Peter Hayes family of Isle of Wight County, Virginia

The “Hayes – Hays of Virginia and North Carolina” article in Historical Southern Families, Volume 15,  contains a brief and inaccurate genealogy of this family which is riddled with errors.1   This is an attempt to correct, and expand upon, the record of this family.

Background

The imaginary biography of this man prior to his arrival in Virginia that was published in Historical Southern Families, Volume 15 is dissected and discussed at length in another page.

Peter Hayes the Immigrant

The first record of Peter Hayes is his appearance as one of 33 headrights in a patent issued on 7 July 1635 to Lt. John Upton for 1650 acres in Isle of Wight County, Virginia.2  The patent was reissued two years later on 23 August 1637 with the same list of 33 headrights (some of which were spelled slightly differently including “Peter Hayes” replacing “Peter Heyes”.) 3  When Peter Hayes actually arrived in Virginia is unknown, but studies suggest that patents typically lagged actual importations by roughly four to five years at this time in Virginia’s history.4   All we can say with confidence is that he arrived sometime after January 1625, as neither he nor any of Upton’s other headrights were counted in the colony-wide muster on that date.   Notice also that no wife or children were claimed as headrights, from which we might plausibly infer that he married after coming to Virginia.

If he was typical of immigrants of the early 17th century, Peter Hayes was probably a young and single man when he arrived in Virginia.  The Virginia census in early 1625 disclosed that three-fourths of Virginians were under 25 when they arrived and only eleven had arrived when 35 or older.  Only one resident had arrived over the age of 50.  Thus we might plausibly guess at a birth year in the vicinity of 1600-1610 or so.  That would fit with the fact that his children seem to have been born after his arrival in Virginia.

One of the other headrights in that same 1635 patent was Roger Bagnall, who had a patent of his own near Upton’s on 16 November 1635 for 350 acres.5 6  Bagnall assigned that patent to George Hardye, who assigned it to Peter Hayes on 11 February 1636/7.7  Peter Hayes was issued a patent for the 350-acre tract in his own name on 31 August 1637.8

Locating his patent

Thanks to patents for adjacent lands, we can locate his 350-acre tract fairly precisely on the southern  bank of the Pagan River about a mile or two from its mouth. A patent to Henry Snaile places Hayes’ land just west of Moons Creek and a patent to Thomas Davis places it just east of  a small cape called Redpoint at a location where the Pagan River’s southern shore runs roughly east-west.  Both Redpoint and the mouth of Moons Creek are less than two miles apart and both are visible on modern USGS maps.  The land is located in what is today the northeastern portion of the city of Smithfield, Virginia.9

Death sometime after 1642

Mortality rates among the early settlers of Virginia were appallingly high, and not just from Indian attacks.  Recurring epidemics of typhiod fever and dysentery had killed nearly 30% of the population with each occurrence during the period 1607-1624, and were still a serious hazard years later. One study pegged the annual mortality rate circa 1635 at nearly 15%, though mortality in Isle of Wight and James City County was thought to be higher.10

Peter Hayes was evidently soon in poor health and unable to pay his annual tithable taxes, for on 12 January 1641/2 The General Assembly proclaimed that “Whereas Divers poore men have longe inhabited heere and nowe are growne decrepped and impotent, and have petitioned this Assembly for releefe; Be it Enacted by the Authoritie afore’sd that John Griffith, Sergiant Jo. Wayne, Tho. Brooke, Tobias Hurst, and Peeter Hayes shall from henceforth bee excepted from all publique service in p’son and paying of Countrie Leveys, Ministers’ duties excepted.”11   While it is not certain Peter Hayes of Isle of Wight was the person referred to, I note that one of these men, Tobias Hurst, had witnessed the patent assignment from Hardye to Hayes.

Tobias Hurst was also the only one of the five men who was counted in the muster of 1625, when he gave his age as 22.  Thus he was 38 years old at the time of the proclamation.

It seems likely that Peter Hayes died not long thereafter.  There is no further mention of him in Isle of Wight records, which range from non-existent to very limited until roughly the 1660s when wills and deeds began to be reliably preserved.  Our only clue to his family is that the land he patented in 1637 was owned, presumably by inheritance, by Peter Hayes II after which two different heirs, both of them his grandsons, successfully laid claim to it.

