Poythress Family in the
Maitland Family Bible
The Maitland family bible is an often used source document for colonial Virginia genealogy studies. It is considered reliable. Ten pages of handwritten text cover Maitland entries for the period 1666 to 1872. The document is Mss6:4 M2875:1 (6 double pages) in the Virginia Historical Society library at Richmond. Handwriting for the most part is legible.
This bible, had it been recorded contemporaneously and correctly, would be a precise guide to what was described as a "legend across Virginia", that of the "nine Misses Poythress" and the "eight Misses Poythress" and the husbands of each. For this purpose, an examination of the bible remains a compelling study for Poythress genealogy. Even further, capturing the marriage data for 17 brides in consecutive generations would also provide linkage for many Prince George area families in the late 1700s.
First recorded in the Maitland bible is William Maitland of Kirkcudbright, Scotland, said to have received a bishopric from Charles II. He acquired a residence in the area named Barcastle. First of interest to Poythresses is David Maitland b. 1759, d. 1838 at Barcastle. David, with birth and death years as above, is shown as the oldest of 10 children of Alexander Maitland and Agnes Smart of Scotland.
The first entry for David Maitland (leaf 2) is recorded and signed 2 Nov 1881 by H. G. Maitland and the "place" of the entry is noted as Chipperskyle. Chipperskyle is an 18th century Georgian home in Dumfries, Scotland; thus the entry below is far distantly removed in both time and place from the fact:
“ * This David married first, Elizabeth Poythress of Flower de
Hundred. She is interred in Blandford. Her daughters, Elizabeth
and Susan ["Mary" is struck out and replaced by "Susan"] died in
This is not correct. David Maitland married Susanna Poythress, not Elizabeth Poythress. Maitland’s marriage is recorded 25 Oct 1788 in Rev. John Cameron’s Cumberland Parish Register, p. 309, to Susanna Poythress. Further, the Blandford Cemetery gravestones of Susanna Maitland and her young daughter read:
In remembrance of
the affectionate wife of David Maitland
merchant in Blandford,
who departed this life the 9th
of February 1799, aged 33 years.
She was the daughter of Joshua &
Mary Poythress, of Flower de Hundred
Mary Currie Maitland
daughter of David and Susanna
died the 27th January 1795,
aged 4 years
The first conflict is thus between the bible (Elizabeth) and the tombstone and marriage information (Susanna). A slight element of doubt occurs resulting from the "Elizabeth" entry of H. G. Maitland stating "married first Elizabeth" because Susanna Poythress did indeed have an older sister Elizabeth also "of Flower de Hundred." However, sister Elizabeth is proven married to Simon Frazer so the entry by H. G. Maitland can be simply scored an error in the given name rather than stating marriage to both sisters. This error is considered all the more likely with a recording over a century after the fact, an ocean of distance, as well as showing some indecision with respect to the names of David Maitland’s children.
David Maitland and Susanna Poythress had three daughters: Mary Currie Maitland died in childhood and is accounted for above. Elizabeth Agnes Maitland and Susan Poythress Maitland are correctly accounted for by H. G. Maitland following his strike-over correction. There is no reason to doubt his report that they "died in Scotland, Inverness."
It is also certain that (yet) another Susanna Poythress, the daughter of Robert Poythress (discovered later, see below), is NOT the Susanna "of Flower de Hundred" who m. David Maitland. The tombstone shows the birth of Maitland’s wife Susanna to be 1766 so Robert Poythress (d. c 1745) could not have been her father and thus "qualify" her as one of the "nine Misses Poythress."
One might consider the minor irony of why the Poythress daughters' "legend" would be included in the Maitland bible in the first place. David Maitland’s Susanna was of an entirely different Poythress "line", that of Joshua Poythress "of Flower de Hundred", not that of the reported seventeen Misses Poythress.
As reliable as the Maitland Bible might otherwise be, the above entries and subsequent entries err in recording Poythress information. It may be guessed that having a Maitland marrying a Poythress woman by itself must have tempted the bible’s recorder to record what was likely the minor "urban myth" of "the nine Misses Poythress and the eight Misses Poythress" and their respective grooms.
