The Life and Times of William Edward Spence (1722-1785)–Part One

McBride Methodist Church, Camden County, North Carolina. The church is located near William Spence's property. We visited this church in May 1998.

McBride Methodist Church, Camden County, North Carolina. The church is located near William Spence’s property, but was not standing when he lived there. We visited this church in May 1998. Picture provided by Melissa Mytinger Fall 1998

Twenty years ago, my early discovery of my fifth great grandfather, William Spence, sent me through reams of records, copies of which I gradually compiled into a huge quantity of notebooks. Trusting early computers, I sometimes kept my records on their hard drives, only to have the computers die taking my records with them. As a result, I was forced to return to libraries where I found the information, recopy the records, and store them somewhere safely–a sadder but wiser experience. Then came a ten-year absence from genealogy followed by retirement. And I have since placed all of those notebooks in one location.

I remember writing an article about William Spence years ago. For the life of me, I can’t find my copy now that I need it. I last saw it a month or so ago. I suppose I shouldn’t mourn the misplacement. Some of the information is different today; new discoveries were made about William during my ten-year absence. I had to rebuild his portion of my ancestral tree with the new, documented information–a way of becoming reacquainted with him. For that reason, I could not object to the process. This article is devoted to William, his life, adventures and family. It is divided into several parts to facilitate reading. Part One is an introduction to William Spence and his connection with the Jones family. Part Two will focus on the Perry family. Part Three discusses William Spence, Judha Perry and David Jones. Part Four focuses on the Revolutionary War and William Spence’s experiences in Charleston. Part Five discusses William Spence’s death and Judha’s subsequent marriage to William’s brother, David Spence, and their children. Part Six concludes with Judha’s final marriage to David Jones and their children.

Six parts–one per week–six weeks.

This is Part One!

Who was William Edward Spence?

The oldest son of James Spence (1702-1753) and Elizabeth Greaves (1707-1755), William Edward Spence, was born about 1722 in Pasquotank County, North Carolina. That portion of Pasquotank County eventually became Camden County. Many of the Camden County records were destroyed in a fire, making Spence research difficult. However, I found some records from other counties which provide a completed picture. Like his predecessors, William Spence had a wandering spirit. He did not stay permanently in one location.

In a way, William stands out in available records by reference to his first name. I could not find many William Spences in his line before William. A number of William Spences followed him. His mother’s paternal grandfather was William Greaves, who was born in Northamptonshire, England about 1630, and he died in the same location in 1664. Elizabeth’s father, John Greaves (Graves) (1665-1747) would not have known his father, but John’s mother may have talked about him. These stories were eventually passed down to young Elizabeth. Her oldest son was thus named William! And William’s middle name Edward was derived from the Greaves family as well.

John Greaves (the immigrant) arrived in Spotsylvania, Virginia about 1688 (1). His wife’s name has been confused so I will post the possibilities here: (Rebecca) Susanna (Virginia) (Harwood/Dickens) (1665-1747). Their children were:

1. John Greaves (Graves), Jr. (1685-1757)
2. Thomas Greaves (Graves) (1691-1767)
3. Edward Greaves (Graves) (1693-1763) [William Spence received his middle name from Edward]
4. Jemima Greaves (Graves) (1699-1764)
5. Rebecca Greaves (Graves) (1702-1814) (Not sure whether these dates are real or whether Rebecca actually lived to be 112!)
6. Robert Greaves (Graves) (born 1702)
7. Isaac Greaves (Graves) (1705-1790)
8. Elizabeth Greaves (Graves) (1707-1755)–William Spence’s mother
9. Mary Greaves (Graves) (b. 1707)
10. Joseph Greaves (Graves) (1717-1774). (Not named in his father’s will. May have left the area before his father’s death.)(2).

There may have been a reason for William Spence’s early wandering–something I have yet to prove. Sometime between 1740 and 1743, William may have married. His second marriage did not take place until 1769; I cannot imagine him waiting until age 47 before tying the knot. I am speculating that his first wife was a Jones–possibly Sarah Jones–and that she may have been a sister of Jarvis and Nehemiah Jones of Pasquotank County. She may have been born about 1723 and she may have died about 1743, possibly in childbirth. Spence connections with this Jones family will unfold throughout the rest of these articles. But I wanted to introduce Jarvis and Nehemiah here with the guarantee that they will return shortly and their families will become significant later.

The Case for Sarah Jones (1723-1743)??

The case for Sarah Jones is really compelling. My case is founded upon two premises. The first is centered on the Spence family connections with the Jones family in Pasquotank and Camden Counties at this period of time and before. The second is centered upon the fact that William’s oldest child by his second marriage was named Sarah Elizabeth: Sarah possibly for his first wife and Elizabeth for his mother. A discussion of the Jones family follows.

If Sarah Jones really lived, she would have been the daughter of John Jones (1675-1723) and his wife Dorothy (1680-1723). Born in Albemarle County, Virginia, John had two marriages. By his first wife Florence, he had one son: Isaac Jones (1701-1776). His second wife was a widow named Dorothy McDaniel. Dorothy had two daughters by her first marriage: Dorothy McDaniel (1710-1723) and Eleanor “Ellie” McDaniel (1715-1743). John Jones and Dorothy had the following children:

1. Maj. Jarvis Jones (1717-aft. 1766). Jarvis had two wives: Miriam Trueblood (1721-1780) and Ruth Upton (b. 1715).
2. Capt. Nehemiah Jones (1718-1775). Nehemiah’s wife’s name is unknown, but they had one son: David Jones (1735-1795) David Jones will reappear in a later section.
3. (If my theory proves true) Sarah Jones (1723-1743). Sarah was the first wife of William Spence. She would have been born after her father’s death.

