Austin Corley

The following text is from Joyce Hetrick's book and details the research into the Corley ancestors. 

William Corley, Sr.-1; Austin-2; Ann Elizabeth-3

AUSTIN JOHNSON’s first wife, ANN ELIZABETH CORLEY-3, was born in St. Martin’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia, just before her family moved to Tennessee. ELIZABETH’s father was AUSTIN CORLEY-2, and he was born and raised in St. Martin’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia. Several families named Austin [Ostin] had lived in the New Kent/Hanover area from early times and may be connected to both line[s]. The JOHNSONs and the CORLEYs lived in the same general area, though not in the same parish or county, but we can imagine that they may have known each other in Virginia and for the connection to end in marriage of the two children of these families who settled distantly in Tennessee.

Evidence has been found that the Corleys settled in the area [New Kent] which would become Hanover County, Virginia, very early in the history of the colony. There are two theories for the descent of AUSTIN CORLEY-2. The author is not entirely sure which of the two theories is most likely to be correct, so both will be presented here. Due to the destruction of many of Virginia’s early records, there are some gaps left in both lines of descent which may never be filled in. Scenario I is entirely the author’s research, and Scenario II is a mixture of the research of the author and of others. Any additions or corrections to this information are welcomed by the author and other researchers.

Scenario I

The Edmund Line”

The name Corley [Carley, Corly] is fairly rare in early Virginia and descent from these lines is not unlikely. Maybe at some future date, some researcher will find the absolute connection between AUSTIN CORLEY-2 and these earlier Corleys. Those people, the author thinks, are the direct ancestors of AUSTIN CORLEY-2 and are listed in the following scenarios in bold lettering.

This genealogy is conjecture, from the best evidence available to this researcher at this time. It is not proven beyond a doubt that AUSTIN CORLEY descended from this line. Other researchers disagree with this theory, and a second theory will also be given. It is also full of loop holes, and at this time is also only a theory.

The first person in the colonies the author has found named Corley is Thomas Corley, who took three indentured servants to Barbados in 1660. [Coldham, Complete Book of Emigrants 1607-1660.] This Thomas Corley had a brother named Edward [Edmund.] “Edward” and “Edmund” are used interchangeably and are not two different men. Edmund Corley is found in the records in 1682 in Virginia. He patented land in York County on Cheeseman’s Creek. His will was written December 23, 1728, and probated December 15, 1731, in York County and his children were named. Later, the Corleys and Cheeseman families would intermarry.

Children of Edmund Corley-i and Katherine Curtis

  1. Christopher Corley-ii, left a will probated 1772. His widow was named Ann. His will mentioned, as heirs, the sons of Edmund Curtis, brother of his mother, Katherine Curtis. He apparently left no offspring.

  2. Elizabeth Corley-ii, married a Mr. Wooten.

  3. Sarah Corley-ii, mentioned in Adventurers of Purse and Person, pg. 175.

  4. Edward/Edmund Corley-ii, born circa 1690, married a woman named Ann, and left a will written in 1735, probated July 21, 1735, in which he mentioned a son named William Corley-iii [born 1730 in York County Virginia, Charles Parish.] [Bell, Charles Parish, York County, Virginia, History and Registers]]

A young man named William Corley, of Yorkhampton Parish, died September 21, 1749, at age 19. Some researchers think this William was the son of Edward Corley-ii and that he died childless. Of course, that is possible, and it is also possible that the young man who died was not the son of Edward/Edmund-ii. [Charles Parish York County, Vestry Book] [Adventurers of Purse and Person, pg. 175.]

  1. John Corley-ii, mentioned in his father’s will. [This may be the line of descent --see Scenario II]


Edward/Edmund-i Corley’s wife, Katherine Curtis-ii, was the daughter of Robert Curtis-i, who died between 1713 and 1716, and his wife, Mary Chrisman, who was born about 1650, and died in 1687/8. The author has not traced Robert Curtis’ line, but Mary Chrisman’s line goes back to Jamestown. [Adventurers of Purse and Person, pg. 175.]

