John Milam Sr (ca 1713 - 1789) Early History

The published historical data for John Milam Sr. is very confusing with reports that he lived in various, widely dispersed counties in Virginia. Some report that he lived and his children were born in Louisa and Hanover counties in the north and others report Brunswick, Halifax and Goochland counties in the south. Given how forested the land was then and how few and how poor the dirt roads were, it doesn't seem plausible that anyone would frequently move their family over such distances. Since John's descendants are genetically closely related to those of Thomas Milam, the other patriarch of the Virginia Milam family, it is important to clarify the history of his early life.

So what do colonial Virginia court records show? Although my research has focused on Thomas Milam and his sons for more than a decade, I decided to search these counties for Milam family records in order to understand John Sr's early life. Since John Sr and Thomas are related, perhaps learning more about John Sr would clarify where they came from.

First, there are no court records for a John Milam in Louisa or Hanover counties. However there are court records in Brunswick, Chesterfield and Halifax counties for a John Milam.

The second question is: were these records for the same man or was there more than one John Milam? I began with Chesterfield County deeds and found a John Milam's sales deed from 1764 which had a very unique "mark" - not a signature. "his mark" resembles a capital "I" with a third horizonal line across the middle. [643]


 John Milam Sr Signed his 1770 Indenture with his Unique Mark.
John Milam Signature on Indenture

Throughout their lives John Sr and Thomas signed legal documents with "his mark" because they lacked the literacy skills to write their names. It was usually placed between the given name and surname. An attorney or clerk of court would sign their name for them and leave space for them to make "his mark". Robert Wilbanks IV provided me with copies of a 1770 John Milam indenture from Halifax County [644] and a 1789 John Milam will from York County, South Carolina. [645] Below are images of "his mark" from those documents plus others I found in Halifax County including his land sales to his sons Bartlet and Benjamin in 1785. [646, 647]


Chesterfield County, VA Sales Deed 1764            Halifax County Deed to R. Sims 1765                Halifax County, VA, Indenture 1770
Signature 1764 Deed Signature 1765 Signature 1770 Bartlet

Halifax County Deed to Bartlet 1785              Halifax County Deed to Benjamin 1785                       York County, South Carolina Will 1789
Signature 1770 Benjamin Signature 1785 Signature 1789 Will

All of these documents from 1764 through 1789 have the same mark. This is convincing evidence that the same man drew these marks and therefore it was the same John Milam who lived in Chesterfield then Halifax Counties and later died in York County, South Carolina.

Based upon the court records which I found for John Milam Sr and his sons in Brunswick and Chesterfield Counties, I have prepared a chronology of their early lives which you may read here (link) . Below I provide a narrative summary of his early life including the earliest court records for his sons: Adam, Samuel and James. I also found very early records for an Edward Milam. Then in 1770 an Edmund Milam and his wife, Molly, appeared in Brunswick County.

 

Brunswick County

I began reading the Brunswick court order books with the September 1749 session and first found John Milam Sr on 30 JUL 1752 when he filed a petition against a Joseph Hamilton. We learn from a later Brunswick case dated 25 JUN 1754 that John Sr had been in Brunswick since before December 1750. Importantly, his son, John Milam Jr stated in his Revolutionary War pension declaration that he was born in Brunswick County on 12 JUN 1753. [648] So that all fits very nicely. You may read John Jr's pension affidavit here (link). A review of my Chronology of John Milam Sr's Early Life shows that John Sr was mentioned in at least nine court cases in Brunswick County. Thus his existence there is well documented. So far these are the first official county records for him.

 

An Edward Milam is found in Brunswick records on 24 JAN 1754 and 30 MAY 1754 in a case involving John Overby. This indicates that Edward was at least 21 years of age and was born by 1733, or earlier, because a person had to be 21 years of age and a freeman, not an indentured servant (link), to sue or be sued in court. All fourty Milams tested by our Milam Y-DNA Surname Project who are descedants of a colonial Virginia MILAMs are extremely closely related so I am quite certain that Edward Milam and John Milam Sr are related. This raises the interesting questions of whether Edward was a son of John Milam Sr or perhaps a brother or cousin or even John Sr's father. I choose to believe that he is another son of John Sr which means that John Sr must have been born circa 1713 rather than in 1718 or 1720. It is much easier to make this adjustment to John's birth year than it is to prove that Edward was not a son of John Milam Sr. You may read about our Surname Project results here (link) .

