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. The date was 1734 and 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! And 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 large 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 Lancaster County where William first set foot in the colonies.