Biography of Benjamin Sneed (1721 1819)

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TitleBiography of Benjamin Sneed (1721 1819)
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Memorandum Book of Thomas Jefferson. This material provides interesting reading for those interested in the Charlottesville area during this period, aside from its connection to Benjamin Sneed and his family.

Research by Susan Stewart has just unearthed exciting new evidence relating to the location of Benjamin Sneed's home, as well as his activity as a Revolutionary War patriot. I quote from her notes:

"I found the widow's application pension file of a lady named Keziah Perry of Albemarle Co., widow of a William Perry. In her application, she mentions her deceased husband 'having been ordered and (illegible) at a Mr. Sneed's, a little below a place or village now called Milton.' Her application is then backed up by various affidavits including one by her brother F. Benjamin Sowell."

In his affidavit dated 13 June 1843, is included this information:

"I do hereby certify that the said William Perry and myself were drafted at the same time to perform duty and were ordered to rendevous at the house of a certain Benjamin Sneed (a schoolmaster) not far from a little village now called Milton in Albemarle."

The identification could not be clearer. Our Benjamin Sneed (b.1721) was a patriot. We now await copies of the original documents as supporting evidence. Also of interest is William Perry, who just happens to bear the name of the suggested father of Mary Ann, wife of Benjamin Sneed.

The most notable feature in Benjamin Sneed's life is his association with Thomas Jefferson. His property, as well as that of some of his children, bordered land owned by Jefferson, and his name, with that of Mary Ann, appears several times in the Jefferson Memorandum. (23) & (4) His name is also found with that of Jefferson on processioning lists (20), as well as on a document approving a grain mill for the President. (24) From Cousin Frances Trader we learn that Ben received two oak chairs as a gift from Jefferson. (25) On another occasion Ben was involved in a lawsuit with that same neighbor. Most significant, of course, was his role as first tutor of the child, Thomas Jefferson, at the English school.

There are those who have questioned Benjamin's role as first tutor of the president. And indeed Peter Jefferson's account book "shows payments to John Staples for teaching Thomas Mann Randolph," while no mention is made of Thomas Jefferson. However, we have Thomas Jefferson's own word for his presence at the English school where Benjamin Sneed taught: "He [Peter Jefferson] placed me at the English school at five years of age; and at the Latin at nine, where I continued until his death." [Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson; Hutchins, Frank and Cortelle.] Support for this statement is the presence of his name upon the wall of the white schoolhouse in Tuckahoe. Years later he would recall telling his offspring of his intense dislike of the school, and of his prayer that this burden should be removed. "Five years old at the time (1748), he wanted his school to end for the day and impatiently went out, knelt behind the schoolhouse and there repeated the Lord's Prayer, hoping thereby to hurry up the desired hour." [Randolph p. 23] That his prayer went unanswered was perhaps meant to be a message that prayer is not always the solution to a problem.

There is no doubt that Benjamin Sneed taught Thomas Jefferson's younger brother Randolph and his sisters [Albemarle Co. Deed Book, p. 405] (26) A note in Peter Jefferson's Account Book shows payments in 1758 and 1761 to Sneed for teaching his children. Unfortunately, the records of the English school are missing for this period. Since Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Sneed were at the school at the same time, however, there would seem to be no reason to doubt that Benjamin was the first tutor of the future President. [For a fuller account of this relationship, see Trueman Farris' essay: "Benjamin Sneed (b.1721) the School Teacher"]

William of Hanover has traditionally been named as the father of Benjamin Sneed. There is, however, no evidence beyond proximity to support this belief. Mrs. Virginia Snead Hatcher, author of The Sneads of Fluvanna tells us that "There is a well founded tradition that the children of William Snead, who came over with his father, Samuel, were named Charles, Zachariah, William, and Robert. The Kentucky Sneads of Diamond Springs are descended from Zachariah. Others in Louisville have Charles for an ancestor. It is thought by some that William is the ancestor of the Fluvanna branch. From the following item it is seen that William was living in Henrico in 1740: "The attachment obtained by William Snead against the estate of Story Hall is dismissed at the Plaintiff's costs -- 1758" [Hatcher: The Sneads of Fluvannna p. 33-34]

