History for William Milam (ca 1738 - 1791)

The Life of William Milam in Historical and Cultural Context

I have hesitated to write about William Milam for a couple reasons: 1) the sheer number of Bedford County court records for him, at least 124 entries, and 2) the many facets of his life: loyal brother; Road "Surveyor"; Lieutenant in the Bedford Militia and Revolutionary War; land owner and farmer. So I have organized my discussion by categories of William's activities.

And importantly, I decided to discuss the details of two important Chancery Court (link) cases in which William co-signed Security (link) Bonds for Zachariah Millam (1773) and Rush Milam (1785) in my chapter on court records for William Milam here (link) . You will especially want to learn how this case with Rush was resolved:

On May 24, 1785, Rush Milam purchased from the Trustees of the Town of Liberty, two 1/2 acre lots - numbers 2 and 3 - in the Town of Liberty for 57 pounds Current money. This purchase resulted in four years of litigation when Rush couldn't pay the mortgage. William Millam co-signed a Security (link) bond with him in 1786. Matters became very serious for them when this occured:

28 MAY 1788 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 9, Page171. In Chancery (link), Trustees vs Milams. On the motion of the Contempts by their attorney, the decree made in this suit at March Court last, the same is set aside & It is Ordered & Decreed that the Mortgaged Premisdes To Wit one hundred acres of land on Read Creek it being the whole of the track of land whereon the said William Milam now lives together with one hundred acres of land whereon the said Rush Milam now lives, likewise a bay horse.....a bay mare.....a grey horse.....a bay mare.....a bay horse....and another bay horse.....be sold by the Sheriff of this County after the 28th day of June next for the best price that can be got for the same to satisfy the Complaintents seventy Pounds 2 Shillings with Legal interest from the seventh day of March 1787 giving Legal notice and the overplus (if any) after Paying the Defts aforesaid and all costs accrued in the Prosecution of this suit to be Refunded to the Defendants & that the Defendants shall be for ever barred of their Right of Equity of Redemption of Mortgaged Premises. You may read this important series of cases here (link) .

William Millam was apparently Thomas Milam's eldest son in which case he was born in Orange County in the Dominion and Colony of Virgina by 1741 - probably earlier. William Milam's land sales on 23 AUG 1773 and on 25 OCT 1790 show that he was married to a Sarah because a "Sarah" relinquished her Right of Dower (link) on both occasions.

"A Deed Milam to Taylor Acknowledged and Ordered Recorded.
Sarah the wife of the said Milam relinquished her Right of Dower etc."
William's Wife Sarah Relinguishes her Dower 23 AUG 1773

William Milam's Early Years in Bedford County

A conumdrum is that the first court record available for William Milam in Bedford County is dated 26 MAY 1760 and pre-dates Thomas and Mary Milam's sale of his 203 acres in Culpeper County dated 17 AUG 1760 [310] and seven months before Thomas signed an indenture with Richard Calloway for 400 acres of land along Hurricane Creek in Bedford County on 27 January 1761. [426] This 1760 court order reads in full: "Charles McLaughlin, Robert Fitzhugh & William Milum are appointed to appraise the estate of John Vance, deceased." [425] You may read this order below and here (link) .

"McLaughlin, Fitzhugh & Milum are appointed to appraise the estate of John Vance."
Court Order

For this reason I took the time to read Bedford County Order Books from its founding in May 1754 forward hunting for earlier evidence of Milams in Bedford County. There was no earlier court record than that of William. Therefore, William was already established in Bedford and sufficiently knowledgeable of local values for the court to assign him this significant task. And since this was before William had bought land, it suggests that he might have been an overseer for either McLaughlin or Fitshugh.

The next court record for William Milam was on 23 NOV 1762 when he was sued by William Bumpass for 19 Pounds, 4 Shillings and 6 Pence. [438] Bumpass owned a general store which sold fabric like cotton, linen and osnaburg (link) , hats, hose, sugar, salt, shoes, bridles and saddles, farm impliments and rum. In August 1762, Milam signed a security (link) bond to Bumpass promising to make payment within three months. You may read a transcription of this beautifully preserved document here (link) .

