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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John Branscomb, son of Richard and Sarah Branscomb

John Branscomb’s DOB is unknown. It seems obvious that he was born in Brunswick County, VA. He died in Wayne County, KY, between late April and early September 1821. His wife was named Olive E.; her maiden surname is unknown.

John Branscomb in Brunswick and Greensville Counties, Virginia

The earliest known record for John is from the will of his father Richard, written 20 March 1775 and proven on 24 March 1775.

I give and bequeath to my son John Branscom the land and plantation where I now live containing 200 acres more or less. After the death of my Loving Wife Sarah Branscom also one feather Bed and furniture to him and his Heirs forever. . . .(“Furniture” includes the linens, coverlet and counterpane.)

Upon his mother Sarah’s death John was also to receive one-third of the estate lent to her in the will, subject to the condition that he did not marry before his father died. The reason for that restriction is not clear, but in many instances the children received land and other items upon marrying and thereafter only token bequests upon the death of the parent. In view of the short period between the time Richard wrote his will and his death, and in view of the fact that John did own land which was part of his father’s estate, it is unlikely that John married before his father died. Also, since the land John inherited included the family home, John may have cared for his mother and his sister Sarah, at least for a few years, after Richard died.

Brunswick County tax rolls are available starting in 1782. John was taxed one pound; the tax list was difficult to read, but the entry under John’s name included the words “young Negroes.” The record shows two titheable males (=whites) but no other taxable property. The other adult male is unidentified. Land was not taxed at the time. Sarah (John's mother) was assessed separately, so by 1782 they probably had separate households. For the following years John was taxed in Greensville County, which was formed from Brunswick County in 1781 (see the history for John’s father Richard Branscomb), whereas Sarah was not listed until 1787, and then in Brunswick County. The Greensville County tax rolls do not show any Blacks for John until 1798, so doubts exist about the “young Negroes” shown in Brunswick County in 1782. Following are the entries in the tax records for John in Greensville County:
1783: 1 tithe, 4 cattle.
1785: 1 tithe, 1 horse, 2 cattle.
1786: 1 tithe, 1 horse, 3 cattle.
1787: (no tithes), 1 horse. 4 cattle.
1788: 1 white male >21, 2 horses.
1789: 1 white male >21, 2 horses.
1791: 1white male >21, 1 horse.
1792: 1 white male >21, 2 horses.
1793: 1 white male >21; 1 horse.
1794: 1 white male >21; 1 horse.
1795: 1 white male >21; 1 horse.
1796: 1 white male >21; 2 horses.
1797: 2 white males >21; 2 horses. Fredk Porch was named as the other poll.
1798: 1 white male >21; 1 Black > 16; 1 horse. Tax: 44¢.

The next known document for John is a deed dated 4 June 1798 by which he and his wife Olive sold their property in Greensville County (Deed Book 2, pp. 553-554; the deed is also mentioned in the County Court Order Book 2, p. 618, for 27 June 1799). John's mother Sarah may have died prior to that date (her name does not appear on the tax rolls after 1796) and her death may have influenced John’s decision to move westward. Following is the text of the deed:

This indenture made this 4 day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand Seven Hundred and ninety eight between John Branscomb and his wife Olive Branscomb of the County of Greensville of the one part and Joseph Ingram of the county of Brunswick of the other part witnesseth that in consideration of the sum of two hundred pounds lawful money of Virginia to them in hand paid by the said Joseph Ingram the receipt whereof they doth hereby acknowledge hath granted bargained sold enfeoffed and by these presents do grant bargain sell enfeoff and confirm unto the said Joseph Ingram and his heirs and Assigns forever One certain tract or parcel of land lying and being in the County of Greensville and Meherrin Parish containing by estimation Two Hundred acres be the same more or less and bounded as followeth viz. Beginning at a small Pine the South side of the Fort Road Thence a North West course crossing the Road at Douglass Run continuing a North West course to Richard Branscombs line at a corner pine between the said John Branscomb and Richard Branscomb the North side of the West prong of the said Douglass Run thence a North East course along the said Richard Branscomb's line to a corner Gum on William Forgasons Spring Branch Thence down the said branch to the mouth emptying into the said Douglass's Run Thence down the said Run to the Mouth of the Haw Branch thence a South West course to the Mouth of the narrow Branch at Douglass's Run on the East side of the said Run Thence up the various courses of the said Branch to the head at a black Gum Thence a South East course to a red Oak cornering on Edmund Branscomb's line thence a South course to a Turkey Oak on the said Edmund Branscomb's line from thence a straight line to the beginning To have and to hold the said granted Land and premises with the appurtenances unto the said Joseph Ingram his heirs and Assigns forever and the said John Branscomb and Olive Branscomb for themselves their heirs executors and Admtors doth covenant and agree to and with the said Joseph Ingram and his heirs and Assigns that they their heirs executors and Admrs shall and will warrant and forever defend to the said Joseph Ingram his heirs and Assigns the said granted land and premises against all other person or persons whatsoever.