Wife, probably named Ann, was still alive in 1678

The widow of Peter Hayes was still alive as late as 1678, according to the will of his son Peter Hayes II which refers to her only as as “my mother”.  Her given name does not appear in any record.

However, she was probably named Ann and had married Richard Madison after the death of Peter Hayes.  A widow named Ann Madison was identified in a 2 February 1670/1 record as the grandmother of Thomas Bevin’s children — thus was either the mother of his Hayes wife or the mother of Thomas Bevin himself.  Yet because the widow of Thomas Bevin’s father was named Elizabeth, it seems plausible that Ann Madison was the widow of the immigrant Peter Hayes.  Furthermore, Ann Madison, who was clearly a feme sole in 1670, was apparently the widow of RIchard Madison who was living on (or next to) the Peter Hayes patent in 1654 when a sale of 100 acres by Sylvester Thatcher was described as bordering “land now in the tenure of Richard Maddison” to the south and the lands of John Moon, the patent of Thomas Davis, and other parcels which would place Richard Madison on the Peter Hayes patent.12  Richard Madison was dead before 14 April 1670 when a patent to “Richard Madison deceased” was found to escheat by a jury and five months later was renewed and purchased by a different Richard Madison (also with wife Ann) who died in 1677.

Children

Subsequent deed records allow us to identify two sons and two daughters:

  1. Peter Hayes II (c1640? – 1679)

    The next mention of a Peter Hayes in Isle of Wight is an appraisal of the estate of Thomas Bevin dated 4 February 1670/71, which was signed by Peter Hayes with the same “PH” signature mark later used in his own will a few years later.13 Since no wife or son was claimed as a headright, we might infer that Peter Hayes II was born in Virginia after his father’s arrival. That is consistent with his will and subsequent records, which tell us that he died unmarried and childless in early 1679. It was not at all unusual at that time for a man to remain single owing to the scarcity of women; three-quarters of immigrants to Virginia in this period were men.

    Peter Hayes’ will was dated 7 May 1678 and proved on 10 March 1678/9.14 The will states that “all my debts be justly paid, and the remainder of my estate to be equally divided, and my mother to have one half, and my sister Anne Cornes [Carnes?] the other half. And after it please God upon my mother and sister’s death that my cousin Thomas Bevan be immediately seized with the said land…” The will was signed with his distinctive “PH” signature mark and witnessed by Anthony Fulgham and Hugh Humphrey. This seems clearly to be the will of a man with no wife or children, and later events confirm that.

    Regarding Thomas Bevin, the term “cousin” typically denoted a “nephew” at this time in history, meaning that he was apparently the son of a sister of Peter Hayes. (The word “nephew”, originally applied to grandsons but by the early 17th century was commonly used to denote a nephew or niece, words that had not yet entered the English language in any meaningful way.) Indeed, Thomas Bevan’s deed ten years later speaks of “the land which did formerly belong to my uncle Peter Hayes and by him given to me by his last will.15

    Faulty Legend of “the Envoy”

    Peter Hayes II is erroneously identified as “Peter Hayes the Envoy” in an article in Historical Southern Families, Volume 15. They were two different and unrelated persons as explained in detail in the paper Peter Hay the Envoy.

    Disputes over ownership of Peter Hayes’ 1637 patent clarify descendants

    It is apparent that both his mother and sister were dead by the time the will was proved, leaving no known heirs to the immigrant’s land.  An Isle of Wight jury and the County Escheator, being unable to identify any living heirs of Peter Hayes II, declared on 16 June 1681 that Peter Hayes’ 350-acre patent was escheated to the King in accordance with the Act of March 1661/2.16  That Act permitted any person who had taken physical possession of escheated land for two years to claim it as his own by paying a modest fee to the Crown, with the provison that a widow, if any, was permitted to occupy the land for her lifetime. 17  The land was claimed by a man named Thomas Ward, and a patent was issued to Ward on 24 April 1682 for 350 acres “which Peter Hayes died [possessed] of and was found to escheat to his Majestys as by an Inquisition recorded in the secretaries office under the hands and seals of Wm. Randolph, Deputy Escheator of the said county and a jury sworn before him for that purpose, dated the 16 June 1681 which said land is now granted unto the said Thomas Ward…18  Note that Ward must have physically possessed the land by early 1680, meaning that no heirs of Peter Hayes objected.

