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Genealogy vs Mythology

By Margie Brown a descendent of Nathaniel and Sarah Royall Terry


I would like to address three problems with the Terry information that is usually available about Nathaniel Terry & the Terry genealogy. The great pictures of the MEMORIAL stones submitted for the Terry Cemetery.and transcribed inscriptions and photographs used with permission of the contributor is appreciated. The TERRY genealogy has nothing to do with the contributor. The contributor just copied what was there. The article below will site the documents listed at the bottom of this article for your easy reference.


1st. problem:  Nathaniel Terry [Sr] did not have Revolutionary War service.  The stone that was put in place in 1939 in what was then The Thompson Cemetery, was awarded by the Federal Government for Nathaniel’s [Sr] service in the French and Indian War.  The revolutionary War service that is cited, is for the service of his son Nathaniel D. Terry [Jr].  Nathaniel D. Terry and his wife Ann (Thompson) left Halifax county circa 1822 and went to Todd County, Ky., where he received a pension for that service, he dying testate in 1837.  His widow Ann (Thompson) received a widows pension #W-3054 on Nathaniel D. Terry [Jr], and continued to do so until her death in March of 1860.  The Military Secretary’s Office in a letter dated June 29, 1906, stated “ Nothing has been found of record to show that any other soldier named Nathaniel Terry was a member of any organization of Virginia or Continental troops in service during the revolutionary war.”

Nathaniel [Sr’s] contribution to Halifax Co. and the Colony of Virginia is illustrious,  he was born in 1724 and died in 1780, at the age of 56.  In the twenty eight years that he was a resident of Halifax, he was sheriff in 1752 , justice 1752 - 1780, member of the House of Burgessess 1758 – 1764 and again in 1769 – 1776 and the House of Delegates 1776 – 1778.  His further exploits in the French and Indians Wars can be found in Henning’s Statues., he was commissioned as Captain of the Rangers while still a resident of Lunenburg County, and was the builder of forts across Halifax County, Fort Trial, Mayo Fort,  Hickey’s Fort and Blackwater Fort.


2nd. Problem:  The placement of the pictured stone in 1939, was in the Old  Thompson Cemetery.  This property did not come into the Thompson family until after the 1806 estate settlement.  In 1939 with Terry’s being buried there, the DAR ladies made a reasonable choice and there was a Terry connection.  Royall Terry a grandson, [through the son William Terry] of Nathaniel and Sarah (Royall) Terry had married his first cousin, Susannah Foster Thompson, a daughter of James and his wife Mary (Terry) Thompson a daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah Terry.  Susannah F. did not live long after the 1820 marriage, and died leaving one son James Edward Terry.  At the death of Mary (Terry) Thompson in 1848 and James Thompson in 1854, Royall and his son continued  to live on the Thompson property as James Edward inherited one third of the Thompson estate.  James Edward Terry married 1849 in Campbell co, Va. Maria Agnes Bailey, and they were the parents of Elizabeth Terry married J. C. Epps, William H. Terry went to Texas where he married Jeffersonia  Mc C ??(unreadable), Edward Lewis Terry married Maud Tatum, Howson B. Terry  married Effie Tatum, Robert C. Terry  married Claudine Miller and Catherine D. Terry who married Charles A. Bates. (Terry Bible record). These are some of the Terry’s buried in the Thompson cemetery today.

 I will cite from the dower settlement after the death of Sarah (Royall) Terry in 1805.  Halifax Co. Va. Plea Bk #24, pages 250 –259, for therein lie the clues of the original cemetery on Nathaniel’s [Sr] Bannister  River property and correctly identifies all of his children.  My sincere hope, is someone interested in the true history of Halifax co., and is familiar with the area, will find what might be the oldest cemetery in the county.

The oldest son and heir-at-law at the time of the death of Nathaniel Sr. was William Terry and the only child mentioned in the 1780 Will.  In 1806, after the death of Sarah Royall Terry, all of the children are named, Nancy Terry wife of Berryman Green,

William Terry, Joseph Terry, Polly Terry wife of James Thompson, Robert Terry, Sarah Terry wife of Kibble Terry and the children of Elizabeth Dickerson Terry [deceased] wife of John Martin .

            After the division of the slaves, a division of the land was made, and a land Plat was included.  William Terry [Plea Bk 24 page 256] received the first choice, and choose lot # 1 containing four acres and the dwelling house.  This would have been the premier piece, ergo it had to be the value of the house. The other lots were from 80 acres to 45 acres.  William Terry was born in 1749 and married in 1771 Susannah Thompson.  William Terry was a Revolutionary War soldier, and at his death in 1810 was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.  His widow Susannah (Thompson) Terry collected a pension # W – 4196, and both she and William died testate in Halifax.   Susannah lived until 1845 in the dwelling house chosen as first choice by her husband.  At her death her sons Henry Terry (whose first wife was also a daughter of James and Polly Terry Thompson but left no issue by  her) and Royall Terry who were the only surviving sons, entered into an agreement  with Robert H. Spencer on the 19th May 1846  to wall the graveyard on that 4 acres.  In August of 1846 [Deed Bk 51 p 430] they sold the property to Wm H. Clark.  In this deed , line 27, “the graveyard on the four acres excluded.”   Signed by Royall Terry.

