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Monday, July 10, 2017

William Bonnell of New Jersey, Virginia, and Kentucky

Here's the latest from John Bunnell: 
Happy Independence Day!  It is probably appropriate on this 4th of July to update everyone on research regarding our Revolutionary War-era ancestor, William Bonnell of New Jersey, Virginia, and Kentucky.  

My daughter was recently in Roanoake, Virginia, where she was able to obtain a copy of a document of which I was unaware when I searched the court documents in Botetourt County.  David Noble, who is descended from the parties here, alerted us to the existence of the marriage documents for Peter Rossell to Sarah Wright.  This Peter Rossell was the grandson of the Peter Rossell from New Jersey and Sarah Wright was the daughter of Jacob Wright from New Jersey. Ann Arnal was the remarried widow of Jacob Wright. 
In some ways, this document is the "Rosetta Stone" of the relationships between the New Jersey families, as the Rossell, Wright, and Bonnell families are all on the same document.  Additionally, the fact that Ann continued to move with the Bonnells and Rossells after the death of her first husband and remarriage has led many to surmise that she was originally a Bonnell.  
Perhaps the most important feature of this document is that it appears William Bonnell wrote the permission in his own hand.  If so, this is the most extensive handwriting sample we have from this ancestor.  The wording and grammatical errors provide insight into his level of literacy. Of course, any level of literacy during this time was something of which to be proud.

In other news, a new addition to our group made a find which may give us a lead on the identity of William Bonnell's wife.  She found a researcher on Ancestry that contends that William's wife was Elizabeth Green, the daughter of William Green and Dinah Butt of Shepherdstown, West Virginia (then in Frederick County, Virginia through 1772 and Berkeley County, Virginia afterwards).   
Our group has been aggressively researching this theory for the last several months. We've not yet been able to prove it to our satisfaction, but enough evidence remains to justify continued work.
The difficulty is that the evidence that the Ancestry researcher has been able to provide to date is not sufficient to draw the familial connections she describes.  A review of her tree shows that she is a skilled and meticulous genealogical researcher.  She has entered a variety of citations for the Deans, Greens, and Bonnells, but many details about these families in her tree are not available in these sources.  As such, it seems that she had access to additional resources that she has not cited. I've been communicating with this woman, who has been as helpful as she can. Unfortunately, she conducted this research long ago and simply cannot recall the details.  She has reviewed her records and cannot find any sources beyond those currently listed in her sources.  She has offered to send anything else she finds, but I think we will have to work with what we have for the short term.

Her assertion is that Elizabeth Green was the sister of Diana (Green) Dean, who was the second wife of Thomas Dean of Hampshire County Virginia from 1772 through 1790 then of Mercer County, Kentucky, through both of their deaths.  It is beyond dispute that the Bonnell and Dean families were closely connected in Mercer County.  The first mention we have of William Bonnell in Mercer County is the 1799 court order placing him in charge of maintaining a road.  In this first record, Thomas Dean and one of his sons were named as a part of the maintenance crew.  Later, two of William Bonnell's children (Jonathan and Keziah) married Dean children.  Eventually, Jonathan became the guardian of one of the young Dean children upon the death of his parents.  Even the non-married Bonnells were involved, as Samuel was the surety for the marriage of one of the Dean children following the death of Thomas.  

That Diana had a sister named Elizabeth is also beyond doubt.  All the Dean children are listed in William Green's will from 1793.  Interestingly, Diana but not Elizabeth is listed in Dinah (Butt) Green's will seven years later, suggesting that Elizabeth may have died during this interlude.  

Diana's connection with the Dean family is complicated, but seems understood.  The Ancestry researcher claims that Diana originally married a William JOSEPH Dean in about 1764 in Frederick County Virginia and had one son.  Joseph Dean then died in about 1775 (we believe this must have been around 1773 instead).  
She further claims the widowed Diana then moved in with Joseph's uncle, Thomas Dean, in adjoining Hampshire County, to become his nanny and housekeeper.  Eventually, she became his common-law wife and the mother of his second batch of children.  
We've not been able to reconstruct this detailed story from the information we've found, but we've also not found any documentation that is inconsistent with it

What is problematic about this case is showing any direct documentary connection or inferred geographic connection between the Bonnell family and any of the other players in this drama during the time period when it appears William was married (1767-1772).  This is the period when the Bonnells were living in Loudoun County, Virginia after the departure from New Jersey.  This is also the time period when William Bonnell's first children were born (as early as 1770, by some accounts).  
From a documentation perspective, none of the counties (Loudoun, Frederick, Berkeley, and Hampshire, as well as Fairfax and Prince William) carry marriage records for this early period.  A thorough review of the land and court documents suggest that the three families were geographically stable during this time period and well separated from each other.  For the Bonnells, all indications are that they were living on Peter Rossell's land, which was at the extreme southeastern part of Loudoun County, near present-day Conklin, Virginia.  The Greens, on the other hand, owned a large tobacco plantation near Shepherdstown.  This land was initially granted in 1751, and William Green and Dinah Butt appear to still have been living there at their deaths, even though the county boundaries had changed around them.  Thomas Dean, presumably the uncle-in-law and then second husband of Diana Green, seemed stable in Hampshire County from his arrival in 1772 until his departure for Kentucky in 1790.

