One of the very most important ROPER families in Colonial North Carolina is that of the James ROPER who died leaving a Will dated August 17, 1781. As shown below, this James ROPER was a member of the Colonial North Carolina legislature. He was also a very large land owner in Anson County, North Carolina, owning over 1,600 acres of land at his death.
As with so many other Colonial era ROPERs, this James ROPER has been subject of many fraudulent assertions and woefully little in the way of actual research, no doubt in part because self-satisfied dishonest genealogists are content and complacent with their invented details which falsely characterize this early ROPER's life.
This James ROPER is the subject of fraudulent representations about the identity of his parents, the identity of his wife and the marriage of his children. He has been given an invented date of birth and date of death. And his obvious connection to Northampton County has been obscured to aid in other deceptions regarding a wholly fictitious Richard Frederick ROPER, who never existed at all.
Those who continue to contruct fraudulent lineages rely upon the laziness of researchers to rely upon sketchy posted abstract information. Of course, when one actually examines the underlying primary records, the truth becomes quickly apparent and the falsity of the fraud is exposed.
Here is the Will of James ROPER's (d aft 17 Aug 1781 - Anson, NC) with several following notes in commentary:
"In the name of God Amen, I James ROPER of Anson County in the State of North Carolina being very sick of body but of sound & perfect memory Thanks be to Almighty God for the same & Calling to mind the uncertainty of this life And knowing that it is appointed for all men once to Die Do make this my Last Will & Testament as followeth:
Item I give to my Daughter Martha ROPER Three hundred acres of Land where I formerly lived on long Creek in Montgomery County. Also one negro Girl named Beck & six head of cattle and one black mare Branded thus J to her & her heirs forever & assigns.
Item I give to my Daughter Lucy ROPER Two hundred acres of Land lying on Long Creek which was pattend by William HOGAN. Also one hundred acres of Land Joining William TAYLOR's Line on Long Creek. Also one negro girl named Milly & one Bay mare branded thus J also six head of cattle to her & her heirs forever.
Item I give to my son Green ROPER The plantation whereon I now Live Containing Three hundred acres of Land It being the Tract of Land which I purchased of Col. DRY also one Negro fellow named Martin & six head of Cattle to him & his heirs forever.
Item I give to my Daughter Mary ROPER Two Hundred acres of Land on David Creek Surveyed by Moses HALL also one negro wench named Peg & six head of cattle to her& her heirs & assigns forever.
Item I give to my Son William ROPER Two Hundred acres of Land pattend by William HILDRETH on Cedar Creek. Also Two hundred acres of land on the Ridge surveyed by George DAVIDSON. Also the mill with all its utintials [sic]. Also one negro boy named George & six head of Cattle to him his heirs & assigns forever.
Item I Give to my daughter Susanah ROPER Four Hundred acres of Land on Buffellon surveyed by Col. DAVIDSON also one negro boy named Simon & six head of Cattle to her & her heirs & assigns forever.
Lastly I give unto my kind & Loving wife fifty acres of land at the upper end of the Land whereon I now live with Timber water & all other necessarys on the above mentioned fifty acres of Land During her [Page 36] natural life or Widowhood.
Lastly I nominate Constitute & appoint my Loving Wife & John LILLY Executor of this my Last Will & Testament revoking & Disannulling all other Wills and Testaments by me made before And do acknowledge this & no other to be my Last Will and Testament in Witness whereof I have set My hand & Fixed my seal this seventeenth Day of August Anno Domini 1781.
James ROPER (seal)
Signed Seal & Delivered
in the presence of us to be
my last Will & Testament
Vann [his + mark] SWEENY
Dennis [his + mark] LINDON"
Anson County Will Book Vol I, Pages 35-6
[Image 28-9 of 52 at the LDS FamilySearch.org presentation of Anson County Will Book No. 1]
* * *
NOTE 1: The Executors of William DRY brought suit against the Executors of James ROPER in 1797 on what purported to be an overdue note by James ROPER for 100 pounds. This case later went up on appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court with a decision in June 1801 in the case WILLIAM DRY'S EX'RS v. JAMES ROPER'S EX'RS, 1 N.C. 484, 1801 N.C. LEXIS 23, 1 Cam. & Nor. 311 (N.C. 1801).
NOTE 2: Although this James ROPER's wife is NOT named within the Will, other seemingly reliable secondary sources identify the administrator as a Mary ROPER:
"Colonial Granville Co. and Its People by W. S. Ray: p. 195 Some notes from the records of Anson Co.: James Roper inventory of his estate in 1782. Mary Roper mentioned.
