A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Chancery Records Index: Nelson County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1808-001-1912-028
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Processed by: Bari Helms and Callie Lou Freed
There are no restrictions.
Patrons are to use digital images of Nelson County (Va.) Chancery Causes found on the Chancery Records Index available electronically at the website of the Library of Virginia.
Nelson County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1808-1912. (Cite style of suit and chancery index no.) Local Government Records Collection, Nelson County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
These items came to the Library of Virginia in a transfer of court records from Nelson County under the accession numbers 33162c and 42148.
Chancery Causes are cases of equity. According to Black's Law Dictionary they are "administered according to fairness as contrasted with the strictly formulated rules of common law." A judge, not a jury, determines the outcome of the case.
Nelson County was formed in 1807 from Amherst County. The county was named for Thomas Nelson, Jr., governor of Virginia from June to November 1781.
Nelson County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1808-1912, are indexed into the Chancery Records Index. Cases are identified by style of suit consisting of plaintiff and defendant names. Surnames of others involved in a suit, including secondary plaintiffs and defendants, witnesses, deponents and affiants, and family members with surnames different from the plaintiff or defendant are indexed. Chancery causes often involved the following: divisions of estates or land, disputes over wills, divorces, debt, and business disputes. Predominant documents found in chancery causes include bills (plaintiff's complaint), answers (defendant's response), decrees (court's decision), depositions, affidavits, correspondence, lists of heirs, deeds, wills, slave records, business records, marriage records and vital statistics, among other items. Plats, if present, are noted on the main folder for the cause, as are wills. Photocopies of documents may be found in the collection.
Chancery causes are useful when researching local history, genealogical information, and land or estate divisions. They are a valuable source of local, state, social, and legal history and serve as a primary source for understanding a locality's history.
In addition, chancery causes for Nelson County may reference or contain documents from the following counties and cities in Virginia: Amherst, Albemarle, Augusta, Bedford, Buckingham, Goochland, Highland and King William counties and the cities of Lynchburg and Richmond.
Organized by case, of which each is assigned a unique index number comprised of the latest year found in case and a sequentially increasing 3-digit number assigned by the processor as cases for that year are found. Arranged chronologically.
Arrangement of documents within each folder are as follows: Bill, Answer, and Final Decree (if found.)
Additional Nelson County Court Records can be found on microfilm at the Library of Virginia. Consult "A Guide to Virginia County and City Records on Microfilm" found on the Library of Virginia's web site.
See The Chancery Records Index to search for chancery suits of additional Virginia localities.
For a list of old chancery causes dismissed from the docket as ended causes, see Nelson County Chancery Order Books U (1955, 1958), pages 96, 399-400 and V (1964), pages 241-243.
- Nelson County (Va.) Circuit Court.
- African Americans--History.
- Business enterprises--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Divorce suits--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Equity--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Estates (Law)--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Land subdivision--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Nelson County (Va.)--Geneology.
- Nelson County (Va.)--History.
- Chancery causes--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Deeds--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Judicial records--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Land records--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Local government records--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Marriage licenses--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Marriage records--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Plats--Virginia--Nelson County.
- Wills--Virginia--Nelson County.
Genre and Form Terms:
Tobias, a free negro, sues seeking the payment for a judgment won against James Montgomery the administrator of John Campbell. No information is provided in the bill as to what the original judgment was for. Cause only contains a bill and a decree with the brief statement that the verdict was in favor of the plaintiff.
Eliza Figures worked as a housekeeper for Christopher T. Estes, a tavern owner in Livingston. Estes's wife was in a poor state of health, and Figures was hired to take care of the house business and culinary affairs. Figures claimed that, with the exception of a few articles of clothing, she was not paid for her services. Estes claimed that Figures left her husband and children in Tennessee and was living in his house as a guest and relative of his wife. Various depositions recount the work Figures did at the Estes house.
Eliza sues for a divorce claiming cruelty, abandonment, and repeated acts of adultery. Eliza accused Matthew of eloping with a Mrs. Aikens, and several letters in the case report their elopement to Tampico.
