John Gorham II (c1683 – 1769)

John Gorham II is almost certainly the son of John Gorham I. Though the proof is circumstantial, it is quite sufficient to make the case. Luckily the mostly lost records for Westmoreland County contain just enough references to him to provide the proof.

The first mention of him is a deed of gift of 60 acres dated 27 September 1693 from Thomas Moore to John Gorham, a minor, for which Thomas Walker was to be trustee. The deed itself was not found, though it was proved in court on 29 November 1693.1 But it was referenced forty-eight years later in 1741 when John Gorham sold “the land which Thomas Moore gave to said John Goreham by deed of gift bearing date the 27 September 1693.”2  From a later deposition we know that John Gorham was about 10 years old in 1693.

Since there was only one Gorham in the area — indeed in the entire colony – he must have been a son of John Gorham I.  Indeed, the land gifted to him by Thomas Moore adjoined a tract which had earlier been owned by Miles Gorham.  Further, Thomas Walker, whom Moore appointed trustee for the child’s land, was security for Miles Gorham’s wife’s administration of his estate in the same year.  The inescapable conclusion is that John Gorham I had married a daughter of Thomas Moore and produced a son named John Gorham Jr.;  Thomas Moore was preserving an inheritance for his grandson, whose mother was likely deceased.

John Gorham was orphaned by 2 February 1699/1700 when his father’s will was proved in Westmoreland County.3  Though still a minor and apparently old enough to choose his own guardian, no court record of guardianship was found.   He is next mentioned in 1709 when Thomas Moore sold land described as bordering two tracts he had previously gifted to his son William Moore and to John Gorham, with John Gorham himself as a witness.4

John Gorham was a carpenter.  The next record of him is the purchase of 60 acres nearby by “John Gorham, carpenter” on 21 July 1716.5  He sold this land nearly seven years later on 22 February 1723/4, when he was again described as a carpenter.6  Though in his mid thirties by 1716, he was apparently unmarried, as the Westmoreland clerk, who scrupulously recorded dower releases, recorded none for the sale of the land. Although he witnessed a few documents in Westmoreland County during this time, the only references that might apply to his trade are payments to him recorded in two estate accountings in neighboring Richmond County in 1729 and 1734, probably for carpentry work.7

I might note that John Gorham used a distinctive mark for his signature, beginning with his witness to a deed for adjoining land in 1717.8  In every reference that followed, he used the same distinctive mark (a Latin “J” with two horizontal slashes) which helps to verify that nearly fifty years of records refer to the same person.

On 14 January 1740/1 he sold the land he had received in 1693 from Thomas Moore, describing it as 60 acres “being the land which Thomas Moore gave to said John Goreham by deed of gift bearing date the 27 September 1693”.9  He again used his distinctive mark.

He had apparently already arranged to move upriver into the part of Prince William County that eventually became Loudoun County.  On 1 October 1740, John “Gorum”, planter, of Prince William County, Virginia and Willoughby Newton of Westmoreland County signed a lease to confirm a “certain contract between them” dated a year earlier on 11 October 1739.10  This was a long-term “three lives” lease to “John Gorum and Mary, his wife, and Thomas Gorum his son” of 200 acres in Prince William County “whereon Paul Howell formerly built a small house… on a branch that makes out of Bull Run commonly called Little Rocky…11  The rent was to be free for three years and thereafter 530 pounds of tobacco annually.  John Gorham signed the instrument with his distinctive mark. It is clear that the Gorhams were already occupying the land – for although Willoughby Newton had claimed the land a few years earlier, the lease could not legally be executed until Newton received his patent, which event had occurred a mere twelve days before the indenture date.12  The patent was for 1,719 acres lying between Little Rocky Run and Big Rocky Run in what was then Prince William County, but which became Fairfax County in 1742 and Loudoun County in 1757.   (It was reattached to Fairfax County in 1798, and remained part of Fairfax where it can be found on modern maps.)

