For the past week, I have been highlighting the descendants of Matthias Williams Senior of Cumberland County, Virginia. In past posts, I have also identified Virginia Memory and particularly its Chancery Records Index as a GeneaGem.
Today, I’d like to share another example of this GeneaGem, which involves an 1807 Chancery Court lawsuit, filed by Richard Hudnall against John Crouch. The plaintiff’s and defendant’s names give no hint of their Williams connections, but they are deep.
In order to understand the players in this lawsuit, you will need a bit more background on this very extended Williams family, which was quite large even in the early 1800s. First, you are familiar with Matthias Williams Senior if you have been following my stories this week. Matthias had an older brother, Thomas Williams, born about 1712. This Thomas married Susannah Anderson, likely in the mid 1730s. Their family make up isn’t completely known, but among their four identified children, was Charles Williams, born in the 1740s and fought in the American Revolution. Charles, in turn, removed to Pittsylvania County, Virginia and had four children. One of these was his daughter, Susannah, who married John Crouch, the defendant in this lawsuit. The Crouches also lived in Pittsylvania County at the time of the court case. Charles also had a son named Charles, who married Susannah Williams, daughter of Roger and Cassie Ann Williams of Bedford County, Virginia. This Charles was a deponent in the above lawsuit.
OK – quick summary here – Thomas Williams’ grandson Charles married Roger Williams’ daughter, Susannah, and gave a deposition in this Chancery Court lawsuit. Thomas’s granddaughter, Susannah, married John Crouch, the defendant.
There is a much broader tie here to Roger and Cassie Ann Williams’ family. Roger Williams was born about 1749. I have not proven a blood relationship to Thomas and Matthias Williams, but my working theory at the moment is that he may well have been a first cousin and that the grandfather of all three was an earlier Thomas Williams. Their paper trails make it clear that the families all knew each other and all began in Cumberland County.
Roger and Cassie Ann were the parents of ten children, which included Mary, born in 1784, who married Richard Hudnall, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. Another daughter, Nancy, married William Hudnall and Nancy gave a deposition. Roger’s son, Thomas, gave a deposition and his son, George, deposed, although I think someone lied about his age since George was only about 18 years old at the time. (Perhaps 18 year old males were old enough to give a deposition?)
There were also several non-relatives who gave depositions, but the case file is 58 pages long, so I am only going to focus on the family relationships here.
John Crouch, the defendant, was involved in the Virginia slave trade. He worked as an overseer, but he also ran some sort of business where slaves were hired out, rather than sold. In 1807, John and Susannah Williams, along with her brother, Charles, made the trip from their home in Pittsylvania County, Virginia to the home of Roger Williams, who lived in Bedford County. The Crouches lived near Danville. I don’t know what town Roger lived in or near, but let’s say it was near the county seat of Bedford. Although the counties border each other, that was not a quick trip, as it is about 65 miles from Danville to Bedford.
Bedford and Pittsylvania Counties
Source: Wikimedia Commons
On this trip, John Crouch brought with him a number of slaves to be auctioned off for hire, not for sale, as the court case made clear. One of the bidders was Richard Hudnall, the brother-in-law by marriage to John Crouch’s brother-in-law, Charles Williams. The auction was held at the plantation of Roger and Cassie Williams.
Richard bid on the services of Holley, age not given, but a question was raised about whether she had had children and might not be pregnant at the time, so Holley was probably in her 20s or 30s. Richard agreed to pay £12 (also mentioned as $40) for her farm labor and house services.
The trouble began when John stated that all the slaves for hire were in good health and able-bodied. Although Richard agreed to Holley’s hiring, it was noted at the time that one of her legs seemed to be swollen.
This entire lawsuit revolved around Richard Hudnall’s claim that he paid for labor that could not be provided by Holley because her leg quickly became so swollen and sore that she could barely walk. He had paid John Crouch and he wanted his money back.
If I didn’t already know the familial relationships among these people, this lawsuit would be a gold mine. It is still a gold mine in terms of providing a picture of a family squabble blown out of proportion. Being the images of the original papers in the file, signatures are provided by four of these family members (Charles Williams, John Crouch, Richard Hudnall and William Hudnall) , proving that they could at least sign their names.