Richard C. Pollard sues John Whitehead for the worth of the slave Edmund, deeded to his mother by her father James Hopkins and later purchased by Whitehead. A deed of loan in the case between James Hopkins and his daughter Elizabeth Pollard gave her control over a group of slaves that were to be freed after their terms of service were completed. Names and birth information were provided for the slaves listed in the deed. Included in the deed was the slave Phillis, the supposed mother of Edmund. Included as an exhibit in the case is the petition of Toisman Locket who sued for his freedom on the basis that his mother Hannah was one of the slaves emancipated in the deed of loan and in Hopkins's will. However the will stated that the male offspring of the slaves would be emancipated at the age of forty and at the time of his suit Toisman was under the age of twenty-one.
Henry Harper purchased the plaintiff Sampson Green as a slave and later hired him out to Hudson M. Garland, also a defendant in the case.
Commissioner's report found in suit includes an inventory of the property conveyed in deed of settlement-a cash valuation of slaves. This is very typical of items found in many of Nelson County chancery suits.
James Halley Burton in his will of 1839 gives to friend and executor, Alexander Brown, his slaves with the intent that they are to be set free. Includes 3 slaves with surname Rose.
Cause argues right to slaves.
Plaintiff fears for his life as defendant was tried and convicted of murder in Albemarle County. Plaintiff asserts claim to land that Bowen now resides on.
Injunction sought by plaintiff to stop stepmother defendant from removing slave, Fanny and her three children from Virginia to Missouri.
John N. Burnett and John W. Witt purchased a small lot of land with grist mill and house. Joint suit includes a newly restored grain mill account book, 1840-1850.
Lone slave, Celia, is the only property or means by which said children are to be supported, clothed or educated. The bill for the cause mentions that additional slaves were either sold, died or otherwise disposed of before the death of Jane Shelton.
Cause deals with trustees' accounts regarding rents and hires of slaves.
Cause considers the last will and testament (1841) of Frederick Cabell of Buckingham County. Considers whether three slaves George, John and Emaline, referred to as yellow men and a yellow woman, be allowed their freedom should "they think proper to take it" and the need to raise money to send them to Liberia. Additional slave names are mentioned in the will.
Not being able to divide property because of its nature-negroes and slaves. Additional slave names are mentioned in cause. Includes slave with surname, John Anderson-identified as yellow boy with value of $150.00.
Cause deals with issue of whether county's Board of Supervisors have right to purchase and contract for lands by purchase for a poor house farm for the use of the paupers of the county.
Purchase of slave Matilda and in payment executes a bill of sale conveying a portable steam saw mill. She was left in possession of the orator till after the 9th of April when that most sad and deplorable event the surrender of the Armies of the Confederate States occurred. After this event, the girl claimed to be a free woman. Defendant did not honor contract.
Plaintiff brings suit against sons acting as quasi-trustees. Suit deals with selling of slaves, James and Lizzy, in City of Richmond.
Notice from Richmond Whig dated October 1873. Involves selling of slaves, from 1858 deed of trust, at public auction to the highest bidder for cash. Notes all are "young and very likely (lively)."
Cause deals with tract of land in Nelson County containing valuable mills-a saw mill and a grist mill for the manufacture of flour. If debt is not paid, property will be sold for cash.
Large cause involving estate dispute of Willis H. Wills and Narcissa Ann Wills-settlement of his accounts and sale of her property. Slaves are sold in Richmond. Additional slave names are noted. Contains great deal of oversized material-including plat, settlement accounts, deposition, exhibits, estate accounts and sales bills.
Cause includes entire transcript of chancery cause in Highland County. Plaintiff in this cause is from Highland County. Tracts of land in dispute in cause are in Augusta County. Defendant in Highland suit bought land in county from plaintiff in this suit.
Deal with parties in both Albemarle and Nelson counties regarding the settlement of the estate and sale of property of Dr. Hawes N. Coleman-which has been "greatly reduced due to the effects of the late war." Negroes ceased to be property and personal and perishable estate was sold.
Cause deals with the partnership for "the purpose of conducting and carrying on the Norwood School." Includes accusations of gross misapplication of funds. Asks for a receiver to take control of assets and to preserve the rights of creditors. Oversized memorandum, concerning school, is included.
The bill for the suit of Charles Carter Lee, Rep, etc. v. Exr of Mary Walker Cabell, etc. is missing. The suits try to ascertain all the relatives eligible to a claim in her large estate. Included in the oversized material for this large cause is an intricate, hand drawn genealogical chart, front and back, dated August 7, 1863. It is labeled as the family of Charles Carter of Shirley Plantation, the paternal grandfather of Mary Walker Cabell. See http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs/out_of_the_box/2010/07/14/a-tree-grows-in%e2%80%a6-chancery/
The suit includes numerous references to Sheridan's raid in Nelson County. Several former slaves gave depositions. One exhibit is a division of slaves that includes slave names, age, occupation, and familial relationships.
