Elk Island | Gilliams of Virginia

Elk Island
Updated March 20, 2016

Charles Fleming is recorded between 1714 and 1718 as owning some 4,259 acres on the south and north sides of the James River, and as owner jointly with John Woodson of 1,279 acres which constituted Elk Island and adjacent land on the north side of the James River.

By 1750 James Skelton has acquired land on Elk Island for in that year he patents 10 acres in James river on the south side of Elk Island and against the lower end of said Skeltons land, being an Island.
Land Office Patents No. 29, 1749-1751 (v.1 & 2 p.1-532), p. 178 (Reel 27). It is this land that James Skelton and Jane Meriwether, his wife, leaves to their children:

1. Reuben Skelton who married Elizabeth Lomax, who married secondly John Wayles. John Wayles' daughter, Martha by a former marriage with Martha Eppes, married, first Bathurst Skelton, and after Bathurst's death married Thomas Jefferson.
2. Bathurst Skelton married Martha Wayles. Martha Wayles Skelton's Dower in Bathurst Skelton's lands came to Thomas Jefferson. In the Goochland County land books under the name Robert Giliam [sic] is an entry for Thomas Jefferson, 490 acres. In 1783 in the place of the entry for Thomas Jefferson appears Robert Giliam, [sic] "On account of Mrs. Jefferson's dower," 130 acres.
3. Sally Skelton who married Thomas Jones
4. Meriwether Skelton, never married, leaves his estate to sisters Lucy and Sally. The Hanover lands going to Sally and the Goochland and Fluvanna lands to Lucy.
5. Lucy GILLIAM who married Robert GILLIAM.

By 1776, the Elk Island plantation was valued at £3749 sterling and its provenance was hopelessly entangled between the Wayles, Skeltons, Jeffersons, Jones and GILLIAMs.

Jefferson set his protege, William Short, to the task of untangling this gordian knot. Short succeeded in largely extinguishing the claims of the Skelton family, creditors and attorneys. Mrs. Jefferson's life interest in the whole of Bathurst Skelton's estate was reduced to her one-third dower interest. Short made a partial settlement with Robert GILLIAM in 1783 for one-third of a 490 acre tract in Goochland. In March 1784, the other parties (Jones and Francis Eppes in the indirect interest of his wife Jane Wayles) agreed to arbitration.

The Will of Lucy Skelton GILLIAM states that she and her sister Sally Jones received the whole estate of their brother Meriwether Skelton. As such Lucy and her sister Sally Skelton Jones add to their interest in Elk Island the interest of their brother.

Since Lucy's Will is dated 1784, it seems that the 1783 settlement Robert GILLIAM made with Short would have been included.

Lucy's will devises to sons John GILLIAM and James Skelton GILLIAM each one half of the tract of land called Elk Island:

23 Feb 1784
In the name of God, Amen. — Whereas, Meriwether Skelton, Esquire, late of the county of Hanover, deceased, did, by his last will and testament in writing, bearing date the 13th day of March, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, devise his whole estate, therein mentioned to his sisters Jones and Lucy GILLIAM, for life in such proportion as in and by the said will may appear, with power (among other things) to his said sisters to dispose of his estate so devised by will or other writing, particularly to his sister Lucy power to dispose of the whole estate which he possessed in the counties of Goochland and Fluvanna. I, the said Lucy GILLIAM, enabled to do so by the bounty and permission of the Almighty, do, in virtue of the power vested in me aforesaid, make, publish and ordain this my last will and testament, and dispose of the estate aforesaid, in the manner following:

Imprimis: I give to my son John GILLIAM and his heirs forever one moiety, or half part of the tract of land called Elk Island, in James River, in the county of Goochland, and one moiety or half part of a tract of land in the county of Fluvanna adjacent to said Elk Island, both of which said tracts of land whereof the estate of the said Meriwether Skelton, to hold the said moietys, or half parts of the said two tracts of land to him my said son John GILLIAM, and his heirs forever.

