"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

21 April 2014

Private Aaron Belvin

From an empty nest to a wedding bed
To the working wage for the daily bread
The ghosts, the flesh, the bone, and blood
The famine, fear, the frost, and flood
The slate, the stone, and the granite gray
The soft green fields just slipped away
The hedge rows and the silver streams
Now live inside my thoughts and dreams
--"Where E'er You Go" by Gaelic Storm

On April 21, 1754 - 260 years ago today - my 5th-great-grandfather John Aaron Belvin was baptized in Abingdon Parish, Gloucester County, Virginia.  He was the fourth of John and Lucy Belvin's five sons listed in the Parish Register.  I don't know much about Aaron's early life, beyond the date of his baptism.

Where records do pick up, rather importantly, are during the Revolutionary War.  Estimating from the baptism date, Aaron was probably in his mid-twenties at the time.

From May of 1777 through January of 1778, Private Aaron Belvin appears on the muster rolls of 7th Virginia Regiment of Foot, under the command of Colonel Alexander McClenachan.  He first served in Captain Reuben Lipscomb's Company, then, starting in July, in Captain Henry Young's Company.  For his service, the company payroll cards show that Aaron received $6.67 per month.

The last card states that he was discharged on February 3, 1778, having completed his two-year term - which means, his service actually began before the available company muster rolls start.  While the muster rolls don't provide much more in the way of details about Aaron's service in the war, there is one interesting side note.  Also serving in these companies at the same time as Aaron were three of his brothers:  George, John, and Lewis.  Two of them were even discharged on the exact same day as Aaron.

However, it appears Aaron's service wasn't as smooth as the existing muster rolls show.  In January of 1777, a few months before the muster rolls begin, the following notice appeared in the Virginia Gazette:

One hundred and sixty dollars reward. 

DESERTED from the company formerly commanded by capt. Charles Tomkies, of the 7th regiment, the following soldiers, viz. Simon Gran, Thomas Peed, George Weston, James White, Zachariah Pryor, Lewis Belvin, Aaron Belvin, George Belvin, Thomas Ransone, Augustine Ransone, Thomas Blacknal, William Anderson, John Willis, Robert Graves, Richard Anderson, and Matthew Hundley. I will give the above reward for apprehending said deserters, or TEN DOLLARS for each, to be delivered to lieut. James Baytop, at Williamsburg. I expect they are in Gloucester, where the company was raised, and are all natives of that county. ---Such soldiers of the said company as have been indulged with furloughs are desired to join lieut. Baytop on or before the 5th of the next month at Williamsburg, or they will be treated as deserters.


Evidently he was either caught, or he voluntarily returned to duty (along with brothers Lewis and George), as the muster rolls clearly show him finishing his two-year term.

Fortunately, more information on Aaron's service can be found in his pension file.  From his affidavit sworn before Judge James Semple on May 22, 1818:

Aaron Belvin ... did declare and say that some time in the month of February in the year 1776 he enlisted in the Continental Service of the United States in the 7th Virginia Regiment in a company commanded by Capt. Charles Tomkies for two years and served in the said corps in the 7th Regiment commanded by Col. Dangerfield on continental establishment, that some time about the latter end of 1776 or the beginning of 1777 he marched to the northward & joined the Continental Army (as well as he recollects) at a place called Middle Brook, that he was at the battles of Brandy Wine Darby Town & several others, that he continued to serve till some time in February 1778 when he was legally discharged at the Valley Forge by order of Brigadier Gen. Woodford, that he served two years the time for which he enlisted, that he has no other evidence of his services in his power, that he is upwards of 64 years of age, that he is now in reduced circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his country for his support.

The Battle of Brandywine Creek was fought in Delaware County, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777 between the forces of General George Washington and General William Howe.  The Americans were defeated, and forced to fall back towards Philadelphia.

I haven't found anything about a battle at Darby Town, other than a battle of the same name fought during the Civil War.  However, Darby is just east of Brandywine, and so both probably took place around the same time.  Possibly a skirmish along the Americans' retreat from Brandywine?

Which brings us to the much more familiar name of Valley Forge, where General Washington's forces spent the harsh winter.  A map from the park service shows the location of Brigadier General William Woodford's Brigade:

The Virginia regiments under Woodford discharged 273 men from service in February of 1778, of which Aaron Belvin was one.

In addition to the information that the pension files give about his service, they also provide another unexpected tidbit:  it seems as though Aaron was unable to read or write.  Rather than signing his statement, he left a mark instead.

After his discharge, Aaron made his way home to Gloucester County, Virginia, where he appears on the tax records in 1782 for Abingdon Parish.  He is listed as owning 42 acres of land, three horses, and eight cows.  According to a biography written about his grandson, Aaron "was considered a very rich man for the times, and when past middle age married the beautiful Miss Dobson, of England."  They were probably married around 1810, when Aaron would have been in his late fifties.  Their first child, Frances Ann Belvin, was born on August 15, 1811.

With the approval of his application in May of 1818, Aaron was granted a pension of $8 per month.  However, in May of 1820, a new act was passed which required pensioners to supply further proof of their eligibility, and at this time, Aaron's name was removed from the pension rolls.

In the 1820 U.S. census, Aaron's household consisted of him and his wife, Elizabeth, along with four children under the age of ten, two girls and two boys.  Their youngest child, my 4th-great-grandmother Grace Elizabeth Belvin, was an infant at the time.

Aaron passed away two years later, on November 29, 1822.  Grace, being so young, would likely have had no memory of him.