- Born: Cir 1750, Maryland
- Marriage: Elizabeth Ratcliff
- Died: Cir 1781, Maryland at age 31
Families of Steele
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GEORGE AND ELIZABETH (RATCLIFF) STEELE
by Dodie Elizabeth (Smith) Browning
George Steele and Elizabeth Ratcliff were probably married in early 1773 in Charles County, Maryland, when George was about twenty one years old. We know that George Steele was in Charles County Maryland on 1 November, 1771. He was one of the witnesses to the will of Samuel Farr, who was married to Ann Ratcliff, the older sister of Elizabeth Ratcliff. Elizabeth would become the wife of George Steele. Ann (Ratcliff) Farr was expecting her first and only child when her husband died in the late winter of 1771.
It is believed by this writer that George and Elizabeth (Ratcliff) Steele went to the Virginia frontier shortly after they were married, probably in the spring of 1773.
The Ratcliff family had been land owners in Maryland, but the Steeles had always rented. Large groups of settlers were moving westward at this time with the hope of cheap land that they could homestead. It is the belief of this writer that the young couple made the long trek to the mountains of Virginia with a group of pioneers from western Maryland and from the "Northern Neck" of Virginia. More than likely some of the group were relatives and friends that they had known since childhood.
There were already Steele families living at what is present day Bristol, Tennessee at Steele Creek. The first Steele to live in the area was David Steele who moved to the area from North Carolina. The area still bears his name and is now a beautiful park called very appropriately, Steele Creek Park.
Evan Shelby from Prince George's County Maryland settled in the same area, as did George and Elizabeth Steele. There are only two records in that area in the 1770s for George Steel(e). His name is shown on the Roster of Captain Evan Shelby's Company of Militia, (June, 1773) along with David Steel and John Steel. This is the earliest known record for the Militia in southwest Virginia.
Just below the Roster, in parenthesis, with nineteen names written above it: " Names of the men dr---." (rest of word illegible, but it probably was "draughted.") George Steel and John Steel. [From Shelby Family Papers Volume one, Item # 397 found in The Library of Congress]
The next record that we have for George Steel(e) is on a survey dated 16 Feb. 1774 for 94 acres in Rich Valley, on the North Fork of the Holston River, which was in Fincastle County Virginia. Rich Valley runs through present day Washington County, Smyth County and into what is present day Bland County.
Many of the early surveys and patents stated that land in Rich Valley was "at the spur of Walker's Mountain." It is believed by this writer that the 94 acres was in present day Smyth County which is definitely on the North Fork of the Holston, and just over the mountain from what is present day Tazewell County, Virginia. This would be in proximity to the Militia troops from the Bristol area and would cover the area where some of the men in Evan Shelby's Company of Militia resided. It might possibly be in Bland County VA on Walkers Creek.
There was never a patent application in the name of George Steel(e) and no patent was ever issued in his name. Therefore, we have to assume that this George Steel(e) either moved away or died. It is the belief of this writer that this was in fact our ancestor and that he went back to Maryland shortly after the birth of their oldest son Richard, who was born 17 April, 1774. According to census records for some of Richard's children, they gave Virginia as the birthplace of their father, which would be consistent with the belief that George and Elizabeth did in fact move to Virginia and then back to Maryland, where their other two Children Ralph and George were born. Ralph was born 10 March, 1776 in Charles County Md. and the youngest child George was born on 31 July, 1778 in Charles County, Maryland.
Let us ponder for a moment about what might have motivated the young couple to return to their former home after making the long journey to southwest Virginia. These were tumultuous years for the settlers on the Holston in Virginia. The most pressing problem was the threat of Indian attacks. Several people were killed by the Indians and the white settlers were not equipped to defend themselves. The Cherokees had been friendly, but due to some of the white men killing some of the peaceful Indians, revenge was being carried out by the Cherokees. The Shawnee were attacking settlers to the north, along the Ohio River. Lord Dunsmore had ordered the Militia leaders to gather troops to meet at Fort Thompson in what is present day Pulaski County to organize for an attack on the Shawnee at Point Pleasant. (William Thompson of Fort Thompson was an ancestor of this writer.)
