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Re: The Generic "Free Negro" in early Virginia

Alvinci & Nick,

Thanks for your help. Here are some 'bits & pieces' of information collected in researching the LaForce's and my connection to them.... the 13 slaves of Rene II and Agnes (Moseby) LaForce.....mainly Betty/Bess, her daughter Hannah and Hannah's daughter 5th, 6th and 7th great-grandmothers.

Alvinci....Chastain & Dutoi are mentioned as neighbors and the land location of the LaForce land bought in 1707 is referenced.

From research by Louise Robeson:
Rene was the leader of one of the Huguenot groups that came to settle in Virginia. The story is that the group bought land from Governor William Byrd of Virginia or from one of his representatives in France, sight unseen, which was described as just the kind of land they were looking for. They were a group of farmers, horse breeders, and owners of vineyards-Catawba grapes. After making the trip to Virginia, they came to inspect the land and start the settlement near Danville, Virginia, but found the land had been misrepresented. Dr. Rene La Force was a proud and stubborn man and the group of French settlers refused to settle there; instead, they joined the settlement at Manakin-Town, Virginia about 1699. They had to buy this land on credit as they had spent their money on the other property and evidently Byrd thought he had made a just deal because he did not give them new land in exc and Rene Jr's sister Judith Burton Paul moved to Orange County, North Carolina, Casewell District. This may have been part of the original land bought by Dr. Rene because that part of North Carolina was once part of Virginia.

From research by Frances H. Casstevens:
"The de la Force family is of Guyenne origin, belonging to the de Castelnau branch of the noble house of Caumont. Rene La Force, the emigrant, came from France about 1700 and settled first a few miles from Danville, Virginia; he is reputed to have been a doctor of medicine. Shortly after his arrival in this country, he joined the Huguenot Colony in Henrico County and settled 900 acres of land, adjoining the lands of Chastain and Dutoi. The Rent Rolls of 1704 show him possessed of 1341 acres of land. In 1728, when two new counties were taken from Henrico , he was appointed Justice of Goochland County. He had three children, Rene who married Agnes Mosby; Sarah, the wife of William Harding of Goochland; and Rachel." (from article by Mrs. Hale Houts, a descendant of William Harding and Sarah La Force, published in THE HUGUENOT, No. 7).

The date of arrival of Dr. Rene La Force to the American colonies has not been determined. He did not arrive on the two ships bringing the Huguenots to Manakin Town, but may have arrived earlier at some other Huguenot settlements such as those in New York, South Carolina, Georgia or North Carolina. He may have lived in England, Holland or Germany before coming to America, as many of the French Huguenot families were forced to flee to safety wherever they could find safe haven. Genealogist Charles Hamlin, however, believed that Rene is the "Rene Massoneau" listed as arriving on the Mary & Ann in August 1700 (see THE HUGUENOT 6, 1933. PP. 82-86). Hamlin also gives the name as "Rene Massoneau LaForie," which he said was a misreading of La Force. Hamlin also stated (in a letter to F.H. Casstevens) that Rene was on a list of naturalizations in VA 5-12-1707 as "Rene Massoneau La Forie (see Charles Hamlin, VIRGINIA ANCESTORS & ADVENTURERS, Vol. 3, pp. 58-59).
Rene borrowed money from William Byrd and is mentioned in Byrd's secret diaries. Rene visited Byrd's house on several occasions about 1705 (William Byrd, THE SECRET DIARY OF WILLIAM BYRD OF WESTOVER (1709-1712), pp. 227, 274, 351, 354, 392).

Rene attained some measure of wealth and was an educated man. His name is found as a witness to several wills and inventories in Virginia in the early 1700s. He was appointed one of the first justices of the peace when Goochland County was formed from Henrico in 1728. He died shortly thereafter. His will is recorded in Goochland County, VA., as is that of his widow, Sarah. Her maiden name is unknown, but she is more than likely of French Huguenot origin also.

In HUTCHINS/HUTCHENS by Rita H. Townsend there is a copy of a court settlement involving a dispute over the land of Sicely Hutchins Sherman, wife of Henry Sherman, and widow of Isaac Hutchens, and various other Hutchens descendants. One of the parties involved was Ann Hutchens, daughter of Sicely Sherman, and widow of John Crowley, then the present wife of Christopher Branch. The date of this court suit is unknown but it was sometime between 1688-1728, (possibly in 1694, per Louise Robeson). Rene La Force's name was mentioned: "Wee find five shillings damages Rene LaForce." Rene was either the purchaser of the land in question or his name was attached in his legal duty as justice of the peace.
In a list of Virginia land grants, Rene La Force is listed as having 1,000 acres on the North side of the James River in 1723 (Patent Book 11 in "Abstracts of Land Patents of Henrico County and Goochland County, 1624-1732, in Foley, EARLY VIRGINIA FAMILIES, Vol, p. 60). That land adjoined Thomas Wadkins, Thomas Farrar and his own land.

