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David James (circa 1669-1739) of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania

An Analysis of Past and Current Research by Larry P. James, J.D., LL.M.

 

December 10, 2005; revised January 3, 2006; October 15, 2006

 

1.  Research on James family history prior to 1663:

 

What we know of James family history occurring prior to 1663 comes from the work of Steven B. James of Pittsburgh, Kansas and an archivist by the name of R. Morgan who in 1986 was employed by the Powys County Council Library Headquarters in Llandrindod Wells, Wales. In February of 1986 Steven B. James made contact with Mr. Morgan and corresponded with the archivist concerning ancient James family history.  From the work of these two men we have learned that Powys County, Wales, as it is referred to today is the amalgamation of several former Welsh counties or “shires” that were consolidated during the past 100 years.  The County of Radnor or “Radnorshire” as it had been previously known earlier in the century was absorbed into the County of Powys.  At the request of Steven James, archivist R. Morgan began examining the surviving property records from a bundle of deeds formerly belonging to the Radnor County Council.  Mr. Morgan reported to Steven that there appeared to be three generations of James residing in Radnorshire prior to 1680 including a progenitor by the name of “James David” and two sons named “David James” and “Thomas James.”   Mr. Morgan was also able to identify property records relating to David James of Glascwm, a village within Radnorshire, in the period of 1637 to 1680.  According to these Radnorshire property records there were two children associated with David James:  “John James” and an unnamed daughter. There was only one child identified in these records associated with Thomas James.  That child is simply referred to as “James.”

 

The David James mentioned in Mr. Morgan’s report appears to have first been married in 1637 to an “Elizabeth Thomas” who is the mother of the unnamed daughter and then again in 1661 to a “Katherine Prosser” who is the mother of John James.  Neither of these women appears to be the “Margaret” who would later be mentioned as traveling to America in 1682 with our ancestor David James.  The Margaret who is identified as traveling to America in 1682 with our ancestor was reported by Thomas Allen Glenn on page 178 of his 1911 work, Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania to be “Margaret Mortimer.”  Mr. Morgan’s research raises the question of whether there was more than one David James residing in Radnorshire prior to 1682.  If the David James reported in the property records reviewed by Mr. Morgan is the same David James who came to Pennsylvania in 1682 then he would have been married three times upon his arrival in Pennsylvania.  Because the David James identified in Radnorshire by Mr. Morgan was previously married in 1637, presumably at the age of maturity, he would have been in excess of 63 years of age at the time of his passage.

 

In February of 1985, James family researcher Miriam Bertelson of Fremont, California would speculate that our ancestor David James who arrived in 1682 with wife Margaret Mortimer was already a grandparent of mature age at the time of his arrival.  Ms. Bertelson’s speculation, however, was not based upon the research conducted by Steven B. James and archivist R. Morgan conducted a year later.  Rather, Ms. Bertelson’s speculation as to the age of David James upon his arrival in 1682 was based upon inconsistencies she observed in the James family oral history recorded by Isabella Batchelder James in 1874.  One must keep in mind that the voyage across the Atlantic in 1682 lasted for two months and required considerable stamina.  There was no electricity, fresh food or water.  Those boarding the vessel in Bristol were required to bring their own provisions with them.  Such a voyage was ill advised for the elderly or sick.  Disease was common during the transatlantic trip and passengers ran the risk of contracting scurvy and small pox as occurred on the ship “Welcome” when it carried William Penn to the New World.  Nevertheless, women traveled pregnant, babies were born and some died during the passage.

 

 

2.  Research on James family history 1663 to 1682:

 

In 1753 a man by the name of Joseph Besse published a book in London chronicling the persecution of Quakers living in Wales prior to the Act of Toleration proclaimed by King William III of England in 1689.  The short title of this book is “A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers.”  Included in these chronicles are accounts of resident Quakers of Radnorshire being arrested and imprisoned because of their refusal to take the oath of allegiance to the Church of England.  Besse mentions the name of “David James” among 22 other Radnorshire residents thus persecuted in January of 1663.  Other names, which appear besides David James, include “Evan Oliver” and “David Meredith.”  These names are significant and play a further role in James family history post 1682.  No genealogies of these individuals are given, however, in Besse’s work so there is no way to confirm exactly who they were, if indeed, there were multiple individuals of the same name residing in Radnorshire during this time.

 

Isabella Batchelder James, the chronicler of James family oral history mentioned above, was the wife of the famous bryologist Thomas Potts James who was born in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania on September 1, 1803 upon the land settled by the James family in 1682 and died in 1882.  In 1874, Isabella James, or “Mrs. Thomas Potts James” as she was referred to in literary circles, published her genealogical treatise on the history of Thomas Potts, Junior, a man whose family had significant ties to such revolutionary historical figures as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.  Although her treatise was devoted largely to the history of the Potts family of Pennsylvania, the family of her husband’s mother Henrietta Potts, Isabella did use the occasion to chronicle the oral family history of her husband’s father, Isaac James (1777-1874) of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania.  In her prelude to the James family oral history Isabella made reference to Besse’s work mentioned above and reported that the David James mentioned in A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers was the ancestor of her husband who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682.  Isabella did not report how she was able to corroborate this information but did plainly report that her husband, Thomas Potts James, was the “great, great, grandson” of the David James who arrived in 1682.  To prove the fact of her husband’s lineage, Isabella reported that she and her husband were in possession of the two indentures signed by her husband’s great, great, grandfather David James in Welshpoole, County of Montgomery, Wales in June of 1682.  These indentures gave David James “rights” to the land he settled later that same year in Pennsylvania, then referred to as the “Welsh Tract.”  Isabella even quoted from the text of these indentures in her book.  

