Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: William, Mary, and Orange

Earlier this month I discovered a wonderful batch of pre-Civil War records for the counties in the western Virginia which would become West Virginia in 1863. FamilySearch’s collections of digital images have been growing at an amazing speed in recent years. Every now and then I will do fairly simple searches for birth, marriage, and/or death records in Fayette County, West Virginia, for the surname DEMPSEY. This surname is in two branches of my family tree. I am always looking for new information to possibly connect the two lines or to fill in some blanks in either line.

I was not disappointed when something new showed up in a search for births in Fayette County, (West) Virginia. The hit indicated a son born to my 3rd great-grand uncle Wilson M. DEMPSEY. A son I did not have in my database. When I opened up the details of the search results, I found the birth record was not for a son but for a slave.

“West Virginia Births and Christenings, 1853-1928,” database, FamilySearch ( : 12 December 2014), William Dempsey, 11 Feb 1857; citing Meadow Fork, Fayette, Virginia, reference ; FHL microfilm 34,485.

From experience, I know when FamilySearch shows a record is not available (see camera icon with the notation in the above image) this actually means there is no image attached to the indexed material. However, the film may be available online and browse-only. I checked their catalog for the FHL microfilm number given and found Vital statistics, 1853-1860 of West Virginia, microreproduction of original manuscripts at the Virginia State Library, Richmond, Virginia, for West Virginia counties.

I spend hours working with the browse-only records at FamilySearch. Being experienced made it easy for me to find the image to the record indexed above. This post deals with the content of the record, not how I found it. If you are interested, please ask, and I will explain how in a comment to this post.

Vital statistics, 1853-1860 of West Virginia; Film # 007499353; Calhoun – Hampshire counties; image 120 of 554. ( : accessed 10 June 2017)

The birth of William, a son of Mary, was recorded in the birth register of Fayette County. He was born at Meadow Fork on 11 February 1857. The column for the name of the father is titled: Father’s Name in full if Child be free and born in wedlock, or Name of Owner if Child born a Slave. Wilson M. Dempsey’s name is in this column as well as the column for the informant. In the column, Relationship of Informant, he is noted as Owner.

I took a bit of time to browse through the entire batch of registers for Fayette County and found another entry with Wilson M. Dempsey as the informant. This one did not turn up in my original search which made me wonder if the entire collection has been indexed. Different search criteria turned up this indexed record in the Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917.

“Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917,” database, FamilySearch ( : 5 December 2014), Orange Dempsy, Jun 1855; citing Loop, Fayette, VA, reference ; FHL microfilm 34,485.

This indexed record shows “Orange Dempsy” was a child of “Wilson Dempsy” and “Mary.” A closer look at the actual entry in the register shows Orange was a slave.

Vital statistics, 1853-1860 of West Virginia; Film # 007499353; Calhoun – Hampshire counties; image 112 of 554. ( : accessed 29 June 2017)

On this entry, the child Orange was born in June 1855 on the Loop in Fayette County. He was a slave owned by Wilson Dempsey. The mother’s name was Mary. The occupation of the father is blank and his residence is listed as Amherst. Another child born as a slave of another slaveholder on the same page has blanks for the occupation and residence of the father. It’s possible Amherst refers to the residence of the father of Orange, indicating the enslaved family was separated due to Wilson Dempsey’s recent move to Fayette County. Or, Wilson Dempsey had not yet moved his family and may have taken his slave(s) there to prepare for his move.

In 1840 Wilson Dempsey was recently married to Evalina Carolyn Rhodes, a daughter of Reuben Rhodes and Tabitha Rowsie of Amherst County, Virginia. In the 1840 census of the same county, Wilson was seen with his bride and two slaves, one male 10 thru 23 and one female under 10 years. In 1850 Wilson was listed as an overseer in the Eastern District of Amherst. His wife had died in the 1840s and he’d remarried. His second wife’s maiden name is not known. The 1850 slave schedule does not have a listing for him and it is unknown for whom he was working as an overseer.

Before finding the above records, we knew Wilson moved to Fayette County in western Virginia in the 1850s. The records place him in the county in 1855, either setting up his household or permanently settled.

