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Analysis of the Timeline

 

     George Berry first appears in Augusta County records in the winter of 1751, where the elder James Berry (his father) and a neighbor (William Martin) posted a bond in the case of the orphans of the James Berry that died in 1749. The date on the entry says 1750, but it is expressed in the old style, where Lady Day marks the first of the year (as noted earlier in the report), so this date is actually 1751. William Martin owned a tract of land adjacent to the land that George's father, the elder James Berry, had purchased from Robert Campbell in the Beverley Grant (Figure 14). William Vance, an original Beverley purchaser had sold his land (shown on Figure 3) to John McPheeters (see Augusta County Deed Book 6, page 51621), who then sold 198 acres of this parcel to Andrew Pickens, who, in turn, sold it to William Martin (see Augusta County Deed Book 6, page 17921). It was this land parcel that was adjacent to James Berry's land.


      The next entry is from 1753, when George Berry was ordered to clear land for a nearby road. John Brown's bridge is probably on John Brown's property, which can be located on the Beverley map, where it is crossed by Meadow Run Creek (Figure 14). All but a few of the names mentioned in this listing can be found on the Borden and Beverley maps as landowners, as purchasers of Beverley land from original purchasers, or from families that had been in Augusta County for several years and were landowners in the area. These names are outlined in Figure 14, clustered near the known property of George Berry.


      In the spring of 1754, George petitioned the court, successfully, for tax relief for his, apparently ailing and old, father (the elder James Berry). In the summer of 1755, George Berry purchased the Beverley Grant land that the elder James Berry had purchased from Robert Campbell a few years earlier. The lease/release method of land transfer utilized in this sale has already been described in the report. Later that year (in November) the land transfer is noted in the Augusta County court records. In 1756, George Berry was listed twice as being late in paying his property taxes. The next records are from April and May of the same year, when a county court commission met with George's mother, Elizabeth Berry, to see if she actually consented to the land sale. As noted in the discussion of the elder James Berry, this issue involved her dower rights, and solicited her personal assurance to the court that she was not being pressured by her husband to sell the land.219,220 The county court representatives, Patrick Martin and Robert McClenahan, were both nearby landowners, whose properties can be located on the Beverley Grant map (Figure 3). Less than a year later, a neighbor was accidentally killed, and George Berry served on the inquest panel. All of the other members of the inquest panel, except the Fultons and Clarks, can be found on the Beverley and Borden maps as nearby property owners or as probable sons of the owners (Figure 3).


      The first entry for the 1760's is from the Parish Vestry book, which appears to represent a listing of those responsible for tax levies on the Glebe, a plot of land owned by the Church of England. A cemetery occupied this Glebe land, which was located adjacent to George Berry's property (Figures 2, 3 and9).214 While none of these men can be found on the Beverley plat, they are all probably sons of original owners (or secondary owners as in the case of George Berry) of Beverley Grant lands. In February of 1762, George Berry purchased an additional 198 acres of land adjacent to his existing Beverley plot. While there is no land description that would allow the location of this land parcel to be identified on the Beverley Grant map in Figure 3, three other court documents allow for a fairly precise identification of the location. The 1762 entry for George Berry notes that Andrew Pickens had previously owned this land, but Andrew is clearly not an original Beverley purchaser, since he does not appear in Figure 3. The following entry from page 22 of the Augusta Parish Vestry Book identifies the men who owned land in this area in the late winter and early spring of 1748, and Andrew Pickens is present.21 Those who had bought land originally from William Beverley are shown on Figure 14.

 

      William McFeters and Patrick Martin report, viz: Processioned for James Bell, Maurice Ofrail; Wm. King, Samuel Wallace, Hugh Young, John Trimble, Wm. McFeters, Jacob Lockhart, Thos. Kirkpatrick, James Clerk, John McCery, Nathan Patterson, Capt. John Wilson, Robert Campbell, Andrew Pickens and Wm. Martin, Robert Campbell, David Campbell, James Lockhart, David Cunningham, Alex. Campbell, Patrick Cook, Patrick Martin. These not processioned, viz: Jas. Bell, John Risk, Capt. John Wilson, John McCutcheon. 

