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The Life of Martha Baker Handley (Fourth Revision)

This is my fourth attempt to define the person of Martha Baker Handley. My interest in her has been caused by the fact that James Handley Leach in his "Leach Famboley Records", written in 1886, named her as one of his mother Jane Leach's siblings.

He identified her as Matty Foster and was sister to Sarah Shanks, Ann George, Grizil Horton *, Jane Leach, Mary Miller, and James Handley. It was his belief that she was the daughter of Archibald Handley and Jean Henderson. James' memory has been proven faulty.

[* NOTE: Re: Grizil Horton, To date, I haven't found out who her second husband was or where her marriage occured.]

According to "THE HANDLEY HISTORY" by Mary Mortimer and Richard Hopkins, Martha was identified as being the daughter of Alexander Handley, brother of Archibald Handley of Monroe County, WV and Mary Ewing Handley. Her date of birth is unknown at this time. Though it is my supposition, based on her marriage to Grigsby Foster (*) in 1791, she was born about 1773. Her location of birth was likely along the Cowpasture River in Botetourt County, VA. According to the writings of Mortimer and Hopkins, Martha had only one sibling - an older brother called John.

[* NOTE: Re: Martha Handley & Grigsby Foster: Actually, I found that their marriage was listed in Botetourt County Records along with Jean Handley and Esom Leach's records too. So I actually don't know for sure where either couple were married.]

It is written that her father Alexander was the Captain of the 23rd District Militia in Botetourt County during the Revolutionary War and was a prisoner of war at the time of his death.

This document gives the reader some idea of what manner of man he was. After the usual preamble he states what his intentions are as to the distribution of his worldly goods. To his beloved wife, Marey, his "Negro Boy" named Jack, a three year old roan mare, and other items necessary to his wife in providing a home for her family.

The only exception being was that he was giving his little daughter Martha "Beaker" Handley his blooded stallion colt "Luby" and his wagon which he allows to be sold and the money held in trust until she comes of age.

He then states that the small remainder of his personal estate was to be divided between his wife and two children. (This statement is the only mention of his son, John, in the whole will.) He then closes by naming his wife and brother-in-law William Ewing his executors to his estate.

The following information has been extracted from Book 2,pages 502-503 "The Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement", by Chalkey, regarding a Revolutionary War pension application by John Hewit, dated September 5th, 1833, which mentions Alexander Handley's name in his affidavit. Mr. Hewit's affidavit tells some of the events that lead up to Captain Handley's capture and subsequent death as a POW in the hands of the British during 1781.

John Hewit states that he was born in Augusta County, Virginia on November 14th, 1763. He volunteered for service on September 8th, 1780 ( he was a lad of 16 at this time), under Captain James Robinson. He does not elaborate as to what actions his troops covered during the next four months.It is reckoned about December 1780, Captain Robinson and Captain Alexander Handley's Greenbrier County Militia Companies were ordered to the Southern States to join up with General Daniel Morgan and relieve the Militias of Augusta and Rockbridge Counties, whose enlistments were about to expire. This action may have been the cause of Captain Handley writing his will this month in anticipation of these orders.

About this same time in 1780, Drury Ham,an 1832 Revolutionary War pension applicant from Stanford County, Kentucky, stated that he entered the service as a volunteer under Captain Handley to serve a tour of six months. Many of Mr. Ham's observations have been incorporated in this story to provide substance to the events that lead to Alexander's death.

Robinson's and Handley's two companies marched to the county of Montgomery, Virginia, on the Holston River, where they were attached to a Major Campbell's Battalion, and from that place, they marched through North Carolina and South Carolina.

Robinson's and Handley's troops under Major Campbell joined General Daniel Morgan's Army two days after the Battle of the Cowpens. This battle was located in a frontier pastureland about twenty miles north of present day Spartenburg, South Carolina near the near the North Carolina state boundary on January 17, 1781, Daniel Morgan led his army of tough Continentals and backwoods militia to a brilliant victory over Banastre Tarleton’s battle-hardened force of British regulars.

The battle was over in an hour. It was a complete victory for the Patriot forces. British losses were staggering: 110 dead, over 200 wounded and 500 captured. Morgan lost only 12 killed and 60 were wounded.They then marched with the prisoners toward Salisbury, North Carolina, in due time they joined General Green's army. Morgan and General Nathanael Greene met and conferred, Morgan wanted to head into the mountains and Greene wanting to march north to Virginia for supplies. Greene reminded Morgan that he was in command. With that being said, Morgan retired from active duty citing ill health as his reason.Greene's army started from Salisbury toward Virginia and some 6 or 7 miles from Salisbury, on the Adkin River, they were overtaken by Cornwallis's army, when a portion of the army was defeated in an engagement on the Adkin. This is presumed to be the incident in which John Hewit reported Captain Handley and John Allen's capture and the eventual death of Alexander had taken place.

