John Witt III (c1700? – 1779?)

It is not clear exactly which references in Goochland County apply to this John Witt and which to his father John Witt II.

Settles south of the James River

However, it is clear that he was the “John Wit Jr.” who patented 400 acres south of the James River on 17 September 1731.1   From the land description and patents to neighbors we can place the land fairly precisely in the part of Goochland County that became Powhatan County in 1777.  This was several miles southeast of the 1715 land claimed by John Witt II and quite near the Huguenot settlement in Manakin.   One of the few surviving tax lists of Goochland County shows John Witt with three tithes in this area of the county in 1732 or 1733.2  He also appears as a tithable in 1732, 1733, and 1734 in the vestry records of King William Parish, a parish of no fixed boundaries that had been intended to serve the area of French settlement.3  In 1732 he is listed as “John Watt, Junior Watt, 2”.  (The original list was in French, and I assume the this was translated from “jeune” rather than from “fils”.)   In 1733 he appears as “John Wett, Wott, 2” (again translated from the French original.)  In 1734 he appears simply as “John Witt, 3”. If we can trust the 1732 translation, it appears this is a household of two John Witts, father and son, which means they must be John II and John III. The third tithable is likely either a son just turning 16 (Charles Witt being the only known candidate) or a slave.

On 28 April 1734, John Witt and his wife Elizabeth, of King William Parish, sold his 1731 patent in two parts, 200 acres each, to John Peter Bilboe and Peter Depp.4  Elizabeth signed with a “P” mark, perhaps an indication of her maiden name.   Both Bilbo and Depp are subsequently listed as tithables in King William Parish, and no Witts appear in the tithables for 1735 or subsequent years.

Some researchers have been confused by the fact that John Witt’s land is referenced in three patents issued in 1738, four years after he sold it.5   While this can be explained by the time lag between surveys and patents, several records in the 1740s still refer to this land as John Witt’s.  The will of Thomas Dickens, dated 31 July 1740 and recorded on 21 July 1741, refers to two 400 acre parcels, both of which were described as adjacent to the land of John Witt, and both of which were acquired only two years earlier, after John Witt’s sale.6  This description is further perpetuated by subsequent deeds related to the estate in 1741 and 1742, as well as a renewal of an adjoining patent in 1746.   When all of these lands are plotted, it is clear that all these references are to the single parcel patented by John Witt in 1731 and sold by him in 1734. Why it should continue to be called his so many years later is probably attributable to old surveys.    John Witt appears in no King William tithables after 1734, nor does he appear in that area in the 1744 county tithables – while both Bilbo and Depp, the purchasers, are on both lists.

Moves back north of the James?

There is no record of John Witt acquiring replacement land. It is possible, particularly if his father was living with him in 1732-4, that he took up residence on the land his father and uncle had purchased back in 1715.  It is also possible that he somehow acquired land of his own on the Tuckahoe.  On 25 July 1747 a John Witt (who signed his name) sold 150 acres on the Tuckahoe, apparently adjoining the original 1715 purchase, to Henry Whitlow.7  How the land was acquired is unknown, and it is not clear if the seller was John Witt II or John Witt III.  The next available tax lists (other than for King William Parish) are for 1746 and 1748.8   The 1746 list does not include the area covering the Tuckahoe land, but it does have two John Witts not far from one another in the central part of the county near Lickinghole Creek.   The 1748 list does include the Tuckahoe area, but only one of the two John Witts.

Nonetheless, John Witt III evidently remained in Goochland County through at least 1757. The “Douglas Register” of Rev. William Douglas, essentially a sort of vestry book for St. James Northam Parish, contains marriage dates for several of John Witt III’s presumed children.9  From this we might infer that he was living north of the James River, but on what land we don’t know.   Presumably John Witt was still in Goochland when his daughter Judith (described as “of this parish”) married John Matlock in 1756 and his daughter Mary married John Bullington in 1757.  One of the John Witts in the 1748 tithables was also on the 1752 tithables list, but there is no further known record of him in Goochland or its vicinity. Later records are presumed to have been of his son John Witt IV, whose children’s births are recorded in the Douglas Register through 1766. In particular, a purchase in 1758 is assumed to be for John Witt IV.10