    This is crucial to the genealogy, for it means that the county Escheator and the jury who decided the question, were unable to identify any living heirs of Peter Hayes II.  That is, no children, wife, parents, or living brothers or sisters were evident to the jury.  Later records tell us that he actually had two living grandsons, both apparently orphaned children, at least one of whom was living far from Isle of Wight County — thus explaining their non-appearance in 1681.

    A few years later, the details unfortunately lost among the missing court records, Thomas Bevan must have disputed the escheatment and Thomas Ward’s title to the patent.  He would have taken his case to the local court, which apparently resolved the ownership question by having  the county surveyor divide the property into two parcels, one of about 148 acres for Thomas Bevan and one of 202 acres to be jointly owned by Thomas Bevan and Thomas Ward.  On 18 September 1689 Thomas Bevan and Thomas Ward exchanged deeds of gift regarding “the lowermost part of the tract of land joining on VIrgors Creek according to a dividing line formerly laid out and made by Maj. Arthur Allen, surveyor.19  Thomas Bevan gave up his half-interest in the 202-acre parcel to Thomas Ward who then deeded half the parcel outright to Thomas Bevan.  Each man summarized what must have been their arguments to the court:  Bevin’s deed referred to “land which did formerly belong to my uncle Peter Hayes and by him given to me by his last will” and Ward’s deed referred to land “granted unto me by virtue of an escheat patent.”   The result was that Thomas Bevan then owned roughly 250 acres of the original patent and Thomas Ward owned the remaining 100 acres.

    Then in 1702 (see below) a Thomas Hayes of Northumberland County must have claimed kinship to Peter Hayes II because he sold his rights in the 250-acre tract to Thomas Bevan and his tights in the 100 acres to William Clerke and his wife Mary (who was apparently the widow of Thomas Ward0.20  Once again the loss of court records prevent us from learning precisely how and when Thomas Hayes laid claim to the land.  See more detail below.

  2. Ann Hayes (? – c1678)

    Peter Hayes II’s 1678 will mentions his sister Ann.  Her surname is uncertain owing to damage to the paper exacerbated by old handwriting, perhaps “Carnes” or “Cornes” or even “Cornish”, but no names like these appear in Isle of Wight records.  It is possible that the sister lived elsewhere, but the escheatment issue explained above suggests that Ann died childless shortly after Peter’s will was written, else she or they would have been recognized as Peter’s heir by the local authorities. (In the absence of any sons known to local authorities, the deceased’s daughters would have inherited as a group under the law of succession in force at the time, thus no escheatment would have occurred.)  I note the possibility that she was a stepsister, perhaps a child of his mother by a second marriage who would not have been an heir under the succession law. 21

  3. Unknown Daughter Bevan (? – by 1678)

    An unknown daughter married Thomas Bevan Sr.  The 1678 will of Peter Hayes II called Thomas Bevin (Bevan) his “cousin”, a term that in those times typically designated a nephew.  Confirming that, Thomas Bevan Jr.’s 1687 deed to Thomas Ward identified his land as part of the patent “which did formerly belong to my uncle Peter Hayes and by him given to me by his last will.”  Finally,  the 1702 deed from Thomas Hayes explicitly identified Peter Hayes I of the 1637 patent as  “grandfather to ye foresd. Thomas Bevan.”

    The Hayes daughter died before her husband, who remarried to a woman named Elizabeth.  Thomas Bevin Sr. died sometime in 1670 leaving a son Thomas Bevin Jr. and four other children (probably all daughters), and a widow named Elizabeth who was a second wife and the mother of only the youngest child.  A distribution of his estate by a commission comprised of Peter Hzayes and two other men was made on 4 February 1670/71.22  After the widow’s thirds, the remainder of the estate was divided into five parts.  “Ann Madison grandmother to the orphants” was given three-fifths “on behalf of three of her grandchildren which she hath with her”, Thomas Bevin Junr. took one-fifth, and the widow Elizabeth Bevin took the final one-fifth “on behalf of a female borne after the marriage of the said deceased Bevin with the said Elizabeth.” Thus Elizabeth was not the mother of the other four children.