            From letters written by Green descendents in 1938 and 39, they admittedly did not know, almost 160 years later, where Nathaniel and Sarah were buried nor know their ages.  Knowing that there were Terry’s buried in the Thompson cemetery, they obviously decided to place the stones there.   I do not fault them and I am glad they honored our ancestors, but that also has stopped the search for the true resting place. 

            The first plat is from the Plea book 24 page 259, the second plat was done as a favor for me by Roger Dodson of Pittsylvania county, and his notes are self explanatory.

For anyone who chooses to search for this old graveyard, it sits across Rt #360 from the home of the late Albert High.   The two houses that sit very close together, are on the four acre tract.  It appears that Rt. # 360 coming up the hill from Terry’s bridge, did not cut into the tract but followed the old road, up the “teapot spout. ”  I do not know if there were ever stones in this cemetery and it would be overgrown and heavily silted after more than 200 years, and would needed to be probed for underground stones, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were.  I would imagine that a portion of the stone wall might be found, and be mistaken for the foundation of an old house.


3rd.  problem:  It is unlikely that Benjamin Terry who died in Pittsylvania Co. in 1771, wife was an Irby , and if she were, then she was not likely to be the mother of Nathaniel Terry Sr.  The naming pattern of the descendents is exceedly strong, and would indicate his mother was a Dickerson.   Nathaniel Sr’  daughter Elizabeth was Elizabeth Dickerson (Terry) Martin and she named a son William Dickerson Martin and lived in S.C.  Berryman and Nancy (Terry) Green named a daughter Elizabeth Dickerson Green, they remained in Halifax,.  William and Susanna (Thompson) Terry named a son Dickerson Terry, they remained in Halifax.  Nathaniel Dickerson and Ann (Thompson) Terry named a son Nathaniel Dickerson Terry, they moved to Todd co, Ky.   James and Mary “Polly” (Terry) Thompson named a daughter Elizabeth Dickerson Thompson, and had a grand-daughter Elizabeth Dickerson Thompson, they remained in Halifax.   Robert and Nancy Hopkins (Smith) Terry  named a son Nathaniel Dickerson Terry, they removed to Henderson Co., Ky.  Kibble and Sarah (Terry) Terry, never had issue and Sarah died 1853/54 in Bedford Co., Tn.   Joseph Terry married  Sarah Coleman (Williams) widow of James Hill, and their son Joseph Coleman Terry married his cousin Elizabeth Dickerson Green , they remained in Halifax county.  I do not know of one Irby Terry out of this Terry family.  I do know that Benjamin Terry Jr. with wife Elizabeth Parker Terry had a grandson named William Dickerson Terry son of Obediah Parker Terry.  I suggest that the mnemonic naming pattern is very strong in this family, that it would have been highly unusual to name a wife with her maiden name in an 1771 Will, that the original Will is no longer available, and that  Charles Edward Terry a Kentucky descendent of Robert and Nancy (Smith) Terry, made notes in the late 1930’s that the original Will was torn, and there were additions made in a different handwriting, and only in the first portion of the Will, where “my wife Elizabeth” ends the line, does it appear that someone has added the Irby.  I will let each person make their own decision, but with lack of other evidence we should not assign a last name to her unless it includes “probable”.  Even Mr. Eggleston  president of Virginia Historical Society, in 1941 has used probably Irby, based on oral tradition out of southside Virginia, but that probably has been dropped and now repeated as a given.  It is not, it is very questionable and as a descendent, I will use “probably a Dickerson.”.


The Terry Family Bible was purchased by Nathaniel Terry Jr. at the 1806 estate sale and was taken to Logan/Todd county, Kentucky.   It was presented in Robertson Courthouse TN., as late as 1855.  It is unknown where it is today, but a transcription from a grandson  Robert Y. Lewis, is available at the TN State Archives.   In the early part of the 1900’s a descendent out of one of the sons of Nathaniel Sr., who was from Virgina, mistakenly joined the SAR on the service of Nathaniel Terry Jr, who he did not descend from, he named a Miss Smith as Nathaniel Sr’s wife when Nancy Hopkins Smith was the wife of Nathaniel’s son Robert , and continued on back to Benjamin Terry who died in 1771, naming apparent siblings of his greatgrandfather, James A. Terry and Diana Royall Terry as the parents of Benjamin.  This has never been proven by any document and was done from family lore, but is often repeated.


I am grateful for every bit of information left by descendents that came before me, even when it has proven incorrect, as it is that data that provides the building steps to get it right.  We have access to materials today that were not available to those who went before us, census, military records, social security records, etc.  They only had memory and love of family and I salute them for that, but I would hope that if they were here today, they would say “I didn’t know that, thank you for clearing THAT up.”



  • Terry Property in Halifax County Plat Map
  • Estate of Sarah Royal Terry 1805
  • January Court 1806
  • Halifax County Plea Book
  • Deed Book 51 August 1846
  • Bible Record
  • Nathaniel Terry Information
  • Letter From Military Secretary
  • Terry Letter Submissions
  • Terry Family & Letter From The Adjutant General
  • Halifax County Map (a section of the county)
  • Terry Cemetery Reading
  • Terry Cemetery
  • Family History
  • Cemeteries
  • Tombstones
  • Table of Contents