Dated 10 Dec 1732 and probated Feb 1735, Joseph Thomas penned his last will and testament mentioning wife Eales (Alice); sons Joseph, Michael, Luke, James, Jacob; and daughter Charity. The executors were Michel Thomas and John Spivey. The will was witnessed by Francis Hobson and William Simmons.

In Feb 1738, the son Jos. Thomas was appointed “Constable in the ye room of Rt. Howell.“ Evidently Robert Howell had served as constable and now Joseph Thomas was for some reason stepping in to take his place. Robert Howell’s land adjoined the lands of Francis Hobson near Chisky Swamp and the Roquest Islands.

In the same month, [E-395 Bertie, 13 Nov 1738, Feb 1738], Littleton Spivey conveyed to Ealee Thomas. 220 acres on NS Morrattock River adjoining James Blount and Thomas Busby land with mention of a dividing line between said Spivey and Page. Witnesses were George House, James Carter with Luke Thomas jurat. Next, [F-450 Bertie, 29 Dec 1740, Feb 1742] Alice Thomas, “widow” gifted the same 220 acres of land to her “well beloved son Luke.” Witnesses were William Carter and Brother James Thomas. Note that this is the 220 acres that had passed from Richard Melton to Francis Parker and then from Francis Parker to Henry Averett before being conveyed to Joseph Thomas. The deed to Joseph Thomas was dated 12 May 1735 occurring after the death of Joseph Thomas Senior. And, following that transaction, within two years the land somehow made its way back to the hands of the widow Alice Thomas who gifted it to her son Luke. Also important in this transaction is the naming of Littleton Spivey. I guess from this and other mentions of the name, it is believed by family that Joseph Thomas Senior’s widow was born a Spivey. Littleton Spivey is the son of John Spivey who owned land in the area. I wish I could write more on this connection but for now I’m simply not sure of the heritage.

At the time when the above deed to Luke Thomas was registered, and per the Feb 1742 Bertie P& Q, Alice Thomas proved her rights vizt: Alice Thomas, James Thomas, Jacob Thomas, Mary Thomas whites & York, Rose, Ned, Simon, Philis & Penny Blacks. Ind. This indicates sons Joseph, Michael and Luke were at that time free men and note there is now a daughter named Mary who was not named in Joseph Thomas Senior’s last will and testament. And, later in the same year, in Aug 1742, Joseph Thomas on oath proved his rights to wit: Joseph Thomas, Anne Thomas & Michael Thomas & Mary Thomas white persons. Joseph is married to Anne and at this day and time, the family are all listed as white. Though issues of race identity have been raised due to the mixed culture, this tax list is supported through recent DNA testing.

A person by name of Mary Owl gifted household items to her children James, Anelina and Sarah Owl [F-471 Bertie, 1 Oct 1741, Nov. 1742]. Witnesses of the transaction were Thomas Wilson, Joseph Thomas and Ann Thomas. I’m thinking that for the first time, in this record we are seeing Joseph Thomas Junior and his wife Ann. There’s nothing more on Mary Owl but I wonder of her heritage? In order to gain a sense of location, I discovered that the witness Thomas Wilson owned land near the southern end of Wattom Branch. A later Bertie County tax list identifies Thomas Wilson’s son Edmond as mulatto. Is it possible that Thomas Wilson was black or Indigenous or had he married such? Note that in this day and time race was dictated by that of the mother.

In Feb 1743, Joseph Thomas’ appointment as constable was continued for the ensuing year. In May of the same year, and “pursuant to the directions of ad act of Assembly for obtaining an exact list of tithables, this court appoints the following districts to the several constables & Vizt: (of which one is):

Jos: Thomas’s district from the mouth of Rocqques up Cashay to Thos. Jones thence across the woods to Nathan Mirs & down Rocques to the first station.

On 27 Feb 1748, Joseph Thomas purchased 178 acres on the north side of Cashy Swamp from John Bell [G-78 Bertie]. The land adjoined that of Maj. West. Witnesses were Thomas Castallew, Thomas Simons and Peter Day.

One of the most proclaimed Thomas histories is the Thomas Bridges Story 1540-1740 written by Edison H Thomas. The author indicates that Joseph and Alice Thomas’ son James married Sarah Barnes and lived until James’ last will and testament was written in Bertie County. Problem is that James’ brother Joseph died earlier after writing his last will and testament nearly 30 years earlier in 1852. In his will Joseph Thomas gives and demises:

“… to my daughter Elizabeth Thomas my land and plantation whereon Judeth Thomas now lives it being the land that fell to me by the death of my brother James Thomas.”

If James Thomas was pronounced dead in his brother’s 1752 last will and testament, it would have simply been impossible for James to write his own last will and testament in 1780 …he was already dead! Seeking some sort of record confirming James’ earlier death, in 1750 John Sallis, Deputy Sheriff late of Bertie County provided an account of the sale of James Thomas’ estate. Buyers were Judith Thomas, Joseph Thomas, John Jameson, Jethro Butler, William Holmes, Mr. Searson, and James Boyt. Armed with this information it needs to be asked if I am right on this and if so, who was James Thomas who died ca. 1780? Hopefully others will help to make that determination.


