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Land Records of Robert Mackay Sr. in PA & VA

(From Dee Ann's 'A Tabulated Genealogy of the Shenandoah Valley Family of Robert Mackay Sr.', p. 10-12.)

"The Earliest record pertaining to Robert Mackay, that I have in my possession is a land deed. This civil record states that he came from Freehold Township, Monmouth Co. NJ. On the 18th of July 1723, Stephen Hollingsworth of Cecil Co. MD, sold to Robert Maccay of Freehold Twp., Monmouth Co., East New Jersey, a tract of land (150 acres) which was part of the "Mount Pleasant" grant which he (Hollingsworth) had obtained from Lord Baltimore, in 1715, for the sum of thirty pounds silver money. Stephen Hollingsworth accepted the payment of money from the above Robert Maccay, and the following were witnesses of the record: Jonathan Cures, John Segar and John Smith. The importance of this land deed is the fact that Robert Mackay of VA, was associated with Stephen Hollingsworth, as recorded in the Quaker records, and furthermore he (Stephen) was a cousin of George Hollingsworth who married Hannah, daughter of Robert Mackay Sr. The Mount Pleasant tract was also known as Milford Hundred where Robert McKay is known to have lived (according to the marriage record of his daughter Margaret Mackay). On 15th of February 1725, Robert Maccay, Stephen Hollingsworth and Robert Holy bought 423 acres of "Hopewell" from Mathias Van Bibber. Robert McKay sold his first tract of land 150a to a James Maccoy on 7 Mar 1731. On May 5, 1732, the same man also bought an adjoining 100 acres of the "Hopewell" tract from Hollingsworth, Maccay (McKay) and Holy. We have been unable to find any connection between these two McKay men. I have copies of these records thanks to researcher Ann Copley.

Joist Hite, Robert Green, William Duff and Peter Stephens were Robert Mackay partners, and we have no information how they met. On October 21, 1731 letter patents were granted by the colonial governor and council of Virginia to the above men for 100,000 acres in Shenandoah Valley between Winchester and Front Royal on the condition they settle thereon 100 families in four years.

I am guessing that Robert McKay was born in 1680, so in 1731 he would be around 51 years old. I would also guess that his children: Mary (McKay) Robinson was about 26 years and her husband George Robinson left with her father; Robert McKay Jr. would be around 23 years old and would marry Patience Job in 1735; Margaret (McKay) Jobe about 20 years, wife to Joshua Job accompanied her father into VA; Zachariah McKay around 17 years of age; Hannah McKay was about 16 years and would marry George Hollingsworth in 1734 being the first marriage in the Hopewell Meeting; Leah McKay would have been about 15 years of age; Elizabeth would have been about 12 years of age; and Moses the youngest at 11 years of age. Robert's first two wives are dead, it would be his third wife Margaret who shared the hardships of the trip into Virginia. He could have also been a grandfather at the time of this historical adventure.

They cut their way with great difficulty with pioneer wagons through the forest from York, PA and crossing the "Cohnongoronion" or called the Potomac River about two miles above Harper's Ferry into Winchester, VA. This road was known as the "road to Opeckon" and was the first wagon road from Pennsylvania to Opeckon and followed in a large measure a well marked Indian trail known as the Conestoga Path. Hite settled on the Opeckon, about five miles south of Winchester. Peter Stephens settled at Stephensburg and Robert Mackay lived on or near the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, several miles above Riverton. This placed him in Augusta County after 1744, when the line between Frederick and Augusta Counties were surveyed and his will dated 7 October 1746 was probated in Augusta County on 19 August 1752. It was Robert McKay JUNIOR who settled on Crooked Run about nine miles southeast of Stephensburg which would be now in Cedarville, Warren Co. VA.

By 1736 Hite and Mackay had only 54 families on this grant. The terms of this order required McKay and Hite to settle 100 families on their land in two years, which it appeared they were unable to do, as the Governor and Council in a subsequent order extended the period. In 1737 when their settlers were enumerated by Col. Morgan, representing the Governor, and Peter Wolfe, representing McKay and Hite, it was found that sufficient settlers were actually in residence to comply with the terms of the original order.

The grant did not require that the 100,000 acres was to be surveyed in a block, but consisted of several and widely separated tracts, most of which were along the South and North branches of the Shenandoah and above the Fork at Riverton, as well as on Linville and Smith Creeks farther south, and on the North Mountain westward of Winchester. And the said Robert McKay and Joist Hite and their associates could choose any land that they desired in this section. They did choose the most desirable portions of this land mostly on the rivers and streams, and it was known as "strip grants" and it was objected to seriously by Lord Fairfax in his suit with the McKays and Hite.

From the notes of Hunter Branson McKay:

"LOCATION OF COMPANY TRACTS WITHIN THE 100,000 ACRES GRANT:

  1. On The South River Shenandoah
    1. The Old Home Place--At McCoys Ford (310 acres in the Suit Record, but described as 110 more or less in Robert McKay's will), and here he lived until he moved to the Hay Bottom, later inherited by his son Moses.
    2. The South River Tract--7000 acres as surveyed by Col. James Wood about 1735, but which was found to contain 11,520 acres when resurveyed by Thomas Marshall in 1770. This long and narrow tract started at or about the end of the 310--acre old home place and extended up the River, more or less on both sides depending upon where the bottoms were, for about 16 miles or to a point about opposite Big Spring Church in present Page County. The intensive study that I (HBM) am making at the present time of this particular tract, indicates, at the present stage of the study, that the Hay Bottom land, referred to in the Will and which was devised to Moses and later owned by the latter's descendants (Jeremiah and Isaac & others), and upon which Robert built his new house, as described in detail in the Suit Record, that this Hay Bottom is now as Burners Bottom, located opposite present Overall, former Milford. Where the other Bottoms, referred to in the Will, were located, I (HBM) do not at the present time know.

