By David Lee
For many years the family history of John Lee of Goochland County, VA has been a focus of my study. There have been countless family history buffs and at least two genealogists involved in trying to find John’s ancestors. Through DNA testing of seven direct descendants, we know we are connected with Henry Lee of Yorktown who arrived in America prior to 1649, but the details of this connection are elusive. It was while I was digging through mounds of research that I happened upon a remarkable story of a family connected to the Lee family, and the stories of these families become united into one amazing story of the early settlement of America in the 18th century.
This story begins in England at the start of the 18th century. Joseph Jackson was born, being one of seven brothers. Near the same time, around 1705, across the sea in the tidewater colony of Virginia, John Lee was welcomed into his colonial family. Colonial Virginia was exploding with new settlements expanding along the James River in search of new tobacco land and iron deposits. Life was not easy, but opportunity was there and folks were excited about what America could become.
Conditions were much different back in England. Joseph Jackson had no inheritance and little hope for a future. At a young age, Joseph was indentured as an apprentice in a wool factory. His job was combing and racking wool, which was later spun into thread. According to family legend, Joseph was “an uncommon stout man” and soon grew tired of his working conditions. He had dreams of becoming a carpenter and longed to work as a house joiner. His master refused to allow the young apprentice out of his contract. Desperate, Joseph ran away, arriving in London as a fugitive. His prospects for survival were slim so Joseph again found himself indentured to a ship’s captain and bound for America.
During this same time in London, there was a young lady named Ann Jarvis, the daughter of Captain Jarvis of the King’s Life Guard. Against her father’s wishes, Ann ran off and married a Captain of an English vessel and soon thereafter went with her new husband to sea. During the journey the ship was lost and Ann, along with a handful of others, floated on the wreckage for days on the open sea. They were rescued by a French fleet and sold to a ship bound for America. Was it the same ship that carried Joseph Jackson? Of this, we are not sure, but we know that upon arrival in America in 1724, both were indentured to Mr. Hews. It was during this four years of indenture that Joseph became an accomplished carpenter and fell in love with Ann. Upon completion of his indenture, Joseph, along with his newly acquired wife and skills, headed for Goochland County, the first county established in the Piedmont area.
In 1731, Joseph bought 400 acres on the north side of the James River and another 400 acres in 1744. They were neighbors of the Lee family, who had just recently settled nearby. Between 1728 and 1742, Joseph and Ann had at least five children, three sons and two daughters. They chose Ann’s maiden name for their firstborn son, Jarvis, followed by Joseph, Ann, John, and Hannah.
Nearby, in the same parish, John and Lucy Lee also had five children. Firstborn for the Lee family was Helena Eleanor, then Stephen, John, Deborah, and lastly Benjamin.
By 1742, Joseph was a successful carpenter and farmer and John Lee was raising tobacco alongside the James River. The river and the Anglican Church were two focal points of the Goochland community. The river transported their goods and the church managed the community. Reverend William Douglas recorded most of the important activities of the Saint James Northam Parish in the Douglas Register. There were no Baptist or Methodists during this time and the church was more than just involved in your life; it actually governed all legal claims, taxes, and even decided where the roads were laid out. Reverend Douglas is possibly best known for his Register and that he was the tutor for a young man named Thomas Jefferson. It seems Thomas actually resided at the Reverend’s residence near Dover while attending school. It is highly probable that the Jackson and Lee children attended class with young Thomas Jefferson during school days.
The blossoming of America was an exciting time to be alive where people lived much closer to the earth and alongside their neighbors. Great leaders were being formed for a new country and history was being written in the countryside. I have visited this area several times and caught the views of a quiet pastoral place but in 1750 Virginia, the country lanes there were crowded with activity.
Reverend Douglas recorded that Jarvis Jackson and Helena Lee were married on August 21, 1748, later John Lee and Betty Page were wed on 11 Sept 1755, Deborah Lee married John Hodges in 1756 and Stephen Lee and Anna Poor later tied the knot on November 3, 1763.
