Revolutionary Service of Austin Corley
Virginia, S.3198, Revolutionary War Pensions, National Archives
......For the county of Wilson, in open court AUSTIN CORLEY a resident of the county of Wilson and State of Tennessee aged seventy-four years on the 28th of April 1832 according to the family register which he has often seen but which he has not access to at this time. [This would give us a birth date for AUSTIN of April 28, 1758.]
AUSTIN CORLEY enlisted in the army of the United States in the month of March 1776 in the County of Hanover in the State of Virginia under Capt. Richard Clough Anderson in the continental line. They [removed?] at Williamsburg in Virginia where they were marched to the fifth Regiment commanded by Col. Charles Scott who was afterwards promoted to the office of General Josiah Parker was the acting Major and afterwards promoted to the rank of colonel. Despondent marched under Capt. Anderson to Norfolk where his regiment remained until the month of August 1776. His regiment then returned to Williamsburg marched from there to Little York took ship at that place and sailed to a place called the Head of the Elk there his regiment joined the Marine Army under the command of Gen. Washington. Despondent was in the Battle of Trenton against the Hessians on the 26th of December 1776. Despondent was likewise at the battle of Germantowne--he likewise at but not in the engagement as he was that day on guard. Despondent enlisted for the term of two years which time he faithfully served out and was honorably discharged. He was born in the state of Virginia in the County of Hanover and resided there until 1811 at which time he moved to the county of Wilson in the State of Tennessee where he now resides.
The Battle of Trenton in which AUSTIN CORLEY served took place the day after Christmas in 1776. Washington had planned for several days to cross the river and surprise the Hessians. The troops knew something was afoot, but not what. They had been ordered to cook for three days and were issued new arms and ammunition. Colonel John Fitzgerald wrote:
It is fearflully cold and raw and a snowstorm setting in. The wind is northeast and beats in the faces of the men. It will be a terrible night for the soldiers who have no shoes. Some of them have tied old rags around their feet; others are barefoot, but I have not heard a man complain. They are ready to suffer any hardship and die rather than give up their liberty.”
We have taken nearly one thousand prisoners, six cannon, more than one thousand muskets, twelve drums and four colors. About forty Hessians were killed or wounded. Our loss is only two killed and three wounded. [Scheer, Rebels & Redcoats, pg. 212.]
We may imagine AUSTIN CORLEY at that terrible river crossing on that horrific night, poorly clad and cold. Maybe hungry. Possibly with no shoes. We do know that he lived through and fought in some of the worst conditions that the Revolution had to offer.
After Trenton, Washington had a major problem. Most of his troops had enlisted, and their enlistments were up at the new year. Washington begged those whose enlistments were up to stay a while longer. Not a man volunteered to do so. He again begged the soldiers to stay only a month longer. At the second speech, the men agreed to stay. A sergeant, who was not looking forward to further service, wrote:
At this time our troops were in a destitute and deplorable condition. … Our men too were without shoes or other comfortable clothing; and as traces of our march towards Princeton, the ground was literally marked with the blood of the soldier’s feet. Though my own feet did not bleed, they were so sore that their condition was little better. [Scheer, Rebels & Redcoats, pg. 215.]
The battle of Germantown took place on October 4, 1777, not long after the crushing defeat at Brandywine. Washington was eager to attack Howe, but his officers cautioned him to wait. On the morning of October 4th, Washington approached the British in a thick fog. The day turned into a day of mounting mistakes and frenzied confusion. What appeared to be an American victory turned into a rout. Washington lost about 1,100 men, and Howe about half that number. AUSTIN’s pension stated that he was “on guard” that day and didn’t actually fight in the battle, but was probably nearby guarding prisoners or stores.
Starting in 1833, AUSTIN CORLEY received an allowance of $80.00 per year for his Revolutionary services in the Virginia Line for two years.
By just looking at the deposition, it is difficult to tell if the affidavit was signed by AUSTIN, or if the clerk did it for him. The entire document was written in the same hand that signed it. His brother, William, signed a practiced signature and it is probable that AUSTIN was literate. This would mean the family had some means of educating their sons, and was probably a substantial family of above-average means. Universal literacy was not the rule in Colonial Virginia. Governor Berkeley had been against general education and literacy for the masses, and there were no newspapers in the colony until after the 1670s. The Grievances sent to the Commissioners in 1677 had been signed with a mark by the majority of the men, including Richard Corley. Many of the landowners could not read, and occasionally, even a vestryman would be illiterate.