 

Although Isabella was able to prove her husband’s lineage by reference to documentation in her husband’s possession, she did not report being in possession of any evidence that would have proved that the David James who arrived in 1682 was the same David James mentioned in Besse’s work of 1753 beyond the James family oral history that she chronicled.  The present location of David James’ original indentures is unknown.  Interestingly, Isabella did publish a lithograph copy of the signature of David James as it appeared on the 1682 indentures in an appendix of her book.  Isabella also transcribed the marriage certificate of David’s son Evan James who married Margaret Jones in June of 1739.  Presumably, Isabella had access to the original of this document, which was also signed by David James in June of 1739.  Thus, Isabella was in the unique position, whether she realized it or not, to compare the signature specimens of the David James who arrived in 1682 and the David James who died in 1739.  A great mystery remains why she did not take notice of this or mention it in her 1874 work.  Had she done so then, the future issue of whether the David James who arrived in 1682 was the same David James who died in 1739 may never have arisen in the first place.  But then again, perhaps the evidence was so obvious to her to begin with she felt in unnecessary to discuss.  

 

Isabella’s work was significant for several important reasons.  It was the first chronicle of our James family genealogy.  To her credit, Isabella took the time to document the genealogy of her husband Thomas Potts James and reported that he was a direct lineal descendant of the David James who arrived in 1682.  All other James family genealogies have their genesis in her work.  Isabella reported her husband Thomas Potts James’ genealogy to be thus:  David James (who arrived in 1682 and died in 1739); the father of Evan James (who married Margaret Jones on June 8, 1739, who donated a parcel to the Radnor Methodist Church in 1783 and who died in 1794); the father of Griffith James (who died in 1812 and who’s tombstone is located at the Radnor Methodist Church); the father of Isaac James (born January 28, 1777 and died 1874 who’s tombstone is also located at the Radnor Methodist Church); the father of Thomas Potts James (born September 1, 1803 and died February 22, 1882).  This James family genealogy remained unquestioned from 1874 through 1977.  

 

Isabella’s work is also significant in that she transcribed excerpts from two very important historical documents in her husband’s possession, namely the indentures to the rights to land purchased by David James in 1682.  She also transcribed the complete text of the certificate of removal issued to David James by the Radnorshire Men’s Meeting on July 20, 1683 following his arrival in Pennsylvania, and, the marriage certificate of David’s son Evan James on the occasion of his wedding to Margaret Jones on June 8, 1739.  Finally, Isabella left us a very important clue as to the identity of our ancestor David James who arrived in 1682.  You see, Isabella was something of collector of autographs, that is to say, she had a penchant for colleting signature specimens.  In her 1874 book, Memorial of Thomas Potts, Junior, Isabella provides literally dozens of lithograph copies of signature samples obtained from various ancestors and members of the Potts family.  And in an appendix appearing on page 392 of her work Isabella recorded a lithographic specimen of the signature of David James as it appeared on the 1682 indentures.  This signature specimen of David James remains the only tangible link to the identity of our ancestor who arrived in 1682.    

 

Nevertheless, the work of Isabella James in 1874 leaves us today with a few unresolved historical dilemmas.  For example, a legitimate question to ask is whether Isabella ever traveled from her residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Devon, Pennsylvania to visit the grave of her husband’s great, great grandfather David James.  For had she done so, she would have observed that David’s tombstone indicates his death occurred in 1739 at the age of “70” years.  According to his tombstone David James was born on or about 1669.  So how could David James, the Radnorshire Quaker who arrived in 1682 as identified by his certificate of removal dated July 20, 1683 be both the great, great grandfather of Isabella’s husband, and at the same time, be David James, the Radnorshire Quaker who was reported persecuted by Besse in 1663?  Did Isabella know more about her husband’s line than she reported?  This is the first historical conundrum that appears in James family history.  Other puzzling questions include how David James could have been born in 1669 and then immigrate to America with a wife (Margaret) in 1682?  David would only have been 13 or 14 years old?

 

From these historical issues two separate theories concerning the identity of the David James who arrived in 1682 would eventually emerge, but not until 1977.  The first theory or the “One David Theory” as it would eventually be termed holds to the idea that the genealogy of Thomas Potts James as reported by Isabella James in 1874 is sound.  The One David Theory, however, implies that Isabella’s assertion that the David James who arrived in 1682 was persecuted in 1663 for being a Quaker is a mistake and that the reference made by Besse to a persecuted Radnorshire Quaker by the name of David James in 1663 was either an earlier generation or another individual altogether.  Likewise, the One David Theory calls into question the accuracy of the age of David James given at the time of his death in 1739.  The second theory to eventually emerge in 1985 or the “Two Davids Theory” holds to the idea that Isabella’s report that the David James who arrived in 1682 was indeed the persecuted Radnorshire Quaker mentioned by Besse in 1663.  The Two Davids Theory also implies, however, that the genealogy of Thomas Potts James as reported in Isabella’s 1874 work was in error and that the David James who arrived in 1682 must have been separated from the David James who died in 1739 by another generation between the two given the divergence in ages.

 

 

3.  Research on James family history 1682 to 1718:

 

With the above information as a backdrop, we can turn our attention to what we have learned about the David James who arrived in 1682 since Isabella James’ work in 1874.  He was undoubtedly a Quaker.  That appears to be clear based upon the certificate of removal he presented to the Radnor Monthly Meeting shortly after his arrival with wife Margaret and daughter Mary.  We know he acquired rights to land in Radnor Township while still in Wales and boarded a ship called the Bristol Factor captained by Roger Drew late in the summer of 1682 under a certificate of passage belonging to Evan Oliver.  He then proceeded directly to Radnor Township upon his arrival in Upland (a.k.a., Philadelphia) on October 28, 1682.  This we know thanks to the work of Marion Balderston in her essay, “William Penn’s Twenty-Three Ships” published by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania in Volume 23, No. 2 of The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine in 1963.  There appears to be no dispute to these facts.  David James was also given two separate “lots” in downtown Philadelphia, incident to his purchase of rights to land in Radnor Township, situated off of Walnut Street between 5th and 6th Street identified as lots Nos. 11 and 15.  We know this from Charles Browning’s essay appearing in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 40 entitled “The State House Yard, And who Owned it First After William Penn.”  

