James Flanagan (d. 1752): Commentary on Bob Flanagan’s history on clanflanagan.org

Whittle Flanagan's Red Hill and cemetery

Descendants of James Flanagan (d. 1752 Louisa County, Virginia) are indebted to Bob Flanagan for sharing his knowledge of our family history. At the end of his report, he invites researchers to make additions, corrections, and substantiations. Bob’s report appears to be dated about 2005 or so, so my comments bring the information up to date based on new research discoveries. My comments are added in blue in the body of the report, and I have added footnotes for the source citations.  In his narrative, Bob also discusses the family of Whittle Flanagan, son of our James, but I have omitted that portion of his narrative here.

Bob’s report, with my comments:

Most reports I have seen to date refer to three brothers who left from Dublin, Ireland on a voyage to end on “some wood land and some sandy hills” at a place called “Absecon Island” or ” Absecon Beach”. ‘Drawne by the only labour and endeavour of Augustine Herrman’ A note on the map states that the area is “Inhabited only or most by Indians”. Indian longhouses are shown along the rivers. The Great Egg Harbor and Little Egg Harbor Inlets are both labled. In 1693 this region was called “Egg Harbour”. On March 20th, 1693 it was mentioned in Gloucester County in court records. Also know as Atlantic County and New Waymouth at times. Today this area is around Atlantic City, New Jersey. Bob is referring here to the 1670 map of Virginia and Maryland by Augustine Herrman; New Jersey is in the lower right (also available on the Library of Congress website here):

Absecon, New Jersey is west of Atlantic City and northeast of Great Egg harbor. It lies on Absecon Bay:

In 1732 these three brothers disembarked from ship with members of their family(s). Probably born in Roscommon County, Ireland, the brothers were named; Ambrose, earliest estimated birth: 1700, Whittle, ealiest estimated birth: 1702, James, earliest estimated birth: 1704. With Ambrose Flanagan, at least one family-tree record indicates, was his wife and son. His wife’s first name is not indicated, but her last name was Winwright. His son’s name was James Winwright Flanagan (the Elder), earliest estimated birth; 1723.

Little is known of the years following their landing in 1732, except that; Ambrose went with family to Virginia and was ‘a planter’. Whittle went (with family?) to North Carolina. James (with family?) stayed in the area which became New Jersey.

In at least one record it says that James (the Elder) settled in Fluvanna County, Virginia in 1740. Fluvanna Co wasn’t formed until 1777, from Albemarle Co. Then he ‘removed’ to Albermarle County, Virginia. Another record says that he ‘lived in Louisa Couty, VA. as early as 1744’.

It is in 1747 that the first ‘formal records’ of James Flanagan (the Elder) are found. Up until this first record all that I have advanced has been from family-tree records/statements passed down in family writings of their ancestory. Earlier records for James have been discovered; see James Flanagan c1705 – 1752, a Timeline.

Commentary regarding the above four paragraphs:  At this time, we do not know how or when James came to be in Virginia. He may even have been born there. The “three brothers” theory says that James Flanagan who died in 1752 (hereinafter, James-1752) came to the American colonies in 1732 with his father and two uncles. Since this theory says that one of the brothers was named Whittle, it makes it highly questionable. Why? Because Whittle is the family surname of James-1752’s wife – Sevena Whittle, daughter of Francis Whittle. Additionally, we now know that James-1752 was born much earlier than 1723, since he had a son born in 1730 (more detail further in this study). And James-1752’s sons were named Ambrose, Whittle, and James (and he had two sons named James). Since he was born more like 1705-ish, the men described in the journey from Dublin to New Jersey cannot be accurate.

Additionally, the name Winwright tacked to the “immigrant” Ambrose is based on the assumption that since James-1752’s son James’s (d. 1838) middle name is Winwright, he was named for Ambrose’s wife’s maiden name.

The first record of James Flanagan of Louisa County, Virginia, is found in the Fredericksville Parish Vestry Book, 29 July 1747, and states, “That Samuel Dalton and James Flanagan do procession the lands from Nick Meriwether’s line ye Mountain and the county line to Cuffy’s Creek”. Newly-discovered records show James in Louisa County in 1743 and that he was acquainted with Francis Whittle by 1745; see James Flanagan c1705 – 1752, a Timeline.

Also during 1747, James married Serena Frances Whittall of Albemarle County, the daughter of Francis Whittall and Sarah Cole. It would be more accurate to state “by 1747” instead of “during 1747.” The date of marriage is based on the birth of their first son, Ambrose, which is an estimated date; no marriage record has been located. “Serena” was actually “Sevena.” In deed and other court records, she is named as Sevena, Vinah, Sabina, Vinne; there is never an “r” in place of the “v” when viewing her name in documents. In addition, no documentation exists that shows Sevena’s middle name was Frances nor even used the middle initial “F.”