It is also highly probable that the entries in the bible were not contemporaneously made since the first entries (the "nine") do not even list the names of the brides nor even the given names of the grooms. It is likely the second group, "the eight" were recorded at the time of the events. The entries are correct although some grooms seem "plucked" from the second generation and "doubled" back into the first generation to get to the total of nine.
The earlier generation "nine" sisters are twice cited as "the nine, as remembered by older members of the Batte-Poythress connection", not an especially ringing note of authenticity. And, as will be seen, there likely were never nine first generation daughters in the first place.
It is generally assumed by all well known researchers (Batte, Hall, Stanard, Boddie) that the "nine Misses Poythress" were intended to represent daughters of father Robert Poythress (1690-c.1745) and if so (as is likely) the list has errors. The "eight Misses Poythress" were all daughters of Col. Peter Poythress, a brother to the presumed "nine" daughters. This second list, "the eight", is remarkably correct after slight adjusting for entries duplicated in "both" generations.
It is not the claim of this paper to have all of the perfect, concise, and complete corrections. Some of this information is at times still in dispute and often simply lost. Additional corrections and/or additions directed to the writer will be welcomed.
Aside, in matters of colonial Virginians in general and Poythresses in particular, ignoring the previous work of R. Bolling Batte (-1996) is done at some peril. Mr. Batte ("RBB") is virtually always "authentic"; when information is not available to him his records may contain sins of omission but almost never does he place anything on paper for which documentation does not exist. In the instance of the presumed nine daughters of Robert Poythress, Batte lists only three daughters: Jane (m. Baird), Elizabeth (m. Gilliam) and Tabitha (unlisted by Maitland but m. Henry Randolph).
Unavailable to Batte was the actual will of their father Robert Poythress (24 May 1743) which later surfaced among a group of Chesterfield County "dead papers." This will shows three other daughters:Mary Anna Minge, Agnes Harwood, and Susanna Poythress (unmarried). This particular Susanna should also not be confused with Susanna who m. David Maitland. Daughter Susanna’s ultimate married name is not known.
The influence of Bolling Batte is such that entries in this study not citing sources rely on Batte as a secondary source.
For visualizing, it is easiest to place these women by generation. The nine Misses Poythress (real or not) would be the daughters of Robert Poythress. The eight Misses Poythress (real or not) would be the daughters of Robert’s son, Peter (i. e. the "second" generation). Following these pages is presented a photocopy of the relevant pages of the Maitland Bible.
An ideal way to present comment would be parallel explanatory columns. However, neither the nature of the information nor the extent of the commenting documentation would fit that format. Maitland Bible wording is therefore presented as precise quotations from the Maitland "text" in bold italics. The corrections, or additional explanation, are presented in regular type following each entry. No attempt is made to discern the chronological order of the brides in either the original text or the comments.
The nine (9) Misses Poythress married –
1 – Mr. Baird
Correct. Jane Poythress (RBB284) m. John Baird of Moorscroft, near Glascow. This couple had issue: Elizabeth Baird m. Thomas Gordon. Jane is unmarried at the time of her father’s 1743 will.
2 – Mr. Gilliam
Correct. Elizabeth Poythress (RBB286) m. John Gilliam, Bristol Parish Register p. 174. Elizabeth Gilliam is married at the time of the 1743 will of her father and has a son Robert Gilliam. Elizabeth’s father’s 1743 will also refers to a legatee: "grandson Robert Gilliam."
3 - Mr. Goode
"of Whitby", not mentioned in Goode’s "Virginia Cousins."
Otherwise unknown. It is at least possible the bible author confused lines. Richard Bland (1710-1776) m. Anne, daughter of Peter Poythress. Richard Bland’s sister m. Colonel Robert Goode. "Of Whitby" is not particularly an issue; most Goodes were "of Whitby."
4 - Mr. Runciman
Jacob Rubsamen (most frequent spelling). Letter R. D. Gilliam to Dr. John Hall (VaHistSoc). He is otherwise unknown.