Anson Co. Will Abstracts 1745-1795, V.1 by B. Holcomb: p. 145 27 Sep 1782 Inventory of estate of James Roper. Part of estate left out. Mary Roper, adm.
p. 221: 4 Nov 1782 Sale of estate of James Roper, Mary Roper, buyers Jonathan Jackson, Sheriff.
p. 312: 7 Jul 1783 Account of James Roper's estate with John Lilly. To Peter Randall, McKendle, Charles Ray, Joseph McAllister, Mrs. Roper. Contra: Geor Goodwin
p.337: 4 Oct 1784 Estate of William Griffin Hogan...Mary Roper, note"
Although this James ROPER also has a daughter named Mary ROPER, the sequence of bequests suggests that this Mary ROPER is probably the second youngest and the Will expressly names Mary ROPER and John LILLY as Executors. Absent some express indication that James ROPER's wife has died, it seems unreasonable to infer that the Mary ROPER shown as the administrator is anyone other than James ROPER's widow.
NOTE 3: The bequest to daughter Martha ROPER fixes this James ROPER's prior location as being in adjacent Montgomery County, NC. This seems to suggest that the James ROPER who made his Will in Anson County on 17 Aug 1781 is the SAME Jame ROPER shown in the abstracts of these Montgomery records:
"The State Records of NC: V.24: p.157: At a General Assembly, begun and held at New Bern on the 14th day of Apr 1778...be it enacted,... that James Roper and William Sheppard be appointed Contractors for the District of Salisbury.
p.299: An Act to appoint Commissioners for fixing a place within the County of Montgomery to build a Court House, Prison and Stocks, and other purposed therein mentioned....Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of NC, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that James Roper, James Allen, Cornelius Robeson, Samuel Person, and John Colier...are appointed commission- ers,"
"The State Records of NC: V.13: p.791: House of Commons: Sat 15 Aug 1778 Mr. James Roper, one of the contractors for Salisbury District, having signified his desire of resigning that appointment after settling and adjusting his neces sary business. Resolved, therefore, that the said Roper's appointment as contractor cease after the twenty-eighth day of this instant"
"Montgomery Co. Voter List for 1779: Poll of voters at an election held the 10 & 11 of March 1779: Mr. John Kimborough His Number of Ticketts 239
Mr. Solomon Gross His Number of Ticketts 223; Jas Roper His Numb of ticketts 152; Buckner Kimbell His Number of ticketts 136"
"North Carolina Government, 1585-1979: House of Commons 1780
James Roper-Montgomery Co."
NOTE 4: The bequest to Green ROPER seems to be the land described in a deed dated 25 May 1773:
"Anson Co. Deed Books: Book H, p.110: Wm. Dry to James Roper 25 May 1773, between Wm Dry of Brunswick Co. to James Roper of Anson Co....180 lbs proc money South Side of Rocky River 300 acres patent dated 5 Oct 1751. Wit: Thos. McQuyre, James Stanton. Signed: William Dry proved Oct Court 1785"
Curiously, this deed seems NOT to have been recorded prior to James ROPER's death.
NOTE 5: Green ROPER is shown to have sold some or all of his Anson land in 1796:
"Book D, p.152: 4 Nov 1795 Green Roper to Elijah Hagen, both of Anson Co....100 lbs on South side of PeeDee River lying in the fork of Buffalo Creek, James Roper's line, surveyed for James Roper 19 Oct 1779, containing 100 acres. Wit: James Marshall, Wm. Marshall David Hogan. Signed: Green Roper. proved Apr 1796"
"Book D, p.192: 5 Apr 1796 Green Roper of Anson Co. to Reuben Hildreth of Montgomery Co. for 100 lbs...land on SW side of PeeDee River lying on the North side of the North Fork of Buffalo Creek, beginning at Brewer's improvement...100 acres being same granted to James Roper by State latter grant dated 24 Oct 1782. Wit: Jno. Lily, Job David. Signed: Green Roper Rec. Jul 1796"
The latter seems to also reflect a parcel possibly purchased from the State of North Carolina, seemingly the parcel abstracted as:
"Book B-1, p.49: 24 Oct 1782 100 acres to James Roper for 50 shilling in Anson Co. on SW side of PeeDee River on North side of North Fork of Buffalow Creek, beginning near Brewer's improvements #440"
It is VERY important to obtain actual transcripts of EVERY deed, since the abstractor often omits critical details that can be essential to a correct understanding of the transaction and the family.
NOTE 6: The mention of a "mill" within the bequest to William ROPER may be the property shown in the deed abstract for 1.5 acres:
"Book K, p.494: James Hogen, planter, to James Roper and Wm. Collson, planter, 1 Jan 1777. 10 lbs proc. money SW side of Rockrery River 3 miles above mouth...Wm. Drys corner, 1.5 acres being part of tract granted to Walter Gibson from King 5 Dec 1760, conveyed by deed 23 Feb 1771. Wit: John Collson, John Hogan, John X Lee. Signed: James Hogan. Proved"
NOTE 7: It should be noted that the deed abstracts mentioned above do NOT seem to reflect ALL of the real property bequeathed by James ROPER. It appears that there remains a great deal of work to do to identify EVERY PARCEL and to find EACH DEED into James ROPER. The identity of each grantor and the date of each deed is really critical to an understanding of this particular James ROPER and his family.