In the Spring of 1774, Lord Dunsmore ordered that forts be built in the Clinch River Section of Virginia. Just imagine the fear that Elizabeth must have been experiencing, at the thought of being left alone in a wilderness on the ninety four acres, where they were presumably living., or at one of the several forts in the area. Both George and Elizabeth must have been experiencing " cultural shock." They were accustomed to privilege and material comforts. Elizabeth's family was in Maryland and she was probably homesick for her father, her two brothers and her sister Ann. She had a new baby, so it would be only natural for her to want to be near her family.
The settlers along the Holston were being advised to leave the area because the wilderness was a very dangerous place for families during those troubled times. Many families did in fact leave the area. Some returned in later years and many never returned.
Due to the onset of the Revolutionary war and other unforeseen circumstances, George Steele was never to return to the Holston, nor was he to see his sons grow to adulthood.
The next record that we have of Captain Evan Shelby's Company did not show the name of George Steele. This was in August,1774, therefore it seems safe to assume that George and Elizabeth left the Holston in late spring or early summer and went back to the safety of the more densely populated Charles County Maryland. The years that George appears on Washington County Virginia records are the same years that he is mising from records in Maryland, which is all the more reason to believe that it was the same man. Aside from the fact that his son Richard was married in Washington County Virginia after he Became an adult, and that there was a record of an administration for the estate of George Steele in Sullivan County (Bristol) TN. granted to James and Robert Steele, shortly after Elizabeth was appointed administix of his estate in Maryland.
We can determine for certain that George and Elizabeth were in Charles County Maryland in March, 1775, when George once again appears in court records. They were living in the Lower Hundred of William and Mary Parish when the 1776 Census was taken, while Elizabeth's father, Richard Ratcliff was living in the Upper Hundred of William and Mary Parish.
In 1777, George Steele, was serving in Captain Yates Company of Militia. The Men in the Militia were usually close to home when on duty, and were able to be at home with their families at night. George was still serving in the Militia in 1778. By this time, the Revolutionary War was in full force.
Records for George's activities during this period are sketchy at best, but we do know that he was mentioned in the estate settlement of Joseph Edelen in January, 1778. He was doing business with the Edelens and it is the belief of this writer that he rented land from them. There was a George Steele and a William Steele on the Militia list who took the Oath of Allegiance in the Patriot Forces of the Continental Army in Baltimore in 1778. This may or may not be "our" George. It is believed by this writer that it was in fact our ancestor.
George was either killed or died of an unknown illness prior to June, 1781, when Elizabeth appeared in court and was appointed Administrix of George's estate. The baby, George was just over two years old when his father died. Ralph was five and Richard the oldest , was barely seven years old. Elizabeth was left alone with three little boys who needed their father but thankfully, Elizabeth had her father, her beloved sister Ann, who was also rearing a small son of her own, and her two brothers. She more than likely moved back to her childhood home which was a tobacco plantation called "Dover.
George's estate was probated in December, 1781. From the contents of his estate inventory, it appears that he was probably a merchant or a tailor.
From the inventory, we can get see that they more than likely were included in the society functions of the day, and that they entertained. Only the genteel class of people had delft dishes and such things as silver shoe buckles and silver stick pins. The wigs were another indication, as was the fustane (sic) lace.
Apparently George was an educated man, because his inventory included a "parcel of old books." Not many people owned books in those days unless they were from the "upper" class.or a teacher.