5 - Mr. Morrison
The Ann Poythress who m. John Morison is not of this line. She is referred to in the will of John Morison as the daughter of Richard Bland who married Ann Poythress (1721-1758, RBB # 271).
6 - Mr. Lee
The bride (as are the other "eight") is unidentified. Dr. William B. Hall in a letter of 14 Dec 1932 (VAHisSoc) makes the groom John Lee, elder brother of Richard Lee who marries Sally Poythress of the next generation. Hall also states that this bride is the aunt of Sally Poythress. Given that Sally Poythress Lee is second generation this particular woman would be her aunt. However, a marriage to John Lee (1724-1767) is unlikely; John Lee seems reasonably well documented as marrying Mary Smith Ball (Lees of Virginia; Nagel, Oxford Univ. Press, 1990).
It is also possible that the bible author simply erred with respect to the generations and that this "Mr Lee" is indeed Richard Lee, the groom of Sally Poythress in the next generation.
7 - Mr. Epps
This Mr. Epps is either a "doubling" of the second generation (see Lucy Poythress below)…..OR…..the bible writer has switched lines again. In Robert Poythress’ 1743 will: "to my daughter Agness (sic) Harwood" and "granddaughter Tabitha Harwood", neither is identified nor listed in terms of a potential "groom" among the first generation of Poythress "Misses" by the author of the bible leaves. But the will leaves no doubt as to the identity of both the daughter and the granddaughter. An interesting corollary (switching Poythress lines) is the will of Robert’s brother Joshua, which in 1739 provides for a legatee: "To granddaughter Harwood 50£." Further, the Bristol Parish Vestry book seems to support a second Harwood groom marrying into the separate Joshua 21 line. Bristol Parish Register (p. 172): Col. Richard Poythress (error, should be Col. Richard Epps) m. ______Poythress of "Fleur de Hundred" and had issue: Richard and Susan. The first m. Susan Robertson and the second _______ Harwood, of Charles City Co. and had issue: Susan, who m. John V. Wilcox of Petersburg. Without doubt the reference is to Susanna Peachy Poythress (1785-1815) m. John Vaughan Willcox. However, Susanna is the daughter of the third Joshua Poythress, not the granddaughter of the first Joshua Poythress in the 1739 will. And again, we are in a separate Poythress line as stated above. And the vestry book’s "genealogy" is certainly not helpful.
Reluctantly, I conclude that until other information is found, it appears we will have to settle for the possibility of two Harwood grooms in two generations, neither identified by given name, neither even listed by the author of the bible leaves, and the second Mr. Harwood with a shaky provenance.
8 - Mr. Bland
Unknown. See Susanna Poythress (below) of the following generation.
9 - Mr. Cocke
Elizabeth Poythress (RBB211 11) m. James Cocke "and inherited the Bonaccord estate." (VMH VII:72). He was James Cocke of Surry.
Dr. Hall, 31 May 1933: "Southall, in his admirable genealogy of the Cocke family, says: 'James Cocke 4 m. a Poythress of Prince George County, one of the seats of the Poythress family and was the ancestor of the Cockes of that County." (VHM V:186). The above is essentially repeated in unsigned notes in Cocke Family Papers, VaHisSoc Mss C-6457-a/1000.
NOTE 1: omitted among the “nine” above (compensating for at least one generational error) is Tabitha Poythress, RBB285, (1725-1805) married in 1742 Henry Randolph IV (1721-1771). Tabitha Poythress was unmarried at the time of the writing of her father’s will. The will was later proven at a court held “at Fitzgeralds for Prince George County 13 Sept 1743.”
NOTE 2: Mary Anna Minge of the 1743 will had married John Minge (no documentation provided). The Minge family was widespread in the area at the time but this writer could find little evidence of any genealogical studies.
NOTE 3: Susanna Poythress is unmarried at the time of her father’s 1739 will nor is it known to whom she will be married. We have a “left over” unidentified groom in this generation, Mr. Runciman/Rubsamen. However, I have found no basis to link the two.
