One of two signs generously donated by Campbell Copy Center, Harrisonburg, VA
June 15, 2010. Welcome to the newly created website honoring American Revolutionary War veteran, Jacob Smith, and his wife, Winifred "Winna" "Winney" Smith. Check back for additional information and yet-to-be uploaded documents.
The following narrative is extracted from Sallie's Story: An Exploration into the Lives of the Hensley, Maiden, Meadows, Smith and Gardner Families of Rockingham, Page and Albemarle Counties, Virginia (Jan Hensley, Campbell Copy, Harrisonburg, VA, 2007) and copyrighted with The Library of Congress. It is intended for personal use only and may not be published in any form or posted on the web without the written permission of the author.
The Lives of American Revolutionary War Veteran Jacob Smith and His Wife Winifred "Winna" "Winney" Smith
Jacob Smith was a modest man whose abiding love of God, Country, family and all things nature left an indelible mark on our Country and were gifts passed to his descendants. Little is known about Jacob Smith's early life. Weaving together extant records, we know that he was born in 1759/60 and was German. But whether he was a German immigrant or the son of German immigrants remains to be discovered. Limited clues remain to be explored which hopefully will lead the way to discovering his roots.
On August 20, 1776 Jacob Smith enlisted for three years in Gabriel Long’s 11th Virginia Regiment of Riflemen in the American Revolution. He stated in his application for his Revolutionary War pension that he enlisted in Rockingham County, Virginia. Although Rockingham (then Augusta County) was not formed until 1778, it is evident that he was living in the area.
Less than four months into his service, Jacob was in Trenton, New Jersey, one of just 2,400 men under the Command of General George Washington where he participated in the Battle of Trenton, memorialized in the famous painting "George Washington Crossing the Delaware," and the Battle of Princeton.
In December 1776, American forces under General Washington were in a precarious position. Recent defeats at the hands of the British had driven them from New York and New Jersey into Pennsylvania; recruitment and re-enlistment had waned; and spirits were broken. General Washington realized that he sorely needed a victory to regain momentum and he devised a risky strategy of crossing the frigid and partially frozen Delaware under the darkness of night and launching a pre-dawn raid on the British-led Hessian forces in Trenton. December 26 was picked as the battle date anticipating that the enemy would be suffering from the effects of liquor consumed in celebration of Christmas. In the wee hours of December 26th Washington and his troops began their crossing but were delayed by a fierce storm, adding to the misery of the troops and freezing many of their guns. Despite the delay, the British had severely underestimated the size of the American troops in the area and were not prepared. With the element of surprise and 2,400 men, Washington quickly won. The fleeting Battle of Trenton provided the victory Washington needed. It rekindled confidence in his leadership and bolstered enlistment. Jacob and his comrades were back in camp by midnight on December 27 just 48 hours after crossing the Delaware. Within days Washington pressed forward, with Jacob among the troops, launching a second successful attack at the Battle of Princeton. Jacob must have thought both the Battle of Trenton and Princeton were minor skirmishes as neither was specifically listed in the pension application.
Within six months Jacob was in northern New York state at the Battle of Saratoga, another landmark battle of the Revolutionary War. Benedict Arnold, not yet infamous as a traitor, was a leader of the American offensive which forced the surrender of British troops under General John Burgoyne. Not only did the victory at the Battle of Saratoga serve to secure the northern colonies from attacks emanating from Canada, but it also solidified France’s confidence in the American forces and triggered her full military, political and diplomatic support. As such, it is one considered a tipping point in the American Revolution.
It is unclear where Jacob served the remainder of his service. He did, however, receive his honorable discharge in New York on August 25, 1779 after serving three years and five days. Released from service, Jacob likely joined a group of his fellow Virginians and made his way back home on foot. That same year, Virginia established a Land Office and passed legislation providing for bounty land for Virginians who had fought in the Revolution. Land awards were not made until the military action ended in 1783, and at that time soldiers who had served in the Continental Line, State Line, or State Navy for at least three years were eligible to apply. Based on his military service in the Continental Line, Jacob received Land Office Military Warrant No. 1453 for 100 acres of bounty land in Kentucky on July 31, 1783. Many soldiers who received Warrants sold their land. Whether Jacob sold his is unknown, but based on the number of his warrant and the sequentially numbered warrants, it appears that his land was issued for land in Madison County, Kentucky. Jacob did not relocate and, unfortunately, there are no available Kentucky records which show the disposition of his grant. Interestingly, an 1843 law suit filed after Winna’s death, suggests that their son Benjamin was in Kentucky. His service also earned Jacob -- and later his beloved wife Winna -- a pension. Both Jacob's and Winna's pension applications and correspondence survive today and are a rich resource for family genealogists.
