Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Oliver Brewer of Chatham County, North Carolina

Oliver2 Brewer (George1) is identified in his father's will of 13 July 1741. He received from his father, "all the rest of this tract of land where on I now dwell to him and his heirs forever." Oliver Brewer wrote his own will 14 October 1791 in Chatham County, North Carolina. In it he identifies ten children including five sons, and his wife, Rebecca. From Oliver's will we have five confirmed grandsons of George Brewer of Brunswick County, Virginia.

Marvin T. Broyhill in his 1992 "working draft" titled, Brewer Families of Colonial Virginia, 1626-1776, covers Oliver Brewer beginning at page 94, and assigns him the number G2. The account of Oliver Brewer is incomplete and has errors. His accounts of Oliver's children, that follows, is confused and has significant errors. Those using this work should also consult Foy E. Varner, Jr., Brewer Families of Southeast America (2003) which is available from the author, for the asking.

I have been unable to locate online a copy of the original will of Oliver Brewer. Marvin T. Broyhill briefly abstracts it in two places. In his 1992 "working draft," Brewer Families of Colonial Virginia, it is mentioned at page 94, and the author gives as his source, "Chatham Will Book 14." This will book is not found in the online databases created by Family Search titled, "North Carolina, Estate Files, 1663-1979," or "North Carolina, Probate Records, 1735-1970." Broyhill also abstracts the will in his 1996, supplement, Brewer Families of Colonial Virginia, 1626-1776, Supporting Documentation Part II..., at page 70. No source or location of the will is given here. Found online, at USGenWeb Archives, is a full transcription of Oliver Brewer's will contributed by Sue Ashby. She gives the repository for the will as "Chatham Co., Record of Estates, 1782-1799, Vol. 1, pg. 45 (b), 46, NC State Archives film # C.022.50001." Those researching Oliver Brewer should seek out the original will, or a copy of it.

As a result of his misinterpretation of the 1741 will of George Brewer, Broyhill in his "working draft," placed Oliver as George Brewer's second son, and guessed at his date of birth as "1707??" This is guess is off by a large margin. Oliver was one of the younger sons of George Brewer, who provided for his future in his will by leaving Oliver the rest of his own plantation and a gun. Oliver's mother was almost certainly his father's second wife, Alice (___). Oliver was not likely a son of George Brewer's first wife, Sarah Lanier. Oliver was more probably born during the decade of the 1720s, or possibly in the earlier part of the 1730s. The first record of Oliver as an adult is dated 5 May 1762, in which his brother Henry Brewer obtained for him a grant of 700 acres in Orange County, North Carolina. On 9 December 1762, Oliver Brewer received a patent on 690 acres in Orange County, North Carolina. The land is described as "on both sides of Wilkerson Creek of Haw River, joining Henry Brewer" (as abstracted by Broyhill in Part II (1996), p. 63. In a deed date 10 October 1763, recorded in Brunswick Co., Virginia, Oliver Brewer of Orange Co., North Carolina, conveyed to John Brewer of Northampton County, North Carolina, 200 acres on the south side of Beaver Pond Creek. This was most likely the land Oliver inherited from his father, and the grantee, John Brewer, was most likely his older brother. Oliver Brewer was established in Orange County, North Carolina by 1763, about ten years after his brother Henry Brewer had established himself there. In 1771, Chatham County was created out of Orange County, and Oliver's property was found in the new county. A map of Chatham County in 1777 is found online. Wilkinson Creek* (not labeled) is the branch flowing from the north into Haw River between Dry Creek and Smith's Creek, which flow into the Haw River from the south. Oliver is found on a militia roll in Chatham County in 1772. He is assigned to a road crew in 1765 and 1777. In 1780 his land is mentioned as adjoining land obtained by Robert Poe from North Carolina, on Wilkinsons Creek and the Haw River. He can be found on the 1790 U.S. census in Chatham County with a household of 2 males under 16, 4 males over 16, 2 females and 3 slaves (this family may include his son, Oliver Brewer, who is not found as a head of household himself). As mentioned above, Oliver Brewer wrote his will 14 October 1791. Broyhill states that it was proved in November 1792, although the online transcription by Sue Ashby does not include a date for the proving. On 13 August 1792, Oliver Brewer, Sr., sold to William Edwards, ten acres of land. On the same day, Oliver Brewer, Jr., sold to Oliver Brewer, Sr., land on the north side of the Haw River. If the November 1792 date stated as the date that Oliver's will was proved is correct, then it appears that Oliver died in either late summer or early fall of 1792.

