James Arline’s Bastardy Bonds

James Arline

Documents describing the land of James Arline, 1791

JAMES ARLINE (1739-1791), my ancestor, was named on two bastardy bonds in Gates County in the 1780s.  James was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and descended from a family that had lived in what became Gates County since the late 17th century. He is an important character in this story.

In May 1783, we was named on a bastardy bond concerning Sarah Collins. Five years later, in August 1788, he was named on a separate bond concerning Charity Russell. Arline’s property was located between Cole Creek and Bennetts Creek, so more or less in the vicinity of the old Chowan Indian Reservation.

There is no definitive way to identify how Sarah Collins and Charity Russell are related to my ancestors Thomas Collins (1769-1849) and George Russell. However, both Thomas Collins and George Russell appear in James Arline’s list in 1785. Thomas Collins has no acreage. George Russell has 25 acres. It’s conceivable that Sarah Collins might have been a sister or mother of Thomas. George Russell might have been the father of Charity.

Sarah Collins does appear in the 1800 US Federal Census for Gates County, as head of a household of two. She may be the female aged 45 or older (born prior to 1755), and her daughter with James Arline may be the female aged 16 through 25 (born 1775 to 1784). Based on the bastardy bond, this child would be born in about 1782 or 1783.

What is clear is that James Arline had a close relationship with the Collins and Russell families. His son, Jesse Arline (1776-1842), later removed from the Bennetts Creek area to Nansemond County, where he lived on the border with North Carolina. He may have gained this property through his marriage to Mildred Williams, the daughter of Jonathan Williams. In the late 1790s, we also see the movement of the Collins and Russell families to this area. Unfortunately, since the Nansemond records have not survived, we cannot see from whom the Collins or Russell families acquired their land.

However, one educated guess could be from the Arline family. I have wondered how the poor, Scratch Hall Collins and Russell families became associated with landowning families like the Arlines. It appears it may have been through these kinds of events.

One son of Thomas Collins and Anna Russell, Graham Collins (1802-1880), my ancestor, married Jesse Arline’s daughter Nancy Arline (1800-1880), and his brother, Thomas Collins (1806-1888), married another daughter, Mary “Polly” Arline. Yet all of these families originated in the Bennetts Creek area, as confirmed by these bastardy bonds.

I do not have a document that shows these families were Indian. However, they were certainly “poor whites,” and were living in proximity to a Native American community with whom I have shown via various estate records they had some kind of extant ties. (James Robbins appears on the estate record of Sarah Russell, James Collins and James Russell appear on the estate record of James Beasley). Given the fact that later generations of people in both family were recorded as colored, it suggests the Collinses and Russells in the area were “fringe” families that had spun out into the poor white community. They were  part of the Scratch Hall people about whom I have written.

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