William Milam's Signature on bond to William Bumpass August 1762
Wm Milam bond to Bumpass

This bond proves that William was a free man, had an income and was capable of incurring and repaying debt. Please note that he signed his name: "William Millam" - indeed he always spelled his surname "Millam" as Benjamin also did - like here (link) in 1760. On 23 MAR 1763, the court found for Bumpass and Milam was ordered to pay. [439]

If William was born in 1746 as was traditionally believed, he would have been 14 years old in 1760. Is it conceivable that a 14 years old was experienced enough with the values of land, animals and articles to assist in an estate appraisal? I seriously doubt it.

Obviously, William Millam was at least 21 years old in NOV 1762 in order to have his own account with William Bumpass and to be sued in court, meaning that he must have been born no later than 1741, and perhaps a few years earlier. Given that William was older and had useful skills, it is curious that William is not found in Culpeper County records like Benjamin and John are.

Since William didn't receive his first land patent for 600 acres on Meadow Creek until ten years later on 1 AUG 1772, it seems likely that during this interval William was leasing his land. This is confirmed by William's name appearing on several "road orders", the earliest of which was in 1765.

William Milam as Road "Surveyor"

26 MAR 1765 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 3, Page 184. "John Wood, John Richey & Wm Milam appointed to View a way from Thomas’ Ferry {on the James River} the nearest and best way into Callaway’s road opposite to Wm Boyd & Make report.

{ John Richey bought 1/2 of Thomas Milam's land on Hurricane Creek in June 1765. }

28 JUL 1767 BEDFORD COUNTY COURT ORDER BOOK 3, Page 370. "David Wright, John Dawson & Wm Milam appointed to View a way petitioned for from Davis’s Ferry {on the James River} into the road by Grundy’s & Make a report.

24 NOV 1767 BEDFORD COUNTY COURT ORDER BOOK 3, Page 395. "Report of a road from Thomas’ Ferry into the road by Grundy’s & road established according to report. Edmond Howard surveyor from the ferry to Tuckahow Creek  & Wm Milam Surveyor to Otter River & Wm Boyd {Jr} from thence into the Road.  All Convene to clear the same.

{ In October 1774 Moses Milam married Elizabeth Boyd, daughter of William Boyd Sr. who died in 1761. The William Boyd (Jr) mentioned above was his son and her brother. }

27 SEP 1768 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 3, Page 471. "Charles Gwatkins, Edward Shair & Wm Milam appointed to view a way from the New Road between Squarrel Mountain & Nobusiness Mountain into the same Road at the Head of Sycamore Creek & make report.

24 APR 1770 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 3, Page 635. "A Report of a Road from the ferry Road into Hollys Road established according to report & William Milam appointed Surveyor & All Hands convene to Clear the same.

26 NOV 1771 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 3, Page 803. "Richard Callaway, James Taylor and Chesley Woodward is appointed to view a way from Milam's Road the East side of Charles Gwatkins into Thomas’ Ferry Road and make a report.

26 NOV 1771 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 3, Page 803. "A report of a Road from Milam's Road the East side of Charles Gwatkins into Thomas Ferry Road and James Taylor is appointed surveyor thereof and all hands that worked on the two old roads clear the same.

25 MAY 1772 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 4, Page 30. "Report of the viewers of the Road from the fork of the Road above Francis Holleys to Pateats {Petites} Gap { in the Blue Ridge Mountains } returned and established, and that the new Road therein mentioned be also established, and the former Road kept open - & the Hands of Richard Calloway, Charles Gwatkins, Chesley Woodward, Nathaniel Nance, John Milam, William Wilson, Garrett Jackson, James Wilson, William Milam, Martin King, William Fowler, John Hardwick, John Hampton, James Taylor & Joseph Jackson are to attend the service of the said new Road & assist in clearing and keeping the same in good repair.

Comment: All the individuals named in this road order lived near William Milam and John Milam along the route of the proposed road in the north western corner of Bedford County.

There are no deeds or land grants for John Milam so he must have been leasing his land. John Milam married Anne Jackson, sister of Elizabeth Jackson who married their brother, Benjamin. They were the daughters of Jarvis and Helena Jackson; and Anne was referred to in Jarvis’ Will as "Anne Milam, his first daughter". Jackson’s Will also mentions his son, Joseph Jackson listed above. [724] Garrett Jackson is not mentioned in his Will although a John Jackson is.

Richard Calloway sold Thomas Milam land along Hurricane Creek in 1761 which Rush Milam would inherit in 1775. Read the details here (link) .

Rush Milam married Elizabeth Fowler, the daughter of William and Amanda Ann Fowler, on 16 JUL 1783. William Fowler is named above. Read the details here (link).

