I’ve recently been working on the family of Patsy Dicken, wife of Thomas Bembry. Her grandfather was Nathan Harris, from whose will I inadvertently established Patsy’s last name. This line goes back to colonial Isle of Wight County in Virginia.
Nathan was the son of another Nathan Harris who died in 1793. I found a PDF copy of Nathan Senior’s will online, and have typed it out here so it will be more useful. (Please note that I have not yet seen the original will.)
This first Nathan Harris was my 7th great-grandfather. A lot of personality comes through in wills! Nathan Senior sounds like a rather canny and hard man in the way that he discusses his children, anticipating squabbles and allowing that they might die before reaching majority, and in the dispassionate manner in which he discusses selling and dividing up proceeds from various slaves with no “special considerations” mentioned at all.
Will of Nathan Harris
In the name of God, Amen, I, Nathan Harris of the county of Greenville in the State of Virginia being at present in a tolerable state of good health and enjoying the blessings of my usual understanding and recollection have thought proper, as to what worldly goods it hath pleased God to bestow on me to dispose in the following manner, viz.,
First it is my Will and Desire that my executors hereafter mentioned should out of my estate liquidate and pay all my just debts.
Secondly, I Give and Bequeath to my sons Walton, Nathan, and Howell Harris ten shillings each to them and their heirs.
Thirdly, I Give and Bequeath to my son Isaac Harris after the death of his mother Catherine Harris, one Negro man named Sharper to him and his heirs forever.
Fourthly, I Give and Bequeath to my grandchildren Elizabeth Hoard, Harris Coleman, Catherine Coleman, Polly Hargrove, and John Coleman all the claim right and title I have to a Negro named Sarah and all her increase it being the Negro woman of which my son in law Daniel Coleman was in possession of at the time of his death to them and their heirs forever.
Fifthly, I Give and Bequeath to my daughter Jane Williams one Negro woman named Doll, and her increase it being the Negro woman she is in possession of to her and her heirs forever.
Sixthly, I Give and Bequeath to my daughter Elizabeth Allen all the claim, right and title I have to a Negro boy named Cyrus which I have given her possession of to her and her heirs or assigns forever.
Seventhly, I Give and Bequeath to my daughter Anna and John Patrick two Negroes named Will and Peggy of which they are in possession and I believe has my Bill of Sale for them.
Eighthly, I Give and Bequeath to my grandson Thomas Camp Harris two Negroes named Archer and Woodley (that is to say) provided he should arrive to the age of twenty-one years or should my said grandson Thomas Camp Harris intermarry under the age of the twenty one years and die leaving lawful issue that then his heirs shall forever enjoy the aforesaid Negroes.
Provided nevertheless that the aforesaid Thomas Camp Harris is hereby debarred from commencing or causing to be commenced any suit at law or equity against Anna Patrick or John Patrick, husband to Anna Patrick for to recover Will, a Negro man herein before bequeathed to said Anna and John Patrick under forfeiture of the two Negroes herein bequeathed to him, namely Archer and Woodley, now shall my said grandson Thomas Camp Harris die without leaving lawful issue before he arrives to the age of twenty one years or should commence a suit or cause by any means (forever hereafter) a suit to be commenced against John Patrick and Anna, his wife as above mentioned, the said Negroes, Archer and Woodley, shall return to the common mass of my estate and sold by my executors and the money be equally divided among all my then surviving children.
Tenthly it is my express Will and Desire that the two Negroes Archer and Woodley heretofore bequeathed to my grandson Thomas Camp Harris should be hired out annually at the discretion of my executors and the money arising therefrom to be applied to schooling, boarding and clothing my said grandson as they my executors hereafter named may think necessary for him to receive and the overplus if any, put into rest until arrives at age.
Eventually, I Give and Bequeath to my two grandsons, orphans of David Harris, Deceased, namely Peter and John Harris, all the claim, right, and title I have to a Negro called Cuff, of which David Harris was possessed of at the time of his death to them and their heirs and assigns forever provided they should arrive at the age of twenty one years or leave legitimate issue, otherwise, for him to return to the common mass of my estate, and be sold by my executors and the money arising therefrom to be equally divided among all my then surviving children.
Twelfthly, I Give and Bequeath to my wife Catherine Harris three Negroes named Bosin, Sue, and Lucy, also one bed and furniture and I lend to her during her natural life, Sharper, a Negro man heretofore bequeathed to Isaac Harris also her mare and saddle she usually rides. I also lend to her during her natural life one Negro girl named Rhoda.
Thirteenthly, it will my Will and Desire that after the aforementioned legacies are dispensed with or rather taken and paid out of my estate that all the residue and remainder of my estate of every denomination whatsoever shall be sold by my executors and all the money arising therefrom shall be equally divided among all my children then living.
Fourteenthly and lastly, I do hereby nominate and appoint Howell Harris, Hubbard Harris, and William Vaughn, Esq., of Brunswick my whole and sole executors of this my last Will and Testament.
In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this thirteenth day of April, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety Three.