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History of Old Rappahannock, Essex County, Virginia and Caroline County, Virginia


Old Rappahannock


Index to Marriages of Old Rappahannock and Essex Counties, Virginia 1655-1900 by Eva Eubank Wilkerson. Published by Whittet & Shepperson, Richmond, Virginia, 1953.


Foreword: Old Rappahannock County embraces land lying on both sides of the Rappahannock River and was organized in 1656, being formerly part of Lancaster County which was organized in 1652. Courts were held alternately on the north and south sides of the River but all records were kept in the court house on the south side. There are some records, such as, land grants, deeds, etc. of earlier dates than 1656 which were recorded under the name of Lancaster County, and remained as records of Rappahannock County after the division was made. In April, 1692, old Rappahannock County was divided into two distinct counties, the river dividing the same, the North Side became Richmond County, and the South Side was called Essex County, courts to be held on the 10th of each month. Records of deeds, wills and court orders from 1655 to the present time (1953) are in the Record Room of the Court House in Tappahannock, Essex County, Virginia. There is no register of marriages prior to 1853. Some marriage bonds dating back to 1804 have been recently recorded in the marriage register which began in 1853 and is known as Book One.


The author in doing much research and in indexing old records found many marriages with record proof and began an Index to Marriages. By reading all deeds, wills, court orders and land trials, she has secured a large number of marriages to which have been added marriages from the Marriage Register from 1853 to 1900, also Marriage Bonds now recorded in this book. The date of marriages shown in deeds, wills and court orders is the date of the record in which the marriage is found and not the date of the marriage, these having only the year given and no month nor day.


Terms used in reference, "D" Deeds, "W" Willis, "O" Court Orders, "D&W" both Deeds and Willis, Box 101, "C", "D", Etc. is Steel Box numbered 101, containing original papers, such as Deeds, Wills, Powers of Attorney, etc. The letter "C", "D," etc. represent the folder in which the papers are filed according to dates.


Rappahannock to Essex to Caroline Counties


Colonial Caroline: A History of Caroline County, Virginia by T. E. Campbell, published in 1954.


Page 10. Political Genesis

When the English settlers built Fort Mattapony its site was located in New Kent County. At that time all of Caroline’s Mattapony and Pamunkey valleys’ lands were in New Kent and its Rappahannock lands were in Rappahannock, a county long since extinct.


The political genesis of Caroline is as complicated as the genealogies of many of its leading families, but if a lucid history of the county is to be recorded it must be set out here. From the time of Captain John Smith first explored its rivers in 1607-08 until 1634 its area remained, so far as the white man was concerned, Indian country. When the Virginia House of Burgesses divided the colony into its eight original political subdivisions in 1634 it became, nominally at least, along with all the other land north of the watershed between the James and the York basins, a part of the shire of Charles River. Eights years later the Burgesses changed the name of Charles River to York without changing its boundaries and Caroline became a part of York.


All of Caroline remained in York until 1648 when the Burgesses cut off the Potomac and Rappahannock valleys from that county and formed a new county which they called at first Chickacoan, and a short time later Northumberland. This division placed the lands that were to become Caroline in two political subdivisions; its lands along the Pamunkey and the Mattapony remained in York while its lands along the Rappahannock went to Northumberland. This split lasted for seventy nine years, which is almost on quarter of Caroline’s total recorded history. The two sections were not reunited under the same local government until the Burgesses established Caroline, as a county, in 1727.


The Rappahannock Valley was not long part of Northumberland. In 1652 the Burgesses separated it from the Potomac Valley and put it in a new county which they called Lancaster. This new county they split four years later along the north and south line which now divides Lancaster from Richmond County, and Middlesex from Essex. The area to the east remained Lancaster and the area to the west became Rappahannock. The Rappahannock Valley section of Caroline was a part of Rappahannock County for thirty-six years, that is until 1692 when the Burgesses obliterated that county and placed its lands north of the Rappahannock River in Richmond and its lands south of the river in Essex. From 1692 until Caroline was established as a county in 1727, Caroline’s Rappahannock River valley was a part of Essex.


Caroline south of the Rappahannock-Mattapony watershed was a part of York until the House of Burgesses organized New Kent in 1654 and fixed its boundaries as extending from Scimino Creek on the east to the headwaters of the Pamunkey and the Mattapony on the west. This act placed a portion of Caroline in a political subdivision by metes and bounds for the first time.


New Kent retained its original limits for thirty-seven years. In 1691 the Burgesses split it along the Pamunkey and established King and Queen County north of the river. This division put all of Caroline between the Mattapony-Rappahannock watershed and the Pamunkey River in King and Queen. Here the lands north of the Mattapony remained for thirty-six years, but the lands south of the river became a part of King William ten years later when the Burgesses created that county from King and Queen’s land between the Pamunkey and the Mattapony.


This was the last change in territorial jurisdiction before the Burgesses reunited the three narrow strips, which were at the time the heads of Essex, King and Queen and King William, and set up Caroline. The first English settlers came to Caroline, when the area, that was to become the county, was split between Rappahannock and New Kent. The white man claimed title to over ninety per cent of its area while it was still divided between Essex, King and Queen and King William. To write a complete history of Caroline the research student must carefully study the papers concerning these five counties, which record events that happened before Caroline was organized, because as Minerva sprang full grown from the head of Jove so Caroline sprang full grown from the heads of Essex, King and Queen and King William.


Page 18

Although the lands between the Golden Vale and the present-day Caroline-Essex line and the land along the north side of the Mattapony westward from the mouth of the Marocossic Creek was filling rapidly with English settlers before Bacon’s Rebellion, the white man showed little inclination to take up land elsewhere in the area to be Caroline. Besides the patents of Smith and Taliaferro at Snow Creek and Henry Corbin eastward from Ware Creek and the Lewis, Warner and Hoomes grants in the upper Mattapony Valley there were only two other grants prior to 1676. In 1672 Col. Thomas Goodrich patented 2,200 acres on Tuckahoe Creek and Francis and Anthony Thornton took up 2,740 acres on the north side of the Mattapony above the stream’s major fork. The Thornton brothers, Francis and Anthony, were born in Virginia and used to pioneer life. In the back country they prospered, and in time their grant became Ormesby, which for many years was a famous seat of the Thornton family in Caroline County.


Caroline County, Virginia


John Frederick Dorman, 1965. Caroline County, Virginia Order Book 1732-1740.


Caroline County was formed in 1728 from the upper pars of Essex, King and Queen, and King William counties. The colonial will and deed books have been destroyed  and the only remaining colonial records, with the exception of a volume of surveys 1729-62 and some chancery papers, are the court order books.


The Order Book covering the first four years of proceedings of the county court is no longer extant. The volume abstracted herein is the earliest presently preserved.


Many entries appearing herein reveal no more than the presence of an individual in the county at a specific date. In some cases a few such references are all that remain to identify Caroline County residents. For this reason the compiler has felt it better to list every suit along with the references to wills and deeds and other proceedings than to make a selection of items for inclusion.


All entries appearing in the original book have been included herein with the exception of those noting continuances of suits. The final disposition of a suit is usually the first reference given to it, unless some noteworthy action was taken previously.


Spelling has been modernized and most abbreviations have been written out. Names, however, have been retained in the form appearing in the original.



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