 

      The following entry from Augusta County Deed Book 2 (page 645) notes that James Young purchased land from William Beverley on 28 February 1749.21 This 436-acre tract can be located on Figure 14, and, while the surrounding landowners are identified, not all of them can be found on the map showing original Beverley purchasers. Still, the location of Andrew Pickens' land can be vaguely pinpointed as being bordering both Robert Campbell's and James Young's land, which clearly places it in the plot of land originally purchased by William Vance.

 

28th February, 1749. Same (William Beverley) to James Young, planter, 436 acres in Beverley Manor on Back Creek. Corner Robert Young; McFeeter's line; corner Andrew Pickens; corner Robert Campbell; corner Patrick Martin. Teste: John Wilson, John Gay.

 

     This last entry from Augusta County Deed Book 6 (page 516) notes a land transfer, from father to son, of 322 acres adjacent to John Trimble's land. This 322 acres can be identified in Figure 14 as the land originally purchased by Robert Crockett. The entry also notes that William Vance, who owned the adjacent tract, had sold his 400-acre plot to John McPheeters. From the above flow of land descriptions and transfers, it can be seen that the 198 acres of land once owned by Andrew Pickens must have been part of William Vance's land, and it was part of this land parcel that was eventually sold to George Berry. When George Berry expanded his land holdings, he bought land just to the north of his father's land purchase.

 

17th March 1755. Wm. McPhatters (McFeeters) Sr., to William Jr., his son, natural love and affection, 322 acres where William, Sr., now lives, in Beverley Manor; John Trimble's corner; corner Wm. Vance now John McPheeters.

 

      Two years later George served as a testamentary in the sale of a tract of land in the Borden Grant for his cousin William Berry. In 1765 he appraised the estate of Alexander Crawford, and the other two appraisers were landowners in the Beverley Grant. (Figure 4).


      The next two entries represent additional parish vestry entries, and are quite interesting in that they, essentially, represent a list of property owners. The first entry is a listing of men who were designated as processioners along with their areas of responsibility, and the second entry is a list of the property owners processioned by George Berry and the three others in his processioning group. Processioning is a legal term meaning to walk (or make a procession) around a property in order to determine its boundaries, essentially amounting to a survey of the property.239 These records clearly identify and generally locate landowners, and the vestry records are, thus, records of taxes owed to and collected for the state church. A vestry apparently consisted of vestrymen, wardens, a clerk and one or more clergy members, who were directly responsible to the state church as shown by the following record:21

 

22 Nov 1771 Augusta Parish  Vestry Records, page 486 
Following have been elected Vestrymen, qualify and subscribe to be conformable to the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England.

 

      The amount of this church tax appears to have been determined by a three-step process. First the landowner is identified and the property is physically located. As shown in the following entry, the landowner needed to present a deed (presumably to prove ownership), as well as to show the property boundaries to the processioners.21

 

27 November 1755 Augusta Parish Vestry Records, page 139 
By order of Vestry, dated 27th November, 1755, subscribers have processioned all the patroned land within bounds of Cap. Wm. Christian's Company,  …   for Jos. Tees (deceased), no one to show lines; for Wm. Long, …for Wm. Long; for John Glass (deceased), no one to show lines; for Samuel Lusk, has no deed; for Samuel McCoule, has no deed; for John Hunter, has no deed; for James Patton (deceased), no one to show lines 

 

      The processioners then walked and measured the property boundaries, which was then taxed at a rate of six shillings per pole (16.5 feet), as shown in the following entry:21

 

21 Sept 1747 Augusta County Vestry Records, page 11 
Parish Levy laid, 1,670 tithables at 6 shillings per pole. 

 

      Probably due to a general lack of capital, levies were submitted as a percentage of the crops, initially, at the rate of 3 farthings per pound of tobacco, as described in the following Parish Vestry entry:21

 

3 April 1766 Augusta Parish Vestry Records, page 421 
Case: In 1738 Act was passed for giving incouragement for the settling the Frontiers by which the Inhabitants of Frederick and Augusta were allowed to Pay off and discharge their Public County and Parish Levies and all officers' fees in money for Tobacco at 3 farthings per pound. 

