Peter Hays (c1700-1761) & Martha Sledge

Arnold Edmund Hayes, writing in Historical Southern Families, Vol. 15 claimed that Peter Hays of Urahaw was the same person as Peter Hays the son of Peter of Blackwater, who married Martha Sledge.1  This claim is easily disproved.  These were two different men who were coincidentally named Peter Hays. The Peter Hays who married Martha Sledge and died leaving a will in Halifax County in 1760 actually remained in Virginia for most of his life.  He was not the same person as Peter Hayes of Bertie County, North Carolina.  Furthermore, he appears to have been a member of an unrelated family from Charles City County whose surname was styled as “Hay”.

Arnold E. Hayes conflated two different men who happened to have similar names.

He wrote that Peter Hays was born about 1673 and married Martha Sledge about 1695, providing no evidence for either date.  This was wildly inaccurate, for we can show that the marriage of Peter Hays and Martha Sledge occurred more than thirty years later.  In fact, Martha’s father Charles Sledge appears to have married Martha Clarke in the 1690s and his eldest children were surely either babies or unborn when the article claims Peter Hays was married.

Peter Hay(s) married Martha Sledge of Surry County, Virginia sometime between 3 November 1725 when the will of Charles Sledge bequeathed “unto my daughter Martha Sledge one three year old heifer”, thus establishing that she was unmarried, and 8 January 1726/7 when his widow Mary Sledge’s will bequeathed her residual estate to “my daughter Martha Hay” and made her son-in-law Peter Hay executor.2

Clearly Peter Hay and Martha Sledge married sometime between November 1725 and January 1727.  The significance of this is twofold: first, it places Peter Hay in Surry County in the late 1720s and second, it means his children were born no earlier than 1726.

Charles Sledge lived on land gifted by his father-in-law that was located in western Surry on the waters of Pigeon Swamp, quite close to the border of Prince George County and the family fo Gilbert Hay.3  Later records and nearby patents place the land in the vicinity of the upper reaches of Assamoosick and Pigeon Swamps, where Gilbert Hay witnessed several transactions relating to the adjacent patent of James Jones and where he settled in 1726 on land bordered by the Prince George County line.  Surely Peter Hay must have also lived in the same general neighborhood.

Among the several connections to the Hay family of Prince George and Surry, note also that Gilbert Hay Sr. lived adjacent to the family of Adam Ivey in Prince George County and was married to his daughter Susan Ivey.   Henry Ivey of that family married Rebecca Sledge, another daughter of Charles Sledge.   And Gilbert Hay Jr. was neighbor and godfather to Mary Sledge’s nephew Richard Carlisle.  In other words, proximity strongly suggests that Peter Hay(s) belonged to the Gilbert Hay clan and not to the Hayes family of Isle of Wight.  (Indeed, he was styled “Hay” in every record until late in life when his name was first recorded as “Hays”.)

On 4 January 1731 “Peter Hay of Surry County” bought 100 acres on the north side of the Three Creeks in Isle of Wight County from James Atkinson, being a 1725 patent to Richard Atkinson, located in what became the westernmost part of what would become Southampton County. 4  Seventeen years later on 20 September 1748 Peter Hay was issued a patent for 130 acres adjoining his own land on the north side of Three Creeks and extending to Brown’s Branch — just a brisk walk from the Surry County line.5  That part of Isle of Wight became Southampton County in 1749.

This is quite obviously not the same Peter Hayes “of Bertie County” who sold his inherited land to his brother, was on a Chowan County militia roster in 1720, was witnessing deeds in Bertie County by 1728, was buying land on Cashy Swamp in 1733, and who appears continuously in Bertie records until his 1761 will was probated.

In 1734 Gilbert Hay and Richard Hay bought adjacent parcels on Brown’s Branch (then called the Great Swamp) located in Surry County almost on the Isle of Wight county line;  a 1747 patent for land adjacent to Gilbert and Richard Hay was bisected by the county line.  Thus they moved within a mile or so of their presumed relative Peter Hay.

In the meantime Peter Hay’s brother-in-law Henry Ivey (c1695-1774), who had married Rebecca Sledge, also settled nearby on Three Creeks.  The two brothers-in-law witnessed a deed together for nearby land on 22 September 1743.6  (For more on Henry Ivey see this paper and look for Henry Ivey on page 11.)

On 6 March 1749/50 Peter “Hays” and his wife Martha Hays “of Southampton County” sold 100 acres of his 230-acre tract on the north side of Three Creeks and the Great Swamp to Martha’s nephew Henry Ivey Jr.7

In both the above deeds, Peter Hay(s) signed using the same mark — a notably different mark than the one used by Peter Hayes of Bertie County (whose same mark was used to sell land to his brother Arthur Hayes in Isle of Wight.)

On 16 May 1749 Peter Hay sued John Morgan, a neighbor of Gilbert and Richard Hay,  in Surry County court for trespass assault and battery, winning the case in a jury trial. He was ordered to pay 496 pounds of tobacco each to two witnesses, Robert Rose and Thomas Johnson, who were neighbors on Three Creeks, for four days attendance in court and for 33 miles of travel each day.8  The jury apparently considered the assault claim frivolous as they awarded Peter Hay merely four shillings in damages. 9  In February 1750/51 Peter Hay sued Thomas Lucas for breach of promise in a case that dragged on until a jury in July 1751 decided in Peter Hay’s favor and awarded him £15:0s:6d in damages, plus costs.10

Three years later on 13 March 1754 Peter Hay (sic) “of the parish of Nottoway” and Southampton County sold his remaining 130 acres, described as including his 1748 patent on Three Creeks, to Francis Hilliard, 11

This is significant, for Francis Hilliard was the husband of Peter Hay’s daughter Winny Hilliard, thus clearly identifying Peter Hay as the same person who left the 1760 will in Halifax County, North Carolina.  

