McFadden Family Cemetery

Buckingham County deed books contain only one known reference to Martha Bryant McFadden. On the 12thof November 1878, Martha purchased her family cemetery for $50 from William M. and Fanny Perkins:

“… eight acres of land situated in the County of Buckingham and state of Virginia adjoining Frank Ware, Wm. McFadden and others, the said acres to include the family graveyard of the family of Martha A. McFadden who was Martha Bryant and being compactly situated around it, the said eight acres to be cut off at the expense of the said McFadden from the Bryant tract so as to make the graveyard as near in the center as may be practicable.” (1)

The purchase was made almost eight months after the drowning deaths of Martha’s husband, Allen McFadden, son James McFadden and grandson, James Woody. Newspaper accounts in the weeks following their deaths indicate their bodies were not recovered. Martha’s purchase of the cemetery strongly suggests that their bodies were later found and interred in the family burying grounds.

The deed makes specific references to Martha’s maiden name of Bryant and the Bryant tract, as well as the proximity to William McFadden infer that this was perhaps an historic burial site for Bryants and McFaddens. Eight acres is a very large family cemetery.

This cemetery does not appear to be associated with any of the Bryant or McFadden cemeteries found in the four volumes of Buckingham Burials. More research into the Bryant, Perkins and McFadden real estate transfers may shed light on the cemetery location. Sadly, the Buckingham County records burned in 1869 and pertinent deeds were probably destroyed. The location of the McFadden Cemetery may remain a mystery.

Rest in peace Allen McFadden, James McFadden and James Woody.

Read more about the McFaddens:

Tragedy Strikes the McFadden Family

Widowed Mothers and Bereaved Sisters


(1) Buckingham County, Virgina, Deed Book 3, p. 231.

Widowed Mothers and Bereaved Sisters

mcfadden drowning
New York Herald Friday, Mar 22, 1878 New York, NY Vol: XLIII Issue: 81 Page: 7

Missed the beginning of this series on the McFaddens?

Read Tragedy Strikes the McFadden Family.

Allen McFadden, James McFadden, James Woody, John Dawson and George Roberts drowned in the James River on the evening of March 18, 1878, Newspaper accounts describe a scene of despair. Family members at the scene included a “widowed mother”, a “widowed wife and two sisters of the young men”. Unnamed and known to the public only by their shared loss, who were the survivors of the dead?

The “widowed wife” was Martha Bryant McFadden. She was born in Buckingham County about 1815, making her 63 when her husband, Allen McFadden, died. (1) Allen and Martha married about 1839 and were the parents of eight known children, including James McFadden, who drowned with his father and nephew.  James, born about 1853, was 25 at the time of his death. (2) Martha lost her husband of 39 years, son and grandson in the James River that dreadful evening in March.

Mahala Dawson married John Edward McFadden on 15 January 1867 in Buckingham County. (3) John was the oldest son of Allen and Martha McFadden. Her younger brother, John B. Dawson, died in the James River with the McFaddens. Mahala’s older brother, William (age 14), died in 1866 of dropsy. (4) Standing on the banks of the James River in 1878, Mahala had lost her only surviving brother, and three in-laws.

The “widowed mother” (and sister) was Elizabeth “Lizzie” McFadden, oldest daughter of Allen McFadden. (5) Lizzie was born in Buckingham County about 1840 and probably died there after 1900. She married John W. Woody on 5 December 1861 in Buckingham County. (6) Lizzie’s husband died in 1866, leaving Lizzie a widow with two young children, James and Cary Ann “Kate” Woody. (7)  James, “little Jimmy”, was born about 1862 and was sixteen years old when he drowned. Jimmy couldn’t read or write, and at sixteen, was already a laborer bringing in cash to support his widowed mother and younger sister. Cary Ann “Kate” Woody, fourteen years old, was probably with her mother at the scene of the drowning. (8) She married Joel F. Wilkerson about 1880 and made her home in Buckingham County until her death 15 August 1930. Kate and Joel had thirteen children and, along with many of their thirteen children, are buried at Woodland Methodist Church in Buckingham County.

Rebecca Ruler Roberts was pregnant with their eighth child when her husband, George Roberts, drowned in the James River. He was “a faithful colored man….good and well disposed.” (9) Rebecca, age 33, was probably born into slavery. She married George about 1865 after the war and emancipation, and quickly started a family: Clayton Thomas Roberts (1865-1943); Mary Agnes Roberts (1866-1947); William H Roberts (1867-1943); Willie A. Roberts (1869-1938); George Roberts (1872); Sister Roberts (1873); Martha A. “Maddie” Roberts (1874-1964); and Bell Roberts (1878). (10)

Rebecca supported her family as a washer woman, doing the laundry of neighbors. She remained a widow and lived a long life in Howardsville, dying there 23 February 1930. She was 84 years old. (11)