NOTE 8: Upon ascertainment that this James ROPER left a widow named Mary, it is also significant that a James ROPER who deeded land in Northampton, NC, bef Sep 1772 is known to have had a wife named Mary:
"[Deed Book 5] 1152-(204) JAMES ROPER of Northampton Co. to DRURY JORDAN of same. 18 Dec 177?. 150 pounds VA. 490 acres which BENJAMIN PERSON the elder [owned?], joining the old country line, Jack Swamp. JAMES ROPER , his wife MARY ROPER . Wit: LAURENCE SMITH, JOHN COKER, JOSHUA COKER. Sep. Ct. 1772. CC: Willie Jones.
NOTE: This record gives us James ROPER’s wife’s name “Mary” . The DAR Patriot Index: Shows a James Roper b 1730 d Oct 1786 m Mary Peterson patriotic service NC (at p. 581:). It should probably be noted that the first deed to James ROPER in Northampton was purportedly from Benjamin PERSON (26 Sep 1767) and the second grant was from John PATTERSON , witnessed by Benjamin PATTERSON . PERSON seems likely to be a spelling variant or mis-transcription of PATTERSON. The DAR Patriot Index indication of Mary PETERSON may also reflect a marriage into this same family."
The latter NOTE shown at Dave ROPER's site is a note I shared with Dave some time ago.
James ROPER sells a significant tract of land in Northampton and a James ROPER begins to appear within the Montgomery records shortly thereafter. The James ROPER in Montgomery seems to be the SAME James ROPER whose Will dated 17 Sep 1781 was probated in Anson County. James ROPER of Anson County, NC, seems to have left a widow named Mary ROPER.
NOTE 9: Some secondary sources identify the wife or this James ROPER as Mary GREEN. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is NO EXTANT information yet discovered which would support such an ascription. There is some reason to suspect that Mary ROPER might have been a PATTERSON. The ascription of "GREEN" as a surname for James ROPER's wife seems at best a guess or speculation based upon the appearance of the given name "GREEN" for the son and at worst a bald fabrication and fraud to falsely complete the missing genealogical information. Absent presentation of some proof by the proposents of this likely hoax, I would encourage researchers to show the widow as simply "Mary" with last name unknown, also reflecting that there is some reason to suspect that Mary's surname may have been "PATTERSON". In my view, even the appearance of the name Mary PATTERSON in the DAR lineage book as the identity of a wife of James ROPER is not PROOF of her identity. Note that other information appearing in the same source seems to be UNSOURCED and seemingly erronoeus.
NOTE 10: The identification of 1730 as the year of birth and Oct 1786 as the year of death of a James ROPER married to "Mary PETERSON" within the DAR Patriot Index appears to me to be without foundation. The former, as a year of birth seems to be speculative at best. The latter is wholly inconsistent with other extant probate information showing that James ROPER's Inventory was in Sept 1782.
NOTE 11: One of the curious things about this James ROPER's family is that they seem to completely DISAPPEAR from Anson County in the decades immediately following James ROPER's death, although "disappear" may be too harsh a word given the dearth of research.
The 1790 Census for North Carolina is INTACT. So one would tend to expect to see James ROPER's widow appear in the Census following James ROPER's death. With all of the bequests of real property to James ROPER's children, one would also expect to find some record of these children there in the following decades. Of course, part of the problem is that lazy ROPER researchers seemingly haven't bothered to look at the later Anson deed records. We get only incomplete abstracts of a couple of the Green ROPER deeds, but no one seems to have researched the other properties. As regards Mary ROPER, seemingly the widow of James ROPER, it is distinctly possible that she remarried and has disappeared into the fog of Census records showing only the name of the head of household.
There are only a couple of dozen households in Anson County that own as many as five slaves at the date of the 1790 Census enumeration. It is certainly possible that Mary ROPER has packed the family off and returned to her parents' household (if living) or to the household of a brother or sister. Still, given the large land holdings in Anson and the large number of slaves, it seems to make more sense that she might have stayed on the established ROPER plantations in Anson County. One possibility is that she remarried and is the Mary COLSON enumerated in the 1790 Census there. This is a very SPECULATIVE ascription based upon two very tenuous clues. First, Mary COLSON is one of two Marys enumerated in Anson who is shown to own more than 5 slaves. She is shown to own 17. (Mary HAMER is shown to own exactly five slaves in 1790.) Second, a William COLSON or COLLSON seems to have been a partner of James ROPERs in one of the properties, possibly the mill, and a John COLSON or COLLSON is shown as a witness on a deed. The counts within Mary COLSON's household are at least consistent with the Will. There are three white males under 16 (possibly including Green and William, though Green may be about 18 by 1790). There are six females in this household (possibly including widow Mary, and daughters Martha, Lucy, Mary and Susannah). While this presents one too many males and one too many females, this could also reflect the prior marriage of one of the daughters who initially remains within the household, etc. The keyword is CONSISTENT, NOT conclusive.
