Monday, January 15, 2007

Moorefield Genealogy

276 638-6001
DECEMBER, 10, 2006


Many of our family members today incorrectly feel that the Morefields and Moorefields are two different families. In the early days of this country, there were few people who could read and write, and when people got married, bought property, or for other reasons had their name written in a court record, it was written by the court official the way it sounded to him. In many of the early records, we find our name spelled a number of ways, such as Marfield, Merefield, Mirfield, Murfield, Morefield, Moorfield, Mofield, Moefield, Morefeal, and others. By the later 1700's, the common spelling in Halifax County, Virginia court records was Morefield. Halifax County began maintaining a personal property tax list in 1782, and our family name was spelled Morefield through 1817; but in 1818 and thereafter, it became Moorefield.

Many of our Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois Moefield and Morefield cousins, whose families can often be traced back to Halifax County, simply had their name spelled that way by public officials due to the fact that they spelled the name as it sounded to them. I have observed that many of the Mofields, Moefields, and Morefields in this country descend from ancestors who migrated away from Halifax County by the early 1800's, say by 1820, and many of the Moorefields descend from those who migrated afterwards. In some areas today, such as Guilford, Forsyth, Stokes and Surry counties in North Carolina, most of the Moorefields who live there had grandparents and great grandparents who spelled their name Morefield.

While it would be very difficult to determine the exact number of people with the Moorefield (of all spellings) surname by birth who live in this country today, I estimate this number to easily be about one thousand. From research by myself, and others such as Pat Moorefield Seaver of Tennessee, Robert Morefield of Illinois, and Phyllis Morefield of the Edinburg, Va., I estimate that upwards of ninety percent of these folks descend from the early Morefields of Halifax County, Va. There have been a few colonial era Morefield records found in other locations, but most of these seem to have disappeared leaving few or no descendants.

Also, research has shown that during the 1760 to 1790 era, the only Morefield families found in this country lived in Halifax County, Va., and Rowan County, N.C., and that these family groups were undoubtedly closely related to each other.

GENERATION NO. 1 JOHN MOREFIELD (Probably born in England, unknown birth date, and likely the same John Morefield who died in New Kent County, Va. on 2-18-1688).

This section is based on scant data, and is mostly an educated guess on my part. The first Morefield in this country that I believe we descend from was John Morefield who came to Virginia from England under England's Headright program. His name is mentioned several times in a book entitled CAVALIERS AND PIONEERS , which can be found in most Virginia libraries. Under the Headright program, the King of England granted fifty acres of land in Virginia to anyone who would come to this country, and a sponsor could be arranged for anyone who did not have funds to pay his own way. The person wanting to come to Virginia would agree to give the sponsor his fifty acres and also agree to work as an indentured servant for a period of time in exchange for his passage. Thomas Riding is named as having paid the passage for John Morefield and nineteen others, who arrived on Virginia's Eastern Shore in April, 1666. He was the only Morefield in his group and there were no brothers or other family members with him. Some descendants feel there were two or more brothers who came to this country together but I have found no document to support this theory.

In New Kent County, Virginia, in the church registry of St. Peter's Parish, there is recorded the death of John Morefield on February 18, 1688. The courthouse in New Kent County has burned three times since then, the last time in the final months of the Civil War by the Union Army), and there are no documents in the courthouse older than 1865, so there is no proof that this was the same John, but I feel the probability of this is very high. Today, this church is known as St. Peter's Episcopal Church and is located in Talleysville, in New Kent, Va. Prior to the Revolutionary War, the Church of England (Anglican Church), was the official church in colonial Virginia. After this country gained its independence from England, the former Anglican Church in this country became the Episcopal Church.

GENERATION NO. 2. JOHN MOREFIELD NO. 2 (unknown birth date, probably before 1688 in New Kent Co, Va., died in 1751 in Lunenburg Co., Va.)

The next reference to a Morefield is the inclusion of John Merefield on the Rent Roll in New Kent County, Virginia in 1704. The Rent Roll was a list of those who paid an annual property tax to the King of England, and the 1704 list is the only one surviving from this era. As there is no record of any other Morefield families being in this country at that time, I feel it likely that this John was a son of the first John Morefield. My belief, while unproven, is that the first John came to this country as a young man, probably in his teens or early twenties, served as an indentured servant on the Eastern Shore for three to six years, and later migrated to New Kent County with his family. I feel he must have died in his middle ages and that the John named in 1704 was a son of his who had reached adulthood and become a landowner. There was also a Daniel Murfied who married Rachel Coker in New Kent County in 1709, and I believe John and Daniel were likely brothers. There are a number of Murfield families in this country today who trace their ancestry back to Daniel and Rachel.

