Branscomb/Branscum Genealogy

The Genealogy of
Richard Branscomb
of Brunswick County, Virginia,
and a Number of his Descendants


by Fred Tubbs


 

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Benjamin Branscom of Henry County, Indiana

When on 1 March 1794 Thomas Branscomb wrote his will in Greensville County, VA, one of the witnesses was Benjamin Branscomb, who made his mark with an “X.” No other information for this Benjamin has been found in Greensville or Brunswick Counties, and it is not possible currently to ascertain his parentage. Yet, some inferences are possible:

  1. During the mid-eighteenth century it would be unusual for a couple such as Richard Branscomb and Sarah his wife to have only four children over perhaps more than 20 years. Richard named only four children in his will, written 20 March 1775. His son Thomas had fathered a son in 1765 and was probably at least 18 years old by that time (b. ca. 1747 or earlier), yet the other three who are named in the will had not yet married by March 1775 and presumably were much younger. (See further under Richard Branscomb.) It is likely, therefore, that Richard and Sarah had other children who for some reason were not named in Richard’s will. The most common reasons would be (1) that some children died prior to the time the will was written, and (2) that others may have married and migrated further westward as land became available for them to own.
  2. Benjamin must have had some connection with the family of Thomas Branscomb in order to be present in the county at the time when he witnessed the will. However, he could not serve as a witness if he was an heir, and therefore we can conclude that he was not Thomas’s son.
  3. Although the legalities were not always observed, witnesses to legal documents were required to be of age, meaning at least 21 years old (in this case, born prior to 1773. Since Richard died in 1775, Benjamin would have had to be born well before 1773 if he were Richard’s son; surely Richard would mention a minor child in his will.)

The only other Benjamin Branscomb known to be in either Brunswick or Greensville County circa 1794 was born in 1792, the son of Edmund and the grandson of the aforementioned Thomas Branscomb. A considerable history is known for this Benjamin and his descendants.

It must be re-emphasized that no known record identifies Benjamin the witness of Thomas Branscomb’s will as a descendant of Richard and Sarah Branscomb, and no one should quote me as confirmation of that relationship, but it is an interesting hypothesis that he was a son.

Turning to Henry County, Indiana, a patent was issued on 1 April 1824 by the Brookville, IN, Land Office to a Benjamin Branscom: cash entry for 80 acres, the W½ of the SE¼ of S15 T17N R11E as measured from the second principal meridian. The Original Entry Tract Map of Henry County, Indiana, Liberty Township, “showing name of patentee, residence, acreage and purchase date,” places Benjamin in the aforementioned spot and gives the date of purchase as 21 December [18]22; the date of purchase almost always preceded the date for issuing the patent. Henry County was not formed until 1822; Benjamin’s residence at the time he made the purchase was shown as Wayne County, which was almost surely neighboring Wayne County, IN, rather than Wayne Co., KY, where John Branscomb, son of Richard the immigrant, had taken his family circa 1810.

The 1830 census for Henry County shows Benjamin as head of a household (p. 63):

  Males Females
Persons age 40-50   1 0
Persons age 20-30   0 1
Persons age 5-10   0 2
Persons under 5   1 1

The Henry County Will Book A, pp. 51-52, records the will of Benjamin Branscum. It was dated 6 October 1834 and was proved 5 November of the same year. He named his wife as Patsy (diminutive for “Martha”). Except for the sale of sufficient livestock to cover outstanding debts, Patsy was to receive the bulk of the estate “as long as she remains my widow,” and until the children came of age, at which point the land was to be sold and divided equally among Patsy and the children. The will and the settlement of his estate (Probate Records, Book A, pp. 342-344) show that Benjamin was a farmer. The estate sale brought $89.36¼.

As yet no valid record is known to connect this Benjamin Branscom of Henry Co., IN, to Richard and Sarah Branscomb of Brunswick Co., VA. He could have been the Benjamin Branscomb who witnessed the will of Thomas Branscomb in 1794, and that act would at least imply a familial connection, but proof is lacking. Some interesting tidbits about Benjamin are found in a biographical sketch for John Branscom of Kaw Twp., Jefferson Co., KS. The account is from William G. Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas. It names John’s father as Benjamin Branscom, states that he was a native of Virginia who had served as a soldier during the American Revolution and who had become a farmer in Henry Co., IN, “at an early day,” He died in 1832. Benjamin’s four children were three daughters and one son. (The 1830 census for Benjamin Branscom in Henry County, IN, which is cited above, shows three young females and one young male.)

