Dennis Linchey/Lindsey (abt. 1700-1762): The Indentured Servant Years

Will of Dennis Lindsey, Granville County, North Carolina, August 1762 (in Granville County Loose-Papers Estate Files, North Carolina Archives, C.R. 044.801.25)

Or, Subtitled: Strother Ties and Bristol Ties Everywhere You Turn

The Indentured Servant Years

As we’ve seen, Dennis Linchey/Lindsey, the Irish servant indentured in Richmond County, Virginia, on 1 June 1718 whom we’re now tracking, would likely have been born around 1700 — or perhaps a bit before or after that date. We noted that Carol McGinnis indicates that most indentured servants coming to Virginia in this period were young people aged 18 or so, though many were younger.[1] According to Nathan W. Murphy, an expert on indentured servants in Virginia during the colonial period, most indentured servants in Virginia were 15-24 years of age when they began their servitude.[2]

Irish records about Dennis Linchey’s date of birth or place of residence before he sailed to Virginia on The Expectation, or about the port at which he indentured himself, would likely be very difficult to locate and are, fact, probably not extant. Very few Catholic parish registers in Ireland predate 1800 (and almost all emigrants from the southern part of Ireland in this period would have been Catholic). Penal laws outlawing the practice of Catholic faith and punishing priests baptizing, marrying, and burying parishioners caused many priests to avoid recording sacramental information in church registers. The devastating fire in the Public Records Office in Dublin in 1922 during the Irish Civil War also resulted in massive loss of Irish historical records.

The best hope for those of us searching for information about colonial American indentured servants from Ireland in the period in question would be to find indenture records archived in one of the port cities in the south of Ireland from which servants set forth to America. Few such records survive, however. Servants indenturing themselves in Ireland did file paperwork in offices handling indentures, and, as we’ve seen, the court records of Richmond County, Virginia, state that Dennis Linchey and other servants arriving in Virginia with him had obtained paperwork at such an office in Ireland.

Unfortunately, the Richmond County, Virginia, court records pertaining to the indenture of these servants do not even state the place in Ireland in which they indentured themselves, or where they boarded The Expectation. The known pattern for ships sailing from Bristol and picking up Irish servants as they headed to Virginia was to stop at ports along the southern coast of the country, including Waterford, Cork, and Youghall. None of these port cities seems to have retained archival holdings of papers of indentured servants from the early 1700s, however.

I’ve found one single reference in Richmond County court minutes to a place in Ireland in which an Irish servant indentured himself. Order book minutes for 19 October 1705 state that one Patrick Jorn of the “Roar” [i.e., Rower] in County Kilkenny had indentured himself at New Ross, just up the River Barrow from Waterford, with Samuel Pitt acting as secretary in the indenture process.[3]

More on the Bristol Connections

It should be noted again that Richmond County court records also demonstrate the large role Bristol played in the mercantile life of the county in the early 1700s, including in supplying indentured servants to Virginia. For instance, a 5 July 1713 court record indicates that John Becher, Thomas Longman, William Atwood, and Jeremy Innys, all merchants of Bristol, along with Rachel Deverill of the same city, executrix of Benjamin Deverill of Virginia, had appointed Richard Johnson of York River and Samuel Skinker of Rappahanock River as their power of attorney to deal with matters of Benjamin Deverill’s estate.[4] This is the same Samuel Skinker, merchant of Bristol, who was residing in Virginia at the time Dennis Linchey was indentured on 1 June 1718, and who handled the indenture. King George County court records show him as a justice in that county after King George was formed from Richmond and Westmoreland Counties in 1720.

From what we know about the system of indenture in Virginia at the time of Dennis Linchey’s arrival, we know that he would have been indentured for six years if he was over age 16 at the time of his indenture, and his master would not have been permitted to indenture him beyond age 24. If Dennis was around 18 when he arrived in Virginia in 1718, then it’s likely he’d have served his indenture up to around 1724 and would then have received his freedom.

A Richmond County court record for 3 September 1701 provides some clues about what happened when an indentured servant was released from indenture. Court minutes for that date state that one Matthew Linch had informed the court that he had been indentured to Hugh French for four years, his time of indenture had expired, and he was requesting his freedom. The court ordered French to pay Linch corn and “cloaths” as he was set free from servanthood.

From the point of Dennis Linchey’s indenture in Richmond County on 1 June 1718 up to 1728, when he appears in a record in Spotsylvania County involving a dispute over land he and other men wanted to patent (I’ll discuss this record in more detail later), I’ve found no record of Dennis Linchey during his period of indenture except a 5 January 1721 entry in the court minutes of King George County stating that John Suttle had been ordered to appear in court to answer a suit filed by Dennis Linchy.[5] On 2 February 1721, King George court minutes say that the complaint of Dennis Linchy against John Suttle had been dismissed.[6]

A Dennis Lindsey distinct from the Irish servant who came to Richmond County, Virginia, in 1718 appears in the records of St. Paul’s parish in Stafford County, Virginia, in the 1720s-1740s. St. Paul’s parish served areas of both Stafford and King George Counties. It’s tempting to suppose that this is the Dennis Linchy of the 1721 court record in King George County, but in my view, that record very likely pertains to the Dennis Linchey who was indentured to Francis Suttle* in Richmond County on 1 June 1718. The John Suttle of this 1721 court record was probably Francis Suttle’s brother of that name, who lived in King George County.

