Major William Witcher of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, had many sons. One of them was John Witcher.
In William’s will, proved before an open court in 1808, this particular John Witcher is further identified as John Witcher Jr., thus denoting that there was at least one older John Witcher living at that time in the Pittsylvania County region.
If we are to have any hope of discerning the lineage of William’s son John, we must first identify who John Jr. was not.
The Witcher clan played a very prominent role in early Pittsylvania County development. Therefore court records are filled with accounts of Witcher property transactions as well as their political activism. In these very early archives, there are several John Witchers listed, variously identified as John, John Jr., or John Sr.
In early record keeping, the title junior and senior was very often meant to denote age as a method of distinguishing same-named individuals having identical surnames, and not necessarily a father son relationship.
In the area of today’s Pittsylvania County region, on July 14, 1766, William Witcher sold 191 acres to a certain John Witcher. This John was not identified as junior or senior. Most think he was a very close relative to William Witcher, perhaps a brother.
The John Witcher involved in the 1766 land transaction is probably John Witcher Sr., who eleven years later signed an oath of allegiance to the Continental Army.
There was a certain John Witcher, Jr., who also signed this 1777 compact. This John may well have been the son of Major William Witcher, and would’ve therefore been the John Witcher, Jr., named in William’s 1808 last will and testament.
In 1795, in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, John Witcher, Sr., purchased fifty acres from Steven Potter. Only one year later another John Witcher in the same county, then identified as John Witcher, Jr., buys 300 acres from William Witcher, Sr. It was in 1797 that land tax records began to register these two different Johns, identifying one as John Witcher, Sr., and the other as John Witcher, Jr.
The John Jr. listed as a son in Major William’s will had children, and we can know for certain who those children were.
One of them was a lady named Oney Witcher.
In April of 1806, William Witcher Sr. had given his granddaughter Oney Witcher a gift of a slave. We know this because of a deed of gift. This record is loosely transcribed as follows: “Witcher, William, Sr. to gr-daughter Oney Witcher, daughter of John Witcher, Jr., a gift of a slave; Apr 1806”
This deed of gift is very important as it identifies Oney as a daughter of John Witcher, Jr. Oney would later be listed in her father’s will, along with her mother and siblings.
John Jr., the son of Major William Witcher, died in 1834. His wife Susannah was mentioned in his will. His sons were identified as Benjamin, Francis, and James, and his daughters were Owney, Betsey, Tempy, Denny, Joannah, and Polley.
I have proved a transcription of the last will and testament of John Witcher, Jr.
From Will Book One, page 272, Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
“I John Witcher of the county of Pittsylvania and the state of Virginia do make and ordain this my last will and testament in and manner and form as as follows to wit
1st it is my will and desire that all my just debts and funeral expenses shall be paid
2ly I do loan to my beloved wife Susannah Witcher for and during her natural life and widowhood all my estate both real and personal and I do hereby authorize her to give my son Benjamin Witcher one feather bed and furniture
3ly I do give to Finee ??? Dalton son of Frances Dalton one negro girl named Patience and her future increase in full of his deceased mothers part in my estate to be delivered to him at the death or marriage of my beloved wife or sooner if she think proper to give her up
4th it is my will and desire that at the death or marriage of my beloved wife Susannah Witcher all my real estate shall be sold by my executors herein after to be appointed on a credit of one and two years and that the money arising from the sale thereof together with all the residue of my estate herein before loaned to my beloved wife and not herein otherwise disposed of shall be equally divided between my following children to wit Betsey Eppinson ??, Owney Witcher, James Witcher, Tempy Witcher, Benjamin Witcher, Denney Graves, and Joannah Graves and the bodily heirs of my deceased daughter Polly Witcher all of which I give to them and their heirs forever and
lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my beloved wife Susannah Witcher executrix and James Graves and Thomas Graves executors to this my last will and testament hereby revoking all others or former will by me heretofore made in witness whereof I have hereunto let my hand and affixed my seal this 23rd day of February in the year of Christ 1834.
Signed sealed and
Published in presence of
Vin [Vincent] Witcher
The words of my real estate in the fourth paragraph ware underlined before signing of will
At a court held for Pittsylvania county the 18th day of August 1834 the last will and testament of John Witcher was presented in court and proven by the oath of three subscribing witnesses and ordered to be recorded and Susannah Witcher the executrix in said will named by her letter of for refusing to join in the probate on motion of James Graves and Thomas Graves the executors in said will named who made ??? according to ???? and with Wm. Graves, Samuel Binges ?? ?? T. Waldon and Vincent Witcher their securities intended ??? and acknowledged bond in the penalty of fifteen thousand dollars conditioned as the said ??? certificate was ??? them for obtaining probate of said will in due form. Will Tunstall Cr”
By the time of John’s death, at least four of his children had migrated to Georgia. We can know with a high level of certainty who three of those children were, Tempy, Polly, and James Witcher. There is a certain level of confidence that Benjamin Witcher (son of John and Susannah) had also migrated to Georgia. Benjamin and James Witcher were perhaps among the very first Virginia Witchers to make this move.
