Benjamin Cheatham (c1730 – 1787)

Benjamin Cheatham first appears in Surry County records on 12 August 1754 when he was among the witnesses to the will of John Collier. 1

His father’s will, written in 1762, implies that Benjamin was living on the land he inherited:  half of his father’s 300-acre purchase on the south side of Johnchecohunk Swamp.   He evidently lived on this tract throughout his residence in Surry County.  In fact, no disposition of the land was found.

Identifying his Wife Joanna Scarborough

On 18 April 1763 Benjamin Cheatham and his wife Joanna sold two parcels totaling 375 acres in Surry County’s Southwark Parish to Col. Richard Cocke.2   The land was described as two tracts of 300 and 75 acres that descended to Joanna as the sole heiress of her grandfather John Cannon.   John Cannon’s will, dated 11 July 1741 and proved 21 October 1741, had left all his land to his granddaughter Joanna Scarborough. 3

Joanna was apparently the daughter of Edward Scarborough and Ann Cannon.  On 21 October 1755 William Scarbrough sold to Lewis Scarbrough sold two tracts of land in Surry County which had been granted to his father Edward Scarbrough. 4

Benjamin and Joanna were probably not long married when they sold her land.  She had evidently still been single in 1759 when an accounting of Edward Scarborough’s estate paid a legacy to her as Joanna Scarborough.

He moves to North Carolina

On 17 November 1783 he bought 320 acres in Halifax County just south of what is now Roanoke Rapids on Elk Marsh Swamp (now simply called Marsh Swamp.)   However, he may have actually lived in adjacent Northampton County.  The North Carolina state census for Northampton County, undated but taken sometime in 1786, enumerated Benjamin “Cheatom” in Capt. Vincent’s district with a household of one male over 21, four young males, two females, and four slaves.5

Benjamin Cheatham’s will, which he signed on 19 June 1787 and which was proved in Halifax County in August 1787, was unusually brief.  After the usual introduction it read:

…I do desire at my death my Land, Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Hogs, four beds and furniture and all that I possess or claim, I desire to be sold and my lawful debts paid and all over paying my debts I desire that it may be equally divided between my four children Rookins, Edmund, Franky, Berry.  [Punctuation added]6

Joseph WInter and William Aimis (Amis) were named executors.   The witnesses Joseph Winter and Joseph Seet proved the will at the Halifax County court, and William Amis qualified as executor.  William Amis, who had been enumerated along with 24 slaves in the same district in Northampton County in 1786, sold the 320 acres of land on 16 February 1790.

It isn’t clear whether all four sons were by Joanna Scarborough, as there is no record of her past 1763.

  1. Rookins Cheatham  (c1763 – aft1830)  He was enumerated in the 1800 census of Nash County (just south of Halifax) as “Rookins Cheetoms”, aged under 45, heading a household of four.7 [The name appears in one census index as “Rookius Chestoms” but the actual entry clearly reads “Rookins Cheetoms”.]  He evidently migrated to Kentucky a few years later.  As “Rookings Cheatham” he was enumerated in the1830 census of Tipton County, Tennessee as a single man aged 60-70.  The son suggested by the 1800 census is though to have been Thomas R. Cheatham.
  2. Edmund Cheatham (? – ?)
  3. Francis Cheatham  (? – ?)  He was “Franky” in his father’s will, but “Francis” in a 1790 guardian record.
  4. Littleberry Cheatham (1782 – 1855).  See the separate page.


  1. Surry County Will Book 10, page 18. []
  2. Surry County Deed Book 8, pp170-173. []
  3. Surry County Deed and Wills Book 9, pp388. []
  4. Surry County Deeds & WIlls Book 7, p228. []
  5. Captain Vincent’s district:  Benj. Cheatom, 1 male 21-60, 4 males under 21 or over 60, 2 females, 2 slaves 12-50, 2 slaves under 12 or over 50. []
  6. Halifax County, NC Will Book 3, page 138. []
  7. 1800 Census of Nash County:  Rookins Cheetoms 10010-10100. []