In 1860 the slave schedule of Fayette County includes the following enslaved black persons for Wilson M. Dempsey:

  • one male age 35 (possibly the male seen in 1840?)
  • one female age 30 (possibly Mary)
  • one female age 22 (or, possibly Mary)
  • one female age 12
  • one female age 8
  • two females age 7
  • one male age 3 (possibly William)
  • one male age 1

I have known since I first began researching my 3rd great-grandfather Seaton Y. Dempsey that his brother Wilson had slaves as well as their father William Dempsey of Amherst. However, the only indication of their keeping enslaved persons had been the 1810 census for William (3 slaves), the 1840 census for Wilson (2 slaves), and the 1860 census for Wilson (9 slaves). The birth records found this month help to name at least three of the enslaved people: Orange, William, and their mother Mary.


True's statementFollowing my three part series on the slaves of my 5th great grandfather James Sims during Black History Month in February 2015 I made a commitment to write a post on a monthly basis until I’ve RELEASED all of the names of slaves owned by my ancestors or owned by persons I’ve researched who were relatives or neighbors of my ancestors. These posts are part of the Slave Name Roll Project which can be found on Schalene Jennings Dagutis’ blog Tangled Roots and Trees

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

52 Ancestors: #38 William DEMPSEY, son of Susannah of Amherst County, Virginia

52ancestors“The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”

This is entry #38 in Amy Johnson Crow’s Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

52 Ancestors: #38 William DEMPSEY abt. 1779-bef. 20 Jun 1836

On 29 June 1835 the Lynchburg Virginian published a notice concerning the death of the wife of William DEMPSEY.

The Lynchburg Virginian, June 29, 1835, p. 3, c. 2.: Photocopy of page from microfilm roll #6 of the Lynchburg Virginian from Aug 18, 1834 to July 28, 1836.

Norma Barnett Dempsey found the article referenced in Marriages and Deaths from Lynchburg, Virginia Newspapers, 1794-1836 [by Lucy H. M. Baber Louise A. Blunt, and Marion A. L. Collins, Genealogical Publishing Co. 1980, page 174]. She located it using the microfilm reader at the Roanoke Public Library in the late 1990s.

William DEMPSEY was supposed to be somewhere in the state of Ohio at the time that this notice was published. We do not know why he was in Ohio or if he ever returned to Amherst County, Virginia. More records may one day be found but for now it is my belief that William must have been away from home for quite some time and was presumed dead.

A year after the notice of Mrs. Martha DEMPSEY’s death, the estate of her husband William DEMPSEY was being administered by their son Wilson M. DEMPSEY. William apparently died intestate (without a will) and the court appointed his oldest son Wilson as administrator. He went bond with Peter RUCKER.

The state of Virginia has no estate packets or probate packets. If the administrator didn’t act correctly, the offended party could bring suit in chancery. The scanned chancery records for the county of Amherst are not available on the Library of Virginia site. But Norma did a wonderful job of finding the records documenting how the estate was handled.

20 June 1836 – Administrator bond
Rev. Bailey Fulton Davis, The Wills of Amherst County, Virginia 1796-1919 Vol. 1 A-D
page 28; Book D Wills
(Library # VR 929.3755 Am47w D29a)
129 Wm.Dempsey
9:228 AB Wilson Dempsey and Peter Rucker, June 20, 1836, for WD

Amherst Co Va Will Book 9 1834-1838 page 228

Know all men by these presents that we Wilson Dempsey and Peter Rucker
are held and firmly bound unto Edmund Penn, Ambrose Rucker, James Powell, Arthur B. Davies, John [illegible], William H. Garland and Henry I. Rose Gentleman Justices of the Court of Amherst County sitting and to their successors in Office in the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars current money of Virginia to which payment will and truly to be made we bind ourselves and each of us and each of our heirs, executors and administrators jointly and severally firmly by these present is sealed with our seals and dated this 20th day of June (1836) one thousand eight hundred and thirty six and in the 60th year of the Commonwealth.
The conditions of this obligation is that if the said Wilson Dempsey administrator of the goods, chauses and credits of William Dempsey deceased do make a true and perfect Inventory of all and singular the goods chauses and credits of the said deceased which have or/ shall come to the hands possession or knowledge of him the said Wilson Dempsey or into the hands or possession of any other person or persons for him and the same so made do exhibit into the County Court of Amherst when he shall be there unto required by the said Court and such goods chauses and credits do well and truly administor according to Law and further to 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 chauses and 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 being shall deliver and pay unto such persons respectively as 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 probate thereof and the said Wilson Dempsey do, in such case being required to render and deliver up his letters of administration then this obligation to be void else to remain in full force                         W. M. Dempsey (seal)
acknowledged in open court                        Peter Rucker (seal)

At a  Court held for Amherst County on the 20th of June 1836.
This bond was acknowledged in open court by the parties therein and ordered to be
recorded.                               Teste
Robert Lindsey

Note: The photocopy was cut off on the left side. While transcribing the deed the missing words were added by comparing with other deeds of the same period.

