Block 27 Colonial Lots 275 & 276 Historical Report, Block 27 Lot 275-276Originally entitled: "Colonial Lots 275 & 276 North Side of Nicholson Street Block 27"

Mary R. M. Goodwin


Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - 1513
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library

Williamsburg, Virginia


May 12, 1972
TO: Mr. Leclere
FROM: Mary R. M. Goodwin
Re: Colonial lots 275 & 276.
North side of Nicholson Street [Block 27]

The building mistakenly called "Redwood Ordinary" (which has been shown on colonial lot 275 on our archaeological map, but which Mr. Buchanan thinks actually may be on lot 276), is believed to be a nineteenth century structure, and was certainly never associated with John Redwood.

John Redwood, keeper of the Capitol and Public Gaol from 1703 until his resignation in 1709/10, obtained four half acre lots from the trustees for the City of Williamsburg in April, 1707, for £3:--lots 272 and 273 on the north side of Nicholson Street, to the west of the lots in question, and lots 61 and 62 "on the North East side of the Capitol Square." He had erected buildings on the lots, and was occupying the lots back of the Capitol (where he kept his ordinary) in May 1708, when he sold (or mortgaged) the four lots to Philip Ludwell of "Greenspring", for, £150 lawful money of England. [See York County Records, Deeds & Bonds, No. II (1701-1713) pp. 304-307. Ibid., No. III (1713-1729) pp. 286-287.]

Throughout most of the eighteenth century, lots 275 and 276 with adjacent lots, were associated with JOHN MAROT and his heirs, and with JOHN GREENHOW.

JOHN MAROT, who in 1708 purchased lot 25, with buildings and a strip of lot 26, on the south side of Duke of Gloucester Street (where he operated a successful ordinary until his death 2 in the fall of 1717), owned other Williamsburg property in and after 1713:--lots 274, 275, 276 & 277 on the north side of Nicholson Street--four half-acre lots which he purchased from the trustees of Williamsburg for £3 (or 15-shillings a lot), with understanding that he would build on each lot within 24 months or it would revert to the trustees; lot 802 on the north side of Nicholson Street,* which he purchased in 1715 for 15-shillings, with same building clause in deed; and lot 56 on the north side of Duke of Gloucester Street, which he purchased in June, 1717, for £40, with buildings. By will dated August 31, 1717, he left his wife Anne one-third of his estate during her life, and his three minor daughters two-thirds of his estate when they came of age or married, plus their mother's third after her death. Mrs. Marot soon married Timothy Sullivant, and continued Marot's ordinary until 1738, when she "left off Publick Business, and retir'd to the Country"--to Amelia County, where some of her family lived, and where she died in 1742. Daughter Anne Marot married James Ingles (died c. 1736), James Shields (they operated Marot's ordinary until his death in 1750), and Henry Wetherburn, whom she survived. Edith Marot married Samuel Cobbs of Amelia County (he died in 1757 and she in 1761); and Rachel Marot married Richard Booker of Amelia County (he died in 1760).

We do not know whether John Marot built on all five of his Nicholson Street lots within the required 24 months. Some may have reverted. He must have erected buildings on lots 274 and 275, as they passed to his daughter Edith (Marot) Cobbs, and to her son Samuel Cobbs in 1761. In November, 1761, Samuel Cobbs "of the City of Williamsburgh" (Marot's grandson), sold his cousin James Shields, also then of Williamsburg, lots 274 and 275, which he had just inherited, with all houses, etc., for £110 current money of Virginia. On March 4th and 5th, 1762, James Shields, then of York County, obtained a deed of lease and release from the trustees of Williamsburg to all but one (lot 277) of the Nicholson Street lots once owned by his grandfather, John Marot, including the two he had already purchased. It is possible that he had inherited one or more of the others. For £3 current money of Virginia the trustees granted Shields lots 802, 274, 275, 276, 3 ". . . every part thereof, with Appurtenances"; but the deed included the building clause in accordance with the Act of 1705, which indicated that some of the lots were without buildings. This deed was doubtless granted to record Shields' title to the four lots; for on the next day, March 6, 1762, he sold the lots to John Greenhow, merchant of Williamsburg, for £200 current money of Virginia. Greenhow either already owned or later obtained lot 277, originally granted to Marot. We cannot find the deed, but his name appears on that lot on late 18th or early 19th century plats of Williamsburg.

