Peter Hayes (c1700-1761) & Martha Sledge

Arnold Edmund Hayes, writing in Historical Southern Families, Vol. 15 claimed that Peter Hays of Urahaw was the same person as Peter Hays the son of Peter of Blackwater, who married Martha Sledge.1  This claim is easily disproved.  These were two different men who were coincidentally named Peter Hays. The Peter Hays who married Martha Sledge and died leaving a will in Halifax County in 1760 actually remained in Virginia for most of his life.  He was not the same person as Peter Hayes of Bertie County, North Carolina.

The evidence strongly suggests that Dr. Hayes conflated two different men who happened to have the same name.

Arnold E. Hayes wrote that Peter Hayes was born ca 1673 and married Martha Sledge circa 1695, providing no evidence for either date.  In fact, the marriage of Peter Hayes and Martha Sledge occurred more than thirty years later.  Indeed, examination of records of her father Charles Sledge suggest that he married Martha Clarke in the 1690s and his children were either babies or unborn when Peter Hays is claimed to have married.

Peter Hay(s) married Martha Sledge of Surry County, Virginia sometime between 3 November 1725 when the will of Charles Sledge bequeathed “unto my daughter Martha Sledge one three year old heifer” and 8 January 1726/7 when his widow Mary Sledge’s will bequeathed her residual estate to “my daughter Martha Hay” and made her son-in-law Peter Hay executor.2

Clearly Peter Hay and Martha Sledge married between November 1725 and January 1727.  The significance of this is twofold: first, it places Peter Hay in Surry County in the late 1720s and second, it means his children were born no earlier than about 1726.

On 4 January 1731 “Peter Hay of Surry County” bought 100 acres on the north side of the Three Creeks in Isle of Wight County from James Atkinson, being a 1725 patent to Richard Atkinson, located in what became the westernmost part of what would become Southampton County. 3  Seventeen years later on 20 September 1748 Peter Hay was issued a patent for 130 acres adjoining his own land on the north side of Three Creeks.4  That part of Isle of Wight became Southampton County in 1749.

This is not the same Peter Hayes “of Bertie County” who was on a Chowan County militia roster in 1720, was witnessing deeds in Bertie County in 1728, was buying land on Cashy Swamp in 1733, and who appears continuously in Bertie records until his 1761 will.

In the meantime his brother-in-law Henry Ivey (c1695-1774), who had married Rebecca Sledge, also settled nearby on Three Creeks.  The two brothers-in-law witnessed a deed together for nearby land on 22 September 1743.5  (For more on Henry Ivey see this paper and look for Henry Ivey on page 11.)

On 6 March 1749/50 Peter Hays and his wife Martha Hays “of Southampton County” sold 100 acres of his 230-acre tract on the north side of Three Creeks and the Great Swamp to Martha’s nephew Henry Ivey Jr.6

In both the above cases, he signed using the same mark — a different mark than the one used by Peter Hayes of Bertie County (whose same mark was used to sell land to his brother Arthur Hayes in Isle of Wight.)

On 16 May 1749 Peter Hay sued John Morgan in Surry County for trespass assault and battery, winning the case in a jury trial. He was ordered to pay 496 pounds of tobacco each to two witnesses named Robert Rose and Thomas Johnson (neighbors on Three Creeks) for four days attendance in court and for 33 miles of travel each day.  The jury apparently considered the claim somewhat frivolous as they awarded Peter Hay merely four shillings in damages. 7  In February 1750/51 Peter Hay sued Thomas Lucas for breach of promise in a case that dragged on until a jury in July 1751 decided in Peter Hay’s favor and awarded him £15:0s:6d in damages, plus costs.8

Three years later on 13 March 1754 Peter Hay (sic) “of the parish of Nottoway” and Southampton County sold his remaining 130 acres to his Francis Hilliard, described as including the 1748 patent granted to Peter Hay.9 This is significant, for Francis Hilliard was the husband of Peter Hay’s daughter Winny Hilliard, thus clearly identifying him as the same Peter Hays who left the 1760 will in Halifax County, North Carolina.   On 10 November 1762 “Francis Hilliard and Winny his wife of the county of Southampton” sold the same 130 acres on the north side of the Three Creeks to Edward Reese, describing it as containing a patent to “Peter Hays late of said county”. 10  Relatives Henry Ivey and John Ivey witnessed the deed, which was proved in court by Francis and Winny Hilliard.

All our evidence tells us that Peter and Martha Hays lived on his Three Creeks land in Southampton County continuously from 1731 until 1754, and perhaps for a few years thereafter.   He could not possibly be the same person as the Peter Hays who was continuously living in Bertie County from at least 1728 until 1761. 

Peter Hays wrote his will several miles away in Halifax County Virginia on 3 August 1760, and it was proved at the March court 1761. 11  He gave five shillings to his son Charles Hays, and five shillings each to seven daughters named Rebecca “Emry” (Emory), Edy Philips, Winny Hilliard, Selve Hays, Milly Hays, Wille Hays, and Hannah (no surname given). His wife Martha was named executor, receiving the remainder of the estate, and the will was witnessed by Ruben Hays, among others.   There is no record of Peter Hays buying or patenting land in Halifax, and the will makes no mention of land.  In fact there was no other record found of Peter Hay(s) in Halifax County.

Arnold E. Hayes wrote that there were four older children (William, John, Thomas, and Reuben) who were ignored by the will, though there is no evidence at all that there were other children.  Having married Martha Sledge about 1726, the oldest children of Peter Hays of Southampton and Halifax could have been no older than early-thirties when he died.

The son Charles Hayes does not appear in the records of either Halifax County, North Carolina or Southampton County, Virginia, and I do not know what became of him.  The identity of Reuben Hayes is unknown, as he does not appear in Halifax records either.  He is not likely to be a son of Peter Hays, as his witness to the will would deprive him of any claim on the residual estate.12  Nor does he seem to be the same person as the Reverend Reuben Hays of Johnston/Dobbs County who was literate and would surely not have signed the document with a mark.13

The daughter Rebecca Emory was evidently the wife of Edward Emory, whose 1792 will named his wife Rebecca and left a legacy to Temperance Hilliard. 14

 

  1. “Hayes – Hays of Virginia and North Carolina” by Arnold Edmund Hayes, Historical Southern Families, Volume 15, pages 174-5. []
  2. Surry County, Virginia Deeds & Wills 7, page 623 and page 826, respectively. []
  3. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 4, page 146. []
  4. Virginia Patent Book 28, page 422. []
  5. Isle of Wight County Deed Book 6, page 367. []
  6. Southampton County Deed Book 1, page 78. []
  7. Surry County Order Book 1744-1749, pages 546-549. []
  8. Surry County Order Book 1749-1751, pages 186, 219, 268. []
  9. Southampton County Deed Book 2, page 14. []
  10. Southampton County Deed Book 3, page 181. []
  11. Halifax County, NC, Will Book 1, page 24. []
  12. Inheritance law at the time prevented a witness to a will from claiming a share of the residual or remainder estate.  It was rare enough to be practically non-existent. []
  13. The witness to Peter Hays’ will signed by mark, while the Reverend Reuben Hays could sign his name. []
  14. Halifax County Will Book 3, page 207. []