Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants

land deeds mentioning Brittons, Frosts, Gibsons and Howsmons in Frederick, VA

Northern Neck Land Proprietary Records


The Virginia Land Office has records for what is known as the Northern Neck Land Proprietary, also known as the Fairfax Land Proprietary. For more than a century this archive was private, the land office owned and operated by the Fairfax family, controlling an area bounded by the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers and stretching from the Chesapeake Bay to what is now West Virginia (see map below). It embraced all or part of the current Virginia counties and cities of Alexandria, Arlington, Augusta, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Greene, King George, Lancaster, Loudoun, Madison, Northumberland, Orange, Page, Prince William, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Stafford, Warren, Westmoreland, and Winchester, and the current West Virginia counties of Berkeley, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, and Morgan.

Many papers (surveys, related papers, land tenure, and even family relationships and migration) of the Northern Neck proprietary are still extant, unlike the records of the colonial Virginia Land Office. Large numbers of settlers of German and Scotch-Irish ancestry moved to the region. A number of important leaders, including George Washington and John Marshall, grew up in this area, and both Washington and Marshall attempted to gain control of the remnants of Fairfax land after the American Revolution.

History, 1649-1781

King Charles II of England was forced into exile in 1649 after the execution of his father. In that year he granted to seven of his supporters, including John Culpeper, the unsettled region between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers to their headwaters, totaling more than five million acres. The restoration of Charles to the throne in 1660 saw renewed efforts on the part of the original patentees to claim this land, which had begun to be settled. A new charter lasting twenty-one years was issued in 1669, but further complications continued to frustrate attempts to organize the proprietary and collect rents. In 1681, Thomas, Lord Culpeper, acquired all rights to the land, and in 1688 it was confirmed to him by patent. At his death in 1689 his interest passed to his daughter, Catherine, who married Thomas, fifth Lord Fairfax. The Council confirmed their rights in 1694, and the proprietary remained in the hands ofthe Fairfax family for another ninety years.

Despite hostility on the part of Virginia’s government, agents for the proprietary were appointed and active from 1670 onwards. All grants made within the bounds of the proprietary prior to 1690 are entered in the colonial patent books. After that date, separate Northern Neck grant books were maintained. Most prominent of the agents was Robert “King” Carter, who served from 1701-1711 and 1722-1732. After his death, Fairfax family members functioned as agents. The precise boundaries of the proprietary remained cloudy until 1745, when the Privy Council in England confirmed those set down in the 1688 patent to Lord Fairfax. A survey of the lands was commissioned and completed in 1746. (John Frost purchased land in 1735; Joseph Britton purchased land in 1752 -- see below).

1736/37 map of Northern Neck -- note the Waggon Road from Winchester (Frederick) to Philadelphia -- click on map for larger view
The proprietary continued to operate until the death of Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax, in 1781. Although he himself had not been disturbed during the Revolution, his heirs were British subjects, and the commonwealth began legal proceedings to seize the land. The Virginia Land Office assumed control of proprietary functions by 1786 and the process for obtaining land changed to follow Land Office requirements for land acquisition. The Fairfax family ceded all rights to the land in 1793 to a land syndicate headed by John Marshall. Legal wrangling continued until 1816, when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee that the Commonwealth of Virginia was the legal owner of the land.

The land grant process within the Northern Neck Proprietary was similar to that followed by individuals who received land from the colonial Virginia Land Office, with several significant differences. The head-right system, whereby a person received land for each person imported into the colony, was not recognized in the proprietary. Also, loose papers related to the grants were retained, unlike in the colonial Virginia Land Office, where they were annually destroyed. Persons who took up grants in the proprietary were not required to settle on the land, which was another change from Virginia Land Office practice. To obtain land a person purchased a warrant from the proprietor’s agent specifying the precise location of the desired land. The warrant was then given to a surveyor, who surveyed the land. The plat, warrant, and any related papers were returned to the proprietor’s office, and if the title was clear, a grant was recorded and then issued. At any point after the warrant was purchased the land could be assigned (sold) to another person, and years could elapse between the purchase of the warrant and the issuance of a grant. The Library of Virginia holds almost all extant Northern Neck Proprietary papers, as well as other related documents. Most important of these are the grant books.

