John Hartwell

On October 31, 1709, George Marable II of James City County conveyed to John Hartwell of  Surry County the 1,650 acre plantation known as Swann’s Point.  Reference was then made to the fact that all of the improvements on the property were included.  However the nature of those manmade features was not described (Surry County Wills and Deeds 1694-1709:428-429). On November 1, Marable appeared before the justices of Surry County’s monthly court, where he acknowledged the sale of his land to John Hartwell.  He noted that the transaction did not include the 300 acres Samuel Swann had granted to his stepmother, Mary Swann, the widow of Colonel Thomas Swann I, on February 15, 1685.  George Marable II indicated that the land he was conveying to John Hartwell and the 300 acres that had been assigned to Mary Swann were part of a large tract that the late Colonel Thomas Swann I had patented on February 4, 1645.  He also noted that the 1,650 acres he was conveying to John Hartwell had been sold by Samuel Swann to Joseph John Jackman on February 22, 1706, and that Jackman had transferred the same land to him on August 11, 1709 (Surry County Wills and Deeds 1694-1709:429-431).

John Hartwell took an active role in the local community.  In November 1710, while he was a burgess, he asked that the ferry from Surry to Jamestown be moved to another location.  In early October 1711 he requested compensation from the Surry County court for having delivered 500 palisades to Jamestown for the construction of a line battery there (Surry County Order Book 6 [1701-1711]:377-378).  This occurred at a time when Virginia’s officials were fortifying Jamestown against a possible invasion by the French.  Despite John Hartwell’s request that the ferry landing be moved, during the years that he and his heirs owned the Swann’s Point plantation, boats continued to ply a route to the western end of Jamestown Island.  In June 1714 Benjamin Chapman received authorization to be the keeper of the Swann’s Point ferry “until the owner of the said Point is willing to keep it” (Surry County Order Book 7 [1712-1714]:60).

On February 9, 1710, when John Hartwell prepared his will, he said that he was “very weak in body but of perfect sense and memory.”  Despite this apparent bout of ill health, he survived and his will was not presented to the county justices for probate until May 11, 1714.  He named as his principal heirs his wife and daughter, both of whom were named Elizabeth.  John Hartwell, as a testator, stated that:

First, I bequeath to my Dear and Loving Wife and her heirs forever the following negroes: John, Tom, Jack, Peter, Battis, Nanne, and Pegg.  I give and bequeath to my daughter Elizabeth the following negroes with their increase: Bridget, Moll, Dinah, Ned and Corego, but my loving and tender mother Elizabeth Eggleston, the wife of Mr. Benjamin Eggleston to have use of Moll during my mother’s natural life.  11 I give and bequeath to my uncle Thomas Rogers 10 pounds current money to be put into the hands of Mr.Benjamin Eggleston for his use as he shall have unction toward his support and maintenance.  I give and bequeath to my loving friend Benjamin Howard my pistolls, houlsters and sword to be delivered him soon after my death.

 It is my will that all the rest of my estate except my land be valued in money, one third of which I give to my loving wife and the other two thirds to my daughter Elizabeth to be delivered to her at the day of marriage or when she shall attain to the age of twenty-one years.  But if my daughter should die before the day of marriage or the age of twenty-one, then I order and direct that the estate given her both in negroes and money be divided into two parts, one moiety to the use and occupation of my loving wife and the other moiety to be divided between my three cousins John Drummond, George Marable Jr.[III] and Henry Hartwell Marable, children of my loving sister Mary Marable, and in case either of them should die an infant then I give the estate to the survivor.

I bequeath to my dear and well beloved daughter Elizabeth and the heirs of her body lawfully begotten all the lands and tenements I have in this county of Surry but my wife to have her life in this part of the land where I now dwell, bounded from the Mount Swamp on the back of my cornfield where there is a spring and from thence strait threw [sic] the woods to the corner of William Gray’s land to Benjamin Chapman’s line and along the line between the said Chapman’s land and mine to a place called the drain wch is near the mouth of a gut and so round the point on the river till it runs to the Mount Swamp as aforesaid.   And in case my daughter die without heirs as aforesaid then I give the said land bounded as aforesaid to my loving wife and her heirs forever.  But if it should so happen that my wife should die before my daughter, then my will is it be divided with the whole tract among my cousins as the other part of my land.  The remaining part of the land without the bounds before mentioned after my daughter’s decease [without heirs], I give to my three cousins. 

John Hartwell said that if his land were divided for distribution to his secondary heirs, it should be done equitably, taking into account the value of the improvements on the various parcels.  He closed his will by designating his wife, Elizabeth, as his executrix (Surry County Deeds &c. 5 [1709-1715]:184-185).

Significantly, John Hartwell’s will reveals that he bestowed upon his widow, Elizabeth, life-rights in the eastern part of the Swann’s Point tract, where they were then residing.   That acreage ran from Gray’s Creek, westward along the James River, to the Mount Swamp.  Meanwhile, daughter Elizabeth, upon marrying or turning age twenty-one, stood to inherit the western part of the Swann’s Point tract, that portion which extended from Mount Swamp to the westerly limits of Hartwell’s land, which abutted the eastern boundary of Four Mile Tree.  It was the acreage upon which the Mount Pleasant mansion later was built.  At the death of John Hartwell’s widow, Elizabeth, their daughter and only child Elizabeth was to inherit his real estate in its entirety. Through this means, virtually all of John Hartwell’s Swann’s Point real estate eventually descended to his daughter.

As noted above, John Hartwell’s will was presented for probate on May 11, 1714, by his widow, Elizabeth, who was ordered to present an inventory of his personal estate. The will’s authenticity was proved by George Marable II and Benjamin Wheele and one of the court’s justices was supposed to appraise the decedent’s estate.  On June 16, 1714, when the justices convened again, they noted that Elizabeth Hartwell had failed to bring  an inventory of her late husband’s estate (Surry County Order Book 7 [1712-1718]:27-28, 34).  However, on July 21, 1714, Elizabeth Hartwellwas present and gave the county justices an inventory of John Hartwell’s estate.  The material goods in John’s possession at the time of his death indicate that he was a learned man of considerable means.  He had owned books on law and philosophy and luxury items such as fine furniture, silver serving vessels, and looking glasses, and also had had a substantial herd of livestock (Surry County Deeds &c. 5 [1709-1715):203-204) (Appendix B). It is uncertain how long his widow, Elizabeth, survived and occupied the property to which she had life-rights, the eastern part of the Swann’s Point tract.

[11] Benjamin Eggleston owned part of Powhatan Plantation in James City County.

[12] The Gray and Chapman properties abutted Gray’s Creek.  The Mount Swamp appears to have been the deep ravine that formed a natural boundary line between the Mount Pleasant and Swann’s Point tracts.