The Dennis Lindsey of St. Paul’s parish in Stafford had a wife Barbara, per parish records and deed records, and that couple had a list of children baptized in St. Paul’s parish from 1725-1738 who do not match the children named by Dennis Linchey/Lindsey in his Granville County, North Carolina, will in August 1762 — so these are clearly two different men named Dennis Lindsey living in Virginia in the same period. DNA findings also confirm that these two Lindsey families are separate and unrelated Lindsey families.

For a young indentured servant, it’s to be expected that few court, deed, or other records would be generated during the period of indenture, since indentured servants did not own property to speak of or appear in land and court records acquiring property. The fact that a stream of records allowing us to document the post-indenture life of Dennis Linchey/Lindsey begins in 1728 and continues up to the point of his death in 1762 confirms that he was under indenture from 1718 to perhaps the mid-1720s, and then, after he had been freed of indenture, he married and began to try to establish himself as a free man and acquire land. Obtaining land was perhaps the largest challenge for young men or women leaving indenture behind in colonial Virginia, with little money and few resources to enable them to obtain property.

The Significance of the Strother Connections

As we noted in some detail in previous postings (and here), Dennis Linchey/Lindsey was indentured to Francis Suttle. The indenture to Francis Suttle is important in establishing that the Dennis Linchey who was indentured in Richmond County, Virginia, in 1718 is the same man who settled in Granville County, North Carolina, dying there in 1762. The Suttle family’s connection to the Strother family of Virginia helps us to confirm this.[7]

Francis Suttle was the son of John Suttle and Mary Strother, a daughter of William and Dorothy Savage Strother. Of the other Irish servants who arrived in Richmond County in 1718 with Dennis Linchey, William Welch was indentured to Francis Woffendall, whose brother-in-law Benjamin Strother was a brother of Mary Strother Suttle. Another of the Irish servants, Michael Whaley, was indentured to Robert Harrison, who was married to Francis Woffendall’s sister. So three of the Irish servants indentured in June 1718 in Richmond County were placed in families with close ties to the Strother family.

Look down the road, and after Dennis Linchey had been freed of indenture and settled in Edgecombe (later Granville) County, North Carolina,[8] we’ll see Dennis Lindsey acting as a chain carrier for Jeremiah Strother’s survey of 300 acres in Granville County, North Carolina, on the south side of Sandy Creek, adjoining Dennis’ own land on 22 April 1748.[9]As Margaret Hoffmann tells us in her magisterial guide to doing North Carolina genealogy, chain carriers were usually relatives or close associates of the person for whom the survey was made.[10]

Jeremiah Strother was a nephew of Mary Strother Suttle and Benjamin Strother, discussed above. It’s significant that Jeremiah settled next to Dennis Lindsey in Granville County, North Carolina.

Three days after Dennis Lindsey was a chain carrier for the survey of Jeremiah Strother, he was the chain carrier for the survey of Roger Thornton on Sandy Creek in Granville County.[11] As we’ll see when we delve in detail into the records of Dennis’ life in North Carolina, his daughter Catherine married Roger Thornton, who came to North Carolina from Richmond County, Virginia.

The Strothers and Thorntons were closely connected from early in colonial Virginia history. As noted previously, the parents of Mary Strother Suttle, mother of Dennis Linchey’s master Francis Suttle, were William Strother and Dorothy Savage. Dorothy’s sister Alice married Francis Thornton. The Thorntons and Strothers were connected to each other in numerous ways from the time they came to Virginia, and through intermarriage; their connections likely go back to England and predate the arrival of these two families in Virginia.

Following Jeremiah Strother’s and Roger Thornton’s settling in Granville County, we will find Dennis Lindsey on an 8 October 1754 muster roll of Capt. Sugan Jones’ company of Col. William Eaton’s militia in Granville County. In the same muster roll are Roger Thornton and brothers John and Henry, and Jeremiah Strother’s brothers Francis and Lawrence Strother.[12]

The multiple connections of Dennis Linchey/Lindsey to members of the Strother family and its kinship network are important to note for another reason: Richmond County, Virginia, records suggest that the Strothers of Richmond (and later King George) County were operating a trading company in the early 1700s with international business ties to places including Scotland, and those business ties also connected the Strothers to the Bristol businessmen bringing indentured servants to Virginia from the English West Country and Ireland. For instance, Richmond County’s court account book for 7 August 1749 tells us that at that term of court, a company called Wardrop and Anderson, merchants in Glasgow, had appointed James McCall, merchant of the Rappahannock River, to recover debts from Anthony Strother and Co.[13]

This record demonstates that members of the Strother family in Richmond County were operating a company trading with folks in Scotland. Merchants in Richmond County, including Strothers, had international mercantile connections in the early 1700s that may help account for the Strother connections to the families in which those Irish indentured servants were placed in Richmond County in June 1718.