Alexander's family received word of his death before the Botetourt September 1781 term of Court convened. Mary Handley and two witnesses to Alexander's will, William Simpson and William Logue, presented his will to the court and the Will was accepted and was to be recorded at the later court to be held for the same county on the 10th of January, 1782. With the help of the Reverend Calib Wallace and John Petzer, Mary posted a bond of three hundred and fifty pounds in specie to complete the probate at that time. This action having been set in the future, Mary returned home.

In the mean time her father-in-law John Handley, having a concern over the future of his son's family, decided that on the first of October, 1781 he would transfer the ownership of his 300 acre plantation to his grandson John Handley, son of Alexander Handley, recently deceased. This property was located on the Southeast side of the Cowpasture River. Not far from the junction of the Jackson River and the beginnings of the James River, one of the larger streams in Virginia. Also included in this property transfer would have been John Handley's Mill, which was located along the bank of the Cowpasture River. John Senior and his wife Grizel bought this 300 acres from James Simpson on the 15th of November 1762. Apparently, by the time of this gift of land to his grandson, John Senior's wife Grizel had died, as her name was not listed on any of the paperwork that completed this transfer.

Attached to the record of the aforementioned land transaction was a form of codicil which was to give to John Junior's mother Mary the right to live on this land as long as she remained a widow and that she and her children were allowed to benefit from the returns of this property during this time. John Junior was also required to pay his sister, Mary Baker Handley, 20 Pounds Virginia money from the value of this property when she becomes of age.

It seems likely tlo me that John Junior was under the age of his majority at the time of his receiving this gift of land as his mother, Mary, paid taxes on this property for the years of 1782 and '85. The only possibility for this act to have happened would have been because her son was still under aged at this time.

Captain Handley's will was read and probated as scheduled on January 10, 1782. An appraisal of his personal estate was ordered and completed on the 17th of January, 1782.

The results are as follows: (The values expressed are Virginia Pounds, Shillings, and Pence)

A wagon and 2 pair of Brich (Breech) bands12 pds
1 Staylon (Stallion)26 pds
1 Bald eagle Mare18 pds
1 Sorrell horse (gelding)13 pds
1 Black horse (gelding)12 pds
1 Negro Boy60 pds
5 head of young cattle5 pds
4 head of grown cattle12 pds
6 Sheep1 pd 16 sh
2 Beds and furniture12 pds
4 Table and Chist (Chest)2 pds 10 sh
1 Drum1 pd
5 Pewter plates and 4 dishes,1 Bason, 3 tinns1 pd 10 sh
1 Pott and oven, 1 Kettle and frying pan2 pds 7 sh
1 Grid iron3 sh
1 Hand saw6 sh
2 Coats1 pd
1 Plow and irons1 pd 4 sh
Pott marh and pott hooks1 pd 2 sh
7 Hoggs2 pds 2 sh
3 Pair chains2 pds
1 Loom1 pd 3 sh
1 Pair tongs0 pd 2 sh

Total value - 190 pds. 7 sh. 0 pence Virginia money
appraisers: James Simpson, Aronn Highs, David Rees

During the tax year of 1787 it appears that Mary was still in charge of the farm and had prospered, as she paid taxes for owning two Blacks over the age of 16, four horses, and six head of cattle.

In earlier versions of this story I have presumed that the Widow Handley had moved to Greenbrier County, Virginia and then became involved in a series of questionalbe acts that cause a number of mentions in the county court records. After a re-review of the preceding information I am now certain that there were two Mary Handleys that had dealings with teh county court system. One was the Widow Handley and the other is possibly an unidentified niece of one of Alexander's btothers (my guess?). Only one record can directly be attributed to the Widow Handley and that is the last entry on the following list.

On the 15th of May, 1781 she was cited for selling liquors without a license.

On the 21st of May, 1782 she was charged with having a base born child. One of seven women charged that day.

During the May court of 1783 she was again charged for retailing liquors without a license. Then during the August court of "83" to serve as a witness, along with James Handley and several others for Christian Bryan vs. Arnold Custard over money owed. Christian won his judgement.