(1) 1850 U.S. census, Buckingham Co., VA, Roll: M432_937; Page: 394A; Image: 445,
(2) James was age 7 in the 1860 census and 17 in the 1870 census. He appears in the household of Allen McFadden in both enumerations. 1860; District 1, Buckingham, Virginia; Roll: M653_1337; Page: 856; Image: 399. 1870; Slate River, Buckingham, Virginia; Roll: M593_1637; Page: 377B; census records viewed on Ancestry
(3) Kidd, James Randolph., and Jeanne Stinson. Lost Marriages of Buckingham County, Virginia: Drawn from a Newly-Recovered Marriage Register, 1854-1868 & from Federal Manuscript, Newspaper & Printed Sources. Iberian Pub., 1992, p. 60.
(4) Kidd, James Randolph., and Jeanne Stinson. Lost Marriages of Buckingham County, Virginia: Drawn from a Newly-Recovered Marriage Register, 1854-1868 & from Federal Manuscript, Newspaper & Printed Sources. Iberian Pub., 1992. p. 129.
(5) Elizabeth is age ten in the household of Allen McFadden. 1850 U.S. census, Buckingham Co., VA, Roll: M432_937; Page: 394A; Image: 445,
(6) Kidd, James Randolph., and Jeanne Stinson. Lost Marriages of Buckingham County, Virginia, p. 152.
(7) Albemarle Co., Virginia Death Register 1853 -1887, Reel 1, Library of Virginia ILL Film.
(8) 1870 U.S. Census; Slate River, Buckingham, Virginia; Roll: M593_1637; Page: 377B
(9) Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia, United States of America) · 22 Mar 1878, Fri · Page 2,
(9) 1870 U.S. Census; James River, Buckingham, Virginia; Roll: M593_1637; Page: 285B
(10) Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA.

The Pinchbeck Estate

Neighbors, friends and family gathered at the Pinchbeck home on November 13, 1829. They were there for the estate sale following Mary Pinchbeck’s death in July 1829.[1] This was a common practice of the period. Estates were inventoried, appraised and sold, with the proceeds divided as directed by the will or chancery court.

Was it hard for the Pinchbeck children to watch the furnishings of their childhood home sold? Mary’s son, Thomas, purchased her spinning wheels and H. Rudd (possibly a nephew) purchased her flax wheel. Thomas purchased the most expensive item of the sale, a yoke of oxen for $41.75. The sale brought in $265.00. View the complete sale list here.

The contents of the sale reveal much about John and Mary’s life. They were farmers, had horses and livestock and even a gig. A set of carpenter’s tools suggests John practiced some carpentry.  The furniture included a desk, tables and chairs. They didn’t have luxurious items like silver, china or goblets, but the furnishings indicate a comfortable lifestyle.

The estate appraisal identifies nine slaves. They were valued and assigned to the Pinchbeck children.[2] Since none were sold at the sale, it appears the children were satisfied with the division. The nine Pinchbeck slaves were valued at $2,104.00. [3]

  1. Jacob, a negro man, $383, assigned to William
  2. John, ditto, $350, assigned to Robert
  3. Hill, a likely lad, $300, assigned to George
  4. Luesy, a likely girl, $283, assigned to Nancy
  5. Winney, ditto $283, assigned to Thomas
  6. Lucy, an old woman, $100, assigned to Thomas
  7. Ellick, a boy, $225, assigned to Mary
  8. Gustus, ditto, $180, assigned to Mary
  9. Dick an old man not worth anything by consent of parties & from a wish of his former owners for him to remain in the family was by mutual consent put up to the lowest bidder and was taken by William Pinchbeck at fifteen dollars who is to keep and support him for life.

These nine enslaved individuals were the bulk of the wealth of the Pinchbeck family. As slaves they were a commodity, just like the cattle and horses. The only mention of their names is found in the estate papers and their division among family members is a reminder of the cruel and heartless nature of slavery.

John Pinchbeck placed a high value on education.[4] He made provisions in his will for the education of his younger children. The estate paid Thomas for the tuition of his younger brother Robert.[5] The letter (part of the 1830 chancery cause) from George Pinchbeck demonstrates a good handwriting and ability to communicate. All of the Pinchbeck heirs (except George) signed their own names to a receipt for the estate proceeds. The Pinchbeck sisters, Mary Ann and Nancy signed their own names, indicating they, too, were educated.[6] It is curious that the estate appraisal contained no books. Perhaps Mary Pinchbeck distributed any books before her death.


