose their farms as a result.

Congress responded to the farmers’ concerns with the Land Act of 1820 and the Relief Act of 1821. The Land Act essentially reduced the number of acres that Ohioans had to purchase from 160 to 80 and the cost from $2.00 per acre to $1.25, in an attempt to encourage additional land sales. The Relief Act permitted Ohioans to return land that they could not pay for back to the government, granting a credit towards their debt for the returned land. Additionally, Congress extended credit to the buyer for eight more years. The government hoped that with the time extension, the economy would improve. Farmers would then be able to sell their crops and make payments on their loans. By allowing the return of land that Ohioans could not afford, Congress helped farmers not lose everything that they had worked for. People could often afford a smaller acreage, but not the 160 acres originally mandated by the Land Act of 1804. Overall, the federal government’s policies were successful, and many Ohioans were pleased that Congress had taken action to help them.

But, where did the settlers make their land purchases? That also changed with each new Land Act. Thus, in 1820 or thereafter, a purchaser (also known in period land jargon as an “entryman”)  would have gone to the Federal Land Office in Chillicothe, in Ross County. There he’s make his payment or down payment (he was required to buy a minimum of eighty acres for the federally-guaranteed price of $1.25 per acre price,) and his name and some particulars recorded in what were called “land entry books.” Basically transaction logs. We do not yet have the land case files, for George Colvin who managed to received two patents in  1837 and 1843 respectively thus we cannot yet know exactly when George took out the patents which helps to establish his settlement in Ohio.  We know only that, he was able to satisfy all of the rigorous requirements necessary to have the patent issued despite the various delays in said patients being delivered. It’s worth noting that the 1820 Land Act patents also had to each be signed by the President of the United States, adding to their delay in being returned to the Land Office in Ohio who thence dispersed them to the patentees.  Many patentees never claimed their hard-earned patents and thousands languish today in the National Archives — returned to Washington, D.C. and voided when they went unclaimed.  It’s also important to remember that the date of the patent ought never be confused by researchers with the date patentee arrived in the state where it was issued.   In all likelihood  such a settler would have arrived years earlier and begun the settlement process.  In the case of  George Colvin, his entry would likely be in the Land Tract Books of Ohio which are held by the Eastern States Office, Bureau of Land Management[5] In the case of his patents,  The Colvin Study already has the digitized originals in its database. (see inset.) Obviously, our next step will be to acquire the land entry data if it is extant. A review of addition period tax records may also help to establish his arrival in Ohio. Thus, personal property and land tax records for the period will also be explored. The microfilmed originals are currently held with the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus. [6] Other microfilmed copies are available through Family History Centers for rental fees.

With luck, these land entry and tax records should aid in helping to fix George’s settlement  in Ohio; afterward will be the task of trying to establish when he died – or at least where, neither of which are currently known. See update here.

Sources: 

[1] Digitized original of Jacob Rowles household, 1900 Federal Census, Grandview, Washington County, Ohio line 79, hh 203. www.ancestry.com. Eliza married Jacob Rowels (1833-1914) ca. 1857 in Ohio. In this census, Eliza gives her birthdate as May, 1835, and place of birth as Pennsylvania. This birth year also appears on her  grave marker in the New Matamoras Cemetery in Washington County, Ohio where she is interred beside her husband. Digital images of both headstones are on file with The Colvin Study.

[2] Sophia [–?–]  was interred in the Whitten Cemetery, Belpre, Monroe County in February 1893. The inscription on her obelisk reads: ” Sophia wife of G. Colvin born Oct 20 1807 died Feb 10 1893 Aged 85 Y 3M 20D”  It can be viewed in situ at her Find-a-Grave.com memorial. # 6364632. The Colvin Study also has a digitized copy of this headstone image on file.

[3] Tina Kitlack, “George and Sophia Colvin”  in  Monroe County,  Ohio Families,  Monroe Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society of Woodsfield Ohio, 1992. pp 106. Kitlack makes numerous claims regarding George, his wife, and their heirs, none of which are cited. See also Tina Kitlack,  “Colvin-Elliot” entry, pp 106.

[4] Ohio History Central  website at: http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=1473

[5] The National Archives website has an excellent overview of these land records and how to obtain them. See: “Land Records: Introduction and Links to Resources on Land Entry Case  Files and Related Records,”  http://www.archives.gov/research/land/

[6] Newly emerging  data from census records suggests  Charles Colvin, Jr. (Charles B. Colvin),  Charles Colvin, Sr.’s eldest son, may have pre-dated George’s arrival by several years and thus may usurp George Colvin’s place as the progenitor of this line’s Ohio branch. This possibility remains under inquiry.

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