A TRAIL OF TEARS (notes on the Daniel Harrison family of Lancaster Co., VA)

(a)  On 27 Oct 1652, the colony of Virginia granted Thomas Brice 1650 acres on the north side of the Rappahannock River.  The land had been an Indian habitation called Old Moraticond.  {The Library of Virginia.)

(b)  On 25 Jul 1653, Thos. Brice of Lancaster County, gent., sold to John Paine of Lancaster County a neck of land.  {Fleet, p. 177}

(c)  The will of Thomas Bries, made 24 Apr 1657, and recorded 22 May 1657 in Lancaster County, left all of his estate in Virginia and England to his widow, Martha.  Martha Bries was named as executor.  Witnesses were Davy Fox, Thos. Haslan, and Edward Dale.  {Lee, p. 26}

(d)  On 19 May 1657 the Lancaster County court granted Martha Bries probate on her husband’s estate.  She was to marry William White of Rappahannock County.  On 18 May 1657 she sold to David Fox and Edward Dale “my whole estate, bequeathed by my late husband Mr. Thomas Bries.”  Produced in court 19 May 1657.  {Duvall, p. 2}

(e)  Martha Bries White’s will, proved 24 January 1658[/9] in York County, left everything to her step-children Jeremiah and Mary White, who were living in London.  {Virginia Gleanings In England, pp. 61-62}

(f)  An indenture in Lancaster County dated 20 Dec 1660, stated that the Brice tract granted on 27 Oct 1652, except those parts sold to “Mr Jo Payne and to Mr Jo Edwards,” which had been bequeathed to Martha Bries White by Thomas Brice, had been mortgaged by William and Martha White to London merchants John Jeffereys and Thomas Colclough for 13,900 pound of tobacco.  By the time the Whites died, the mortgage had not been paid off.  Jeremiah White and George Hewet, guardians of William White’s orphans, defaulted on the mortgage.  The guardians and the merchants authorized Col. John Carter to sell the property, satisfy the debt, and any moneys left to go to the orphans.  Col. John Carter sold the property to Col. Edward Carter of Nansemond County for 330 pounds sterling, which was recorded 1 Feb 1660/1.  {Fleet, pp. 159-160}

(g)  On 6 Jan 1662/3, Richard Merriman of Lancaster County sold John Payne of Rappahannock County “my plantation whereon Mr Edward Dale now liveth and was heretofore demised * unto the sd Edward Dale by the sd John Paine.”  The deed was recorded on 14 May 1663.  {Fleet, p. 142} * The term “demised” as used here means “leased.”

(h)  In an indenture dated 6 Feb 1662/3, John Paine of Rappahannock County sold Richard Merryman of Lancaster County “all that plantation whereon Mr Edward Dale now liveth.”  {Fleet, p. 142}

(i)  On 17 Jan 1663, John Paine of Rappahannock County sold Richard Merryman of Lancaster County the plantation on which “the sd. Merryman now lives.”  Recorded 9 Mar 1663.  {Duvall, p. 20}

(j)  On 11 Jul 1677, Mary Harrison, widow of Daniel Harrison, was granted administration on his estate (meaning he died intestate).  {Duvall, p. 82}

(k)  On 12 Feb 1678/9, Mary (Dale) Harrison sued Richard Merryman, complaining that Merryman had cut down timber on her property.  The court entered a judgement against Merryman which he appealed on the grounds that the land belonged to him.  Edward Dale was security for Harrison.  {Sparacio, Orders 1678-1681, p. 18}

(l)  On 25 Jun 1679, Richard Merryman sued Mary (Dale) Harrison over a property dispute concerning land which had been part of the Bries tract.  Merryman paid for a survey.  The suit came to court on 10 Sep 1679, the issue being that Merryman’s title to the tract was older than Harrison’s.  {Duvall, pp. 59 & 86}

(m)  On 10 Sep 1679, the court ordered the cost of the survey to be paid by Harrison.  {Sparacio, Orders 1678-1681, p. 32}

(n)  On 26 May 1680, a jury was ordered to view the tract on 20 Jul (apparently to determine if the surveyed tract was the tract Merryman had purchased), in the dispute between Mary Harrison, widow and Richard Merriman.  {Sparacio, Orders 1678-1681, p. 60}

(o)  On 11 Apr 1683, administration of the estate of Mary Harrison, dec., was granted to Major Edwd. –.  {Sparacio, Orders 1682-1687, p. 18}

(p)  On 11 Nov 1685, Thomas Buckley on behalf of Richard Stephens who had married Hannah, daughter of Daniel Harrison, dec., sued Edward Dale, adm. of the estate of Mrs. Mary Harrison, dec., for Hannah’s share of her father’s estate.  {Sparacio, Orders 1682-1687, p. 70}   

(q)  Richard Merryman’s will, made 8 Apr 1696, recorded 13 Oct 1696 in Lancaster County, names daughter Susanna Payne and her husband William Payne, grandsons William Payne Jr.and Richard Payne.  Executor:  William Payne.  Witnesses:  — Christian, Jno. Farmer and Alex English (WB 8, p. 60).  {Lee, p. 154}  William Payne was the son of John Paine, from whom Merryman had purchased the portion of the Bries grant.

