Check out  the History of Franklin County, Virginia " Miss Essie" Wade Smith's.  Miss Essie was a local school teacher who was rich in family history stories. Get this book for $25.00 + 4.00 S&H.



"Genealogists confuse the dead and irritate the living"

 This site was created for everyone to share information about genealogy and history of Franklin County.  Our goal is to preserve and promote the genealogy and history of Franklin County families, past, present and future.

Please feel free to participate in the site, we welcome comments and suggestions as well as any information or questions you would like to share at no cost to you.

You are invited to advertise your books, new and used, pertaining to Franklin and other Virginia counties and the Civil War in general for sale at no charge.

The Franklin County Court House was recently remodeled and Teresa Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court has created a "genealogy room", a very pleasant place to work.

 The Franklin County Library has a genealogy room, named in memory of Gertrude Mann in recognition of her work on local genealogy and history.  Dorothy Hodges is the librarian in charge of this room.  You may contact Dorothy at


"Trees without roots fall over"

Franklin County was created in 1786 from Bedford and Henry Counties. The County seat Rocky Mount was determined to be the exact center of the County. In Virginia there is not only a county named Franklin but also a city named Franklin and the city is not in Franklin County, it is somewhere near Richmond. The same situation for Henry County and the village of Henry, on the Franklin/Henry line, is found in Franklin County.

It has been documented that the following well-known individuals have roots in Franklin County:

Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson

Rachel Donelson Jackson, wife of President Andrew Jackson

Samuel Clemens, "Mark Twain"

Booker T. Washington

Reverend Marshall Wingfield

Joseph Hare the Bandit

General Jubal Anderson

Adam Clayton Powell, Sr.


"Genealogy without documentation is a fairy tale"

 The first marriage records found on microfilm for Franklin show only the Marriage Bond, the applications were not microfilmed and the actual license was given to the happy couple and very few exist today.  In 1853 the paperwork changed and a bond was no longer required. Again Franklin County did not microfilm all the documents related to the marriage.

 Some of the 1853-54 records were lost in a fire. The Library of Virginia may have copies on microfilm.

 There are no birth or death records for the state of Virginia prior to 1853 and there are no birth or death records between the 1896 and 1912. Only the cities of Hampden, Newport News, Norfolk and Richmond have birth and death records between 1896 and 1912.Many of us remember the phrase "Dot your I's  and cross your T's".  Be prepared, that came about because in the early records it is very difficult to tell an  "E" and an "L" from a "T".  Most writers did not dot their "I's" or cross their "T's".

The first "Blue Law" in Franklin County Court records reads as follows: "Know all men by  these present, that we, Thomas Crutcher, agent for James Callaway and Henry T. Callaway are held and firmly bound to Robert Brock, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the sum of $150, to which payment will and truly to be made to the said Robert Brock or his successors, we bind ourselves and everyone of us and everyone of our heirs, executors and administrators jointly and severally by these presents.  Witness our hands, and seals this 6th September, 1795.

"The condition of the above obligation is such that whereas Thomas Crutcher, agent for James Callaway, hath obtained a license to keep an ordinary in the county of Franklin, if therefore the said Thomas Crutcher doth constantly find and provide in his said ordinary, good wholesome and clean lodging and diet for travelers, and stablage, fodder and provinder, or pasturage and provinder, as the season shall require, for their horses and during the term of one year from the day of the sd date of these presents and from thence till next court held for the said county of Franklin, and shall not suffer or permit any unlawful gaming in his house, nor on the Sabbath day suffer any person to tipple and drink more than is necessary then this obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force".  (Signed) Henry T. Crutcher.

​Any time property was sold or transferred a married man was required to bring  his wife to court to sign away her dower rights.  If a wife is not mentioned in a deed that means the man was not married at that time.  It is a common thought today that women could not own property or have any rights in pioneer times but that is simply not true.  Especially during times of war or sickness the women were the ones who had the burden of the family and  other interests.

The Deed Book Indexes present particular problems for researchers because of the way the entries were made.  In the front of each volume is a chart showing how the names should have been entered but these rules were not always followed, especially when a page was completely covered.  The first two letters of the surname determined the page to be used but that was not always followed.  Pages with "red" numbers in the back of the volume were for entries that would not fit on the available pages and those pages are not in any kind of alphabetical order beyond the first letter of the surname.  A project to re-alphabetize these books is underway at the present time.

