Sunday, November 18, 2007

James Lea of Caswell County

That the Bankston and Lea families were early on the scene in that part of North Carolina that became Caswell County is supported by the following excerpt from the 1810 letter to the editor written by Bartlett Yancey, Jr.:
This county was first settled about the year 1750; from that time until 1754 or 5, there were about 8 or 10 families in that part of the county, now known by the name of Caswell: A family by the name of Reynolds, and two others by the name of D[page edge worn] and Bankston were among the first settlers; not one of the family are now in county, and it is believed not one of their descendants: The Lea's, Graves', Patersons, & Kimbros came to this County about 1753, 54 & 55: they came from Orange and Culpepper in Virginia: Several hundred of there families and their descendants are now living in the County: The object of the first settlers, was to possess themselves of fertile land, and good pasture: I am told by the first settlers, that cane was so plenty, at that time, that their cattle [smudged] fat all thru winter without feeding.

Set forth below are depositions given by a James Lea (also referred to as James Lea, Sr.) in connection with a dispute over certain lands apparently claimed by the Bankston family. While this dispute is interesting of itself, we are focusing here on the claim by this James Lea that he married Anne Bankston, the daughter of Lawrence Bankston. Relevant portions of the deposition have been highlighted.

While not totally relevant to the present inquiry, please note that the following:
Bartlett Yancey, Jr., states that the Graves family was one of the early settlers of Caswell County. This was the family of John Graves (1715-1792), who married Isabella Lea (1738-aft.1796). The Leas and Graves did not, however, relocated from either Orange or Culpepper in Virginia. They moved to Caswell County from Spotsylvania County, Virginia, during the 1850s (probably 1854). John Graves accumulated considerable land holdings, much of which was along Country Line Creek, which generally runs from the southwest portion of Caswell County to its northeast corner where it empties into the Dan River at Milton, North Carolina.

Several men named James Lea have been considered as candidates for the person who gave the following depositions and who claims to have married a daughter of Lawrence Bankston:

1. James (Country Line) Lea. His wife was named Anne. However, this James Lea's will was proved in Caswell County Court in March 1792. In his will, which was written in 1771, he mentioned his wife, Anne, and his sons: William, John and Major. Thus, he could not have given the depositions of 1794 and 1797.

2. James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea. His wife was named Anne but he also is believed to have died before 1794:

Wilhelmina Lea, in her genealogy of the Lea family, gives the name of this James Lea's wife as "Annie" and his children as: Gabriel, William, James, Polly, Betsy and Phebe. We have found no record of his will or the estate settlement of this James Lea, but an entry in the Rose Family Bible says that "Jas Lea, brother of Captn William . . . departed this life . . . at his son W . . . at Caswell Court House . . . April 1792". In my opinion, this entry refers to James Lea of Kilgores Branch. Source: Rose-Steel Anthology, by Ben Rose (1932) at 103f.

3. James (Cobb's Creek) Lea. He apparently lived long enough to have given the subject depositions.

Based upon the 17 March 1794 James Lea deposition, around 1854 the James Lea of the deposition married a daughter of Lawrence Bankston. Her name is believed to be Anne. Assume for purposes of analysis that the James Lea was twenty-one years old when he married Anne Bankston. This would provide a birth year for him of c. 1733.

A James Lea gave one of the two depositions shown below in the home of a Gabriel Lea because he was "too old and infirm to travel" to the courthouse. This James Lea apparently lived near Gabriel Lea. And, both James Lea candidates apparently lived near each other. The principal candidates are James (Cobb's Creek) Lea and James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea. Query whether James (Cobb's Creek) Lea first married the Bankston daughter, became a widower, and then married Elizabeth Unknown. Or did James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea move to to North Carolina as a widower and marry the Bankston daughter? Until a death date can be established for James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea by reference to a reliable record, both James Leas must continue to be considered as candidates for the husband of a daughter of Lawrence Bankston.

Thus, James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea remains a candidate for the husband of the Bankston daughter even though some researchers show his death year as 1788. No primary source has been found confirming that death year. And, James (Kilgore's Branch) Lea did name a grandson Lawrence Lea (otherwise not a common Lea given name).

For much more analysis and background information go to Lea Links to Caswell County.

1. First James Lea Deposition (17 March 1794)

State of North Carolina
Caswell County
17 day of March 1794

In obedience to a Dismus ??? Potestatism?

From the Honorable Superior Court of Hillsborough found in October 1793 directed to take the deposition of James Lea. We have accordingly caused the said James Lea to come before us in (?) form (?) the being of Lawfully shown on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God. Deposeth and saith,

That about forty years ago he married in the family of Laurence Bankston Sen. And that he was as well acquainted with the proceedings of the family as one might be in that case. This deponent further sayeth that he often heard Laurence Bankston Sen say that he held a claim of land lying on the south side of a larger tract of land wheron he then lived. Lying on the waters of Panther Creek now in Caswell County, but the deponent further sayeth that he don’t know that ever the said Banckston obtained any right to the said land. The deponent further saith that the said Banckston he believed died in Anson County before the war, and further saith that he never knew of any will that the said Bankston made. And this deponent further sayeth that Andrew Bankston was the Eldest son of said Laurence, he believes and heir-at law and that Peter Bankston was the second son of said Laurence and Laurance Bankston was the third son of said Laurence Sen. That Daniel Bankston was the fourth son of said Laurance and that Jacob Bankston was the fifth son of said Laurance and the youngest of his sons.

