Surry County Court Minutes ~ November 12, 1811
Being a large landowner in the county at the time, it's only natural that John Brown can be found with high frequency in the county court records. On two separate occasions he can be found suing a man named James Fitzgerald; first on February 10, 1807 and then again on November 12, 1811. Considering James Fitzgerald was at one time the sheriff of Surry County and is found being sued repeatedly by different individuals, I would assume that these two lawsuits most likely involved an issue with taxes. In 1810 John Brown is selected to act as a juror during the November court session, eventually serving on two cases dated November 16, 1810 involving a lawsuit between Nathan Chaffin and Nicholas Horn and a lawsuit between The State and one of his neighbors named Stephen Woode (Wood). As with most of the people closely associated with John Brown in Surry County, Stephen Wood was also originally from Montgomery County, MD and had married the sister-in-law of John Brown's neighbor Isaac Windsor. It may be that there is a deeper connection between the Brown family and the Wood family because this surname also appears on deeds from Washington County, TN involving John's father Jacob.
John Brown makes his return to the Surry County land records as a primary participant on October 28, 1816 when he sells the 100 acres he had purchased from Noel Wadel back in 1800 to his son Daniel. Two months later, and interestingly enough on Christmas day, John Brown writes out another deed transferring 100 acres to Jesse Peeter for the amount of "fifteen pounds current money." I find this deed particularly interesting due to the fact that John's granddaughter Jeannette Caroline Jones, eventually married a man named John Wesley Peter in 1836, although I've never made an attempt to connect the two men.
Just a month later on January 24, 1817, John Brown parts with another 100 acres of his land on Hunting Creek. The tract lay adjacent to the land he had just sold to his son Daniel, and in this instance was being purchased by his son Isaac. As I mentioned in my last post, it is also in 1817 that John Brown fulfills his obligation as the administrator of the estate of John Roark and on his behalf sells 50 acres of land on the Long Branch to William Tulbert. The Long Branch lies just to the south of North Hunting Creek and eventually feeds into it just downstream of John Brown's property which gives you a good idea of the close proximity of the two men.
On February 21, 1818, John's son John Jr. takes a turn at purchasing some land from his father and buys 100 acres adjacent his brother Isaac. Based on the property's description, it was most likely part of John Brown's 179 acre purchase from Josiah Roughton in 1799. What is most important about this deed is the fact that it is witnessed by his son-in-law Thomas Jones. With the name discrepancy caused by John Brown referring to his daughter as "Polly Jones" in the writing of his 1830 will and the existing marriage record that he acted as bondsman for naming her Nancy, I believe this deed to be further evidence of Nancy and Polly being one and the same person.
Five years would pass before John Brown makes his final land transaction in Surry County, selling 146 acres to his son Thomas A. Brown on September 18, 1823. The land is described as being adjacent John Brown, Tolbert, Henry Brown, and Isaac Brown and the deed was witnessed by A. Johnson, Aniais Roton, and John Brown Jr. The first thing that is interesting about this deed is that for the first time involving land transactions with his sons, no money is supposedly exchanged, and the land is granted "for and in consideration of the natural love and affection that a parent hath towards a child and for the better support and mantainance (sic)." Even more interesting is that for the first time on any document, John Brown doesn't sign his name and instead signs with "his mark". This is seen again when he writes his last will and testament on September 22, 1830 which would indicate to me that he had possibly suffered an illness or accident some seven years prior to dying, that rendered him unable to fully use his normal writing hand.
Last Will & Testament of John Brown.