The name “Chrisman” was pronounced “Cheeseman.” The records spell it various ways. The following sources and quotations from them are spelled as each record did. [Albion’s Seed, Virginia Speechways, pg. 259.]

Three brothers, Thomas-i, John-i and Edward Cheeseman-i, [born 1601] were listed on the 1623/4 census living at Elizabeth City [Jamestown Colony.] In 1624/5 Lieutenant John Chrisman-i, age 27, [born c. 1597] was listed as having come to the colony in 1621 on the Flying Hart. Edward Chrisman-i, age 22, had come in the Providence in 1623. Their brother, Thomas Cheeseman-i, gentleman, had left Virginia and gone back to England. John Cheeseman-i, Gentleman, of Kiccoughtan, received a patent for 200 acres for transporting four servants. [Cavaliers and Pioneers, pg. 202]

When York County land was opened up, the Cheesemans located there. Lieutenant John Cheeseman-i was Justice of Charles River County by April 8, 1634, this land later became York. His first patent in this region was November 21, 1635, for 600 acres for transporting 12 persons [50 acres each.] On November 19, 1638, Captain John Cheeseman-i sold land to his brother, Edward Cheeseman-i. In 1640, John-i was a tobacco viewer. John Chrisman-i was successively Lieutenant, Captain, and Lieutenant-Colonel of militia, and a member of the Assembly for York in 1643, and a Councilor in 1652. [Cavaliers and Pioneers, pg. 7, 202, 262, 263, 377 & Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts. ]

By August 22, 1661, John Chrisman-i had returned to England, where, in the Parish of St. Mary Magdalene in Bermondsey, in the County of Surry, listed as a merchant, he made a power of attorney to Lawrence Smith. Under this, April 1, 1662, Smith leased for 21 years to Edmund Cheeseman-i, brother of John-i, all of John’s property in York County, Virginia, with the provision that if John-i and Margaret, his wife, did not survive the lease, then as provided in the will of John-i, dated August 5, 1658, the property should go to Edmund-i. At Edmunds’s death the property went to Edmund’s sons, Edmund-ii, and Thomas-ii, and their heirs forever.

In the Economic History of Virginia in the 17th Century, page 89, Philip Bruce mentions that in 1647, Captain Chrisman of York County bought four Negro men, two Negro women, and two Negro children for one hundred and fifty pounds sterling, an average value of eighteen pounds.” [Records of York County, Vol. 1638-1648, pg. 63, VA State Library.]

John Cheeseman-i left a will dated 1662/3, and probated May, 1675, which devised freeholds and copy-holds in Helen Norwood, Norcourt or Norcoke, Southall, in England; to his wife, Margaret, to maintain his grandchild, Ann Cheeseman-iii, until her marriage, or until June 24, 1670, and if they both died; to his brother Edmund-i, and then to Edmund’s sons, Edmund-ii and Thomas-ii; his tenements in Baraban Kent to the heirs of his deceased nephew, Thomas-ii, the son of his eldest brother Thomas-i; and his estate in Glouchester County, Virginia, to his grandchild, Ann Cheeseman-iii. On September 20, 1678, his widow, Margaret, gave power of attorney to her “cozen Thomas Cheeseman-ii of York River in Virginia.” [“Cousin” frequently means nephew.] [Henrico County, VA, Beginnings of its Families, pg. 739.] She had been given a silk carpet in 1645/6 by the will of Humphrey Hanmore, and judging by her will January 15, 1679/80 [OS/NS], probated July 21, 1680, made as a resident of St. Mary Magdalen Bermondesy, she was a close-relation to Francis Mason’s family in Virginia.

John-i and Margaret Cheeseman’s only son-ii, given name unknown, married the widow of Samuel Matthews and had one daughter, Ann-iii, who died unmarried.

