David Davenport (c1715 – December 1802)

David Davenport’s first appearance in the records is his father’s will of 24 May 1735.   We can infer from the will that David was unmarried and perhaps under age, as he was devised part of his father’s home place with reversion to Martin Davenport Jr.1  One reason to think David was of age, or nearly so, at the time is that “David Deavenport” appears once in the records of the merchant Thomas Partridge and Company, as a buyer of cloth on 7 April 1737.2  David apparently had an existing account that had been carried forward from the missing earlier ledger.  His father, Martin Davenport, also appears in this ledger as a carried-forward account, though not as a purchaser (he was dead by the time the ledger entries begin). Whether this David Davenport was the son of Martin or his first cousin of the same name (the son of Richard) is unknown, but whichever David Davenport it was must have been an adult in order to be responsible for his own accounts.

David apparently lived on or near his inherited plantation for the next thirty years. Although there are no surviving records of Hanover County for the period, he was close enough to three nearby counties to appear occasionally in their records.   (Martin Davenport’s plantation straddled the later Hanover-Louisa county line on opposite side of the North Anna River from Spotsylvania County near the Spotsylvania-Caroline county line. The portion that David Davenport inherited lay in Hanover County.)

Early debt problems

From later records, we can infer than his troubles with creditors began early in life, and he may have taken advantage of the ability to move in and out of the nearby county lines to delay collection of his debts.  On 24 May 1748 he was ordered to be paid as a witness in Louisa County as David Davenport of Spotsylvania County.3  A year later on 4 July 1749 he was again ordered paid as a witness, this time in Spotsylvania County but evidently as a resident of Hanover County.4   On 26 January 1751, as a resident of Hanover County he made a bond to build a bridge over the East North East Creek in Spotsylvania County with his brother William Davenport as his security.5   Three years later he was ordered to repair the bridge.6   A David Davenport appears in debt cases in Orange County in and in Caroline County over the next few years, but only one of these actions seems clearly to be attributable to this particular David Davenport.7  He appears a few times in the records of Spotsylvania, Caroline, Orange, and Louisa County in various roles, but seems to have mainly lived in Hanover County on his inherited land.   The 1763 tithables for Hanover County showed him residing there, but by 2 April 1765 he was apparently back in Spotsylvania again.   Although he appears to have moved to Cumberland County sometime in 1765, he still owned property on both sides of the river in Hanover and Spotsylvania and must have frequently returned there. Spotsylvania court records show that he was usually absent from the area, but was occasionally found within the county after 1765.

On 26 July 1767, a persistent creditor succeeded in putting David Davenport into the Spotsylvania debtors prison until he satisfied the debt.8   Although David Davenport was living in Cumberland County at the time, he was evidently seized while on a trip back to the area.   He left the prison by mortgaging property a month later (see below.)   This was not his only trip to debtors prison; he would be committed three more times in Cumberland County.

The first marriage to Jane Yarborough

David Davenport had two wives.   A lengthy court case over ownership of a slave (explained in the footnote ) identifies his first wife as Jane Yarbrough, the daughter of Charles Yarbrough, whom he married sometime between 1739 and 1743.  (This suit lasted literally for decades, with a number of depositions taken which provide valuable information about the family.  This material, courtesy of John Scott Davenport, is in the Virginia General Court records and in the Caroline Court Orders.  In brief, the dispute was over title to a slave.  Depositions establish that David Davenport married Jane Yarbrough, daughter of Charles Yarbrough, sometime between 1739 and 1743.  After her marriage, Jane Davenport asked her father for a slave, and Charles Yarbrough gave her a baby female named Doll.  Charles Yarbrough later claimed that he had merely loaned the slave to his daughter, and retained title himself.

