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Biographical Sketch of Robert Mayfield (d. 1715) of Essex County VA

By Phil Norfleet


This Robert Mayfield seem to have been born in Glouster County Virginia (VA) in about 1655; he died testate in Essex County VA in 1715. He married Sarah (maiden name unknown) in about 1685 in Old Rappahannock County VA.  Sarah died shortly before January 1727/1728 in Essex County VA.  Robert and Sarah had eight known children as follows:

1.  Catherine Mayfield

2.  Jacob Mayfield

3.  Jane (Jean) Mayfield

4.  Robert Mayfield

5.  Abraham Mayfield (ca. 1690-1778)

6.  Anne Mayfield (b. ca. 1693)

7.  John Mayfield

8.  Isaac Mayfield (b. ca. 1700)


Notes For Robert Mayfield (d. 1715)

This Robert Mayfield is probably the son of the Robert Mayfield who entered Gloucester County VA as an indentured servant in 1652. I have been able to find the following entries in the official records of Rappahannock and Essex Counties VA:

Rappahannock County:

05 Sep 1677: Daniel and Robert Gaines convey (in fee simple) to Robert Mayfield of Rappahannock County 105 acres of land on the south side of Rappahannock River. [Deeds and Wills Part I, page 139]

02 Jan 1683/4: Robert Mayfield named as a juror. [County Court Orders, page 187]

02 Oct 1684: Order is granted against the sheriff to Mr. William Ross Senr. for the non-appearance of Robert Mayfield according to Declaration. [County Court Orders, page 43]

06 April 1692: Attachment granted against the estate of John Sorrell to Robert Mayfield for 442 pounds of tobacco. [County Court Orders, page 253]

In 1692 Rappahannock County became extinct. In that year it was split into Essex and Richmond Counties. Essex County was on the south side of the Rappahannock River and Robert Mayfield's land fell within the bounds of this new county.

Essex County:

10 Sep 1695: Robert Mayfield sworn in as a member of a Grand Jury. [County Court orders, page 260]

12 Nov 1695: Robert Mayfield serves as a juror. [County Court Orders, page 264]

01 Feb 1704/5: Robert Mayfield serves as a juror and signs a verdict by making his mark. [Wills and Deeds Book 11, page 81]

1704: Robert Mayfield of Essex County is shown in the 1704 VA Quit Rent Roll as the owner of 100 acres of land. [VA Quit Rent Roll of 1704]

16 Aug 1715: Will of Robert Mayfield, dated 3 December 1714, was probated in Essex County, Virginia on this date. Thus, the year of death for this man was almost certainly in 1715. The will names his wife Sarah; sons Robert, Abraham, John, Isaac and Jacob; and daughters Catherine Gregory, Jane Graves, and Anne Connaly. Wife Sarah is given all land and movable estate during her lifetime. At her decease, all land is bequeathed to son Jacob Mayfield. Executors of the will are wife Sarah and son Robert, Jr. Robert Mayfield, Sr. signs the will by making his mark. The will is witnessed by Daniel Hayes and Cornelius Sale. [Deeds and Wills Book 14, page 385]

16 Aug 1715: For bond of 50 pounds sterling, Sarah Mayfield is appointed exectrix of Robert Mayfield, deceased. The bond is signed by Sarah Mayfield, John Mayfield and John Loyde, all of whom sign by making their marks. [Deeds and Wills Book 14, page 386]

30 Sep 1715: Inventory of the Estate (personal property/chattels only) of Robert Mayfield is exhibited in court. Total value of this personal estate is 13 pounds sterling. Inventory was taken by John Meritt, Cornelius Sale and William Jones. [Deeds and Wills Book 14, page 404]


The Essex County VA court records strongly indicate that four of the five sons (all except Robert, Jr. who died shortly after his father) of Robert Mayfield (d. 1715) seem to have gotten into serious financial difficulties within a few years of their father's death. Abstracts of the records which evidence these financial problems have been appended to the notes section for each of these four men. Historians of colonial Virginia identify at least two reasons why so many Virginians, not just the Mayfields, got into serious financial trouble during this era:

1) The War of Spanish Succession, which in America was called Queen Ann's War, ended in 1713. During the war, economic conditions were pretty good in VA as there was considerable demand for products from VA to support the war effort. Unfortunately, when the war ended, as so often happens, an economic slump occurred throughout Europe and the British Empire. This slump caused great financial hardship for the small planter class of VA, a class to which all the Mayfields in that colony belonged. For an excellent discussion of the "explosion" of debt litigation which occurred after the War of Spanish Succession, see "Law and People in Colonial America" (published 1992), by Peter Charles Hoffer, pages 50-52.

2) During most of the 17th century, VA Colony had basically been a middle class society of relatively small yeoman planters, who perhaps used just a few indentured servants. However, during the first thirty years or so of the 18th century, Virginia underwent an economic revolution. By about 1730, the colony had become essentially a two-tiered society composed of upper class and upper middle class planters, who made use of large numbers of slaves to do the work on their plantations, and a lower class composed of a very large number of small, impoverished planters who did not possess sufficient capital to invest in slaves. These small planters were increasingly faced with becoming economically marginalized and many were forced to migrate to the frontier regions of the Colony to maintain their economic viability. Life on the VA frontier was difficult and dangerous but it was frequently the only place where land was cheap enough for a poor man to have any chance for economic advancement. I believe that most of the VA Mayfields of this era became part of this rapidly increasing poor, small-planter class. The story of the sons and grandsons of Robert Mayfield (d. 1715) is largely one of a struggle to maintain financial solvency. For an excellent analysis of the above cited VA economic revolution see the book by Professor Thomas J. Wertenbaker entitled "The Planters of Colonial Virginia' (published 1922).


Birth AND DEATH Dates for the CHILDREN of Robert Mayfield

To my knowledge, there is no documentary evidence that establishes the dates of birth or death for any of the children of Robert Mayfield (d. 1715).  The years of birth and/or death, cited in various genealogical publications or on the Internet, are only guesses!

It does appear that the eldest son was probably Jacob Mayfield (the inheritor of the land of Robert Mayfield, Sr.), with Robert, Jr. next in line. Abraham was probably next as he is the son who actually sold the 125-acre plantation of his father in 1728, presumably after his older brothers Robert and Jacob were dead. If this Abraham is the same person who died testate in Granville County NC in late 1777 or early 1778 (I have serious doubts about this), then he could not have been born much earlier than about the year 1690. Younger brothers Isaac and John were probably born a few years thereafter.

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