John’s brother, Edmund Cheeseman-i, owned 300 acres in Charles River County before 1637, when he deeded land to his brother John-i, who exchanged land with him the next year. In 1650, he patented land at Milford Haven in the part of Glouchester County, which in 1791 was part of Matthews County. He was Justice of York County May 8, 1652. On September 20, 1668, he patented 300 acres on Cheeseman’s Creek and Bay Tree Neck, which had been patented by John Adleston in 1654, but deserted. [Cavaliers and Pioneers, pg. 122.]

Edmund Cheeseman-i married his [second?] wife, Mary, widow of John Lilley, who died after 1642. Edmund-i is described in the records as “father-in-law” [stepfather] of John Lilley, “orphant of John Lilley.” “Father-in-law” is the term used in the records of that day to denote “stepfather.” [Cavaliers and Pioneers, pgs. 7, 202, 262, 263, 377.]

Mary___?__ Cheeseman was a Quaker. She caused quite a few problems for herself and her family by this ardent belief in her religion, which was banned at that early time in Virginia. On September 10, 1659, the York Court ordered the sheriff and his deputies to prevent all private and other meetings of “dangerous persons now in the county, called Quakers.” Later, Virginia would be more-or-less tolerant of dissenting religions, but at this time Governor Berkeley, who ruled Virginia as his own private kingdom, did not tolerate the Quakers. Berkeley remained governor until after Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, and for about a year afterwards.

In 1660, the General Assembly issued a decree against the Quakers and ordered

the said Chrisman and his wife to have notice of the Governor’s order and if shee shall hereafter offend in the like kind that the sd order be put in effectual execution against hir and also that Mr. Crisman restreyn his said negroes and whole family from repairing to the sid unlawful assembly at his perill. [York County Deeds, Orders, & Wills 3, pg. 125-127.]

Early Quakers did own slaves, and it was not until the 1760s that the policy of the group seriously frowned upon the ownership of slaves, or even the hiring of slave labor.

Most Virginians had not come to Virginia primarily for religious freedom, and generally did not want to change the status quo. Not everyone was expected to believe alike, but everyone was expected to at least outwardly conform to the established religion and join in the rituals. The gentry, who came from the southwestern part of England, had long favored “uniformity in church governments.”

When Quakers began to appear, the authorities quickly moved against them, and in 1658, ordered them banished from the colony. Governor Berkeley enacted laws which required “all nonconformists to depart the colony with all conveniency.” Several small puritan communities had been founded before Berkeley arrived, and many fled to Maryland. One female Friend was ordered to be whipped 20 lashes, but she promised to conform and the whipping was withheld. By 1705, it was reported dissenters were “very few.” It wasn’t until the mid-eighteenth century this drastically changed and several large Quaker settlements grew up in the back lands of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Hanover [lands contained then in New Kent] had a thriving Quaker Community before 1721. Many of the author’s maternal line were Quakers living in Hanover. There was some persecution at that time, but none that I am aware of that was fatal or life-threatening.

Children of Edmund Chrisman-i and Mary, the Quaker

Edmund Chrisman-i, who lived in New Poquoson Parish, in York County, Virginia, wrote his will March 26, 1673, and it was probated February 23, 1673/4 [OS/NS]. It mentioned his land in Milford Haven.

The”odd” looking date above is the usual way to represent dates that fall after the new system of starting the New Year on January first took over. Because the old system started the New Year on March 26th, when the new system of calculating years took over, there was a period of time in which a date fell in a different “year” because it was between March 25th and January 1st. The above date, which originally fell in February of 1673, under the old system, now fell into the new year of 1674, because the new system calculated it in the new year of 1674 because it was after January 1st.

  1. Edmund Chrisman-ii allied himself with Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. He qualified as a Justice in York County in July 25, 1670. He was, not withstanding, apparently one of the leaders of the Rebellion. After Bacon’s death, he and several others were taken prisoner in York by Robert Beverly and held in prison. Edmund Cheeseman-ii, died “of feare, of griefe, or bad useage” before he could be brought to trial. The Act of Assembly in February, 1676/7, was told he had “escaped” his just dues for high treason. James Crewes, another of Bacon’s chief followers, would be hanged for his participation in the Rebellion. For a more detailed account of Bacon’s Rebellion, see the CARTER section.

