Answering Liberty’s Call: The Research and Genealogy

Answering Liberty’s Call is based on The Story of Anna Asbury Stone, a brief narrative about my 6x great-grandmother’s ride to Valley Forge. Harriet Lura Bassett Stone, the first historian of the Anna Asbury Stone Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in Cambridge, Ohio, penned the tale when the chapter was established in 1923—a century and a half after the events it described had transpired.      

Harriet and her sister, Mary Augusta Stone, founded the chapter named for their great-great grandmother. Orphaned as teens, they were raised by their grandfather, Benjamin Butler Stone (1812-1891), a son of Benjamin and Anna’s third son, Jeremiah. Because Anna and Benjamin had lived out their final years in Jeremiah’s home, young Benjamin heard the stories of his grandparents’ youth directly from them, and passed the stories along to his own children and grandchildren.

Mary and Harriet were not the only descendants who kept Anna’s story alive. Rev. E. A. Stone, DD mentioned Anna’s ride in an article published in a genealogical journal in 1903. Virginia Lewis, another cousin, also penned a family history. Unfortunately, none of them could offer substantive proof of what they presented as fact in their writings.

I first learned of Anna Asbury Stone in 2013 while compiling a family genealogy as a fiftieth-anniversary gift for my parents. At the time, I was thrilled to learn of a female ancestor who had contributed to the fight for independence. I included her story in the anniversary book.

Four years later, my husband and I were listening to a podcast while driving to visit friends. When the host said, “we rarely get to see history from a woman’s perspective,” I thought, “I should do something about that.” Anna and her story popped into my mind. I began scribbling notes, instantly hooked on the idea of making her the main character in my next book.

Writing historical fiction based on a real person requires a lot of genealogical research. Early on, I connected with a cousin, Steve Pearson, on Steve is descended from Anna and Benjamin’s son Jeremiah, while my line descends from Elijah Craig. As Steve and I lamented the lack of hard evidence to back up Anna’s story, he maintained that, proof or no, his great-great aunts heard the story from their grandfather, who got it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. He believes the story is mostly true. So do I.

I also believe there is more to discover about Benjamin and Anna. I conducted more than two years of vigorous research before and during the writing of this book—and after it was finished, I stumbled upon court documents that offered new details about Anna’s family—and proved an accepted “fact” about Benjamin was incorrect.

Anna’s Story as the Foundation of the Novel

According to The Story of Anna Asbury Stone,

-Benjamin, a young Baptist preacher, deposited Anna and their three small children at her father’s house when he left to fight in the Continental Army.

-When Anna learned of the privations at Valley Forge, she was not content to pray and worry about her husband and three brothers there—she packed what she could carry on her fine saddle horse, Nelly, and set out over unfrequented roads, through hostile territory, leaving the children in the care of her relatives.

-In York, Pennsylvania, she stopped for the night at the home of her cousin, Thomas Butler. There, Congressional delegate William Harrison asked her to carry a very important message to General Washington that warned the commander in chief of a conspiracy against him.

-The next morning, as Anna rode eastward, a man on horseback approached her and barred her way, saying Harrison had changed his mind and demanding that she give him the letter.

-She refused and outran him to the picket line, where she delivered the letter that enabled the commander in chief to thwart his enemies’ plot.

-Washington invited Anna to stay a few days. He assigned Benjamin to the detail that was to fetch Mrs. Washington from Mount Vernon, so that Benjamin could escort Anna back to Virginia.

-Anna presented the commander-in-chief with one of her stockings that she had filled with salt.

-She and Benjamin spent the Sabbath visiting the sick before departing for Virginia.

How did these facts hold up to scrutiny during my research?

Somewhere Between Fact and Conjecture

–The story says Benjamin enlisted in the Continental forces and took Anna and their three little ones to stay with her parents—but this was not accurate, as Anna’s father, George, had died in 1758.

–The Stone children’s birth order remains unclear, and some genealogists claim their daughter Hannah was the eldest, but records establish Rhoda’s birthdate as April 1769, Elijah’s as July 1775, and William’s as April 1777, so they were the children I used in the novel.

