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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Zachariah Branscomb (son of Richard Branscomb II) and his wife, Mazy Towns

The line of descent for Zachariah Branscomb is:

  1. Richard Branscomb, the immigrant (d. 1775 in Brunswick County, VA) and Sarah Proctor, parents of:
  2. Richard Branscomb II (ID#2; d. 1829 in Greensville Co., VA), father of:
  3. Zachariah Branscomb (ID#21; b. ca. 1777 in Greensville Co., VA; d. presumably in Abbeville, SC, during the latter half of 1820); md. in Greensville Co. Mazy Towns

(Note: in this account the ID numbers for Richard and Zachariah are omitted hereafter. See the entry under “Author’s notes” for the method I used in assigning identification numbers to Zachariah’s descendants If it becomes necessary to distinguish one of Zachariah's descendants from some descendant in another line, the letter "Z" will substitute for Zachariah's "21.")

The first evidence for Zachariah and for his parentage comes from the tax rolls for Greensville County, VA: in 1798 Richard Branscomb (this is Richard II, son of the immigrant; see Richard Branscomb II) was head of a household, and he was taxed for the first time for two white males age 21 or older; the other poll was named as Zachariah Branscomb. The tax rolls for 1794, 1795 and 1797 show but do not name a white male between the ages of 16 and 21 in Richard’s household, and that person was surely Zachariah as well. The tax rolls therefore give strong evidence that Zachariah was the son of Richard II and that he was born ca. 1777. The will of Richard II’s father Richard I, written in March 1775, shows that Richard II was not married at that time, so it is highly likely that Zachariah was the firstborn child of Richard II and his wife. As shown below, a number of records in Greensville County, VA, and a few in neighboring Warren County, NC, show Zachariah’s presence in that area between 1798 and 1803.

If no other evidence existed, most readers would accept without question the premise that Zachariah was the son of Richard II. Other accounts do exist, however, and must be considered: A great-granddaughter, Emma Clayton Hunter Anderson (1853-1941), prepared a notebook circa 1932 in which she stated that Zachariah’s parents were James Green Branscombe and Lucinda Caroline Williams of England who immigrated to America circa 1750 and settled in Culpeper Co., VA. [another page of her account states that James married Lucinda Caroline Williams of Virginia soon after arriving in America]. The account gave Zachariah’s DOB as 11 October 1756. It contains several statements about their children and their places of residence which do not conform to the available evidence. Also, it says that both Zachariah and the father of his wife “Maysie” Towns were in military service for the entire seven years of the American Revolution. [I am indebted to John Rufus Branscomb for providing a copy of the information from Emma’s notebook.] No records have been found in Culpeper County for James Green Branscombe or any other Branscombs for the 1750s or the next half century, and no records show any military service for Zachariah Branscomb and Mazy’s father Richard Towns during the American Revolution.

This account was known to a number of the descendants of Zachariah and Mazy, and perhaps some of them cling to it as factual despite the lack of any corroborating evidence. Cletie Elroy Branscome (hereinafter CEB) used it in his book Branscom, Branscome, Branscomb, Branscombe; Laurel Fork, VA 1966, p. 82, although he found no official record for James Green Branscomb and Lucinda. It appears that his informant was Gladiola Harris, who was a descendant of Zachariah and Mazy, and she knew the contents of Emma Anderson’s notebook.

After much pondering and discussion with persons who helped with this genealogical history, I have arrived at the following as the most likely explanation for Emma Anderson’s account.

Emma (#215; 1853-1941) was the granddaughter of Bennett Hill Branscomb (1803-1881), the first son of Zachariah and Mazy, and during his later years he and his wife Eliza lived in the home of their daughter Lucinda Caroline Hunter, where Emma was Caroline’s youngest child. No doubt Bennett Hill was Emma’s principal source, perhaps her only source, for information about Bennett Hill’s parents Zachariah and Mazy. The available evidence suggests strongly that both Zachariah and Mazy died in an epidemic during late 1820 when Bennett Hill was barely 17 years old. It is not known where Bennett Hill lived over the next few years, but the 1810 census for the area where Zachariah and Mazy were thought to live (further complications are discussed below) showed William McMasters in an adjacent dwelling. William’s wife was Mazy’s sister Rebecca. It is likely, therefore, that Bennett Hill’s information about his ancestry came from a Towns ancestor rather than a Branscomb one. In the telling and retelling of the stories about Zachariah’s parentage the information must have become confused, possibly with what Bennett Hill had heard about the line of descent for Mazy. Perhaps during his later years Bennett Hill’s memory was faulty.

