A Mystery Solved

When my ancestor Isham Ball died in 1860 in Powhatan County, Virginia, his will made very specific provisions regarding the inheritance of his daughter, Harriett Ball Ogilby.  Isham wrote, “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.”1

I wondered, in a prior blog post, why Isham directed that his son-in-law have no control over Harriett’s inheritance. I found the answer in the online chancery files at the Library of Virginia.2

Peter incurred a debt of $124.00 on 4 March 1820. When Peter failed to pay the debt as ordered in a judgment against him, he was arrested on 27 August 1825. There had been other financial challenges and Peter apparently could not raise the cash and declared insolvency. The Sheriff put all of Peter and Harriett’s unencumbered possessions up for sale and Isham Ball bought them and paid Peter’s debt. In exchange Peter granted Isham all of his interest in the estates of his brother Patrick, and parents Judith and Richard Ogilby of Amelia County, Virginia. When the estates were settled in Amelia County in 1838, Isham Ball presented the agreement to the Court and received the share of his son-in-law, Peter Ogilby.

Isham Ball notably stepped in to protect his daughter and grandchildren from Peter’s financial difficulties and Peter was released from the Amelia County jail. Certainly Isham Ball considered this episode and others when he wrote his will. He was prudent to protect Harriett’s interests.

Peter and Harriett’s assets were listed as part of his insolvency declaration. I can only imagine Harriett’s dismay at seeing her child’s cradle, her pots and pans, spinning wheel and coffee pot auctioned off to pay her husband’s debts. Fortunately they were purchased by her father and the couple retained possession of their belongings.

The list of items provides a snapshot of how Peter and Harriett were living in 1825.3 A copy was included in the 1838 division of Judith, Richard and Patrick Ogilsby’s estates. The young couple didn’t own a lot, and the belongings indicate a middle class life. A looking glass and books indicate someone who could read and who cared about appearances. Feather beds were coveted household possessions. There were a few tools but not enough for serious farming. Perhaps Peter had already started preaching.

And do take note of the clerk’s beautiful penmanship.

Peter Ogilby Estate

  1. Isham Ball’s Will, 1 Oct 1860, Powhatan County, Virginia, Will Book 15, pages 467 – 468. County Clerk’s’s Office, Powhatan, Virginia.
  2. “Virginia Memory: Chancery Records Index.” Amelia County (Va.) Chancery Causes. John O Hundley ETC vs HEIR(S) OF Richard Ogilby BY ETC, 1839-010. Local Government Records Collection, Amelia Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Web. 2 April 2017.
  3. Hundley vs Ogilby, page 22

Road Trip to Powhatan County


The Provost area of Powhatan County, Virginia was home to my mother’s Taylor ancestors for nearly 200 years. It’s an easy drive from Richmond and it is possible to see sites where I believe the Taylors resided. Today’s post covers the house called Provost and the Taylor’s long association.

Typing Provost to your map software should deliver you to the intersection of Bell, Cosby and Cartersville roads. The Provost address is 4801 Cartersville Road. I like to drive west on Highway 60 and then turn right on Bell Road. As you turn right on Bell Road much of the land you see there was home to various members of our Taylor family for many years. The church they attended and the graveyard where their bones may rest, the Peterville Church, is located deep in the woods there. but that’s a story for another day. Continue down Bell Road until you reach the intersection of Bell, Cosby and Cartersville roads. The house on the left is Provost.

Provost was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The report shares “The land on which Provost stands is part of 400 acres patented by John Taylor. The land was conveyed on September 17, 1731 for 40 shillings, “in this our colony and dominion of Virginia.” It became known as Taylor’s Seat. In 1758, Taylor devised [willed} part of his property to his granddaughter, Martha Taylor, and in 1772 her father gave her the piece of land her grandfather had bequeathed her. Martha Taylor married Thomas Smith and in 1793 they sold the Provost property to Robert Taylor. It is uncertain which of these owners built Provost. A county wide survey conducted for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in 1991 estimates Provost’s date of construction as circa 1783.”

John Taylor was my sixth great-grand uncle and he purchased the land Provost stands on 284 years ago. John was born about 1698, probably in Virginia, perhaps not far from his land grant. This land was a very good buy. There was abundant fresh water from springs and creeks, plentiful fish and game, the land was fertile and the cash crop of tobacco could prosper. The nearby James River was easily reached by the Deep Creek. Generations of Taylors could thrive in a place like this.

In October, 1742, 273 years ago, John gave his brother William 100 acres of his 400 acre parcel. This 100 acre piece did not include the land where Provost would be built, since we know from deeds that William’s son, Robert, purchased it in 1793. Robert is my fifth great-grandfather and he must have been a successful farmer because he purchased much of the original land grant (and more) from his Uncle John’s descendants as they moved west or needed cash.

Robert’s oldest son, Blagrave, (my 4th great-grandfather) married Judith Anderson on July 18, 1796 and later Robert deeded property to Blagrave. Perhaps the young couple lived in the house at Provost or Robert’s other adult children may have lived there as they matured and married, Certainly, as stated in the report, the residents would have taken advantage of the opportunities for commerce that the home’s location on a major wagon road presented. Do read the report and learn more about the home’s construction and more recent uses.


For today, gaze at this beautiful home and imagine the Taylors living and farming on this property in 1731, 284 years ago. Picture the house in 1800 surrounded by fields of tobacco and wheat, all land owned by the Taylors for as far as you could see.  If only this old house could speak and share stories of the Taylors and their kin. The Provost estate has been on the real estate market for over a year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to own a piece of my ancestral heritage in Virginia?