William Presley Family


Provided by Margaret Nolen Nichol

William Presly

Northumberland House, Northumberland County, Virginia



            William Presly, of Northumberland House, Northumberland County, Virginia and his sons, William and Peter Presly, figure prominently in the early settlement of Northumberland County, in the Northern Neck of Virginia.  The county was in it infancy when the Preslys arrived to settle on the Coan River at Codd’s point. Preceding them was Colonel John Mottrom who had moved into the area called Chicacoan from Maryland, c1640. Following shortly afterwards were the Kent Islanders, who were dissatisfied with the government of Lord Baltimore that had taken over the holdings of Captain William Claiborne.  Captain Claiborne had settled Kent Island with his fellow Virginians and was using it as a center for his trading and hunting activities.

            The birthplace and birth date of William Presly have not been discovered but a strong indication is that he came from Dorsetshire in England.  Presly researchers have indicated that the wife of William Presley was Jane Newman, sister of Robert Newman, so an effort has been made to connect William Presly with Robert Newman, who was born in Beaminister Parish, Dorset, England.  The Newman surname is very prominent in Dorset.  Some of the early settlers of the Northern Neck of Virginia immigrated, also, from Beaminister as well as other Parishes in Dorset.

            Date of the arrival of William Presly into the colony has not been determined.  He is recorded representing Northumberland County in the House of Burgesses, 3 Nov 1647.  This is two years before he claimed a patent for his transporting of 23 persons, in 1649.  Nell Marian Nugent, compiler of Cavaliers and Pioneers of Virginia, records the arrival date of the Preslys in America as 1649 when William Presly transported his wife, Jane, and three sons, Peter, William and Paule Presly. [1]   The earliest court order book now in the Northumberland County Clerk’s office is 1652.  The old books were bound with oak board covered with leather but the earliest books seemed to have been destroyed by fire or other means.

            The first record of a land patent for William Presly is found, 14 Oct 1649, for 1150 acres on the Potomack River between Chingehan Creeke and Presly’s Creeke mouth over to Codd‘s point parting this from land of Mr. John Mottrom and Chingshan Creek, parting this from land of Mr. Robert Newman for transporting of 23 persons: John February, Richd. Steevens, Robert Crabbe, John Ridford, William Louder, William Hicks, Hump. Dale, Tho. Fowler, John Warren, John Buttler, John Chappell, Peter Willet, William Pippin, Tho. Spalding, Hump. Blackman, Peter Callay, Jno. Wildblood, Henry Plumpton, Wm. Presly, Jane, his wife, Wm. Presly, Payle Presly, Peter Presly. [2]     The fact that a creek had already been named Presly Creeke would indicate that William Presly had already obtained some land, but no records have been found.

            William Presly received an additional grant, 29 Jul 1650, easterly upon the Potomack River and southerly upon the land of John Earle for transporting of two people. [3]   These two people have been identified as Hannah Newman and Jane Presley.  Jane is probably a sister of Robert Newman since no mention is made of her, as a daughter, in William Presly’s will. Hannah Newman is said to have been the wife of Robert Newman.  From the preceding records we can surmise that William Presly’s family consisted of his wife; his oldest son, William; his second son, Paule; and  his third son, Peter.  Paule Presly’s only mention in the early records is in the transported listing above.  The name Paule is a surname found extensively in Dorset and Devon.  It is spelled Paule, Paul, and Pawley in the early records.  It would suggest that the family had a connection to the Preslys or the Newmans. No christening records have been found, to date, so the birth dates are up to conjecture.  We know that, when the senior William Presly wrote his will, William Presly II, was of age and Peter was not.  However, by 1652 when they signed the Oath of Allegiance Peter has reached the age of 21, so an estimated date for their births can be made.

            William Presly’s land holdings, in Northumberland county,  now totaled, at least, 1250 acres 1150 of which was at Codd’s point and it was on these 1150 acres of land that he built his home, Northumberland House, which was to be known for its hospitality  through four generations of Presly’s before being sold by his great grandson, Presly Thornton.  William Presly’s grandson, Peter Presly II, was murdered in Northumberland House at the age of 90.  He was still acting as High Sheriff of Northumberland County at the time of his death.  Northumberland House was burned by the British during the War of 1812, and the bricks were later used to build Mantua, a mansion nearby on the Coan River.   The county of Northumberland was named for the Earls of Northumberland and there is little doubt that Northumberland House was named for the same noble family.  Their home in London found at Charring Cross and overlooking Trafalgar Square was named Northumberland House.