–I found no record of a Thomas Butler residing in York in 1778. Benjamin’s mother was a Butler, so if Anna stayed at the Butler residence, she was with her in-laws. Since I couldn’t find Thomas, I chose the names Samuel and Lydia for Benjamin’s uncle and aunt, and installed them in a residence on George Street, because records confirm that Benjamin Harrison shared a house on George Street opposite Christ Church with four other congressional delegates and their aides.[i] Harrison was the sole lodger in the cramped, rented quarters who was not part of the conspiracy against Washington.

But what about the “fact” of Benjamin’s service at Valley Forge? No records have, as yet, been located. In the absence of proof, I set out to build a case for Benjamin’s service.

Patriot and Preacher

No British colony in America was more protective of its established church, nor more abusive of its religious dissenters, than Virginia.[1] Benjamin’s close association with some of the better-known outlaw Baptists of the pre-Revolutionary era lends credence to his taking up arms to fight for independence from the Crown.

Carters Run Baptist Church was established near the Stone home and dedicated in 1769. Histories of the area detail a Baptist revolt against paying taxes to support Anglican parishes in Fauquier and Culpeper counties, with Elijah Craig leading the revolt. Benjamin Stone was heavily influenced by Craig, so much so that he named his first son Elijah Craig Stone.[2]

Benjamin and his brother, Thomas, signed what became known as the Ten Thousand Names Petition, sent to the Virginia Assembly in October 1776 demanding an end to compulsory tithes to the Anglican Church, which the Baptists viewed as taxation without representation. The petition further demanded religious equality so that “internal animosities may cease.”[3] The Baptists realized that the fight for independence from the Crown could lead to the religious liberty they craved—and Virginia needed recruits.

The prevalence of dissenting ministers who enlisted is telling, especially given that ministers were exempt from militia muster after 1775.[4] There are instances of Anglican ministers taking up arms and leading their congregations into battle, but Baptist ministers appear regularly on the rolls, willing to serve even though they had personally suffered persecution at the hands of members of the colonial establishment. This was an opportunity to fight for their place within the Virginia establishment. Dissenting ministers’ service likely encouraged their congregations to enter the fight.[5]

Benjamin and Anna were certainly married by a Baptist preacher, and courthouse clerks were not required to record marriages performed outside the Anglican Church. The couple named their first son Elijah Craig Stone, which led me to theorize that the Rev. Elijah Craig, Benjamin’s mentor, was the one who solemnized their marriage.

Elijah Craig is one of several real people of lesser fame who appear as characters in the story. Craig moved to Kentucky in the 1790s and founded the bourbon distillery that still bears his name.[6] During the Colonial period, everyone avoided drinking water, which could be fatal because it carried cholera, typhoid, and other waterborne diseases. Most drinks were alcoholic, because no bacteria harmful to man can survive in them.[7]

The Hippel family donated land in which to bury the twenty-two soldiers who died of fever in the Dutch Reform Church in East Vincent Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, in January 1778.[8]

Widow Elizabeth Champe of Aldie, Virginia bragged about her son Johnny, a soldier in Lee’s Legion. In October 1780, Sergeant Major John Champe volunteered to take part in a failed mission to kidnap Benedict Arnold.[9]

Christopher Ludwick trained as a baker in his father’s shop. A soldier at age seventeen, he served in various European armies before emigrating to America in 1753 and opening a bakery in Philadelphia. Appointed Baker General of the Continental Army in May 1777, he pledged to deliver 135 pounds of bread from each hundred pounds of flour. He later posed as an inmate in prisoner of war camp on Staten Island and convinced a number of Hessian prisoners to defect and become private citizens. Ludwick was present at the capitulation of Cornwallis in Yorktown in 1783 where, by personal order of General Washington, he supervised the baking of 6,000 pounds of bread for the occasion.[10]

Most of the discrepancies in The Story of Anna Asbury Stone are the kinds of changes that occur when a story is handed down over time.