However there are no other records for Edward Milam through May 1765 which is as far as I have read. He apparently had no children so I suspect that he died early on in Brunswick. While reading the court records of this period I was struck by the many deaths (will probates) and the many orphaned children assigned guardians. The deaths were probably due to the well known indemic diseases of the time: malaria, yellow fever and small pox. It would be helpful for someone to read even earlier and later Brunswick records to search for more evidence of Edward. Unfortunately I am 77 years old now and have run out of time for this project.

 

Adam Milam first appeared in Brunswick County on 30 MAY 1765 when he sued Benjamin Seaward for a debt. Like Edward, from this entry we know that Adam Milam must have been at least 21 years old at that time and a freeman, not an indentured servant. This means that Adam was born by 1744 or earlier. Adam appeared at least eight more times in Brunswick court orders including on 28 JUL 1766 when the court ordered John Williams to pay unto Adam Milam and Charity Milam "Two Hundred pounds of tobacco each for eight days attendance as a Witness for him against Benjamin Hicks". Adam Milam continued to appear in Brunswick County deed books as a witness at least through 1767. Apparently he was later found across the state border in what became Warren County, North Carolina, as early as 1771, and where Adam Milam died in 1789 leaving a Will naming his children: Lewis, John, Roling, Drury and James. [649]

 

Edmund Milam appeared in Brunswick Order Book 11 on 2 OCT 1770, page 370: "Edmund Milam vs Coalby Randle - Petition: "Upon the petition of Edmund Milam against Coalby Randle for two pounds eighteen shillings and one penny....due by account....It is considered by the Court that the plaintiff recover against the Defendant the said two pounds eighteen shillings and one penny and his Costs by him in this behalf expended." Edmund was also found in Brunswick County Deed Book 11 when he and his wife, Molly Milam, sold livestock to John Swanson for £43, shillings 7. etc. {see details below} Interestingly, an Edmund Millam was a Tithable in Buckingham County in 1774 which is northwest of Brunswick County. [650] Edmund must have been born by 1749. This is fertile gound to persue but I haven't the time.

 

Images of many of these court documents are here and here .

 

I have read Brunswick County Order Book Records from September 1749 - May 1765.

 

Chesterfield County

I began reading the Chesterfield court order books with the June 1759 session and first encountered John Milam Sr on 30 OCT 1760 when he purchased 100 acres of land on "branches of Sappony Creek" from John Tillotson. [656] There are seven other court records for him in Chesterfield County up until he sold his land to Thomas Womack which was proven in court on 1 JUN 1764. [657] During these years John Milam Sr's sons Samuel and James and Samuel's wife, Sarah, first appeared in Chesterfield County records.

 

Samuel Milam is first found on 6 MAR 1761 in Order Book 3 in a suit with Charles Cheatham. From this entry we know that Samuel Milam must have been at least 21 years old at the time and a freeman, not an indentured servant. This means that Samuel must have been born by 1740 or earlier. From a July 1764 entry we learn the name of Samuel's wife, Sarah, in another case: “Samuel Milam and his wife, Sarah, Plaintiffs, vs Charles Cheatham, defendant."

 

James Milam first appeared on 7 MAY 1762 in a road order: “Ordered that the male laboring Tithables of Thomas Branch Jr, John Milam, Henry Mills, William Moore, James Milam and John Dines do work on the Highway under {Thomas ?} Cole.” That James Milam had “Tithables” indicates that he had adult workers, was at least 21 years old at the time and a freeman. This means that James must have been born by 1741 or earlier. Since there is no deed for him in Chesterfield County, James must have leased his land. Being a road order also indicates that these men lived along this Highway relatively close to each other. So these families were neighbors of John Sr and James Milam.

Chesterfield is the county where the Milam families and the Hatcher families are first found together in court records both as plaintiffs and as defendants. During the early 1760s, there are a series of cases in Court Order Book 3 involving them beginning with:

5 JUN 1761, page 137: “Hanah Rudd vs Jamestown Hatcher and John Milam, Debt. Defendants to pay 4 pounds and 16 shillings money & costs….

