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John Graves (1715-1792)

Biographical Sketch and Genealogy

The following is from Graves: Twelve Generations, Some Descendants and Kin, Louise Graves (1977) at 57-70:
John6 Graves (1715-1792)

John6 Graves [sixth Generation from Captain Thomas Graves], "eldest son and heir at law of Thomas5 Graves (and presumably Ann Graves) of Spotsylvania Co., Va., was born about 1715. He died in Caswell Co., N.C. by January 18, 1792, as on that date administration bond was filed with the Caswell County Court.

The year 1754 can be established as a fairly accurate date for the removal of John6 Graves, with his wife and at least one child (undoubtedly more), from Spotsylvania County, Virginia, to that part of Orange County, N.C. which in 1777 became Caswell Co. Newspaper account of the death of his son, John7 Herndon Graves, in The National Intelligencer, Nov. 18, 1829, stated that John Herndon Graves "was a native of Spotsylvania Co., Va., from whence he removed to Caswell Co., N.C., at the age of 7 with his parents."

Bartlett Yancey, illustrious grandson of John6 Graves, in his short history of Caswell Co., N.C., 1810 (N.C. Historical Review, Vol. 5, Oct. 1928, No. 4, pp. 421-429), states:

This County was first settled about the year 1750; from that time, until 1754 or 5, there were abut 8 or 10 families in that part of the County now known by the name of Caswell . . . . The Lea's, Graves, Peterson and Kimbro came to this County about 1753, 54 & 55; they came from Orange and Culpeper in Virginia . . . . The object of the first Settlers was to possess themselves of fertile land and good pastures. I am told by the first Settlers that cane was so plenty, at that time,that their cattle were fat all the winter without feeding. . . . The Country-Line land, so called from a creek of that name, which empties into Dan River, near where the counties of Caswell and Person join the Virginia line, is generally esteemed of the first quality in the County. . . .

While Orange Co., Va., was formed from Spotsylvania Co., Va. in 1734, and Culpeper Co. from Orange Co., Va. in 1749, this compiler found no references to the Leas, Kimbroughs or Petersons in the early records (available to her) of Orange and Culpeper Counties prior to 1752/55, the probable date of removal to North Carolina. Spotsylvania County records, on the other hand, show in Deed Bk. E, 1751-1761 "Sept. 1, 1752: William Lea of Spots. Co. and Frances, his wife, to Thomas White of the same county, £55 curr. 100 a. whereon sd. Lea lives and part of a pat. belonging to sd. Thomas White in Spots. Co." (Croz. p. 191) And "March 5, 1753, James Lea of St. Geo. Par., Spts. Co., and Ann, his wife, to John Chapman of afds. Par. and Co. £80 curr. 200 a. in Spots. Co." (Croz. 192). Further, on February 23, 1754, James Lea witnessed a deed from "Thomas White and Betty, his wife, of Spts. Co. to John Thorton and Wm. Waller, Gent., Church Wardens of St. Geo. Par., Spts. Co. 640 lbs. tob. "144 sq. poles, being a square of 12 poles on each side, being lately laid off for a church yard at the New Church at East North East, including the sd. Church, which stands in the centre thereof, etc. in trust for the Par." (Croz. p. 195).

Obviously John Lea had already moved to North Carolina as on August 4, 1752 "John Lea of Orange Co., North Carolina, and Anne, his wife, to Thomas McNeal of St. Geo. Par., Spots. Co., Va. £24 curr. 185 a. whereon sd. McNeal now dwells and formerly being a pat. granted George Carter and given by sd. Carter to the sd. John Lea, his son-in-law, by Deed of Gift. . . ."

Reference to a John Graves appears in the Orange Co., Va. Records, Deed Bk. 1-2, pp. 173-177, 23-24 Nov. 1737: "Lewis Davis Yancey of Orange Co. (Va.) to John Graves of Spots. Co. Lease & release; for £40 current money - 400 acres in the great fork of Rappahannoc River." Identity of this John Graves cannot be established by the compiler, but it well could be John6 Graves, son of Thomas5 Graves.

