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Part 12 – Harriet Christian, Were you Really a Washington?

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

So, I have a hypothesis about Harriet Christian and who her family was.

Using the few clues I’ve found in the various legal ads that I’ve been able to locate, last week my thought was maybe her sisters were married to Edwin Bacon Burwell and Mann Page Nelson, who signed a letter to William Flood in 1836 about the “descendants of Molley.” The gist of the letter is that Flood was not to sell Molley’s descendants because any money received by selling them or hiring them out was to go to Harriet Christian’s children.

Now, by that time, Milley/Molley and Robert had been sold, which would seem to have paid off William P. Flood for the $325 he loaned to Edward Christian in 1817 to pay a debt Christian owed to a man named John Dixon. The 1817 mortgage, in which Edward put up Milley as collateral for the loan, names her sons: Albert, Robert, Richard and Henry. I have not been able to determine whatever happened to Robert’s three brothers. But, now, I have a very big clue. I will be receiving, via interlibrary loan, a microfilm reel that includes the 400+ pages of the Chancery Court proceeding referred to in the letter written by Burwell and Nelson.

I. Can’t. Wait!!!

In the meantime, however, I discovered that Edwin was, in fact, married to Celia Peyton Washington, a daughter of Henry Thacker Washington and Amelia Stith. Mann was married to Amelia Stith Washington, Celia’s sister.

Henry Thacker Washington II was born in 1780. Harriet could not be Henry’s daughter, because she had several children before she died in 1811. Which leads me to think perhaps Harriet was, in fact, Henry’s sister, and her parents were Henry Thacker Washington I and Harriet Peyton.

Given the commonality of people naming their children after parents and other relatives, this makes sense. Perhaps Harriet Christian’s maiden name was, in fact, Harriet Peyton Washington.

That would mean that her children would be the first cousins of Celia and Amelia. When she died, Harriet Christian’s youngest children may have been raised by either of these two women, or, possibly her sister, Nancy Peyton Washington, who was the wife of William P. Flood.

I believe that Edward and Harriet Christian had a daughter named Ann, and that Edward Christian’s parents were Francis Humphrey Christian and Ann Shearman, who, after Francis’s death, went on to marry one Hezekiah Bonham. Ann Shearman Bonham’s will, filed in Frederick County, Va., where Edward at one time served as a deputy county clerk in the county seat of Winchester, names Edward and his daughter Ann, outright. It does not leave anything to Edward, but the will states that his daughter, Ann Christian, is to receive the same share of her estate that would go to the children of her son, Humphrey Christian’s children.

I’ve known of this will for a couple of years now, but it has taken a lot of time and continued research to make an argument that said Edward in this will is actually the Edward Christian who had enslaved Robert Jefferson’s mother, Milley (or is it actually Molley?), and in turn, Robert and his siblings. It all falls into place, because it places Edward’s Christian family closer to Charles Town than the other Christian families I found who were all located around Richmond, and in Charles City County and Albemarle County. I don’t think the family is closely related to those members of the Christian family, because Francis Humphrey Christian, from what I’ve found, was born in Norfolk, England. (I could be related, as my Codlings were from that same place! But that’s not the point. …)

OK. So, Edward and Harriet’s presumed daughter Ann Christian married a man named Johan (John) Conrad Sohn, who it seems was a recent immigrant from Germany. (Or someplace in that region that is now called Germany.)

Guess what their daughter’s name was?

Harriet Peyton Sohn. She married a man named William Miller Deatrick, who was a pastor in the Reformed Christian Church, according to documents that I’ve found while researching both of them.

It would make sense that Harriet was a Washington, and would have been a first cousin, twice removed, to Gen. George Washington, our first president and brother of Charles Washington, who founded Charles Town, where Robert Jefferson was born.

Remember, the death notice I found for Harriet Christian stated that she had been buried in the churchyard of the Episcopal Church in Martinsburg, a few miles from Charles Town. The Washingtons were, indeed, Episcopalian. I contacted Trinity Episcopal Church, the only one that existed in Martinsburg in the early 1800s, but they could not locate any records of Ann’s burial.

Harriet Peyton Washington Christian doesn’t show up anywhere else, but that is explained by the fact that she died before her father, Henry Thacker Washington I, and therefore, is not mentioned in his will with her supposed siblings. Only heads of household were listed by name in the U.S. Census from 1790 to 1840. The rest of the household wasn’t listed by name until the 1850 census. Any woman who died before that census is hard to find in records, except for wills and, perhaps, land deeds. That’s why she is so hard to find.

Wish me luck with that microfilm reel. I’m quite optimistic that it might hold the key to unlock this mystery, at the very least.

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