Chapter IV

Archdale Combs, of
Old Rappahannock

The spelling Combs will be used hereafter, although in the records the name is still variously spelled at this time, and continues to defy standardization for some time to come. Archdale is also written Archdall, Archdiale and Archdull. We style this forefather as Archdale of Old Rappanhannock [Co, VA], since that was the name of the county from 1656 till 1692. Richmond and Essex [Counties, VA] were carved out of Old Rappahannock in 1692, and Archdale lived in both of them. Archdale's son, John, appears in the records of those two counties and will be so styled. King George [Co, VA] was carved out of old Richmond (and some of Westmoreland and Stafford [Counties, VA]), in 1721, and Caroline [Co, VA] out of old Essex [Co, VA] (and some of King and Queen and King William [Counties, VA]), in 1728. In brief: Archdale and his son John lived in the present counties of King George and Caroline. Their exact locations will be explained later.

Almost nothing is known of Archdale prior to his appearance in Old Rappahannock (King George and Caroline), in 1665. He was probably born shortly after 1625. Reference already made to the inventory of his estate or that of his father in Middlesex [Co, VA] (1675) may indicate a previous marriage down there. Some of those old counties are classed as the "lost counties", because of a scarcity of records caused by fires and wars. Here again we must insist strongly upon the importance of the movement of settlers from the lower James [River] and York [River] up to Old Rappahannock and the lower Potomac [River], in both Maryland and Virginia. Some families known to have been living in Elizabeth City [Co, VA] in 1625 show up in Maryland in 1649. An Abraham Combs (Elizabeth City?) shows up in Lancaster [Co, VA] in 1663. Underwoods, Butlers, Cunninghams, Roes and Bucks moved up from York to the Rappahannock and the Potomac. (1)


Maj. William Underwood, son of William Underwood of Isle of Wight and York [Counties, VA], was among these Rappahannock pioneers. He was a very prominent gentleman in his own right, one of the founders of Old Rappahannock County, and one of that county's first two Burgesses. He was a Burgess from old Lancaster [Co, VA] in 1652. Between 1650 and 1658 he either patented or came into possession of more than six thousand acres of land in the southwestern part of the present Westmoreland County, in addition to tracts in [present-day] King George and Caroline. Maj. Underwood, Gent., does not appear in the records after December 24, 1660; he was dead before February 28, 1662. He took as his second wife Elizabeth Butler. Upon Underwood's death Elizabeth married Archdale Combs, shortly after 1660.

Some investigators have identified the Archdale in question with the brother of Jamestown [James City/Co, VA] John, and who, as stated earlier, was born in London [EN], in 1606. The contention is hardly tenable, because the Archdale Combs whom we are now considering did not die until some time before 1692. Like the Underwoods, Butlers and many others, he came finally up into Old Rappahannock. (2)

The old land patents establish clearly the exact location of the Underwood estate. Lying along the Rappahannock [River] it extended from Bristol Mines Creek (the boundary line between the present Westmoreland and King George Counties) southward along the river for about three miles, or a little below the present Troy Creek (then Millbeck Creek). William Monroe built a grist mill on this creek in 1721. The small northwest corner reached over into King George. Plats of the early patents show that a number of prominent families owned patents adjoining the big Underwood tract: Nathaniel Pope on the northwest; John Washington on the north and northeast (and this was the first home of the Washingtons in Virginia); John Foxhall; Alex. Fleming on the south; Caleb Butler on the southeast. In 1667 Fleming witnessed a lease of Archdale Combs; his widow married Lawrence Washington. A part of the estate on the southeast was later conveyed by Archdale and Elizabeth Combs to William Ball, then to William's son, Joseph, Mary Washington's father. All these families intermarried with the Washingtons. James Monroe was born nearby. One of Foxhall's daughters (or sisters?) made five attempts at marriage, the fourth one with Caleb Butler, whose daughter Jane became Austine [Augustine] Washington's first wife. Caleb Butler is thought to have been one of five or six Butler brothers, all of whom but one, Amory, lived in Westmoreland. Amory was a brother of


Elizabeth, Archdale Combs' wife. Caleb Butler's will was probated in Westmoreland May 25, 1709. It names Mary, daughter of John Butler, deceased. Caleb is known to have had a brother John, brother of Amory. The part of the old John Washington patent bordering the Underwood patent on the north was conveyed to Augustine Washington shortly after he moved up to Fredericksburg [City, VA].

