'As every lawyer knows, much can
be learned about a man by an
examination of the inventory of
his personal estate'
1707? - 1757
The Immigrant Grandfather
The death of William Hall on the first of May, 1757 at the hands of the Cherokee Indians, not only thrust upon John Hall, his oldest son, the responsibility of heading the family but also the settling and managing of his estate.|
Many of the old-timers made their Wills on their deathbeds, but in the case of William Hall, death came suddenly and as a consequence he had no Will.
Fortunately, Bedford county which had been organized just three years prior to the fateful Spring of 1757 had established a government capable of handling probate matters. The colonial system of 'Primogeniture' automatically made the oldest son, John, recipient of the estate. The county Justices then appointed three citizens to make an inventory and appraisel of the personal property. In this case, the appraisers were men who had been in the fatal skirmish on the banks of the Staunton River.
Let's take a look at it: Here is what he owned exclusive of real estate: these are the things the family used; the livestock they owned; their crops; their tools and household furnishings. It is an intimate glimpse of pioneer life in Virginia in the mid-1700s.
author's note: We have only incidental information about Wm.'s Real Estate. We know its location and that it was originally Randolph land, purchased through Richard Stith, a Randolph kin and land agent. This information comes from a study of his son John's land transactions from 1758 - 1794.
AN INVENTORY of the Estate of William Hall, Dec'd, appraised December 29th, 1758. Be we the Subscribers. +
Augustine Leftwhich ++)
At a Court held for Bedford County, Nov. 26th, 1759 the Inventory & appraisments Annexced were Returned & Ordered to be Record Teste Ben Howard CBC
There you have it! A Virginia pioneer's personal property in the mid-1700s. Note: no slaves. This is what John Hall, d. 1794 inherited. He was not obligated to the younger family members and we do not know if his mother was living --- likely not, as she would have the widow's dower rights, of which we have no record.
In addition, John would inherit the land which became the Hall family base for the next 100 years. He was not clear in this inventory and Appraisement; he had to collect what was owed the estate and what it owed. This took a long time. The estate was not finally settled until 1769 at which time the last of the 'orphans' would be of legal age and/or married. There would be a possibility that John might die in the interim. His marriage - the date of which we do not know - may have been delayed because of property matters.
The writer assumes that John and his brother, Hezekiah, managed the property; possibly adding the Mill on Rockcastle Creek.
William Hall - from this estate - cannot be considered a poor man, although he would not be in the class with the Virginia gentry of that period. He would be in the yeoman class, a notch lower in the pecking order. We can only surmise that in migrating from Pennsylvania to Virginia he had to liquidate considerable property to make the move. His son, John, was getting a good start in life and as will be shown later, he proved to be a good manager and was himself a successful man in the standards of the period and in the area of Virginia in which he lived.
As soon as the estate matters were under way, John following the custom of the times had to take careof his younger brothers and sisters. This he did by having them placed in foster homes. So, in 1759 they were classified as 'orphans' by court order. The actual obtaining of the homes was done by the church wardens. This indicates that at that point in time, the Hall family were members of the established church that dominated all affairs in the colony of Virginia --- the Anglican.
From this 1759 placement of the 'orphans' we learn the names of the younger family members. They were:
As in all legal matters, the boys are listed first, presumably in order of their ages; then the girls are listed in order of their ages.
It is likely that John, Hezekiah and several of the younger children were born in Pennsylvania with only the very youngest being born in Virginia. If the mother was not living, she may have died during the last childbirth. +++
This group - what little is known of them - is discussed in Part I of the section titles: Our Southern Cousins, to be found later in this volume.
John would now have to manage alone until he married; but marriage would have to be delayed. So, the author makes a bold assumption at this point. John kept his next oldest brother with him on the home place. That brother was Hezekiah, the ancestor of the Hall-Overstreet family of this history. In turn, John was to aid Hezekiah in his start in life which would be the purchase of the Back Creek property in 1762. They honored each other in the naming of their children.
+ oldest known Hall family document. The author assumes no resposiblity in identifying the articles inventoried or their spelling - nor their present-day value as antiques!