History for John Milam Sr (ca 1718 - 1789)

The Life of John Milam Sr in Historical and Cultural Context

There are many court records for MILAMs in Halifax County. John Sr acquired at least 1200 acres of land between 18 OCT 1764 [654] and 21 DEC 1786 [655]. Along the way he sold his sons Samuel 100 acres and Thomas 150 acres both on 20 FEB 1783 [651]; and Bartlet 160 acres and Benjamin 150 acres both deeded on 2 FEB 1785 but proven in court on 15 JAN 1786 and 20 DEC 1787 respectively. [646, 647]

After our Revolutionary War, on 20 SEP 1781 John Jr bought 100 acres of land in Halifax County from Nathanial Hall. His property shared a border with Bartlet Milam. [739] Later on 30 OCT 1793 James Milam bought one hundred and twenty-five acres of land from Obediah Gent. [740]

ORDER BOOK 10, 307, (NOV 1782) "On the motion of John Milam (Sr) liberty is granted him to build a water grist mill at the place where his mill formerly stood, he being owner of the land there."

John Milam Sr motion granted for grist mill NOV 1782
John Milam Motion NOV 1782

Sometime after he sold most of his Halifax land to his sons, John Sr moved to York County, South Carolina, where he died in 1789 leaving a Will which named his youngest children: John Jr, Bartlett, Benjamin, Thomas and Nancy. [645]

But what about his life before Halifax County? The published genealogical data for John Milam Sr. is very confusing with reports that he lived in various, widely dispersed counties in Virginia. Some report that he lived and his children were born in Culpeper, Louisa and Hanover counties in the north and others report Brunswick, Halifax and Goochland counties in the south. Given how forested the land was then and how few and how poor the dirt roads were, it doesn't seem plausible that anyone would frequently move their family over such distances. Since John's descendants are genetically closely related to those of Thomas Milam, the other patriarch of the Virginia Milam family, it is important to clarify the history of his early life.

So what do colonial Virginia court records show? Although my research has focused on Thomas Milam and his sons for more than a decade, I decided to search these counties for Milam family records in order to understand John Sr's early life.

First, there are no court records for this John Milam Sr in Culpeper, Goochland, Hanover or Louisa Counties. { There is one court record in Culpeper County for a John Milam but it is clearly for the son of Thomas Milam who is named in the same record. You may view it here (link). } However there are court records in Brunswick, Chesterfield and Halifax counties for John Milam Sr.

The second question is: were these records for the same man or was there more than one John Milam? I began with Chesterfield County deeds and found a John Milam's sales deed from 1764 which had a very unique "mark" - not a signature. "his mark" resembles a capital "I" with a third horizonal line across the middle as seen below. [643]

 John Milam Sr Signed his 1770 Indenture with his Unique Mark.
John Milam Signature on Indenture

Throughout their lives John Sr and Thomas signed legal documents with "his mark" because they lacked the literacy skills to write their names as was the case for most settlers at the time. It was usually placed between the given name and surname. An attorney or clerk of court would sign their name for them and leave space for them to make "his mark". Robert Wilbanks IV, geneologist, provided me with copies of a 1770 John Milam indenture from Halifax County [644] and a 1789 John Milam will from York County, South Carolina. [645] Below are images of "his mark" from those documents plus others I found in Halifax County including his land sales to his sons Bartlet and Benjamin in 1785. [646, 647]

Chesterfield County, VA Sales Deed 1764            Halifax County Deed to R. Sims 1765                Halifax County, VA, Indenture 1770
Signature 1764 Deed Signature 1765 Signature 1770 Bartlet

Halifax County Deed to Bartlet 1785              Halifax County Deed to Benjamin 1785                       York County, South Carolina Will 1789
Signature 1770 Benjamin Signature 1785 Signature 1789 Will

All of these documents from 1764 through 1789 have the same mark. This is convincing evidence that the same man drew these marks and therefore it was the same John Milam who lived in Chesterfield then Halifax Counties and later died in York County, South Carolina.