 

 We also know that when David James arrived in 1682, William Penn’s land commissioners had yet to perform their first surveys of the territories identified as the various townships.  Prior to 1697, dead reckoning was employed to locate boundaries, which were described in terms of “metes and bounds.”  In 1697 Penn’s land commissioners were charged with surveying the land and then “laying-out” the various parcels within the townships pursuant to the various “rights” purchased by the Welsh prior to their arrival.  The land referred to as Radnor Township was then squared off and a line was drawn on the first map right down the middle of the township.  This centerline was the first location proposed for a central thoroughfare through the township.  Due to geographic restrictions, however, this road never materialized.  Nevertheless, it served as a suitable line of demarcation from which to subdivide the township and “lay-out” its various parcels.

 

Isabella James reported in her book in 1874 that upon their arrival, David and his wife Margaret “probably went at once to Radnor, and settled on the land he had bought before coming over.”  An important question to ask at this point is where did she obtain that information?  She further states that, “They lived in a cave while building a log-house.” And note: “This dwelling is remembered by the husband [Thomas Potts James] of the writer as standing in his boyhood, though much decayed by time.”  Isabella went on to say that,

 

“the cave was excavated in the slope of the hill, and near a spring of fine water, celebrated before the coming of the white men as a favorite resting-place of the Indians on the direct path westward.  The immigrant David built a good stone house, on one end of which are the initials of DM and the date; but these have now been plastered over, and his descendants cannot remember the exact year, but know that is was early in 1700.”  

 

Thus Isabella identifies the source of her information as coming from the oral history passed down through the family to Thomas Potts James with first hand accounts originating from Thomas’ childhood thrown in for good measure.  Although her principle objective was to record the genealogy and family history of the Potts family, Isabella did a remarkable job recording notable historic events within the oral family tradition of the James family, as it existed prior to 1874.

 

Now, the results of the first surveys of Radnor Township place the parcel “laid-out” for David James south of the property the family is reported to be occupying after 1718.  As a matter of fact, a review of early maps of Radnor Township reveal that parcels were laid out in the south-east quarter of Radnor Township for three separate individuals, among others, within very close proximity of one another:  David Meredith, David James and Stephan ap Evan.  We know that David James arrived in this area in 1682.  Stephan ap Evan appears to have arrived here circa 1684 and David Meredith, although making several purchases, never occupied the lands laid out for him in Radnor at all.  What David Meredith purchased were “rights” to lands in Radnor.  Today we would refer to this as land speculation.  Paragraph 10 of William Penn’s “Concessions To the Province of Pennsylvania” put into effect on July 11, 1681 provides,

 

“That every man shall be bound to plant, or man, so much of his share of land as shall be set out and surveyed, within three years after it is so set out and surveyed, or else it shall be lawful for newcomers to be settled thereupon, paying to them their survey money, and they go up higher for their shares.”

 

All reports indicate that David Meredith never settled on the lands he purchased in Radnor.  Instead he settled in neighboring Whiteland Township where he lived the remainder of his life according to his last will and testament.  The question thus becomes, who settled the lands in Radnor laid out for David Meredith between 1682 and 1718 if David Meredith himself never occupied these lands?  Apparently no one, that is, other than the James family.  And according to Paragraph 10 of Penn’s Concessions To the Province of Pennsylvania, David James would have likely held a justifiable claim to the land he settled even if it turned out to lie just north of that parcel “laid-out” for him after the initial surveys were completed.  In any event, we know that a David James did indeed purchase the parcel “laid-out” for David Meredith in the year 1718.  We know that this David James was the father of our distant grandfather Thomas James and uncle Evan James and that the main body of this parcel was passed down through Evan’s line at least two more generations through Griffith James and Dr. Isaac James before being finally disposed of by the James family.  We are thus left with the following question:  supposing for a moment that the David James who arrived in 1682 was not the same David James who purchased David Meredith’s land in 1718, then what became of the David James who arrived in 1682?

 

 In 1890 the Pennsylvania Archives published Volume 19 of their Second Series.  In this work was reprinted Minute Book “G” entitled “Minutes of Property Commencing Ye 19th November 1701.”  Minute Book “G” contained the records of William Penn’s land commissioners left behind after his departure from America back to England in 1684 and represented a continuation of the work originally commenced by Captain John Blackwell who served as Penn’s deputy governor from 1688 to 1690.  The purpose of these minutes were to keep good records of Penn’s land holdings in anticipation of future “quitrents” to be charged the land holders in the Welsh Tract pursuant to the terms of their original indentures, the length of their occupancy and the desirability of their lands.  The first documented attempt by William Penn to collect these quitrents from the residents of his Welsh barony was reported in “The Blackwell Rent Roll of 1689.”  Portions of this work were preserved and published in Volume 23 of the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine in 1963.  Within Minute Book “G” there is mentioned a land transaction dated 1702 between Mary James, daughter of David, and Stephan ap Evan.  Remember him?  In this transaction David James is reported to have died and left behind him Mary James, his sole child and heiress, There is no date given as to David’s actual death, the transaction merely provides that Mary James is transferring her father’s “Right,” Title & Interest to the 200 acres purchased in Wales before coming to America.  

