Which Nicholas Married Mildred Thornton?

The following was published in Meriwether Connections, vol. 14 number 3, Jul-Sep 1995. Copyright The Meriwether Society, Inc.

Which Nicholas Married Mildred Thornton?

by Maury Kendall

Nicholas II's Sons. In an earlier article, Dave, Tom, & Bill or was it Bill, Dave, & Nick?, the accepted order of birth of Nicholas II [M12] and Elizabeth (Crawford) Meriwether's sons was challenged. In that discussion there was strong evidence to suggest that William [M121] likely was b. ca. 1688 and was the oldest son, rather than David [M122], b. 1690. My purpose here is not to review the evidence supporting that conclusion, but to build on it, identifying the descendants of William Meriwether [M121] and his wife, Elizabeth Bushrod. As an exception, I will note that both Nettie Leitch Majors and Prentiss Price (Meriwether family researchers, discussed elsewhere) also concluded that William was the oldest son. We might expect William as the oldest son to have had a stronger role in the early Meriwether family than currently depicted. The following suggests he did.

A fast review of the Prentiss Price Papers strongly indicates earlier compilers may have confused Nicholas III [M126] with Nicholas [M1211], son of William [M121]. Specifically, it appears that the Mildred (Thornton) Meriwether, who married Dr. Thomas Walker in 1741, was the wife of Nicholas [M1211], son of William [M121], not Nicholas III [M126], son of Nicholas II.

In what follows, I will be citing identified sources found in the Prentiss Price Papers and in other holdings, but with the understanding I have not verified them. Nor have I searched extensively for counter-evidence to the position advanced. Actually I hope this discussion will incite a flood of either supporting or opposing evidence that will enable the Volume I Working Group to agree on a position on the issue and the MeriReps to build on it.

William's Children. Heath accepted that William [M121] married Elizabeth Bushrod and that they had seven children, of which six, John, Thomas, Richard, Jane, Sarah, and Mary were remembered by their grandfather, Nicholas II, in his will. The seventh, Nicholas [M1211], is mentioned as deceased in the paragraph of the will where his brother, John [M1212], received 2000 acres, "laid off next to his Brother Nicholas Meriwether, deceas'd…" Griffith recognized an eighth child, named William [Jr.], a name one would reasonably expect to find. The St. Peter's Parish Register, New Kent Co., VA lists "William son of William Meriwether, born Sept. 13th, 1720." The "old Bible leaf" often cited by Griffith indicated that William "my grandson" died in 1748. If so late, why wasn't he recognized in Nicholas II's will? Price corrected that date to 1740, reasoning that since the Bible belonged to Nicholas II and he died in 1744, the date had to have been earlier. More about William's children later, but first let's consider his son, Nicholas [M1211]. Heath had no information about him, but did document the fact that his mother, Elizabeth Bushrod, married a Meriwether.

The Bushrod Connection. This connection started in 1705 in the Fairfax Proprietary. On 21 Jan 1705, a William Strutfield of Westmoreland County patented 534 acres of land in Stafford County on Four Mile Creek. As Virginia Counties pro gressively were erected, that tract of land can be found in Prince William and still later in Fairfax County. In this period, land records indicate that both John Bushrod, Elizabeth's father, and a John Spry, a name we will see again, may have lived in Northumberland County, next to Westmoreland. Strutfield expanded his land holdings in Stafford County, patenting an additional 500 acres in 1709. Meanwhile, John Bushrod appeared in Westmoreland County, where Strutfield lived. The next year, 8-9 Mar 1710/11, William Strutfield of Stafford, Planter, sold his 534 acres in Stafford on Four Mile Creek to John Bushrod, Gent., of Westmoreland Co. That tract of 534 acres now becomes critical to our analysis of available evidence.

In a Lease and Release indenture, 20-21 Jan 1716/7, John Bushrod of Cople Parish, Westmoreland County, Gent., conveyed to Nicholas Meriwether, son of William Meriwether and Elizabeth, his wife, daughter to the said John Bushrod, 534 acres in Overwharton Parish, Stafford County, for the "natural love and affection he hath to his grandson." Nicholas [M1211] at this point was a young child, possi bly two or three years old.