AUSTIN was also listed in the Publick Claims of Virginia as receiving reimbursement from the Government for “finding horse, riding express two days and own expenses.” [pg. 55.] Paul Revere and many other early patriots submitted claims for their expenses in riding express and received four shillings per day for supplying their own horses and food. They did not receive any pay for their trouble, only “expenses.” Express riders and messengers were vital to the Revolutionary effort which lacked any other form of communication.
AUSTIN’s brother, William Corley-2, had been born May 2, 1752, according to his pension. He stated he had “often seen [his birth date] in the Parish Register.” Assuming that William Corley, Sr., was their father, William, Senior, would probably have been born at least by 1730 or before. William, Jr.’s pension mentioned he and AUSTIN served a term together in the Revolution, and stated that he lived in Hanover until about 1779, at which time he moved to Spotsylvania County, Virginia, where he lived for two years. He then moved to Louisa County, where he resided from 1782 until he moved to Tennessee in 1812. Since William Corley-2, the brother of AUSTIN CORLEY-2, lived in Louisa, where RICHARD JOHNSON-2 lived, this may be the “connection” we are looking for between the two families in Virginia. Louisa County is not far from St. Martin’s Parish in Hanover and contact between the families may have been maintained. [Revolutionary Pension Record of William Corley, Virginia S.2422.]
Louisa County was formed in 1742 from the portion of Hanover County, Virginia, which lay above the mouth of Little Rocky Creek on Northanna River. At that time, the bounds were Hanover County on the East, Spotsylvania and Orange counties on the north, Augusta County on the west, and Goochland and Albemarle counties on the south. In 1761, the northern half of the county was split off and added to Albemarle County. At that point, Louisa was as it is today. [“A Guide to the Counties of Virginia, Louisa County.” ] [Virginia Genealogist, Volume 1-20 on CD.]
In 1786, two land records indicate our AUSTIN’s neighbors in Virginia. The first mentions land on Pamunkey River bounded by Lemay, Goodwin, Nelson, Cosby, and Peter Fontaine and “Augustin Corley.” In another record that same year, AUSTIN CORLEY witnessed a deed for a sale and the other witness was a Mr. Fontain. This gives us at least an approximate area of residence. The two names “Austin” and “Augustine” are seen interchangeably in old records. Thus, we know that our AUSTIN lived near the Pamunkey River in St. Martin’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia.
In 1790, a third transaction concerns William Minor’s land bounds and mentions AUSTIN and WILLIAM CORLEY-2 and Goodwin’s and Fontaine’s lands. The First Census of the United States, 1790, Hanover County, lists AUSTIN CORLEY with four whites, and one black [slave] in the household. He is listed only two households away from Reubin Goodwin and James Goodwin. Not far from AUSTIN is Timothy Goodman, who had 14 blacks in his household. They were listed in “Precinct No. 5, of Thos. Trevilian, Gen’t,” pg. 28.
After AUSTIN’s brother, William Corley-2, left Hanover County, according to the pension, a will was witnessed by William Corley, Sr., December 6, 1803, in Hanover County. This will of Timothy “Goodman,” left a very large estate, including many slaves, to his brothers and nephews. Could that be the same man as “Goodwin?” In 1808, a deed for land near Richard Goodman was witnessed by AUSTIN CORLEY. [Hanover County Chancery Wills and Notes, pg. 141.]
William Corley, the brother of AUSTIN, was still alive in 1850 and listed on the United States Census in Wilson County, Tennessee, as age 98, living with his son, Elisha Corley, age 37; Elisha’s wife, Nancy, age 28; Darthula, age 8; Seth, age 6; Manerva Hains, age 15; and Charity Bennet, age 41. We are not sure who all of these people are. By the 1850s, there were quite a few Corley families in the Wilson County, Tennessee, area. William’s will, written in 1852, when he was a 100 years old, and probated in 1853, mentioned some of his children and the fact that he had [at least] two wives. He mentioned his children William Corley, Jr.-3, and Clarissa Farley, by his first wife, and others by a subsequent wife [or wives], daughter, Elizabeth Dillard, and sons, Elisha Corley-3, and Robert Corley-3. [Wilson County Wills & Inventories 1853-1858, pg. 12-13.]