The only clue to another location is an August 1772 entry in the Frederick County Court Order Books that states that Joseph Dean (presumably Diana Green's first husband at the time) was residing out of the Colony.  If he is out of Virginia, where did he and Diana go?  Across the Potomac to Maryland is the most logical choice.  This still doesn't seem to help, as Peter Rossell purchased his land in Loudoun County in 1763 and we only lose track of the Bonnells briefly between their departure from New Jersey in about 1767 and their connection with the Rossells in Loudoun County in 1768.    

Although the distances between these locations may look small on a map, I've spent a considerable amount of time driving them, and they are not trivial. These distances are far too great to suggest any sort of casual connection. George and I have discussed the possibility that William Bonnell was an itinerant worker during this period and eventually ended up working on the Green plantation.  While this theory is not out of the question, it is a little bit of a stretch to think he would have to travel this far for work. Additionally, I think there is little chance that the surviving documentation will ever be able to prove this theory.  

The one thing that supports the larger assertion regarding a marriage between William Bonnell and Elizabeth Green, however, is DNA evidence.  Some type of DNA connection between the William Bonnell descendants and Butt family descendants seemed evident from the Ancestry products.  However, we needed more detailed analysis.  So, we convinced a descendant of Dinah Butt's father (Richard Butt) to enter her Ancestry results into the GEDMATCH database that George has been using.  There were matches between her and several William Bonnell descendants.  As is always the case with DNA, however, the case is not clear cut.  First, why am I showing a connection only 3-4 generations back when the connection should be 8 generations back? 
I've carefully analyzed her tree and can't find any answer other than that the DNA beat the statistical odds and stayed unusually intact for both of us.  The other connections look about right (7-8 generations), but why aren't there more? 

Overall, then, the research seems too preliminary to draw a conclusion about the connection to Elizabeth Green.  As such, I would caution everyone against entering the information onto Ancestry or on other products until we know more.  We all wasted a lot of time on the wild goose chase regarding Elizabeth Gano as William Bonnell's potential wife.  In the end, we could find no evidence supporting this theory or even figure out where the original Ancestry entry ever came from.

So, where do we go from here?  I have a research stop planned for back in Mercer County, Kentucky this month.  It appears there was a court case disputing the wills of Thomas and Diana (Green) Dean upon their deaths. I'll see if this provides the detail to substantiate the Dean family story. If we are wildly lucky, perhaps we'll find some mention of the connection between the Bonnell and Dean families.  
I also have a call out to the Donegal Presbetery of Pennsylvania in a search for any marriage records they may have as the presiding organization for the church the Green and Butt families attended at the time (the Tuscarora Presbyterian Church of Martinsville).  
After this, we're out of ideas on where to look for any other relevant documents.  Please let us know if anyone has any other ideas.

Beyond this, we could profit from additional DNA participants.  If you are a descendant of William Bonnell who has completed a DNA test (Ancestry, Family Tree, etc.), please ensure your results are entered into GEDMATCH.  There are instructions on the GEDMATCH page on how to import your results from another vendor's test.  Once accomplished, please ensure George knows your "A" number so that he can analyze your results.  We could also benefit from additional Butt/Green descendants.  
If your Ancestry DNA test calls out any other non-Bonnell descendants from this particular Green/Butt family, please let us know so that we can invite them into the GEDCOM study. 
George Farris adds: 
I found additional descendants of William Green and Dinah Butt, plus a descendant of Keziah Bunnell Dean, that I've added their DNA results to the matrix.  To keep it under 20 individuals as required by the gedmatch software I've also removed a couple of people.   
This revised version includes seven Butt/Green descendants and twelve William Bunnell descendants.   
While this data doesn't prove anything definitively, it does indicate that there is a high probability that the wife of William Bunnell may have been a daughter of William Green and Dinah Butt.  As such, it provides an incentive to continue the search - which John Bunnell is actively doing.

Monday, June 5, 2017

1772 Spotlsylvania County, Virginia Deed Witnessed by William Bonnell, Jacob Wright & Wm Hall

In keeping with our aim of sharing the precious information each of us has collected, Marjorie Gibbs sent us the original deed, witnessed by William Bonnell,  Jacob Wright and Wm. Hall, of Paul McClancy and Rose his wife to Peter Rosewell? Rossell? in Spotsylvania County, Va in 1772.  Inspired by a question asked her, she wrote ,

"something prompted me to dig out my old Bunnell file, going back over twenty years, and plow through it. Lo and behold, I do have a copy of the original deed. It is hard to read, written in spidery handwriting, but I can make out most of it. In view of recent research, I am paying close attention to names, especially. What I took to be Peter Rosewell, I now wonder if it is Peter Rossell, or some variation on that."

