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March 10, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: The Austin Family, Part I

Austin-Office

Austin’s Law Office, Photo Courtesy Jeanne Stinson

Archibald Austin (1772–1837)

Archibald Austin was born near Buckingham Court House, studied law, was admitted to the bar, and began his practice in his home county.

He served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1815 to 1817 and, in 1816, he was elected to the Fifteenth Congress (4 March 1817 – 3 March 1819). When Austin was not nominated again to run for Congress, he resumed his law practice in Buckingham. In 1832 and 1836, he served as a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket, first for Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren and then for Martin Van Buren and Richard Mentor Johnson. During 1835-1837, he again served in the Virginia House of Delegates. He was also recommended to serve as Governor of Virginia.

Austin’s law office, pictured above, sat at his plantation, Westfield. His legal papers are now housed at the College of William and Mary. Because Archibald Austin’s papers predate the 1869 burning of Buckingham Courthouse, they are extremely valuable, shedding light on late 18th and early 19th century life in the county. Wills name heirs and human property. Receipts reveal chancery cases Austin argued for his clients. The papers include, among many other interesting documents, proof of an 1806 chancery suit between Randolph Jefferson and his cousin, John Jefferson.

For more about their relationship, see The Jefferson Brothers.

For much more about Archibald Austin’s life as an attorney, consult Early Buckingham County, VA Legal Papers. Compiled and transcribed by Jeanne Stinson. Athens, GA.: Iberian Pub. Co. 1993.

Also see the “THE AUSTIN-TWYMAN PAPERS, 1765-1939” at Swem Library, The College of William and Mary.

Coming Next: “To Archibald Austin, Esq.”

9 Comments

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  1. L Campbell / Nov 5 2022 3:06 pm

    From the Austin Twyman Papers, records of Samuel Rogers Twyman, the family genealogist and grandson of Archibald and Grace Austin:

    Archibald Austin married Grace Richardson Booker on 15 Sep 1808.

    They had issue:

    1) James Marshall Austin 10 Sep 1809, d. 1865, a doctor. married Susanna Eldridge
    2) Thomas Austin 10 Jan 1811, b. Dec 1885, married Armissie Wade in 1874
    3) Bernard Gaines Austin 24 Feb 1813, d. Feb 1835 married 1) Lizzie Eldridge 2) Miss Pryor
    4) Archibald “Archer” Austin, Jr. b. Feb 1815, d. Feb 1886. married 1st cousin Agnes Austin
    5) Marshall Austin b. Mar 1817, died in infancy
    6) John Austin, b. 24 Dec 1819, d. 10 Dec 1852, a doctor
    7) George b. 21 May 1821, died in infancy
    8) Martha Elizabeth Austin b. 06 Sep 1822, d. 17 Feb 1904, married Dr. Iverson Lewis Twyman (1811-1864)
    9) George Booker Austin b. 17 Oct 1824, d. Nov 1893
    10) Agnes Frances Austin, b. 13 Dec 1826 m. James Anderson Wright
    11) Grace Booker Austin, b. Oct 1830, d. 23 Feb 1869.

    Several of these children had issue, especially the Twymans. Further research is left to the reader.

    L Campbell

    • Joanne Yeck / Nov 6 2022 6:17 am

      Les,
      Thanks, as always, for sharing your research.
      Joanne

      • L Campbell / Nov 6 2022 2:51 pm

        You’re welcome. I made a typographical error. Bernard Gaines Austin died in February 1859.

        Bernard seems to be the ‘black sheep ‘brother who raised the alarm on the family finances and the condition of the estate. He moved to Glasgow MO and complained because his mother and the rest of his family stopped writing to him.

        He sued the other heirs in chancery court in January 1855 after Grace Austin died, presumably, according to the letters, to get his law books and personal belongings that were kept from him.

        I believe he also divorced Susanna Eldridge Austin or she divorced him and got custody of their daughter Polly, who Bernard mentioned in his letters with his brother John. He complained bitterly about the Rolfe Eldridges cutting all ties with him.

