William Haynes (1710-1781)

Our Family line begins with William HAYNES, who died in Bedford County, VA in the spring of 1781, in the midst of the Revolutionary War. He is believed to have been born in Virginia in 1710, in the midst of Queen Anne's War with Spain and France. At that time, Virginia consisted of 58,000 colonists, and was the largest of the North American colonies. William's parents and birthplace have yet to be determined, but it is clear that he moved to Bedford County from the east, as he and other settlers developed the ability to live off the land and moved westward into the Piedmont, towards the mountains, away from the shore and dependence on England.

The land that became Bedford County was deep in Indian held lands when William was born; the colonists were huddled along the Eastern Shores, reaching less than 25 miles inland in 1710, still deeply dependent on European trade for all finished goods. William was probably born in the Eastern Shore, although he might have immigrated from one of the other colonies, such as Pennsylvania, or Maryland. While possible, this seems unlikely, as his many early land dealings in Virginia point away from this possibility. It is also possible, but unlikely, that he was born in Europe and sailed to the colonies as a young man.

For example, The International Genealogical Index (IGI) lists a Wm. HAYNES, christened in Wheatenhurst, Gloucester, England, 9 June 1710. Another IGI record shows a William HAYNES married 7 January 1734 to Elizabeth MUNDAY at Thomas, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. This is probably a coincidence of common names.

When all the available data are reviewed it appears likely that he was in fact born in the Eastern Shores of Virginia. He may have lived in Amherst County, since his son William Jr. lived there many years. He may have lived in Pittsylvania County for a while. Bedford County Records show that he sold land in Pittsylvania County to William Hill and William Swanson in 1768.

William may have been a brother of Henry Haynes, born in 1701 in VA. It is often claimed, erroneously, that they are the sons of a John Haynes, born in Bedford County, VA in 1670. [See notes]. Records of the time are difficult to sort out. Both of these men had many land dealings in Bedford and surrounding counties, and both had sons named Henry, William and John. Very good summaries of Henry Haynes (1701-1784) and his family have been written by Strieby and by Simmons.

When George Washington was born, 22 February, 1732, William Haynes was already 22 years old.

Whatever his birthplace and upbringing, William was one of the new breed of settler, adapted to the frontier life, with an itch to continue to move west. Unable to read or write, he nevertheless concluded numerous land deals, and developed the skills that would serve to provide for his family. He would have grown up with the ability to identify standing trees and wood as routinely as today's children have at using a computer. He would know that pine sapwood was excellent for kindling a fire, oak best for sustained warmth and light; ash or hickory for ax handles, red cedar for churns and pails. Young men on the frontier had to be an artist in the use of a broadax, skinning knife, and have knowledge of the forest for wood, game, drugs and dyes. These young men would never venture out without a long gun. Young women learned to spin and weave, make soap from ash and fat, hominy from corn, churn butter from cream, and cook wild meat. These new generations of young Americans were ready to tame the western frontiers, far less dependant on England for finished goods. This independence of individuals would in turn, make the future dream of independence of the colonies practical.

Marriage and Family - When he was about 24, William met and fell in love with Elizabeth, most likely a neighbor's attractive young daughter. Numerous researchers have been unable to locate a record of this marriage, or to document her family surname. Some believe it to be Millner (or Milliner), the name given to her grandson, Milliner Haynes.

Child Life span Spouse
1 Frances Haynes (ca 1736-1780+) ______ Smith
2 Elizabeth Haynes (ca 1737-1820) Col. William Leftwich
3 William R. Haynes (1740 -1827) Hannah Ellis, Sarah Tuly
4 Henry Haynes (ca 1745 -1816) Bersheba Hampton,  Tabitha Turner
5 Mildred Haynes (ca 1748 -1816) Stephen Sanders
6 Ann Haynes (1750 - 1803+) Gabriel Ferril
7 Mary Haynes (1751-1825) John Long
8 John Haynes (1753 -1840) Joicy Anderson

By the time they reached their mid-forties, William and Elizabeth had three sons and five daughters, eight children in all, ranging from infant John to nineteen-year old Frances. A series of westward moves had brought them to the newly formed Bedford County, at the foothills of the mountains now known as the Blue Ridge Mountains. The family probably moved to Bedford County shortly after its formation from Lunenburg County in 1754.

Military Service - In 1758, at age 48, William served as a private in the Bedford County Militia under Captain Matthew Talbot. During this time, the Cherokee Indians began a series of raids on the Western frontier of Virginia Colony, endangering the 4-year-old Bedford County. William was paid four pounds, fifteen shillings for his services. These raids continued over twenty years, until Virginia's governor John Murray, the Lord of Dunmore, commissioned Andrew Lewis to lead a militia that defeated the Shawnee Indians at Point Pleasant in 1774. Indian attacks finally decreased in Western Virginia.

William and his family were not among the "landed gentry" of Bedford County. At the time of its formation the county consisted of 150 to 200 plantations, with an average size of 1,000 to 2,000 acres. While he was party to many land dealings, William's largest holdings were of the order of 400 acres or so, which clearly put him in the range of plain farmer, rather than squire of a plantation. Many of his neighbors had plots of 10,000 acres and above. Nor was his home one of the "Stately Homes of Bedford"; testimony to the wealth of their owners. Political power in the Colonies followed wealth, and the large landowners controlled the important offices: County surveyors, Clerks, Assemblymen, etc.