 

An important footnote to the 1702 transaction reported in Minute Book “G” is the follow-up to this transaction as reported by Charles Browning in his book “Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania” first published in 1912 appearing on page 228.  The reference provides, “The Land Commissioners found that [Stephan ap Evan] owed Mary James 11 Pounds, and rent-money for her land from in 1684, and ordered this all paid.”  This back rent money due indicates that Stephan Evan was literally on the land laid-out for David James, or at least a portion thereof, before he purchased it from Mary as far back as 1684.  So, if the land “laid-out” for the David James who arrived in 1682 was occupied by Stephan ap Evan as early as 1684, where then did the David James who arrived in 1682 actually settle if not on the property that would later be “laid-out” for David Meredith?  As we shall see later, David James did settle “somewhere” in Radnor Township after his arrival in 1682 because by 1689 he was paying quitrent to William Penn for his holdings “somewhere” in Radnor Township.

 

This report of David’s death in 1702 to William Penn’s land commissioners is noticeably absent from the work of Isabella James in 1874.  In fact, no James family historian appears to have given any credit to this report until 1977 when Katharine Hewitt Cummin surmised that the David James who purchased land from David Merideth in 1718 could not have been the same David James who arrived in 1682 because, as the report indicates, the David James who arrived in 1682 was dead by 1702.  This remark appearing on page 389 of Ms. Cummin’s work,  “A Rare and Pleasing Thing: Radnor Demography (1798) and Development” is the genesis of the Two Davids Theory.

 

The David James who arrived in 1682, however, also owned two city lots in Philadelphia incident to his holdings in Radnor.  These land holdings present another interesting footnote to the 1702 transaction reporting David’s untimely demise.   According to the Blackwell Rent Roll of 1689 as published in Volume 23, No. 2 of the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine in 1963, David James was charged quitrent on his city lots located along Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets.  These lots were adjacent to the lots owned by his brother-in-law Samuel Miles and good friend William Davis.  All three of these men were identified as “original purchasers” as of 1684 with 49 feet each of street frontage per lot.  Samuel Miles was charged retroactively 1 shilling per annum for five years of ownership of his lot.  David James was charged retroactively 2 shillings per annum for five years of ownership of his two lots.  And William Davis was charged retroactively 1 shilling per annum for five years of ownership of his lot.  Thus, in 1689 David James was required to pay 10 shillings of “quitrent” to William Penn.  

 

It is important to note here that “quitrents” charged by William Penn were not and should not be confused with a “tax.”  Taxes were assessed by the provincial assembly for the support of the government and were considered quite different from quitrents.  Quitrents were reserved by the “proprietor” for his own support and varied according to the terms of his original sales or lease.  It is undisputed that the landowners within the Welsh Tract deeply resented Penn’s efforts to charge quitrent after they had already purchased their land holdings from him.  Nevertheless, this was the nature of the barony that William Penn sought to establish.

 

There is more information concerning David’s city lots contained within Charles Browning’s essay “The State House Yard, And who Owned it First After William Penn.”  As noted above, the two lots owned by David James in downtown Philadelphia off of Walnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets were identified as lots Nos. 11 and 15.  According to Mr. Browning, Mary James sold her father’s interest in lot No. 11 in 1693 to a man by the name of David Powell.  And two years later in November 1695 Mary sold lot No. 15 to the same man.  These lots were later consolidated with the remaining lots on this block and purchased by the State of Pennsylvania for the location of the state capitol or “State House” as it was referred.  Today we are more familiar with the buildings of the Pennsylvania State House because it was there the Declaration of Independence was signed, that is, Independence Hall.  

 

It appears that Mary marketed her father’s 1682 property holdings by means of three separate transactions occurring over the course of nine years.  Did David’s daughter Mary take nine years to liquidate the holdings of her deceased father?  Or were these three separate interests given to Mary, one at a time, and sold off to provide financial support for her by her father?  If the 1702 report of David’s passing is true, these lot transactions indicate that his actual death occurred between 1689 when David first paid quitrent for his land holdings and 1693 when Mary began selling portions of these holdings.  Ironically, this is the exact period of time during which George Keith is responsible for leading a bitter schism between the Quakers of the Welsh Tract during which time many prominent Quakers either abandoned or were excommunicated from the denomination.  To compound matters, the fact that Stephan ap Evan occupied the lands laid-out for David James as early as 1684 suggests that David James died prior to that.  Thus, the 1702 report of David’s passing to Penn’s land commissioners represents another significant conundrum in colonial James family history.

 

There are a few more wrinkles in the history of David James’ land transactions of the late 17th Century that must also be taken into consideration.  It appears that in 1696 while David’s daughter Mary was disposing of her late father’s land holdings in Radnor and Philadelphia, the “late” David James, his brother-in-law Samuel Miles and good friend William Davis were off exploring frontier lands in the Susquehanna Valley and fending off indigenous Iroquois invaders from the Ohio Valley.  From the very early days of his proprietorship, William Penn paid close attention to the Susquehanna Valley near the Welsh Tract as a major area for development.  Strategically situated near a vital northern fur trade route, this region had great potential to augment William Penn’s economic base.  In 1690, William Penn published a tract entitled “Some Proposals for A Second Settlement in the Province of Pennsylvania,” announcing his intention to build a city in the Susquehanna Valley and offering land for sale along the Susquehanna River.  Any investor would receive, in addition to land on the river, a proportionate share in the proposed city, “to build a House or Houses upon.”  A detailed description of this development project was printed in 1986 in “The Papers of William Penn, Volume Three 1685-1700” published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

 

Although William Penn conceived the Susquehanna Settlement project in 1690, he was in no position to move forward with it until 1695.  That was the year Penn announced he would return to the province within two years and negotiate the treaties necessary to establish his right to the region.  The colonists responded positively.  In the spring of 1696, approximately 450 persons from Pennsylvania and the Lower Counties pledged to pay William Penn in the neighborhood of 4000 pounds for land on the Susquehanna.  Penn’s proposal was particularly popular with the residents of Chester County who lived closest to the projected site.  Among those residents of Radnor Township pledging financial resources to the development were  the brother-in-law of the David James who arrived in 1682, Samuel Miles, David’s good friend William Davis and David James himself.  Samuel pledged 6 pounds while William and David both pledged 5 pounds each.  As reported on page 672 of the “Papers of William Penn, Volume Three 1685-1700” the enthusiasm of these adventurers may have been dampened in June 1696 when Iroquois Indians from the Ohio Valley raided the Susquehanna region.  William Penn also failed to return to America by May of 1698 ultimately voiding the proposed subscriptions.  Despite the reports of his untimely demise, David James appears to have kept himself quite busy in the frontiers of the New World.

