John Watkins of Henrico County, 1743
by John Hale Stutesman
"John Watkins of Henrico County" made his will there 28 July 1743, signing it with his mark `W'. That document was probated on the "first Monday in May 1744", which suggests that the testator died in early 1744.
He named four sons: David, Isaiah, John and Nathaniel. The first two received only a sterling shilling each, which suggests that they had already received an inheritance. Son John was bequeathed 150 acres in Henrico County "whereon I now live" with "all my carpenter's and cooper's tools". Son Nathaniel received 400 acres in Goochland County on Green Creek "joining on Squire Randolph's line".
John Watkins named four daughters: Lucy Perkins, Constant Woodson, Elizabeth and Joyce Watkins. He appointed his "wife Elizabeth" and son John to be executors. Witnesses were Henry and Ann Stokes, and "Honour Sullavent".
The origins of John Watkins are unknown. Assertions have been made that he was a grandson of the Henry Watkins who was a Quaker farmer on Malvern Hill in Henrico County in the seventeenth century, but assertions are the enemies of truth. No evidence has been found to prove that case, although it is not implausible.
The first official notice of this man that has been found is in a deed dated 1 May 1732 when Henry Stokes bought land in Henrico County "at the mouth of Beachem Run, near John Watkins's Mill" and touching "Upuans Brook". This is the Henry Stokes who would witness his neighbor's will in 1743. "Upuans Brook", now known redundantly as "Brook Creek", was also know in the eighteenth century as "Ufnam", "Oughnom" and "Upland" Brook. It rises north of Richmond and flows easterly to enter the Chickahominy near Meadow Bridge. "Beachem Run", a tributary stream, was named for an early landowner of that region, John Beauchamp, pronounced today as in England, "Beacham". The site is known as Chamberlayne Heights.
The 1743 will of John Watkins identifies the land which he bequeathed to his son, John as "100 acres that I purchased of Richard Parker" with fifty adjoining acres that he received in a grant in 1733 "on north side of Ufham Brook, adjoining Beacham's Branch." There is no other surviving record of the purchase from Parker, but the deed of May 1732 indicates that John Watkins had a mill on his land before that date.
In September 1736, Michael Sullivan made his will in Brunswick County, naming among his heirs "my daughter Honour" whom he left "to the care of her aunt Elizabeth Watkins, wife of John Watkins, liveing in Henrico County near the brook bridge." That bridge on the main road north out of Richmond crossed Upuan's Brook, now Brook Creek, about a mile west of Watkins's Mill. "Honour Sullavent" was a witness to the 1743 will of John Watkins.
This is evidence that Elizabeth, wife of John Watkins was either a sister of Michael Sullivan or a sister of Sullivan's wife, whose name was "Joyce". It is pertinent that the Watkins named a daughter Joyce.
In 1738 the Brunswick County Court directed that "all the estate left by will to Michael Sullivent's sons John and Michael and to his daughter Honour Sullivant" should be delivered "to John Watkins" by the widow who had married William Reynolds.
In 1739 John Watkins was a processioner for Henrico Parish of "all land between Chickahominy Swamp and Upland Brook". In 1742 he and his neighbor Henry Stokes appraised an estate in Henrico County. In 1743 he obtained a grant of 400 acres in Goochland County that he would bequeath promptly to his son Nathaniel. He died soon thereafter.
His widow was mentioned in August 1758 when the Henrico County Court gave permission to Henry Stokes to make a road from his land to "the main road leading to the Brook Bridge" by passing through the lands of his neighbors, William Bacon and "Elizabeth Watkins". After that she was not found in the records.
Eight children were identified in the 1743 will of John Watkins. His unmarried daughters, Elizabeth and Joyce, named in that will, are subsequent mysteries to this researcher. Son David Watkins may be the man of that name for whom Joshua Fry surveyed 296 acres of land in Albemarle County in 1746. Son Isaiah Watkins probably is the man of that name who served on a jury in Albemarle County in 1746, with David Watkins.
Son John Watkins can be more clearly identified. In 1744 he inherited the land and mill of his father a few miles north of Richmond. In 1784 his executors sold that land. At that time they were disposing of the estate of "John Watkins, deceased, of the County of Buckingham". This leads to that "burned record county"; but there is a fortunate bit of evidence. In 1859 a man wrote from that county to his kinsman, F.N. Watkins, who was preparing his Catalogue of the Descendants of Thomas Watkins of Chickahominy.
I have found in Buckingham County Court the will of John Watkins made the 8th day of February 1768 and submitted to record the 9th day of March 1768. Wife is mentioned in the will but her name is not given. Names of four sons: John, Robert Bolling, Fleming, [and] Lewis. In it he refers to the will of David Watkins of Henrico County.
Why it took so long, about sixteen years, for that estate to be settled, is a mystery today. Probably there was a struggle between heirs. Two of those heirs, John and Robert Bolling Watkins, migrated to Harrison County, Kentucky. Nathaniel Watkins, another son of the John Watkins who died in 1744, died intestate in Albemarle County in 1797, leaving a widow, Celia.
Two daughters of John Watkins left surviving records. Lucy Watkins married William Perkins, a son of Constantine and Anne Pollard Perkins of Henrico County. They lived on land in Albemarle County which would be included in Buckingham County in 1761.
Constant (not Constance, as many chroniclers assert) was named in her father's will in 1743 as "Constant Woodson". She had married Obadiah Woodson, a son of Richard and Anne Smith Woodson of Henrico County. A child, Obadiah, was born circa 1735. In March 1740/41, Obadiah, joined by his wife "Constant Woodson" sold some land in Goochland County.
Obadiah Woodson was a land dealer, acquiring great tracts of unsettled land. In September 1766, he made his will in Prince Edward County, leaving to "Constant my dearly beloved wife this plantation whereon I now live" and he appointed her to be executrix. In July 1773, "Constant Woodson" made her will there. It was probated the following November.
Note: This article as all others are well-documented with end notes in each issue of the magazine.