15 May 1837 – Inventory
Rev. Bailey Fulton Davis, The Wills of Amherst County, Virginia 1796-1919 Vol. 1 A-D
page 28 – Book D Wills
(Library # VR 929.3755 Am47w D29a)
129 Wm.Dempsey
9:315 Inv. $88.32, May 15, 1837. Lee Millner, Wm. B Shepherd, Wm. B.Toler.

DSCN2263In obedience to an order of the County Court of AMherst we have proceeded to appraise the personal Estate of William Dempsey decd as shown to us by WIlson Dempsey, admr.
2 Beds, Bedstead and furniture 10.001
1 Bed, Bedstead and furniture 5.00
1 Chest 0.25
1 Trunk 0.25
1 Flax Wheel 0.25
1 Cotton Wheel 1.25
1 Desk & Book Case 5.00
1 Chest 1.50
Plates, Knives and forks 0.25
Lot Earthenware 0.75
Shot Gun 4.00
Loom 0.25
Safe 0.13
Skillet & lid 0.12
Lot Castings 4.00
Cags 0.37
Lot Pewter 2.00
Wire Sifter 0.25
Lot Chairs 1.00
Hand Saw & Draw Knife 1.00
7 old Hoes 1.00
1 Auger and 2 Chissels 0.50
1 Lot old Irons 0.50
2 old Plows 0.50
1 old culling Knife & Steel 0.25
2 New Trace Chains 0.50
1 Black Cow & Calf 15.00
1 Red Cow & Calf 15.00
1 Pot Rack 0.50
1 Copper Still 15.00
2 Pad Locks 0.25
1 Axe 0.25
2 flat Irons and trivet 1.00
1 Coulder 0.20
1 Iron Wedge 0.25
Total $88.32

8 Aug 1839 – Dempsey to Hicks deed
Deed Book X (Amherst County, Virginia); page 239:
lists 5 names on Dempsey to Hicks land deed. August 8 1839. Wilson M., Seton Y., W. G., Louisa, and Eliza Dempsey.
Note: The deed reads “two and three fourths acres.” Did they only sell 2 3/4 acres to Nelson Hicks?

July 19, 1841
Rev. Bailey Fulton Davis, The Wills of Amherst County, Virginia 1796-1919 Vol. 1 A-D
page 28 – Book D Wills
(Library # VR 929.3755 Am47w D29a)
129 Wm.Dempsey
10:368 AA from 1828; accts of Wilson M. and Westley G. Dempsey — for the family in 1835. July 19, 1841: W. L. Saunders and Pitt Woodroof.

DSCN2262July 18, 1842
Rev. Bailey Fulton Davis, The Wills of Amherst County, Virginia 1796-1919 Vol. 1 A-D
page 28- Book D Wills
(Library # VR 929.3755 Am47w D29a)
129 Wm.Dempsey
11:82 AA William M. Dempsey acct.–Wilson M. & others–business trip to King William; land rent by Wilson M. Dempsey, same for Westley G. and Seaton Y. Dempsey, Admr. is called Wm. M. at end in summary Ju1y 18, 1842.

DSCN2264croppedThe estate of William Dempsey In account with William M. Dempsey (sic, Wilson M. Dempsey)
This sum paid John B. Duncan 5.00
paid Lewis Harrison 0.75
paid sheriff Amherst 1838 0.67
paid ditto ditto 1839 2.42
paid ditto ditto 1841 1.12
paid Peter Rucker 1.35
paid William Coleman 4.57
Paid Peter Rucker 1.50
amount my expenses to & from King William County on business for Est. 7.87
paid Pitt Woodroof & Addison Taliaferro 4.00
Total $29.25

May 16, 1842 and August 1844
Rev. Bailey Fulton Davis, Amherst County Va. Deeds 1761-1765
page 18 Deed Book
(Libray # VR 929.3755 Am 47d D29a)
183. 16 May 1842 Seaton Y. Dempsey to Jno. J. Morgan $175 int. in est. of William Dempsey dec’d– 1/6th of 330a. Aug. 1844, to —.