Friday, June 2, 2017

Looking for William Bonnell in the Fluvanna County, Virginia Tax Files 1784-1786

From George Farris:

In 2015 when I was tracking William Bonnell on tax lists through several counties in Virginia from 1782 through 1797 I didn't find him for the years 1784, 1785, and 1786.  We know he was in Albemarle in 1785 from other references, but assumed they were moving during 1784 (Spotsylvania to Albemarle) and 1786 (Albemarle to Rockbridge) and weren't on any tax list.  

Recently, Binn's Genealogy has added tax lists for a few counties that had been missing previously, including Fluvanna.  I had thought that William Bonnell might have been in Fluvanna in 1784 but he was not listed for that year.   However, there is a William Barnel listed in both the 1785 and 1786 Fluvanna tax lists which I have attached.   Fluvanna is adjacent to the southeast of Albemarle but not really on the migration route from Albemarle to Rockbridge so I'm skeptical about this being him.

Another confusion factor is a listing for a Fisher Rice Bonnel for the years 1783, 1784, 1785 and 1786 in Fluvanna County.  I've never heard of anyone by that name and don't find him in any kind of search.

1785 Fluvanna County Tax List
1786 Fluvanna County, VA tax list

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Another great find from John Bonnell:

Here is the document from the New Jersey State Archives that appears to relate to Nathaniel Bonnell's house.  It is the warrant authorizing Nathaniel Bonnell to lay out 180 acres within the bounds of Elizabeth Towne.  

Although the index in the archive lists the date as 10 April 1676, it appears that all of the warrants on this section of the page were issued on 8 April 1676.  

Transcription of New Jersey State Archives Liber II, Part 2, Folio 21 (8 April 1676)
Nath. Bonnel
Ditto, a warrant to lay out for Nathaniel Bonnel within the bounds of Eliza’b Towne 180 acres of upland and meadow In proportion and forebearance 8 April (indecipherable letters).

Nathaniel Bonnell House in Elizabeth, New Jersey

From John Bunnell:

Here is another document from the New Jersey State Archives.  I apologize, but from here on out, the information remaining in my pile of NJ Archive data is a bit of a jumble between three different generations.  

This is the file in the archives relating to the house built by Nathaniel Bonnell. Nathaniel was the son of William the original immigrant and the father of Samuel (1).  The house is clearly a significant historical structure, even today.  It must have been where Samuel (1) grew up.  

The file shows several photos from different times.  

The Bonnell House is a historic landmark in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Tours are available by appointment. Here's a link to the Wikipedia article on it Wikipedia Bonnell House, Elizabeth, New Jersey and one where it's is part of a tour of Revolutionary War sites Revolutionary War Sites–the Bonnell House is towards the bottom of the web page.


Samuel Bonnell in the New Jersey Court of the Oyer and Terminer for Middlesex County from October 1760

This information from John Bunnell got lost in my inbox. He sent it out last October and I apologize for the delay in posting it.

This is a transcription from the Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey of one of the minute books for the New Jersey Court of the Oyer and Terminer for Middlesex County from October 1760.  As the preamble describes, the records regarding this court are dispersed, with loose papers and some rough minutes (only two for Middlesex County) being available at the New Jersey State Archives. This transcription, however, is for the full minute book held at Princeton University.  It is unclear how many other full minute books Princeton may hold for Middlesex County.  

The import of this particular document is that it lists Samuel Bonnel in relation to his constabular duties for the township of Windsor.  In this case, his duties are not specific to Windsor, but in general service to the county court session.  For this session, Samuel Bonnel is fined for default, which appears to mean that he did not appear when called for court duty.  Although Samuel Bonnell was a reliable constable for many years, we will see that there were an increasing number of instances from 1760 through 1762 when he failed to appear, perhaps because of poor health or debt.  We may conjecture that this is why he was replaced one of the Windsor constables with the 1763 election.

The desire for additional records for the Middlesex Court of the Oyer and Terminer is to supplement the missing years for the minute books for the Middlesex Court of Common Pleas (1736-1755).  The hope is that the call for constables from the different townships at the beginning of every court session would help determine more precisely when Samuel Bonnell first arrived in Middlesex County, enabling us to focus our research for non-government records both in Middlesex and Somerset Counties.

The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey, Volume 88 page 87-89

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Samuel Bonnell: Witness to the will of Benoni Lee

Here's another helpful document from John Bunnell.
Here is a copy and transcription of the last will and testament of Benoni Lee from Elizabeth Town, Essex County, New Jersey on 24 September 1705. Samuel Bonnell (1) (b. abt 1675) was one of the witnesses to the will and delivered it to the court.  We've known about this document since early in our search, but only from second hand-sources.  As always, feel free to correct my transcription if you can figure anything out better than me. 

This document places Samuel Bonnell (1) in Elizabeth Town prior to the move to Woodbridge shortly thereafter.  Beyond this, the most important attribute of this document is the actual signature of Samuel Bonnell (1).  The other persons listed in the document (John and Mary (Lee) Hindes family, Lee relatives (Abigail, Elihew), Samuel Whitehead, etc.) may also provide some clues in future research.  