 

      Apparently, another purpose of the parish tax was to provide as sort of social safety net for the less fortunate of the colony, as shown in these entries:21

 

21 May 1750 Augusta Parish Vestry Records, page 30 
John Archer to be allowed £3.10 for boarding Richard Wilson, an object of charity, six months.


6 Aug 1750 Augusta Parish Vestry Records, page 31 
£4 to be paid Margaret Frame, a poor widow woman, for support of her children. £4.10 to be paid Julian Mauk (Mank) for support of a poor blind woman for 1 year 


  

     All of the processioning “districts' described in the 1767 entry can be identified on Figure15, including George Berry's area of responsibility, which appears to include his land. The landowners he and the other three men processioned comprise the next entry. Of the 32 landowners processioned, ten were original purchasers of Beverley land, and seven were probably sons of original purchasers. 


     In the early spring of 1768, George Berry had been selected by the local Presbyterian congregation as commissioner for the parish to purchase a small plot of land from John Brown for a church meeting house. The other representatives, Hugh Young, John Trimble and William McFeeters and John Finley were nearby landowners. The Reverend Charles Cummins is listed as the local religious leader, and John Brown's stone meeting house is described as being located near Meadow Run, which is the location of John Brown's property on the Beverley Grant map (Figure 3). The deed for this land was transferred two months later. The first indication that George Berry owned slaves appears in an August 1768 entry, where a slave (servant) owned by George Berry has escaped. 


      In the summer of 1770, George Berry served as a testamentary in a land sale. John Poage, the man who purchased the land may be related to Robert Poage, who bought land in the southwestern portion of the Beverley Grant in 1740 and in the southern part of the Borden Grant in 1739, 1740 and 1742. James Brown is the son of John Brown (see Augusta County Will Book 4, page 31121) a Beverley Grant landowner. In the spring of 1772, George Berry and James Brown again served as testamentaries in another land transaction. Sometime between 17 December 1772 and 8 February 1773, George's father in law, William Hall, passed away. William Hall mentioned both his daughter Agnes and his son in law George in his will, which was written shortly before he died. Since he noted that George Berry was his son (although he quite clearly meant son in law) it suggests that George and his father in law may have been quite close. William Hall lived in the southwestern part of the Borden Grant, having purchased 353 acres in along the North River in 1743 and 346 acres in 1763 (Figure 8). In January, a neighbor, William McPheeters, passed away, and George Berry was listed as filing a bond for the appraisal of his estate. A few years later (in February of 1775), David Hays passed away, and George Berry served as a testamentary for his will. David Hays had purchased land in the northern end of the Borden tract, next to the property of William Berry, in 1749. Later in February George Berry is noted as having ordered a land survey for 84 acres along the Middle River. The exact location of this land is not known, but George already owned 347 acres along the Middle River, so he could have purchased some available adjacent land.


      Since orphanages did not exist during the late 18th century in Virginia, responsibility for the welfare of the les fortunate members of society, such as illegitimate children, orphans and neglected children, was a church function governed by churchwardens of the parish vestries. In 1780, the vestries were eliminated, and the government took over these duties with the positions of Overseers of the Poor. In this welfare process, both before and after 1780, the underage children were turned over to county citizens who were willing to take on the responsibility of caring for and training them. The churchwarden, and later, the Overseers of the Poor, executed a bond or an indenture with the master, which outlined the conditions of apprenticeship. In 1773 George Berry served as a churchwarden in the Augusta Parish, and in 1782 and 1783, after the welfare system was taken over by the state, he served as an Overseer of the Poor for two years. In 1785 George served as the master in a master/apprentice indenture agreement, where he undertook the responsibility of instructing a young woman, Margaret Dobbish (Dobage) in the arts of being a housewife. William Berry, George's cousin, took in what appears to be the sister of George Berry's apprentice in the same month, and Solomon McCampbell, either the father or the husband of William Berry's daughter, Nancy Berry, assumed responsibility for Cornelius Dobage. Apparently, the three Dobage children were orphaned, and several Berry family families took in the kids.469