Oliver Brewer's wife was named Rebecca. Broyhill (1992) does not suggest a family name for her. It has been claimed that she was Rebecca Smith, and while there was a family of that name in the immediate vicinity of Oliver Brewer, to my knowledge this identification has not been proved. As "Rebeccah Brewer," she is found as a head of household on the 1810 U.S. census in Chatham County. She is recorded as age 26-44, which may be in error, or she may just be shy of 45 (her one confirmed son, Henry, seems to have been born about 1780). In her household is one male under 10, who may well be her grandson, John Brewer (more in a follow up post). She is enumerated next to Christopher Brewer. In 1820 "Rebecca Brewer" is head of a household in Chatham County of 1 free white male 16-18, 1  f.w. male 16-25, 1 f.w. female 16-25, 1 f.w. female over 45, 3 males slaves under 14, 1 male slave over 45, 3 female slaves under 14, 2 female slaves 14-25, 5 persons engaged in agriculture. She is enumerated between Oliver Owen and Thomas Powell. On 11 February 1823, Thomas Farrar, as administrator of the estate of Rebecca Brewer, posted bond in Chatham County with Mark Bynum and Isaiah Burnett, and so Rebecca was deceased by this date. The inventory, dated May 1823, amounted to $2409.05. The complete file can be found online at Family Search, in North Carolina Estate Files. It appears that Rebecca outlived her husband by about 31 years, and so may have been much younger than him. Although it is not certain, it has been assumed that she is the mother of all of Oliver's children. She may not be. It is conceivable that she was a second wife, and may have been mother of only some of Oliver's children. If Rebecca's age as recorded on the 1810 census is correct, then she can in no way be the mother of all of Oliver Brewer's children.

Rebecca Brewer, 1810 U.S. census, Chatham Co., NC (NARA via

On 24 May 1823, a final account of Oliver Brewer's estate was certified by William Edwards, executor of the estate of Oliver Brewer, deceased, and was entered at Chatham County. The executor had sold the remaining assets belonging to Oliver Brewer that had "come into his hands," upon the death of Oliver's widow, Rebecca Brewer. Hugh Edwards purchased a negro man, a negro woman and child, and two negro girls. Alice Farrar purchased a bed and furniture, and Abel Brewer purchased two "puter" (pewter) ? (uncertain). This estate file is online as well.

In his will of 14 October 1791, Oliver mentions his children as George Brewer, William Brewer, Henry Brewer, and Christopher Brewer, all of who received land, with George receiving the home plantation after the death of Oliver's wife, Rebecca, who was given the plantation, a horse and a negro woman named Jude. Son, Oliver Brewer, received sixty pounds. Daughter Frances Brewer, received a bed and furniture, and two cows and calves. The remainder of the estate was to be divided between "my six sons," named as Edward Brewer, Oliver Brewer, William Brewer, Henry Brewer, Christopher Brewer, and George Brewer, and "my daughters namely," Patti Blalock, Rebecca Edwards, Hannah Edwards, and Frances Brewer. The executors were wife, Rebecah Brewer, George Blalock and William Edwards. The witnesses were James Smith and Howell Hearn.

The order of birth of Oliver Brewer's children is not certain, however, the order in which he named them, after dividing them by sex, towards the end of his will when instructing how the remainder of the estate was to be divided, may well be accurate. That is, the sons were recorded oldest to youngest, and the daughters were recorded oldest to youngest. It is apparent from the bequests made by Oliver in the first half of his will, that Edward and Oliver were already established as adults, while the other sons, George, William, Henry and Christopher, each of who received land, were not. And once again, it is not certain that Rebecca was the mother of all of Oliver's children. It will be seen later that she was the mother of Henry, and therefore most certainly of Christopher and George. But for the others, it is not so clear. Oliver Brewer may have had two wives during his life, and Rebecca would have been the second.

Descriptions of the sons will be forthcoming in a follow up post. As of this writing we do not have any participants in the Brewer DNA Project, who claim a descent from Oliver Brewer. We do, however, have about nineteen participants who are genetically related to the group of participants claiming Geroge Brewer as their ancestor, who have not provided a pedigree to the group. Perhaps there is a descendant of Oliver Brewer among them. If so, we would like to hear from you.

*The correct name of the creek is Wilkinson Creek, not Wilkerson Creek as written by Broyhill. It is in present day Baldwin Township.

1 comment:

  1. My great grandmother was Effie May Brewer (b.1891). Her father was JP Brewer married to Luvicy Hudgins. His father was Leroy H Brewer married to Elizabeth Troxell. His father was John Brewer (b. 1779 or 1781) and he was married to Tempa (Temporance?). His father was William married to Phana Risdin. And his father Oliver married to Rebecca. His father was George married to Sarah Lanier. I have traced my roots up to Sir John de Braose (b.1332). There are so many discrepancies with wrong birth orders. For example, a child is born before their parents or a child is born to a mother of 5 or 10 years old. This is extremely frustrating in trying to find the correct dates to go with the correct parents. I don't know what kind of pedigree you are looking for or need. Just letting you know where my ancestry starts. You are more than welcome to look at my tree and give any hints or suggestions if I'm off track on this journey through time. Thanks.


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