Item — I give to my son James Skelton GILLIAM, the other moiety or half part of the said tract of land called Elk Island in James River, in the county of Goochland, and the other moiety, or half part of the tract of land above mentioned, lying in the county of Fluvanna, to hold the said moietys, or half parts of the said two tracts of land to him, my said son, James Skelton GILLIAM, and his heirs forever; but if my said son, James Skelton GILLIAM, should die under twenty-one years of age, and without issue living at the time of his death, then it is my will, and I do hereby order, direct and devise the said moietys, or half parts of the two tracts of land aforesaid to my son Reuben Meriwether GILLIAM and his heirs forever. . .

The moiety of James Skelton GILLIAM, son of Robert and Lucy, appears to have been left to his sons, James Skelton GILLIAM, Jr., and Marius GILLIAM.

James Skelton GILLIAM, Jr., in 1820 leaves his share of Elk Island and the estate, Arlington, to his brother John GILLIAM.

By 1828, Marius GILLIAM, is "much in debt" and sells his interest, referred to as Lower Elk Island to his brother, Robert GILLIAM, along with the estate Toggles. To his brother, Theophilus Feild GILLIAM, Marius sells his one fourth interest in the crops grown on Lower Elk Island in 1828. To David May, he sells several slaves now at Elk Island and to brother John GILLIAM, Marius sells his one fourth interest in the remainder of the slaves at Lower Elk Island.

John GILLIAM, son of Robert and Lucy, in 1795 sells his moiety to William Ronald. William dies before his wife Catharine signs her Relinquishment of Dower. Catharine, taking advantage of changes in the law, then sues John GILLIAM for her dower interest. Catharine agrees to "settle" and surrender her rights to the tract for five hundred pounds. John agrees to the price and once again gains control of his moiety of the Elk Island.

22 May 1795
This indenture made this 22d day of May in the year of our Lord 1795, between Catherine Ronald of the one part and John GILLIAM of the other part, whereas William Ronald of the county of Powhatan lately deceased did in his lifetime purchase of the said John GILLIAM a certain tract or parcel of land called Elk Island situate, and lying and being in the county of Goochland and to secure the purchase money mortgaged the said land in fee simple* to said John GILLIAM bit the relinquishment of the said Catharine Ronald right of dower therein was never duly taken according to law whereby she allegedth that she is entitled to dower therein, and a contest hath arisen concerning the same betwixt herself and the said John GILLIAM which contest is now depending and undetermined in th honorable High Court of Chancery in a suit brought by said John GILLIAM in foreclose the equity of redemption and whereas the said Catharine Ronald hath agreed to sell, surrender, and convey all the right, interest and title of Dower of, in and to the said land to the said John GILLIAM Now this indenture witnesseth that for and in consideration of the sum of two hundred pounds to the said Catherine Ronald by the said John GILLIAM in hand paid at and before the ensealing and delivery of these presents the receipt whereof she doth hereby acknowledge and thereof and of every part thereof doth wholly acquit and discharge the said John GILLIAM his heirs, executors administrators and assigns, forever, that she the said Catharine Ronald hath given granted, bargained, sold, aliened, surrendered, confirmed and released and by these presents doth give grant, bargain, sell alien and surrender confirm and release to the said John GILLIAM his heirs and assigns forever all her right, title interest and estate ,and all her claim title and demand whatsoever and all her right of dower, of land to the said land. To have and to hold her said righter title interest and estate and all her claim title and demand whatsoever and all her right of dower, of, in and to the said land to the said John GILLIAM, his heirs and assigns, forever, to the only proper use behalf of the said John GILLIAM his heirs and assigns forever In witness whereof the said Catharine Ronald hath hereunto set her hand and affixed her seal on the day and year first above written.
Sig: Catherine Ronald

Signed, sealed acknowledged and delivered in presence of: Efford Bentley, Catharine Anderson, Sam Pleasants, John Hunnicutt

*The words “fee simple” where inserted before signing.

