Children of Mary Brooks (d. 1787, Frederick County, Virginia) — Elizabeth Brooks (1747/1750 – 1816) and Husband George Rice (abt. 1743 – 1792): When Was George Born?

As the following commentary will tell you, many researchers have assigned George a birth year of 1734 on the basis of evidence that, in my view, does not support their conclusion. Instead, I think it’s likely he was born around 1743. I’ll explain below why I’ve ended up with that birthdate. As this posting also notes, one big problem with documenting aspects of George’s life including when he was born is that the material available for this documentation is voluminous, and it’s difficult to know when to stop digging for new information and when to start synthesizing what one has found. George Rice was a man who accumulated abundant resources and who served as an officer in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. He rubbed shoulders with George Washington, and the papers of both Washington and Thomas Jefferson contain documents relating to him. I may well have missed important information in documenting his birthdate — and hope that if I have done so, others who know his life in greater detail than I do might correct my mistakes.

As I’ve noted previously, various indicators suggest to me that Elizabeth Brooks was likely born about 1747-1750. As I’ve just noted, researchers have repeatedly placed the birth of her husband George Rice in 1734, though I’ve concluded that a number of salient documents suggest a birthdate somewhat after 1734 for him. I’ve also stated that I think George and Elizabeth married around 1767, since their oldest child, Ruth, appears on the 1850 federal census aged 81, which would make her birth year about 1769.[1]

Why Various Researchers Think George Rice Was Born in 1734: Patrick Rice’s 1754 Deed to George and Edmond

I suspect that the 1734 birthdate for George Rice is based on the fact that his father Patrick Rice deeded land in Frederick County for love and affection to his sons George and Edmund Rice on 25 September 1754 (I shared a digital image of this deed in my last posting).[2] Researchers have taken this deed to indicate that George and Edmund were of age by September 1754. To me, however, Patrick Rice’s deed suggests otherwise: it suggests that his two sons were not yet of age when he gave them 300 acres on Long Marsh that had come to him as a grant from Lord Fairfax on 14 April 1752 and had been surveyed by George Washington.[3]

Northern Neck grant to Patrick Rice, 8 January 1752, Northern Neck (Virginia) Grant Bk. H, p. 172

Patrick’s deed states that he was giving this land to his sons “for the better maintenance of them,” an indicator, I think, that neither was yet of age, both were still under Patrick’s authority and care, and as they neared adulthood, he was providing them with land to start their adult lives after they had come of age. The grant for this tract states, by the way, that Patrick had received 400 acres on the south side of Long Marsh Creek; he gave 300 acres out of that grant to his sons two years later. When Edmond sold Michael and Bartholomew Smith 202½ acres out of his father’s 1754 gift to him and his brother George on 30 June 1773, the deed states that the land was at the head of Long Marsh Creek.[4]

Indicators That George Was Born After 1734: French and Indian War Service

Affidavit of George Rice, Frederick County, Virginia, court, 8 March 1780, re: service in French and Indian War, Frederick County, Virginia, Court Order Bk. 17, p. 275

If my reading of the September 1754 document is correct, then it seems to me George Rice was not yet 18 in 1754 and was therefore likely born after 1736. Also relevant to this discussion of when George Rice was born is his service under Henry Bouquet in the French and Indian War. On 8 March 1780 in Frederick County court, George Rice gave affidavit that “in the year 1766 he served as Captain of a Brigade or Company of Pack horsemen to the Westward in Bouquetts expedition against the French and Indians.”[5]

But there are problems with this affidavit. Henry Bouquet died 2 September 1765 — before George Rice claims that he was serving in Bouquet’s “westward” expedition. Bouquet’s Ohio expedition — and it’s surely to this expedition that George’s reference to serving in an expedition “to the Westward” under Bouquet points — took place in 1764.[6] As Erik L. Towne notes, after the Virginia legislature repeatedly refused  to provide troops to Bouquet for this expedition, in early September 1764 Virginia troops marched under John Field from Winchester to Pittsburgh to serve with Bouquet in Ohio, and another set of Virginia soldiers under John McNeill soon followed suit.[7]

In my view, when George Rice provided an affidavit stating that he served in Bouquet’s westward expedition in 1766, he was likely either misremembering the year in which the expedition occurred, or was perhaps remembering the year in which his service ended. For reasons unclear to me, a number of sources have turned the year named by George Rice in his affidavit from 1766 to 1756,[8] and on the basis of that mistake, coupled with his father’s 1754 deed to him, researchers have concluded that George Rice was likely born in 1734.

If George Rice served in Bouquet’s Ohio expedition in 1764, it seems he was likely born by or around 1744-1746, and if he was not yet of age in 1754, then his birth year seems to me probably to fall between 1737 and 1744. If I’m correct about this, George would have been a young man when he served as a captain under Bouquet. Officers were often older men with seasoned military experience. But given the hesitancy of Virginia to provide Bouquet with soldiers, those Virginians who did volunteer for his expedition to Ohio, including and perhaps especially younger men, would surely have seen opportunities for quick advancement for that very reason, and, in time, large land grants — which George did, in fact, receive. This would have encouraged younger men to volunteer for this action.