Interestingly, the plat for this patent actually shows the location of “John Gorum’s house”, drawn in the plat on the west bank of Little Rocky Run. Willoughby Newton leased adjoining portions of this patent to Richard Omahundro, Jacob Remey, Thomas Brown, and others whose houses are also shown on the plat. John Gorham appears to have lived here for the remainder of his life, as shown by his deposition of 1762 and the absence of further land transactions. John Gorham appears on the only surviving tithables list for Fairfax County, the 1749 Truro Parish list, as a single tithable (indicating that he had no sons who had yet reached the age of 16).  In 1757, Loudon County was formed with Little Rocky Run as the county line, and Gorham’s land lay on the Loudoun County side of the creek. By 1760, the first available complete tithables list for Loudon County, John Gorham was listed with John Gorham Jr. in his household, and Thomas Gorham located nearby.13

Another part of Willoughby Newton’s patent was deeded in 1745 to build a church known as the Little Rocky Church. John Gorham probably attended this church, and if he were still a carpenter, may even have helped to build it. Unfortunately, virtually no records of it survive. Interestingly, its first sexton was the same William Grove who had witnessed John Gorham’s sale of his Westmoreland land and who, with Gorham, witnessed the will of John Lamkin.

John Gorham also appears in the tithables lists of 1761 and 1762, as taxpayer for John Gorham Jr. and Sanford Gorham in both years. In all three years 1760-1762 he is himself not charged with a tithe, presumably being exempted either by office or old age, although there is no record of an exemption in the court records.14

We have have one record of his age. On 15 December 1762, “John Goram age 79 or thereabouts” made a deposition in Loudoun County stating that he had long been a neighbor to Thomas Brown, and signed with his distinctive mark.15   As noted above, Brown had lived on the Willoughby Newton patent adjoining Gorham since 1741.16

The Loudon County tithables for 1763 are lost, and some of the lists are missing for subsequent years. Although the tithables lists for the area in which he lived are mostly complete for the years 1765-1769, John Gorham does not appear in them.    All three sons appear as taxpayers but not their father.  Nevertheless he was probably still alive as late as 1 June 1767, since his son was still styling himself John Gorham “Junior” when he witnessed a deed on that date.17

John Gorham apparently died intestate in Loudoun County sometime in 1769.  Sanford Gorham was his administrator and the court ordered an inventory on 10 October 1769.  It was not recorded until 13 May 1771, when an estate sale and accounting marked “1769” were also recorded.18  The modest estate of “John Gorham Senr.” was valued at just over 40 pounds, and consisted mostly of household goods. Although he apparently could not sign his name, the estate included a “parcel of old books”. The estate sale showed purchases by Mrs. Mary Gorham, Thomas Gorham, and Sanford Gorham, among others.19

Mrs. Mary Gorham, who purchased nearly half the estate, was evidently the widow and presumably the same Mary Gorham who had been his wife at the time of the 1740 lease.   The accounting returned at the same court showed that the estate paid debts to both Sanford Gorham and Thomas Gorham, as well as to local merchants and others. Nearly all the buyers at the estate sale were neighbors on Little Rocky Creek.

The identity of his wife Mary is unknown. They were apparently married sometime after 1716, and probably not until the early 1730s. This is mildly bothersome, as it requires us to accept that he did not marry until his late forties. However marriages relatively late in life were not particularly uncommon at that time.  Her name appears only twice – in the 1740 lease and as a buyer at the estate sale. It seems likely that she may have been a Sanford, but I am unable to determine a likely candidate. Interestingly, though, Willoughby Newton leased another 200 acres of the same patent to Richard Omahundro, who had married Ann Sanford, the widow of Jacob Remy, as her second husband.20  I have seen another genealogist’s claim that Mary Gorham’s name was Mary Kirkham or Kirkland, but there appears to be no evidence for that claim. (Nor can I find any Kirkhams or Kirklands in Westmoreland, Prince William, or Fairfax who might have had such a daughter.)

Since there are no other Gorhams in Loudoun or the surrounding counties, it seems a safe assumption that Thomas, Sanford, and John Jr. were his sons. One daughter is surmised, but it seems likely there were more.  It is tempting to speculate that he named his oldest son after Thomas Moore, the second son after himself and his father, and the third son perhaps after his wife’s surname.

