Why Ann WEST was NOT the wife of Thomas OWSLEY

By Ronny O. Bodine
Heretofore it was believed that the wife of Thomas Owsley II, of Fairfax County, Virginia was named Ann WEST. This "fact" has appeared and continues to appear in countless publications and websites. The truth of the matter is that Thomas Owsley's wife, though named Ann, was not a West. Let's look at the evidence in a question and answer format.

Q. Whoever said that Thomas Owsley's wife was even named Ann West?

A. In his last will and testament of 30 March 1751 [the year should actually read 1750] Thomas Owsley appoints as executors "…my loving wife and my Brother Hugh West…" The will was recorded in Fairfax County Will Book A-1, Part 2, page 468 on 25 June 1751. The interpretation was that Hugh West was actually Thomas Owsley's brother-in-law and thus Owsley's wife Ann was Hugh West's sister, ergo, Ann West came into being. It was a logical assumption even accepted by this writer.

Q. Who was Hugh West?

A. Hugh West was a prominent resident of Fairfax County who served Truro Parish as vestryman, 1744-1754, and as churchwarden, 1746-1747 and 1748. When Alexandria was organized in 1749 he served as a member of the first board of trustees. From 1752 until his death in 1754, he sat in the Virginia Assembly as a burgess from Fairfax County.

Q. What significance does the West connection have?

A. Hugh West was the son of John West "the elder" (to distinguish him from his younger half-brother, Colonel John West "the younger" (c1716-1777)) and grandson of Major John West, a prominent Stafford County land owner, justice of the peace, and militia officer. As a Captain in the Stafford County Militia he was subordinate to Major Thomas Owsley and in December 1701 was appointed to a commission to appraise Owsley's estate. He died in December 1716 leaving a will that was probated before the Stafford County Court on 13 February 1717. Although the original probate records containing this will are lost, a copy has survived in the land Records of Long Standing, p. 166-169. A transcribed copy of this will may be found in Tyler's Quarterly Magazine, volume 20 [1939], pages 102-104. In turn, it was believed that Major John West belonged to the family of the De La Warre Wests who furnished several British governors of Virginia and have a lengthy ancestry.

Q. What determined that Ann was NOT the sister of Hugh West?

A. When it became evident that Hugh West was actually Thomas Owsley's maternal half-brother and not his brother-in-law. Consequently, his reference to West as "my brother" had more significance.

Q. How could Hugh West have been Thomas Owsley's half-brother? How often was his mother married?

A. Previously, it was accepted that after Major Thomas Owsley died in 1700, his wife, Ann, remained a widow for a number of years and eventually married a man named John Wheeler. But now it is clear that in-between these two marriages she had yet another husband. To better answer this question let's look at the evidence.


Husband 1 was Major Thomas Owsley. They were married about 1680 and six children are known: Jane (c1681), Ann (before 24 Mar 1697/8), Mary (before 24 Mar 1697/8), Thomas (before 24 Mar 1697/8), Poyntz and Sarah (1700). Major Thomas Owsley died 10 October 1700 and as late as 10 August 1702 she appeared in a declaration made by attorney George Mason as "Mrs. Ann Ously administratrix of Majr. Thomas Ously." (Stafford County Deeds, vol. J, p. 488)

Husband 2 was John West "the elder". There were probably married in 1703-4. As noted above, Ann was still "Mrs. Ann Ously" on 10 August 1702, but on 14 March 1704, John West Junr. Requested of the Stafford County Court-- "Mr. Waugh. Please to record a cow and yearling for Eliz. Ridgway given to her by my wife in her widowhood…." (Stafford County Record Book, 1699-1709, p. 259) This establishes that John West, who is here called "Junr." to distinguish him from his father, Major John West, had married a widow, though she was not named in this court appearance.

On 26 September 1714, a warrant was issued to Daniel McCarty for 648 acres in Stafford County which included the description: "...beginning at a corner marked hickory of the land of Majr. Owsley on the Southside and near to the sd. run, opposite to the dwelling houses of the sd. Owsley's plantation now in the possession of the Widdow West, late the widow of the sd. Owsley." The land was granted to McCarty on 19 December 1716 (Northern Neck Grants, vol. 5, p. 129) This land warrant establishes that John West was now dead, his wife was a widow and that she had previously been the widow of Major Owsley.

On 4 January 1715, "Mrs. Ann West, widow" is mentioned in Northern Neck Grants, vol. 5, p. 27.      In October 1716 a survey was made for Captain Daniel McCarty of land lying on Pohick and Accotink Creek in Stafford County which included "Part of the Lines of the land the Widow West lives on." (Fredericksburg District Court Plats and Other Papers, Virginia State Library and Archives.)

Finally, in the bible record of Hugh West's son, Rev. William West, he stated his father was Hugh West, born 16 March 1705, the son of John West and Anne Harris. This West family bible record is on deposit with the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.

John West "the younger" and Ann (Harris Owsley) were the parents of two children- Hugh West, born 18 March 1705 and John West, born about 1706.

Husband 3 was John Wheeler. They were married between October 1716, when Ann was referred to in the land survey as "Widow West" and September 1718, when she came into court as "Mrs. Anne Wheeler" to surrender dower rights to the land Thomas Owsley had acquired in 1694 that Thomas Owsley (II) had finally deeded to Daniel McCarty on 14 August 1718. By this time, Ann was beyond child bearing age and there were no further children. It was on 3 April 1724 that a land warrant was issued to John Wheeler and "Thomas Howsley" for 586 acres in Stafford County, granted 5 August 1724 (Northern Neck Grants, vol. A, p. 60). On 21 February 1729 a 197 acre grant was issued to John Wheeler (Northern Neck Grants, vol. C, p. 32) and on 17 July 1739, Thomas Owsley and Ann, his wife, and Ann Wheeler, all of Prince William County, Virginia sell the remaining 400 acres of the 1696 Thomas Owsley land grant (Prince William County Deeds, vol. D, p. 190).


Major Thomas Owsley died in 1700 leaving his wife as "Mrs. Ann Ously, administratrix of Majr. Thomas Ously." She marries again (to John West), survives her second husband and appears as the "Widdow West, late the widow of the sd. Owsley." She marries a third time (to John Wheeler) and as "Mrs. Ann Wheeler" surrenders her dower (i.e. the part of or interest in the real estate of a deceased husband given by law to his widow in her life. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 250) rights to Thomas Owsley's land. Can it be any more clear? I think not.


The foregoing details were first presented in "The West Family of Stafford County, Virginia - The Final Chapter: Being an Account of the Three Husbands of Anne Harris," by Thomas Spalding, in the March 1996 Owsley Family Historical Society Newsletter. Contributing significantly was Anne Schwermer, author of Report on the History of the Barnes-Owsley Site, completed in February 1995, for the Directorate of Public Works, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.