May 21, 1784; she was back in court as a plaintiff charging Sampson Archer with Assault and Battery. November, 1786, she was again charged with selling liquor.

Widow Handley's final appearance in court was in August, 1788. She and William Ewing as executors of her husband Alexander's estate sued a William and James Ewing for money owed the estate. Note, this was a year after the date of 1787 given by Mortimer and Hopkins as to when Mary and her son John moved to Kentucky.

I propose, instead, that their date of departure was the fall of 1788 and Mary's daughter Martha apparently remained in Greenbrier County. My feeling is that she likely lived with her Uncle Archibald Handley and his family in the Monroe County portion of Greenbrier County, WV. Based solely on the aforementioned confusion by James Handley Leach where he believed Martha was a sister to his grandfather Archibald's children.

Information has been found that Martha was then married to Grigsby Foster on March 3, 1791, by the Elder John Alderson in Rockingham County, Va. (source: Some Virginia Marriages 1700-1799, Vol. 22, IA State Genealogical Society, Des Moines, Ia.). There is one question that continues to plague me about these folk and that is why were they married there? This location is about 100 miles from Martha's closest known relatives who were living in what is today known as Monroe County, WV, and it was wintertime too.

Based on land and tax records it appears that Martha and Grigsby Foster did not settle in the Monroe County area until about 1797. Grigsby bought 298 acres of land located near the Greenbrier River near the Big Stoney Creek farm of Esom and Jean Leach in 1799. (This Leach farm was later owned by Reuben and Ann George until September 1814). It appears that the Fosters lived on this farm until they moved to another Monroe County farm in 1813 (more will be told later).

Based upon an analysis of the census of 1810 for Monroe County (W)V. and the 1820 census for Butler County, Ohio, Martha and Grigsby were the parents of six children, four daughters born about 1796,1800,1803,and 1805, along with two sons born about 1804 and 1810. It appears that the two eldest daughters may have married before the 1820 census as they are not listed as living with the family. At this time none of their daughters names are known to me. The two sons names appear to be Enoch and Esom. This is based upon Decatur County, Indiana land records dated August 10,1837 and August 15, 1838.

Mortimer and Hopkins wrote that many of the children of Archibald Handley Sr. moved to Butler County, Ohio about 1810. James Handley Leach believed that they all left Monroe County,(W)Va in the year of 1812. I suggest that neither were entirely correct. The attraction for moving to Ohio was the Land Act of 1804 which allowed a settler to purchase 160 acres of land for the price of $2.00 per acre. One 1/4 was to be paid for in cash and the rest could be paid for in three installments. This proved attractive to land hungry citizens located east of the Ohio River. The children of Archibald's children were beginning to grow up and would need land when they married and this was would be incentive enough to move.

While James Handley Leach promoted the idea that his family moved in 1812 it now seems to me that they probably left during the spring of 1811. Land transfer records indicate that they sold their farm on Rich Creek to James Calloway in January of 1811. There are also implications that Reuben and Ann George made a hurried decision to move along west to the Ohio country too. They left the sale of their 300 acre farm located on Big Stoney Creek in the hands of attorney John Miller. The farm was finally sold to Joseph Lively on the 19th of September, 1814. Reuben bought his first land locate in section 17 of Morgan township , Butler County, Ohio on the 23rd of December, 1811. He later bought another quarter section in the same section in August 6th 1813. Esom Leach delayed purchase of his land located in section 4 of Morgan twp. until the 28th of September 1813. Esom and Jean ( who was now to become Jane on legal papers) sold out and moved to Franklin County,Indiana about1817.

Other Handley immigrants that bought land in Butler County and Morgan township in particular are as follows: George Handley bought land in section 9 in November of 1813, James Handley bought his land in section 21 in January, 1814. Land records show that Martha and Grigsby Foster were still living in Monroe County as late as the 16th of March,1813 as they had just completed the purchase of sixty acres located on Peters Mountain from Benjamin and Susannah Harvey.

By the time of the census of 1820 the family of Grigsley(Grigsby) Foster was living in Morgan township ,just up the road from the Reuben George family. I've lost track of Martha and Grigsby after this census and do not know if they died or moved on west in the decades following.

Roger Greenough, 6/1/2007


Also see:
Esom and Jane (Handley) Leach Biography, by Roger Greenough
The Handley Family History: Archibald and Jean Henderson Handley by Mary Mortimer & Richard Hopkins
The Handley Family History: Alexander and Mary Handley by Mary Mortimer & Richard Hopkins