Alfords and Their Kin in Early North Carolina, Part I


By James P. Alford, AAFA #0115


[This article was originally published in AAFA ACTION, Issue #8, March 1990.]


This article is based on data stored in a growing PC Facts Database. Background data on North Carolina Colonial Law was provided by Benjamin Spratling III, an attorney of Birmingham. Devil’s Advocate was played by Gilbert K. Alford Jr., noted researcher of St. Louis.


The Carolinas, 1667 to 1739


Unlike Virginia, which was a prospering Crown Colony, the Carolina Colony was privately owned by eight Governors in distant England. They had representatives in the Colony, but the responsiveness to problems that a regular government could provide was absent. As a result, morale was low among the few hundred settlers, and those who weren’t indentured moved quickly north to Virginia after a short taste of Carolina life.


Surviving records show that a surprising ten Alfords lived at least briefly in the dismal Albemarle District of the Carolina Colony. Be aware that forgery of Transported Persons lists was possible, and that a person’s name might have been reused to obtain more land from the Governor’s agents.


The earliest reference is to William Alford, who is listed only once in surviving records. He appeared as Court Clerk on February 8, 1667. If he wasn’t shot or knifed that day in court by an irate defendant, he probably made his way North to Virginia that afternoon. William was lucky—he could read and write and would be in great demand wherever he went. Could he be the William who became Deputy Escheator later that year in “Elizabeth Citty,” Virginia?


Twenty years later on December 14, 1687, Joseph and Ann Alford appeared in court records. She had run away from home and upon the petition of her husband, the court ordered her to return. Further, if she ran away again she was ordered to receive twenty lashes! This was obviously before the days of Women’s Liberation! Joseph made his will in 1689 and was still kicking around in October 1690. Ann died in 1691. Their wills are part of a veritable trove of Alford wills in the North Carolina Archives. According to Joseph’s will, which has been abstracted, there were no children.


Samuel Alford appeared as a transported person on March 26, 1680. No further records were found.


There were three John Alfords:


John Alford Sr. died November 30, 1690, at Colonel Hartley’s in Perquimans Precinct, Albemarle District.


John Alford #2 signed his will April 16, 1691, and it was filed for probate May 4, 1691. No wife was mentioned. He left two daughters, Tabitha and Sarah, and father-in-law Charles Jones as his Executor. Poor Charles Jones, who thought he was going to retire and go fishing, was left instead with two granddaughters to raise!


John Alford #3 was a fortunate one who survived and prospered. References to him continued until 1720. He was literate enough to draw lots of jury duty, was an estate administrator and eventually became Deputy Escheator for the Governors.


John was also a sailor and apparently made trading trips to England. In a September 1695 court record, he is listed as the third crewman (the Second Mate) on the Ketch Tryall, which had been on a voyage to London ten years earlier. In 1693 he received 250 acres for transporting five persons. John may have been using his wages to pack the ship with settlers so he receive extra land bonuses at the end of each trip!


In various references he was also called John Allford, Halfort, Halford, Holford, or Hollford. It’s this guy who is likely to have left descendants around the East coast to mess up our neat solutions.


On March 12, 1693, Diana Halford proved three persons. The other two were not Alfords. She was either a single woman or a widow with no children. She did have a free servant and may have been a woman of some wealth.


Another Joseph Alford and wife appeared as transported persons August 20, 1694. After the notoriety created by the first Joseph and his wife Ann, it’s doubtful that this entry was fraudulent.


In August 1694, Samuel Alford was mentioned as a transported person in order for someone to receive land. It’s possible that he was the same one transported in 1680, but it doesn’t seem likely after all those years.


Jabez Alford attracts readers’ attention because of his unique first name. Even in those days, that name threw everyone for a loop and was misspelled at least five ways. Jabel, Jabell, Jaber, Jabes and Jaboz have all been recorded!


On August 8, 1694, Jabez, an orphan of at least 14 years of age, petitioned the court for the right to choose his own guardian. The Minutes don’t say that he was allowed to choose, but he was bound to Mrs. Susanna Hartley, widow of Colonel Francis Heartley, until the age of 21 to learn the trade of carpenter or joiner. This woman was representing clients before the court, and as talented as she may have been, it’s doubtful that she ever taught young Jabez to build barns!


