Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hawkins land at the lower fall of the Rappahannock River

Jim Burgess sent a copy of a will to the Northern Neck mail list on Friday.  Here is the first part of the will:

King George County, Virginia Will Book A-1 1721-1752 George Harrison King
Fredericksburg, Virginia 1978 page 48.

Will of Francis Thornton
In the Name of God Amen.  I Francis Thornton of the County of King George
considering the frailty of this mortal life and being sick and weak in body
but of sound and perfect sense and memory praised be God for the same doe
make nd Ordain this my last will and Testament in manner and form following:
( #)

Imprimis:  I give to my two sons Francis Thornton and Rowland  Thornton all
my tract of land at the foot of the Lower Falls of Rappahannock River
containing Eight Hundred & Odd acres which I purchased of Mr John Hawkins,
my son Francis to have the upper part and my son Rowland the lower part of
the said land by equal portions as it is already divided.  The said land
with all its appurtenances and I give and bequeath to my said two sons
Francis and Rowland to them or either of them their heirs forever. 

I remember having read this will before.  And it made me think:  "hmmmmm I remember that I know something about this land that Francis Thornton is willing to his two sons."

So I decided that today's post would be a hodge podge of information that I know or can find about this land and who owned it and where it was located.

FIrst I spent some time figuring out WHERE the Lower Falls of the Rappahannock were located.  The below photo is shown with permission from Jay Chamberlain of Fredericksburg that I found on a site called Waymark.  Below the photo is a map from Jay showing where the photo was taken.

Next, from the book Forgotten Companions, The First Settlers of Spotsylvania County and Fredericksburgh Town by Paula S. Felder

On page 2, Ms. Felder shows a map that shows a Thomas Hawkins who owned land according to her map at the Falls of the Rappahannock.  It is a very small piece of land in comparison to that owned by Lawrence Smith and Robert Taliaferro, John Bowsey, John Burns, James Harrison and the orphans of George Mott.....  According to Ms. Felder on page 165 the original patent was to Captain Thomas Hawkins June 2, 1666.  812 and 1/2 acres on south side of Rappahannock River beginning at the lowest fall thereof.    Later this land seems to have belonged to Francis Thornton.

Later in the book, on page 188 Ms. Felder says:
“The patent was originially issued to Thomas Hawkins in 1666 and renewed by him in 1672.  Hawkins was a close friend of Lawrence Washington, and with Lawrence’s brother Col. John Washington (George’s ancestor) was named guardian of Lawrence’s children in his will of Setember 27, 1675.  The tract remained in the Hawkins family for many decades.  And it predated the Buckner-Royston patent by five years.  ....there is information that I will want to reread...Ms. Felder says that Francis Thornton of Essex (now Caroline) County acted as if he owned the land after 1715.  It seems that Thornton had purchased it from a Hawkins heir in good faith.  However, in 1737 the court in Williamsburg ruled that the seller was bound by primogeniture, and the Thornton purchase was nullified.  The matter was settled amicably.  The current Thomas Hawkins in 1738 sold the land in equal parcels of 400 acres each to two first cousins ---both named Francis Thornton, one of Spotsylvania and one of King George.  Four years later, Francis Thornton of King George sold his half to Colonel Lewis.....There is more information that I may want to reread.  However, the land seems to be smack dab in the middle of Fredericksburg....and Hunter Street is mentioned by Ms. Felder. This all seems to agree with the falls location.

If one looks at the map there is a Thornton cemetery that is located at Hunter Street.  I think that I have located the right place for the land that originally belonged to Thomas Hawkins and later to Francis Thornton.  

Visit the below link to see the fall line and to see photos of the area:

The below information comes from:

Falls of the Rappahannock: The Chapter Name

One year after the first permanent English settlement was made in America, Captain John Smith, in the summer of 1608, led an expedition from Jamestown to explore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

The party sailed up the Rappahannock River as far as present day Falmouth where their progress was blocked by the falls. Smith's party anchored at the falls where he searched for a passage around them. It was here at the falls of the Rappahannock that the Seacobeck Indians lived and placed their fish traps for their daily diet.

Two forts were built in 1676 for protection against the Indians. One was located just below the falls of the Rappahannock River, on the South bank of what now is Spotsylvania County. It was a fort which furnished protection but did little to advance white settlement westward.