Based upon the court records which I found for John Milam Sr and his sons in Brunswick and Chesterfield Counties, I have prepared a Chronology of their early lives which you may read here (link) . Below I provide a narrative summary of their early lives including the earliest court records for Adam, Samuel and James. I also found very early records for an Edward Milam. Then in 1770 an Edmund Milam and his wife, Molly, appeared in Brunswick County.


Brunswick County

I began reading the Brunswick court orders with Book 3 at its beginning on 1 SEP 1749. John Milam Sr was the first Milam I found when on 30 JUL 1752 he filed a petition against a Joseph Hamilton.

John Milam Sr Petition against Joseph Hamilton 30 JUL 1752
John Milam Sr Petition 30 JUL 1752

We learn from a later Brunswick case dated 25 JUN 1754 that John Sr had been in Brunswick since before December 1750. Importantly, his son, John Milam Jr stated in his Revolutionary War pension declaration that he was born in Brunswick County on 12 JUN 1753. [648] So that all fits very nicely. You may read John Jr's pension affidavit here (link). A review of my Chronology of John Milam Sr's Early Life shows that John Sr was mentioned in at least nine court cases in Brunswick County. Thus his existence there is well documented. So far these are the first official county records for him.


An Edward Milam is found in Brunswick records on 24 JAN 1754 and 30 MAY 1754 in a case involving John Overby.

John Overby vs Edward Milam 24 JAN 1754

This indicates that Edward was at least 21 years of age and was born by 1733, or earlier, because a person had to be 21 years of age and a freeman, not an indentured servant (link), to sue or be sued in court. All fourty Milams tested by our Milam Y-DNA Surname Project who are descedants of a colonial Virginia MILAM are extremely closely related so I feel certain that Edward Milam and John Milam Sr are related. There are no other records for Edward Milam in Brunswick through May 1765 which is as far as I have read. This raises the interesting questions of whether Edward was a son of John Milam Sr or perhaps a brother or cousin or even John Sr's father. I have vascilated about this for the past eight months. There is a seven plus year age difference between Edward and Samuel Milam; plus Edward was not found in Chesterfield County or Halifax County like most of John Sr's children. I am now leaning more toward a relative rather than son but for sure this is just my speculation. You may read about our Surname Project results here (link) .

In addition, I noted an increase in deaths and the adoption of orphaned children in the mid 1750s probably due to the usual causes: malaria, yellow fever, typhoid fever and small pox. Since no one has found other records for this Edward Milam, it is possible that he also died. But still its interesting that Edward and John Milam Sr appeared in the Brunswick court records within eighteen months of each other.


Adam Milam first appeared in Brunswick County on 30 MAY 1765 when he sued Benjamin Seaward for a debt.

Adam Milam vs Benjamin Seaward 30 MAY 1765
Adam Milam vs Seaward 30 MAY1765

Like Edward, from this entry we know that Adam Milam must have been at least 21 years old at that time and a freeman, not an indentured servant. This means that Adam was born by 1744 or earlier. Adam appeared at least eight more times in Brunswick court orders including on 28 JUL 1766 when the court ordered John Williams to pay unto Adam Milam and Charity Milam "Two Hundred pounds of tobacco each for eight days attendance as a Witness for him against Benjamin Hicks".

Adam & Charity Milam Witnesses 28 JUL 1766
Adam & Charity Milam Witnesses 28 JUL 1766

Adam Milam continued to appear in Brunswick County deed books as a witness at least through 1767. Apparently he was later found across the state border in what became Warren County, North Carolina, as early as 1771, and where Adam Milam died in 1789 leaving a Will naming his children: Lewis, John, Roling, Drury and James. [649]


Edmund Milam appeared in Brunswick Order Book 11 on 2 OCT 1770, page 370: "Edmund Milam vs Coalby Randle - Petition: Upon the petition of Edmund Milam against Coalby Randle for two pounds eighteen shillings and one penny....due by account....It is considered by the Court that the plaintiff recover against the Defendant the said two pounds eighteen shillings and one penny and his Costs by him in this behalf expended."

