Dabney Family of Early Virginia
Cornelius Dabney (b 1630) and his descendants
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Richard Dabney

Male 1750/51 - 1800  (49 years)


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  • Name Richard Dabney  [1
    Born 1750/51  King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender Male 
    Died 24 May 1800  King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4
    Person ID I18  Dabneys of Virginia
    Last Modified 13 Feb 2017 

    Father William Dabney,   b. 1721, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1767, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 46 years) 
    Mother Philadelphia Gwathmey 
    Married 1745-1749  King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Family ID F31  Group Sheet

    Family Diana Gwathmey,   b. 31 Oct 1755, King and Queen County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 Aug 1824, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 68 years) 
    Married 18 May 1774  [6
    Children 
     1. Richard Dabney, Jr.,   b. 16 Dec 1775, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1804/05, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 29 years)
     2. Owen Dabney,   b. 1776/77, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Aft 1810, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age > 34 years)
     3. Temple Dabney,   b. Abt 1778/79, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1802, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 23 years)
     4. Joseph Dabney,   b. Abt 1779/80, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Abt 1802, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 22 years)
     5. Hannah Temple Dabney,   b. Abt 1781/82, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1818-19, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location
     6. Benjamin Gwathmey Dabney,   b. Abt 1783/84, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. ca 1805/06  (Age ~ 22 years)
     7. Lucy Dabney,   b. 1785/86, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Aft 1850, Henrico County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age > 65 years)
     8. Isaac Dabney,   b. Abt 1789/90, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Abt 1807-09, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location
     9. Anna Dabney,   b. 1786-1794, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location
     10. Henry Dabney,   b. 31 Dec 1795, King William County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Mar 1870, Winterset, Madison County, Iowa Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 74 years)
    Last Modified 18 Dec 2016 
    Family ID F16  Group Sheet