Stephen Corley was born about 1790 in Virginia and lived close to ELIZABETH and AUSTIN JOHNSON in Sumner County, and was most assuredly related, but this author is not sure how.
Other Corley researchers state that AUSTIN’s brother, William Corley-2, was first married to Mourning Byars. [Neal, Southern Sojourners.]
The Children of William Corley-2 and Mourning Byars
William Byars Corley-3, born about 1783.
Austin Corley-3 , born 1784 .
Jane Corley-3, born 1786.
Pleasant Corley-3, born 1787.
Clarissa Corley-3, born about 1788.
Nathan Corley-3, born 1789.
James Corley-3, born 1790.
Pleasant Corley, apparently moved to Wilson County, Tennessee, between 1840 and 1850, where he is found on the 1850 census. He moved later to Saline County, Illinois, where he died in 1864 and left his will. He sold a slave to Elisha Corley [son of William Corley-2?] in 1855, and that transaction was witnessed by William A. Corley [the son of Nathan?] and Richard Corley [son of William Corley-2?].
Nathan Corley was listed on the Hanover, Virginia, 1810 County census, and he owned five slaves. He was slightly younger than AUSTIN. The Nathan Corley in Louisa County in 1810 may be the same man who also moved to Wilson County, Tennessee, and/or the son of William Corley-2..
Nathan Corley’s will, April 3, 1845, in Wilson County, mentions widow, Sarah, and heirs, Montgomery J. Corley, William A. Corley, and daughters, Eliza F. Dillard, Charlotte Furlong, Mary E. Martin, and son, Edmund J. Corley. The use of the heirloom name Edmund/Edward again underscores the connection. In addition, the wills of Nathan Corley and AUSTIN were both witnessed by a man named Joel Algood.
After the death of his first wife, William Corley-2 married Frances Hanes in Louisa County, Virginia, and they had six children.
Eliza Frances Corley-3, born in 1800.
Robert Corley-3, who moved to Arkansas.
Richard Corley-3, born in 1807.
Christopher Corley-3, born in 1809.
Bartlett Corley-3, born in 1812.
Elisha Corley-3, born in 1813.
William Corley-2 marrieda third time. His last wife was Louisa Sharp. There were no children from the third marriage.
May 30, 1808 in Hanover County, Virginia, AUSTIN CORLEY-2, James Doswell, Tarleton Pleasants, and John G. Pleasants, were witnesses to a deed made by Matthew Toler, the administrator of Benjamin Toler’s estate. Benjamin Toler died in 1808 leaving a very large estate worth several thousand pounds, and several hundred acres of land in several counties. [Hanover County Chancery Wills and Notes, pg. 150.]
The United States Census in 1810 of Hanover County, Virginia, listed AUSTIN as over age 45. In the household besides him were: a male, under age 10; one female, aged 26-45; three females, age 16-26; one female, age 10-16; and two females, under age 10. This translates into a female [wife?] born after 1765 and before 1784, or at least 14 years younger than AUSTIN; three females born between 1784 and 1794, one born between 1794 and 1800, and one born after 1800. Since the census indicates that his “wife” was at least 14 years younger than AUSTIN, having been born after 1765, this might be a second wife. If she was the maximum age in the category, she would have been 18 in 1783 when the oldest known of the children was born. If she was closer to the lower age of the category in 1810, age 26, then she would have to be a second wife. The oldest female in the house could also have been the oldest daughter, rather than a wife. Secondary sources state AUSTIN’s first wife was RACHEL ANN __?__, but do not state the surname. No evidence has been located to support the theory. [Neal, Southern Sojourners & US Census, Hanover County, VA, 1810.]
There were seven “free, non-Indians” living in the household with AUSTIN in 1810, and no slaves. We may wonder if they were his former slaves that he had freed? Or perhaps they were free Negroes he had hired. The census of 1790 shows AUSTIN owning one slave. Apparently, the family owned a few slaves, though probably not large numbers. One son of AUSTIN’s, Edmund B. Corley, apparently even invested in the purchase of slaves for resale.
Other Corley families in Hanover on the 1810 census were: Nathan Corley, aged 26-45, with five slaves, one male child less than age ten, a wife, and two young female children. That would give a birth date of between 1765 and 1784 for Nathan. This may be the same Nathan who showed up later in Wilson County, Tennessee, near AUSTIN. The household of Ursula Corley, with two women over age 45, and three females ages 26-45, living in the household with three slaves, and one young male child was another “Corley” household in 1810. William Corley, Sr., was not found unless he was the “W. Colley” found on the census.