The name "Rene" in its various forms - Ren, Renny, Raney, etc. - has been carried down through the generations in the La Force, Harding, Buchanan, Teague, and other families that are descended from the original ancestor.

[NI6337] Sarah left a will, dated 16 December 1756, probated 18 July 1757, Goochland County, VA. In the will, Sarah named her daughter Sarah Hardain. William Hardain was one of the executors.
[NI6338] Rene fled Virginia about 1777 because he was a Tory. He took his family to Kentucky as many like him did, unfortunately he was accidently killed along the way. His wife Agnes and the rest of the family that left Virginia, settled at Martin's Station on the Licking River, a few miles from present day Paris, Kentucky.
[NI6339] Sarah left a will, probated 23 March 1797, Goochland County, VA

[NI6342] Agnes accompanied her husband on the trek from Virginia to Kentucky about 1777. Following the death of Rene, Agnes settled at Martin's Station (or fort) on the Licking River, near present day Paris, Kentucky.

In June 1780, Ruddell's Station was attacked by about 700 Indians from various tribes, a company of Canadians, thirty Tory volunteers, and a company of British Soldiers from Detroit under the command of Capt. Henry Bird of the British Army. Two days later, Martin's Station, some 5 miles away, was also attacked by the same force and all of the surviving captives were marched to Detroit, some 600 miles north. Among the captives were Agnes La Force, some of her children, a son-in-law (John Mahan), and thirteen slaves. The slaves were taken by the British and the Indians, but upon protest to Sir Frederick Haldimand in Montreal, some of them were returned.

William Dummer Powell (later a judge at Detroit) was in 1780 a young lawyer of Montreal. Passing along the street one day he encountered a detachment of soldiers convoying a band of women and children to the Provost prison. The young attorney's inquiry elicited the information that the prisoners were Kentuckians taken captive on Bird's invasion and sent down from Detroit to Montreal. Powell actively interested himself in the welfare of the captives, and to this circumstance we owe the story of Mrs. Agnes La Force.

Her husband was a Virginia Loyalist who about the year 1777 sought refuge from the persecutions of his neighbors by removing to the wilds of Kentucky. He was a man of means, with several sons and sons-in-law and a considerable number of slaves. The removal to Kentucky was a wholesale family migration, and, although La Force was accidentally killed en route, the others persisted in the enterprise and built a palisaded settlement, where they dewlt in fancied security until a detachment of Bird's marauders appeared. "Relying upon british faith," records Powell, "they open'd their Gate on condition of Protection to their Persons and their property from the Indians; but they had no sooner surrendered and received that promise than her sons and son-in-laws had to resort to arms to resist the Insults of the Indians to their wives and Slaves. Several lives were lost and the whole surviving Party was marched into Detroit, about six hunderd miles, where the Slaves were distributed among the Captors and the rest marched or boated eight hundred miles further to Montreal and driven into the Provo[s]t Prison as Cattle into a Pound."

"In consequence of Powell's able championing of her cause, Mrs. La Force gained the ear of Governor Haldimand, who, on learning that she had been despoiled of her slaves, her only remaining source of support, directed that the commandant at Detroit find the slaves, "in whose ever possession they might be," and forward them to Montreal for restoration to their rightful owner. But this intervention availed Mrs. La Force nothing, for, although De Peyster [Major Arnet DePeyster] transmitted a list of thirteen of the slaves, several of whom were in possession of officials of the government at Detroit, he professed his inability to recover them. Thus was the might of the British government defied by a group of its own officials and certain influential citizens of Detroit. The expressive word "graft," coined by Americans of a later generation, would seem most fitly to characterize this situation."

Agnes and her children were liberated in 1782 or 1783.
From Henrico County –Deeds and wills 1706-1845

Deed #17

1 April 1707 Abraham MICHAUX of King William Parish, Henrico County,to Rane LAFORCE, of
Henrico Parish, Henrico County, for 11,574 lbs, as by patent 2 Nov 1705 granted to said Michaux,
being on south side of James River on both sides of Lower Manakin Town Creek.
Wit: Joseph Pleasants, John Cox
Recorded 1 Apr 1707

Deed #25

Power of attorney to William RANDOLPH to acknowledge my dower in land my husband sold to
Rena LAFORCE, dated 23 May 1707.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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