(Incidentally, a Susanna Hartley is mentioned later as a wife of Lodowick Alford Sr. despite the fact that no Hartley’s appeared in close proximity to the New Kent County Alford’s in either Virginia or North Carolina. Could records of her relationship to Jabez have been confused with those of the later Lodowick and Susanna?)


There are a few scattered references to Jabez between that date and 1703 when his land was mentioned in an unrelated deed.


On July 9, 1705, he signed his will, and at July Court, 1706, it was probated. Jabez died about age 25 and mentioned no wife or children in the will.


Earl Granville’s Carolina, 1739 to 1760


The first person with a familiar family name to appear in Edgecombe County, Carolina, was John Ferrall who bought 100 acres August 10, 1739, on Beaverdam Creek. John paid “10 pounds Virginia money” for the land. While not mentioned in surviving New Kent County, Virginia records, it is very likely that he was a son of Daniel Farell from there.


The following year, on November 17, 1740, Lodwick Alford of North Carolina bought 100 acres on Elk Marsh, Edgecombe County from Henry Dawson of Virginia. He paid “10 pounds current money of Virginia” for the tract. (The last mention of Lodwick in New Kent County was December 12, 1738, so it’s entirely possible that he and John Ferrall traveled together to North Carolina.


After the first successful season, the adventurers sent glowing letters back to their families and friends in New Kent County, Virginia.


Then, the Cade exodus began. . . .


Susanna’s father Robert Cade, her brothers Robert Cade Jr. and William, her uncle Stephen Cade, and first cousin Stephen Cade Jr. arrived in Edgecombe County with their families as early as 1743.


Stephen Cade Jr. witnessed a deed July 14, 1743. Either he or his father, Stephen Cade, sold 250 acres to William Kinchen Jr. on February 19, 1747. Robert Cade was in court records February 19, 1744. William Cade married Lucretia Pace July 18, 1745. Robert Cade Jr. settled the division of his new wife’s first husband’s estate May 20, 1746.


Some of Lodowick’s new neighbors around Elk Marsh were William Kinchen, William Kinchen Jr., John Haywood, Charles Drury and Richard Smith who will fit into the story later.


On February 19, 1744, Edgecombe County Court Minutes show that Lodwick Alford acknowledged the sale of his original 300 acres on Elk Marsh. His wife appeared that day in Court and relinquished her Right of Dower under private examination by the Justices.


That same day Lodowick “proved 6 whites.” This was a family head count used to determine eligibility for further land grants. Historians today refer to it as the Colonial Census.


About the best conclusion we can draw from this 1744 “Census” is that someone (probably several someones) in the family died between the records of New Kent County, Virginia, and what we think to be the additional children born by 1744. There should have been at least seven: Lodowick and Susanna, and children William (b.1734), Elizabeth (b.1736), Jacob (b.1738), Lodowick Jr. (b. ca 1740) and James (b.1740).


Who died? A quick elimination shows that it was Elizabeth: First, we can easily account in later years for Lodowick Sr., Jacob, Lodowick Jr. and James. This leaves either William, Susanna, or Elizabeth.


William is popularly assumed to have been the one living later in Dobbs/Wayne County, North Carolina. He may well have been the son of Lodowick’s brother, James, but for the sake of this article let’s assume that he was the son of Lodowick. That leaves wife Susanna or daughter Elizabeth. . . .


Since Lodowick’s wife appeared in Court the day that Lodowick proved six family members, it had to have been Elizabeth. Wait! Was that too easy for you? What if the wife who appeared that day in Court wasn’t Susanna?


Okay, try this: Lodowick had additional children between the 1739 departure from New Kent County and September 8, 1758, when the first reference to his wife Sarah appeared. We know that many descendants of sons Lodowick Jr. (b. ca 1740) and Julius (b. ca 1744-48) bore the name Cade. It’s 98% certain that Susanna was a Cade and she most certainly would have lived until Julius was born.


See, isn’t genealogy fun?


Before moving on, try one more exercise. Suppose that Julius was already born by February 1744. Then someone else must have died to keep the census at six. Who would it have been? If you guessed William, you’re right! Now move along before we open up a can of worms!


Between the years of 1747 and 1751, no particularly significant records have been found. We see Lodwick Alford, Stephen Cade Jr., William Kinchen, John Haywood, Robert Cade Jr., William Kinchen Jr. and Stephen Cade buying and selling land around Elk Marsh and the west side of Burnt Coat Creek in Edgecombe County.