  1. Mary Cheeseman-ii, married Robert Curtis and died by January 26, 1687/8, as proven by land deeds.

  1. Jane Chrisman-ii.

  2. Thomas Chrisman-ii

Edmund Chrisman-ii married Lydia, perhaps surnamed Farlow, the daughter of Mrs. Elizabeth Bushrod, by her first husband, and niece of Captain George Farlow, one of Bacon’s other supporters, who deposed in April, 1678, that she was aged “about 29 years.” Lydia__?__Cheeseman went to the “trial” of her husband conducted by Governor Berkeley and pled for his life, telling the court that she was responsible for her husband being involved in the Rebellion and asked the court to punish her instead of her husband. Governor Berkeley wasn’t very receptive to her pleas; he called her a “whore.” She was granted administration of the estate of Edmund Chisman-ii, April, 1678. Lydia’s second husband, whom she married June 11, 1678, was Thomas Harwood. She was “killed by thunder” March 16, 1694/5. Does this means she was struck by lightening?

After Bacon’s Rebellion, in which many of the settlers fought the Governor and his henchmen, on January 29, 1677, commissioners, sent over by the English Government to inquire into and report on the state of affairs in the colony, arrived in Virginia. They let the people know they wanted to know what was really happening. “Grievances” were duly signed and sworn and were sent to the commissioners from almost every area of Virginia. Blisland Parish sent its list of “grievances,” complaining of oppressions which had caused the Rebellion. Richard Corley signed this grievance with his mark, “RC.”

To the Honorable Herberte Jeffries, Esq. Sr. John Berrie Knighte Francis Morrison, esq. his Maiesties Commissioners appointed to Enquire into and to make reporte to his most exelent Maiestie of the Grievances and pressur’s of his Maiesties Subjects of this his Maiesties plantation of Virginia.

We his Maiesties most obedient and gratefull subjects being some of ye inhabitants of the Parishe of Blisland, in the countie of New Kent, in obedience to his Maiesties condescentation and mission, doe humbley present to your honours these followinge Greiveances and pressure.

Wee present as a most heavie greivance the late frequent horrid and barbarous murthers committed and petuated upon our fellow subjects by the fidious indians, the Manifould rapins and depredations by them committed upon our stocks and estates, and still expecting releife, but on order was taken but only that we should drawe together at leaste tenne able men to one house, whereupon ensured the lamentable burninges of houses and severall killed [by] the Indians, in adventuringe to goe to there plantation to make some corne.

We present as a greivance the great exactions of shirriffes, altogehter the compleate sallarie of tenn in the hundred be raised with ye leavie, yet in case a man hath not tobacco readie at his owne house, he will not receive it at any other place without the allowance of tenn pounds more for every hundred more.

We present as a greivance the sellinge of stronge drinke to any place where the countie courte is kept during the courte day or what time the court shall sitt or continue it breeding matter of protraction in the countie afayrres, to the great expense and losse of time to those that live remote.

We present as a maniffest grevance the fort duties mentioned in the printed booke of Acts of Assemblie Levied upon the ships for and towards a Magazeene, it being as we conceive for the use of the publlique, notwithstandinge, when we are at any time called fourth by publicke authorie upon any millitarie occation, we are forced to find our selves amunition upon our private charge, nor canne we understand, who have, or what use employed the said amunition soe raised to so nessessary and good intent.

We present as a great greevance the imposition of two shillinges the hogshead, we humbly conceive if narrowly looked into, and employed acordinge to the true intent and meaninge of the express words of the act, it would lessen and leavie and give mutch creaditt to the publicke dated the 2nd day of April, 1677 we the subscribers have set our names and markes.

About 90 men signed this document, including Richard Corley and James Austin. The total was probably more than half of those living in the area. Richard Corley making his mark, “RC,” on such a document proves the Corley family was probably not one of those allied with the government. This Richard Corley is possibly the ancestor of our AUSTIN. [See Scenario II.]

