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Colonel Thomas Avent PDF Print E-mail Share
Written by Jennifer Nodwell   
Thursday, 26 August 2010 09:30

Information about Colonel Thomas Avent

Thomas Avent Signature"This surname, like so many, has been spelled in many ways. Variants have included Aven, Avens, Avert, Avin, Avings, Avint, Avente, Avante, Advant, Advent, Event and even Evans! There may have been other spellings, but they all refer to the same family, which was one of the important land-holding and slave-owning families of Colonial Virginia." David Avent, Tallahassee, FL.

A letter dated 30 September 1969 from Herbert A. Elliot, Registrar of "The Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia: to Mrs. Travis H. Clark, R. 1, box 28, Moorehead, MS, 38761 states, "I know of no proof that Colonel Thomas Avent was of Huguenot descent, in fact, all available evidence indicates that he was not." Another letter from Mr. Elliot to Mrs. Clark dated 14 November 1970 states, "I have examined the Avent record you left with me Sunday before last as presented by the Nanticoke Chapter to the NSDAR 1 March 1948. [These are the five pages of charts drawn by John Smith Avant, which on page one state Joseph Avent was born in France and descended from the Conde, Freeman and Bartlett lines.] An example of inaccuracy in the papers you left with me, the names given are all English names and no French names. This paper has Joseph Avant born in Brunswick County, Virginia Colony August 24, 1720.. Officially there was no Brunswick County until 1732. A check of the records of Albemarle county did not list the name of Avant or any variation of the name. chronologically the Virginia and French references contained on page one of the records are perfect, but historically, they are completely inaccurate...I do not know who compiled the records or the source from which they are taken, but I suspect that this is the work of Sandy is a complete fake." This same opinion was independently reached by Charles H. Hamlin about a year later. English genealogist, P. WIlson Coldham comes to the same conclusion.

Colonel Thomas Avent was an immigrant to Virginia. During his lifetime he was a Sheriff and a Justice of the Peace. He was a Colonel of the Militia in Sussex Co., Virginia records. (Court Orders 1:212, 14 July 1755). Colonel Thomas Avent had patents for over five thousand acres of land in Virginia. He also owned land in North Carolina. [VA. Records, 3 May, 1739...] Thomas Avent refers to his importation "from Great Britain 38 years ago" (ie in 1701) and in which he states further that he has never before received the benefit of the Act of Assembly which allows 50 acres of land for every person imported from Great Britain. This record causes us to reflect that Thomas Avent must have imported himself from Great Britain and paid his own passage, as otherwise he would not have been entitled to 50 acres of land. Since John Nicholls listed him as one of his headrights in the 1714 patent, Thomas Avent must have made another trip back to England after 1701 and before 1714, and it seems very possible that he may have been an agent of factor for John Nichols since he was living on his plantation. His death is recorded in the Albemarle Parish register 1739-78, p. 164. It states that he died in Sussex County, 31 October 1757, age 86 years. His son, William Avent, was the informant.

Will of Thomas Avent, September 1756, Sussex County, VA, probated, 1757, Will Book A., p. 80. Devises land to his son, William Avent in Sussex Co., VA and in Northampton County, NC and also appoints him an executor. It appears that William Avent did not long outlive his father.

WILL of Colonel Thomas AVENT 
In the name of God Amen, September 21st, 1756.

I, Thomas Avent, of the Parish of Abermarle, in the county of Sussex, being of good health and of disposing mind and memory thanks be to God for the same, calling to mind the uncertain time of certain death, do make and ordain tthis my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say, first I bequeath my soul to God that Gave it, hoping and trusting in the advocacy and Mediatorship of my blessed Lord and Savior Christ for remission of all my sins and my body I commit to the earth to be decently buried according to the directions of my Executors herein after named, and as for such worldly estate as it hath pleased God to bless me with I give and desire for thereof as follows, to wit:

Imprimis: I give and bequeath to my son William Avent and to his heirs and assigns forever the plantation whereon I now dwell together with all the land I have on the North side of the Otterdam Swamp below the first great branch above the Meadow, commonly called the cart wheel branch and binding upon the said branch to the head thereof and from thence by a line of marked trees a strait across back to the great swamp and down the same as it meanders to the extent of my land, and also my land and plantation where on Thomas Johnson lately dwelt situate in the county of Northampton and province of North Carolina together with all my other lands situate in the County and province aforesaid all which I give to my said son William Avent and to his heirs and assigns forever.