Inventory of George Steele Estate
December Court, 1781 - Charles County, Md. Inventory of the goods and chattels of George Steale (Steele) Late of Charles County ( Maryland ) Deceased, Estate:
1 cow and calf 3 chests
4 cows 1 case and 13 bottles
4 yearlings 2 pair old cotton pads
1 sow and six pigs 1 pair wool pads
1 sow and seven shoats 5 delft plates
1 horse six years old 3 stone plates
1 mare eight years old 1 skilet (sic)
1 colt 1 year old 4 chinise(?)punch bowls ---
2 Beds and furniture 2 small glass tumblers
1 old square table 1 tea kettle
1 small square table 5 china teacups and saucers
6 chairs 1 small trunk
2 chairs without seats 1 tea canister
1 Woolen wheel 2 small looking glasses
1 Linen wheel 1 pocket looking glass
1 chest 14 3/4 yards Irish Linen
1/8 yard cambrick 7 1/2 yards checked Linen
8 yards printed Linen 1 1/2yard fustane
10 yards cotton 2 damaged pots
2 tea kettles 1 frying pan
1 iron pot rack 3 pair pot hooks
1 griddle 2 flat irons
3 iron wedges 2 axes
shoes 2 pr old shoes
11 pieces woolen wear 2 earthen fat pots
1 stone fat pot 2 earthen milk pans
6 small jugs 16 quart bottles
4 small bottles 2 glass candlesticks
6 candle molds 15 yards cotton
---thread 1 jacket-not made
1 small parcel old books 1 gun
1 sword 2 old swords
1 old musket 1 small saddle & bridle
1 pr fire tongs 132 lbs cotton in the seed
23 1/2 lbs wool 50 lbs beans
4 barrels corn 1 parcel old ----
2 old sifters 5 sides leather
1 small skin 1 1/2 bushel alum salt
3 canvas bags 1 table cloth
shaving utensils 1 pr cart wheels
1 (pot eauges?) 2 scythes
1 chamber pot old lumber
1 half pound powder and 8 flesh forks
a small quantify of shot 1 skimmer
1 small parcel cooper tools 36 lbs feathers
1 pen knife 1 pr silver shoe buckles
1 silver ( stock? stick?) wearing aparel (sic)
buckle a quadrant
4 tackle blocks - small 5 yards chintz
1 blanket 1 canteen
4 silver teaspoons 3 combs
seven line hooks 2 lbs cotton in the seed
(witnesses) Benj. Fendall
Richard Ratcliff (Both signed signatures)
The total value of the estate was 112 lbs, 3 shillings 3/4 pence The appraisers were Stephen Compton and Benj. King On the back of the foregoing inventory it is written: 3rd November 1781 - Then came Elizabeth Steale (sic) Administrix of George Steale (sic) deceased, late of Charles County, and made oath on the Holy Evangel of Almighty God, that the foregoing is true and a perfect Inventory of all singular, the goods and chattels of the said deceased, that have come into her hands and possessions at the time of making thereof; and that what hat since or shall thereafter come to her hands or possession, she will return an additional inventory; That she knows of no concealment of any part or parcel of the deceased Estate of any person whatsoever, and that if she shall hereafter discover any concealment or suspect any, to be cause of --------, that it may be regained into, according to law.
Certified by John Mushett, Reg. of Wills
Elizabeth was in no hurry to remarry. Her father had remarried and moved across the Potomac to Fairfax County, Virginia. She was living alone with her boys and a caretaker for several years in Fairfax County.
At this stage in her life, Elizabeth appears to have been an independent woman. Most women remarried shortly after the deaths of their husbands, but apparently Elizabeth was self sufficient. She paid her own taxes and probably earned her living as a seamstress or merchant. She had suffered the loss of some of her closest loved ones, but she still had her beloved sister Ann and her children.
Fairfax County, Virginia Tax Records for Elizabeth Steele:
1786 - Paid tax on 1 slave and 3 horses
1787 - Paid tax on Wm. Piper ( probably an overseer )
3 horses and 6 cattle
1788 - paid tax on 1 horse and 7 cattle
Her youngest brother had died, probably in Charles County and left an orphan daughter, Sarah. Her father died in late 1785 or early 1786, leaving his second wife two daughters and one son as survivors.
By this time, George the youngest was ten years old, Ralph "Rafe" was twelve; Richard, who was fourteen was left to be the "man of the family." Elizabeth received what was a large sum of money for the time period after her father died. Her family was "well to do" and well educated.
Sometime between the fall of 1788 and 1789, she remarried to an elderly widower, Abednigo White, who may also have been a merchant, or became one after he married Elizabeth. He had a sixteen or seventeen year old daughter, Sharlotte by a previous marriage. We can determine from all the documents that Abednigo signed that he was illiterate, because he always signed with an "X" or an "A." Elizabeth obviously married out of her social class.
Abednigo White came on the tax list the following year, therefore the assumption that he married Elizabeth between 1788 and 1789.