John B [his mark] Branscomb (L.S.)
Olive + [her mark] Branscomb (L.S.)

In witness whereof the said John Branscom and Olive Branscomb his wife hath hereunto set their hands and affixed their seals the day and year above written Signed sealed and delivered
in presence of
William Allen Thos Branscomb
Robert Branscomb Zachariah Branscomb

Greensville County Court June 1799. This Indenture was proved by the oaths of William Allen Robert Branscomb and Thomas Branscomb
Witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded
Teste
P. Pelham Ck Cur

Among the Branscombs whose names appear in this deed, Thomas and Richard were John's brothers, and they inherited from their father Richard the land which bordered John’s (also inherited) property. Edmund and Robert were Thomas's sons, and Zachariah was Richard’s son. The purchaser Joseph Ingram was probably Edmund Branscomb’s father-in-law. William Allen presumably was the one of that name who married (1) in 1811 Rebecca Ingram (sister of Edmund’s wife Joanna ?), and (2) in 1824 Edmund’s daughter Elizabeth. (Thomas had evidently conveyed some of his inherited land to his son Edmund,as shown by the property description in the deed.)

John Branscomb in Patrick County, Virginia

Groups of residents of a county, many of them related by blood or marriage, tended to move together as land to the west became available. Several surnames which are found in Brunswick and Greensville Counties during the late 1700s appear soon thereafter in Patrick County. John’s nephew Isaac, son of his brother Thomas and probably not much younger than John himself, was among those who made the move at approximately the same time that John did. The deed by which Isaac sold his land in Greensville County appears in the deed book immediately after John’s deed, so perhaps they planned to move together.

On the other hand, John sold his property in Greensville County in June 1798, whereas Isaac sold his (to his brother Edmund) on 31 October. Was it only a coincidence that the county clerk transcribed the deeds into the deed book consecutively? The usual time for such a migration was in the fall, after the crops were harvested and after the families had stored sufficient food and other resources to maintain them until the following summer. Did John have an arrangement with a sibling to remain in Greensville County long enough to harvest crops in anticipation of moving? The answers to these questions are unknown. What is known is that both John and Isaac purchased land on Paul’s Creek in Patrick County soon after selling their land in Greensville County: John in November 1798 and Isaac in September 1799. Their names began to appear on the Patrick County tax rolls thereafter: John’s in 1799 and Isaac’s in 1800.

The name of Robert Branscomb, presumably Isaac’s younger brother, also appears on the Patrick Co. tax rolls for 1800. The tax rolls for Greensville Co. show that he was back in his father Thomas’s household by 1802.

