Nicholas I & II, Part 1

The following was published in Meriwether Connections, vol 12 number 4, Oct-Dec 1993.


by Maurice W. Kendall, Chairman, Family History Committee

One Society Family History target is to encourage family research by members of The Society. The previous two articles on "Nicholas I's Children" were intended to spur interest in the verification of our heritage and provide new facts useful to its revision. There are tremendous numbers of new compilations, abstracts, and transcriptions of pertinent family history records now in print that just a few years ago were unavailable in any useful form to the family researcher. These usually can be found in local or regional libraries, and so the role of all members in identifying them and calling them to the attention of our Family Group Representatives is of great importance.

Those publications are by definition "secondary sources" requiring further evaluation or verification of the events identified or information provided. Nonetheless, such clues become an essential travel guide that leads us to the new facts we need. By such an effort each generation of family researchers builds on the level of problems solved by the previous one.

One of the significant problems solved by Heath was to sort out the two earliest Nicholas in America. Apparently this had confused some earlier writers [NHM, pp. xii & 40]. He, together with Duncan Meriwether, appear to have arrived at their conclusions by an analysis of available factual information, not direct evidence from a primary source stating the relationship. Aligning known dates and records such as Thomas's will [1708/9, NHM, p.45] provided the basis for sound determinations, though based on circumstantial or indirect evidence. Accepting the stated date of Nicholas II's birth, identifying the two individuals as Nicholas I and II seems conclusive. Perhaps. It is true there is a disposition (Boddie, Colonial Surry, p. 216) [NHM, p.5], which we have yet to check, where Nicholas I states his age. There is also a footnote in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography [NHM, p. 63] giving Nicholas II's birth date as 20 Oct 1667, but with no supporting documentation. "Caution light." That source and its author need evaluation. That note might be based on an earlier Meriwether author, i.e. we may be using a source to corroborate itself. Accepting the known date of Nicholas II's death as 1744, a birth date of 1647 [NHM, p. 40] does seem unlikely. Still, the Surry Co. tithable lists [Meriwether Connections, Vol. XII, April 1993] suggest his birth date may be before 1667.

New research now provides direct evidence proving the relationships of the two Nicholas's (Hopkins, Surry County Deeds 1684-1733, p. 81). On 16 Jun 1711, William Meriwether, a son of Nicholas II [NHM, p. 67], sold 1280 acres in two tracts on "Blackwater at Cypress Swamp and Pidgeon Swamp." That is further described as "land granted on 14 May 1666 and 25 Apr 1667 to Nicholas Meriwether, Gent., late of Surry County who was the grandfather of the said William Meriwether [underlining added]." This land came to William Meriwether by the will of Thomas Meriwether of Essex County, 7 Jan 1708/9 [NHM, p.45], his uncle. Now we can cite a primary source, i.e., a deed (Surry Co. Deeds, Wills, Etc., No. 6, 1709-1715, p.65) created at or near the time of the event, as direct evidence proving the relationship. Great! We no longer need depend on the preponderance of evidence standard. Thomas's will and available Virginia land patents (Cavaliers & Pioneers, Vols. II & III [C & P]) now act to corroborate that conclusion.

It now also seems evident Nicholas I disposed of his Surry County lands to his underage sons in some manner. We know his wife, Elizabeth, was the administratix [NHM, p.63]. Does a will exist? Certainly Heath would have published it had he found it. He cites the source where it should be found. Nonetheless, we can see the disposition of Nicholas I's Surry Co. lands to his sons. Heath reports Francis sold the Island house in 1695 [NHM, pp. 32-36] which Nicholas I had repatented 6 Nov 1661. We know Thomas owned the 1280 acres he willed to his nephew William (above). Now we find that on 9 May 1693, Nicholas Meriwether [II] of New Kent County, Gent., sold to his brother-in-law Francis Clements of Surry County the 651 acres called Indian Spring [Hopkins, p.39]. As part of that action Elizabeth (Crafford) relinquished her right of dower and signed her "X." David Crafford, apparently her father, was one of the witnesses. Indian Spring, patented by Nicholas I on 25 Apr 1667, stayed in Meriwether hands a little longer. Nicholas II's sister Elizabeth married Francis Clements.

As an aside to the above, since this article serves the dual purpose of illustrating our research standards as well as reporting new information, Duncan Meriwether [NHM, p.5] noted Nicholas I acquired 430 acres in 1666 and 650 acres in 1677 in Surry Co. In fact the 650 acres figure should be 850 acres [C & P, Vol.II, p.13/PB6, pp.46-47] which when added to 430 provides the 1280 acres William sold. Interestingly, Boddie, p.175, had the same error. Verify secondary sources!