It also stated in the Albemarle records that "Charles Snead witnessed a will in 1740 in the presence of David Lewis and Abram Musick." [Ibid. p. 34]

We must note before proceeding further that the William mentioned by Hatcher and others as the father of the brothers is the wrong William. That William, who was presumably a child in 1635, could hardly have been living in 1740, as stated above. Moreover, we have this record in the Register of St. Peter's Parish, New Kent Co. VA:

Henry, son of Jno Snead bapt ye 8th day of May 1687

William, son of John Snead bapt ye 9 Novemb 1690

This William, born in 1690, would seem to be the likely father of the brothers. Note that Hatcher names only four sons for William and gives no birth dates. With the passage of time, additional brothers are added. [The Parish Register of Saint Peter's -- New Kent County, Virginia p. 35.]

In a handwritten note by Ms. Frances Trader of Sedalia, MO, we have this reference:

"William Sneed had son (sic): -- Grayson

Benjamin b. 1721 [?] d. 1819 Danville, KY

Alexander 1736 will 1818

Zachariah 1737 Sneeds of Diamond Springs, KY

Charles 1738 Louisville, KY Sneeds

William 1734 Hanover Co. & Louisa Co., VA

Robert 1740 12 chidlren Benj. of Fauncey Hill

Ref. Virkus Compendium 1925 p. 834; 1937 p. 461

[Note:] Our Sneed line is from Fredericksville Parish, Albemarle

[Dated:] 12/2/1981

Elsewhere we have a second typed record from Frances Trader showing much the same data on the brothers. In this version William of Hanover, living in 1740, is also shown as the son of William b. 1630.

In a typed version by Lucy Walker Sneed (b.1852), we have this version:

"William Snead born probably in England but living in Hanover Co., Virginia in 1740." Benjamin Sneed b. about 1735 [corrected to read b. 1721 d. 1819....Wm Sneed of Louisa Co.VA]

M. 1st -- Jemimah

M. 2nd -- Mary Ann [Corrected to read: 1755-1856 ... John Sneed, secretary to Jefferson]

[corrected to read: Sarah {Peggy} & others (names not known)]

Alexander Snead / Sneed Executed deed in Albemarle Co.,VA in 1762 from Jacob Snead, etc.

Zachariah Snead/Sneed

Charles Snead/Sneed b. 1738

William Snead / Sneed of Hanover Co, VA

Robert Snead / Sneed b. 1740 ... Thomas Loundes Sneed & Rev. Ed Sneed are grandsons of

this Robt. Sneed, Jesse Sneed, Albert Snead & others (check)

As one can see, there are several versions naming the children of William of Hanover. And yet, with all of these children, Zachariah is the only one who appears to have a documented claim. (27) Benjamin was not on the original list, and when he does appear, his birth was originally given as 1735 by Lucy Walker Sneed, who later converted it to 1721, presumably after the Sneed Obituary was found. Thus Benjamin was born about 14 years prior to the birth of the next oldest brother, presuming their birth dates are correct.

In 1929 Frank M. Sneed of Chicago hired Mrs. Jennie T. Grayson, a genealogist from Richmond, VA, to research the Sneed family. This is the note that Frances Trader has left:

"Samuel Snead d.1643. B. -- ?

and wf Alice & son William (b. about 1630)

Came to 200 acres (land grant) at head of

Heath's Creek, James River Co. VA in 1634

Son Wm. returned to England to be educated --

Married & died there. His 2 younger sons returned to

The Virginia Plantation of their grandmother (Alice Sneed)

Ref. St. Peter's & St. Paul's Parish Records in New Kent Co. VA

Efforts by Frances Trader to find the supporting data for this material failed when Mrs. Grayson replied that she was blind and her material was spread about the house in different rooms. And so we have no supporting data. But Mrs. Hatcher, who also fails to provide documentation, gives us this account:

"Samuel was accompanied to the colony by his wife Alice, his son William, and by a servant, Henry Vincent. Since the term was then loosely used, he may have been a kinsman, even a brother of Alice, or a far-sighted friend who had indentured himself to Samuel for passage money."