First mention of Archdale Combs in the records of Old Rappahannock County is in the spring and summer of 1665 (in the present King George County). By October of the same year he seems to have been in or near "the Mount", in [present-day] Caroline, about fifteen miles from Fredericksburg. (This hill is traversed by Highway No. 17, on the road from Fredericksburg south to Port Royal [present-day Caroline Co, VA]). Since Archdale is not mentioned in Caroline until October, 1665, he probably lived in the region of Jett's Creek, in King George, or on Bristol Mines Creek, in Westmoreland. He was on the jury in Stafford County (just created) in June, 1665, which may indicate that some of his land around the head of Jett's Creek extended over into Stafford County.

Between 1665 and 1677 (when we lose sight of him) Archdale is mentioned thirty-one times in Judge Embrey's Abstracts: now as a witness in land conveyances (usually on the part of the Coghills); now as deeding land, as a litigant in court, etc. By this time he had become a prosperous planter and tobacco merchant and exporter, and was styled Archdale Combs, Gent". In a single year he purchased as much as ten thousand pounds of tobacco.

A United States Government military reservation now includes that part of the Archdale Combs estate which lay in "the Mount", and a forest obscures the view of the neighborhood. The celebrated Pendleton family were acquaintances, possibly neighbors, of Archdale. Philip (Edmund's grandfather) was a witness to the conveyance of Archdale and Elizabeth Combs to Capt. William Ball, over in Westmoreland, in 1675.

In 1674 Archdale conveyed all his land in "the Mount" except a third interest in the profits of the mill, to William Underwood, Jr. The records are silent on Archdale after 1677. A few scattering data may indicate that he moved back to Westmoreland, to the old Underwood estate. His old neighbors, friends and acquaintances lived over there in the Northern Neck: the Flemings, Foxhalls, Thackers, Williamsons and Butlers. The Underwood home was probably a little less than a mile up Bristol Mines Creek, where Maj. Underwood had a grist mill. As far as we know, none of Archdale's children and grand-


children lived in Caroline for any great length of time, except Archdale, a grandson, and he finally came back to Jett's Creek, King George. Old Archdale himself may have moved back there from Caroline, around 1677.

A conveyance to John and WilliamCombs in 1693, in old Richmond (King George) County, by William Underwood, Jr., and Elizabeth "Coumbs", does not bear Archdale's signature, and apparently he was dead by this time. This land was at the head of the branches of Jett's Creek. The instrument does not read, "Elizabeth Combs, of the County of Essex (Caroline)", which might indicate that Elizabeth had left Caroline, either for Jett's Creek or for Bristol Mines Creek [Westmoreland Co, VA]. William Underwood, Jr. was living on the old place, on or near the latter creek, in 1696, and in that year he sold three hundred acres of the estate to Nathaniel Pope. The tract sold apparently joined the southern boundary of the original Nathaniel Pope patent of 1656, and was mostly in King George, around the head of Bristol Mines Creek; some of it was in Westmoreland, near the old Rappahannock Road. (3)

It is evident that the Underwood home was not at the mouth of Bristol Mines Creek, for the fifty-acre strip of land lying along the creek from the mouth up was not a part of the original Underwood patent; it was owned by John Upton, Underwood's step-father, who migrated from Isle of Wight County, thence to old Lancaster. Upton died several years after Maj. Underwood, and his will left the strip to Underwood's heirs. But William Underwood, Jr. never lived on the strip. It was leased time and again to different parties, and as late as 1721 was in the possession of Richard Tutt, a son-in-law of William Underwood, Jr. The Maj. Underwood home, then, was probably further up this short creek, or gut, just below where Highway No. 3 crosses into Westmoreland, or on or near the unimproved State road No. 674, which runs off to the southwest from Highway No. 3, and along the gut.

Although Archdale owned land in "the Mount", and had a mill there (probably on the Rappahannock [River]), it is not certain that he actually lived in that rough, hilly section. If he did live thereabouts, it was likely in the level country near the river, just below "the Mount". He and Elizabeth owned land in at least four localities, in three counties, among them, Peuman's End Run, in Caroline.

It is not known that Archdale Combs had children other than John and William. Not much is known of William, except that he lived


in the Jett's (Partridge's) Creek country, in King George. He married Mary ------. An inventory of his personal estate shows that he died in 1717. There is no record of any of his children. In 1711 he sold to Richard Tutt (a brother-in-law?) two hundred acres of land on Peuman's End, in Caroline; he may have lived over there at first, where he and John are supposed to have grown up. (4)

The Combs location around Jett's Creek, or its "guts" on the east side, in the present King George County, is more closely linked with our story than is any other locality in Virginia. The old name of the creek was Partridge's Creek. It is in the southeastern part of the County, is less than five miles long, and at its mouth about a mile from Westmoreland County. The creek is four or five miles from Port Conway [King George Co, VA] on the Rappahannock [River], where James Madison was born. Such family names in the records as Anderson, Arnold, Brown, Dickenson, James, Kendall, Mason, Pope, Tutt, Washington and Willis, all in the southeastern part of King George, help to identify the Combs location. The original Nathaniel Pope patent (1,000 acres, 1656) extended north and south along the Westmoreland County line, reaching a few hundred yards south of Highway No. 3, and the western boundary being a line running north and south in sight of the community of Index [Westmoreland Co, VA], on the highway. The John Washington patent (1,700 acres, 1664) adjoined Pope's patent on the northwest, and lay between the headwaters of Mattox Creek and those of Jett's Creek; in other words, it lay to the northwest of Index, practically all of it being on the north side of Highway No. 3.