Prior to 1690, grants in the Northern Neck Proprietary are found in the regular Land Office patent books. Nell Nugent’s Cavaliers and Pioneers (volumes 1 and 2) abstracts these and other patents. A full listing of Northern Neck proprietary records held by the Library may be found in the published Virginia Land Office Inventory (3rd ed., 1981). Beginning in 1690, the Northern Neck grants were recorded in books maintained by the proprietary. The earliest grants are abstracted in Nell Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Supplement, Northern Neck Land Grants, 1690–1692 (1980). All other grants are abstracted in Gertrude E. Gray, Virginia Northern NeckLand Grants, 1694–1862 (1988–1993). The Library holds microfilm copies of the grants, which also maybe searched and viewed on the Library’s Web site. The grants typically contain the name of the grantee(s),the number of acres, the location of the land, including the county, natural boundaries and adjoining landowners, the date, and names of other persons to whom the warrant had been assigned. A number of early Northern Neck grants also contain the survey. The warrants and surveys prior to 1781 have been abstracted by Peggy S. Joyner, Abstracts of Virginia’s Northern Neck Warrants and Surveys (1985–1995). The records are on microfilm at the Library, and arearranged by county and then name of the grantee. These papers usually include the warrant, assignments (often with original signatures), and a plat of the land. They sometimes contain genealogical information. Warrants and surveys also exist for the period 1786-1874. The loose plats and related papers are held in the original at the Library and are arranged chronologically by the name of the grantee. There are also survey books, 1786-1874, which are on microfilm at the Library; these surveys are available online, linked to the grants found on the Library’s Web page. Other records include problem surveys which were caveated, forfeited, defective, or not acted upon, most of which are included in volume 5 of Abstracts of Virginia’s Northern Neck Warrants and Surveys. The Library also holds related materials, including the Fairfax Proprietary Papers (Accession 24062), which is part of the personal papers collection. They contain Northern Neck Proprietary documents such as rent rolls, grants, bonds, deeds, wills, surveys, and letters. There is also a ledger (Accession 22242) kept by George William Fairfax from 1786–1792 concerning the collection of rents of proprietary land. Rents were taxes on land paid to the proprietary by landholders. The Library holds copies of several rent rolls held by the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Note: This section contains information only on the Northern Neck land grants. Some of the land purchases of our ancestors were made individual-to-individual and therefore recorded elsewhere. See Virginia deeds.