John bought 50 acres on 25 November 1798 from Palmer and Elizabeth Critchfield, paying “forty pounds Currency of Virginia.” Following is the property description as shown in the deed:

[a] Certain tract piece or parcel of land Situate lying and being in the County of Patrick as aforesaid on the waters of Pauls Creek Containing fifty Acres more or less by Survey and bounded as follows to Wit Begining at a Maple on the bank of a Creek thence No 37.E. 19 P[oles] to a Maple W.40 to a pine So 56 W 66 Poles Crossing a Branch to a Chesnut Oak So 45 E 23 Poles to a Chesnut Tree. No 25 E 42 P to a Maple on sd Creek down it as it myanders 68 to the begining with all woods ways Water and Courses Mill trees orchards houses and all other the emoluments appertaining. . . (Book 1, p. 602)


The property description is probably in error, because the area as described measures closer to ten acres. Hierom (Hiram) and Mary Wells were two witnesses to the deed, and the third was Rebecah Branscum, who made her mark with an “X.” John's name was spelled “Branscum” throughout the deed. The deed was recorded at the May Court 1799 (Book “O” [=Zero]; pages unnumbered.): “The within written Indenture was acknowledged by the within named Palmer Critchfield to be his act and deed and the same was ordered to be recorded by the Court.” (CEB wrote, p. 9, that John bought two tracts, one in 1798 and one in 1799. In the absence of any mention in the record of two such purchases beyond those recorded in Deed Book 1 and Court Order Book “O,” nor any mention of the disposal for a tract acquired in 1799, I conclude that CEB interpreted the two entries described above as involving separate tracts.)

Paul's Creek begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains just south of Fancy Gap, currently within Carroll County, and flows southward into Surry County, North Carolina, where it joins with Benson's Creek and Stewart's Creek before flowing into the Ararat River. The Ararat flows into the Yadkin River near Siloam. In present-day Carroll County U.S Highway 52 runs roughly parallel to Paul's Creek. Highway I-77 is to the west. (CEB wrote [p. 58] that John’s land in Patrick County was east of “where Lamburg [=Lambsburg] is now located.” Paul’s Creek is certainly east of Lambsburg, but it is much closer to Cana on Highway 52, to the east of the creek. Lambsburg, on Route 620 near Turkey Creek and Stewart’s Creek, is west of Highway I-77.

Isaac’s initial purchase of property in Patrick County was also on Paul’s Creek. A single document records the purchase on 4 September 1799 of 100 acres from Martin and Hannah Talley and 50 acres from Joseph and Mary Johnson. (Book 2, p. 5). Talley’s land had come to him from (his brother?) Spencer Talley, who had acquired it from Critchfield. (Book 1, p. 536, as cited by John Perry Alderman, Carroll 1765-1815: The Settlements; a History of the First Fifty Years of Carroll County, Virginia. Hillsville, Va.: Alderman Books, 1985. p. 360). In 1818 Isaac moved to Big Reed Island, near Dugspur, and in 1824 he conveyed his property on Paul's Creek to his son Reuben. (Alderman, pp. 100-101.)

Paul’s Creek in Patrick [now Carroll] County, Va.

Except for deeds and tax assessments, the name of either John or Isaac Branscomb appears in the official records only once. That one instance is from Court Order Book “O” for the January Court for 1800 (pages not numbered): “Caslin & others vs. Branscum Dismisst”; we do not know which Branscum is intended.

Following is the record for John Branscomb from the Patrick County tax rolls (real estate was not taxed):

1799: 1 white male tithe; 1 horse. Tax: 12¢.
1800: 1 white male tithe; 1 horse. Tax: 12¢.
1801: 1 white male tithe; 2 horses. Tax: 24¢.
1802: 1 white male tithe; 1 horse. Tax: 12¢. (shown as “John Branscob”)
1803: 2 white male tithes;1 horse. Tax: 12¢.
1804: 2 white male tithes; 2 horses.

John’s name was not found on the tax rolls after 1804. The next few years present a puzzle. On 25 April 1807, eight and one-half years after John and his family moved to Patrick County, he sold his land to Edward Brickell/Brickle and Zadock Combs for twenty pounds (Book 3, p. 32). This time John made his mark as “B. J.” The property description was the same as in the foregoing deed. Three days later John bought a 36-acre tract on Paul's Creek from Isaac Johnson for £35 (Book 3, p. 33). Following is the property description from the deed:

. . .a certain tract piece or parcel of Land, Containing thirty six acres by Survey, Situate lying and being in the County of Patrick and State of Virginia on the Waters of Pauls Creek and bounded as followeth to Wit, Begining at a Beach [beech] on a Branch thence new lines N. 15 W 55 Poles to a Gum N 67 W. 60 poles to a Chesnut oak, S 52 W 100 poles to a white Walnut on the head of the aforesaid Branch thence down the same as it meanders 60 poles to the first Station.

