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.


Footnotes

[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


Footnotes

(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.

P1010664
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, Newspapers.com

Read the Next McFadden story: Widowed Mothers and Bereaved Sisters

Footnotes

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

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

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

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

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.