#52ancestors Prompt: Water (Week 14)
I found that many of my ancestors settled near rivers and streams which makes perfect sense as a source of water is a vital need. Water was also used for transportation of people and goods – a way to connect with the rest of the settlers and the world. Since this theme is water, I thought of an ancestor named John Smith Taliaferro. John was the father of Mildred Taliaferro whom I wrote about recently. You can read part of her story here – Mildred Taliaferro: A Strong Woman! Just about every source identified John Taliaferro as “John of Snow Creek” as that is where he settled and established his homestead in 1707. Snow Creek flows into the Rappahannock River a short distance from Fredericksburg, Virginia. John settled above Snow Creek below the falls, and there were then but three settlements above his house on the south side of the Rapidan River. Settlements above the falls had been burned out by Indians in 1707.
John Taliaferro was born in 1687 in Golden Vale Swamp, Essex County, Virginia. I am thinking that this was a community, not an actual “swamp!” He was the son of John “The Ranger” Taliaferro (He may have an interesting story!) and Sarah Smith. His father deeded additional land to him in 1717 as shown by this deed extract below. The land was in Spotsylvania County on the Rapidan River, “amongst ye Little Mountains.”
“John Taliaferro of St. Mary’s Parish, Essex County, to John Taliaferro, junr son to the aforesaid John of same For natural love and affection Two plantations with 1000 acres on the upper side of Snow Creek in the forke thereof which was formerly given to me by my brother Fran Taliaferro late of said parish by deed of gift” (signed by Jno. Taliaferro)
When John Taliaferro and Francis Thornton settled there on Snow Creek, that section belonged to Essex County, Virginia and was later incorporated into Spotsylvania County. They were not only near neighbors but also brothers-in-law. John married Mary Catlett on 22 December 1718, daughter of John Catlett, Jr. and Elizabeth Gaines, his wife, and Francis Thornton had married John’s sister, Mary Taliaferro. The Catlett’s owned a large estate at the mouth of Golden Vale Creek in present Caroline County.
Evidently, John of Snow Creek was a man of some note in the community. He was a Justice of Spotsylvania in 1720. The county seat of newly formed Spotsylvania was Germana and on 1 Aug 1722, six justices or magistrates were sworn in, one being John Taliaferro. John was also known as a vestryman of St. George’s Parish in 1725. A vestryman is not a cleric but one who would probably be like a church board member or a deacon today. In some sources, he is identified as Major John, who was requested “to bring up the Surplice” in 1730 to the established church at Germana, a community of German settlers. This puzzled me so I looked up what a “surplice” was and found it was an outer garment worn by clergy. So was John was delivering church garments? – still not sure on this but I did find a military record so it may have to do with something military.
John Taliaferro was an officer in the Spotsylvania County Militia. In order to receive their commissions, the officers had to take the requisite oath of office to the crown. John was listed in 1736 as Lt. Col. John Taliferro.
John and Mary Taliaferro had six known children including two sons, Lawrence and William Taliaferro and four daughters named Martha, Lucy, Mary and Mildred. Mildred was called “Molly” in John’s will. Mary, their daughter, may have died before John as she was not named in his will. Eventually, John had amassed huge land holdings – thousands of acres as witnessed by the land records I have just begun to study.
John died 7 August 1744 at Snow Creek at about age 57 and son Lawrence passed in 1748 at age 27 years old. They were both buried at Old Hickory Neck Church in James City County which is near the present village of Toana. Although their tombs were once well preserved, no trace of them remains today. A few fragments of the stone of Lawrence was found and then embedded in the cement floor of the small entry porch of the old church.
Mary Catlett Taliaferro lived to age 79 and passed in 1771 in Essex County, Virginia. Daughter Martha married William Hunter in 1744 and died in 1750 in Fredericksburg. Her sister Lucy Taliaferro married Col. Charles Lewis and died after 1768 in Port Roayl, Caroline County, VA. Daughter Mary, as mentioned before, died before her father and had married Joseph Jones. Lawrence was married to Susannah Power and his brother William of “Snow Creek” had married twice: firstly to Mary Battaile and secondly to Elizabeth Taliaferro of “Epsom”. William died in 1798 at age 71 at his plantation, Newington, on Mountain Run in Orange County, VA. Mildred Taliaferro married Samuel James and her story is linked above. She was my fifth great-grandmother which makes John Taliaferro and Mary Catlett my sixth great-grandparents. There will be more to come on the interesting Taliaferro family!
- Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia; Ancestry.com: Ancestry Operations, Inc., Provo, UT, USA, 2002, Repository: Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
- Ancestry and Posterity of Dr. John Taliaferro and Mary (Hardin) Taliaferro; Chapter IV, p. 101 (citing the first John Taliaferro)
- West, Edmund, comp., Family Data Collection – Individual Records [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2000.
- Some Prominent Virginia Families, Vol. 1-4, p. 14, Ancestry.com, 2005.; Also, Vol. II, p. 736-737.
- Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt, Comp.; Virginia’s Colonial Soldiers: A Supplement. Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly and Magazine of Virginia Genealogy.
- 1717-1721 Essex County, Virginia Wills, Inventories and Settlements of Estates No. 3; An American Family History, [John Frederick Dorman], Pages 157-59.
- Chalkley, Lyman. Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, 1745-1800. Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1965. Originally published in 1912.