    Whether Ann Madison was the mother of Thomas Bevan or of his Hayes wife is unknowable.  However there is reason to suspect that she was the widow of Peter Hayes and mother of Bevan’s deceased wife.  She was clearly a feme sole at this time, probably the widow of RIchard Madison who lived on or next to the Peter Hayes patent in 1654.23 He was dead before 14 April 1670 when a patent to “Richard Madison deceased” was found to escheat by a jury and five months later was renewed by purchase from a different Richard Madison (also with wife Ann) who died in 1677.

    Thomas Bevan was perhaps already of age in 1670, and surely so when Peter Hayes wrote his will in 1678 but the earliest record found of him was his 1685 witness to the will of Thomas Green of Redpoint.24

    A number of genealogists believe that Thomas Bevan had a sister Ann Bevan who married John Street.  I’m not sue of the evidence, but it is certainly plausible. (Some believe she was his mother, though the above logic would suggest the mother was dead by 1681 and presumably childless.)  John Street’s 1710 will was witnessed by Thomas Bevan, but I don’t have evidence that Street was married to Bevan’s sister.

    Thomas Bevan’s own will was signed on 6 September 1710 and proved less than a year later on 28 June 1711. 25 He left a life estate to his wife Mary and all his land, being the old 1637 patent to Peter Hayes I, to his oldest son Thomas Bevan with reversions to his minor son Peter Bevan, and then to his minor daughters Mary and Elizabeth.  If none of the children produced heirs, the land was to revert to Thomas Hayes of Northumberland County.  As it turned out, his son Thomas Bevan Jr. occupied the patented land during his life, leaving a will of his own in 1734.26

  4. Thomas Hayes (c1640? – c1676)

    The significance of the escheat jury finding of 1661 is that any potential natural heirs of Peter Hayes II — children, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces, etc. — were evidently living outside of Isle of Wight County and were therefore unknown to local residents and county authorities.  Forty years later an outsider named Thomas Hayes established kinship and laid claim to the land that Peter Hayes patented in 1637.

    On 12 October 1702 Thomas Hayes and his wife Prudence of Northumberland County, Virginia, via a power of attorney, sold to Thomas Bevan their rights in the parcel “whereon ye sd. Thos. Bevan now liveth it being a patten (sic) containing 350 acres formerly pattented by Peter Hayes grandfather to ye foresd. Thomas Bevan...” less the 100-acre tract bounded by Vergis Creek and Back Bay Creek.27 (I might note that the abstract of this deed by William Lindsay Hopkins erroneously reads “grandfather of Thomas Hayes.”)  A month later on 26 November 1702 Thomas and Prudence Hayes of Northumberland County sold their interest in the remaining 100 acre tract to William and Mary Clerke (formerly the widow of Thomas Ward) describing it as “one plantation or parcel now in the tenure & occupation of John Pilkinton, being part of a patten of 350 acres formerly pattented by Peter Hayes, being bounded on ye southeast by Verges Creek, on ye north by Back Bay Creek, on ye west a line of marked trees which part this part of ye sd. patten from ye pt whereon Thomas Bevan doth now dwell.28  Thomas Hayes must have had quite a strong claim to the lands, for Bevan and Clerke each paid him the substantial sum of 3,000 pounds of tobacco.

    Some family genealogists have relied on what is essentially a typo to claim that this Thomas Hayes was aged 23 when deposed in Surry County in 1668.  The person so deposed was however, not Thomas Hayes.  Two books abstracted this particular court record.  Eliza Timberlake Davis’s abstract of the record gives the name as “Thomas Hoge (or Haye)”.  But Weynette Parks Haun’s transcript of the same record gives the name as “Thomas Hoye”.  Examination of the original record discloses that Ms. Haun’s reading is correct.  The name was not “Haye” but rather “Thomas Hoye” who appears in several other Surry records in the same time period.  The Thomas Hayes of Northumberland was far younger, being born no earlier than 1671 (see below).