Hatcher goes on to say:

"Samuel Snead was survived by his son William, or William's descendants, of York County, and by at least two other sons, Henry and Samuel, Jr., of New Kent. 'The Sneads of Fluvanna' are descended from Henry." [The Sneads of Fluvanna p. 99 ]

Thus we have two different sources providing us with two different lines of Snead / Sneed descent:

[Grayson: Samuel, William b.c1630, John d.c1715-19, William b.1690, Benjamin b.1721]

[Hatcher: Samuel, Henry, John d. c1715-19, William b.1690, John b. bef 1715 -- Ibid p.143]

Hatcher ignores our line of descent, though she indicates that "This chart by no means indicates that there were not other children of the generations before Archibald Snead of Fluvanna County." She then goes on to say:

"We have to rely on circumstantial evidence in assuming that John was the son of William. There is a clear documented line of descent from Samuel 1636 to William, who was living in Hanover County when John was born. We have found three generations of Sneads, g-father, father, and son, owning and living on the same land. When we find a fourth generation of the same name on the same land -- it seems natural to assume that the fourth generation on the same land is the son of the third ... John had a younger brother William who in 1752 was living in Henrico, but before his father's death returned to Hanover." (Hatcher p. 108/9)

The logic of this would seem to be acceptable, making William of Hanover (b.1690) the probable father of John Snead (b. bef.1715). This John Snead produced two known sons: John Snead Sr., who married Jane Winn, the daughter of Jesse (See will dated September 10, 1793); and Archibald, who married (1) Sarah Holman and (2) Sally Pope (See Fluvanna Co. Will dated 17 Jan 1781). This is the chart that Hatcher provides: [Hatcher p. 142]


William_____________Henry ______________Samuel

(York) (New Kent) (Stafford)



John Thomas

(New Kent & Hanover)



Henry William John Samuel



John William




John Archibald

(Hanover & Fluvanna)



Holman Archibald John Burwell Elizabeth William Matilda




John Sarah William Jane Polly George Benjamin

3 bros chart.pdf

I would like to suggest that Benjamin Sneed (b.1721) was a younger brother of John Snead b. bef.1715. This is not only in accordance with tradition, but it is supported by the apparent Holman relationship that exists between the descendants of John Mills Sneed and those of Archibald Snead. Under these circumstances John Mills Sneed, son of Benjamin, would be first cousin to Archibald Snead. To understand the nature of this relationship, it is necessary to examine the following Sorrell document.

"20 March 1737: recorded 21 March 1737. John Sorrell of St. James Parish, Goochland Co., to Thomas Wadlow of same, for 800 pounds tobacco 100 acres on north side of James River on broad Branch of Tuckahoe Creek, next to corner of Thomas Wadlow purchased of John Woodson, next to Mathew Collins. Witnesses: George Payne, Henry Holman, James Holman. Signed: John Sorrell Mary, wife of Sorrell, relinquished her dower right." [Weisiger p. ]

This shows that a personal relationship existed between John Sorrell and Henry and James Holman. The people who signed personal documents in those days were your neighbors. We have already established the family relationship between Benjamin Sneed and John Sorrell. The following chart shows the relationship of the various parties to each other.

Benjamin Sneed m. ca.1750 Mary Ann .............. gr/dau. of John Sorrell


John Mills Sneed (Wit. to 1737 deed)

I James Holman

John Holman Sneed Henry Holman



Sarah Holman (dau) Nathaniel Holman (son)

m. Archibald Snead m. Ann Winn


Holman Snead Nathaniel Holman Jr.

Archibald Snead m. Alice Snead

Et al

With James and Henry Holman as neighbors of John Sorrell, and with the children of Henry Holman marrying into the Snead family, there is a proven connection between the Benjamin Sneed line and the Holman / Snead line. In the course of my genealogical research I have never run into any other Holman line.

