The following was published in Meriwether Connection, vol 13 number 1, Jan-Mar 1994.
Nicholas I & II (cont.)
by Maury Kendall
Going Back. Where were we? In the last article direct evidence [P2] proved: (1) Nicholas II was the son of Nicholas I; (2) his relick, Elizabeth (Woodhouse?) Meriwether, married Lt. Col. William Browne some thing over a year after Nicholas I (NiI) died; and (3) he did so sometime between 19 Dec 1678 and 4 Mar 1678/9. Also clear and convincing evidence [P3] proved that Nicholas II (NiII) was older than his brother, Francis, and probably the oldest son.
Now. Let's build on that and begin reconstructing some of those colonial Meriwether families, recognizing that no single known document does so. As noted above, such accounts will be combinations of facts, deductions. assumptions, and speculations. Try to identify each.
Who Existed? The extent of the first colonial generation of Meriwethers in the English American colonies is not yet known. The relationship of Jo: Merywether, Thomas Merywether, and Rich. Merewether (NHM, pp.24-25) to our known ancestors remains an active research objective, currently pursued by Monte Monroe. We'll leave those targets and others for later analysis.
Direct evidence [P2] does exist proving Francis I and Jane (Meriwether) Hartwell were siblings of Nicholas I. Certainly we know NiI existed in early Virginia. The many consistent references to him found in tax, order, and deed book records outline his span of life and corroborate [P1] his existence.
The Mother. There is ample direct evidence in Surry Co., VA court records that NiI had a wife named Elizabeth, who, when widowed, then married Lt. Col. Wm. Browne, Sr. in 1680 [P1]. We have found no direct evidence as to her maiden name; although, a circumstantial case for Woodhouse [P6] may be constructed.
The Second Generation. Heath properly cited documentation establishing the existence of NiI's six children [P2]: (1) Events related to son William's death provide proof that NiII, William, and Elizabeth were siblings and she was alive and married to Capt. Fra. Clements on 21 Apr 1695 (NHM, pp.41-42-verified; Haun V, p.57) [P2]. (2) About 13 years later, Thomas's will dated 7 Jan 1708/9 identified his sib lings as NiII, New Kent Co.; Francis, Essex Co.; and Jane, wife of Wm. Browne of Surry Co. (NHM, p.45; Dorman, Essex, D&W, 1707-11, 1963, pp.47-48 & 50-verified) [P2]. (3) Corroborating evidence is found in Henry Hartwell's 3 Jul 1699 will, provided by Monte Monroe, in which Nicholas, Francis, Thomas, and Jane were identified (Waters, p.313-not verified) [P1]. Heath acknowledged his lack of evidence establishing the order of birth of NiI's children. Based on new considerations, we will give it a try. Why?
Order of Birth. Accepting that Elizabeth (Woodhouse?) Meriwether married Lt. Col. William Browne, Sr. sometime between 6 Jan and 6 Jun 1680, knowing the relative ages of Meriwether children takes on new meaning. For example, if NiII was in fact born on 26 Oct 1667, he was age twelve and still considered an infant when he joined Col. Browne's household in 1680. His younger siblings probably grew to maturity with an incomplete knowledge of their father, NiI, and his family. Conversely, Aunt Jane (Meriwether?) Hartwell's presence during the next 15 years, until 1695, may have been more important to our family heritage than earlier realized. (Note: Jane may not have been a Meriwether at all.)
Elizabeth was the oldest child. An early Surry Co. court record proves that Fra. Clements married Elizabeth Clough, Exrx. of Mr. Jno Clough, between 4 Sep 1683, when Clough was known to be alive, and 5 Jan 1685/6 (Haun IV, pp.43 & 44) [P2]. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we have to assume this is the same Elizabeth, nee Meriwether, identified in 1695, above--a counter-indicator, but a reasonable position [P5].
Elizabeth's age. Nothing too specific here; however, by 1685 she was obviously mature enough to have been married twice and likely was at least age 19, or born before 1667 [P5]. If we accept Heath's view (NHM, p.28) that NiI married ca.1656 [P5] after he purchased [P1] Island House, Elizabeth might have been born at any time from 1657 to 1666 [P6]. If born in 1657, she could have been married upwards of five years before NiI died in 1678. Evidence available does not provide a specific birth date, but it does seem clear that Elizabeth was a mature woman in 1685 [P4].
