Case Study: Taking a New Look at Francis Sturgill, Rev. War Soldier, Part 2

Yesterday, Francis Sturgill became the subject of my case study and I shared a list of his proposed children, along with the will of John Hash of Montgomery County, Virginia, which provided documentation that Francis married a daughter of John Hash. That daughter was, indeed, Rebecca Hash.

Today, we will have some answers to the questions about Francis Sturgill and where he lived. Land records will help connect him to his children.

How did Francis get tied into John Hash of Montgomery County, Virginia when Francis died in Ashe County, North Carolina? That’s one of the easier Sturgill questions to answer. Francis Sturgill is a Revolutionary War soldier, having served in Captain Enoch Osborn’s Montgomery County militia in 1776 – the same Enoch Osborn who married Jane Hash and was Francis’s brother-in-law. Francis Sturgill is a recognized patriot found in the Ancestor List of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Because there are no vital records at all for this family – no government issued birth, marriage or death record AT ALL – other sources had to be used to document Francis’s life, homes and death.

Francis Sturgill was obviously living in Montgomery County, Virginia, which was on the frontier back in the time of the American Revolution, as he served in the county militia. There is no question about that!

Next, Virginia does have tax lists which extend back into time into the 1700s. Those for Montgomery County are extant.

Francis Sturgill is found on many of those extant tax lists. He was likely born c1750-1755 and a young married man with one child when he first appears on the Montgomery County tax list in 1776. Some of the lists are missing, but he continues to appears on them from 1782-1789.

Francis Sturgill next appears in Grayson County, Virginia on the 1794 tax list, but it is possible that he didn’t move because two important events happened in those intervening years. Wythe County, Virginia was set off from Montgomery County in 1790; two years later, in 1792, Grayson County was set off from Wythe County. Regardless of the county name, the young Sturgill family definitely lived on the frontier.

From 1794 through 1801, Francis Sturgill is included on the Grayson County lists. However, he also purchased 200 acres of land from Zachariah Wells in 1798 when both were described as being residents of Wilkes County, North Carolina. (Note: Ashe County was set off from Wilkes County in 1799.) He further received three land grants in Ashe County from the state of North Carolina in 1799. Then, in 1802, Francis Sturgill filed a land deed selling his property in Grayson County and disappeared from those lists.

It is clear that Frances Sturgill was a man on the move in the 1790s, owning land in both Virginia and North Carolina.

Ashe County, North Carolina was a hop, skip and a jump over the Virginia state line from Grayson County, Virginia. Both counties bordered Tennessee, which became the 16th state in 1796.

Unfortunately, Francis didn’t live long enough to apply for a pension. Family lore says he died in December 1807 and that might be accurate. Ashe County court records make no mention of Francis Sturgill in 1807 or any previous year. However, in during the February 1808 court term, the following is recorded:


Ordered by the court the Perishable Property of Francis
Stogill Deceased be sold by the administrator

The only other court record of Francis’s estate administration appears in May 1808 when administrator John Hash (likely brother of Rebecca Hash Sturgill) filed a summary of the inventory report:


Ashe County Court Minutes, May 1808
Source: FamilySearch

Francis’s entry is in the middle of the page:

Francis was a fairly well-to-do man, as his “personable” estate (excluding real estate) that was sold amounted to $2192.75 and 3/4 cents, which is worth about $42,000 today.

Thus, so far, we have proved that Francis Sturgill married Rebecca Hash, probably about 1775, given the birth years of his supposed children, but definitely before 2 April 1784, when John Hash wrote his will. Second, Francis Sturgill was dead by February 1808, when the court ordered his perishable property to be sold.

There is no further mention of Francis, his widow or any of his children in the court minutes that would identify his children as his.

