Untangling my Rhodes Family Tree

For years I incorrectly assumed that Robert P. Rhodes, my ggg-grandfather, was the son of Matthew Rodes and Nancy Ann Blackwell in Albemarle County, VA. New information in late 2019 (including the will of John W. Rhodes – Albemarle County, VA, 1846 – and the numerous chancery suits that followed) now proves beyond a doubt that Robert P. Rhodes was the son of John W. Rhodes.

John Rhodes married (first) Tabitha Pearson in 1793.

While the evidence was somewhat circumstantial at first, I was convinced that Robert P. Rhodes was the son of John & Tabitha given that (1) Robert P. Rhodes named his first daughter Tabitha and (2) Tabitha Pearson’s father was named Robert Pearson. I think it is entirely plausible that Robert P. Rhodes’ full name was Robert Pearson Rhodes.

The wife of Robert P. Rhodes, Mildred Rhodes Marshall, was the daughter of William Marshall, Jr. and his first wife, Sarah Rhodes.

Moving this back a generation, John W. Rhodes was a son of Epaphroditus Rhodes. Sarah Rhodes, first wife of William Marshall, Jr., was a daughter of Epaphroditus Rhodes! This means that Robert P. Rhodes and his wife, Mildred Rhodes Marshall Rhodes, were first cousins.

To add to the intertwining of my Rhodes family “tree,” after the death of Tabitha Pearson Rhodes, John W. Rhodes married Mary Ann “Molly” Martin in 1815. Molly had a sister named Mildred Martin–and Mildred was the second wife of William Marshall, Jr.!

Molly and Mildred had another sister, Lucy. She married a White, and after HER husband’s death, she lived with her unmarried son, Willis M. White. (Lucy and Willis are buried at the abandoned cemetery near Free Union, VA that we visited on Sunday, January 26, 2020, but their stones are no longer visible.)

After the death of John W. Rhodes in 1846, Mary Ann “Molly” Martin Rhodes first lived with her nephew, George Martin (who was the executor of John W. Rhodes’ estate), but after George’s death, she went to live with her nephew, Willis White, and her widowed sister, Lucy Martin White. (She was listed on the 1850 and 1860 Albemarle County census.)

1850 Albemarle County, VA Census
1860 Albemarle County, VA Census

George Martin died in 1847 before he had finished his administrative duties for John W. Rhodes’ estate, and this is what started the chancery suits! Part of the issue was that Molly Martin Rhodes wasn’t charged board when she was living with George Martin, and when HE died with numerous debts, creditors were trying to sue her to get back the money that George had owed them. After she went to live with Willis White, she wasn’t charged board, either. Witnesses testified that her nephews (George & Willis) didn’t intend to charge “the old lady” board because she was related AND because she was so old (in her 80s) that they didn’t expect her to live very long!

One of the witnesses was Robert P. Rhodes. Under oath, he spoke of a conversation he’d had with George Martin following the sale at his deceased father’s home. He asked what was to become of his step-mother, Molly.

Robert was reimbursed for his travel from Nelson County to the Albemarle County Courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia by Willis M. White.

Original document found in the Archives section of the Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA – Jan. 26, 2020

Well, Mary Ann “Molly” Rhodes fooled them all. She outlived ANOTHER administrator of her husband’s estate, and in HER will proved in Albemarle County in 1861, Molly–at the ripe old age of 95!–left everything to her nephew, Willis M. White and his unmarried sisters. 

Her will was not contested. And it is assumed that she was buried in the cemetery where her sister, Lucy Martin White and nephew, Willis M. White, were buried.

HOWEVER, Molly’s son, Thomas W. Rhodes, (who became the 3rd or 4th administrator of the estate of John W. Rhodes!), finally went after his half-brother, Robert P. Rhodes, to try to reclaim some of the money due to him from their father’s estate.

Summons for Robert Rhodes by Thomas W. Rhodes, 1873
Summons for Robert Rhodes by Thomas W. Rhodes, 1874

In the late 1870s, John W. Anderson, the son-in-law of Robert P. Rhodes, ultimately found a way to pay off all the debts to Thomas W. Rhodes (executor of the estate of John W. Rhodes) so that the daughters of Robert P. Rhodes could keep their land along the Rockfish River in Nelson County.

So there. It’s only taken me 30 years to figure this all out. 😉

And along the way I’ve learned about Robert P. Rhodes’ sisters and brothers and their families; about the family line of John W. Rhodes and his father, Epaphroditis, and HIS father, Hezekiah Rhodes, and about another daughter of Robert & Mildred Rhodes (Elizabeth Columbia Rhodes Clements) and her family. It’s been a pretty wild ride.

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