Beasley Branch

I ARRIVED AT AN UNDERSTANDING in my previous posts that the main Gates County Russell line that I needed to focus my research on was that of George Russell (c.1735-c.1791), because it was his 25 acres that was passed to his son or relative James Russell (c.1762-c.1817), and that this same James Russell was an undisputed neighbor to my ancestor Thomas Collins, and very likely his brother-in-law. The location of this land seems to be somewhere in the vicinity of modern-day Eure, Hall Township, North Carolina, not too far from a stream and local landmark called “Beasley Branch.”

I am unsure of the provenance of the name “Beasley Branch,” but the Beasleys were a landowning and slave owning family from Edenton, and are listed on records there in the 18th century. It is perhaps from this family that the “Charles Beasley” who signed the Chowan Indian land conveyances in the 1730s obtained his name.  However, there are few, if no, people who can trace descent from this individual.

There are some Beasleys who do surface in the early 19th century Gates County records who are not identified as Indian (or White or Black, for that matter). They do belong to the category of what could be called ‘ shadow people’: individuals to appear in land deeds or occasional tax lists but do not appear on federal censuses, for instance. It seems odd that in such a sparsely populated place, census takers would routinely not be able to account for some families that apparently had always been there, but this seems to be the case.

One of these shadow people is James Beasley, who died in 1815, and who was apparently from this same corner of Gates County. His estate sale lists some interesting names:

  • Collins, James
  • Crafford, John
  • Cross, David
  • Cross, Elisha
  • Cross, William
  • Cross, Willis
  • Dunford, John
  • Goomer, William
  • Hare, Henry
  • Jones, Henry
  • Jones, Thomas
  • Jones, Simmons
  • Lang, Joshua
  • March, William
  • Morgan, Benjamin
  • Odom, William
  • Parker, Jesse
  • Parker, Miles
  • Russell, James
  • Saunders, John
  • Saunders, Lawrence
  • Sears, William
  • Speight, John
  • Speight, William
  • Sumner, Josiah
  • Watson, Elisha
  • Waters, Stephen

That’s a long list of individuals, yet some of the relationships can already be worked out by looking at marriage records. Simmons Jones, for instance, married Barsha Beasley in 1813. James Beasley’s wife was Rebecca Sumner. Moses Jones married Nancy Beasley in 1792. And Benjamin Saunders married Rachel Beasley in 1801. That makes the Beasley, Jones, Sumner, and Saunders families in laws.

Another Beasley marriage, here not referenced was between Jacob Robbins and Beley Beasley in 1809. Jacob Robbins later remarried to Julia Cross in 1817. This shows that the Beasleys were also likely related to the Robbinses and the Crosses. (Interesting for my research, as my ancestor Edwin Cross was quite likely from this branch of the family). Jacob Robbins was the son of James Robbins, the Chowan Indian headman, and head of a household of 5 “other free” in 1810. This apparently included Beley Beasley.

The name Elisha Watson is also interesting here. Mary Beasley was renting a house from David Watson in 1795 in Gates County. She may have been the Polly Beasley listed as the head of a household of 5 other free in Washington County in 1810. This again shows the link between Algonquian families in Gates County and the traditional Machapunga area.

So, as we can see, a high proportion of the participants in the estate sale were from families that married into the Beasley family. Some of the other names here, like Lang and Sears, were clearly neighbors in this area, and perhaps were also relatives. This makes the participation of James Russell and James Collins all the more interesting, as both men by that time (1815) clearly resided in the Cypress Chapel District of Nansemond County, about 25 miles northeast of this particular area. Why would James Russell and James Collins travel to Hall Township to participate in an estate sale for James Beasley when they can be found on no other estate records, other than George Russell’s, that I have looked at?

It’s highly speculative, but it’s possible that James Beasley was their cousin. If George Russell’s wife had been a Beasley, then James Beasley would have been James Russell’s first cousin. And since James Collins married Katherine Russell, James Russell’s younger sister, he would participate in the estate sale of his wife’s first cousin. Since I have shown that members of this family were at times listed as a color other than white, and since the Beasley name in this area is clearly associated with the Chowan Indians, and not with the landowning, slave owning family of Edenton, one could piece it all together as such. That George Russell’s wife was a Chowan Indian of the Beasley family, and that that her son and son-in-law, James Russell and James Collins, participated in the estate sale of their cousin, James Beasley.

I have shown that Charles Russell, the younger brother of James, was listed with a free person of color in his household in the 1800 US Federal Census. This could be their mother, who would have been this hypothetical Beasley woman. Her name might have been Ann, as “Ann Russell” later deeded George Russell’s 25 acres to Charles Russell in 1813. Perhaps she was the daughter, or granddaughter, of the Charles Beasley listed in the Chowan Indian deeds of the 1730s.

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One Response to Beasley Branch

  1. Pingback: Custalow and Dennis | a true relation

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