1752 deed to Joseph Briton -- click on deed for larger view
Joseph Briton's Land Grant -- dated March 11, 1752 for 200 acres in Frederick County, on the North River of Cacapehon
(transcribed from document at left -- writing hard to decipher so use with caution) The Right Honourable Thomas Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron in that Part of Great Britain called Scotland Proprietor of the Northern Neck of Virginia: To all to whom this present Writing shall come sends Greeting. Know Ye that for good Causes for and in Consideration of the compensation to me paid And for the annual Rent hereafter Reserved I have given granted and confirmed And by these presents for Me my Heirs and Assigns do Give Grant and Confirm unto Joseph Briton of the County of Frederick a certain tract or parcel of ungranted land in the said County of the N. River of Cacapehon and Bounded as by a Survey thereof made by Mr. George Washington as followeth Beginning at a Line on the side of a Mountain and extended N.3510' two hundred poles to two pines on the side of a very steep Hill thence S.350' One hundred and sixty poles to two pines in very hilly ground thence S.356' two hundred poles to two pines on the side of the aforesaid mountain near a pavement of Rocks thence N.356' one hundred and sixty poles to the Beginning containing two hundred acres. Together with all Rights Member and Appurtenances thereunto belonging Royal Mines Excepted and a full third part of all Lead Copper Tinn Coale Iron mines and Iron Ore that shall be found thereon. To have and to hold the said two hundred acres of land together with all Rights Profits and Benefits to the same belonging or in any wise appertaining Except before Excepted to them? the said Joseph Briton his Heirs and Assigns for Ever. provided the said Joseph Briton his Heirs or assigns therefore yielding and paying to me my Heirs or Assigns or to my certain Attorney or Attorney's Agent or Agents or to the certain Attorney or Attorneys of my Heirs or Assigns proprietors of the said Northern Neck Yearly and every Year on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel the rent of one shilling Sterling money for every fifty acres of Land hereby Granted and so proportionately for a greater or a lesser Quantity: Provided that if the said Joseph Briton his Heirs or Assigns shall not Pay the before mentioned annual Rent so that the same or any Part thereof shall be behind or unpaid by the space of two whole years after the same shall become Due or Lawfully Demanded that then it shall and may be Lawfull for me my Heirs or Assigns Proprietors as aforesaid my or their certain Attorney or Attorneys Agent or Agents unto the above granted Promises to Renter and Hold the same so as if this grant had never passed Given at my office in the County of Fairfax within my said proprietary under my Hand and Seal. Dated this Eleventh day of March in the twenty fifth year of the Reign of our sovereign Lord George the Second by the Grace of God of Great Britain France and Ireland King Defender of the Faith the Anno One Thousand seven hundred and fifty two.
Joseph Briton's deed
for 200 Acres of Land
in Frederick County.
Source: Northern Neck Grants H, p.127 (Reel 293).
Note: the survey was done by future first President George Washington, who started performing surveys in the Northern Neck at age 16!
Although it seems likely that this Joseph Britton is the father of Jesse, who moves to Frederick/Winchester in the 1780s and again in the 1790s, it is not clear if the family lived here in the 1750s-1770s. Jesse was born in 1759 in Pennsylvania, supposedly in Berks County. It would therefore appear that the family only paid rent (i.e., taxes) for some number of years prior to their actual move to Virginia. However, with no will found for Joseph Britton in Bucks County, it also seems likely that Joseph might have moved to Virginia with his sons after his father's and father-in-law's deaths -- perhaps the notation in Memoranda from the diary of John Dyer of Plumstead, Bucks, County for October 22, 1790 "N. Brittain and J. Brittain moved to Virginia" refers to Jesse's father Joseph (see source), but there were many Josephs and Johns and even Jesse it could equally pertain to (see tree).
It is very significant that this was the only Britton (and related spellings) deed found. Given that this deed predated most if not all of Joseph's children, it appears that Joseph intended to move to Winchester so a move in the 1790s prior to his death would not be unexpected. Rethink this -- Check sources for Joseph Britton's birthdate. Another genealogist said you had to be 21 to buy land, so this Joseph had to have been born prior to 1732.
Note below the deed for Jacob Gibson on March 10, 1752, the day previous to this deed; it is likely this was no coincidence -- I [DLH 2008] am guessing that Britton and Gibson traveled together from PA to VA for these purchases. There is another Jacob Gibson making purchases in Northern Neck, but these were over 20 years earlier and in a different county so it is not clear if this is the same or even a related person.