The records for Culpeper Co., VA, during the 1700s show several families named Green, Williams and Clayton among the gentry, and the families intermarried. (Sources: [1] Raleigh Travers Green, Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia, Embracing a Revised and Enlarged Edition of Dr. Philip Slaughter’s History of St. Mark’s Parish. Baltimore: Southern Book Company, 1958; [2] George Norbury Mackenzie, Colonial Families of the United States of America, Vol. IV. Baltimore: The Seaforth Press, 1914. John Ottinger provided copies of pertinent pages from each.) These marriages are noteworthy:

  1. William Williams (ca. 1722-1778) married Lucy Clayton, daughter of Major Philip Clayton and Ann Coleman. (Mackenzie, p. 557; Green, quoting Slaughter, pp.56 and 108)
  2. Their son James Williams (d. 1822) married Eleanor Green, d/o Moses Green & Eleanor Blackwell. James enlisted at the beginning of the American Revolution and served throughout the war; eventually he rose to the rank of Major General during the War of 1812. (Mackenzie, p. 557) The genealogies do not give James’s middle name, but in view of his mother’s maiden name, it could have been Green. Neither does Slaughter give his DOB, but his older brother John was b. 1722. The DOB that Emma’s account gives for Zachariah, 11 October 1756, could be the DOB for this James.
  3. Lucinda Clayton Williams (“Lucy”), d/o James & Eleanor Williams, married William Green, a captain in the U. S. Navy. William’s father John Green was a colonel in the American Revolution and a member of the House of Burgesses. John Green had a brother James Green. (Mackenzie, p. 567; Green, quoting Slaughter, pp. 62, 64)

Bennett Hill and Eliza bestowed the names Lucinda and Clayton upon children in their family.

Although certainty is out of the question at present, in this genealogical history for Zachariah his ancestry is based upon the evidence suggesting strongly that he was the son of Richard Branscomb II; also that his birth year was probably 1777. The ancestry for Mazy is known only to the extent that her father was Richard Towns. If Richard’s ancestry, or the ancestry of Mazy’s yet unidentified mother, can be found to include the Green, Williams and Clayton families of Culpeper Co., VA, that would strengthen this hypothesis for the way in which this questionable ancestry for Zachariah developed.

Continuing with the history for Zachariah, the following records are known for him: .

A. In Virginia

  • As stated above, the 1798 tax rolls for Greensville County show Richard Branscomb as head of a household, and with him was Zachariah Branscomb.
  • Zachariah was witness to the deed dated 4 June 1798 in which John & Olive Branscomb sold their land to Joseph Ingram. (Deed Book 2, pp. 553-554)
  • A summary of the marriage records for Greensville County gives the date of the marriage bond for Zachariah Branscomb and Mazy Towns as 6 November 1798: “Thomas Branscomb and Edward Branscomb make affidavit as to age of Macy Towns and statement that her father does not live in this State. Sur[ety] Robert Branscomb. p. 40.” (Catherine Knorr, Marriage Bonds and Ministers’ Returns, Greensville County, VA 1781-1826) Robert and Edward/Edmond Branscomb were sons of Thomas and grandsons of Richard the immigrant. Their affidavit stated that Mazy was 21 years of age, which in other records meant that the prospective bride was a minimum of 21 years of age and therefore did not require her father’s consent to marry.
  • Zachariah’s name was listed on the Greensville County tax rolls as head of a household for the years 1800-1803. In 1800-1802 his name was listed next to that of Richard, which may mean that he lived in close proximity to his father (although entries were grouped according to the initial letter of the taxpayer’s surname). Zachariah’s name is not found in the county records after 1803.
  • The marriage records for Greensville County showed that Zachariah was security on at least two occasions:
    1. 8 January 1801 for the marriage of Douglas Burnett to Patsy Branscomb, d/o Richard [II].
    2. 21 December 1802 for the marriage of William Ferguson Jr. to Judith Lanier.