Even though there are separate volumes for Grantee and Grantor records these books were not necessarily cross-referenced.  Therefore, until the new Index is complete it will be necessary to check both books.

The actual Deed Books, with a couple exceptions, have index pages, most will be found in the front of the book, however, in a couple of the books the pages will be found in the back of the book.  Here again, the index in any particular book may not be in alphabetical order but the entries could be scattered on several pages.

The names in the large Grantee/Grantor books do not necessarily match up with the names as written in the Deed Books themselves.  Often abbreviations or initials were used for the index and many times the phrases "& al or et als" {and others} will be found, leaving out some of the names that are included in the deed.

The large volumes often show a name with a suffix such as Com'r {Commissioner}, Adm'r {Administrator}, Shff {Sheriff}, Po. Atty. {Power of Attorney) or Clerk {Clerk of Court}.  These are not  the names of the person that actually owned the property, but the name of the person in charge of the estate.

If a deed cannot be found for a particular person it would be a good idea to go to the documents pertaining to that person's will.  If a commissioner or administrator was designated that person's name might be found in the Deed Book Index.  In some cases there may be more than one entry for any given commissioner or administrator but it is worth the search to find the proper deed.

The Will Book Index {1786-1896} presented the same problem with names not being in alphabetical order and that has already been re-indexed.  Another problem with those books is that the entries for documents for one particular person could appear on several different pages.  This has been solved with the new Will Book Index.  It is important to copy all the documents that pertain to a certain person.  One important document that is very helpful is the "Settlement of Estate".  This document lists the payouts for the estate and will list the heirs by name.

Road Orders are found in the Common Law Books.  In every area of the county men were commissioned by the Court to survey a way for a road, create and maintain that part of the road that crossed their property.  There was no record of them receiving payment for this work and they could be fined by the Commonwealth if they did not keep the road in good repair.  There was a County Surveyor but he did not survey these roads that crossed personal property. One very important thing to remember - there could have been and often were individuals with the same name in the same area at the same time.


"A Piedmont Chronicle"
by Marshall Wingfield

The Governor of the colony  of Virginia and the Council, issued an order in 1623 that courts of record  be kept monthly in certain units of the Colony and that the Commanders of these places and such others as the Governor and Council might appoint, should be the Judges.  The Commanders were to be of the quorum and sentence was to be given by the major parties.  (See Hening Vol. 1)  The defendant sentenced by this court had the right of appeal to the Governor and the Council.

The quorum consisted of a select number of justices  of the peace, chosen for their superior knowledge and discretion.  This group had to be represented on the bench to constitute a regular court.  The Justices of the Monthly Court had jurisdiction over all civil cases not involving more than ten pounds.  One member  of the Council had to sit with such justices at all hearings.

An Act of 1642 required the Monthly Courts to reduce their sessions to six courts annually.  The name  was changed to County Courts and the justices were styled Commissioners of County Courts.  (See Hening Vol. 1).  These bi-monthly County Courts were held up to 1769 at which time they were again required to sit monthly.  They were set up by the appointing of eight or more citizens of the county, as commissioners.  Such commissioning was the function of the Governor and Council.  Four Commissioners, if one were of the quorum, constituted a court.  Such courts had jurisdiction over all cases in common law and in chancery, provided the amount involved was less than twenty-five pounds, or if the penalty for the crime charged was less than loss of life or outlawry.  Minor matters were adjudicable by a single justice.

The County Court had, in addition to its judicial functions, the authority to erect and repair the county court house; to contract for the construction of roads and bridges; or, in the absence of such contract, to procure labor for the construction of the same by drafting all able-bodied tithable males to perform a certain amount of work under the direction of a surveyor.  These courts also had the authority to clear the rivers of obstructions; to procession or "beat the bounds" of parishes; to license taverns; to recommend inspectors of tobacco; to designate places for tobacco inspections or warehouses; to designate landings along the rivers; to appoint constables; and to  nominate for Sheriff three of its own members, one of whom the Governor invariably appointed.  This County Court was actually a self-perpetuating body.  When a vacancy on the bench occurred, the remaining members would, at the next session of court name a man to fill the place and the Governor invariably confirmed him.  This court system existed until 1851, when the Constitutional Convention made the justices elective officers and provided certain compensation for their services.

