Wednesday, April 29, 2020

52 Ancestors - WILL: Beyond the Will

“Where there’s a will, there’s a genealogist.” I love that! It is so true.

As the Registrar for my chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), my job is to help prospective members prove their blood line leading to a patriot, someone who aided in obtaining independence for America. When birth and death records do not exist, I look for a will because they are the perfect source to prove a parent and child connection – that is, WHEN they actually name the children. Ones that simply direct that property be “equally divided among my children” are essentially useless.

What a let-down when I found the will for Johan George Eppard (23 Apr 1780 - 1869). He was my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather’s paternal grandfather, in other words MY 4X great-grandfather. His will of March 1866 mentions only 3 of his 11 children by name.

Map of the Naked Creek area
The Epard/Eppard names give an idea of where George's land was
George Eppard began his will by describing the metes and bounds of land to be divided. The Eppards lived along Naked Creek which formed the border between Rockingham and Page counties in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. 

Here is what he said next:

The said boundary of land I will to my son Wesley Epard by his paying to my estate the sum of $20.00 per acre in four equal payments. The first payment to be made in 60 days from the date of admitting this my will to record and the balance in three equal annual payments from said day. Second:  The residue of my land should I not dispose of the same before my death I wish to be sold at public sale by my executor, hereinafter named, on such terms and time as they may think most advisable. Third:  The proceeds of the above sales together with all the rest of my effects, after all of my just debts and funeral expenses are paid I wish to be equally divided among all my children. The children of my two Sons, John and James, who are dead:  I wish to receive respectively the shares that would have come to their fathers had they been living that is, the children of John Epard to receive one moiety and the children of James Epard one moiety. Fourthly:  I constitute and appoint my friend John C. Walker my executor. In testimony whereof I the said George Epard have to this my last Will and Testament signed and subscribed my name this day of March in the year of our Lord 1866.

Signed, acknowledged and published by George Epard
George (x) Epard.  X His Mark

As a descendant of one of the UNnamed children, I would be disappointed if I were relying on this will to help me get into the DAR. Fortunately there was a lawsuit.

It seems that John C. Walker, executor of George Eppard’s estate, was deemed unsuitable due to his own financial woes, so the Eppard heirs took him to court to have him removed.

Chancery Cause 1870-068 Rockingham County, VA
To the County Court of Rockingham

The Bill of complaint of Andrew Eppard, William Eppard, Reuben Eppard, Westley Eppard, Jos Samuels Jr, Zac Taylor, William Merica & Isaac Gooden of Rockingham County, respectfully represent that in the year 1869 George Eppard departed this life leaving the foregoing complainants his devises and distributes. That he made a will & appointed John C. Walker his Executor who at the August Court 1869 he qualified as such and paid bond with S. P. H. Miller as his surety. That said Walker sold the personal property and that the same amounts to between $600 & $700.
Chancery Cause 1870-068 Rockingham County, VA
That since that time the said Walker and the said Miller have both failed and their personal effects have been sold by the Sherriff & that they are insolvent and if said Walker collects said money Complainants have no security for its faithful application. Complainants have confidence in the integrity of said Walker but feel & charge that he is not now, embarrassed as he is, a proper person to have charge of the estate and that letters of Admin to him ought to be revoked.

They prevailed.
Chancery Cause 1870-068 Rockingham County, VA
John C. Walker & S. P. H. Miller   }

This day the Plaintiffs presented their Bill in Court praying an Injunction. Isaac Gooden one of the plaintiffs having given bond in the penalty of $25 an injunction is awarded the plaintiffs to restrain the said John C. Walker from collecting and all the Creditors from paying to him any of the money due said Walker as adm of George Eppard deceased 

The real value of this document, however, is in the naming of the children. My ancestor is William. The daughters’ names were disguised by the names of their husbands as was typical of the times. It required a little more research to find them.
  • Joseph Samuels Jr – Permelia Eppard
  • Zachary Taylor – Nancy Eppard
  • William Merica – Mary Eppard
  • Isaac Gooden – Elizabeth Eppard

So, who was this John C. Walker that George Eppard entrusted to carry out his last wishes? Ironically, Walker himself was a lawyer. His wife was Mary Miller, perhaps a sister to S. P. H. Miller.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Wendy, how fortunate these documents are available for your 4th great-grandfather, and well done finding them. Sadly, none of my ancestors left wills, which I can well understand... to my eldest son I leave my black overcoat, to my eldest daughter my sharp knife, to my second son my tin mug, and to the rest of ye I leave my love and prayers... haha.

  2. Wow how fascinating to have the wills from so many years back! Now I got to go into our will and make sure our children's names are listed (I think they are) in case anyone down the line is interested in genealogy.


  3. What luck to find this Will. It's good that his children had the wherewithal to file a suit and have Walker removed. All of that valuable information would have been lost. Great post...great read!


  4. I have a few wills but need to get back to them and study them further.

    1. I should clarify - "I" don't have a few wills but rather I have a few wills that my ancestors left. Haha.