Analysis of the Last Will and Testament
Robert Duke of Camden District, SC, d. circa 1785
This document is copyright © 1999, 2000 by Tony L. Cox. All rights reserved.  (It was last changed on August 5, 2000)
CAVEAT: The content herein is a temporal blend of fact and current personal opinion that may not represent the total truth. This note is subject to, and will, change without notice. It is not genealogical data and should not be treated as such. The note is intended to convey and to document a direction of research that the reader may find fruitful. Please email comments or questions to us.

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The Children of Robert Duke of Camden District, SC
Robert Duke named five children specifically in his will: Thomas, Rachel, Moses, Aaron, and Jesse. We believe, but have yet to prove, the children are named in order, oldest first. Two additional girls: Hester or Easter and Anne, are named along with Jesse in subsequent probate court data. In total, there are seven named and documented children. We argue that, at the time of the will, the seven were all of Robert's living children.

In the will, Robert directed his slaves, livestock, equipment, all other movable estate, and two tracts of land to be sold and the proceeds divided among his "six youngest children". He leaves Moses, Aaron, and Jesse tracts of land, bare of "moveable estate"; that is, no livestock and no farming equipment. In our opinion, Robert, being an experienced and successful farmer, would not leave his very young "beloved sons" tracts of land without providing operating capital for seed, tools, and livestock. To do so, would doom them to failure. They surely shared in the proceeds of the sale of the movable estate and were part of the "six youngest children".

Robert specifically excluded Thomas from the inheritance by giving him one shilling. We believe the phrase "six youngest children" to be just another mechanism for excluding Thomas, giving the proceeds to the other six children.

In the will, Robert named Thomas, Rachael, then Moses. When the will was made, Moses was described as under the age of 21. We believe if there were other living children, age 21 or older, Robert would have named them along with Thomas and Rachael, even if he planned to exclude them, as he did in the case of the oldest son, Thomas.

According to the will, Moses was not 21 on December 10, 1784, the date of Robert Duke's will, but he was 21 when it was proved, January 28, 1785. We know this because on that date he legally signed as a witness. This places his birth between December 10, 1763 and January 28, 1764.

Anne, Hester, and Jesse had to be between the ages of 14 and 21 to need, and to request, a guardian on May 12, 1789. This places their birthdates between May 12, 1768 and May 12, 1775. It is extremely likely, although, admittedly, not necessary, if there were other children between the ages of 14 and 21 they would have also requested a guardian at the same time.

Jesse is described in the will as the "youngest son", therefore Robert had no sons born later than Jesse. It is possible, but not probable, that Robert had daughters born later than Jesse. If there were any minor children under the age of 14 with a claim to the portion of the estate that was settled in 1789, a guardian would have been appointed for them by the probate court. We could find no such court action.

Aaron was listed in the will after Moses and before the "youngest son", Jesse. He did not request a guardian with Hester, Anne, and Jesse and he is not mentioned in the probate. We believe Aaron was not 21 when the will was written but attained the age of 21 before May 12, 1789, when the guardian request was made. Moses and Aaron could have been twins, so we must set Aaron's birth date between December 10, 1763 and May 12, 1768. We believe Moses and him to be the Robert's only surviving children born during that period.  The age of Aaron Duke is listed as 86 on the 1850 US Census for Fairfield District, SC.  This would yield a birth year of about 1764.

In summary, we believe that if Robert had unnamed living children over 21, he would have specifically mentioned them in the will even if he planned to exclude them. If he had unnamed living children under 21 on May 12, 1789, they would have been named in subsequent probate court proceedings. We believe Aaron and Moses to be the only children that turned 21 after the will was written and prior to May 12, 1789.

The Wife of Robert Duke of Camden District, SC
Robert Duke, in his last will and testament, refers to his "beloved wife Nancy". We know this much for sure. It has been claimed that Nancy was Robert's second wife. We have not encountered a convincing argument for this. And we have found no data to substantiate any wife other than Nancy. Another researcher believes that Nancy was a popular nickname for Ann during this time period. There may be an example of this in the William Harrison to John Duke indenture and release. In the record, William Harrison refers to his wife as Nancy; however, she signed her name as Ann. The wife of Robert Duke is believed to have a witnessed a deed transfer along with her son, Aaron. As witness to the conveyance, she used the name, Nancy.

In the will, Robert left his "beloved wife, Nancy" only the use of a certain slave during her lifetime. She inherited no estate, no tracts of land. It is possible that she owned property prior to the death of Robert, but not likely, given the customs prevailing at the time. A check of Lancaster District land grant and plat data proves the "Widow Duke" listed as an adjacent land owner on both the Micajah Crenshaw and Jesse Tillman plat surveys, is not Nancy, the widow of the Robert Duke of Camden District. The Jesse Tillman Survey was certified on October 7, 1784, several months before Robert Duke of Camden died. More information on this Widow Duke can be found in another genealogy note.

Nancy's surname is unknown. Just after the death of Robert, Daniel Muse, Junior, gave Jesse, Robert's youngest son, the land on Sawney's Creek. Because this land is mentioned in the will, it was apparently discussed prior to Robert's death. We suggest Muse may be an appropriate direction of search for her surname.

