Monday, June 7, 2010

Toshes on the Frying Pan

Toshes is a community in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, about half way between the present town of Gretna and the gap of Smith Mountain where a dam was completed in 1963. This area was previously identified with Crider’s Mill (1791) and Berger’s Store (1829). The Frying Pan Creek flows west from Toshes a short distance into Pigg River, which enters the Staunton (Roanoke) River below the Smith Mountain Gap.

The Toshes, Bergers, Criders, Deboes, and Shelhorses came from Pennsylvania and another group, including the Dodsons, Goads, Bennetts, Corneliuses, and Phillips, migrated from Richmond County, in the Northern Neck of Virginia. This area was probably more populated 200 years ago than today.

Thomas Jefferson, who later became president, was governor on September 1, 1780 when he signed a land grant to Ann Cornelius for 202 acres at what became Toshes. The year 1753 was stated to be “of the Commonwealth the fifth.” Previously, just over four years earlier this area was a colony of England.

Thomas Jefferson, the future President, was governor of Virginia when he signed this grant to Ann Cornenius. The original grant referenced was in 1753 during colonial America.

It seems unusual that a woman would receive a grant. Although the document was signed in 1780, the grant is stated to bear the date April 17, 1753. Although no record has been found of the early grant, this is probably of a grant to her husband Moses Cornelius.

Moses seems to have stayed in trouble with the law. Base on court records, he may have died in prison or even been executed. Crimes in colonial and early Commonwealth Virginia were taken seriously and the punishment was extreme. On December 11, 1767, the very year that Pittsylvania County was sectioned off from a part of Halifax County, Moses Cornelius was committed to the Public Gaol (pronounced jail) in Williamsburg. He was awaiting trial for “passing bad money.” Cornelius was brought to trial at the General Court on April 21, 1768, but he case was “recommitted.” Moses was one of the criminals who were brought to the bar on October 28, 1768 and he was one of the lucky ones. He was acquitted.

This is the reconstructed public jail in Williamsburg. Moses Cornelius was probably confined on this very lot.
Stealing and what we today consider minor crimes were serious offenses in colonial America. During 1768, seven prisoners were confined in Williamsburg in the old Virginia capital “Publick Gaol” (pronounced jail) and found guilty of felony crimes. Five of them received the death penalty and two were “granted clergy.” Moses was one of the two who lived. One of the men hanged was Thomas Arthurnot Grayland, who was known as the Williamsburg burglar. It is not stated how many times Thomas was caught, but it is for sure that his crime spree ended after this trial. The next year, in 1769, there were twenty felony convictions and eleven men were hanged.

During this same time period, in Pittsylvania County Court, a court case between Richard Conner against Moses Cornelius was recorded. The plaintiff and William Wynne, the Garnishee, sought payment for and unsettled amount between him and the defendant. The plaintiff proved his demands for six pounds, five shillings. “The defendant not appearing… it was ordered that the plaintiff recover his debt with his costs.” Moses was out of town, and tied up, so to speak, down in the capital of Williamsburg.

Again on August 13, 1772, Moses Cornelius was brought back to the public jail in Williamsburg, this time for theft. On August 22, he was acquitted of the charges. He likely had a good lawyer or some great stories to tell the jury.

This Virginia Gazette published the name of Moses Cornelius in 1772.

Moses Cornelius was one of the criminals who was tried for grand larceny in 1772. By September of 1773, the next year, Moses Cornelius was dead and his orphans were "bound out." The circumstances of his death are not known.

Just over a year later, Moses Cornelius was dead. The September Pittsylvania County Court ordered that the Church Wardens of the Parish of Camden, which was the state colonial church of England in the county, to “bind out Moses and Jepheth Cornelius, orphans of Moses Cornelius, deceased, in such manner as the law directs.”

Moses Cornelius seems not to be the stay-at-home-with-the-kids kind of man. There seems to be only one Moses who had the misfortune of being in jail so many times. Back in 1766, Richard Blackledge, Sheriff of Craven County, North Carolina made a public claim “for branding of Moses Cornelius, paying the guard that attended the prisoners in jail, etc” 18 pounds and ten shillings. I suppose they used branding irons like the ones used on horses and cattle. Branding of criminals was widely used in England and somewhat less frequently in Colonial America. The permanent letter denoted the crime. The most common was “M” for malefactor (one who has committed a crime. Then there was “T” for thief, “V” for vagrant. For the first offense the brand was on the hand. You didn’t want to be branded for a second offense. Then an “R” for repeater was stamped on the forehead of the offender. Repeaters stood out in a crowd and it is likely that hanging was the punishment that ended a life of crime.