George Rice’s Revolutionary Service and Claim that He Was “Old and Infirm” in 1778

George Rice served not only in the French and Indian War but also in the Revolution, in which he was first a lieutenant under Captain John Neville and then a captain in the 11th and 15th Virginia Regiment under the command of Colonel Daniel Morgan. I’ve found one document in his extensive Revolutionary papers (which include papers about bounty land claims) that appears to refer to George’s age. 

On 15 December 1778, after the Virginia continental troops were reorganized at White Plains, New York, under the authority of Brigadier General William Woodford, Woodford noted that George Rice had resigned his post in September 1778 (as a result of the reorganization of troops), and as he noted this, Woodford stated (an image of this document is at the head of the posting):

Captain George Rice, a brave and valuable officer, has been in service since 1775, is old & infirm & retires for those reasons.

Statement of attorney H.L. Brooke, 1841, on behalf of heirs of George Rice, in Bounty Warrants, Revolutionary War Rejected Claims files, file of George Rice, online in digitized form at Library of Virginia website
U.S. Congress report on 1841 claim of heirs of George Rice, US Congress, Reports of Committees, 16th Congress, 1st Session – 49th Congress, 1st Session, vol. 2, report 398 (Washington, D.C., 1842)

Woodford’s statement is cited in a claim that the attorney for George’s heirs, H.L. Brooke, presented in 1841 as the heirs sought unsuccessfully to claim more bounty land in George’s name (I say “more,” because George had claimed bounty land for his Revolutionary service in his lifetime). The claim was rejected, and the paperwork for the claim is now archived in the Revolutionary War Rejected Claims collection of Virginia Bounty Warrant applications held by the Library of Virginia. The index card for Woodford’s statement about George Rice in that collection indicates that the original is in the Washington Papers.[9] Woodford’s statement is also abstracted in George Rice’s Revolutionary service file held by the National Archives, with no reference to its source but with a notation that this summary of George Rice’s service as he became a supernumerary was made at White Plains on 15 December 1778.[10]

Other cards in the service packet confirm that George Rice resigned active service on 30 September 1778, after he had been listed for the early months of that year as sick and on furlough, while his company was at Valley Forge. In my view, this set of documents casts important light on what Woodford meant when he described George Rice as “old & infirm” in December 1778.

Woodford was recording this information to explain and justify George’s retirement due to the reorganization of the Virginia troops in 1778. Even if George was born in 1734, as many researchers think, he’d hardly have been an old man in 1778. If he was born around 1743 as I’ve concluded, he was 35 in 1778, hardly an old man. 

He was, however, a seasoned soldier who was serving in his second military campaign during the Revolution, and in comparison with many others giving military service at this time, he would definitely have been older — older, in particular, than most of the troops he was commanding. As Rebecca Beatrice Brooks notes, “The majority of Continental soldiers [during the Revolution] were young men, usually around 17 or 18 years old.”[11] As Todd Andrlik indicates, though we tend to think of the Founding Fathers as grave elderly men (hence the relativity of the term “old”), the average of those signing the Declaration of Independence was 44, and more than a dozen of the signers were 35 or younger.[12] William Woodford, who characterized George Rice as “old & infirm” as Rice retired (or, more precisely, as he was retired) was himself 44 years old in 1778.

“Old” is a relative term. I think that in hearing that George Rice was considered “old” at the time he ended his second stint of military service in the fall of 1778, we’re encountering an  explanation or justification for the retirement of an officer who may, indeed, have been suffering from sickness in the winter months of 1778, who had been absent from duty as a result, and who may have been worn out from his service in a second war. I do not think that Woodford’s statement means that George Rice was an old man as we’d think of that term currently — and it should be kept in mind that people did, in fact, age much more quickly in colonial America than they do in the America of the 21stcentury. As David Hackett Fischer has also noted, colonial Virginians tended to “make themselves a little older” than they actually were because the system of social status in colonial Virginia awarded seniority, especially among adult males.[13]

George Rice’s First Appearance (as an Adult) in Frederick County Records: March 1763

Another indicator that George Rice was probably not born in or around 1734, as many researchers have thought: as far as I have found, he doesn’t begin to appear in Frederick County records until March 1763, when he received a Northern Neck grant for 300 acres. Note that I say “as far as I have found” to underscore that my research is far from exhaustive, and I may have missed records — and would welcome being told this if that’s the case. But I do know, for instance, that George doesn’t begin appearing in Frederick County road orders (which start in 1743) until July 1768, which tends to confirm for me that he is absent from Frederick County records before he claimed land in March 1763.

