Chapter VI

Mason Combs, of

Mason Combs first appears in the records in the will of his father, John, already cited. He is styled "of Stafford County" [VA], since first mention of him with a family is in that county, [in] Overwharton Parish, in 1740. Since his father had moved over into Caroline [then Essex Co, VA] in 1712, and was on the quit rent roll there in 1715, Mason apparently was born in that county, on Peuman's End Creek. The date of his birth can be determined by a suit brought in Westmoreland County [VA]. At the December court sitting in chancery, 1732 (the year of Washington's birth), Edward Barradall, acting as young Mason's "next friend," brings suit against William Brown for the amount due Mason from the personal estate. The suit states that Mason is under twenty, that he has "lately" arrived at the age of eighteen. This would place the date of his birth as 1714. (Barradall was one of the most colorful and celebrated attorneys-general in the history of Virginia. Fresh from the Inner Temple, London [EN], as a young man, he qualified as an attorney in Caroline County December 14,1732, apparently only a few days before he represented Mason Combs in the suit in Westmoreland.) (1)

Mason Combs is next heard of when he appears on the rental lists of Capt. William Brent, in Stafford, 1746-1749. Capt. Brent's very extensive tracts lay largely on Aquia Creek [Stafford Co, VA] and its branches, in northern Stafford. Mason's older brother, Joseph, was already living up there, on the Brenttown Road. (For the location of the old Brenttown Road, see Joseph Combs, of Stafford, later). The Brents owned extensive tracts here. Capt. George Brent's estate, "Woodstock," was at the head of the creek. Mason's brother Joseph owned tracts on the same creek and on its branches, Beaver Dam Run and Long Branch - a fact which may have induced Mason to move up that way. The whereabouts of Mason between 1732-1740 is a matter of conjec- (2)


ture; he grew up in King George [Co, VA], but his land was in Caroline [then Essex Co, VA]. If Joseph lived on the old Brenttown Road, very near where Highway No.1 crosses Aquia Creek, and in the neighborhood of Aquia Church [Stafford Co, VA], the supposition is that Mason lived thereabouts. If he was a tobacco grower (as Capt. Brent's rental rolls might well indicate), like his father and grandfather, he must have lived on lower Aquia Creek, and not too far from the Potomac [River].

The only documentary evidence of Mason's wife and children is found in the vestry records of the Overwharton Parish, Aquia Church, Stafford County, between 1740-1751. The Register names Sarah as his wife, with the following children:

William, b. Nov. 28, 1740
Anne, b. March 28, 1743
Sarah, b. Feb. 24, 174(5?)
Mason, b. Feb. 21, 1747
Winny, b. May 14, 174(9?)
Wilmot (girl), b. Oct. 5, 1751

Here are six children, born 1740-1751. Were there others, before 1740, or after 1751, and where and whom did Mason marry, and when? One of the conditions in John Combs' will was that his wife, Hannah, was to have "Care and Costodie" of son Mason and daughter Aymee and their estate until they were eighteen, or until the day of their marriage. The will was made in 1716. In the suit against William Brown, in Westmoreland (in 1732), Mason asks for his share of the personal estate, stating that he has "lately" arrived at the age of eighteen.

Mason most likely did not marry in Stafford, or else any earlier children than those mentioned above would be recorded in the Overwharton Register. If he was married in 1732, or a year or two later, even, he certainly had time to have children before moving to Stafford, in 1740. And he did have at least two older sons (maybe more), who were John (father of the "eight brothers"), and Nicholas ("Danger Nick"); Josiah, mentioned in Frederick [City, VA] in 1758 is usually considered one of Mason's sons. It is not known whether these three older children were by Sarah, or by a previous wife, in Caroline or elsewhere. As to the father of "Danger Nick" and his brother John, there is not much doubt. Mason and his family, including John and Nicholas and Josiah, lived in the same community on the Shenandoah [River, VA]. It hardley [sic] seems necessary to question the parentage of John and Nicholas. When Henry (Harrison), John's son, and one of the (3)


"eight brothers," got married in Montgomery County [VA], in 1788, Mason Combs, Jr., his uncle, was his bondsman, and one of the witnesses. When Mason died, John and his younger brother, William, were the administrators of his estate. With his daughter Wilmot in mind, we may also point to the old Kentucky Land Warrants, which list a Wilmouth Combs (man) along with the "eight brothers" and their relations in Perry County [KY], in 1816. He may have been a son of William, of Russell County [VA]. Another one, Wilmoth, a girl, shows up in Lincoln, or Boyle County, Kentucky, in 1798. Both of these are doubtless of old Mason's family. (4)

