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Military bounty land warrants, given by individual states or the Federal Government to reward military service or encourage enlistment, have long been a useful resource for the genealogist, providing proof of service and establishing a person’s whereabouts during a particular time. The Library of Virginia’s chancery causes offer a little known but excellent avenue of exploration on this topic. By providing additional context, the chancery suits concerning

bounty land create a broader understanding of the subject. Causes fall into three categories:  contract disputes, estate disputes, and debt.

The interested parties were prominently mentioned in any disagreements where the land rights of the claimant were assigned, or sold. Heirs of the claimant were principal figures in chancery actions when the original claimant died and his heirs filed suit in Virginia for a fair distribution of the claimant’s real property. Much like causes involving debt, these suits resulted in the sale of the disputed property. Examples of both federal and state lands are noted—stretching well beyond the years of the original warrants—in Augusta, Fluvanna, Greensville, Halifax, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Prince Edward counties. Warrants include lands granted during the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812.  In order to acquire the land, the federal warrant had to be surrendered for a patent—usually at a federal land office. With the establishment of a state Land Office in 1779, Virginia developed its own system for granting claims. Because of the lengthy process of both proving service (known as the bounty warrant) and resolving disputes in court, few warrantees or their heirs actually obtained a patent for their land. By 1842, warrants were no longer restricted to military reserve lands.

Most causes refer to a specific warrant number and include details of the original warrantee’s service and the amount of acreage granted. What follows is a brief synopsis of causes discovered to date by the Library’s Local Records staff:

Augusta County, 1814-060, John McClenechan v. Nester Harden:  The defendant was awarded 3,000 acres by the colonial governor of Virginia for commanding a company on a “Cherokee expedition.” He then transferred and assigned this land in a contract dispute to the plaintiff in November 1773. The land is now part of West Virginia.

Augusta County, 1814-072, William Coleman v. David Richardson, etc.:  Mentions 28,400 acres of land given to defendants for service during Braddock’s War (French and Indian War). The proclamation was made by governor in 1754 but the land was not granted until December 1773. The suit contains numerous copies of original Land Office warrants. It also discusses adjustments and the settling of claims to unpatented lands now in the states of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The suit also contains lost localities and burned jurisdiction records.

  • Fluvanna County, 1856-003, Susan Moore v. Admr. of Samuel Clarke:  Involves an estate dispute and mentions a land warrant of 80,000 acres granted by the federal government on 3 March  1855.


  • Greensville County, 1835-002, Dolly Fielding, widow, etc. v. Thomas Davis, etc.:  The estate of Thomas Davis was in dispute. Warrant No. 7279, issued for 2,666 acres, was surrendered for scrip issued by the U.S. Treasury in lieu of the land. The scrip was sold to another individual. Davis was an ensign in the Virginia line of the Continental Army in Revolutionary War. His heirs lived in Georgia and Ohio.


  • Greensville County, 1853-011, Gdn. of Edmund M. Vick, etc. v. Edmund M. Vick by, etc.:  The cause deals with the estate dispute of Hubbard Vick. Warrant No. 46871 refers to 80 acres of land issued on 25 December 1852. Vick was a private in Captain Pesend’s [Pacends] company of the Virginia Militia in the War of 1812.


  • Halifax County, 1857-057, Thomas W. Bradley v. Heirs of Catherine Bradley: Suit refers to Revolutionary War Bounty Land Warrant No. 65921 for 40 acres, issued to William Bradley, Sr., in 1852. He was a private in Captain Woodson’s Company. Upon his death, the warrant was transferred to his widow.


  • Halifax County, 1857-062, Widow of James Cole v. Heirs of James Cole: Involves an estate dispute and refers to Warrant No. 12365 issued on 21 November 1855.


  • Halifax County, 1858-047, Children of Abel Chandler by, etc. v. Infant of Able Chandler by, etc.:  Pertains to Bounty Land Warrant No. 75455, issued by the federal government on 15 January 1858 for 160 acres of land. His heirs wanted to sell the warrant.


  • Halifax County, 1866-030, Heirs of Sharp Throckmorton v. Henry S. Throckmorton, etc.: An estate dispute pertaining to Land Warrant No. 15793 issued on 18 February1856 for 160 acres.  Sharp Throckmorton was a private in Captain Medley’s Company during the War of 1812.


  • Halifax County, 1866-033, Heirs of Epahroditus Y. Wimbish v. Heirs of Epahroditus Y. Wimbish: An estate dispute mentioning Bounty Land Warrant No. 30930, issued on 29 April1856. Wimbish was a sergeant in Captain Walker’s Company during the War of 1812.


