Published in the SGES Quarterly September 2005 Issue Volume 46, No. 195

WILL THE REAL WILLIAM GREENWOOD STAND UP
A puzzle wrapped in a mystery encased in an enigma

J. G. Braddock Sr.

There are several excellent researchers of the genealogy of Florida Braddocks. Building on the Braddock genealogy the late Helen Hodges published long before the advent of the Internet made genealogy almost an armchair undertaking, they have expanded their databases in exponential proportions. Yet, as tenacious and thorough as their researching is, there are brick walls in the form of two key men to Braddock ancestry none have been unable to crack through: Spicer Christopher and William Greenwood.

It would seem tracing the ancestry of Spicer Christopher should be easy. Unlike having to wade through a confusion of William Joneses or John Smiths, there is only one Spicer Christopher to be found in the annals of American history. However, in spite of years of meticulously searching through the abundance of American historical records, researchers have found his name only in records of the second Spanish possession of Florida . And those found of him reveal of his life prior to coming to Florida only the name of his parents and the state of his nativity.

On the other hand, as will be seen, a superabundance of William Greenwoods has tantalized searchers of the real one.

John Cutler Braddock died in 1794 in Glynn County , Georgia . By July 1796, his widow, Lucy, had received a Spanish land grant and she and her four unmarried children, John David, William, Ann, and Hester were residents of Amelia Island . Daughter Mary and her husband, John Edwards, already resided on the island.

Events helping shape the family’s destiny were already in motion in East Florida before their arrival. On Big Talbot, the next coastal island south of Amelia, Spicer Christopher and his family dwelt in a great house in the center of his large cotton plantation. In addition to cotton, Christopher grew China oranges and had 600 head of cattle. Maintaining a large corral of pedigreed Arabians and English mares and stallions, he was known for raising the best horses in East Florida . He was also known for entertaining wayfarers passing by his property on the King’s highway, which ran the length of Talbot Island and for which he had sole charge. He would eventually acquire four other well-maintained plantations in the vicinity. But most important to the Braddock family, he had sons and daughters who were rapidly approaching the marrying age.

Although some few Spanish records say Spicer Christopher was a native of Georgia , others make it abundantly clear he was from “Marylandia, Estados Unidos de America.” When he arrived in East Florida is not so clear. His appearance on a census made by the Spanish in 1783 to determine who was staying after Florida was ceded back to Spain indicates his presence during Great Britain’s possession of the province.

In 1763, when he was only four years old, Great Britain took possession of Florida from Spain . The new East Florida government immediately began scouring the colonies for tradesmen to help transform the flavor of their new colony from Spanish to British. The Georgia Gazette, in January 1764, mentioned that a great many blacksmiths and home carpenters and 15 bakers from Savannah were being engaged to go to East Florida . It is not too farfetched to imagine that Spicer’s father, John Christopher, enticed by the promise of the grant of land that is now known as Christopher Point on the St. Johns River as a reward, responded all the way from Maryland . Perhaps he was a blacksmith or in some other horse-related occupation—Spicer had to have acquired his penchant for fine horses and his ability in handling them from someone. Horses were as necessary in Colonial times as automobiles are today. There is also the possibility that Spicer’s father fled to East Florida as a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War while Spicer was a teenager.

Both possibilities of why and when the Christophers arrived in East Florida are mere speculations. The real why and when may never be known. Public records from the British period were transported to England to the British Public Records Office (BPRO) upon the British evacuation of East Florida in 1783. However, according to Dan Schafer, professor at the University of North Florida , who is currently writing a book on the Colonial residents along the St. Johns River , finding a given person in BPRO East Florida records is all but impossible. He says, “The collection was unavailable to researchers for many years because it was caught in a flood and sewage immersion in the 19th century. In about 1990 it was decided to send the entire collection to the conservation department at BPRO. Around 1993 it was completed and made available. Some of the records cannot be read, many are unsorted and nearly impossible to decipher, others are in very good condition. So, it is a crapshoot to research, but impossible or impractical to microfilm. You have to be there [in England ] to work them in person.…”

In addition to Spicer Christopher’s arrival in East Florida , another earlier arrival that helped shape the Braddock family’s destiny was that of William Greenwood along with his wife Elizabeth Bryan and their daughter Mary. Mary grew up and married Spicer Christopher and became the mother of the several Christopher sons and daughters who were rapidly approaching the marrying age.