May 27, 1844
Rev. Bailey Fulton Davis, Amherst County Va. Deeds 1761-1765
Vol. # 5
page 15 Deed Book Z
(Library # VR 929.3755 Am 47d D29a)
163. 27 May 1844 Seaton Y. Dempsey 1, Patrick Drummond 2, Wilson M. Dempsey 3, $1.00 Stock, tools, crops.

January 20, 1845
Deed Bk. AA (Amherst County, Virginia)
Page 368:
Jan. 20 1845,  …210 acres by bid to Wilson M. Dempsey from William Dempsey dec’d. (Note: 210 acres would be 4 times 55 acres; Wilson is buying Wesley, Isham, Louisa and Eliza’s share; Seaton’s share went to Jno. J. Morgan)

August 31, 1848
Amherst County Circuit Court Chancery Files
No. 2 1841-1849
page 448
Sixth Day August 31, 1848 Thursday Amherst County
Wilson M Dempsey_____________________________________Plaintiff
Isham C Dempsey, Seaton Y Dempsey, Wesley G Dempsey, Patrick Rowsy and Eliza his wife, Simeon A Burch and Louisa his wife, Zacharias Drummond and John J Morgan, James Powell Sheriff of the County of Amherst Young & Meem ___________Finley and ___________and Morgan ___________Defendants
This cause came on this day to be heard upon the papers formerly read and the report of the commissioner Zach Drummond made in the pursuance of the decretal order of the 7th day of November 1844 and was argued by consul. Upon consideration whereof the court doth ratify and confirm the said report except so much thereof as relates to the portion of Seaton Y Dempsey. The courts being of opinion that the lien of Young & Meem to said Seaton’s portion of the fund is superior to that set up by the said Drummond doth adjudge order and decree that the said Zacharias Drummond do pay to Young & Meem the sum of ninety six dollars and seventeen cents with interest thereon to be computed at the rate of six per cent per annum from the 20th day of January 1846 till paid.
And the court doth further order that the said Zacharias Drummond who is hereby appointed a commissioner for the purpose do convey by deed with special warranty the lands in the bill and proceedings mentioned to the respective purchasers thereof at their several costs.
And the purposes of this suit having been attained the court doth order that the same be discontinued.

William’s wife Martha “Patsy” LANDRUM died on 27 September 1834 in Amherst County, Virginia. As seen above William never returned to Amherst and by 1848 all matters having to do with his estate had been settled. Why did Wilson M. DEMPSEY have to travel to King William County on business of the estate? When did William DEMPSEY actually disappear or when did the family last hear from him?

In 1830, his wife Martha Dempsey is listed in Amherst County census with her two young daughters. William DEMPSEY was last seen on the 1820 census in Amherst County, Virginia. He was listed as “Will Dempey.” There is no mark in the age category that he would have fit in. Was he away from home on some kind of business? “Will” was not his nickname, this was a quirk of the enumerator who wrote “Will” for every man with the name William.

Let’s jump back to the time when William was in Amherst County. Norma searched everywhere even through a box of loose papers that was accessable to the public at the Amherst County Courthouse. In this box she found a permission slip dated 21 August 1799 signed by Susannah DEMPSEY saying that she had no objections to her son William DEMPSEY marrying to any person that he choose (illegible due to it’s being crossed through but this is a close guess). I believe that when his mother signed the slip she did not know that Patsey LANDRUM would the bride. The bride’s name was apparently added later, perhaps by another person. 

MRIN09274 1799 William Dempsey + Patsey Landrum Marriage Consent 1MARRIAGE CONSENT
This is Certify that I have no objections against
my son William Dempseys marrying to [text marked out] Patsy Landrum
provided she is willing
given under my hand this the 21. day of August 1799
Test   George Wright
Allen Cameron                     Susannah Dempsey

On the same day William DEMPSEY and Allen CAMERON, who had witnesses the permission slip, went bond on the marriage “intended shortly to be had and solemnized between Patsey Landrum (Spinster) and the above bound William Dempsey.”