Elizabeth Berg, author of The Dream Lover, said in her Afterword that discrepancies discovered during research are the bane of the nonfiction writer and bliss for the novelist. Discrepancies leave us free to pick and choose and imagine the story, and that is exactly how I approached the writing of this book. Rather than restrict myself to including only what I could corroborate, I considered the story of Anna’s journey a gold mine of lore—absolutely based on fact—and an opportunity to pay tribute to my Revolutionary ancestors. Before I could write the story, I had to answer two important questions:

–What motivated Anna to make the journey?

–What was in the letter she carried to General Washington?

I found answers to both questions in the facts I unearthed.

Why would Anna make the Journey?

Anna’s girlhood experiences undoubtedly shaped her into the kind of woman who would make that daring journey to Valley Forge.

When Anna’s father, George, died intestate at age 38, he owned no property. The court-ordered inventory of his household goods and stock valued his estate at fifty pounds, about nine thousand dollars adjusted for inflation.[11] Without a source of income, Hannah Asbury and her six children would have plunged into poverty. Under prevailing law, a child whose father was dead was an orphan. Even if the child’s mother was still alive, the court appointed a male guardian to oversee the child’s inheritance.[12]

Colonial-era widows were hobbled by laws which made it nearly impossible for them to work and support themselves:

With certain exceptions, [a married woman] was not allowed to own land in her own right nor to make a will. Any real property that she brought to the marriage automatically became her husband’s, unless she had insisted on a prenuptial agreement. Even after she was widowed and had received a life interest in a specific third of her late husband’s land following a division of the estate made by court-appointed commissioners, she had no say as to whom it would pass after she was gone. She had no legal say over who would be the guardian of her minor children after her husband died, or what religion they would be raised in. If her husband had been too poor to assure that she and her children were not going to become a public charge, she had no power to prevent the children from being taken away from her and bound out to strangers.[13]

If a man’s will did not specify a guardian to manage the estates and arrange for the education of his infant children, the court could name a guardian for children aged thirteen and younger. When estates, like George Asbury’s, were of such small value that no guardian would agree to educate and maintain a child for the profits from their inheritance, male orphans were bound out as apprentices to a tradesman, merchant mariner, or other person approved by the court until the age of twenty-one. Females were usually bound out as domestics, to age eighteen.[14]

Based on the similar migration pattern of Anna’s siblings and that of her uncle William Asbury, I believe he may have been their guardian.

William Asbury removed from Stafford to Fauquier County, where records find him living as early as 1761. Over the years his fortune increased. In the 1770s, he owned three hundred acres near the present-day villages of Marshall, Old Tavern, and The Plains. The pie-shaped parcel is easy to spot on contemporary maps, as it is framed by Interstate 66, US 17, and VA 245.

Anna probably lived with or near William when she was in her late teens, for it was then that she met and married Benjamin Stone, who had grown up a few miles away, near present day Waterloo.

Knowing the hardships Anna faced as a child, I chose to portray her as a woman who sought both security and freedom—a tough order for a Colonial-era wife. In the novel, she found what she craved in her marriage to Benjamin Stone—only to have it threatened by the events of the war. Knowing what life was like for widows and orphans, it seems Anna would have moved heaven and earth to save her children from the same fate.

What Was in the Letter?

In January 1778, Washington’s opponents in Congress moved to send a committee to Valley Forge to arrest the commander in chief. The motion would have been adopted had not Washington’s opponents unexpectedly lost their majority.[15] General Washington received information, from various quarters, of the efforts being made to overthrow him.[16]

That session of Congress held the fate of the nation and the fame of Washington in its hands. One of its members has said that the story of its proceedings regarding Washington would never be written. “As the old Congress daily sat with closed doors, the public knew no more of what passed within that it was deemed expedient to disclose.”[17]

Washington and his officers, sensitive because of the contrast between their failure and Gates’s success, suspected that a cabal, or conspiracy, was afoot. They believed that this cabal, a combination of disaffected officers and disgruntled members of Congress, aimed to remove Washington and make Gates commander in chief.[18]

The Conway Cabal’s internal threat to the American cause was sparked by Washington’s failures to bring the American Revolution to a speedy end, the warring ideologies of the Congressional delegates, and the greed of other generals and influential businessmen.

