Will of James Waters of Amelia County, Virginia 1753; Was James WATERS the Father of Rhoda (MNU) Butler, wife of William Butler?

A few days ago, I shared the will of William Butler, dated 5 March 1812 and proved on 27 January 1814 in Amelia County Court, Virginia.

With the scarcity of the Butler surname in Amelia County and marriage records found their for each of his children, I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that his daughter Betsey was the wife of Revolutionary War soldier Moses Woosley.

I also speculated as to whether or not it could be proved that William Butler’s wife, Rhoda, was a Walters by birth.

Given that the family lived in Amelia County and records there date back to 1734, I looked for land deeds and probate records for any Walters people I could find. There were absolutely NO men with the Walters surname found. However, I did find WATERS, which is certainly very close in sound and spelling to WALTERS.

I didn’t find any early land records here for many Waters, which I was hoping to find, but when I looked at some of those early deeds for Nicholas Waters, I noticed that his name was sometimes spelled as WATTERS and that, at times, the clerk put loops in the letter T and crossed them, so it certainly would be easy to think that WATTERS was actually WALTERS.

A quick search of probate records for Amelia County did turn up a will for one James Waters, who was fairly young when he died, as he had unmarried daughters. Based on tentative birth years for his children, I believe he was likely born c1705.

Amelia County, Virginia WB 1:99
Source: FamilySearch

Some of the ink has faded, making it almost impossible to read the bottom portion of the page:

In the Name of God Amen, I James Waters of Nottoway parish & county of Amelia Being in perfect Sense & Memory do make Constitute and ordain this to be my Last Will and Testament

Item, I give and bequeath to my Daughter Mary Whitworth one Shilling Sterling and no more She haveing already Received that part of my Estate which I intended for her

Item, I give and Bequeath to my Son John Waters one Shilling Sterling and no more he having already received that part of my Estate which I intended for him

Item, I give and bequeath to my Daughter Mary Ann Hughes one Shilling Sterling and no more She having already received that part of my Estate which I intended for her.

Item, I give and bequeath to my Daughter Catherine Morris one Shilling Sterling and no more She having received that part of my Estate which I intended for her

Item, I give and bequeath to my Daughter Rhoda Waters one Featherbed & the furniture to her and her Heirs for Ever

Item, I give and bequeath to my Son William Waters, one shilling sterling and no more having Received already that part of my Estate which I intended for him

Item, I give and bequeath to my Daughter Mourning Waters fourty Shillings current Money to her and her Heirs

Item I give and bequeath to my Wife (?) after all my just Debts are paid, all the rest (?) and remainder of (. . . .) what (. . . .) quality (?) to her my Said Wife and (. . . . . . . .) rest to be appraised (?) my Ex. . . (?) to give Security (. . . . . . .) and to be my whole and Sole Executrix(. . . . . . . . . . . . . ) I have hereunto Set my hand and fixed my Seal xxi day of June MDCCLIII

Signed sealed published and
(?) to be his last will & Testament in the (?) of us

Gideon Johnson
Saml Goode

At a Court held for Amelia County the 27th Day of September 1753 This Will and Testament of James Waters was presented in Court by the Executrix therein named whom (?) Oath thereto and was also proved by the Oath of Samuel Good one of the witnesses thereto which is admitted to Record

From this will and knowing that Moses Woosley was born in 1758 and his wife, Elizabeth, probably around 1760 and working back to estimate a birth year of c1736 for Rhoda Waters, we can create a prospective family group for James Waters. Because of the mix of sons and daughters listed in James’s will, I think they might be in birth order.

Also, given that the last child is named Mourning, a name often given when the mother died in childbirth, it seems likely that the wife who survived James might be the stepmother of these children.


1. Mary, born c1728; married Mr. Whitworth, before 1753
2. John, born c1730; died after 1753
3. Mary Ann, born c1732; married Mr. Hughes, before 1753
4. Catherine, born c1734; married Mr. Morris, before 1753
5. Rhoda, born c1736; married William Butler, before 1760
6. William, born c1738; died after 1753
7. Mourning, born c1740; died after 1753

Abraham Whitworth, born c1728, with a wife Judith, gave supplies to the troops during the Revolutionary War, as did Moses Morris, born before 1728, wife unknown. These men are potential husbands for Mary Whitworth and Catherine Morris.

Abraham Whitworth and Moses Morris are both on the 1782 census substitute for Amelia County, Virginia, along with one John Hughs Jr. and William Butler, all appearing on Christopher Ford’s list, so they lived in close proximity to each other.

This certainly isn’t definitive proof that Rhoda (MNU) Butler was Rhoda Waters, not Walters, but I think it seems very, very likely given the less common nature of Rhoda as a female name and Waters/Walters sounding so similar.

Perhaps further research into Abraham Whitworth, Moses Morris and John Hughs will yield more information about the Waters family.

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