The Greenwoods arrived sometime during the British possession, 1763 to 1783, and were granted a tract of land on the St. Johns River in the Mandarin area near Goodbys Creek. William Greenwood’s presence in East Florida and on the St. Johns as early as 1766 is substantiated by several sources. A footnote in William Henry Siebert’s Loyalists in East Florida reads: “William Greenwood's name is first mentioned in the Council Minutes of East Florida, October 13, 1766, when his petition for a grant of land was read and a warrant of survey in his behalf was issued for two hundred acres.” Renowned 18th century naturalist/artist/traveler William Bartram, for whom the Bartram Trail is named, mentioned in some versions of his book, Travels Through North and South Carolina , Georgia , East and West Florida, The Cherokee Country, that he visited Greenwood ’s plantation on the St. Johns in the vicinity of Goodby’s Creek with his father in 1766. The East Florida census of residents between 1763 and 1771, taken by John G. William DeBrahm, Surveyor General of the lower colonies, lists William Greenwood as a planter. And the 1789 Spanish baptismal and marriage records of his 19-year-old daughter, Juana (Jane), give her nativity as “Rio de San Juan .”

While William Greenwood’s presence on the St. Johns is a given, his origin is a puzzle wrapped in a mystery encased in an enigma. The above-mentioned baptismal record of daughter, Jane, states that he was of Virginia and his wife, Elizabeth Bryan, was of Carolina . Without going through the ramifications of explaining all the 20 or so typed pages of information gleaned from public records in search of the real William Greenwood, the following will suffice:

Several William Greenwoods were present in a reasonable enough time frame and vicinity of Florida to be considered as candidates for Mary Greenwood Christopher’s father:

  • Candidate 1: According to the June 23, 1758 issue of the South Carolina Gazette, His Majesty’s ship Zephyr, commanded by Captain William Greenwood, arrived in Charles Town from England . However, he wasn't born in Virginia . Besides, no further records indicate his continued presence in the New World .
  • Candidate 2: William P. Greenwood advertised in a January 1793 issue of the Savannah newspaper that he was a “Dentist and Operator for the Teeth and Gums” and that he was “pupil and son to the celebrated Dentist of that name in Boston .” Sorry, Boston is not in Virginia .
  • Candidate 3: William Greenwood, a notorious Loyalist during the Revolution, is the favorite candidate to researchers. It is easy to understand why. First of all, in the Loyalists in East Florida footnote cited earlier, the author added:

“He was in command of a company of militia in Charleston , South Carolina , after Sir Henry Clinton captured that place. On May 27, 1780, Clinton made proclamation in which he appointed Captain Greenwood and two other officers as trustees of captured property. In anticipation of the evacuation of Charleston Mr. Greenwood served on a committee of loyalists who sent a petition to General Carleton at New York , in which they asked permission for themselves and their fellows, should the evacuation take place, to indemnify themselves from the sequestered estate within the British lines in South Carolina .”

Secondly, as a larger than life character in history, at least in Southern Revolutionary history, he would make a grand addition to the list of other larger than life ancestors Florida Braddocks already claim: Dr. John Cutler, Captains David Cutler Braddock, John Cutler Braddock, William Lyford Sr. and one time president of the Bahamas William Spatches. However, after reviewing the Loyalist claim of William Greenwood, the Loyalist, most descendants of the real William Greenwood would fervently hope none of “the Loyalist’s” blood flows through their veins. The following excerpts from the claim say a lot about his “loyalty”:

“He took the Oath of Fidelity to the State in 1778. He took it to avoid being sent out of the Country as every body was who refused. Says he thinks he should have come away in 1778 when other Gentlemen did but his partner being Dead the preceding year and having such large concerns there as well as owing a large Sum in Great Britain he staid to take the best Care he could of his property and enable him to pay his Debts in this Country....

“Being asked if he ever took any part with them after taking the Oath - Says he was obliged to do Military Duty on every Alarm, and he served as Capt. of a Company against Savannah ....