At last came the belated Alford exodus . . . all two of them!


Always on the leading edge of progress, brothers Goodrich and Julius joined Lodowick in North Carolina by 1752. The first mention of Goodrich Alford appears when he witnessed a deed from Robert Cade Sr. to Lodwick Alford for 300 acres of land on Marsh Swamp in Edgecombe County. It was noted in the deed that Lodwick and Robert Cade Sr. were from Granville County. Granville was partitioned from Edgecombe in 1746. [Today the dividing line separates Nash (old Edgecombe) and Franklin (old Granville) Counties.] The same day, Lodowick sold the land for what he paid for it and Goodrich Alford witnessed that one, too. Stay tuned! This land appears again in a later event.


In March of 1753, Julius Alford witnessed the deed when Lodowick Alford bought land on the east side of Bear Swamp in Granville County.


Sometime later in 1753, their brother Goodrich died. Time has forever hidden the cause, but it’s possible that Goodrich went alone to plow the land in Bear Swamp on his last earthly day.


Just one year after buying it, in March 1754, Lodowick Alford sold the Bear Swamp property. At the same time, he was settling up Goodrich’s affairs as Administrator of his estate according to Edgecombe County February 1754 Court Minutes.


Later, in June 1754, Lodowick sold Julius Alford 200 acres on the Tar River in Granville County. The deed was witnessed by John Ferrell. This is actually the first mention of John Ferrell in connection with the Alfords. Later, in his will dated January 7, 1786, John Ferrell mentioned three daughters, Rebecca, Polly, and Ann who were married to Alfords. If Lodowick Alford Sr. (note the emphasis on Senior) was ever married to a Rebecca Ferrell, it would have been during this time period—about 1748 to 1756—and it would have been to John Ferrell’s sister, not to his daughter.


October 1754 saw both Lodowic and Julius Alford marching and drilling as Privates in the Granville County Militia. In those days every able-bodied free man was obligated to own a rifle or musket and serve in the Militia. Judging by the trouble that the Colonies were having with raiders, especially the Indians and the Spanish privateers around the Sound, it’s probable that they saw some fighting. Lodowick was 40 to 44 years old, depending on where his birth year is placed, and he was probably able to march and fight with the most cocky twenty year olds!


Also in October 1754, in Onslow County on the south coast just the other side of Dobbs County, Private James Halford drilled in their militia. This James certainly wasn’t Lodowick’s 14 year old son. This may possibly be the only surviving reference to James in Onslow County since the Courthouse records were largely destroyed by hurricanes and violent storms in 1752, 1755, and 1786.


Some of his mates in the Onslow County Regiment were Benjamin Ward, Richard Ward and Seth Ward. Thirteen years later, in 1767, Captains James Alford and Benjamin Ward drilled together in the Bute County Regiment. In 1769, Justices James Alford and Benjamin Ward sat on the Bute County bench. (Bute was formed from the eastern half of Granville County and later became Franklin and Warren Counties.) In his will dated October 24, 1788, in Warren County, Benjamin Ward mentioned his sons Benjamin, Richard and Seth. Getting ahead a bit, Warren Alford, husband of Elizabeth Ward, was also mentioned.


1755 provided a rather strange record. . .Jacob, son of Lodwick, appeared on the Granville County Tax Roll. It’s strange because Jacob was only sixteen! He was a minor and unable to enter into contracts, yet he owned taxable property! Under North Carolina law he could have bought the property, but as a practical matter, he probably received it as a gift or an inheritance. Did one of his grandfathers leave it to him in his will?


In 1756, Ledwick Alford refused an appointment as a Justice of the Peace for Granville County. We’ll never know why, but it’s intriguing to speculate. Did he modestly doubt his ability to serve? (not an Alford male!) Was he busy raising a houseful of kids by himself?


Who Was Sarah?


About the same time in Edgecombe County, Richard Smith, once a neighbor of Lodowick’s on Elk Marsh, made his will, dividing his estate among his four sons and naming his wife, Sarah, his Executrix. Soon after, he died and his will was probated at May Court, 1757.


A widow now, Sarah Smith, bought 300 acres more or less on Marsh Swamp, Edgecombe County in May 1757. This was a tract of land that once belonged to Lodowick and Robert Cade Sr.