 

In 1911 Thomas Allen Glenn published his genealogical text, “Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania.”  In this book Glenn identifies the David James who arrived in 1682 with wife Margaret and daughter Mary.  Glenn appears to recognize the 1702 report suggesting that David’s daughter Mary was the executrix of her father’s will but does not acknowledge the report that David actually died prior to 1702.  Instead, Glenn identifies two other children of David James including “Evan” and “Rebecca.” Rebecca is a pivotal character in understanding David’s life because Rebecca married “John Miles” the son of Richard Miles, the brother of Samuel Miles, the brother-in-law… of David James.  Glenn’s recognition of this relationship in 1911 is important because he identifies Rebecca James as the daughter of the David James who arrived in 1682.  The most critical fact of all is that “both” Rebecca and John Miles are named in the last will and testament of the David James who purchased land from David Meredith in 1718 and died in 1739.  Interestingly “Old William Davis, David’s friend and co-adventurer of 1696 was also mentioned in his will of 1739.  Glenn’s report of the later children of David James thus challenged, if not directly, the veracity of the 1702 report of David’s passing as record in Minute Book “G” of William Penn’s land commissioners.

 

Thomas Allen Glenn is also the individual who first reported that Margaret James who married Samuel Miles in June 1682 in Wales before arriving in Radnor Township in 1683 was the sister of the David James who arrived in 1682.  As noted above, this James-Miles connection is very important in our family’s early history and critical to understanding the relationship between the David James who arrived in 1682 and the David James who purchased the property of David Meredith in 1718 and later died in 1739.  According to Glenn, Samuel and Margaret Miles settled first in Philadelphia but later moved to Radnor Township.  Their first-born daughter Thamer James Miles born October 21, 1687 was reported to be the first white child born in Radnor Township.  Although Samuel Miles was a Quaker upon his arrival to the Welsh Tract he was baptized in the Seventh Day Baptist Church of Providence on August 9, 1698.  Samuel’s baptism occurred three years after the Act of Toleration and marked the beginning of the conversion of the Miles family from Quakers to Baptists.

 

Samuel Miles was also the brother of Richard Miles who arrived in Radnor Township in 1684.  Richard was originally a Quaker who married Sarah Evans in Radnor on June 28, 1688.  Richard was among those Quakers who joined with George Keith and departed from the main body of Friends in 1691 over the issue of “visible sacraments” in what became known as the “Keithian Schism.”  By 1707 George Keith had completely abandoned his Quaker followers and joined the Anglican Church.  Both the families of Samuel Miles and Richard Miles are reported as departing from their Keithian division of the Quaker Church prior to that and counted thereafter as among the founders of the Great Valley Baptist Church located in present day Devon, Pennsylvania.  Richard Miles became a Baptist himself shortly before 1701.  Richard’s home, located in the heart of Radnor Township, is where the first Baptist congregation met prior to the construction of their Church in 1711.  Richard Miles, Samuel Miles, William Davis and the David James who arrived in 1682 were all contemporaries, that is to say, among the first generation to arrive in Radnor Township from Wales.

 

When the Great Valley Baptist Church was formed in April 1711, Richard Miles, Sarah his wife, and their children were among the constituent members.  The David James who purchased land from David Meredith in 1718 and died in 1739 is buried in the cemetery of this Church and bequeathed a tidy sum to the construction of a wall around it.  This wall stands to this day.  David’s sons Thomas and Evan were both baptized there in 1733 and married two daughters of Griffith John: Mary and Margaret in the same Church.   This information is well known among James family historians and frequently discussed.  What is seldom discussed, however, is the fact that John Miles, the son of Richard Miles married Rebecca James, the daughter of the David James identified by Thomas Glenn as arriving in 1682, and, is named along with her husband in the will of the David James who died in 1739.

 

Interpreting the 1702 report of David James’ demise thus presents an interesting challenge.  One must consider the origin of this report and keep in mind that the 1702 report of David’s passing comes from a secondary source and is actually an anecdotal account of a fact that is not directly related to the main purpose of the text within which it is recorded.  That is to say, Minute Book “G” of William Penn’s Land Commissioners was meant to be a record of transactions and holdings of landowners for the purpose of a future assessment of quitrents by William Penn upon the residents of the Welsh Tract barony.  Its main purpose was not to record the deaths of Welsh Tract residents.  We know for a fact that the Quakers seldom erected tombstones for their deceased and frequently left graves unmarked, as was their custom.  Nevertheless, they did keep fairly good records of those within the Monthly Meeting who had died.  There is, in fact, no account of David James dying between 1682 and 1702 recorded in either the Radnor Monthly Meeting Records or among the Haverford Monthly Meeting Records, these records being frequently referred to interchangeably.  If David James died a Quaker prior to 1702, there is no other recorded source of this event other than the reference made in Minute Book “G” by William Penn’s land commissioners.  But of course the question remains, why record his death in the first place?  Would a report of David James’ earlier death have relieved Mary of some previously existing obligation at the time of the sale of her father’s land?  Could David have disappeared for some time after 1696 and been presumed killed while battling Iroquois Indians in the territory of the Susquehanna Settlement?