Note that James Thomas’ estate sale was administered by John Sallis, whose title is deputy sheriff of Bertie County. Governor Gabriel Johnson signed into law an act “That the Court House, Prison, and Stocks shall be built between Cashy Bridge and Will’s Quarter Bridge.” In 1748 John Sallis was contracted to construct locks, window bolts, and a table. Sallis was also contracted to lay off and fence in the courthouse yard with posts and rails and to erect a whipping post and stocks. By 1751 John Sallis had moved west to Granville County and by 1752 he had sold all his land in Bertie which included 100 acres on the Cashy.Gottlieb_August_Spangenberg

In 1752 bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg toured North Carolina seeking a place to establish a 100,000 acre Moravian settlement. Passing through the town of Edenton he met with Thomas Whitmell in Bertie County before heading west where his team was treated for sickness at the home of John Sallis. From Spangenberg’s journal the following excerpts tell of John Sallis and of his experiences in Bertie County:

We also visited the Tuscaroras, who live on the Roanoke. They have a tract of good land, secured to them by Act of Assembly; I should judge that it contains twenty or thirty thousand acres. It is twelve miles long, but not wide.
Their Interpreter, Mr. Thomas Whitemeal, was kind to us, took us to them, showed us their land, and introduced us to them. He was at one time a Trader among them, understands their language fairly well, and speaks it with ease. Now he is one of the richest men in the neighborhood, and is respected by everybody.
The Indians have no king, but a Captain elected from among them by the whites. There are also several Chiefs among them.

The Tuscaroras are few in number, and they hold with the Six Nations against the Catawbas, but suffer much on this account. They live in great poverty, and are oppressed by the whites.

Mr. Whitemeal is their Agent and Advocate, and stands well with them.
Hitherto no one has tried to teach them of their God and Saviour; perhaps that is well, for the Lord has His own time for all. If it will be the duty of the Brethren to work among them I do not know, but I rather think so, and should like to hear what the Brethren think.


North Carolina in Granville County, 153 miles from Edenton, at the home of Mr. John Sallis, Sept. 25, 1752. Here at the home of Mr. John Sallis the Saviour has stopped us for a little while, and four of our company have been in bed with a bad attack of chills and fever. All this section of North Carolina lies low, and there is much water, fresh and stagnant, which breeds fever every year, and many die from it. Br. Henry Antes, Johann Merck, Hermann Loesch, and Timothy Horsefield are now in bed sweating under the influence of a root that is here used as a remedy for the fever. I hope the Saviour will lay His blessing upon the treatment.

We believe that we caught the fever in Edenton, and brought it with us, for there is so much fever in that town that hardly anyone gets through a year without an attack. It lies low, surrounded by water, which has neither ebb nor flow on account of the sandbanks, which lie between North Carolina and the sea, and hinder the tide. For this reason the large rivers, e.g., the Chowan, Roanoke, etc., have no free outlet, and little return of water from the sea. Therefore North Carolina has less chance for trade than Virginia or South Carolina, for, accurately speaking, there is no navigable river in the part of the country belonging to Lord Granville. But to resume,—We plan to remain here until our men are again on their feet, and will then continue our journey.

We are staying with a man who spent a year and half alone in Guinea. The Captain with whom he sailed maltreated and then abandoned him. The negroes took him, bound him, and intended to kill him, but changed their minds, allowed him to live, and were good-natured and friendly. They wanted him to stay with them but he longed for home, and took the first good opportunity to return.

We are receiving much kindness in his house. He serves us like a brother, and his wife gladly does everything she can also. We wish the Unity to pray for a blessing upon them, that they may receive mercy even as he and his wife and children have shown it unto us.

It’s really interesting to me that Gotlieb Spangenberg met with Thomas Whitmell who, in the same year, was named executor in the 1752 last will and testament of Joseph Thomas. And not many years earlier, John Salis was administered the 1750 estate sale of James Thomas. And, as it turns out, the 1758 estate sale for Joseph Thomas was administered by “Robert Harris, assignee of John Sallis.” All of this happened at a time when disease was raging. Maybe we are seeing the cause of Joseph and James’ death? And, in looking back through the 1758 estate papers for Joseph Thomas, it appears that Joseph Thomas’ widow and executrix Ann Thomas married again following Joseph’s death. From below, it is ordered that “Absolum Collins late of Bertie, if found, be brought in to answer John Hill and Ann his wife Executrix and Arthur Williams and Thomas Whitmell Executors of the last will and testament of Joseph Thomas deceased.” So, at that point Ann was both the wife of John Hill and executrix of the estate of Joseph Thomas. This is not written in any family histories and I believe it to be a new find!


1 thought on “OUR FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS (Pt. 3)

  1. bertiecountyindianwoods

    This Thomas Busby is my uncle. He married the sister of Needham Bryan/t the Tuscarora Indian agent. it is also possible that Thomas Busby is one of the “Indian” Thomas Busbys that is mentioned in the series “Some of the Buzbees and their Best Friends”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s