Cross over the river and rest under the shade…

As I’ve posted here before, I’ve recently delved into researching mine and my wife’s ancestry. I’ve collected some various genealogical resources from family members far and wide thus far.  However, one piece of information stood out from the others and I’m here to tell that story I found buried deep in an otherwise mundane deed history.

According to the records, in January 1907, George R. Collins sold off a portion of land in Caroline County. This land contained mostly farmland and a few remaining structures from a long-decrepit plantation home dubbed “old Fairfield”. The individuals Mr. Collins sold that land to were a J.W. (James Wesley, my great-great-grandfather) and E.G (Edgar Gordon, my great-great-grand uncle) King. Later in the document, it mentions their respective wives, Abbie W. (or Abigail Wilmina Meece, my great-great-grandmother) and Harriet N. (her maiden name was Nichols), thus further confirming that these were my relations.

In February 1909, the men sold a 40-acre portion of the original 152-acre plot. Edgar and his wife soon thereafter relinquished their interest in the remaining 112 acres of land to James. In August 1909, James sold off a 5-acre tract of land containing the house and accompanying structures to William H. White of Richmond, followed by a majority of the rest of the land two years later. Mr. White then acquired a 7.16-acre plot adjoining the land and then his heirs sold all 12.16 acres off to the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad by May 1921. A decade and a half later, on New Year’s Day 1936, the railroad then freely deeded 9.29 acres of that land to the United States.

“What? The United States?” you ask. Yes…the United States or, more specifically, the National Park Service. Why? Well, what I neglected to mention is the description given of the 5 acres of land my great-great-grandfather sold to Mr. White in 1909, which would easily explain this series of transactions.  The full entry was as follows:

Deed Book 76, p. 43:

          August 2, 1909, J. W. King and wife, Abbie W., and E. G. King and wife, Harriet N., to William H. White of Richmond, 5 acres for $2,000.00: “…that certain piece or parcel of land located in Port Royal Magisterial District, Caroline County, Va. lying North East of Guinea’s Depot and East of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, and containing five acres, with all buildings thereon and appendages and appurtenances thereto belonging, and upon which is located the house in which General Thomas J. Jackson, a Lieutenant General in the armies of the Confederate States of America, died…”

That’s right. My great-great-grandfather once briefly owned what used to be the plantation office where General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson died. Today, it’s called the Stonewall Jackson Shrine and is where Jackson perished from pneumonia while recovering from an injury inflicted at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Adding to the history, James’ son and my great-grandfather, Howard Clayton, had an even more direct claim to fame in that he was born on May 30, 1908 in…you guessed it…that same old plantation office.

William Aston, the rowdy revolutionary

Recently, I’ve gotten back into the swing of researching my family genealogy. It’s long been rumored in and around the Botetourt County area that Austins were related to the those of the same name that founded Austin, TX. The thought was that the first Austin in Botetourt was a brother or distant cousin of Stephen Austin, “The Father of Texas.” This was even the preface to the Austin chapter of a book that details the history that side of my family, Related Families of Botetourt County, Virginia.  Sadly, though, that piece of oral history seems to be made up.

Instead,  the first Austin in Botetourt was a well-made man who migrated from West Nantmeal Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania to the mountains of western Virginia in the early 1770s. His name was William Aston and he’s my 6th great grandfather. Upon researching his name a little further, I found an excerpt from The Annals of Southwest Virginia detailing an account of him telling the King’s officers to, in so many words, shove it amongst other charges that day. The record is as follows:

William Aston this day personally appeared in court agreeable to recognizance to answer a certain complaint against him wherewith he stands charged. On consideration whereof the court arc of opinion that he shall be fined the sum of ten pounds for insulting the Magistrates in the executing of their (missing word) and fined two securities to be bound himself in the sum of fifty pounds and his said securities in the sum of twenty five pounds each that he shall be of good behaviour to all his Majesty’s liege subjects for and during the term of twelve months from this day.

William Aston, Joseph Phipps and Hugh McNutt came into court and acknd. themselves severally indebted to our Sovereign Lord the King and his heirs and successors the said William Aston in the sum of fifty pounds and the said Joseph Phipps and Hugh McNutt in the sum of twenty five pounds each of their respective goods and chattels, lands & tenements, to be levied to our said Lord the King and his successors rendered. But on the condition that if the said Wm. Aston shall be of good behaviour to all his Majesty’s liege subjects for & during the
term & time of twelve months and one day from this time, then this recognizance to be void.

Upon the complaint of Wm. Aston against Andrew Henry for a breach of the peace, parties heard & [missing word] opinion that the complaint be dismissed.

The bond he was released on that day was backed by Colonel William Fleming, a state legislator from western Virginia who would briefly serve as the third Governor of Virginia in the following year.

An ardent supporter of the Revolutionary cause, my 9th great grandfather even fought under Captain John Mills in the later years of the Revolutionary War.  He then returned home to Botetourt and died a few short years later. Can’t wait to find out more…