Mary Weaver Burgess Minter, of Henry Co., Virginia

John Burgess =Mary Davis
(abt. 1740-1806) =(abt. 1740-aft.1806)
John Burgess =Mary WeaverDavis Burgess =Lucy Pace
(1771-1836) =(abt. 1797-1882) (1765-1828) =(1775-1860)
John Henry Burgess =Mary Dalton FosterJohn Burgess =[--?--]
(abt. 1831-1917) =(1844-1943) (abt. 1800-abt.1839) = 
Robert Lee Burgess =Mary Douthat
(1871-1962) =(1889-1978)
Barbara Lee Burgess =Robert Terrell Wingfield
(1931-1990) =(1925-1985)

Granddaddy Robert Lee Burgess (1871-1962), was the son of John Henry Burgess (1831-1914), who was the son of John Burgess (d. 1836) and Mary (Polly) Weaver Burgess Minter (c1797-1882). Mary Weaver married John Burgess in 1825. This John Burgess was thought to be the son of Davis Burgess who was born about 1800. Both her first marriage and her second marriage to Othniel Minter in 1837 are recorded. (In fact, Othniel Minter officiated at her marriage to John Burgess.) Census records from 1860-1880 prove that John Henry Burgess was her son, and later records are plentiful.

I stumbled over a family website on the Minters whose author discussed who Othniel Minter's second wife was, and he didn't think the evidence was clear. (Minter Notes) So I thought it would be a good exercise and very easy to answer his concerns from the evidence I had. But, it wasn't that easy. Once I didn't accept anything on faith, there really were questions to be answered.

However, by combining a close analysis of Davis Burgess' will (he was supposedly John Burgess' father) and the personal property tax rolls for Henry Co., which have been extracted for the Burgesses, the picture cleared a little. John Burgess, Mary's husband, was not Davis' son, though. She was married to John Burgess, Davis' brother, who was 25 years older than she.

The Burgesses first appear in Henry Co. tax records in 1784. The first John Burgess (c1740-1806), who brought the family from Gloucester Co. to live in Henry Co., wrote his will in 1805 shortly before his death. The 1806 tax records list "John Burgess Senr." althought no other John Burgess in included.

The John Burgess listed from 1807 on is certainly his son John Burgess (II), named in his will. He was the youngest surviving son, and he was bequeathed the original plantation upon the death or marriage of his mother. This was probably in consideration of his remaining at home to help his parents in their old age, which would explain his absense from the tax rolls before the death of his father. On the tax rolls his property consistently included slaves. Based on his property holdings, he appeared on the rolls through 1836, the year Mary Weaver Burgess' husband John is reported to have died.

In 1829 a second John Burgess begins appearing on the tax rolls, "John Burgess Jr." (III), who had no slaves or horses. This is the year after Davis Burgess' death, when his son became a land owner. John Burgess, the younger (III), with no personal property, appears through 1839. John Burgess and wife Nelley deeded 100 acres N. of the Smith River to Hulett Burgess for $200 about 1829 (Henry Co. Deeds: Book 11 Page 11). This appears to be the 100 acres left to him by his father Davis, who died the previous year; and Hewlett was one of his brothers.

In 1836 John Burgess Sr. (II) owned 10 taxable slaves, and in 1837 Mary Burgess is listed (this year only) with 3 slaves, about 1/3 of the number held by John Burgess Sr. the previous year. Virginia law allowed a widow to claim 1/3 of her hustand's estate upon his death, called her dower portion. Mary certainly seems to be the widow of John Burgess "Sr."

John Henry Burgess' granddaughter, Cherie Burgess Shindell, one of the last Burgesses born on the plantation, wrote a family reminiscence, which has been posted online by a cousin, also named John Burgess, her nephew. Her account gives a birth date for John Burgess, John Henry's father, that matches the Kingston Parish, Gloucester Co., birth record for Davis' brother John (II). So, I contacted cousin John and asked what evidence he had that indicated that Mary's husband was the younger John (III), Davis' son, especially since his Aunt's account supported the elder John. He said he had taken the information from the work of Anne Vestal-Miller, a highly respected genealogist, who discovered the origins of the Burgess family in Gloucester Co. He discounted his aunt because she was unaware of the family's origins in Gloucester Co.

This was pretty convincing circumstantial evidence. The Chancery Records Index (CRI), part of Virginia Memory on the Library of Virginia website, provided the solid evidence to clinch this arguement. The Chancery bill that Mary Burgess filed to claim her dower portion of John Burgess' estate after his death in 1836 is available [Henry Co., 1850-040, original case no. 381, Mary Burgess v John Burgess etc]. Her petition names the other heirs, her 2 children Mary and John. It proves the year of her husband's death. Other documents include details of the 1/3 of the estate allotted to her as her dower, including a plat of the land. The total value of the slaves her husband left was $7125 and he left 550 acres of land. The report of the division is dated Feb. 1837. This proves that much of John Henry Burgess' property came from his father's estate.

A later case filed by William L. Minter and his wife Mary, to claim her portion of the estate, is quite informative as well. Mary D. Burgess, John Henry Burgess' sister, married her step-brother William Minter, Othniel's son. [Henry Co., 1848-020, original case no. 200, William A Minter & wife v Mary Burgess by etc] The petition states that Othniel Minter was the guardian of the children John and Mary Burgess, and that because he married their mother no actual division had been made of John Burgess' estate, since Othniel managed it all. John Henry Burgess, her brother, was still a minor and not included in this petition. This proves that the widow Mary Burgess is the Mary Burgess who married Othniel Minter. (Othniel and Mary did not object to the petition and the division was made.)

One more aspect of Mary Weaver's identity I was coming to doubt was the identity of her parents. I had accepted the that she was the daughter of John Weaver because the family tree said so, but also because he names his daughter "Mary Burgess" in his will. When looked at sceptically, this doesn't look particulary conclusive, since the will was written years before the marriage of John Burgess and Mary Weaver, although they were married by the time it was presented for probate.

Again, the Chancery Records have come to the rescue. John Weaver died about 1825, but his widow didn't die until decades later, and she had use of part of his estate until she died. Actions to finally settle his estate in 1848 upon her death name Polly Minter, wife of Othniel Minter, as one of his daughters and an heir [Henry Co., 1848-006, original case no. 115]. In addition the records state that Othniel was the administrator of John Weaver's estate, although he disputes this, saying he had refused to serve. So, there were clearly close relationships between all three men, John Weaver, John Burgess and Othniel Minter.

© 2010 Footie Lund