December 18, 2010

Edward and Ann Powell Coffey

William Moseley [sic] was a resident of Essex, Colony of Virginia and gained many land grants by importing indentured servants. For each indenture signed, a quantity of land, typically 50 acres, was given and the servant bound to him for a specific number of years. 

Indentured servitude in the colonies generally meant that the servant coming from abroad signed a contract prior to leaving to work in colonial America.  These servants could be from anywhere (England, Ireland, The Netherlands, etc.) but typically left from English ports.  Their contract generally specified they work as a laborer for 4-7 years; the actual number of years depending on the laws of each colony.  In Virginia it could have been as few as 4 years or as many as 9 years.

At the end of his servitude, the servant would receive "freedom dues" in the form of land, money or other considerations. Some of the plantation owners were required to give their ex-servants a couple of hoes, a spade or two, an ax, a bushel of corn, a new suit of clothes and, other tools to help them get started as freedmen.  Along with any of this he might have received, William Mosely also willed his "servant Ed. Coffe one heifer of 2 years old."

The indenture of Edward Coffey to William Mosely apparently did not end amicable as I previously believed.  R. Stanley Harsh, through John Chenault and published in Issue 118 of the Coffey Cousins' newsletter dated Sept. 10, 2010, wrote that Edward achieved his "freedom, corn and clothes..." in a lawsuit in Essex Co., VA on Sept. 10, 1700.  Mosely was already deceased as his will was proved in Essex Co. on Apr. 10, 1699.  The lawsuit may have been a formality, but we may never know without discovery of further documentation.

Some sources used for this blog point out that indentured servants were neither allowed to marry nor, to participate in politics during their servitude. We know from this that Edward and Ann's marriage date of 1700, as given on page 58 of The Index to Marriages of Old Rappahannock and Essex Counties, Virginia, is accurate.  The source cites  record of marriage as contained in Essex Book D&W 10, page 75. 

There is a mention of Edward's wife Ann Powell Coffey in the March 10, 1700 will of Thomas Powell of Sittingbourne Parish, Essex Co. in which he willed one shilling to his daughter Ann Coffey.  A witness to the will was Edward Coffey.  From this we can deduce that Edward and Ann married between Jan. 1, and March 10, 1700.

Apparently little or nothing is known of their life together between marriage and Feb. 7, 1706 when "Edward Coffey of St. Ann's Parish, Essex Co., bought 118 acres on branches of Occupation Swamp from Mr. Augustine Smith and wife Susanna for 4720 lbs. of tobacco with apparently half down." Edward and Ann took possession on Mar. 6, 1706/7 as witnessed by Robert King and Thomas Warren.  Edward Coffey's name does not appear on the 1704 Quit Rent Roll of Essex Co. indicating that he owned no land on that date.

"This land was part of 2,359 acres granted Smith by patent on 2 May 1705."  The property "adjoined Thomas Warren on east side of Chickahominy Path, corner to Mr. Francis Gouldman hill near head of branch, corner to Beverly's great tract."

Edward and Ann apparently lived on that 118 acres until Nov., 1714 when they sold it to John Barbee for 5000 lbs. tobacco. On July 16, 1716 they purchased from John Mosely, the son and executor of Edward Mosely, "a plantation of 200 acres in St. Ann's Parish." Edward Mosely appears to be the brother of William.

The plantation purchase included "houses, buildings, barns, tobacco sheds, gardens, etc." It was described as being on the "east side of Occupation Creek, a small ranch [sic] [branch] of Gibsons Creek," and "part of a parcel commonly called Mosely's Quarter. They paid 8,000 lbs. of tobacco for the property.

This is the land that Edward left in his will to his sons John and Edward. He died sometime between making his will on Feb. 14, 1716 and July of that year because title to the land was finally recorded in the name Edward Coffey on July 16 of that year.

Edward likely made the deal with the Mosely family well prior to his death but the deed went unrecorded until his death.  I am uncertain what the age of majority was in the colony at the time, but it seems unusual that a pair of teenagers would be permitted by laws at the time to own property.  There may have been other considerations in the law which allowed it in the case of an inheritance.

This is also an indication - as some researchers have maintained - that John and Edward Coffey were twins.  In his work, Marvin Coffey wrote that the boys "were not 16 on February 14, 1716 but were on July 16."

It is also interesting to consider that William Mosely himself may have been an indentured servant at one time.  There is a record of one Major George Colclough receiving 1050 acres on Sep. 5, 1660 for "transportation of 21 persons into this Collony."  In addition to the other 20, the list includes a William Moseley.

Thoughts, additions or corrections welcomed!

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