"Says his reason for having a Commission was that at the breaking out of the Troubles when every body was called upon to act in the Militia he was advised to take an Officers Commission as he would have been obliged to bear Arms as a private Man if he had not-, but he was always in his Heart against the Cause he apparently supported...."

“He joined the British in 1780 immediately after the Capture of Charlestown and was appointed Capt. and afterwards was Major in the loyal Charlestown Militia. This he thinks was in August 1780. He acted with them to the time of the Evacuation and is named in the Confiscation Act....”

Start of William Greenwood's Loyalist claim

In other words, he was in Charlestown while it was under American control from the start of the war until the British took it in 1780. During that time, in order to continue to do business in Charlestown , he signed an oath of loyalty to the American cause and served as a captain in the American military. Then, as soon as the British gained control of Charlestown , he immediately switched his loyalty to the British side. And he was no run-of-the-mill Loyalist. Not only did he become an officer in the local militia loyal to the British, his importance in maintaining British control of the town is indicated by his being a town commissioner and one of the signers of locally printed currency issued during their occupation. His is the second signature on the following four-dollar bill:

So, he flipped and he flopped. After the British government awarded him not one shilling of the £54,988 Loyalist claim he submitted after the war, he flipped once again by signing an American oath of allegiance to worm his way back into Charlestown in an effort to recover his financial holdings in the new nation.

Not only was he weak of backbone, he also is a weak candidate. The footnote in Loyalists in East Florida quoted earlier reveals that the real William Greenwood’s petition for land was granted October 13, 1766, then goes on to describe him as a Loyalist from Charlestown. The footnote errs in proclaiming the grant recipient to be William Greenwood, the Loyalist. The Loyalist claim he filed after the war has the statement, “Was a Merchant in Charlestown at the breaking out of the War having gone to America in 1767....” By then, the real William Greenwood was greeting illustrious visitors such as William Bartram and his father to his domicile on the St. Johns .

To further disqualify William Greenwwod, the Loyalist, as a candidate, nowhere in his lengthy Loyalist claim; nor in his marriage settlement with his second wife, widow Ann Lord, who he married April 26, 1796; nor in his will probated July 5, 1822 after he died in Charlestown, is there the slightest hint of his having had land, wife, or family in Florida. Besides, William Greenwood, the Loyalist, was not from Virginia .

  • Candidate 4: It is safe to say William, the Loyalist, has been ruled out as a candidate. However, he is recorded in his marriage settlement with his second wife as “William Greenwood, the elder,” indicating there was a William Greenwood, the younger. Some pro-William Greenwood , the Loyalist, researchers, learning of the younger, may be quick to nominate him as a viable candidate. However, a July 1, 1822 entry for William Greenwood, the elder, in Charleston’s St. Philip’s Church Register easily shoots the younger’s candidacy down: “Burial - William Greenwood, full service $5, 84 years, England.” This means “the elder” was only 29 years old when he arrived in America in 1767, much too young to have a son seeking land grants. Besides, William Greenwood, the younger, was not from Virginia .
  • Candidate 5 may have been a horse thief: His appearance as a candidate begins with an item in the Colonial Records of Georgia:

“(on a slip of paper inserted between pages of Lt. Col. Heron’s)

There is one Mr. Greenwood just arriv’d from North Carolina, who assures me that 200 families from that and Winyaw are on the point of setting out for Augeachy where they intend to settle, but provisions will be wanted at their first coming which I have undertaken to supply them with & receive their own product for it.

(Endorsed on the back:—) in Lieut. Col. Heron’s Letter of Septr. 8th, 1747.”

Alexander Heron was a military officer serving under Oglethorpe and took part in repelling the 1742 Spanish invasion of St. Simons. Winyaw is a large bay in the Georgetown , SC area. It is likely that this Greenwood was of a group who, like so many others of colonial times, migrated by boat from Virginia, many of them from the Isle of Wight area, down the coast to North Carolina, stayed awhile, moved on to South Carolina, then into Georgia. “Augeachy” is a misspelling of Ogeechee, the river south of Savannah . Some other family names common to both the Isle of Wight area of Virginia and Georgia are Bennett, Bryan, Bryant, Copeland, Durden, Hardy, Howell, Pittman, Stokes, Strickland, Tucker, and Vaughn, a strong indication that the migration of which Mr. Greenwood assured Col. Heron took place. Another indication is the town of Isle of Wight in Georgia below the Medway River near the town of Midway . More than likely, its settlers named it after the area in Virginia from which they had originated.