MRIN09274 1799 William Dempsey + Patsey Landrum Marriage BondMARRIAGE BOND
Know all men by these presents that we William Dempsey & Allen Cameron
are held and firmly bound unto James Wood Esquire the Governor of
Virginia for the time being and to his successors in office for the
use of the Commonwealth in the sum of one hundred and
fifty Dollars current money to which payment well and truly
to be made we bind ourselves and each of us our and each of
our heirs executors and administrators jointly and severally
firmly by these presents sealed with our seals and dated
this 21st day of August 1799
The condition of the above obligation is such that
whereas there is a marriage intended shortly
to be had and solemnized between Patsey
Landrum (Spinster) and the above bound
William Dempsey
Now if there should be no legal cause to
obstruct the said marriage then the above
obligation to be void or else to remain in full
force and virtue
Signed & ackd                        Wm Dempsey (his mark & seal)
in presence of                          Allen Cameron (his mark & seal)
S Garland

Both of these documents help to show that Susannah DEMPSEY was the mother of William DEMPSEY who married Martha “Patsy” LANDRUM on 21 August 1799 in Amherst County, Virginia. Without these documents I would have believed the information given in the following:

William Montgomery Sweeny, “Marriage Bonds and Other Marriage Records of Amherst County, Virginia, 1763-1800”, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1937.

Here we see that Susannah DEMPSEY is listed as “her mother”, therefore the mother of the bride. What complications this would have caused in further research! The mention of the marriage certificate being by the Rev. James BOYD is new information not found on the permission slip or bond.

Two other DEMPSEY marriages were found in Amherst County during this time period.

Notice that Allen CAMERON who married Jane DEMPSEY in 1795 was a witness on the 1799 permission slip and went bond with William DEMPSEY when he married. Could it be that Jane and William, and maybe even Tandy, were siblings?

In 1800 William and Tandy, both seen with the surname spelled DEMSEY, were on the Amherst Tax List with 1 tithable each (white male over 21 years old) and 0 horses. [Source: The Virginia Genealogist (magazine) Vol. 5-6 1961-62 page 82]

Following William’s marriage to Patsey they had six known children as seen in the records found for his estate:

  • Wilson M. DEMPSEY (ca. 1802-aft. 1883)
  • Seaton Y. DEMPSEY (ca. 1803-aft. 1880)
  • Isham C DEMPSEY (ca. 1806-aft. 1854)
  • Wesley G. DEMPSEY (ca. 1808-1890)
  • Louisa J. DEMPSEY (ca. 1812-1888)
  • Eliza DEMPSEY (ca. 1815-aft. 1860)

By 1810 William and Patsey’s four older boys seen above are enumerated for the first time in the census taken in Amherst County. The image found on is not as legible as the one found on the Internet Archive. The transcription of the census on shows that there were also 3 slaves in the household (see arrow on second image). There may have been a fifth son who pre-deceased his parents. Also in the household was a young woman aged between 10-16. Was she a child of William’s wife from a previous relationship, a girl hired to help in the household, a relative?

1810 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Amherst (

1810censusdempsey1810 U.S. Federal Census
Amherst County, Virginia
William Dempsey
5 males under 10 yo (Wilson M., Seaton Y., Isham Coleman, Wesley G. & unknown)
1 male 26 & under 45 yo (William b. 1765-1779)
1 female 10 & under 16 yo (unknown b. 1795-1800)
1 female 26 & under 45 yo (Martha b. 1765-1778)
Numbers of Slaves: 3
Number of Household Members Under 16: 6
Number of Household Members Over 25: 2
Number of Household Members: 11

During the 1810s William DEMPSEY bought land in Amherst County and witnessed neighbor’s deeds. The 330 acres of land that he owned at the time of his death was located in Buffalo Springs, Amherst County, now known as Forks of Buffalo and located twelve miles west of the present town of Amherst on U.S. Route 60. Many land deeds from 1813-1830 show that William shared lines with several neighbors notably Higginbotham, Sandidge, Rucker, Coleman, Gillespie, Rowsey, and Toler.

15 June 1810
Land Purchase
WILLIAM WILLMORE and wife, SUSANNA, Amherst County, to WILLIAM DEMPSEY, Amherst County.  7000 pounds inspected tobacco – 120 acres. Lines:  JOSEPH HIGGINBOTHAM, BENJAMIN SANDIDGE, RACHEL ATKINSON. Witnesses:  NELSON CARTER.  To WILLIAM DEMPSEY, 20 October 1815.
[Source: Amherst County Virginia Courthouse Miniatures, The Deeds of Amherst County – Deeds Books 1-5, by Bailey Fulton Davis, A.B. Th. M., Pastor of Baptist Church, Amherst Courthouse, Virginia; page 135, #367]

1 June 1811
Land Purchase
JONATHAN C. DEVASHER and wife, ELIZABETH, Amherst County. $400  no acres.  Lines:  mouth of a branch running into Long Branch. To WILLIAM DEMPSEY, 20 October 1815.
[Source: Amherst County Virginia Courthouse Miniatures, The Deeds of Amherst County – Deeds Books 1-5, by Bailey Fulton Davis, A.B. Th. M., Pastor of Baptist Church, Amherst Courthouse, Virginia; page 43, #487]

