Being the Family of Ann Stephens, Wife of John Owsley

By Ronny O. Bodine

(The following account was first published in slightly altered form in the March 1997 issue of
The Owsley Family Historical Society Newsletter.)

Major Thomas Owsley (1658-1700)
Thomas Owsley (died 1750)
John Owsley (c1734-1764) m. Ann Stephens

     John Owsley fell victim to foul play in late September or early October 1764 leaving his widow Ann to raise their five minor children, John, Robert, Sarah, Mary, and Ann. John Owsley had few possessions to sustain his family. Ann quickly sold what little land they had possessed to John's brother, Thomas Owsley, for £ 10 (Loudoun Co. Minutes, vol. B, p. 526 and Deeds, vol. D, p. 392). Further assistance was surely forthcoming from Ann's own family, as well as from the Owsleys, ensuring that she and the children would not have to depend upon assistance from the county.

     By 1769, Ann Owsley may have been reaching the end of her ability to support her family. On 14 November 1769, Robert Stephens Senior of Cameron Parish, Loudoun County, "....for the natural love and affection which I have and do bear unto my well beloved Daughter Ann Owsley, Widow and for her better support and maintenance have given her one negro slave and her future increase...." (Loudoun Co. Deeds, vol. G, p. 209).

     References to Robert Stephens (or Stevens) may be found as early as 6 March 1730, when, as a resident of Stafford County, he and Edward Violet received 446 acres under Northern Neck Grant number 226 (Northern Neck Grants, vol. C, p. 121). This land was described as being located on Long Branch of Accotink and Piney Branch of Dogues Run and was evenly partitioned by the Prince William County court on 16 August 1732 (Prince William Co. Deeds, vol. A, p. 327). On 17 August 1731, Burdet Harrison sold 161 acres in Prince William County, located near the head of the south run of Pohick to Robert Stephens for 1600 pounds of tobacco (Prince William Co. Deeds, vol. A, p. 79).

     On 16 May 1749, Robert Stevens of Fairfax County, planter, deeded to Joseph Stevens, carpenter, his son, "for natural love and affection" and "for his future advancement" the 223 acres which were his share of the 1730 grant (Fairfax Co. Deeds, vol. B, p. 471).

     On 16 August 1758, Robert Stevens of Loudoun County and Ann, his wife, sold for £ 25 to Abraham Hargiss of Fairfax County the 161 acres he had purchased in 1731 from Burdett Harrison (Fairfax Co. Deeds, vol. D, p. 537).

     On 15 March 1768, Robert Stephens of Loudoun County "in consideration of the natural love and affection which I have and do bear for my loving Daughter Sarah Berkley wife of William Berkley have granted...." her one negro woman slave named Hagar together with her present and future issue (Loudoun Co. Deeds, vol. F, p. 222).

     Loudoun County tax lists reveal Robert Stephens as a resident of Cameron Parish from the formation of the county from Fairfax County in 1758, and owner, at the time, of a slave, Hagar. Hagar remained with him until 1772 when she came into the possession of William Berkley. Since Robert had given his daughter Sarah the slave Hagar in 1768, it would appear that Sarah had returned her to her father, although there is no record of such a transaction. Stephens acquired Winney in 1767 and gave her to his daughter Ann, in 1769, and thereafter Winney is found in possession of John Adams, Junr., the second husband of Ann. Robert Stephens added a third slave, Harry, in 1769, last recorded in the Stephens household in 1772.

     On 11 December 1771, Robert Stephens wrote his last will and testament. By now he was at least in his 60s, but not yet so infirm that he composed his will with the knowledge that death was imminent. He was last recorded on the Loudoun County tax lists in 1772 and probably early in the following year moved to Fauquier County. It was here, probably in September or October of 1773 that Robert Stephens died. His will is brief. In the years preceeding his death he had already disposed of some of his property, dividing it amongst several of his children.

The Last Will and Testament of Robert Stephens
(Fauquier County Wills , vol. 1, p. 218)

     "In the name of God amen the Eleventh day of December 1771. I Robert Stephens of the County of Loudoun and Colony of Virginia I now being weak in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given unto god therefore Calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men now to die do make and ordain this my last will & Testament that is to say Principally & first of all I Give and recommend my soul into the hands of almighty God that gave it & my body I recommend to the Earth to be buried decent Christian Burial at the discretion of my heirs nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection I shall Resume the same again by the almighty powers of God. And as touching such worldly Estate wherewith it has pleased God to Bless me in this life I give devise & dispose of the same in the following manner & form--

     First I give and bequeath to Ann my dearly beloved wife all my Estate Real and Personal by her freely to be enjoyed until her marriage or Death and after her marriage or Death to be divided between my Children & hers by son William Stephens & William Bartlett whom I constitute make and ordain my sole Executors of this my last will and Testament and I do hereby utterly disallow revoke disannul all & every other former Testaments Wills legacies & Bequeaths & Executors by me in anywise before made is willed & Bequeathed Ratifying & Confirming this and no other to be my last Will & Testament. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal the day & Year above Written. Signed Sealed published and pronounced by the said Robert Stevens as his last will & testament in the presence of us the subscribers.