Frost Northern Neck Land Grants
John Frost grantee 1735 -- 385 acres in Frederick County (see original deed)
William Frost:
1753 Mar 3 -- Description: 400 acres on both sides Back Creek in Frederick County.
1753 Apr 26 -- Description: 239 acres on the east side of Back Creek which he purchased of Joseph Botchum in Fredereick County
1754 Nov 20 -- Description: 400 acres on both sides of Back Creek where he has a settlement in Frederick County
1755 Jun 15 -- Description: 239 acres on the east side of Back Creek which he purchased of Joseph Botchum in Fredcerick County.
1766 Oct 3 -- Description: 114 acres on the South East side of Back Creek adjoining Philip Dorset &c. in Frederick County.
1766 -- (not grantee, just mentioned in Abraham Sutton's deed) Description: 247 acres on both sides of Back Creek adjoining John Chinworth and Wm. Frost.
1766 -- (not grantee, just mentioned in John William Proven's deed) Description: 307 acres on both sides of Back Creek adjoining Stephen Onion, Wm Frost &c.
1787 Oct 3 -- Description: 111 acres adjoining Absalom Hayworth &c on the drains of Back Creek in Frederick County.
1789 -- (not grantee, just mentioned in Isaac Standley's deed) Description: 258 acres adjoining William Cockran, William Frost and his own land on the drains of Back Creek.
Other (non-grant) Frost deeds