But this record really does no more than to confirm the presence of a COLSON family and this Mary COLSON shown in the 1790 Census might be an unrelated widow of either William or John. Also, Mary ROPER could be remarried to any of a dozen other slave owners in Anson or even have remarried and moved out of county. Any speculative ascription of Mary COLSON as James ROPER's widow requires us to conclude both that Mary has remarried and that she has been again widowed. Without getting a look at the extant deed and probate records in Anson, we just cannot know. But it probably couldn't hurt to look for COLSON Wills in Anson, as well.
NOTE 12: It seems likely that James ROPER's daughters had not reached marriageable age by the date of James ROPER's death. ALL are identified with the ROPER surname and there are no indications within the Will that any of these are already married. Despite the fact that the Will shows ALL of James ROPER's daughters to still have the ROPER surname and there is NO EVIDENCE that any of these were married prior to James ROPER's death, some inventive researchers are showing James ROPER's daughter Martha to have married a Henry TUCKER on 08 Nov 1774. There is NO EVIDENCE of which I am aware that would support the assertion that James ROPER secretly married off his eldest daughter in Halifax at age SEVEN. I do NOT find this to be credible.
A somewhat more plausible marriage would be the June 1789 marriage of a Martha ROPER to a John HIGDON in nearby Rutherford, NC, after James ROPER's daughter Martha would have turned 21. John HIGDON seems to be residing in Rowan County, NC, in 1800. Of course, dishonest ROPER genealogists have ascribed this Martha ROPER as a daughter of an early New Kent ROPER to allow the HIGDON family to share in the massive genealogical fraud which seems to now constitute the bulk of ROPER genealogy (this fraud possits that it is OK to simply INVENT various connections to New Kent ROPER) and if these fraudulent lineages are published widely enough then this garbage will even become true!
I am NOT prepared to assert that the Martha ROPER who married John HIGDON is James ROPER's daughter, but this is something that should probably be explored. (This Martha ROPER may instead be related to the Burke County ROPERs.) It is worth noting that a John and William HIGDON appear in Giles County, TN, in the 1820 Census enumeration and a Thomas HIGDON appears in Hardeman, TN, in 1830, coincidentally on the immediately preceeding page to that of Green ROPER, son of James ROPER. Thomas HIGDON is at the very bottom of Image 3 and Green ROPER is at the fourth name on the following page [Image 5]. Of course, this is probably just a coincidence, despite there only being 65 HIGDON households in the United States in 1830. It is probably more exciting to ascribe Martha ROPER as being married at age seven without any evidence whatsoever.
Source: 1830 US Census; Census Place: Hardeman, Tennessee; Page: 339; NARA Series: M19; Roll Number: 176; Family History Film: 0024534.
NOTE 13: Some secondary sources fraudulently identify the parents of this James ROPER to be a James and Alice ROPER, of Johnston County, NC. These dishonest sources claim that James ROPER, of Johnston conecived James ROPER, of Anston, when the elder James ROPER was age 8 and that James ROPER of Anston was born when his father was age 9. Not only are these assertions quite spectacularly outlandish, but this fiction glosses over the fact that there actually was NO JAMES ROPER IN JOHNSTON COUNTY AT ALL. James and Alice are ROSSERs, NOT ROPERs. It seems that the proponents of the other significant fraud in ROPER family history -- the assertion that there once existed a Richard Frederick ROPER (1700) -- who fought valiantly in the Revolutionary War at age 80, who miraculously connects the Richmond, NC, ROPER family to New Kent -- will stop at nothing to confuse and befuddle North Carolina ROPER family history to prevent the exposure and discredit of their frauds!
NOTE 14: Regrettably, by INVENTING a fictitious wife (Mary GREEN) and fictitious parents James and Alice ROSSER, as well as marrying the eldest daughter off to a stranger (Henry TUCKER) in Halifax at age seven (with James ROPER complicit in this deception by concealing this from us by omitting mention of the married surname of his daughter in his Will), those fictionalists who prefer to invent details to support specious fraudulent lineages have discouraged any serious research or scholarship regarding this very important ROPER family. Hopefully, by sweeping away the detritis of this horrid fraud on the family name, serious researchers can re-examine the primary records relating to this important Colonial ROPER family.