JOHN GREENHOW, of Westmoreland County, England, was a merchant in Williamsburg in 1755; his dwelling house and store stood on colonial lot 159 and he also owned lot 160, on the south side of Duke of Gloucester Street. He occupied this property at the time of his death in August, 1787. As stated, Greenhow obtained lots 802, 274, 275, and 276, on the north side of Nicholson Street, on March 6, 1762 for £200 current money of Virginia. On March 15, 1762 he purchased, for £63:6:8 current money of Virginia, a tract of 6-1/3 acres from Matthew Moody. The tract was back of Nicholson Street and to the west of it was the Raleigh Tavern pasture land (see attached plats). The tract was divided into several areas (described in the deed, which included a sketch of it), and Greenhow agreed to -

". . . lay off and open a Street of four Poles in a Breadth from Nicholson Street . . . through the Lotts he lately purchased of James Shields Gent. to the said land hereby granted and conveyed which shall also forever hereafter continue and remain a Street free for the Passage of all persons whatsoever." [Y.C.R. Deeds No. VI (1755-1763), pp. 398-399.]

This street "4 poles wide" is shown on all of the late 18th or early 19th century plats of Williamsburg we have seen; it started at the north side of Nicholson Street and ran between lot No. 275 marked "Wentworth" on the plats, and lot No. 277 marked "Greenhow - a Spring", meeting another "Greenhow Street 4 poles wide" at the north side of the tract. It must have taken a strip 66 feet wide out of Greenhow's lot 276, or part of lot 275 and 276.


It would appear that John Greenhow had disposed of two of his Nicholson Street lots before 1782, when the Williamsburg land tax records begin. He was then only taxed for 4 lots (annual value £6:10:0), and he owned the two lots (Nos. 159, 160) where he lived on Duke of Gloucester Street. His 4 lots in Williamsburg, valued at £50 in 1787, were transferred to his son, Robert Greenhow, still valued at £50 in 1788, after his death* The Greenhow name remained on the Williamsburg plats at "Greenhow Street 4 poles wide" (on the approximate site of lot 276); on lot 277 ("A Spring Greenhow"); and on the tract back of Nicholson Street. John Greenhow died in August, 1787, and his son and heir, Robert Greenhow inherited his estate. As his father's sole executor, he advertised as follows in The Virginia Gazette and Independent Chronicle (Richmond: John Dixon, ed.) for October 6, 1787:

"WILLIAMSBURG, September 24, 1787.
Agreeable to the last will and testament of Mr. JOHN GREENHOW, late of this city, will be sold at public sale, on Thursday the 18 of October.
THE Store and four Lots . . . on Shockoe Hill in Richmond, . . . and on the Monday following, will be sold, all the real and personal estate of the deceased, (except the store Goods) in and about the city of Williamsburg, consisting of a large and commodious Dwelling House on the main street, 6 or 8 Houses and Lots on the back street, about 300 acres of Land adjoining the Town, and lying on each side of the road to the College Landing, and about 100 acres of well timbered Land 3 miles from Town,
. . . ROBERT GREENHOW, sole executor:"


It must be assumed that the "6 or 8 Houses and Lots on the back street" referred to houses or buildings rather than lots, as from 1788 until 1801 Robert Greenhow continued to pay taxes for only four lots in Williamsburg (valued at $50 in 1788, $33.10 in 1789, $33 from 1790 through 1797, $110 from 1798 through 1800). In 1801 he was taxed for six lots valued at $150.

John Greenhow's sale of Nicholson Street lots was not recorded in York County, so it must have been recorded in the Williamsburg Hustings Court, the early records of which were burned during the Civil War. The name "White" shown on the plats on lot 274 does not appear in the Williamsburg land tax records until 1789 when "Benj White"* was taxed for one lot, "Annual Value" $6.67. In 1803, etc. Benjamin White still owned one lot, its value then $10. I attach the tax information on White's Williamsburg property, from Miss Stephenson's 1955 research report on Colonial Lots 274 and 275.

As already noted, the name "Wentworth" is shown on lot No. 275 on all of the late 18th or early 19th century Williamsburg plats. No "Wentworth" appears in the Williamsburg land tax records between 1782 and 1805, but a Wentworth Burwell (who appeared in the personal property tax records in 1799, when taxed for self and 3 horses or colts), was taxed for one lot in 1802--valued at $6.67, the same value placed on the White lot. He had died by 1804 when one lot (value $6.67) was charged against Wentworth Burwell's estate. I attach Miss Stephenson's tax data on what she believed to be lot No. 275 from her 1955 report on Colonial lots 274 and 275.

I have gone into this detail because it indicates that whether the building in question is on what our present archaeological plat shows is 275 or not (and Mr. Buchanan has some ideas on that subject), lots 274, 275, and 276--part of which was certainly a street after 1762, according to all of the plats--were not put to any very important use in the 18th century. They involved 6 few owners, who lived and conducted their principal business in another part of town.