From a comparison of names found in New Kent - Hanover County records, and Lunenburg County, Va. records, it is apparent that John Morefield and a friend named Jonathan Ashworth migrated from eastern Virginia to Lunenburg County in the 1740's. In addition, Pat Moorefield Seaver has found records of a John Hilton living in New Kent County in the 1720's, and a Thomas Hilton buying 270 acres of land in Lunenburg County in 1748.

In Hanover County, which is adjacent to New Kent County, there was a general store operated by Thomas Partridge in the early 1700's in which there are entries for Jonathan Ashworth and Edward "Murfil"; one such instance in which Jonathan Ashworth bought Edward Murfil a hymnal. Also, in a registry book for St. Peter's parish, John Morefield, and Johnathan Ashworth are both named as property owners. John Morefield is named as having his property surveyed every few years from the early 1700's to the mid 1740's, a few years before he appears in Lunenburg County court records.

There are several court records in Lunenburg County, Va. naming John and Edward Morefield, (named a constable in 1749), and Jonathan Ashworth. John Morefield's will was recorded there in 1751, and Jonathan Ashworth's in 1759. After the 1751 death of John Morefield in Lunenburg County, a Jean Morefield married John Ashworth, son of Jonathan, and they moved into what is now Pittsylvania County. From these and other records, it is apparent that the Morefield, Ashworth, and Hilton families migrated from the Hanover – New Kent area of Virginia to Lunenburg County in the 1740's.

GENERATION NO. 3 EDWARD MOREFIELD (probably born in the early 1700's in New Kent or Hanover Co., Va, died in Nov., 1785 in Halifax Co., Va.)

GENERATION NO. 4 JOHN MOREFIELD, SR. (probably born by 1730 in New Kent or Hanover Co., died in 1812 in Halifax Co., Va.)

There are no extant documents which state the relationship between John no. 2 and Edward and there are varying opinions among Morefield researchers as to their kinship. I believe Edward to have been a son (but not necessarily the only one) of John no. 2. John's1751 will names daughters Jane, Elizabeth, and "grandson" John, but not Edward, causing some researchers to believe Edward was not a son of John. I subscribe to the theory that John followed the custom of transferring property to some heirs prior to his death and naming others in his will (Jean Morefield who married John Ashworth may have been this same Jane, or perhaps a daughter of Edward). Edward and a third John, who I feel was the "grandson John", moved into Halifax County between 1753 and 1755, (John Morefield was appointed a constable in Lunenburg County in 1753, so he was still living there then). To repeat, I believe that the "grandson John", was a son of Edward, and that Edward was a son of John who died in 1751. Edward and John Morefield, (the third John Morefield), are mentioned in Halifax County court records numerous times beginning in 1755 through 1785, and in 1756, Edward Morefield "of Halifaxx (sp) County" sold property he owned in Lunenburg county. This fact negates the theory by some that Edward and John actually lived in the part of Lunenburg County that became Halifax County in 1751; and indicates that they physically moved from Lunenburg into Halifax.

After the end of the Revolutionary War in 1781, the former thirteen colonies became the United States of America, and the first population count of the United States was taken in 1782. This was not actually named a census, but a Head of Household count in preparation for the first U.S. census planned for 1790. In 1782, records can be found for only two Morefield households in Virginia, and both were in Halifax County. These were the households of Edward Morefield and John Morefield. Edward's household had three members, and John's had ten. At that time, the only names taken were the head of household; other members were not named, and no ages were given. For this reason, it is not possible to name the members of each household with absolute certainty. We know that Edward had a wife, as the Halifax County record of his estate sale in November of 1785 mentions "the widow Morefield" as well as John Morefield, who also was named administrator of Edward's estate in a separate document. There was an earlier deed that named Edward and Alse Morefield, so it is presumed that Alse was his wife. John's wife was named Martha and Patsy in different documents. In other records and for other families, it is seen that Patsy was a common nickname for Martha in those days, just as Jack is a nickname for John these days. The name of the third member in Edward's household is not known, nor has it been determined if this was a child, other family member, or someone outside the family. The household count was done again in early 1785, before his death in October or November. At this time Edward's household still had three members, but John's had only nine. John's daughter Elizabeth married Howard Cain that year, which may explain the decrease from ten members to nine. I assume John to have been her father as he signed her marriage bond.