1758 was an eventful year for Alford research!


In March 1758, the Granville County Court heard a case where Lodowic Alford, assignee of James, sued William Jackson for Trespass. Since it doesn’t say “father of James” or “on behalf of James a minor”, it’s probably safe to assume that Lodowick was suing someone who had encroached upon an adult relative’s land. The only adult relatives that Lodowick had named James were his father and his brother. The likelihood of his father still living was slim. Was this his brother? Was he the James Halford living in Onslow County?


On September 8, 1758, Lodowick and Sarah Alford of Granville County sold “282 acres more or less on both sides Marsh Swamp joining Hills Spring Branch” in Edgecombe County. Was Sarah Alford the widow Sarah Smith who had purchased 300 acres just sixteen months earlier? Was this part of her land? Maybe, but there aren’t any pieces of this puzzle that fit together neatly.


Consider these points and counterpoints:


Just eighteen days earlier Lodowick had received a Granville grant of 564 acres on both sides of Marsh Swamp—282 acres is exactly half of 564 acres.


 However, in over twenty recorded Deeds of Sale in North Carolina by Lodowick, only four ever had his wife’s name on them, and all four of those deeds were signed by Sarah! At least thirteen deeds during the time of his marriage to Sarah were recorded without her name. Since Lodowick was in his mid forties, it’s likely that Sarah was in her early to mid forties, was a widow, and brought her own land into the marriage.


However again, in English Common Law, a Right of Dower existed that gave a wife one-third interest in her husband’s real property—this was her Dower. This law does not seem to have been particularly practiced in Colonial North Carolina though, as less than a fourth of all deeds are found with a wife’s name on them.


On the other hand, court records reflect that women often gave up their Right of Dower in separate consents. Remember Susanna being privately examined by the Court after Lodowick sold the Elk Marsh land in 1744?


What this all means is that Sarah’s name was not required to appear on a deed unless her signature was necessary to effect resale of the property. In other words, if she was shown as owner on the current deed, then her signature was required for resale. This is a strong signal that she owned the land on Marsh Swamp, or some part of it, before her marriage to Lodowick.


Anyway, neither of them were spring chickens, but it appears that they had a little steam left and had two late children: Kinchen (b. ca 1758) and Lamuel (b. ca 1760). Don’t confuse this Kinchen with a younger one who was a grandson of Lodowick and lived in the same county in later years. Earlier efforts to trace the origins of the unique name Kinchen failed to produce any positive results. Maybe Sarah was the connection. Was Sarah a daughter of William Kinchen Sr.? In the summer of 1758 Lodowick witnessed a grant to William Kinchen Jr. Was he merely an acquaintance, or was he Lodowick’s newest brother-in-law?


Sometime in 1758 Lodowick became a Vestryman in St. Peters Parish of Granville County. This would have been a duty reserved for the most successful community leaders and speaks well of his position at the time.


A further indicator of his position surfaced in a 1759 deed where Lodowick Alford stated his occupation as “Merchant.” Any sodbuster will tell you that you don’t raise a purported nineteen children, educate them and turn them into a young nation’s leaders just by the sweat from farming plus scattered land sales! Judging by the superior finishing of his children he must have been a highly successful merchant!


In November 1760, James Alford was defendant in a civil suit. This still could not have been Lodowick’s son, who was yet a minor. (At the time of James the son’s death, November 6, 1812 in Hancock County, Georgia, his age was reported as 72 in an obituary.) Once again, chances are excellent that this James was Lodowick’s brother. Perhaps by now he was living in the neighborhood and getting to know the neighbors in typical Alford adversarial fashion! (Wait until Wake County next time for a real taste of this.)


By late 1760, Lodowick’s first children were grown. William and Jacob were adults and on their own. Lodowick Jr. and James were near their majority. Not far behind was Julius. All were well educated for the day and would soon rise among their peers. Because of their education and the desperate need for Men of Good Temperance and Judgement, most would practice law in some form or fashion.


At least three would become Judges; three would become Legislators; all five would serve either in the Continental Line or in the local militia during the Revolution with three of them attaining the rank of Captain or higher; one would be elected a delegate to the 1789 Constitution Ratification Convention, though his son would attend in his place. These details will be covered next time.