He moves to Halifax County

It is likely that he moved into western Halifax (later Pittsylvania) County near some of his children.  The references to the various John Witts in Pittsylvania (later Henry) and Halifax counties are somewhat confusing, and I have not clearly sorted them out.  It appears that John Witt IV did not move to this area, which should simplify things, but the John Witt who was a son of Edward Witt, and various next-generation John Witts, were in the area and it is not altogether clear which references apply to which persons. However, the presence of Pittsylvania surveys by a John Witt “Jr.” in 1768 and 1769 imply the presence of an older John Witt (though perhaps not his father), because none of the next-generation John Witts had reached majority by then.11   This John Witt who was a “Jr.” in 1768 had been styled as plain John Witt five years earlier when Thomas Harbour sold him and William Witt 140 acres on Blackberry Creek in 1763.12 13  From this we might infer that John Witt III moved into the area sometime in the mid or late 1760s.

In 1773 Adjonijah Harbour sold land next to David Witt on Falls Creek in a different part of the county to a John Witt “Sr.”   This may have been John Witt III, as in 1779 he made a gift of this land, described as whereon he lived, to John Matlock and Jesse Witt in 1779.14   When and where he died is unknown, but this is the last reference we can attribute to him.

John Witt’s wife is unidentified. His wife Elizabeth was alive as late as 1751 but she appears in no record thereafter.  The fact that she used “P” as her mark leads to speculation that her maiden name might have begun with that letter (or perhaps with “R” if she was writing the Latin “R”). A favored candidate of some researchers is Humphrey Parrish, who signed with a “HP” mark, but there is no persuasive evidence of her maiden name.

The children are mostly deduced.

