The 1806 Administrator Bond for the Estate of William Johnson Sr. (1755-1805)

Over the years I’ve received several inquiries for help from women wanting to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. Many want to prove lineal, bloodline descent from my fifth great-grandfather William JOHNSON Sr. (1755-1805), a Revolutionary soldier, who died in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia.

I have few records for William JOHNSON Sr. which were created during his lifetime or immediately following his death. While checking into new records available online at FamilySearch, I found a record which has not been alluded to in compilations or family trees I’ve viewed.

Did William JOHNSON Sr. (1755-1805) leave a will?

I recently found the Administrator’s Bond for the estate of the late William JOHNSTON (sic).1 His son John applied for the bond which is dated 9 April 1806 a little over three months after 22 December 1805, the date of death many researchers show for William in their family tree.

1806 Administrator Bond for the Estate of William JOHNSON

The Administrator’s Bond for the estate of William JOHNSTON, p. 122

Know all men by these Presents that we John Johnston Henry Morris & Charles Woodey King are held and firmly bound unto David Ruffner William Morris Henry Brown & Fleming Cotts Gentlemen Justices now setting for the County Kanawha. In the penal sum of one Thousand dollars to be paid to them or their Successors and for the payment we bind ourselves our heirs Executors or Administrators Jointly & severaly by these presents sealed with our seals and dated this 9th day of April 1806.
The Condition of the above Obligation is such that whereas the Said John Johnston hath Obtained letters of Administration of the Estate of William Johnston Dec out of the County cour (sic) of Kanawha. Now if the said John Johnston Administrator of the goods chattels & credits of the said Deceased do make a True and perfect Inventory of all & singular the Goods Chattels & credits of the Said Deceased which have or shall come into the hands, Possession or Knowledge of him the said John Johnston as in the hands or Possession of any other person or persons for the said John Johnston and the same so made do exhibit unto the County Court of Kanawha when he shall be Thereunto required

The Administrator’s Bond for the estate of William JOHNSTON, p. 123

by the said court and such goods chattels & credits do well and Truly Adminestor according to Law, and further do make a Just and True Account of his actings and doings therein when thereto required by the said Court and all the rest of the said Goods and Chattels & credits which shall be found remaining upon the account of the said Administrator the same being first Examined and allowed by the Justices of the said court for the Time shall Deliver and pay unto such persons respectively az are entitled to the same by Law; and if it shall hereafter appear that any last Will and Testament was made by the Deceased and the same be Proved in Court and the Executor Obtain a Certificate of the Probit thereof and the Said John Johnston do in such case being required render and deliver up his letters of administration then this obligation to be void else to remain in Force and Virtue.
Acknowledged in Open Court……………………..John Johnston Seal
Teste…………………………………………………………….Henry S. Morris (his mark) Seal
A Donnally Ckl…………………………………………….Chs. W. King Seal

The bond was acknowledged in Open Court however no date was given. The entries before and after the bond were entered during Kanawha County April Court 1806. The bond itself was dated 9 April 1806.

William JOHNSON did not leave a will

The wording of the bond indicates William JOHNSON did not leave a will. This is unfortunate as a will might have included the names of his children. A document desperately sought after by descendants who are trying to prove descent from this Revolutionary War veteran.

John JOHNSON’s obtaining letters of administration of the estate of “William JOHNSTON” is suggestive of a relationship but not proof John was his son.

The consensus is William JOHNSON Sr. died on 22 December 1805. An early source with this date is Ross B. Johnston’s articles on West Virginians in the Revolution2 written between 1939-1947. Per the front matter in the republished work, “the sources of this material are notes from the files of the Pension Office at Washington, from the pension applications in West Virginia counties, and from the minute books of the older West Virginia counties, copied by W. P. A. workers on the project sponsored by the West Virginia Commission on Historic and Scenic Markers; from notes of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, Sons of the Revolution, and other patriotic societies; and from a large miscellaneous group of published and private sources.

