I ended my previous posting about Nottingham Monk (1755/1760 – Feb. 1818) with an account of his Revolutionary War service and the documents this generated. I promised that I’d then tell you about his life from that point to his death, which occurred in Bertie County, North Carolina, between 28 January and 10 February 1818, and I’d then conclude my series about him with a posting examining some key documents from his extensive loose-papers estate file held by the North Carolina Archives. My previous posting was the first in a series building on an initial posting showing you that Strachan (or Strahon and Strawhorn) Monk (1787 – 1850/1860) of Martin County, North Carolina, and Hardin County, Tennessee, was the son of Nottingham Monk and Rachel Strachan. My intent in this series is to trace Strachan Monk’s ancestry, about which quite a bit of totally incorrect information has long been circulated.
I also noted in my last posting that because Nottingham Monk had accumulated quite a bit of property by the time of his death, there are fairly extensive records documenting his life in Bertie County, and, in particular, the final part of his life. The challenge in sharing information about those records is to avoid writing the kind of history that Arnold Toynbee warned us too many historians write: One damned thing after another. To try to avoid that approach, I’ll arrange what I say in this posting (and a subsequent one) by focusing on “clusters” in the life history of Nottingham Monk: 1) his marriage to Rachel Strachan, widow of George Kittrell; 2) his administration of the estate of his father Nottingham Monk Sr. in 1793; 3) other records that cast light on additional aspects of Nottingham Monk’s life; and 4) information about Nottingham Monk’s death and the period preceding it.
Nottingham Monk’s Marriage to Rachel Strachan
We know from a valuable document in the loose-papers estate file for the first husband of Rachel Strachan — this was George Kittrell — that Nottingham Monk’s wife Rachel had married twice prior to her marriage to Nottingham Monk. This is a 23 February 1791 answer Nottingham and Rachel filed in Bertie Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions to a legal complaint by George Kittrell’s children by his first wife. I discussed that document in detail in this previous posting, and provided you a snapshot of part of it.
As I told you in the posting I’ve just linked, Rachel married George, son of Jonathan Kittrell and Ann Durant, about 1777. George died in Bertie County late in 1781; Rachel received letters of administration on his estate on 12 February 1782, giving bond with Solomon Pender and Henry Speller in the astronomical amount of￡3,200,000. The original bond is in George Kittrell’s estate file and is very faint. This and a number of other documents show Rachel’s firm signature (first as Kittrell then as Ward), which indicates that she was a literate and apparently well-educated woman, in contrast to many women of her time and place.
The bond for George Kittrell’s estate administration may have been so enormous because George was a man of some influence, who was descended from a leading founding family of the colony of North Carolina, the Durants. George’s mother Ann Durant Kittrell was the granddaughter of George Durant, who is, as Mattie Erma E. Parker notes, “widely credited as being the ‘father of North Carolina.’” He was attorney general and speaker of the provincial House of Burgesses, and a leading inhabitant of northeastern North Carolina in the colonial period.
Following George Kittrell’s death, Rachel then married Benjamin Ward sometime between 10 May 1782, when a document in George’s estate file shows her receiving as his widow slaves Maryann (also Marian in other records), Dinah, Caesar, and Brister, and 26 January 1785, when she inventoried the estate of Benjamin Ward, signing the inventory as Rachel Ward. On 8 April 1785, Rachel was one of the buyers at Benjamin’s estate sale, again identified as Rachel Ward (see the original sale account in Benjamin Ward’s loose-papers estate file held by the North Carolina Archives, and Bertie Inventories and Sales Accounts, Bk. 1, #1016, p. 416). Two of the slaves Rachel received in the distribution of slaves in the estate of George Kittrell — Dinah and Caesar — appear in the list of slaves belonging to Rachel’s father George Strachan in records in his estate file. Through her marriage to George Kittrell, they had passed to him, and then at his death, to Rachel.