In the 1787 count, the only Morefield households in Virginia were the homes of John Morefield and Wright Morefield, (Edward had died in 1785). Since Wright was listed as living in John's household in the 1784 Personal Property Tax List for Halifax County, (prior to Edward's death in 1785), it is assumed that John was the father of Wright, and that Wright was probably John's oldest son. The PPTL was a record of all land owners and those over the age of twenty–one.

In summary, I feel Edward was a son of John no. 2 who died in 1751, and "grandson John", John no. 3, was Edward's son. Another possibility is that Edward and John no. 2 were either brothers or uncle/nephew. The 1790, 1800, and 1810 census records were destroyed in the War of 1812 when the British burned Washington and unfortunately, much valuable genealogical information was lost with these records.

It is very likely that John no. 2 who died in Lunenburg County in 1751 had other children. In 1754 and 1755 there was a James Morefield in Granville County, N.C., (mentioned along with a John Blackman in a militia roster). Granville County is due south of Lunenburg County, and its northwest corner borders the southeast corner of Halifax County. There is a 1765 Halifax County deed book record of a James Moorefield living on land being sold to Thomas Hilton, (remember that name?), and in 1766 there is a Halifax court case naming James Morefield and Elizabeth Morefield as defendants. (Curiously, the record does not state James and Elizabeth Morefield, but is worded as above). In 1760, Thomas Hilton and Beacham Hilton are shown in Halifax records. Neither James nor Elizabeth is mentioned again in Granville or Halifax counties, but a James Morefield appears in tax records in Rowan County, N.C. in 1768. This is the Salisbury area today, but in the 1760's, Rowan County also encompassed present Davidson County, and it appears that James lived in the part of Rowan that became Davidson County. Davidson County lies south of Guilford County; Greensboro and High Point, N.C. On October 16, 1789 in Rowan County, N.C., a Mary Morefield married Mark Sluider, and the bondsman was "Peachum Helton", likely the same Beacham Hilton of Halifax County. Also, on November 5, 1792, Milly Morefield married Lifas Helton in Rowan County. I, and other researchers believe it to be very probable that James moved from Granville County, N.C. to Halifax County, Va., then further west to Rowan County, N.C., and it is also very likely that Mary and Milly were his daughters. It is also probable that John Blackman Morefield was his son, and perhaps named after his friend John Blackman of the Granville County militia roster. Clearly, there was some sort of connection among the Morefield, Ashworth, and Hilton families of New Kent, and other counties of Virginia and North Carolina.

On 2-9-1765, Edward bought a 220 acre farm from James Thomas Barding on the Dificult Creek. This property is along the current Allen's Mill Rd., about four miles northeast of the town of Scottsburg. He sold 50 acres of this property in August, 1777 and the remainder in the following October.

On 11-22-1777, John Morefield bought 140 acres on what is now Long Branch Rd, about two miles north of Scottsburg. He later increased his holdings to 225 acres. This farm was sold in parcels, the last in September of 1806, and the following month, he bought a 100 acre farm about two miles northeast of Scottsburg along the Hazlenut Branch. This farm was later bought by Thomas C. Wilmouth, my great great great grandfather in 1832, and lies just on the east side
of present day Lee-Syd-Moore Rd.


John Morefield's (No. 3) will was recorded in Halifax in May, 1812, and probated the following November, naming both his wife Patsy and his "beloved son John". It is not known for sure why he named no other children and singled out John, except laws and customs were different then. In several court records in Halifax County, the senior John is listed as John, Sr., and the "beloved son John" as John, Jr. Now remember that John, Sr. is not the same John who first came to this country, but I believe him to be the grandson John named in the Lunenburg will of 1751. Following, in order of marriage are those who I feel were children of John and Martha.

1. Elizabeth Morefield married Howard Cain on 4-4-1782. The only clue to Elizabeth's age is that John gave his consent to the marriage by signature. Statute required consent of a parent or legal guardian if under age 21, so it is believed that Elizabeth was born later than 1861. No further research has been done for Elizabeth.