On August 20, 1747 James ‘obtained two tracts of land in Louisa Couty from Lieut. Governor Gooch, issued at Williamsburg, one containing 400 acres “on both sides of north fork of Hudson’s Creek” for “forty shillings of good and lawful money”. This 400 acres also is the land grant from King George II refered to in many accounts. ‘The second tract of 250 acres for “twenty shillings of good and lawful money” beginning at the said Flanagan’s corner pine in Sylvanus Morris’ line…crossing three branches of Bunches’ Creek…and white oak saplins in said Flanagan’s line…’ These tracts of land constituted ‘the total land holdings in James Flanagan’s estate’.

The earliest recorded home built by James was in 1747, and we believe the original building (along with additions added) is still standing today. The home was called Red Hill. The site is in the Greensprings District of Louisa County, Virginia, located south of Route 22 on the west side of Route 15 near the waters of Hudson and Bunches’ Creeks. We now know that the home called “Red Hill” stood on land owned by Francis Whittle, not James-1752, said land having been acquired by Francis from James Stuart sometime between 1735 and 1745. This is the land that Francis bequeathed to his grandsons Ambrose and Whittle in his 1750 will. See Whittle Flanagan’s Red Hill – A Study.

Micki Flanagan Perry has sent me pictures of this house along with letters describing the house and ‘line of residents’ that have lived there. It is fascinating to also find in a map of the area described a road leading off of Hwy. 15 (south of Route 22) named Red Hill Trail. This ‘trail’ I believe leads to the Flanagan home built by James in 1747.

In 1747 James (the Elder) and wife Serena had their first child named Ambrose. Ambrose’s year of birth is not precisely known; it is based on his brother Whittle’s year of birth and the indication that Ambrose was older than Whittle. On November 18, 1749 their second child was born named Whittle. Sometime in 1750 their third child was born named James (2nd) after his father. Actually, James’s birth was likely after Francis Whittle wrote his will (since James is not named in it) but before James-1752 wrote his will on 1 Jun 1752 (since James is named in that will); see James Flanagan’s 1752 Will. Sometime in 1751 their fourth and last child was born and named Mary. Mary was called ‘Milly’, and was likely named after her mother’s sister, her aunt Mary Whittall. Evidence points to Mary being first married to Stephen Perkins and then to John Haden. There is also evidence that the three boys had another sister named Mildred, “Milly” – see The Daughters of James and Sevena.

“At a Vestry held for Fredericksville Parish ye 5th day of June 1749, ordered that James Flanakin be appointed Sexton of the Middle Church in the room of Wilmoth Davis, and that his wages commence the 20th of May last”. There are variations in the spelling of the name Flanagan in the records of Louisa, Albemarle and Fluvanna Counties. I believe this Flanakin is James Flanagan (the Elder). It is also noted in research of the early settlers that the actual spelling of the name was many times Flannagan, and that with the children of James and Serena was the name thereafter consistent with the spelling Flanagan of my line.

In June of 1752 James Winwright Flanagan (the Elder) died in Louisa Couty, Virginia, I believe at his Red Hill home and probably buried in the cemetery nearby. If born in 1723, James was only 29 or 30 when he died leaving Serena with four children under 6 years of age. Tradition has it that Serena remarried a man named Lane who was not kind to his stepchildren. Subsequent deed and court records show that Sevena married Edward Lane after James-1752’s death. See Sevena (Whittal) Flanagan Lane, c1725 – p1801.

Two things to mention that are my opinions; 1) because James was a Sexton of the Middle Church in Fredericksville Parish, I believe he and family were religious members of the Church of Ireland. Being from Dublin I think he and parents likely prayed at Christ Church which is not Catholic, but Anglican. 2) because of his land grant from King George II that he (through father Ambrose?) had some connection back to England for influence. To obtain a grant for land from the crown, one simply had to pay the fee and commit to improving (i.e., farming) a specified portion of the land within a specified period of time.

In 1782 Serena Whittall Flanagan died at the home of her son James (2nd). The death in 1782 was Sarah Whittle, James-1752’s mother-in-law. Sevena was still living in 1800, when she was subpoenaed in a chancery cause to testify about the ownership of her father Francis Whittle’s property. And in 1801 she deeded land in Louisa County to her two sons Whittle and James.[3]

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