            On November 3, 1647, William Presly took his seat as the first Burgesses after the county took the name of Northumberland County.  He was to serve in that capacity in the assembly meeting again on October 12, 1648 which was an adjourned meeting from the previous assembly.  In 1649, there were two different burgesses representing the county, John Trussell and Captain Francis Poythers. [4]   This would have been during the period William Presley would have either returned to England to bring his family to the colony, or they could have come with him at an earlier date and applied for the patent later.  He served several more times before his death in 1655.

            England, during that period of time was beginning to engage in the Civil War that was to see the execution of Charles I, and the formation of the Commonwealth of England.  On April 11, 1652, the landowners and head rights  of Northumberland County, along with the rest of the citizens in the colony, were required to sign an Oathe of Allegiance to the new Commonwealth government.  William Presly and Peter Presly signed the document. [5]   The identity of which William Presly, father or son, signed the Oath is left to conjecture.  William Presley II, was of age to have signed the document.  The transcribers of the Oath have stated that all names were not transcribed because of the condition of the document.  It would not be a reach to say that all three Preslys signed the Oath.

            The first court records found for William Presly is in the 25 Nov 1653 court meeting where he is serving as a commissioner along with Colonel John Mottrom, Mr. Thomas Spake, Mr. John Trussell, Mr. Nath. Pope, Major Tho. Baldridge, Mr. Walter Broadhurst, Mr. Sam Smith, and Mr. Nicho Morris. [6]   During this court, William Presly brings a suit against Jeremy Cooper for a dept of 200 pounds of tobacco.  The court found for the plaintif. [7]   In the second suit, William Presly brought suit against Ann Smith, thus: “Wereas it doth appear unto the Court by testimony of John Bailes, Elizabeth Bailes and John Ranon that Ann Smith hath spoken scandalous words and speaches against Mr. Wm. Presly the Court doth therefore order that the said Ann Smith shall make acknowledgement of her fault in open court which was performed by the said Ann and likewise that she shall receive ten lashes upon her bare shoulders wch was remitted by the said Mr. Presly  And the Court doth further order that Robert Smith shall forthwith pay all the charges of court. [8]

            William Presly served as a commissioner on the court held 20th January 1653 with Colonel John Mottrom, Lieutenant Colonel Geo. Ffletcher, Mr. Thomas Speke, Mr. John Trussell, Mr. John Hallows, Mr. Walter Broadhurst, Mr. Sam Smith, and Mr  Nicho. Morris. [9]

            The following suit was brought against William Presly by Jeremy Cooper in the above court with the following results:  Whereas Jeremy Cooper hath summoned or arrested Mr. Wm. Presly to this court and the said Cooper does not declare agt him neither by himself nor his attorney The Court doth therefore order that the said Cooper shall be nonsuited and pay unto the said Mr. Presly 50 pounds of tobacco forthwith for a a nonsuit and charges of court. [10]   It would seem that Mr. Jeremy Cooper did not learn his lesson since he had arrested Mr. William Cornish, also, whose case was brought before the same court.  Jeremy Cooper not appearing, the results were the same as the previous case.

            William Presly appeared, again, as a commissioner along with Colonel John Mottrom, Esq., Mr. John Trussell and Mr. Nicho. Morris on September 20, 1653. [11]   And again when a court was held two days later, on September 22, 1653, in the home of Colonel John Mottrom with Colonel William Claiborne, Esq., Colonel John Mottrom, Mr. John Trussell, and Mr. William Presly appearing. [12]   It would seem that the court was convened simply for the purpose of Colonel Claiborne bringing a suit against the estate of William Porter, decd. for a debt of 300 pounds tobacco and cask due to the said Claiborne. 

