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Botetourt County Virginia

Map of Va: Botetourt CountyBotetourt County was created on 31 Jan. 1770 from the southern lands of Augusta County. Named for Lord Botetourt (Norborne Berkeley), governor of Virginia, 1768-1779, it encompassed all of Virginia (and West Virginia) west of the Blue Ridge and south of a line through the center of Rockbridge and west. This also included Virginia's lands in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and a portion of Wisconsin; however, its political control did not reach to these uttermost limits. The process of dividing the county began in 1772 with the separation of Fincastle County. In 1778 Rockbridge County was formed from Augusta and Botetourt and Greenbrier County in the west was created brom Botetourt and Montgomery. In 1785 a portion of Rockbridge west of the ridgeline of Top Mountain was transferred to Botetourt's jurisdiction; in 1790 some of the southern part of Botetourt was transferred to Montgomery County. In 1790 and 1796 minor boundary alterations with Montgomery were effected. In 1791 Botetourt, along with Augusta and Greenbrier counties, contributed territory to form Bath County. In 1802 part of Botetourt was added to Monroe County. Alleghany was established in 1822 from portions of Botetourt, Bath, and Monroe Counties; 1838, Roanoke County was cut off, and in 1851 Craig County was formed from parts of Botetourt, Giles, Roanoke, and Monroe counties. The final boundary change came in 1888 when the line between Rockbridge and Botetourt south of the James River was changed and a small amount of land was transferred to Roanoke's jurisdiction. Botetourt's location astride the Old Carolina Wagon Road made it an important county genealogically. Settlers from the Shenandoah Valley and Pennsylvania had to pass through the area on their way to the Yadkin Valley and central North Carolina. It was also the area to which many immigrant workers came in the nineteenth century to labor on the Kanawha Canal and to work in the iron foundry at Cloverdale Furnace.

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BOTETOURT CO., VA WILL BOOK A (PART 1), 1770-1785 transcribed and edited by Karen Wagner Treacy. 10 1/2 x 8 1/2, vi, 189 pages. A transformation was taking place in the western counties of Virginia, as thousands of settlers moved into and through the area in search of new lands. Botetourt's position along the major routes south and west was acentral focal point of this migration. The author has examined and transcribed the first will book for the county, and a second part is pending for the years 1786 to 1801. From the author’s introduction:

     One of the most striking things seen in this volume is the intense inflation in the late war years. Notice the vast difference in the appraisals from the beginning to the end of this volume. Feather beds increased dramatically from 3 to 100 pounds, a cow and calf from £2 15 shillings to approximately 300 pounds. The ‘Wested Coat’ of Robert McClenahan appraised in 1773 for 1 pound 8 shillings with jacket and breeches; in 1780 Robert Alderson’s coat, wescoat, britches, hat, and stockings were appraised at 325 pounds. An economic historian would be better able than I to set estates of comparable holdings side by side and document the rising prices, but inflation by a factor approaching 100 in less than a decade underscores the extreme economic hardship of the War of the Rebellion. Note, of course, that many of the documents are appraisals, not sales dockets, but vendues (estate sales) do show the same trend. It was noted thus at the time, seen (pp 90-91) in a bitter note ‘when money bore its real value.’ Likewise, Andrew Woods took it into account in his will, qualifying prices and values ‘agreeable to the dignity of the paper Currency at this Time’. See the depreciation table on page 141.
     Wills possibly contain the most human interest of all documents. The nuncupative wills of Alexander Walker (p 5) and William Rowland (p 61) are gems of reporting, complete with dialogue and body language. The vendue bill for Samuel Montgomery (pp 59-60, also pp 84-85) shows he died on military service, as he is credited for driving pack horses, received ‘cash for his sojering’ and for ‘his things sold at the Point’. Thomas Owens (p 62) may also have been in service, or had property impressed, as his estate contained a ‘claim against the country.’ Luke Pryor (page 175) goes against the common practice of leaving only a third of the estate to the widow during her life or widowhood; in that in the absence of any children he and Susan had, the estate could go to her children by a future marriage!
     Expenses of a final illness and a funeral are detailed on pages 153 and 77; charges for liquor at gatherings such as funerals and vendues is well documented. Executors and administrators were allowed a daily rate. In Botetourt County, in 1772 (page 22) the costs for managing the estate are given, with the administrator receiving £1. In 1780, (page 102) the rate is given at £18 per day, again showing the massive inflation of the 1770s and 80s.
     In 1770, Botetourt County was formed from the massive territory of Augusta County. Botetourt extended down to the southwest end of Virginia, and remained the legal jurisdiction there until the formation of Fincastle County in 1773. My transcription of Botetourt tithables from 1770 to 1783 may be used in conjunction with this work to help place geographically some of the men mentioned; I have also transcribed the court minutes of Fincastle County for 1773 to 1776, which territory was formerly Botetourt.
     All names are indexed except the signature of the attesting clerks, John and David May, Clerks of Court and deputy clerks James Lyle and Adam Smyth. No titles or other designators (Senior, Junior, Gentleman, Captain) are included in the index. If I could determine a standard spelling for surnames I regularized them for ease of indexing. Spelling, punctuation, and abbreviations in this transcription are as in original; I have formatted some of the columns to better fit the page.

