By Ann H. Mack La Canada, California


John Halley was my fourth great-grandfather who lived in frontier Virginia during the American Revolutionary War. Fighting with Braddock’s army at Monongahela, farming virgin lands in Virginia, traveling into the Kentucky wilderness, making salt with Daniel Boone and escaping from Indian captivity are all part of this study, his personal history.

In setting forth the facts known about John Halley, there are several unresolved points, not the least of which is “who are his parents?” There are several Halley, Hawley, Holley families in colonial Virginia and Maryland.1 The Virginia Hawleys were in Isle of Wight County (1641), Northumberland County (1655), Westmoreland County (1666), Stafford County (1710), Prince William County (1731) and Fairfax County (1741).

In Maryland the family seemed to center in the Prince George’s and Calvert County area prior to 1694. At this time there is no verified lineage.2

THE EARLY YEARS, John Halley was probably born about 1732 in Prince William Co., Va. One John Halley appears as a defendant in a suit with William Muse in Prince William County in 1754. John was ordered to pay £1.11.6 plus costs.3 John Halley/Hawley is named on pay roll and size rolls of Capt. Thomas Waggoner from 1754 to 1758 during the French and Indian War.4 It is likely that this is the above mentioned John Waggoner led a troop of Virginia Rangers under the command of Col. George Washington. The Rangers were group of volunteers who had been formed for the express purpose of border protection and were not to be sent out of the colony nor to be subject to martial law.5 John was first named on the payroll for late Dec. 1754 and Jan. 1755. His name appeared continuously from that time through March 1758 when Capt. Waggoner’s rolls cease.6 Later rolls may have been lost since he was still on Washington’s staff in Aug. 1758.7 John may have served longer also. On a size roll dated 1756 John Halley was described as 24 years old, 5 foot 3½ inches tall, of dark complexion and “remarkable thick legs, full face and black straight hair”. A later roll noted that he was a planter from Prince William County. He had been recruited by Lt. Thomas Bullett. Among these various records was a bonus pay roll dated 7 July 1756 containing the signatures and marks of 23 men in Capt. Waggoner’s troop. These men were cited as having been in the Engagement of Monongahela on 9 June 1755.8 This battle is commonly known as Braddock’s Defeat, on of the bloodiest colonial battles. These 23 men received a bonus of £5 currency as premium pay voted by the Virginia General Assembly.9 John Hawley’s signature is found on this roll, proving without a doubt he was a party to the Engagement of Monongahela, “Braddock’s Defeat.”

An interview with Joseph Jackson in the Draper Pap states that John Halley “had been in Braddock’s Defeat” when he described the salt-maker captive.10 From these data also, John’s birth can be placed around 1732 and most probably in Prince William County.11 Waggoner’s troop of Rangers continued to serve on the frontier, and built several forts, in Washington’s line of defense in Western Virginia. Perhaps it was during this time that John first visited the new county of Bedford and decided to make his home there after the Peace of 1763.

BEDFORD COUNTY. By 1765 John had moved to Bedford County which had been formed in 1753 but was still considered the western edge of civilization. John requested and received a land patent for 253 acres on both sides of Sycamore Creek, a north branch of the Otter River.13 One year later he had another survey for 150 acres, also on both sides of the Sycamore.14 Existing tax lists for Bedford show that John was assessed from 1783 until his death in 1802 on these lands.15 John was married to Judith Goad around 1765. Judith was the daughter of Abraham and Joannah Goad of Pittsylvania County and was so named in her father’s will.16 Abraham had been in Prince William County briefly in 1752-53 where he perhaps became acquainted with John Halley. The marriage date is not recorded but seems reasonable considering the ages of John and Judith’s children.