We don’t know the ages of all of AUSTIN CORLEY’s children, but his son, William-3, was born in 1783, and Matthew-3 in 1784, so they were in their mid-twenties when the 1810 census was made, and probably out on their own. Exactly where they were living is unknown to the author. ELIZABETH was most likely one of the younger girls, born between 1805 and 1806. Apparently, most of AUSTIN’s children accompanied him to Wilson County, Tennessee. The woman he was married to in Virginia probably died before 1823, as that year, he married Mildred “Milly” Turner in Tennessee. He and Milly didn’t have any children together. A Daughters of the American Revolution [DAR] line is established for AUSTIN, and his wife listed is Milly.
Austin Corley’s Children
William Corley-3, born February 15, 1783, married Jane__?__, died June 24, 1865, in Tennessee. He was apparently the oldest son. He was not the William Corley about this same age found in Wilson County, Tennessee. The two men with the same name have caused confusion. The William Corley in Wilson County is more likely the son of AUSTIN’s brother, William Corley-2. William Corley in Wilson County was appointed guardian for several Corley children; Mary Ann, John E., Martha Jane, Isabella F., James Austin, William, N. C., and Margaret Corley, in March, 1832. He raised these children and they were still living with him in 1850 in Wilson County, and listed on the census. “Austin Corley” was the security for William’s guardianship. Since AUSTIN-2 had a nephew, Austin-3, whose brother was William-3, it is possible that the nephew was the one standing security for the guardianship. We have not been able to ascertain who the father of the children was. Since they were not mentioned in AUSTIN’s will, it may be that they were the children or grandchildren of some of AUSTIN’s brothers or nephews.
The letter of Edmund Corley-3, AUSTIN’s son, along with the will, indicate that William Corley-3, the son of AUSTIN, lived in Blount County or Blountsville, and apparently other researchers have found that William Corley in Blount County. The Wilson County William Corley might also be the William A. Corley, the son mentioned in Nathan Corley’s will. He might also be William B. Corley-3, son of AUSTIN’s brother, William-2. The repeated use and re-use of the name William Corley as an heirloom name in this line complicates matters some.
Samuel Corley-3, died after 1841, he was not listed on 1850 Tennessee Census. This man, according to his descendants, was a minister. His wife, according to descendants, was Ester Priestly.
Matilda Corley-3, married Ennis Douglas, November 14, 1821, and died after 1841.
Matthew Corley-3, was born 1784. Descendants state his first wife was Ann Rison, his second wife was Sarah Whitsett. He died November 21, 1859, in Smith County, Tennessee.
Polly Corley-3, married a man named Moore, died before 1841. She left five heirs.
Sally Corley-3, married Nelson Cosby. She moved to Kentucky and died about 1840.
John Corley-3, died before 1841. He had one male heir alive in 1841, maybe others. Some researchers think he was the man by that name who married a woman named Jane and died in Nelson County, Virginia, June 11, 1811.
Louisa Corley-3, married Isaac Bell and died before 1841, leaving heirs. Her daughter Celia Bell was an heir of AUSTIN CORLEY-2.
Frances Corley-3, born about 1784, may be the woman by that name who married Elijah Churchman on June 2, 1814, in Augusta, Virginia. She was named in her father’s will.
Jane Corley-3, married a man named Adams, and died before 1841, leaving heirs.
Edmund B. Corley-3, probably one of the older sons, died after 1830 in Woodville, Mississippi, with no issue. His will mentions his siblings and their offspring. Erick Montgomery also discovered a citation in an article about Florida’s early educational system that mentions that E. B. Corley taught at an academy in Pensacola, Florida, in 1827. We know that this man traveled to various areas and had several business ventures prior to his death.
ANN ELIZABETH CORLEY-3, born around 1805 or 1806, married AUSTIN JOHNSON-3, and died before September, 1829, leaving three children. [Marriages of Middle Tennessee; re-marriage of husband in 1829; US Census Sumner Co., TN 1830.; Will of Edmund B. Corley, Wilson Co., TN, 1831; Estate of Edmund B. Corley, Sumner, TN; Will of Austin Corley, Wilson Co., TN.]