In the hope of helping with your immediate problem, I attach the following:

  • 1.Brief note of deeds to lots from York County Records, 1713-1762.
  • 2.Williamsburg Land Tax data after 1805 on lots No. 274 and No. 275, from Miss Stephenson's 1955 report.
  • 3.Xerox of "Browns" Williamsburg plat showing lot numbers and names. Owned by Galt family (Mrs. Kirby). Said to have been made about 1780 by a Mr. Browns, but probably of a later date.
  • 4.Xerox of Tyler MS map, copied from "a very old map" of Williamsburg, supposed to "have been originally made in . . . about 1780"--but again probably later 18th or early 19th century. The original, known as "the College Map", is not clear enough to Xerox.
  • 5.Copy of a plat of Williamsburg dated 1800 by Benjamin Bucktrout, made by Mr. Lively in 1867 (the original Bucktrout map not now clear enough to Xerox). Contains names on lots in question but not the numbers.
  • 6.Archaeological key map (1932-1969) of area in question; not brought up to date as no excavation in area.

If a copy of the 1762 deed to Greenhow to land back of Nicholson Street, and the accompanying plat, would help, we can send a Xerox of that. However, it is shown on all of the plats, and the lots, except possibly those adjacent to "Greenhow Street-4 poles wide" through lot 276, were probably the usual half-acre lots- up to and after the dates of the plats.


Enclosures (6)
Copy Mr. Buchanan


^*No. 802 does not appear on any of the Williamsburg plats we have seen.
^* In 1800-1802 Robert Greenhow acquired lot 56 on the north side of Duke of Gloucester Street--the Greenhow name appears on this lot on the plats. The Greenhow name also appears on lot 354 on Duke of Gloucester Street, and on a lot behind it; but we have nothing definite as to the Greenhow ownership here except that when Thomas Nelson of Yorktown purchased it in 1820 it was "held formerly as part of Ro. Greenhow's property." [See Miss Stephenson's report on the Peter Scott House, lot 354, Block 13.]
^* Benjamin White's name appeared in the personal property tax records for Williamsburg in 1794--taxed only for himself, no personal property. In 1803 he had 1 slave, 2 horses, and license, for a shop.



March 13 & 14. Deeds of lease and release from Feoffees or Trustees for the City of Williamsburg to John Marot "of the County of York" -consideration "Three pounds, of good & lawfull Money of England"--to "four certain Lotts of Ground in ye sd City. . . designed in ye Plott of ye sd City by these figures 274: 275: 276 & 277 with all Woods thereon growing . . ."; provided Marot, his heirs or assigns, "begin to build & finish upon Each Lott of ye sd granted Premisses One good dwelling house or houses of such dimensions & to be placed in such manner, as by One Act of Assembly made at ye Capitol ye 25th day of October 1705 . . . doth direct . . ." within 24 months from date of deed, or the lot would revert to the trustees. [Deeds & Bonds, No. II (1701-1713) pp. 413-415.]


November 14. Deed from Samuel Cobbs of the City of Williamsburg to James Shields of the same city--consideration "one hundred and ten pounds Current money of Virginia"--to two lots "or half Acres of Ground . . . denoted in the plan of the said City by the Figures or Numbers 274, 275, which said Lots were devised to the said Samuel Cobbs by the last Will and Testament of Edith [Marot] Cobbs the mother of the said Samuel recorded [August, 1761] in the County Court of Amelia, And all Houses Outhouses . . ." etc. [Deeds No. VI (1755-1763) pp. 380-382.]


March 4th & 5th. Deeds of lease and release from Feoffees or Trustees for Williamsburg to James Shields of "the County of York,"--consideration "Three Pounds Current Money of Virginia"--to "four certain Lotts of Ground lying and being in the City of Williamsburg and designed in the plan of the said City by the Figures 802*, 274, 2 275, and 276 . . . To have and hold the said granted premises and every part thereof, with the Appurtenances . . ."; provided the said James Shields, his heirs or assign's, build and finish within the space of 24 months upon each lot one good dwelling house or houses as directed in the Act of 1705. [Deeds No. VI (1755-1763) pp. 431-434.]


March 6. Deed from James Sheilds "of the County of York and Susannah his Wife" to John Greenhow "of the City of Williamsburgh, Merchant"--consideration 200 pounds current money of Virginia-- to "all those four Lotts of Ground situate lying and being on the North side of Nicholson Street in the said City of Williamsburgh and noted in the Plan of the said City by the Figures 802, 274, 275, 276 which were granted to the said James Shields by . . . two of the Trustees or Feoffees for the Land appropriated for . . . the City of Williamsburgh by Indenture of Lease and Release bearing date the fourth and fifth of this instant March . . . To have and to hold the said four Lotts of Ground and all and singular the Premisses aforesaid with the Appurts . . . ." [Deeds No. VI (1755-1763) pp. 400-403.]