 

Despite the 1702 report of David’s earlier passing, the genealogy of Thomas Potts James remained accepted James family history for over 100 years from the time it was first published in 1874.  Charles Browning who first took notice of the 1702 report of David’s death in his 1912 work “Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania” did not challenge the genealogy of Thomas Potts James in light of this information.  Nor did Thomas Glenn whose work “Merion in the Welsh Tract” clearly indicates that he too was aware of the 1702 report of David’s passing.  No, the genealogy of Thomas Potts James remained in tact and undisputed until 1977 when Katharine Hewitt Cummin wrote her treatise on the early demographic history of Radnor Township entitled, “A Rare and Pleasing Thing: Radnor Demography (1798) and Development.” This work, published by Owlswick Press of Philadelphia was an historical study of Radnor based principally upon title searches conducted upon each parcel within Radnor Township.  Katharine Cummin’s challenge to the genealogy of Thomas Potts James, as noted above, appears on page 389 of her book and took the following form:  

 

“To Mrs. Thomas Potts James, daughter-in-law of Isaac James, there was no question of the [James’] house’s antiquity when she wrote the Memorial of Thomas Potts Jr. (Cambridge, 1874). She mentioned date stones hidden even in her day and assumed the first David James of Radnor ([parcel no.] 106) to have settled on the property in the 1680’s and to have fathered Evan James.  Since the first David James died before 1702 and Evan’s father bought land ([parcels] 97-105) in 1718 they cannot be identical, although possibly related.”  

 

 Despite the very thorough nature of Katharine Cummin’s work in “A Rare and Pleasing Thing,” she was not aware of “all” the land holdings belonging to either the David James who arrived in 1682 or the “second” David who purchased his parcel in Radnor in 1718.  For example, in her work Katharine quite rightly mentions the fact that the early inhabitants of Radnor Township owned “lots” in Philadelphia proper.  These urban lots accompanied the first purchases of land in Radnor Township.  What Katharine did not report in her book was the fact that the David James who arrived in 1682 owned two lots off of Walnut Street in Philadelphia between Fifth and Sixth Streets adjacent to the lots owned by his brother-in-law Samuel Miles and good friend William Davis.  Nor does Katharine appear to be aware of David James’ 1696 pledge for lands in the Susquehanna Settlement.  These transactions attributable to the David James who arrived in 1682 are absent from her work.

 

Likewise, Katharine Cummin was clearly aware that inhabitants of Radnor Township possessed additional holdings outside Radnor but was apparently unaware that the “second” David James who purchased his parcel from David Meredith in 1718 also owned another plantation in neighboring Upper Marion called “Small Springs.” Nowhere in her account does she mention the fact that on December 30, 1735, David James of Radnor, Yeoman and his wife Jane deeded to son Thomas James the Small Springs plantation in Upper Marion as recorded in Philadelphia Deed Book H on pages 12 and 283.  The question thus arises, had Katharine been aware of the full extent of David’s land holdings both before and after 1718, would she have arrived at the same conclusion?  And, given her lack of the full picture of David’s land holdings, how much weight do we assign her conclusion?

 

It is not difficult to imagine that when David James arrived in 1682 with wife Margaret and daughter Mary, it was extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the land purchased in Radnor Township given the fact that the land had not yet been surveyed and was sparsely populated.  Indeed, when Melchior Adam Pastorius arrived in Philadelphia in June of 1683 with his contingent of German Quakers there was notable trouble concerning the locations of the lands Pastorius had bought in London prior to his arrival, and as Isabella James reports on page 10 of her Memorial to Thomas Potts, “much interchanged of sentiment took place in the Latin and French tongue between Penn and Pastorius” leaving the Germans feeling aggrieved that there land did not extend to a navigable water source as originally promised to them.

 

According to the account described by Isabella James in “Memorial of Thomas Potts, Junior,” the first priority of the James family upon arrival in Radnor Township was locating shelter and a fresh source of water.  Shelter would have been sought on higher ground and a fresh source of water would have been sought in a location away from the swamps and stagnant water that were prevalent in Radnor in the late 1600’s.  Interestingly, the land eventually purchased by David James in 1718 possessed both of these geologic features, that is, a hill upon which was located both a cave for shelter and a fresh water spring frequented by the native Americans on their journeys through this land.  And to this day, sinkholes continue to be a problem within Radnor Township evidencing its marshy geologic past.
 

In her work “A Rare and Pleasing Thing,” Katharine Cummin did chronicle the transactions between David Meredith, Steven ap Evan, David James and Penn’s agents.  She appeared, however, to either ignore or miss the connection between these three men.  Instead of performing an analysis of the relationship between the holdings of these three individuals, she conducted a direct lineal title search on each parcel in Radnor.  Absent any intervening interests, Katherine appears to have simply assumed clear title directly back to each parcel’s source, William Penn.  For example, in her work Katharine chronicles the following transactions:  on March 24, 1687, 150 acres of lowland within the area that would later be laid out for David James pursuant to his indentures of 1682 and 1683 was sold to David Meredith by the agents of William Penn.  On March 26, 1689, the neighboring land to the north that David James appears to have settled in 1682 was sold to David Meredith by Penn’s agents. On May 20, 1691, the 150 acres that would be laid out for David James pursuant to his 1682 and 1683 indentures which was sold to David Meredith in 1687 by Penn’s agents was sold by David Meredith to Stephan ab Evan.  Thus, David Meredith probably received the proceeds from the sale of land that would eventually be laid out for David James.  On October 22, 1702, Mary James, the daughter of David James also sold her right to the same 200 acres that had been the subject of her father’s indentures in 1682 and 1683 to Stephan ap Evan.  It appears, from Katharine’s work that Stephan ap Evan had to purchase this land twice - quite possibly because two separate men had a claim to it.  Thus Stephen ap Evan ended up with all the land that would be laid out for David James and subject to his indentures of 1682 and 1683 with David Meredith arguably receiving the proceeds from the sale of at least part of this land.  Finally, on April 17, 1718, David James purchased the 200 acres immediately to the north that was sold to and eventually laid out for David Meredith - land possessing the same geographic features as those described to be the homestead of the David James who arrived in 1682.  This continuous rearrangement and reshuffling of ownership interests in the land of southeastern Radnor Township is precisely what one would expect to find as the actual locations of the various parcels and their boarders were more clearly defined.   Katharine also acknowledged that David James and Stephen ap Evan were the only two of these three men to have actually settled in south-eastern Radnor as David Meredith reportedly resided outside the township.

