Ancestral Family Topic 410

 410   William Jennings I (1702-c.1774)
Pedigree Chart 06

William Jennings I, in his own words
If he could speak to us today, William Jennings I might describe his life as follows.

I was born 5 July 1702 in St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County.  My parents lived in the part of the parish that became St. Paul’s Parish in 1704 and Hanover County in 1721. St. Paul’s Parish records mention me a few times.
I definitely married Mary Jane Pulliam in Hanover County. According to some very untrustworthy family records, our wedding was 24 January 1724/5 and my bride, the daughter of James and Mary Pulliam, was “a woman of great beauty, a perfect brunette with black hair and large black eyes.” 
Mr. Thomas Partridge recorded some of the purchases we made at his Hanover County general store. Since money was forbidden, I paid him in molasses, beaver skins, and, of course, tobacco.
Mary and I were the parents of ten children, three of whom were John Pritchett’s ancestors. Henry Clay of Kentucky was our great-grandson. Three of our sons went to present-day Nottoway County before 1745 and I joined them in 1760. We were all tobacco planters. Mary died about 1765 and I passed on 10 or 15 years later after giving my land and slaves to my sons.
I was never a British officer, although many people wished I was. One such William Jennens, who fought in the Indian Wars, was supposedly heir to a massive estate in England and everyone named Jennings in Virginia thought it was me. Someone even put up a fake gravestone in Nottoway trying to prove it. The issue was not put to rest until 1931. That’s right, 1931.

More about William Jennings
The vestry book of St. Paul’s Parish shows William Jennings serving sheriffs’ warrants in April 1730 and several times processioning his land and that of his neighbors, the Garland family. 
A deed of 6 Feb. 1729/30 in Hanover reveals that the Pulliam and Jennings families were neighbors. In it William Jennings and William Pulliam witnessed a deed of Christopher Smith of Hanover to Patterson Pulliam for land in Spotsylvania.

Who was Mary Pulliam?
The source of the information about William’s marriage: the name of his bride and her parents, the date of the marriage, and her appearance is derived from papers at the University of North Carolina.  These same papers attempted to perpetuate the Jennings’ estate litigation, described more fully below, and consequently, are untrustworthy. We do know that William’s wife was Mary and while the date of her birth of 1704 found in these papers is reasonable, it incorrectly places her death in 1794. The 1876 affidavit of Frances B. Robertson states that her great-grandmother was Mary Pulliam, but does not identify the parents.
Nor can we confirm that her name was Mary Jane Pulliam, although William did give a daughter that name. It is notable that the author of much of what we know about Mary Pulliam was Mary Jane Hardesty. Walter Allen Watson speaks of “Mrs. Hardesty’s fortune schemes.” 
Although Mrs. Hardesty placed Mary Pulliam as a daughter of James Pulliam and his wife, Mary, we can find no evidence of that. The vestry book of St. Paul’s Parish identifies no James Pulliam with land in Hanover County. The same documents that identify Mary’s parents also claim that William’s body was exhumed in 1874 revealing a British uniform across his chest.
Mary is more likely a daughter of William Pulliam and his posited wife, Elizabeth. Of the 10 children of William and Mary Jennings, 8 named a daughter Elizabeth, while only 3 named a son James.

Shopping at the general store in Hanover
The Jennings patronized the general store run by Thomas Partridge for which several account books for 1734-56 have survived and reveal details of life in Colonial Virginia.
During 1736 William bought a pair of women’s gloves, a pair of women’s shoes, 20 pounds of sugar, and 3,000 nails, paying his account with tobacco and 23 beaver furs. 
By 1737 the Jennings had 8 children under the age of 10 and that year he made several purchases from Partridge. The most practical were the dozen plates, some “Caess Coco” knives and forks, and 20 ells of “best brown linen.” For his wife was a pair of shoes and gloves. Home came a Bible and a testament to feed the soul and 20 gallons of rum for a little merriment. 
Before Christmas of 1737, William bought a pair of women’s shoes, one spelling book, 7 pounds of sugar, and 5 gallons of rum. The first two items were perhaps Christmas gifts. The sugar was for cooking and the rum undoubtedly added to the Jennings’ Christmas cheer. From Jennings’ account, Partridge paid an Ann Jennings in Jan. 1738/39. We do not know who she was. 
Cash was seldom a medium of exchange in Virginia. William paid his debt to Partridge not only with tobacco, but also with two beaver skins and 3 gallons of molasses. Virginians imported sugar and molasses from the West Indies. The British Parliament passed the Molasses Act in 1733 to tax molasses and sugar coming from parts of the West Indies not under British Control. Yet most Virginians ignored the Act and Parliament repealed it in 1764.
In 1738 Partridge sold William a pair of mens worsted hose and a “No. 4” hat for himself. The “No. 4” identified the quality of the hat. For his wife he purchased a pair of red shoes and for a daughter, probably Agnes, also a pair of shoes. He brought home some paper (one quire). 
Partridge made a peculiar reference in Jennings’ 1738 account. A charge was transferred from “yr sonn WM accot in Cash Book.” Yet William’s son, William would have been only about 10 years of age. 
Jennings’ account for 1756 shows he made a variety of purchases. He bought 4 broad and 4 narrow hoes. With 5 sons and 5 daughters, he was undoubtedly able to put them to all use. The one dozen plates were all needed, too. We know William could read and write and his purchase of a primer and some paper showed he wanted his children to do the same. A pair of pumps, a cloak, and two yards of ribbon completed the list. 