During his incarceration in Williamsburg, Moses Cornelius is listed as being from Prince Edward and Charlotte Counties of Virginia. It could be that this is where the crime was committed. In 1767, Moses was living in the district of John Dix in Pittsylvania County. This would have been in the vicinity of Dix Ferry on Dan River, just below the falls where Danville was charter in 1793.

Ann Dodson Cornelius later married George Phillips, who was said to be her first cousin. Her mother Alice Goad had a sister Hannah Goad who married Tobias Phillips. On January 30, 1790, Daniel Crider, who came to Pittsylvania from Pennsylvania, paid 100 pounds for the 202-acre land grant described above. On April 10, 1790, Daniel Crider bought a 500-acre tract adjoining that tract and the land of Tobias Phillips (father of Ann’s second husband) and Jacob Berger’s land. This land was from the estate of William Hoskins, deceased and on the “draughts of Frying Pan Creek.” This is probably the land where Daniel Crider applied to build a water-powered gristmill in 1791 (see separate blog). Perhaps the smaller tract contained a valuable house, where Ann and her children lived. He paid four times the price for a tract less that half the size of the 500-acre tract.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Jacob Berger (1745-1838) and His Descendants

Entrance gate to the Berger Cemetery on the Toshes Road

Jacob Berger Sr.'s Gravestone

Jacob Berger was born on December 21, 1745 in Frankfort, Germany and died on January 25, 1837 at his Clifton Plantation on Frying Pan Creek in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Jacob's sister Catherine Berger, who was born about 1749, married Daniel Crider and they settled on an adjacent plantation on Frying Pan Creek. Daniel Crider built his mill in 1791 a short distance downstream.

Jacob Berger's wife Christina's Headstone

Christina Berger was born January 31, 1753 and died November 11, 1838 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Jacob and Christina had 12 children.

Jacob Berger paid 1000 pounds for 240 acres on both sides of Frying Pan Creek on June 15, 1779. Edward Wade and David Wade and David Ross owned adjacent land.

Jacob's brother-in-law In 1785, Daniel Crider was working as a blacksmith in a forge in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. On January 16, 1786, purchased 300 acres on Pigg River. On January 30, 1790 Ann and William Cornelius and Jephtha Cornelius sold Daniel Crider 202 acres on both sides of Buck Branch of Frying Pan Creek "adjoining the lands of Jacob Berger and David Ross." Daniel Crider's 1791 mill site that we located was a short distance below Buck Branch on this tract.

Then on April 10, 1790, he paid only 25 pounds for 500 acres on the "draughts of Frying Pan Creek." This land shared 1,560 feet with Jacob Berger and 3,102 feet along his own lines "crossing Green Branch."

This old chimney was built in 1779 for the original Jacob Berber cabin.

Burger house at Clifton. The older cabin was nearby, where the chimney remains. To the left here is the Frying Pan Creek and not so far down stream the old Daniel Crider's 1791 mill stood. This house was built by Jacob's grandson George Tyree Berger

Berger's Store
Berger's Store, on the Toshes Road, was built in 1829 by Samuel Berger, Bryan and Samuel Nowlin. Berger’s Store building had a front room 18 by 20 feet. Back of this was a “counting room.” Early voting was at the courthouse, but about the time in 1829 when this store began operation, voting was by districts. Berger’s Store became one of the voting places. There was a larger “warming room” in back with a bid fireplace. A stairway led from this room to a room above where the clerk had sleeping quarters. There was a post office in the store beginning in 1841.

Capt. Samuel Berger's home was near the store and across the road from the Berger graveyard. Across the road was a "Tobacco Plant" for "manufactured tobacco."

On the southwestern banks of Frying Pan Creek Jacob Berger built his Clifton Plantation House. This is a retaining wall and at left above is the chimney for the original Berger 1779 home.