  1. Thomas Gorham (c1735 – 1814) Presumably the eldest son, he was named in the lease of 1739/40. He appears in the tithables of Loudoun County beginning in 1760, married Margaret Cotton about 1761 and by 1787 moved to Kentucky where he died leaving numerous children. (See separate page.)
  2. John Gorham Jr. (c1742 – 1797) He appears as a tithable in his father’s household in 1760, 1761, and 1762, indicating that he was at least 16 by 1760 and older than Sanford.  He was 21 by 1765 when he appears as a tithable.  He does not appear again as a tithable until 1779, perhaps because he lived on the Fairfax county side of the line where he witnessed a deed in 1767.21  He does not appear in any Loudoun record after the 1779 tithables, the same year he first appears in Wilkes County, Georgia.2223

    Circumstantial evidence points to his having moved to Georgia during the Revolution. Georgia had a tiny population and desperately needed soldiers to prevent the British from rolling up the southern colonies.  About three-quarters of the Georgia Revolutionary troops were recruited from Virginia and North Carolina. One of them appears to be John Gorham, who filed several bounty land warrants in 1784 in Franklin County either as a Revolutionary veteran or as an assignee.24  He was a surveyor for Franklin County from its formation in 1784 through at least 1787, and appears on its tax lists which substitute for early censuses. He may have been the “lawyer with one arm” referred to in the 1880 letter, as he is mentioned several times as a county justice beginning in 1786.  He owned considerable land and executed numerous deeds in Franklin, Wilkes and Elbert Counties for lands lying just west of the South Carolina state line. It is intriguing that George Vandiver was also apparently in the same area.

    The theory that this person is John Gorham Jr. rests largely on the fact that this John Gorham died in 1797 leaving three minor children named Sanford Gorham, Thomas Gorham, and Mary Gorham25 26  Perhaps a fourth child was a son named John Gorham. His wife and widow was Jennett Williamson. Her name is variously recorded by different clerks as “Jinney”, “Jean” and “Jane”.27  She remarried to Edmund Henley by 1798.28   She was the daughter of Peter Williamson, whose 1798 will names his daughter Jennett Henley and mentions Thomas Gorham as a legatee.29  The three children were apparently minors at John Gorham’s death, as Henley filed several accountings for their support, but all had probably reached majority by 1809 when real property from the estate was distributed.30  There was perhaps a fourth son, John Gorham, who was an adult at his father’s death, as a John Gorham appears on tax lists after 1802 and apparently a different John Gorham died after 180931 leaving a minor son named Thomas for whom a guardian named John Tabor returned accounts as late as 181632 and apparently another minor son named John Clark Gorham, born ca1808, for whom Sanford Gorham was guardian in 1822.33

  3. Sanford Gorham (c1745 – 1772/3)   He first appears as a tithable of his father in 1761 and 1762. He was not tithable in 1760, thus had evidently reached the age of 16 by 1761. That implies he would have reached 21 in 1766, but the tithables for that year are lost.  He does appear as a taxpayer in 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, and 1772, paying the tax for Edward Vandiver from 1768 onward.  He is listed as a county slave patroller in the period 1770-1772, which resulted in his being exempted from tithes.  He does not appear in any other records, other than witnessing a neighbor’s deed for land in Prince William County.34  His will is dated 9 October 1772, recorded 25 January 1773.35 The will directs that the estate be sold and the proceeds be used for the support of “my wife & children”.   The will bequeaths the increase of a negro woman “belonging to my wife Ann Gorham” equally after her death to “my sons Lamken, William, and Harving”. “My daughter Sarah Vandever” was given a bed and furniture, and one of the witnesses to the will was a Sarah Vandiver. Ann Gorham and friend Simon Tripplet were named executors. The sons were clearly minors at the time. The inventory, recorded 13 September 1773, lists a servant, livestock, six books, and a “pray[er] book and testament”. Interestingly, the will mentions a tobacco crop and the inventory lists livestock, but Sanford clearly owned no land of his own. Nor is there a lease recorded to him.  The widow Ann appears in the tithables of 1773 and 1774, as the taxpayer for Edward Vandiver and the servant, and in 1775 paying the tax for the servant alone. There is no further record of her. The only earlier record of her is a 1765 debit to the estate of Christopher Neale to “Mrs. Ann Gorham for making breeches”.36

    A perplexing question is the identity of his wife Ann and the daughter Sarah Vandiver.   The most likely explanation is that Ann Goreham was the widow of George Vandiver and Sarah was her daughter by the earlier marriage.   However, some descendants have developed an alternative theory.   Both hypotheses are explored in more detain in a separate page.