Nicholas II. Meanwhile in the same time frame NiII, on 2 Mar 1685/6, is described in court as "underage," or not age 21 (Haun V, p.45) [P2]. Hence we know he was born after 2 Mar 1664/5. The accepted birth date of 26 Oct 1667 seems based on NiII's Bible (Griffith, p.12). When verified, that will be direct evidence [P2] establishing a family base point. NiII would have been age 16 in 1683 and old enough to be taxed and take possession of land (The Source, p.186), but not own it out right. He apparently did take such possession around 1685 when he first appeared in court, not yet age 18, and thereafter (starting 1686) was recorded on the existing tithable lists. Despite all that, he appeared in court six times, including jury duty twice, during the year 1688 before his 21th birthday on 26 Oct 1688 (Haun IV). That strongly demonstrates [P1] he was accepted as age 21 before then and may have been born 26 Oct 1666 rather than 26 Oct 1667. One had to be age 21 to serve on a jury (The Source). (Note: Now believed to have been born Oct 1665)
Francis II. He was at least age 16 when he first appeared on a Surry Co. tithable list with his stepfather, Lt. Col. Wm. Browne, Sr., on 9 Jun 1688, or born before 10 Jun 1672 (VA Gen 23-24). He was not further recorded on Surry Co. tithable lists indicating he may have been elsewhere, perhaps away to school. He must have studied well as less than three years later he was recorded as the county clerk of [Old] Rappahannock (Essex) Co. at the court held on 5 Feb 1691/2 (Sparacio, p.93). He must have been at least age 21, or born before 6 Feb 1670/1 (The Source). It seems reasonable to accept his birth year as ca. 1670 [P4].
Jane. I believe Jane was the next child. As you know, (Connections, Jul-Sep '93) she married Capt. Wm. Browne, Jr., the son of her stepfather, and lived out her life in Surry Co. [P2]. She was generously remembered in her stepfather and fil's 1705 will [P2]. It is significant that her name and Wm. Browne, Jr.'s did not appear on the court record appointing her older siblings, NiII and Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's husband, Francis Clements, as the administrators of Jane's brother William's estate in 1695 (NHM, p.41-verified). Brother Francis was in Essex Co. then; Thomas likely under age. Jane, living in the same household as her brother, William, probably was also under age 21, or born after 1773 (1774+), and not yet married [P5]. [Note: I'm unsure what age to use; she could act as an executor at age 12, release guardian at age 18; or take legal action at age 21 (The Source). She may be younger than Thomas.]
William Browne, Jr. He first appeared on the Surry Co. tithable list in 1686 and again in 1687, suggesting he was born ca. 1670 [P2]. His will was probated in 1747 (Griffith, p.34). He was not recorded with his father's family during the years 1688-1691, possibly studying in England (P&C II). He returned to Col. Browne's household in 1692 and remained there until 1698 when he had established his own taxable property [P2]. He and Jane were probably married by then [P5]. It seems improbable they were married in 1695 [P4] since Wm. Browne, Jr., clearly of age and living in the same household as his stepbrother, William Meriwether, if married to Jane, logically would have been listed as one of William's administrators, as was Francis Clements. Females could release guardians or marry without consent at age 18 (The Source). It appears that in the period 1695-1698 Jane married Wm. Browne, Jr. [P5]. Based on what we know, she likely was born ca. 1675. Determining the age of their children may provide the proof needed.
Thomas. Thomas never appeared in the Surry Co. tithable lists suggesting he was living elsewhere, possibly with NiII or Francis II when he became age 16 [P2]. He did leave a record in Surry. On 7 Jan 1695/6 Thomas Meriwether "orphan of Mr. Nichol. Meriwether, deced..." made a choice of Mr. Wm. Drummond as his guardian. Mr. Edwards appeared in court as security for Mr. Drummond "due ye payment of the estate of Tho. Meriwether when he comes of age É" (Haun V, p.69) [P2]. Thomas had to be at least age 14 to select his own guardian and less than 21 to need one, or born in the period 1676-1682 (The Source) [P2]. Since his father died in Dec 1678, the period of his birth is further limited.
Thomas married first Elizabeth Williamson, the daughter of Henry Williamson, Gent., of Essex Co., whose will was proved 11 Sep 1699 (DB10, p.12) [P2]. Thomas and Elizabeth acted as executors, indicating he was at least age 21, or born before 12 Sep 1678 [P2]. Thomas was born 1676-1678, or ca. 1677 [P3].