This property description also appears to be inaccurate. Neither of the tracts which John Branscomb bought in Patrick County was marked by enduring landmarks which enable researchers to locate them precisely.

Within four months, on 15 August 1807, John sold this land to Zachariah Combs “for value received” (Book 3, p. 107). John made his mark with an “X.” It is understandable for someone to sell one piece of property in April and to purchase another nearby, but selling that second parcel so soon, and in mid-summer, is puzzling. Another record adds to the puzzle: the 1806 tax rolls for Wayne County, KY, show a John Brachon, and it is possible that this was John Branscomb. The name is not listed thereafter.

We do not find John Branscomb’s name, or any variant spelling, in the 1810 census for either Virginia or Kentucky (the 1810 census for Patrick County has been lost). Whatever the reasons for the land transactions in Patrick County, it does seem clear that John’s goal was to move with his family to Wayne County, KY.

John Branscomb in Wayne County, Kentucky

Kentucky became a state in 1796. By 1800 the threat from hostile Indians had subsided and the population of European settlers began to expand rapidly. In 1805 the Cherokees ceded to the U.S. a strip of land that included the Little South Fork of the Cumberland River plus Wolf Creek, Otter Creek, Rock Creek, and Elk Creek, all within Wayne County, KY. That strip of land was called the Tellico tract. Although it is not clear when John and his family came to this area, it was almost surely between 1807 when John sold his land in Patrick County, and 1812 when John’s name appears on the on Wayne County tax rolls. Given that the records show Virginia as the birthplace of Henry, the youngest (known) child of John and Olive, and they suggest that Henry was born between late 1808 and early 1809, it is likely that the move occurred no earlier than 1809. Although the 1810 census for Wayne County does not show John, it does show “Thos Bramson” and Roland “Bramson,” both married, in separate households. Thomas Branscomb was the eldest son of John and Olive, and Roland was the second son. The 1811 tax rolls for Wayne County confirm that these two “Bramsons” were Branscombs. Perhaps they moved to the Little South Fork in advance of their parents and siblings, or perhaps the census enumerator overlooked John’s household. The available records show that Roland Branscomb and Nancy Barrow married in Wayne County on 30 June 1810. Nancy’s family came from Surry County, NC, just across the border from the Branscombs who lived near present-day Cana on Paul’s Creek. Page 359 of the 1810 census for Wayne Co. shows Nancy’s father Daniel Barrow, then Roland, one other name, and then “Thos” on four consecutive lines and thus, presumably, in adjacent dwellings. In 1820, p. 99, Thomas Branscomb was listed on line 27, David Branscomb (another of John's sons) on line 30, and John Branscomb on line 31.

The early records for Wayne County show numerous family names which are found earlier in Brunswick, Greensville or Patrick Counties, VA; among them are Allen, Barrow, Burriss, Ingram, New and Vaughn.

John Branscomb's name appears on the Wayne County tax rolls in 1812; the writing on the page is too faint to provide useful information. He must have staked out a tract of 100 acres, taking the steps to apply for a patent under the conditions of the Homestead act as it applied to the Tellico tract; but his application was not formalized and approved until 1815. By that time John and his family had been in Wayne County for at least three years. Following is a transcription of the appropriate record as it appears in the minutes of the Wayne County Circuit Court for the April 1815 term:

No 53 On the motion of John Branscomb satisfactory proof being made to the Court by the Testimony of two creditable Witnesses the Court is of the opinion that he is entitled to 100 acres of land on the little S. fork the S. side Tellico bounds Wayne County Beginning at a sugartree [maple] and hornbeam on the River bank at the mouth of a small jut above the land of William Dobbs thence running up N 65 W 74 poles to a cedar crossing the River thence up the N side S 60 W 22 thence S 40 W 60 poles to a cedar then crossing the River S 35 E 90 poles to a cedar & Elm thence S 68 E 160 poles to a stake thence N 20 E 25 poles to a double sugartree thence to the Beginning Under the act of Assembly for appropriating the lands acquired by the Treaty of Tellico
pr Location filed Teste
Duplicate Jno Chrisman Clk