Item: I give and devise to my son Peter Avent and to his heirs and assigns forever all my lands on both sides of Otterdam Swamp not devised for sale, and also one hundred pounds current money of Virginia to him and his heirs and assigns forever in full of all that I intend him out of my estate.

Item: I give and devise to Thomas Avent, son of John Avent, deceased, and to his heirs and assigns forever the land and plantation that I purchased of John Golightley lying in Sussex and Southampton County's and one hundred and seventy five acres adjoining patented in my own name and an entry adjoining that is unsurveyed.

Item: I give and bequeath to my five grandaughters, daughters of Thomas Avent, deceased, on their attaining the age of twenty one years respectively the sum of twenty pounds Virginia currency each in full of all that I intend them out of my estate.

Item: I give and devise to my daughter Mary Vincent one hundred and ninety three acres of land joining Joseph Prince and Robert Lynn in Sussex County and to her heirs and assigns forever.

Item: I give and devise unto my daughter Sarah Fox and to her heirs and assigns forever six hundred and twenty five acres of land where on William Fox her husband now lives together with all the appurtenances there to belonging.

Item: I give and devise my tract of land on Dickery's Creek in Lunenberg County and that part of my land lying on each side of the great swamp in Sussex County to be sold at the discretion of my Executors and that they convey the same to the purchaser and the money arising herefrom I give to be equally divided amongst William Avent, Mary Vincent, Sarah Fox, and the children of John Avent, deceased, share and share alike, the children of the said John to have but one share for all of them.

Item: I give and bequeath unto Athaliah Casiah Norris and to her heirs and assigns forever one negro girl named SUE and also ten pounds Virginia currency and also my riding horse named Glaees and likewise the second best bed and furniture and one trunk and likewise the priviledge of living in my mansion House six months after my death and to be maintained with diet out of my estate all of which I devise to her and her heirs forever.

Thomas Avent 
The 21st day of September in the year of our Lord 1756

REGISTER OF ALBEMARLE PARISH, SURRY AND SUSSEX COUNTIES, 1739-1779, Gertrude R.B.  Richards, 1958, p. 214.

SOME COLONIAL AND REVOLUTIONARY FAMILIES OF NORTH CAROLINA, VOL. 1, Marilu Burch  Smallwood, Washington, NC, 1964, pp. 7-9, 15, 21.

Thomas Avent was Justice, Surry County, Virginia 1741, and a Captain of the Militia:  REGISTER OF ANCESTORS, THE NATIONAL SOCIETY OF THE COLONIAL DAMES IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, Richmond, 1979, p. 3.

It seems likely that Thomas Avent came to Virginia in 1701 to work as an agent for a London and Virginia-based merchant named John Nicholls, and we know he was living on Nicholls' plantation in 1702. It wasn't long, though, before Thomas was buying up substantial tracts of land in Virginia and North Carolina, in the area between present-day Emporia, VA and Roanoke Rapids, NC. 
His earliest recorded land purchases (from 1712) were in North Carolina, along the Roanoke River north of present-day Roanoke Rapids, Northampton Co., NC (there may likely have been other land purchases made by him prior to 1712, but those records have not apparently yet surfaced).

It appears that in 1716 Thomas sold much of his land along the Roanoke and moved to Virginia. (He still retained some property in Northampton Co. as his son, William, was living there by the 1730's and inherited it upon Thomas' death. Other children and grandchildren of Thomas' settled in Northampton Co., NC, as well.)

from "Chowan Precinct, NC 1696-1723 Genealogical Abstracts of Deed Books", by Margaret M. Hofmann:

pg. 357: "16-July 1716 - Thomas Avent, weaver to Jacob Coleson, carpenter for 4 pounds, 270 a. more or less at Mount Royall on Morattock River..."

