The Final Will of Isham Ball

I adore old wills. Discovering the will of an ancestor is better than Christmas Day and my birthday rolled up together. Wills provide a glimpse into the life of an ancestor, revealing loved ones and familial relationships, property, and even family rifts. Sometimes what isn’t in a will is important too. All of this and more can be found in the will of my 4th great-grandfather Isham Ball.

7 daughters isham ball_edited-1In his will Ball mentions five daughters: Sarah Drake, Emaline Eggleston, Amanda Spears, Harriett Ogilby, and Martha Taylor. He specifies that Amanda and Martha are deceased, and names his Spear grandchildren.

Powhatan County marriage records show two more daughters, Susan H. Ball who married Archer M. Stratton in 1825 and Ann who married William Netherland in 1817. There’s a Netherland in the will but no mention of Susan or any Stratton grandchildren creating a little mystery for the family historian. What happened to Susan?

Why doesn’t Isham want son-in-law Peter Ogilvy or granddaughter Elizabeth Taylor’s husband, Joseph, to control their inheritance?

Ball implies trust in the judgement of sons-in-law John Spears and James Eggleston, making them executors of his estate. He does not mention the husbands of Martha Taylor or Sarah Drake. Why?

Ball does not treat all his daughters and grandchildren equally, giving some a share of his land and others only a share of what remains. Why?

I’ll take a look at these questions in a future post. For now, read my transcription of the last will and testament of Isham Ball. Does it raise any questions for you? Any sense of Ball’s personality? Share them in comments!


In the name of God Amen! I Isham Ball of the County of Powhatan being of sound mind and memory do make and ordain this to be my last Will and Testament in manner and form following.

In the first place I direct that all my just debts be paid.

Item. I give and devise to my daughters Sarah Drake and Emaline Eggleston and my grandchildren John W. Spears, Susan J. Spears, Willie B. Spears and Clara S. Spears my tract of land on which I reside in the County of Powhatan to be divided into three parts between them. One third to my daughter Sarah, one third to my daughter Emaline and the other third to my said grandchildren. And I direct that their third shall be laid off adjoining the land of their father John Spears- the said land to be divided so as to make each share equal in value. All of which I give and devise to my said daughters and grandchildren in fee simple to them and their heirs forever.

Item. All the balance of my estate of every kind, I direct shall be equally divided between my children living at my death and the descendants of such of my children as may be dead, the descendants of any deceased child or children taking the share in which their parent or parents would be entitled if living.

And I do hereby direct that in the division of my slaves an old negro woman Polly shall be included in the share of my grandchildren John W. Spears, Susan J. Spears, Willie B. Spears, and Clara S. Spears, children of my deceased daughter Amanda Spears, on account of their great attachment to the said old negro Polly.

The Share of my daughter, Harriett Ogilby, wife of Peter F. Ogilby under this item, I do hereby direct shall be held in Trust by Wm C. Netherland of Powhatan County for the use and benefit of my said daughter Harriett during her life and that of her children in such manner that the said Peter F. Ogilby shall have no control over the property or the profits thereof in any way whatsoever. The ___ and profits of the share of my daughter Harriett to be applied to the use and benefit of herself and children during her life, and at her death all of the said property and profits then remaining shall be equally divided between the children of my said daughter Harriett then living and the descendants of any such child or children as may be dead, and descendants taking the share of their deceased parent.

If any of the children of my deceased daughter Martha Taylor shall die under age or unmarried I direct that the share of such child or children so dieing shall go to the survivors of said children and the portion which my granddaughter Elizabeth Taylor, wife of Jos. S. Taylor, may be entitled to under this item, I do hereby direct shall be held in trust by Wm. D. Taylor for the use and benefit of the said Elizabeth Taylor and her children during her natural life and at her death the same shall be equally divided between her children then living and the descendants of any who may be dead. It being my intention that the said Jos. S. Taylor shall have no control over the share of my said granddaughter Elizabeth Taylor.

In the division of my Estate under this Item, I direct that the advancements made to my said daughters or their husbands shall be accounted for and can be ascertained from my papers. The bonds of Wm. C Netherland which I hold are to be considered as a part of the advancement to him. And I consider that I have advanced to my daughter Harriett Ogilby and her husband money and property to the value of at least Two thousand six hundred and fifteen dollars.

Lastly. I do hereby constitute and appoint my sons –in-law John Spears and James R. Eggleston Executors of this my last Will and Testament and having the utmost confidence in them, I do hereby direct that they shall not be required to give security upon their qualifications as Executors. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed by Seal this 5th day of February 1856.
Isham Ball

Witnesses: R.F. Graves, Josiah Smith, J.W. Bryant

Codicil to the foregoing Will
If either of the children of my deceased daughter Amanda Spears, should die under age and without issue I direct that the share of the one so surviving shall go to the survivors of said children. And I direct that the bonds of John Spears and James R. Eggleston which I hold shall be considered as advancement to them or their wives. Witness my hand and Seal this 5th day of Feby. 1856.

Isham Ball
Witnesses: R.F. Graves, Josiah Smith, J.W. Bryant

At a Court held for Powhatan County at the Courthouse thereof on Monday the 1st day of October 1860. The foregoing last Will and Testament of Isham Ball deceased was presented in Court with the Codicil thereto annexed and said Will and Codicil were proved in due form by the Oaths of R.F. Graves and J.W. Bryant two of the subscribing Witnesses to the same and ordered to be recorded. And on the motion of John Spears and James R. Eggleston the Executors named in the said Will who made oath thereto according to law and entered into and acknowledged separate bonds in the penalty of Ninety Six thousand dollars each without Security (the Will so directing) conditioned as the law directs, a certificate granted them for obtaining a probate of the said Will in due form.
Teste
R.F. Graves


This will is from Powhatan County Will Book 15, pages 467 and 468. Vanessa Crews transcribed the document and added paragraphs and punctuation for clarity.

 

 

 

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One thought on “The Final Will of Isham Ball

  1. I’m guessing in their time, the two son-in-laws had a gambling problem and their true colors came out after wedding the daughters. Gambling would have been one of the forms for entertainment, Yes? Or maybe I just watch too many old movies…lol The only other theory would have been they were abusive which I don’t believe Isham would have stood for. So, Vanessa, what’s your theory? Great work! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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