Captain John Smith was named commander of the fort built below the falls of the Rappahannock. This fort was garrisoned by one hundred eleven men from Glouchester County and furnished with 480 pounds of powder and 1,443 pounds of shot. Smith was to keep fifty men under arms at all times ready to march twenty miles in any direction. He was also given power to exercise martial law over his command and in conjunction with two others had power to arbitrate civil and criminal cases. With these powers, Smith governed with an armed force to enforce his every dictate. He also had the protection to develop his land holdings. The fort was discontinued in 1682 by order of the House of Burgesses.

The Rappahannock River and its tributaries provided a natural transportation system to early colonists, adventurers, and planters who soon flocked to its shores in the region about the falls. Court records and land books reveal the vast acreage patented by these early colonizers, looking to the promising future in commerce, trade, and social activities that later developed in Falmouth town.

While visiting the port of Fredericksburg in 1759, the Rev. Andrew Burnaby observed "that Falmouth at the Falls of the Rappahannock is a small, mercantile town, consisting of eighteen or twenty houses, whose inhabitants are endeavoring to establish a trade rival to none."

How well the people of the Fredericksburg-Falmouth neighborhood lived in the mid-Eighteenth Century is told by a traveler who noted his observation in the Journal of an Officer who traveled in America and the West Indies in 1764 and 1765. Visiting the major town of the Virginia colony, he wrote:
    "This....would be my choice in preference to any I have yet seen; the country in general is more cleared of woods, the houses larger, better, and more commodious than those to the Southward, they all drive six horses, and travel generally 8 to 9 miles an hour....going frequently sixty miles to may conclude from this their roads are good.

    Their provisions of every kind are good, their Rivers supply them with a variety of Fish....their pastures afford them excellent Beef and Mutton, and their Woods are stocked with Venison, Game, and Hogs. Poultry is as good as in South Carolina, and their Madeira Wine is Excellent, almost in every house; Punch and small beer brewed from Molasses is also in use, but their Cyder far exceeds any cyder I ever tasted at home.

    In the back country there are Mines of Lead and Iron.... All manners of European fruits, roots, and Garden Stuff do well here....."
And so it seems both fitting and proper that in an area where the Rappahannock River has provided a gateway westward in the history of our country, that the falls of that river should be singled out as a significant point of settlement by earliest man as a desirable place to live.

The FALLS OF THE RAPPAHANNOCK is an historic point of designation for which a new area DAR chapter is both proud and happy to single out for its name.

By Norma Polley, 1980

A History of Early Spotsylvania, James Roger Mansfield, 1977
Colonial Fredericksburg and Neighborhood in Perspective, Oscar H. Darter, 1957
My interpretation of what I have read and collected so far

The Thomas Hawkins who was first married to Mary Lucas was the man who originally acquired the land at the lower falls of the Rappahannock river.  Did he and Mary live there?  I am not certain.  This Thomas Hawkins died young by our standards.  He was probably about 42 years old when he died.  His wife was named Frances at the time of his death and he states that there is the possibility that she could be with child.  Frances is a second wife.  However, Thomas Hawkins' sons, Thomas and John, were old enough to inherit land as he names them in his will and leaves all of his land to the two sons.   Francis Thornton's will would indicate that it is son John Hawkins who sells the land that has been left to him by his father.

The fact that John sells all of the land without mention of brother Thomas is clarified by the following note (this note was copied from use it as a starting point):  

Named in his father’s will.  Thomas died before 1700.

THOMAS HAWKINS, b. AFT 1654 in Old Rappahannock, VA, d. AFT  8 FEB 1675/1676.   !"Died underage and without issue" and John his brother inherited,  per Hawkins vs. Thornton (1737) cited in "Virginia Colonial Decisions" vol. II, p. B243 (The Reports of Sir John Randolph and by Edward Barradall of the General Court of VA 1728-1 741; The Boston Book Co., Boston, MA 1909).

And then it seems that this John Hawkins does indeed have a son named Thomas Hawkins.  (others tell me that he married Ann Covington in Essex County).  My notes say about this son, Thomas,  died in 1739: 

 !Will of Thomas Hawkins dated 25 July 1739 and proved 18 December 1739, Essex County WB 6, p. 249.  Names his wife Ann and her brother Richard Covington and his brother William Hawkins executors.

So it would seem that he was the Thomas Hawkins who sold the land to the two first cousins who were both named Francis Thornton just before his death.  

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