      In the summer of 1778, George and his wife Agnes are recorded as selling some of the land her father had owned. The buyer was Samuel Brafford, who may be related to Jean Berry and John Brawford/Brafford. (The Brawford name has appeared in the records under various spellings.) Jean (Berry) Brafford was the daughter of Charles Berry and a granddaughter of the elder John Berry. Cedar Creek, a short tributary of the James River, can be found in Figures 10 and 11 along the route of the Great Wagon Road, and the ownership history can be traced from 1761 through at least 1779. This 220-acre tract was probably a part of an original 500-acre purchase made by William Hall in the late summer of 1765, and originally patented to him in 1761.247 This 1779 entry notes that William Hall had sold this land to his son William Hall, Jr., who later sold it to George Berry. The land sale from William Hall to his son was made in the summer of 1766, but the records for the subsequent sale to George Berry have not been found.21


      In the spring and again in the fall of 1779, George Berry and his brother in law, Andrew Hall, sold several additional tracts of land from the estate of William Hall. The first property (a 15 acre plot) is noted as lying on the forks of the James River along Todd Spring Run, a short tributary of Buffalo Creek. This creek can be found on Figure 16 not far to the southwest of the southern boundary of the Borden Grant. William Hall had originally purchased a 115-acre tract on Todd's Spring Run in 1760, so this sale could either be a portion of that land or the 15 acres is a misprint, actually representing the entire 115-acre plot.247 It is of some historical interest to note that Samuel Houston was a witness to this land sale. The 110-acre plot from the second transaction is also described as lying in the forks of the James River, crossing Whisels Creek. This creek (actually Whistle Creek) can be found along the extreme southern border of the Borden Grant in Figure 16. This is probably the same 110-acre plot that was purchased by William Hall in 1758 from his son Andrew Hall, which includes James Young's Mill.21


      Of particular interest in these two transactions are a few fine points of geographical interest. These properties are described as lying in the forks of the James River. While the tributaries named in these transactions can be found on the Borden Grant map and various other cited maps, the James River does not extend up to Buffalo Creek or Whistle and Todd Run Creeks. Instead, the Borden map shows Whistle Creek and Todd Run Creek draining into the North River (Figure 8). Apparently this river had been known originally as the James, although later it was called the North River, as evidenced by Augusta County court records from the 1780's and 90's.21 A look at a modern map, however, shows this river to be neither the James nor the North, but the Maury. So why was it called the James River in these documents? The answer can be found in a look at a state map of Virginia. If one examines the course of the James River, it can be seen to meander across the coastal plain from the Blue Ridge Mountains and empty into the Atlantic Ocean via an elongate estuary that heads near Richmond, Virginia. Upriver, this stream crosses the Blue Ridge Mountains, the first range in the Appalachian Mountain System, through a water gap, and, on the western side of the mountains, the stream splits into two distinct rivers; one heads to the north and the other to the south. In modern day terminology, the southern stream is called the James River, while the northern one is named the Maury. Apparently, in colonial times, the northern stream was considered to represent the true course of the James River. Later geographic investigations must have determined that the southern stream represented the trunk stream, resulting in the name change. Of much importance to this report is the fact that the Scotch-Irish settlers in the area during the 1770's referred to the present day Maury River as the James River, and they referred to the entire area as the fork of the James.