William. At the Surry Co. Court on Mar 1694/5 Capt. Francis Clements and his wife Elizabeth and Nicho. were granted a commission of administration on the estate of Wm. Meriwether, Nicholas and Elizabeth being further described as his brother and sister (NHM, p.41 & Haun V, p.57-verified) [P2]. While the required inventory has not been preserved, the nature of the Governor Andros's proclamation on 21 Apr 1695 suggested a personal estate [P5]. Probably the most meaningful record stands mute. William never appeared on the Surry Co. tithable lists [P2}, showing he was less than age 16 in June 1694, the last tithable record before he died in early 1695. He would have been born after 17 Jun 1678, and possibly after his father died in Dec 1678 [P4].
Elizabeth (Woodhouse?) Meriwether Browne. Accepting for the moment Heath's speculation [P7] that Elizabeth was married ca. 1656 at age 18, she would have been age 40 when widowed in 1678 (NHM, p.28). By early 1680 she married Wm. Browne, Sr. Based on the foregoing, in 1680 the approximate ages and order of birth [P5] of her Meriwether children were:
- Elizabeth: 14-23 (b. 1657-1666) [P5]
- Nicholas II: 2-13 (b. 26 Oct 1666/67 [P2]
- Francis II: 10 (b. ca.1670) [P4]
- Jane II: 5 (b. ca.1675) [P5]
- Thomas: 3 (b. ca.1677) [P3]
- William: 1+ (b. 1678/79) [P4]
Were there others? Possibly, but we have no indicators other than Elizabeth's apparent 22 year marriage to NiI in which most of the existing children clearly were born in its later years. Studying that suggests that a case could be made that NiI married and began his family ca. 1666 [P7] when he bought the Indian Springs Plantation (Haun II, p.24) [P2], not 1656 when he bought the Island House, as Heath reasonably speculated [P7]. Perhaps NiI married twice and the Elizabeth Meriwether who married Colonel Browne was not his first wife [P7]. In which case, who was the first? Who was No. 2?
Names. Interestingly, NiI and Elizabeth named their first two children after themselves, the next two after NiI's siblings in Virginia, and the last two, Thomas and William, after two Meriwether English brothers, some held existed [P6]. Thomas may also have been Elizabeth's (Woodhouse (?)) father's name.
Elizabeth Browne. Elizabeth (Woodhouse?) Meriwether probably had another child after she married Lt. Col. Wm. Browne, Sr. Henry Hartwell's 1699 will also included a bequest "To Elizabeth Browne, daughter to Coll. William Browne and niece to my late wife [Jane]É" [P2-not verified]. [Note: based on what we know, the stated relationships seem in conflict, i.e., only a child of NiI and Elizabeth would be a niece as we use the term today. In an earlier day, the term may have meant "granddaughter" or a more distant descendant, in this case a half-sister to her Meriwether nephews and nieces. Alternatively in a completely possible relationship, Monte Monroe suggests that Elizabeth Meriwether Browne could be Elizabeth, nee White, a sister to William White, Aunt Jane's first husband. [Think about it!] Corroborating evidence for this event is needed, but assuming Elizabeth Browne was born within a year after her mother, Elizabeth, married, or in 1681, she would have been age 18 when she received her legacy in 1699 [P5]. Obviously she was reared with her maturing Meriwether siblings in a Browne household, lovingly remembered by Aunt Jane (Meriwether) White Hartwell.
Mother Meriwether/Browne. It seems proper to close out this generation before we leave. Wm. Browne, Sr.'s will was probated in Jul 1705 (Griffith, pp.32-33). He does not recognize a wife, Elizabeth apparently having died before 1705. When? Possibly [P6] as early as 1686 when Nicholas II, apparently in possession of lands, is first taxed. More probably in the period 1692-1695 [P5]. There would have been no need to have siblings appointed as administrators for William's estate or for Thomas to select a guardian had Elizabeth been alive in 1695 [P2]. Nicholas II's decision ca. 1692 to leave Surry Co. and sell his inherited Meriwether home may well have been triggered by his mother's death and the final distribution of his father's estate (Haun V, p.25 & Hopkins, p.39) [P5]. In any case, Francis II selling Island House in 1695 and Thomas asking for a guardian the same year, suggest strongly that by then NiI's estate was settled [P4]. Elizabeth, if born in 1638 (NHM, p.28) [P6], would have been in her fifties when she died ca. 1692 [P4].
How does it all end? I'm not sure. There is still a lot of research and verification needed to confirm the positions presented. Your research, critical comments, and complementary materials are needed and welcome. The next generation of charging Meriwethers is still another story, yet to come.
Copyright 1996 by The Meriwether Society, Inc.