Source: New Jersey Archives
Will book 1, p. 119, 121, & 122
Will & Inventory 1705

Marjorie Gibbs adds: The name Samuel Whitehead rang a bell. You probably remember that the first generation Bonnell, William, had persistent financial problems. At one point, his daughter, Lydia, was “put forth” as an apprentice to Samuel Whitehead. William later contested this and demanded Lydia be released from that apprenticeship, but the court denied his request. That was in Oct. 1651, fifty-four years before Samuel Bonnell and Samuel Whitehead signed Benoni Lee’s will. Also, on 3 January 1665/66, Susanah Whitehead, daughter of Isaac Whitehead married William’s son, Nathaniel in New Haven. Apparently Whiteheads, associates of the Bonnells, also were among the families who went to Essex.  

In the name of God Amon.  The nineteenth Day of July In y’e fourth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lady Anne, Over England &c. Queen &c And in y’e Year of our lord God on thousand Seven hundred and five.  Benoni Lee of Elizabeth Towne in the County of Essex And province of New Jersey Tailor Being Sick and weak in body als But of Sound and posfort manner and Forne Following (that is to say.) First I bequeath my Soul and Spirit into the hands of almighty god who gave it My anntihed Body, In hopes of a Joyfull and Glorious Resurrection.  I Committ to the Earth to be buried In a Dowent Christian Manner. And Touching the Distribution of that worldly Estate w’ch Js hath pleased God to bestow upon us  I Lissoss of the Same as followeth. (viz.-)
First I will that all Such Debts as I Justly Owe at my Decease, Shall be well and truly paid out of my Estate by My Executors, of this my Last will & testament hereafter named.  
Ittem.  I give and bequeath unto my beloved sister, Mary Hindes, My Old Mare.  And to her Eight Pounds, at y’e time of her marriage, if She Should happen to be married, before the Death of the Said Mare.
Ittem.  I Give and bequeath unto Jonathan Hindes (Second Sonne of my Said Sister Mary Hindes) and to his heirs and assigns all that my Yearling Mare w’ch Comes of my Old mare above bequeathed 
Ittem. I Give and bequeath James Hindes (the third Sonne of Mare Hindes My Sister afores’d) And to his heirs and assigns all that my black Cow w’ch I Now Keep to milk.
Ittem.  I Give and bequeath y’e Calf (that belongs to y’e Said Black Cow w’ch now Suckles) unto Mary Hindes (the Daughter of My Said Sister Mary Hindes) and to her heirs and assigns.
Ittem.  I Give and bequeath My frying pan, Iron pott, and All my beding unto my Sister Abigail Lee, And to her heirs and assigns.  
Ittem.  All my Winter Corne, (Now Standing in my Field in Small Stacks.) I give and bequeath unto My well beloved Brother in Law Edward Spining, and My said Sister Mary Hindes, to be Equally Divided Between them, their heirs and assigns.
Ittem.  All my Indian Corne w’ch I have now Growing, I Give and Bequeath unto my beloved brother John Lee, his heirs and assigns.
Ittem.  My Two Hoggs and a pigg, I Give and Bequeath unto my brother In Law Edward Spinning, his heirs and assigns.
Ittem.  I give Grant Devise and bequeath unto my Said brother In law Edward Spining and his heirs and Assigns for Ever all that my Dwelling house and one acre and half of land, belonging and adjoining to in Scituate lying and being in Elizabeth towne afores’d on y’e North Side of y’e Country Road.  And also all that my houselot of land whereon my Orchard now Standeth, And the pasture left at the Rear of the Same home lott, w’ch is lying as being on the South Side of the Said County Road, adjoining to y’e land of Charles Tooker, being by Estimation Eight acres of land by the Same merrow by it Ever to have &c to lasts Dwelling house, one acre and a half of land to y’e Same belonging as afores’d, at the said house lott, pasture land &c Smiser will their every of their appurtenances unto him the Said Edward Spinning his heirs and assigns. _____ ____ _____ always and upon this condition, and my will is hereby Declared to be that the Said Edward Spinning his heirs Executors Or administrators Shall well and truly pay Or Cause to be paid unto my Sister Abigail here, whonow Aldo Shall arrive to y’e Age of Eighteen Years of Are Eise, the Sum of Ten pounds In Curr’t Money of y’e province of New York & do Discharge A Debt of y’e Liks Vollw, w’ch My Sister is bound to pay to her at y’e age afores’d, as an bond under my hand and Seal for y’e Same may &c Doth appear, and also that he y’e Said Edward Spinning his Executors or Administrators Shall well and truly pay unto Every other of my Creditors All Such Debts as to Each of them I Justly Owe.
Ittem.  I Give Grant Devise & bequeath unto my Brother John Lee, and to his heirs and assigns forever, all that other lott of land whereon my Indian Corn is now growing, (adjoining the Home lott of land before in this my Last will & testament bequeathed to the Said Edward Spinning.) and the pasture land at y’e Rvar of the Same being by Estimation nine acres of land by the Same more or buit Eight to have and to hold the Said Lott of land, pasture land and ______ will their and every of their appurtenances unto him the Said John Lee my brother, his heirs and assigns forever.
Ittem.  I Give Grant Devise and bequeath until Elihew Lee, Sonne of John Lee afores’d and to his heirs and assigns for Ever, All that My fifteen Acres of Land Lying and being In Elizabeth towne afores’d Joining to y’e Land of William Miller; to have and to hold the said fifteen acres of land unto the Said Elihew Lee (Son of y’e Said John Lee) his heirs & assigns for ever &c. – 
Ittem.  I make and Ordaine My Trusty friend ad welbeloved brother in law, Edward Spinning (afores’d) The whole Solo and only Executor of this my Last will and Testament and I Too utterly Revoke and Make Void Null and of No effect all wills and Testaments at any time heretofore, by me in any uiss Made or Declared.  Memorandum before Signing & Sealing.
I give and bequeath unto my Sister Abigail Lee all my flax, w’ch I have pulled Lying upon the Land of John Littell where the Same Grow:  In Confirmation of this My last will & Testament, I the Said Bernoni Lee have hereunto set my Mark Issued for my Name, and fixed My Seal, In Elizabeth Towne afores’d the Day and Year first herein above written.
The Mark of 
Benoni Lee
Signed and Sealed, published and Declared by September 24th 1705
The witnesses to this last will and Testament in this day appeared before me
y’e presence of us witnesses. ~ Samuel bonill and named him os
Samuel Whitehead and made oth that the same
Samuel Bonnell benoni lee Sind and Seld this
James hindes instrument atest