Northern Neck grant to George Rice, 7 March 1763, Northern Neck (Virginia) Grant Bk. M, p. 139

The first record I’ve found of George Rice as a person of age in Frederick County, Virginia, is the following: on 7 March 1763, George Rice received a Northern Neck grant of 300 acres from Lord Fairfax, the first of numerous land grants he was to obtain from the commonwealth of Virginia.[14] The grant states that George Washington surveyed the land and that its border lay along the line of Patrick Rice’s land. I suspect George had recently come of age when he obtained this piece of land next to his father, and was launching his adult life, intending to do military service in the French and Indian Wars and then marry following that. Taken together, the records I’ve now discussed with bearing on when George was born suggest to me he may have been born around 1743 or so.

George Rice’s Service on the Vestry of Frederick Parish and Misinformation That It Began in 1764

One final comment on records that allow us to gauge when George Rice was born: according to Thomas K. Cartmell in his book Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants, George Rice was on the vestry of Frederick parish in 1764.[15] If this were correct information, it would be an indicator that George was perhaps born in the 1730s, since very young men were seldom chosen for the responsible position of vestryman in Virginia at this period.

George Rice begins service on Frederick Parish vestry, 7 February 1771, Frederick County, Virginia, Frederick Parish Vestry Minute Bk. 1764-1812, p. 42

But Cartmell appears to be mistaken in claiming that George Rice was on the Frederick parish vestry in 1764. Though the parish was organized in 1744, its records from 1744 to 1764 do not exist. Extant vestry minutes began in 1764. My reading of the original minutes (available in digitized form at the Family Search website) indicates that George Rice first appears as a vestryman in the minutes for 7 February 1771.[16] Up to this point, he is never listed in vestry minutes as a vestryman. At some point between 27 December 1770 and 7 February 1771, he became a vestryman, an indicator of his rising status in the community as a man approaching 30 who had just given military service on the Ohio frontier and had married and begun to acquire property.

In my next posting, having discussed the matter of when George Rice was born, I’ll start sharing the documentation I have for his adult life in Frederick County, Virginia, and at the very end of his life, in Woodford County, Kentucky.


[1] 1850 federal census, Greenup County, Kentucky, dist. 1, p. 202 (dwelling 50, family 52). Ruth is enumerated in the household of her grandson Adolphus Lafayette Reid. Ruth’s surname is Roach on this census; she married Micajah Roach in Frederick County, Virginia, on 4 April 1786.

[2] Frederick County, Virginia, Deed Bk. 3, pp. 462-4.

[3] Northern Neck (Virginia) Grant Bk. H, p. 172.

[4] Frederick County, Virginia, Deed Bk. 16, pp. 309-310. Witnesses to Edmund’s deed were John Nevill, Edmund Lindsey, John Skelding, George Rice, and Daniel Hunsicker.

[5] Frederick County, Virginia, Court Order Bk. 17, p. 275.

[6] See William Smith, Historical Account of Bouquet’s Expedition Against the Ohio Indians, in 1764 Cincinnati, Clarke, 1868; Cyrus Cort, Col. Henry Bouquet and his campaigns of 1763 and 1764 (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Steinman & Hensel, printers, 1883); Mary C. Darlington, ed., History of Colonel Henry Bouquet and the Western Frontiers of Pennsylvania, 1747-1764 (priv. publ., Pittsburgh, 1920); and “Bouquet’s Expedition” at the Ohio History Central website.

[7] Erik L. Towne, “‘British in Thought and Deed’: Henry Bouquet and the Making of Britain’s American Empire,” unpubl. Ph.D. dissertation, Bowling Green State University (2008), p. 111. University of Michigan’s Clemens Library has a collection of archival materials entitled “Bouquet’s Expedition against the Indians (1764)” consisting of two of Bouquet’s orderly books from the fall of 1764. As the online guide to this collection indicates, this material names officers serving under Bouquet and many soldiers, including ones from Virginia. The papers of Bouquet have been published by the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission, and are available online vis Hathi Trust.

[8] See, e.g., see T.K. Cartmell, Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants: A History of Frederick County, Virginia, from Its Formation in 1739 to 1908 (Winchester: Eddy, 1909), p. 89; and Ben Hill Doster, The Doster Genealogy (Richmond: William Byrd Press, 1945), p. 43.

[9] See Bounty Warrants, Revolutionary War Rejected Claims files, file of George Rice, online in digitized form at Library of Virginia website. On this rejected claim, see also US Congress, Reports of Committees, 16th Congress, 1st Session – 49th Congress, 1st Session, vol. 2, report 398 (Washington, D.C., 1842).

[10] NARA, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, Compiled 1894 – ca. 1912, Documenting the Period 1775 – 1784, RG 93 M881; online at Fold 3.

[11] Rebecca Beatrice Brooks, “Continental Soldiers in the Revolutionary War,” at her History of Massachusetts site.

[12] Todd Andrlik, “Ages of Revolution: How Old Were They on July 4, 1776?” Journal of the American Revolution online.

[13] David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s SeedFour British Folkways in America (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 323-4.

[14] Northern Neck (Virginia) Grant Bk. M, p. 139.

[15] Cartmell, Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants, p. 181. 

[16] Frederick County, Virginia, Frederick Parish Vestry Minute Bk. 1764-1812, p. 42.

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