William moves to Amelia County
Three of the Jennings’ sons—Robert, John, and William—moved to Amelia County where they appeared together in the 1745 tithable list,  and they were joined around 1763 by their parents. On 25 Sept. 1760 William Jennings of Hanover County, bought 604 acres on both sides of the Little Nottoway River from Henry Yarborough for £200.  On 2 June 1762 William sold 300 acres to his son-in-law John Fowlkes for £150.  On 25 Nov. 1762 William Jennings, still of Hanover County, bought from James Atwood and Mary, his wife, 400 acres in two parcels for £180.  A year later, on 29 April 1763, William Atwood sold “William Jennings Sr., of Amelia, Planter” 200 acres between Cabin Branch and Deep Creek for £95.  On 20 Aug. 1764 William Jennings, of Nottoway Parish, Amelia County, sold George Walton 177 acres on the north side of Deep Creek for £86. Mary, wife of William Jennings, relinquished her dower right. 
Beginning in 1766, William began to dispose of his property to his younger sons. His wife, Mary, did not join him in these deeds as she must have died about 1765. On 16 June 1766 William Jennings Sr. deeded 225 acres on Deep Creek to James Jennings for £100.  On 7 Nov. 1772 William conveyed to “my loving son” James Jennings “one Negro boy named Daniel,” in consideration of “love, goodwill and affection I have for my son.” James, a “planter,” was then living in Prince Edward County. 
During 1773 William deeded 200 acres between Cabin Branch and Deep Creek and “a Negro boy named Peter” to his youngest son Joseph in consideration of “love, goodwill and affection for my son.”  This was the land where William and Mary were living and Joseph would take possession only after both parents were dead. On 20 June 1774 William sold to his son Joseph 4 black slaves, Bristol, Jenny, Lucy, and Peter, all of his livestock, and all of his household furniture for £150.  The household furniture included items “such as beds, tables, desk, cupboard, chairs, chests and trunks, pewter, pots, looking glass; also my still, working utensils and whatever goods and chattels I am now in possession of.” The same day Joseph Jennings and his wife, Anne, sold 200 acres on the north side of Deep Creek to Samuel Thompson for £200. This was may be the Jennings plantation and although William was still alive. We presume William Jennings died later in 1774.

Jennings’ Estate controversy
A very extraordinary controversy surrounds the so-called “Jennings Estate.” 
Humphrey Jennens (1629) was a wealthy iron mogul whose 10 children included Robert Jennens (1671-1725) who remained in England, and William Jennens (1676), a British officer who came to America to fight in the Indian wars. Robert’s only son, William Jennens, never married and died intestate leaving an enormous estate that the courts eventually divided among heirs of his sisters.
Yet what if William Jennings of Amelia County was the British officer, William Jennens?
Litigation on behalf of the American descendants commenced around 1850. Every descendant of anybody who had a Jennings ancestor was solicited. The accumulation of funds for litigation was initiated in England and Virginia descendants helped collect large sums of money. Many individuals named “Jennings,” even ones with no relation to William Jennings, sent money in hopes that they might share in the inheritance.
Yet the claim was a fraud perpetrated on the Jennings of America and the American descendants who helped in the solicitation were misled, as well. A mail fraud of similar nature deceived individuals who believed they were the descendants of the brother of Sir Francis Drake. The great Drake mail fraud was tried in New York and resulted in convictions.

