Love is a very complicated emotion. Although this is Valentine’s week, this story deals with how love can sometimes go wrong and how love can change over time.
My 6th great grandfather, Thomas Harvey, married his first wife, Sarah Ann (probably Williams) in about 1761. I have no idea if they were in love when they married, but I assume that they probably were. That is the challenge with our ancestors, isn’t it? We don’t really know their inner thoughts or their true feelings about anything. I would love to believe they were in love when they first got married.
Thomas and Sarah Ann were certainly married by 10 October 1765 when they both signed a deed selling 150 acres in Halifax County, North Carolina. Over about a fifteen year period, Thomas and Sarah Ann had seven known children: William, Thomas, Elizabeth, Caty, Sarah, Hannah, and Oney Scyprett.
Elizabeth, my 5th great grandmother, appears in several records while she was a child. On 10 Dec 1783, Thomas sold, or more likely gifted, a young enslaved girl to his daughter, Elizabeth, or Betty.
Know all men by these presents that I Thomas Harvey of the county of Halifax No. Carolina for and in consideration of the sum of fifty pounds current money to me in hand paid by Betty Harvey have bargained sold and delivered and by these presents do bargain sell and deliver in plain & open market to her the said Betty Hervey one negro girl about 16 years old named Lucy and the said negroe girl Lucy unto her the said Betty Harvey her heirs and assigns will well and truly warrant and for ever defend witness my hand and seal ye 10th day of Decem’r 1783.”
Thomas Hervey <seal>
Signed seal’d and deliv’d in the presence of William Harvey senr. William Harvey, Halifax County dst. Feb’y Court 1784. Then this bill of sale was exht’d in open court ack’d by Thomas Hervey Esq. the party thereto and on mo’n ord’d to be rd. Registered” Wm Wooten C.Co. Registered Jno Geddy P Regr.
Later, another entry in the deed books shows what happened to Lucy, though the wording to me is a bit odd. It does show, however, that this Betsey/Betty was the same as Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Hervey.
Betsey Hearvey of Halifax Co. gives a Negro girl Lucy given to her by her father T. Hearvey to a Negro girl Minny given to her by virtue of a bill of sale from her father aforementioned.
Around the same time as Thomas was presenting gifts to one of his children with his wife, Sarah Ann, he had also taken a mistress. Interestingly, her name was also Elizabeth, though she was known as Bettie. Bettie Pritchett at some point caught the eye of Thomas, and again, though I can’t say whether or not they were in love, they certainly had enough affection for each other to carry on a relationship for years that produced at least 6 children. The earliest birth date of any of their children I have been able to find is 1781, though some children could be born before that. Either Gideon, born in 1781, was the oldest, or possibly his sister Polly. Thomas and Bettie’s other children were named Peyton, Nancy, Betty, and Judith.
Bettie Pritchett was not Thomas’s second wife, as has been asserted in the past. Sarah Ann was still living when Thomas wrote his will in 1806, and Bettie died in 1802. As far as I have seen, Thomas and Sarah Ann never separated, so I am quite curious how this arrangement worked. Did Thomas live with his wife and legal children, or did he live with his mistress and his illegitimate children? Or did Bettie and her children live on property that Thomas provided for them? I also wonder what Sarah Ann thought of this. After all, Thomas had an entire other family. His affair with Bettie was long standing, not a one time mistake. Maybe he loved her, maybe she saw a good opportunity to be taken care of by a man with some wealth. Did Thomas love both women at once? I will never know the answers to these questions, but the possible ones are fascinating to think of.
By 22 December 1802, Bettie Pritchett had died, and Thomas decided it was time to do something in a legal sense for his illegitimate children.
Be it known to all people to whom these presents may come that I Thomas Harvey Senr for divers good causes & reasons as well as the good will and respect I bear unto the children of Betty Pritchet decd, Gideon Harvey Pritchet, Payton Harvey Pritchet, Nancy, Betty, Judah Harvey Pritchet I freely & absolutely give unto them & their heirs lawfully begotten forever as follows.
Five negroes named thus Cary, Redick, Sampson, Nat & Jacob and all that tract of land that I hold by virtue of a deed that I hold from Willis Alston Esq. with three feather beds and a good riding horse apiece, all to be equally to be divided amongst them at my death to them and their heirs forever.
Likewise I lend to their sister Polly Williams during her natural life one negro named Isaac with proportionable part of above mentioned land and after her death to be equally divided amongst her children lawfully begotten of her body for them to be possessed with at the time as above mentioned to them & theirs forever. And if any of the above mentioned children should die before they have an heir lawfully begotten of their body then their part of the above mentioned legacy to be equally divided amongst the rest of the surviving children.
