52 Documents in 52 Weeks #7 – Court Record to Establish William Riddle’s Death

William Riddle was a Tory, reportedly hung at a spot called Riddle’s Knob (today – Rittle Knob), located along the Virginia-North Carolina frontier during the American Revolution. In the 1770s and early 1780s, Montgomery County extended all the way down to the North Carolina border. Rittle Knob, North Carolina is about 58 miles slightly southeast of Abingdon, Virginia.

William Riddle was born c1750, probably in Virginia or North Carolina and reportedly married Happy Rogers, daughter of Doswell Rogers. They had six children, born roughly between 1776 and 1783. Happy was born c1755.

Information about this family is difficult to come by, given the facts that they lived on the frontier and the American Revolution was happening all around them.

Neither Virginia nor North Carolina kept official birth or death records at this time, but probate records, often referenced in court minutes, were kept.

While trying to prove that William was a Tory who had been hung, I needed to prove that he died during the war. Fortunately, many of the earliest court minutes surviving for Virginia counties have been transcribed. Yes, viewing the original minutes is best, but when they can’t be accessed, published books can provided a satisfactory substitute.

FamilySearch actually has multiple microfilms under the title County Court order books 1773-1867, and General index to order books 1773-1855.

There were several mentions of the Riddle family in these court order books (Order Book #2 and Book B), which prove that William Riddle died before 6 April 1782, although his estate inventory wasn’t recorded until two years later, likely delayed because of the war.

April 3, 1782: “Ordered Captain Wm Love return Hoppe Riddle a cow he took from her in the year 1780 or the sum of five pounds in specie.”
April 8th 1782: John Riddle, an orphan of William Riddle of 7 yrs old to age of 21 to James Newell”
Further: James Riddle orphan of Wm. Riddle , to James McCorkle.” They were both ordered by the court to teach them reading, writing & Sypher and pay them the sum of 20 lbs. when they are 21.

After the close of the war, William’s estate was inventoried and appraised:

May 27, 1784
An inventory and appraisement of the estate of Wm Riddle deceased, taken April 24th 1784
4 ewes & three lambs——————————————–2–?
1 old mare —————————————————————–2
one small Improvement & Entry of land ————————15
1 ox4/two horses
1 grindstone 10/small feather bed ———————————–4-x0
1 old side saddle 20/one pair of sheep shears 2/6- –1–2.6, 25–11–6
At a Court held for Montgomery County May 27, 1784. the above inventory was returned to Court and ordered to be recorded
Test: James McCorkle

When standard death certificates don’t exist and probate packets are lost, be sure to check county court minutes. You might find that a court order book includes the pertinent details you are seeking.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.