Major Charles Gwatkin's was Lieutenant John Milam's commanding officer in the defense of Boonesborough, KY, in 1777. Read the details here (link) . And in 1781 he was Benjamin Milam's and Lieutenant William Milam's commanding officer in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in Col Charles Lynch's Virginia Rifles. Read the details here (link) .

Francis Holley and Chesley Woodward appraised John Milam’s estate after John's death in 1780. [725]

As you shall read below, on 1 AUG 1772, William Milam would purchase 600 acres along Meadow Creek. In August 1773, William sold 300 acres on the "head branches of Meadow Creek" to James Taylor who is also named above.

It's no real surprise that Thomas Milam's sons would marry wives within walking distance of their home.

The several roads mentioned above were necessary to transport tobacco crops to ships on the James River. The NOV 1771 new road from Milam's Road, the East side of Charles Gwatkins, into Thomas’ Ferry Road would particularly benefit the Milams for this purpose. [726] And in NOV 1772 another road benefited the Milams: "a Road from James River on the North Side of the mouth of Perrys Creek thence....to the head of Callaways Road thence into Milam's Rd at Reed Creek". [727] Meadow Creek where William Milam owned land was a tributary of Reed Creek which lead to the James River.

The road to Pateats {Petites} Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains was an important route to Botetourt County which lie to the west of Bedford County; and it was no small undertaking. All the men named plus their tithables, meaning their adult sons, hired hands and slaves, would be required to clear a way through the wilderness to the gap! Quite a job. Indeed three years later, it was on going.}

25 SEP 1775 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 6, Page 101. Ordered that the hands under William Milam & those under Francis Holley Assist John Hampton to Clear the way past Chesly Woodward through Peteet's Gap to the Boutetourt {County} line.

It should be mentioned that Charles Lambert, George Allen, Zachariah Milam, John Kelly, Charles Barnett,  Samuel Hensley, Wm Lear, John Ross, John Dewit & William Willams with their male tithables (link) were ordered "to work on the old road from....Francis Holley’s leading through Poteet’s {Petites} Gap and Keep the same in Repair". So brother, Zachariah, and uncle, John Kelly, also lived in the northwestern Bedford County on Battery Creek which is discussed in detail at Zachariah Milam History (link) .

Lieutenent William Milam in the Revolutionary War

On 1 MAY 1777, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Act of Oath of Affirmation which may be read in full here (link). The following is the Oath, sometimes referred to as the Oath of Alligence, that the men affirmed with their signatures:

"I do swear or affirm, that I renounce and refuse all allegiance to George the third, king of Great Britain, his heirs and successours, and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the commonwealth of Virginia, as free and independent state, and that I will not, at any time, do, or cause to be done, any matter or thing that will be prejudicial or injurious to the freedom and independence thereof, as declared by Congress; and also, that I will discover and make known to some one Justice of the Peace (link) for the said state, all treasons or traiterous conspiracies which I now or hereafter shall know to be formed against this or any of the United States of America."

The Bedford County Court on 28 JUL 1777 proscribed the manner in which the Oath would be administered in the county:

"Agreeable to an Act of the General Assembly of this State, this Court doth appoint the following Gentlemen to administer the Oath of Alligence to the Inhabitants of this County (viz.) John Ward Gent. in the bounds of his Company, ....William Callaway Gent. in his own Company, ....Charles Gwatkins Gent in Capt. Gwatkins' Company,....Isham Talbot Gent. in Capt. Henry Buford's Company....etc." [492]

You may read the entire court order here (link).

20 SEP 1777: Benjamin Milam, Rush Milam, William Milam and Zachariah Milam signed the Oath of Affirmation administered by Justice William Callaway to his Company. [480] You may view a typed copy here (link).

28 AUG 1780 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 6, Page 293. William Milam is recommended {to his Excellency, the Governor,} as Proper Person to act as 2nd Leutenant.

24 SEP 1781 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 6, Page 329. William Milam is recommened {to his Excellency, the Governor,} as Proper Person to act as 1st Lieutenant.

The county militas were intended for home defense rather than regular military service and therefore lacked the training and battle experience of the Continental army in which men served for 18 months. The Commonwealth of Virginia recognized that these militiamen were farmers and had regular chores to complete throughout the year so militia service was limited to three months. When the situation was acute as when British General Cornwallis entered Virgina in Febuary 1781, there was a general call out of all able bodied men from the counties closest to the invasion as Bedford was.