            Present at a Court held 21st November 1653 were the following commissioners:  Colonel John Mottrom, Mr. John Trussell, Mr. William Presly, and Mr. Nicho. Morris. [13]  

            Commissioners attending at a Court held 16 February 1653 were Colonel John Mottrom, Mr. John Trussell, Mr. William Presly, Mr. Nicho Morris, and Mr. William Nash.  At this court, William Presly brings a suit against Mr. Edward Moores’s estate.  The Court orders the estate to pay William Presly 584 pounds of tobacco. [14]

            Two interesting court cases concerning William Presly tried in the 20th July 1654 Court meeting concerned one heard in the Chancery court that was referred to the County Court and a continuance of the case in County Court.  The first case is called Thomas Orlys Answer to Mr. Preslys Poll in Chancery and reads as follows:  The answer of Thos. Orley to the Bill of Complaint of Mr. Wm. Presly being sworn and examined saith That the gun of Mr. William Moores was carried away by Hen Barnes from this ----idents house  This ---- hath 500 of six penny nailes of the estate of Mr. Moores in his hand  The land whereover this---------resides received of Mrs. Moore an old piece of an old petticote cutt and made up into a waistcote a canvas sheets to make a pr of drawers and a shirt off.  He this ------------hath of the said Mr. Moore a Cert for 500 acres of land and further cannot

answer.   Thomas Orley

            The following case is the one brought in the 20th July 1654 court meeting.  “The Court doth Ord’r that Tho Orley shall by the 20 of November next pay 100 lbs tobo for the shirt and the -------- he had of Mrs. Moore 500 --------unto Mr. Presly and that the ------- shall take into his custody and possession Cert for 900 acres of land due to Mr. Edward Moore-------delivered up in Court and it was ordered that ever the gun came to the said Orleys hands that then he shall deliver it to the said Mr. Presly in part as off satisfaction for a greater sum of Tobo xx.  In case the said Mr. Presly shall meet with Hen Barnes who carried away the gun it is ordered that he shall take possession him-selfe of the said gun” [15]  

            William Presly was High Sheriff of Northumberland County at the time of the above court cases  “At a Quarterly Court meeting held at James Cittie the 14th of March 1653  Present  Richard Bennett Esq Govern’r Col Claiborne Coll Higginson  Coll Pettus  Coll Geo Ludlow  Leift Coll ffreeman  Coll Wm Tayler Esq   Mr Wm Presly is by the Governor and Court nominated and Chosen high Sheriff of the County of Northumberland & to be sworn next County Court held there.  Teste  Ro Hubbard  Cl Cour 20 Jul 1654  signed Wm Thomas. [16]

            At the Court meeting held 22nd August 1655, a list of the Vestry was submitted to the court.  Listed for Chinekahan Parish were William Presly, Warden and vestrymen, Robert Newman and John Hull [17]   William Presly’s land grant issued in 1649 identifies his patent as lying between Chinekaan Creeke and Presly’s Creeke. 

            The 20th November 1655 Court records revealed two suits brought by William Presly. The first suit was against Mr. Hugh Lee, attorney for Mr. Robert Sharpe, deceased.  Mr. Lee is ordered to pay Mr. Presly 165 lbs from the estate. [18]   The second case was against William Allenson.  William Presly was awarded an attachment against the estate of William Allenson for 300 lbs since Allanson had secretly departed from the county. [19]

            At the 20th November 1655 meeting the following was recorded:  Whereas Mr. Presly was collector for the Levys in the year 1654 xx has presented his a/c to the Court and paid excepting 874 lbs of tobo to Howell Price and 894 lbs tobo to Captain John West, the Court orders that upon payment he is to have Quietus est. [20]

            The Order Book containing the 1656 to 1660 records has not been found by the writer. They may be available in the Virginia State Library but distance prevents my searching those files.

            Thus, there is a one year gap between the Court held in November 1655 and the probate of William Presly’s will.   The will  is an ambiguous document in that it had been written, 16 Aug 1650, and the probate, 20 Jan 1656/57.  Some of the items indicate that they should have been currant affairs, so the question remains as to whether the will had been updated.  Evidently Jane Presly had preceded him in death so, according to the will, she was dead by August, 1650. 

            William Presly’s will follows:  15 Aug 1650, probate 20 Jan 1656/57,  For my body I bequeath it…….in certain hope of a joyful resurrection  to be buried as near to my deceased wife as conveniently may be.

            To my sonne William Presly - land lying and bounding as is exprest in the Pattent being by Estimation three hundred and fourty acres , be it more or lease to him and his heires for ever moreover  I give to him the rights to one huncred acres of land due to me for Anne Gilbert and Jonathan Parsons and one hundred acres more or less above Yeocomico River between John Earle and Phil….Silvster.