During the 1750s the Seven Years’ War was ongoing and Indian restlessness was again resurfacing even in Goochland. We do not know the details of Joseph Jackson and John Lee’s involvement, if any, in the war, but the years immediately following the war were filled with expansion. Now, there is a lot of talk about freedom and increased resentment against the taxation from England without representation. Tobacco was diminishing the soil quality quickly and westward movement became necessary. Bedford County was opening up and new farmland was available. Ann Jarvis Jackson died in 1757, aged about 49 years. She had seen so much in a short time and already had several grandchildren by her side. Jarvis and Helena Eleanor Lee Jackson are in Bedford County by 1762 with seven children. Family planning for that era was driven by the need for more workers! Their first daughter Lucy was named after Helena’s mother, then came Elizabeth, Joseph, Sarah Jane, Eleanor, Jemima, and John. Joseph Sr. followed Jarvis and Helena to Bedford and died there in 1774 with lots of good memories and accomplishments from such a humble beginning. Helena Lee Jackson also died prior to 1770, still in her thirties, and Jarvis remarried later in Bedford.
During the 1770s the Anglican Church was losing much of its popularity due to its ties with England. New movements such as Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists were developing, especially in newly settled areas where the Parishes were not well established. The Jarvis Jackson family became charter members of the Peaks of Otter Presbyterian Church there in Bedford County. I have visited this church and what a beautiful backdrop with the Peaks of Otter standing majestic over the quaint church setting on a small hillside pasture. John and Lucy Lee remained in the Saint James Parish at Goochland where John died in 1770 and Lucy in 1771. Reverend Douglas recorded the texts of their funerals and acknowledged their contribution to the community. In his will, John divided his worldly goods between his four living children and left ten pounds to his eldest and newly married granddaughter, Lucy Jackson Eubanks.
John and Deborah Lee Hodges now have four children, Lucy, Nancy, Jesse, and Mary. It must have been tough being the only boy in the family. Jesse will play an important part in the evolving story.
John Lee, Jr. and Betty Page Lee remain in Goochland where John Jr. managed a large tobacco farm in partnership with Reverend Douglas. This farm may have been the Glebe farm for the Parish rector. John Lee, Jr. died, still in his forties, in 1779, believed to be a result of the Revolution. Betty finished raising their ten children.
Stephen and Anna Poor Lee along with sons Thomas, Braxton, Lewis Henry, and daughter Betsy are in Bedford County by 1772. They had a total of nine children. Stephen provided goods for the Continental Army during the revolution and was involved in the creation for Henry and Franklin Counties in Virginia and moved westward to Kentucky by 1793.
Benjamin Lee married Mary Richardson, served as Lieutenant in the Fluvanna Militia when Cornwallis crossed the James River in route to Yorktown. He and Mary later settled in present day Williamson County, TN alongside their son-in-law Chapman White. Their only child Sally died within a year of her marriage to Mr. White. The friendship with Chapman was lifelong as Benjamin gave Chapman a son’s share of his estate at his death. Chapman White was the first manager for the city of Franklin, TN.
Life in colonial Virginia was about to change forever, and so the families involved were to be changed also. The revolution was eminent by the mid 1770s and the land barrier known as the Blue Ridge would soon be challenged. Daniel Boone had already visited the “Caintuck” and was planning to establish a fort at Boonesborough. The Cumberland Gap was now open and Boone and the early adventurers hardly recognized when the revolution began as they were already at war. There was fierce fighting with the Shawnee and other tribes over their best hunting grounds. Many came looking for new land and returned with horrid tales but Boone was there to stay.
When the revolution began, Boone was in dire need of help to keep the Kentucky land inhabited and this frontier belonged to Virginia. After several requests to the Virginia governor, Bedford County was sequestered to raise troops to support the effort. Among seventy men who mustered for duty in July 1777, under Captain Charles Gwatkins, were Joseph Jackson and Jesse Hodges (grandsons of John Lee). I can imagine that his other grandsons, Thomas Lee, Braxton Lee, Lewis Henry Lee, and John Jackson were fully ready to go with them except all were under 15 years of age at the time.
Arriving at the site of Booneborough in the fall of 1777 must have been an exciting event for the two teenage cousins. The fort was not completely finished and there was much to do before winter. They had just completed a journey of hundreds of miles and walked on virgin ground through the newly discovered Cumberland Gap. They were a part of something, which was to become instrumental in the Westward expansion of America.
