Benjamin Cheatham (c1730 – 1787)

Benjamin Cheatham first appears in Surry County records on 12 August 1754 when he was among the witnesses to the will of John Collier. 1

His father’s will, written in 1762, implies that Benjamin was living on the land he inherited:  half of his father’s 300-acre purchase on the south side of Johnchecohunk Swamp.   He evidently lived on this tract throughout his residence in Surry County.  In fact, no disposition of the land was found.2

Identifying his Wife Joanna Scarborough

Benjamin Cheatham’s wife was identified in two records as the granddaughter of John Cannon.  On 18 April 1763 Benjamin Cheatham and his wife Joanna sold two parcels totaling 375 acres in Surry County’s Southwark Parish to Col. Richard Cocke “being land that descended to said Joanna Cheatham as sole heiress to her grandfather John Cannon.”3   John Cannon’s will, dated 11 July 1741 and proved 21 October 1741, had left all his land to his granddaughter Joanna Scarborough, with possession at the decease of his wife Joanna Cannon. 4  John Cannon’s wife died in 1757, her inventory being dated 20 December 1757.5  Joanna Scarborough thus would have taken possession of the land at Joanna Cannon’s death and sold it about five years later.

Joanna was apparently the child of a deceased daughter of John Cannon who had married a Scarborough.   Her parents may have been Edward Scarborough and Ann Cannon.  On 21 October 1755 William Scarborough sold to Lewis Scarborough sold two tracts of land in Surry County which had been granted to his father Edward Scarborough. 6

Benjamin and Joanna were probably not long married in 1763 when they sold her inherited land.  She had evidently still been single in 1759 when an accounting of Edward Scarborough’s estate paid a legacy to her as Joanna Scarborough.  An accounting of the estate of John Cannon dated in 1759 had also paid a legacy to Joanna Scarborough.7

He moves to North Carolina

On 17 November 1783 he bought 320 acres in Halifax County just south of what is now Roanoke Rapids on Elk Marsh Swamp (now simply called Marsh Swamp) and on both sides of Thicket Swamp.8  However, he may have actually lived in adjacent Northampton County.  The North Carolina state census for Northampton County, undated but taken sometime in 1786, enumerated Benjamin “Cheatom” in Capt. Henry Vincent’s district with a household of one male over 21, four young males, two females, and four slaves.9  There are no deeds to or from him in Northampton County.

Although he owned land in Halifax County, he was not taxed in Halifax County in 1784, 1785, or 1786.  Nonetheless, he wrote his will in Halifax the following year.

Will written and proved in 1787

Benjamin Cheatham’s will, which he signed on 19 June 1787 and which was proved in Halifax County two months later in August 1787, was unusually brief.  After the usual introduction it read:

…I do desire at my death my Land, Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Hogs, four beds and furniture and all that I possess or claim, I desire to be sold and my lawful debts paid and all over paying my debts I desire that it may be equally divided between my four children Rookins, Edmund, Franky, Berry.  [Punctuation added] 10

Joseph Winter and William Amis were named executors.   The witnesses Joseph Winter and Joseph Seet proved the will at the Halifax County court, and William Amis qualified as executor.  William Amis, who had been enumerated along with 24 slaves in the same district in Northampton County in 1786, sold the 320 acres on 16 February 1790.11  Records of an inventory and estate sale appear to no longer exist in Halifax County.

It isn’t clear whether all four children were by Joanna Scarborough, as there is no record of her after 1763.

  1. Rookins Cheatham  (c1765 – aft1830)  He was enumerated in the 1800 census of Nash County, just south of Halifax, as “Rookins Cheetoms”, aged under 45, heading a household of four.12 [The name appears in one census index as “Rookius Chestoms” but the actual entry clearly reads “Rookins Cheetoms”.]  He evidently migrated to Kentucky a few years later.  As “Rookings Cheatham” he was enumerated in the1830 census of Tipton County, Tennessee as a single man aged 60-70.  There are no probate records for him in Tipton County.  Nor were any deed records found for him in either North Carolina or Tennessee.  The son and daughter suggested by the 1800 census are unknown, but descendants believe that a later-born son was named Thomas R. Cheatham.
  2. Edmund Cheatham (? – ?)  I found no clear sign of him after his father’s will.
  3. Frances Cheatham  (c1775 – ?)  She was “Franky” in her father’s will, but “Frances” in a 1790 guardian record.  Her guardian was initially Kinchen HInes, but Henry Mason of Nash County posted bond as her guardian on 11 February 1794. 13  An account for “Frances Cheatham orphan of Benjamin Cheatham in account with Henry Mason her guardian” for 1794 mentions “riding to Halifax for acct. of sale” and “riding to Kinchen Hineses twice to settle with him as her former guardian” in 1794.14 The next, and only, guardian account was “by Henry Mason her late guardian” dated 9 February 1796 showing £45:3:4 due.15  This implies that Franky had reached adulthood about 1796.
  4. Littleberry Cheatham (1782 – 1855).  See the separate page.


  1. Surry County Will Book 10, page 18. []
  2. Deed Books 12 and later were not checked, so a deed recorded after 1786 may exist. []
  3. Surry County Deed Book 8, pp170.  Abstracted by William Lindsay Hopkins in “Surry County, Virginia Deeds & Estate Accounts 1757-1786”. []
  4. Surry County Deed and Wills Book 9, pp388. []
  5. Surry County Will Book 10, page 135. []
  6. Surry County Deeds & WIlls Book 7, p228. []
  7. Surry County Will Book 10, page 273. []
  8. Halifax County Deed Book 15, page 89.  The sellers were Reuben Anderson and his wife Martha. No county of residence was identified for either party. []
  9. Captain Vincent’s district:  Benj. Cheatom, 1 male 21-60, 4 males under 21 or over 60, 2 females, 2 slaves 12-50, 2 slaves under 12 or over 50. []
  10. Halifax County, NC Will Book 3, page 138. []
  11. Halifax County Deed Book 16, page 159. []
  12. 1800 Census of Nash County:  Rookins Cheetoms 10010-10100. []
  13. Nash County loose estate records, filed under “Benjamin Cheatham”. []
  14. Ibid. []
  15. Ibid. []