Femes Covert and the Inescapable Brunswick County

About four posts back, land sales involving Joseph Fipps or Phips and his wife Sarah of Brunswick County, Virginia but taking place in Bute County, North Carolina were discussed. Another source abstracting one of these records is a web page headed Deed Book 4 Warren County, NC (Part 1 of 2).

That page mentions the 9 August 1772 deed as being from Joseph Fips or Fipps and wife Sarah of Brunswick County, Virginia to Douglass Wilkins and Edmund Wilkins. This was for 300 acres in Bute County.

The abstract mentions that the deed was acknowledged in the August 1772 court by Joseph Fipps and his wife Sarah, “first consenting in private examination.” What does this mean?

Under coverture, when a woman married she acquired the status of a feme covert. This meant that her husband’s legal rights took precedence over hers. Only a feme sole, an unmarried woman, could own property and make contracts in her own name.

When the grantor in a deed was a feme covert, she would be subjected to “private examination” in order to ensure that she was acting on her own volition. This was to protect her from being coerced by her husband.

Regarding the Douglass Wilkins and Edmund Wilkins in the Fipps deed, the name Douglas Wilkins appears in Brunswick County records a bit later in the same decade. Was this the same “Douglass” Wilkins? Evidently so, since both names – Douglas Wilkins and Edmund Wilkins – appear together in Brunswick County, Virginia Deed Book 9.

There, as abstracted, the deed involved people named Jackson from both South Carolina and North Carolina, in addition to John Robinson of Brunswick County. The deed was for 250 acres in Brunswick County, with a land description which mentions Chinkapen (Chinquapin) Bottom, Allen’s Mill, Plantation Branch, and the Meherin River (mistranscribed as the Heherin).

That deed was witnessed by, among others, Douglas Wilkins and Edmund Wilkins. The deed was evidently dated 23 January 1767 and was proved May and September 1767.

Without seeing the original record, one would assume that Douglas and Edmund Wilkins were living in Bute County, North Carolina. Yet in the 1767 record, they appear in Brunswick County before the Bute County deed. Then they appear in Brunswick County, Virginia after the deed. Douglas Wilkins appears to be referred to as a militia major, and Edmund Wilkins was apparently a militia captain, both in Brunswick County. An Isham Randall who served in the Revolutionary War under Capt. Edmund Wilkins from Brunswick County is buried in Madison County, Illinois.

What is going on with these deeds?

It doesn’t appear to be the case that Douglas and Edmund Wilkins were from Bute County, North Carolina, then dealt with Joseph and Sarah Fipps of Brunswick County, Virginia in Bute County, North Carolina, then decided to move for the first time to Brunswick County, Virginia. Instead, both men are referred to together in 1770 in Brunswick County, Virginia, before the Bute County, North Carolina deed.

There both Douglas and Edmund appear in the 1770 Brunswick County, Virginia will of Adam Sims II (see here, pp. 42-43). They were appointed executors, along with Adam Sims’s brother John Sims. He mentions in the will his three granddaughters, Rebecca Wilkins, Tabitha Wilkins, and Winny Wyche. Note the Wyche name.

The Bible of John Limbrey Wilkins of Brunswick County, Virginia (see here, p. 130) shows Douglass Wilkins and Edmund Wilkins listed together in the Bible record. There, Douglass is spelled with two s’s, as it is in the deed involving Joseph Fipps.

The Bible record shows Douglass Wilkins as born 19 July 1743, and Edmund Wilkins as born 30 August 1745. That Bible record has Edmund Wilkins as marrying Rebecca Wyche.

Even earlier, Edmund Wilkins is referred to as “of” Brunswick County, Virginia in a 1749 Brunswick County deed from John Sims and his wife Honour, and John Allen and his wife Frances, to Edmund Wilkins (see here, pp. 48-49).

Then in 1773, after the Bute County deed, another Brunswick County, Virginia deed (see here, p. 50) mentions Douglas Wilkins and his wife Tabitha, and Edmund Wilkins and his wife Rebecca, and Winney Wyche, whose relationship is not stated. The land involved was at the mouth of Wyche’s branch. Without consulting maps, perhaps this was in some way connected with the location of the present-day town of Wyche in Brunswick County.

Another page in the pdf document linked above (see here, p. 36) refers to Adam Sims, born about 1711. He married (1) Tabitha Jackson whose parents were of Brunswick County, and (2) Elizabeth Mosley whose parents were also of Brunswick County.

This Mosley (also Mosely) family would presumably have been the same as the family which generally used the spelling Moseley. That family was extremely closely associated with Matthew Phripp, the merchant of Norfolk, Virginia who we’ve discussed extensively and who appears to have sometimes been known as Phipp and several other spellings.

Adam Sims had a daughter named Tabitha Sims, born 1732. Tabitha married William Wyche about 1749, as her first marriage. William and Tabitha (Sims) Wyche were the parents of Rebecca Wyche, who married Edmund Wilkins, Tabitha Wyche, who married Douglas Wilkins, and Winifred, who was called Winney.

Various sources discuss the surname Wyche as an early variant form of the surname which was eventually rendered as Witcher. We’ve discussed in recent posts the Ephraim Witcher who married Elizabeth (“Betsey”) Fips, daughter of John Fips, with that John having died in 1768 in Charlotte County, Virginia.

Ephraim and Betsey (Fips) Witcher then show up in Montgomery County, Virginia around the same time as Samuel Phips and his father in law George Reeves or Reaves. We’ve discussed other Phipps-Witcher moves and connections in previous posts.

We’ve seen how the “Phipps” family has gone by such spelling variants as Phipps, Phipp, Fipp, Phypps, Phripp, Fip, Fipes, Phippes, Phibbs, Phillips, etc., where it’s not a matter of the name gradually evolving. Instead, it’s been a matter of the family using a hodge-podge of surname forms, evidently without rhyme or reason, and not necessarily at different times. The same phenomenon can be seen in the “Reeves” family, which shows up in records as Rives, Reives, Reaves, Ryves, etc., etc.

Was “Wyche” simply another form of “Witcher,” with both used around the same time? (Another form appears to have been Witsher.) Another document about the Sims family of Brunswick County, Virginia refers to Adam Sims, who arrived about 1720, with the Symes spelling. That pdf file contains much the same genealogy.

That document, however, refers to Charles Symes or Sims of Brunswick County, Virginia who married Easther or Esther. He moved to Edgecombe County, North Carolina. He seems to have also had dealings in Halifax County, Virginia, a county which has come up in recent posts in connection with the Phipps family and with George Reeves or Reaves, mentioned above.

Charles Symes is supposed to have had children who moved to Georgia, as apparently did some of the Witchers. He had a son named Wiley Sims. Wiley Sims moved to Oglethorpe County, Georgia and fathered a Charley Sims in 1803. Charley married Minerva Witcher in 1832.

That’s a bit convoluted, but was Minerva’s family the same as the Wyche family mentioned earlier?

And, so, did Joseph and Sarah Fipps of Brunswick County, Virginia buy land in Bute County, North Carolina from people from Brunswick County, Virginia? And did one of those persons they bought from marry a Wyche AKA Witcher? And was this “Wyche” related to the Ephraim “Witcher” who married Betsey “Fips”? If so, what a tangled web we weave.



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