Legal Records About Our Ancestors

Legal records provide more vivid portrayals of some of our ancestors, both notorious and innocent.


William Wingfield (1792-bef. 1880)

In 1860 William Wingfield sued his son Pinkney Green Wingfield. Sharecropper or hireling?

Robert Hewitt (Huitt) (abt. 1606- by 1650) and Hannah [?] (1612-1675)

bankruptcy and embezzlement

Robert Hewitt was at Crany Neck on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay in 1636. It is unclear whether he came to the Island somewhat earlier with the Claibourne party that established a trading post there, and then settled the Island in 1631 and 1632; or came to the island after the royal charter for the island was granted to Lord George Calvert, baron of Baltimore. The conflict over control of the island was between the two entrepreneurs personally, between Virginia and Maryland, and between the Protestants and the Catholics. If he was in fact related to the Reverend John Huett who established the first parish of the Church of England in Somerset Co. on the Eastern Shore a generation (or two) later, as has been suggested, then he was probably a Protestant settler from Virginia who tried to make a go of it even as conflicts flared over control of the island.

He and Henry Bellamy petitioned to have 400 acres in Crany Neck patented to them which "they are possessed of" in 1640. He sold a small portion of this in 1641 and was on the tax rolls in 1642.

In 1643 and 1644 Robert Hewitt suffered bankrupcy and fled back to Virginia to avoid the consequences. In January 1643/44 Giles Brent sued him for 1060 pounds of tobacco which was owed him and John Lewger sued for 700 lb. of tobacco. The judge ordered him to pay Brent 386 pounds, and respited the remainer for 6 weeks, and Lewgern was awarded 531 pounds, and in addition there was a total of 120 pounds assessed as court fees. By April he had fled. "Robt. Clerk complained against Robt. Huett now of Chickacoan for unlawful carrying away his servant Henry Wroughta out of the Prov. about the first of this month without his privity, to the damage of the plt. to the value of 1000 lb. tob."

Northumberland County, Virginia was originally known as Chickacoan. This was the Indian name of the district on the Northern Neck lying between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. In 1648, the "Mother County of the Northern Neck" was organized and named Northumberland. The first white settler to make a permanent home in the county was Col. John Mottrom sometime between 1635-1640, so it would have still been largely unsettled in 1644.

Robert Hewitt remained in VA, and was living in Chiacone, Northumberland Co. in 1649, but had died by April 1650 when his widow remarried. His estate apparently did not include any land. He and his wife Hannah had married in Yorkshire, England and their daughter Elizabeth was born in 1633 in England.

Hannah Hewitt was married three times. When Robert died she was 38 years old, already old by the standards of the times, and she remarried quickly to Hugh Lee, a planter and innholder. He died in 1662, leaving a more substantial estate than Robert Hewitt had, including 800 acres of land. By then she was 50, and again remarried quickly, this time to her servant, William Price. He was about 25 years old, and apparently a man with some charisma. He is referred to once in the records as a gentleman, and managed to embezzle money from St. Mary's City. Hannah Price was imprisoned in 1665 because he took money to build a state house and didn't do it. William was later murdered by Walter Pake in 1667/8.

Hannah died in 1675, still living in Northumberland County, Va.

Despite the the scantiness of the records in the 17th century, legal records give us some interesting details on the life of this couple, and life in early Virginia.

© 2007 Footie Lund