It all started with Jamestown
It has been a long, but rewarding, 5 years! I cannot even begin to tell you how many thousands of documents I have read. Estate files, Census records, tax lists, court records, land deeds, neighbor records, and crash courses in DNA, as well as, Colonial American history to understand timelines of historical events to unravel the ball of yarn that had become the lives of my Marks ancestors.
Based on DNA matches, I had already guessed that my Marks line came out of Virginia, probably about 50 to 75 years after the Jamestown colony was founded. I also had researched my line back to 1797 Chatham County, North Carolina but was having trouble finding documents that connected the Chatham County family to a Warren County family that I felt for sure were my ancestors. I had already connected the Virginia Marks family to the Warren County family with the will of John Marks from Richmond County, Virginia. When I recently discovered the Revolutionary War widow pension file of Susannah Wright Certain, that document opened the door wide and proved to be exactly what I needed to tie the Virginia and the North Carolina Marks together.
Jamestown, May 1607
Three ships, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery arrived in what is now Virginia with 104 men and boys to start a permanent English settlement in North America. Thoughts of the failure of the previous attempt at Roanoke in 1585, with that entire colony lost, was probably on everyone’s mind. Even so, the men chose a parcel of land on the northeast bank of the James (Powhatan) River about 2.5 miles southwest of the center of modern-day Williamsburg. They named their town Jamestown and set to work to build a fort that would protect them against native Indian and Spanish attack.
Within three years, more than 80 to 90 % of the colonist were dead from disease or starvation. In 1610, a ship arrived with supplies and more settlers and by 1612, the colony was planting a cash crop, tobacco, that would ensure their survival, so much so, that tobacco was used as currency for the town.
By 1619, the first representative legislative assembly was formed, and the first twenty slaves’ arrival was recorded. There were many struggles to overcome but Jamestown did begin to flourish and the profits the Virginia Company of London had planned for, was finally being seen.
By 1624, the settlers began to spread out from the original settlement of Jamestown with parishes and counties and local governments being formed as they went about settling the land; the Royal colony of Virginia was born when the Virginia Company’s charter was revoked by the crown in 1624. Settlers began to pour into the area, some of them indenturing themselves for a chance to own their own land and homes – a chance for a new life in the New World. Jamestown served as the colonial capital from 1616 until 1699.
Old Rappahannock County, Virginia 1682
In 1682, 75 years after Jamestown was founded, William Marks married Patience Barrett, daughter of McHugh Barrett. I do not know where William came from; if he indentured himself to come to America or if he came in his own right, or if he was born in Virginia. What I do know is that William was born about 1649 and he and Patience Barrett are my 8th great grandparents.
William and Patience Barrett Marks would have one child, a son, William Marks Jr, born about 1683, and listed in a 1735 deed (see below) as the only heir of Patience Marks, daughter of McHugh Barrett (Barrott). In Oct 1701 and again in Feb 1706 in Richmond County, Virginia, a man named John Fennell was a witness for a will for William Marks. I am still looking for that actual document.
Sittingbourne Parish, Richmond County, Virginia 1710
In order to find out who the wife of William Marks Jr (born about 1683) was we must look at a 1710 deed between Frances Creighton, daughter of Henry Creighton deceased, and William and Ann Marks “for diverse causes and considerations during their two lives one parcel of land lying in the County of Richmond, Sittingbourne Parish, lying on the head of a creek call Moss Creek” It is possible, but not yet proven, that Ann Marks, wife of William Marks, is the sister of Frances Creighton.
Lunenburg Parish, North Farnham, Richmond County, Virginia 1735
On 31 May 1735, an Indenture was made between William Marks of the county of Richmond, Planter, of the one part and Joseph Bragg of the county aforesaid, Planter, of the other part Witnesseth that the said William Marks for and in consideration of eight thousand pounds of lawful tobacco and cask to him in hand paid by the said Joseph Bragg, William Marks did grant, bargain, sell unto the said Joseph Bragg one hundred fifty acres, situate, lying, and being in the parish of Lunenburg, North Farnham, in the county of Richmond, the same being one half part of three hundred acres formerly granted to McHugh Barrott (grandfather of the said William Marks) by patent dated 17 Apr 1666 and the said McHugh Barrott devised to his daughter Patience Marks, and her heirs, by his last will and testament in writing bearing date 3 Jan 1683.
And after the death of the said Patience Marks the whole three hundred acres became the proper inheritance and vested in the said William Marks as only son and heir of the said Patience Marks and bounded as follows: On the east side of Rappahannock Creek at a marked oak tree the run side next below a horse bridge to the woods. The residue of the said three hundred acres being now in the possession of Mr. Marmaduke Beckwith and by the said Beckwith and Marks with the assistance of a survey laid out in two equal parts by the courses and meanders thereof may appear together with all houses, buildings...etc.” Signed William Marks. Witness: John Deane, William Dixon, Thomas Goaring.
