Court Records for Samuel Cornett and his 2 families
Scott County, Virginia digitized Chancery Court case file records have recently been uploaded by the Library of Virginia and can be found and researched online. See the Virginia Memory link at the LOVA website.
There are two important chancery cases relative to the wives and families of Samuel Cornett of Russell/Scott Cos., Va., and Perry Co, Ky. I recommend that anyone who is interested in the descendants of Samuel Cornett and/or RW Daniel Davidson review these case files.
Samuel Cornett first married Mary Benham as documented by their Washington Co, Va., marriage record. Russell County court records later document a separate maintenance for her. Samuel removed to Kentucky with the horde of Russell Co folks that settled in Clay and Floyd Counties. By Davidson family tradition, Samuel married Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of RW Daniel Davidson; however, we have been unable to document Mary Davidson.
These case files clearly document that Samuel Cornett and Mary Benham only had two children; Nancy Cornett who married Thomas C Norvell and Mary Cornett who married Joshua Gillam. Depositions document that Mary and Samuel were never legally divorced and that Samuel removed to Kentucky where he had more children by a woman (unnamed) who is repeatedly styled as a mistress and concubine. Apparently the arrangement was common knowledge amongst his Kentucky neighbors and family. William Cornett was the eldest child of the second family. He is deposed and talks about his parents. He states that Samuel’s first wife Mary also lived with another man but does not provide the identity; therefore, we know she was still living when Samuel left Virginia and headed to Kentucky and began a new family.
The cases show that Thomas C Norvell sued William Cornett in Perry County, Kentucky, on behalf of his wife Nancy and her sister Mary Gillam. Norvell claimed that Samuel Cornett was not in his right mind when he gave his son William a deed of gift for his Scott County land on Big Moccasin. Samuel was found to be of unsound mind in his very old age. As a result, William Cornett and Thomas C Norvell came to an agreement and William deeded the land in Scott County to Thomas C Norvell while the second family was allowed to keep the Kentucky estate of Samuel Cornett for their inheritance which was considerable. The illegitimacy of the second family was a major focal point of much of the testimony and may have had some implications as to their right to inherit since Samuel died intestate. After Thomas got the land, Mary Gillam (widow of Joshua Gillam) sued the Thomas Norvell heirs because she never got her share before Thomas Norvell died. The papers contain lots of papers from the Perry County suit as well.
Unfortunately the files do not document the name of the mother of the second family who is reputed to have been Mary Davidson, daughter of RW Daniel Davidson.
The case files also document the children and heirs of Nancy (Cornett) Norvell and there are depositions from some Benham relatives.
Below are the two relevant cases:
Index Number: 1861- 012 Locality: SCOTT CO
Plaintiff(s): MARY GILLAM WIDOW
Defendant(s): HEIR(S) OF THOMAS C NORVELL ETC
Index Number: 1871-018 Locality: SCOTT CO
Plaintiff(s): HEIR(S) OF GEORGE FRANCISCO ETC
MARY A ROGERS ETC
Defendant(s): ADMR OF GEORGE FRANCISCO ETC
MARY A ROGERS ETC
The papers make for interesting reading. These kinds of family situations were not so unusual and often provide information and insights about the family that would otherwise have never been known.
For Davidson researchers, RW Daniel Davi(d)son was the son of James Davison I of Washington and Russell Cos, Va. (DNA Family #13). Mary is reputed to have been his eldest daughter.
For Norvell researchers, Dr. Thomas C Norvell was the son of William Norvell and Rebecca Johnson.
For Gillam researchers, Mary, d/o of Samuel Cornett and Mary Benham married Joshua Gillam and they removed to Missouri. She was widowed by the time she filed her own suit.
Davidson and Norvell researcher