History for Moses Milam (ca 1752 - ca 1815)

The Life of Moses Milam in Historical and Cultural Context

Moses Milam was Thomas Milam's fourth son and was born in Culpeper County in the Dominion and Colony of Virgina by 1752 or earlier. In October 1774 Moses married Elizabeth Boyd, daughter of William Boyd Sr. who had died in 1761. The William Boyd mentioned below was her brother, William Boyd, Jr.


Moses Milam and Benjamin Milam Were Wood Workers

In Bedford County court records Moses is first mentioned on 24 MAR 1773 in "Milam vs Wright". Moses Milam had petitioned the Court for David Wright to make payment. On 25 FEB 1773, the Clerk of Court issued a writ for the Sheriff to have Wright at the Courthouse "to answer Moses Milam of a plea of Trespass on the case. Damages of 10 Pounds." [503]

Fortunately I could find the details of this lawsuit preserved at the Library of Virginia's Records Center. The folder contained Moses Milam's bill itemizing his and Benjamin Millam’s work for Wright’s account. You may view the original account memorandum here (image) . It is transcribed immediately below:

Moses Bill for David Wright 1773

As you can read, Moses and Benjamin were owed for sawing planks for Alexander Baines mill. In 1771 they had made clapboards and attached them to a house for David Wright. And there was an old balance owed to Benjamin Millam of £1. 3. 9. On 24 MAR 1773 the court ordered: "Milam vs Wright. Judgment. Confessed according to account & Costs. Stay exam three months." - meaning that Wright agreed with the amounts and was given three months to pay Milams the balance. Notice that Wright had made a payment of £ 0. 1. 3 in cash and a payment with a Deerskin worth 2 Shillings and 6 Pence.

Moses Milam's Signature on Account Statement for David Wright, March 1773
Moses Milam Signature 1773

The documents of this lawsuit prove that Moses and Benjamin worked together as sawyers and carpenters. It also demonstrates that Moses was literate and could write a complete account statement. Moses signed this contract with his signature at the bottom right. [504]

As further evidence of the close relationship between Moses and Benjamin, they shared land. Shortly before Benjamin's death in 1781, Moses purchased land from Charles McGlocklin Jr. on 10 FEB 1781. The deed recorded that this land was "Joining Moses and Benjamin Milams and the Baines Mill tract". So they were known to share property by this time .

"...Lying and being in Bedford County on both Sides of the North fork of the Otter River beginning at a small white Oak thence North Eighty degrees west eighty two poles across the Otter River to the mouth of Boyles Branch...etc....to a Poplar in the Patent line...etc. etc....and thence Joining Moses and Benjamin Milams and the Baines Mill Tract to the First Station Together with all and Singular the Priviledges and Appurtenances their unto Belonging..." You may read the original deed here (image). [507]

On 12 JUN 1783 Moses Milam and William Boyd Jr., his brother-in-law, signed a bond to Alexander Baine, proprietor of Baines Mill, , for £ 20 and two Pence which was to be repayed with interest within three months. The penalty amount was double - £ 40 and 4 pence - if not repayed by then.

"The Condition of the above obligation is such that whereas the above bound Moses Milam hath Sundry Goods under Execution to Satisfy Alexander Baine of Twenty pounds and two pence current money of Virginia, Now if the said Moses Milam do pay the same within three months from the date hereof with legal Interest thereon then the above Obligation void else to remain in full force & Virtue. Signed sealed and delivered in the presence of Lynch {Clerk of Court}"
Signatures of Moses Milam and William Boyd Jr. on a Bond to Alex Baine, June 1783.
William Boyd Sr, father of Elizabeth Boyd Milam, died in 1761.
Moses Milam and William Boyd signatures 1783

Because of the ongoing Revolutionary War foreign merchants, mostly English and Scottish, were forbidden from collecting debts. However, after the war in May 1789 the Bedford Court ordered judgment against William Boyd Jr. You may view the bond and judgment here (image).

On 29 MAR 1784 Moses purchased 200 acres of land adjacent to the same Alex Baine and to William Boyd Jr. .

"Witnesseth that the said James Ward in Consideration of the sum of Forty Pounds to him in hand paid, Doth bargain and sell to the Said Moses Milam and his Heirs One Certain Tract or parcel of Land in the County of Bedford on the West sides of the Northfork of the Otter River joining the lands of Alexander Bain commonly called the Mill Tract containing two hundred acres...and bounded as follows...Beginning at a...pine on William Boyd’s {Junior} line..." You may read the original deed here (image). [508]

On 23 OCT 1786, a few years after Benjamin Milam's death following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Moses assigned the following deed to Benjamin's wife, Elizabeth Milam:

“This Indenture Made this twenty third day of October in the Year of Our Lord One thousand seven Hundred and eighty six, Between Moses Milam of Bedford County of the one part, and Elizabeth Milam (Relic of late Benjamin Milam, Deceased) of the other part.