The foregoing measurements obviously involved a survey, but a survey was also required after filing the application. Joshua Jones surveyed the 100-acre tract on 15 December 1815 and filed Survey no. 503. Daniel Maxwell and John's son Thomas Branscomb were the chain carriers for this survey. Next, John submitted to the Auditor's office on 17 February 1816 a Treasurer's receipt for twenty dollars as “bal in full” for the tract. The survey was “examined and recorded” presumably at the state level, on 8 December 1819. Gabriel Slaughter, Lieutenant Governor and acting Governor of the State, signed the patent on 15 June 1820. Issuing the patent was obviously a formality; John was the unofficial owner of the land when the county court approved his application. The tax rolls show that John was taxed for the 100 acres beginning in 1815.(Records concerning the Tellico land patents for John, also for his sons Thomas and David Branscomb, came from the Land Office Division of the Office of the Kentucky Secretary of State in Frankfort, KY.)

It appears that John selected the 100-acre site on the Little South Fork of the Cumberland River with the intent of erecting a mill, and he probably erected it soon after becoming the unofficial owner of the land. The mill is first mentioned in the minutes of the county court for February 1817 (Book A, p. 320):

Ordered that Edward Baker Charles Denny Benjaman Bookout & John Bookout or any three of them being first Sworn view & mark out the nearest & best way for a Road from Fleming Gregorys to John Branscumb's mill & from thence to Intersect the Road near Thos Branscum and make report thereof to the next court.


Several references to Branscomb's mill appear in the court minutes thereafter, chiefly in the descriptions of existing or projected roads. In November 1819 Hiram Gregory was part of a commission to lay out a road “Beginning on the Little South Fork below Branscums Mill where the road from Monticello to Rock Creek crosses the little South Fork to Beaty & Co. Salt Works on said fork” (Book A, p. 389). When school districts were formed in March 1822, District #2 encompassed “all the watters of the little South fork down to the road from Monticello leading to Rock Creek past Brancombs mill to the big south fork to Beaty & Company s upper well thence on the Pulaski line to the State line & to the beginning.” District 9 bordered District 2 along the line from Pulaski County to Beaty's upper well and thence to Branscomb's mill and then part way along the road to Monticello. (Book A, p. 462). Branscomb's mill is also mentioned in the minutes for May 1827 (Book B, p. 114), November 1827 (p. 135), May 1829 (p. 169), and May 1829 (p. 241). The entry for May 1827 shows that John's son Thomas owned land upstream (toward the south) on the Little South Fork, and the entry for November 1827 stated that Kennedy's Creek was downstream from the mill. [See map.] John died in 1821, and his son Isaac continued to operate the mill. The records show clearly that Isaac operated a sawmill; it is not clear whether there was also a grist mill, although Isaac later owned one.

The areas of Wayne County, Kentucky, and vicinity where John Branscomb and his sons owned property

Following are the yearly entries in the Wayne County tax books for John:

YearPollsAcreage & locationHorsesTotal value
1812 (Entries for John other than his name are too faint to be read.)
181314
181412
18151100 South Fork4$150
18161100 South Fork4$250
18171100 South Fork3$150
1818(No tax book is available for 1818.)
1819 1100 South Fork2$600
18201100 South Fork2$522

After 1820 John's wife Olive was taxed for this land.

The 1820 census for Wayne County shows the following data for the household of John “Branchcomb”:

  Males Females
Persons 45 years of age and older 1 1
Persons 16 years of age and younger than 26 1 0
Males between 16 & 18 years of age 1 *
Persons 10 years of age and younger than 16 0 1

(The enumeration of persons 16-18 years old in the 1820 census covered males only and was for the purpose of determining eligibility for military service. A male between those ages would also be enumerated in the 16-26 age group.) Isaac, b. 1805, could have been enumerated as the male between the ages of 16 and 18; also 16-26. No female born between 1804 and 1810 is known for John and Olive, but it is possible that such a child did not survive to maturity. On the other hand, the census report does not account for Henry, the youngest child of John and Olive, who was born ca. 1809. Did the enumerator record a female in that age bracket when he should have recorded a male?