[Continuances not listed.  References are to volumes in the TOBACCO ROAD bibliography.

Court Orders 1682-1687 contains valuable information on the Harrison family, including the statement that Hannah Harrison was the eldest daughter of Daniel Harrison.  Evidently the birth order of the Harrison children was Hannah, Eleanor, and Joseph (b. ca. 1671/2, based on his eligibility to select his own guardian).  It’s unlikely Mary (Dale) Harrison Jones was the mother of any of Daniel Harrison’s children.  Had Mary Dale been born in 1654, she would have been 18 when Joseph Harrison, Daniel Harrison’s youngest child, was born.  Edward Dale was the administrator of Mary Harrison’s estate, and never acknowledged Hannah, Eleanor, or Joseph to be his grandchildren.  Therefore, Mary’s only proven child is Humphrey Jones Jr., who has living descendants.  The mother of the Harrison children is unidentified.]


How did the Harrisons come into “possession” of this land?  There is no deed from Edward Dale to them.  If you follow the chain of title, it’s difficult to see how there could have been, because the last person possessing an actual deed was Richard Merryman.  And there is no deed to the Harrisons from anyone else.  The legality of the sale to John Paine is acknowledged in abstract (f), and Merryman derived his title from Paine.

There should have been a report from the jury ordered to view the tract on 20 Jul 1680, at the following term, but by March term 1681/2 there was no mention of a settlement, and none is recorded in courts commencing 10 May 1682.  It should be easy enough to find out who won by checking the subsequent history of the tract.  There’s little doubt Merryman prevailed, if I understand the facts correctly.  

It appears Mary (Dale) Harrison was squatting on the land.  Edward Dale could produce evidence that Martha Bries had sold Dale and David Fox her husband’s estate.  Perhaps Dale told Mary that given the confused legal situation, she might hang onto the property—maybe through confusion over exactly what Paine had bought from Bries, and then sold to Merryman.  Merryman entered the land, felled some trees, and Mary (Dale) Harrison sued him.  The court initially granted her a judgement, which Merryman appealed on the grounds that the tract really belonged to him.

The men of this period engaged in sharp practice, so this scenario is in keeping with their character, but it begs the question:

What did Mary (Dale) Harrison, Edward Dale’s middle daughter, actually get?  And how did the Harrisons live?  The short answer is that Daniel Harrison had received three land grants from the colonial land office, totalling 508 acres, between 28 Oct 1669, and 1 Nov 1672.  Harrison and Dale were friends of some years standing, but Mary Dale wasn’t Harrison’s first wife.

Mrs. Mary Harrison died by 11 Apr 1683, the widow of Daniel Harrison.  She had a child named Humphrey Jones, Jr. by Humphrey Jones.  Why wasn’t this estate in the name of Mary Jones?  Probably because Humphrey Jones, Sr. resided in Middlesex Co., and the probate records of that period for Middlesex Co. are lost. 

It’s interesting that Mary (Dale) Harrison remained a widow for several years following the death of Daniel Harrison.  She married second Humphrey Jones, and on 3 Feb 1684/5 Edward Dale petitioned the Middlesex County justices for an allowance for the maintenance of his grandson, Humphrey Jones, Jr.  (Middlesex County Deed Book 2, p. 177). 

Government posts in those days were excellent opportunities for graft.  As clerk of Lancaster County, Edward Dale knew everyone’s legal business, and if a plum floated by, was in an excellent position to scoop it up.  However, in this instance it seems Martha Bries White would have had the last laugh, had she lived long enough for it.

This is a study following the meanderings of a tract of land and the lives of those who dwelled upon it.  It’s not intended to be a complete genealogy of the Harrison family (who are unrelated to myself), but in the court records of Lancaster County there are answers to be found. 

Here’s a link to The Library Of Virginia where you can obtain images of land grants and other materials:


~ by Jeffrey Thomas Chipman on February 12, 2012.

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