My mother, MARY T. WOOLARD was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July 1923. In mid-1924, she was brought over to England by her Mother, and from then on – until her marriage in late 1942 – she was looked after by her Aunts in the north of England.
Finding out about my Mother’s American forebears had, until the coming of the internet, been almost impossible, but as more records have become available online, the history of her Family has been slowly revealed. What is set down here, is the best available information I have come across so far, and it will, no doubt, need further revision and updating as more records are digitised in the coming years.
At the outset, it is important to appreciate that there are various spellings of WOOLARD – just as there are various spellings of my surname (DORBER). This lack of consistency in the recording of surnames may be due to unclear speech, regional accents, a lack of education, or a lack of care in actually completing or transcribing documents. With this in mind, the name WOOLARD may occur as WOOLLARD, WILLERD, WOLLARD, WOLLER or even WELLERD in various documentation.
The WOOLARD family is widely established in a number of states in the USA – especially in Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, and because of common Christian names – such as JOHN, WILLIAM, RICHARD, MARY and ELIZABETH, together with various spellings of the surname, it is very easy to end up with conflicting bits of information that don’t actually link together – even though initially, they may seem to.
In some quarters, it is thought that there were at least two groups of WOOLARDS from England. Records seem to indicate that the first members of the family (identified in “Early Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666” by George Cabell Greer, published in 1912), were probably SAMUEL, ANN and GEORGE WOOLLARD in 1650. They were sponsored by GERVACE DODSON of Northumberland County, Virginia – the Dodson Family were already well-established in Virginia, having come from England in July 1622. SAMUEL WOOLLARD had another son, born in Virginia in 1652, by the name of JOHN. This JOHN married a MARY JACKSON in 1681 and over the next fifteen years they had five children and many more grandchildren in North Farnham Parish, Richmond, Virginia – quite a few of whom were also called JOHN.
The second group of WOOLARD “arrivers” from England, settled initially in North Carolina and though there is no known relationship between them and the Virginia/North Farnham Parish Group, that does not mean that they were not related.
I mentioned earlier, the potential difficulties of identifying who was who, and who came from where, in the WOOLARD Family. This is particularly difficult with identifying my Maternal 4X Great Grandfather – who was named JOHN WOOLARD.
In North Farnham Parish, Rockingham, Virginia, there are records of a JOHN WOOLLARD having been born on the 7th January 1752 to JOHN and SARAH (WILLIAMS) WOOLLARD – but this JOHN (born 1752) had only two children named JOSEPH and PRISCILLA – and therefore could not be my 4X Great Grandfather.
There is a JOHN WOOLARD, who died on the 9th September 1813 in Hardy County, West Virginia – but he had no children.
Some researchers are of the opinion that the JOHN WOOLARD who was baptised in St Mary Magdalene Church, in Geddington, Northamptonshire, England, on the 30th September 1753 – the child of JOHN WOOLARD and MARGARET BAILY (married 8th November 1750) – is the source of “my” branch of the WOOLARD family, but I can find no evidence of this family ever emigrating to America.
There are records of a JOHN WOOLLARD having been born about 1751/2 in Fort Valley, Shenandoah County, Virginia, and who died in late 1809 – his Will being probated on the 10th January 1810. Certainly, from subsequent primary and secondary sourced records, it would be reasonable to assume that he is my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather – for through his children named in the Will, it’s possible to follow a direct line right upto the present day.
Where this JOHN WOOLLARD came from, and who his parents were, is at present, unclear, though as I’ve said, records show that he was probably born about 1751/2 in Fort Valley.
Fort Valley is a mountain valley near the centre of the Shenandoah Valley, in Shenandoah County, Virginia – the so-called “valley within a valley” lies between two arms of the northern Massanutten Mountain range, and is about twenty-three miles long and about three miles wide at its widest, and is closed at the northern end, through which Passage Creek flows.
The Shenandoah River and Fort Valley
George Washington surveyed Fort Valley for Lord Fairfax in 1748 or 1749. There was never an actual fort there, just good defensive positions against natural rock walls at the mouth of the valley. In the Revolutionary War, after a number of defeats, George Washington did contemplate making a final stand there against the British – though his army never actually occupied the valley, and the final surrender of the British took place at Yorktown instead of Fort Valley.