But twenty-odd years later when Jane Davenport died, David Davenport kept Doll (who by that time had her own children), claiming that the slave had been given to his wife and that he now owned her.  When he moved to Cumberland County, he took Doll and her children with him.  Charles Yarbrough claimed that he still owned Doll and that he was gifting her to his granddaughter Nanny Davenport.  Nanny Davenport married John Wilkinson, and sometime in 1772 Wilkinson removed Doll and her children from Davenport’s plantation, claiming the slaves rightfully belonged to his wife.  Davis Davenport then sued John Wilkinson for return of the slaves.  The question became one of title, and because no records existed, several depositions were taken to establish ownership.   The majority of the deponents supported the notion that Yarbrough feared David Davenport would sell the slaves to pay his debts and that Yarbrough intended the slaves to go to Nanny.  But he arbitrators appointed by the court ruled in favor of David Davenport in 1778, giving him the slaves or their value in money.  John Wilkinson died in 1782 and the slaves had still not been returned, so David Davenport sued Wilkinson’s securities.    That marriage produced a daughter Jane (or “Nanny”) and perhaps other children. A deposition by Jane’s father, Charles Yarbrough, refers to his Davenport “grandchildren”, implying that there was more than one. It is not clear when Jane died, but we can reasonably infer that it was not too long before her husband’s remarriage about 1765.

The second marriage to Molly Slaughter Davenport

David Davenport then married Molly, the widow of his cousin Stephen Davenport, sometime before 25 June 1765.   Stephen Davenport had died before 25 July 1763 when the Cumberland County court ordered an appraisal of his estate.9  Three days later, his widow Molly Davenport took a supplemental inventory of the estate.10  Two years later, on 25 June 1765, a suit against Molly Davenport was abated “she having married” again.11   She continued to be known as Molly Davenport in several supplemental estate records over the next seven years, making it clear that she had remarried to another man named Davenport.12   Her new husband was, without question, David Davenport.  A 1778 deposition in the Yarbrough case by his brother William Davenport states that David married a second time “about 1765” and moved at that time to Cumberland County.

David Davenport on two occasions mortgaged the slaves listed by name in Stephen Davenport’s inventory of 1763, indicating that he had title by virtue of the marriage to the widow.  He also lived on Stephen Davenport’s land for the next twelve years until he was eventually deeded the land by William Davenport, the eldest son of Stephen Davenport.   Molly had at least three children by her first husband Stephen Davenport:  Stephen Davenport Jr., William Davenport, and Molly Davenport, all of whom were identified in the 1773 will of Thomas Davenport, Stephen’s father.13  Molly was still alive in 1790 when she and David Davenport sold land14 , but was dead by the time he made his own will in late 1802.

Molly was probably the daughter of Martin Slaughter, which would account for the name of her eldest son by the second marriage.   Martin Slaughter was living in King William County when he bought two adjoining tracts next to the Davenports on Little Guinea Creek in 1751.15  His wife was apparently Jane Elliot, according to a Hanover County record.16   Martin Slaughter left a will, probably in King William County, which is lost along with other records of the county.  The will was referenced in a deed of 5 September1768 when George, Henry, and Binison Slaughter (all of King William) sold the land in Cumberland County, calling it land devised to them by Martin Slaughter’s will.17   Martin Slaughter had been dead several years by that time, for on 28 January 1760 his executor had sued Julius Davenport over a debt.18   Molly was apparently his daughter, for she was an assignee of Henry Slaughter in a debt case in 1764 and named a son Martin Slaughter Davenport.19 

The move to Cumberland County

David Davenport was living in Hanover or Spotsylvania just prior to his second marriage, but evidently moved to Cumberland County to marry Molly Slaughter Davenport.   David Davenport appears continuously in the Cumberland County court records until his death, with the first record of his presence there being on 22 July 1765.20  His trip to debtors prison in Spotsylvania (mentioned above) in 1767 was evidently caused by a visit back to his property there.   He was clearly a contentious individual for he sued, or was sued by, a long list of relatives and neighbors.  He was also regularly and repeatedly sued for nonpayment of his debts.  Some of these early suits were apparently over old debts that followed him from Hanover and Spotsylvania, and he obviously preferred court battles to simply paying them off.  Most of the debts were to merchants, some to relatives, and most were relatively small amounts.  His debts — and his list of creditors — were too numerous to be explained simply by poor money management.  My sense is that David Davenport was both pathologically contentious by nature and inclined to live above his means at the expense of his creditors.  The sheriff frequently made token attachments of his possessions during these suits;  some of them – a spice grinder, a pewter spoon, a punch bowl – suggesting a man living a better life than his taxable possessions would suggest.

