The Two Wives of Thomas Owsley II – the Full Story
By Ronny O. Bodine
With special thanks to Aaron Stevens
This article was first published in the September 2009 issue
of the Owsley Family Historical Society Newsletter.
The fact that Thomas Owsley II (d. 1750) of Fairfax County, Virginia had two wives is still open to debate, but, I suspect will eventually be accepted by most as an unproven yet highly probably fact. The OFHS DNA Project has established that all but one of the sons of Thomas Owsley was borne to the same father. The DNA testing results have proven that Thomas was the father of his eldest son, Thomas III, as well as his fourth, fifth and sixth sons—Newdigate, Points and Weldon (his third son, William, left no testable descendants), but not his second son, John. Clearly, John Owsley (c1734-1764), the progenitor of the Tennessee branch of the family, was fathered by someone other than Thomas Owsley II. But if Thomas acknowledged John in his will as his son and John and Thomas III transacted land deals in which John calls Thomas his brother, there had to be another woman in the life of Thomas Owsley II. Barring his wife Ann being unfaithful and deceiving her husband into believing John was his natural son, there is only one other explanation, that there was an undocumented first wife who lived just long enough to bear one child, Thomas III in 1731/2, and then passed from history soon after his birth, perhaps even in childbirth, to be succeeded by the better known Ann about 1733, either bringing an infant with her into the marriage or pregnant with one. This Ann, for much of Owsley recorded history was known as Ann West, because her husband, Thomas Owsley, named as his executor of his will his brother (interpreted to mean brother-in-law), Hugh West. And Ann West remains to this day on countless internet websites that have long been abandoned by their owners and yet still report this disproven fact to the otherwise clueless. Those within the OFHS and those who have visited the OFHS website know that Hugh West was not the brother-in-law of Thomas Owsley as was long supposed, but, as stated in the will, his brother, actually his maternal half-brother, and thus Ann lost her connection to the West family and the Owsleys to any descendancy from the Wests. Since that time, more than a decade ago, the question has been raised as to what family Ann did belong to. There has been some speculation, but that is as far as it has gone, just speculation. Until 27 June 2009, that is, when I received an email from Aaron Stevens, someone outside of the society, but with whom I have previously corresponded on the Stephens family of Loudoun County, Virginia. While pursuing his research on the Stephens family he stumbled across documentation that has now clearly established the identity of the second wife of Thomas Owsley II, mother of all of his children, with the exception of his eldest son, Thomas Owsley III. The evidence is clear and there is no doubt. The second wife of Thomas Owsley II is Ann….but let’s start at the beginning.
On 9 Dec 1750, Sarah Settle of King George County, Virginia composed her last will and testament. Therein she did “…give and bequeath to my son William Hudson and William Allan my grandson…one hundred and sixty acres of land to be equally divided between them being 160 acres my Father gave to me, the said William Allan not disturbing or molesting my Daughter Lucy Hudson…” Further, “I give my Daughter Ludy Hudson 1060 pounds of Tobacco due to me for rent of the plantation where Archibald Allan now liveth she paying my debts…” Sarah Settle went on to “…appoint William Allan my grandson and my Daughter Lucy Hudson sole Executors…” The will was witnessed by John Stevens, Sarah Tinder, and Elizabeth Allan. The will was presented in court and admitted to record on 2 Jan 1755. (King George Co. Wills, Book A, p. 39-41)
King George County was created in 1721 out of Richmond County and in 1750, when Sarah Settle wrote her will, was surrounded by the counties of Stafford, Caroline, Essex and Westmoreland.
In analyzing the foregoing will, we find that those named as heirs of Sarah Settle were:
Son William Hudson
Daughter Lucy Hudson
Grandson William Allan, who’s parents may be the Elizabeth Allan who witnessed the will and Archibald Allan, living on Sarah Settle’s plantation and paying her rent.
It is also clear that Sarah had at one time been married to a Hudson, but was subsequently the wife of a Settle. Examination of King George County Court Order Book 1 (1721-1734), revealed on page 489 that on 6 March 1729/30, administration was granted to Sarah Hudson, widow of William Hudson, deceased, and that on the same day she acknowledged her bond as his administratrix with Rush Hudson, her security (King George Co. Bond Book 1 [1723-1735], p. 276) and that an inventory was recorded on 3 April 1730 (King George Co. Inventory Book 1 [1721-1741], p. 141).