Since William didn't survive to apply for a pension, I relied on the Revolutionary War pension applications of men who fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in Col Charles Lynch's Virginia Rifles and who mention Benjamin or William Milam such as Thomas Brown:

Thomas Brown recounted:

"....sometime in February 1781 He was drafted into the service of the United States from Bedford County, Virginia, where he then resided, and served a tour of three months. He marched under Captain Charles Gwatkin, Lieutenant William Millam, ensign Thomas Logwood. He marched from said County thro’ Pittsylvania County across Staunton and Dan Rivers in Virginia to Guilford Court House, N. C., where he joined the army under the command of Gen’l. {Nathanael} Greene. His field officers as well as he recollects were Col. Charles Lynch and Maj. John Callaway {both from Bedford County}.....He was in the battle which was fought on the 15 of March 1781 between the American army under Gen’l. Greene and the British under Cornwallis. The battle commenced with a cannonading. The British kept their ground after the battle. The American army falling back to Troublesome Iron works {Speedwell’s Furnace} about 9 miles perhaps from Guilford, but the British army retreated a few days afterwards....."

"He recollects seeing regular and militia regiments and companies with the troops, but what were there numbers and by whom commanded he is not able now to remember, except Captains {Jacob} Moon and {Thomas} Helm, who commanded militia companies in his regiment and both of whom were killed in the battle of Guilford. He saw Capt. Moon shot, and carried from the field.....He was discharged sometime in April 1781 by Capt Gwatkin...."

You may read a transcription of Brown's entire declaration here (link).

Rather than re-typing the details of this battle here, I refer you to my chapter on the life of his brother, Benjamin Milam, and its extensive discussion of The Bedford County Militia, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and the Aftermath of the Battle. You may read those details of the Battle here (link).

In a 16 MAR report, Lt General Charles Cornwallis wrote: "I shall....leave about seventy of the worse of the wounded cases at the New-garden Quaker meeting house, with proper assistance, and move the remainder of the army to-morrow morning to Bell's mill." [545]

In his biography, British Lt Col Banastre Tarleton wrote: “The severely wounded, to the amount of seventy, with several Americans who were in the same situation were lodged, under the protection of a flag of truce, in New Garden Quaker meeting house, and other adjacent buildings....” [546]

In the Fall of 1782, William Milam petitioned the Virginia House of Delegates requesting back pay for himself, Benjamin Milam and John Kennedy which was approved on 4 DEC 1782.

“Resolved, that in the opinion of this committee, That the petition of William Milam, setting forth, that the petitioner, together with Benjamin Milam and John Kennedy, served in the militia which was ordered into Carolina from the county of Bedford, in the year 1781;  the petitioner as an ensign { actually second Lieutenant as of 28 AUG 1780 and first lieutenant as of 24 SEP 1781 } and the said Benjamin Milam and John Kennedy as soldiers; that at the battle of Guilford courthouse they were severally taken prisoners, in which state the said Benjamin Milam on the 19th, and the said John Kennedy on the 26th of June in the same year died;  and that the said petitioner did not return to the said county of Bedford from captivity, til the 2nd day of August following; and praying that he may be allowed the pay of ensign til the 2nd day of August, the day of his return; and also, that the representatives of the said deceased soldiers may be entitled to their pay until the respective days on which they died, is reasonable; and that the auditors of the public accounts ought to issue certificates for the same.” [534]

24 MAR 1783 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 7, Page 27. William Milam proved that {during the Revolutionary War} he furnished {Capt} Christopher Irvine Commissary: three hundred & twenty five pounds of Beef, three Diets & two pecks of corn.

William Milam's Land Purchases and Sales

For details on each of these purchases and sales please see my "Court Records for William Milam" here (link).

On 1 AUG 1772 William made his first land purchase through a Virginia Land Patent of "six Hundred Acres lying & being in the County of Bedford on branches of Meadow Creek" for only three pounds of "good and Lawful money". This patent obligated William to "seat" the land within three years meaning that "a structure must be built on the land; three acres of land cultivated for every 50 acres of land owned; and the annual Quitrent or land tax must be paid." A structure meant "one good dwelling of 20 feet by 16 feet". The Quitrent was one shilling for each fifty acres of land. Further details on a Land Patent is here (link) in my Glossary.