Illustration #2

From report "Colonial Lot 274 & 275. M. Stephenson, 1955.

Note: See also p. 5 of attached memo of May 12, 1972, for earlier reference to Wentworth Burwell's 1 lot. M.G.]

Lot 275
Williamsburg Land Tax Records:
1805--Samuel Harrison ---------1 lot---$10 Winter
1810--Samuel Harrison ---------1 lot--- 17
1819--Samuel Harrison ---------1 lot--- 17
1820--Wentworth Burwell's Est-1 lot---$50 lot---$125 lot & buildings Formerly charged to Saml Harrison
1823--Wentworth Burwell Est ---1 lot--- 50------- 75 Part sold to Richard T. Booker, ubi supra (above mentioned)
Richard T. Booker--1 lot--------50 Via Saml Harrison part of the lot which stands charged to the estate of Wentworth Burwell
1827--Wentworth Burwell Est ---1 lot--- 50-------75
Richard T. Booker------1 lot--400----500 Reassessed by the commissioner of the revenue according to law
1840---Wentworth Burwell's Est-1 lot & building---50
1850---Wentworth Burwell's Est-1 lot & building---50
1851--[no Burwell]
1873--John W. Lee [not in tax records but in deed]
1925-William Braxton---------1 lot-----[not in tax records but in deed]
[From report "Colonial Lots 274 & 275." M. Stephenson, 1955.]
Lot 274
Williamsburg Land Tax Records: (Microfilm from Virginia State Library Records) (begin 1782 through 1861)
1798--Benjamin White--------1 lot---------$6.67
1800--Benjamin White--------1 lot--------- 6.66
1801-Benjamin White--------1 lot ---------10.--
1807--Benjamin White--------1 lot---------20.20
1810-Benjamin White--------1 lot-- ----20
1 lot---------20 via Plator
2 lots--------30 via Mason
1811--Benjamin White--------3 lots--------50
1812--Benj. White ----------4 lots--------70
*182O--Benjamin White--------1 lot---lot & buildings $450 lot $400
1848-Benjamin White--------1 lot--- 500 450
1849--[Benjamin White out]
1850--John Ashby-----------1 lot--- " " 500 " 400
Formerly charged to Ben: White
1852--John Ashby ----------1 lot--- " " 550 " 400
1855--John Ashby-----------1 lot--- " " 700 400
$150 added for improvement this Year
1858--John Ashby------------1 lot--- " " 750 " 500
1861--John Ashby------------1 lot--- " " 750 " 500
Williamsburg and James City County Courthouse:
1865 - Williamsburg Land Books: Table of town lots shows John Ashby the owner of a lot with buildings thereon, valued at $750.
1873--John Ashby-----------2 lots "whereon I now reside- bounded south by Nicholson street East by John W Lee west by street & north by Vest" (Deeds I, p, 345)
1925--Ashby heirs------- [divided property thus described] "On the north by the Potts property; on the east by the lot of William Braxton; on the south by Nicholson Street; and on the west by Raleigh Lane;" - conveyed to Alice M. Saunders.
1928--L. C. Lindsley--------
1929--Williamsburg Holding Corporation (Williamsburg Restoration)

RR151301 Plat of Williamsburg by _____ Browne. n.d. Galt family. Orig. in poss. Mrs. V. Lee Kirby

RR151302 Tyler Ms. Map.

See above text concerning this copy of a map made in July 1892: "A copy of a very old map of the City of Williamsburg, Va. Supposed to have been originally made in... about 1780. The original... was found in the Saunders House [Robert Carter House] after the War [ca. 1865] This copy in Lyon G. Tyler MSS, College of William & Mary. The "original" doubtless the map now called "the College Map" of Williamsburg-maker unknown and not dated, but like the Browne map probably also of late 18th or early 19th century. M.G.

Bucktrout Map [Bucktrout Map]

June 3, 1955
TO: Mr. Spratley
FROM: Mary Goodwin
RE: Colonial Lot # 274

The lot which you were discussing this morning, at the northeast corner of Nicholson Street and Raleigh Lane, was numbered 274 on the early town plats. It was the usual half-acre lot - containing approximately 21,780 square feet. The half-acre lots generally measured 82-½ feet wide by 264 feet deep.