    The three sons named in Sanford Gorham’s will – Lamken, William, and Harving – do not appear in any Loudoun tithables lists through 1781, after which the tax lists exist only in fragments. (Assuming they were in the county, this implies that all three were born after 1765.)  I have no clear idea what happened to the three sons, but some descendants think that Harvin and William accompanied the Vandiver children to South Carolina.  Harvin Gorham appears on the 1800 census of Chester County but by 1830 is in Monroe County, Alabama and in Butler County, Alabama by 1840. His children seem to be the Gorhams listed in Covington County, Alabama in the 1850 census. These censuses place his birth sometime in the late 1760s or early 1770s.

    The 1880 letter (see elsewhere) by a granddaughter of Thomas Gorham says that Thomas had two brothers “one of them a lawyer with one arm, the other a farmer”. The writer could not have known these people, so the accuracy of this statement has to be suspect. However, if this is accurate then Sanford was probably the farmer.

  4. Elizabeth Gorham (c1745 – ?) It seems likely she was a daughter, as she named one son John and another Miles Gorham Barden.   She first married Thomas Barden and after his death she married again to John Wells. Thomas Barden had been listed consecutively with Thomas Gorham in the tithables of 1768 and 1770.  He died by November 1776 when his appraisal and inventory were recorded.37  The Barden estate was eventually distributed to four children: Miles Gorham Barden, John Barden, James Barden, and Mary Barden.38  The eldest son, Miles, was born 1 January 1767 according to a family Bible.   On 13 March 1782, Miles G. Barden chose Thomas Gorham as his guardian.39  Thomas Gorham almost immediately requested that John and Elizabeth Wells, the administrators of Thomas Barden, settle the estate, though the final settlement wasn’t recorded until 1813.40  A settlement account recorded in 1786 and the 1786 tithables both give the full name of this son as “Miles Gorham Barden”.41
  1. Westmoreland Order Book 1690-1698, p111. []
  2. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 9, p161. []
  3. Westmoreland County Order Book 1698-1705, p72a. []
  4. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 5, p226. []
  5. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 5, p574. []
  6. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 8, p10. []
  7. Richmond County Account Book 1724-1751, p30 and p69. []
  8. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 6, p174. []
  9. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 9, p161. []
  10. Loudoun County Deed Book A, pp45-47.  Apparently a re-recording. []
  11. A “three-lives” lease was common in England but rarely used in other parts of Virginia. The term of the lease was for the lifetime of whichever of the three lessees lived the longest. The usual form was to name the husband, his wife, and the eldest child. []
  12. Northern Neck Patent Book E (1736-1742), p172. []
  13. All Loudoun tithables information is taken from Loudoun County, Virginia Tithables 1758-1786, Marty Hiatt & Craig Roberts Scott, (3 volumes, Iberian Publishing Co., 1995). Complete lists survive for only some of the years 1758-1786. []
  14. Exemptions were not automatic except for certain officeholders like constables. Nor was poverty or old age an automatic excuse. Any exemption for age or infirmity would have required court action. The court order books exist for the period, but there is no record of an exemption. It may be that an exemption was granted in Fairfax County and later honored by the Loudoun court. What is clear is that John Gorham Sr. was the taxpayer for his sons’ tithes. The 1705 law, still in effect, required “That every master or mistress of a family, or in his or her absence, or non-residence at the plantation, his or her attorney, or overseer, shall, on the said tenth day of June, by a list under his or her hand, deliver, or cause to be delivered, to the justice appointed to take the same, the names and number of all the tithable persons abiding in, or belonging to, his or her family.” The strong implication here is that neither son was yet “master” of his own family. []