A deed record in Abstracts of Georgia Colonial Conveyance confirms that a Mr. Greenwood settled reasonably close to the Ogeechee, on Skidaway Island . The deed says that on June 8, 1756, William Johnston, tanner and shoemaker, granted unto his son-in-law, William Greenwood, planter, 150 acres of land on Skidaway.

Two petitions for land recorded in Colonial Records of Georgia further indicate William Greenwood’s presence in coastal Georgia . In the first, dated February 1760, he stated he had a wife and child and requested 100 acres on a branch of the Newport River , south of Savannah . His request was granted. On March 2, 1762, he made another petition, declaring “…that he had one hundred Acres of Land ordered him, but the Indian Alarm soon after coming on he did not run it out and the land was since granted away. That he was desirous to obtain land for Cultivation having a Wife and two Children; Therefore praying for One hundred Acres on Great Ogeechee on the first Bluff about thirty Miles below Buck Head.” His petition was rejected.

Two years later, the following item appeared in the January 19, 1764 issue of the Georgia Gazette:

“At the last General Court held for this Province, an information was tried against William Greenwood of Skedaway island, for the pernicious and too-frequent practice of marking and branding horses not being his property, when, and upon full and clear evidence, the said Greenwood was found guilty.”

Six months later, in its July 19, 1764 issue, the Georgia Gazette ran the following advertisement:

“To be sold for ready money, on Monday the 23rd instant, at the house of William Greenwood on Skidaway Island . ABOUT Twenty Head of Cattle, and some Household furniture, the property of the said William Greenwood, and seized by MATT. ROCHE, Prov. Mar. Saturday, July 14, 1764.”

It is not necessarily being suggested that the Mr. Greenwood of Col. Heron’s slip of paper, and presumably the recipient of 150 acres on Skidaway from his father-in-law, is candidate number 5—his wife was a Johnston, not a Bryan . However, it is possible his first wife died and he married Elizabeth Bryan. Also, it takes little stretch of the imagination to visualize his having a son who he named after himself who was born in Virginia before the family began working their way down the waterways to “Augeachy,” that the son married Elizabeth Bryan either during a sojourn along the way in one of the Carolinas or after her family had migrated to Georgia, that they had a daughter and named her Mary—the Spanish baptismal record of Thomas Christopher gives Mary Greenwood Christopher’s birthplace as Georgia—and that after failing to get a grant of land and losing his house and furnishings—and to avoid being tried for a crime that in those days warranted a noose—the son fled to the new British province of East Florida seeking a new start. As said earlier, many from the Savannah area responded to East Florida call for tradesmen.

Another argument for number five is he apparently loved horses, as did Spicer Christopher, whose parents had a plantation along the St. Johns within walking distance of the real William Greenwood’s plantation.

  • Candidate 6: Someone other than the above.

At any rate, while growing into manhood on his father’s plantation at Christopher Point on the St. Johns River, Spicer Christopher fell in love with neighbor William Greenwood’s daughter, Mary, married her, and sought lands of his own, acquiring grants at Talbot Island, Old Township on the St. Marys River at a place now known as Crandall, and others. By the time Lucy Cook Braddock came to East Florida with her brood, the Christopher’s had eight children. Following are the signatures of seven of them taken from the Spanish inventory of Spicer’s estate after his death July 10, 1811at the age of 52:

 

Of Spicer Christopher’s eight children, five married into the Braddock family:

John Bluet Christopher married Hester Braddock.

William Greenwood Christopher married Elizabeth Edwards, daughter of Mary Braddock Edwards.

Martha Christopher married John David Braddock

Charlotte Christopher married William Braddock.

Samuel Spicer Christopher married Ann Edwards, daughter of Mary Braddock Edwards.

It is next to impossible to determine the exact number of descendants with Braddock blood in their veins these six marriages have produced though the present. However, over 300 surnames have been counted among their descendants so far.

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