Combining the above information with the Surry County tithable list discussed in the April newsletter suggests the Meriwether family likely remained at Indian Spring after Nicholas I died in 1678 until they matured, Nicholas II gaining the Indian Spring property itself, perhaps in 1686 when he first appears on the tithable list. Was he then age 21 or had his mother, Elizabeth [Woodhouse] just died and he took procession? We need more evidence to be sure, but a 1687 Surry County Militia List includes Nicholas II as one "qualified in either estate or person to find and maintain a man and horse or to go themselves when occasion shall require" [Boddie, p.211]. That could be age 16, but when combined with the 1678 tithable list where he reportedly owned three slaves, it strongly suggests maturity. Perhaps more importantly, Francis is not on the militia list, indicating he was not age 16 until the next year when he appears in the household of Colonel William Browne, whose son, Captain Browne married Nicholas I's daughter, Jane.

We now have three pieces of evidence suggesting Nicholas II is older than Francis and likely the oldest son: (1) the tithable lists; (2) the militia list; and (3) Nicholas inherited the home place. Society member and family researcher, Monte Monroe, further supports that view (4) with information from Henry Hartwell's English will, proved 2 Aug 1699 (Waters, Genealogical Gleanings in England, Vol. I, p.313). In a codicil Uncle Hartwell bequeathed £200 to Nicholas II and only a £100 to each of his siblings. The influence of primogeniture is evident.

Summing up. We now have direct evidence proving Nicholas II was Nicholas I's son and clear and convincing evidence, with no known counter-indicators, that he was the oldest son. We still need more information about the others. Keep looking. Our collective research can fill in the missing pieces about Nicholas I and his children.

I received my July issue of Meriwether Connections after I'd written the above, and then learned I owed you some "block-buster" findings (Editor's words, not mine) in this issue. In truth I have found a fact that impacts to a marked degree on how we view the early years of Nicholas I's family. I plan to cover that in some detail, after some further study, in the next issue. Meanwhile, I'll share the basic information on the premise some of you might have further details helpful in the evaluation.

Recall how after study of transcripts of the Surry Co. Tithable lists, 1668-1703, as opposed to incomplete, selected indexes (Connections, April 1993), we identified a close relationship between the Colonel William Browne family and the Meriwether household following Nicholas I's death. Accepting that his daughter, Jane, married Major William Browne (NHM, p.29), we then erroneously speculated she was the oldest child, only with new evidence to prove she married, instead, the younger, Captain William Browne (Connections, July 1993). It turns out we were on the right track, we just had the wrong Meriwether lady.

It was Elizabeth (Woodhouse?) Meriwether who married Lt. Col. William Browne. The Surry County Order Book, 1671-1691 (p.302), in an item recorded 6 Jul 1680, which states: "...Exit. Corpus. Edward Napkin conffesseth Judgmt. to Lt. Coll. Wm. Browne as marryeing ye. Executrix of Mr. Ni. Meriwether forÉ" Truthfully, I suppose we should have expected and looked for Elizabeth to remarry. Maybe some of you did and knew that, but I didn't. Her remarriage explains a lot we wondered about.

Nicholas I died 19 Dec 1678 (NHM, p.38). We know he was alive on 5 Nov 1678 when he was present, together with Lt. Collo. Browne, as one of the justices of the Surry Co. Court (OB1671-1691, p.226). He is not present at the court held the next day or thereafter.

We also know Nicholas I was dead before 4 Mar 1678/9 (OB1671-1691, p.245) when Mrs. Eliz. Meriwether, Extx., Mr. Nicho. Meriwether, deced., was in court representing his estate. The last record we have of her so acting is on 6 Jan 1679/80 (OB1671-1691, p.286); thereafter, Col. Browne performed that obligation.

Nicholas I's relick, Elizabeth, remarried sometime between 6 Jan and 6 Jul 1680, something over a year after he died. At that time none of Nicholas I's children had reached maturity and most were not yet teenagers. His youthful, fatherless family would be sheltered during their formative years by one of the most important men of Surry County. Elizabeth's selection would prove to be wise!

The Surry County Tithable Lists did reflect reality. Finding the right interpretation was the problem. The more facts assembled, the better the translation. In a future article I'll attempt to relate the above to other research results for your critical review. Meanwhile, if anyone has further similar facts about these early Meriwether colonists, the time to let me know is NOW.

Part 2

Copyright 1996 by The Meriwether Society, Inc.

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