On 26 August 1767, perhaps while still in debtors prison in Spotsylvania, David Davenport mortgaged his land to creditors to pay off some of these debts.21   Four parcels of land are mentioned in this mortgage:

  • the Martin Davenport plantation in Hanover County, which was described as “whereon Dorothy Davenport, mother of sd. David Davenport resides, being the same tract of land which Martin Davenport deceased, father of sd. David Davenport by his last will and testament devised to sd. Dorothy for life and then to sd. David Davenport”.   Note that Martin Davenport’s will had devised only half the land to David; he was apparently attempting to mortgage his brother’s half as well.
  • 398 acres in Louisa County purchased from Benjamin Hubbard,
  • 296 acres in Amherst County purchased from John Atkins.    How Davenport acquired the Amherst County tract is unknown.22
  • 30 acres in Spotsylvania County purchased from his brother William Davenport.  This parcel was evidently just across the river, although no Spotsylvania deed was ever recorded for it.  Until David’s move to Cumberland, his brother Martin had apparently lived with their mother Dorothy on the Hanover land.   After David mortgaged the land, his brother apparently moved across the river onto the Spotsylvania property.  What became of his mother is unclear.

No deeds are recorded for two of these parcels, although he evidently owned both.  The creditors were to sell the land after advertising in the Virginia Gazette, and return any leftover land to Davenport after satisfying the debts.  Only the first three tracts were actually advertised, and the third tract did not sell for another forty years.

More trips to debtor’s prison and more mortgages

The following year on 28 March 1768, David Davenport, still in debt, borrowed £50 from a local merchant by mortgaging two slaves and four feather beds.23   He failed to repay the loan or deliver the property and was sued by the merchant two years later.24   He was briefly put into debtors prison in 1771 and again the following year, this time for several months.25   While in debtor’s prison in 1771, he mortgaged two more slaves to satisfy the creditor who put him there.26   And two years after that, on 23 April 1773, he mortgaged six more slaves and household furniture.27   These slaves included Doll and her children, who he didn’t actually possess, and slaves from the Stephen Davenport estate that he didn’t actually own.  On 27 April 1778 he mortgaged a mill on Tearwallet Creek.28  Yet the suits against him continued at the same steady pace.  He was put into debtors prison for the fourth and final time in 1782.29   In the meantime, he continued his bridge-building, being paid to repair the Great Guinea Bridge in 1779.

There is one early tithables list that survived for Cumberland County, for the year 1768, and David Davenport appears on it with 3 tithes.  This was probably himself and perhaps two older sons, as neither of Stephen Davenport’s sons were 16 by then.  David Davenport appears in the 1782 census with 9 whites, and on the 1782 tax list with one white tithable and three slaves.    The 1784 census shows 11 whites, and the tax list for the same year again shows a single white tithable.  These households would have consisted of himself and his wife, some or all of the three children of Stephen Davenport, and his own children.  He appears on the tax lists from 1782 through 1802 with varying numbers of slaves (but never many) and one or two horses.

It appears that his entire stay of nearly forty years in Cumberland was spent living on the land of his deceased cousin Stephen Davenport.  Stephen Davenport had purchased 200 acres on Tearwallet Creek in 1756.30   When David Davenport married his widow Molly, he moved onto this land.  Since Stephen Davenport had died intestate,  title to the land would have fallen to his eldest son William Davenport.  On 9 December 1779, William Davenport (son and heir of Stephen Davenport) sold David Davenport the 200-acre tract on both sides of Tearwallet Creek “being the land and plantation where sd. David Davenport now lives and being the land formerly belonging to Stephen Davenport dec’d.”  David Davenport later sold small parts of this land in two transactions in 1789 with his son Martin Slaughter Davenport a witness.31

By 1800 David Davenport owned only 125 acres in Cumberland County.  On 10 October 1802 he sold it, “it being the tract where I now live”, to his son Martin Slaughter Davenport.  The day before he gifted 100 acres of his land in Amherst County (which he had mortgaged back in 1767) to his son Glover Davenport.32   Two months later he was dead.