The valley is also known as Powell’s Fort Valley – named after a man associated with the valley just prior to settlement by whites. The Valley is a very fertile area and was mainly settled by German or Swiss-German settlers and pioneers from Pennsylvania in the mid-1750’s, and it soon became the crossroad of the immigrant trails.
It was here that JOHN WOOLLARD first appeared, and though the circumstances of his arrival are unknown, one can’t rule out that he may have been an “orphan” and indentured to a settling family of another name.
Just as there is speculation regarding JOHN’s parentage, there is also much conflicting information regarding the surname of his wife MARGARET – whom, because of the birth dates of their subsequent children – JOHN had probably married about 1771.
Some researchers think she was MARGARET WILKINS, the daughter of MATHIAS WILKINS and MARGARET KELLER. MARGARET WILKINS was said to have been born at Tom’s Brook, Shenandoah County, Virginia, but if she is really John Woolard’s wife, then the date of her birth is also a mystery. The I.G.I suggests that her birth year was 1764 – but this date is completely unrealistic, for she would have only been 8 or 9 years old at the time of her first-born child, MARY WOOLARD – who was born about 1772.
He first appears on documentation, dated 19th December 1774, in Dunmore County (created in 1772 from Frederick Co., which in 1778 became Shenandoah County). JOHN and MARY CARRYER (nee MURRELL) of Dunmore County, leased 188.5 acres of land described “as land in Powels Fort, adjacent to the line. . . of Conrad Tebo on the south side of Passage Creek for the rent of one peppercorn on Lady Day next” to JOHN WOOLARD.
In a release recorded at the same time (27th December 1774) JOHN WOOLARD paid John and Mary Carryer, sixty pounds “current money. ” The land purchased, was “part of a tract of 300 acres, granted to George Weavour April 24, 1743, the said George Weavour being so possessed with the sd. land conveyed to John Carryer Snr. by his deed in the year 1759, John Carryer being so possessed with the land died in the year 1773 and his son John being heir at law converys a part to John Wollard.”
In November 1775, JOHN WOLLARD was on a military Census in Dunmnore Co., to determine local manpower – it is titled “A list of all Persons in Dunmore, Distinguishing Whether They Be Male or Female, White or Black, and of the Males Whether They Be Under or Over 16 Years Old, Taken by Capt. John Denton, Nov. 1775, Now Page County, Va.”
The Census shows JOHN WOOLARD as number 13 on the Military Census List for Dunmore Co. It tells us that in JOHN’s household there are two white males over 16 years of age, no male children under 16, and six white females. Since JOHN’s first son (also named JOHN) was not born until 1782, it is possible that this other male (over 16 years of age) could be JOHN’s father.
There are also documents dated November 1775 to show JOHN WOOLARD (or as he’s recorded: JOHN WOLLER) was signed up to Captain Alexander Machir’s Company of Militia from the Strasbourg District of Dumore County, Virginia. Since JOHN would have been aged about 24 at the time, he would have been required to serve in the Militia.
It is interesting that Captain Machir noted on his list that “There are Several of this List that never appeared at Muster, they Pretending to be in Communion with the Menonists, as also the Officers omitted to be inserted at the Beginning Viz. Philip Huffman Lieutenant, Law, Snapp, Junr. Ensign, Alexr. Machir.”
*The Menonites were a pacifist church – known as one of the peace churches. The comment of Capt. Machir about “Pretending” clearly shows intolerance of residents who were of age, and who did not do their duty and join the Militia.
Dunmore County clearly had enough men to form two companies. Captain Machir’s list has the names of 131 men – 86 under the command of Capt. Joseph Bowman, Alexander Machir’s company had 45.
The third documented Revolutionary War record for JOHN WOOLARD of Virginia, is a land grant for service in the War. It is contained in “Denizations and Naturalizations in the British Colonies in America 1607-1775″ [by Lloyd De Witt Bockstruck]. It states that:
“WOLLARD John, Va. 9th Feb 1784. 100 acres”
* I haven’t found any other record of service for a JOHN WOLLARD during this period, so I believe this has to be my 4X Great Grandfather.
