Marmaduke Cheatham (c1700? – 1766)

What follows is intended as a modest expansion on the work of Alberta Marjorie Dennstedt (published in The Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 29, pages 32-40) regarding my connection to Marmaduke Cheatham.

Marmaduke Cheatham was the third son named in the 1720 will of Thomas Cheatham of Henrico County.   At some point he bought 150 acres on Proctor’s Creek, in a now lost deed, from Arthur Mosley.  But he did not remain there long, as by 1728 he had moved eastward into  Prince George County and again further east into Surry County.

Arrival in Surry County

On 6 February 1728/9 Marmaduke “Chattham” of Prince George’s County bought 180 acres from Jeremiah Ellis in central Surry County on the north side of what is today called the Johnchecohunk Swamp.1  He would apparently remain on this land, which adjoined Richard Jordan, another of my ancestors, for the rest of his life.  Although he appears to have been close to the Jordans next door, being mentioned with them in several public records,  there is no evidence of any familial connection.

Why Marmaduke Cheatham relocated to Surry County is mysterious.  It is likely that he was unmarried when he arrived, so it doesn’t seem that he was influenced by in-laws.  Nor were there any known relatives or former Henrico families in the area.  And it doesn’t seem that he was in need of cash, as he held on to his Henrico County land for another five years.  On 4 May 1734, five years after his purchase in Surry, Marmaduke Cheatham of Surry County sold 154 acres in Henrico (now Chesterfield) County to his brother William Cheatham.2  When he acquired this tract is uncertain, as the transaction is among the lost deeds of Henrico.  The sale identifies it as a tract on Proctor Creek purchased from Arthur Mosely.

Six years after that, on 17 March 1739/40, he purchased 170 acres adjoining his land on Johnchecohunk Swamp from Edward Ellis.3

Court Records

Unfortunately there is a gap in Surry County court records from 1718 through December 1741, so we are denied potential records of his first thirteen years in Surry.  To put that loss in perspective, after the court records resumed in December 1741 he was mentioned four times in the space of only twelve months.4  Susannah Cheatham was mentioned in the same record book as one of several witnesses for John King in his suit against Bartholomew Andrews for concealing tithables in February 1743/4; Susanna was paid 150 lb. of tobacco for six days attendance in court.5  Marmaduke Cheatham continued to appear regularly in court records, mainly as a juror or one of those appointed to appraise the estates of neighbors.

Final Land Purchase

His children probably began to reach maturity and marry in the 1750s, as he acquired an additional 300 acres on the opposite side of Johnchecohunk Swamp from john Person on 30 May 1755, the deed witnessed by his sons John Cheatham and Joseph Cheatham.6   He later left this tract to his sons James and Benjamin Cheatham.

Marmaduke Cheatham’s Will

Marmaduke Cheatham’s will was dated 30 April 1762 and proved four years later on 17 June 1766.7  His wife had left him some time earlier, as his first bequest was this: “I give unto my wife Susanna her maintenance if she will come and live at home.”  Son Joseph Cheatham was left “the land and plantation I now live on“, two slave women and a boy,  £5 worth of furniture, two cows and calves, a chest of drawers, the “largest looking glass”, and a knife.  The will provided that if the slave woman named Cate had another child “at the age of two or three years old he shall give it to my grandson James Cheatham son of John Cheatham“.

Son John Cheatham was given the adjoining 180 acres, on which he was already living.  The 300 acres on the south side of the Swamp was divided, the lower half to James Cheatham and the upper half to Benjamin Cheatham.  James was also given a slave girl, £5 worth of furniture, and two cows and calves. Benjamin was also given a slave girl “who is now living with him” and a gun “which he now has in his possession”.

His daughters Sarah and Elizabeth were each given a slave girl.  His daughter Ann was given a slave girl for her life then to “her son Joseph Simmons”.   Elizabeth additionally was given £5 worth of furniture and two cows and calves.  To John Dugger son of Lydia Dugger decd” he gave one cow and calf.  Finally, a slave girl named Mol was to be sold to pay his debts.

Whatever remained was to be equally divided among “my four sons”.  He requested that the estate not be appraised or sold, a tactic typically employed to avoid recording fees.  Though he had signed other documents with a signature, the will was signed by mark .  It was witnessed by neighbors Joseph Jordan, Henry Jordan, and Mary Jordan.

I find it peculiar that the will disposes of six negro “girls”, two negro “women”, and one “boy” but not a single adult male.  Was Benjamin Cheatham operating a business that employed women?  Or had he already gifted his male slaves to his children?

Illegitimate Child in 1748?