As indicated above, if John Snead (b. bef 1715) is the brother of Benjamin Sneed (b.1721), it follows that Archibald Snead and John Mills Sneed are first cousins. And whom did Archibald Snead marry as a first wife? He married Sarah Holman, dau. of Henry Holman and Mourning Bowles. (See chart above.) And what did John Mills Sneed name his eldest son? John Holman Sneed. For a comparison of Snead / Sneed names we show the following chart:

William of Hanover (?)


Benjamin Sneed (b.1721)



Frances John Mills Peggy Susannah

m. m. m. m.

David Garth Sarah Johnson Richard Johnson George Faris


Sarah Perry John Holman Mary Minor J.

Elizabeth Alexander Elizabeth Calvin

Martha Matilda Richard E. Amelia Emily

Mary Cynthia Mims Frances E. Grenville

William Mary (Polly) Rebecca Matilda

John Jane Ellen

Benjamin Martha (Patsey)

Nancy Sarah


An examination of the given names of the descendants in both groups shows a surprising similarity. Most noteworthy, of course is the use of the Holman name. Note also that Archibald Snead, John Mills Sneed and Susannah Faris each named a child Matilda. There are no Matildas in the Sneed background. (Matilda was the daughter of Sally Pope, the second wife of Archibald.)

But this question is brought into even more focus when the given names of John Mills Sneed's children are compared with those of John Snead, son of Archibald. Each has a John, as one would expect. And each has a Jane, no doubt after Jane Winn. (There is no "Jane" in the Benjamin Sneed background.) Both have a Polly. (There is no "Polly" in the John Snead background.) And what is most interesting is the inclusion of the names George and Benjamin in this John Snead grouping. There is not one Benjamin on that side of the house, suggesting that the name relates to the Benjamin born in 1721, grandfather of John Holman Sneed. And finally there is the name George, rare in this period, that may well relate to the George Faris who married Susannah Sneed, daughter of Benjamin Sneed. The names of the children of John Snead, brother of Archibald, who lived in Hanover County, are totally different.

As we have indicated earlier, these are weak links in our support system, but when all documentary records have been destroyed, we must rely on our common sense to produce the most likely relationships.

One final incident relating to Benjamin Sneed (b.1721) may be worthy of mention. The records show that on Dec. 1, 1806, in the Court of Albemarle in Chancery "a certain George Faris became indebted to your Orator [Benjamin Sneed] in the sum of seventy three pounds ..." To guarantee payment, "[George Faris] created the accompanying deed bearing date of the 2nd of September 1806 by which he transferred to a certain Larkin Harlow a considerable number of articles of personal property, in trust ...." "The said sum being due and unpaid the trustee at the request of your Orator proceeded to sell the property according to law." "Your orator further represents to the Court that on the day of the sale of the property by the Trustee a certain David Higginbotham ... to whom your Orator pray may be made Defendant to this bill (?) sent out an circular against George Faris and although he warned the said Defendant of his right, under pretense that your Orator's claim was leavened with fraud proceeded to have his Exc'n (?) levied ..." Before moving on, note the archaic writing style of the period. The quote is from a copy of the original document.

There appears to have been a counter suit, and the affair dragged on until 20 March 1811, when the court record refers to "Benjamin Sneed late in your bailiwick." Higginbotham and his associates were awarded the verdict. It appears, however, that Benjamin Sneed never got around to settling up. He probably journeyed with George Faris and wife Susannah (Sneed) on their trip west in 1810, [newspaper article], since his name disappears from the Albemarle records after this date.

No doubt the Farises passed through Danville, KY on their way to Missouri, but if so, we have no record of it. In any event, Benjamin himself, now about 89 years old, did not arrive in Danville until 1816 [see obituary], where he likely settled in the Quisenberry Farm area. He certainly did not go alone. William Benjamin Sneed writes: "I went to the Virginia State Library in Richmond to find information of that sort ... I found a record that said old Ben arrived in Danville, KY in 1816; the information came from the
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