The will

David Davenport’s will was dated 6 December 1802, and proved less than a month later on 27 December 1802 in Cumberland County.33   It confirmed the gift of the Amherst County land to his son Glover Davenport, and left the rest of that tract to sons Jesse Davenport and Jack Smith Davenport.  [This was hardly worth the effort.  The land in Amherst County had been pledged in 1767 for a loan on which David Davenport had defaulted.  It did not sell because it was evidently worthless.  It eventually sold in 1809 after none of the three sons paid the balance due.  The three sons never realized any benefit from their inheritance.]

The will provided that Glover and Martin Slaughter Davenport were not to share in the estate except to have the land previously deeded to them.  The two remaining slaves were to be divided among three daughters: Dorothy Davenport, Jane Lipscomb Davenport, and Frances Benson Davenport.  The will also mentioned grandson William Bernard McNamar, the son of his deceased daughter Elizabeth McNamar.  The sons Jesse, Martin, and Glover were named executors but only Martin applied for executorship.

 The children

Nine of his children are proven and a tenth is speculated.   Jane was a daughter of the first marriage to Jane Yarborough, and the court case involving the slave Doll includes a deposition by Charles Yarborough which implies there might have been at least one other child of that marriage.  Note the odd gap of nearly fifteen years in the apparent birth years of the second set of children, and the implication that Molly had children over a span of over 25 years; this forces us to consider the possibility of a third wife.  David’s wife was named Molly when he sold part of the land received in 1779, so if there was a third wife she had the same name as the second wife.

David Davenport had been taxed each year from 1782 through 1786 on himself only, yet had a household of 9 whites in 1782 and 1784.  No sons were taxable until 1787, thus it appears that all but perhaps one of his sons were children of his second marriage.

There was at least one, and perhaps as many as three children by his first marriage to Jane Yarborough.

  1. Jane Davenport (c1745? – ?) The referenced court case proves her to be the daughter of David Davenport and Jane Yarbrough, and the wife of John Wilkinson, Jr.  A deposition in the case implies that she was married to John Wilkinson not long after her father remarried in 1765, so she was perhaps the eldest child of the first marriage.  Although the lawsuit calls her “Nanny”, she was apparently named for her mother.  John Wilkinson Jr.’s wife was named Jane in a 1768 deed, in which she released dower six years later in 1774.34   They were originally of Cumberland County, but were living in Bedford County by 1774.   John Wilkinson was dead by 25 November 1782 while the suit was ongoing.35   What happened to Jane is unknown.  David Davenport never did recover the slaves John Wilkinson seized, nor did he sue his daughter after Wilkinson’s death.  Rather he recovered the judgment from Wilkinson’s securities in the case.  Neither Jane nor any children were mentioned in her father’s will.
  2. Joel Davenport ?  (c1740 – ?)  This is entirely speculative.  There is no persuasive evidence that he was a son of David Davenport, though it’s possible that he was a child of the marriage to Jane Yarbrough who was dead by the time the lawsuit was initiated.  (However, I note that one can also plausibly argue, based on the handful of records of him, that he is likely to have been a son of Julius Davenport.)  He first appears in Cumberland records on 24 September 1765.36    In 1766 he was sued a debt dating from 1763, indicating that he was born no later than 1742.37    He was not listed among the Cumberland tithables in 1768, but may have been one of David Davenport’s two unnamed tithables.  He last appears in Cumberland County as a juror on 25 April 1769.38    Whether he went elsewhere or died isn’t clear.
  3. Elizabeth Davenport (c1750? – by1802)   She was dead by the time her father made his will, and her son William Bernard McNamar (or McNemar) is named in the will.  This appears to be the William McNemar who appears on the Hanover County tax lists 1787-99.  Whether this was the father or the son isn’t clear.  The location suggests the possibility that Elizabeth married before her father’s moved to Cumberland County in 1765.  If so, the person in the Hanover tax lists may be the son.