Gibson Northern Neck Land Grants
Richard Gibson 1694
---Description: Stafford County, 344 acres beginning &c. upon a point that makes the North East side of the mouth of Qantiquot Creek running thence along Richd. Gibsons line of his land called Newfound land. &c. Grantee: Samuel Kent. 1691
---Description: Stafford County, 26 acres upon Quanticott Creek, beginning on the pitch of a point that makes the mouth of Quanticott Creek on the north side of the creeke. Grantee: Richard Gibson
John Gibson 1695
---Description: Lancaster County, 232 acres on a branch of Coritoman, adjoining William Lawrence. Grantee: John Gibson
Edward Gibson 1695
---Description: Lancaster County, 250 acres escheat land. Adjoining the land of Edward Gibson, Thomas Martin, Uriah Angle, and others. Grantee: James Haines
Robert Gibson 1714
---Description: Lancaster County, 120 acres on the eastwardmost side of a branch of Colo Carter’s Creek, formerly called Johns Creek. Grantee: Robert Gibson
Jonathan Gibson, Jr. 1724
---Description: Stafford County, 377 acres on the branches of Elk Run, adjoining William Allen and Thomas Furr. Grantee: Jonathan Gibson, Jr
Jacob Gibson 1724, 1724, 1731, 1752, 1762
---Description: Stafford County, 306 acres between the branches of Powells Creek and the North Run of Quanticot Creek. Grantee: Jacob Gibson and John Calvert, 1724.
---Description: Prince William County, 235 acres on the North Run of Quantico adjoining the land of Richard Davis, John Calvert, and Jacob Gibson. Grantee: Catesby Cocke, 1731.
---Description: Frederick County, 457 acres adjoining Isaac Hite and George Bowman on Cedar Creek. Grantee: Jacob Gibson, March 10, 1752. NOTE: Jacob Gibson signed his deed for this property ONE DAY before Joseph Britton signed his deed for his property in Frederick County (see above)! I [DLH 2008] think this is no coincidence! My initial guess, is that Jacob is a cousin to Joseph's current/future wife -- Mary's father is thought to be the Robert Gibson of Bucks County who died in 1787, and listed a daugher Mary Britton, but no son Jacob Gibson. Therefore, I [DLH 2008] think it likely this Jacob is a cousin/uncle to Joseph Britton's future wife Mary Gibson. Joseph should be only about 18, and I would guess that Joseph and Jacob traveled together from Pennsylvania to Winchester. Look up Hilltown records -- Joseph really only 18 when bought this land????? --no, had to be 21 supposedly. this also makes Jacob born prior to 1704.
---Description: Frederick County, 491 acres on the North River of Shannandoah adjoining Jacob Gibson. Grantee: Isaac Hite, 1762.
Joseph Gibson 1727, 1730, 1731, 1740, 1741, 1742, 1744, 1771
---Description: Stafford County, 386 acres on the north branches of Ceadar Run adjoining Robert Barber. Grantee: Joseph Gibson, 1727.
---Description: Stafford County, 693 acres at the Pignut Ridge on the east side of Mr. Skinker and Parson Scotts lines. Grantee: Joseph Gibson, 1730.
---Description: Prince William County, 642 acres on the head branch on the North Fork of Broad Run and extending to a branch of Goose Creek bounding on the south side of an outlet on the Bull Run Mountain. Grantee: Joseph Gibson, 1731.
---Description: Prince William County, 491 acres adjoining land of Joseph Gibson, John Glascock, and George Rogers. Grantee: Thomas Barton, 1740
---Description: Prince William County, 300 acres on the north side of the Bull Mountains adjoining Joseph Gibson, and on a branch of Hunger Run. Grantee: Burr Barton, 1741.
---Description: Prince William County, 357 acres adjoining his own and land of Gibson and Siers on Hunger Run. Grantee: Jacob Holtzclaw, 1742 (assume Joseph Gibson's land)
---Description: Prince William County, 1837 acres beginning on a small branch of Trap Branch adjoining land of Shumate, Gibson, Nelms, Skinker, &c. Grantee: Capt. John Frogg, 1744 (assume Joseph Gibson)
---Description: Loudoun County, 22 acres on Panther Skin a branch of Goose Creek adjoining John Edmundson’s land. Grantee: Joseph Gibson, 1771.
John Gibson 1779, 1780, 1780, 1792, 1806, (1832)
---Description: Hampshire County, 135 acres on the drains of the South Branch adjoining Wood and Gibson. Grantee: Simon Hornback, 1779. (assume John Gibson)
---Description: Hampshire County, 202 acres on the draughts of the North Fork of Little Cacapehon adjoining William Carter. Grantee: John Gibson 1780.
Description: Hampshire County, 284 acres on the east side of the Piney Mountain and on the waters of the North Fork of Little Cacapehon. Grantee: John Gibson, 1780.
---Description: Loudoun County, 102 acres between the lands held in 1783 by Marmaduke Beckwith, James Nesbit, William Payne, and Sampson Turley. Grantee: John Gibson, 1792. ---Description: Fairfax County, 383 acres beginning on the east side of Bull Run being the upper corner of John Lintons land. Grantee: John Gibson, 1806
William Gibson 1789
---Description: Hampshire County, 413 acres on the drains of the South Branch adjoining the land of John Mitts and near lands surveyed for William Gibson and company. Grantee: Caleb Hewes, 1789.
Jonathan Gibson 1780 1792
---Description: Fauquier County, 56 acres on the waters of Elk Run. Grantee: Jonathan Gibson, 1780.
---Description: Fauquier County, 48 acres adjoining the land of Hughes, Gibson and others. Grantee: William Conway, 1792 (assume Jonathan Gibson)
Morris Gibson 1788
---Description: Berkeley County, 806 acres adjoining his survey which joins Morris Gibson, and Peter Helphinstine on the waters of Brush Creek. Grantee: John Povenberger, 1788
NOTE: Gibson is a very common name, resulting in difficulty in following the family in these early documents. Care must be taken to match name and place and dates.

Howsmon Northern Neck Land Grants
---Description: Berkeley County, 130 acres on Tulyes’s Branch a branch of Potowmack River. Grantee: Martin Houseman, 1779.
---Description: Frederick County, 121 1/2 acres adjoining John Howsman &c and on the west side of Babbs Run. Grantee: Elisha Boyd, 1795.
(There is no record of John Howsmon being a grantee, as he purchased this land from an individual.) -- see other (non-grant) deeds


For additional information, see Arthur McClinton, The Fairfax Line: A Historic Landmark(1990) and Charles Morrison, The Fairfax Line, a Profile in History and Geography (1970).

Also at the Library of Virginia -- Britton is mentioned in the Bailey family Bible record, 2 leaves, 1765-1796 at Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA. website: -- Archives Research Services -- (telephone) 804/692-3888

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