Mary Cheeseman-ii, born about 1650, was the daughter of Edmund-i, and Mary __?__Cheeseman. She married Robert Curtis before March, 1673. She died January 26, 1687/8. [OS/NS] Robert Curtis re-patented to himself 242 acres in New Poquoson Parish on the south side of Cheeseman’s Creek, part of John Cheeseman’s original patent. John Cheeseman-i had transferred it to his brother, Edmund-i, who bequeathed it to his daughter, Mary-ii. Robert Curtis repatented it “in right of my now wife, Mary” October 21, 1687. [Cavaliers and Pioneers, pg. 35.]

Robert Curtis also had 250 acres of land in York County and was vestryman in Charles Parish in 1708. Since Robert Curtis was a vestryman, we may assume he lived in the community and was in conformance with the established church. We may also assume that he was one of the leading men in the community and of substantial financial means in order to be appointed to the vestry. He wrote his will August 11, 1713, and it was probated May 21, 1715.

The children of Robert Curtis-i and Mary Cheeseman-ii Curtis

  1. Edmund Curtis-ii, married Mary, the daughter of Arminger Wade,2nd, who died in York County, Virginia.

2. Thomas Curtis-ii

3. Sarah Curtis-ii

4. Jane Curtis-ii

5. Elizabeth Curtis-ii

6. Robert Curtis-ii

7. Katherine Curtis-ii, born circa 1670, married Edward Corley-i.

John Corley-ii was mentioned by his father Edward Corley-i in his will in 1716. In 1708, what is probably this same John-ii was living in what is now Hanover County, Virginia. The vestry book in New Kent mentions John Corley[ii?] and an Austin family living in the area. The family whose surname was Austin, [sometimes spelled Osten or Ostin], had lived in Virginia since early times. Several documents signed by men surnamed Austin exist prior to Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. [Scenario I and Scenario II again intersect at this juncture.]

Bacon’s Rebellion was not the only rebellion to shake the colony before the Revolution, though it was the largest and most wide spread. Only about five years after Bacon’s Rebellion, the farmers again took up force and the “Tobacco Riots” ensued in New Kent and Glouchester Counties and spread because the price of tobacco was very low. Poor farmers destroyed about half of the seedbeds before they could be transplanted, in hope of raising the price of the tobacco which was left.

AUSTIN CORLEY-2’s brother, according to his Revolutionary Pension records, was named William-2. There was also another man named William Corley, Sr.,[1?] living in Hanover after AUSTIN-2’s “brother William[2] had moved out of the county” [per William’s pension.] The older William Corley, Sr., was witnessing deeds with AUSTIN-2 up to 1803, but he was not found on the 1810 census in that area, unless he is the “W. Cooly” listed there. AUSTIN-2’s oldest son is named William-3, so this underscores the relationship between these families, but is no proof. Checks of Virginia naming patterns in members of the Established Church show that 80% of the time the first male child was named after the paternal grandfather.

The possible descent of the CORLEY family by this Scenario: Edward/Edmund Corley[1] John[2] William[3] Austin[4] Ann Elizabeth Corley[5] m. Austin Johnson.

It is also possible that it goes Edward/Edmund[1] Edmund[2] William[3] Austin[4] etc.

Scenario II

The Richard Line”

A second possibility is that Richard Corley-i born before 1650, as evidenced by a deed witnessed in 1671, of Blisland Parish, is the oldest Corley ancestor of our AUSTIN’s. The descent would be Richard-i, Richard-ii, James-iii, William-iiii, AUSTIN-v. There is some evidence that this second scenario is the correct one but it isn’t totally conclusive. Several other researchers have come to the conclusion that the Richard-line is the correct one. Due to the destruction of several of the counties’ records, however, there may never be “absolute proof.” Richard may also be descended from the “Edmund” Line.