The plaintiff Ann Greer asks the deponent the following questions to wit: Do you believe that Andrew Bankston is the eldest son of Laurance Bankston Ser?
The deponent answered: “That I believe he is to the best of my knowledge.
The plaintiff asks the second question: Did you ever know of anybody laying claim to any part of parcel of the said tract of land.
Answered by the deponent, No other person but Laurence Bankston Sen and from him to the best of my his son Jacob Bankston and further sayeth he don’t know that there was any Right made from Laurance Bankston Sen to his son Jacob.
Question the 3rd: by the Plaintiff: Do you believe that this Andrew Bankston the Eldest son of Laurance Bankston Sen is deceased?
Answered by the Deponent: by reliable information I am informed he is, and I believe he is.
Signed: James Lea
Given under our hands and seals and sworn to and subscribed this 17 day of March 1794
Sam Johnston JP
Gabriel Lea JP

2. Second James Lea Deposition (27 September 1794)

27 September 1794:
Deposition of James Lea
State of North Carolina, Caswell County.
Directed from the Honourable Superiour Court for the District of Hillsborough, we Gabriel Lea and William Risney justice for said county have caused James Lea Sr. to appear before us at the dwelling house of said Gabriel Lea and him the said James Lea being first sworn on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God deposeth and sayeth as follows:

The plaintiff for Ann Greer puts the first question
“Do you believe that this deed from the Earl of Granville to Laurence Bankston bearing date the 28 Day of January 1761 and beginning at a red oak. The west side of Hico Creek thence running north 76 chains to a pine thence cropping north Hico of Painters Creek 85 chains to a white oak then ? 70 chains cropping a fork of Panther’s Creek to a black oak then (?) cropping the forks and north Hico 85 chains to the first station, covers the land of plantation whereon the aforesaid Laurance Bankston lived about thirty years ago.
This deponent answers: I do believe it does.

Question 2: How long ago do you think the said Laurence Bankston died?
To this question the deponeth answers: he believes about five or six and twenty years ago.
Question 3: Do you believe the said Bankston died without a will?
Answer: I never heard that he had one.
Question 4th: Which of the said Laurance Bankstons sons was the eldest?
Answer: Andrew Bankston was the eldest
Question 5th:Do you believe the said Andrew is dead or not?
Answer: I believe he died several years ago.
Question 6th: Was you not very well acquainted with the said family of Bankstons?
Answer: I was, I married Said Laurence Bankston’s daughter.
Signed James Lea

3. Third James Lea Deposition (21 January 1797)

Deposition of James Lee 21 January 1797

State of North Carolina
Caswell County – In obedience to a writ to us directed from the Honorable the Superiour Court of Hillsborough we have caused James Lea to come before us in the House of Nickolas Dilone at Caswell Old Courthouse; on the 21st Day of January 1797 and he being first sworn on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God Deposeth and Sayeth –

Question 1st: Was you ever acquainted with the family of Lawrance Bankson?
Answer: Yes, for I married a wife out of the family of said Bankson my (Bossom?) friend.
Question 2nd: Who by name was the oldest son of him, the said Lawrance Bankson and heir?
Answer: Andrew Bankson was the oldest son and heir of the said Lawrance, deceased.
Question 3rd: Was the said Andrew Bankson some time an inhabitant of Hico? Answer: Yes, he lived on Lynches Creek.
Question 4th: Did he not move to the south?
Answer: yes, I understand so.
Question 5th: Do you know what the name his oldest son was called by?
Answer: I do not know whether Daniel or James.
Question 6th: Do you know anything of your own knowledge of the death of said Daniel Bankson, son of Andrew Bankson or James?
Answer: I do not.
Question 7th: How long do you suppose it to be since the death of the aforesaid Lawrance Bankson?
Answer: He died before the war.
Question 8th: Do you know any will the said Lawrance Bankson ever made of any of his property?
Answer: No, for I do believe that he never made any
Question 9th: Was not Jacob Bankston the youngest son of the family of the said Lawrance Bankson?
Answer: yes, for Andrew the oldest son (unreadable word), the next Daniel, the next Lawrance Jnr, and Jacob Bankson was the youngest son of Lawrance Bankson, deceased.
Question 10th: Did you believe that you are capable of attending the Superior Court?
Answer: No, I believe that I am not by the infirmity of old age.
Sworn before us the day and year above written, witnessed our hand and seal: Samuel Johnston, Gabriel Lea (Le) James Lee.


  1. Thanks for posting these very important depositions to help us learn the identity of the deposed James Lea. We do not know the name of his wife. We do know that two men named James Lea married women named Anne and one married a woman named Elizabeth. But the deposed James Lea did not provide his wife's name. Nor do Bankston records provide the name of the Bankston daughter. Thanks! Cynthia Forde

  2. James Lea gave one of the two depositions in the home of Gabriel Lea because he was "too old and infirm to travel" to the courthouse. He obviously lived close to Gabriel. Both men under consideration lived a stone's throw from each other.

    Did James Lea of Cobb's Creek marry first the Bankston daughter and become a widower - then marry Elizabeth LNU? Or did James (Kilgore) Lea move to to NC as a widower and marry the Bankston daughter? Either way it is a guessing game unless proof can be found that JLKB was deceased by 1792 leaving only Janmes Lea of Cobb's Creek.