History for Zachariah Milam (ca 1755 - ca 1825)

The Life of Zachariah Milam in Historical and Cultural Context

Zachariah Milam was the fifth son of Thomas Milam and was born in Culpeper County in the Dominion and Colony of Virginia around 1755. The date of his marriage is not known but we learn from a Chancery Court case in 1797 that his wife's first name was Mary. Zachariah named his first son John Kelly Milam (1778 - 1843) who in turn named a son, Charles Kelly Milam (1801 - ). Zachariah also named his second son Benjamin Kelly Milam (1782 - 1845).

So who was Kelly? In 2009 I speculated that Zachariah did so to honor his uncle, John Kelly, who had married Ann Margaret Rush - the sister of Zachariah's mother, Mary Rush. I provide the extensive evidence for these relationships here (link)

In Bedford County court records Zachariah is first mentioned on 25 MAY 1772. It is in a "road order" in which a group of nearby residents are ordered to work on a road to Poteat's {Petite’s} Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains to Botetourt (“Body-tot”) County and keep it in good repair.

"The hands of Charles Lambert, John Allen, Zachariah Milam, John Kelly, Charles Barnett,  Samuel Hensley, Wm Lear, John Ross, John Dewit & William Willams with their male tithes { Tithables } are ordered to work on the old road from the fork in the road above Francis Holley’s leading through Poteat’s Gap and Keep the same in Repair, and that the said hands be exempted from working on the New Road, & that the Said Hands work on the Road from Thomas’ Ferry {on the James River} to the new Road." [496] You may view this order here (image) .

What is most interesting is that the order mentioned a John Kelly which means that he lived near Zachariah.

All the individuals named in the above order lived in northwestern Bedford County just south of the James River which after 1770 bordered upon Botetourt (“Body-tot”) County then after 1777 Rockbridge County when it was carved out. On 23 NOV 1778, the Bedford Court appointed Zachariah Milam "the Surveyor of the Road from Francis Holley's to the Rockbridge line and the Usual Hands are Ordered to assist the Surveyor in Keeping the same in good repair." [502] Reads as it's the same road.

{ Now would be a good moment to look at Virginia county maps to see the changing relationships to the West of where the Milams lived in Northwest Bedford county here (link) . Pay particular attention to the periods 1761 - 1770 when Bedford County was bordered by Botetourt County and then 1771 - 1780 when it was bordered by Rockbridge County. }

The road order which preceeds the one above pertains to the new road to Poteat's Gap and mentions John Milam and William Milam as well as members of the Jackson and Fowler families into which the Milam boys married. John married Ann Jackson; Benjamin married Elizabeth Jackson - the daughters of Jarvis and Helena Jackson. And Rush Milam married Ann Elizabeth Fowler. Thus they all lived near each other. The order reads:

"Report of the review of a Road from above....Francis Holley's to Poteat's Gap returned and established, and that the new road therein mentioned be also established and the former road be kept open. The hands of Richard Callaway, Charles Gwatkins, Chesley Woodward, Nathaniel Nance, John Milam, William Wilson, Garret Jackson, James Wilson, William Milam, Martin King, William Fowler, John Hardwick, John Hampton, James Taylor and Joseph Jackson are to attend the service of the said new Road and assist in the clearing and keeping the same in good repair." [498] You may view this order here (image).

Please note that most of these men were in Captain Charles Gwatkins Company, in which John Milam was Lieutenant, which in 1777 traveled to Boonesborough, Kentuckey to defend it from Shawnee warriors led by Blackfish. Read my history for John Milam here (link) .


Zachariah Milam and his Uncle John Kelly in Bedford County, VA

The Milams and Kellys went back a long way. In Orange County, their land was near each other as you may see here (image) . On 12 MAR 1747 Thomas Milam and John Kelley were Chain Carriers together for Alexander Campbell's Survey. View the survey here (image) . With help from Kelly family researchers, I learned that John Kelly's family followed Thomas Milam's family from Culpeper County to Bedford County. By May 1768 John Kelly was leasing land along Battery Creek near the Milams. The evidence for this is found in Culpeper County Deed Book E, pages 569 & 570 :

" Know all men by these Presents that I, John Kelly, for and on Consideration of John McKenzie being my Security to Lenox Scott & Company for a large Debt.....I do hereby acknowledge and by these Presents, do bargain and sell unto the said John McKenzie a Straw Berry roane horse...., Two feather Beds, nine head of Hoggs, a man’s hatt and a Lease of land I hold from under Nicholas Davis in Bedford County on the mouth of Battery Creek, with every other thing I now Possess or may hereafter Possess and all Crops that I make till the Debt is discharged….In Witness Whereof, I have Hereunto set my hand  and seal this 23rd day of May 1768.  Signed: John Kelley

In the presence of Edward Stevens, James Wilson" [495] You may read it here (image).