Fraudulent marriage certificate
The controversy continued in 1931 when some Jennings heirs produced the following marriage certificate that purported to prove William Jennings was the son of Humphrey Jennens, and thus an heir to the Jennens fortune:

Sussex County Circuit Court
Below is a copy of record from Sussex County relative to the marriage of William Jennings (1676-1775) and Mary Jane Pulliam.
United States of America
State of Virginia
County of Sussex
I, Jesse Hargrave, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Sussex County, in the State of Virginia, aforesaid, do certify that said Court is a Court of Record, do hereby certify that the following is a true and correct copy of the marriage record of William Jennings and Mary J. Pulliam as of record in my said office.
Married January 24, 1724, William Jennings and Mary J. Pulliam, wife’s parents Joseph and Mary Pulliam, husband’s parents Humphrey and Mary Milwood Jennens. Copy from Albemarle Parish Record.
In testimony whereof I have hereto set my hand and affixed the Seal of said Court, this Fourteenth day of January, A.D. 1931, in the 155 year of the Commonwealth.
Jesse Hargrave, Clerk
State of Virginia
County of Sussex
I, M.R. Peterson, sole Judge of the Circuit Court of the County of Sussex, in the State of Virginia, do certify that Jesse Hargrave, who hath given the proceeding certificate is now and was at the time of giving the same, Clerk of the said Court, duly elected and qualified; that his signature to said certificate is genuine, and his attestation in due form. Given under my hand, this 14th day of January, 1931.
M.R. Peterson, Judge of the Court aforesaid.

A lawsuit was filed in London 5 Nov. 1931 based on the above marriage certificate. This claim had been presented often before in the British courts and each time it failed for the same reason: William Jennens, the son of Humphrey Jennens, died in London in 1744 leaving a will in which he mentioned no wife or children. Further, the marriage certificate above has several problems. Sussex County was not formed from Surry County until 1748 and it purports to be the record of a man of 48 years of age who had 10 children in 13 years and then lived to be ninety-nine, an extreme age for those days. Further no such record is in the Albemarle Parish Register and it gives the names of the grooms deceased parents, which no others do.
Someone probably inserted the record in the Sussex record book without the knowledge of the court’s officers Hargrave and Peterson.

The deceptive Nottoway gravestone
Perpetrators of the fraud even went as far as to erect a gravestone at the ancient site of “Sunnyside,” the one-time home of the family.

1704 - 1774
Of Hanover County
1676 - 1775
Born in England
Retired British Officer

The Chancery Court of England in 1933 threw out the Jennings inheritance claim again. As reported in the New York Times 5 Feb. 1933 the Court characterized the claim as “frivolous, vexatious, and an abuse of the court.”
Ironically, several Jennings family genealogists still describe Mary Jane Pulliam’s husband as William Jennings, the son of Humphrey Jennens of Warwickshire. The gravestone even deceived A.B. Cummins, the author of Nottoway County, Virginia, who rediscovered it and reported in his book as a legitimate part of Nottoway County history. 
Walter Allen Watson wrote that, “much excavating has been done in Nottoway seeking to find the Jennings fortune, or proof of inheritance.” 