The following year on 23 AUG 1773, William sold half of it (300 acres) to James Taylor for thirty three pounds Currant Money of Virginia. Sarah the wife of the said Milam relinquished her Right of Dower.

On 24 JUL 1775, William sold one hundred and twenty three acres to John Dewit for the "Sum of Twenty Pounds Current Money". This meant that William then held 177 acres of the original 600.

On 26 APR 1778 William sold one hundred and fifity acres to John Stiff of Augusta County for the Sum of 60 pounds of Current Money of Virginia "paid to James Taylor by the direction of William Milam". Now William owned only 27 acres of land on the branches of Meadow Creek.

Just before the Revolutionary War ended, on 23 AUG 1781 William purchased "One Hundred and fifth acres....on  Reedy (Reed) Creek a Branch of the James River" from John Crews for sixty pounds of Current Money.

On 24 JUN 1782 Martin King and William Milam sold 152 Acres on the south branch of Read { Reed } Creek to Basil Wheat for the sum of Sixty five Pounds.

{Although acknowledged by Oaths of Thomas Roberts and John Wheat on 24 JUNE 1782, the Indenture was "further proved by the Oath of David Wade another Witness thereto Subscribed and Ordered to be Recorded" on 27 SEP 1784.}

On 4 FEB 1784 William sold 20 acres of land on a south branch of Read (Reed) Creek a water of the James River to Basil Wheat for the sum of Thirty Pounds.

On 13 MAR 1789 William Milam obtained a Commonwealth of Virginia Land Grant, first surveyed for William Mead on 11 NOV 1729, for "one Pound fifteen Shillings Sterling Paid by William Milam into the Treasury of this Commonwealth" which contained 350 acres being in the County of Bedford on Read (Reed) Creek.

On 13 MAR 1789 William Milam obtained a Commonwealth of Virginia Land Grant, first surveyed on 9 NOV 1729, for "one Pound fifteen Shillings Sterling paid by William Milam into the Treasury of this Commonwealth" which contained 340 acres being in the County of Bedford on the North fork of the Otter River.

On 25 OCT 1790 William Milam and Sarah his Wife sold a parcel of land lying "on the Waters of Meadow Creek containing One hundred and fifty Acres" to John Hill for thirty Pounds. { This apparently was from his original puchase of 600 acres in August 1772. }

25 OCT 1790 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 10, 44. A Deed William Milam to Zachariah Worley. Proved and Ordered Recorded. (Tax Paid) "....77 Acres on the North Fork of the Otter River....adjacent to Irvine..."

24 JAN 1791 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 10, 62. A Deed William Milam to James Fowler. "....100 Acres on the North Side of Reed Creek of James River....adjacent to Hill..."

25 APR 1791 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 10, 81. A Deed William Milam to Harmon King. "....60 Acres on Reedy Creek ( ? Reed Creek ) of James River..."

***25 JUL 1791 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 10, 94. Deed of Trust William Milam to Christopher Clark, Trustee. Proved and Ordered Recorded.

26 SEP 1791 BEDFORD COUNTY, ORDER BOOK 10, 110. Deed William Milam to Harmon King further Proved by 1 Witness & Ordered Recorded.

William must have died in 1791, because in 1791, the Personal Property Tax List for Bedford County, Virginia, dated May 3, lists the "William Milam Estate" with 6 horses. 

Issue of William and Sarah Milam ( Robert Wilbanks IV ):

I. Rhoda Milam married Mr. Chandler

II. Micajah Milam Born circa 1765, Bedford County, Virginia

III. Priscilla Milam

IV. Thomas Milam married Lucy Langsdon August 1, 1791 Bedford County

V. William Milam {Jr} Born before 1775, Bedford County, Virginia

VI. Nancy Milam married William Bruce on 1 October 1795,  Bedford County, Virginia

VII. Adam Milam Born before 1775, Bedford County, Virginia.

COMMENT: Is he the Adam Milam who sold 167 acres along Hurricane Creek in Bedford County in 1801 which he may have obtained from Rush Milam, Thomas Milam's youngest son?

VIII. Sally Milam  married Mr. Rice

IX. Phealix Milam

X. Mary Milam


~~~~~~~~~~Please see the records chronology for many more records here (link) . ~~~~~~~~~


NOTE TO READERS: Most all the words in bold type face are links to images, maps or word definitions in the Glossary. The Citations and Glossary are available under the Resources tab or here (link) .


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