They had one brother, Peter Poythress, who married Elizabeth Bland, who had eight (8) daughters and one son – as follows:
1 - Mary, married John Batte
Correct. Miss Polly [Mary] Poythress (1762-1815) m. Mr. John Batte (1757-1816) of Prince George County, daughter of Col. Peter Poythress. Virginia Gazette, 28 Jun 1780, p. 3, col. 1.
2 - Betsy, married William Mayo
Correct. Elizabeth Bland Poythress (1759-1806) m. William Mayo (1757-1837) of "Powhatan Seat", Henrico County.
3 - Sally, married (1) Col. Richard Lee (2) Willoughby Newton
(1768-1828) m. 1 Richard Lee (1726-1795). Four Lee children were born of this marriage.
She m. 2. Willoughby Newton. There were five children of this marriage. Sally Bland (Poythress-Lee) Newton is buried at "Lee Hall" in Westmoreland County.
4 - Jennie, married Joseph Mayo
Correct. Jennie [Jane] Poythress (1773-1837) b. Prince George County, m. Joseph Mayo 28 Jul 1792.
5 - Susanna, married Capt. Richard Bland
Correct. Susan Poythress (1769-1839) m Richard Bland (1762- 1806). Marriage date 24 Dec 1787. Source: Virginia Gazette/Independent Chronicle (Richmond) 29 Dec 1787.
6 - Agnes, married Roger Atkinson
(1771-1821) m. 20 Sep 1788 Roger Atkinson (1764-1829). Source:
Virginia Independent Chronicle (Richmond) 24 Sep 1788, p. 3, col. 4. Also, Rev. John Cameron’s Cumberland Parish Register, p. 309.
Roger Atkinson m. 2 Sarah Spotswood.
7 - Nancy, married John Randolph
Correct. Ann (Nancy) Poythress (1757-1804) m. John Randolph (1743-1803), son of Henry and Tabitha (Poythress) Randolph "of Chesterfield." Source: Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg) 2 May 1777 (supplement).
8 - Lucy, married John Eppes
Bland Poythress (1764- ante 1823) m. 23 Jan 1806 John Eppes (-1832), both of Prince George County. No issue. Source: Petersburg
Republican issue of 27 Jan 1806, p. 3, col. 1. Petersburg
Intelligencer issue of 28 Jan 1806.
John Eppes m. 2 Hannah Roane.
And finally, with respect to the single son of Peter Poythress, William (1765-1811) who m. Elizabeth Blair Bland 10 Feb 1787, researcher R. Bolling Batte has the following: “Issue: one daughter, Elizabeth Bland Poythress. William Poythress m. 2 Rebecca Williams. No issue. As William left no male issue the Poythress name became extinct as to his branch with the death of his only daughter.”
Further from RBB, daughter Elizabeth Bland Poythress died before 1834. "With her decease, whenever that was, passed the last person born with the surname Poythress among the descendents of Robert Poythress, and possibly also among the descendents of John and Christian (Peebles) Poythress. Since John and Mary (Batte) Poythress are not known to have had issue, it is likely that the name Poythress exists today only among the descendents of Francis Poythress (4)."
So, in conclusion, it appears that the author of the Maitland bible leaves has left us an accurate account of the marriages of "the eight Misses Poythress" but in the instance of "the nine Misses Poythress" we are left with more questions than answers. It would seem a safe bet to figure the bible author was reaching back in memory for the presumed nine brides and grooms of the first generation and memory did not serve him or her well.
This writer would deeply appreciate any corrections or additional information to what is admittedly a confusing story. I may be reached at
John M. Poythress
15 Glenwood Road
Louisville, KY 40222 or email@example.com.
Alternatively, correspondence may be addressed to the Poythress research group: Poythressfirstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information with respect to documents and records of the Poythress family may be found at the family’s website: www.poythress.net ….
John M. Poythress
29 Dec 2003
| William & Mary Quarterly | | |
Appendix A: Will of Robert Poythress, Prince George County, 1743
The original was located in Chesterfield County Dead Papers, 17989, and a photocopy is on file in the Virginia State Library and Archives. The following is an abstract by L. H. Hart
May 24, 1743
Robert Poythress of Martins Brandon Parish, Prince George County, in perfect senses and memory.
