Monday, November 24, 2008

Thomas W. Newell (c. 1818 - c. 1849) of Sussex County by Martin Shepherd


Thank you for your offer to post on your website the summary of my quest to locate the parents of Thomas W. Newell (see below). I think the information would be appropriate to post under both Prince George and Sussex Counties. Let me know when and where the information is published.

Martin Shepherd



I am searching for the parents of Thomas W. Newell, born circa 1818 and died before March 1849.

Thomas married Rebecca Virginia Wrenn, who was born Aug 31, 1825, in Sussex County to Thomas Wrenn and Rebecca Gilliam, and died November 29, 1892, in Washington, DC. Thomas W. Newell and Rebecca Virginia Wrenn had two sons who were born in Sussex County:
  • George Waverly Newell (born July 1844 and died January 14, 1926, in Washington, DC)
  • Alphonso Murat Newell (born circa 1846 and died August 11, 1907, in Moundsville prison)
Alphonso Murat Newell was serving a prison term in Moundsville, WV, for an assault conviction. Nothing is known about the origin of Alphonso's unusual given names. Much is known, however, about the lives of both George W. and Alphonso Murat Newell.

Much is also known about Rebecca Wrenn's forbearers, the Gilliam and Wrenn families in early Virginia. Rebecca Virginia remarried James Harrison Brooks, a printer, in 1858 (James H. Brooks was born Oct 2, 1835; died August 29, 1907, in Washington, DC).

There is no information, however, about who the parents of Thomas W. Newell might have been. There is only a very little amount of information available for Thomas W. Newell:
  • Thomas is included in the 1840 US census for Sussex County, Virginia, and in the Sussex County marriage register, marrying Rebecca Virginia Wrenn on January 23, 1840. They were married by Rev. Thomas B. Creath, with William H. Lanier as the witness. William H. Lanier was an in-law, having married Mary Wrenn (Rebecca's sister) in 1825. I found another Lanier family connection with the marriage record of Edward Newell and Lucy Lanier on March 27, 1788, in adjoining Prince George County.
  • Thomas W. Newell was also listed in the Sussex County personal property tax list for the years 1840, 1841, and 1842. Before that, a William T. Newell was listed in the Sussex personal property tax lists for the years 1837, 1836, and 1835. There are no earlier Sussex County records which show any Newell family members living there, with the exception of Elizabeth Newell who was listed in the 1782 Sussex County personal property tax list.
  • Other than that, a few Newells appeared in some of the earlier Sussex wills and in other records as witnesses, but not necessarily as Sussex County Residents.
  • I know that Thomas W. Newell was not present by March 1849, because he was not included in Thomas Wrenn's will, which was written then. I have looked into the possibility that Thomas W. Newell might have abandoned his family, but I have found no evidence of this (there was another Thomas W. Newell in NC in the 1870 census, but I do not believe that it is the same person).
  • Rebecca Virginia Wrenn/Newell, along with her sons George W. and Alphonso, were listed in the 1850 census living with her father, Thomas Wrenn, with no sign of Thomas W. Newell.
While there is little or no documentation of the Newell family having lived in Sussex County before the 1830s, there is much evidence of the Newell family having lived in Prince George County for a long time.
  • In the 1810,1820, and 1830 census in Prince George, I found Benjamin, Thomas Sr., Thomas Jr., William, and James Newell listed.
  • In the 1804 personal property tax list for Prince George, I found Benjamin, Thomas, Edward, William, James, Richard C., Daniel, and Isham Newell listed. There is also an extant will for Edward Newell (Wife Katherine) who died October 21, 1791, with children Rebecca, James, and Peter.
  • I also found a "Lucy Newell, guardian of Edward Newell's children" included in the 1798-1800 court records in Prince George, probably the mother Lucy Lanier Newell who married Edward in 1788.
  • I also found a Thomas "Nuell" as a beneficiary of Thomas Daniel's will in Prince George in 1807.
  • The "Historical Record of Virginians in the Revolution" by John Gwaithmet (Dietz Press 1938) lists Thomas Newell Sr. of Prince George having died on Jan 19, 1833, at age 78. Based on this information, and the census, Thomas Jr. of Prince George could have been a possible father to Thomas W., (the 3rd?) born circa 1818.
  • Another possibility for a father is the George W. Newell who was listed in the 1840 census in Prince George, as well as in a number of Prince George land and personal property tax records from the 1830s and 1840s. According to the census, he was born approximately 1805. George W. Newell was also listed in the 1850 slave schedule census in Prince George County.
I have found a number of Newell family members listed from a number of sources, and I will list them here:
  • George Newell m Rebecca Pate, 1768; George Newell held 150 acres in James City County in 1768, according to "Adventures of Purse and Person" written by John F. Dorman in 1956.
  • George Newell, witness to Thomas Mumford's will, March 17,1768, Sussex County will book "A"
  • Thomas Newell, witness to Nathaniel Felt's will, June 16, 1785, Sussex County will book "D"
  • Edward Newell, Kemp Newell, William Shand's account sale, June 19, 1777, Sussex County will book "C"
  • Edward Newell, Virginia Land patents, Prince George County, July 14, 1769
  • John and Lucy Newell to Daniel Spence Deed, Surry County, book #7, August 21, 1759
  • John Newell, witness Joseph Glover to John Barnes Deed, Dec 11,1752 (both of Martin Brandon Parish, Prince George County), Surry Co, book #6
  • John Avriss m Patty Newell, Nov 12, 1785, Rev. Henry J. Burgess, Southwark Parish, Surry Co.
  • Martha Ann R. Newell m Frederick W. Barber, Surry County, Rev. Beverly Booth, Baptist, Dec 26, 1825
  • Thomas Newell m Rhody Lawrence, July 20, 1726, Isle of Wight
  • James Newell m Jemimah Leath, Dec 26, 1787, Prince George Co.
  • Richard Newell, tobacco transaction, Dec 16, 1662, Surry Co court records book #1
  • Virginia land patents 1623-1774 (partial list, prioritized by proximity)
  1. Thomas Newell, July 9, 1658, Warwick County, 700 acres
  2. James Newell, Northampton County, March 21 1662, 1300 acres
  3. John Newell, Southampton County March 6, 1674 acres
  4. John Newell, April 24, 1684, Isle of Wight, 92 acres
  5. Elizabeth Newell, Surry County, 170 acres, 168?
  6. James Newell, Sept 27, 1722 Goochland County, 400 acres
  7. Edward Newell, July 14, 1769, Prince George County, 390 acres
I have checked as well as I can the local parishes, including Bristol, Albemarle, and Southwark. I have found no information for Martin Brandons Parish. As far as I have been able, I have found no information for the Newell family included in any of the extant records for these parishes, but some of the related families, especially the Gilliam family, have records in the parish books.

In general, I have checked Surry County: marriages 1768-1853, wills late 1700s to 1840, land records, and court records. I've also done essentially the same research in Prince George (records that remain extant) and in Sussex County as well.

The Newell name can be spelled a number of ways, and indeed was misspelled in old Virginia. I have looked for Knewell, Nuell, Nowell, Knowle, Neville, etc. with mixed results.

Any additional information, ideas how to proceed, or any clues that might lead to information regarding the identity of Thomas W. Newell's parents would all be welcome.

Martin Shepherd"

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