This deed gives some possible answers to the above stated questions. Likely, Bettie died very soon before this deed was drawn up, and this was Thomas’s way of ensuring that his children with Bettie were taken care of.
It also gives a possible explanation of where his children were living before Bettie’s death. As he gave a tract of land, personal possessions, and slaves to his children, it is quite possible that all of this was already in their possession and that this was Thomas’s formal way of giving them their inheritance.
Another interesting observation concerns the children’s surnames in the deed. They are all called Hervey Pritchett, using the surnames of both their parents and demonstrating their status as illegitimate. However, it seems that Thomas did not object to his children using his surname and their mother’s interchangeably as on a deed in 1804, Peyton Hervey Pritchett signed as Peyton Hervey alongside his father’s name.
Thomas lost another whom he loved in the early 1800s other than his mistress, Bettie. Thomas visited William Hervey, his son, along with his daughter Elizabeth, when he was close to death and heard what William intended to do with his estate. A few days later, he died. Undoubtedly, Thomas was quite sad over the death of his son.
Thomas Hervey’s Will
On 12 February 1806, Thomas Hervey wrote his will. The majority of the bequests in the will focus on his five children with Bettie Pritchett, but he did have enough respect for his wife and legitimate children to name them first.
First Item I lend my wife Sarahann Hervey the plantation I now live on and three negroes namely Billy Jesse and one more negroe woman which my Exors is to purchase of equal value of my negroe woman Polla out of money raised out of my estate with a sufficiency of horses and stock and kitchen and Household furniture sufficient for her comfortable support during her life.
2nd Item I give and bequeath to my Seven children which I had by my wife Sarahann Hervey, Betty Sullivan (sic Sullivant), William Hervey, deceased (?), Caty Christie, Sally Smith, Thomas Hervey, Hanna Beele (sic Bull) and One Hervey, all that property of negroes land & that I have heretofore given, devised, and delivered to them & their heirs for ever.
So it seems that his children with Sarah Ann had already been provided for, and he wished his wife to have what she needed during the rest of her life.
He then used the rest of the will to outline his illegitimate children’s inheritance. He reiterated what he had already laid out for them in the deed of 1802 – land and slaves – along with two other tracts of land. He also gave his grandsons by Gideon and Peyton land, and he instructed that the residue of his estate should go to Gideon, Peyton, Betty, Nancy, Judith, and the children of Polly to be divided among them. He also gave Sarah Ann’s share to his illegitimate children after her death.
Lastly, he appointed his two sons by Bettie Pritchett – Gideon and Peyton – the executors of his estate, and not his sons by Sarah Ann who were still living – Thomas and Oney.
I wonder if this action demonstrated some favoritism for his illegitimate sons over his legitimate ones. Were his sons by Sarah Ann not on the best terms with their father? Also, Thomas clearly names Gideon and Peyton as his sons, which I don’t believe he does in any other document.
Thomas is also very careful to use both Hervey and Pritchett as their surnames, not just Hervey, but not just Pritchett either. To me, this signals that he was not at all ashamed that he had fathered other children out of wedlock, but that he very openly claimed them as his own.
Using Hervey/Pritchett Surnames
After their father’s death, the Hervey Pritchett children stopped using Pritchett in many official documents and instead used only Hervey. Many, but not all. Take a look at Gideon’s census records. In 1810, 1830, and 1850, his name is Gideon Hervey. But in 1840, it is Gideon P. Hervey. P is undoubtedly for Pritchett. As for Peyton, in every census record except 1810, his name is either listed as Peyton P Hervey or P. P. Hervey. Again, the P is for Pritchett.
When both sons wrote their wills, they styled themselves as Gideon P. Hervey and Peyton P. Hervey. Although they used Hervey as their official surname, they wanted Pritchett to be a part of their name and were not ashamed to hide it. I think that shows love for both of their parents.
Thomas loved many people in his personal life: a wife, his seven children with his wife, his mistress, and his natural children with her. Thomas may have loved all these people, but how did they tolerate each other? Sarah Ann likely bore little love for Bettie and Bettie for her. Did the two sets of children get along or did they resent the existence of the others? There was quite an age difference between Sarah Ann’s oldest children and Bettie’s youngest, so maybe they had little to do with each other. Whatever their true feelings, Thomas seems to have put everyone in a rather interesting, if not uncomfortable, situation. I just wish I knew how everyone handled it! Love is complicated.