    Thomas Hayes (c1673 – 1717) of the 1702 deed was a grandson of Peter Hayes I, for that is the only relationship that would give him inheritance rights to the Peter Hayes patent.29  Northumberland County records are only partially preserved but a few court records still exist.  Among them are a series of records that suggest that a Thomas Hayes — apparently a son of Peter Hayes I — died sometime in the mid 1670s leaving an infant son named Thomas Hayes Jr.  Since only a lineal descendant of Peter Hayes I could claim an inheritance right to his land, thus Thomas Hayes Sr. must have been a son of Peter Hayes rather than, for instance, a brother or cousin.

    On 21 July 1680 in Northunberland County Edward Coles “he being husband to ye. sd. child’s grandmother” was appointed guardian of Thomas Hayes Jr., orphan of Thomas Hayes deceased30 At the same court he sued one Augustus Kneaton, the court record declaring that “Thomas Hayes Senr. by his last Will and Testament and Augustine Kneton (who marryed ye relict of ye said Hayes) by ye will deeds of guift did make over unto Thomas Hayes, Junior one slave two cowes and two sowes with their increase, a feather bed with furniture, one chest, one table, of which cattle and goods Augustine Kneton is yett seized and hath departed this County. An attachment is granted Mr. Edward Coles, guardian of Thomas Hayes, Junr. against the estate of Augustine Kneton for the cattle and goods returnable to the next Court.”31  The next entry discloses that Kneaton had “departed the County” without paying a debt.  At the next court, it was again observed that Augustine Kneton, who “marryed the relict of… Thomas Hayes” had absconded from the county without fulfilling a contract between Thomas Hayes Sr. and a servant boy who had served out his term.32  Thomas Hayes Sr. must have died prior to 1678 for no record of a will appears in the order books beginning in 1678.

    Thomas Hayes Jr. (c1673 – 1717) was still a minor on 17 February 1691/2 when he chose John Downing  as his guardian, Edward Coles having died a few years earlier.33  He had reached maturity by 18 August 1697 when he was granted administration on the estate of his grandmother Elinor Coles.34  From these records we conclude that he was born sometime in the period 1671-1676.  He was dead by 20 March 1716/17 when his will was proved. I did not read the will, but later records suggest that the family remained in Northumberland County where there are birth records for children named Mary Hayes, Elizabeth Hayes, Sarah Hayes and surely sons as wel. 35

    Edward Coles’ wife and the Thomas Hayes’ grandmother was Elinor, the widow of Thomas Dorrell (also Darrell and Darrow).  On 15 January 1678/9 Coles posted bond as administrator of the estate of Thomas Dorrell deceased, “in right of Elinor his wife the relict of Thomas Dorrell“. 36  Elinor Dorrell (1615 – 1697) had testified in a case involving Edward Coles’ first wife in 1652, stating her age to be “37 years or thereabouts”. 37  Thomas Hayes was apparently married to a daughter of Thomas and Elinor Dorrell born perhaps 1640-50.  (Note the very remote possibility that Elinor was the widow of Peter Hayes the immigrant and had remarried in Northumberland County by 1652.  This would require that she and Peter Hayes had a son Thomas who moved with her to Northumberland and that she was long gone from Isle of Wight when Peter Hayes II left her half of his estate in 1678.)  After Thomas Hayes’ death his wife, whose given name is unknown, remarried to Augustine Kneaton who absconded to Stafford County where he figures in several records after acquiring a patent in 1694.  The name of his wife was not found in those records, though a “Widow Kneaton” appears on a 1723 land tax list.

    How, barring the unlikely possibility mentioned above, Thomas Hayes came to be in Northumberland County is mysterious.  The county was established in 1648, having been first settled only a few years earlier.  There was no mention of Thomas Hayes found in either Isle of Wight or Northumberland prior to his death.


Where does Peter Hays III fit?

There was another Peter Hayes (the husband of Elizabeth Flake) living in Isle of Wight at the same time as Peter Hayes II but it is not at all clear that he was related to the Hayes family above. Indeed, he figured not at all in the inheritance of the Peter Hayes patent, and therefore clearly was not a son of Peter Hayes II. Despite the similarity of name there is no indication of kinship, therefore he and his children are treated in a separate page: Family of Peter Hayes and Elizabeth Flake.


