Jane James (-1750) of Radnor Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania was the last
and likely second wife of David James (c.1660-1739) of Llandegley and Glascwm Parishes,
Radnorshire, Wales who immigrated to North America in 1682. Jane is known to have
been residing at the old James family mansion in Radnor Township at the time of her
death in 1750 under the care of her late husband’s youngest son Evan James (c.1715-c.1794).
Her last will and testament reveals only one biological relative, her nephew Joseph
Davis/David indicating a connection to that family. She also leaves bequests to
three of David’s children, Isaac James, Sarah Thomas and Evan James; and one of his
grandchildren, David James, the son of Isaac James.
In his last will and testament, David James, clearly made arrangements for Jane’s
maintenance following his death in 1739. He left the responsibility of Jane’s care
and support in the hands of his youngest son Evan who was the executor of his will
and who inherited the main corpus of his estate at the time of his passing. David’s
last will and testament provides:
“ITEM, I give unto my well beloved wife Jane James the bed and appurtenances and
the use and benefit of the room we used to sleep in, the use and liberty of the cellar
and her maintenance during her natural life, the one half of the cows and sheep &
horse to ride on when she requires firewood brought to her hand and the sum of twenty
pounds in money to be found and paid her by my Executor. I also give her one iron
pot and a case of drawers and the brass and pewter I leave to be divided between
her and my two daughters Sarah and Rebecca. But in case my said wife shall be inclined
to live in some other place and not with my Executor or that she should happen to
marry, then I give her as aforesaid and the sum of three pounds a year and one cow
the said three pounds to be paid yearly covering her natural life and so declare
that what share here left her is to be in full consideration of her thirds & Dower.”
In her own will, Jane leaves no part of her estate to David’s children Rebecca or
Thomas, even though Thomas James is one of the individuals responsible for the final
accounting of her estate. In his will, David referred to Sarah and Rebecca as “my”
children and not “our” children and contemplates the possibility that Jane may not
wish to live with his children after his passing. Jane refers to David’s daughter
Sarah in her will as her “stepdaughter.” Moreover, Jane does not refer to any of
David James’ biological children as her own strongly suggesting that the children
of David James were born through his first wife Margaret Mortimer.
Interestingly, a significant portion of Jane’s estate is left to the children of
Evan David, the owner of the farm located immediately to the south and bordering
the James family property. Evan David’s children include: Mary Davis, Isaac Davis,
Susana Davis, Margaret Davis and David Davis. Evan David is identified as a “friend”
of David James in his last will and testament and was the son of Jenkin David who
is reported to have occupied the parcel immediately to the south of the James family
homestead as early as 1719.
Jenkin David, the father of the Evan David mentioned in Jane’s will, occupied the
land in Radnor Township that was originally “laid out” for David James pursuant to
the “rights” he had acquired through the indentures he purchased prior to coming
to Pennsylvania in 1682. Stephen ap Evan successfully procured this land on or about
1702 by way of purchase from David James’ eldest daughter Mary at a time when David
was reportedly deceased. Interestingly, there is no record of Jenkin David purchasing
this land from Stephen ap Evan. He merely began “occupying” this property later
described as “Lot No. 108” in Radnor Township and is recorded as living there in
1719 when an assessment of the land was first performed. On page 398 of her 1977
work, “A Rare and Pleasing Thing: Radnor Demography (1798) and Development” Katharine
Hewitt Cummin reports:
“See lot 106 for Stephen ap Evan’s acquisition of 397 acres of land. One hundred
of them became lot 106, another hundred, lot 107. This [lot 108] the remainder piece,
came into the hands of Jenkin David although no pertinent deed is recorded in Chester
or Delaware counties. He occupied the property from 1719 through 1727 (assessment
records), his son Evan following from 1729 through 1779 and, thereafter, Isaac Davis
who was son to Evan.”
If there was indeed a family connection between Jane James and Evan David,
such a relationship would suggest that Jane’s husband, David James, may have regained
control of the property that was originally laid out for him through the indentures
he purchased prior to 1682 and disposed of it by placing it under the control of
a close family relation.
It is fairly certain that Jane was buried in the cemetery grounds surrounding
the Great Valley Baptist Church where her husband had previously been laid to rest.
In her will, Jane leaves adequate instructions concerning her funeral. She bequeaths
one pound to the repair of the graveyard where she is to be buried. And she makes
two separate gifts of one pound each to the ministers of the Great Valley Baptist
Church: John Davis and Owen Thomas.
The executor of her last will and testament is David’s youngest son Evan
James who has been, for the past eleven years, responsible for her maintenance since
his father’s passing in 1739. David’s eldest son, Thomas James, is one of those
charged with the final accounting of her estate. Because of her collection of Welsh
language books, it is quite likely that Jane too was born in Wales and spoke the
Welsh language. She appears to have been very generous with the resources left her
by her late husband as the final accounting of her estate reveals she had made multiple
loans to various individuals that remained unpaid at the time of her passing.
The pertinent documents concerning Jane’s final estate are as follows:
Abstract of the Last Will and Testament of Jane James of Radnor, January 19, 1750.
Recorded on Page 519 of the Abstract of Wills and Administrations of Chester County,
Jane James Radnor
January 19, 1750/1. January 30, 1750 J. 348
To nephew Joseph David £1. To David son of Isaac James 10/. To Sarah Thomas my
step daughter best apparel. To Mary daughter of Evan Davis £1. To Susanna Margaret
& David Davis £1 each. Remainder to Evan James who is Executor. Test. Signed I.
Witnessed Rees Thomas. Evan David.
The Last Will and Testament of Jane James (January 19, 1750/1)
Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Will Book J, Page 348
I Jane James of Radnor in he County of Chester and Province of Pennsylvania being
sick and weak in body but of a sound disposing memory considering the uncertainty
of this life and that it is appointed to die am desirous to settle my temporal estate
in manner following.
First: I will and devise that my dust debts and funeral expenses be paid and discharged
by my executor hereafter named.
ITEM, I give unto nephew Joseph Davis one pound.
ITEM, I give David James son of Isaac James ten shillings.
ITEM, I give Isaac James one rug and two best blankets.
ITEM, I give Sarah Thomas my Step Daughter the best suit of my wearing apparel.
ITEM, I give Mary Davis the daughter of Evan David one pound.
ITEM, I give Isaac Davis one pound.
ITEM, I give Susana Davis one pound.
ITEM, I give Margaret Davis one pound.
ITEM, I give David Davis one pound.
ITEM, I give John Davis Minister one pound.
ITEM, I give Owen Thomas Minister one pound.
ITEM, I give one pound towards repairing the graveyard where I shall be buried.
ITEM, I give Evan James the remainder of my effects whom I appoint and nominate Executor
of last will and testament and do hereby revoke all other will or wills made by me
ratifying and confirming this to be my last will and testament.
In witness thereof I have unto set my hand & seal this nineteenth day of January
in the year of our Lord one Thousand seven hundred and fifty. Signed sealed and
published and declared by the said Jane James to be her last will and testament.