On February 8, 1778, Daniel Boone took a small group of men to make salt at the Blue Licks. Joseph Jackson was a guard for this group and Jesse Hodges a scout. This salt was very necessary for life on the frontier for cooking, tanning, and curing of foods. All went well to start and when the first salt was ready, Jesse Hodges and Stephen Hancock loaded salt on their horses and rode toward Boonesborough, some fifty miles journey. Shortly after they left, Simon Girty and 120 Indians surrounded Boone and his twenty-six men and all Boone could do was surrender. Boone and the men, including Joseph Jackson, were marched over the Ohio River to the Indian villages near present day Cincinnati. Some ran the gauntlet and were adopted into Indian families and some were sold to the British at Detroit. Joseph Jackson and Boone were among those adopted into the Indian nation. Boone, upon hearing about an upcoming attack on Boonesborough, escaped within six months but Joseph Jackson remained a captive until the treaty of peace of 1783.
Joseph was given the name “Fish” by his Indian captives and after the treaty, Joseph remained in the Indian nation as a trader with the British settlements near Detroit for several years. Upon hearing that younger brother John had moved to Kentucky, Joseph returned to the land where he had only spent one season in his youth. Here he settled down and married Charlotte Payne around 1800. He and Charlotte had nine children and settled near Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky. When Lyman Draper was compiling notes on the life of Daniel Boone, Joseph Jackson was a key resource as he had much information about the Indian culture and what was happening during the events of these days from the Indians’ perspective. Draper noted that Joseph, in his eighties, still had Indian characteristics. There is a memorial plaque at Joseph’s gravesite.
When John Jackson came to Kentucky, he married Mary Forest Hancock, the daughter of Stephen Hancock who was the other salt carrier with Jesse Hodges, mentioned earlier. Some say Mary Forest Hancock was the first white person born in the land of Kentucky, being born in the forest in route to Kentucky while her parents were traveling with Daniel Boone. John Jackson was known as the father of Laurel County Kentucky and gave land to found the city of London. He and Mary had extensive land ownership in the area. Their son Hancock Lee Jackson became governor of Missouri. Today, in London, there is a memorial to the Jacksons and a Historical Chapter in their honor.
Jesse Hodges continued as a Scout and Indian fighter alongside Daniel Boone for many years. He fought in several campaigns in Lower Ohio and was alongside Simon Kenton on expeditions into Indian territories. Jesse and wife Sarah had eight children, and Jesse lived to aged 78 and was buried in Madison County. There is a memorial plaque honoring the brave defenders of Boonesborough, which included Jesse Hodges.
Many of the Jackson and Hodges family settled in the Central Kentucky area near Boonesborough, and there are numerous descendants still in the area today. Jesse Hodges and Joseph Jackson are my first cousins, six times removed.
My sixth GGF Stephen Lee settled nearby in Somerset, Pulaski County, KY. with many of his children. They were founders of the White Oak Baptist Church in Nancy, KY. Their eldest son Thomas Lee settled in current Claiborne County, TN next to the Cumberland Gap. During a recent visit with descendants of Thomas Lee, I was told that there were family stories passed down through the generations of wagon visits to Kentucky, to see all their cousins. Another son, Braxton Lee, is my 4th GGF and he came with his uncle Benjamin Lee, Chapman White, and Abraham Maury to Middle Tennessee in 1796 and settled on land now situated in Cheatham County, TN.
This is one story of a few families who started out in the Piedmont area of Virginia and spread westward through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, Tennessee and places to all points westward. It was a fascinating time in the establishment of our country although life was tough during their lifetimes. We continue to tell their story as it is our heritage, and they paved the way for life in America as we know it today. This story is a small part of each of these families and there is still much to tell. Lucy Jackson received her ten pounds from grandfather John Lee’s estate as mentioned earlier. She and husband Stephen Eubanks settled on Jekyll Island and later a Spanish Land Grant in future Duval County, Florida, but that story is for another day. As I comfortably set by the fireplace on a cold night in Tennessee, I am thankful for the price they paid and all the memories they left.