Since ELIZABETH and AUSTIN JOHNSON-3 named their son “RICHARD EDMUND,” we may only assume that he was named for ELIZABETH’s brother as well as his grandfather, RICHARD JOHNSON-2. Several of ELIZABETH’s siblings also named sons Edmund. Nathan Corley, the apparent relative [nephew or brother] of AUSTIN, named a son Edmund. There are enough Edward/Edmunds floating around in this family to form a definite pattern. RICHARD EDMUND JOHNSON was called “Dick.”
AUSTIN CORLEY-3 died July 26, 1841, in Wilson County, Tennessee, and his will is recorded there. Of his twelve children, eight pre-deceased him, including ELIZABETH, Edmund B., Polly, Louisa, John, Frances, Sally, and Jane. His last wife, Milly, survived his death. She received a substantial cash bequest and a horse and saddle in the will. AUSTIN CORLEY was quite elderly at the time of his death, being 83 years old. His brother, William, lived to be over 100 years old, though. At the time of his death at over 100 years of age, William Corley was apparently still mentally alert enough to write his own will.
The DAR traces a service line back to AUSTIN. We don’t think that any of the children belonged to Milly. AUSTIN would have been about 60 or more years old when he married Milly about 1823, so most of his children would have been grown at the time he married her. We don’t have any indication that he had a “second family” by a young wife toward the end of his life.
Our ancestors usually wrote their wills near the ends of their lives, usually writing them when they were old and sick, or about to embark on a journey, or anticipating going to war. In AUSTIN’s will, he apparently named all of his surviving children, and the heirs of all except Edmund, who had no children. [Will of Austin Corley, Wilson Co., TN.]
Before or after the testator’s death, a will was usually recorded at the courthouse and copied into the county will book. At the death of the testator, the will would be probated. Men usually made final disposition of the family’s possessions in their wills. Married women usually received a dower, or portion of the husband’s estate, unless there was a prenuptial agreement and she relinquished her dower. Some men would also give a life estate in their property to the widow. Sometimes children were omitted from a will because they had already been given a portion of the estate before the testator died.
Wills frequently started off in a “standard form” of “I bequeath my soul to God who gave it, and my body to be buried in a Christian manner...” etc. Quakers usually did not use this standard form. AUSTIN’s will does not follow the standard form, so he may have at one time had Quaker leanings. Or we might just assume that AUSTIN was not a religious man and chose not to use a religious opening to his will; however, we can see by the letter written to AUSTIN by his son Edmund, that Edmund, at least, was apparently deeply religious. We might also note that William-2, AUSTIN’s brother, mentioned that his name was recorded in the Parish Register in Virginia.
We know when AUSTIN CORLEY-2 died, but are not sure where he is buried. However, there is a “Corley Graveyard” mentioned in a will, dated 1891, in Wilson County Wills and Inventories 1889-1896. James Martin requested that he be buried in the “Corley Graveyard which is one mile south of Hartsville at Elisha Corley’s.” One of his heirs was Nancy Corley, of Trousdale County. [See Sources: Cemeteries of Tennessee.]
Will of Austin Corley
State of Tennessee Wilson County Court, August Term 1841 [pages 228-229]
I Austin Corley do make and publish this as my last will and testament hereby revoking and making void all other wills by me at any time made. First. I direct that my funeral expenses and all my debts be paid as soon after my death as possible, out of any moneys I may die possessed of or may first come into the hands of my executors.
Second. I bequeath to my wife Mildred Corley eight hundred dollars to be paid to her by my executor out of my estate in cash and one horse to be chosen by herself out of my stock of horses and also her saddle bridle and also our bed furniture and one year’s provisions.
Third. All the balance of my property both real and personal I direct to be sold at public sale to the highest bidder on a [note?] of twelve months, the purchaser giving bond with approved security and the proceeds as follows [viz] to the heirs of my daughter Sally Cosby dec. I bequeath ten dollars each to be paid to them in cash, and to each of the heirs of my daughter Frances Churchman I bequeath ten dollars to be paid to them in cash, to the heir of my son John Corley deceased I bequeath fifty dollars to be paid to him in cash. To the four heirs which my daughter Louisa had by Isaac Bell, viz, Davis, Sealy [Celia], Samuel and Alford, I bequeath one hundred dollars each making in all four hundred dollars. To the heirs which my daughter Elizabeth had by Austin Johnson [viz] Martha, Richard & Mary I bequeath one hundred dollars each making in all three hundred dollars. To the two heirs of my daughter Jane Adams, dec. Viz, Mary Corley and Laurah Harris I bequeath one hundred dollars each making in all two hundred dollars and the balance of the proceeds of my estate after paying the above named legatees the portions I allotted them I wish to be equally divided between my son William Corley, Samuel Corley, Matilda Douglas, Matthew Corley and the five heirs of my daughter Polly Moore viz, James, Elvira, Harriet, Amanda, and Benjamin, said five heirs to have one child’s part.