2. Wright Morefield married Nancy Stevens on 12-22-1785. Wright's name first appeared on the Halifax County personal property tax (PPTL) list in 1784, listing him in the household of John Morefield. Given this, he would have been born by 1763. He is not listed in deed records as having owned any real estate, and last appeared on the PPTL in 1821. He is not named in any records after that year.From study of various records, several other researchers and I feel that Wright and Nancy were parents of the following children.

a. John W., born about 1790, married Sally Powell, daughter of Joshua and Frances Powell, on 12-12-1810. Numerous descendants of their son, William T. live in Halifax, Pittsylvania, Charlotte, and Amhurst counties. Raliegh Carrington Moorefield, former Halifax County school board member, is a descendant. John W., his wife, and their younger children moved to Henry County, Tenn. about 1847. He was last named in the 1850 census.

b. Henry, born about 1791, married Nancy Powell, Sally's sister, on 5-10-1814. Henry last appeared on the Halifax County PPTL in 1822, and was on the 1830 and 1840 census records for Stokes County, NC. He was listed as a pensioner for the War of 1812. It is possible that Henry and his family moved to Stokes County about the same time that his uncle William Moorefield, Sr., listed below, moved to Patrick County, Va. These two counties have a common border, and William lived in the Mayo Creek area of Patrick County, just north of the Snow Creek area of Stokes County, and it is possible the two families moved together. In 1839, Henry, and his son – in – law, William C. George, bought land in Patrick County, so it is evident they were not far from the border. In the 1850 census, the family is shown in Pulaski County, Kentucky. They have no descendants in Stokes County. Henry was last listed on the 1860 census.

c. James Harding, born about 1794, married Polly Powell, sister of Sally and Nancy, on 9-13-1816 in Caswell County, NC. James last appeared on the Halifax PPTL in 1822, and he was living in Rowan County, NC in the 1830 census. From there, they migrated to Clark County, Illinois by 1840, and to St. Claire, Il. By 1850. He was last named in the 1850 census.

d. Armistead, born about 1798, married Anna Thomas on 2-14-1822, the last year he is found on the PPTL. Armistead is not found in the 1830 census, but appears on the Iredell County, NC census in 1840. I feel he was probably living with his wife's parents most of the intervening years. He has numerous descendants in surrounding counties.

3. John Morefield, Jr. first appeared on the PPTL in 1788, and was probably born about 1766. He and Winifred Bruce, daughter of John Bruce, were married on 5-17-1787. He last appeared on the PPTL in 1815, and Winifred is listed in 1817, so it appears he died sometime in between. Winifred died in 1849, and her grandson Isaac was named administrator of her estate. John and Winifred's daughter in law, Sally Monday, had a sister, Tabitha, who was married in their home. However, the minister failed to return the bond to the courthouse, so the marriage was not recorded. In 1844, Winifred signed an affidavit attesting to the marriage to support Tabitha's claim for a widow's pension. As part of this affidavit, Winifred provided a family register naming her children. Those were:

a. William. Jr., perhaps named after his uncle, William, Sr., was born on 3-27-1888, and married Nancy Canada on 9-25-1809. They lived in Halifax and Pittsylvania counties until the 1840's, during which time, William migrated to Troup County, Ga, apparently without Nancy, but with their son Willis. In the 1860 and 1870 census, he is shown living in Alabama.

b. Polly, born on 4-6-1789, married Nevin McKinney on 9-15-1817.

c. John Royal, born on 5-16-1791 married Sally Monday on 6-13-1813. They lived in Halifax County until 1850 and then moved to the city of Danville, where John Royal died of typhoid in 1856. Sally later moved to Prince Edward County with their daughter Sara Catherine Sest, where she died in the 1880s. They have numerous descendants in Halifax, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, Cumberland, and Henrico counties of Virginia, and Rockingham, Caswell, and Guilford counties of North Carolina.

d. Edmund, born 4-19-1793, married Rachel Crews on 9-24-1816. They had one daughter, Elizabeth Ann, and Edmund died in 1822, cause unknown.

e. Coleman, born 8-31-1795.

f. Dickerson, born on 4-7-1798. A Richard Moorefield married Nancy McKenney on 11-12-1819. Richard lived next to Winifred in the 1830 census, and his three children were named in the settlement of her estate. There is no doubt that he was either Coleman or Dickerson, but there is no document to state which, or what became of the other. He died in 1843, and has descendants in the Richmond, Va. area.