Benjamin price instint

An Inventory of the Goods and Chattels of Benoni Lee ___ _____ of Elisabeth Towne, Deceased, Taken and appraised by Daniel Ross and Ersken, Oct’r 26th 1705

1 Mare 50 / 1 Mare Colt 20’8 3 – 10 – 0
1 Cowe 50- to Claf 11’8 3 – 1 – 0
A parcel of Rye In y’e Theasse 2 – 0 – 0
1 half part of an old plough Iron 0 – 3 – 9
A pcell of Flax at 0 – 7 – 6
2 ______ at 3’8 ; old iron Geoss & Sheowns 2’8-6’9 0 – 5 – 6
1 pr bootle Rings, & 2 Iron avdges at 0 – 6 – 0
1 Iron pot, 11’8 1 frying pan 5’8 0 – 16 – 6
1 Falling ax, __ 2 pr fork Tirws 0 – 6 – 9
1 old bed hiking, 2 Cerdy bed & 1 blanket 1 – 14 – 6

1 Liney wooley Coat. 15’8 1 old hat 2’8 6: 0 – 14 – 6
1 Swivleteed Chaine, 3’8 9’8 / 1 glass bottle 4’8 - __ 0 – 4 – 1 ½
3 Young Swine at 1 – 18 – 0
A prell of old Casque 8’8 / 1 meal tray 1___ 0 – 4 – 6
1 buckle besstseid & bed cord 3’8 / sold for cass 0 – 4 – 6
A parcel of warme Raylor 0 – 3 – 0
Summe 15 – 18 – 1 ½

Pr  us; Daniel Ross

John Ersken

Friday, April 28, 2017

Records of William Bunnell, the Original Ancestor

John Bunnell retrieved documents regarding William Bunnell from the Massachusetts State Archives. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff transcribed them in the 1850s and published them in Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. Vol. I covers 1628-1641 while Vol. 2 covers 1641-1649. John reports it was a good thing they were transcribed because the originals from the 1630s and 1640s are now in such poor condition that they are seldom legible.

John also reports none of the information is new. All of the documents in the Massachusetts Archives were referenced in Charlie Bunnell's write-up concerning the original ancestor on the Bunnell/Bonnell Family Web Page. John searched all of their indexes and found nothing we did not know about before.  

John reminds us this is the first record we have of William Bunnell in America, the court inquiry into the death of Austen Bratcher, for which William Bunnell was a juror, on 28 September 1630.

John matched the documents he copied with all of the relevant pages from Shurtleff. Again, the quality of the originals is very poor.  

It seems we are now stuck with Shurtleff's transcriptions from 164 years ago, before the passage of time had rendered the originals almost illegible.

Here are images of the Shurtleff pages, his transcriptions and the original images John obtained.