Based upon undocumented postings on various websites, Sarah Hudson married as her 2nd husband, Benjamin Settle, the date of 1742 being given in many cases, with no reference to a source. I was unable to find any reference to Benjamin Settle and Sarah Hudson in the same context, but did find that on 5 March 1752, Edward Dixon gave his bond as administrator of the estate of Benjamin Settle, deceased, with Samuel Skinner as his security. (King George Co. Bond Book 3 [1739-1765], p. 115)
And who was Rush Hudson? Perhaps a sibling of William Hudson? What with such an unusual name the heritage of this family should be easily traced. Were it only so. According to the will of Joshua Hudson of Westmoreland County, Virginia of 6 June 1704, his sons were John, Joshua, Caleb and Rush----no William. [Westmoreland Co. Deeds and Wills, Book 3 [1701-1707], p. 246-247) Rush Hudson died in 1735 as on 7 Nov 1735 administration on his estate was granted to Edward Turbervile and Sarah, his wife. Sarah was the widow of Rush Hudson and, as the saying of the time goes, “Marry well and often,” did not wait all that long to remarry. Edward Turbervile, actually Turberville, was her 3rd husband and outlived all three, dying shortly before 28 May 1761 in Orange County, Virginia (Orange Co. Wills, Book 2 [1744-1778], p. 310-311).
It is fortunate for the posterity of Thomas Owsley II that Sarah Settle’s daughter, Lucy Hudson, also left a will. Written on 24 July 1756, just about one and one-half years after her mother’s passing, and probated on 2 Sept 1756, Lucy Hudson of the parish of Hanover, King George County did “…give and bequeath to my cousins Samuel Peril and Pine Housley all my money & the money of a Thousand Weight of Crop tobacco which Capt. Joseph Strother hath to sell for me. To my Sister Ann Housley my Mothers green cloak & the Country Cloth that is at the weavers Vizt.” She makes further bequests to “…my Sister Elizabeth Allen,” “…my Sister Martha Peril…” and “…my Brother William Hudson…” whom she appoints as Executrix and Executor. Witnesses to the will were John Stevens, Ann Stevens and John Hammit. (King George Co. Wills Book A, p. 52-53).
In the foregoing will, Lucy Hudson names Ann Housley as her sister and refers to Pine Housley as her cousin. In the records of Loudoun County, Virginia, Poyntz or Pointz Owsley, son of Thomas II, is occasionally referred to Pine or Pines Owsley or Housley. The term “cousin” was, for that time period, applied to a near relative such as a nephew or niece, which Ann’s son was to Lucy Hudson.
So, in combining the family relationships named in the two wills, we can produce the following chart:
William Hudson = Sarah = Benjamin Settle
d. 1730 d. 1755 d. 1752
Lucy Hudson William Hudson Ann Owsley Martha Peril Elizabeth Allen
d. 1756 | | |Pine "Housley” Samuel Peril William Allen
And what of the land that Sarah Settle devised in her will upon her son William Hudson and grandson William Allan? The 160 acre tract was received by her from her father and was to be divided equally between the two. I was unable to identify the tract with the resources available to me. It is also unclear who Sarah’s father was. Most websites name him simply as William Allen or John Allen with no reference to a source and this should be considered with caution. The 160 acre tract would have been originally situated in Richmond County and perhaps earlier in its parent county of Old Rappahannock from which it had been formed in 1692. I found no description of this tract in Sarah Settle’s will nor in the deeds of Richmond and King George County, but the share of William Allan was described in a King George County deed of 27 Oct 1779 between William Allan and Mary, his wife, of Culpepper County and Thomas Smith, of King George County. This tract of land was in Hanover Parish, King George County and contained 98 ½ acres “…according to survey lately made thereof [by] John Triplett Junr., Surveyor of County of King George, which land was given to William Allan intailed by the Last Will and Testament of Sarah Settle, deceased, dated the nineteenth day of December one thousand seven hundred and fifty four…” and bordered on that of Samuel Kendal and Colonel William Green. (King George Co. Deeds, Book 5 [1765-1783], p. 1195.)
William Allan died in 1799 as per his will of 12 July 1799 which was proven on 16 Sept 1799 in Culpepper County, Virginia (Wills, Book D [1791-1803], p. 256-258).
The other portion of the land had earlier been disposed of by William Hudson as by deed of 15 Sept 1770, William Hudson and Abagail, his wife, of Hanover Parish, King George County sold their share of his land to Samuel Kendall, his neighbor and described it as lying between the land of Kendall and William Green. (King George Co. Deeds, Book 5 [1765-1783], p. 855.)
And so I come to the conclusion. There are many avenues yet to explore and I will open this to the reader. I utilized the resources of the Washington Memorial Library of Macon, Georgia which may house the finest genealogical collection in the state. Yet there are other, larger collections scattered across the country that may have resources that will fill in the gaps. I now challenge you, the reader, to go forth and find the answers. And when you have done so, the OFHS Newsletter will stand available to present your work.
"There's More to the Story"
"Wife of Thomas Owsley II"