 

As noted above, Katharine Cummins’ challenge in 1977 to the genealogy of Thomas Potts James with the assertion that the David James who arrived in 1682 could not be identical to the David James who purchased David Meredith’s land in 1718 represents the genesis of the Two Davids Theory and by 1985 led to a whole new debate concerning the early genealogy of the James family in Radnor Township, a debate that had remained otherwise nonexistent since 1874.  By the mid 1980’s a few James family genealogists were actively searching for what was believed to be the “missing link” between the two Davids, or, evidence that the David who arrived in 1682 was the father of the David who purchased land in 1718.  Avid genealogists began considering whether the David James mentioned in Besse’s 1753 work may have been the father or grandfather of the David James who purchased land in Radnor in 1718.  Likewise the discrepancy between “David the Quaker” and “David the Baptist” was questioned.  And new credence was given to the old 1702 report of David’s death.  All these seemingly and heretofore unanswerable questions gave birth to the speculation that another early settler of Radnor Township by the name of “James James,” a gentleman who died in 1708 may have been the “missing link” between the two Davids.  That is to say, some James family genealogists began to speculate that the David James who arrived in 1682 was the father of the James James of Radnor who died in 1708, who in turn was the father of the David James who purchased the land of David Meredith in 1718.  Keep in mind that prior to 1977, this “new” genealogy of Thomas Potts James simply did not exist.

 

The first individual to assert the new genealogy of Thomas Potts James was Miriam Bertelson of Fremont, California.  In February 1985 Miriam wrote a letter to Nancy Spears, Librarian of the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.  A copy of her letter has been reprinted in the work of David A. James of Columbia, Missouri entitled “The James Family History, Volume 1” submitted to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in 2002.  In her letter Miriam reports that for several years she had been doing research on many of her Quaker ancestors.  Miriam was undoubtedly familiar with Katharine Cummins’ 1977 critique of Isabella James work in the Biography of Thomas Potts, Jr.  Miriam is also the first to take notice of the discrepancy between Isabella’s assertions that the David James mentioned in Besse’s 1663 account of Quaker persecution in Wales did not match the supposed year of his birth as derived from his reported age at the time of his death.  That is to say, the tombstone of David James reads that he was 70 years old at the time of his death in July 1739.  Based upon this discrepancy Miriam concluded that the David and Margaret James who arrived in 1682 were already “grandparents of mature age” when they came to Pennsylvania.  From that conclusion Miriam then further concluded that James James of Radnor Township who died in 1708 was “probably” the son of David and Margaret and the father of the “second” David James who must have been 13 years old at the time of his arrival in 1682.  

 

Unfortunately, Miriam reported no facts to support her conclusions, only her perceptions based upon the discrepancies she observed in Isabella James’ 1874 work and the assumptions documented in Katharine Cummin’s 1977 work.  Miriam prepared a chart depicting the descendents of David and Margaret James framing this “new” genealogy for Thomas Potts James and submitted it along with her letter to the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College where the original may be found today.  Many genealogists, new to James family history, located Miriam’s work through various sources and began extrapolating several new James family connections as a result.  By the early 1990’s there was clearly two schools of thought concerning the genealogy of Thomas Potts James.  Many family historians continued to view Isabella James’ work of 1874 as generally reliable while others began to gravitate to the new genealogy of Thomas Potts James as described by Miriam Bertelson in 1985.  Several of those gravitating to the new genealogy appear to have been particularly concerned about establishing the purity of our family’s Quaker heritage.  

 

Under the new genealogy of Thomas Potts James, or the Two Davids Theory as it is referred to, the first two generations of James ancestors are Quaker from their early beginnings to the time of their death.  This view of James family history is particularly alluring to those within the family who value our Quaker roots and those with strong ties to the Society of Friends today.  On the other hand, the original genealogy of Thomas Potts James suggests that our James family ancestor abandoned the Quaker movement late in the 17th Century and became Baptists – a decision not particularly valued by descendents seeking stronger ties to the Society today.  Regardless of the motivation, the fact remains that this new perspective on the genealogy of Thomas Potts James developed subsequent to the work of Katharine Cummins in 1977.

 

By 1996 the debate over the genealogy of Thomas Potts James was formally recognized and characterized as the “One David” verses the “Two Davids” theory.  Susan Allyn Clark of Broomfield, Colorado in her work, “Samuel (1754-1812) and Hannah (Smith) James: A Quaker Family” succinctly characterized the status of the “Two Davids” theory on page 303 of her work when she wrote, “ James James is the supposed son of David and his wife Margaret, although proof has not yet been found…”  Susan is the first James family genealogist to closely examine the life of James James in an effort to find evidence that would support the “Two Davids” theory first espoused by Miriam Bertelson in 1985.