  • Notes 
    • Richard Dabney Sr. was born to William and Philadelphia Dabney in 1750/51 in King William County, Virginia, where he grew up on a farm called Springfield on the Pamunkey River on the western side of the county. The farm consisted mostly of two patent tracts awarded in 1701 to Richard’s great-grandfather James Dabney and James’ sister, Sarah Dabney.
      In 1767, when he was 17, his father died. As was customary at the time, his father’s will divided his land and farm animals among his sons, all of whom were minors, and the rest of his possessions among all of his children and his wife.
      Richard was a student at Donald Robertson’s school from 1767 to 1769, where he studied mathematics, English, and Latin, according to a surviving school account book. The school was located in King and Queen County about 16 miles north northeast of Richard’s childhood home on the Pamunkey River. The school enrolled many prominent local residents between 1758 and 1769, including James Madison, the fourth President of the U. S., who entered in 1762 at the age of 11 and attended through 1767, when he overlapped with Richard.
      When Richard reached 21 In June, 1771, he received 368 acres in nearby Louisa County from his elder brother, Isaac, as a bequest from his father. Although it was an inheritance under his father’s will, Richard gave Isaac £184 in exchange, probably toward a legacy for their youngest brother, Gwathmey, who was not mentioned in the will because he was not yet born. The tract was half of two adjacent patents on the South Anna River in Hanover County (later Louisa County) obtained by Cornelius Dabney of King William County, William’s father and Richard’s grandfather. Richard’s next younger brother, Owen, received the other half of the tract in 1775.
      After living on his inherited land for four years, Richard purchased 737 acres in the fork of Herring Creek and Dorrell Swamp (a small creek) in northeastern King William County that that he named “The Dorrell” and made his home for the rest of his iife. Since the deed was lost in a courthouse fire, its date and detailed legal description are unknown. It is likely that Richard was the successful purchaser at a public sale by Reuben Turner in July, 1773, of a tract of 737 acres in the fork of Herring Creek and Dorrell Swamp advertised as possessing a good site for a water grist mill. Richard ceased to be listed as a tithable (taxpayer) in Louisa County after 1774, when he moved to King William County. In 1776, he was listed in the Virginia Gazette with many others as a debtor to a London company, indicating that he was already doing business with an English importer. Richard’s Louisa County tract was not sold until June, 1777, suggesting that he may have had an arrangement with Turner that did not require immediate full payment,
      Richard married Diana Gwathmey May 18, 1774. She was born October 31, 1755 to Owen and Hannah (Temple) Gwathmey in King William Countiy. They were first cousins through Richard’s mother, Philadelphia Gwathmey, and Diana’s father, Owen Gwathmey, who were brother and sister, children of Richard Gwathmey. The Dorrell property was close to the residences of Diana’s parents and other relatives, which may have influenced Richard’s move to King William.
      At the time of the Revolutionary War (1775-1781), Richard Dabney was an officer in the county militia, like his brother, Isaac. Before the Revolution, county militias were used to defend against Indian raids during the earliest years, but later mainly to maintain public order and discourage slave rebellions. During the War, militia groups were called out for short terms of one to three months to perform support services for the state and federal forces or to fill semi-military roles that did not require them to directly face trained British soldiers, where they were usually ineffective.
      There are almost no surviving records of militia service in the Revolution, so applications for pensions by King William militia veterans who had to describe their service with the names of their officers were searched for Richard Dabney. Out of 26 applications, five mentioned service under his command: Robert Brumfield (file R-1365) stated that on his second tour from January to March, 1781, he marched under Capt. Richard Dabney to Holt’s Forge, Bacon’s Ordinary, Williamsburg, Portsmouth, and back to Williamsburg. Humphrey Brooke (file D-6763) reported that in May, 1781, he marched under Capt. Dabney to West Point at the southeast tip of King William County, where the unit kept watch for possible British landings. Three other county veterans, Claiborn Morriss, James Terry, and George Toombs described similar tours of duty under Capt. Dabney in 1780 or 1781. From the preceding, it is clear that Richard served in the county militia rather than the state or continental forces, which explains why no federal or state records of his service have been found.
      Between January, 1780 and May, 1782, Richard supplied the militia with 625 lb of beef, a whole beef of unspecified weight, nine gallons of spirits, and 30 lb of bacon for which he received certificates that promised future payment. As an officer of the militia, he issued certificates for two muskets, a cartouche bag, bayonet, and provisions for 48 diets. The certificates and receipts were ultimately redeemed and paid by the Virginia state government after the end of the War.
      Richard and Diana had 10 children: Richard Jr., born December 16, 1775, died in 1804/05; Owen, born in 1776/77, died after 1810; Temple, born in 1778/79, died in 1802; Joseph, born in 1779/80, died in 1802; Hannah Temple, born in 1781/82, died in 1818/19; Benjamin Gwathmey, born in 1783/84, died in 1805/06; Lucy, born in 1785/86, died after 1850; Isaac, born in 1789/90, probably died about 1807-1809; Anna, probably born before or after Isaac between 1786 and 1795; and Henry, born December 31, 1795. All seven sons were living in 1800, when Richard died, but five were deceased by 1808, and Owen disappeared after 1810, leaving only one son, Henry, to help Diana with the management of the farm. In the 1820 census, Diana and Henry were living alone in King William County. The early death of most of the sons may have resulted from a genetic defect due to their parents’ first cousin marriage or possibly malaria, which was endemic in the area.
      Some of the social atmosphere in King William County during the years when Richard and Diana were raising their children is conveyed by a transcript from the wartime diary of a young officer in the Revolution, Baylor Hill, in 1779:
      March 16. From Col. Temples went to Col. Ayletts, where we made but a short stay, from thence to Wm. Glover’s, where we staid till near night, when we went to Col. Thos. Elliott’s, where we passed the night chiefly at cards.
      March 17. Early this morning went in Company with Mr. Tunstall to Wm. Glover’s, from there a fox hunting about Mrs. Gwathmey’s and after a stay of two hours we went to Mrs. Gwathmey’s for breakfast; and after we started a curr dog which gave us a chase for an hour nearly equal to a fox, from thence we went to Mr. Richard Dabney’s to dinner, where assembled a large collection of Gent. and Ladies. The day was past at Bagamond and cards which continued ‘till near 12 O’c when I retd in company with Miss Mollie Tunstall, Miss Ann Elliot, Mrs. Elliott and several Gent. to Col’o Elliots.
      March 18. This morning after breakfast went to Mr. Isaac Dabney’s where I was the remainder of the day.
      March 19. At Mr Isaac Dabneys.
      March 20. Today after breakfast went from Mr Dabneys to Mr Edward Hill’s.