While vital records are lacking, there are extant land records and the Sturgills were active land traders. Francis Sturgill’s name is found in several entries. Because only the land description is important in this study, I have only transcribed that portion of the deeds:


Francis Stogell from Zachariah Wells
30 June 1798, Wilkes County, North Carolina, Deeds D:438
Source: FamilySearch

Beginning at a locust at the mouth of a branch between him and Micajah Penington on the north side of New River running south 20 degrees west 56 poles to a black walnut thence south forty five degrees west twenty five poles to a split stump thence west seventy poles to a black walnut thence north twenty degrees west ninety poles to two locusts and a white oak thence north twenty poles to a white oak thence east one hundred and fifty poles to the first station 30 June 1798, 100 acres from Zachariah Wells, page 438

Beginning at a locust at the mouth of a branch between him and Micajah Pennington on the north side of New River running south twenty degrees west fifty six poles to a black walnut thence south forty five degrees west twenty five poles to a split stump thence west seventy poles to a black walnut thence north twenty degrees west ninety poles to two locusts and a white oak thence North twenty poles to a white oak thence east one hundred and fifty poles to the first station 30 June 1798, 100 acres from Zachariah Wells, page 450

Right away, I have a big question about the two deeds from Zachariah Wells. Although they are filed on different pages – 438 and 450 – the dates, the cost of the land and, most importantly, the LAND DESCRIPTION are exactly the same.

So, did Francis Sturgill buy one tract of land and the deed was mistakenly recorded twice by the clerk or did he buy two tracts of land and the clerk mistakenly recorded one purchase twice???

This is the shape of the property he bought; the blue arrow is the starting point (Note: I use Deed Mapper to plot out land descriptions):

Yes, I double checked and plotted this out twice. It isn’t particularly uncommon for land descriptions to include incorrect measurements, but this is close enough that you get the idea.

New River crosses the state line between Virginia and North Carolina:

The Sturgill land deeds make it clear that Francis’s property was on the north side of the New River. One deed mentions

This is a huge question to which I’ll return when we analyze deeds involving Francis’s children.

Next, Francis Sturgill received three land grants from the state of North Carolina in 1799:


State Land Grant for 44 Acres, 5 December 1800

Beginning at a white oak at the (?) of a (?) in said Sturgills old line Running west forty polls to a (?) Then south one Hundred and thirty six polls crossing New River to a Red oak then East Eighty polls to a Red oak then North forty polls to a Stake then west forty polls to a Stake then to first station Entered 22 October 1799, 44 acres

The Blue arrow again is the starting point and the red line indicates that this property crossed the New River.


State Land Grant for 50 Acres, 5 December 1800

Beginning at a large white oak said Sturgills old (?home) corner running East eighty eight polls to a short (?) on a Ridge then North eighty eight polls to a (?) near the State line then west Eighty eight polls to a stake then to first Station Entered 22 October 1799, 50 acres

Blue arrow is the starting point for this 50-acre tract of land.

The last deed showing Francis Sturgill receiving land is another state land grant, again in 1799:


State Land Grant for 100 Acres, 5 December 1800

Beginning at a whiteoak in his old line on the North side of new River Running west one Hundred and forty polls to a Redoak then North forty polls to a whiteoak then (?) forty polls to a Spanishoak then South one hundred and twenty poles to a stake then East one Hundred and eighty polls to a Stake then to first station 22 October 1799, 100 acres

Blue arrow is the start point for this 100-acre piece of land.

How these tracts of land bordered each other, which they clearly did by the references in the grants to Sturgill’s old line, is unknown. The 50 and 100 acre grants might have bordered the top left corner of Zachariah Wells’ former property beginning at one of those white oaks. However, the 44 acre grant crossed the river so must have been bordered on a southern part of the Wells’ land.

There is one more point that is important to remember. Francis lived in Montgomery County in 1776 (when it was actually still Fincastle County), which later set off Grayson County, Virginia in 1793.

There is a 1782 land tax list for Montgomery County, which includes one Francis Sturgeon, who is taxed for 100 acres, valued at 20 (likely £) and taxed at 2 (£ or shillings?) This is probably the land that Francis sold off in 1802 in Grayson County when he decided to make his permanent home in Ashe County, North Carolina. Therefore, this land would not appear in his estate records.

To recap, at this point, we know Francis Sturgill married Rebecca Hash before 1784 and likely c1775. They lived in Montgomery County, Virginia well into the 1790s before removing to North Carolina. Francis bought at least one 100-acre tract of land from Zachariah Wells in 1798 and both men were noted as being residents of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Ashe County was set off from Wilkes the following year, in 1799. Lastly, Francis Sturgill likely died late in 1807 or early in 1808 as his estate administrator is told to sell Francis’s perishable property, noted in February 1808 Ashe County court minutes.

It’s nice to finally have some factual details about Francis Sturgill’s life, supported for primary documents.

In Part 3, we will take another look at Francis’s children and analyze  census records and land deeds filed in their names.

 

 

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