It is now time to worry about other men's wives. In view of the Combs-Mason connections already mentioned, names, localities, dates, etc., and some more data which I am going to consider, it may not be amiss to say that Mason Combs, like his father, may have married a Mason. He grew up in King George, in a neighborhood where Masons were numerous; he gave two of his older sons names common among the Masons - Josiah and Nicholas. The data to follow may seem amateurish, but here they are, for what they are worth: Capt. George Mason (died 1716), grandfather of the famous George, took up land, 1,000 acres, in the Aquia Creek country, Stafford. His third wife was named Sarah; his youngest daughter was named Sarah, and born about the time Mason Combs was born; Mason Combs' wife was named Sarah; his second daughter was named Sarah. Incidentally, Josiah Mason had an Anne; the George Mason of 1716 also had a daughter named Anne; Mason Combs' oldest daughter was named Anne. One investigator says that George Masons' daughter Sarah married a Fitzhugh. (The Jefferson Davis Highway, or Federal Highway No. 1, runs right down through this Combs-Mason country, in Stafford). (5)

In the Overwharton Parish of Mason Combs is the Aquia Church. The Register records the name of the famous George Mason as godfather of two of the Rev. John Moncure's children, in 1750, before Mason Combs left Stafford. The Aquia Church was Mason Combs' church - if he had any church. Gen. John Mason, George's son (and who was living in 1832), says in his Memoirs that this part of the Overwharton Parish was later called the Aquia (Creek) Parish. George Mason later moved up to Fairfax County [Co, VA] and built "Gunston Hall," but continued to worship at the Aquia Church, and visit it regularly.

MASON COMBS IN THE VALLEY. About the middle of the eigh-


teenth century there was a great migration from the Tidewater section of Virginia, and from Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, into the lower Shenandoah Valley [Augusta and Frederick Cos VA]. With this tide Mason Combs shoved off from Stafford, in 1750, the same year Daniel Boone came to the Valley from Pennsylvania. After the birth of Wilmot, his last child in Stafford [Co, VA], there is no further reference to him in the Tidewater country, or Stafford. First mention of Mason in the records of the [Shenandoah] Valley is on May 28, 1751, when he and others are ordered by the County Court of Frederick [sic, but then Augusta Co, VA] to keep in repair a road crossing the Shenandoah at a place called the Brush Bottom Ford. (This date is a little before the birth of his last child, in Stafford; but he had come to the Valley the year before, to look the country over, take up land, and later move his family over).

Next mention of Mason is three years later, regarding the same road. He lived in the vicinity of Brush Bottom Ford, on the north side of the South Fork of the Shenandoah, four miles from Front Royal [present-day Warren Co, VA]. It is ten miles (as the crow flies) from Strassburg [Strasburg, Shenandoah Co, VA], and twenty-four from Winchester [City, then Frederick Co, VA]. State Highway No. 12 runs close to the vicinity, which is the first eastward turn of the river below McCoy's Ford [now-Warren Co, VA]. As nearly as can be determined, the locality is less than a mile upstream from the Asbury school, but on the other, or north side of the River. The Norfolk and Western R.R. runs just opposite, on the south side. It was in this section that Mason's son John and his family lived, until around 1780.

Several years later his nephew Joseph, son of old Joseph of Stafford, was running a ferry in the region, further down stream. The court records at Winchester [then Frederick Co, VA] mention Mason twice in 1762. Brush Bottom Ford is in the present Warren County, which was in turn part of the following counties: Orange, Frederick, Dunmore, Shenandoah, and finally Warren. When Mason's grandson, John, enlisted in the Revolution, in 1777, it was in Dunmore; when he was mustered out, in 1779, it was in Shenandoah [name change from Dunmore]. All this explains John's confusion when he applied for pension, at Hazard [Perry Co, KY], in 1825. He says that he enlisted in "Frederick or Shenandoah." When his grandfather came to the Valley it was Frederick. (7)

Mason Combs was plagued with an exceedingly itchy foot. This fast stepping, wide wandering, migrating, Colonial, Tidewater Virginian had stepped from Caroline or King George to Stafford, and, after about eleven years in the Aquia Creek country, he stepped over into the Valley. He is going to do even more stepping. Whole


families were being wiped out by the Indians right in Mason's neighborhood, and the Red Men were stepping on Mason's toes. The French and Indian War was on and one of Mason's older sons, Josiah, was in it. Those were hell-raising times on the new frontier, and Mason's nephew Joseph, along with his sister, Jane Combs Ashby, were among the early hell-raisers in the region; at the time (1755) Washington threatened to come down from Ft. Loudon (Winchester) [City, then-Frederick Co, VA] and throw Jane out of the camp. That was before Joseph ran the ferry further up the River, near the forks. Washington later came down to see Joseph and Jane.