Quick appraisal. To recap for a moment, that direct evidence (P2) established that William [M121] Meriwether married Elizabeth Bushrod and that they had a son named Nicholas [M1211], who owned 534 acres in Stafford County on Four Mile Creek &151; the year 1716 (O.S.).

Fast Forward. Meriwether family historians generally agree that Mildred Thornton, born 19 Mar 1721, married in 1738 a Nicholas Meriwether, by whom she had one child, Mildred Meriwether, b. 19 May 1739. That child was recognized by her grandfather, Nicholas II, in his will (1744) as the daughter of a "Nicholas Meri wether, deceased." Uniquely, the relationship of that Nicholas to Nicholas II is not stated. Was it Nicholas III [M126], b. 1699 or Nicholas [M1211], b. ca. 1714, son of William? In extension, did Mildred Thornton marry a man 22 years her senior or one aged around 24?

Nicholas III. Nicholas III [M126?] was a brother of William [M121] and David [M122]. The St. Peter's Parish Register, New Kent Co., VA, recorded his birth date as 11 July 1699. His death is given by Heath as 1739, age 40. This apparently reflects a will dated 4 Dec 1738, attributed to Nicholas III, and the subsequent marriage of Mildred (Thornton) Meriwether, said to have been his wife, to Dr. Thomas Walker in 1741. Since that Mildred suppos edly brought a large inheritance of land from her late husband to her second marriage, her relationship through Nicholas III [M126] to Nicholas II seems reasonable and acceptable.

Aunt Lou Minor in 1892 stated that Nicholas III [M126] married Mildred Thornton and they had one child who married John Syme and had John Syme, Jr., and other children. She, as others, then noted Mildred married, second, Dr. Thomas Walker, in 1741. Her position was not documented.

Likewise, Griffith noted Nicholas III married, prior to 4 Dec 1738, the date of his will, Mildred Thornton, b. 19 Mar 1721. He cited the "Walker record of Page ge nealogy" as a source of much of what we have come to accept about Mildred (Thornton) Meriwether Walker and her daughter, Mildred Meriwether, b. 19 May 1739. Heath, without em bellishment or further documenta tion, essentially accepted Aunt Lou's account, as did Sarah Travers Lewis (Scott) Anderson.

Mildred Meriwether. There is also general agreement that Mildred Meriwether married a John Symme (or Syme), Esqr. of Hanover County. Griffith expanded on this to note that John and Mildred (Meriwether) Syme had a son, John Syme, Jr., who married Sally [Overton]. Griffith next paraphrased from Hening's Statutes and reported the condi tions of Nicholas's will. Which Nicholas? Well, the will did not say, but Griffith thought it was Nicholas III. Prentiss Price, possibly more specific, also from Hening stated:

"Nicholas Meriwether, the younger, formerly of Hanover, Gent. dec'd., owned 1650 acres and 400 acres in Fredericksville Parish in said Co. [now Albemarle] and 534 acres in Truro Parish, Fairfax Co. and by will dated 4 Dec 1738, of record in Hanover [Co.], he gave 1/2 [of his estate] to wife Mildred, and 1/2 to the child of which she was then enciente of, and if said child died [without issue], to testator's brothers and sisters. Mildred [Meriwether] was born after his death."

Remember those tracts of land, initially the 534 acres in Fairfax County.

The John Symes. A record dated 17 July 1784 in Prince William County fills in the story of the 534 acres.

"John Syme [Jr.] of the Co. of Louisa and Sally his wife to Carlyle Fairfax Whiting, Grandson and devisee of John Carlyle, Gent., late of the Town of Alexandria, dec'd. Whereas John Syme, father of the said John Syme [Jr.] sold the said John Carlyle in his lifetime 534 acres of land which he held in right of his wife Mildred in the county of Fairfax, which said tract was granted by Maugaritte Lady Culpeper, Thomas Lord Fairfax and Catherine his wife, Proprietors of the Northern Neck to William Strutfield, 21 Jan 1705 [underlining added] and whereas the said John Syme by bond dated 21 Oct 1756 was bound (£500) to have said Mildred his wife join in said deed as soon as she attains her full age of 21 years and whereas the said Mildred did depart this life under the age of 21 years, leaving the said John Syme [Jr.], party to these presents her heir at law, and whereas the said John Carlyle by will dated 5 Apr 1780, left the residue of his estate toÉtherefore this Indenture to clear the title. /s/ John Syme, Junr."