Lastly I do hereby nominate and appoint Robert M. Potts [the name John Potts was crossed out and Robert substituted] my executor. In witness whereof do I this my last will set my hand and seal this 16th day of July 1841. Signed Austin Corley
Signed sealed and published in our presence we have subscribed our names unto in the presence of the testator this 16th Day of July 1841, Joel Allgood, George W. Harris.
State of Tenn. Wilson County Court, August term 1841, the last will and testament of Austin Corley, Dec. was produced in open court and fully proved by the oath of Joel Algood and George W. Harris the subscribing members thereto and to be recorded. Recorded November 12, 1841.
Joel Allgood also signed the will of Nathan Corley, apparently a cousin, nephew, or brother of AUSTIN, who lived and died in Wilson county.
The cash bequests made in AUSTIN’s will totaled nearly $2,000, which was a substantial estate in the 1840s. What the total amount was is unknown, but probably a substantial amount. AUSTIN had bought 37 1/2 acres, in District 7, of Wilson County in 1838. In 1844, Robert M. Potts, the executor of the estate sold this land to Nathan Corley. [Wilson County Wills and Inventories, pg. 192.] Since AUSTIN didn’t own a large plot of land, he may not have been a “planter” or farmer, but a miller or tradesman of some sort.
AUSTIN’s son, Edmund B. Corley-3, died in Mississippi about 1831. His will and a letter to this father were recorded in Wilson County and tell us quite a bit about the family. Edmund Corley apparently suffered from a debilitating and lingering fever, possibly malaria or tuberculosis. He apparently anticipated his death and planned his affairs.
Will of Edmund B. Corley
Wilson County, Tennessee, Wills and Inventories, Volume II, 1830-1832
I Edmund B. Corley make this my last will and testament....I wish my near relations to emigrate to the southern part of Texas, say Trinity, Colorado, or Guadaloupe, or Florida. I appoint Capt. Peter Binford and John H. Turner Esq. of Madison Alabama my executors who may all ______by arbitration. I wish my property divided in to 7 equal parts among my relations as follows.
1st to the children of my brother William Jr.
2nd to my sister Odums one part [we don’t know which sister this was, as there was no corresponding female by this surname mentioned in their father’s will. It is possible one of the sisters was married to a man surnamed Odum of which we have no record.]
3rd to the children of Sister Johnson one part and their grandfather Johnson their guardian pro hac vice
4th to my sister Matilda’s children one part my father guardian
5th to my brother Samuel and sister Louisa jointly one part
6th to the children of my sister Moore one part and I appoint my father their guardian pro hac vice. My exer. Will deliver my property when all collected with an attended recorded copy of this will and an inventory attached by the court such authorized representatives as my legatees may appoint and will send a certified transcript of each to the clerk of the County of Wilson [Lebanon] Tennessee. The agents thus are authorized to exercise_______.
My father I trust needs nothing at my hand but as a testimony of my filial affection I ____him my watch may it yet count for him many days of ________.
My books papers manuscripts I give to my brother William. My pistols to my exr Turner if he serve if not to Capt Peters____articles as may not be worthy of naming, my exor will deliver____my property consists principally of effects in the hands of Mr. Eldred Rawlins under contract to which Mr. Thomas Turner is witness and has a copy and some money ____[owed?] me. Written in much weakness with my own hand 15th April 1830 Teste mess_____. [Signed] Edmund B. Corley [Recorded November 25, 1831.]
My father’s address is Mr. Austin Corley near Hartsville, Tennessee my brother William lives I think near Blountsville East Tennessee. Notes to my will on the app:s__by my friends may emigrate is only admonitory, not conditional and to Texas should not unless the political conditions of that country be settled.