In 1709 Nathaniel Pope (Jr.?) and Nicholas Smith bring suit in old Richmond (King George) against John Combs and Henry James for trespass. Henry James was fined, John Combs was exonerated) [sic]. This would indicate that John Combs was living in the vicinity of Index, probably on or near the old road (No. 625) running west to Port Conway. In 1719 Archdale, one of John's older sons, sells to Thomas Dickenson a tract being a part of the land "whereon my father, John Combs, did dwell." The Dickensons lived near Index, and Dickenson's Corner [Westmoreland Co, VA] is almost in sight of Index. The tract in question lay on a fork, or better, a gut, of Jett's Creek, apparently the one that runs into the creek near where the old road crosses the creek. It is therefore very near the "divide," and old Westmoreland County.

The above mentioned suit for trespass is significant in fixing the Combs location, since the western boundary of the old Nathaniel Pope patent ran north and south just to the east of, and in sight of In-


dex. It seems probable that the Combs tract here reached over the watershed a little, and into old Westmoreland.

In 1705 William Combs, John's brother, patents 100 acres on the "heads of the branches" of Jett's Creek; this is certainly very near the "divide", and in the vicinity of Index. In 1717 William's widow, Mary, releases her down [dower rights] when the same tract is sold to Nicholas Downton, of old Westmoreland. The inhabitants of the region refer to the head of Jett's Creek as that part where State Highway No. 625 crosses the creek. The forks above that point are no more than ravines, rough, densely wooded and untillable. The Combs estate, at least those parts of it which were habitable and under-cultivation, certainly did not lie on the creek proper, which flows through a low valley, unfit for farming purposes; but part of it reached down to Jett's Creek, in the vicinity of road No. 625.

Some of the Combs holdings here came from Maj. Underwood and his widow, who married Archdale Combs. As early as 1692 William Underwood, Jr., conveys to William Thomas, of old Westmoreland, what was left of his share of the estate in this section around Index. The records mention certain neighbors of the Combses (Kendalls, Masons and others) as in Richmond, Westmoreland and Stafford Counties; that is, prior to the formation of King George County, in 1721. When John Combs died (1716-1717), old Richmond (from which King George was carved) extended along the Rappahannock [River] and out to the watershed, or to Highway No. 3 in that section; Westmoreland extended westward into the present King George somewhere west of the community of Shiloh [King George or Stafford Co, VA], where it joined old Stafford. Shiloh is just off the headwaters, or ravines of Jett's Creek. And so, a man living in one of those old counties could have neighbors living in the other two. The Combs estate lay along the watershed, although some of it reached down to Jett's Creek, as is shown by the conveyance of Archdale Combs to Thomas Dickenson and the transaction between John Combs and Thomas Kendall, in 1693.

Up to this point the Combses have been found settling on water courses. It began at Jamestown, and will continue practically without break down to the nineteenth century. In Colonial times there were very few roads, and travel and transport were often impossible by land. Thus for a long time the population of early Virginia stuck largely to the Tidewater country before migrating into the hinterland. Nearly all of the towns and communities were located on streams. Down these streams went tobacco and other produce on


ocean-going ships bound for England; back up the streams came manufactured articles from the Mother country. Small towns almost unknown now were very important in those days. Port Conway on the Rappahannock [River], in King George, and a few miles from the Underwood-Combs estates in King George and Westmoreland, was one of the most important "ports" in the Colony.

A mill has been mentioned above, on Archdale Combs' land in "the Mount". That grist mill is the beginning of a long chain of Combses and their grist mills. Combses either owned grist mills or operated ferries in Westmoreland, Caroline, Stafford, old Frederick, Surry County, North Carolina, and probably on the New River and the Holston River; later, on the Kentucky River, both in the mountains and the Bluegrass. Harrison, one of the "eight brothers", ran a flatboat for years down the Kentucky to the Ohio, thence down the Ohio and the Mississippi to New Orleans. He made some improvements on this type of boat. Two Combs brothers built the "tunnel mill", twelve miles below Hindman [Knott Co, KY], on Troublesome Creek. Another Combs built the "cut-off-mill", below Jackson, in Breathitt County [KY]. My father had a grist mill built on the Right Fork of Troublesome, above Hindman.