            Item - I give to my sonne William one Pyd cowe black and white wch was formerly John Haynies and one red cowe which came from Mr. Humphrey Polk, one steere of twelve months old and the advantage my sonne Peter sees fit to deliver.

            Item - I give him the sd Wm two steere calves.

            Item - My will is that a thousand pounds of pork --being paid to George Berry for a servant I am to have of him this yeare -- and another thousand pounds of Porke being laid out of my stock of hoggs for ye buying of another servant this yeare that the remains of my hoggs be divided into two parts -- two parts whereof I give to my sonne Wm and the third part to my son Peter.

            Item - I give to my sonne Wm. either the boy Jonathan or the Servant Berry shall bring in, wch my sonne Peter shall think fitt. and the other thousand pounds of Porke aforementioned I give to my sonne William to buy him a man.

            Item - I give to my sonne Wm one of the pieces of -- wch I bought of Mr. Henry Roche and one of my best suits of Clothes either Cloth or Stuffe--cloth Cloake.

            After Henry Roche or James Willis is paid for his Cloth either in Porke or Corne, the Corne of this Crop is to be divided into three parts -- two parts thereof I give to my sonne William and the third part I give unto my Sonne Peter.

            Item - I give unto my Sonne Wm a thousand pounds of Tobco to build him a house.

            Item - I give him one hundred of the apple trees yt be in the nursery.  I desire that my two sonnes may live together & in case they part that my sonne Peter help my sonne Wm to rleave his plantation at convenient times when Peter and his Servants be most at leisure and not hindered by it.

            Item - I give to Humphrey Fulford at the end of the time hee is to serve me one cowe calfe.

            Item - My will and pleasure is yt if either of my sonnes dies without issue the survivor be heir to his brother.

            I give to my sonne Wm the wooden chest that stands inye Room in which he lodgeth.

            Item - I give to my grandchild Wm Presly one cowe calfe to be delivered at the next valuing.

            Item - All the rest of my goods household - Stuffe debts cattle & chattal whatsoever with all the rest of my land not herein given or bequeathed with all my houses, Tobacco houses & other edifices to the same Plantation belonging with what Servants I shall then be possessed of at the time of my death and herein otherwise given, I give to my sonne Peter Presly, whome I make the full and whole Executor of this my last will and Testament, Ratisfying Confirming the same - and renouncing all former wills by me made - I appoint Wm Presly my sonne to be Guardian unto my Sonne Peter till he comes of age and that they live together till my sonne Peter comes to one and twenty and longer if they think good and that they live together.  And I will that my Sonne Peter have the Benefitt of his Cattle and Labour during his minority.  In Witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hand seal this fifteenth day of August Ano Dni 1650.

William Presly

Witness of the Subscribing, Witnessing and Delivering hereof, John Aires, Simon Demebiello, Th Willford, No’ry Public 20 Jan 1656

This will was proved by the oathes of Mr. Tho Willford & John Aires & is recorded. [21]

            William Presly II, figures prominently in the early records of Northumberland County, serving on the County Court and as a Burgesses.  His wife has been listed as Frances Mottrom, daughter of John Mottrom, by some of his descendants, but records show that John Mottrom’s daughter, Frances, married a man whose surname was Land. No first name was known.  This marriage took place before 23 Sep 1657 which was probably the probate date of John Mottrom’s will. [22]   Frances Mottrom married, second, Nicholas Spencer, before 15 Nov 1665. [23]   Anne Mottrom, daughter of John Mottrom, married Richard Wright before Mar 1656/57. [24]   William Presly II, was the only grandchild named in his grandfather’s will.  This would put his birthdate after the immigrant families’ arrival in the colony and before 16 Aug 1650 writing of the will. The Parish where William Presly was born was Chinekahan Parish.  The early parish records seem to be extinct since no mention is made of the parish except in the early court records.  However this is where the early Presly birth, marriage and death records would have been recorded.  It was later incorporated into St. Stephen’s Parish.