(The late Garland Avent, one of the pioneers in Avent genealogy,  placed "Mount Royall" at the site of the present-day town of Gaston, NC, and the "Morattock" river was the present-day Roanoke River.)

pg. 358: "16-July-1716 - Thomas Avent, weaver, to Robert Green for 10 pounds, 370 a. more or less at Mount by patent to me (i.e., Thomas Avent) 29-July-1712..."

The reference to "Thomas Avent, weaver" has mystified many Avent researchers, as there is no other indication that his profession was weaving. Adding to this mystery is the following entry:

pg. 363:  "Elizabeth Avent of Surry County, Virginia, Spinster, to Robert Hicks of North Carolina..."

A "spinster" can be defined as "a woman whose occupation is spinning", so it appears Thomas and his wife had something to do with weaving and spinning, but nothing more is known of this.

Thomas Avent received four Royal Patents of land in what is now Greensville Co., VA (then Surry Co.) ("VPB" = Virginia Patent Book):

31 October 1716 - "a tract of new land containing 400 acres in Surry County, on the east side of Otterdam granted to Thomas Avent." You can view a copy of the original land grant to Thomas Avent by Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood here. (Warning: file is hard to read. Thomas Avent's name is on the third line from the top, on the right, and is highlighted in red.) (VPB 10:300)

14 July 1718 - 190 acres on the northeast side of Three Creeks (VPB 10:405)

7 July 1726 - 625 acres on both sides of Fountain Creek (VPB 12:515)

22 September 1739 - 1675 acres on both sides of Otterdam Swamp. Includes the 400 acres granted in 1716. (VPB 18:417)

Where was Otterdam Swamp and the Three Creeks? If you've ever driven on Interstate 95 near Emporia, VA, 10 or so miles north of the NC line then you've driven over the Otterdam Swamp, and passed very near to the likely site of his home. One leg of the swamp crosses I 95 at the 17 mile marker, 6 miles north of Emporia.  Where is Emporia, VA? Note the red circle on the map below:

Thanks to the excellent book Royal Patents and Commonwealth Land Grants of Greensville County Virginia by Ray Sasser (1998), we can pinpoint the location of the property listed above.

It seems likely that Thomas' home was located in the first tract he purchased, in 1716, which is highlighted in red above. This idea is reinforced by the fact that in 1739 he purchased 1675 additional acres surrounding this 400 acre tract. Interestingly, the current route of Interstate 95 passes through about a mile of the 1739 land grant. (The point where I95 crosses Rt. 301 is at approximately mile marker 17, and Thomas' land would run from around mile marker 15 to marker 16.)

The 190 acre tract purchased in 1718 was sold by Thomas Avent on 19 July 1721, to a John Davis. ("Surry County, VA, Deeds and Wills (1715-1730) Part 2", pg. 353).

The 625 acre tract on both sides of Fountain Creek he purchased on 7 July 1726 was located about 15 miles south of the above property and, then as now, straddles the VA/NC line. When William Byrd of Westover laid out the VA/NC line in 1728, this property was mentioned in the final report:

Colonial Records of NC, Vol. II. A Journal of the Proceedings of the Surveyors Appointed for Determining the Bounds Between the Colonies of Virginia and Carolina, p. 809:

"20 September 1728 - ...the division line of Isle of Wight County from Brunswick. The line of division is N. to Meherrin River, which is judged to be 11 miles Jack's Swamp...1 mile...North to Joseph Jordan's...1 low grounds of Fontain's Creek...2 miles...out of low grounds...2 a road at right...3 miles...John Bradfords...3 Thomas Avings over Fontaine's Creek..."

Like the property above, it is very near to the current route of Interstate 95:

Col. Thomas Avent acquired property on the north side of the Roanoke River (in Northampton Co. across from present-day Roanoke Rapids, NC) as early as 1712, and probably earlier. This property was inherited by William, who died in 1761. Sometime near the year of William's death his sons John and Joseph, daughter Sarah and Sarah's husband William Ragland moved as a group from Northampton Co. to Chatham Co., NC (located SW of Raleigh). Daughter Rebecca and husband Seth Cotten followed 1777 - 1778.