Witnesseth, that the said Moses Milam for and in Consideration of the Sum of Twenty one pounds Currant {Money of Virginia} to him in hand paid by the above Benjamin Milam before his decease, the receipt whereof the said Moses Milam doth hereby confess and acknowledge, Had bargained and sold to the said Milam, deceased, and doth by these presents grant and Convey to the said Elizabeth Milam during her Natural Life, and after her decease to revert to the Heir at Law of the said Benjamin Milam deceased, a Certain Tract or parcel of Land lying and being in the County of Bedford upon the waters of the Otter River and bounded as follows, to wit, Beginning at a point of Rocks on the North side of Boyles Branch…to a Pine in Boyd’s line, thence along the said Line…to Boyd’s Corner Pine….Containing One Hundred and twenty acres…Together with every Appertanance there unto belonging to the said Elizabeth Milam and unto the Heir at Law of the said Benjamin Milam, deceased....

Signed, Sealed & delivered in the presents of ~    Moses Milam.

At a Court held for Bedford County the 23rd day of October 1786.This Indenture along with the Memorandum of Livery and Seizon thereon endorced were Acknowledged by Moses Milam party thereto and Ordered to be Recorded ~~ Teste, James Steptoe CBC {Clerk Bedford Court}” You may read this touching document for yourself here (image) . [602]

These documents demonstrate that Moses and Benjamin not only worked together but also shared property together. Thus they were very close. I suspect this is the main reason that Moses and Elizabeth named a son Benjamin Rush Milam after they removed to the western frontier of Kentucky. Rush of course was the maiden name of their mother, Mary Rush. My ancestor was Rush Milam, the youngest son of Thomas and Mary Rush Milam, who also named a son, Benjamin Rush Milam. Over time Rush became a recurring given name in Milam lineage.

On 24 SEP 1787 Moses Milam was ordered "to View a Way to turn the Road from near Thomas Logwood Plantation to Capt James Buford Plantation at Hurricane Creek & make Report." along with Thomas Logwood, Peter Wilkerson and William Lear. [603]

Seven months later on 19 APR 1788 Moses and Elizabeth sold their land to the Bondurant brothers in two transactions. For £ 50 {current money} they sold to Josiah Burdurant "One Tract of land lying on the Waters of Otter and part of the said tract the said Milam purchased of James Ward containing 207 acres...Beginning on the south side of Boyles Branch on William Boyd's old line....to Boyles White Oak Corner...." You may view the deed here (image) . [604]

For "Seven Thousand pounds of Crop Tobacco" they sold to John Bondurant "one hundred acres being on both sides of the North Fork of Otter River....and thence Joining Moses and Benjamin Milams and Bains Mill Tract..." You may read this deed here (image). [605]

Both of these deeds were confirmed "At a Court held for Bedford County the 27th Day of October 1788". [606]

It is thought that Moses and Elizabeth removed to Fayette County Virginia, sometime that year. Later, on 1 JUN 1792 that portion of Virginia became the State of Kentucky.

However, the legacy of Benjamin and Moses Milam's labors lived on. On 22 MAR 1790 the Bedford County Order Book noted that the Commonwealth sued the "Surveyor of the Road from Milam Sawmill Branch to the old Main Road" - probably for not keeping it in good repair as five other surveyors were sued the same day for that reason. [607]


The Legend of the Name Benjamin Rush Milam

Benjamin Rush (1746 - 1813) was a physician and politician in Philadelphia, attended the Continetal Congress held there and signed the Declaration of Independence. After the war he became a professor of chemistry, medical theory and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania and he is credited as the founder of Dickinson College. So the legend has it that Moses and Elizabeth Boyd Milam named their fourth son for this Benjamin Rush.

Benjamin Rush Milam was born 20 OCT 1788 in Fayette County, Virginia (Kentucky after 1792). Whoever came up with this myth must not have been aware of life on the frontier of Virginia in 1788. In addition to being challenging in all respects, frontier life meant living on dispersed farms in rudimentary conditions with few conveniences like books or access to a weekly newspaper. For an understanding of their material life, look at the inventories of Benjamin and John Milam and read my chapters on Pioneer Houses and Courts Days. It is very doubtful that Moses and Elizabeth were even aware of the good doctor Benjamin Rush who was a minor figure at the Continental  Congress compared with Virginia boys like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason and George Washington.

Also consider that Moses and Elizabeth named their third son, William Boyd Milam, to honor Elizabeth's father - or brother for that matter. I believe that it is most likely that Moses' famous son, "Ben" Milam of the Alamo, was named Benjamin to honor Moses' brother and co-worker and Rush to honor Moses' mother, Mary Rush. Another possibility - but less likely in my view - is that "Ben" Milam was simply named to honor Moses' uncle Benjamin Rush, the brother of his mother's father, William Rush IV. Or both!

Finally, consider that my ancestor, Rush Milam, also named a son Benjamin Rush Milam born circa 1805 in Botetourt County, Virginia. He is my third great-grandfather. Are we to believe that he was also named for the Philadelphia physician? By the way, please don't suggest that he was named for the famous "Ben" R. Milam since the Battle of the Alamo occured in 1836 - 30+ years after his birth!


~~~~~~~~~~Please see the records chronology for many more records here . ~~~~~~~~~~


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) .

To Top