27 January 1817
Witnesses deed
JAMES  SMITH. to heirs  of my brother WIATT SMITH…for $1.00 and love; two slaves named. Witnesses: WILLIAM DEMPSEY, WILLIAM COLEMAN, BENJAMIN HIGGINBOTHAM, ROWLAND GILLESPIE.
[Source: Amherst County Virginia Courthouse Miniatures, The Deeds of Amherst County – Deeds Books 1-5, by Bailey Fulton Davis, A.B. Th. M., Pastor of Baptist Church, Amherst Courthouse, Virginia; page 117, #225]

20 October 1817
Witnesses deed
JOSEPH HIGGINBOTHAM, Amherst County, to BENJAMIN SANDIDGE, Amherst County.. .no amount; 14 1/2 acres south side Buffaloe. Lines:  the road.  Witnesses:  CHARLES L. BARRET, WILLIAM COLENA, WILLIAM DEMPSEY, DAVID CLARKSON, WILLIAM COLEMAN.
[Source: Amherst County Virginia Courthouse Miniatures, The Deeds of Amherst County – Deeds Books 1-5, by Bailey Fulton Davis, A.B. Th. M., Pastor of Baptist Church, Amherst Courthouse, Virginia; page 140, #518]

In 1820 we see William as the head of household in the census however he is not included in the count. Also in the household are his wife, the six known children as well as an unknown male under 10 and an unknown female 10-16.

1820 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Amherst (

1820 U.S. Federal Census
Amherst County, Virginia
Will Dempey
2 males under 10 yo (Wesley G. and unknown)
3 males 10 & under 16 yo (Wilson M., Seaton Y., Isham Coleman)
3 females 10 & under 16 yo (Louisa, Eliza and unknown)
1 female 26 & under 45 yo (Martha)
2 persons engaged in agriculture

William’s sons began to marry in the late 1820s:

By 1830, as was mentioned previously, William DEMPSEY was no longer seen in the census. His wife Martha, no longer using her nickname Patsey, had their two youngest daughters in her household. Their married sons Isham and Seaton had their own households. Young Wesley may have been with his brother Seaton. Wilson who didn’t marry until 1839 hasn’t been located.

While William’s estate was being taken care of his oldest son and young daughters, first seen with their maiden names, married:

After William DEMPSEY’s estate was finally settled his youngest son Wesley G. DEMPSEY married Mary HUGHES (1823-1889) on 6 May 1856 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.

ღ ღ ღ ღ ღ

The story of my 4th great-grandfather William DEMPSEY of Amherst County, Virginia, is dedicated to Norma Barnett Dempsey and her husband Richard, my 4th cousin. I found Norma when I began researching my paternal family history on the internet in 2000. She sent me large envelopes full of copies of everything she had found on the DEMPSEY families in old Virginia. I’m amazed her determination in researching the DEMPSEY family as her husband does not carry the Y-DNA of the line. His mother Cindy, grandmother Nannie, and great-grandmother Polina did not marry but had children to whom they gave their maiden name – DEMPSEY. Strong single women who raised their families in an era when rights and priviliges of women were limited.

© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52 Ancestors: #20 Seaton Y. DEMPSEY abt. 1803-bet. 1880-1890

52ancestors“The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”

This is entry #20 in Amy Johnson Crow’s Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

52 Ancestors: #20 Seaton Y. DEMPSEY abt. 1803-bet. 1880-1890

It is my belief that my third great-grandfather Seaton Y. DEMPSEY’s middle name was Younger after his [grand-uncle] Captain Younger LANDRUM, who served during the American Revolutionary War. This is supported by the fact that a great-grandson Edgar Younger DEMPSEY also had this unusual middle name. But, until I find proof, he is Seaton Y. DEMPSEY.