When Rachel received her share of the estate of her brother Daniel Strachan (his estate file spells his name as Strawhon) on 22 February 1786, she was still Rachel Ward, and Daniel’s loose-papers estate file has an undated inventory of his estate compiled and signed by Rachel, which probably dates from November 1785, when the court ordered the division of Daniel Strawhon’s estate (the original court order is in his estate file). On 23 November 1786, Nottingham Monk gave bond in the sum of ￡500 with John Leggett and James Rascoe to administer the estate of Nancy Ward, Benjamin Ward’s orphaned daughter (the original bond is in Nancy Ward’s loose-papers estate file, and see Bertie Court Minutes Bk. 5, p. 619), so it appears that Nottingham Monk and Rachel Strachan (Kittrell, Ward) married between the February and November dates in 1786.
On 1 January 1787, when Nancy Ward’s estate was distributed among her heirs by Anthony Armistead, Thomas Collins, John Hyman, and Christian Reed, one of the distributees was Mrs. Munk. This original distribution document is in the loose-papers estate file of Nancy’s father Benjamin Ward; a court order for the estate division dated November 1786 is in Nancy Ward’s loose-papers estate file. (Note: many of the loose-papers estate files held by the North Carolina Archives intermingle estates of different people having the same name; a single file labeled “Nottingham Monk” contains the estate papers of both Nottingham Sr. and Jr., indiscriminately mixed up; the Bertie file labeled “Nancy Ward” has papers from the estates of two different Nancys; George Kittrell’s estate file has papers from the estate of his son George; and some of Nancy Ward’s estate papers are in the file of her father Benjamin.)
Nottingham Monk had been among the buyers at the estate sale of Benjamin Ward when it was held on 8 April 1785, with John Wolfenden’s account of the estate sale filed in Benjamin Ward’s estate file specifying n 8 April 1785 specifies that this was Nottingham Jr. — yet another indicator that the younger Nottingham was of age by that date. (As Harry Lewis Thompson indicates, Wolfenden represented Bertie in the North Carolina senate in 1794-5, and lived at the Cashie settlement now known as the Hoggard Mill section, about two miles north of Windsor on the Cashie River.)
From the point of Nottingham Monk’s marriage to Rachel Strachan (Kittrell, Ward), after he became guardian of Rachel’s two children by George Kittrell, Jonathan and Elizabeth, there’s a steady stream of documents in Bertie records having to do with Nottingham Monk’s guardianship of the two orphans. We know that these two children were Rachel’s children by George Kittrell because the 23 February 1791 response of Nottingham and Rachel Monk to the court petition of George Kittrell’s heirs regarding his estate states this explicitly.
From 1787 forward into the 1790s when both Kittrell children died (Elizabeth in November 1791 and Jonathan in August 1795), yearly accounts were filed, usually in October, to audit and settle Nottingham Monk’s records as guardian. For instance, a court order in George Kittrell’s estate file dated August 1787 shows James Leggett, Thomas Collins, Henry Speller, and Christian Reed being appointed to audit and settle Nottingham Monk’s accounts with George Kittrell’s orphans (see also Bertie Court Minutes Bk. 5, p. 673). On 13 October, Collins, Speller, and Reed returned their audit, showing ￡82 16s 4d due to Jonathan, along with a horse, and ￡37 11s 7d due Betsy, as well as legacies left to both orphans by their grandmother in the amount of ￡3 14s 6 or 7d.
Another audit order was issued by the court in August 1788, and on 13 October, the auditors returned a settlement, again showing money owed to the two orphans. The originals of both documents are in George Kittrell’s estate file (see also Bertie Inventories 1787-90, p. 67).
On 13 October 1789, the group appointed to scrutinize Nottingham Monk’s guardianship accounts reported that the two children were being schooled and boarded (along with two small slaves evidently belonging to Jonathan) in that year (the original account is in George Kittrell’s estate file; see also Bertie Inventories 1787-90, p. 135).