The Constitution of 1869 abolished plurality of commissioners and provided for a County Court with a single judge.  Hugh Nelson was appointed (the) first judge in Franklin County.  He served until February, 1879.  Thomas B. Claiborne was appointed.  He held office until 1879.  In March, 1879, Thomas B. Claiborne was appointed and he served until 1883.  He was succeeded by George D. Peters, who was appointed February, 1884 and held the office until 1898.  In 1899, John P. Lee was appointed and he continued in office until 1904 when the Constitution of Virginia was changed and the circuit and county courts were consolidated.

After the adoption of the Federal Constitution in 1788 a High Court of Chancery was instituted and held at Richmond.  A single judge, elected by the General Assembly was instituted and held at Richmond.  A single judge, elected by the General Assembly, presided over this court.  In 1802, the State was divided into three chancery districts and a judge elected by the General Assembly for each district.  The State was later divided into four chancery districts and a judge elected for each by the General Assembly.  Courts were held at several places in the four districts.  This system continued until 1831.

District Courts of Law were established in Virginia shortly after the Revolution and a judge was elected by the General Assembly for each district.  Franklin County was embraced in the district composed of the counties of Bedford, Campbell, Pittsylvania and Henry. The first term of this court was held at New London, April 15th, 1789, with Judges Henry Tazewell and Edmund Winston presiding.  Later, the circuit, which was known as the seventh Judicial Circuit  Court, composed the counties of Franklin, Henry, Pittsylvania and Patrick and the City of Danville.  Subsequently Franklin County was taken from the seventh circuit and placed with Bedford County in what is known as the 30th Judicial Circuit.

The District Court continued until 1809 and was superseded by what was called the Superior Court of Law.  The judges in this system were required to sit twice a year in each county of their respective districts.  This system continued until 1831, when the chancery and law systems were merged into one and called Circuit Superior Courts of Law and Chancery.  In 1851 the name was changed to Circuit Courts and the election of judges placed in the hands of the voters of the several circuits.  This elective system was abolished by the Constitution of 1869 and the power to elect judges was returned to the General Assembly.  That provision was incorporated in the Constitution of 1903 and remains to this day  {ca.1935}.

A roster of Franklin County judges includes the following: Thomas Arthur, Thomas H. Bernard, J.L. Campbell, Thomas B. Claiborne, Peter H. Dillard, H.L. Ford, George H. Gilmore, Berryman Green, Moses Greer, Robert Hairston, E.J. Harvey, Swinfield {Hill}, Abram H. Hopkins, Hugh Innes, John P. Lee, Hugh Nelson, George D. Peters, Jonathan Richeson, Fleming Saunders, Peters Saunders, E.W Saunders, John Smith, Norman M. Taliaferro, Henry Tazewell, William Tredway, Robert White, S.G. Whittle, Gustavus A. Wingfield, Edmund Winston.

For a few years before and during the War Between the States, circuit court for Franklin County began on May 15th and October 15th.  The monthly term of the old County Court began on the first Monday of each month.  The quarterly term of the County and Corporation courts began on the first Mondays of March, June, August and November.

The first court held in Franklin County was composed of men known as General Justices.  It convened at the home of Colonel James Callaway on March 6, 1786.  Present: Peter Saunders, Thos. Arthur, Moses Greer, John Gipson, John Rentfro, John Smith and Swinfield Hill.  The last term of General Justices was held in January , 1870, with Robert Pasley, W.C. Mitchell and Thomas J. Forbes on the bench.  Hugh Nelson was the first Judge of the court under the new system.

