Joshua Phipps and William Preston in the 1770s

The following is a record found at the Virginia Historical Society, a copy of which was sent by the webmaster of the Witcher Genealogy website. This is a bond involving Joshua Phipps of Botetourt County and is dated 23 March 1776.

Botetourt County has radically changed in size and shape over the years. The county was initially formed from part of Augusta County in 1770. Back when the county was immense, it contained land which later became the entire state of Kentucky. Augusta County, its parent county, was formed in 1738, and also was initially a ridiculously huge area.

In fact, it really makes little sense to talk of these counties in terms of a parent county or in terms of where they’re located now. That’s because, in what could be considered (at least in hindsight) the epitome of a lack of foresight, these counties were originally outrageously big.

Augusta County, at least in theory, extended as far west as the Pacific Ocean at one time and, if it were possible, Botetourt was even bigger. By 1776, the date of the document, Botetourt had been whittled down considerably, but the county was still large.

KNOW all Men, by these Presents, that I Joshua Phipps of Botetourt County am held and firmly bound unto Edwd. Johnson in the just and full Sum of Fifty eight pounds Nine Shillings & two pence Currt. [i.e. current] money of Virginia to be paid unto the said Johnson his certain Attorney, his Heirs, Executors, Administrators, or Assigns, to which Payen t [sic; mistake on printed form for “Payment”], well and truly to be made, I bind myself my Heirs, Executors, and Administrators, firmly by these Presents. Sealed with my Seal, an d [sic; mistake on printed form for “and”] dated this twenty third Day of March ANNO DOM. One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy Six

THE Condition of the above Obligation is such, that if the above bound Joshua Phipps do and shall well and truly pay, or cause to be paid, unto the said Edwd. Johnson his certain Attorney, his Executors, Administrators, or Assigns the just Sum of Twenty nine pounds four Shillings and Seven pence [sic; two pence when mentioned earlier] like money on demand with lawful Interest from the date till paid then the above Obligation to be void, or else to remain in full Force and Virtue.

Sealed and Delivered                    [signed:] Joshua Phipps (Seal)
in the Presence of
Wm. Preston,

The date of this document is 23 March 1776. It was in March of April of 1776 that Joshua Fips enlisted in military service under Capt. Thomas Bowyer in Col. Mathews’ Regiment in the Virginia Continental Line. We know that from the Revolutionary War pension application of Joshua Phipps or Fips.

The signature of Joshua Phipps in the 1776 document does not match the signature of Joshua Phipps in the Revolutionary War pension application. The signatures show profound differences.

There are enough similarities, however, that the passage of time would likely account for the differences. When he signed the Revolutionary War pension application testimony, it was 1818. That’s 42 years later.

William Preston, who witnessed the 1776 document was a big-time surveyor in the New River area.  He was also a local militia leader, politician, and all-around local big shot.

Edward Johnson, to whom Phipps was bound in the amount of £29-and-something (the amount varies by 8 pence, depending on which part of the document you read) was an area merchant. A letter dated 10 August 1778 is preserved from Edward Johnson to Col. William Preston in Botetourt County. That letter had to do with sending supplies for an Indian expedition.

In addition, interactions involving William Preston and Joshua Phipps are evaluated by Richard Osborn in “William Preston and the Revolutionary Settlement” in the Journal of Backcountry Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, Fall 2008.

As noted there, Joshua Phipps bought land on 13 February 1775 from William Preston. William Preston then bought land from Joshua and Hester Phipps on 8 August 1775 and Preston again bought land on 1 March 1776 from Joshua Phipps.

The latter land was then sold 1 December 1779 to John Preston. This wouldn’t have been the John who was William’s son since, as Osborn points out, he only would have been about 15 at the time.


One thought on “Joshua Phipps and William Preston in the 1770s

  1. It is worth noting that Joshua Phipps and William Preston were on the same tax lists together in the same portion of Botetourt County in 1772 and 1773. Then in 1775, Joshua Phipps and William Preston sold their respective properties to each other. Botetourt Co. Deed Book 2, pages 178-182, records William Preston and wife Susanna selling their 250 acres on Milligan’s Run (a branch of the James River) to Joshua Phipps on 14 February 1775. Then on 8 August 1775, Joshua Phipps and his wife Hestor (signed as Esther) sold their land with 347 acres on Cove Creek (a branch of the Roanoke River) and a second tract of 87 acres to William Preston (recorded in Botetourt Co. Deed Book 2, pages 182-185). In both deeds, William Preston is listed as “of Fincastle Co.” while Joshua was of “Botetourt Co.” The 347 acres were purchased by Joshua from William Carvin and his wife Sarah in 1770 and the land (listed as 340 acres) was located on Carvins Creek on the Roan Oak River (Botetourt Co. Deed Book 1, pages 162-165)..

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