By late 1777, the United States and Britain were well into the third year of the war. A faction in Congress, displeased with the slow progress, sought to remove Washington from the commander in chief post and replace him with Horatio Gates, the so-called hero of the Battle of Saratoga. Washington, who had plenty of allies in Congress and the support of his trusted officers as well as the enlisted men, would not be easily dislodged.

Unable to make a direct run at Washington, the faction built up its power base by appointing Gates, General Thomas Conway, and General Thomas Mifflin to the Board of War. Though the Board was supposed to support the commander-in-chief and the war effort, by 1777 it had become a vehicle for bureaucratic posturing and critical remarks that served only to endanger those actually engaged in the fighting. The Congressional delegates who were part of the Cabal wasted no opportunity to malign Washington’s efforts to keep the army together and in the field. They accused him of whining and complaining about the shortages and privations. They made fun of his “Fabian” style of fighting and his refusal to lay down his sword after the loss at the Battle of Brandywine.

Washington’s detractors were particularly aggrieved by his failure to successfully defend the nation’s capital at Philadelphia. The approach of British troops had forced Congress to flee one hundred miles west to York, then just a provincial outpost. There, the delegates mourned for the fine accommodations, cuisine, and entertainments they’d had to leave behind to be enjoyed by the British invaders.

Washington, by keeping his forces out of reach of the British, avoided the kind of confrontation that might have forced his surrender. In December 1777, Henry Laurens, the president of Congress, sent Washington a communique informing him that the state of New Jersey was demanding protection. A “remonstrance” passed by the Assembly in Philadelphia rebuked Washington for going into winter quarters without first driving the enemy out of Philadelphia. Unless Washington attended to these demands, Pennsylvania would not raise taxes to support the war effort. Nor would they enlist more soldiers. Washington despaired that “never in his whole life” had he devoted more thought to a problem.[19]

The British General Howe, while wintering in luxury in occupied Philadelphia, rubbed elbows with Tory and Quaker businessmen at social gatherings. When the talk turned to resuming transatlantic trade, Howe suggested they pressure their representatives to replace Washington. A general like Gates, who might be willing to negotiate a surrender that included a return to Crown rule, would help get things back to business as usual.[20]

The Series of Events in the Conway Cabal

Meanwhile, General Horatio Gates, “a man whose vanity was eclipsed only by his arrogance,”[21] formed a close alliance with General Thomas Conway and General Thomas Mifflin, both members of the Board of War, as well as other officers who were “disaffected toward Washington.”[22] Conway, eager to stir the pot, allegedly wrote in a letter to Gates, “Heaven has determined to save your Country; or a weak General and bad Counsellors would have ruined it.”[23]

The contents of Conway’s letter got back to Washington, who sent the pernicious quote back to Conway in a letter without additional comment.[24]

Sir, a letter which I received last Night, contained the following paragraph. In a Letter from Genl Conway to Genl Gates he says—“Heaven has been determined to save your Country; or a weak General and bad Councellors would have ruind it.” I am Sir Yr Hble Srvt. –George Washington to Thomas Conway November 5, 1777[25]

 Washington’s action caused a flurry of panic and squabbling between Gates and Conway over Conway’s lack of discretion. Gates backpedaled and wrote to Washington, asking for help in “tracing out the author of the infidelity which put extracts from General Conway’s letters to me into your hands.” He claimed his letters had been “stealingly copied.” Then, instead of sending the letter directly to Washington, he routed it to Congress.[26]

Washington wrote to Gates that he had viewed Conway as a stranger to him, and had not realized they were correspondents, “much less did I suspect he was the subject of your confidential letters.”[27] He then went on, thanking Gates for the friendly warning to forearm him “against a secret enemy, or in other words, a dangerous incendiary; in which character, sooner or later, this country will know General Conway.”