Martha “Patsy” LANDRUM (1778-1834) and William DEMPSEY (1779-bef. 1836) were married in 1799 in Amherst County, Virginia. Seaton was their second child born abt. 1803 in the same county. He had the following siblings:

Sib 1: Wilson M. DEMPSEY (1802-1883) born abt. 1802; married(1) Evalina Carolyn RHODES ( -1848) on 30 December 1839 in Amherst County, Virginia; married(2) Paulina [–?–] Dempsey (1815-1881) abt. 1848
Sib 3: Isham Coleman DEMPSEY (1806-1854) born abt. 1806; married Sarah Elvira THOMAS (1809-1879) on 5 March 1827 in Rockbridge County, Virginia
Sib 4: Wesley G. DEMPSEY (1808-1890) born abt. 1808; married Mary HUGHES (1823-1889) on 6 May 1856 in Rockbridge County, Virginia
Sib 5: Louisa J. DEMPSEY (1812-1888) born abt. 1812; married Simeon A. BURCH (1790-1870) on 8 October 1840 in Amherst County, Virginia, at the residence of S. Y. DEMPSEY
Sib 6: Eliza DEMPSEY (1815-aft. 1860) born bet. 1815-1820; married Patrick H. ROWSEY (1814-1858) on 4 February 1843 in Amherst County, Virginia

Seaton and his family were neighbors of Benjamin SANDIDGE who first exploited Buffalo Springs, the sulphur springs situated in the foothills of northern Amherst County, near Allwood. “In an 1820 tavern bond, Sandidge pledged to provide a wholesome diet, clean lodging and stabling, no unlawful gaming, and no more drinking than was necessary on Sunday.” [Source: Sherrie McLeRoy and William McLeRoy, More Passages: A New History of Amherst County, Virginia, Heritage Books, 1995, page 77]

Seaton Y. DEMPSEY and Landon S. GOWING, father of Clementine, went bond on 3 January 1829 for the marriage of Seaton and Clementine.

1829 Marriage Bond (photocopy courtesy of Geraldine Dempsey Workman)

In the Register of Marriages for Amherst County, Virginia, we see that Landon S. GOWING was security witness and Phillip SMITH Sr. and Robert TINSLEY were witnesses for the marriage of Seaton Y. DEMPSEY and Clementine GOWING on 3 January 1829.

Register of Marriages, Amherst County, Virginia (LDS Film 30273, pg. 301)

Following his marriage, Seaton was seen with his young wife Clementine and a male age 10 and under 15 years in the 1830 census. This young man was most likely his brother Wesley. Their mother, not their father, was enumerated with her two daughters. The 1810 through 1830 census listings and their complications will be discussed when I do Seaton’s parents’ stories.

1830 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Amherst> Sheet 519 (left) [ : accessed 19 Feb 2013]
1830 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Amherst> Sheet 519 (right) [ : accessed 19 Feb 2013]
Three children were born between 1830 and 1840: George W. abt. 1831, Geneva Elizabeth abt. 1836, and William S. abt 1839. These children are reflected in the 1840 census. Also in Seaton’s household was a young lady 20 and under 30 years old, most likely his sister Louisa who married later in the year at his residence.

1840 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Amherst > Sheet 214 (left) [ : accessed 19 Feb 2013]
1840 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Amherst > Sheet 214 (right)[ : accessed 19 Feb 2013]
Seaton’s mother died on 27 September 1834. Her death notice was published in the Lynchburg Virginian along with a request for papers in the state of Ohio to publish the same for the information of Mr. William DEMPSEY who was supposed to be somewhere in that state. Apparently, her husband did not see the notice and in June 1836, a year after publication, their son Wilson M. DEMPSEY was made administrator of the estate of William DEMPSEY. It took a dozen years to settle the estate. Deeds found by Norma Barnett Dempsey prove that Wilson M., Seaton Y., Isham Coleman, Wesley G., Louisa J. and Eliza were the children of William DEMPSEY and Martha LANDRUM.

In 1842 Seaton sold his interest in the estate of William DEMPSEY dec’d, 1/6th of 330 acres, to John J. Morgan. His brother Wilson bought the rest of his siblings’ share, 220 acres, in 1845. Wilson had quite a head for business, or profited from his first marriage, while Seaton did not appear to do as well. However, in 1850 we see Seaton, a farmer, with real estate valued at $500 while Wilson had no real estate and was an overseer. It is not known how Wilson disposed of the 275 acres that he had from his father’s estate.

In the 1840s four more children were born to Seaton and Clementine: Thomas G. abt. 1840, John J. abt. 1843, Mary M. abt. 1845, and Martha Ann abt. 1847.

1850 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Amherst > Sheet 76 > HH#40 [ : accessed 19 Feb 2013]
Before his last child was born Seaton saw his oldest son George W. marrying Rhoda A. STATON on 20 December 1852 in Amherst County, Virginia. The following year Julia Victoria, the baby of the family, was born. Seaton’s second oldest son William S. married Mary Elenor CLEMENTS on 26 April 1857 in Amherst County, Virginia. Seaton’s first grandchild Clementine was born abt. 1857 to his unmarried daughter Geneva Elizabeth.