The remaining children all seem to have been born after his marriage to Molly Slaughter in 1765, but there is a very peculiar gap in ages between Martin Davenport and the remaining children:

  1. Jesse Davenport (c1765 – 1814) It appears that Jesse was a year or two older than Martin, but there is a possibility they were twins. On 22 May 1786, the court cited David Davenport for failing to list his sons Jesse and Martin as tithables (defined as age 21 at that time). Less than four months later the Cumberland court ordered Jesse Davenport paid as a witness for Henry Davenport. He appears with William Ballou on the 1787 tax list, then was a taxpayer himself continuously thereafter until his death. He married Elizabeth Hobson in Cumberland by bond dated 24 November 1794, with consent given by Thomas Hobson. Jesse seems to have followed in his father’s footsteps with regard to debts. On 29 July 1795, four separate court judgments were recorded against Jesse for three overdue debts to merchants totaling almost £75 and another debt of £28 contracted jointly with his brother Martin S. Davenport. He continued to be sued over debts periodically for the remainder of his life. Jesse was also, like his father, contracted to build bridges, being paid in 1796 for building the Great and Little Guinea bridges, and again in 1803 for repairing them. Jesse was special bail for his father on several occasions. Jesse may have lived on land inherited by his wife, for he did not own land himself. His father’s will left him one third of the land in Amherst County, though it was essentially worthless, as his father’s mortgage was unpaid and the land was later seized and sold to pay the unpaid debt. Jesse was enumerated in 1810 as head of a household of 6. A will, dated 3 January 1814 and proved two months later, was not read. In 1814 and 1815 his estate was taxed, with no white males 16 or older. In 1840, Thomas Davenport, Edward Davenport, and Collin and Fanny Sheffield (formerly Fanny Davenport) identified themselves as the children of Jesse Davenport when they and the widow Elizabeth Davenport sold land to her Hobson relatives. [Thomas is age 38 in 1850, thus apparently born after the 1810 census.] Jesse’s widow Elizabeth did not remarry, and is in the 1850 Cumberland census as age 77.
  2. Martin Slaughter Davenport (1765/6 – 1851/2).  He and Martin appear to have been nearly the same age, and may well have been twins.  After settling his father’s estate, he moved to Georgia.  See separate paper.
  3. Dorothea Davenport (c1780 – 1850s)   There is no guardianship noted in the Cumberland records, implying she was over 21 at her father’s death.  She was of age when she married a neighbor named Jesse Dowdy in Cumberland County on 4 July 1804, with her brother Martin as security.  Jesse Dowdy appears in Cumberland censuses through 1840, but was apparently dead by 1843 when Dorothea Dowdy executed a deed to her son and his family.39   She appears as Dorothy Dowdy in the 1850 census, age 70, in the household of her son James H. Dowdy.  She does not appear in the 1860 census.
  4. Jack Smith Davenport (c1781? – ?)  He was apparently named for his cousin (Jack Smith Davenport, the son of David’s brother John Davenport, who died in the Revolution in early 1781).  That suggests he may have been born in late 1781, since he was apparently of age by the time his father wrote his will in 1802.  He has been confused with another cousin of about the same age, also named Jack Smith Davenport, who was the son of Richard Davenport.  This son of David Davenport appears to be the person on the 1805 tax list of Walton County, Georgia.  He is in the 1820 census of Oglethorpe County, but was not further traced.40 
  5. Jane Lipscomb Davenport (c1783 – ?) She was a minor at her father’s death.  She must have been at least 14, for she chose Joseph Bradley as her guardian on 28 February 1803.41   She apparently married her guardian’s son, John Bradley, sometime before 27 May 1805 when a dispute over the slaves devised to the three daughters named Joseph Bradley, John Bradley, Jesse Dowdy, and Frances Davenport as the interested parties.42  She was not in Cumberland at the time.  [She is erroneously thought by many to have been the Jane Davenport who married Thomas Davenport in 1799, but that is obviously not the case.]
  6. Frances Benson Davenport (c1784 – aft1840) On the same day as her sister, she went to court to name Martin S. Davenport as her guardian.43   She was evidently of age by the 27 May 1805 court case.44   She apparently accompanied her brother Martin to Georgia and seems to the same person who married Smith Davenport in Oglethorpe County, Georgia on 17 January 1807.  Smith Davenport I sin the 1820 and 1830 census of Jasper County, with a family of five sons and four daughters in 1830.  He died in Houston County 29 February 1840 at the age of 64, according to his obituary.45   Francis appears in the 1840 census of Houston County as head of household of seven apparent sons and four daughters.