Bertie Court Minutes show (Bk. 5, p. 833) various men of the county appointed again on 15 November 1790 to audit and settle the account of Nottingham Monk and his wife for the Kittrell orphans. After the May court session in 1791 gave an order for another audit and settlement of the guardian accounts (Bertie Court Minutes Bk. 5, p. 867), Nottingham Monk submitted an account on 13 July (I shared this previously), and on the same date, the Anthony and William Armistead and Henry Speller reviewed it and filed their settlement. The settlement indicates that Jonathan and Betsy continued to be schooled. The account shows quires of writing paper bought for both orphans, and shoes and “hatts” for Jonathan along with shoes, calico, linen, and silk and lace to make cuffs for Betsy.
In November of the same year, the court ordered a review of the account of the guardianship of Elizabeth Kittrell, who had died in that month (Bertie Court Minutes Bk. 5, p. 893). In February 1792, Nottingham Monk submitted his final account for her and it was returned to the court by its auditors (ibid., p. 917).
In response to a November 1792 court order to audit the guardianship account for Jonathan Kittrell (ibid., p. 971), in February 1793, Joseph Jordan, Henry Speller, and James Leggett submitted an audited account covering the period from 13 January 1791 to February 1793, with a detailed list of expenditures, including payment to Mr. Etheridge for schooling Jonathan, purchases of more quires of paper and a slate, and items of clothing including hats, buttons, stockings, a cravat, shoes and shoe buckles, along with fabric including mohair, coating material, silk, velvet, and “linning [i.e., linen].”
Another document dated 26 July 1795 shows Nottingham Monk among those designated by the court to assign the widow’s portion to Mary, the widow of George Kittrell’s son George by his wife prior to Rachel Strachan. This document, with Nottingham Monk’s signature, is in George Kittrell’s estate file.
Jonathan Kittrell died sometime before 10 August 1795, when his estate file shows the court appointing Nottingham Monk to inventory Jonathan’s estate, after he had given bond on that date with Henry Belote and Luke Warburton. The inventory, dated 9 November 1795, is signed by Nottingham Monk. It lists slaves Will, Dean, Sally, and Nanny, a bible, a slate, wearing clothes, and ￡70 pounds 14 s 2d due the estate (the original is in Jonathan’s estate file; see also Bertie Inventories Bk. G, p. 198). On 1 February 1796, when Jonathan Kittrell’s estate was sold, the sale account filed in Jonathan Kittrell’s loose-papers estate file shows Nottingham Monk buying a slate and bible and slave girls named Nanny and Tatty.
Administration of Estate of Nottingham Monk Sr.
Another significant set of records has to do with Nottingham Monk’s administration of the estate of his father Nottingham Monk Sr., who died in Bertie sometime before 20 July 1793, when his son inventoried the estate of Nottingham Sr. and returned the inventory to court. The original inventory, with the signature of Nottingham Monk Jr., is in the combined estate file of the two Nottingham Monks.
On 7 August 1793, Nottingham Jr. gave bond with Joseph Jordan and John Belote in the amount of ￡100 to administer the estate and received a court order to sell it; the order identifies Nottingham the younger as a son of Nottingham the elder (the original of both documents is in their combined estate file). On 19 August, the estate was sold, with only two buyers, Nottingham Monk Jr. and Elisha Monk.
I find no Elisha Monk elsewhere in Bertie County records. This Elisha is obviously the Elisha Monk mentioned in the previous posting in this series, daughter of Nottingham Monk elder. No record specifies that she is a sister of Nottingham Jr., but that seems to me almost certain, when one reads the sale account. Since Nottingham Jr. bought few items at the estate sale, the document reinforces the conclusion that he was well set up on his own plantation at the time, and he was deferring to his sister as the primary heir of their father’s estate, permitting her to buy the bulk of the estate items.