The fourth piece of evidence supports the third – this is the “Virginia Military Land Warrants, Virginia Military District of Ohio, granted for Revolutionary War Services” contained in “ Revolutionary War Records” by Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh, published in 1936] – it states:
No., Warrantee (A), Person Who Performed the Service (B), Kind of Service (C) 2434 Warran, Thomas (Assignee) Wollard, John State Line
To sum up JOHN WOOLARD’s contribution to the War of Independence then, he was recorded in a Military Census of November 1775. At some point, he joined the full Continental Army – as a Private in one of the Virginian State Regiments – he was a Virginian Line Soldier (there is a clear distinction between Virginia Militia and Virginia Line soldiers in the records) – he was definitely not a Militia/Minuteman. We don’t know how long he served, but in 1784 (the year the War ended ) he was awarded 100 acres in Ohio for his time in service – which may explain the family’s later migration to Ohio.
*Apparently, grants of 100-200 acres, was the usual award to Virginia Line soldiers with the rank of Private – especially with several years of service. Higher ranks received more land – Alexander Machir was granted three warrants totalling 1,045 acres on the River Shenandoah, rather than new land in the more recently hostile state of Ohio.
In November 1782, JOHN WOOLARD is recorded as having served on a Grand Jury in Shenandoah County.
JOHN WOOLARD, his wife MARGARET and their children, seem to have moved to Hardy County, West Virginia, following the sale of their property in Shenandoah, recorded in the following document in March 1797. The document begins:
“This INDENTURE made the first day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand and seven hundred and ninety-seven Between JOHN WOOLARD and MARGARET his wife of Beckford Parish, Shenandoah County & Commonwealth of Virginia of the one part and JESSE VEACH of the Parish, County and Commonwealth aforesaid of the other party witnesseth: that for and in consideration of the sum of two hundred and fifty-four pounds current money of Virginia to the said JOHN WOOLARD in hand paid by the JESSE VEACH at or before the sealing and delivery of these presents the receipt wherof he doth hereby acknowledge and thereof doth release acquit and discharge the said JESSE VEACH, his executors and administrations by these presents the said JOHN WOOLARD and MARGARET his wife . . .”
The WOOLARD name does not appear in the records of Shenandoah County after that time, but JOHN WOOLARD does appear on the Tax Rolls of Hardy County, West Virginia in 1798, with 276 acres in the East District, bought from JAMES and MARGARET CLAYPOOL, on the 6th April 1797 for the sum of one hundred and twenty pounds.
“DEED CLAYPOOL TO WOOLARD This Indenture made this sixth day of April in the year of out Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven between JAMES CLAYPOOL and MARGARET his wife, of the County of Hardy in the State of Virginia of the one part and JOHN WOOLARD of the County and State aforesaid, of the other part. Witnesseth that the said JAMES CLAYPOOL and MARGARET, his wife for and in consideration of the sum of one hundred and twenty pounds to them in hand paid by the said JOHN WOOLARD on or before the sealing and delivering of these presents the receipt whereof they doth hereby acknowledge and acquit the said JOHN WOOLARD and by those presents have granted – in the – and confirmed unto the said JOHN WOOLARD to his heirs and assigns two certain tracts or parcels of land lying and being in the County of Hardy, on the Lost River. Both being held by patent from Thomas Lord Fairfax and bounded as followeth Viz Beginning at two white oaks, corner to George Wilkins land and running with his line Crossing the Southfork of said River S 67 E, thirty four poles [561′] to a white oak. Thence S 42 W, fifty two poles [858′] to a white oak at the foot of a hill, thence crossing South fork again, N 48 W, sixty six poles [1089′] to a pine. Thence S 70 W, two poles [33′] to a white oak corner to the division line. Thence N 12 W, crossing the North branch of the said river one hundred poles [1650′] to a Spanish oak and a pine, in or near the old line, then S 76 1/2 E, sixty one poles [1,006.5′] to a pine on a hill side. Thence crossing the north fork again S 14 W, fifty six poles to the beginning/containing forty five acres more or less. It be part of a tract of one hundred and eighty four acres, the content of the old deed. The second tract Beginning at a pine on a hill thence crossing State lick branch North, seventy one poles [1,171.5′] to a large white oak on the north side of said Branch. Thence N 67 E, eighty six poles [1,419′] to a pine in John Osborns line. Thence with it crossing the said branch S 50 E, forty eight poles [792′] tp a white oak corner to the said Osborn. Thence with his other line N 40 E, forty eight poles [792′] to a white oak corner in George Wilkins line then along the said line S 70 E, sixty (?) eight poles, [1,122′] to a pine then S 17 E, one hundred and five poles [1,732.5′] to a white oak. Thence S 20 W, one hundred and twenty five poles [2,062.5′] to two white oaks on the side of a knowl. Thence N 57 W, two hundred and thirty six poles to the beginning. Containing two hundred and thirty one acres more or less. In all two hundred and seventy six acres, with all houses, buildings, orchards, ways, waters, watercourses, mines, minerals, profits, commodities, hereditaments and appurtinances to him the said JOHN WOOLARD. To have and to hold the said lands and all and singular the premises hereby questioned is hereby Granted alienated in the – and Confirmed to the only proper use and Behoof of the said JOHN WOOLARD and his heirs and assigns forever and the said JAMES CLAYPOOL for himself, his heirs, Executors and administrators full power to grant, bargain and sell the said lands and premises and their appurtinances to the said JOHN WOOLARD and his heirs and assigns in manner and – aforesaid and lastly that the said JAMES CLAYPOOL and MARGARET, his wife and their heirs and against all and every other person or persons Whatsoever lawfully claiming shall and will warrant and forever defend by these presents. In witness thereof the said JAMES CLAYPOOL and MARGARET, his wife hath hereunto set their hands and seals this day and year first above written. Sealed and delivered in the presence of
David Wilson Lionel Branson Jacob Miller Anthony Miller
JAMES CLAYPOOL MARGARET (X) CLAYPOOL
JOHN WOOLARD acquired an additional 25 acres in 1805, and was on the Census through 1807. JOHN died in late 1809 – his Will was probated on the 10th January 1810 in Hardy Co. and is set out below – spelling errors with names and punctuation are exactly as JOHN wrote in 1809. . .
WILL of JOHN WOLLERD . . . In the name of God Amen, I JOHN WOLLERD of the County of Hardy and the State of Virginia being weak in body but in perfect . . . sense and memory calling to mind the Mortality of my body and knowing it is appointed for all men once to die do make and . . . ordain this my last will and Testament. And first of all I commend my body to the Earth to be buried in a Christian . . . buriel and my soul I submit in the hands of Almighty God that gave it nothing doubting but at the General Reserection I shall . . . receive the same again by the power of Almighty God and as touching this worldly Estate wherewith it has pleased God to . . . bless me with in this life I take _ and dispose of in the following manner and _ that is to say unto my well . . beloved wife MARGARET WOLLERD I give and bequeath all my Estate Real personal after all just demands are satisfied during . . . her natural life to be at her command and dispose and unto my beloved son JOHN WOLLERD I give one part of my land . . . whereupon he lives beginning Gum near State Lick run and from thence a straight line to buck lick to a double hickory and pine . . . marked near the line and he and the said JOHN shall pay sixty pound the price of the same to his sisters in the following form. . . after the death of their mother to my Daughters MARY SMITH CHRISTIANA SHANER CHATTERANICE BENJHAMIN ELIZABETH . . SHIREMAN twelve pound ten shillings each and to my daughter SUSANIA and MAGDALANIA five pounds each and to my . . . beloved son HENRY WOLLARD I give and bequeath the other part of my land whereupon I now live my wagon and horse _ of . . . which he shall pay the above named _ and May _ fifteen pounds each and is to provide and nourish us and . . . my wife during each of our Natural life and to have the use of all my land – the time and all personal property after . . . the decease of us to be equally divided between the above named SUSANIA and MAGDALANIA the said HENRY is to have two. . . years to pay the above thirty pounds after the death of the said MARGARET WOLLORD and the said JOHN and HENRY I make and ordain the job Ex of this last Will and Testament to carry into effect the true _ and memory hereof And I do here . . . disallow and disown all testaments wills bequeaths or whatever _ this and no other to be my last will and Testa. . .ment and in witness hereof I have hereunto set my hand on this fifteenth day August Eighteen hundred and nine.
Witness present Peter Barbi Linn Paine JOHN WOLER Christopher (X) Halterman John (X) Halterman
In some quarters, it is believed that JOHN’s first wife MARGARET died and that he then married again. There are certainly records of a JOHN WOLLARD married to a MARTHA SWAIN – and records of them having had a daughter named MARY ANN (born c1789 in Pitt Co., North Caroliona). My 4X Great Grandfathers’s Will of August 1809, mentions his “beloved wife MARGARET” as if she’s very much alive – and as JOHN died within four months of writing his Will, there is no possibility that he was ever married to a MARTHA SWAIN.