Abednigo White tax record:
1789 - paid tax on 1 slave and 4 cattle
1790 - paid tax on 6 blacks, 1 horse, 6 cattle
1791 - paid tax on 2 blacks, 1 horse, 4 cattle
Apparently Abednigo had some legal problems when he moved slaves into Virginia. He was in court on 20 April, 1790 regarding this matter. In Fairfax County, Virginia we find in Deed Book"T" that Abednigo White took an oath that his removal into the State of Virginia was with no intent of evading the laws for preventing the further importation of slaves into the state and that he had brought no slaves with him with the intention of selling them, nor had any of the slaves he brought been imported from Africa, nor the West Indies, since 1 November, 1778 (when the law was passed in Virginia.)
It is believed by this writer that the slaves had been inherited by Elizabeth through her father's "Valuable estate" in Maryland. Elizabeth Steele and her sister and brother had already given one slave to their niece, Sarah in 1788. Elizabeth's father's "Valuable estate" was in Maryland, and since it was a tobacco plantation, it is more than likely that these slaves were considered part of the "Valuable" estate.
When a woman married in those days, whatever she owned became the property of her husband. Abednigo apparently found a way to guarantee to the Commonwealth of Virginia that he was not bringing slaves into the state for resale. On 20 October, 1791 Abednigo deeded three slaves (Milly and her two children, Lewis and Abraham) to his step sons, Richard, Ralph and George. The deed was recorded on 17 April, 1792 by Richard Ratcliff, in Fairfax County, Va. There is no further record of the Steele boys ever owning the slaves, but when the last Steele son "came of age" in southwest Virginia, (eight years later) the Russell County Virginia records show that the three Steele boys went to court in Russell County and gave a Power of Attorney to young George's father in law, David Fannin for some ominous reason. There was no further record, so we can assume that their need for a Power of Attorney was to collect on a debt to them. Apparently the action was settled out of court, because It was shortly after, that the Steele boys started buying property. Apparently someone paid them some money for some reason, money that had not been paid until the threat of legal action. Abednigo still owned Milly and Abraham when he died in 1819, so obviously the Steele boys never received the slaves nor the money for them. It is the belief of this writer that they had to threaten Abednigo White with legal action to obtain what was legally theirs.
David Fannin was conducting business with Abednigo White shortly after Abednigo arrived in Southwest Virginia. Apparently Abednigo moved the family to the Russell/Tazewell County area in late 1791 or early 1792. There are no tax records for that area for 1792, but Abednigo bought property (70 acres) from David Fannin in 1793, and 220 acres from Shadrack White in the same year.
The Power of Attorney was more than likely to obtain their share of their father's estate, because a wife (Elizabeth) would have been entitled to one third of George's estate and her children would have been entitled by law to share the other two thirds of his estate. The Steele boys apparently never received anything from their grandfather Richard Ratcliff's estate, because when their mother married Abebnigo White, White would have gained control of his wife's money and property
Abednigo's taxes were unusually low before he married Elizabeth Ratcliff Steele, which would indicate that he did not own the slaves until he married a widow with a large inheritance, nor did he ever own property in Maryland, nor Fairfax County, Virginia. The amount of tax that was assessed was based on a person's land and personal property. According to his tax record, he was behind in his taxes until after his marriage to Elizabeth. The last time that he paid Maryland tax was "Cash" and his taxes were paid in full, (including interest) for the years 1780 through 1788. His total tax bill was only 2 lbs. 13 shillings, including interest. This is not exactly the tax bill of an affluent man. From the evidence, it certainly appears that Elizabeth's money was used to pay his back taxes and possibly to buy slaves.
This "cash" payment was about the time he moved over to Fairfax County and married Elizabeth. As stated earlier, The last year that Elizabeth was on the tax records was for the year 1788. In 1789, Abednigo White is on the Fairfax County tax list.
Elizabeth was to have three more children, all boys. Her first child born after she married Abednigo White was Shadrack White, born 25 Oct. 1790, in Fairfax County, Virginia. He died January, 1858 in Tazewell County, Virginia. He died with no legal heirs but tradition dictates that he had an illegitimate, son, Augustus " Gus" White. The date of Shadrack's birth would also explain the wording on the document when Abednigo deeded the slaves to the Steele boys and to "My present or future children by my present wife." This also indicates that these slaves had come to Abednigo through his marriage to Elizabeth Ratcliff Steele, either through her father's estate or purchased with money from Elizabeth's inheritance. Otherwise he would probably have included his daughter, Charlotte who was the child of his first or even a second wife.
