The Two Jesses – Part 1

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Deed and other records point to the existence of a second Jesse Thames. We already know of the Jesse who is named in his father Joseph’s will dated 1780. As it turns out, there was another Jesse in Bladen/Cumberland; based on the documents found so far, he was very likely either 1) a son of Thomas and, therefore, Joseph’s brother, or 2) a previously-unknown eldest son of Cornelius.

The second Jesse was discovered almost by accident. I didn’t go looking for him. There are, however, multiple documents from the time period that support it. Part 1 will cover some key documents, and Part 2 will present some additional land transactions and a court case.

Document Set No. 1 – Claims of British Merchants

The Treasury Series (T. 79/77) at the Public Record Office, London, England, and on microfilm at the British Records Collection at the NC State Archives (Microfilm reel Z.5.148N), contains the records of special agent William H. Williams made during 1801-1802, in which he took an accounting of British merchants who had outstanding claims against American colonists. The counties involved were Duplin, Sampson, New Hanover, Wayne, Bladen, Robeson and Cumberland. A few entries provide insights into the probability that there were two Jesse’s.

1. John Hay & Company, British Merchant

The page below is simply an identifier to show these are John Hay & Co’s claims

The page below has the ledger entries in John Hay & Co’s records for Joseph Timms and Jesse Timms (click the image to expand). Note: This record was emailed to me by the NC Archives in four pdf pages; I converted each page to jpg and did my best to stitch them together.

Jesse’s entry reads, Jesse Timms formerly lived in Bladen, now in the County of Cumberland, was a Brother of Joseph Timms, says he has paid this Debt, and has Thomas K. Wynne’s receipt for the same, he is now Able to pay, and has always been so. They demanded no more than the Debt & Interest which he paid them, so that the difference between the Money is now the Object of this claim. Jesse Timms / and / Joseph Timms

Joseph Timms owed John Hay & Co some money, too, and his record is immediately above Jesse’s. It’s important to look at Joseph’s ledger entry because it affects interpretation possibilities when looking at Jesse’s entry. Joseph’s entry reads, Joseph Timms, formerly of Bladen, but a division of that county took place – he was in Cumberland when he died, since his death his son Joseph Timms paid this Debt to Thomas K. Wynne, whose receipt he now has for the same And left Estate enough to pay all his just Debts. This claim is for a difference in Money as above. This Attorney never demand[ed] more of any of the Debtors than the amount of the Debt with Interest, nothing was ever said about the difference of Money to the debtors. This is from the Son of the deceased Jesse Timms / Joseph Timms

These two entries leave multiple interpretations and questions.

  1. In Joseph’s entry, note that the auditor wrote the information came from Joseph Timms, son of the deceased Jesse Timms. Huh? In context of the records, this is probably this is an error and “Jesse Timms” should read “Joseph Timms,” but it inspires the question, did one of the Jesses have a son named Joseph?

  2. On Jesse’s entry, notice how the information was provided by Jesse Timms and Joseph Timms (vs Jesse Timms by Joseph Timms). This appears to make this Jesse still living.

  3. The phrase “was a brother of Joseph Timms” – This could mean 1) he is living and was the brother of Joseph Thames (d. 1780), or it could mean 2) he is dead and was the brother of Joseph Thames, son of Joseph (d. 1780).

  4. This Jesse Timms may very well still be living. Note the statement “says he has paid this Debt” which means he made the statement to the auditor himself. But the fact that the information was provided by both Jesse and Joseph leaves questions.

Okay, these are some interpretations so far. If you see more interpretations, please join the discussion in the Comments section below.

2. James Gammel & Company, British Merchant

The records for James Gammel & Co is where things really get interesting.

This is the first record is for Jesse Thimes:

It reads, Jesse Thimes This Man is now a resident of the County of Cumberland possessing considerable property. The claim is now in the hands of Edwd Jones Esqr for recovery. Thimes has promised to compromise this debt with the Atty and has made such propositions as the Atty. is willing to accept so that tis now the proper subject for inquiry by the Special Agent. Edwd Jones, informant

Here’s the second record for James Gammel & Co involving Jesse:


This Jesse owed quite a bit of money to James Gammel & Co, over 106 English pounds. The notation for him says vide Ante, which is Latin for see before or ditto – so it’s telling us to look at the record above it, which in this case is for Peter Lord, noting that he is deceased and had a small estate which had since been exhausted by judgments.

Document Set No. 2 – Three Deeds

The Thames Family of North Carolina bypasses the second Jesse. The author made a misstep in concluding that the 1803 deed between William Thames and his son David has an error in the chain of ownership of the original 100 acres that Thomas Thames purchased from Robert Dunn, because it says the land Samuel inherited from his father Thomas first went to Jesse Thames. However, that chain of ownership is not the first time it appears in the deed books. It appears as early as 1776 – a full 27 years before the deed between William and David. In fact, the 1776 deed is when Jesse sells the land to Joseph, just like the subsequent deeds say.