As we saw in a previous posting, the Strother business connections connected the family directly to Samuel Skinker, the Bristol-to-Virginia merchant who handled the indenture of Dennis Lindsey and other Irish servants in Richmond County in June 1718.

The Benjamin Deverill/Deverell of Bristol mentioned previously was a merchant who lived in both Virginia and Bristol, and was the predecessor of Samuel Skinker. As Bryan Townes notes, William Strother, the Strother immigrant to Virginia, settled in 1669 on a property in Richmond County that later fell into King George and was named Millbank.[14] When William Strother died in 1702, his oldest son, also named William, leased a portion of Millbank to Benjamin Deverell.

Deverell was an agent for a company headquartered in Bristol, and he conducted a large mercantile business at Millbank, which sold items like paper, pipes, textiles, salt, nails, rum, and spices. When Deverell died in 1717, Samuel Skinker was selected as his replacement to head this business enterprise. Skinker then acquired a portion of the original 500-acre Strother tract and appears to have built a house on it by 1717. Townes says that Skinker ended his associations with the Bristol business company in 1719, and then gave power of attorney to Charles Burgess to complete the financial obligations begun by Deverell. Later, Samuel Skinker purchased the remaining portion of the William Strother property.

And now, having surveyed the records available to us to document and understand the story of Dennis Linchey after he arrived in Virginia in 1718 and up to the end of his term of indenture, we’ll turn in subsequent postings to his life, as far as we can track it, in Virginia and North Carolina after he was freed from indenture.

* It should be noted that the surname Suttle often appears in Virginia records with the spelling Settle.

[1] Carol McGinnis, Virginia Genealogy, Sources and Resources (Baltimore: Geneal. Publ. Co., 1993), p. 12.

[2] See “My Ancestor Came to Virginia as an Indentured Servant,” National Geneal. Soc. Conference 2014, “Virginia: The First Frontier.” For detailed information, see Nathan Murphy’s database of colonial American indentured servants at his Price and Associates website.

[3] Richmond County, Virginia, Order Bk. 4, p. 38b. Court records indicate that Irish servants were being imported into Richmond county on a routine basis in the early 1700s. For instance, court minutes for 7 December 1704 show William Harwood receiving a land grant for importation of Bridget White, Timothy Dayly, Margaret Clancy, Duncan Steward, and Denice (i.e., Dennis) M—. Unfortunately, none of these court records state precisely where in Ireland these servants had indentured themselves.

[4] Richmond County, Virginia, Miscellaneous Records, 1699-1724, p. 95B.

[5] King George County, Virginia, Order Bk 1, p. 32.

[6] Ibid., p. 42.

[7] On the Strother family of Virginia, see John Bailey Calvert Nicklin, “The Strother Family,” in Genealogies of Virginia Families: From Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, vol. 3 (Baltimore: Geneal. Publ. Co., 1981), pp. 371-463; Edward L. Strother, The Strother Family: 300 Years from Virginia to Louisiana (Baltimore: Gateway, 2002); William Armstrong Crozier, The Buckners of Virginia and the Allied families of Strother and Ashby (NY: Geneal. Assoc., 1907); and Edward L. Strother, “The Early Strother Family in Virginia,” a typescript online at the website of the Orange County, California, Genealogical Society. The website of the William Strother Society also contains valuable information about this family.

[8] The land on which Dennis Lindsey lived in Granville County then fell into Bute and eventually into Franklin County, North Carolina.

[9] Granville County, North Carolina, Patent Bk. 14, p. 61, #2683.

[10] Margaret M. Hoffmann, The Short, Short Course in the Use of North Carolina’s Early County-Level Records in Genealogical Research (Rocky Mount: Copy-It Printing Co., 1988), pp. 52, 56; see also Helen F.M. Leary, North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History (Raleigh: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996), p. 45.

[11] Granville County, North Carolina, Patent Bk. 14, p. 78, #2742.

[12] Walter Clark, ed., North Carolina State Records, vol. 22: Miscellaneous (Goldsboro, NC: Nash Brothers, 1907), pp. 376-8. Jeremiah Strother had brothers Francis and Lawrence, and these are perhaps those two brothers, though, if so, it appears they returned to Virginia at some point and both died there.

[13] Richmond County, Virginia, Account Book Part 1, 3 March 1724 – 6 May 1751, pp. 313-4.

[14] See Bryan Townes’ history of Millbank in the 2005 nomination of the property for a listing on the National Register of Historic Places at the website of Virginia Department of Historical Resources, citing inter alia Richmond County, Virginia, Deed Bk 6, p. 150; and Richmond Miscellaneous Documents, p. 109, at Library of Virginia. See also Thomas K. Skinker, Samuel Skinker and His Descendants (St. Louis, priv. publ., 1923), pp. 20-21.


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