Evaluation. We have direct evidence (P2) demonstrating that the 534 acres of land John Bushrod gifted to his grandson, Nicholas [M1211], b. ca. 1714, was subsequently disposed of by the heirs at law of Nicholas's daughter, Mildred. We can now deduce, reliably, that Mildred Thornton married Nicholas [M1211] son of William, not William's brother, Nicholas III [M126] (P3). We may also conclude (P4) that since Mildred (Thornton) Meriwether shared equally in her husband's estate with her daughter, she may not have brought the large acreage to her marriage with Dr. Thomas Walker as some have suggested. We also know that the "Nicholas Meriwether, deceased" mentioned in his grandfather's will as the father of Mildred was not Nicholas II's son Nicholas III (P3). Interestingly, we are rapidly depleting much of what we have accepted as fact about Nicholas III, requiring more study to learn about his family group.

Corroboration. Always helps. We know Nicholas [M121], son of William, owned other lands than those 534 acres, proved above (P2). His will (1738) so indicated and his grandfather's will (1744) stated that William's son John's bequest was "laid off next to his Brother Nicholas Meriwether, deceas'd." Actually, Nicholas II gave that land to his grandson, John, in 1743, "Éfor the paternal love and affection I bear unto my loving Grandson John Meriwether the son of William MeriwetherÉ" and confirmed it later in the will. Griffith presented that 1743 Louisa County deed. It also stated John's land adjoined Nicholas Meriwether's. Logically, another earlier deed existed conveying land from Nicholas II to his namesake, son of William.

Griffith stated that such a deed, dated 1734, existed in Hanover Co. records and that it conveyed land from "Nicholas2[II] to Nicholas3[III]" Meriwether. Prentiss Price appar ently also quoted from that record and stated:

"Nicholas Meriwether of St. Martin's Parish in Hanover County in Virginia to my Grandson Nicholas Meriwether [underlining added] the Son of William Meriwether for the paternal love I bore, 1650 acres, part of a larger tract in Hanover County." Witnesses: Tho. Meriwether [first cousin, see below], Solomon King, & J. Harris. Acknowledged, 5 Dec 1734.

Four years later that 1650 acres was mentioned in Nicholas's [M1211] 1738 will, noted above.

It is evident from the foregoing that Griffith erred in his identification of Nicholas, the devisee; he was not the son, Nicholas III [M126], but the son of William. Interestingly, on the same day, 5 Dec 1734, Nicholas II also conveyed 1620 acres to his Grandson, Thomas Meriwether [M1221], born 1714/15, son of David [M122], and it was witnessed by his first cousin, Nicholas Meriwether, Junr. [M1211]. Doubtless, Nicholas II's two oldest grandsons had reached age 21 and at a common ceremony were given a very valuable birthday gift and an early Christmas present &151; the year 1734.

The Prentiss Price Papers also noted other land transactions involving Mildred Meriwether in the Hanover-Louisa-Albemarle area. Obviously Mildred Meriwether's guardians were consolidating and dividing her father's estate, completing actions he was unable to do before he died. In 1740, when she was two years old, the 400 acres mentioned in Nicholas's 1738 will were surveyed for her in Hanover. Nicholas Meriwether, Junior [underlining added], had been granted that land on both sides of Wolf Trap Branch on 15 Mar 1735/6. Next, on 20 Aug 1741, "Mildred Meriwether, daugh ter of Nicholas Meriwether, Junior [underlining added], dec'd.," was granted 1900 acres in Goochland Co. on both sides of Popular Branch. Her name can be found several times in subsequent patent books. A careful audit of land records in this area will doubtless further reinforce the position supported by this paper.

The Clincher. In that regard, an indenture in Albemarle Co., dated 27 Feb 1762, when viewed in the light of the foregoing, establishes conclu sively that Mildred Meriwether [M12111] was not the daughter of Nicholas III [M126], the son of Nicholas II.