     Silas Rose, Isaac Goun, John Leavy, John Metcalf, Wm. Kenton

[signed] Robert (his "T" mark) Stevens

     At a Court held for Fauquier County the 25th day of October 1773 This Will was proved by the Oaths of John Metcalf & William Kenton Witnesses thereto and Ordered to be recorded. And on the motion of William Stephens & William Bartlett who made oath & executed & acknowledged bond as the law directs certificate is granted them for obtaining a probate thereof in due form.

     teste J. Brookell"

     The administrators proceeded to inventory and appraise the estate. This was to take an inordinate amount of time. Although the first return was submitted to the court on 22 November 1773, the next return did not follow until 25 May 1778 and another five years were to pass before the estate sale was held on 1 May 1783. This was likely an indication that the disposition of the estate was deferred until the death or remarriage of Robert Stephens's wife, as specified in his will. No purchasers were named in the estate sale, which resulted in sales amounting to £ 240.16.0. It was noted that Richard Stevens received of his Mother to the amount of £ 3.0.0; William Stevens received of his Mother to the amount of £ 16.17.3; Ann Adams received of her Mother to the amount of £ 0.0.5; and John Stevens received of his Mother £ 5.0.0. This return was submitted to the court on 23 June 1783. The final accounts were filed on 22 March 1784, noting that burial charges amounted to £ 1.10.0 (Fauquier Co. Wills, vol. 1, p. 221-223, 331, 471-473; vol. 2, p. 16).

The Family of Robert Stephens

1. Joseph Stephens, a carpenter, who received 223 acres from his father in 1749. He and his wife, Ann, residents of Fairfax County, sold this land on 17 March 1761 to Thomas Welman Culverhouse and John Taylor for £ 80 (Fairfax Co. Deeds, vol. D, p. 845-848). On 13 March 1765, he and Robert Stephens were indicted by a grand jury for unlawful gaming (Loudoun Co. Minutes, vol. B, p. 570). On 12 May 1766 he was appointed surveyor of the road from Broad Run to Frying Pan (ibid. vol. C, p. 77).

2. Sarah Stephens was married to William Berkley at the time she received a slave from her father in 1768. Berkley was one of the administrators of her father's estate.

3. Ann Stephens was married 1st to John Owsley, killed in 1764, and 2ndly, about 1770, to John Adams, Jr. She was still living 10 December 1810, when, as Anny Adams, she sold Seth Botts (her grandson) all of her possessions for $92.00 (Claiborne Co., TN, Deeds, vol. C, p. 229).

4. William Stephens was an administrator of his father's estate, living May 1783. He was appointed constable for the upper part of Loudoun County on 14 March 1764 (Loudoun Co. Minutes, vol. B, p. 283). On 9 October 1764, Richard McPherson was appointed constable in place of William Stephens who "is run away" (ibid., p. 472). On 8 December 1766 he was appointed Overseer of the Road from Mercers Mill to Ashby's Gap as far as Goose Creek (ibid., vol. C, p. 232). On 11 August 1767 he was appointed Surveyor of the Road from Champes Mountain to the Great Branch (ibid., vol. C, p. 297).

5. John Stephens was an heir living in May 1783.

6. Richard Stephens was an heir living May 1783. Richard left a will of 31 January 1785, proved 12 December 1785, in which he names his wife, Eleanor, and children Robert and Richard, both married, and granddaughter Eleanor Stephens, the daughter of his son Richard (Loudoun Co. Wills, vol. C, p. 187-188).

7. Robert Stephens, Jr. Since the elder Stephens was noted on several occasions, as early as 1769, as "Robert Stephens Senior," that designation may be taken to mean he had a son of the same name. A Robert Stephens, with wife Hannah Sorrell, is named in the will of her father, Thomas Sorrell, 24 February 1774 (Loudoun Co. Wills, vol. B, p. 89-91). On 1 April 1779, Elizabeth Sorrell, widow of Thomas, and John Spencer Sorrell leased to Robert Stephens of Loudoun County 150 acres for 566 pounds of tobacco. The deed was witnessed by Joseph Stephens and Daniel Stephens. The lease was surrendered 9 November 1779 (Loudoun Co. Deeds, vol. N, p. 356).