THE WAR YEARS. In Sept. 1777 in Bedford County a John Halley and a John Holley signed oaths of allegiance.18 One of these men was the son of Henry Halley of Prince William County.19 One of the oath signers, however, must have been the John who married Judith Goad. Very soon after this time John went with an army under Col. Holder to Kentucky. 20 This detachment was to aid in the defense of the western frontier from both the Indians and the British.21  In Jan. 1778 John went with Daniel Boone and 26 others to make salt at Blue Licks. There, on 9 Feb. 1778, Boone surrendered the little group to 100 Shawnee Indians in order to save the fort at Boonesborough from attack. A Draper Manuscripts interview with Joseph Jackson, one of the salt-makers, tells a dramatic tale of their surrender and captivity.22 Boone and his men were marched in the dead of winter across the Ohio River up to little Miami. Jackson names John Halley, “who had been at Braddock’s Defeat”, as one of the prisoners and one of the captives later adopted by the Indians. Essentially the same story was told in two other Draper interviews23 and again by Micajah Calloway in his pension application.24

John was rescued nearly five years later in Nov. 1782 by Maj. Hugh McGary. McGary led a group of men against McKee’s Town close to the mouth of Loramies Creek and the Great Miami in Ohio.25 George Rogers Clark was the overall commander of the campaign to march against the Shawnee at Piqua. “The Indians, there, had gotten information before he (McGary) got in. A white man (John Halley who had been taken from B’nsborgh 4 or 5 years before) and a little negro boy were rescued.”26

D. Thompson states in his Draper interview that “Halley went home to Bedford and after he died his widow moved out to this county (Montgomery Co.)”27 While John was a prisoner, Judith obtained assistance three times from the court in Bedford County: 28 July 1778. Judith Holly wife of Jno. Holly allowed 20 pounds in the hands of Charles Gwatkins, Gent., for the support of her and her family (in the absence of her husband who is captivated [sic] with the Indians) for 6 months which is ordered to be certified to the Treasurer. Sept. 1779. Judith Holly wife of Jno. Holly a prisoner taken at the Kentuckey allowed. 50 pounds which is ordered to be certified to the treasurer of Va. (to be paid into the hand of Chs. Gwatkins, Gent.)

March 1780. Judith Holley wife of John Holley now a prisoner with the Enemy allowed four barrels of corn and two hundred wt. of pork in the hand of Capt. Gwatkins which is ordered to be certified. These records with the Draper interviews and Calloway’s pension application prove conclusively that the John Halley captured by the Indians, released in 1782, was married to Judith and is the John Halley we are investigating. They also prove that this John Halley was indeed the soldier with Capt. Waggoner at the battle of Monongahela. We do know a little of John during this time, his tribal adoption and his life “as much an Indian as any of them,”29 but it is unfortunate no narratives survive to tell of Judith during these years.

KENTUCKY LANDS. Daniel Boone had opened Kentucky and western lands to settlement by blazing the Wilderness Trail in the late 1700s. John had seen much of the area and took advantage of the Kentucky lands allotted to veterans. In 1791 he had 400 acres in Woodford County surveyed.30 This allotment was made from a Certificate for Settlement from the court of Fayette County dated 9 April 1783. He was granted the land by Certificate No. 1002 on 24 April 1795. The parcel of land was on the waters of Glenn’s Creek.

Records of Bedford Co., Va., and Woodford Co., Ky., show that John had empowered Richard Thurman as early as Oct. 1790 to settle disputes concerning his land on Glenn’s Creek.31 Thurman was to retain half of what he could settle for in any bargain whatsoever. By 1795 John had changed his mind and given his eldest son, “Benja” Halley of Bedford, his power of attorney “to examine, receive and secure my lands conveyed to me by settlement and preemption, situate in the state of Kentucky, Woodford Co.”32 Benjamin did a better job of handling the lands. By Sept. 1796 he had sold 77 acres to John Wilhite for £154 lawful money of Kentucky.33 Then in May 1797 Benjamin sold, for John, 200 acres to Ruben Searcy for £240 current money.34