Sept. 22, 1830 ~ Surry County, NC
"In the name of God amen. I John Brown of the county of Surry and state of North Carolina being of sound mind and disposing memory blessed be God, do this twenty second day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty make and publish this my last will and testament revoking all others in manner following to wit: First, I will that all my just debts be paid. Second, I will and bequeath unto my wife Molley Brown all my land and stock of every kind, house hold and kitchen furniture during her natural life or widder hood. Third, I will and bequeath unto my son Henry Brown one dollar over and above what he has all ready had. (Fourth) I will and bequeath unto my son John Brown twenty five dollars to be paid out of the property at my death over and above what he all ready had. (Fifth) I will and bequeath unto my son Daniel Brown twenty five cents over and above what he all ready had. (Sixth) will unto my son Isaac Brown twenty cents over and above what he all ready had. (Seventh) I will unto my daughter Polly Jones formerly Polly Brown fifty cents over and above what she has all ready had. (Eighth) I will unto my daughter Susanah Felts formerly Susanah Brown twenty five cents over and above what she has all ready had. (Ninth) I will unto my daughter Elizabeth Jones formerly Elizabeth Brown fifty cents over and above what she has all ready had. (Tenth) I will and bequeath unto my son James Brown all my lands and tennements stock of every kind and all my farming tools of every kind at the death or marrage of my wife and at my death I will unto my said son James Brown my one waggon and harness one still and the debts that is due to me and also at the death or marriage of my wife I will unto my said son James Brown all my house hold and kitchen furniture. (Eleventh) I will unto my son Thomas A. Brown twenty five cents over and above what he has all ready had. I hearby make and ordain my beloved sons John Brown and James Brown of the county and state aforsaid executor of this my last will and testament in witness where of I the said John Brown of the county and state afore said do here unto set my hand and affix my seal the day and date above written sind sealed in presence of A. Johnson Dr., George Messick, Wiley Messick." (original spelling left intact)
Surry County Court Minutes ~ November 8, 1830
John Brown's last will and testament was eventually proved in the Surry County court by the oath of Wiley Messick on November 8, 1830 thus placing John Brown's death between September 22 and November 8 of that year. His wife Mary (Molly) never remarried and continued to live on his main property up until her death sometime after 1850, with the land then being passed on to their son James as stipulated by the will. Their son James and his descendants would continue to occupy the property through the years, with there still being Browns living in the area to this day.
As far as a final resting place for John Brown and his wife, that still remains a mystery. The two most likely locations would be either the George Messick Cemetery or somewhere on his own land. Having been to the George Messick Cemetery, I would say there is a pretty good possibility he could be buried there. There are a number of unmarked graves and graves with stones that have been rendered illegible over time, leaving this possibility wide open. In fact, I tend to wonder if the cemetery wasn't actually misnamed. To the best of my knowledge, the cemetery's name originates with the writing and publishing of the book Cemeteries of Yadkin County, North Carolina compiled by Carl C. Hoots. The author cites his information on the Messick cemeteries as "through courtesy of Kathryn Ring." With all due respect to the author and Mrs. Ring, a few of the graves were definitely transcribed incorrectly. Most important to my point is the grave of George T. Messick for whom the cemetery is named. I tend to believe it's possible that the cemetery was only named after him because they thought his grave was the oldest and belonging to an obvious patriarch. With the date having been trancribed as "3- -1816" that would certainly be a correct assumption, but instead the stone actually reads 3- -1846. Another stone, supposedly even older belonging to Abigail Messick, is listed as having a death date of "5-27-1808". This has to be an error because Abigail Messick was the granddaughter of George T. Messick through his son John Nelson Messick and wouldn't have even been born in 1808, let alone dead in 1808 at age 39 as the book reads. With that being said, the oldest readable stone in the cemetery actually belongs to John Brown Jr. who died on February 12, 1834. The next oldest legible stone belongs to John Brown Jr.'s son George who died as an adult on May 1, 1839. Could it be that the cemetery actually started out as a Brown Family cemetery and saw shared usage with the Messicks due to John Brown Jr. having married into the family? It is in very close proximity to land known to be owned by John Brown Sr. and quite possibly lays on the parcel of land he sold to his son John Jr.
As I mentioned earlier, the other possibility is that John Brown is buried somewhere on his former property. I decided to put this theory to the test a few weeks ago and went down to have a look around and talk to some of the current landowners. After knocking on a few doors, I was directed to the sole remaining Brown still living in the vicinity of the property who happens to be an elderly woman once married to a descendant of John's son James. She had recollection of a small cemetery out in the middle of a cow pasture along the road that takes you back into John Brown's original 1786 land purchase. With the land having been parceled-out over the years and now under various people's ownership, I had the chance to talk to numerous people now living on the property. On two separate occasions I was told by different people about a gentleman who had built a home in recent years on the land in question and during the construction process he had uncovered what he thought was an Indian burial ground. I never got a chance to speak with the actual homeowner, so I'm not certain about how he determined it to be an Indian burial ground and not a 182 year old family cemetery. Being that I only live about 30 minutes from there, I do plan to make a return trip to dig into this matter a little further.....no pun intended. Stay tuned.