Isle of Wight Murfreys


Although I believe that a Nansemond origin is likely for Daniel Murphree, it is intriguing to note that another family of Murphrees lived in the adjoining county of Isle of Wight.   While there is no real evidence that Daniel Murphree belongs to that family, the fact that the surname was quite rare in late seventeenth century Virginia forces us to consider the possibility that Daniel Murphree was related in some way to this family.

A William Murfey ( no “r”) first appears on 20 April 1682 patenting 200 acres in Isle of Wight County adjacent to Edward Perkins.1  He was probably related to Perkins in some way, as Edward Perkins’ will of 1686 named “William Murphry, Senr.” executor and left him all of Perkins’ land with reversion to his son William Murphry Jr.2  He also made bequests to “Margaret Murphry, daughter to William Murphry” and to “Mikill Murphry”, both of whom were apparently adults.  (There were two legacies to Margaret Murphry, and it is not clear if the will refers to one person or two.)

William Murfrey Sr. wrote his own will on 14 November 1717, and it was recorded in Isle of Wight on 26 June 1721.3  The will names his wife Sarah, “my three sons” Michael, John, and William, and “my five daughters” Catherine Murfrey, Margaret Lawrence, Elizabeth Farrow, Elinor Kerle, and Sarah Anne Murphrey.  Sarah was apparently a second wife, as his first wife seems to have been named Frances.   She is the same Sarah Murfrey whose own will was dated 26 December 1740 and recorded on 26 April 1741.4  It names her children William Murfree, Anne Murfree, and Catherine Bryan.  William Murphrey Sr.’s other children were evidently by a first wife.  Sarah was the former Sarah Holladay, as the will of Anthony Holladay written on 3 January 1718 named his daughter Sarah Murphrey and a granddaughter Catherine Murphrey.5

Confusingly, it appears that William Murphrey Sr. had two  sons named William.  The first son named William predeceased his father.  The William Murfree named in Sarah Murphree’s 1740 will was apparently born after the death of the first William Jr. The “first” William Murphrey Jr. was born before 1686, when he is mentioned in Edward Perkins’ will, but was clearly a minor at the time.  His age is uncertain, because there don’t appear to be any references in Isle of Wight that we can definitely attribute to him. He died intestate in Isle of Wight County sometime before 25 April 1715 when the court ordered an appraisal of the estate of “William Murphery Jr.”  The appraisal was dated 5 May and recorded on 27 June by his widow Mary Murphery.6   By 22 February 1719/20 the widow had remarried to Barnaby McKinnie, as Barnaby and Mary McKinnie signed an accounting as co-administrators.  This final accounting includes 29 pounds to be paid to “ye four orphans” and other monies paid to “Rickeses orphans”.

Mary Murfrey was ne Mary Exum, who had married a Quaker named Jacob Ricks on 14 December 1699 but was a widow by 14 September 1704.7  (Her brother-in-law was Isaac Ricks, whose Bible gives Jacob Ricks’s date of death as December 1703.) The will of her husband’s father Isaac Ricks, written on 26 September 1721, leaves one shilling each to Isaac and Martha, the children of his deceased son Jacob Ricks.8   The will of Mary’s mother Anne Exum, written on 3 February 1726/7, mentions her daughter “Mary Mackiny” and a grandchild — and apparent namesake — “Ann Murfry”.9 In summary, it appears that William Murfrey Jr. married the widow Mary Exum Ricks sometime after September 1704, and had four children by her before 1715.    One of the children was the Ann Murfrey named in her grandmother’s will, but the names of the other three are unknown. It is intriguing to speculate that our Daniel Murphree may have been one of these orphans.  His apparent age would fit if he were a very young child at the death of William Murphree Jr.  However, there is absolutely no proof.  Nor is there even any a shred of circumstantial evidence.  But it’s a possibility worth considering.

  • All of the Murphrees in the above family remained in Virginia for several decades.  Barnaby McKinnie, his wife and (presumably) the four Murfree orphans migrated across the state line into North Carolina by 1720, settling in present Halifax County roughly 25 miles northwest of the place we first find Daniel Murphree twenty-odd years later in 1743.  We have reason to believe that Mary Exum’s children lived with Barnaby McKinnie until adulthood.  For example, Barnaby McKinney made a deed of gift in 1722 to his son-in-law Isaac Ricks (his wife’s son by her first marriage), and Isaac Ricks appears several times in Bertie records.  If Daniel Murphree were one of the four orphans, this would explain how he came to be in the Bertie area.  And, if he were an infant at the death of William Murphree, that would explain his absence from records until 1743.
  • Barnaby McKinnie and his son appear several times in early Bertie records with a William Murphrey.  William “Murphey” sold land to Barnaby McKinnie Sr. in July 1720 which had been inherited by Murphey’s wife Martha, formerly the widow of William Browne.[16]  (He had married her sometime after Browne’s death in 1718.)  As William “Murphew” he patented land in what was then Chowan (now Halifax) County on 5 April 1720, and sold it to Barnaby McKinnie Jr. on 27 March 1722.[17]  This same William Murphy appears frequently in Bertie records as both “Murphey” and “Murphrey”, and died in 1737 in Edgecombe County leaving no male heirs.  His will names three daughters (Mary, Martha, Edith) and a wife Ann, who may have been Ann McKinnie.  (The will bequeaths a Murphrey patent of 1721 to “kinsman” William Hurst, husband of Barnaby’s daughter Christian McKinnie.) It’s a mystery who this William Murphrey is.  He is not the second William Murphree Jr., who lived in Nansemond County, Virginia and was alive after 1737.  Nor is he likely to have been one of the four orphans of the first William Murphree Jr. — he was evidently an underage orphan as late as February 1720, yet must have by then entered the claim for which a patent was granted just two months later and was married by that same year.  If he were one of the four orphans, he would have to have been born well prior to the marriage with Mary Exum Ricks.  His connection with the McKinnie family may have been my marriage:  Barnaby’s daughter Mary was married to a son of William Browne.
  1. Virginia Patent Book 7, p135. []
  2. Isle of Wight Will Book A, p264.  Dated 22 August 1686 and proved 9 December 1686. []
  3. Isle of Wight Deeds and Wills Book 2, p88. []
  4. Isle of Wight Will Book 4, p400. []
  5. Isle of Wight Deed Book 2, p644. []
  6. Isle of Wight Will Book 2, p594. []
  7. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Volume VI, p35. []
  8. Isle of Wight Deeds & Wills “Great Book”, p157. []
  9. Isle of Wight Will Book 3, p19. []