Referring to John6 Graves, Mrs. Hiden says: "As John6 Graves, Jr. (so called to distinguish him from his uncle John5), he appears frequently in Spots. Rec." A study of the land transactions in Spotsylvania County (Crozier) determines that those shown as having "John Graves, Jr." a participant do not refer to John6 Graves, and Mrs. Hiden's statements above can be disregarded. Of the many references to "John Graves" (Croz.), pages 155, 159, 165, 166, 170 and 174 most likely refer to John6 Graves, our subject.

The Thomas Kimbrough, referred to in the will of Thomas5 Graves, married Eleanor6 Graves, sister of John6 Graves, and they are the "Kimbro" referred to by Bartlett Yancey. Thomas Kimbrough died in Caswell Co., N.C. in 1777. In his will (Caswell Rec. W.B. A, p. 25), he mentions wife Eleanor and "to sons John7, Wm.7, and Thos.7 all estate due me for my wife's legacy or portion from the estate of my sd. wife's decd. father, Thos.5 Graves, to be equally divided."

Therefore, it can be established, from the newspaper death notice of John7 Herndon Graves, the Court Records re the Leas, etc., that the Leas moved to North Carolina about 1752/3/4 and John6 Graves about 1754, all from Spotsylvania County Virginia.

Following are some pertinent references to John6 Graves in Court Records:
. . . . "in 1768 (Louisa Rec. D.B. D 1/2, p. 133, as 'John Graves of N.C., eldest son & heir at law of Thos. Graves of Spots. Co.', he confirms to Wm Pettus, who was one of his father's exors., the sale of a tract of land and mill lately belonging to Thos. Graves. . . ."

"Novr. 22, 1782, Jno Graves of North Carolina, eldest son and heir at law of Thos. Graves of Spots. Co., Va. to Wm. Pettus of Va. Whereas, sd. Thos. Graves, decd., by his last will and testament, after certain legacies were paid, directed the remainder of his estate equally divided among all his children or their heirs, bud did not empower his executors to convey the same, the title so far, therefore, remains vested in the sd. Jno. Graves, as eldest son and heir at law, etc., and it being found necessary to sell and convey certain tracts of land in Spots. Co. whereof sd. Thomas Graves died, seized, etc., this indenture witnesseth, the sd. Jno. Graves, for the sum of £451, gold or silver, to be pd by the sd. Pettus to the Executors of the sd. Thomas Graves, the sd. John hereby conveys to the sd. Pettus 399 a. in Spotsylvania Co., tec. . . . . Witnesses, Joseph Graves, Jono. Graves, Wm. Graves, Jr., Jno Arnold, Jno. W. Pettus, April 17, 1783." (Spots. Co. Rec., Deed Kb. K. 1782-1785, p. 372. Crozier.)

Final settlement of the estate of Thomas5 Graves of Spots. Co., Va., was not made until 1802. The widow Ann had died about 1782, and John6 Graves, "eldest son and heir at law," was dead by January 18, 1792. Solomon7 Graves, the son of John6 Graves, was obviously named for his Uncle Solomon6, son of Thomas5 Graves and brother of John6 Graves.

The first land of record in North Carolina acquired by John6 Graves was 640 a. in Orange Co., deeded to him by Hugh Dobbin in June 1757. Early land grants to John6 Graves in that part of Orange Co., N.C., which in 1777 became Caswell Co.), were:

21 a., Grant #5, Bk. 14, p. 404, issued March 6, 1762, on the head of Ready Fork.

394 a., Grant #8, Bk. 14, p. 403, issued March 6, 1762, on the Country Line Creek.

457 a., Grant #50, Bk. 14, p. 407, issued Oct 13, 1761, on the south fork of the Country Line Creek.

After Caswell Co. was formed from Orange in 1777, numerous land grants were made to John Graves, John Graves, Sr., and John Graves, Jr. All of these grants were located on Country Line creek, and can be presumed to have been granted to John6 Graves and his son John7 Herndon Graves. At certain times and periods, the Senior and Junior was added to the name "John Graves." Since both John6 Graves and John7 Herndon Graves were large landowners, a careful and detailed study of the original land records would be required to arrive at a correct analysis of the land grants, deeds and transactions of each of the John Graves, father and son.

