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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Manakin Town via Jamestown via England via France

I was born Martha Ann Easley 66 years ago today and have been called Ann from that moment on.

I come from good, hearty stock on my father's side. In America, it began with Robert Esle (1655-1711), my sixth great-grandfather. He was a French Huguenot, born in Ansouis, Provence, who sailed to the British Colony of Virginia by way of England at the age of 20, arriving in Jamestown in 1675. 

He was an early arrival from France; King Louis XIV's revocation of the Edict of Nantes 10 years later led to 600 Huguenot refugees coming to Virginia to escape persecution by the French government and the Roman Catholic Church.

He changed the spelling of the last name to Esley, probably to anglicize it, and it was changed again to Easley by his sons after his death. 

On Oct. 20, 1704, he was granted 133 acres of land at Fine Creek on the south side of the James River near Manakin Town, also known as King William's Town, a 10,000-acre settlement created for Huguenot refugees on the Virginia frontier about 20 miles northwest of present-day Richmond (his land holdings eventually grew to 900 acres). He settled there with his wife Ann Parker Esley and their six children, including my fifth great-grandfather, John Robert Easley (1686-1742).

Today I am pleased to say this acreage is mostly open space -- part of the James River Park System -- and still bears the Huguenot name in modern times. I don't know if any excavation has ever taken place.

As new generations of Easleys came along, some of them decided to venture west. They created farms, braved many dangers and adventures and settled in for the long term in Kentucky and Tennessee.

One of these was my third great-grandfather, Joseph Easley Sr. (1764-1849). He and my third great-grandmother Mary Catherine Deatherage Easley, who was called Catey, settled on 171 acres in Connorsville, Kentucky (later renamed Harrisonville), about 30 miles southwest of Frankfort.  

Most of Joseph and Catey's 13 children were born on the farm, including my second great-grandfather, Joseph Easley Jr. (1805-1883).

Here are photos of Joseph Easley Jr. and his wife, my second great-grandmother Elizabeth McWilliams Easley (1818-1894).

For years I have known about the private Easley Cemetery that is on the farm and includes the graves of Joseph Easley Sr., Joseph Easley Jr., their respective wives and many of their offspring.

My bucket list has included a visit to the cemetery if I ever got an opportunity to travel to Kentucky. That opportunity presented itself at last during my Freedom Tour last summer.

I'll tell you all about that next week.


  1. Fascinating! My Lewis ancestors were also French Huegenots who settled in Northern Ireland after the Edict of Nantes and eventually came to live on the James River about 1735. They founded the town of Staunton, VA and later generations moved west through W.Va., Kentucky, Illinois, Idaho and Wash.

  2. I can't wait to read the next chapter!