2nd specific legacies not to be included in the general fund. 3rd if my ex. Cannot ascertain his quota they may deliver my brother William’s portion to him or agent ere the delivery of the rest to the legatees or their representatives. If any legatee be dead ere his or her portion to her or his legal representative if there be no co-legatee.
Letter from Edmund B. Corley to Austin Corley, circa 1830
Woodville, Miss. [Undated, but mentions that his will was written “last spring.” The will was written April 15, 1830.]
With great pleasure I acknowledge brother’s favor on my return to Woodville. It was only too short. Though weak I stood the drive from Al better than I expected. Upon my return I wrote to my physician in Orleans who advised me not to go to the West Indies except my strength increase. Am staying in this neighborhood alternately with friends who are very attentive to me but consider Mr. Burris’ my home. Should I change my location by a long journey will inform you of it, in case of my death my friend Mr. Burris will write directly.
As my health I can only say it is not better for tho some unfavorable symptoms have disappeared yet my strength does not increase. Thank God for his mercies though I feel much pain yet not above my capacity to bear it and he give me ___ resignation.
On the event of my death I have made provision for the distribution of what I have leave among the ____of my relatives. The will is written allakapa last spring and sent in a letter to Mr. Turner whom I lived with in Al. His son John Henry Turner and Capt. Peter Binford were made executors. The provision of that testament I do not wish to change but hereby substitute you as the exec agent and treasurer of that my last will in the place of those gentlemen who will delete it on request.
The money I have is loaned out here but altogether so that if I die in a short time, you may find the sum not greatly diminished or drawn down by my expenses. Mr. Burriss who manages my affairs will be able to give every information on the subject. In distribution a little among my family, I have been attentive to all the branches that are near you, but assigned the benefit mostly to the children. You have large power and will apply it to teach them how to get a living by a trade or if so by purchasing a few acres of land and letting them work it. A little industry and cash are sufficient to secure all the blessings and most of the luxuories of this life and with some learning and religion we want no no [sic] more. When I wrote you from Al I was doubtful about the settlement of some business of long standing. It was first a deposite of money to purchase some Negro boys, but the man kept the money and failed to purchase the Negroes my health would not justify a lawsuit and I compromised with him on his paying $2550--I consider that I lost more than $1000 by the comp. But preferred it to the tedious prospect of a law suit the event of which I should not live to see.
Should I die here or elsewhere perhaps I may be able to personally arrange it that my effects be sent to you, if not you must authorize some discreet person coming to Orleans or send a special messenger. This will require some caution. I have deposited here with my two friends Mr. Burris and Judge Edward McGeehee all my cash, indeed all my substance amount to $3_____. From this I must draw constantly as long as I live so you may form some con____of the remnant that. Largely by the kindness of my friends, I am at little expense but know not what may occur.
This may serve for your direction and I hope will for those I have ____ several time at this letter I am wearied.
I have done the best I could for my relations and by them to take as proof of my affections I felt for them much although a stranger to them, but they do not understand my feelings.
Present me to every one and receive the ____ of a son; reverence. Now that the lord may bless and keep us and save us eternally through Jesus blood ____ I humbly pray.
Adieu my father
E. B. Corley
This touching letter left unanswered why he was so far from home and had been gone for so long. The first part of the letter seems to indicate that he may have made a visit to some of the family before he wrote the letter. The second-to-last paragraph also made the author wonder about Edmund. He seemed a cultured man with good sense. His compromise about the lawsuit, rather than ranting about how he had been cheated, bespoke a man with good sense. The fact the name Edmund was perpetuated in the family also indicates that he was respected and remembered.
Judge Edward McGeehee referred to in the letter was a prominent businessman who had been born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, on November 18, 1786. He came to Mississippi on a flatboat and settled in Wilkinson County around 1810, where he was a noted planter. In 1811, he married Margaret L. Crosby. Prior to the Civil War, he built the West Feliciana Railroad, founded the Woodville Bank, and owned one of the first cotton factories in the state. He contributed large sums of money to churches and colleges. He was the wealthiest man in Mississippi. The story of this man’s life is contained in The History of Oglethorpe County Georgia. This information on Edward McGeehee was contributed by Reverend Jack McGehee in an e-mail to the author in 1998.
Part of the information on Edward Corley’s estate is contained in the Sumner County records, estate # 740, because the heirs lived in Sumner County.