In "Some Facts . . . . and Reminiscences . . . .", written by Mrs. Charles Iverson Graves, whose husband was the great grandson of John6 Graves, she stated: John6 Graves' "home was on the eminence quite near the public road leading from Greensboro to Milton, N.C."

John6 Graves has been confused with his son John7 Herndon Graves as being a representative to the House of Commons in the North Carolina State Assembly, 1788-1791-1792 (Hidden and John Card Graves) and a member of the State Convention to consider the Federal Constitution in 1788 and 1789 (John Card Graves). Refer to the death notice regarding John7 Herndon Graves, which states that John Herndon Graves was "for many years a Representative of Caswell Co., in the legislature of the State." Also, John6 Graves was dead prior to January 18, 1792, and John7 Herndon Graves attended the January and November, 1792 sessions of the Legislature. In 1788, 1790 and 1791, John6 Graves was an old man, travel in those days was difficult, and the records of the various Assemblies and Conventions of 1788 and 1789 show a perfect attendance record for John7 (Herndon) Graves. That John6 Graves was infirm in 1790 can be deduced from the fact that he did not appear in the Caswell Co. Court in Jan. 1790 when the will of his son James7 Graves "was proved in Open Court by the Oath of Barzilla Graves a Subscribing Witness, also Azarias Graves esquire made Oath that he believed that John Graves Sen. was a concurring evidence to said Will at the time of Executing the same."

That John6 Graves was a man of strong character and leadership is reflected in his sons. They were prominent in their community and State. The daughters married men who also had an important part in the history of North Carolina.

At the time of his death, the wife of John6 Graves was Isabella Lea Graves, the daughter of James Lea and Ann Herndon Lea.

Several factors substantiate the fact that John6 Graves must have married twice, but the name of his first wife is not known. The suggested and plausible, possibility that his first wife was a Herndon was based, no doubt, on the fact that John6 Graves named one of his sons John7 Herndon Graves. The name Herndon was carried on in the family by descendants of John7 Graves. In "Some Facts . . . and Reminiscences . . .," written by Mrs. Charles Iverson Graves for her children, she stated: "John6 Graves came from Virginia and settled in Caswell Co., N.C. before the Revolutionary War. His wife was Mary Lee of Spotsylvania County, Va."

A painstaking study by Dr. John Goodwin Herndon provides inferential but conclusive proof that Isabella Lea, who married John6 Graves, was not old enough to have been the mother of his older children. She was born some time after 1737 as the birth of her eldest sister, Nancy, has been given as 1737. (Dr. John Goodwin Herndon: Ann Herndon Lea, Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 5, No. 3, July-Sept. 1961, pp. 99-106). Assuming Isabella Lea, the second child of James Lea and Ann Herndon Lea, was born in 1738 or 1739, Isabella Lea would have been only 8 or 9 years older than John7 Herndon Graves (son of John6 Graves) who was born in 1746. Azariah7 Graves was 22 years younger than his brother John7 Herndon Graves. There were undoubtedly other children of John6 Graves and Isabella Lea Graves.

John6 died intestate. The exact date of his death has not been found by the compiler. Administration bond, however, was filed with the Caswell County Court January 18, 1792, appointing Azariah7 Graves and Solomon7 Graves executors of their father's estate, with John Williams, Esqr. and Jesse Carter named as Bondsmen.

The March 30, 1792 Caswell Court: "Ordered that Administration of the Estate of John Graves, Dec. be Granted to John & Thomas Graves Jointly with their Brothers Solomon & Azariah Graves, who Qualified accordingly."

Inventory of the personal estate of John6 Graves appears in Caswell Co., N.C., Rec. Will Book B, page 459. The originals of the two documents representing the Inventory of Personal Estate of John6 Graves are in the Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, N.C., filed "Caswell County Estate Papers--John Graves." The compiler of these data, in 1962 personally viewed these documents which, though 170 years old at that time, were in excellent condition. These Inventory documents read:

"An Inventory of the Estate of John Graves, Sr., Late of Caswell County Decd. Taken at the late dwelling house of said Decd on the 20th day of March 1792 --

Negroes - 17, Horses 17 head, Cattle 81 head, Hogs 169 head - 1 Waggon, 1 ditto (Stage), Sheap 25 head, 1 still, crop of Corn Tobo Hemp etc. Sundry Plantation Tools, Cash in hard Money £270. . a riding chair and horse given to the Widow by consent of all the Legaties (extraordinary) also one smith's anvill & bellows given to Barzillai Graves by consent of legatees & quantity Cyder.

