Francis Hester (c1660 – aft1719)

Francis Hester’s background is mysterious.  His name appears in only seven records, all brief and all in New Kent County, Virginia.

Unfortunately, the malicious burning of the New Kent County courthouse in 1787 destroyed nearly all the early records of that county.   The only records which survived are the partially preserved vestry books of two of New Kent’s six parishes.  In the register of St. Peter’s Parish, which begins in 1682, we find a single entry for the baptism of two children of Francis Hester and his unnamed wife:1

Robert ye sone of Frances Hester & ______ his wife baptised ye 10 day of October, 1686

Mary daughter to Fran. Hester bapt. ye 1st of March, 1689

Francis Hester had apparently acquired land in New Kent County by deed, for there is no patent to him or any other Hester anywhere in Virginia during the 17th century.  Nor do any patents in New Kent mention him as an adjoining landowner.    He owned a tract there by 1689, as he was almost certainly the “Fran. Eastor” listed among the landowners in the 1689 processioning of St. Peter’s parish.2   The 1704 Quit Rent rolls show him with 300 acres in New Kent.3

In 1704, St. Paul’s Parish was carved out of St. Peter’s Parish. The vestry book of St. Paul’s Parish also has been partly preserved and published, and contains several entries for Hesters, all concerning the processioning of land.4   The earliest recorded St. Paul’s processioning, carried out sometime in late 1708 or early 1709 and recorded on 14 March 1708/9, shows that the lands of Edward Bullock, Richard Bullock, Francis Hester, William Talley, and Mark Anthony were processioned as one of 39 precincts within the parish.  The processioners’ return stated that “Fra: Hester being an Ancient man was not Able to Travel to see our Land processioned, but he saw his own, and so he was very well satisfied.” ((The Vestry Book and Register of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia 1706-1786 edited by Dr. C.G. Chamberlayne, (Virginia State Library, 1940), p216.))

Despite this description as an “ancient man”, Francis Hester was able to serve as a normal member of the viewing crew in the processionings of 1711, 1715, and 1719.   On the 19th and 20th of November 1711, Francis Hester and several other persons processioned the land of a precinct consisting of Francis Hester’s parcel and fourteen other tracts.5   He likewise participated normally in the processioning of 1715, carried out on 11 December.6    Four years later, the processiong return for his district is dated 10 February 1719/20 and states that each landowner was present for the event.7 

There is then a 12-year gap in the processioning records during which time Francis Hester evidently died.   The next recorded processioning is for 1731, by which time the land formerly belonging to Francis Hester was then owned by Robert Hester.8   It appears Francis Hester died sometime after his land was processioned in early 1720, but before 1731.  A record for his son (see below) in 1724 suggests the possibility that he may have been deceased by then.

The question of when he was born is more thorny. We have only two clues. Robert Hester was evidently the eldest child and we know he was born in 1686.   More than half of all men who married in Virginia at the time married by the time they reached 25, while the average man in England married three to four years later, in his late twenties.   Whether Francis Hester was an immigrant or a native we don’t know, so an estimated birth year around 1660 might be appropriate, give or take as much as four or five years.   The parish record referring to him as “an ancient man” in 1708 might suggest an earlier birth year to modern sensibilities, but the fact that he was able to participate normally in processioning for another eleven years suggests that this record may not be literally accurate.   Indeed, attaining the age of 60 would have been an accomplishment in those days.   Most 17th century Virginians who reached the age of 25 could not expect to see 50, and very few lived to see 60.

On the identity of Francis Hester’s wife

The name of Francis Hester’s wife is not mentioned in any record.  Neither her given name nor her maiden name appears in any record.  No evidence of her identity has been found.   That has not prevented speculation that she was named Elizabeth Garland, a daughter of Edward Garland — a notion which in recent years has found broad acceptance, particularly on the internet.   However, there is not a shred of evidence in support of this notion, nor is it shared by Garland researchers.9   A thorough analysis of the records available in New Kent and Hanover seems to prove conclusively that she could not possibly have been a daughter of Edward Garland.    For a detailed explanation, see the separate paper.

The origin of this speculation is difficult to pinpoint., but it seems to be a fairly recent theory.   The “Bible record” mentioned elsewhere contains her name as “Elizabeth Garland” but that is surely a genealogical theory separate and apart from the actual Bible records, which deal with later generations of the family.   Whatever the origin, I have been unable to identify any evidence in support of it.   But, in pursuit of that evidence, I offer a summary of the Genealogy of Edward Garland and a summary of Garland Immigrants to Virginia.

