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January 31, 2019 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part XI

Willis Chambers (1790–1850)


Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham Notables: The Allens of Hunts Creek, Part I


William Allen, 1824 will, continued

When William Allen wrote his will in 1824, it was not unusual to add a provision covering the possibility that a widow remarried. The underlying assumption was that her new husband would provide for her and the estate could then be divided amongst the children of her previous marriage. William Allen did just that, instructing:

In case my wife should marry my wish is, that my land where I now live and two hundred acres in the state of Alabama; my house hold furniture &c. may be sold on a credit from one to three years, and the money arising from the sale and the negroes to be equally divided amongst my children. . . .

Interestingly, Allen stressed that this property was to be divided equally among his children, male and female. In the 19th century, sons most often inherited land. Sometimes daughters only inherited their personal belongings, such as bedding, and a personal servant.

If Nancy Allen remarried, she still got her choice of a horse, feather bed and furniture, and five hundred dollars. Additionally, at her death, slaves in her possession, as well as any increase from the females, would return to her deceased husband’s estate to be divided amongst their children or their heirs. This protected his estate from children that his widow might have with another husband.

1820 Census, Buckingham County, Virginia.

The witnesses and executors of William Allen’s will reveal more trusted friends and relations. First he named his son-in-law, Willis Chambers, who was a neighbor and a cousin. Sometime before 1820, Chambers had married his first cousin and William Allen’s daughter, Mary Ballard Allen.

The second executor was to be his eldest son, George H. Allen (1799–1842).

The third executor was Walter C. Allen, no doubt Walter Clopton Allen (1801–1848), who was the Allens’ third child and who moved with his family to Tennessee.

Witnesses included Finch Scruggs, a neighbor. A man named Hector W. Scruggs would marry George Hunt Allen’s daughter, Mary Ann (b. 1817).

Another witness was John Cox, who lived close to William Allen in 1820. He owned eleven slaves and was a mature man over the age of forty-five.

Witness William Smith signed with his mark, possibly indicating that he was elderly. In 1820, a man named William T. Smith (over age forty-five) lived adjacent the Allens.

The will was recorded at Buckingham County courthouse on March 8, 1824. Rolfe Eldridge was Clerk.


These three surviving Allen wills are chock-full of historical and genealogical clues, waiting to be expanded with complementary sources such as printed genealogies, tax records, and census data. Any and every surviving will from the period prior to the burning of the courthouse in 1869 are nuggets of Buckingham County gold. The Allen wills are no exception.

Special thanks to Jean L. Cooper for transcribing these wills.


Science is changing history. For those of you who are members of the Allen family, there is an active Allen DNA project, “The Allen Patrilineage 1 Project,” headed by John B. Robb. Learn more at:


Available at Amazon: Central Virginia Heritage (Fall 2018)

Also featured in this issue is my article, “Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire: Tracing My Harris Ancestor from One Burned County to Another.” Don’t be frustrated by the lack of county documents when the local courthouse burns. Complementary and duplicate records can help solve many mysteries!


Leave a Comment
  1. Terrence A. Garnett / Mar 30 2019 3:18 am

    Were any of William Allen’s slaves mentioned by name in his 1824 will?

    • Joanne Yeck / Mar 30 2019 9:51 am


      Thanks for writing. There are no slaves mentioned in William Allen’s rather short, 1824 will.


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