This may certify that the above mention part of said estate has been divided agreeable to all our satisfactions.

Isbell Graves
Azariah Graves
Thomas Graves
Barzillai Graves
John Kerr
Ann Yancy
John Graves
Thos Slade
Solomon Graves,


Also an Inventory of that part of the Estate which was left to the Widow during her life:

4 Feather beds & furniture, one Black Walnut Table, 15 chares, 1 Looking glass, 2 Sugar boxes, 2 Chests, 3 trunks, parcel old Books, 1 Spice Morter, 1 Case and bottles, 6 Jugs, 2 Batter Rolls, 17 earthen plates, 4 bottles, 2 setts cups & saucers, 1 Box Iron Etc., 1 Flatt Iron, Fire tongs & Shovel, 2 Glass tumblers, 1 Vinegar Cruet, 2 Washington tubbs, 4 pails, 1 Churn, 2 Old Cotter Wheels, 2 flax ditto, 19 pewter plates, 6 pewter dishes, 15 Spoons, 10 Basons, 2 cases of knives & forks, 1 Tea Kettle, 1 Coffee pot, 1 Small Bowl, 1 pint Mug, 1 Black Jack, 4 potts, 2 skillets.

Also an Inventory of the part of said Estate that has not been divided --

4 New Hogsheads, 18 old ditto, 8 Cyder casks, 2 Small ditto -- 4 powdering tubs - 3 small barrels, 1 Iron riddle, 1 wood ditto, 7 Sack bags, 5 bee hives, 2 pr. steel yards, 2 Small barrels - 2 Old shott guns - Quantity of Salt, 1 grind Stone, Small barrel Nails - 1 pr. Money Scales, 2 Gimbletts - 1 Whip Saw - 2 Cross cutt saws - 1 old bearsharo & Coulter - Parcel reap hooks - 2 Sithes & Cradles - Parcel old files - 1 Steel trapp, 3 Iron Wedges - 2 foot adds - Smiths tongs & hammers - 1 old Stone Hammer - 1 Smith's Vise 2 small hides leather 2 raw hides Some bells -

Azariah Graves
Solomon Graves
John Graves
Thomas Graves

Inventory Estate of John Graves Dec.
Recorded in Book B, Folio 459

Test. A. E. Murphey, Cle.

Caswell County
March Court 1792

This Inventory was duly returned to Court on Oath & on motion ordered to be recorded.

A. E. Murphey, Cle.

Photostatic copies of the originals follow, showing the signatures of Isbell Graves, Azariah Graves, Thomas Graves, Barzillai Graves, John Kerr, Ann Yancy, John Graves, Thos. Slade and Solomon Graves.

First part of Inventory of Personal Estate of John6 Graves shows "a riding chair and horse given the widow by consent of all the legaties (extraordinary) also one smith's anvill & bellows given to Barzillai Graves by consent of legaties & quantity of Cyder. This may certify that the above mention part of said estate has been divided agreeable to all our satisfactions." Presumably, the widow, Isabella Graves (who signs as Isbell Graves) signed the document because of the express gift to Barzillai Graves.

Also follows a copy of the original will of James7 Graves who predeceased his father and which shows the signature of John6 Graves, who signed as John Graves Sener.

[Unfortunately, these documents are so faint that they could not be scanned and presented here.]

Children of John6 Graves were:

1. THOMAS7 GRAVES, married Hannah (?), and died before 1800, as in Jan. 1800 (W.B.C., p. 428) the land of Thomas7 Graves

decd. was divided among his heirs as follows: (1) John8 Graves; (2) Jacob8 Graves; (3) James8 Graves; (4) Wm. Moore, "in right of his wife" Nancy8 Graves; (5) Azariah8 Graves; (6) Major8 Graves; (7) Thomas8 Graves; (9) [so numbered in the original] Isbel8 Graves; and 910) Lewis8 Graves. Hannah, wife of Thomas7 Graves, survived him, dying in 1802. In her will (W.B.D., p. 123) she mentions sons Major8 and Azariah8, daughter Isbell8 Graves, son Lewis8 Graves, and Isbell9 Moore (under 12). (Source: Hiden).

