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(Unpublished article included with permission
of the author, Harold Weary)
© 2002  Harold Weary 

The Gravatt/Holman Families 

The earliest record I have of my Gravatt family is that they came from Upper Freehold Township, Monmouth, New Jersey.  Many of the family in the early years spelled the name with only one final "t" and in other cases I have found it spelled Grevat, Gravet, Grovat, Gravette, etc.  The earliest New Jersey Gravatt for whom I have found a recorded account is Robert Gravat, born between 1700 and 1708.  This first record appears in the Will of Lawrence Van Hook, a merchant, filed 14 July 1724 and proved 14 August 1724 stating that Robert owed the deceased a debt of one pound and 17 shillings. It is the general impression that Robert was born in New Jersey, but I have been unable to prove it or even to find his parents.

My Grandfather, Wellington W. Gravatt told the family that the first Gravatt to come to this country was named Samuel, referred to as Sammy.  This same theory was advanced by his niece, Lila Scrimsher, and is somewhat confirmed in a letter written 26 July 1892 by his mother, my great grandmother, Mary Ann Gravatt. This letter written to her son, Robert, and his wife stated:

"Roberts grate gran fathers name was Johnson Gravatt his wifes name was Sarah Piercie they came from near Camden with there family of seven Children three sons John, Daniel and James Daughters Polly Nancy Sally and Phoebe  I think his fathers name was Samuel  it is nere 100 years since they came and setled in Alegheny Co. Pa five miles from Freeport.  They put up the largest log house I ever saw.  there was an old man lived up in Butler Co the folks called uncle John Gravatt  I think he was a brother to Johnson  I never saw him but once  the old Gravatt folks was all baptists."

From other sources it has been fairly well confirmed that both Johnson's grandfather and his great grandfather were named Robert.  However, the preceding grandfather could well have been named Samuel.  Todate, I have not found a Samuel Gravatt with a birthdate early enough to be this earlier ancestor.  

According to family tradition, the Gravatts were French Huguenots who were driven out of France. One source, Jesse H. Gravatt, claimed that the family first went to Nova Scotia, Canada, before settling in New Jersey.  I have found nothing that would confirm this theory.  Jesse, who prior to his death on 27 April 1969, lived in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, which is only a few miles from the old homestead where many generations of the family lived.  Jesse was a descendant of Johnson through his son, John.  

The first record of a Gravatt in the New World is taken from "The Original Lists of Persons of Quality; Emigrants, Religious Exiles, etc.  1600-1700".  The record reads, "Living in Jamsiland, John Grevett and his wife, February 16, 1623"and from another record, "The Muster of the Inhabitants of James Cittie, taken the 24th of  January 1624:, we find John Grevett and his wife Ellin listed.  There has been some supposition that a descendant of John and Ellin, probably a grandson, came North and settled in New Jersey.  This could be a reasonable conclusion since there was good water transportation between Jamestown and Philadephia or even Camden.  Then, too, this original Gravatt may have been another European emigrant, for there were many Gravatts in England, as well as, in other countries.  My conclusions is that our Gravatts came from England but were descendants of French Huguenots who had emigrated from France for religious freedom.

Robert Gravatt and The Holmans

How, when and who was the first Gravatt to come to New Jersey, we have been unable to ascertain, but as stated, we know that there was a Robert Gravat in Monmouth county in the year 1724.  Also, he had been there long enough to have established credit sufficient to have owed a debt to the Van Hook estate.

Robert Gravat was born between 1700 and 1708 and we are led to believe that he was born in New Jersey. Robert married Thamy Holman, sometimes spelled Holeman.  Her father was Joseph Holman who died between 10 September 1740 and 26 September 1741, probably early September 1741.  Joseph was the son of Robert Holman, who died between 8 June and 10 July 1709.

It is known that Robert Holman was in Upper Freehold, now Millstone Township, before 1685, for on 16 February 1685 (probably 1686 according to our current calendar), he was granted a brand for his livestock which read as follows, "Robard holman his Eare marke is a crop on the Right Eare and one halfe peny one the Under side of the Left Eare".  In 1697, a land patent to Gersums Moatt (Mott) of Middletowne, dated 1 May 1697, describes a 50 acre plot thusly:  Southwest a run coming from James Dorsett's, north to Robert Holman, south and west unsurveyed land.  

