Robert E. Howard’s statements notwithstanding (see Part 1), his earliest Howard ancestors appear to have landed in Virginia, not Georgia. For it is in Virginia that we pick up the trail of three brothers with the surname of Howard: Richard, Thomas, and Mordecai. Mordecai was Robert E. Howard’s great-great grandfather. As mentioned in part one, he may come from the line of the English poet, Henry Howard, but I can’t confirm that.
The earliest Mordecai Howard I’ve found is from a February 1763 list of court cases in Augusta County, Virginia. There is no information about what the case was, it only says “William Crow vs. Mordecai Howard” (Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia). Augusta was a huge county on the western border of Virginia back then. It has since been carved into several counties and states. But this is probably not our guy; most of the sources say he was born in 1751, though no document verifying that claim has been found.
What the Howards did during the Revolution is uncertain, but years afterwards, on October 22, 1832, one William Wilkinson testified “before the Justices of the County Court of Brunswick” in regard to his pension. He swore that he enlisted “as a substitute and served a term of three months for Mordecai Howard in the year 1779.” Then there’s the June 2, 1781 sighting of a Mordecai Howard up in Caroline County (central-eastern part of the state). On that date, a Mordecai Howard signed a petition calling for the punishment of Tories (Selected Virginia Revolutionary War Records, Vol. 1). I’m inclined to believe that the Brunswick Co. Howard is our man, but not the one in Caroline.
The next sighting is on the extreme southwestern border of the state, on the Tennessee line. Transcriptions of the Washington County, VA Survey records abstracts 1781-1797 (available from the fine folks at the USGenWeb Project) has several Howard mentions from the early 1780s. An asignee of Thomas Howard’s had a land transaction in “Turkey Cove” somewhere in the Powells Valley. His brother Mordecai was also interested in the area; there are a few descriptions of his land near “Indian Creek,” also in Powels Valley. The last reference is a “Preemption Warrant” (whatever that is) dated November 3, 1783.
These references might be our man as they appear to mention two of the brothers, Thomas and Mordecai. Whether or not that is the case, the next item is definitely him. On February 23, 1784, Mordecai Howard married Jane Anderton in Brunswick County, as recorded in Virginia Marriages, 1660-1800. The same book has this mention for November 22, 1784, “Mordecai Howard surety for marriage of John Anderton and Clarissa Durham.”
At this time, marriage bonds were given to the court by the intended groom prior to his marriage. It affirmed that there was no moral or legal reason why the couple could not be married and it also that the groom would not change his mind about getting married. If he did change his mind, he would forfeit the bond. The bondsman, or surety, was usually a brother or uncle to the bride, not necessarily a parent. The bondsman could also be related to the groom, or even be a neighbor or friend, but those situations occurred less often.
Brunswick County is about midway on the state’s southern border with North Carolina. Another tome, Marriage Records of Brunswick County, Virginia, 1730-1852, has some interesting additions. It also records Mordecai’s marriage, but it provides this extra item regarding Jane Anderton: “dau. of Isaac.” It also lists the other Howard brothers who were married around the same time, with Mordecai providing the surety for each: Thomas Howard married Betsy Ledbetter (“dau. of Jean”) in December 1789 and Richard Howard married Elizabeth Anderton in January 1791. Elizabeth has the following notation: “John Rose Williams sec.”
On September 24, 1787, Mordecai is listed as a witness to the land deal between John Williams and Robert Bailey in Brunswick County (Deed Book 14 (1780-1790) Brunswick County, Virginia). I haven’t a clue what our man’s profession actually was, I assume a farmer, but he does appear to be fairly active in land deals. And then there are the Virginia tax lists found here. The 1788 list for Brunswick County has three Howards, all on the same page: Thomas and William, both with one horse or mule; and Mordecai, who claims “2 Blacks over 16,” “1 Black over 12 & under 16,” and 3 horses.
At one point, Mordecai appears to have loaned his wife’s uncle, John Anderton, some cash. The same Deed Book mentioned above (transcribed at USGenWeb), describes a transaction “for and in consideration of the sum of thirty six pounds eleven shillings specie” which Anderton owes Howard. To resolve the situation, and including the “further consideration of the sum of five shillings,” Anderton sold to Howard “one Negroe Woman called Anney her and her increase and one feather bed and furniture forever and all other rights claims interest and services relating to the same.” The document is dated June 22, 1789 in Brunswick County.
It seems John Anderton had other issues, too. Following the 1790 death of his brother Isaac, the Brunswick County Chancery Records Index has “John Anderton etc.” listed as the plaintiff in a case with “Exr of Isaac Anderton etc.” as defendants. There is at least one Howard associated with the case, and I haven’t ordered copies of the file, but it looks like someone was contesting the will.
On November 29, 1790, Zebulon Williams married Nancy Anderton, with Mordecai Howard again providing surity (Marriage Records of Brunswick County, Virginia, 1730-1852). Howard will later “prove by oath” Zebulon’s will.
On December 23, 1793, Mordecai purchased some Brunswick County land from his brother Thomas, who had moved to North Carolina (Deed Book 15, Brunswick County, Virginia). Warren Co. shares its northern border with two Virginia counties: Mecklenburg and Brunswick. Warren was created from Bute County when it was divided in 1779 to form Franklin County in the south and Warren in the north. It’s easy to assume that there may have been some back-and-forth between the two states.
Despite all this land activity, Mordecai managed to spend at least some time at home. On June 11, 1795, (according to his headstone) Henry Howard, Robert E. Howard’s grandfather, was born to Mordecai and Jane Howard nee Anderton at Brunswick, Lunenburg, Virginia (per The Howard Historian Vol. 28, spring 1995, and the 1860 U.S. Census).
The 1798 Tax List of Brunswick County shows Mordecai with “2 White Tithes,” “7 Negro Tithes,” and “5 Horses, Mares, Mules etc.”
On April 10, 1799, Mordecai “proved by oath” the will of Zebulon Williams in Brunswick County. Then there is a Mordecai Howard up north in Spotsylvania County in 1801. He is listed as a defendant in District Court records, but I have been unable to find out anything regarding the case. Whether or not this last man is our man, that’s the last Mordecai mention in Virginia before our guy shows up in Georgia, where Robert E. Howard thought it all began.