And the chain of ownership – which was accurate after all – lends further credibility to the theory that there were two Jesse’s.

Deed No. 1

2 May 1776 – Bladen Co NC DB 37 p 181Jesse Thames and Elizabeth his wife of Bladen Co to Joseph Thames of Bladen Co – 140 acres – 100 pounds – Witnesses Benjamin Cooper, Richard Wilkerson – Proved May 1777 – Two parcels totalling 140 acres:

. . . SW side of NW river between Grays & Dunns lines being part of a tract of land patented by Henry Sims bearing date 1753 and by him conveyed to John Stevens and by sd Stephens the small part conveyed to Jesse Thames and by sd Jesse Thames conveyed to Joseph Thames the premises intended to be granted begins at a white oak on the river bank Gray’s upper line and runs then S70 W20 chains to John Newberrys line and with it N 20 W 15.18 chains to Duns line and with it to the river and down the river to the beginning containing 40 acres more or less . . .

. . . SW side of the NW river of Cape Fear at a small distance below Dunns Creek beginning at a stake by the river side then N 80 W 116 Ch then S 40 W 10 ch, then S80 E 116 chs to the river then the various courses of the river to the beginning, 100 acres, part of a tract of land granted to Jno Dunn by patent and by Jno Dunn to Richd Dunn and by Richd Dunn to Robt Dunn, by Robt Dunn to Thomas Thames, and by sd Thos Thames in his last Will gave the same to his son Saml Thames & he dying under age it became the property of the afsd Jesse Thames as by Record may appear & the sd Jesse Thames being so lawfully seized and possessed of the same sd Two Tracts of Land as above mentioned . . . [legalese conveys to Joseph Thames]

Deed No. 2

7 Aug 1779 – Bladen County DB 19 p 418-419 – No. 24, Joseph Themes of Bladen Co to William Themes – 140 acres – 100 pounds – Witnesses David Hallaway, Sherwood Fort, Themes[Thomas] Themes – Proved November Term 1781 by David Hallaway – two parcels:

. . . One piece lying & being in the County & Province aforesaid, One Piece on the South West side of the N. West River between Gray’s & Dunn’s lines, being a part of a tract patented by Heenry[sic] Sim’s, bearing date Anno Domini 1753 & was by him conveyed to John Stevens, & by the said Stevens to Jesse Themes & by the said Jesse Themes conveyed to Joseph Themes & is now conveyed by the said Joseph Themes to William Themes & his heirs & assigns forever Begins at a white oak on the River bank, Gray’s upper line & runs thence So. 70 W. 20 chs to John Newberry’s line & with it No. 20 W. 15 chs & 18 lks Dunn’s line & with it the river & down the river to the first station containing forty acres let the same be more or less. The other piece of land lying & being in the county aforesaid on the South West side of the North West River of Cape Fear, a small distance below Themes Creek [previously and subsequently referred to in deeds as Dunn’s Creek], Beginning at a stake by the River side, thence No. 80 Wt 116 chs, thence So. 40 W. 10 chains then So. 80 Et 116 chains to the River, thence the various courses of the River to the first station containing one hundred acres ore or less being part of a tract of land Granted to John Dunn by Patent & by John Dunn conveyed to Richard Dunn & by Richard Dunn conveyed to Robert Dunn & by Robert Dunn conveyed to Thomas Themes in his last Will gave the same to his son Samuel Themes & he dying under age, it became the property of the aforesaid Jesse Themes as by Record may appear, the said Jesse Themes being thus lawfully possessed of the above mentioned lands conveyed them to Joseph Themes & is now conveyed by Joseph Themes to William Themes… signed Joseph Themes (his mark) and Martha Themes (her mark). Witnesses: David Hallaway, Sherwood Fort, Themes [Thomas] Themes. Provided November Term 1781 by David Hallaway.

Deed No. 3

7 Jun 1803 – Cumberland Co NC Deed Book 20 p 121William Theames to David Theames – 140 acres – Deed of Gift – Witnesses Jos Theames, John Theames – Proved Feb 1804 – two parcel:

. . . One parcel lying and being in the County and State aforesaid one piece on the SoW of the NoW River below Grays and Duns lines being part of a patent by Henry Sims bears date AD 1735 and by him conveyed John Stevens and by said Stevens conveyed to Jesse Theames & by the Jesse Theames conveyd to Jos Theames and by him to William Theames is no conveyed by the said William Theames to David Theames and his heirs & assigns forever Begins at a white oak on the River bank Grays upper line and runs No 70 W 20 chains to John Newberys line and with it No 20 W 15 chains & 18 links to Duns line and with it to the River and down the River to the first Station containing 40 acres be the same more or less the other piece of land lying and being in the County aforesd on the SoW side of the NoW River a small distance below Duns Creek Beginning at a stake by the River side then No 80 W 116 chains then So 40 W 10 chains then So 80 Et 116 chains to the River thence the various courses of the river to the first Station Containing 100 acres more or less being a part of a tract of land granted to John Dun by Patent and by John Dun conveyed to Richard Dun and by Richard Dun conveyed to Robert Dun and by Robt Dun conveyed to Thomas Theames in his last will gave the same to his Son Samuel Theames and his dying under age it became the property of the aforesaid Jesse Theames as by record may appear and the sd Jesse Theames being thus lawfully possessed of the above mentioned lands convey them to Jos Theams and then conveyed to William Theames and now is conveyed by William Theames to David Theames his heirs exrs admrs & assigns forever together with all and with the improvements ways roads & water courses mines profits hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever thereunto belonging To have and to hold the aforesaid land lying & being as aforesd unto the said David Theames his heirs & assigns forever together with all the Priviledges Thereunto belonging with the following Exception That is all that part of land on the River and under Fence with the Priviledges of Rail Timber during the natural life of the sd William Theames and no longer; all to say that part of the survey that lyes W of the main road joining the Big Swamp which land I sold to William B Grove as will appear by deed to sd Grove and I William Theames will forever Warrant and defend free and clear of all encumbrances Except the above Exception I the sd William Theames oblidge myself my heirs exrs and assigns at any time hereafter at the request of the sd David Theams to sign seal and obtain any other conveyances that shall be necessary for the more effectual conveyaning of the premises aforesaid unto David Thames . . .


We know that Joseph (son of Thomas Sr) had a son named Jesse, because he names Jesse as his son, in his will.

We also know Cornelius (the son of Thomas Sr) died sometime between 1760 and 1763. In 1760 he served on the coroner’s jury in Bladen County, for the inquest into the death of a Wilkinson infant. (Find Source – Walt Gabennesch used it in his book). But he does not appear on the 1763 tax list for Bladen County, nor any subsequent tax lists.

We are fairly certain that Cornelius was the eldest son of Thomas who died 1758, because he witnessed the 1750 deed when Thomas buys property in Bladen County, and because he was named co-executor of Thomas’s will (along with Thomas’s wife Prudence).

Thomas’s will provided that after his wife Prudence’s death, his son Samuel would inherit the 100 acres that he had purchased from Robert Dunn in 1750.

Though we don’t have an exact year, we know that Cornelius died – and left a will, which was lost in a courthouse fire – based on the 1783 deed between David Holloway and Daniel Beard, where the chain of ownership of a 256 acre tract is described as: 1737 patent to David Morley – conveyed to Henry Sims – then to Thomas Mathews – then to John Grady – then to Cornelius Thames – then by Cornelius’s executors – to Joseph Cooper – then to James Clardy – then to Stephen Butler – then to David Holloway.

Now, here’s my train of thought about this:  Prudence was to have this land while she was living, but she must have died and Samuel was the next in line to gain the property. But Samuel had died too, not having reached the age of majority.

The law of primogeniture in colonial America dictated that the land belonging to a father/parent reverted to the eldest son. In our case, Samuel died without heirs, but so had Cornelius. This leads to two possibilities for Jesse Thames getting the land.

Jesse was either:

The eldest son of Cornelius, older than his brother Jonathan. The law of primogeniture further states that if Cornelius had male heirs (sons), then Cornelius’s eldest son would get the property. It would not revert back to the

– OR –

Jesse was the eldest son of Thomas who died 1758 – older than Cornelius, and was not named in Thomas’s will.

For more information about the laws of primogeniture in colonial America, see Robert W Baird’s excellent article on his website, Bob’s Genealogy Filing Cabinet. And if you really want to get into the weeds, you can study the original commentaries published 1765 by Sir William Blackstone in Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 2, Chapter 20.

Regarding the second option, tradition has always assigned children of Thomas as those named in his will – which makes sense. However, children left out of a will was not uncommon, especially if they were older and established and had already received their legacies.

What we can say with certainty is that Joseph’s son Jesse would not have inherited the 140 acres. And during the years 1761-1763 when Cornelius, Samuel and Prudence died, Joseph’s Jesse would have been far too young to own land, only around 10 years of age.

The British Loyalist Claims record supports two Jesse’s. So does some discussion about Jesse in The Thames Family of North Carolina. and his wife named Elizabeth whom Walt felt was too old to be the wife of Joseph’s son Jesse. BECKY: ADD NOTES

Let’s talk about this! These are our ancestors, so your thoughts and collaboration are welcome in the Comments section below.

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