B. In North Carolina

The foregoing marriage records for Greensville County bear witness that Mazy’s father did not live in Virginia. The available records show Mazy’s father Richard Towns first in Bute Co., NC, and then in Warren Co., which was formed from Bute Co. in 1779; Warren Co. borders Brunswick Co., VA. Zachariah’s name appears in one official record for Warren Co. in January 1799. Subsequent county records for Zachariah are from 1808-1810 when there is reason to believe that he and his family had moved to Abbeville, South Carolina.

  • 28 January 1799: Zachariah Branscomb was security for the marriage of Polley Towns and John Keen. (Warren County marriage records)
  • 11 January 1808: Zachariah was listed among the persons making purchases at the estate sale of John Carroll. (Will Book 14, p. 185, as cited by Mary Hinton Kerr, Warren County, North Carolina Records, Volume III, Abstracts of Will Books 1779-1814. (Warrenton, NC: Published by the author). p. 170.
  • Richard Towns’s will was proved in the August 1809 court for Warren County (David B. Gammon, Abstracts of Wills, Warren County, North Carolina 1779-1844, Volume I, p.112.) The estate sale was held on 8 and 19 September 1809, and the accounting was filed at the February court 1812. Zack Branscomb bought “one lott of knives and forks” for 1s 6d. (Warren County estate records for Richard Towns)
  • At the May Court 1810 Zach Branscomb and wife Massey were among the petitioners who challenged Richard Towns’s will. (David B. Gammon, Records of Estates, Warren County, North Carolina 1805-1833. Volume II, p. 14) The abstract stated, “The will was challenged in a petition by Peter Towns, [blank space] Towns [he was David Towns], Zach. Branscomb and wife Massey, Wm. McMasters and wife Rebecca, Solo[mon] Towns, Labon Towns, and Wm. Hicks as gdn. [guardian] for the minor children of Richard Towns. The widow Joice Towns petitioned for her dower, Feb. ct. 1811.” (The boldface type is explained below.) Joice Towns was Richard’s second wife, not Mazy’s mother. Mazy’s father Richard Towns married on 25 September 1795 Joice King Rosser, a widow with children. (Warren County Marriages.)
  • On 14 June 1810 Zachariah Branchcomb was one of the witnesses for an agreement between Joice Towns and Robert R. Johnson giving Johnson power of attorney for Joice with respect to Richard’s estate. (Kerr, III: 189)
  • On 15 June 1810 Zachariah and Mazy executed a deed conveying their share of the land in Richard Towns’s estate to Robert Johnson (Book 18, p. 400). The deed read, in part,

    That, whereas Richard Towns father of said Masey died some time past being seized and possessed at the time of his death of a tract or parcel of land situate lying and being in the County of Warren State of North Carolina on the waters of Haw Tree Creek. . . containing by estimation five hundred and seventy four acres it being all of the land which said Richd died possessed of and whereas the said Masey is well entitled to an undivided share or interest in the said land as one of the daughters of the said Richard Towns decd, now therefore this indenture witnesseth that the said Zachariah Branscom and Masey his wife, for and in consideration of the sum of fifty pounds to them in hand paid, [they conveyed title to their portion of the land to Robert R. Johnson.]

  • In a separate deed also dated 15 June 1810 Peter Towns and Zachariah Branscomb conveyed to Robert R. Johnson in exchange for 50 pounds “all the rights, title and interest which we have in any part of the personal estate of Richd Towns decd.” (Book 18, p. 401;
  • The final accounting for Richard’s estate was submitted to the court in August 1812. One entry read, “By cash pd. Z Branscomb . . . £l5 V.C.” [=Virginia currency]. (estate papers) This entry does not imply that Zachariah was present in Warren County at the time.

C. In South Carolina

No official records have been found in any location for either Zachariah or Mazy after 1812. Two tantalizing census reports show, however, a Jeremiah Branscom in the Abbeville district of South Carolina. As strange as it seems, the evidence supports the belief that this Jeremiah was actually Zachariah. The data from the 1810 census for Jeremiah Branscom and from the 1820 census for “Jaramiah Branksey” is shown below. The names of neighboring heads of households for the two censuses make clear that both of censuses cover the same location.