Mrs. Henry Kendall of Raleigh, N.C. (a Graves, Yancey, Kerr and Lea descendant), states: "There is one more child. From papers at Archives, the final disposition of estate of Thomas8 Graves lists Jacob, John, James, Thomas Gunn 'in right of his wife,' William Moore 'in right of his wife,' Isabell, Azariah, Lewis, and Major. Caswell Co. marriage bonds show Patsy8 Graves married Thomas Gunn in 1792; Nancy8 Graves married William Moore 1799."

Obviously the number (8) omitted by Mrs. Hiden was Thomas Gunn who married Patsy8 Graves.

2. JAMES7 GRAVES. Died unmarried before his father died. His will, dated April 9, 1781, proved at January Court 1790 (W.B.B., p. 311), mentions sister Ann7 Yancey and brother Thomas7 Graves, who with Bartlett Yancey is named exor.

3. ANN7 YANCEY. Married Bartlett Yancey. (Spelled both Yancey and Yancy). She died in 1818. They were the parents of 10 children, one of whom, Bartlett Yancey, was an eloquent orator. Bartlett Yancey, the son, was a lawyer, practiced in Caswell Co.; was a member of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress, 1813-1817; member and speaker of the State Senate of North Carolina, 1817-1827. (Footnote21, p. 427, Twelve North Carolina Counties in 1810-1811, Caswell County, published in North Carolina Historical Review, Vol 5, Oct. 1928, No. 4).

"In 1833 Yanceyville was established at the courthouse. It was named in honor of Bartlett Yancey and is the county seat." (Formation of North Carolina Counties 1663-1943, by David Leroy Corbitt, Head, Division of Publications, State Dept. of Archives & History, Raleigh, N.C. This is on page 59 and gives documentation from various sources).

There are varying opinions as to whether Yanceyville was named in honor of James Yancey or his brother Bartlett. The publication THE STATE, Vol 31, No. 13, Nov. 23, 1963, page 23, on Caswell County, states: "At first the settlement was named Caswell Courthouse, but in 1833 was renamed in honor of James Yancey, large landowner and brother of the brilliant Bartlett." James Yancey was in the Legislature for a long time.

Children of Ann7 Graves Yancey (died 1818) and Bartlett Yancey, Sr. (taken from her will and estate records and furnished by Mrs. Kendall) were: (1) John Yancey; (2) James Yancey; (3) Thomas Yancey; (4) Elizabeth Yancey; (5) Isabel Yancey; (6) Sarah Yancey; (7) Mary (Polly) Yancey; (8) Nancy Yancey; (9) Frances W. Yancey; and (10) Bartlett Yancey, Jr. (1785-1828), born posthumously.

4. JOHN7 HERNDON GRAVES. (1746-1829). A chapter follows on this son of John6 Graves.

5. MARY7 GRAVES. (April 3, 1756 - Feb. 22, 1831). Married John Kerr (Jan 29, 1754 - Feb. 22, 1831). (Dates from Kerr Bible furnished by Mrs. Kendall). Mrs Kendall states: "Their son, Reverend John Kerr served in Congress 1813-1815 and 1815-1817. Their grandson, Judge John Kerr, was in Congress 1853-1855, was also a judge. Later a great grandson, John H. Kerr, was in Congress from 1923-54. The latter was a grandson of James Kerr, brother of Reverend Kerr." (Mrs. S. R. Prince of Reidsville, a descendant of Mary7 Graves.)

Children of Mary7 Graves Kerr and John Kerr were: (1) Nancy Kerr; (2) William Kerr, (3) Mary Kerr; (4) John Kerr; (5) Barzillai Kerr; (6) Alexander Kerr; (7) James Kerr; (8) Isabella Kerr; (9) Elizabeth Kerr; and (10) Solomon Kerr.

