Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The legal records of Robert Craig Graham

The first of "my" Graham's to come to America was Robert Graham. He came from County Down, Ireland around 1774. His son was also named Robert Graham. Robert Jr. is my 4th great grandfather. He was born during the Revoluntionary War while his family lived in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. They soon moved to Southwest Virginia, to what would become Wythe County. (Incidentally, there still are many Graham's in the area.)

Robert Jr. married into the Crockett family. His wife was Catherine Crockett. There is some family lore that Catherine is related to the famous "Davy Crockett." This may be true, but there were a lot of Crocketts around at the time. I haven't done exhaustive research on this connection, but haven't found any direct relationship there. Still, it would be fun to nail it down sometime in the future.

Robert and Catherine had several tracts of land and there are still many documents in the basement of the courthouse in Wythe, Virginia. What got me started on this angle was a piece of family lore that said Robert was well off financially until he co-signed a note for a friend. He ended up having to make good on the debt, which ruined him financially. He felt that Virginia was no place for a poor man so he took his wife and six children and set out for Missouri around 1834. I thought it would be neat to verify this by looking at some of the recorded documents in Wythe County.

Through a wonderful service called "Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness" a kindhearted volunteer spent several hours and a couple trips to the basement of the Wythe County Courthouse to make copies of the documents that had Robert and Catherine's name on them.

It is good I have a legal background! Reading these old documents was a real exercise, even after being accustomed to legal jargon. Property never was my favorite class in law school. But perhaps if I had to read legal descriptions like this, I would have liked it better. Robert and Catherine are selling 53 acres of land in 1829 to a man named Jezreel Harmon for $62. But check out this legal description (I've highlighted the legal description part) :

This Indenture made this seventh day of February one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine between Robert Graham & Catharine his Wife of the County of Washington & Jazreel Harmon of the County of Wythe both of the state of Virginia witnefseth that the said Graham for and in consideration of the sum of Sixty two Dollars to him in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath this day bargained and sold and by there presents do bargain and sell unto the said Jazreel Harmon a certain tract or parcel of land lying and situated on the waters of the north fork of Holstein River and Bounded as followeth to wit Beginning at a poplar corner of said Harmon land conveyed to him from Solomon McDaniel and from thence S. 72 ½ ° E 100 poles to a Lynn & Beach S. 75° E. 140 poles to a Cucumber N. 14° E 58 poles to a sugar tree S 17° E 62 poles to a beach South 30 poles to a Sugar tree N 72° W. 70 poles to a beach West 47 poles to a beach on the top of a ridge & thence N 72° W. 126 to a stake poles Thence N. 15° E 28 poles to the Beginning with all and singular the appurtenances thereto belonging to have and to hold the said Tract or parcel of land containing fifty three acres by survey be the same more or lefs with its appurtenances to the sole ure and behoof of him the said Jazreel Harman & his heirs and the said Robert Graham & Catharine his Wife for themselves & their heirs the said land free from the claim or claims of all and every person or persons whatsoever unto the said Jazreel Harmon and his heirs forever.
I know its hard to read--the whole thing is a continous run on sentence! Plus, there are spelling conventions that have changed since then. (Like using an "f" in place of "s" in some spots). But isn't it interesting how they reference the area not by metes and bounds or by lot numbers like our modern deeds do. No, they walk you around the property starting at a poplar tree by a river, to a sugar tree, etc.

I've got several documents that this angel/volunteer copied for me. One of the latest in time (1833) is between Robert and Catherine and their son John G. Graham for $1. In it, they give John (also in my direct line), all of Catherine's interest in the estate of her uncle, Robert Sayers.

Someday I would like to travel to Wythe County for myself and be able to peruse the originals!

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