Spencer James – Prosperity Meant Land!

#52ancestors:  Week 8     Prosperity

In my research of ancestors in the 1700s and 1800s, it seems prosperity meant owning land – and the more land, the better!   Land for production of wealth and providing a living was of immense importance.   Everything we use and our ancestors used can be ultimately traced to land.  Land, for many of my ancestors, could be called the original source of material wealth.   They may have forgotten to register the births of some of their children but always recorded their land transactions!  Some ancestors were able to amass large tracts of land and some didn’t.  This week, I am particularly thinking about my fifth great-grandparents, Spencer James and Frances Davis James.  They started out with little and bought a land here and there until they accumulated a legacy to pass on to their heirs.

Map, Orange County VA Map 1740

Spencer James was really named “James Spencer James” but used the name “Spencer James” in most records.  He was born about 1750 in Orange County, Virginia and lived in St. Thomas Parish.  He was the son of Samuel James and Mildred Taliaferro.  He married Frances Davis on 22 August 1780 in Orange County.  Frances was the daughter of James Davis, an English Immigrant, and Catherine Samuel, the widow of Henry Samuel.  James Davis and Catherine married in 1752 and Frances was born about 1753.

Franklin Co VA road sign 001Two years after their marriage, Spencer was listed on the Orange Co. VA tax lists in 1782  where he paid taxes on 7 horses, and 4 cattle.  The next year, they moved to Henry County, Virginia and paid taxes on one horse and two slaves in 1783.  That part of Henry County later became Franklin County.  Now this didn’t seem like they had much to start off with but on 3 October 1796, Spencer received a grant of 120 acres on Runnett Bag Creek and Smith River in Franklin County.  The Creek and Smith River are outlined on the map below.

James, Spencer, map of land 001
According to land records,  Spencer James had his land on Runnett Bag Creek and Smith River which are in red above. Part of his land was in neighboring Patrick County as well as the southwest part of Franklin County. 

Then in December of 1797, he bought 200 more acres on Smith River for just 100 pounds and 20 more acres on Nicholas Creek.  This was just the beginning of his land deals as he bought another 300 acres in 1809 from a future son-in-law, Waddy Thompson.

He sold 100 acres and 30 acres on Nicholas creek at a profit in 1801 and 1803 and continued buying more land.   By 1811, Spencer and Frances had amassed more than 1400 acres!   They had created a prosperous legacy to leave for their children.  They had eight known children with the last child being born in about 1799.  One son, Catlett James served in the Revolutionary War in the 1st and 10th Virginia Regiments.   The daughter, Mildred James, married Jerman Baker who was later a member of the Virginia Legislature in 1813.   Another daughter, Frances Baker James, married Ezekiel James and they were my fifth great-grandparents.  A younger daughter, Phoebe Byrd James who I wrote about before, married Chesley Ashlin and they were my fourth great-grandparents!  The youngest daughter, Elizabeth Booker James married William James who was known for making some of the best corn liquor in Smyth County!

Frances Davis James died in 1814 at about age61 or 62 but Spencer  lived until age 84 and died 22 February 1834 in Franklin County, Virginia.  Their burial places are unknown.  You can find stories of their children that I have written on the following links:

James James

Getting to Know Phoebe Byrd James Ashlin

Franklin Co, VA Map 001

Sources:

 

 

4 thoughts on “Spencer James – Prosperity Meant Land!

  1. Good evening!
    I was curious to know if you or anyone else has discovered whether James Spencer James participated in the American Revolution or rendered aid. Your articles on the James Family are quite interesting, as I descend from Spencer James’s daughter Elizabeth Booker James James 1797-1867. Some question her middle name of Booker. It must be true, as her daughter Virginia named her son Alonzo Booker Davis 1875-1968.
    Clinton

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    1. Hello William, Thank you for the comment on my blog! To answer your question, I have not found any evidence that James Spencer James participated in any way in the Revolution. I researched information in “A History of Orange County, Virginia” by WW Scott which lists many of the participants from Orange County – Spencer was in Orange county until 1783 when he moved to Henry County. I also checked “Rejected or Suspended Applications for Revolutionary War Pensions” to see if he had applied for a pension and was rejected. If I do come across any information in the future for him for military service or aid, I will keep your comment and let you know! Hope this is helpful but probably not! Take care, Marilyn

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      1. Good evening: With your research, perhaps you can help me determine the whereabouts of William & Elizabeth Booker James’s property. Most courthouses are closed, and the LDS Family History Centers are mostly closed too. I have a feeling that they are buried on their land or some James Cemetery. On various censuses they are listed as being near Sugar Grove, Cripple Creek, and even 7 Mile Ford. By the way, if you go to FindAGrave, I have added the actual photograph of William and Elizabeth James to their memorials. An elderly cousin had their enlarged portraits that she wanted to give me, but someone near Radford either stole them or threw them away.
        Thanks for answering my query!
        William

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