The migration of John and Susannah’s daughter Tempy resulted in yet another paper trail which deepens our understanding of who this John Witcher was.
Twenty-three years before his death, John Jr’s daughter Tempy married her cousin James Witcher, the son of Ephraim Witcher. On the 28th day of December, 1811, John submitted a note of consent for his daughter to marry James. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see an actual image of this note and the marriage bond.
Old Colonial law required parental or guardian consent for daughters under twenty-one years of age, which according to an 1850 census record, Tempy was barely under this age. Also, as required by law, a $150 bond was secured, obligating James and Tempy to fulfill the marriage commitment. Within the marriage certificate, John Witcher is identified as the father of Tempy.
I have transcribed and provided the note of consent and the marriage bond.
The note of consent:
“December 28, 1811
Sir if you please to ???? of marriage of James Witcher and my daughter Tempy Witcher as I have given my consent to the marriage your compliance will greatly ablige me.
James Witcher Jno. Witcher”
The marriage bond:
“Know all men by these presents that we James Witcher Jr and James Witcher Sr. --------- are held and firmly bound unto George William Smith governor of the commonwealth of Virginia for the time being and his ?? in the sum of one hundred fifty dollars for the payment whereof we bind ourselves our heirs and ??? and administrators jointly and everally firmly by these presents sealed with our seals and dated this 28” day of December 1811
The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas there is a marriage intended to be had and solemnized between the above bound James Witcher -------- and Tempy Witcher daughter of Jno. Witcher
If therefore there is no lawful cause to obstruct the said marriage then the said obligation to be void else to remain in full force and virtue
Signed sealed in the presence of Omuix ?? James Witcher
After Tempy and James were married they moved to Georgia, sometime around 1819. Soon after the move, both Tempy and her husband were pursued by an attorney hired by Tempy’s dad, in order to recover a slave “lent” to her by her father, John Witcher.
Here is a transcript of the power of attorney given by John Witcher (by this time known as “Sen.”) to his son James Witcher;
From Pittsylvania County, Va., Deed Book 22, page 379.
“Know all men by these presents that I John Witcher Sen. of the county of Pittsylvania and the state of Virginia have made authorized constituted and appointed and by these presents do make authorize constitute and appoint my son James Witcher of the county of Madison and state of Georgia my true and lawful attorney for me and in my name and for my use to ask demand and receive of James Witcher (son of Ephraim) one negro girl named Anna and other property which I loaned my daughter Tempy who intermarried with the said James Witcher and to take all lawful ways and means in my name or otherwise for the recovery of ??? ??? ordain receipt thereof acquittances or other sufficient discharges for ???? for me and in my name to make seal and deliver and to do all lawful ??? and things whatsoever concerning the ???? as fully in every respect as I might as could do if I were personally present hereby ratifying I conferring all and whatsoever my said attorney shall in my name lawfully do in and about the ??? by virtue of these presents in testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal the 27th day of July of the year of our Lord 1819.
John Witcher Sr
In presence of
Examined and delivered
The letter of attorney from John Witcher Sr. to James Witcher his son was presented in the clerks office of Pittsylvania County court the 27th day of July 1819 and acknowledged by the said John Witcher Sr. to be his seal and deed and admitted to record
Will Tunstall cl”
In 1808 John Witcher (as we will recall, then titled Jr.) received slaves from his father William Witcher’s estate. Here is a transcription from a portion of Major William Witcher’s will: “I give and bequeath to my son, John Witcher jr. my negroes Sarah, and her children, Sinda, Ceala, and Anna, in addition to what I have already given him, which I give to him and his heirs forever.”
One of the slaves John receives was “Anna,” the child of another slave named “Sarah.” Eleven years later, John Witcher gave power of attorney to his son James to recover from his daughter Tempy Witcher this very slave named “Anna” who had been loaned to her by her father.
The 1819 power of attorney proves that John’s son James and daughter Tempy and her husband James Witcher had all migrated to Georgia. That power of attorney also identifies Tempy as his daughter, and that she was married to Ephraim Witcher’s son James. From this record we also know she had her father’s slave named Anna, and John wanted this slave returned; the same slave bequeathed to John Jr. by his father Major William Witcher.
I would like to again point out that in 1808, this John Witcher was known as “Jr.,” but a few years later he took the title “Sen.” This can be explained by the emergence of a younger John Witcher, son of William and Polly Witcher.
There is a very interesting record of marriages, deaths, and other family events enumerated in what is known as Dalton’s Register.