*Septb'r 28th, 1630. 
28 September
A Jury impanneld to inquire concerning the death of Austen Bratcher:
             Rich : Browne,                         John Johnson,
           Willm Aspynwall,                 Edward Converse,
           Abraham Palmr,                         Ralfe Sprage,
           Nich: Stower,                         Giles Sexton,
           Peter Palfry,                                Abraham Pratt,
           Roger Williams,                        Francis Smyth,
           Willm Bunnell,                        George Dyar./
           Nich: Vpsall.,
Austen Bratcher, dyeing lately att Mr. Craddocks, plantadon, was viewed before his buryall by dyvrs psons, viz:–

1630                   Tho: Graues,                      Thomas Reade,
                           James Crugott,                   Rich: Lynton,}
                           Thomas Ward,                   John Jarvis     }  Absent
                           Thomas Payntr,                 Arthur Ellis.   }
                           Willm Barsham,
The Juryes Verdict:–
Wee finde that the strookes given by Walter Palmer were  occationally the meanes of the death of Austen Bratcher, & soe to be manslaughtr./
Walter Palmer hath bound himselfe in 40, & Ralfe Sprage & John Sticklett hath bound themselues in 20 a peece, for Walter Palmers psonall appearance att the next Courte, to be holden att Boston the 19th of Octobr nexte, to answer for the death of Austen Bratcher./


page 307   1640 7 October

…The country desires Watertowne to grant Willi: Bunnell a lot, & if hee do give chargeable, the country to beare it./


page 134 1645 1 October

…Mr. Sparhauke & Leift Mason appointed a committee wth all powr to dispose of ye childrn of Goodman Bunnell, if their grandfathr will not take care of ym.


page 139 1645 11 October

…It is thought meete yt those things viz, cotton woole, canvas, or else, wth returnees wn Capt. Bridges returnes, should be delivred to Mr. Sparhauke & Left Mason, to be disposed of to Goodman Bunnell & his use.



page 149              1646 6 May

It is ordered, yt if Mr Maverick & Mr Maning shall please to lay out 30s in cloathing in England for Wm Bunnell at his arrivall, on their receit undr his hand for so much delivred by them to ye said Wm Buñel in England, this Corte determines it shall be repaid them again here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Peter Rosell & John Rossell Signers of a 1796 Albermarle, Virginia Petition

From John Bunnell:
Here's a petition from Albemarle County (24 Nov 1786) signed by the Rossells?  This probably indicates the whole gang was still in Albemarle County as of this date, although we know they showed up on the Rockbridge tax rolls the following year.  

From George Farris:
I searched petitions in all of the relevant counties  - but mostly just "group" petitions such as "Citizen's Petitions."  There are a lot of individual petitions and it's possible that one of the people we are searching signed one of those as a witness.  I looked at some of those but it looked like most were for large landholders and not something that the Bunnells would be involved with. 

I did see the 1786 petition signed by Peter and John Rossell in Albemarle- and a few others in the following years.  

However, we know from Rossell researchers that Peter and most of the Rossells remained in Albemarle for many years and the Bunnells separated from them there.  

In fact the absence of William Bunnell's name on the 1786 petition indicates to me that they had already moved on by that time.  The only one of the Rossell family that seems to have lived near the Bunnells in later years was Nehemiah, the oldest son of Peter and Anna (Gray) Rossell.   Nehemiah's son, Peter, married Sarah Wright in Botetourt County.  It appears that Ann Wright (widow of Jacob) and her daughter Sarah moved with the Bunnells, since Ann was remarried in Rockbridge and Sarah married in Botetourt at the time that the Bunnells were in those counties.  Peter Rossell seems to have remained near his son John in later years in Albemarle and ultimately seems to have been near John when John lived in Fayette County, KY. Peter died near there in Mercer Co. KY in April 1802 (from the Shawnee Run Baptist Church records).

Regarding further research of the petitions, it would really be looking for a needle in a haystack (as Marjorie put it) - but might turn up another hit somewhere. I've already searched through all of the Citizen's Petitions in the counties where we know the Bunnells lived - and also in a few others. 


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Location of the Bonnells in Spotsylvania

From George Farris:

Regarding the location of the Bonnells in Spotsylvania, the 1772 deed document seems to place them on Plentiful Run (now Plentiful Creek).  Plentiful Creek is only about 6 miles long and is a tributary of the North Anna River near the Orange County line.  The last mile or so forms the Plentiful Creek embayment of Lake Anna near Belmont, VA. So they were quite close to Louisa and Orange Counties and quite a ways from Fredericksburg.  

William Bunnell & Peter Rosell, Signators on 1785 Albermarle County, Virginia Petition

From George Farris:

The 1785 religious petition from Albemarle that includes William Bunnel and Peter Rossell as signatories (page 3) is attached.  While Peter's name looks like his usual signature, the signature for William Bunnell looks like it may have been written by someone else. He always signed as Bonnel - not Bunnel. We know that he was there at that time from the 1785  Albemarle marriage bond for Anne Bonnel and John Farris - which he signed with his usual Wm Bonnel signature.