In 1782 – the year before receiving his land bounty – Jacob married Winifred ( Winna, Winney) Smith, believed to be the daughter of Rockingham County VA residents William and Mary Smith. Although there are no existing records of their marriage, in her application for a widow’s pension, Winna stated that their banns were published in a Presbyterian church in Rockingham County. Most church banns were oral and not recorded in either the court or the church minutes and no record of their marriage -- other than that contained in Winna's affidavit -- have been located. This union created a veritable genealogical nightmare for descendants: tracking two separate Smith families, one English and one German, through the generations. But, what is one person’s nightmare is another’s challenge.
A Rockingham County 1815 - 1816 book listing payments of land and personal property taxes recorded that Jacob lived on John Pence’s (presumed to be his son-in-law) land and his son William lived on that of Jacob Miller. It is likely that this was the area in which Jacob and Winna raised their six children.
On March 25, 1829, Jacob purchased 110 acres in Rockingham County crossing Naked Creek, previously owned by Henry Wydick. When Page County was established two years later, the boundary line ran through his property leaving part in Rockingham and part in Page. This land is located in the present day areas of Jollett and Crow Hollows.
Jacob wrote his will on May 27, 1830 in Rockingham County shortly after he and Winna moved. Jacob died in Page County in 1836 and was buried on his property, the current site of the Jollett Church Cemetery in Jollett Hollow. His tombstone, which mysteriously disappeared in the 1960s, read: "Jacob Smith departed this life August the 18th 1836. Aged 80." Smith descendants, seeking to honor his contributions to American's freedom, raised money dollar by dollar to replace Jacob's original stone. On June 19, 2010 descendants from across the country joined in a large cemetery at Jollett Cemetery and unveiled Jacob's new tombstone as well as one for Winna, who has rested in an unmarked grave for 168 years.
A true testament to their strong partnership and abiding love for each other is Jacob's bequest in his Will. Rare for that time, Jacob left all his property and belongs to Winna writing: "at her death she may dispose of such property as shall be then left to such person or persons as she may think best."
Winna continued living on the land for the remainder of her life. On October 23, 1839 in Page County, Virginia she filed for a widow’s pension based on Jacob’s service in the American Revolution. In her application, Winna attested that she was born about 1764 and that her maiden name was also Smith. Most stunningly and happily, a copy of the family bible of Jacob Smith was filed with Winna’s application.
Sometime between March 31, 1842 (the date of her Will) and May 23, 1842 the day her Will was filed), Winna died at nearly 80 years of age. She was likely laid to rest next to her husband, Jacob. Winna’s will was probated in Page County on 23 May 1842; her sons, Gabriel and William, were named executors. Her will directed that: her niece (actually her granddaughter) Elizabeth Pence receive one feather bed, one chaff tick, and one woolen blanket; her niece, Irene Goodwin (again, this was her granddaughter) receive the same; the legal heirs of her three children, James Smith, Polly Pence and Benjamin Smith divide $50.00 equally among themselves; son Gabriel receive a wagon; and sons Gabriel and William divide the residue of her estate.
Almost immediately after Winna’s death, several of her grandchildren joined together and filed suit (Smith & others vs. Smith & others, Chancery Causes, Page County, Virginia, File No. 1843-03) contesting her will. As with many of the law suits filed about this time, court records provide value information about the family and their dynamics. This case is no exception – the papers are critical in reconstructing the family of Jacob Smith.
Based on the existing court records, it is impossible to figure out exactly when the case was filed; however, by February 1843 subpoenas were executed. Clearly, the grandchildren wasted no time in getting to court. They were in such a rush that they included as petitioners deceased children of Jacob and Winna as well as grandchildren, who not only had not agreed to be plaintiffs, but who opposed the legal action altogether. The case itself stretched well beyond two years, and in the end the plaintiffs lost the case.
Finally, on September 14th 1844 the Court ordered the case to jury trial to determine "whether the paper purporting to be the last will and testament of Winifred Smith dec is the true last will and testament of said Winifred;" [w]hether the said paper purporting to the said law will was legally made & executed;" and [w]hether said paper purporting to be said will was obtained by fraud & undue influence." The jury found that it was the legally made and executed last will and testament of Winifred Smith and that there was no fraud and no undue influence. The Court certified the verdict and, with the consent of both parties; no orders were given for court costs.
Jacob and Winna were the parents of six children: James (1783 - 1828) m. Elizabeth Miller; William (1785 - 1856) m. Nancy Morris; Elijah (1787 - 1789); Mary (1789 - 1834) m. John Pence; Benjamin (1791 - 1881 – died in Kentucky) m. Judith [unknown]; and Gabriel (1803 - 1849) m. Elizabeth Nair. Their descendants were responsible for the establishment of most of the early churches in the East Rockingham/Southern Page area, including Smith’s Chapel, Furnace Church and Jollett Church.
For his service in the Revolutionary War, for his contributions to the spirit of the community and for his gifts to descendants, Jacob Smith richly deserves to be honored and his life celebrated.
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