To my son Robert Poythress and his heirs forever all my lands on which I now live containing 1100 acres and also 291 acres adjoining the Butterwood Swamp.
To my son Peter Poythress and his heirs forever my lands containing about 600 acres lying on the Nottoway River and known by the name of Tanotoro and 297 acres lying on Butterwood, which I bought of James Glover.
To my son William Poythress and his heirs forever all my lands lying between Monkoes Neck and Nottoway which I bought of Capt. Thomas Bolling and all my lands in Amelia Co. contiguous to William Stone’s land.
To my wife the use of 12 negroes: Harry, Hunt, Tom, Jamey, George, Nilsy, Sarah, Lucy, Nick, Hannah, Matt, Nan, Penelope and the use of 1/3 of my lands during her life or widowhood and 1/4 of my house furniture and stocks to be divided between my wife and my 3 sons and any of my daughters that are unmarried at the time of her mother’s death and their heirs respectively. The division to be made by my brother, William Poythress, Col. Richard Bland, and Mr. John Gilliam or the survivors.
I give to my son Robert and his heirs 9 negroes: Tom boy, Mingo, Charles, Judy, Bett, Jenny, Sarah, George, and Boatswin.
I give to my son Peter and his heirs 9 negroes: Prince, Sterling, Cimon, Jack, Sarah, Bett, Agnes, Aneky, and Harry.
I give to my son William and his heirs 9 negroes: Phillis, Seanah, Gambia, Caesar, Pheby, Kate, Pat, and Pompey.
If either of my sons dies before he comes of age, the whole estate - real and personal - to be divided equally between the surviving sons or their heirs.
I confirm to my daughter Elizabeth Gilliam all the negroes already given to her.
I give to my grandson Robert Gilliam a negro boy Johnny and a girl about the same age.
I give to my daughter Mary Anna Minge negroes: Abbah, Sawney, Jenny to her and her heirs and thirty pounds current money to be laid out in negroes.
I give to my daughter Agness Harwood 98 pounds, 10 shillings current money which her husband has already received.
I give to my grand-daughter Tabitha Harwood one negro girl Amy now in the use of her father.
I give to my daughter Tabitha Poythress 130 pounds current money and negro girl Sue.
I give to my dauthter Susanna Poythress and to her heirs 5 negroes: Pheby, Jack, Hannibal, Nan, and Tom.
I give to my daughter Jane Poythress and her heirs 5 negroes: Phillis, Nan, Titus, Scot, and Phillis (sic).
All the remainder of my estate I give and devise to be equally divided between my wife and 3 sons. I appoint my wife and sons Robert and Peter to be my executors.
Robert Poythress (L. S.)
Recorded at court held at Fitzgeralds for Prince George County 13 Sept. 1743. The widow and executrix Elizabeth Poythress exhibited the will with Robert Poythress qualified as executor. All witnesses proved will.
Summary Bill of Complaint. Elizabeth Poythress possessed herself of 12 slaves according to the will of Robert Poythress. She died many years after her husband, surviving her sons Robert and William. The slaves then devolved to their brother Peter. Until her death, Elizabeth Poythress lived with or near said Peter and he had management of her affairs. He was entitled to 3/5 of the slaves at her death in behalf of himself and his two deceased brothers - William and Robert. At that time only 2 of the testator’s daughters were unmarried - your oratrix, Tabitha Randolph, and her sister Elizabeth Gilliam. Peter continued to keep under his care the 8 negroes of which he was 3/5 owner. He died a few years past. William Mayo, Esq. is the acting executor of said Peter Poythress and continues to hold possession of said 8 slaves, though often requested to give your oratrix her share. She desires an accounting of the 8 slaves and their issue and sex given - then her 1/5’ of said slaves and 1/5 of labor since death of said Peter Poythress to be allotted to her.
Following page 14 is Appendix B ---- Maitland Bible page