From John Bunnell:

I can’t put my finger on it, but there seems to be something particularly important about this document that George found.  This petition is too eloquently written, informed, and studied to have been the product of local county bumpkins.  This document clearly relates to the brewing debate over religious freedom then on-going in the Virginia legislature.  These arguments resulted in the passage of the seminal  Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom written by Thomas Jefferson that passed in the state assembly several months later (January 16, 1786).  Thomas Jefferson considered the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom one of his three greatest achievements, as is inscribed on his tombstone.  Is it just coincidental that this document was presumably signed in Charlottesville, the county seat of Albemarle County, which is also the location of Monticello, Jefferson’s home?  Did Thomas Jefferson write this?  This would seem unlikely, as he was in Paris as the Minister to France during these years.  But could he have written it in France and send it to his home county to support the upcoming assembly vote?  If not Jefferson, was it written by a close associate of his? Was there a compatriot of this in the community that held similar views and was familiar with the existing legislation?  Why is it not signed by the author, whoever he is?

If I get by Monticello an time in the future, I may drop in to see if they can shed any light on this petition.

George Farris:

While Jefferson was in France James Madison pushed for the Religious Freedom act and got it passed by the Virginia Assembly.  Madison was more verbose than Jefferson and this petition looks like his writings.  Similar petitions were circulated in other counties, not just in Albemarle.  The Act was a joint effort of Jefferson and Madison.

Here is a quote from that pretty well establishes James Madison as the author of the petition signed by William Bonnel in 1785:

" As a state legislator in 1776, Madison proposed a small but profound change in the wording of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which had said that everyone should have “fullest Toleration” of their religion. That wording implied that one religion was approved while the government would merely put up with others. Madison successfully argued that the wording should be changed to “free exercise of religion,” which truly protected the right to follow one’s conscience. In 1785, as the legislature debated whether to continue to fund churches with tax money, Madison wrote an influential petition called “Memorial and Remonstrance,” which clearly laid out 15 arguments against government support of churches. Madison emphasized that religion was a matter of individual conscience and could not be directed by the government in any way". 

John Bunnell:
See the following web sites for a discussion of this petition plus the letter between Madison and Jefferson where Madison describes writing the document and then having copies distributed to the “Upper Counties.”  Absolutely amazing.  This is one of the foundational documents of American democracy signed by our ancestors.

Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, [ca. 20 June] 1785  As this site describes, the Albemarle County document is one of at least thirteen copies of the Memorial & Remonstrance against Religious Assessments that were distributed mainly through the western counties of Virginia for signature. 

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 20 August 1785   "The opposition to the general assessment gains ground. At the instance of some of its adversaries I drew up the remonstrance herewith inclosed. It has been sent thro’ the medium of confidential persons in a number of the upper county[s] and I am told will be pretty extensively signed. The presbyterian clergy have at length espoused the side of the opposition, being moved either by a fear of their laity or a jealousy of the episcopalians. The mutual hatred of these sects has been much inflamed by the late act incorporating the latter. I am far from being sorry for it as a coalition between them could alone endanger our religious rights and a tendency to such an event had been suspected. The fate of the Circuit Courts is uncertain. They are threatened with no small danger from the diversity of opinions entertained among the friends of some reform in that department. But the greatest danger is to be feared from those who mask a secret aversion to any reform under a zeal for such a one as they know will be rejected."

You can view all of the petitions by accessing searching for “religion,” and then looking for the documents submitted by the different counties from October through December, 1785.  Most of the petitions were from the printed version.  The handwriting on the Albemarle County copy of the document is unique.  As such, it seems to be either the “second copy” written in James Madison’s handwriting and provided to George Nichols of Albemarle County or a copy of that document made by George Nichols.  The “first copy,” in James Madison’s handwriting, is in the National Archives, but I have not been able to find an on-line image for comparison.