LATER YEARS. John Halley wrote his will on 4 Oct. 1796. It is strange that there was only one witness to this will as two or three witnesses were the usual case. The will was not questioned and was duly proved in Bedford Court on 27 Dec. 1802.35 In his will he names his living children and it is assumed that they are list in order of their birth. Benjamin Halley, Mary Williams (wife of Reason Williams), Sarah Halley (wife of Giles Halley), John Halley, Joshua Halley, Susanna Halley, Fanny Halley, Ann Halley and Jacob Halley were the children of John and Judith. Jacob was the only minor child and accordingly chose a guardian, Joshua Halley, in 1803.36 Charles Gwatkin, Thomas Hubbard and Charles Stewart were commissioned to make an appraisal of John’s estate,37 which was entered and recorded in April 1803.38 His personal estate was appraised at £205. Of special interest were the old books, flax wheels and one Negro boy. Books were not commonplace in frontier estates and only one slave indicates that John and his sons were farming the lands themselves. Judith petitioned for and received her dower, one-third of the total estate of £530 on 24 Nov. 1804.39 The family, including spouses, except for Mary Williams, empowered Benjamin to act as their trustee and lawful attorney to sell the land on which John had lived. At that time Benjamin was styled as “of Kentucky, but now in Bedford.” The land, the same parcel that was described in the original 1765 survey, was sold to Sanford Halley and mortgaged back to Judith and Benjamin. Sanford seems to have had monetary problems and litigation resulted from this mortgage. A trial was held and in 1806 the court ordered that the land be sold and £91 plus interest be paid to Judith et al.42

John Halley and Jacob Halley were listed in Bedford County on the 1810 census while sons Benjamin and Joshua were living in Montgomery Co., Ky.43 Bedford tax lists show John and Jacob resident until 1810.44 After this date none of John, Sr.’s, family was listed in Bedford. The 1812 Montgomery County tax rolls reveal John, Jacob, Benja. and Joshua Halley as residents and land owners. Two daughters, Fannie Halley Bennefield and Ann Halley Oldham, were residents of Montgomery County by 1815.45 It is assumed that Judith Halley, John’s widow, moved around this same time. She died in 1826. Her will was probated at the August Court of Montgomery County.46 She named her son John, in Montgomery County, as executor.47

John Halley was certainly a pioneer of this period. His life spanned the colonial and revolutionary periods of our history. He experienced events that are astonishing to today’s descendants. Yet he seemed to be typical of his time–one of the average men who built America.

The known and surviving children of John and Judith Halley are:

Benjamin, born prior to 1767

Mary, born around 1769

Sarah, born around 1772 ?

John, born around 1773

Joshua, born around 1775


Fanny, born around 1776

Ann, born around 1778

Jacob, born around 1785

1 E. Kay Kirkham, Census Records of America (Provo, 1972), p. 41, “A listing of possible spellings of names in Colonial America and on the first census in 1790”. All of these variations were found in the original docu¬ments.

2 Works of earlier researchers failed to cite enough documents of record and availability to make a clear lineage at this time. Several of the published articles have been found to be in error concerning the Northern Neck family. This researcher has prepared a manuscript from the records, deeds, patents, orders, etc., of Northumberland, Westmoreland and Prince William counties to try to clarify some of these lines.

3 Prince William Co., Va., Order Book 1754-55, p. 19, dated 27 May 1754.

4 Washington Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscr Division, rolls 29, 30, 31; the papers are filed by d

5 Hayes Baker-Corothers, Virginia and the French Indian War (Chicago, 1928), pp. 61-62.

6 Washington Papers, ‘Loc. cit.

7 John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of Georg Washington (Washington, 1931), v. 2, p. 265.

8 Washington Papers, roll 30.

9 William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large .. of Virginia, v. 6 (Richmond, 1819), pp. 527-28, “to e of the private men, who were in the said engagement

al survived, and continue in the service, five pounds ov and above their wages, as a reward and compensation, their gallant behaviour and losses.”

