My Cole line produced a lot of descendants, but not a whole lot of records. They were not especially well-off, and so land and property transactions were few and far between. They weren’t equipped to leave behind their own records either: at least four generations of Coles up to my second great-grandfather signed their names with an “X,” indicating complete illiteracy.
John Cole, my 6th great-grandfather, did at least leave a will. It’s worth noting that two versions of the will exist. One is the original, and the other is a later copy made by a court clerk. As in many cases, the copy is missing a couple of sentences. It’s always worthwhile to dig around for the original!
This John Cole appears to be the son of another John Cole. John Senior and Junior appear in Johnston County, NC records, notably selling a 640 acre tract together in 1770. This tract was supposedly an earlier grant to John Senior, however, I can find no record of this land grant. It may have just gone missing, but I suppose it’s possible that he simply claimed the land himself, not bothering with the paperwork!
John Cole Senior, with his scanty paper trail, will likely remain a brick wall on this line. As to his origins, the surname Cole is typically English, however, the family oral history is that the Coles were Scots-Irish. It could be that Cole was originally Coyle, Coley or MacCool from Ulster.
John Cole Junior’s Wake County, NC land, 951 acres granted in three tracts in 1779, is easily identifiable as being along the branches of Marks Creek in the present-day eastern suburbs of Raleigh. Though John owned a lot of land, he was not a “planter” and there is no record of him holding slaves. He was more likely a livestock farmer and logger. Once the land’s forests were exhausted, three of his four sons, including Loyd Cole, my ancestor, left NC for west Tennessee and proceeded to rapidly populate Benton and Carroll counties with Coles.
In the name of God amen. I John Cole Senr of Wake County and State North Carolina being in sound & perfect Mind and Memory Blessed be God do this Sixth day of August in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight hundred & three make and publish this my last Will and Testament in manner following, Viz:
First I Will and bequeath to my Beloved Wife Elisabeth all my Goods and Chattles Stock & Property to her use & benefit Excepting one Horse I Will and Bequeath to my son Mark.
To my Sons I Will and bequeath to my sons namely Thomas John & Loyd & my a part of my Daughters namely Barbary, Milberry & Betsy [crossed out] to them Severally I will and bequeath one Shilling a piece with the other two daughters Rebecca & Gilly.
I Will and bequeath one shilling a piece to my Daughters Betsey, Mary & Fady one Cow a piece.
To my daughter Fanny I Will bequeath one Cow and one feather Bed.
To my son Mark Cole I Will & bequeath all my working Tools, and every thing that my beloved Wife Leaves at her death.
The Cows & feather Beds that is to my Children severally it is to be at the Discression of my wife whether she thinks at any time to let them have them but she has everything to her use and benefit her life time or during her Widowhood.
Ratifying and confirming the above in the name of God Amen
I make & Ordain by these presents my Executrix my wife Elisabeth.
I make & Ordain by these Presents in the willing of mind my beloved son Thos. Cole my Executor of this my last Will & Testament.
In Witness whereof I the said John Cole Senr have to this my last Will & Testament set my hand & fixed my seal the day and date above written.
John X Cole (his mark)
Signed sealed Published declared & delivered in the presence of
William X Nichols (his mark)
November term 1806
The within Will was in open Court duly proven by the oath of William Nichols a subscribing Witness thereto and ordered to be recorded.
S. Turner C.C.
Recorded 21 January 1807