John Branscomb's will

John lived only one year after this census was taken; it was also one year since his land patent was final. He made his will on 24 April 1821, and it was proved at the September court (Book A, p. 45, but see the note which appears below at the end of the transcription):

In the name of God Amen. I John Branscom being in imperfect health but of perfect mind and memory Thanks be to God. Calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that its once appointed all men to die, do make this my last will and testament. First I give to my son Thomas Branscom fifty acres of land it being part of the survey I now live on, to have as his rite and property also I give to my sons Wesley and Isaac Branscom the ballance of the survey the part I now live on to be equally divided between them after the Death of their Mother and not before for She is to have the benefit of the farm her life time, which I give unto them to have and to hold as their lawfull Right, and I also give unto my Daughter Rebeccah Burress one Feather Bed to have and to hold as her rite and dispose of as She pleases and by these presents I ratify and confirm this and no Other to be my last will and testament as witness my hand and seal this 24th of April, 1821.
John Branscomb Seal
test Benjm Denny
and Bazel Maxwell

I also give to my wife the ballance of my estate to dispose of as she sees propper & I ratify & Confirm this to be my last will & testament as much as the above written, this day and date above.
John Branscomb Seal
teste Ben Denny, Bazel Maxwell

I William Simpson Clerk of the County Court for the County afore Said do certify that the foregoing last will and testament of John Branscom decd which appears from the record of the Wayne County Court to have been proven by the Oath of Ben Denny and Bazel Maxwell Subscribing witnesses thereto, has been duly recorded in my office agreeable to an act entitled “An Act to Authorize Certain Records of the Wayne County Court to be Transcribedö; given under my hand this 11th of June 1840

William Simpson, Clerk

(The foregoing certificate by clerk William Simpson suggests that the earliest will book had been lost or misplaced and that the County had received State funds to provide for the original records to be re-transcribed. The replacement book was designated “Book A.” This transcription is from that Book A. Later the missing book resurfaced; it contains few wills and has no letter designation but in later records is sometimes called “Old Will Book A.” In old Book A, p. 45, John's surname was spelled “Brancomb” and in one place “Brancob”; Rebecah's name was rendered “Rebeca,” and Bazel (Maxwell's) name was given as “Rayel” and “Rayl.” Maude Branscomb sent me a copy of John’s will from old Book A, and Beulah Branscum provided the xerograph from the new Book A.)

The county court minutes include this entry for 17 September 1821 (Court Order Book A, p. 446):

The last will and testament of John Branscomb decd was this day produced in Court and proven by the Oath of Benjamin Denney and Bazzell Maxfield [should be “Maxwell”] the two subscribing witnesses thereto in their proper persons and the said will is ordered to be recorded &c.

The usual procedure would be for the executors to be granted letters of administration for the estate, for them to present in court an inventory of the estate and their account of the administration, and for commissioners to be appointed to review that account. No further entries appeared in the court minutes concerning the administration of this estate. John did not name executors in his will, and no surviving records show that the heirs petitioned the court to appoint any. One possibility is that the records were lost (see the note above about the lost will book). Another is that Olive and her sons still remaining at home, namely Isaac and probably Henry, continued to live on the family farm as before, and, that with the exception of the feather bed to Rebecah no division of the estate was made during Olive's lifetime. Isaac eventually acquired ownership of all of the estate, buying out his brothers’ shares. (Further commentary concerning John’s will appears on the The Children of John and Olive Branscomb page.)

See also:
Olive E. Branscomb, wife of John
The Children of John and Olive Branscomb

Note: The following named book is cited in the text by the authors' initials, "CEB."
Branscome, Cletie Elroy--Branscom, Branscome, Branscomb, Branscombe. Laurel Fork, VA: published by the author (1966).

 

 

 

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Frederick B. Tubbs

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