4. Moore Morefield married Virginia Reitey (Henrietta?) Strange on 6-7-1798. In most years, up to 1832, he is found living in the southern district of Halifax County, which I believe is all the area west of the Banister River, and in 1819, he is listed in Pittsylvania County, Va., just west of Halifax County. Following are the names of his and Reitey's children:

a. Joseph R. was born about 1799, and is named in Pittsylvania County records, including his marriage to Sarah Wade in 1818. Later records show him living in South Carolina and then Georgia.

b. Lucy was born about 1800, and married Daniel Talley in Pittsylvania County in 1818, Moore signing as her father.

c. Wiley was born about 1801. There is no document naming his parents, however, there is a male of his age grouping in the 1820 census listing of Moore's household. Also, Wiley and his wife Cary Vaughn lived on a farm she inherited from her maternal grandfather. This farm is just inside Pittsylvania County on the road to the community of Kentuck from South Boston, in the Birch Creek area. It just seems more probable that Wiley would have lived somewhere in this vicinity for he and Cary to gotten to know each other, than if he were raised in the eastern part of Halifax County. Wiley and Cary's oldest son, James R. owned a farm about two miles due north of theirs, and I think Wiley and Cary are buried there with James and his wife in the Moorefield – Hodnett family cemetery.

d. Susannah, born about 1803, married Richard Perkins in Halifax County in 1820.

e. Willie was born about 1805 and married Lewis Spencer in Halifax county in 1824.

f. Julius, born about 1810, is added to Moore and Reitey's family for two reasons. First, Reitey was a daughter of Julius Strange, perhaps his namesake, and second, there is a male of his age grouping living with Moore and Reitey in the 1820 census. However, there is no document stating him to have been a son of theirs. Julius moved to Smith County, Tenn, then to Illinois, and finally further west to Wright County, Mo. by 1870.

5. William Morefield, Sr. was born about 1777 and married Nancy Stevens on 6-24-1801. They had at least six children in Halifax County, and moved west to the Mayo River district of Patrick County about 1823, (see Henry above), where William died about 1828. The children that we can name for certain were:

a. Nancy, born about 1802, married Joseph Harris in Patrick County on 12-9-1824, later moved to Tennessee.

b. Allen, born about 1802, married Martha Harris on 3-2-1825. They moved just south to the Snow Creek district of Stokes County, NC in the mid 1840's, later to Scott County, Va., then to Hawkins County, Tenn. Pat Moorefield Seaver, named previously, is a descendant.

c. Josiah, born about 1805, married Ruth Keaton on 3-8-1830. They moved to Illinois by 1840. Their son Josiah James fought for the Union Army.

d. Wright, born on 10-20-1812, married Jane Martin on 12-25-1831. He died on 4-6-1882 and is buried in Stokes Co., NC in the Moorefield–Gibson family cemetery. This cemetery is beautifully maintained today by a descendant Timmy Gibson.

e. Mary, born about 1817, married Sampson Keaton on 6-3-1841, later moved to Tennessee.

f. William, Jr., born in 1822, married Mary Ann Kasey on 3-25-1848. He died in 1899 and is buried about twenty feet from his older brother Wright.

g. Martha J., born about 1826, married Lewis Martin on 5-11-1848.

h. Rebecca, born in 1827, married Alexander Bryant on 8-8-1848.

i. There was a James Morefield mentioned in records in Patrick County who also was likely a son of theirs.

Many of William and Rebecca's descendants who carry the Moorefield name still live in Patrick and Pulaski counties of Virginia, and Surry, Stokes, Forsyth, Guilford, and Davidson counties of North Carolina, and in various parts of Tennessee. Very few of these folks even know of the others.

6. Mastin Morefield married Wilmouth Stokes on 5-21-1804. Although not clearly documented, evidence leads me to believe that my great great great grandfather, Stephen Moorefield was a son of theirs. They have descendants in Halifax County, Va., and Guilford and Caswell countes in North Carolina.

7. Edward Morefield. This second Edward Morefield, for whom no marriage record has been found, began having children with his wife about 1798. I believe him to have been a child of John and Martha, also. His and his wife's children migrated into areas of Kentucky
and Illinois.

Those interested in the Moorefield surname (and all its variations) should visit the Morefield Home Place.

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