As the small sum required by the administration bond suggests, and as the inventory and sale account confirm, Nottingham Sr. was a man of limited resources. Bertie court minutes for 10 August 1785 show Henry Speller, the tax gatherer for the district in which the Monk families lived, reporting Nottingham Sr. as insolvent in that year (Bertie Court Minutes Bk. 5, p. 550). The wealth that Nottingham Jr. acquired by the end of his life came to him largely through his marriage to Rachel Strachan; as I indicated in my last posting, the land on which he and Rachel lived on the Cashie River was land that had come to her from the Strachan family.
As I noted in my last posting in this series, on 13 February 1815, Rachel Strachan Monk had deeded to her son Stewart for love and goodwill the plantation on which she and Nottingham Monk lived in Bertie County, with the deed stating that the land had come to her from the estate of her brother Daniel — that is, as his inheritance from their father George Strachan (Bertie DB W, p. 368). The deed specifies that she and Nottingham Monk were living on this land and retained the right to do so up to their deaths. As I also noted, Stewart had died in January 1817, and on 11 February, William Anderson appealed for the administration of his estate — though numerous histories of this Monk family now online have attached his name to Nottingham and Rachel’s son Strachan Monk and have turned the latter into into Stewart Strachan or Strawhorn Monk.
Rachel Strachan Monk’s loose-papers estate file has a land division document dated 17 December 1818, showing her land divided among her heirs Elizabeth Sorrel, the heirs of Jane Anderson, Stra(w)hon Monk, and Nebuchadnezzar Monk. The land division document contains a drawing of the plats allotted to each heir, and showing that the tract of land bordered (Thomas?) Collins on the east, (Joseph?) Jordan on the west, Curl on the north, and Jeremiah Leggett and Thomas West on the south, with the Cashie River bounding part of the tract on the north. This document is at the head of the posting.
A note about Elisha Monk: after bearing a son Thomas to Henry Speller in June 1777 (this was noted in the last posting), Elisha appears not ever to have married. The 1787 state census and 1790 federal census suggest that she and her son Thomas were living with her father when both censuses were taken. In 1800, she is head of her household and is listed as Letitia Monk. Her son Thomas appears no longer to be living in her household at this date. He is, I think, likely the Thomas Monk who married Frances West in Bertie County on 3 March 1801 with Thomas Speller and George Gray as his securities. Frances may have died by 24 November 1808, when Thomas Monk married Anna Swain in Bertie.
This is likely the Thomas Monk who is on the 1810 federal census in Martin County aged 26-45, with 2 daughters under 10 in his household. The only other female in the household is a female over 45. The household also has also 9 slaves. Since Thomas’ mother Elisha is apparently not enumerated in 1810, then she is likely the elderly female living in this household in this census year.
The last record I find of Elisha is the 1830 federal census, which enumerates her in Martin County, North Carolina, as Felitia Monk. This census shows her as head of her household, as the 1800 census had also done, and suggests that she was born between 1740 and 1750.
As Julia Cherry Spruill notes in Women’s Life and Work in the Southern Colonies (NY: W.W. Norton, 1972), p. 187, a large majority of women in 17th-century Virginia, including those in the highest echelons of society, were totally illiterate (citing Philip A. Bruce, Institutional History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, vol. 1 [NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1910], pp. 454-7). It seems reasonable to suppose that literacy levels for women in the Carolinas were not radically different than those found in Virginia in the same period — and quite a bit of evidence suggests that literacy levels for women in the Southern states continued into the early federal period.
Mattie Erma E. Parker, “Durant (Durand, Duren), George,” in Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 2, ed. William S. Powell (Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 1986), pp. 123-4 (online at the State Library of North Carolina NCPedia website; accessed May 2018).
Harry Lewis Thompson, “The Lost Town of ‘Cashy,’” The Chronicle of the Bertie County Historical Association 15,2 (Oct. 1967), p. 1.
1800 federal census, Bertie County, North Carolina, p. 64.
1810 federal census, Bertie County, North Carolina, p. 433.
1830 federal census, Martin County, North Carolina, p. 413.