Case Study: Was Elizabeth Gwinn Spear Given a Maternal Maiden Name? Part 4 – Documenting the Jacob Spear Family

As we move back in time, we are now at the point where Jacob Speer/Spear bridges the gap from Maryland to North Carolina. If there is a Gwinn family connection through the Speer family, this will be the point where I would most expect it to pop up.

Online Somerset County, Maryland tax records cover 1723-1759. Jacob was on that list in 1759. The exact year of the Spear migration from Maryland to North Carolina is unknown. We do know that Andrew Spear was on the 1771 tax list of Surry County, Robert Speirs was on the 1772 list and, by 1782, there were 11 Spears on the Surry County list, including Jacob. State land grant records include Jacob Spear receiving 100 acres on 20 September 1779 and then obtaining another 501 acres on 3 April 1780. It takes some time to apply, have land surveyed, etc., so Jacob was clearly in Surry County by 1779.

Untangling the Spears is not such an easy task in spite of land and probate records they generated, as you will see.

Guess what! Jacob Speer Sr. left a will! Slam dunk, right? Well, not so much, as you’ll see in a minute. Jacob Speer Jr. ALSO left a will and he predeceased Jacob Sr. Another slam dunk? Uh, no, once again.

First, we need to look at the purported makeup of the family of Jacob Speer Sr. He married Elizabeth, who survived him. Her maiden name is unknown and I was hoping against hope that she would be Elizabeth Gwinn, and Elizabeth Gwinn Spear, her great granddaughter being her namesake.

Possible UNPROVEN Children:

1. Jacob, born c1750, probably Somerset County, Maryland; died about July 1796, Surry County, North Carolina; married Catherine (Estep?)
2. Henry, born c1750, probably Somerset County, Maryland; married Rachel (MNU)
3. Elizabeth, born c1751, probably Somerset County, Maryland; married Joseph Rutledge, 11 August 1772, Surry County, North Carolina. There is a Joseph Rutledge, over 45 years old, with a female over 45 and several children living in Cumberland County, Kentucky in 1820.
4. Andrew, born c1754;
5. William, born c1756; married Mildred Estep
6. Benjamin, born c1758, probably Somerset County, Maryland; died after 1830 census, probably Overton County, Tennessee; married Ruth Steelman, c1780
7. James, born c1760, probably Somerset County, Maryland

Scrunching seven children into ten years is a tight fit. Not impossible if, say, Jacob and Henry were twins. I have absolutely no idea how anyone decided which of the many Speer progeny to assign to Jacob. More on that in a bit.

It is also not known whether Elizabeth was the mother of all of Jacob’s children. I have to wonder about that because fathers normally name all children or the heirs of deceased children in their wills, if only to say they have already received their shares.

Jacob didn’t do this. He left his estate to his sons, William and James, with no mention of them being the youngest children or whether or not they had any siblings:

Will of Jacob Speer, Proved May 1802,
Surry County, North Carolina WB 3:48
Source: FamilySearch

In the name of God Amen. August the nineteenth one Thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight, I Jacob Speer of the State of North Carolina and County of Surry being weak in body yet of a perfect sound mind and memory knowing that its appointed once for all men once to die do make and ordain this my last will and testament and as it hath pleased Almighty God to bless me with my worldly Estate I dispose of the same in the manner and form following; First, I recommend my Soul to God, who gave it me and my body to be buried in a decent manner at the discretion of my Executors.

Item. To my son William Speer I give and bequeath two hundred and twenty acres of land adjoining the land whereon he now lives.

Item. To my son James Speer I give and bequeath the manor plantation where I now live with all lands thereunto belonging.

Item. to my beloved wife Elizabeth Speer I give and bequeath all my stock of horses cattle hogs and household furniture during her natural life and at her death all to be given to my son James Speer (he paying each legatee twenty shillings.

And I do hereby constitute and appoint my beloved sons William Speer and James Speer my lawful Executors and trustees of this my last will and testament.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and date above written.