By deed dated 13 May 1702, Robert Burnet late of Lathantie, Scotland, transferred to Peter Watson of Freehold 400 acres of land on Milston Brook between Robert Holman, the Pinn Hill and John Reed.  This was part of the land confirmed to Robert Burnet, Proprietor on 7 October 1700.  Another land description reads, "to John Reid of Hortencie, in right of Col. Andrew Hamilton of 200 acres in Monmouth Co. betw Wm. Parrant on Milston Brook near Robert Holman's formerly Abraham Brown's where the old Indian path crosses the brook and James Miller". These descriptions show that Robert Holman's land was on Milston Brook and was bordered by unsurveyed land and so would indicate that he was one of the first settlers of the region then designated as Upper Freehold Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey.  According to Edwin Salter in his History of Monmouth County, Robert Holman in 1689 purchased land from Daniel Estile (Eastall).  Todate, I have been unable to locate any official document relating to this purchase.  

I wonder if this land purchase had anything to do with Eastall having Robert Holman arrested on 31 October 1687.  The Clerk's order found in Monmouth County deed Book B, reads as follows:

"To the High Shreefe of the county of Monmouth or his Deputy or under Shreefe Greetings;"  

"These are to will and require in the Kings name to attache the body of Rob't Holman of Middletown or your security take or him safely keep so as you may have the same before the Justice of the County Court or court of Sissions to be held for the sd. County on the 4th Tuesday of December next to answer Daniell Eastall of Middletown of the foresd County to the damage of the fored Eastall  -  nyne pounds, as also to a declaration upon the case then and there to be fild against Hoolman and have with you this prosess and make a trew return as you will, as you will answer the contrary.  Dated at Middletown this 22th day of Novr 1687 and in the third year of the Rayne of our Soveraigne Lord James the second King of England.
                                                                          (signed) Rob. Hamilton, Clarke    

Robert Holman's Will found in Unrecorded Wills, Volume II, was very difficult to read. My best deciphering of the Will is as follows:  

"In the name of God amen, this eight day of June in the Eighth year of the Reign of Anne by the grace of god over England Scotland france and Ireland 1709.  I Robert holman of freehold in the county of Monmouth being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given to god therefore and in the first place and finely I Recommend by body to the earth Decently to be buried and my Soul to god the Giver.  Imprimis, I give and bequeath to my well beloved Son Joseph Holman all my land and tenement and to hold same to him and his heirs forever Whom also Ive apoint my son to paying my Debts and Receiving the mony which is due me to him also    Item to my sons thomas and Robert I will twenty pound a piece to be pd by my son Joseph
Item  I give my son Daniel a piece of Eight
Item to Elias a piece of Eight
Item to Each of my daughters a cow which my Son Joseph is to allow them (can't read) as they come of age and Do hereby Disallow alother former wills Ratifing this and no other  
Signed Seled published prounounced and declared"

   In presence of
William     White
               mark       Sarah    White

John Sallars

As illustrated, Robert signed the Will with a big R as his mark and besides William, Sarah White also signed as a witness.  The Whites were farm neighbors. We know that Robert had at least two daughters but how many or who they were, we shall probably never know.  Sarah White could possibly be a daughter, but it is unlikely that an heir would witness her father's signature.

It has always been a puzzle why Robert didn't mention his wife in his Will. We know that she outlived him, because the inventory of Robert's estate is headed:

"Wearas Thomas Taylor & John Cox of the township of freehold in the county of monmouth & province of new Jersey, Planters were chosen Independently By Sarah Holman widdow of Robert Holman Deceased & Joseph Holman, Son & Sole Executor to the said Robert Holman Deceased to prize the said Robbert Holman, Deceased Estate, Performed by the Sd. (said) Thos. Taylor and the said Cox, as follows, this 10th of July 1709."  

The appraisal showed that Robert was owed small sums from Richard Watson, Benj. Johnston, John Ashton, and Capt. John Anderson.  The total estate amounted to 109 pounds, 5 shillings, and 3 pence.

I am not sure of Sarah's maiden name.  Another researcher has stated that her name was Sarah Browne/Brown. I have been searching for reference that would confirm her identity, as this statement seems very plausible.  It is known that Robert's land had been previously owned by Abraham Brown.  Also John Browne, a merchant, probably Abraham's son, in his estate settlement of 14 September 1714 names Daniel and Joseph Holeman as owing the estate on mortgages.  These are good clues that Sarah was the daughter of Abraham or even possibly John, but I would like to find a more conclusive reference.  

One of his daughters was undoubtedly Elisabeth Holman, who in 1712 married Robert Hankins.  Of the sons: Joseph, Thomas, Robert, Daniel, and Elias, besides Joseph, my ancestor, I have found a will for only Elias.  Elias died between the 24th of December 1747 and the 27th of January 1747/48.  Elias left four children:  Robert, the only one who appears to have been of age, William under 21 and two daughters, Mary and Zilpha.  It would appear from the way the Will is worded that Robert was the eldest followed by Mary, William ,and Zilpha.  Elias' wife was named Mary and sometime after his death, she married Daniel Perrine, and thereafter, according to the Will, her sons no longer had to provide for her welfare.  