William and his family would have lived in a typical smaller home of the day. In 1763, he purchased 394 acres on the south fork of the Little Otter River from Matthew and Mary Talbot for 60 pounds sterling. A location on water was critical for transporting goods. Anything that couldn't walk to or from the market had to go by water.

Housing, food and clothing - The first house on the land would have been a cabin of logs from trees cleared from the land or cut from the forest. Trees about a foot in diameter were felled with an axe and chopped to twenty or thirty foot length, rolled off the hillsides to a waiting drag team. Chestnut would be the first choice; tough and long lasting. Oak was acceptable, but quite heavy, and inclined to split; Pine smelled forever, and was too flammable. Beech and Hickory were prone to rot when damp. Bark was scalped off two sides of each log, which were then were hewn flat. Mating notches chopped in the ends would interlock and hold the house together. A few openings would be sawn or hewn for windows, and a doorway would be placed facing south. With neighbors and slaves to help, the house could be secure and ready in a few days. Lit by the windows and an open doorway by day and by a fire and candles of tallow at night, the home would have had a dirt floor. A stone fireplace for improved heat, light and cooking would be the next addition. As time allowed the remaining bark would be peeled from the outside and inside walls, pegs would be added to hold clothes, pots, and the family gun.

Later, when more land was cleared, and crops were well established, a larger house would be built, the original house kept as a kitchen. The separate kitchen kept the cooking heat out of the main house in summer, and reduced the danger of fire in the main house. The new house would have a cellar, wood floor and far more space.

The primary food crop would be corn -- unknown to the early European arrivals, it would prove to be life saving for the early settlers. Corn could be dried for storage, later ground into meal, baked into bread, pounded into hominy, and fatten the pigs for hams and bacon. Surplus corn found its way into home whiskey. Wheat for bread was beaten by hand with hickory flails to separate the chaff --it would be another 80 years until Cyrus McCormick of nearby Rockbridge County invented the horse-powered reaper and thresher. To sweeten things, honey would be borrowed from beehive, and a small patch of sorghum cane would be harvested, cut up and boiled to form molasses. Cooking would be done in pots or skillets on the open fireplace, which also served for light in the evening. An iron pot with a lid would serve as an oven for baking bread, with coals from the fireplace raked under and on top.

Clothes would have been of local cotton, separated from the seeds by hand -- Eli Whitney's cotton gin would not come until the turn of the century. More durable fiber was derived from flax -- the fines would become linen, the coarse fibers made into rope. Warmer clothes would be made from wool. In every case the women and woven spun the fibers into thread on a loom.

The Revolution - When the Colonies decided to declare independence from England, William had put himself and his family at risk, giving 300 lbs. of beef to the struggling Continental Army.

Some of his neighbors had refused to help, and several were outright opposed to what he had done, remaining loyal to the Crown. William's son Henry supported his father's decision, when he also donated beef to the Revolution. His sons John and William Jr. served in the Virginia Army.

William Haynes did not live to see the thirteen colonies succeed in gaining independence from Great Britain. In the spring of 1780, when William was seventy, the War for Independence was not going well. Thinking of his children's future, he must have worried about their safety, now that King George's General Cornwallis was leading raids deep into the surrounding counties, seeking to put down the Rebellion.

A Most Unusual Will - In April 1780, feeling it was time to put his affairs in order, William called in a clerk and dictated his will.  He was 70.   When it was finished, William put his "W" mark at the bottom, a  mark  often confused as a middle initial. He then handed the document to Mary and Merriman "Merry" Carter, who put their signatures on the will dividing his estate. Frances Carter added her "X" as the third witness.  It would prove to be a most unusual will.

When William's will was probated June 25, 1781, the summer following his death, it may have come as a surprise to his three sons, William Jr., Henry, and John, since none of them witnessed their father's will, and none were named executor. William named his two sons-in-law, Stephen Sanders and William Leftwich as his executors, and gifted them and their wives generously.

Under traditional customs, the first-born son William Jr. would have inherited the bulk of the estate, by primogeniture. He did not. Often the first-born son would have been named executor of the state. He was not. His younger brother Henry did a little better, but not much; and John, the youngest son, got the least of all.

William's will cites his eight children, probably in order of their age. He left the bulk of his estate -- his plantation, 200 acres and a slave, to Stephen Sanders, husband of his daughter Mildred. While we shall never know the reasons for this division of his worldly goods, it is interesting to speculate. Geography may have played a part. Families tended to stay close-by in these times. Parents often gifted a portion of their farmland to a married child. But William Jr. did not live nearby. He lived in the next county, Amherst, a day's ride away. His father left him one Negro slave; no land, no livestock, no cash. Son John and his family were far away in Hanover County, nearer the coast. He was given only a half-interest in a slave, to be shared with his older sister Frances.

Did William's sons live far away because of an estrangement, or was this distance the cause of the family drifting apart. We do not know. William took his reasons to his grave. No marker exists for his final resting-place, but it was surely on his farm, next to his wife Elizabeth, who had passed away earlier.

William's Legacy - If William Jr. and his brothers and sisters did not inherit many worldly goods from their father, they did inherit his pioneer spirit of freedom and independence, and the ability to thrive on the frontier. For as we shall see, William's children and grandchildren were among those who continued the move ever westward, spreading the family name to new lands beyond the Blue Ridge. They would cross the Shenandoah Valley, passing through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountain range, and journey along the Wilderness Road into Kentucky. They were among the vanguard of the movement to settle the new West.

   Read William's Will Return to Home Page Back to Direct Line Page Last update Sunday, March 18, 2001