This biographical sketch provides some support for the hypothesis that Benjamin was a descendant of Richard and Sarah Branscomb of Brunswick County, VA, since to date no records have been found for any Branscomb family other than Richard’s in Virginia during the last half of the eighteenth century. However, no evidence has yet been found to show that Benja­min was a soldier during the American Revolution; note also that persons who served in the Revolution in any way generally received warrants for land patents, but when in 1824 Benjamin applied for a patent in Henry Co., IN, he paid cash. If Benjamin’s age was between 40 and 50 years in 1830, as reported in the census for that year, he was born between 1780 and 1790, and he could not have been a child of Richard Branscomb the immigrant, because Richard died in 1775. He could not have served in the American Revolution, and he would have been no more than 14 years old in 1794 when a Benjamin Branscomb made his mark as witness to the will of Richard’s son Thomas Branscomb. Ages as recorded in early census records were often erroneous; however, the age range as repor­ted in the 1830 census would be appropriate for a father with children under 11 years of age.

Concerning the four children which are reported in the 1830 census and in the biographical sketch for John, it is likely that at least one of the two marriages of Branscom women in Henry County was for a daughter of Benjamin and Patsy; that marriage:

  • Mary Branscom to Harvey Taylor on 5 September 1844

The other marriage was for Sally Branscom to Jonathan Brewer on 26 January 1832. If she was one of the daughters age 5-10 as reported in the 1830 census, she could have been no more than 12 years old. Other possibilities are remote: Sally could have been a cousin or niece, but no such cousin or niece of that name is known who would be of marriageable age. Even more remote is the possibili­ty that this Sally was Benjamin’s sister, but here a candidate is known: the marriage records for Greensville County, VA, report that on 8 August 1799 Sally Branscom gave consent for the marriage of her daughter Nancy, meaning that Nancy was younger than age 21. (See further under The children of Richard Branscomb and Sarah Proctor.) No later records are known for this Sally. Is it possible that she found a husband more than three decades later while visiting Benjamin and family? (Note: I consider this hypothesis as extremely remote, and readers should not quote me as supporting it. A check of the actual marriage record in Henry County may provide useful information.)

Newspaper accounts of births and deaths in Henry County show that persons surnamed Branscum were in the county from 1948 until at least 1988. The head of this family appears to have been an Edgar Branscum, who probably had no close connection to Benjamin’s family.

Information for John Branscom/Branscum, presumably the son of Benjamin and Patsy, is available from census records and from the biographical sketch in Cutler’s history. John was born in Henry Co. 6 August 1826, the third child in the family. He was twelve years old when his father died, and the privations which the family experienced afterward can only be imagined. John’s career as a farmer was no doubt affected by the absence of an experienced teacher. In time, however, he purchased from his sisters their portions of Benjamin’s estate. Circa 1850 John sold the farm, and with his mother and his one unmarried sister moved to Grant County, IN, where he tried to make a living for them by trading livestock. Two years later he and his mother moved to Marion Co., IN, where he bought horses “for the Chicago market.” His mother went to live with one of the married sisters -- the sketch does not reveal the name or the fate of the one unmarried sister, who perhaps by 1852 was married and could have been the one who provided a home for Martha/Patsy-and John moved to Kokomo in Howard Co. to try to make a living in buying and selling hogs. This enterprise endured until 1857, when John left Indiana for Jefferson Co. in Kansas Territory. There he married on 23 June 1857 Martha Hedges, widow of W. H. Hedges. In Kansas (probably with help and financing from Martha?) John became relatively successful in "the stock trade” to the point that he could purchase a quarter section of bottom land in Kaw Township and erect a home and barn and plant an orchard. The 1870 census shows the family there, p. 391B, household #21:

  Age Where born  
Branscom, John   45 IN  
Martha 34 IN  
Hallie 14 MO (male!)
Eddie S. 6 KS  
Asa D. 3 KS  

Hallie was no doubt Martha,’s son (daughter?) by W. H. Hedges.

Cutler’s sketch continues with the statement that by 1870 John’s net worth was $30,000, which in that year John invested in Texas cattle, “and in one year lost all,” including his land and buildings. He was able to purchase another quarter section of “unimproved land on the prairie,” (with what?) and began a comeback, but in 1873 he became bankrupt. He persevered, however, and according to the sketch, in time repaid all of his creditors.

In the 1880 census for Kaw Twp., p. 271A, John was listed as 53 years old; Martha A. was 42, and the two children at home were Asa D., age 13, and Ada E., age 4. F. E. Hartle and three others were also in the household. I have no further information about John or about his family.

(Information and records from Henry Co., IN, were provided by J. D. Thomas. Cutler’s History is on the Internet at http://www.kancoll.org/books/cutler/jefferson/jefferson-co-p24.html .)

See also
The children of Benjamin Branscomb, son of Edmund Branscomb

 

Copyright 2007
Frederick B. Tubbs

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