My ancestor, Joseph, was the eldest son and he, with his mother Sarah, were the executors of Robert's estate. Joseph's wife's name was Thamson, maiden name is unknown.  Joseph's Will, also in Monmouth County, was dated 10 September 1740, but since it was not proved until 26 September 1741, it is assumed that Joseph died early September 1741.  Joseph's Will, which was fairly easy to read, is as follows:

"In the Name of God Amen the Tenth Day of September in the Fourteenth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second of Great Brittain, France & Ireland King Defender of the Faith and of our Lord God one Thousand Seven hundred and forty.  I Joseph Holeman of the Township of Upper Freehold in the County of Monmouth & Province of East New Jersey Yoeman being Sick and weak of Body, But of perfect mind & memory Thanks be given unto God therefore and calling unto mind the mortality of my Body and Knowing that it is appointed for all men once to dye, do make & ordain this my last will and Testament in manner and form following. That is to Say First & Principally I Give my soul into the Hands of God who Gave it me and for my Body I do command it to the Earth to be buried in Christian and Decent manner in the burying place of my Father Nothing doubting but power of God. And as touching Such worldly Estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me with in this life.  I give, devise, bequeath & dispose the Same in manner and form following: --

First I give & bequeath betwixt my Six Sons Namely Joseph Holeman, Richard Holeman & Francis Holeman all my Land Estate the Same to be Equally divided amongst them at Such Time as my youngest son Francis Holeman Shall arrive to the age of maturity but in Case that any of my Said Sons die before the time of my youngest Sons maturity That then the Said Land Shall be Equally Divided amongst the rest that remain alive.  

Item I  Give & bequeath unto my son Robert Holeman my black mare.  To my Daughter Thamy Holeman at present the wife of Robert Gravatt one cow to my Daughter Martha Holeman two cows, to my Daughter Mary Holeman one cow and a yearling and to my Son Richard Holeman a loom and tackline & to my Son Francis my musket and that as soon as I am Deceased.

Item I give & bequeath betwixt my four Daughters namely Thamy Holeman at present the wife of Robert Gravatt, Martha Holeman, Mary Holeman & Phoebe Holeman all my moveable Estate the Same to be Equally Divided amongst them immediately after the Decease of my well beloved wife Thamson Holeman after paying all my debts dues and demands by me any ways heretofore contracted.  

And of this my last Will & Testament, I make & ordain my Well Beloved Wife Thamson, My Well beloved Sons Joseph Holeman & Robert Holeman and Goyn (Gawin) Wattson to be my full & whole Executors (of this my last will & testament)*  I annul all and every other former Testament, Wills Legacies, Bequeaths and Executions by me in any ways before this time named willed and bequeathed ratifying and confirming this and none other to be my last Will and Testament.  In Wittness whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal the Day and Year above written.

Signed, Sealed, Published, Prounounced and Declared By the Said Joseph Holeman as his last will & Testament in the presence of

*This was inserted as it came on the fold of the original text and was not legible.

This Will was proved 26 September 1741.

Joseph Hankins, one of the witnesses, could well have been a son of Elizabeth and Robert Hankins and could have been named for his uncle. If so, this would add considerable credence to the assumption that Elizabeth was a sister of Joseph.

From the Will and other sources, we can construct Joseph and Thamson's family as follows.  The order of the names may not be entirely correct because of the lack of birthdates. We cannot be sure where Martha, Mary and Phebe fit into the family.

  1. Thamy (probably Thamson) born 10 May 1710, married Robert Gravatt.  She and Robert were my fifth great grandparents.

  2. Joseph whose wife was Grace Wooley, probably died in January 1741 as his Will was proved 11 February 1741. Therefore, he died before his father, who apparently failed to amend his Will deleting Joseph as an executor. Joseph Jr. in his Will bequeathed a black yearling colt to his nephew, Joseph Gravat, who would have been Thamy's son.  Robert Gravat was a witness.  Since the Will named no children, it is assumed that a son, Joseph III, who was born in 1741, was born after his father's death and was probably their only child.

  3.  Robert on 3 June 1741 married Margaret Johnson of Somerset.  

  4. Aaron is thought to be the Aaron Holman, who on the 18 July 1745, married Anne Story on Staten Island. His son, Joseph, who died between 10 September and 17 October 1781, appointed his wife, Sarah, and his father, Aaron to be executors of his estate.  Therefore, Aaron's death occurred after 22 October 1781. Joseph left three daughters:  Agness, Jane, and Ruth, apparently all minors.