William Marks Jr wrote his will on 4 Aug 1735 and the will was entered for probate on 3 Nov 1735. His wife Ann is either not mentioned, and it can be assumed that she died before 4 Aug 1735 or was mistakenly mentioned as daughter Ann, as she is mentioned twice. William’s children are mentioned as Ann Marks (mentioned twice), John Marks, Frances Marks, Elias Marks, and Elizabeth Deane. Executors listed as friend, Elias Fennell (son of John Fennell), and John Deane (son-in-law). Witnesses were William Dixon, Edmund Hazel, and Creighton Davis (son of Frances Creighton who deeded land to William and Ann Marks (see above deed). Frances married Matthew Davis).
In the name of God amen. I William Marks of the parish of Lunenburg in the County of Richmond being low in body but of good (?) thanks be to Almighty God for the same do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following. That is to say I (?) estate as it hath pleased God to give me with and I give and dispose (?) Imperious I give and bequeath to my daughter (could mean wife?) Ann Marks, and her heirs forever one negro (?) Item I give to my said daughter Ann Marks one young gray horse Item I give and bequeath to my son John Marks nine thousand pounds of tobacco (?) one young cow mare (?) to him his heirs or assigns for ever Item I give to my daughter Frances Marks three thousand pounds of tobacco a white mare called (?) to my said daughter her heirs or assigns for ever Item I give and bequeath to my son Elias Marks and my daughter Elizabeth Deane all the rest of my personal estate both of cattle and hogs and (?) goods to be equally divided between my said son Elias Marks and Elizabeth Deane to them their heirs or assigns forever. My will and desire is that my son Elias Marks should present of his part the bill which I gave to Mr. Richard Barnes I do hereby make constitute and ordain my two friends Elias Fennell and John Deane full and whole executors of this my last will and testament revoking all other wills by me formerly made in witness thereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this fourth day of August in the year of our Lord MDCCXXXV (1735)
William W Marks Seal
Signed Sealed Published and delivered in the presence of William Dixon Edmund Hazel Creighton Davis At a court held for Richmond County the third day of November MDCCXXXV (1735) this will was proved in open court by the oath of William Dixon and Edmund Hazel two of the witnesses thereof and admitted to record. Test M. Beckwith CC
Enter Elias Fennel
Elias was born about 1690 and died in 1739 in Richmond County, Virginia. He is mentioned as a friend and one of the executors to the will of William Marks Jr. Elias’s father, John Fennell, had witnessed the will of William Marks Sr, father of William Marks Jr, in 1706 and again in 1708. Elias Fennell owned land that adjoined Edward Eidson and he married Penelope Wilson Eidson after her husband, Edward Eidson, died in 1732. Thus, becoming stepfather to Hannah Eidson. There were seven children born to Edward and Penelope, but I am only covering Hannah in this blog because the son of William Marks Jr, John Marks, would marry Hannah Eidson.
John Marks and Hannah Eidson had fourteen children, all named in the 1791 will of John Marks, the son of William Marks Jr.
Sarah – married John Crask
Anne – married (probably) George Newman
Fennell – married Amy Newman, daughter of Thomas Newman
Edward – married Lucy Bailey
Penelope – married a Carter
William – married Temperance Wright, daughter of William Wright
Elizabeth - married William Bruce
Frances – married John Bragg
Mary – married Daniel Wilson
Hannah – married Benjamin Bruce
Susannah – married James Crask
Elias Fennell named no natural heirs in his will. He left his estate to his wife Penelope and friend John Marks, the husband of his stepdaughter, Hannah, daughter of Edward and Penelope Eidson.
Edward Eidson’s will is located in Richmond Order Book 10, 1732-1739, page 74
“I give and bequeath unto my son Joseph all land I bought of Capt. Spicer known by the name OLD COURTHOUSE to him and his heirs of his body lawfully begotten.” This is the same land that John Fennell, father of Elias Fennell, bought from William Moss and sold for the first courthouse.
Elias Fennell’s will located in Will Book 5, page 340 dated October 26,1739. I have not been able to find the will book online yet but have found a transcribed copy.