        There seems to have been significant animus between the Austin brothers and Dr. Iverson Twyman, with Archibald, Jr. “Archer” writing him a letter telling him he (Twyman) had been the cause of all out war in the family and that Archer Austin wanted to have no more to do with him unless he wished to settle their accounts (implicitly in a manner not sanctioned by law). This was after Archer wrote him a letter all but begging to be bought out of his portion of his father’s estate “so I can go south and never return to this place.”

        The family referred to Twyman as “The Doctor” and seemed to address each other in an almost formal way rather than a familial endearing way. They gossiped about other family members a lot and told ‘secrets’, which I guess is fairly normal.

        It does not seem to have been a particularly happy family. They were all very concerned with losing their status, their money and their land.

        Twyman, according to his own 1859 letter, bought all the 8 heirs out for $10000 for the whole plantation of 950 (966 by survey) acres and the house.

  2. L Campbell / Sep 25 2022 6:22 pm

    To follow up, there’s an index that is really helpful to navigate your way through the 35 microfilm reels of the Austin Twyman Papers.

    It’s at this link (copy/paste into your browser): https://docplayer.net/3716820-Records-of-ante-bellum-southern-plantations-from-the-revolution-through-the-civil-war.html

    The numbers in the left column listed under every reel are the image or frame numbers on that particular microfilm reel. Note that the author of the index used a slightly different microfilm set than the LDS did, so the LDS reel numbers will be off by 5-10 frames because of all the disclaimers, copyright info, photographic test patterns etc that LDS adds when they microfilm records, but they’re close enough to the actual image numbers in the index that you can use them to your advantage.

    My approach was to just pick a time frame during which I thought my ancestors were active in Buckingham County and find reels of the Austin-Twyman papers that corresponded to those, and then just start scrolling.

    Pay special attention to the manuscript volumes MsV2 and MsV3 on reel 31. Those are Austin’s legal fee/accounting books, and those were the ‘moneyball’ for most of the big finds.

    It would also be helpful to acquaint yourself with the old double-entry accounting system used in the 1800s…”debitor / dr” & credit / cr.

    Not going to kid you, it’s a slog and you’ll learn or re-learn a lot of history, but you may hit it big as well. The interconversion and intermixed usage of pounds/shillings/pence with dollars/cents in the same transaction is just one of many little idiosyncrasies.

    Research in Buckingham county is frustrating for reasons of which we are all aware, but the Austin-Twyman papers go a good way toward leveling that playing field. It’s not a substitute, by far, but it’s a substantial something.

    L Campbell

    • Joanne Yeck / Sep 26 2022 6:47 am

      Les,

      Many thanks for sharing this information about the Austin Twyman Papers, especially the details about the collection!

      Joanne

  3. Joanne Yeck / Sep 14 2022 11:31 am

    Thanks, Les!

    Joanne

    • M Campbell / Sep 25 2022 3:52 pm

      I owe SRR a great debt in keeping me focused on Buckingham. Two weeks ago it yielded huge results. My Joseph Scott’s family was much more closely involved with Archibald Austin’s family than I could have imagined and in one of his ledgers was an itemized list of the heirs of Joseph Scott and their land payouts. I was able to identify 8 of Joseph and Drucilla Scott’s ten children (and I know the identities of the other two).

      I hope you are well, and you probably already know this, but there are many items in the Austin Twyman papers (I’m looking at Reel 10 right now) involving Thomas Jefferson Jr, as well as Randolph Jefferson. Archibald Austin appears to have done quite a bit of legal work for the Jefferson family.

      Best regards

      M L Campbell

      • Joanne Yeck / Sep 26 2022 6:43 am

        Les,

        Many thanks for your kind words about Slate River Ramblings. This is terrific news for the Scott family!

        Joanne

  4. L Campbell / Sep 14 2022 8:04 am

    To all interested researchers: The Austin Twyman papers were microfilmed and are available for viewing free at the LDS church website familysearch dot org. You must register for an account, but it’s free.

    The 35 reels are not indexed, so researchers will have to scroll through them page by page but they are an historical, demographic, economic and genealogical gold mine.

    You can find them by logging in to your familysearch account and doing a catalog search by keywords “antebellum plantations Austin Twyman” and selecting “Online” for the Availability option.

    This will bring up a single link under which the records of several plantations are listed, the Austin-Twyman papers being part of a larger, 80 reel set.

    Good luck, happy hunting.

    M L Campbell

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