  2. The Passage Creek Tract: Located in the Fort, along the Creek, from a point about a mile above the "Passage" to about opposite present Seven Fountains, or later Burners Springs.
  3. On The North River Shenandoah: Three tracts: two of which Hunter B. McKay have located
    1. The Narrow Passage Tract: From a few miles south of the Narrow Passages to a point north of Woodstock, and apparently near to or adjoining the Denton Tract.
    2. The Denton Tract: from the northern end of the Narrow Passage Tract to a point about opposite present Fishers Hill.
    3. Another tract of about 900 acres on the North River, located somewhere near Strasburg.

  4. Smith Creek Land: Hunter B. McKay was not sure the location of this tract. According to author Henry Gannett's book A Gazetteer of Virginia and West Virginia, Smith Creek is listed as "creek, a small left-hand tributary to Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County."
  5. Linville Creek Land: Some 7009 acres; 1200 of which seem to have belonged to the McKays. This land has been quite thoroughly studied in some of the later Lincoln histories, one particularly by Dr. Wayland.
  6. The North Mountain Tract: Lay westward of Winchester, was part of the 100,000 acres, but was not in controversy in the Fairfax Land Suit.
  7. Paul Froman: 500 acres, son-in-law of Joist Hite, lived on or near Cedar Creek, Frederick Co. VA. The tract lay above McKay's old place and on the North side of the River, and as I (HBM) understand the record was then in Frederick County, as Shenandoah had not then been formed, and the dividing line between Augusta and Frederick had been moved farther up the river from its location when Robert McKay made his will in 1746. This tract appears to have been divided between Daniel Stover, Wm. Overall & Abraham Keller.
  8. Joshua Job: Devises of Robert McKay Sr. husband of Margaret McKay.
  9. George Hollingsworth: Devises of Robert McKay Sr. husband of Hannah McKay: not on the land in 1770.
  10. Abraham Hollingsworth: Son of George & Hannah, and then in possession of the land.
  11. Jeremiah Odell: Then husband of Leah McKay, daughter of Robert McKay Sr. and widow of Wm. Tyler. During the time period of the French & Indian War his name appears among a group associated with Powells Fort.
  12. George Robinson: Husband of Mary McKay, daughter of Robert Sr.
  13. Zachariah McKay: Son & devisee of Robert Sr.
  14. Isaac McKay: "Heir at law to Moses", son of Robert Sr. From this we can assume that Moses was deceased; that Isaac was the elder son, and that Jeremiah, who has been established as a son of Moses by another record, was a younger brother. The land adjoined that of Jeremiah and in the same neighborhood as that of Abraham McKay, in 1800.
  15. Henry Nelson: Samuel Odell--Isaac Job--Robert McKay Jr. (Justice of Shen Co. 1772)
  16. Orphans of John Bumgardner: part of 300 acres: Jacob Burner & Joseph Stickler guardian: John Bumgardner--Jeremiah Odell--Elisha Job--heir of Abraham Job.
  17. David & Isaac Job: David had moved to TN in 1779 part of 300 acres--Elisha Job, heir of Abraham Job--John Kennedy.
  18. Peter Miller: appears in Census of 1785 in Woodstock area: Land extended "from Brush Bottom Ford down the river to School House Hollow to the back line and the Wagon Road." Zachariah McKay--Robert McKay Sr."

In 1749 the conflict between Lord Fairfax involving the boundaries of his proprietary of the Northern Neck of Virginia, and the quarry of whether his lordship of the Colony of Virginia had the legal right to the lands settled by Mackay, Hite and company started in the courts. Hite and Mackay contending that their land was not included in his proprietary and therefore subject to grants by the crown through the Virginia Colonial Government. But Fairfax was overruled by the Courts, and the grantees were entitled to hold the land they had settled upon. In 1771 there was a final decree of the celebrated Hite and Fairfax land suit. McKay was given 54,000 acres of the 100,000 & Hite 64,000. Among the various tracts of land held by Robert McKay Sr. and his partners was one of 7009 acres on Linville Creek, in what is now Rockingham County, VA, which they secured in 1739. In June 1746 1200 acres of this land was transferred to Robert McKay Sr. This tract of land after his death descended to his sons, Robert, Zachariah, Moses and James, and it remained in their possession until 1768, when they sold 300 acres of it to Tunis Vanpelt and 600 acres to John Lincoln.

The litigation arising from this jurisdictional conflict extended intermittently through the Virginia courts until around 1830's. However, unfortunate this extended legal conflict may have been economically, it was very fortunate from a historical and genealogical point of view, as it preserved many records that otherwise would never have been recorded and preserved. My great-uncle Hunter Branson McKay transcribed this document, which the reader can view on microfilm through the Latter Day Saints Library System, or the reader can purchase a copy from me.

(Webmaster's note: I do not believe Dee Ann Buck has any copies of Hunter B. McKay's transcribed Fairfax Land Suit left for sale.)

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