The names of these people (with the exception of a few) are identified in several wills. An abstract of John Jones’ will follows:

Name: John Jones
Pasquotank Precinct

Will Date:
12 Dec 1723

Legatees: Dority and Ele Mackdaniel. Witnesses: Thomas Hearendeen, John Jennings, Benjamin Sawyer. Clerk of the Court: John Parker (3)

A record dated 1720 sheds some light on this matter and may have been a distribution to his sons prior to death. Legatees in his will are Dorothy’s daughters from her first marriage:

Pasquotank County, NC Book A–Pasq Cty: John Jones wife Dorothy owned 100 acres: Sons Isaac, Abraham and Jarvis (4).

It is interesting to note that he does not mention Nehemiah in his will–something that has caused some researchers to suggest that Nehemiah was a nephew of Jarvis:

Captain Nehemiah Jones ca. 1718-1775
The third company was the largest, having an enrollment of seventy-one, including officers and the bounds were “on the Fork Creek on the North side of Pasquotank River and on the Upper of said county,” which area comprises modern South Mills, Tar Corner, Pearceville and Upper Woods. Captain Jones’ ensign was his brother Isaac and the lieutenant was Isaac Litten. The three sergeants named were Samuel Smith, David Jones and John Ralley; the corporals, Samuel Edney, Shadrach Taylor and Jacob Burnham; and the drummers, James and Greves Spence. A glance at the roster shows that while the same names are still generally found in the neighborhood, the frequency with which they occur in the company roll shows that their ratios to the whole population have changed considerably as the years have passed. The surnames appearing most frequently then were as follows: Bright (Brite) and Overton, eight each; Spence, five; Taylor, four, Burnham, Jones, Knight (Kight) and Upton, three each.

Jones describes himself as a merchant, though he was a man of varied business interests. The abrupt cessation in the public records of any reference to his commercial activities during the French and Indian War period may indicate combat service in an active military unit. Although he belonged to one of our leading families, being a son of John Jones, a nephew of Major Jarvis Jones and an uncle of Joseph Jones of the Revoluntionary era, he had no liking for public office. When the Provincial Assembly appointed him a justice of the local quarter sessions court, he refused to qualify. He did serve a tour of duty with Josiah Nash as a patroller, but this task seems to have been looked upon as a necessary obligation of a slaveowner (5).

Nehemiah, a son of John Jones, would have been a brother of Isaac and Capt. Jarvis Jones, and an uncle of Joseph Jones of the Revolutionary War. I suspect that Nehemiah may have married a Quaker, something I will delve into later when I cover his son David Jones. That could be the reason why his father did not mention him in the 1720 devise or as a legatee in his 1723 will. On the other hand, his father could have given him a share separately.

Isaac Jones (1701-1776) was a half brother of Jarvis and Nehemiah (and Sarah, if her relationship can be proven). Isaac married Mary Palmer (born 1703). Their children were:

1. Anna Jones
2. John Jones (born 1725)
3. Lt. Timothy Jones (1727-1798)
4. Dempsey Jones (born 1729)
5. Sen. Joseph Jones (1731-1800)–This is the nephew referred to in Pugh’s book of Revolutionary War fame
6. Mary Jones (born 1733) (6)

These Joneses are destined to reappear later.

* * *

In 1761, William appears on a tax list in Rowan County, North Carolina (7). Like his family members, William became a planter (tobacco), but he went further than most of them. He became a merchant planter and an acquaintance of the Perry family, a group important to this narrative and who is destined to appear shortly. This would be an excellent reason for William and his wanderings. He invested in Rowan County, a region from which Randolph County was carved. His brother, James Spence (1730-1804), eventually settled in Randolph, so he may have been speculating with William. William Spence last appears of record in Rowan County in 1768 (8).

In June 1766, William Spence appears on a muster roster for Capt. Jarvis Jones’ Company under the command of Col. Thomas Taylor (9). His brother, James Spence, appears on the roster, and Joseph Spence, Jr. appears on the roster as well. Jarvis Jones is the Captain; Jarvis Jones, Jr. is the Lieutenant. Other surnames of importance to this narrative include McDaniel, Temple, Williams, Cartwright, Sawyer, Forehand, Davis, Koen, Leak, Gray, Smith, Vardin, and Burnham.

Then in 1769, William Spence married Judha Perry.



(1) Jno Graves in the U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 8 Feb 2015. Available online at

(2) Inman-Spence-Beall-Warfield Family Branches., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 8 Feb 2015. Available online at

(3) John Jones 1723 Will Abstract, North Carolina., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 8 Feb 2015. Available online at

(4) John Jones 1720 distribution. Book A. Pasquotank County Records., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 8 Feb 2015.

(5) Pugh, Jesse. Three Hundred Years along the Pasquotank. Old Trap: Camden County, North Carolina (1957), p. 61.

(6) Inman-Spence-Beall-Warfield Family Branches., Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 8 Feb 2015. Available online at

(7) State Tax Records for 1761 and 1768. North Carolina State Archives, Division of Archives and History. North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources. Raleigh, North Carolina.

(8) State Tax Records for 1761 and 1768. North Carolina State Archives, Division of Archives and History. North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources. Raleigh, North Carolina.

(9) Murtrie, June Clark. Colonial Soldiers of the South (1732-1774). p. 785.

2 thoughts on “The Life and Times of William Edward Spence (1722-1785)–Part One

  1. Pingback: The Indian Trail That Became “Old Swamp Road” & Early Settlers – Descendants of the Great Dismal

  2. Pingback: The Quarter: A Nickens Nucleus – Descendants of the Great Dismal

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