The record of the first severe penalty assessed by a Franklin County Court reads as follows: "At a court held at Franklin Court House on Wednesday, the 15th of September, 1786, for the examination of Robert Edmonds and Rebecca Edmonds, his wife, who was committed on suspicion of stealing from Charles Draughton a squirrel skin purse and in it one Doubloon, a Joannis, Eight and one-half Joaneses  and one Guinea.  On Monday night the 4th day of this inst. at Rocky Mount.  Present: Peter Saunders, Jonathan Richeson, John Smith, Thomas Arthur, Swinfield Hill and Moses Greer, Gents.  The said Robert Edmonds and Rebecca his wife being led to the Bar in Custody of Robert Woods, Gent. Sheriff of the said County to whose custody for the cause aforesaid they were committed and it being demanded of the said prisoners whether they were guilty of the fact wherewith they stand charged, or not guilty, the said Robert Edmonds answered that he is guilty of the fact wherewith he stands charged.

Whereupon the Court proceeded to examine divers witnesses as well as on behalf of the Commonwealth as the prisoner at the Bar.  In consideration whereof the Court are of opinion that the said Robert Edmonds is guilty of the fact wherewith he stands charged and that he ought to receive a further trial before the Honorable The General Court in October next on the first day thereof, therefore he is remanded into custody again, whereupon the said Robert Edmonds threw himself on the mercy of the Court and it is ordered that he stand one half hour in the pillory, to commence one-half after four o'clock, receive thirty-nine lashes on his bare back and have both ears cropped.

And the said Rebecca is discharged out of custody, not witnesses appearing against her."  (Signed) Peter Saunders, Clerk

The first Order Book of Franklin County begins March 1786 and runs through May 1789.  The court orders in this book are signed variously, by Hugh Innes, Peter Saunders, T. Arthur, Jonathan Richeson, John Smith and Robert Hairston.

The first Deed recorded in the Clerk's office of the County of Franklin was that of John Fuson who sold to Philip Sheridan, both of Franklin County, a certain parcel of land, containing fourteen acres, in said county.  The consideration was five pounds current money of Virginia.  The deed was recorded June 22, 1786.

The First Will recorded in the Clerk's office, after the formation of Franklin, was that of Peter Craghead.  The will was admitted to record March 18, 1786.  Mr. Craghead first bequeathed his "Soul to God who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried in decent manner at the direction of my executors, Richard Radford and brother John Craghead."  Following this he gave an itemized account of his personal property which he directed be apportioned among his family and friends.

The first Marriage License issued by the clerk of the court of Franklin County was one permitting Allen Bybee and Sarah Lykins to be married.  Following is a copy of the marriage bond: "Know all men by these present that Allen Bybee and William Walton are held and firmly bound unto Patrick Henry, Esq., Governor and Chief Magistrate of the State of Virginia, in the just sum of fifty pounds, current money of Virginia, to the which payment will and truly be made to the said Patrick Henry, or his successors, we bind ourselves, our heirs and family by these presents, sealed with our seals and dated this 13th day of March 1786.  The condition of the above litigation is such as whereas there is a marriage shortly to be had and solemnized between Allen Bybee and Sarah Lykins.  Now, if there shall be no lawful cause to obstruct said marriage then the above obligation shall be void, else to remain in force.".  (Signed) Allen Bybee (Signed) William Walton

The request for this license reads as follows: "Sir, Please grant Allen Bybee a license to marry with Sarah Lykins, and you will oblige, Sir, Your Most Obedient Servant (Signed) Sarah Lykins, 13th March, 1788".  Appended to this request is a certificate addressed to "Mr. Steptoe Smith, Clerk Franklin County", and signed by John and Betty Bybee declaring that "you may give out license to Allen Bybee and you shall not be hurt for it". 

The first Salaries of {the} First County Officers, serving in 1786, were paid in tobacco.  The records show that the clerk's annual salary was 1, 248 pounds of tobacco.  The state's attorney and sheriff received the same stipend.  All accounts incurred by the court for the upkeep of the county were also paid in tobacco.  There is nothing to show what tobacco was worth at that time.

The first Tavern Rates issued by the County Court read as follows: "The Court doth set and rate the following liquors, diets, lodging, pasturage, stablage, and provinder, as follow: For good West India Rum, per gallon, ten shillings; for Peach Brandy, per gallon, eight shillings; for Whiskey, per gallon, six shillings; for Wine, per gallon, twelve shillings; for Hot Breakfast, one shilling, three pence; for Cold Meal, one shilling; for Stable and Fodder for Night, nine pence; for lodging, six pence. These rates were fixed at a Court held in March 1787.

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