  1. The reversion provision implies that David had no children or immediate prospects for children. []
  2. “Accounts from the Store of Thomas Partridge & Company, Hanover Co., Virginia 1734-1756”, Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, Vol 25.  The surviving ledgers begin (in MVG Vol. 23) with Ledger B covering March 1735 through October 1738, then ledger D (MVG, Vol. 24, 25)  covering 1737-1741.  The final ledger begins in 1756. []
  3. Louisa County Order Book 1, p267.  David Davenport summoned as a witness from Spotsylvania. []
  4. Spotsylvania County Order Book 4, p514.  David Davenport paid as a witness from outside the county.  Reimbursed for 30 miles, approximately the round-trip distance from the Davenport plantation to the Spotsylvania courthouse. []
  5. Spotsylvania County Bonds, etc. B, p59. []
  6. Spotsylvania County Order Book 5, p388. []
  7. Caroline County Court Orders 3, p442.  The codefendant was Jeremiah Yarborough, perhaps his brother-in-law, and the suit was dismissed regarding David Davenport probably because he did not reside in Caroline County. []
  8. Spotsylvania County Executions, courtesy John Scott Davenport. []
  9. Cumberland County Will Book 1, p265. []
  10. Ibid., p266.  Inventory dated 28 July and recorded 22 August 1763. []
  11. Cumberland County Order Book 7, p146. []
  12. Cumberland County Order Book 7, pp9 170, 210, 435; Book 8, pp 307, 334-5; Book 9, pp23, 395. []
  13. Cumberland County Will Book 2, p174 and p194 — two successive wills. []
  14. Cumberland County Deed Book 7, p38. []
  15. Cumberland County Deed Book 1, p360 and p364.  The deeds witnessed by Henry, Stephen, and Thomas Davenport Jr. []
  16. Hanover County Court Record Book 1733-1735, p342 — a sale of land inherited by three married daughters of Susannah “Ellite”. []
  17. Cumberland County Deed Book 4, p285. []
  18. Cumberland County Order Book 5, p240. []
  19. Cumberland County Order Book 7, p21, etc. []
  20. Cumberland County Order Book 7, p173. []
  21. Cumberland County Deed Book 4, p210. []
  22. John Atkins had patented the land on 20 July 1753 (VPB 32, p196) on Wilderness Creek.  After David Davenport defaulted, the land was advertised for sale at least twice, but it did not sell.  David Davenport sold 100a of it to his son Glover in 1802, and devised the rest of the tract in his will to his sons Jesse and Jack Smith Davenport.  One of his original creditors stepped in and took the land, so none of the three sons realized any benefit. []
  23. Cumberland County Deed Book 4, p334. []
  24. Cumberland County chancery court case file. []
  25. Cumberland County Order Book 9, p369; Book 10, p8 and pp69. []
  26. Cumberland County Deed Book 5, p36. []
  27. Cumberland County Deed Book 5, p159. []
  28. Cumberland County Deed Book 5, p551. []
  29. Cumberland County Order Book 13, p54. []
  30. Cumberland County Deed Book 1, p341. []
  31. Cumberland County Deed Book 6, p514 and p542. []
  32. Amherst County Deed Book I, p488. []
  33. Cumberland County Will Book 3, p214.  Probate did not initiate until late January 1803. []
  34. Cumberland County Deed Book 4, p30 and Deed Book 5, p295. []
  35. Cumberland County Court Orders 12, p291. []
  36. Cumberland County Court Orders 7, p196.  The suit was against James Davenport Jr. who apparently had property in the possession of Joel Davenport, Julius Davenport (son of Thomas), and Clayton Cook. []
  37. Cumberland County Court Orders 7, p306, 332, 374, 455, 518.  On page 306 David Davenport was his security.  On p332, David Davenport was replaced as security by William and Julius Davenport.  Page 518 indicates interest was due from 21 July 1763. []
  38. Cumberland County Court Orders 8, p339. []
  39. Cumberland County Deed Book 25, p299. []
  40. 1820 Oglethorpe County:  Jack S. Davenport 200211-11010-11.  Jack must have been the male 26-45. []
  41. Cumberland County Court Orders 18, p339. []
  42. Cumberland County Court Orders 19, p202. []
  43. Cumberland County Court Orders 18, p339. []
  44. Cumberland County Court Orders 19, p202. []
  45. Marriage and Death notices from the Southern Christian Advocate 1837-1860, Brent H. Holcomb (1979), p27. []