1744 Last Will of Margaret Patterson Adams

1744 Last Will of Margaret Patterson Adams

Bio | Why Not Donnell | 1744 Will | Timeline | Sussex DE | Augusta VA 

By Wes Patterson (Last Revised: 15 August 2018)

Margaret Adams - as she was known the majority of her life - was never named Margaret Donnell. I discuss that on the Bio page, so I won't go into the details here, other than to mention it since she is so widely "known" by that name. Her name was Margaret _____ Patterson Adams, and she wrote her last will and testament in 1744. However, she lived another 20+ years before she died in the late 1760's and her will was probated in 1770, Augusta Co VA.

The Families of Margaret Patterson Adams

Margaret was first married to William Patterson, by whom she had at least two children, Robert Patterson and Elizabeth Patterson, who married Jeremiah Harrison. In Margaret's will, she names three grand-daughters. One is Mary Patterson, daughter of Robert. Another was Esther Harrison and was known to have been a daughter of Jeremiah Harrison, thus she was a daughter of Elizabeth Patterson Harrison.

After William Patterson died (probably around 1710-1715), she married again, to John Adams. By him she had at least three children, a daughter who married Andrew Donelson, a son named Samuel Adams who married a woman also named Margaret, and lastly another daughter, Jane Adams, who married Daniel Love. The third grand-daughter of Margaret named in her will was Margaret Dollinson, but should have been spelled Donelson. John Adams apparently died sometime in the 1720's.

The Plantation of Margaret Adams

Margaret wrote her will in 1744, several years after they had moved from Sussex Co DE to Augusta Co VA near Harrisonburg. They lived along Linville Creek. It seems that Margaret's daughter (that had married Andrew Donelson) had already died by 1744. In her will she mentioned her 340 acre plantation along Linville Creek, and bequeathed it to both of her sons, Robert Patterson and Samuel Adams.

Margaret's land had been originally surveyed under the name of "Mary Adams", by mistake. Unfortunately, that error was perpetuated for decades and after her death it ultimately led to the land being lost from the family due to not being able to obtain a clear title without undo expense. These events can be seen on the Timeline page.

The Will of Margaret Adams

The will of Margaret Adams was written on 3 September 1744 and was written as under Orange Co VA. Years later when probated, it was filed under Augusta County (Augusta Co VA Will Book 4, pp.301-304).
3d September, 1744. Margaret Adams' Will, of Orange County
In the name of God Amen
The last will and testament of Margaret Addams of ye Colony of Virginia & in the County of Orange being very sick & weak of body but in perfect mind & memory Do first of all Bequeath my soul to almighty God & give it & my body to ye Earth from wence it came to be buried in such Decent manner ass my Executors shall think proper and ass for my worldly goods I bequeath in ye following manner
Item I bequeath my great mair called long legs to my Son Robert Patterson but her increase to his children to be Equally devided among them.
Item I bequeath my Cotton Gound Quilted petty Coat with one apron and one handkerchief to Mary Patterson Daughter of my Son Robert Patterson.
Item I bequeath to my Daughter Jane Love my bed I now ly on with the bolster & one pair of sheets.
Item I bequeath to my Grand Daughter Margaret Dollinson my Side Saddle and fan. [WP: her name was Margaret Donelson]
Item I bequeath to my Grand Daughter Esther Harrisson one Cow & Calf.
Item I bequeath all ye Remaining part of my wearing apparel to be Equally Devided between My Daughter Elizabeth & my Daughter Jane.
Item I bequeath to my Daughter Elizabeth my box Iron & heaters with one puter Dish & one young horse.
Item I bequeath one young heifer to my Son in Law Daniel Love.
Item I bequeath my Riding mair a young horse & one Cow & Calf with my now Dwelling plantation with all ye tracts of Land thereto belonging with all my household goods Except the perticulers before bequeathed to my Son Samuel Addams to him & his heirs for Ever.
Item I bequeath all my Debts Due to me to be Equally Devided between my Son Robert Patterson & my Son Samuel Addams.
Appointing my Son Robert Patterson & my Son Samuel Addams my Whole & Sole Executors and Administrators Utter Revoking and Disannulling all other wills formerly by me made Acknowledging this to be my last will and testament unto which I have Sett my hand this third Day of September & In ye year of Our Lord God 1744.
Margaret (her mark “X”) Addams
Mark of Margaret Adams on the Original 1744 Will
Mark of Margaret Adams on the Original 1744 Will

In the presence of
Sam’l Hull
Jacob Gum
Thomas (his mark “T”) Lunday

Signatures of Testators on the Original 1744 Will
Signatures of Testators on the Original 1744 Will

Acceptance of Will by Children of Margaret Adams

Margaret identified her two sons as executors. Therefore, the remaining children wrote and signed a letter of acceptance of the Will some 12 days after Margaret penned it. Notice the absence of the daughter who married Andrew Donelson, further indication that she had already passed away. This too was filed under Augusta County (Augusta Co VA Will Book 4, pp.301-304).
15 September 1744, We the children of Margaret Adams, have reserved of the Exeter the full of all legacy I say revd accorden to her desire and will.  Signed: Danl Love, Jan Love (mark), Elisabeth Harrison (X her mark).
Original 1744 Statement of Acceptance by the Children of Margaret Adams
Original 1744 Statement of Acceptance by the Children of Margaret Adams
Closer look at Original Signatures of Children of Margaret Adams
Closer look at Original Signatures of Children of Margaret Adams

The Death of Margaret Adams

It is not clear when Margaret died. It was no later than 1770, but it could have been as early as 1768 or even earlier. Robert Patterson appears to have moved to South Carolina by 1767 at the latest. Court cases involving her land and her sons and heirs began in March of 1768 and continued through 1770. It would be safe to say she died circa 1765-1770.