Descendants of William Jennings I
Information about the children of William Jennings I, their descendants, and allied families previously found at is now available as Southside Virginia Genealogies. Learn more 
Names found in this topic include the following.
 William Jennings II (1726-c.1793),  
 Agnes (Jennings) Dickenson (c.1727-),  
Henry Dickenson,   
 Elizabeth (Jennings) Hudson (c.1729-1781),  
George Hudson,   
Mary Hudson,  John Watkins,   
Rev. John Clay,   
Henry Watkins,   
Edward Watkins,   Rev. Eleazer Clay,   Henry Watkins,   
Daniel Trabue,  
Elizabeth Jennings Watkins,  James Lockett,   
John Watkins III,  Sarah Clay,   Henry Clay,   
Philip Nolan,  Edward Everett Hale,  
Lt. Col. Zenon Trudeau,  Eulalia de Lassize,  
Mary Watkins,  Thomas Moseley,   
Samuel Watkins,  Rhoda Watkins,  Joel Watkins,  Silas Watkins,  Phoebe (Watkins) Watkins,  
John Watkins,  
Sarah Watkins,  Henry William S. Field,  John Dupuy,  
Henry Clay,   
Martha Watkins,  Lewis Young,  Richard Young,  Mary Moore,  
Sidney Young,  
Ferdinand Young,  
Albert Gallatin Young,  
Lewis Madison Napoleon Young,  
Phoebe Watkins,  James Moss,  John Moss,  
Hudson Watkins,  
Erasmus Watkins,  
Elizabeth Hudson,  Rev. John Clay,   
Capt. Henry Watkins,   
Henry Clay,  
James Brown Clay,  
Sarah Clay,  John Watkins,   
Molly Clay,  
John Clay,  
Rev. Porter Clay,  
George Hudson Clay,  
Elizabeth Hudson Clay,  
John Hancock Watkins,  Caroline Taylor Milton,  Elijah Milton,  Catharine Taylor,  
Martha Watkins,  William Berry Blackburn,  George Blackburn,  Prudence Berry,  
Francis Hudson Watkins,  Mary Kinkead,  Margaret Jane Kinkead,  Thomas Kinkead,  Suzanne Hull,  
Nathaniel W. Watkins,  Eliza M. Watson,  
 Sarah (Jennings) Fowlkes (c.1730-1782),  
John Fowlkes,   
 Mary Jane (Jennings) Fowlkes (c.1732-1822),  
Joseph Fowlkes,   
 Robert Jennings (c.1733-c.1798),  
Elizabeth Childs,  Henry Childs,  William Echols,   
John Jennings,   William Hill,   Christopher Hudson,  William Jennings,   John Anderson,  
John Fowlkes,   Henry B. Fowlkes,   
William C. Jennings,  Dicey Hall,  Joshua Smith,  
Dicey Hall Jennings,  Fowlkes,  
Henry Jennings,  
Robert Jennings,  
Stephen H. Jennings,  
John B. Jennings,  
Micajah Childs Jennings,  Martha Beasley,  
Hannah Ann Jennings,  George Washington Oliver,   
Micajah Childs Jennings,  Harriet E. Cabiness,  Harriet E. (—) Jennings,  
Martha E. Jennings,  
Ryland B. Jennings,  
Elvira H. Jennings,  
Dora L. Jennings,  
William R. Jennings,  
Joseph Jennings,  Betty Fowlkes,  
Thomas Yarbrough Jennings,  
Henry R. Jennings,  Mary A. Robertson,   
William R. Jennings,  
Robert Pulliam Jennings,  
Martha Jane Jennings,  John W. Fowlkes,   
Henry Jennings,  
Sally Elizabeth Jennings,  
Lucy Ann Jennings,  
Dicey Jennings,  
Fannie Jennings,  William Pamplin,  
 John Jennings (c.1735-1783),  
Temperance Thompson,  
William Watson,   William Gooch,  
William Watson,   George Forrest,   John Jennings,   
Nicholas Quesenbury,  Joseph Jennings,   
Jeremiah Walker,  
Thomas Payne,   Jesse Walton,   Edmund Borum,   Nathaniel Robertson,   
William Craddock,   George Bagley Jr.,   
Joseph Jennings,   
Joseph Jennings,  Joseph Jennings,   Mary Gunn Jeffress,   
Anne (—) Jennings,  
Martha Coleman Jennings,  Howson,  
John W. Jennings,  
Langley A. Jennings,  
Mary Jennings,  
Ann L.B. Jennings,  
Capt. William Jennings,  Mary Billups,  Anne Billups,  Joseph Jennings,   Phillip Williams,   
Joseph Collins,   
John L. Jennings,  Mary Tucker,  
Sarah E. Jennings,  Joshua Clay,  Millicent Epes,  John Clay,   
Capt. William Jennings,  Martha R. Glass,  John Glass,  Mary Chandler,  
Christopher Henry Jennings,  Mary Jennings,  Elizabeth DeJarnette,   
Angeline West,  
Martha A. Jennings,  
John B. Jennings,  
Perlena M. Jennings,  
Joseph Jennings,  Nancy Wilborn,  
Jane B. Jennings,  
Lafayette Jennings,  
Mary B. Jennings,  Johnson Glass,  Mary J. Glass,  
Nancy Jennings,  