The second son of Elizabeth by her marriage to Abednigo was Meshack White, born in Va. about 1793. He married to Lodisa Horton, the daughter of John And Isabelle ( Kindrick ) Horton. Meshack died in Russell County Virginia in 1874, leaving issue: Elizabeth "Eliza", b. 1814 (Married Edwin R. Baylor), Shadrack W. White, b. 13 Nov. 1815, died 22 September, 1861,no issue, John B. b. 1820, Robert A. b. 1825, Isabelle, b. 1830 married Wm. Bradshaw, William H. b. 1831, Almarine B. b. 1835, Rachel, b. 1836 and Polly Ann who married a Calhoun.
The last son born to Elizabeth Ratcliff Steele was Abednigo White Jr. who was born between 1794 and 1800. Records show that he was retarded. He died young, so he may have been Mongoloid, rather than mentally retarded. He had no issue.
Elizabeth Ratcliff Steele (White) died in Tazewell County Virginia on 3 June 1814. (From Bible of George and Rosannah Steele) Elizabeth is probably buried in what was at one time a cemetery, but is now a pasture. There are no stones in the "cemetery" and the only indication that it was ever a cemetery is the fact that the tombstone of her son Shadrack White was still very visible when we went there in 1984. There is (or was) a lone tree standing on a knoll with nothing but pasture around it. The trunk of the tree is hollow and when we looked inside the tree trunk, lo and behold there was the tombstone of Elizabeth's son, Shadrack White. The tombstone was in very good condition and the dates were very clear. Apparently the tree grew around the stone after Shadrack was buried. We knew that there was a stone inside the tree before we went there, otherwise one would never expect to see such an unusual sight. It was most interesting; appearing as a sentinel surrounding and protecting the remains of Shadrack.
We did not have appropriate camera equipment to take a picture of the inside of the tree, and I have not been back since that time. Ron's 35mm camera and 400 film were not adequate because of the darkness inside the tree trunk.
This is an excellent clue as to where our ancestor Elizabeth is probably buried. After the death of Abednigo White, Shadrack bought back the land where his parents had lived. It is believed by this writer that the remains of Elizabeth and her second husband Abednigo White are buried in that place. The eighty one year old Abednigo remarried in July, 1815 and lived until late 1819 or early 1820. This land, according to J. Robert Wysor, who took us there, is approximately fifteen miles from the Smyth County line and the North Fork of the Holston, where George Steele had a land survey in 1774.
Richard Steele, the first born child of George and Elizabeth (Ratcliff) Steele, died in Tazewell County, Virginia on 3 December,1839 (Family Bible of George and Rosannah as interpreted by this writer) Ralph Steele, died Tazewell County Virginia, in late April or in May, 1827 (circumstantial evidence from Court records) The entry is in the Bible but date is totally illegible. George Steele, the youngest son of George and Elizabeth (Ratcliff) Steele, died in Tazewell County, Virginia, 13 July, 1856. (Date is from tombstone, which was broken and partially buried by dirt and weeds when we were there with Charles and Jimmie Steele in about 1985) There has been information published and circulated that the tombstone showed his middle initial as "E." there was no such initial there. The "E" was the last letter of his name.
There was an entry in the Bible that appears to be the death date of George Steele, the father of the above Richard, Ralph and George. It appears to be sometime in 1780, but that entry was written over in the Bible and was replaced with the death and sickness of one of the children of Ralph A. Steele (son of George and Rosannah Steele) This was a different hand writing than the preceding entries.
Tax records for this section were abstracted from original records at the Virginia State Archives by Jimmie M. Steele, where she also found the death record of Rosannah Fannin Steele, which listed her parents as David and Jane Fannin. The informant was Polly Wysor. This information was shared with me the first time I talked with Jimmie in 1984. Until that time, incorrect information had been circulated and even printed in newspaper articles that Rosannah Fannin Steele's maiden name was Francisco. I have also researched the Francisco family, of whom I am a descendant on another line. I have researched the Ratcliff family in detail and found no relationship for Elizabeth Ratcliff to a Summers, and no relationship of Rosannah Fannin to the Francisco family. There is nothing in the family Bible to indicate this, and nothing in the court records in Maryland nor Virginia to indicate this.
George married Elizabeth Ratcliff. (Elizabeth Ratcliff was born circa 1750 and died on 3 Jun 1814 in Tazewell Co., VA.)