There is also one comment made by one of Roger’s children that he was very intoxicated that day, an indication that this gathering was as much for a family social as it was for business.
Unfortunately, this case is like a good mystery, with one serious omission – the winner of the lawsuit is not named here! It is possible that the lawsuit became moot as sometime after 25 May 1811, when John Crouch gave bond to William Ware, John and wife Susannah moved to Williamson County, Tennessee, where John’s estate was probated in December 1813. The latest date on documents found in the court file is June 1811. There is no doubt that this is the same family because William Ware sued Susannah over the bond in 1817.
Here are snips of just a handful of the 58 pages:
Deposition of Roger Williams, 1809:
Hudnall, at this affiants house for the
amount of hire, a dispute arose to some con
siderable height, this affiant interfered and told
said Hudnall, that he the sd. Hudnall had better
pay the money than to have any more to do a
bout the dispute, this affiant does believe that the
money ought not to be paid for value received this affi
ant further saith he would not suffer the sd.
negro to stay on his plantation and further
this affiant Saith not.
Deposition of Roger Williams, 1811:
Bedford (?) This day personally appears before me a Justice
of the Peace for Sd. County Roger Williams of Lawfull age and
after being Sword upon the Holy Evangelist deposith and sayeth
that once being calld upon By John Crouch & Richard Hudnall
To settle a dispute Between them Concerning the Hire of a negro Woman
namd Holley and after hearing something from the Both. his desire
was for peace as they were Both Family connected with him under. . .
Deposition of Nancy Hudnall, 1809:
Bedford To wit
This day personally appeared before me one of the
Justices of the peace for Sd. County Nancy Hudnall
of Lawful age and after being Sworn sayeth that
Some time in Jany or Feby 1807, She was at Roger
Williamses her Father, & John Crouch of Pytsylvania
Count was their with negroes to Hier, and on Opening the
Sale By William Hudnall Sen. who (vandued))
The the Sale Crouch was Calld on If the negroes
He Brought there was all Sound & Healthy
Slaves, Crouches answer was that they were and as
Such he warrants them and – Some Time
after the Sale She Saw one of Sd Slaves that
Richd Hudnall Heird and Discoverd one of the Legs
very (Sore and Sweld?) and further this
Deponent Sayeth not. Given under my hand
this 15 of November 1809. Saml Mitchell
Deposition of Thomas Williams, 1809:
Here, just note the sentence marked by the green arrow above:
This Deponent further sayeth that his father Roger
Williams was in a State of Intoxication and
he thinks not Capable of doing Business
To any Certainty
Deposition of George Williams, 1809:
Bedford County to wit
This Day George Williams of lawfull age under Oath before
made Oath before me a Justice of the Peace for the County
Aforesaid that on the same Day that Richard Hudnall Hired
sd. negro woman named Holley of a certain John Crouch in
of County of Pitsylvania which was in the Date 1807 thatheobserved
one of the legs of said Negro most swelled & sore & fur ther
saith not Given under my hand at the Dwelling House
of Jabez Leftwich Esqr. this 16th Day of Aug – 1809
One other interesting tidbit found in the depositions is that John Crouch’s home in Pittsylvania County had a name:
From Charles Williams’ Affadavit, 1809:
Transcription of Underline
House of Mr. Jno. Crouch
called Bachelors Hall
These families were clearly fairly well-to-do at this time.
As I mentioned, I haven’t found notice of the outcome of this lawsuit. Charles Williams and his other siblings migrated to western Tennessee not long after the Crouches went there. The Hudnalls eventually ended up in Montgomery County, Missouri.
If you have Virginia family, be sure to check and revisit Virginia Memory: Chancery Records Index often. They are currently scanning records from Halifax County, 1753-1913, the city of Danville, 1842-1913, Norfolk County, 1718-1887 and Patrick County, 1803-1912. Many other counties’ records are already digitized and available to view for free on the website.