Richard Corley-i was an adult in Blisland Parish as early as 1671 before Bacon’s rebellion. He witnessed a deed with his mark “RC” from William Claiborne, Jr., to Joseph Cockeram. A while later, he was a signatory, with the mark “RC,” to a “grievance” submitted to his Majestie’s Commissioners sent from England in January, 1677, after Bacon’s Rebellion. In 1678, St. Peter’s Parish was cut from Blisland, and in 1704, St. Paul’s Parish was formed from Blisland Parish. What this Richard’s connection, if any, to the “Edmund Corley line” is unknown, but it is likely that there is a connection, if only because of proximity of residence and rarity of the name.

In 1689, the orders for processioning were given and the neighbors around Richard Corley included Thomas Tinsley. The records incorrectly refer to Richard as “Richard Caudry.” The Tinsley family would “live next door” for several generations, and in the 1780s a member of this family was representing Hanover in the General Assembly Sessions. [Glazebrook, Virginia Migrations.]

In 1702, this same group of neighbors “upon a petititon of the upper inhabitants of this parish presented by John Kimburrow, James Nuckols and Richard Corley laying down that they live very remote from the Church, it is ordered that a new Church or chapel be built upon the upperside of Mechumps Creek adjoining to the Kings Roade. [Vestry Book.]

With the original Richard Corley-i, and his presumed son, Richard Corley-ii [“junior”], living in successive counties, but apparently on the same lands, from the time of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, up to at least the 1720s, we can see a continuity of family in the area. On March 24, 1725, Richard Corley received a grant of land for 257 acres in Hanover adjoining John Harris, Garland, Reynolds, and Brown on Harris’ Branch. On September 20, 1734, Richard Corley witnessed an indenture for Reynolds and Brown, both of St. Paul’s Parish. These references could both be to either Richard-ii or Richard-iii.

Richard Corley-i, born about 1650, lived in Blisland Parish in New Kent in 1671. He apparently died about 1708 in St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover, County [the same area as Blisland.] He was mentioned in March of 1708/9 in the Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish. The 39th precinct was divided for processioning of lands and listed “the lands of Daniel Parks, Esq., Henry Chiles Gent, Henry Bourn, Paul Harrald, Richard Anderson and Richard Corley, lying adjacent to each other, being made one precinct. Returns were made in November 19, 1708, that all lands except one had been processioned. An order dated 1-8-1708 [unknown whether the month is January or August] mentions Richard Corley, Jr.-ii, along with John Tinsley, indicating that by this date Richard-ii had come of age and that his father[?] Richard, Sr.-i, might possibly be deceased.

Since the elder Richard Corley was the only man of this name and age appearing in earlier records of the area, it is reasonable to assume that Richard Corley, Junr. was his son. No further entries using the designation “Junior” appear later in St. Paul’s records” [Neal, Southern Sojourners pg. 3-4.]

In 1711, the same precinct mentioned “the widow Austin” and Richard Corley-i, as well as Thomas Tinsley. [Note the proximity of the family named Austin [Ostin]. May 16, 1716, the estate of Thomas Tinsley, total valuation f46.12 was returned in Essex Co. [VA Colonial Abstracts, pg. 70].

Richard Corley-i may have had two sons, John-ii, born about 1675, and Richard-ii, born about 1670. This Richard-ii, died in Hanover about 1740, and his children were John-iii, born in 1695; Rebecca-iii, born about 1710; Richard-iii, born about 1719; and James-iii, born about 1700. [Neale, Southern Sojourners.]

The Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish Hanover County, Virginia 1706-1786, records mentions of Richard Corley in 1723. “In obedience to an order of Court dated 1st day of Feb 1723”…..” appoints John Tinsley to be surveyor of a road to be cleared from Crumps Creek by Richard Corley, to the road by Edward Chambers, Sr., & that he have to assist him, ….”

Again, in 1723, “Richard Corley for keeping a woman six months and burial, 350 lbs tobacco.” [The Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish Hanover County, Virginia 1706-1786]

Later in 1723, Richard Corley was appointed with John Tinsley and “all his own sons to assist him in clearing the road whereof he is surveyor.” This indicates that by 1723, this Richard Corley had grown sons. Hanover County had been split off from New Kent lands prior to the 1723 mention of the Corleys and Tinsleys still living near each other. [Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover Co., VA 1706-1786.]