Edmund Milam vs Coalby Randle 2 OCT 1770
Edmund Milam vs Coalby Randle 2 OCT 1770

Edmund was also found in Brunswick County Deed Book 11 when he and his wife, Molly Milam, sold livestock to John Swanson for £43, shillings 7. etc. {see details in the Chronology} Interestingly, an Edmund Millam was a Tithable in Buckingham County in 1774 which is northwest of Brunswick County. [650] Edmund must have been born by 1749. Buckingham County would be fertile gound to persue but I haven't the time.

Images of many of these court documents are here (link) and here (link).


I have read Brunswick County Order Book Records from September 1749 - May 1765.


Chesterfield County

I began reading the Chesterfield court order books with the June 1759 session and first encountered John Milam Sr on 30 OCT 1760 when he purchased 100 acres of land on "branches of Sappony Creek" from John Tillotson. [656] There are seven other court records for him in Chesterfield County up until he sold his land to Thomas Womack which was proven in court on 1 JUN 1764. [657] During these years John Milam Sr's sons Samuel and James and Samuel's wife, Sarah, first appeared in Chesterfield County records.

Deed Book ?, 31 OCT 1760, page ?: "This Indenture made the 31th day of October in the year of our lord 1760 Between John Tillotson of Chesterfield County on the one part and John Milam of the same county of the other part. Wittnesseth that the said John Tillotson for and in consideration of 15 Pounds of currant money of Virginia....sell....one certain tract of land containing one hundred acres....being some branches of the Sappony....Signed: John Tillotson. Witnesses: Thomas (x) Tillotson, John (x) Tillotson Jr and Mary (0) King

Samuel Milam is first found on 6 MAR 1761 in Order Book 3 in a suit with Charles Cheatham.

Charles Cheatham vs Samuel Milam 6 MAR 1761
Charles Cheatham vs Samuel Milam 6 MAR 1761

From this entry we know that Samuel Milam must have been at least 21 years old at the time and a freeman, not an indentured servant. This means that Samuel must have been born by 1740 or earlier. From a July 1764 entry we learn the name of Samuel's wife, Sarah, in another case: “Samuel Milam and his wife, Sarah, Plaintiffs, vs Charles Cheatham, defendant."

Samuel Milam & wife Sarah vs Cheatham 7 JUL 64
Samuel Milam & wife Sarah vs Cheatham 7 JUL 64

James Milam first appeared on 7 MAY 1762 in a road order: “Ordered that the male laboring Tithables of Thomas Branch Jr, John Milam, Henry Mills, William Moore, James Milam and John Dines do work on the Highway under {Thomas ?} Cole.” That James Milam had “Tithables” means that he had adult workers. And this means that he was at least 21 years old at the time, a freeman and must have been born by 1741 or earlier. Since there is no deed for him in Chesterfield County, James must have leased his land. Being a road order also indicates that these men lived along this Highway relatively close to each other. So these families were neighbors of John Sr and James Milam.

Chesterfield is the county where the Milam families and the Hatcher families are first found together in court records both as plaintiffs and as defendants. During the early 1760s, there are a series of cases in Court Order Book 3 involving them beginning with:

5 JUN 1761, page 137: “Hanah Rudd vs Jamestown Hatcher and John Milam, Debt. Defendants to pay 4 pounds and 16 shillings money & costs….

3 JUN 1763, page 421: “Samuel Milam plaintiff vs Jamestown Hatcher Sr and Jamestown Hatcher Jr defendants. Debt. Dismissed.”

18 AUG 1763, page 446: “James Milam, plaintiff, vs Ann Hatcher, Petition. Judgment for plaintiff of three pounds current money & costs.”

James Milam vs Ann Hatcher 18 AUG 63
James Milam vs Ann Hatcher 18 AUG 63

16 FEB 1764, page 477: “Ann Hatcher vs James Milam. Petition. Dismissed.”

4 APR 1764, page 519: “Ordered that the Attachment brought by James Milam against Ann Hatcher be dismissed as to Gerald Walthall, one of the garnishees.”