Winston Dalton, of the region of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, was a school teacher who kept a personal journal of local events in the very early 1800’s. In this logbook, there is a death record for John Witcher, who is identified as the son of William and Polly. The death record states that John died April 22, 1825.
The John Witcher who died in 1825 had written his will in 1820. In this 1820 will, he identifies himself as John Witcher, Jr. After John’s death, his will was proven in court on June 20, 1825. This validates Winston Dalton’s record of death.
Dalton’s Register and the last will and testament of William and Polly’s son helps clarify why Tempy’s father identified himself as John Witcher Sen. in the 1819 power of attorney. A younger, of age John Witcher was living in the same county.
John Jr., the son of William and Polly Witcher, listed his wife and one child in his will. His wife’s name was Mary. Only one child (a minor) is listed, a daughter, whose name was given as Mary Ann Francis Witcher. I have provided a transcription of this will, which can be found in Will Book 1, page 677, in Pittsylvania County Court of Ordinary.
Will Book 1, page 677, of Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
“I John Witcher of the County of Pittsylvania and state of Virginia do hereby make my last will and Testament in manner and form following that is to say – 1st I desire that my waggon and five head of horses be sold immediately after my decease 2ndly after the payment of all my just debts and funeral expenses I give to my beloved wife Mary Witcher the whole of my estate both real and personal for and during the time of her natural life with the exception of the waggon and five head of horses before mentioned and one negro girl named Manda and after her decease I give the same to my child herein after mentioned and to be enjoyed by her forever 3rd Should the waggon and five head of horses first mentioned and what money I may leave behind prove insufficient for the payment of my just debts and funeral expenses then I desire that my executor hereafter named may sell such property as my wife Mary Witcher shall direct out of that portion of the estate left and bequeathed to her the said Mary Witcher and none other 4” I also give to my beloved wife Mary Witcher the negro girl mentioned and excepted in the second section of this my last will and testament to wit Manda together with her future increase if any to have to hold and enjoy the same until my daughter Mary Ann Francis Witcher shall arrive of age of 12 years then my desire is that the said Manda together with her future increase if any shall be given to her the said Mary Ann Francis Witcher to have to hold to enjoy the same forever 5th I further desire that my daughter Mary Ann Francis Witcher shall be liberally educated out of that portion of my estate that I have left and bequeathed to my beloved wife Mary Witcher and no other My further wish and desire is that the said Mary Ann Francis Witcher shall be boarded and supported so long as she remains single out of that part of my estate mentioned in this the fifth section of my last will and testament free from all costs and charges whatsoever 6” Should my daughter Mary Ann Francis Witcher die before she becomes twelve years of age or after she has arrived at that age die without an heir then my will and desire is that my beloved wife Mary Witcher shall have hold and enjoy forever the whole of the property both real and personal mentioned in this my last will and testament and for the same to be ??? to her own disposal and for her to have the free use and entire privilege of disposing of the whole or any part thereof in any way or manner whatsoever that she make think proper and for the same to be subject to her entire control and management and lastly I do hereby construct and appoint my friend Charles Pinkard executor of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all other former wills and testaments by me heretofore made In witness hereof I hereunto set my hand and affix my seal this 8” day of April in the year of Lord 1820.
John X Witcher Jr.
Signed sealed published and declared
Is and for the last will and testament
Of the above named John Witcher Jr
In presence of as
Jno Smith Minor
At a court of quarterly sessions, held for Pittsylvania County the 20th day of June 1825 this last will and testament of John Witcher Jr decd. was presented in court and proven by these witnesses thereto subscribed and ordered to be recorded and on the motion of Charles Pinkard the executor therein named who made oath thereto according to law and together with William Swanson and Payton Graves his securities entered unto and acknowledged bond in the penalty of $2000 conditioned according to law certified is granted him for obtaining probate of said will in due form testo Will Tunstall”
Unravelling the mystery of who Major William Witcher’s sons were can be a daunting task. However, at least in the case of his son John Witcher, we have court records available which allow us to distinguish this individual from the other John Witchers who lived at the same time, in the same place.
After examining the evidence in the wills of Major William and two of the John Witchers, as well as the other court records referred to, I believe it is clear that the John Witcher, Jr., mentioned in the will of William Witcher, is the same person who was known by 1819 as John Witcher Sen.
This understanding allows us to know with a high level of certainty that at least some of John and Susannah’s offspring had settled in north-central Georgia by the early 1800s. Those individuals, along with the other children of John and Susannah Witcher, would go on to play an important role in the development of this country which they (and we) called home. Wayne Witcher, gggg-grandson of John and Susannah Witcher.
A Witcher Family Genealogy
Here is the 1811 marriage bond for James and Tempy Witcher
John Witcher -b- unknown
and Wife Susanna Witcher
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Here is the copy of the 1811 letter of consent, given by Tempy's father, John Witcher.