Mary Jennings,  William Oliver,   
John Jennings,  Sarah Thompson,  William Thompson,  
John Gillintine,   
Robert Thompson,   Ann Gillintine,   
George Cabanis,   Joseph Jennings,   Anne Jennings,   
 Anne (Jennings) Thompson (c.1736-),  
Samuel Thompson,  James Jennings,   
Joseph Fowlkes,   John Hayes,  Elizabeth —,  
Joseph Thompson,  James Hanks,  Joseph Jennings,   Charles Stewart,  
Rev. Samuel Davies,  Rev. Jeremiah Walker,  George Walton,   
Joseph Jennings,   Christopher Robertson,   Joseph Jennings,   Byrd Pruett,  
Christopher Robertson,   
Mary Pulliam Thompson,  Edward Robertson,   
Mildred Thompson,  Christopher Robertson,   
Nancy Thompson,  Cuthbert Price,   
Samuel Thompson III,  Peggy Carter,  Patsy (Farmer) Terry,  Jesse Carter,  
George Washington Thompson,  Jean Stott,  James Stott,  
Waddy E. Thompson,  Katherine James,  Spencer James,  
William Thompson,  Dolitha Stockton,  Judy Pickett,  
Jennings Thompson,  Elizabeth Street,  Richard Street,  Pleasant Waller,  
Anderson Thompson,  
George Pyrant Thompson,  Jane Ingram,  
Elizabeth Thompson,  Catlett James,  
Samuel Thompson,  
Anna Thompson,  Garrett Davis,  
Mary P. Thompson,  Jacob Meadows,  
Mary Anne Thompson,  John B. Callaham,  
John Thompson,  
 James Jennings (c.1737-c.1791),  
Philadelphia Bruce,   
George Walton,   
Joseph Crowder,  Mary —,  James Grigg,   
William Griffin,  Joseph Fowlkes,   
Martisha (Winn) Crenshaw,   
Henry Haley,  
Nelson Jennings,  
Lemuel Jennings,  
Elizabeth Jennings,  Sterling Fowlkes,   
Nancy Jennings,  Daniel Crenshaw,  
Mary Jennings,  David Thompson,  
James Jennings,  Sterling Fowlkes,  Eliza C. Jennings,   
William Jennings,  Camp,  
Alexander Winn Jennings,  
 Alexander Bruce (c.1722-1795),  
Dorothy May,   Anne Penick,   
Philadelphia Bruce,  James Jennings,   
John Bruce,  Elizabeth (—) Bruce,  
Chloe Bruce,  William Walker,  
Dorothy Bruce,  Charles Hardy,  Covington Hardy,  Catherine Buford,  Sally Jordan Green,  
William Buford Hardy,  
John Covington Hardy,  Emeline Thomas Eldridge,  Elizabeth C. Neblett,   Thomas Eldridge,  Sarah Anne Boswell,  
Elizabeth Catherine Hardy,  John Barrow,   
Amelia Hardy,  
Nelson Bruce,  
John Bruce,  Elizabeth Clay,   
Ridley Bruce,  Hezekiah Ellington,   
Elizabeth Bruce,  Josiah Ellington,   
Dionetia Bruce,  Joel Johns,   
Lemuel Bruce,  
Elizabeth A. Bruce,  Edward B. Fowlkes,   
Alexander Bruce,  Martha Johns,  
Dorothy Bruce,  Scrimshaw Brown,  
Samuel A. Bruce,  Jemima J. Bayne,  Elizabeth E. Neal,  
Elizabeth Bruce,  Asa B. Cabiness,   
Asa Cabiness,  
Mildred C. Bruce,  
Jane C. Bruce,  Joseph Allen Watson,   
Martha Bruce,  David Thompson Jr.,  
Harriet Bruce,  Liberty Bass Fowlkes,   
Branch Bruce,  
Prudence Bruce,  James Hudson,  
Armistead Bruce,  Elizabeth Bass,   Martha Hatcher,   
Mary Bruce,  John Quisenberry,  
Rachel Bruce,  Levi Clay,   
Lucy Bruce,  Thomas Rowlett,   
James Bruce,  
Jane Bruce,  
Woodson Bruce,  
 Capt. Joseph Jennings (1739-1804),  

This family topic includes the following notable individuals.
Soldiers of colonial and American wars
Capt. John Watkins - Revolutionary War Nathaniel W. Watkins - War of 1812
John W. Jennings - War of 1812 Jennings Thompson - Revolutionary War
James Jennings - War of 1812  

Members of congress - U.S. and Confederate
Henry Clay - U.S. James Brown Clay - U.S.

Legislators - colonial and state
Lewis Young - Kentucky Henry Clay - Kentucky
William Berry Blackburn - Kentucky Nathaniel W. Watkins - Missouri

Names on the map
Clay County in ten states were named for Henry Clay  

Selected sources
Boddie, John Bennett. “Jennings of Hanover.” Historical Southern Families, 4:101-120. • Covers the families of Robert Jennings, his son William Jennings, and his son William Jennings.

This topic, which represents .48% of all the family history material at, includes 209 citations and the names of 360 individuals.
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