 

Susan Clark began her research of James James by examining the traditional authorities mentioned above: Thomas Glenn’s “Marion in the Welsh Tract” published in 1896, and “Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania” published in 1911 as well as Charles Browning’s, “Welsh Tract of Pennsylvania, The Early Settlers” published in 1912.  From these works Susan was able to deduce that James James came from Radnorshire, Wales to Radnor Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania and was present in 1688 when his wife “Janet” died and was buried in Haverford, Pennsylvania in May of that year.  Susan was also able to determine that James James was a guest at the Quaker marriage of Richard Miles and Sara Evans in June of 1688.  This connection to Richard Miles is of immense importance as discussed further below and was established prior to Richard Miles’ departure from the Society of Friends.  According to her research, James James purchased 300 acres in Radnor Township from Magdalen Kinsey in November 1690.  This parcel was located north west of the parcel purchased by David James in 1718.  James James remarried in September 1692 a woman by the name of Jane Edwards and died in August of 1708 after selling his land in Radnor Township to Lewis Walker in 1698.  Most tantalizing of all, James James mentions a son by the name of “David” in his will of August 18, 1708.  The will of James James was entered into probate shortly thereafter.  From the relative close proximity of the two parcels and the mention of a son by the name of “David” in his will comes the implication relied upon by “Two Davids” theorists that James James was the father of the second David James.  As Susan explains on page 305 of her work, “It has not yet been proven that the David James mentioned in James James’ will is our David James, but research is continuing.”

 

As noted above, in 2002 David A. James of Columbia, Missouri submitted his work, “James Family History – Volume 1” to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City further asserting the “Two Davids Theory” and reporting that the David James who arrived in 1682 was, in fact, the father of James James of Radnor Township who died in 1708, who in turn was the father of David James who purchased land in Radnor Township from David Meredith in 1718 and died in 1739.  His source, of course, is Miriam Bertelson’s letter to Swarthmore College written in 1985.  David A. James’ contribution to the “Two Davids” theory is the assertion that James James’ Quaker wife of 1692, Jane Edwards, is the biological mother of the “second” David James who died in 1739.  This, however, is an unlikely scenario unless James James’ Quaker bride gave birth at least 13 years prior to matrimony.  Nevertheless, the 2002 work of David A. James is immensely beneficial as it illustrates the ultimate enigma contained within the “Two Davids Theory.”  That is, if Jane Edwards is indeed the biological mother of the David James mentioned in the will of James James who died in 1708, as reported in the 2002 work of David A. James, how can the David James who purchased land from David Meredith in 1718 and died in 1739 be the same individual when the David James who purchased land from David Meredith in 1718 and died in 1739 was born at least 13 years prior to the marriage of James James and Jane Edwards in 1692?

 

For those James family historians, such as myself, who maintain the original “One David Theory” the question remains: what became of the David James mentioned in the will of James James if he is not the same David who purchased land from David Meredith in 1718 and died in 1739?  Interestingly, clues to this David James’ life are located, of all places, in South Carolina.  It appears that within three years of James James selling his parcel in Radnor Township to Lewis Walker in 1698 a group of Welsh Baptists immigrated to Pennsylvania from Pembroke and Caermarthen.  This group of 16 met with the Baptists who were already meeting on a regular basis in and around Philadelphia but found they had a fundamental disagreement with the Baptists who had preceded them over the issue of “Laying-on-of-hands.”  Unable to resolve this issue with the main body of Baptists already present they settled in the vicinity of the Welsh Tract and remained largely scattered until 1703 when this new group was able to erect a Church in New Castle County along the Delaware.  This Church they named the Welsh Tract Baptist Church.  By 1703 this group of Baptists had been able to add 20 new members to their denomination from amongst the Welsh residing near Philadelphia.  

 

On July 22, 1706 members of the congregation of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church met at the home of Richard Miles in Radnor Township for the purpose of coming to terms with the principles espoused by the main body of Baptists already present in the Welsh Tract in hopes of finding unity between the two bodies.  At this gathering an agreement was entered into and put into writing in which principles common to the two denominational groups were identified.  The agreement contained eight founding principles or “rules” of the Baptist faith that both groups identified as common ground and were willing to adhere to.  This landmark agreement has been preserved and recorded amongst the records of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church.  Among those members of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church who signed this founding document were none other than Richard Miles’ old friends James James and Jane James.  

 

In 1737, a contingent from the congregation of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church migrated south to the Pee Dee River in South Carolina to establish a new Welsh Baptist settlement.  This settlement was named “Welsh Neck” after the pioneers’ former residence and later gave birth to the Welsh Neck Baptist Church.  Among those of the congregation that pioneered this new settlement were James James, Esq, his wife and sons Abel, Daniel, Philip, and their wives and “David James” with his wife.  Records of the Welsh Neck Baptist Church indicate that shortly after their arrival, the founding member, James James, died.  Although it appears fairly clear from the research of Susan Clark that James James of Radnor died in 1708, it also appears fairly clear that both he and his wife Jane were at the historic meeting of Baptist unification on July 22, 1706 attended by members of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church.  The question arising from these interesting facts, of course, is whether the James James, Esq. and David James of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church that pioneered the Welsh Neck settlement in 1737 were the sons of the James James who died in 1708?  Records of the Welsh Neck Baptist Church report that this David James “had a survey of 400 acres in 1738 in the Welsch Track in James's Neck west on the Peedee [South Carolina] and north on Daniel Dovenal’s land.” The records of the Welsh Neck Baptist Church also report that the settlement struggled financially during its early days but eventually prospered and gave birth to many more Baptist Churches in South Carolina.

 

Whether one adheres to the original genealogy of David James recorded by Isabella James in 1874 or subscribes to the revised genealogy proposed by Miriam Bertelson in 1985 one cannot help but be impressed with the proud heritage we have been given.  Clearly our family came to this country from Wales over 300 years ago in search of religious freedom with the hope of a better future.  It is just as clear that the James family contributed substantially to the foundations of our nation and can be considered among its first European inhabitants.  Their involvement in the Society of Friends and Baptist Church stands as a testament to their faith and love of Christ.  Our ancestors embarked on a perilous journey, faced unthinkable hardship, proved their resilience, prospered and thrived.  We owe our very lives to their tenacious spirit and fierce independence.  What is most amazing of all is the foresight they have given to us.  Their past provides us with perspective and insight and allows us to see how far we can go by revealing to us how far we have come.