At a court held for Goochland County on the 21st day of September 1795, this deed of Indenture, from Catharine Ronald to John GILLIAM was present in Court and entered into solemn form by John Hunnicutt and Samuel Pleasants Jr to be the act and deed of the said Catharine which was ordered to be certified.
Teste Wm Miller, Clerk

An Inventory of the Estate of Doctor Gilliam at Elk Island in Goochland, taken this 9th day of August 1806

Working hands to wit:
Ned, Lewis, Dick, Davy, Jack, Julius, Tull, Bob, Joe
Men & boys, 9

Lydia, Lucy, Beck, Jenny, Christian, Dilsey, Juda, & Juda
Women, 8

Children to wit:
Ned’s family, Amy Ellick, & Sucky

Lewis & Christian’s family, Abram, & Rachael

Jack and Lucy’s family, Anarchy, Jenny, & George

Dick and Beck’s family: Sarah, Isham, Robin, Allen & Joshua and infant

Jenny’s family, Ben

Dilsey’s family, Billy

Horses to wit:
Jack sorrel, little sorrel, (Lorick dead), Pall, Trey, Dick, 2 bay mares, 2 mules, ____ Colt, Blazing star, 2 fillys

Plantation Utensils to wit:
2 yokes with 3 strong lock chains
9 pair hamer
9 pair traces
6 collars
2 bridles
1 side line chain
23 hoes including hilling & weeding hoes
4 grubbing hoes, 2 pichet forks
2 spades
3 augers
1 from
5 poll axes
1 broad axe
1 hatchet
1 adze
2 currying combs
5 chisels
1 gimblet
1 pair compass
1 hammer
1 pair wedges
1 pair stutyard
12 scythes & crades fixed
17 old turkies
88 young turkies
140 chicken in all
38 geese

1 threshing machine
2 pair ox carts with bodies
1 wheat fan
1 hand saw
1 cross cut saw
34 _________ hip
33 _________
18 _________
2 __________
6 __________
2 markers
1 drawing knife
1 grinding stone
3 harrows
1 nose iron
6 _________ hooks
6 tobo ________
4 ______ ploughs 3 of which are fixed ________ double _______ trees
3 ______ hides
suppose 90 bbls corns
5 half _______ ploughs
3 small _______ do
2 ditch shovels
2 trowels hoes
2 boats
1 canoe
53 lbs seed cotton
17 lbs picked cotton
8 1/2 feathers
58 jugs {?}
10 singletons
6 _______ & 6 pins
2 _______
6 _______
1 sifter
45 yards osenbrugs
2 half bushel measures

Sig: Chastean Moore [or Moone]
Library of Virginia. Chancery Files. File 075-1810-003, Images 72 and 73.

  • The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series. Princeton University Press.
Elk Island, 1:305n, 2:84, 2:397, 2:407, 2:424, 2:447, 3:44, 3:85
GILLIAM, Lucy Skelton, 1:305n, 3:84, 3:85, 3:86n
GILLIAM, Robert, 1:305n, 2:425, 2:674
GILLIAM v. Fleming
Chancery case, 2:325, 2:340, 2:368, 2:674–675
and R. Skelton's will, 2:33, 2:83–85, 2:122–123, 2:256
and settlement of accounts, 1:206, 1:304, 1:305, 1:306–307, 1:329–330, 1:331, 1:339, 1:362–365, 1:378–379, 1:591, 1:608, 1:644, 2:130n, 2:141–142, 2:369–370, 2:396–397, 2:403, 2:407–408, 2:424–425, 2:433–434, 2:446–448, 2:464–466, 3:44–45, 3:45, 3:84–86

  • Shackeford, George Green. Jefferson's Adoptive Son: The Life of William Short, 1759-1848, University Press of Kentucky, 1993