  1. Charles Witt (c1715? – c1781) See separate page.  Also see separate page for discussion of whether he is correctly placed as a son of John Witt III.
  2. David Witt (c1720? – 1810) He first appears on the 1746 tax list of Goochland County with an unknown Witt listed first in the household. He was clearly living at the time on the 1715 land of his grandfather. He next appears patenting land near Thomas Harbour in 1756, which he sold in 1772 to David Harbour. He surveyed land on Falls Creek next to Thomas Harbour with Palatiah Shelton in 1765 and patented the land two years later. In a deposition taken in a suit between William Murray and Adonijah Harbour in 1779, the record states that David Witt is “aged about sixty-five years”. That seems to have been overestimated, but can’t be discounted. The same suit contains a deposition by his wife Sarah Witt, aged 47, which identifies her as the daughter of Thomas Harbour.
  3. Jesse Witt (7 August 1736 – 1809) He is provably a son of John Witt by virtue of Sylvanus Witt calling him a “nephew”, and the deed of gift to him by John Witt in 1779. He witnessed the sale by John Witt III and William Witt in 1751. He married Martha Cheatham, daughter of Benjamin Cheatham.15  On 10 June 1752, he was overseer for Rev. Richard Douglas.   By 1753 he was in Chesterfield County16 and bought land there the following year bordering the Chesterfield county line with what is now Powhatan County.17   He was evidently still in Chesterfield county as late as 1771 when Sylvanus Witt made his deed of gift.18   He was in Henry County by 4 August 1783 when he executed a power of attorney to collect a deed.19   His will was probated on 25 September 1809 in Henry County, Virginia.  He left a family Bible giving his birth date and the birth dates of his children: Elisebeth (sic) Witt (1761), Joel Witt (1766), Tabitha Witt (1768), Hanne (sic) Witt (1770), David Witt (1772), John Witt (1776), and Thomas Witt (1778).
  4. Elijah Witt (? – c1775?) There are few citations for this man. He is assumed to be a son of John Witt by his later associations, probably a younger son. He first appears in early 1767 entering a survey for land on Marrowbone Creek in Halifax (later Henry) County a few miles from the Falls Creek land David Witt, Palatiah Shelton and Thomas Harbour were occupying at the time.20   A month later, it was apparently he who witnessed deeds from Sherwood Walton to Charles Witt and Samuel Davis.21  It’s not clear that there are any further references to him (see paper on Elijah Witt son of Charles Witt), and he does not appear on any tax or tithables lists for the area. The 1779 suit mentioned above includes a deposition by Jane Witt, a daughter of Thomas Harbour, who may have been his wife. Elijah seems the best candidate to be her husband and, if so, his absence from further records suggests that he died about this time. Jane evidently did not remarry. In 1809, Sarah Witt, the widow of David, made a deed of gift to her sister Jane Witt of half her personal property.22
  5. John Witt (c1725-30? – ?) He married Mary Bullington by 1753 according to the Douglas Register, which records the births of five children from 1753 through 1766 in Goochland County. He apparently remained in Goochland County. He appears to be the John Witt in its 1787 state census.
  6. Mary Witt (c1737? -?) Married John Bullington on 4 September 1757 according to the Douglas Register.
  7. Hannah Witt (c1736? – c1805) The Douglas Register, as transcribed, contains the entry for her marriage thus: Witt, Hannah (or Anna) – Charles Huddlesley (or Hulsey)” on 2 July 1756. He is apparently the same person who was in the Rowan County, NC tax list in 1768 and the Surry County tax lists of 1774 and 1775, all in an area south of the Dan River. He had moved to Greenville County, South Carolina by 1790.  Children are reported to have been named James, Charles, Adonijah, Jesse, Adler, Parthenia, and Elizabeth.
  8. Judah Witt (c1736? – ?) Married John Matlock 22 November 1756 according to the Douglas Register. Two sons are mentioned in the register as well: Jesse, baptized 27 September 1757 and John baptized 27 September 1758. Apparently also in Rowan County in 1768, and in Henry County afterward.
  9. Elizabeth Witt ? (ca1730 – 1810)   A possible daughter may have been Elizabeth, the wife of Thomas Smith, who had owned land near William Witt in Goochland.  This Thomas Smith left a will in Rockingham County, North Carolina in 1797 identifying his wife Elizabeth, and children Drury Smith, Zachariah Smith, Mary (believed to be the wife of John Jarnigan), Elizabeth (wife of Sherrod Mayes), Phoebe (wife of Littleberry Mayes), and Eleanor.
  1. Virginia Patent Book 14, p333. []
  2. Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, Volume 33, No.2 “Tithables of Goochland County”. The list is undated, but apparently either 1732 or 1733. []
  3. Vestry Book of King William Parish, Virginia 1707-1770, (Manakin Huguenot Society, reprint 1966), pp70, 76, 78. []
  4. Goochland County, Virginia Wills and Deeds, 1728-1736, Benjamin B. Weisiger III (Southern Historical Press, 1983), p52 from Deed Book 1, p523-4. []
  5. Virginia Patent Book 18, p5, p64, and p74. []
  6. Abstracts of Wills From Goochland County, Virginia 1727-1777, Margaret V. Henley (Goochland County Historical Society), p17. From Deed Book 3, p435. []
  7. Goochland County Deed Book 5, p303. []
  8. Goochland County Virginia Tithe Lists 1735-1747, A. Jean Lurvey (1974) and Goochland County Virginia Tithe Lists 1748-1749, A. Jean Lurvey (1979). []
  9. The Douglas Register, William Macfarlane Jones, ed. (Genealogical Publishing Co., reprint 1985). []
  10. Goochland County Deed Book 7, p310. []
  11. The John Witt who was likely a son of Edward Witt was living at the time in Halifax, not Pittsylvania, so there wouldn’t seem to be a need to differentiate him from the John Witt in Pittsylvania. []
  12. Halifax County Deed Book 4, p367. []
  13. Wayne Witt Bates thinks these were grandchildren of Thomas Harbour, but both the grandchildren were minors in 1763, and there is a reference to the land of William Witt in a 1762 survey. This may be cleared up by future research. []
  14. Pittsylvania County Deed Book 3, p261 and Henry County Deed Book 1, p228. He described the land as where he lived. []
  15. It is interesting, though that Sylvanus Witt witnessed the will of Benjamin Cheatham. Chesterfield Will Book 1, p550. []
  16. Chesterfield County Deed Book 1, p525. []
  17. Chesterfield County Deed Book 2, p187. []
  18. Chesterfield County Deed Book 6, p350. []
  19. Abstracts of Henry County Deed Books I and II, Lela C. Adams, p119. Calling himself heir at law of Sylvanus Witt, he states that George Lumpkin had never delivered a good title to the land he sold to Sylvanus Witt and which Sylvanus Witt had gifted to Jesse Witt. The POA was to collect from Lumpkin now in Georgia. []
  20. Pittsylvania Entry Record Book 1737-1770, Marian Dodson Chiarito (1984), p321. Entry dated 19 Feb 1767. []
  21. See the paper on Charles Witt. The witness may have been Charles Witt’s son, also named Elijah, if he were older than we have suspected. []
  22. Henry County Deed Book 7, p193. []