In 1732, the vestry recorded that “Richard Corley have Wm. Chambers…John Tinsley….and his own sons to assist him, clearning the road, whereof he is surveyor.” This is the last entry found for him in the parish records.

The supposed sons of Richard-ii are: James Corley-iii; John Corley-iii; Richard Corley-iii; and a daughter, Rebecca Corley-iii. [Neal, Southern Sojourners pg. 5]

James-iii, [Richard-ii, Richard-i] was the supposed father of William, Sr.-iv [the father of AUSTIN-5 and William-5] Other children of James-iii were Bartlett Corley-iv, born about 1725; Charles Corley-iv, born 1726; Zachariah Corley-iv, born 1727, and died in 1771 in Louisa County; James Corley-iv born about 1728; Edward Corley-iv born 1731 and who died 1798 in Mecklenburg, Virginia; and a daughter whose given name is unknown. [There’s that name Edward again!]

James Corley-iii was granted 150 acres of new land in Hanover County September 27, 1729, adjoining the lines of Reynolds and “Kembrow” [Kimbrough] on both sides of the road between the Northanna and Little Rivers. This land was in the new parish of St. Martin’s on the western side of Hanover near the lands of his father, Richard-ii. [Neal, Southern Sojourners, pg. 6] Unfortunately, the records of both St. Martin’s and St. Paul’s parishes are lost. No evidence has surfaced, however, to indicate the presence of any other adult male named Corley in the vicinity. In 1740, Richard Corley-ii had been mentioned in the accounts of the store of Thomas Partridge in Hanover. James-iii’s daughter, “Miss Colley,” was also mentioned in these accounts.

William Corley-iv, the supposed son of James-iii, would have been born probably between 1720 and 1730, using the known birth dates of his two known sons. He resided in St. Martin’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia. Since it was probably him on the 1810 census as
“W. Colley,” the latter date is probably closer to his date of birth. [Neal, Southern Sojourners pg. 12.] Since many of the records of both the parish and the county are lost, there are few mentions of William-iv in the available records. October 4, 1784, a “W. Colley” witnessed an indenture of several men on the
Little River. He was not listed in the 1782 state enumeration of Hanover County, but was shown on the 1800 tax list as owning two horses, two slaves over age 16, one slave between the ages of 12 and 16, and had two male tithables in his household. There is evidence both pro and con for both these scenarios, though no hard evidence for either one. It is hoped that some future researcher will be able to supply the data necessary to finally and completely link AUSTIN to the proper line[s]. With the destruction of many of Virginia’s colonial records, however, it is possible that no hard-and-fast evidence above what we have already will be found.

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

  1. William Byars Corley-3, born about 1783.

  2. Austin Corley-3 , born 1784 .

  3. Jane Corley-3, born 1786.

  4. Pleasant Corley-3, born 1787.

  5. Clarissa Corley-3, born about 1788.

  6. Nathan Corley-3, born 1789.

  7. 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.

  1. Eliza Frances Corley-3, born in 1800.

  2. Robert Corley-3, who moved to Arkansas.

  3. Richard Corley-3, born in 1807.

  4. Christopher Corley-3, born in 1809.

  5. Bartlett Corley-3, born in 1812.

  6. 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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Matilda Corley-3, married Ennis Douglas, November 14, 1821, and died after 1841.

  1. 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.

  1. Polly Corley-3, married a man named Moore, died before 1841. She left five heirs.

  1. Sally Corley-3, married Nelson Cosby. She moved to Kentucky and died about 1840.

  1. 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.

  1. Louisa Corley-3, married Isaac Bell and died before 1841, leaving heirs. Her daughter Celia Bell was an heir of AUSTIN CORLEY-2.

  1. 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.

  1. Jane Corley-3, married a man named Adams, and died before 1841, leaving heirs.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

Pages 287-291

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.