From Miss Mary Stephenson's recent research report on lots 274 and 275 on Nicholson Street, I find the following owners of 274 noted:

1713: Foeffees or Trustees of Williamsburg to James Marot, ordinarykeeper, lot #274, and lots 275, 276, and 271 to the east of it. Usual stipulation in deed that houses must be erected on each lot within 24 months or lot would revert to city. As the lots remained in Marot's possession until his death in 1717, he must have fulfilled at least the minimum requirements. (His tavern was on the main street.) At Marot's death his Williamsburg property passed to his widow and several children. We find no record of transfer, but lots 274 and 275 were owned by Marot's daughter, Edith Marot Cobbs, and her husband, Samuel Cobbs, of Amelia, prior to 1761, when the lots passed to Samuel Cobbs Jr. by his mother's will.

1761: In November, 1761, Samuel Cobbs, Jr., sold lots 274 and 275, described as "two lots or half Acres of Ground" denoted "in the plan of the said City by the Figures or Numbers 274, 275 which said Lots were devised to the said Samuel Cobbs by the last Will and Testament of Edith Cobbs the Mother..." with all "Houses Outhouses Edifices Buildings" to James Sheilds of the City of Williamsburg for £130 current money of Virginia.

1762: In March 1762, James Sheilds sold four lots, 802, 274 275, and 276 to John Greenhow, merchant of Williamsburg, for £200 current money. The property remained in Greenhow's possession and passed to his son, Robert Greenhow, who died in 1787. (The Greenhows' dwelling-house and store were on the main street.) There is a gap in the records concerning the property after Robert Greenhow's death.

1798: By 1798, Benjamin White owned lot 274 and held it until 1849.

1849: The deed of conveyance is missing; but according to the tax transfer records, John Ashby obtained "1 lot [valued at] $400; lot and buildings $500 Formerly charged to Ben: White." This seems to have been lot # 274 and was apparently still the half-acre lots from the boundaries which are noted in later deeds.

1925: In 1925 John and Jane Ashby's heirs divided Ashby's property (then described as being on "the North side of Nicholson Street...bounded on the North by the Potts property; on the East by the lot of W. W. Braxton, on the South by Nicholson Street and on the West by Raleigh Lane") into six lots numbered 1 to 6, The deed of partition gives the dimensions and boundaries of the six lots, and mentions also "the John Ashby burial lot, which is reserved to all the Ashby heirs" --giving its boundaries. (See Williamsburg Deed Book 12 pages 526-529. Copy of deed in Research Dept., CWI.] The dimensions of the six sections of the Ashby lot add up to a wider frontage than the 82-½ feet that the colonial half-acre lots usually measured; but the depth is less than the usual 264 feet. We cannot explain this unless Ashby purchased more Nicholson Street frontage, after getting the original lot # 274. He may also have sold off some of the back of the lot before the 1925 partition.

As to colonial buildings, it is probable that Marot erected the minimum sized building to hold lot # 274 - which would have been a building covering 500 square feet on the ground plat, or 400 square feet if the building had brick cellars and chimneys. On the main streets a building 20' x 30' would fulfill requirements for holding one lot; and a building 50' x 20' or 40' by 20' with cellars underneath and chimneys would hold two adjacent lots. The back street requirements were less. The Frenchman's Map (ca, 1781) shows a small building on lot # 274. It also shows a longer building to the east of it - which according to Mr. Knight's attached scale drawing was across the boundary line between lots 274 and 275. However Mr. Knight admits that the Frenchman may have had his measurements wrong in this instance; or that our lot lines, as laid off by surveys may be out of scale. Without excavating, and measuring more closely, it is impossible to be sure.

In any cases it seems safe to say that nothing very important stood on lot # 274 in the eighteenth century. Mrs. Victoria Lees in writing of Williamsburg ca. 1861, described the Ashby house as follows:

[On the north side of Nicholson Street] "...almost directly back of my present home stood another frames story and a half cottage. It was a tiny house where a family of negroes by the name of Ashby lived. Whether this house has been destroyed or changed so that it is no longer like the house that stood there in 1861 I do not know. Just east of the Ashby house was a large frame house with dormer windows . ..."

M. G.

RR151305Building Locations Scaled from Frenchman's Map of 1782


^*Deeds of lease and release from Feoffees or Trustees to John Marot, dated September 16 & 17, 1715--consideration fifteen shillings English money--to "One certain Lott of Ground in ye sd City of Wmsburgh, designed in ye Plott of ye sd City by these Figures (802). . ." with building clause. [Deeds & Bonds No. 111 (1713-1729) pp. 91-92.]
^*[In 1820 a different system of designating property was used. Several lots were designated as one lot.]