Locating his land

We can identify the general location of Francis Hester’s land as the far eastern part of present-day Hanover County.   He seems to have lived on the same land for at least thirty years.   The 1689 processioning record in the St. Peter’s parish vestry book lists his name in the midst of a few persons who had patents on Matedequin Creek.10    [Matadequin Creek ran through eastern Hanover, emptying into the Pamunkey River.  Its last few miles, as it approached the Pamunkey, formed a portion of the border between New Kent and Hanover as well as the border between St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s parishes.]    This is consistent with the neighboring landowners in the St. Paul’s processioning districts of 1708, 1711, 1715, and 1719.   In 1720 Hanover County was formed from the western part of New Kent, and in 1726 St. Martin’s Parish, covering most of Hanover, was carved out of St. Paul’s.   However, Francis Hester’s land, now Robert Hester’s, continued to be processioned in St. Paul’s parish in 1731, 1735, 1743, and 1751.11   That is further indication that the Hester land was located somewhere in what was then eastern Hanover County.   The near total destruction of Hanover County records prevent us from learning precisely where, but it would seem likely this was the same land processioned in 1689.12    Mark Anthony, whose land was in the same processioning district in 1708, apparently lived on a patent of his father-in-law William Watson which was located on Matadequin Creek in Hanover.13    A 1725 patent to Richard Bullock Jr. bordered “Talley” on the same creek.14

Chikldren of Francis Hester

As far as we know, Francis Hester has only the two children listed in the St. Peter’s parish register.  Any younger children would surely have been recorded in the St. Peter’s parish register, and any older children would surely have been mentioned somewhere in the records.

  1. Robert Hester (1685/6 – c1748) See separate paper.
  2. Mary Hester (c1689 – ?) There is no record of her other than the entry in the vestry book for her baptism.

 

 

  1. The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia 1684 to 1786, edited by Dr. C. G. Chamberlayne, (Virginia State Library, 1937), p359 (both entries on page 14 of the original).  Note that these entries are rendered very slightly differently in the transcriptions by Chamberlayne in 1937 and the Colonial Dames in 1905. []
  2. Chamberlayne (St. Peter’s), p21.   The clerk entered a list of landowners in the county, in the only surviving processioning record prior to the formation of St Paul’s parish in 1794.   The majority of names on this list are spelled differently (more poorly) than for the same persons listed in the register.   Not only did the clerk use imaginative spellings, but his handwriting must have been difficult to read, for the Colonial Dames 1905 transcription of the same record renders scores of names differently than Chamberlayne’s transcription.  At any rate, no “Eastor” is mentioned anywhere in other records, thus this is surely Francis Hestor. []
  3. The Quit Rents of Virginia 1704, Annie L. W. Smith (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977). []
  4. Processioning was a mechanism designed to avoid boundary disputes caused by faulty surveys and the removal of landmarks.  A Virginia law passed in 1662 required each parish to organize groups of local landowners to “goe in procession”, or walk the property lines, to examine and renew the boundaries. The law in this timeframe required that this be done every four years between September and March.  [In those days the year ended on March 24 and the following year began on March 25, so the timeframe was intended to be the last half of every fourth year.]  []
  5. Chamberlayne (St. Paul’s), pp224-5. []
  6. Chamberlayne (St. Paul’s), p236 and repeated verbatim on p248. []
  7. Chamberlayne (St. Paul’s), p258. []
  8. Chamberlayne (St. Paul’s)., p279-80.  This is clearly the same land, from the names of neighbors in the district. []
  9. See for instance the Garland genealogies in The Virginia Genealogist, Volumes 23 & 24 (1979) “The Garland Family of New Kent and Hanover Counties” and Cumberland Parish, Lunenburg County, Virginia 1774-1816, Landon Covington Bell (Genealogical Publishing Co., reprinted 1974), pp274.  Neither of these studies hints at a daughter who might be a candidate to have married Francis Hester.  []
  10. Among the names within five or six spaces of Francis Hester’s are David Crawford (1672 and 1676 grants on Matedequin) and Charles Fleming (1688 and 1690 grants on Matedequin), whose grants mention adjacent landowners (Charles Polegreen, Dabbeny, etc.) who are also listed near Francis Hester. []
  11. Chamberlayne (St. Paul’s)., p290, p309, p321. []
  12. The only surviving public records of Hanover County are a single book, for the two years 1734-1735, of court orders, wills, and deeds. An additional 25 or so deeds were later re-recorded. Otherwise, there are no surviving 18th century county records prior to the 1780s. []
  13. Mark Anthony inherited this land from the father of his second wife, but it is not clear whether he inherited it before or after 1708. []
  14. Virginia Patent Book 12, p342  The patent was dated 25 September 1725, but may have been occupied several years earlier.  This is the only mention of a Talley in Hanover patents. []