In Bedford on 30 Oct 1768 Kelly signed a bond to James Montgomery promising to pay him “the Sum of Three Pounds and 15 Shilling current Money of Virginia on or Before the Last day of May Next for Value Received of him.” He signed his name John Kelley. On the 5th day of May 1769 he wittnessed the assignment of a bond by William Thomson to John Thomson Junior and again signed John Kelley. You may view these beautiful documents here (image) and here (image). There are court documents for John Kelly in Bedford County through the late 1770s.

Signatures of John Kelley from 1768 (left) and 1769 (right)
John Kelley Signature 1768 John Kelley Signature 1769

Thus the John Kelly formerly of Culpeper County removed to Bedford County and lived along Battery Creek which was near the "the old road from....above Francis Holley’s leading through Poteat’s Gap" and so did Zachariah. Nearby lived John and William Milam who worked on the new road to the Poteat's Gap.

On 27 JAN 1783 Zachariah Milam was again appointed the "overseer of the road from Francis Holleys to the County line over Crossing the Blue Ridge". [549]

There is more evidence of the Milams living close to the Kellys over an extended period of time. A July 1783 road petition was signed by William Millam, Zachariah Millam, James Kelly and Benjamin Kelly, the sons of John Kelley. It deals with the best way to Poteat's Gap.

"To the Worshipful Court of Bedford County

The petition of sundry of the Inhabitants of Bedford County Humbly Beseacheth That your Petitioners Labour under Great Inconveniences for the want of a Road from Holley's Gap to Poteat's Gap along a Road opened by Francis Holley which is Far the Nearest and Best Way. The way that Now is, is a Difficult Hilly way and by some Distance the Fartherest, And Likewise runs through the Plantation and Orchard of Peter Wilkerson and Is a Great Detriment to him. And ever hope your worships will consider These Inconveniences As we are convinced that a much Difficulter Way could not be Got Than For it to Run through the Orchard and Plantation of the said Peter Wilkerson. We shall cease to Trouble You any Futher, But rest Satisfyed that Your Homorable Court will Not neglect to promote every useful Purpose that shall come before You and your petitioners as In Duty Bound shall Pray. " [497]

Below are images of their names from a copy of the petition prepared by the Clerk of Court:


1783 Bedford Road Petition with William and Zachariah Milam & Benjamin and James Kelly
William Milam Zachariah Milam

Do you notice that these names seems to be written by the same hand? Indeed, the Clerk of Court made a copy of the poorly ledgible original. You may view the copy here (image).

Below are images of the signatures of the Milams and Kellys from the original petition. Note that William and Zachariah spelled their last name "Millam" and that Benjamin and James spelled their last name "Kelley", unlike the learned Clerk who spelled them Milam and Kelly.

1783 Petition with William and Zachariah Millam & Benjamin and James Kelley Signatures
Zachariah Milam & Benjamin signatures

Perhaps now we understand why Zachariah Milam used Kelly for the middle name of his sons. The original petition may be viewed by clicking here (image).

In June 1785 some of the same neighbors again petitioned for a change of a road to Poteat's Gap which was signed by Rush Milam and Zachariah Milam but not by the Kelly brothers. Benjamin Kelly was still a prisoner of the Shawnee Indians as I discuss in the chapter on Lt John Milam here (link).

"To the Gentlemen appointed by the Worshipful Court of Bedford to view the road from Holley's Gap to Poteeth's Gap ~

We Your Petitioners beg leave to inform that we labour under great Inconveniences by the Old Roads as they Now run, and beg You will view the way from Major Gwatkins along a Rolling Road Cleared by Francis Holley and by the Fork Field belonging to Charles Rice into the other Road and keeping the same to Poteeth's Gap ~" { Signed by sixteen men. } You may view an image of this petition here (image).