[1] Chesterfield County, Virginia, Will Book 11, p. 654.
[2] Chesterfield County, Virginia, Chancery Cause 1830-035, Pinchback vs Pinchbeck, Library of Virginia
[3] The records in chancery causes provide vital clues for slave descendants researching their ancestors.
[4] John Pinchbeck’s Will, Chesterfield County, Virginia, Will Book 10, p. 273 – 274.
[5] John Pinchbeck Accounts, Chesterfield County, Virginia, Will Book 12, p. 182 – 183
[6] Chesterfield County, Virginia, Chancery Cause 1830-035, Pinchback vs Pinchbeck, Library of Virginia

Pinchbeck with an “E” or an “A”?

No matter how you spell it, Pinchbeck is an unusual name.  Wikipedia reports the following:

“Pinchbeck is a village and civil parish in the South Holland district of Lincolnshire, England. The name Pinchbeck is derived from either the Old English pinc+bece(Minnow Stream) or pinca+bece (Finch Ridge). A family long associated with the area took its name from the village, one member of which was Christopher Pinchbeck, a watchmaker responsible for the invention of the Pinchbeck alloy, which was once used for imitating gold in cheap jewelry.”

The English have apparently settled on Pinchbeck with an e based on the spelling of several towns in England. A check of the BT directory in Great Britain did not indicate a single household of either spelling in any of five large metropolitan areas of England.  Americans remain divided in their spelling of the name. A global check for Pinchback or Pinchbeck in the US Anywho white pages indicates there are at least 100 and probably more individuals with the surname Pinchbeck or Pinchback, and the spelling is about evenly divided.

The original signatures found in the chancery case to settle the estate of John and Mary Pinchbeck in 1829 reveals the spelling differences in their surname practiced by the siblings. William, Thomas, and Mary signed their names Pinchbeck. Nancy and George signed Pinchback. Descendants of George continue to use the “a” and descendants of William use “e”. View the complete chancery cause here. (1)

William Pinchbeck signature

George Pinchback signature

Nancy Pinchback signature

Mary Ann Pinchbeck signature

Thomas Pinchbeck signature


(1) Pinchback vs Pinchbeck Chesterfield County Virginia Chancery 1830-035. Library of Virginia.

Tragedy Strikes the McFadden Family

The James River flows gently along the northwest border of Buckingham County. The calm waters are popular with fishermen, kayakers and tubers.  The width isn’t more than three hundred feet and the James River is easily crossed by four bridges in Buckingham County. It’s hard to gaze on the river today and imagine the tragedy that befell the McFadden family on the 16thof March, 1878.

James River near Wingina, a few miles above Howardsville. Photo by Vanessa Crews.

The winter of 1878 brought a lot of snow to the western Virginia mountains. On January 8, the Staunton Spectator noted a foot of snow on the ground, adding “it was colder here than it has been for many years.” It was 12 degrees below zero! [1] A report from Buckingham County said, “The deep snow which fell last week is still on the ground “waiting for more” as the weather prophets say…” [2] On February 5 another dispatch read, “…deep snow has covered the ground and intense cold has been experienced in all the country north of the James River…” [3]

The cold spell in the mountains continued until early March when the Richmond Dispatch wrote, “The late very mild spell of weather has brought the apricot and many of the peach trees out into full bloom …” [4]  Mild weather also melted the mountain snows, filled the creeks and swelled the James River.

On Saturday night, March 16, 1878, Allen McFadden (third great-grandfather of my husband, Jesse Crews) heard calls from the other side of the James River. His son, James McFadden, wanted a ride across the river. The ferry had washed out a couple of days earlier and after working across the river, James wanted to go home. Allen’s sixteen-year-old grandson, James Woody, was with James, along with John Dawson, only brother of Mahala McFadden, Allen’s daughter-in-law. A neighbor, George Roberts, was there, too.

Allen McFadden was an imposing man. He stood over six feet tall and at age 65 still did some farming and milling. He had survived Gettysburg and certainly didn’t expect to die crossing the James River. Allen probably didn’t hesitate to take the canoe and paddle across the James to fetch his family home.

Their tragic deaths were reported in newspapers around the US. This story from the Alexandria Gazette provides the best report. 140 years later, the story is a sad reminder of the grief and sorrow felt by the remaining McFaddens and the Roberts family.

mcFadden drowned
Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia, United States of America) · 22 Mar 1878, Fri · Page 2,

Read the Next McFadden story: Widowed Mothers and Bereaved Sisters


[1]Staunton Spectator (Staunton, Virginia), 08 Jan 1878, Tue, Page 3,

[2] Richmond Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 16 Jan 1878, Wed, Page 3,

[3] Richmond Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia)), 05 Feb 1878, Tue. Page 3,

(4) Richmond Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 15 Mar 1878, Fri, Page 1,

Find Your Pinchbeck on Find A Grave

Have you visited the website Find A Grave? Family researchers often turn to burial records in their quest for family history and Find A Grave is one of several sites that records burial information. It is free, easy to use and sometimes has photos and obituaries as well as tombstone locations and inscriptions. Parents and offspring are frequently linked on the site. It is ideal for the casual armchair researcher who doesn’t want to invest in subscription sites.