  5.  Martha -- Nothing is known.  

  6. John -- There is some indication that his wife's maiden name was Friend.

  7. Mary -- Nothing is known.  

  8. Richard was a weaver, apparently single.  He died intestate just prior to 15 April 1747, the date of the inventory of his estate.  His brother, Francis, was appointed administrator. The residue of his estate was divided into seven parts, indicating that besides his brother, Joseph, who we know was deceased, two other children of Joseph and Thamy's must have died without issue between 1741 and 23 January 1747/48 when the estate was settled.  

  9. Frances -- According to the document appointing him administrator of Richard's estate,  lived in Middlesex county, New Jersey.  Other records indicate that he lived in Middletown and New Brunswick (Middlesex Co.) and had a son, Daniel, born in 1746.  

  10. Phebe -- Nothing is known.  It is suspected that Phebe, as well as Martha and Mary, may not have married.

It has never been determined from whence Robert Holman came, but from all indications he was newly married and probably had no more than one or two children at the time he settled in Upper Freehold. We have assumed that he came within a year or so before 16 February 1685/86, the date he received a brand for his stock. It seems reasonable that he would need a brand immediately, as he lived next to unsurveyed land and fencing was probably limited to the area around his buildings so that much of his stock was not confined. We feel sure that my ancestor, Joseph Holman was the eldest son, since he inherited the farm. Joseph died in 1741, and if we assume he died in his early sixties, then he would have been born around 1680. Since my ancestor, Thamy, was apparently his eldest child and she was born 10 May 1710, Joseph would have been born about the time we think his father settled in Upper Freehold. It is believed that the Holmans came from Rhode Island. According to early historians, the name was originally Holliman, going first to Holeman and then to Holman.

On 30 December 1667, the town of Middletown, New Jersey, was organized as follows, "The lotts of Middleton all layd out being numbered thirty-six beginning at the west end upon the south side with number one and ending at the west and north side with number thirty-six."  Among the purchasers was a Samuel Holeman who bought lot Number 13.  On 8 June 1672, he sold the lot to Steven Arnold and the bill of sale read, "To all people before whom this deed of sale shall come, Sammuel Holeman (sojourner) at Newport on Road Illand sendeth greetings. Know yee, that I Sammuel Holeman sojourner at Newport on Road Illand in the Collony of Road Illand and Providence Plantation for a valuable summe of money", etc.  

The early records at the Courthouse in Freeport, Monmouth County, contain the name Samuel Holliman during the period 1667 to 1670, which indicated that Samuel may have lived in New Jersey during this period, but for some reason decided to move back to Rhode Island. Could this Samuel Holliman (Holeman) have been a brother of Robert? We are quite sure that he wasn't his father, as Robert didn't appear in Samuel's Will.  So far, nothing has been found to make a connection between Samuel and Robert.  We know that there were Hollimans and Holemans in Rhode Island.  From an article in the Newport Historical Magazine entitled "Rhode Islanders who Settled in Monmouth, New Jersey", the following is quoted:  "Samuel Holliman was the son of Ezekial Holliman of Providence "a man of gifts and plenty" who baptized Rober Williams.  The name Holliman has been shortened by descendants to Holman".  If we could just find a connection, our ancestral line could go back another generation or two.

The Robert Gravatts

It was with great appreciation that I received a copy of a letter written 10 May 1958 by a Mrs. Conover, genealogist now deceased, to a correspondent, Mrs. Betty T. Cubberley. The letter gives considerable data on the Robert Gravatt family, which we would not have otherwise. I have repeatedly tried to locate the Bible of William D. Gravatt, which Mrs. Conover says was the source of the data, but todate I have found no one who knows where it is.  

Robert Gravatt was, we think , born between 1700 and 1708.  These dates have been established based on the information in Mrs. Conover's letter, which states that Robert was born in 1708 and the Will of Lawrence Van Hook, a merchant, filed 14 July 1724, which listed a debt of one pound and 17 shillings against Robert.  In 1724, Robert would only have been 16 years old if born in 1708, a rather young age to have had such a debt, although possible.

Robert's wife, Thamy Holman, would have been two months short of her 15th birthday when John, her first child was born, and Robert would have been 16. Since there is a period of over four years between John and Joseph, the next child, it is reasonable to assume that John was an illegitimate child.  If Robert was John's father ,and we have no reason to believe otherwise, then the 1708 birth year for Robert is logical. 