1 JUN 1764, page 530: “A Deed John Milam to Thomas Womack proved by the oath of John Gammon, Edith Womack & Joel Womack witnesses thereto…”

John Milam Sr signed his Sales Deed with his unique "his mark" 1 JUN 1764
Signature 1764 Deed

{ Please note that there was no mention of John Milam’s wife or his wife’s Dower (link) indicatinging that she had died by then. }

6 JUN 1766, page 738: "James Milam against Ann Hatcher. Attachment. Dismissed."

These records indicate that the Milams were well acquainted with the Hatchers. The Ann Hatcher mentioned above is most likely the wife / widow of Jamestown Hatcher Sr - Ann (Knibb) Hatcher - whom I found was involved in several other lawsuits in her own name. Chesterfield County deed records show that the Hatcher familes owned a lot of land.


Halifax County

Samuel Milam purchased 100 acres of land in Halifax County on 20 FEB 1783 from his father, John Sr. [651] I couldn't find a sales deed which suggests that the land was passed to an heir(s) in which case deeds usually were not issued until requested. He is said to be found later in what became Abbeville County, South Carolina where he apparently died in the early 1800s.

Regarding the James Milam who had the running court battle with Ann Hatcher, I conclude that he married Nancy Hatcher, the daughter of Jamestown Sr and Ann (Knibb) Hatcher, before being found living alone on the 1785 Halifax County Census. [658] You may view that census here (link) . This would explain why the Y-DNA of Nancy Hatcher's male descendants closely resembles descendants of John Milam Sr's sons. I suspect that the dislocations of the long Revolutionary War (1776 - 1781) played a hand in all of this. My solution to this mystery and a discussion of James Milam's life are here (link) and here (link) .

And I discuss the Court Records for John Milam Jr, Thomas Milam and Benjamin Milam found in Halifax County, NC and in Laurens County, SC here (link) .

Images of many of Brunswick County and Chesterfield Couonty court documents are here (link), here (link) , and here (link) .

I have read Chesterfield County Order Book Records from June 1759 - June 1766.

Possible Issue of John Milam Sr:

( The birth dates below are Robert Wilbanks IV's estimates adjusted for the above facts. )

I. Edward, Born by 1733 - ??

II. Grace Milam, Born "circa 1740" - ?

III. Samuel Milam, Born by 1740 - ?

IV. James Milam, Born by 1741 - ?

V. Adam Milam, Born by 1744 - ?

VI. Bartlett {Ferrill} Milam, Born "circa 1748" - ?

VII. Edmund Milam, Born by 1749 - Brunswick County

VIII. Benjamin Milam, Born "circa 1750" - Brunswick County

IX. John Milam, Jr., Born 12 JUN 1753 - Brunswick County

X. Thomas Milam, Born "circa 1757" - Brunswick County

XI. Nancy Milam, Born - ?


SPECULATION: If one assumes that the definite descendants of John Milam Sr are the persons mentioned in John Sr's Will plus those eventually found in Halifax County where John Sr spent much of his adult life, the remainder are: Edward (born by 1733), Adam (by 1744) and Edmund (by 1749) - all found in Brunswick County but not in Chesterfield County or Halifax County - who might not be John Sr's children.

In theory, Edward could be much older, say born by 1724 - old enough to be the father of Adam and Edmund. That would make Edward most likely a brother or cousin of John Sr. In 2019 - three hundred years later - it's really a guessing game.

The fact is this conjecture puts us back close to 1711 when a passenger, John Mylam, sailed from Bristol, England, to Virginia on board the galley Cranfield referenced in The Complete Book of Emigrants 1700 – 1750! [5] We do not know if he stayed in Virginia or was a merchant and returned to England.

At the Library of Virginia, I have searched the abstracts of county court records for the all the counties in eastern Virginia and have found no records for this early John Mylam which suggests he didn't settle in Virginia.

I provide my best guess for the origin of John and Thomas Milam near the bottom of my article on Milam Mariners and Merchants from Great Britain which you may read here (link) .


~~~~~~~~~~Please see the records chronology for many more records here (link) . ~~~~~~~~~


NOTE TO READERS: Most all the words in bold type face are links to images, maps or word definitions in the Glossary. The Citations and Glossary are available under the Resources tab or here (link) .


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