3 JUN 1763, page 421: “Samuel Milam plaintiff vs Jamestown Hatcher Sr and Jamestown Hatcher Jr defendants. Debt. Dismissed.”

18 AUG 1763, page 446: “James Milam, plaintiff, vs Ann Hatcher, Petition. Judgment for plaintiff of three pounds current money & costs.”

16 FEB 1764, page 477: “Ann Hatcher vs James Milam. Petition. Dismissed.”

4 APR 1764, page 519: “Ordered that the Attachment brought by James Milam against Ann Hatcher be dismissed as to Gerald Walthall, one of the garnishees.”

6 JUN 1766, page 738: "James Milam against Ann Hatcher. Attachment. Dismissed."

These records indicate that the Milams were well acquainted with the Hatchers. The Ann Hatcher mentioned above is most likely the wife / widow of Jamestown Hatcher Sr - Ann (Knibb) Hatcher - whom I found was involved in several other lawsuits in her own name. Chesterfield County deed records show that the Hatcher familes owned a lot of land.

 

As previously mentioned, there are many court records for MILAMs in Halifax County. John Sr acquired at least 1200 acres of land between 18 OCT 1764 [654] and 21 DEC 1786 [655]. Along the way he sold his sons Samuel 100 acres and Thomas 150 acres both on 20 FEB 1783 [651]; and Bartlet 160 acres and Benjamin 150 acres both deeded on 2 FEB 1785 but proven in court on 15 JAN 1786 and 20 DEC 1787 respectively. [646, 647] Sometime after he sold most of his Halifax land to his sons, John Sr moved to York County, South Carolina, where he died in 1789 leaving a Will which named his youngest children: John, Bartlett, Benjamin, Thomas and Nancy. [645]

Samuel Milam purchased 100 acres of land in Halifax County on 20 FEB 1783 from his father, John Sr. [651] I couldn't find a sales deed which suggests that the land was passed to an heir(s) in which case deeds where usually not issued until later requested. He is said to be found later in what became Abbeville County, South Carolina, where he apparently died in the early 1800s.

A James Milam purchased 125 acres of land in Halifax County from a Gent Obadiah on 26 JAN 1795 [652] and sold it on 26 FEB 1798. [653] A James Milam is said to have died in Pittsylvania County.

 

Images of many of these court documents are here , here , and here .

 

I have read Chesterfield County Order Book Records from June 1759 - June 1766.

 

JUST TO REPEAT: no genealogist / historian has yet found similar detailed records for these MILAMS in Goochland, Hanover or Louisa Counties. It would be helpful to all MILAMs if those who propose these counties for the origin of John Milam Sr's family understook similar record searches to support their theories.

 

Possible Issue of John Milam Sr

These estimated birth dates are modified from Robert Wilbanks IV's estimates.

I. Edward, Born by 1733 - ??

II. Grace Milam, Born "circa 1740" - ?

III. Samuel Milam, Born by 1740 - ?

IV. James Milam, Born by 1741 - ?

V. Adam Milam, Born by 1744 - ?

VI. Bartlett {Ferrill} Milam, Born "circa 1748" - Brunswick County

VII. Edmund Milam, Born by 1749 - Brunswick County

VIII. Benjamin Milam, Born "circa 1750" - Brunswick County

IX. John Milam, Jr., Born 12 JUN 1753 - Brunswick County

X. Thomas Milam, Born "circa 1757" - Brunswick County

XI. Nancy Milam, Born - ?

If you subtract those mentioned in John Sr's Will plus those eventually found in Halifax County where John Sr spent much of his adult life, the remainder are: Edward (by 1733), Adam (by 1744), Edmund (by 1749) and possible a Grace (circa 1740) who might not be John Sr's children.

In theory, Edward could be much older - old enough to be the father of Adam and Edmund and for John Sr for that matter. I found no records for a Grace in the above county records during the periods I searched. But it was a man's world then so women were seldom mentioned in court records except for property sales. In 2018 - three hundred years later - it's really a guessing game.............Or is it?

The fact is it puts us back close to 1711 when a passenger, John Mylam, sailed from Bristol, England, to Virginia on board the galley Cranfield referenced in The Complete Book of Emigrants 1700 – 1750! [5] Instead of focusing on the Boston MILAMs of the 1600s maybe we should focus on this Virginia John Mylam of 1711!!

 

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