Jacob Speer (Seal)
Signed sealed and delivered
In the presents of us
Thomas Donnily
Adam Smith
Wm. Harvey

State of North Carolina Surry County May Session AD 1802.
Adam Smith one of the subscribing witnesses to the foregoing last will and testament of Jacob Speer, made oath that he saw the said Jacob sign publish and declare the same to be his last will and testament that he was of sound and disposing mind and memory and at the same time he saw Thomas Donnily and William Harvey sign the same as witnesses thereto. Which was ordered to be recorded. Recorded accordingly H.J. Williams Cl.

Notice the red highlighted portion of the will – he paying each legatee twenty shillings. That seems to me to indicate that there were other children. I wish he had named all of them!

Jacob Jr. is assumed to be a son of Jacob Sr. and he may well be. However, since Sr. didn’t name all his heirs and no other documentary proof has been uncovered, I can only assume, at this point, that the two Jacobs are father and son, mainly because I’ve only found the name Jacob with Jacob Sr.

The will of Jacob Speer Jr. mentions Jacob Sr. – what do you think?

Will of Jacob Speer Jr.
Surry County, North Carolina WB 3:20
Source: FamilySearch

In the name of God Amen. This eighth day of September in the year of our Lord Christ one thousand seven hundred and eighty six, I Jacob Speer Junr. of the County afsd State of North (sic) being in a declining state of health but of a sound and disposing mind and memory thanks be to God and calling unto mind that it is alloted for all men one to die do make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament. First I resign my soul to the hands of Almighty God that gave it and my body to the Earth to be buried in a Christian like manner at the discretion of my Executors hereafter names, and as to my worldly Estate I dispose of it in the following manner.

Imprimis, I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Catherine Speer one bond on Jacob Speer senr for one hundred pounds or seventy five acres of land also one ditto on Thomas Eastep for one hundred pounds or a certain tract of Land on the East of his deeded Land excepting two acres including a spring adjoining the plantation. I also lend her the plantation whereon I now live until my son Jacob Speer arrives to the age of twenty-one years. I also give her all my household furniture. I also give her my bay horse and bay mare.

Item, I give and bequeath to my well beloved son, Thomas Speer one hundred acres of Land on the East End of the Two hundred acres where on I now live I also give him one brown yearling horse colt.

Item, I give and bequeath to my well beloved son Jacob Speer one hundred acres of land including the mansion house and two acres, including a spring near said house to be conveyed to him by Thomas Eastep. I also give him one sorrel horse colt.

Item my Will and desire is that my two daughters which are just born (twin daughters?) and not named shall have the red cow and the (pided?) cow with their calves.

Lastly, I do appoint my beloved wife Catherine Speer my Executrix and my beloved friends Jacob Speer and Thomas Eastep to this my Last Will and Testament whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal the day and year above written.

Jacob Speer (Seal)
Signed, sealed and pronounced
in presents of
H. Speer
Rich. (his R mark) Speer
Andrew (his A mark) Speer

State of North Carolina Surry County August Session AD 1796
Andrew Speer one of the subscribing witnesses to the foregoing Last Will and Testament of Jacob Speer made oath that he saw the said Jacob Speer sign, and hear him publish, and declare the same to be his Last Will and Testament that he was of sound disposing mind and memory and at the same time he saw Henry Speer and Richard Speer sign the same as witnesses thereto; which was ordered to be recorded. Recorded accordingly. H.J. Williams CL

Do you think there is any significance to the fact that Jacob Jr. didn’t say the note was on his FATHER Jacob Sr. or that he he mentioned my beloved friends Jacob Speer and Thomas Eastep?

Also, given that Jacob Jr. had newborn daughters and his son, Jacob, was not yet of legal age in 1788 (when the will was written), is it an oversight that son Thomas was given land with no mention about when he comes of age? Was Catherine a second wife, being the mother of unnamed newborn daughters? Jacob Jr.’s will creates more questions than it answers, particularly since it wasn’t proved until 1795.

There will be one more Speer post coming up, along with one about Gwinn sightings, so stay tuned!

 

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