      In 1782, the eariest surviving personal property tax list assessed Richard with two tithables (taxable white males), 26 slaves, 5 horses, and 19 cattle. Over the next 18 years until his death in 1800, the number of tithables were usually 2 or 3 with 4 or 5 during 3 years. Since his eldest son, Richard Jr., did not reach 16 until December, 1791, most of the earlier tithables beyond Richard himself were probably overseers or hired helpers rather than sons. The number of slaves ranged from 10 to 28, and during most years after 1786, he was also taxed on a chair (2-wheeled buggy) or a stage (4-wheeled family carriage). His earliest land tax was on 737 acres. He added 200 acres in 1787, then sold 188 acres to Richard Gwathmey, a neighbor and brother of Diana, leaving him with 766 acres, which remained constant until his death. The small discrepancy in the figures may be due to a resurvey. In June, 1784, Richard, acted as administrator for his elder brother Isaac’s estate.
      In 1797, Richard gave his eldest son, Richard Jr., 112 acres from his farm, but for some reason, perhaps Richard Jr.’s poor health, the deed was not recorded until 12 years after Richard Jr.’s death, probably to clarify the chain of titles for the land. During Richard’s early years on the Dorrell, he built a mill and mill pond named Dublin Mill. After Richard’s death, the mill and 25 acres passed into his son Owen’s hands by gift or inheritance. Owen was assessed with it from 1800 to 1804, when Owen’s financial difficulties forced its sale to his mother, Diana, after which it was added to Richard’s estate, which continued for her support until her death in 1824.
      Richard died May 24, 1800 at the Dorrell. His obituary in the May 30, 1800, Virginia Argus of Richmond stated: “Departed this life, on Saturday, the 24th inst, Col. Richard Dabney, of King William County, in the fiftieth year of his age; he has left an amiable consort and ten children. He was a tender and affectionate husband, a tender parent, a gentle and humane master, a steady friend, ever tendering to that principle which would merit the pleasure of his supreme master. He labored under a long and tedious indisposition; with Christian fortitude, he bore it . And when at last the moment appeared in which he was to depart, cheerfully resigned his soul unto Almighty God.” A very similar and probably cribbed obituary appeared in the Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser on June 8, 1800.
      After Richard’s death, Diana continued to live on the farm. She and Richard Jr. probably acted together as managers of the farm until Richard Jr.’s death in 1804/05. Because of the early deaths of most of her sons, she then had to carry most of the responsibility until Henry grew old enough to help. In January, 1817, about two months after Henry’s marriage to Catherine White Jackson, she gave the 25 acres of the Dublin tract to him.
      Diana died August 14, 1824, aged 68. Her obituary in the Richmond Enquirer for August 24, 1824 stated: “Departed this life on Saturday the 14th inst. at 10 o’clock in the morning, Mrs Diana Dabney, of King William County, consort of Col. Richard Dabney deceased, aged 68 years, 9 months, and 13 days. This old lady has drunk deep of the cup of affliction, having lost a most affectionate husband and eight children, and bearing many other various distresses, together with a lingering disease of the head for several years, all of which she bore with patience and resignation to her Maker’s will. Her loss will ever be felt, she made a most dutiful wife, a tender and affectionate parent, a warm friend, a good and charitable neighbor, and a benevolent mistress, and has left two disconsolate children with numerous relatives and friends to deplore her loss.”
      After Diana’s death, the farm, which was called the Dorrell, probablylHistoric from the Dorrell Creek on its border, was sold at a public auction. On Dec. 4, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 18, and 23, 1824, a public sale of the estate of Col. Richard Dabney was advertised in the Richmond Enquirer. The notice read: "Land, Negroes, and other Property for Sale. In compliance with the last will and testament of Col. Richard Dabney, will be sold on Tuesday the 28th day of December inst. if fair, if not the next fair day, (on the premises) the Tract of Land whereon he resided, lying in the upper part of King William county, in a healthy and agreeable neighbourhood, and contains between six and seven hundred acres, and has a Grist Mill on it, which is profitable for grist. The land is of good quality for forest land, bordering on Herring Creek, which affords rich low grounds––the improvements consist of a large and commodious dwelling house, and other necessary houses, garden, &c.––At the same time and place will also be sold 15 Negroes, the household and kitchen Furniture, some corn, &c. &c. The land will be surveyed before the day of sale and divided into two or more tracts to suit purchasers, and sold in that way if it should be thought on the day of sale it will sell best in that way; if not, it will be sold in one entire tract. James Fox, Adm'r De bonis non, with the will annexed of Col. R. Dabney, dec."
      Unfortunately, the land records and probate records of the sale did not survive the 1885 fire in the King William County courthouse. Most, but not all, of the land was purchased by Major Thomas Dabney, an attorney, who was a son of distantly related George Dabney III of Dabney’s Ferry on the western side of the county. Major Dabney’s second wife, Mary Eleanor (Tompkins) Dabney, conducted a school for young ladies at the Dorrell beginning in 1827. By 1835, the supervision of the school passed to the Dabneys’ daughter, Frances Ellen.
      In 1833, William Ryland and Major Dabney purchased the Dublin Mill and operated it profitably until Major Dabney’s death iin 1858, after which it was operated wholly by Ryland.
      Richard Dabney’s House in King William County
      The Dorrell house was probably built within a year or two after Richard’s purchase of the Dorrell property in 1773. It was located on a hilltop north of the Dorrell creek and south of Herring Creek, about two miles west of the village of Beulahville. In an aerial photo taken in 2003, the house was surrounded by cleared land on the hilltop and most of the surrounding area was forested. Lumber may have been one of the farm’s main products.
      The house photos were taken in 1969 and obtained from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. It was still standing in 2003, but was torn down before 2013. There is some internal and external evidence that there was a fire on the east end followed by reconstruction.

      (Insert two views of Dorrell House here. Can’t be done on this page in Reunion)








































      Illustrations for Web Site
      1. Dabney Dorrell Home.psd @ 34% (RGB/8) Aerial view with circle. In Photoshop , probably scalable.
      2. (three versions. Dabney house from VA state historical agency
      a. Dorrell combined enhanced.tif
      b. Dorrell combined enhanced.jpg
      c. Dorrell combined enhanced.psd (Photoshop) [2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30]

  • Sources 
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    8. [S82]

    9. [S144]

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    11. [S35] p. 51..

    12. [S146]

    13. [S4]

    14. [S66]

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    17. [S166]

    18. [S33]

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    21. [S38]

    22. [S143]

    23. [S90]

    24. [S148]

    25. [S1119]

    26. [S35]

    27. [S39] 24 Feb 1804, p. 279..

    28. [S149] p. 321..

    29. [S1645]

    30. [S2054]