  15. Loudoun County Deed Book C (part 2), pp457-8. Adam Mitchell, William Landrum, and John (I) Goram all testified that they were aware of a verbal deed of gift by Thomas Brown to his son Joseph Brown.  John Goram testified that he “had long been a neighbor of Thomas Brown and was at his house in October 1758. []
  16. 1 Mar 1742/3 lease from Willoughby Newton to Thomas Brown during his life and during the life of Elizabeth his wife and Joseph their son. Fairfax County Deed Book A, p49. []
  17. Fairfax County Deed Book G, p271. []
  18. Loudoun County Will Book A, pp312-315.  All three documents recorded consecutively. []
  19. Sanford Gorham, Mrs. Mary Gorham, Thomas Gorham, Jacob Remey Jr., Charles Eskridge, and William Carr Lane purchased livestock. Jacob Turley, John Morris, Edward Smith, Robert Thomas, Frederick Nichols, and William Lane Summers purchased household goods. []
  20. Fairfax County Deed Book A, p47. 1 December 1741 lease to Richard “Omohundra”, Ann his now wife and Mary Omohundra their daughter. []
  21. Fairfax County Deed Book G, p271. William and Jane Gladden to William Triplett, 1 January 1767. []
  22. It’s not completely clear which John Gorham appeared as a tithable of Doctor Brown in 1779 and (as “John Goram”) of John Lewis in 1780. In 1781, the second tithable of John Lewis is John “Goran”, so it’s not clear whether this person was a Gorham or a Gorin (both of which were families in Loudoun). Since Thomas Gorham’s son John was in his tax list for 1779, the most we can conclude is that John Gorham Jr. was evidently in the county as of June 1779. []
  23. Appears as a grand juror in Wilkes County, according to Charlotte Howell Berry. []
  24. Abstracts of Georgia Land Plat Books A and B 1775-1785, Nathan & Kaydee Mathews (Wolfe Pub., 1995). []
  25. Charlotte Howell Berry sent me a persuasive argument that this John Gorham died sometime in early May 1797. This was based on (a) his witnessing a deed on 2 May, (b) his appointment as a justice on 19 May 1796 and a court notation that he died in office, (c) that he was apparently replaced by Larkin Cleveland, and (d) her discovery that Cleveland began his term on 10 May 1797. This is supported by his absence from the 1798 tax list and by a 1798 deed mentioning a judgment against the “administrators of John Goreham deceased”. []
  26. Franklin County, Georgia Court of Ordinary Records 1787-1849, Martha Walters Acker (1989), p17. This briefly summarizes several loose documents which show that Edmund Henley married the widow, that Henley was reimbursed for “support of three children”, and that Sanford, Thomas, and Polly were the names of the children. []
  27. For example, on 30 April 1787 as Jinny (Franklin County Deed Book C, p13b) and two weeks later on 16 May 1787 as Jane (Wilkes County Deed Book CC, p121). She was Jean on 18 February 1793 (Elbert County Deed Book B, p46). []
  28. Franklin County, Georgia Court of Ordinary Records 1787-1849, Martha Wilkins Acker (1989), p17. []
  29. Acker, p6. []
  30. There are several deeds, but Franklin County Deed Book TTT, p181 contains one in which property was split into four tracts, one to each of the three children and one to Edmund Henley. []
  31. He purchased land on 18 December 1809 (Franklin County Deed Book TTT, p183). []
  32. Acker, p17. []
  33. Acker, p118. John C. Gorham is age 42 in the 1850 Carroll County, GA census. []
  34. Prince William County Deed Book R, pp97 []
  35. Loudoun County Will Book B, p29. []
  36. Fairfax County Will Book C, pp19 []
  37. Loudoun County Will Book B, p166. []
  38. Loudoun County Will Book K, p289. []
  39. Loudoun County Minute Book 1780-1783, p108. []
  40. Loudoun County Minute Book 1780-1783, p108 and Will Book K, p289. []
  41. Loudoun County Will Book C, p216. []