The Mystery of Abraham Crabtree & Humberson Lyon, 1784

As far as I can determine, no one has ever suggested a possible maiden name for Mary, wife of Abraham Crabtree. Quite a bit is known about Abraham’s life, but to try to sort out why Abraham Crabtree was named as the executor of the will of Humberson Lyon in 1784, readers need to know just a bit about Abraham’s parents and siblings.

First, Abraham was the son of William Crabtree, who died in 1777 in Washington County, Virginia. His mother was Hannah Whitaker and the family settled on the Virginia frontier before the American Revolution from Maryland.

Abraham, the second born child,  had the following siblings. The marriages took place in Washington County, Virginia:

William, born c1748, who married Catherine (MNU)
Isaac, born c1757, who married maybe Miss (Mary?) Pike
Jacob, born c1760, married Mary Price, 4 August 1786
James, born 20 February 1762; no evidence that he ever married
Job, born 29 April 1765; married Rebecca Smith, between 7 December 1790-18 May 1791 by Rev. Nicholas Reagan, who often turned in marriage records with not dates.
Hannah, born c1766; married Edward Smith, 7 September 1787
Priscilla, born c1768; married Richard Price, 7 December 1790
Margaret, born c1770; married John Simmons
John,
born 25 August 1774; married Alice Friend, 29 July 1800

It is important to note here that there are statements – undocumented – that William Crabtree (born 1748) married Hannah Lyon as his first wife and that his second wife was Catherine Starnes, who he reportedly married c1777. I haven’t found any proof of these statements, but I haven’t found any evidence to shed doubt on them either.

By 1758, the young Crabtree family was living in Bedford County, Virginia, but removed to what was then Fincastle County, Virginia no later than the spring of 1774, when land was surveyed for William Crabtree, in addition to Isaac, William, James, John (probably uncle of Abraham) and  Abraham himself. Fincastle County later became Washington County.

Now for the mysterious Humberson Lyon connection. How difficult do you think it could be to find someone named Humberson Lyon? Not exactly like looking for John Smith, is it?

Well, it turns out that I found Humberson #1, Humberson #2, probably Humberson #3 and maybe even Humberson #4. As you might imagine, given this many Humberson Lyons, online family trees are a total mess. Although one of these men left a will proved in 1784, which named his wife and five children – fours sons and one daughter, all minors – trees have his eldest child born years before him, his last child born years after he died and way more children than those named in his will.

At the start of the 19th century, a lawsuit was filed in the Chancery Court of Augusta County, Virginia by the heirs of Humberson Lyon. By 1804, all five Lyon children – James, William, Stephen, Jacob and Susannnah (Lyon) Miller, wife of Joseph Miller (married 1801), were of legal age and they sued their stepfather, George Pemberton, for keeping part of the estate that was willed to them by their father. George Pemberton had married widow Mary Lyon on 5 November 1785 and had been given custody of her children.

To estimate the birth years of the children, Susannah, who married in 1801, appears to have been the youngest child and probably born between 1780-1783, assuming she was between 18-21 years old when she married. A starting point, then, for possible birth years of her brothers would be to count back by two years each. Another assumption, that they were named in birth order in their father’s will, would mean James was born c1773, William c1775, Stephen c1777 and Jacob c1779.

What does all this Humberson Lyon information have to do with Abraham Crabtree? Abraham was named as the executor of the will of Humberson Lyon. I want to know why and I wonder if Abraham’s wife, Mary, was a sister of Humberson Lyon? Otherwise, why would someone agree to take on managing an estate for years? Not only was Abraham not a lawyer, he wasn’t even able to read and write. There must have been some other close connection to get him to agree to that job.

Not only was Abraham the executor, but EVERY – all four witnesses to the will were Crabtrees – Abraham, Isaac, Job and their mother, Hannah.


1782 Tithables, Washington County, Virginia

Note that in Colonel Aaron Lewis’s precinct, several Crabtrees are listed, but particularly, William Crabtree is followed by Humberson Lyon who is followed by Abraham Crabtree. It appears these men were close, if not next-door, neighbors.

Next, we will take a much closer look at all these Humberson Lyons to see what can be proven as fact.

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