Did Any Rectors Own Slaves?

John Jacob Rector 1773 Estate (partial) from Fauquier Co. Courthouse records

It was with great interest that I pulled Book 1 of over 100 bound records in the Fauquier (“It’s pronounced “Faw-KEER”) County, VA courthouse after placing all my electronic devices (including my fone) into a locker once I passed through the metal detectors in the lobby of the courthouse. Unfortunately I arrived with only 30 minutes until closing time on a Friday in May of 2022 so I had to dive in quickly. I had started with the Index book for all wills and estates recorded before 1925, and when I reached the “R” section, there were Rectors galore. I chose the earliest record I could find, which was for John Jacob Rector who died in 1773. Bingo!

And there it was in brown and white (the image I ordered and eventually received is from microfilm that is a negative of the actual image for greater contrast, I suspect):

  • Rector Inventory
    • Negro Jack
    • Negro Jude
    • Negro Sambo
    • Negro Cate(?)
    • Negro James
    • Negro Anthony
    • Negro Manuel
    • Negro Homer
    • 1 Bay Gelding … 1 Bay Stallion …

To the right of each listing are numerical values, and because this will was moved through probate in 1773, all those figures are in Pounds Sterling, Shillings, and Pennies. I’m not sure whether it’s comforting or horrifying that a man is worth more than two horses? Two men each are worth almost twice the gelding and the stallion’s total value.

Because I had to conclude my research in 30 minutes, resulting in a slip of specific pages to have them digitize and email to me, I wasn’t able to closely correlate each document with a specific member of the Rector family, specifically my personal family tree. For example, I quickly assumed that the John Jacob Rector will and estate listing I found in Book 1 represented our First Generation descendant who immigrated from Germany. However, now that I’ve been able to link it to other records, it is clearly the will and estate of JJR’s firstborn and namesake. JJR prime died in 1728/29, and those records, primarily processed as British documents before most of Virginia was organized into the counties that administrate things like this, it’s unlikely that I will find that document. On the plus side (for me) we are descended from JJR prime’s second born, Henry. I did NOT find Henry’s will and estate listing in my 30 minutes, but I continue to do research online through the VA Archives. I did find the will for Harmon Rector, JJR prime’s third born, whose will left “…to my son Harmon Rector one negro named Peter.”

As you can see in The Begats, Spenser Rector, Henry’s youngest son died young, at 28 in 1793. He and his British wife, Mary Tiffen, had at least three children before he died in Fauquier Co. Spenser’s middleborn — Marcus Clay Rector — was married in 1812 in Pickaway Co. OH, and his mother died in Ross Co. OH in 1832. So the family moved at some point, likely involving Mary’s new husband. Offhand I know that the Continental Congress was BROKE after the Revolutionary War, and decided to offer many of its unpaid soldiers land in the new states instead of their back-pay. Rectortown is located very near the trails along the upper Potomac River that would eventually become the National Road, and then the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and then the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. I will be researching further into when/how Spenser’s family left VA and arrived in OH, though it is interesting to know that our branch of Rectors then stayed in Ohio until Amy left for the Oregon Territory(!) in the 1970s. Speaking of Amy:

To Corn & Nubbins . . . . 20 .14 —

I was FASCINATED to note one entry in JJR2’s estate, listing “Nubbins” as an asset — they have played an important and positive part of recent Rector history…but maybe they actually tie us back to old times?

I can also now add that not only did Spenser Rector move our line to Ohio shortly after the Revolutionary War, but his grandson — Marcus Clay Rector — was drafted into the Union Army in 1863 to fight against…his family, in some cases!

In fact, in my first foray to poke around Ancestry.com on my local library’s computer (CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT Ancestry.com OWNS AND SELLS OUR COUNTRY’S OLDEST PUBLIC RECORDS?!?!?!?) I found a record for a contemporary of Marcus Clay Rector — C.P. Rector of Fauquier Co., VA — who fought in F Company of the 6th Virginia Cavalry of the Confederate Army! Who, at the age of 87, applied to the state of Virginia for a military pension because he could no longer work. Amazing.


2 thoughts on “Did Any Rectors Own Slaves?

  1. So if Spenser took his family to Ohio, why did he die back in Virginia? And what became of his widow, Mary Tiffin Rector, who had three sons aged 3-8 when he died? And did moving from Virginia to Ohio have anything to do with the former being a slave state and the latter a free state? Perhaps English Mary encouraged the move? Back in that time, Virginia bordered Ohio.


  2. Looking back more closely at the Begats, Spencer (or Spenser?) was born in 1765, so it seems unlikely that he would have participated in the Revolutionary War. He would’ve been 15 or 16 when the decisive Siege of Yorktown effectively ended the fighting (in 1781) so it would be rather remarkable if he served an important enough role to be paid in Ohio land immediately afterwards. Makes a little more sense that his older brothers Elijah (b. 1763 and apparently moved to Ohio between 1806 and 1810… on that same program?), Moses (b. 1761), or even John (b. 1742) or Jacob (b. 1745) would’ve been more involved.

    I also have to wonder when and where Spencer met Mary Tiffin, who was 19 when their first son was born in 1786 only a few years after the war ended. How did young Mary get from England to America between her birth in 1767 and son John’s conception in 1785? Was her father part of the British war effort?

    Also according to the Begats, Spencer and Mary were in their early 20s when Henry Clay Rector was born near present day Columbus, O. Are you sure that Henry (and his brothers John and Edward Terwillager — why isn’t my middle name Terwillager?) were born in Ohio? It might make more sense if the children were born in Virginia and then moved to Ohio later, perhaps after Spencer’s death in 1794, at which time they were all less than 10 years old. Is there documentation that Spencer and Mary moved to Ohio together, before Henry was born?


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