Probates of Margaret Adams' will in 1770

We learned from the Thomas Jefferson's Memorandum Books (the legal cases mentioned above) that due to the wrong name (Mary Adams) being on the Land Patent, there was not a clear title that could be passed on to her heirs. By 1748, her son Samuel Adams had also died, leaving a widow (also named Margaret Adams), and at least one child, a son also named Samuel Adams. By 1770, the Samuel Adams referred to was the grandson of Margaret Adams in question.

The first probate in 1770 involves a letter of disclaimer from Robert Patterson stating that he had no desire to make any claim on his mother, Margaret Adams' land on Linville Creek. By this time, Robert Patterson was living along Clarks Fork of Bullocks Creek in what would one day be York Co SC, but in 1770 it was under the jurisdiction of Tryon Co NC. This too was filed under Augusta County (Augusta Co VA Will Book 4, pp.301-304).
These are to certify to all persons whom it may concern that I, Robert Patterson of North Carolina, Tryon County, son of William Patterson deceased, do disclaim any right or title that is or may be alledged belonging to me of a certain tract of land lying and being in Agusta County upon a small branch on the south side of Linwells Creek which said land was taken up by Margaret Adams, the widow of John Adams deceased. Witness my hand this first day of February 1770.
Robert (his mark “R”) Patterson.
Teste: Francis Adams, J. P., North Carolina, Tryon County.
This is to Certify that the within subscribed Francis Adams hath been Legally Qualified According to Law to act as Majistrate within our said County.  Signed: Ezekiel Polk, CF.  [WP: Ezekiel Polk was the grandfather of James Knox Polk, President of the USA]
1770 Letter of Disclaimer to Margaret Adams' land by Robert Patterson
1770 Letter of Disclaimer to Margaret Adams' land by Robert Patterson
Closer look at Robert Patterson's "R" mark
Closer look at Robert Patterson's "R" mark
15 May 1770, At a Court held for Augusta County May the 15th 1770 The Last Will and Testament of Margaret Adams decd was proved by the oaths of Samuel Hull and Jacob Gum two of the witnesses thereto and ordered to be Recorded and on the motions of Samuel Adams who made oath according to law certified is granted him for obtaining Letters of Administration with the will annexed he having with Security entered into and Acknowledged their hand according to law.
15 May 1770, Know all men by these presents that we Samuel Adams and Joseph Dictum and John Madison Junr. Are held and firmly bound unto James Lockhart, John Bowyer, John Christian and George Moffett, Justices in the Commission of the Peace for Augusta County for and in behalf of the Justices of this County in the sum of one hundred pounds to be paid to the Justices and their … which payment … Thirty to be made we bind ourselves there and unto … Executors and Administrators jointly and morally firmly by these Presents … with our hand dated this 15th day of May 1770.  The Condition of this Obligation is such that of the above bound Samuel Adams Administrator with the will of Margaret Adams decd do make or Cause to be made true and perfect Inventory of all … the goods chattels and … Signed: Samuel Adams, Joseph Dictum, John Madison Junr. [WP: Samuel Adams was grandson of Margaret Adams; Joseph Dictum was husband of Rachel Love Dictum who was a granddaughter of Margaret Adams; John Madison Junr was no relation, but he was the 2nd cousin to James Madison future President of the USA.]
15 May 1770, Samuel Adams of North Carolina to Joseph Dictum, power of attorney to convey 340 acres on Branches of Linvells Creek devised by Margaret Adams and from him [WP: "him" must refer to Samuel Adams Sr deceased] descended to Samuel as eldest son and heir, having been patented in the name of Mary Adams.  Signed: Samuel Adams.  Acknowledged: 15 May 1770 by Samuel Adams.
One final deed shows up in 1772 that closes the loop on the outcomes of Margaret Adams' land. This was filed in Augusta Co VA Land Patent Book 40, p. 710.
20 June 1772, Michael Bower and John Madison Jr, 340 acres in Augusta County on a branch of Linwells Creek. Whereas by patent 12 May 1759 Granted unto Mary Adams And whereas Samuel Adams in whom the Right of the said land is since become vested hath failed to pay such Quitrent and John Madison Jr. hath made humble suit and obtained a Grant for the same part whereof he hath assigned unto Michael Bower; £1 15 Shillings.


Margaret Adams' 1744 will sheds light on a moment in time as to the possessions and life style of an American Colonial family. She lists many household items and farm animals, such as:
  • a great mare horse named "Long Legs"
  • a cotton gown
  • a quilted petty coat
  • an apron
  • a handkerchief
  • a bed with bolster and a pair of sheets
  • a side saddle
  • a fan
  • a cow and calf
  • wearing apparel
  • a box iron and heaters
  • a pewter dish
  • a young horse
  • a young heifer
  • a riding mare horse
  • a young horse
  • a cow and calf
  • a dwelling plantation with tracts of land thereto belonging
  • household goods
This is quite an inventory to say the least.

Wes Patterson

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