To my loving wife Penelope Fennel all my lands on this side of the main road (also called the Coach Road) that I now live on and all that land on that side of the Coach Road joining to Richard Barnes during her natural life. I give all the rest of my land on the other side of the Main and coach road to John Marks (son of William Marks Jr), and the above lands after my loving wife Penelope Fennels death to him and his heirs lawfully begotten and for want of such heirs then I give all my lands to Ann Dozier (sister of John Marks) and Frances Thornton (sister of John Marks) to be equally divided between them and their heirs lawfully begotten. I give to Francis Davis my young gray mare that is now in Mulberry Island forever. I give to Boyce Eidson (brother of Hannah Eidson Marks) my gun forever. I give to John Marks my Buccaneer gun forever. I give to my wife Penelope Fennel my two negros Tobey and Jamey to her and her heirs forever and also all my personal estate forever excepting after her death one feather bed, furniture, and bedstead and my large Cupboard to John Marks. In case my wife should die before my horse Codey is dead, or my servant man is free named David Man, then I give the said horse and servant to John Marks. My horse Codey I give to my wife and not John Marks. My wife Penelope Fennel to be my executor. Witness’s Richard Barnes, William Brockenbrough, and David Twindale. In the inventory of Elias Fennell estate David Man is identified as a shoemaker (later generations, including my third great grandfather, William Buck Marks, were all identified as shoemakers), and two other servants were named Philip Thomas and William Woodburn.
Bute County (now Warren County), North Carolina 1772
After the death of Elias Fennell, in 1739, Penelope married Alexander Newman, son of Thomas Newman. I still have not figured out all the Newman’s, but it was from this line that Thomas Newman, father of Amy Newman Marks, wife of Fennell Marks, died 1777 in Bute (now Warren County, North Carolina) descends.
Fennell Marks is the son of John Marks and Hannah Eidson and is listed in the will of John Marks as having a son named William who inherits “in lieu of my son Fennell” as Fennell had died in 1777.
Fennell and his brother, William Marks, migrated to Bute (now Warren) County with Thomas Newman, father-in-law of Fennell.
Chatham County, North Carolina 1797
William and Temperance, as proven in the widow pension file of Susannah Wright Certain, sister to Temperance, would migrate to Chatham County, North Carolina in the late 1790s. Later, after John Certain, husband of Tempy’s sister, Susannah, died, William Marks went to Warren County to get Susannah and brought her and her children to Chatham County.
William and Temperance Wright Marks’ son, John, married Mary Gunter, daughter of Isham Gunter about 1798 in Chatham County, North Carolina. John and Mary had nine children, Seloma (1799), William, called Buck, (1800), Ewell (1807), Mary (1810), Willis (1811), Susannah (1812), Lucinda (1815), Rebecca (1818), and Zacheus (1822).
Y-DNA testing has been done on male descendants of William Buck Marks and Zacheus Marks and the male descendants are a match.
In an 1831 deed, Chatham County, John Marks sells Mary Gunter Marks’s interest in the estate of his father-in-law Isham Gunter.
Montgomery & Stanly Counties, North Carolina 1834
Growing up, my grandmother had told me that William Buck Marks had “stole away on a German ship and made for America” and while that made for an interesting story, I now know that was not the case.
In the early 1830s, William Buck Marks, my third great grandfather, migrated to Montgomery (now Stanly) County with his uncle and aunt, James Marks, brother of John Marks, and Caty Gunter Marks, sister of Mary Gunter Marks. Yes, these Marks brothers married Gunter sisters!
Buck lived in the area of Valley Drive and Clodfelter Road, near what is now Badin, Stanly County, for some sixteen years. He shopped at Daniel Freeman’s General Store in the town of Lawrenceville and is noted several times in the preserved store ledger.
William Buck Marks married Leah Caroline Fesperman about 1849 and moved across the Yadkin / Pee Dee River to the community of Eldorado, Montgomery County, where they are found on the 1850 Census record with 1 year old daughter, Jane. Buck is listed as a shoemaker, like his ancestors who had lived in the area of Jamestown.
Buck and Leah had at least seven children. Jane (1849), Cyrona (1850), Julia (1851), Edward (1855), Thomas (1858), Mary (1861), Martha (1864).
Buck Marks died about 1878 and Leah, after 1880. It is not known where they are buried but family tradition lists Prospect Baptist Church on River Road as their final resting place.
In the 1865 Chatham County estate file of Louisa Marks, daughter of Lucinda Marks, and granddaughter of John and Mary Gunter Marks, is found the proof needed to tie William Buck Marks, my third great grandfather back to Chatham County. The court was trying to sort out the relatives of Louisa and William Henry Burns, son of Susan Marks Burns, advised the court that William Marks resides in Montgomery or Stanly County.
Tom Marks and wife Barbara Lefler would have several children with two of their children, William Tero Marks (1888), becoming my paternal great grandfather and Lilly Marks Morris (1882), becoming my maternal great grandmother.
I have a double Marks line.
415 years later…
I sure wish my grandmothers were still alive. They would be so happy to know that the Marks mystery has finally been solved.