Captain Nicholas Smith

It was a few years ago that I was researching in Richmond, Virginia – one of my favorite places – and I ran across what was, to me, a very curious entry found in the 1740’s King George County Orphan Accounts. While flipping through microfilm at a semi-leisurely pace and scanning for any mention of the children of William Longmire I abruptly caught a change in handwriting and doubled back a couple of frames. And there I was, looking at an entry written by Thomas Turner, whose handwriting I know well, which began the administration case for one Captain Nicholas Smith who left a daughter, Elizabeth, and a very sizable estate. Col Turner’s handwriting, leaving much to be desired for not only legibility but the curious habit of writing his “e” backwards, availed itself to me from the left hand side of the column but was then interrupted by some fine penmanship emanating from the right hand column. It was but another second or two and I mentally leapt for joy as I instantly recognized this new handwriting and I exclaimed to myself, William! By golly William, it’s you! The year 1734 was written in the first page edited by William. But then another thought crossed my mind. This can not be. What was William Longmire’s handwriting doing on a document from 1734? It was but only a couple years before this particular research foray when I startled a few relatives and correspondents and  proclaimed that William not only worked for Col Thomas Turner at his store but ALSO worked for the court. And the previously known earliest mention of William Longmire in King George County, Virginia was in a court case from 1737 documented by Roger Barnes in his book “Those Who Came Before … ” . So, how did William’s handwriting end up on this document and who was this Nicholas Smith and how did he figure in the life of William Longmire?

Nicholas Smith was a merchant, former Justice and Coroner for Richmond County, and one of the first Justices of King George County when it was formed in 1720. He was also a Burgess for King George County for periods up until his death in 1734. And, like William Longmire, was born in London. And I have a sneaky feeling that he may have had something to do with a previously unknown (to Longmire researchers) court entry which I discovered at the Library of Virginia last year detailing the King George County, Va Tithable list for 1730, to wit:

William Longmire and Henry Taylor                     for watching the prison                             200 lbs (tobacco)

Well now, isn’t that something? A convicted felon from London, who only 5 years before was about to be hung for his crime, now getting paid to watch a prison in Virginia? Reminds me of a line from Yakov Smirnoff  – “Only in America”.

But all kidding aside, there is good reason to suspect a possible relationship between Nicholas Smith and William Longmire prior to this most unlikely of court entries. And I believe one of the first clues lies in the fact that Thomas Turner began the Administration entry for Smith’s estate yet turned it over to William Longmire who in turn added various entries over the years. And like Col Thomas Turner, Captain Nicholas Smith was a merchant who just may have benefitted from the endeavors of a young and talented convict from London – one who could write and figure. One might think that it was Nicholas Smith himself, by virtue of his administrative position, who had a hand in directing William to watch the prison, perhaps already having met and/or comingled in the Northern Neck area of Virginia where William first set foot in the colonies.

Update: I have added above one of the Guardian Account pages for the daughter of Nicholas Smith which William so nicely entered and/or copied. It may be that he did not begin to write the entries in 1734 but copied that page later. However, it is evident that William was adding to these ledger pages by at least 1737, about the time he generally began his earliest found scribe work (to date) for the court and for William Fairfax. As for my assertion that William may have known and/or worked for Nicholas Smith in the late 1720’s and onward I would like to point out that Smith’s Mount was located near what is today called Leedstown. Interestingly, it appears that a Henry Taylor lived behind the Payne property known as Red House which was located near Leedstown as well.  I suspect this Henry to be the same fellow who watched the prison with William in 1730. And I am currently digging very deep into records to determine exactly where Port Rappahannock was located as this was the location given by the Customs Collector as to where William landed ashore in 1726. Was Port Rappahannock actually what later became Leedstown? To try to determine if so I will have to contend with the fact that Bray’s Wharehouse (and Bray’s Church) were also very nearby.  And the fact that after years of asking various historians and reference librarians nobody can clearly point to an exact location for Port Rappahannock. However, I do find it interesting that in the 1800’s the Leedstown area was a known drop off point for slaves and that newspaper advertisements referred to their sale at “Port Rappahannock”. 

There is so much more to write about Nicholas Smith, but where to begin? Perhaps with his earliest endeavors at Richmond County before his appointment as Justice for the newly formed county of King George? And why the dearth of genealogical info regarding him? Does he somehow relate to the family of Maj Lawrence Smith, so well known concerning his exploits with the Taliaferro family in owning the land that Port Royal eventually was laid out on? It is curious to me that Richard Taliaferro’s mother directed that a large chest of valuables be brought down from New England and handed to Nicholas Smith for safekeeping and later dispersal – the court records noting the presence of T. Turner at the recording of this in the court order book. I believe, from memory, that John Lomax was also present. Either way Nicholas Smith seems to have been a nexus of intrigue as concerns the early family history of this area of the Northern Neck. 

As is usually the case I end this post with the notion of following up with more info in due course. As for the image above please use the slide bar to view the right hand side of the ledger as there are some interesting entries, including one in which DeGraffenreidt is to be paid for Elizabeth’s dancing lessons. And another for cash expenses around town. The young lady seems to have gotten around.


Categories: People

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