Friday, August 08, 2008

Mary Ann Griffin Brock of Henrico County, wife of Henry Brock

Mary Ann, known as Polley, seems to have been a strong woman. Upon the death of her husband, Polley became executrix of his estate. Edwin Philips and John C. Brock were supposed to fulfill that role, but they did not want to be burdened. Therefore, Mary was left with the responsibilities of raising and educating six minor children, managing her husband's estate, and overseeing the general workings of a two-hundred acre farm valued at $2,500 by 1850.

Henrico County, Virginia Deed Book #66, page 415:
On February 2, 1846, Mary Ann Brock was taken to court by her children to divide their father's estate. This was not a bad thing by any means. Instead this was necessary to insure both her rights and the rights of her children to their inheritance. Henry Brock died in possession of 244 acres of land, valued at $1,500 in 1846. The court gave Mary Ann "50 acres detached, the dwelling house and forty acres and ten acres of wood land valued together at five hundred dollars" as well as twenty-one slaves valued at $1625. The twenty-one slaves did not represent "one third of the value of all the Negroes, not wishing to separate the families the widow is satisfied with them and it appears by an account settled by John Shore, Commissioner that then a balance due the estate by the administratrix of $859.67 and we allot the the widow $286.56 in fee simple." At least Mary cared more about the slave families than her own pocket book.

Mary's role as executrix of Henry's estate was well-defined yet often challenged. Henry left detailed instructions on when and how his property should be divided but unforeseen circumstances arose. Once was the case of a slave named Mary Ann. Edwin Philips, husband of the late Elizabeth Brock Philips, had Mary Ann in his possession as part of Mr. Brock's will. It turns out that Edwin was unable to handle Mary Ann and her conduct. She allegedly had a bad temper and poor character, was prone to running away and was accused of setting fire to neighbor's houses during the night. Edwin felt that he did not deserve such a slave and sought legal action against his former father-in-law's estate.

Edwin wanted Mary Ann to be replaced with a more docile slave, one that would actually do some work and that he could hire out. It was decided in court that Mary Ann would be sold and a replacement slave purchased. It took over a year after Mary Ann was sold before Mary Brock agreed to purchase her replacement, Veinetta. Mrs. Brock's cleaver and calculated reasoning behind the wait can be seen in her letter to the court below.

"Aspin Grove Henrico County Augt. 20th 1850,
Understanding there has been a motion made by Mr. Edward Phillips to your honourable body to Summon Mr. Fendall Griffin to show cause why he has not obeyed the order of the Same, as Commissioner in the case of Brock against Brock to sell the negro woman named Mary and to purchase another, - I take the occasion to say that it has been my fault, and not his, as I requested him not to purchase one untill they receded in price as they have continued to rise from the time the one was sold to the present. Yrs: Respectfully, Mary Ann Brock, Executrix of Henry Brock Dec.

We being legatees to the estate of Henry Brock Decd Concur fully in the above Statements.
P. H. Waldrop
Robert H. Brock"

Henrico County, Virginia Deed Book #74, page 368-371:
By 1860, the estate of Henry Brock was pretty much settled. The court ordered that, for a time, the remainder of Henry's slaves be rented out to pay off debts. This did not include those given to Mary Ann as her dower. The court also decided that each of Henry Brock's children (or their heirs) would receive one-seventh of the remaining estate. William R. Patman and wife received five slaves and 28 3/4 acres of land. John J. Brock received two slaves and 28 3/4 acres. Robert H. Brock received two slaves and 28 3/4 acres. William R. Brock received five slaves and 28 3/4 acres of land. Patrick H. Waldrop and wife received three slaves and 28 3/4 acres. Alexander M. Lawrence and wife received three slaves and 25 acres. Edwin Philips and his children received two slaves, 25 acres and a cow and calf. Mary Ann had previously received 50 acres and the main house. As a note, the two 25 acres tracts given to Edwin Philips and Alexander Lawrence was wooded land is now the location of London Towne Apartments off Shrader Road. Edwin Philip's tract contained a half acre family cemetery. See Henry Brock's notes for more information. Also, there is a great plat for these land divisions on p. 371 of this document.

Mary lived with her daughter, Mary Frances Henryetta Brock Patman, and her family in 1860. Mary was listed as owning $15,000 worth of real estate and $10,000 worth of personal estate. It is not known at this time when or where she died.

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