10 Draper Papers 11 C 62, State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

11 This date would place John Halley within the fifth generation of the immigrant James Hawley. My speculation is that he may be the grandson of William Halley or son of Henry Halley (died 1756). There is no proof of this.

12 Louis K. Koontz, The Virginia Frontier, 17541763 (Baltimore, 1925), pp. 107, 112, 125, 158, 162.

13 Bedford Co., Va., Surveyor’s Book 2, p. 386, dated 20 April 1765; Virginia Patent Book 38, p. 605.

14 Bedford Co., Va., Surveyor’s Book 2, p. 393.

15 Bedford Co., Va., Land tax rolls, 1782-1815, Virginia State Library.

16 Pittsylvania Co., Va., Will Book 5, pp. 451-52.

17 Prince William Co., Va., Minutes 175253, pp. 127, 138.

18 Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, v. 91, p. 1343.

19 John Halley, son of Henry Halley, was listed on the tax roll as John Halley, G.C., denoting his property was on Goose Creek. He was born in 1760 and was 17 at the time. This John Halley also served in Kentucky about 1778 with Capt. Charles Gwatkins, as stated in his pension application (S.9588). He was back in Bedford the same year (1788). Both John Halleys appear on later Bedford tax records and in the deed books.

20 Draper Papers 12 CC 200(80), 19.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid., 11 C 62.

23 Ibid., 12 CC 200(80), 12 CC 59(71).

24 Revolutionary War pension application, Micajah Calloway, W.6646, BLWt.2660. “…He was stationed at the Blue Licks with others making salt and whilst there he was taken with twenty six others, Col. Boone among th number, by a company of Shawnee Indians of upwards of on hundred and conveyed as a prisoner with the others to the little Miami–James Calloway, Jesse Cooper, Nat. Bullock John Hally, William Brooks and Saml Brook were among the number of prisoners…”

25 Charles G. Talbert, “Kentucky Invades the Ohio– 1782,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, v. 53, p. 293.

26 Draper Papers, 12 CC 59(71).

27 Ibid., 12 CC 200(80).

28 Bedford Co., Va., Order Book 6, pp. 165, 249,

29 Draper Papers 12 CC 200(80).

30 Kentucky Library Archives, Land Patents, Book 2, p. 158, grant assigned 27 Oct. 1795, Survey #1002.

31Bedford Co., Va., Deed Book 8, p. 412.

32 Ibid., Deed Book 10, p. 28.

33 Woodford Co., Ky., Deed Book C, pp. 103-04.

34 Ibid., Deed Book Cl, p. 150.

35 Bedford Co., Va., Will Book 2, p. 395. The signature mark is the same as on the power of attorney to Benjamin Halley and on the pay rolls for Capt. Waggoner.

36 Ibid., Order Book 13, p. 51. This may have been Joshua, son of Henry Halley, who married the mother of John, Jr.’s, wife Nancy Douglass. Jacob’s brother Joshua was in Kentucky at this time.

37 Ibid., Order Book 12, p. 366.

38 Ibid., Will Book 2, p. 410.

39 Ibid., Will Book 3, p. 22.

40 Ibid., Deed Book 11, p. 919.

41 Ibid., p. 1233.

42 Bedford Co., Va., 1810 census, p. 465; Montgomery Co., Ky., 1810 census, pp. 347, 351.

43 Bedford Co., Va., tax list, 1815.

44 Montgomery Co., Ky., tax lists. Fannie Bennefield was wife of Strode Bennefield; Ann Oldham was wife of Newport Oldham.

45 Montgomery Co., Ky., Will Book A, indexed under Judith Holley.

46 Executors must live in the county of the deceased, which proves that John of Montgomery County was indeed the son of Judith Halley, and by implication son of John of Bedford. Some Halley family researchers have persistently placed John of Montgomery Co., Ky., with another Halley family of Fairfax Co., Va. No primary proof exists for this theory. John, Jr., the son of John Bedford, is noted in both Bedford and Montgomery co records in association with this family and its off springs.