The Land of Robert Duke of Camden District, SC
The South Carolina Archive records show, prior 1785, seven land grants in Craven County were issued to a person, or persons, named Robert Duke:

June 3, 1765, 150 acres on the mouth of Cedar Creek, tributary of the Wateree
July 13, 1770, 100 acres on Twenty Five Mile Creek, adjacent Foy and Bradley
July 12, 1771, 100 acres on north side of Twenty Five Mile Creek
May 7, 1774, 100 acres on Twenty Five Mile Creek
June 23, 1774, 300 acres on Fishing Creek
September 9, 1774, 100 acres on Flatt Creek, adjacent to Ferguson
September 9, 1774, 100 acres on Horsepen Branch

The 150 acre tract on Cedar Creek was not mentioned in Robert Duke of Camden's will. So, if the tract of land was granted to him, he sold it prior to 1785. In 1786, James Breden added a land grant to his holdings that were adjacent to the Robert Duke grant, surrounding it on at least two sides. In 1806 James Bredin sold part of the Robert Duke Cedar Creek grant to Andrew McIlwain. Later, in 1806, the heirs of James Bredin, including his widow Mary, sold the rest of it to George Hays. We know the Bredins owned the Robert Duke tract by 1803. We are searching for an earlier conveyance that will help us identify which Robert Duke originally owned the land. We believe the time and the location of the grant make Robert Duke of Camden the most likely candidate of the several Robert Dukes who lived in the Camden District. Robert Duke conveyed the 100 acres of land granted to him on May 7, 1774 to Henry Miley by lease and release recorded December 29-30, 1774. The land was situated on Twenty Five Mile Creek.

According to the memorial, the 100 acres of land granted to Robert Duke on July 12,1771 was conveyed by him to William Simmons on September 28, 1772.

At least three tracts of land were conveyed to Robert Duke of Camden by memorialists.

July 13, 1775, from Thomas Duke, 100 acres on Twenty Five Mile Creek
July 13, 1775, from Samuel Nipper, 100 acres on Round Top Branch
July 13, 1775, from William Simmons, 300 acres on Twenty Five Mile Creek

The tributary of the Wateree, or Catawba River, called Twenty Five Mile Creek has a major fork near the point where the three modern-day South Carolina counties: Fairfield, Kershaw, and Richland meet. The south branch of the fork, draining northern Richland County is called Rice Creek and the north branch, draining southern Fairfield County before it flows through Richland County and, afterwards, Kershaw County retains the name Twenty Five Mile Creek. Round Top is a south branch of Twenty Five Mile Creek in Richland County. Near Round Top Branch is another branch of Twenty Five Mile Creek called Flatt Branch that enters Kershaw before flowing into Twenty Five Mile Creek. All but three of the Robert Duke land grants were in this area, east and north of Blythewood, SC. All three land grants conveyed to Robert Duke by other memorialists are also in this area. Of the other land grants, the one on Horse Pen Branch is a few miles north of this area in Fairfield County near Sawney's Creek. The Fishing Creek land grant is in southern Chester County on the west side of the Wateree. The 1765 grant can be found on the East side of the Wateree in southern Lancaster County on Cedar Creek. We have yet to prove the Lancaster tract was granted to Robert Duke of Camden. However we are inclined to believe it was his.

The tracts of land mentioned in the Robert Duke's will are: "a plantation and a tract of land on 25 mile creek", "a tract of land on Twaney's Creek", and two tracts to be sold at "public vantage": a tract of land "near the mouth of Fishing Creek" and a tract of land "near Carey's old saw mill". The will implies these four tracts are the extent of the land Robert owned or controlled at the time of his death.

The "plantation and tract of land on 25 Mile Creek" consisted of 600 acres located near the borders between Kershaw, Fairfield, and Richland Counties, SC. Of the six hundred acres, three hundred were originally granted to William Simmons. After the death of Robert Duke, in compliance with his will, the tract was divided by heirs, Moses and Aaron Duke, each taking 300 acres. Moses took the upper, or west, half.

Jesse Duke inherited a 150 acre tract on "Sawney's Creek." This land was actually provided by Daniel Muse, Junior rather than Robert Duke. Apparently, the mention in the will was a mechanism to insure that Jesse, a minor, would receive the land when he became of age. The headwaters of Sawney Creek lie in eastern Fairfield County, SC. The creek then flows into Kershaw County and into the Wateree, or Catawba, river. The deed conveyance was recorded in Fairfield County.

The tract of land "near Carey's old sawmill" is likely the 100 acres on Horsepen Branch that Moses Duke of Fairfield District, SC (and later of Richland District, SC) "as heir and administrator of the estate of Robert Duke, dcd," sold to Mary Turner in 1796, recorded in Kershaw County. The source of Horsepen Branch is in Fairfield County. It then flows into Kershaw County and into Sawney's Creek, a tributary of the Wateree river. According to Mills Atlas, published in 1825, Horsepen Branch joins Sawney's Creek less than a mile from Crim's Mill. We believe, but have yet to prove, that Crim's Mill was built on the site of Carey's or Curry's old saw mill near where the old Catawba Path crosses Sawney's Creek.

The Fishing Creek is in Chester County, SC. The "mouth of Fishing Creek" lies in Southeastern Chester County where the creek flows into the Wateree River. Apparently, the 300 acre tract of land had been sold by Robert Duke on a Lease and Release conveyance that was still pending at the time the will was written.

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