6. BARZILLAI7 GRAVES. (Dec. 12, 1759 - July 14, 1827). he lived and died in Caswell Co., N.C., about 3 miles from Yanceyville. Married April 10, 1783 Ursula Wright, born April 26, 1755, daughter of William Wright. Barzillai7 Graves was a Baptist minister. The minutes of Bush Arbor Primitive Baptist Church show that Reverend Barzillai Graves resigned as pastor at Bush Arbor in 1810. Children: (1) Solomon8 Graves; (2) Jeremiah8 Graves; (3) Isabella8 Graves, married Hosea McNeill; (4) Mary8 Graves, married General Thomas W. Graves. (William Williams Graves, Jr. of Greensboro, N.C. is a descendant); (5) Elizabeth8 Graves, married James Lea; (6) Margaret8 Graves, married (1) ______ Lipscomb, (2) ______ Cross; (7) Barzillai8 Graves.

Mrs. Hiden states: "Barzillai7 Graves was a member of the State Senate of N.C. 1814-15, and the House 1818-1822." Mrs. Henry Kendall is of the opinion, though she does not have documentation, that it was Barzillai8 Graves, son of Captain John7 Herndon Graves, who served in the State Senate and in the House rather than Reverend Barzillai7 Graves. This opinion is based on her knowledge of the political activities of Barzillai8 Graves, son of Capt. John7 Herndon Graves.

7. SOLOMON7 GRAVES (April 29, 1766 - Oct. 1830). Married Frances Lewis of Virginia. Served in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1795, 1796 and 1797. Moved to Newton Co., Georgia, in about 1819. He received a land grant of 4,000 acres in Newton Co. (according to the Emmel family, purchaser of a portion of the land in about 1959). Solomon7 Graves' plantation was called Mt. Pleasant, and is mentioned in "White Columns of Georgia." It is a large two-story house with many gables, and the long driveway to the house is lined on both sides by cedar trees.

In 1962 some of the slave houses were removed from Mt. Pleasant to Stone Mountain Park, where they became part of the Stone Mountain Plantation, "which is as genuine a reproduction of a pre-Civil War Georgia plantation as research can make it. The buildings were brought here from various parts of the State." (Brochure distributed at Stone Mountain Park). According to the Emmels, a State Committee visited Mt. Pleasant twice before deciding the slave houses there architecturally best represented the period.

Solomon7 Graves is buried in the Graves Family Cemetery at Mt. Pleasant Plantation, Newton Co., Georgia. See chapter on Thomas8 Graves for additional general information.

Children of Solomon7 Graves were: (1) William8 Byrd Graves; (2) John8 L. Graves (Dr.), who married Mrs. Martha Williams (Graves) Dick, daughter of General Azariah7 Graves; (3) Frances8 Lewis Graves, m. Dr. Wm. P. Graham; (4) Iverson8 Lea Graves; (4) Barzillai8 Graves; (5) Solomon8 Graves; (6) Sidney8 Graves; (7) Margaret8 Graves; and (8) Mary8 Graves.

8. AZARIAH7 GRAVES (Oct. 29, 1768 - March 1, 1850). A chapter follows on this son of John6 Graves.

9. ISABELLA7 GRAVES. "From the fact that one of John6 Graves' legatees was Thomas Slade, it would seem one of his daughters married Thomas Slade." (Hiden).

Carl B. Neal, Olympia, Washington, in his research on the Caswell County Graves family states: "Isabella Graves, sister of Gen'l Azariah Graves, married Thos. Slade. She is probably the Isabella Slade listed in the 1830 Census as born 1760-1770; in her household a female born 1800-1810, and with 29 slaves. Thomas and Isabella had at least one daughter, Isabella.

Mrs Maud Florance Harrelson furnished this information: "Isabella Graves m. Thomas Slade Dec. 12, 1782."

She further stated that the children were: "(1) Isabella Slade m. May 29, 1825, William Russell; (2) Susan Slade; (3) William Slade; (4) Nancy Slade m. June 13, 1803 John Stamps; (5) John Slade; (6) Polly Slade m. April 15, 1800 James Graves."

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Last Revised: 21 March 2006