Cause includes pertinent genealogical information written out on "plain" piece of paper. Is indicative of various suits in county such as 1910-033 John J. Camp,etc. and J.A. Spencer, etc. v. John Spencer, infant, etc. and Charles H. Camp, etc. which is rich in genealogical information. Deals with estate dispute. Will of William Camp is included and slaves are noted.
Suit has to do with the estate of Simeon Austin-regarding land, a negro man, horses, cattle, sheep. Contains 19th century wills from Fauquier and City of Lynchburg. Contains additional slave names.
Cause involves two individuals bidding and contracting on working and keeping in repair the roads in Nelson County.
Suit involves the sale of Soldiers' Joy estate. Great insight into the economic travails of a large plantation. References to difficulty of managing slaves. Comparisons made between Soldier's Joy and other James River plantations between Lynchburg and Richmond. Depositions given by large property owners in the vicinity of Soldier's Joy. Deponents describe tensions between large farmers and the Confederate governmentt during the war. Multiple references made to scarcity and uncertainty of labor after the war. Includes large plat that contains locations of various buildings including slave cabins. Includes inventory and statement of sale of 60 slaves owned by John J. London done in fall 1862. Records family relationships and physical condition. Total sale amount for slaves was 60,245 dollars.
One of the county's largest causes-covering 14 folders of material. Multiple suits heard together center on land, slaves and most of the sizable estate of William Massie-to be divided among legatees and devisees. A comparable suit with multiple bills is 1907-034. Admr of Thomas P. Fitzpatrick and Samuella H. Fitzpatrick, widow v. Dev(s) of Thomas P. Fitzpatrick and Reba Fitzpatrick by, etc. also concerns a large estate with land.
The suit includes two Richmond Fire Association insurance policies taken out on two slaves. They were hired out as laborers to the Virginia and Tennesse Railroad Company.
Thomas was a slave of Turner who became his paid house servant after the Civil War. She was also Turner's daughter. In his will, Turner left Thomas an inheritance for her loyal service.
The Faber lead mine located in Albemarle County was part of the dispute.
Cause concerns judgment of tract of land. See also 1880-012 for more references to the famous Hamner family. Suits from the 1920s (already processed but not included in the database) contain early Hamner family wills.
Deposition of James M. Harris questions whether John W. and James T. Woods, the alleged children of Samuel, were mulattoes or slaves. Their mother belonged to brother of Samuel Woods, James Woods. John W. Woods is a plaintiff in suit, 1893-026 and a defendant in suits, 1894-008 and 1899-006.
Suits concern Henry C. Boyd's estate in Arkansas. Included in the oversized material are 4 land grants signed by President Martin Van Buren in 1837.
Cause indicates that modernization is coming to county. Suit states that 15 or 20 years ago, a telephone line was constructed and established between Lovingston and the railroad station, now called Oakridge. Tunstall, the son-in-law, repaired the line. Relations between the two families became strained. Tunstall cut the wire which connected the telephone box in the Peebles house with the said telephone line. The court sides with Peebles after lengthy depositions.
Case involved a former Canadian citizen suing for divorce from his wife, still a Canadian citizen. According to the facts of the cause, the defendant after 10 years married to her husband deserts him and takes up with a former boarder in their residence. In 1908, husband leaves Montreal and moves to Nelson County where he sues for divorce. Depositions were taken in Montreal and two rare photos are used as exhibits in the cause-one of Mr. and Mrs. Tull and one of Mrs. Tull with her lover, William Thompson. Both of the photographs are torn in half.
Relate to causes in Albemarle County. Suits involve disputes regarding tracts of land which are largely timber land. Found in suit (Folder 7) attached to a letter dated July 14, 1905 from W.E. Moore, a general merchandise owner, with a specialty in mill lumber, from Amherst County is a rare campaign button for Claude A. Swanson-governor of Virginia . For further information see http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Swanson_Charles_A_1862-1939 Typically, these buttons were used to fasten items-in this case, the pages of a letter.
Architectural drawing of house included as an exhibit.