Tuesday's Test: Drawing Clues from a Colonial Garnishment

 
 
 

3 February 2015

In September 1747, along Virginia's Southside frontier, the court issued an order of garnishment against the "estate" of William Clark, who had "absconded" without paying all his debts. A published abstract of the resulting actions tells us the following:

“Upon the attachment obtained by William Howard, Gent, against the estate of William Clark (who is said to be a runaway or so absconded that the ordinary process of law cannot be served on him) for 14£ 15 shillings and 10 pence, this day came said Howard by his atty, and the sheriff having returned that he had executed the attachment in the hands of George Holloway, John Speed, Thomas Watts, Reuben Morgin, David Dodd, Field Jefferson, John Darby, and William Abbot, the said garnishees appeared in court and declared as follows:

  • George Holloway says he has in his hands of the estate of William Clark, 1 waist coat, 1 pair of stockings, 2 pair of breechecs, 1 shirt, and no more.
  • John Speed says he has 20 shillings and no more.
  • Thomas Watts says he has 3 shillings and 9 pence and no more.
  • Reuben Morgan says he has 2 shillings and 6 pence and no more.
  • David Dodde says he has 4 shillings and 4 pence half penny and a book entitled Cockers Arithmatick and no more.
  • Field Jefferson has 14 shillings and 9 pence and no more.
  • John Darby has nothing.
  • William Abbot has 16 shillings and 6 pence, and no more.”1

How would you interpret this document? What clues might you draw about any or all of the individuals involved? If you were interested in one of these individuals, how would you use this record as a stepping stone to further your research?2



1. Lunenburg County, Virginia, Court Orders, 1746-1748 (Miami Beach, FL: TLC Genealogy, 1990), 113; citing Book 1, p. 266.

2. Examples of this type of document analysis can be found in Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 5: Analyzing Records,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (http://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-5-analyzing-records) and its sequel, "QuickLesson 6: Mindmapping Records" (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-6-mindmapping-records).

IMAGE CREDIT: "Court Gavel Pound, ID 3254," Presenter Media (http://www.presentermedia.com/index.php?target=closeup&id=3254&categoryid=115&maincat=animsp : accessed 3 February 2015); used under license.

 

mgoodrum
mgoodrum's picture
Garnishment

In English law garnishment was a very old practice where “…a plaintiff suing in the local court was entitled to attach the property of the defendant in the hands of a third person, who was called a garnishee.”[1] In 1765, the British colony of Virginia would have been operating under English common law. It looks like the garnishees were declaring what property and moneys they had that belonged to William Clark.

My first thought is that some (or all) of these men might be related to William Clark either by a familial tie or business ties. I’d be very interested in learning more about the backgrounds of each of them.


[1] Richard Gleeson Greene, The International Cyclopedia: A Compendium of Human Knowledge, Volume 6 (New York: Dodd, Meade & Company, 1890), p. 455.

Michelle

mgoodrum
mgoodrum's picture
I forgot to include in my

I forgot to include in my citation that I viewed The International Compendium on Google Books. Oops!

Michelle

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture
Based on Michelle's

Based on Michelle's explanation, I would pay special attention to a possible relationship between George Holloway and William Clark. It would be quite normal to have several people indebted to you for a couple of shillings; that doesn't mean they're related or anything. But a man doesn't leave his breeches with just anyone. Clark must have really trusted George Holloway to  leave his coat, stockings, breeches and shirt there. I would try to find out who Clark and Holloway married, they could well be brothers-in-law or father-and-son-in-law.

Yvette Hoitink, CGSM, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture
Thinking about this some more

Thinking about this some more, I think the most logical explanation is that William Clark lived with George Holloway. That would explain how Holloway got left with his clothes. That suggests a close family relationship.  

Yvette Hoitink, CGSM, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services

Jade
Jade's picture
Living with Holloway

I think Yvette was right to conclude that Clark had lived with Holloway, but perhaps as servant or hired hand or even apprentice.

I find the arithmetic book in Dodd's hands quite interesting; had he been master to a Clark child, required to school the child to the "rule of 3" as sometimes required by indentures?  Or had Dodd been guardian to a Clark child?

But the first thing I would want to do is consult the court records for a narrative as to how Clark came to be indebted to William Howard for such a sum, which would be for more than a year's wages for a laborer or farm hand.  Was this for rent or lease, or for chattels?  Deeds might hold an agreement relevant to the cause.  Also of interest would be who gave the list of the garnishees; this information might also be in the court records, even an original deposition--but there might be a newspaper advertisement calling for the garnishees to come forward.

 

Jade