I placed a query to the Fayette County West Virginia Genealogy group on Facebook asking for help with a reliable source for the date of death. Lucy Light Slaich who applied and was accepted to the DAR in 2010 through William JOHNSON did not need to prove his date of death. She indicated Mr. Johnston’s article on William JOHNSON in the 1998 reprint, was originally published in the April 1943 issue of the West Virginia History journal. The compilation which was used by prior applicants is no longer accepted by DAR.

Not satisfied, I continued to sift through information which has been collected over the years and found a 1911 publication which gives the dates of death for William JOHNSON and his wife Amy NELSON.3 Laidley in his compilation of representative citizens of the city of Charleston and Kanawha County wrote an article on Julian M. JOHNSON (1847-1932), a great-grandson of William JOHNSON through his son William JOHNSON Jr. This is the earliest source, although not primary, I have for the dates of death of William and Amy.

Did the estate generate other records?

While the administrator bond was found in the “Record of deeds, 1790-1946” collection, I turned to the “Court record book, 1803-1880” collection in search of entries about William JOHNSON’s estate in Kanawha County.

As William supposedly died on 22 December 1805, I checked entries in 1805 and 1806. The court was held on the 12th and 13th of November 1805; 11th day of February 1806; 11th day of March 1806; 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th day of April 1806; 13th of May; and 10th day of June. Little business was taken care of during the winter months. By April business had picked up and the court was held four days instead of the usual one or two days. It was in April when John JOHNSON made a motion to obtain an administrator bond for the estate of his father.4

Motion granted for administration

County Court record book entry for 9 April 1806
County Court record book entry for 9 April 1806

On the motion of John Johnston who made oath and together with Henry Morris, Charles W. King his securities entered into & acknowledged their bond in the penalty of $1000 conditioned as the law directs certificate of administration of the estate of William Johnston dec’d granted him in due form.

Appraisal of personal property ordered

Immediately after the bond of administration motion was granted another entry was made referencing the estate of William JOHNSON. (see image above)

Ordered that Edward Rion, Edward Hughs, James Sims & John Campbell (or any three of them) being first sworn before a Justice of the Peace for said do appraize the Personal property of the said William Johnston decd and return appraisement to the next court.

From entries during the year in the court orders as well as in the land books (which include personal property tax lists of the period), I was able to determine Edward RION should be Edward RYAN.

Interesting was the mention of James SIMS as one of the four men who were ordered to appraise the personal property of the deceased William JOHNSON. James and William were neighbors. Three of the JOHNSON children married three of the SIMS children:  Susannah JOHNSON  and Martin SIMS in 1800, John JOHNSON and Elizabeth SIMS in 1802, and William JOHNSON Jr. and Nancy Ann SIMS in 1814. I was not expecting to find a record for James SIMS who like William JOHNSON was my 5th great-grandfather.

Further searches in the collections available for viewing online on FamilySearch did not turn up the appraisement of the estate.

Finding the bond documents William JOHNSON died before 9 April 1806 and likely during the winter of 1805. Is it possible there is a family Bible in the home of one of his descendants which would prove the dates given in Laidley’s 1911 article?