In 1810 the name of William McMasters was separated from Jeremiah’s by one other name, and in 1820 William’s name was next to “Jaramiah’s.” In 1810 William’s family consisted of a male age over 45 years of age, a female age 26-45, and two females under ten years of age plus nine slaves. In 1820 the family consisted of a male and a female over 45 years of age plus 14 slaves. (Records of the May Court 1810 in Warren County, NC, for the settlement of the estate of Richard Towns, quoted above, show that William McMasters was the husband of Rebecca Towns.)

Peter Towns, another heir of Richard, was head of a household in the Abbeville District for 1800, and in 1810 he was in Spartanburg, SC.

(Except as noted above, John Ottinger provided almost all of the records for Zachariah Branscomb and for members of Towns family.)

Other than the two census records, no official records have been found for a Jeremiah Branscom or a Jaramiah Branksey in Abbeville District or elsewhere. We are faced with two apparent mysteries: (1) the transitory existence of a Branscom/Branksey in Abbeville with no further information about him or his children; and (2) the disappearance of Zachariah Branscomb and Mazy Towns from Warren County, NC, without a trace except for the evidence that Zachariah received money from the estate of his wife’s father in August 1812. Yet Bennett Hill Branscomb, who grew to manhood in the Abbeville District of South Carolina, was quite sure that his parents were Zachariah Branscomb and Mazy Towns, and his siblings also were in Abbeville during the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Census data of the period were often erroneous, but the 1810 and 1820 census records for Jeremiah Branscom/Jaramiah Branksey conform fairly well to the known data for the family of Zachariah Branscomb:

1810 census
  Males   Females   Probable identities
Persons age 26-45 1 1 Zachariah, b. ca. 1777;
Mazy, b. before 1778
Persons age 16-26 0 0  
Persons age 10-16 0 1 Rebecca, b. ca 1801 (not quite 10 years old)
Persons less than 10 2 1 Bennett H., b. 1803; Richard, ca. 1805; Mahala, b. ca.1807

1820 census
  Males   Females   Probable identities
Persons age 45 or older 1 0 Zachariah (barely 45?)
Persons age 26-45 0 1 Mazy (just under 45?)
Persons age 16-26 1 1 Unknown female; a relative? visitor? servant?
Persons age 16-18 1 n.a. Bennett Hill, age 17
Persons age 10-16 1 0 Richard
Persons less than 10 2 2 George and Edwin, age 7; Lucinda, b. ca. 1817? Was Mahala, age ca. 13, the other female?

It is of course possible that the identities are in error because the ages of all but Bennett Hill, George and Edwin are approximations; yet these census records conform rather closely to what is known for the children of Zachariah and Mazy. They permit the assumption that Jeremiah and Zachariah are two names for the same person.

The foregoing census data do not account for James W. Branscomb as a child of Zachariah and Mazy. Emma’s list gives his DOB as 1811. If the 1820 census is a reasonably close approximation for Zachariah’s family, James W. must have died before the 1820 census was taken.

One additional set of evidence must be considered: the birthplaces (states) listed for the children and for their parents in subsequent census records. Bennett Hill’s birthplace is shown as VA in 1850 and SC thereafter; In the two census records available for Mahala her birthplace is shown as NC. For George and Edwin the records show their birthplace consistently as SC. For Lucinda the 1870 census shows her birthplace as SC and the 1880 census shows AL. Data for Rebecca is inconclusive for reasons shown under the heading for her. Data for birthplaces are often in error on census records, so conclusions are tentative. The overall evidence for Zachariah and Mazy suggests that Zachariah was born in VA, that Mazy was born in NC, that they were married in VA, lived for a few years in NC, and then moved to SC., where they died probably in late 1820.

From what is known about the children it seems highly likely that Zachariah and his family, regardless of whether Zachariah was actually known widely by the name of Jeremiah, lived at Mount Carmel within the Abbeville District. (Years later, after Bennett Hill and his family moved to Alabama, he and other family members received letters from friends and relatives in Mount Carmel. and those letters were preserved and are quoted in the sections for the children.) A family story concerning Zachariah and Mazy states that both parents died there circa 1815 in an epidemic of typhoid fever, but, given the appearance of the name Jaramiah Branksey and of an adult female in the 1820 census, it is likely that they survived until that census was taken. Records from the Abbeville District of South Carolina may yet reveal further evidence for Zachariah and Mazy, but to date efforts to find such records have been fruitless.

See also
Children of Zachariah Branscomb and Mazy Towns

 

 

 

Copyright 2009
Frederick B. Tubbs

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