I want to share the results of my research broadly so I have begun linking Pinchbeck family members together on Find-A-Grave. Many of the descendants of John and Mary Rudd Pinchbeck are now linked on Find-A-Grave. There are Pinchbeck descendant burials in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and around the US, all linked by their connection to John and Mary Rudd Pinchbeck of Chesterfield County, Virginia.

John and Mary Pinchbeck were probably buried in the Pinchbeck Family Cemetery in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Their oldest son, William, built a beautiful farmhouse (known as Adventure Hill) and the cemetery is in the woods behind the home. Notes at the Chesterfield County Historical Society Library  indicate Doris Jeter visited in 1982 and said the cemetery appeared to be on the property of Mrs. Carmen P. Jolly, and that the land was once part of Adventure Hill, “there appear to be many sunk-in graves and this may have been a large cemetery at one time.” The cemetery may have vanished by now, but remains visible in a virtual world.

Please take a moment to visit the site and find your Pinchbeck family members. Post a photo or suggest an edit to the site; I’ll respond quickly. Visit the virtual grave of John Pinchbeck or search for your own ancestor here.


A Pinchbeck Will

“In the name of God Amen. I John Pinchbeck of the county of Chesterfield, being in common health and in perfect mind and memory, and considering the uncertainty of the mortal life and the certainty of death, do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form as follows,..” (1)

My fourth great-grandfather, John Pinchbeck, of Chesterfield County, Virginia, wrote his will on July 23, 1822. He goes on to make following bequests:

“Item the first: My will and desire is that all my just debts and funeral expenses may be first paid out of my estate.

Item the second: I Give and bequeath unto all my children except William Pinchback, one Bed and furniture such my wife may think proper also one cow and calf, to them and their heirs and assigns forever.

Item the third: I Give and bequeath unto my wife Mary Pinchback for and during her natural life all the residue of my estate both real and personal for her to have hold and enjoy the same together with all money due me, and all estate that may hereafter come to my possession, during her life, recommending to her at the same time the support and education of my younger children.

Item the fourth: After the death of my wife my will and desire is that all my estate left to her may be equally divided among my children, share and share alike, my whole desire being to make them all equal.

Item the Fifth: I lastly appoint my wife Mary Pinchback my whole and sole executive and wish for her not to give any security as such; And also give her full power to sell or buy property as she may think will be most beneficial to my estate, My wish is that my property may not appraised.” (2)

John lived another two years, dying in 1824. (3) His will reveals a man who respected his wife and trusted her to manage his estate. John also tried to be fair with all of his children, immediately giving each a bed and livestock. William, as the oldest child, had probably already received his gift of a bed and livestock. Beds and livestock were valuable gifts in 1822.

John only names one child, William, but implies that there are other children, some still in need of education. These other children are identified in probate records following the death of Mary Rudd Pinchbeck, John’s wife, in July, 1829. (4)  William, George and Nancy Pinchbeck told the court that their father, John Pinchbeck, died in 1824 and that John’s wife, Mary, had just died in July 1829. William, George and Nancy, together with Thomas Pinchbeck, Robert Pinchbeck and Mary Pinchbeck “are the only children and legatees of the said John Pinchbeck.” 

This chancery case is the only known record identifying all of the children of John and Mary Rudd Pinchbeck of Chesterfield County, Virginia. The complete case can be read here.   It is especially noteworthy because it contains an original letter from George Pinchback to his siblings, directing them to handle the estate. George was living in Fayette County, Tennessee and could not make the trip to Virginia.

George’s letter is full of affection and tenderness for his brothers and sisters. He expresses great regret that he can’t make the journey to Virginia, saying,

“I am a poor wanderer in a wilderness from all my relations but I thank god I am perfectly satisfied & expect to end my days in this country…” George urges his family to come to Tennessee, writing, “Dear brother I would advise you to come out here as I know you could do a great deal better than you can there tho you would not make as much from your trade but you are a good carpenter and provider you was not to work at all at your trade you could make double from farming. if you or brother William or both will come out I will do all I can for you and take a pride in as I have no body to take care of but myself- “ (6)

Next week: more about the family of John Pinchbeck


(1) Chesterfield County, Virginia; Will Book 10 page 274.

(2) Chesterfield County, Virginia; Will Book 10 page 274.

(3) This will was proved in court on June 14, 1824.  Chesterfield County, Virginia; Will Book 10 page 274

(4) Pinchbeck vs Pinchback,  Chesterfield VA Chancery 1830-035, Library of Virginia.

(5) Pinchbeck vs Pinchback,  Chesterfield VA Chancery 1830-035, Library of Virginia.

(6) Pinchbeck vs Pinchback,  Chesterfield VA Chancery 1830-035, Library of Virginia.