     Only a few records document George Berry during the next two decades. In 1781, George Berry, James McCleary and Robert Patterson served as testamentaries in Elizabeth Clark's will. James McCleary was the son of John McCleary (see Augusta County Will Book 5, page 45721), who had purchased land not far from George Berry's Beverley land in 1748. Robert Patterson was probably related to Nathaniel Patterson, who had made a 1740 purchase of Beverley land next to John McCleary (Figure 4). This James McCleary may be the father of Rebecca McCleary, who married George Berry's son, William in 1776. In the winter of 1782 George Berry applied for a land warrant on the Guyandotte River in Montgomery County. The land was surveyed in the fall of 1783 and the patent was issued to George Berry by the Commonwealth of Virginia in the fall of 1786. As can be seen in Figure 100, the Guyandotte River lies within the Appalachian Plateau region, a mountainous area of mostly flat-lying rocks west of the Appalachian fold belt and quite distant from the Beverley grant where George Berry lived. There is no evidence at all that he ever lived on the Guyandotte property, so the land could have been purchased for future use – quite possibly it represents some dabbling in land speculation. Figure 101 shows the survey boundaries and descriptions of this property. Unfortuantely, its exact location is not known, so it could have been anywhere along the extent of the Guyandotte River. The entire length of the river currently lies completely within the southwestern counties of West Virginia. When George Berry wrote his will in 1803 he gave the land to his son John Berry, who was living in Harrison County, Kentucky at the time. By that time, Montgomery County had been split, and the Guyandotte River property was located either in Kanawha or Tazewell County, Virginia.103,1105


     Augusta County Personal Property Tax records document George Berry from 1782 through 1801. He appears in the same tax district (District 1) throughout this time period, and was clearly a slave owner, typically paying taxes on one or two slaves, some cattle and a number of horses. In 1786 George Berry again served as a testamentary. In June of 1787 he appears on the Augusta County tax listings, where he was described as having no males in the household between the ages of 16 and 21 years of age. He also owned 29 cattle, nine horses, colts and mules, a black (male) slave under the age of 16, and two black (male) slaves over the age of 16. It should be noted that only males were counted for these taxes, so females, whether they were black or white, were not enumerated. This is the second verification of slave ownership by George Berry. In December of that year, his daughter, Mary Berry married James Henry, and since George had to give his consent, it is probably safe to assume that Mary was under the age of 18, and possibly under 16. The single entry for George Berry from the Augusta County records from the 1790's is where he served as a testamentary in Moses Hays' will. In the 1800 tax list for Augusta County, Virginia, George Berry is documented as having one male in the household over 21 years of age (himself) plus two horses, one slave over the age of 16 and one slave between 12 and 16. In the spring of 1801, George served as a testamentary for John Tate's will, and testified to the veracity of the will when it was proved in court about a year and a half later. James Henry, another testamentary for John Tate, can be found on the Borden map, and purchased his land in 1757 land purchaser. Although there is no Matthew Wilson on the Beverley plat (Figure 4) , there is a John Wilson, who had purchased a plot of Beverley land near George Berry's (Figure 4). John Wilson had sold his land in this area to Matthew Wilson, who was probably his son (see Augusta County Deed Book 2, page 14121). 


     The remaining four entries from the spring of 1803 through the winter of 1804 record George Berry's will; the proving of the will in court; a bond set for the will executors and an appraisal of his estate. George doesn't appear to have left much in the way of personal belongings, since the appraisal of his personal estate listed three slaves, a few household items, eight cows and two horses. It gives the appearance of a simple farmer and stockman, who owned some land and what appears to be an African American family. George Berry wrote his will on 8 April 1803, and named two sons, John and George, as well as one son in law, James Henry. In addition he states that he had a total of nine children, although their names are not given. George willed his land holdings to John, which might suggest that he was the oldest son, or possibly the oldest son remaining in the area. In the codicil (a will attachment) he named three slaves, and identified several animals and household items, which pretty much corresponds to the items identified in the estate appraisal. 

 

George Berry Part 1

In-laws of George Berry

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