To the Honble the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia
A Memorial and Remonstrance
We the subscribers of Albemarle county, having taken into serious consideration a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly entitled, “A Bill establishes a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion”, and conceiving that the same if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free state remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined.  We remonstrate against the said Bill.
Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that Religion of the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, and not by force or violence.” (Decl. Rights art. 16.) The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it, as these may dictate.  This right is, in its nature an unalienable right.  It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the violence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men.  It is unalienable also because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator.  It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him.  This duty is precedent both in order of time and in degree of obligation to the claims of Civil Society.  Before any man can be considered as a member if Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe.  And if a member of Civil Society, who enters into any subordinate Association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the General Authority; much more must every man, who becomes a member of a particular Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign.  We maintain, therefore, that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.  True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.
Because, if Religion can be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be the subject to that of the Legislative Body.  The latter are but the creatures and viceregents of the former.  Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited.  It is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments: more necessarily it is limited with regard to the constituents.  The preservation of a free Government requires, not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power, be invariably maintained; but more especially, that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people.  The Rulers, who are guilty of such and encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants.  The people who submit to it, are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.
Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.  We hold this prudent jealously to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution.  The freemen of America did not wait till Usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents.  The saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.  We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it.  Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other Religions? that the same authority which can force a Citizen to contribute threepence only of his property, for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment, in all cases whatsoever.
Because the Bill violates that equality which ought to be the basis of every law, and which is more indispensable, in proportion as the validity or expedience of any law is more liable to be improved.  “If all men are by nature equally free and independent;” (Decl. Rights A.1.) all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions, as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights.  Above all, are they to be considered as retaining an “equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience.” (Decl. Rights Art.16) Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man:  To God therefore, not to man must an account of it be rendered.  As the Bill violates equally by subjecting some to peculiar burdens; so it violates the same principle by granting to others, peculiar exemptions.  Are the Quakers and Mononists the only Sects who think a compulsive support of their Religions unnecessary and unwarrantable?  Can their piety alone be entrusted with the care of public worship?  Ought their Religions to be endowed above all others with extraordinary privileges, by which proselytes may be enticed from all others?  We think too favorable of the justice and good sense of these denominations to believe that they either covet preeminences over their fellow Citizens, or that they will be seduced by them from the common opposition to the measure.
Because the Bill implies, either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent judge of Religious truth, or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy.  The first is an arrogant pretension, falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world:  the second, an unhallowed perversion of the means of Salvation.
Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion.  To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world:  it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence:  nay it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have preexisted and been supported, before it was established by human policy:  it is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in hose who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies, to trust it to its own merits.
Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation.  During almost fifteen Centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial.  What have been the fruits?  more or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy ignorance and servility in the Society: in ____ superstition, bigotry and persecution.  Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lush. those of every Sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with civil policy.   Propose a restoration of this primitive state, in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of the flocks; many of them predict its downfal.  On which side ought their testimony to have the greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?
Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government.  If it be urged as necessary for the support of Civil Government, only as it is a means of supporting Religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former.  If Religion be not within the Cognizance of Civil Government, how can its legal establishment be said to be necessary to Civil Government?  What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society?  In some instances they have been seen to exact a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil Authority; in many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the Guardians of the liberties of the people.  Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries.  A just government instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.  Such a Government will be best supported by protecting every Citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion, with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.
Because the proposed establishment is a departure from that generous policy, which offering an asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our Country and an accession to the number of its Citizens.  What a melancholy mark is the Bill of sudden degeneracy?  Instead of holding for them asylum for the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution.  It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative Authority.  Distant as it may be, in its present form, from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree.  The one is the first step, the other the last, in the career of Intolerance.  The magnanimous sufferer under this cruel scurge in foreign regions must view the Bill as a beacon on our Coast, warning him to seek some other haven, where liberty and _________ in ______ extent may ______ ______ repose from his troubles
Because it will have a like tendency to banish our Citizens.  The allurements presented by other situations, are every day thinning their number.  To superadd a fresh motive to emigration, by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy would be the same species of folly which has dishonoured and depopulated flouting Kingdoms.
Because it will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion has produced among its several Sects.  Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish religious discord by proscribing all differences in religious opinion.  Time has at length revealed the true remedy.  Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease.  The American theater has exhibited proofs that equal and compleat liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State.  If with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bounds of religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly.  At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation.  The very appearance of the bill has transformed that “Christian forbearance, love and charity,” (Decl. Rights art: 16) which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jealousies which may not soon be appeased.  What mischiefs may not be dreaded should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of a Law?
Because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity.  The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be, that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind.  Compare the number of those, who have as yet received it, with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions, and how small is the former?  Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion?  no, it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of truth, from coming into the region of it; and countenances, by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them.  Instead of levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity, would circumscribe it, with a wall of defense against the encroachment of error. 
Because attempts to enforce by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to so great a proportion of Citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of Society.  If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case where it is deemed invalid and dangerous?  And what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotence in the Government on its general authority?
Because a measure of such singular magnitude and delicacy, ought not to be imposed, without the clearest evidence that it is called for by a majority of Citizens; and no satisfactory method is yet proposed, by which the voice of the majority in this case, may be determined, or its influence secured. “The people of the respective counties are indeed requested to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of the Bill to the next Session of Assembly.”  But the representation must be made equal, before the voice, either of the Representative or of the Counties, will be that of the people.  Our hope is that neither of the former, will after due consideration, espouse the dangerous principle of the Bill.  Should the event disappoint us, it will still leave us in full confidence, that a fair appeal to the latter will reverse the sentence against our liberties.

Because, finally, “the equal right of every Citizen to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience, is held by the same tenure with all our other rights.  If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weight its importance it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the Declaration of those Rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia as the basis and foundation of Government, " (Re to Decl. Rights) it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather with studied emphasis.  Either then we must say, that the will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority; and that, in the plenitude of this authority, they may sweep away our fundamental rights; or, that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred: Either we must say that they may control the freedom of the press; may abolish the trial by jury; may swallow up the Executive and Judiciary powers of the State; nay, that they may annihilate our very right of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independent and hereditary Assembly; or we must say that they have no authority to enact into a law, the Bill under consideration.  We the subscribers say that the General Assembly of this Commonwealth have no such authority and that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous a usurpation, we oppose to it this Remonstrance; earnestly praying, as we are duty bound, that the supreme Lawgiver of the Universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may, on the one hand, turn their Councils from every act which would affront his holy prerogative or violate the trust committed to them and, on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his blessing, may redound to their own praise, and may establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity, and the happiness of the Commonwealth.