Rush Milam and Zachariah Milam signatures 1785

Having viewed many examples of Rush Milam's signature on deeds and his military pension application, I believe this is indeed Rush's signature. Rush always signed his last name as Milam unlike Benjamin and William who signed it Millam. Perhaps being 15 - 20 years younger, he was taught a more modern spelling of our name which was becoming standardized in the late 18th century. You may read a history of the spelling of the Milam name here (link).

The Kellys and Other Milams

A military expedition in October 1777 to protect Boonesborough in present day Kentucky binds these families together even more. It was lead by Major Charles Gwatkins and Leutenant John Milam. Several of the fifty men in their company were neighbors mentioned in the road orders and petition discussed above: Charles Gwatkins, John Milam, Chesley Woodward, Martin King, Benjamin Kelly, Joseph Jackson and John Williams. Most notably Benjamin Kelly and Joseph Jackson, both kin of John Milam, were among the 25 plus soldiers and settlers captured by Shawnee Indians at the Lower Blue Licks on 8 FEB 1778. You may read the story of their Boonesborough campaign in my chapter about John Milam here (link).

Later Joseph Jackson recounted how he, Daniel Boone, Benjamin Kelly and six others were "adopted" by the Shawnee at Little Chillicothe on the Miami River in Ohio. Most of the other captives were taken to Detroit and sold to the British army for a bounty of $100 per prisoner. Jackson remained with the Indians for more than two decades until 1799. You may read Joseph Jackson's fascinating 1844 interview with historian Lyman C. Draper by clicking here (link). [501]

By 1787 Benjamin Kelly had returned from captivity with the Shawnee Indians and was working with William Milam. This is known from the Bedford County Census which shows that William was "charged with" Benjamin's Property Tax. On the 1787 Census Benjamin's name is listed just after William Milam on page 196 followed by Rush and Moses Milam. On page 197 Zachariah and Anne Milam (John Milam's widdow) are found. You may view those pages here (link to .pdf file).

Bedford Chancery Court: Mary Milam versus Zachariah Milam

1797 - 009 CHANCERY CAUSES: Mary Milam vs Zachariah Milam

A Writ: “The Commonwealth of Virginia to the sheriff of Bedford County. Greeting. We command you Summon Zachariah Milam to appear before the Justices of our County Court at the Courthouse of our County on the 4th Monday in August next to answer a Bill in Chancery exhibited against {him} by Mary Milam {for a Separate Maintainance}. This he shall in no wise omit under penalty of £100 .

Witness: James Steptoe, Clerk of our Court

The 23rd day of May 1797 in the XXV th year of our foundation."

On the back of the writ, the Sheriff wrote:

"Milam vs Ye Said Milam: For Separate Maintainance. To be Dismissed by order the Plaintiff. Plaintiff not further proceding { prosecuting }.

D Saunders {Sheriff} August 1797"

You may read the Chancery Court record here (link to .pdf file). There were no further details in the Chancery record itself. What we learn from this case is that the first name of Zachariah Milam's wife in 1797 was Mary .

Issue of Zachariah and Mary Milam:

I. John  Kelly Milam Born circa 1778 Bedford County, Virginia

II. Benjamin Kelly Milam Born between 1780 and 1784 Virginia

III. Charles  Milam Born between 1784 and 1794 Bedford County, Virginia

IV. Zachariah Milam, Jr. Born circa 1788 Bedford County, Virginia

V. Solomon Milam Born between 1784 and 1794 Bedford County, Virginia

VI. Nancy Milam Born before 1793 Bedford County, Virginia. Married John Reynolds on March 14, 180_ in Bedford County, Virginia. Consent of father, Zachariah Milam

VII. Henry Milam Born between 1794 and 1800 Bedford County, Virginia

On 28 JAN 1822 Zachariah Milam made a deed of gift "of a certain tract of land lying and being in Bedford County on the Waters of Reed Creek containing 175 acres and bounded by Micajah Davis, Edmund Jennings and John Milam" to his son, Charles Kelly Milam. [499] ???

In 1838 Benjamin Kelly Milam sold by deed of trust 260 acres along Battery Creek to Edmund G. Damron. [500]


~~~~~~~~~~~ Please see Zacharia's Chronology for 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) .


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