Robert and Thamy's family are as follows:   

  1. John was born 6 Mar 1725.

  2. Joseph was born 5 October 1729.

  3. Robert, my ancestor, was born 26 February 1731.

  4. Martha was born 19 September 1733 and on 23 October 1752, married Samuel Runyon.  

  5. Mary was born 1 October 1735.

  6. William D. was born 23 May 1739, probably in Millstone Township. In 1767, he married Jane Fenton, born 1746 in Millstone Township.  William's tombstone says he died on 26 July 1826 in his 70th year, and Jane's death date was 6 Aug 1833, in her 73rd year.  That makes William's birthdate as 1756 and Jane's as 1760.  Both died near Perrineville in Millstone Township.  

  7. Ann was born 23 May 1739.  She and William were twins

  8. Margaret was born 20 April 1741.

  9. Pheby was born 3 March 1743.

  10. Aaron was born in 1745.

  11. Richard was born 20 January 1747.

  12. Peter (Sr.) was born 17 February 1749.  He married Margaret Fenton, born 3 April 1755, a sister of William's wife.  

While Robert will be discussed here, his brothers and sisters will be discussed father in another chapter, "Siblings of Robert Gravat".  According to tradition and the best evidence which I have been able to find, my ancestor was Robert born 26 February 1731. There is some indication that Johnson's Father may have been John Jonathan rather than Robert. Since there were both a John and a Robert in this Gravatt family, either could be correct. Todate, we have found nothing written at the time they lived that would confirm which is correct.  Since the evidence we have is weighted toward the Robert theory, we are assuming this to be correct until proven otherwise.

No where have I been able to find the name of Robert's wife, my fourth great grandmother.  Benjamin Johnson in his Will dated 30 September 1783 and filed 23 March 1784, names his four sons, John, Daniel, William, and James and five daughters, Rachel Lemon, Elizabeth Cravat (Gravat), Hannah Jacobs, Rebecca Bole and Lydia Thomson. We feel sure the Cravat is a misspelling by the writer of the Will and should be Gravat. Executors of the Will were sons, John and Daniel and son-in-law, William Lemon.  From another source, we find that William and Rachel Lemon were married on 17 March 1750. Assuming that Rachel was 18 at the time of her marriage, then she would have been born in 1732.  Since Elizabeth was younger, she would have been the right age to have married Robert Gravat, born 26 February 1731, or even John Gravat, born in 1725.  Since my ancestor's given name was Johnson, we can readily assume that his Mother was Elizabeth and she gave him her maiden name.  Nothing has been found to confirm this assumption.

Family tradition says that Robert was brought to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania by his son, Johnson, in the early 1790's.  Transportation was by road wagon at a cost of $40.00. Robert is buried in an unmarked grave in a private cemetery and, as a result, information about him and his family has been difficult to find.  Robert was a Revolutionary War soldier, as well as, at least two of his sons, Johnson and John. It has been well established that these two were brothers.  First, through John's application for a pension telling about his move west and a letter written by my great grandmother, Mary Ann Gravatt, in which she says that the folks called him Uncle John Gravatt. Other Gravatts showing up on the Revolutionary Rolls were Joseph, Joson, and William.  

It appears that John was the eldest son, being born in 1754, according to his pension application.  John died in West Salem Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, in 1837. Johnson (sometimes spelled Johnston) born 1755/56 was next, followed by Joseph and William, with a possibility that there was a Robert III.  Todate no sisters have been located, even though we are sure there were some.  It is possible that Daniel Runyon's wife might have been a sister since that Daniel was a brother-in-law of John, the applicant. There is some indication that Lena, who was born in 1764 and who married Thomas Brown, may have been a sister.  Lena died 26 January 1849, in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

The possibility of another sister is a Nancy or Anne Gravat, who according to a "History of the Upper Ohio Valley", married Elisha Lindsey and in 1803 moved west, finally settling in Wheeling, West Virginia.  according to her obituary, a daughter,Mary Lindsey Pancoast was born in New Jersey in 1796.  Her mother, then, would probably have been born in the early 1770's, the right age to have been a younger sister of Johnson. According to a deed dated 27 September 1802, Elisha and Ann or Anne sold their farm in Upper Freehold Township, Monmouth County, to a William Dey.  This William Dey, we believe was the nephew of Johnson's Father and so was Johnson's first cousin.  This somewhat supports an assumption that Anne was a sister of Johnson, as it would be logical for Elisha to sell the farm to his wife's cousin.  

It is rather exasperating that more definitive information can't be found in order that our many assumptions could be eliminated.

                                                                                   Harold Weary                             
                                                                              15 South Pine St., Unit 404        
                                                                                   Mt. Prospect, Ill   60056


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