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BOTETOURT CO., VA WILL BOOK A (PART 2), 1786-1801 transcribed and edited by Karen Wagner Treacy. 10 1/2 x 8 1/2, vi, 216 pages. See Part 1 above for description.

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BOTETOURT CO., VA TITHABLES, 1770-1782 transcribed and edited by Karen Wagner Treacy. 10 1/2 x 8 1/2, vi, 170 pages. During the period just prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution and throughout the conflict, a transformation was taking place in the western counties of Virginia, as thousands of settlers moved into and through the area in search of new lands. The records of this period document the very earliest settlers to the area. The author has examined and transcribed the tithables lists for the first dozen years of the county’s existence. From the author’s introduction:

     “A tithable was a person who was liable to pay a tax or a tithe, one that was calculated per person, or a ‘head’ tax. A later name for it was poll tax, again meaning per head. The County Court set the amount of the tax to meet the anticipated budget, and authorized the Sheriff to collect the money. This, and not law enforcement, was the most important role of the Sheriff.
     Colonial officeholder posted performance bonds for their due and faithful performance. The higher the office, the higher the bond. Most offices required a 500 or 1000 pound bond; the sheriff could be required to post up to 20,000 pounds, enough to cover the tax liability for the entire county.
     Who paid the tithe? White males age sixteen to fifty or sixty, and negroes of both sexes and all ages were counted in this head tax. The person ‘taking in’ the lists of tithables also listed number of horses (including stud horses), neat cattle, wheels for riding carriages, and billiards tables, for which the owners also paid a set amount. (Land was taxed separately, although it could be enumerated with the tithables for convenience.). To be removed from the taxable roll, the levy, required an act of the court to acknowledge that a person was aged, infirm, or indigent and ought to be excused.
     A county was subdivided into militia districts, headed by captains, and ideally each also had a constable to carry out court-appointed functions. Once a year the court would appoint a person of substance and reputation, often the militia captain, to enumerate the tithables in each district. These lists, turned in to the Botetourt Court on individual slips of paper, served as a yearly census for the heads of households of the county. Often additional tithes in the household were named as well. In cases where a woman was listed as head of household she was not taxed, although sons of age and slaves were. By comparing the documents year to year, we can see sons reaching taxable age, or moving out into their own households. We can see individuals moving from one district to another. People who did not own property and could easily be omitted from other court records (jury duty for example) can be found in the tithable rolls.
     Enumerators traveled the county as efficiently as possible. If the list was not reorganized into alphabetical order (often by the first name) we can presume that people listed in proximity lived in proximity. Nicknames, occupations, and parentage were occasionally given to distinguish individuals. Senior and Junior at this period indicated relative age, not necessarily a father and son relationship.
     In additon to tax liability, the tithable lists were also featured in an important county service: road maintanence. Each road overseer was empowered to call upon the tithables living in his district to clear and maintain the roads.
     These lists from Botetourt County cover the period from 1770 to 1782. Unfortunately, they are only accessible on microfilm, due to the serious fire and water damage suffered by many of that county’s records. Many of the pages are nearly illegible. I have indicated the best readings I could decipher, but I do not pretend to have succeeded in all cases. Because these are copied from microfilm and the originals have been damaged in addition to the degradation of age, some of these readings are very tentative. If I was reasonably sure of a reading (all pages were proofed against the images) I listed the letters I saw. If the name resembled another name existing in these records, I examined the questioned copy to see if the known name would fit the legible penstrokes. If it could be read as the known name that’s how I copied it. Many times I thought a name ‘ought’ to be a known name but I could not see the penstrokes that way; in those cases I listed what I saw. I often noted the original image as being smudged, dark, faded, poor, blotched, or generally bad. In some cases all that could be determined was whether or not individual letters extended above or below the line. Question marks indicate a partially illegible reading that fit the letter pattern of the word. Square brackets indicate an unreadable entry (often these are on creases in the paper) and square brackets within a word indicate one or more letters illegible. The reader should go to the microfilm for any questions about my reading. I have been working with SW VA court records from this period for several years and some of these pages are the most difficult I have encountered."