The bequest to John Dugger, son of Lydia Dugger deceased, is worth exploring.  Lydia Dugger was evidently the daughter of Daniel Dugger and his wife Mary Scarborough who lived on land adjoining Marmaduke Cheatham’s tract of the south side of Johnchecohunk Swamp.  Her presumed sister Elizabeth Dugger had been cited by the grand jury in April 1746 for having a bastard child, though the charge was later dismissed.  Two years later, on 17 May 1748, both “Lidda Duger” and Elizabeth Dugger were two of seven women indicted by the Surry grand jury for having bastard children.8  The Dugger women ignored the court order for more than a year, and on 20 June 1749 “Ledda Dugar” and Elizabeth Dugar were both fined 50 shillings and court costs.9

Then in May 1751 Lydia Dugger was again cited by the grand jury for having a bastard child.  Her two illegitimate children were  John Dugger and perhaps Alexander Dugger.  Illegitimate children took the surname of the mother, so the John Dugger named in the will was apparently the illegitimate child of Marmaduke Cheatham (or perhaps of one of his sons.)  Modern Y-DNA analysis confirms that male-line descendants of John Dugger are intimately related to male-line descendants of Marmaduke Cheatham.

One wonders if this affair might have precipitated Susanna Cheatham’s departure from the household — or whether it was Susanna’s abandonment that contributed to the affair.   A fictional account of the Dugger family, based on fact but hugely embellished, was published by Lynn Edward Dawson in 2001 as A Better Past: A Family Saga.  Although intended as fiction, it offered the opinion that Lydia Dugger had a lengthy affair with Marmaduke Cheatham.

Susanna Rookings Cheatham

For a bit more about his wife Susanna see the paper on her father:  William Rookings III

The children are listed in the order in which they appeared in the will.  It isn’t clear which of the daughters married a Moring, but he was perhaps Benjamin Moring.

  1. Joseph Cheatham  (c1730 – 1782)  He first appears in Surry records on 21 January 1755 as a witness to two deeds by Henry Barnes for land adjoining Marmaduke Cheatham.10  His wife was the daughter of Henry Collier, whose 1777 will named among his children Rebecca Cheatham, the wife of Joseph Cheatham, and named Joseph his executor.11   Joseph Cheatham wrote his own will on 20 May 1779, which was proved on 26 March 1782.12  It named his wife Rebecca, daughter Suky Duke Cheatham (Susannah), and (as contingent beneficiaries) his sisters’ children John Simmons, Thomas Simmons, Wiant Moring, Nancy Moring, Suky Moring, and Polly Moring.  It also mentioned that his (unnamed) mother was still alive.  Benjamin Moring, perhaps his brother-in-law was executor.  The widow Rebecca was head of a household of two whites and five blacks in the 1782 state census.
  2. John Cheatham (c1730 – 1789)  He first appears in Surry records as a witness to a deed by Jehue Parker on 17 October 1748.13 His will was dated 30 March 1788 and proved 27 January 1789, naming wife Martha, and children James Cheatham, Stephen Cheatham, Nancy Cheatham, Betsey Cheatham, and Sally Cheatham.14  His wife Martha Cheatham was taxed on 180 acres in Surry County in 1790.
  3. James Cheatham  (? – 1828)  He married Anne Ellis in Sussex County in 1788 and left a will in Surry County in 1828.15   He first appears in Surry records as a witness to the deed to his father.  His will names children William E. Cheatham, John Cheatham, Joseph Cheatham, James Cheatham, Stephen E. Cheatham, Nancy and Susan.   Another daughter, Polly Collier, predeceased him.
  4. Benjamin Cheatham   (c1730 – 1787)  See the separate page.
  5. Sarah Cheatham  (? – ?) Beyond her appearance in her father’s will, I know nothing further.
  6. Ann Cheatham  (? – ?)  She married a Simmons and had at least three sons.  Her father’s will of 1762 left her the use of a slave for life, which was then to go to her son Joseph Simmons.  Her sons John Simmons and Thomas Simmons were named as contingent beneficiaries in her brother Joseph’s 1779 will.
  7. Elizabeth Cheatham (? – ?) Beyond her appearance in her father’s will, I know nothing further.
  1. Surry County Wills, Deeds, Etc. Book 7, page 938. []
  2. Henrico County Deeds & Wills 1725-1737, page 443. []
  3. Surry County Deeds, Wills, Etc. Book 9, page 119. []
  4. Jury duty in May 1743, Plaintiff versus Seth Hunter in November 1743, security for Mary Partin’s administration of her husband Robert Partin’s estate in February 1743/4, and grand jury service in May 1744.  See Surry County Court Record Book 8, pages 131, 186, 199, and 202. []
  5. Ibid., page 202. []
  6. Surry County Deeds & Wills Book 7 (1753-1760), page 235. []
  7. Surry County Will Book 10, page 416-18. []
  8. Surry County Court Records Book 9, page 310. []
  9. Surry County Court Records Book 10, Page 45. []
  10. Surry County Deeds & Wills, Deeds, Etc. Book 7, p182, p183. []
  11. Surry County Will Book 10(a), page 467. []
  12. Surry County Wills, Deeds, Etc. Book 11, page 221. []
  13. Surry County Deeds & Wills Book 5, p305. []
  14. Surry County Wills, Deeds, Etc. Book 12, page 206-7. []
  15. Surry County Will Book 5, page 359. []