"John Symme of the Co. of Hanover, Gent., to Thomas Walker of the Co. of Louisa, Gent., for £400, 1650 acres formerly in the Co. of Hanover now Albemarle, whereon the said Thomas Walker now lives [underlining added; is this Castle Hill?], which land formerly belonged to Nicholas Meriwether the Elder and was by him conveyed to Nicholas Meriwether the younger[,] his grandson [underlining added] and heir by deed 5 Dec 1734 recorded in Hanover Co. Court and on the death of the said Nicholas Meriwether the younger Intestate descended to Mildred his only Daughter and heir with whom the said John Symme intermarried and with her consent agreed to sell the same to the said Thomas Walker but before any conveyance was executed for said land, the said Mildred died leaving issue John Symme [Jr.], her son and heir an Infant to whom the reversion & inheritance of the said land is descended; expectant on the death of the said John Symme who is entitled to the same for life as tenant by the curtisy of EnglandÉthat the next right heir of the said MildredÉexecute such further conveyanceÉ" Proved 13 May 1762.

Conclusions. The Bushrod connection proves by direct evidence that William and Elizabeth (Bushrod) Meriwether had a son named Nicholas who owned 534 acres in Fairfax Co. (P2). The subsequent sale of that land by John Syme provides clear and convincing evidence proving that Mildred Thornton mar ried Nicholas [M1211] (P3). Further identification of the land mentioned in Nicholas's 1738 will provides direct evidence that Mildred Meriwether was his daughter, not the daughter of Nicholas III [M126] (P2). Finally, the Albemarle Co. 1762 indenture that conveyed to Thomas Walker the 1650 acres given to Nicholas, the younger, by his grandfather, Nicholas II, corrobo rates much of the above (P1).

Further, we may conclude that Nicholas III [M126] did not marry Mildred Thornton and any land he may have owned was not conveyed to Dr. Walker (P4). It would also appear that Dr. Thomas Walker obtained his homestead by purchase from Mildred Meriwether's heirs, or at least their 1/2 interest, and not by right of marriage to her mother (P5). Finally, beginning 5 Dec 1734, the suffixes "the younger" and "Junior" seem to be consistently used to iden tify Nicholas [M1211], son of William, indicating Nicholas III may have died before that date (P5). We also may now know why Francis Clement, Jr., in his will of 1721 did not mention Nicholas or Thomas when listing the known living chil dren of his "loving uncle Nicholas Meriwether." It would appear Thomas [M123?] and Nicholas III [M126?] may actually have died before 1721 (P5).

Afterthought. Despite the clarity of this position, there are still holes to fill in and much of the foregoing requires verification. The critical gain is not so much the clarification of this relationship as in permitting the de scendants of William and Elizabeth (Bushrod) Meriwether more easily to identify themselves with that family group and go on to develop it fur ther. Libby Seigler is the Meriwether Society Family Group Representative for that family group and will be pleased to hear from you. In that regard, consider the following.

William's Children. We know their names, but in available literature we find little else except for Thomas [M1213], who Heath covered in some detail. Details relating to the others must wait for another day, but to enable potential researchers to begin work, I'll list here what Prentiss and Heath recorded:

  • M1211-Nicholas (<1716 [NHM: ca. 1714-1739]-1738) m. 1738, Mildred Thornton (issue).
  • M1212-John (ca. 1718 [NHM: ca. 1716]-1791) m. <1754, Ann Walker (no issue).
  • M1213-Thomas ([NHM: ca. 1718->1783]) m. <1751, Jane Lewis (issue).
  • M1214- Richard ( [NHM: 1719]-1766), Ensign, British Army (issue?).
  • M1215-William (1720-1748 (1740)), died on Man of War, Colechester (issue?).
  • M1216-Jane ([NHM: 1721]-1???), m.? >1744? No further information (issue?).
  • M1217-Sarah ([NHM: 1724]-<1783), m. >1744<1765, John Pierce (issue).
  • M1218-Mary (>1724 [NHM: 1725/6]-1808), m. >1744<1755 Matthew Marable (issue).

Copyright 1996, The Meriwether Society, Inc.

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