  • Halifax County, 1869-057, Exr. of Thomas Glass v. Admr. of Joannah Royster, widow: According to this estate dispute, John Royster was a private in Captain Davenport’s Company of the Virginia Militia in War of 1812. Bounty Land Warrant No. 52865 was issued for 80 acres of land on 22 September 1853.


  • Halifax County, 1870-091, Heir of William Murray v. Widow of William Murray, etc: This estate dispute involves Bounty Land Warrant No. 41687, issued on 31 December 1855 to William Murray. The warrant was for 120 acres of land. Murray served as a private in Captain Edward’s Company of the Virginia Militia in the War of 1812.


  • Halifax County, 1870-108, Admr. of William Franklin v. Widow of William Franklin, etc : Deals with Bounty Land Warrant No.  80121 for 40 acres, issued to William Franklin on 12 January 1853 for his service in the War of 1812.   It was “necessary to sell land warrant for the purpose of paying the debts of William Franklin.”


  • Halifax County, 1870-135, Gdn. of Martha S. Cole v. Infant of William Cole by, etc.: Cause involves estate dispute which centers on 80 acre Land Bounty Warrant No. 47059. Issued on 6 January 1853 to William Cole, it referenced his service in the War of 1812 as a private in Captain Leigh’s Company.


  • Halifax County, 1870-143, Elisha Barksdale, Jr. v. Heirs of Johnston Farmer:  Cause centers on 120 acre Bounty Land Warrant No. 40927 issued to Johnston Farmer on 29 December 1855.  This warrant was purchased by the plaintiff from Farmer but was detained or miscarried and then Farmer passed away. The plaintiff was now suing his own heirs at law (nonresidents of Virginia.)


  • Halifax County, 1871-084, Nathaniel Dews v. Judethan Carter, Jr.: This contract dispute questions whether the plaintiff made a transfer and assignment of this bounty land warrant, comprised of 80 acres, to defendant. The defendant claimed no interest in land. Nathaniel Dews was a private in Captain Black’s Company of the Tennessee Militia in the War of 1812. His Warrant No. 10918 was issued on 7 November 1855.


  • Middlesex County, 1840-004, Philip T. Montague v. June E. Montague, infant: Agrandson was heir to a Revolutionary War claim of 1,333 acres of land. He wished to sell land. On or before July 1835, the warrant was on file in Land Office.


  • Norfolk County, 1841-002, Thomas Green v. Admx of Isaiah Harris, etc.:  Deals with the issue of debt. The suit references the appointment of complainant to recover the bounty land and half pay of William Hoffler, a captain in the Revolutionary War’s First Regiment.


  • Norfolk County, 1856-017, Mary Harris, etc. v. Robert B. Bagby, etc. and Robert B. Bagby vs. Frederick Vincent, etc.: The cause involves allowing by power of attorney a moiety on land bounty warrants numbers 9093-9095, for the services of their ancestor Simon Harris, a surgeon in the Virginia State Navy during the Revolutionary War. Warrant No. 9093 totals 3000 acres and Warrants Nos. 9094 and 9095 total 1500 acres each.  Bagby files an injunction against one of the defendants in second suit, Wilson, from issuing or delivering land warrants to other defendants in suit.


  • Prince Edward County, 1805-009, Bird Price, etc. v. Widow of Benjamin Lawson, etc.: A contract dispute centering on the Revolutionary War service of Clayborne [Claiborne] Lawson and Benjamin Lawson. The brothers sold warrants to the plaintiff in separate agreements. Warrant No. 7655 for 1000 acres was found in the “military boundary of Kentucky and the northwest territory.” The suit includes the original plat.


  • Prince Edward County, 1805-030, Alexander Dunlop v. Benjamin Lawson: The plaintiff contracted with his brother to sell 1,666 1/3 acres of land he received for his services in the Revolutionary War. Land Bounty Warrant No. 761 deals with land found in the Virginia military district “northwest of the Ohio River and on the west side of the Scioto River,” as noted on an original plat filed with the suit. These federal lands were reserved solely for the Virginia warrants of veterans of the Continental line.

Greenville County chancery causes are indexed in the Chancery Records Index (CRI) and the original suits are open for research in the Library’s Archives Research Room. Augusta, Fluvanna, Middlesex, and Prince Edward Counties have been indexed, scanned, and are freely available through the CRI. These projects were made possible through the Library of Virginia’s innovative Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP), a cooperative program between the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Court Clerks Association (VCCA), which seeks to preserve the historic records found in Virginia’s circuit courts.

The Halifax County and Norfolk County chancery causes are currently closed for digital reformatting and will be available in the coming months.


–Callie Freed, Local Records Archivist

Callie Freed

Local Records Archivist

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