Well, Mason had to be stepping. By this time (the early 1760's) his sons John and Josiah were married. The raw, un-housebroke society of the lower Shenandoah Valley did not appeal to a Tidewater gentleman, and doubtless the depredations of the Indians, egged on by the French annoyed Mason. Pioneers had already pushed their way up the Shenandoah [River], and through the headwaters of the James and Roanoke Rivers, and on into the upper Yadkin valley, in North Carolina. Daniel Boone went down there in 1751. The old Wilderness Road (or trail, at that time) ran down through Roanoke [City, VA], Wytheville [Wythe Co, VA] and Abingdon [Washington Co, VA] to Kingsport [Hawkins or Sullivan Co], Tennessee. It branched off eastward from Roanoke, then southward through old Surry County, North Carolina, to Salisbury [Rowan Co], North Carolina. This latter road ran near, or through a part of old Pittsylvania County, Virginia.

Mason Combs got caught in that exodus southward, and stepped into Pittsylvania County. In 1767 he is on the list of tithables in that county. It was a new county, carved out of Halifax [Co, VA], in 1767. Mason's location is thought to have been on the headwaters of Banister River, a little to the west of Chatham [Pittsylvania Co, VA], and in the western part of the county. Halifax adjoins Charlotte County [VA], home of Patrick Henry. That is all we know about Mason in Pittsylvania. His sons John and Josiah remained up around Winchester [Frederick Co, VA]. It may be that about this time "Danger Nick" went to the New River country, west of Roanoke. By 1780 Mason had stepped down in Surry County, North Carolina, where he is mentioned in a conveyance of land. He was probably there earlier, since Mason, Jr., served in the Revolution in that State. Here is an important date, and an important land transaction: Surry County, North Carolina, August 8, 1784: John Combs sells to Mason Combs, Sr., land and mill on which he lives. In the following year Mason Combs took his last step. November 16, 1785, William Combs and John Combs are administrators of the estate of Mason Combs,


deceased, of Surry County [NC]. John and William are his sons, both living in Montgomery, supposedly, along with Mason, Jr. The Combs location in Surry was probably on the Yadkin River, or its branches, since John had a grist mill, and since the Combses were always located on water courses. (8)

John Combs will be my next lineal ancestor under discussion. "Danger Nick" will come under a later chapter. In the meantime, a word about the three remaining brothers, Josiah, William and Mason, Jr. sons of old Mason.

Josiah: the old Frederick [Co, VA] records mention him twice, both times in 1758. He was in the Frederick militia that year, and the same year he brought suit against a tenant, and was awarded judgment for five hogsheads of tobacco. He is supposed to have lived near the forks of the Shenandoah, above Front Royal, and was born about 1735, most likely in Caroline County. He was apparently married by 1758. If his brother John, supposedly older, was born about 1733, we are able to fix approximately the date of old Mason's marriage, as about 1732. (9)

William: the Overwharton Parish Register gives the year 1740 as the year of his birth, in Stafford County [VA]. He was married either in Warren [then Frederick or Shenandoah Co, VA] or Pittsylvania [Co, VA]. He appears in the tax lists of Montgomery County [VA] (formed out of Fincastle, 1777) in 1782. He is one of the administrators of his father's estate in 1785, and was probably still in Montgomery. It is known that William and Mason, Jr. did not stay in Montgomery. In a petition addressed by the citizens of the "State of Franklin" (the counties of Washington, Greene and Sullivan, in Tennessee) to the General Assembly of North Caroline, in 1787, the names of William Combs and William Combs, Jr. appear. "Danger Nick" Combs and some of the "eight brothers", his nephews, were already there, around Kingsport [Hawkins or Sullivan Co, TN]. (10)

The fact that Nicholas and his son, "Chunky Jerry" went back to the Holston on visits a number of times after coming to Perry County [KY] points to the conclusion that they were visiting kinfolks there; that the relative (brother) there was probably William, as none of Nicholas' children were there, nor were any of the eight brothers and their father, John, there. President Morgan LaFayette Combs, of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, and a native of Russell County [VA], descends from Archdale Combs, by way of William. The Hon. E.R. Combs, Chairman of the Compensation Board, and Clerk of the Virginia State Senate, also descends from William; he is a native of Russell County. (11)


It is quite possible that the two Williams of the petition are identical with the William and William Jr. of Russell County [VA]. The records indicate that William, Jr. was a very prosperous and prominent man in Russell County. The Russell County "set" of Combses has much in common with its kinsmen in eastern Kentucky. Years ago one of them left Russell and sojourned in "ferrein parts," unheard from for forty years, before he showed up again!