I have a few more records for William JOHNSON and Amy NELSON which I’ll be sharing. Recent discoveries which I have not had time to evaluate. It would be nice if other descendants would join in on the fun and share records they’ve uncovered. Together we can do a better job researching these ancestors.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. Kanawha County (West Virginia) County Clerk, “Record of deeds, 1790-1946” (non-indexed images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of original records at the Kanawha County courthouse, Charleston, West Virginia.), Film # 008152450, Deed books v. C-D 1805-1817, Deed Book C, page 122-123, image 69 of 582. 9 April 1806 Administrator’s Bond for John Johnson for the estate of William Johnson.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSKV-KSNR-L?i=68&cat=56556 : accessed 26 April 2018). 
  2. Ross B. Johnston, compiler, West Virginians in the American Revolution (Baltimore, MD: Clearfield Publishing Co, 1998 (originally published in the West Virginia Archives and History’s journal West Virginia History from October 1939 to October 1947 as West Virginians in the Revolution)), p. 151. (https://books.google.lu/books/about/West_Virginians_in_the_American_Revoluti.html?id=_mg1bCpc1KAC&redir_esc=y : accessed 8 September 2019) 
  3.  William Sydney Laidley (1839-1917), History of Charleston and Kanawha County, West Virginia and Representative Citizens (Richmond-Arnold Publishing, Chicago, Illinois, 1911), page 979. “William Johnson, Sr. died on Gauley December 22, 1805. His wife lived until December 23, 1837.” Article on Julian M. Johnson, great-grandson of William Johnson and his wife Amy. (https://archive.org/details/historyofcharles00laid/page/978 : accessed 8 Oct 2015). 
  4. Kanawha County (West Virginia) County Clerk, “Court record book, 1803-1880” (non-indexed images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of original records at the Kanawha County courthouse, Charleston, West Virginia.), Film #521643, DGS #8613717, Record book v. 3 1803-1819, image 178+179 of 857. Administrator Bond and Order to Appraise estate of William Johnson, dec’d. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C34Z-SSJ3-N?i=177&cat=295049 : accessed 8 October 2015). 

Rewriting the Biography: When Did James Sims Die?

Many of my West Virginia cousins and genealogy acquaintances know my 5th great-grandfather James SIMS (1754-1845) of Nicholas County is one of my favorite ancestors to research. I worked with a group of descendants sixteen years ago and wrote a lengthy biography which is attached to hundreds of trees on Ancestry. It is now time to review the information I used in writing the biography and attempt to find more of the missing pieces.

One question which has not been settled is the year of death of James SIMS. The exact location of his grave in the Simms Memorial Church Cemetery in Swiss is in doubt as the original stone marker was displaced and lost many years ago. Two memorial plaques are in the cemetery.

James Sims, Sgt VA Militia, Revolutionary War, 1754-1838
Revolutionary Soldier, James Sims, 1754-1845

The marker with the year 1838 was secured from the Veterans Administration in 1979 by George R. Penick, Jr. Mr. Penick who compiled information on the descendants of James Sims spoke with some older family members who assumed James SIMS died in 1838. Mr. Penick did his research over 40 years ago and did not have the resources we have today. He likely did not consult the 1840 census as James SIMS age 80 thru 89 was enumerated with his wife, his youngest son George Washington Sims, and a younger male – perhaps a grandson who was helping on the farm.

I have not been able to find out who placed the marker with the 1845 year of death which is more likely as James was living in 1840.

In 1848 a bill of complaint was filed by attorney John Reynolds in the Circuit Supreme Court of Law and Chancery for Nicholas County with George H. Lee, Judge, seeking to have the court provide for the sale of the 125-acre farm near Beech Glen left by James SIMS when he died. The transcript names heirs who would have been living at the time and has also been referred to as a partition suit. The date of death of the deceased was given in the bill as 1836 which cannot be correct due to his being alive at the time of the 1840 census.

Although FamilySearch now has many records online for Nicholas County, I have yet to locate the original partition suit. The transcript was found by Willard E. Simms of Cozaddale, Ohio, in the DAR file of Virginia Bondurant Johnson and shared in a letter to John T. Simms, of Charleston, West Virginia, in 1947. Without a copy of the original record, I cannot be sure that the information in the transcript is correct.

When did James SIMS die?

FamilySearch now has many “new” browse-only record collections available for Nicholas County, West Virginia.

In the Order books, 1844-1928 I found four documents which mention James SIMS in the volumes for the years 1844-1871.

At a Court continued and held for the County of Nicholas on Wednesday the 13th day of November 1844 present William D. Cottle, Bernard Hendrick, John Mc Hamilton.

A power of attorney from James Sims to John McClung was presented in court and ordered to be recorded.1

This now places the death of James SIMS at after this date, 13 November 1844. Eight months later another record was recorded in the Order Book.