            William Presly II appears, first, as a burgesses representing Northumberland County, on 23 mar 1661-62.  He is listed serving in the house in December, 1662; 20 Sep, 1664; 10 Oct 1665; 5 Jun 1666; 23 Oct 1666; 24 Sept 1672 with Isaac Allerton; 29 Oct 1673, with Isaac Allerton; 21 Sep 1674, with Isaac Allerton; 5 Jun 1675;  10 Oct 1677, with Isaac Allerton; 8 Jun 1689, with St Leger Codd; 20 Nov 1682, with St Leger Codd; and 1882 (no date) with Thomas Brereton.  Some of the sessions have not been recorded meaning he could have served many other times as well as the times listed. [25]  

            William Presly II, had the following recorded children:  William Presly, III,  Winifred Presley, and Peter Presly.

            Peter Presly, son of William and Jane Newman Presly, married Elizabeth Thompson, before 20 Feb 1663/64.  Elizabeth Thompson was the daughter of Richard Thompson and Ursula Bysshe Thompson. [26]   As mentioned before Peter Presly signed the Oathe of Allegiance to the Commonwealth of England.  He was in possession of Northumberland House for three for four years before his marriage to Elizabeth Thompson and had served in the House of Burgeses in March 1661-1662.  There were three Peter Preslys in Northumberland County during the 17th century and Presly researchers have used some inventive imagination trying to sort out the immigrant Peter Presly, his son, and the son of the immigrant William Presly.  We can assume that the Immigrant Peter Presly I lived at Northumberland House until his death.  It seems from all evidence that his son, Peter Presly II, inherited Northumberland House, also.  However from records on various web sites, the lineage of Winifred Presly who married Anthony Thornton and had a son named Presly Thornton who inherited the house was descended from thee immigrant brother, William.   Peter Presly’s children were:  Elizabeth Presly, Jane Presly, Peter Presly, Ursula Presly, Mary Presly, and Milly Presly.

            I am descended from Mary Presly, who married Charnock Cox, continuing through the Lampkin, and Rust lineages.  My great grandmother was Mary Frances Rust.


Submitted by:

Margaret Nolen Nichol

Neptune Beach, Florida



[1] Nell Marian Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers, Abstract of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1622-1666, Richmond Virginia, Dietz Printing Co., 1934, p. 757,   Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co. Baltimore, MD, 1983, p. 185 .

[2] Land Office Patents No. 2, 1643-1651, p. 186, (Reel 2)

[3] Land Office Patents No. 2, 1643-1651, p. 246 (Reel 2)

[4] The Colonial Virginia Register, compiled by William Glover and Mary Newton Standard, published by Loel Munsell’s Sons, Publishers, Albany, New York, 1902

[5] Northumberland County Deeds and Orders, 1650-1652, pp 60 {60a}

[6] Northumberland County Court Order Book #2, 25th of November 1652, p. 8

[7] Northumberland County Court Order Book #2, 25th November 1652, p. 9

[8] Northumberland County Court Order Book #2. 25th November 1652, p. 9

[9] Northumberland County Court Order Book #2, 20th January 1652/53, p. 15

[10] Northumberland Court Order Book #2, 28th January 1652/53, p. 18

[11] Northumberland Court Order Book #2, 20th September, 1653, p. 29

[12] Ibid, p. 33

[13] Ibid, p. 34

[14] Ibid, p.48

[15] Northumberland County Court Order Book #2, 20th Jul 1654, p. 49

[16] Northumberland County Court Record Book, #14, p. 123

[17] Northumberland County Court Order Book #2, 22nd Aug 1655, p. 64

[18] Northumberland County Court Order Book #2, 20th Nov 1655, p. 67

[19] Northumberland County Court Order book #2, 20th Nov 1655, p. 68

[20] Northumberland County Court Order Book #2, 20th Nov1755, p. 70

[21] Northumberland County, Virginia Record Book, #14, 1652-1658, pp. 95-96.

[22] Married Well and Often, Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1652-1658,  Compiled by Robert K. Headley, Jr., Published by Genealogy Publishing Company, Inc., 1001 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, 2003, p. 219

[23] Ibid, p. 328

[24] Ibid. p. 386

[25] The Colonial Virginia Register, Compiled by William Glover and Mary Newton Standard, Published by Joel Munsell’s  Sons, Publishers, Albany, New York  1902

[26] Married Well and Often Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800, Compiled by Robert K. Headley, Jr.,  Published by the Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1001 N. Calvert street, Baltimore, MD 21202, 2003, page  349





Northumberland County, Virginia