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BOTETOURT CO., VA 1810 CENSUS transcribed by John Vogt. 10 1/2 x 8 1/2, x, 37 pages. This is the first surviving census for Botetourt, since both the 1790 and 1800 censuses have been lost. The transcription is in the rough alpha order of the original document for easy reference. Botetourt was an important and populous county in the mountainous foothills of southwestern Virginia and it was situated along two main thoroughfares westward, the Valley Road and the east-west Buckingham Road from the coast.

This and other 1810 censuses are transcribed by the author from the original images, and while many of Virginia's censuses are available online, they oftentimes are replete with misreadings.Caveat emptor!
Surname list

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THE BOTETOURT ARTILLERY by Jerald H. Markham. 2nd edition, 2010. Paperback, 6x9, x, 201 pp. Since the first publication (1995) of Markham's book, his study of this important Confederate unit has become a classic. Current used copies of his original 95-page work sell on the used book market for anywhere from $60 to $150. The author has continued his research and has produced a second edition, expanding the original study by more than a hundred pages with the inclusion of additional photos and an extensive roster of all known members of the unit. Like its predecessor, this work is destined to become the definitive study on this portion of Civil War history.

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BOTETOURT CO., VA MARRIAGES, 1770-1853 John Vogt & T. William Kethley, Jr. Two volumes, 1987, xi, 600 pages, figures, appendices, map. Originally composed of the southern portion of Augusta County, Botetourt became the parent county for a total of forty-four counties, including much of the West Virginia area. Bonds, ministers' returns, and miscellaneous marriage data have been collected from the records in the Virginia State Library, Archives Division, and from courthouse sources to comprise the 5,211 marriage records.
Surname list

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[Bote] two-volume set 35.00

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Botetourt Co. 1815 Directory of Landowners by Roger G. Ward. 2005. 41 pages, map, 5 1/2X8 1/2.
For a full description of the 1815 LAND DIRECTORY Records and a listing of available counties, see:
Individual County Booklets, 1815 Directory of Virginia Landowners

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Botetourt Co. Revolutionary Public Claims transcribed by Janice L. Abercrombie and Richard Slatten.. 2005. 49 pages, 5 1/2X8 1/2.

For a full description of the Virginia Revolutionary Public Claims and a listing of available counties, see:
Revolutionary "Publick" Claims series
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[Pc08] $7.75     (printed version)

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For more records pertaining to BOTETOURT COUNTY, VIRGINIA see also:

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