August Term 1845

At a Court held for the County of Nicholas at the Court house by the Justices thereof on Tuesday the 12th day of August 1845. present Bernard Hendrick, William Sims, James G. Neil, David Hanna, Jeremiah Odell & William D. Cottle Gent. Justices.2

James Sims Senr. is released from the payment of County & parish Levies in future.3

As we see here on 12 August 1845 James SIMS was still living. Was he exempted from paying the levies due to his age or infirmity? James was born in 1754 per his own declaration made in 1834 and would turn 91 years old on 8 October 1845.

The last two records found add a new date to the equation.

At a Court held for the County of Nicholas at the Court house by the Justices thereof on Tuesday the 10th day of March 1846 present John M. Hamilton, William D. Cottle, William Sims & James G. Neil Gent Justices & John McClung Gent Justice.4

On the motion of William Sims who made oath & together with Joshua Stephenson and Dryden Sims his securities entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of Two hundred Dollars conditioned as the Law directs certificate is granted the said William Sims to obtain Letters of administration on the Estate of James Sims decd in due form.

On the motion of William Sims administrator of the Estate of James Sims Decd. George Hardway William Summers & John Morris are appointed appraisers of the personal Estate of the said decd. after being first duly sworn for that purpose and that they return the appraisment under their hands to the Court.5

Sometime between 12 August 1845 and 10 March 1846, James SIMS passed away. He did not leave a will and letters of administration and the appraisement of his estate were ordered.

His son William SIMS was one of the justices of the court. How long after his death would he have waited to start proceedings to have his father’s estate administered and appraised? Previously the court was held on 10 February 1846, 13 January 1846, and 12 November 1845? Could it be he died in 1846 and the year 1836 seen in the partition case was an error of ten years?

For now, I will list the death of James SIMS as between 12 August 1845 and 10 March 1846. Previously I had between 1840-1848 as these were the last census year he was found and the year the partition suit was filed. I am quite happy with the range I have been able to narrow down to.

The next question I have may not be as easily answered. If the estate of James SIMS was appraised6 then the appraisement would be found in the West Virginia Will Books collection at FamilySearch. Although I have not checked page by page, I found that at one point in the Nicholas County will book for the period there are records missing between July term in 1844 and 1865 with one will from the October term in 1857 serving as a placeholder between the 1844 and 1865 records. Are the records out of order? Where could the missing years be?

I asked this question in the Nicholas County WV Genealogy group on Facebook. One researcher has been to the Nicholas County courthouse several times to do research. She was told at least two wills books may be missing and was lead to believe they are unsure of what became of the books.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. Nicholas County (West Virginia), County Court, Order books, 1844-1928 (images), <i>FamilySearch</i>, (11 microfilm reels of original records at the Nicholas County courthouse, Sommersville, West Virginia), DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 3, image 37 of 840. 13 Nov 1844 Power of attorney from James Sims to John McClung,(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9V1-FJ1R?i=36&cat=99534 : accessed 6 February 2018). 
  2.  Ibid., DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 40, image 54 of 840. 12 August 1845 James Sims exempt from levies (page with date court was in session), (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9V1-FJB1?i=53&cat=99534 : 7 February 2018). 
  3. Ibid., DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 41, image 55 of 840. 1845 James Sims exempt from levies (left page, last entry), (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9V1-FJB6?i=54&cat=99534 : accessed 7 February 2018). 
  4. Ibid., Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 65, DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, image 67 of 840. 10 March 1846 date court was in session, (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9V1-FJY3?i=66&cat=99534 : accessed 7 February 2018). 
  5. Ibid., DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 69, image 69 of 840. Letters of administration and appraisement order for estate of James Sims decd, (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9V1-FJY6?i=68&cat=99534 : accessed 7 February 2018). 
  6. William Sims adm. of the Estate of James Sims decd. presented in Court an appraisment & Sale Bill of the Estate of the said Decd. which being seen and inspected by the Court is ordered to be Recorded.
    Ibid., DGS 7617649, Film 1639161, Vols. D,E,D 1844-1871, p 92, image 81 of 840. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9V1-FJY4?i=80&cat=99534 : accessed 7 February 2018)