For reasons explained later, there was an exodus out of the Holston [River] country in Tennessee after 1788, the year the "State of Franklin" died. Settlers were moving up the valleys of the Clinch and the North Fork of the Holston, and many of them on over into Kentucky. Here, then, are some significant data from Russell County, Virginia: the surveyor's books, land entry books and deed books list William Combs five times between 1795-1815, on Moccasin Creek and on Big Moccasin Creek. (Russell was formed out of Washington [Co, VA] in 1786, and Washington out of Fincastle in 1776). Since the first entry, 1795, has to do with a conveyance (William Combs to William Houston), William was in the region a little before that date. From the old land patents it appears that some of William's land was in the present Washington County. Some of his patents were probably military grants. (12)

It seems certain that William Combs was in the Revolution. As already mentioned earlier in this work, one of "Chunky Jerry" Combs' sons, in Perry County, Kentucky, and a great-nephew of William, says (Dickey Diary) that "several" of his grandfather's (''Danger Nick") brothers were in the Revolution. This might of course include William; in fact, the Revolutionary records of North Carolina list Mason Jr. and William, who saw service in that State. The great-nephew's statement might also include John and Josiah. (13)

Moccasin Creek rises about four and a half miles southwest of Lebanon [Russell Co, VA], flows down through the southwest corner of Russell, through Scott County [VA] and into the Clinch River near Clinchport [Scott Co, VA] , just west of Gate City [Scott Co, VA]. It flows along the northern foot of Clinch Mountain all the way. Washington [Co, VA] adjoins Sullivan [Co] on the south, in Tennessee. One of the eight brothers, Henry (Harrison), lived in Russell, or Washington [Co VA] for a time, so say some of his descendants. Last mention of old William Combs is in 1815, and he may be presumed to have died no great while thereafter. A conveyance to William Houston, on Big Moccasin, in 1804, gives his wife's name as Cynthia. (14)

The will of William Combs, Sr. (he had a William) was probated


in Russell County, Virginia, June 9, 1841. This is a son of old Mason's William (b. in 1740), whom we have been discussing. The heirs named are thirteen children, and a wife, Anna. The descendants of William of 1841 say that their people came from North Carolina. Some given names in the family are common in my line, also in that of the Clark County, Kentucky Combses. Another possible son of old Mason's William is Wilmouth Combs, in Perry County, Kentucky (Land Warrants, 1816). He was alive in 1848. Mr. E.R. Combs says that some of the brothers of William of 1841 went to Kentucky. Wilmouth may have been one of them. He was named for his youngest aunt, Wilmot (Overwharton Register, [Stafford Co, VA]), old Mason's daughter. (15)

The early records of Washington and Russell Counties mention no Combses other than old William and William, Jr. If old William had other sons, they did not live in either of these counties. At any rate it is pretty certain that the unidentified Wilmouth, Jeremiah, William D. and John belong among the descendants of old Mason, of Stafford. (William and his descendants are listed later in this work; they are not in the General Table). Another probable son of William of 1740 is John, who came to Kentucky and settled in Boyle (old Lincoln) County [KY]. He is listed with some of his descendants, under Some Unidentified Combses. Margaret Combs Lewis, a granddaughter of this John, says (Dickey Diary) that John had a brother, Washington, who, she thinks, was also in the Revolution. Still another probable son is Jeremiah (aged 74 in the Census of 1860), born in Virginia (listed under Some Unidentified Combses). He lived in Warren County, Tennessee, and moved to Madison County, Arkansas, around 1835.

Mason, Jr.: like Josiah, not much is known about him, the youngest son of Mason Combs. He served in the Revolution, from North Carolina; living in Montgomery County, Virgina [sic], in 1782, 1785, and 1788. Yet the Revolutionary War accounts of North Caroline (Vol. II) show that he was allowed a claim of 239 pounds, October 10, 1786, in the Salisbury District [NC], for services rendered to the Continental Army. He probably moved to the Holston [River] country, in Tennessee; a Mason C. Combs was born there in 1823, and shows up in Madison County, Arkansas, in 1860. I will soon take up the family of John Combs, oldest son of Mason, of Stafford, and father of the "eight brothers." His brother, "Danger Nick", will come in his proper place; they cannot all be taken up at the same time. (16)