On 10 November 1762 “Francis Hilliard and Winny his wife of the county of Southampton” sold that same 130 acres on the north side of the Three Creeks to Edward Reese, describing it as containing a patent to “Peter Hays late of said county”. 12  Relatives Henry Ivey and John Ivey witnessed the deed, which was proved in court by both Francis Hilliard and his wife Winny.

Thus the evidence tells us that Peter and Martha Hays lived on his Three Creeks land in Southampton County continuously from 1731 until 1754, and perhaps for a few years thereafter.   He could not possibly be the same person as the Peter Hays who was continuously living in Bertie County from at least 1728 until 1761. 

Peter Hays wrote his will several miles away in Halifax County, North Carolina on 3 August 1760, and it was proved at the March court in 1761. 13  The will bequeathed five shillings to his son Charles Hays and five shillings each to seven daughters named Rebecca “Emry” (Emory), Edy Philips, Winny Hilliard, Selve Hays, Milly Hays, Wille (sic) Hays, and Hannah (no surname given).  His wife Martha, who was named executor, received the remainder of the estate, and the will was witnessed by a Ruben Hays, among others.  There is no record of Peter Hays buying or patenting land in Halifax County, nor does the will make mention of land.  In fact there was no other record found of Peter Hay(s) in Halifax County, not even an inventory.

Arnold E. Hayes wrote that there were four older children (William, John, Thomas, and Reuben) who were ignored by the will, though there is no evidence at all that there were other children.  Note that, having married Martha Sledge about 1726, the oldest children of Peter Hays and Martha Sledge could have been no older than early-thirties when he died.

  1. Charles Hay  does not appear in the records of either Halifax County, North Carolina or Southampton County, Virginia. He seems likely to be the same Charles Hay who, with a wife named Sarah, appears in the records of Duplin, later Sampson, County North Carolina starting with a land grant in 1762.14.  Several grants and deeds for him are mentioned in the file on Duplin/Sampson records. He had two sons named Charles and Peter, and two daughters named Jane and Winny. He left a will dated and probated in 1784 leaving land to his son Peter Hay and to his grandson Solomon Hay.15  The grandson Solomon Hay sold his inherited land twenty years later, reserving its use by  his parents Charles and Sarah Hay.16 Peter Hay moved to New Hanover County in 1799 and was not further traced. Charles Hay moved to Columbus County and testified there on behalf of several fellow Revolutionary soldiers who he had known in Sampson County. For details, see the file of Duplin & Sampson County Records.

The identity of the witness Reuben Hayes is unknown, as he does not appear in Southampton or Halifax records either.  He is not likely to be a son of Peter Hays, as the act of witnessing the will would deprive him of any claim on the residual estate.17  Nor does he seem at all likely to have been the same person as the Reverend Reuben Hays of Johnston/Dobbs County who was literate and would surely not have signed the document with a mark.18

The daughter Rebecca Emory was the wife of Edward Emory, whose 1792 will named his wife Rebecca and left a legacy to Temperance Hilliard. 19 As mentioned above, Winny Hilliard was the wife of Francis Hilliard.  I found no tract of Edy Phillips.  The other four daughters were unmarried; no marriage records for the period survive for Halifax County.


  1. “Hayes – Hays of Virginia and North Carolina” by Arnold Edmund Hayes, Historical Southern Families, Volume 15, pages 174-5. []
  2. Surry County, Virginia Deeds & Wills 7, page 623 and page 826, respectively. []
  3. When Robert Clarke deeded land to his sons-in-law he described it as land he had bought of Henry Wyche, who had bought it from Col. William Randall (Randolph).  But there are no deeds in Surry County from Col. Randolph to Wyche or from Wyche to Clark, and both Wyche and Randolph lived in Charles City County.  The deeds must have been in Charles City County (Prince George County after 1703), and were apparently part of a massive 2925-acre patent of 1695 to Col Randolph that was mostly in Prince George and partly in Surry.  Unfortunately, Charles City and Prince George records for this particular period are essentially nonexistent. []
  4. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 4, page 146. []
  5. Virginia Patent Book 28, page 422. []
  6. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 6, page 367. []
  7. Southampton County Deed Book 1, page 78. []
  8. Only witnesses who lived outside the county were paid for travel. 33 miles is roughly the distance from the neighborhood of Peter Hay’s property on Three Creeks to the Surry courthouse. []
  9. Surry County Order Book 1744-1749, pages 546-549. []
  10. Surry County Order Book 1749-1751, pages 186, 219, 268. []
  11. Southampton County Deed Book 2, page 14. []
  12. Southampton County Deed Book 3, page 181. []
  13. Halifax County, NC, Will Book 1, page 24. []
  14. North Carolina, U.S., Land Grant Files, 1693-1960 (database on-line) []
  15. Sampson County Will Book A, page 16. []
  16. Sampson County Deed Book 13, page 106. []
  17. Inheritance law at the time prevented a witness to a will from claiming a share of the residual or remainder estate. []
  18. The witness to Peter Hays’ will signed by mark, while the Reverend Reuben Hays could sign his name. []
  19. Halifax County Will Book 3, page 207. []