Sometime following the above events Seaton and his brother Wilson moved their families from Amherst to Fayette County in western Virginia. This was the late 1850s and tension over slavery had begun to disrupt Virginia. Was this the reason that they moved farther west or was it because land was cheap? They established their homes in the Laurel Creek area. Later the place would be known as Dempsey, a quiet little community situated in a valley just five miles west of Fayetteville, called Laurel Creek by some of the residents from the stream of water which flows through it.

In 1860 Seaton had only $100 of personal estate while his brother Wilson is seen with real estate valued at $1000 and personal estate valued at $8000. Wilson may have used his personal funds to set up the country store operated by his only son John Edward “Ed”. The store, one of two in the area, was the location of the first post office established in 1865 giving the community its name – Dempsey.

1860 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Fayette > Fayetteville > HH#687&688 [ : accessed 19 Feb 2013]
The 1860 census listing is a bit confusing. Seaton is seen with his wife Clementine and in the next household, his oldest son George is with his wife Rhoda, their son Seaton A. and his siblings Thomas G., John J., Mary M., Martha A. and “Juda” V. I believe that George was living on his father’s farm.

Two of Seaton’s sons died during the Civil War or immediately following the war: William S.  bet. 1864-1869 and Thomas G. bet. 1865-1870. Also following the war Seaton’s daughters began to marry:

  • Martha Ann “Matties” married George L. “Little George” JOHNSON (1846-1874) on 20 September 1866 in Fayette County, West Virginia
  • Geneva Elizabeth “Jennie” “Janie” married Marshall S. TERRY (1843-1920) bet. 1866-1869 in Virginia
  • Mary M. DEMPSEY married Irvin Lewis INGRAM (1846-1910) on 23 May 1867 in Fayette County, West Virginia

This left only Julia Victoria, age 16, at home with her parents in 1870. Seaton had acquired real estate valued at $500 and had $130 in personal property. Also in his household was a man named Joseph Hardy, a farmer with real estate valued at $1500 and personal property valued at $180. Could the enumerator have forgotten to fill in the household number which would have made this man the head of his own household?

1870 U.S. Federal Census > WV > Fayette > Fayetteville > Page 39 > HH #257-256 [ : accessed 19 Feb 2013]
Seaton’s youngest daughter Julia Victoria married Joseph Henry PRESSON (1850-1934) on 3 June 1872 in Fayette County, West Virginia.

Seaton, his wife Clementine, their daughter Mary and her husband Irvin INGRAM were on the church rolls of Loop Creek Baptist Church in 1875. The church was located in the Wriston community area on the south bank of Loop Creek at the mouth of Carter’s Branch.  M. Bibb, W. P. Walker, Eli Wood and Washington McGraw were the brethren of the fourth oldest Baptist church in Fayette County when it was formed. The Loop Creek Baptist Church of Christ was constituted in August 1865 by a presbytery appointed by the Hopewell Baptist Church. The church was organized with a membership of 19. Religious services were held in the homes of the faithful until a church could be built.

1880 U.S. Federal Census > WV > Fayette > ED 27 Sheet HH # [ : accessed 19 Feb 2013]
In 1880 Seaton and his wife Clementine were alone, all living children being married and on their own. Victoria, as she was usually known, was living next door to her parents. She was with her husband Joseph Henry PRESSON and their children. Martha Ann “Matties” was widowed and remarried on 18 July 1880 to Joseph Henry ARBAUGH (1853-1927) in Ansted, Fayette County, West Virginia.

No death record has been found for Seaton Y. DEMPSEY. I believe that due to the fact that he was not mentioned in the chancery records concerning the estate of his brother Wesley G. DEMPSEY he may have died before  1890. There is a possibility that Seaton and/or Clementine were living at the time of the 1900 census but were not enumerated as was the case of their daughters Mary (Irvin INGRAM) and Victoria (Joseph PRESSON).

I am very grateful to Norma Barnett Dempsey who shared all of her DEMPSEY research with me after I first contacted her in April 2000. Not only did she research the DEMPSEYs in Amherst, she also looked into other DEMPSEY families in Virginia and West Virginia in hopes of finding a connection. Norma’s husband descends from Seaton Y. DEMPSEY through his oldest son George W. DEMPSEY and then through three generations of strong DEMPSEY women who passed on the DEMPSEY name to their children.

© 2014, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.