  1. Arnold Edmund Hayes, “Hayes – Hays of Virginia and North Carolina”, Historical Southern Families, Volume 15, pages 174-5. []
  2. Virginia Patent Book 1 (Part I), page 210. []
  3. Virginia Patent Book 1 (Part II), page 471. []
  4. See the study at https://genfiles.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Lower-Norfolk-County-Headrights.pdf and the general discussion in the Headrights paper on this website. []
  5. Virginia Patent Book 1 (part II), page 308. []
  6. Roger Bagnall is thought to have been a brother or son of Anthony Bagnall, an early settler.  Roger Bagnall wrote his will in 1647 naming a wife and young son James. []
  7. Virginia Patent Book 1 (part II), page 462. []
  8. Virginia Patent Book 1 (part II), page 461. []
  9. Many thanks to Clay Davis for pointing out the location of the landmarks mentioned in the patents to Snaile and Thomas Davis. []
  10. Carville Earle, “Environment, disease and mortality in early Virginia”, Journal of Historical Geography, Vol.5, No.4 (1979) page 385. []
  11. “The Virginia Assembly of 1641. A List of Members and Some of the Acts”, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 9, No. 1 (July 1901), page 55. []
  12. Isle of Wight Deed Book A, page 67. []
  13. Isle of Wight County Will Book 2, page 110. Note that Chapman’s abstract of this item is incomplete. []
  14. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 2, page 175. []
  15. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 1, page 20. []
  16. William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large of Virginia, Vol. 2, page 57-8. []
  17. This element of land law at the time was enshrined in the Acts of March 1661/2 dealing with the land of persons who died intestate and/or without heirs.  The law allowed a widow, if there was one, to occupy the land for her life and to apply to purchase it.  Otherwise any person who took possession of the land for two years could claim it for a fee of 100 pounds of tobacco per 50 acres.  That law was reissued almost word-for-word in 1705.  See Hening’s “Statutes at Large” Vol. 2, pages 56 and 137. []
  18. Virginia Patent Book 7, page 149. []
  19. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 1, pages 19 and 20. []
  20. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 1, pages 369-371. []
  21. A brother or sister could inherit only if they were “of the whole blood”, meaning a child of the same pair of parents. []
  22. Isle of Wight County Will Book 2, page 110. []
  23. Deed Book A, page 67 is a deed by Sylvester Thatcher for 100 acres adjacent to lands of John Moon, Thomas Davis and others which would describe the Peter Hayes patent. []
  24. Isle of Wight Deed Book 1, page 252. []
  25. Isle of Wight County Will & Deed Book 2, pages 579-580. []
  26. Isle of Wight Wills & Deeds 4, page 76. He left his plantation to a minor son named Thomas, with bequeasts to monor children George, Robert, Thomas, and Mary.  His wife Mary was executrix. []
  27. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 1, page 368 (POA) and 369 (deed). []
  28. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 1, page 370-371.  Mary Clerke, incidentally, was evidently the widow of Thomas Ward, who had died in 1693. []
  29. Since we know that Thomas Bevan was a lineal descendant of Peter Hayes I, lateral relatives had no claim and the only other possible claimant would be another lineal descendant.  A grandson by means of a daughter would have the same degree of rights as Thomas Bevan, though it appears that Thomas Hayes was instead the son of a son.  Note that the son of a brother would have no interest in the land given the existence of a lineal heir. []
  30. Lindsay O. Duvall, “Northumberland County Court Orders 1678-1713”, Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Series II, Vol. I, page 9. []
  31. Ruth Sparacio & Sam Sparacio, Northumberland County, Virginia Orders, 1680-1683 (Antient Press, 1999), page 71. []
  32. Ibid. page 74. []
  33. Duvall, page 31. []
  34. Duvall, page 46. []
  35. Beverley Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Vol. III, “Northumberland County Record of Births 1661-1810”, pages 57-58. []
  36. Duvall, page 3. Also reported in Sparacio, page 18. []
  37. Beverley Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Vol. II, “Northumberland County Records 1652-1655”, page 85. []