Gates denied affiliation with Conway or any “faction.”[28]

Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, Washington’s aide-de-camp and son of Henry Laurens, wrote to his father in Congress and complained that Conway had influence with a faction headed by Mifflin that intended to remove Washington, and added, “I hope some virtuous and patriotic men will form a Countermine to blow up this pernicious Junto.”[29] Of all those involved, Mifflin would prove the most dangerous, although this was not clear in the beginning.[30]

Laurens told his son the best way to defeat the conspirators lay in Washington’s hands—to stay calm, and continue to do his job.[31] But in York, Laurens despaired that the commander in chief’s opinions and recommendations were “treated with such indecent freedom and levity” that it affected him exceedingly.[32] Laurens, Harrison’s friend and ally in defending Washington, feared that the attacks on the commander-in-chief were, in part, meant to conceal a great deal of corruption in the administration of the army’s departments, particularly the quartermaster.[33]

That winter, General Thomas Mifflin walked away from his duties as quartermaster, and the department disintegrated, leaving “wagons abandoned everywhere, while commissaries begged for them and the purchased food spoiled. Hospitals went without wood to keep sick men warm. One diarist reported hundreds of barrels of flour abandoned on the banks of the Susquehanna River.”[34]

Laurens wrote, “Perhaps there was an even more sinister goal: to throw everything into confusion and bring in the ancient rule.” By that, he meant the rule of George III of England.[35]

Which Founding Fathers were part of the Cabal?

Author/historians Thomas Fleming and Mark Edward Lender both name the ideologues of Massachusetts and the Quaker businessmen of Pennsylvania as part of the Cabal: John Adams, Samuel Adams, James Lovell, Benjamin Rush, Elbridge Gerry, and Francis Dana, joined  also by Virginian Richard Henry Lee, as the radicals in Congress most opposed to Washington.

John Adams declared mid-1777 that “things would not improve until we shoot a general,” and lamented in his journal,

“Oh heaven! Grant us one great soul! One leading mind would extricate the best cause from that ruin which seems to await it. From the one of it. One active masterly capacity would bring order out of this confusion and save this country.”[36]

Later, after Gates’s victory at Saratoga, Adams told his wife, Abigail, “Now we can allow a certain citizen to be wise, virtuous, and good, without thinking him a deity or savior.”[37]

John Adams and Dr. Benjamin Rush, both of whom had supported Washington’s appointment to commander in chief and later became two of his most vocal detractors, were away on committee assignment during the winter of 1777-78 and were not directly involved in the Cabal.

Though Anna’s story did not name the conspirators, it did name Washington’s ally as William Harrison. But William Henry Harrison, who would become the ninth president of the United States, was a lad of four when Anna made her ride to Valley Forge.

She may have encountered William Henry Harrison’s father, statesman Benjamin Harrison (1726-1791) in York. The elder Harrison had been a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, a member of the House of Burgesses, and a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. He was a strong ally of George Washington’s, and of Henry Laurens.

Harrison’s term in Congress had ended late in 1777, but it was possible he was kept in York by bad weather. Harrison had served on a number of committees in Congress, including the Committee of Secrecy, and would have been a likely counter-conspirator. Lender calls Harrison and Laurens “reasonable and well-informed men not prone to overreactions or inordinate fears.” He further states that they were “imagining nothing when [they] saw political trouble brewing for the commanding general.”[38]

Harrison’s message to Washington warned that the faction working against him in Congress intended to send a committee to remove him. Fortunately, Washington and Alexander Hamilton met the Board of War’s delegation—minus Gates—with a sixteen-thousand-word report documenting the problems at Valley Forge and outlining solutions. In the absence of Gates’s influence, the Board of War’s delegation was soon convinced that Washington’s pleas for assistance were genuine.

Washington’s Reaction

Though Washington kept his cool in the face of his detractors, no doubt he took the criticism personally. Even when he expressed anger and frustration in private, he remained outwardly patient, and relied on both his tactical and diplomatic skill to emerge triumphant.[39] He wrote:

“It is easy to bear the devices of private enemies whose ill will only arises from their common hatred to the cause we are engaged in; but I confess, I cannot help feeling the most painful sensations, whenever I have reason to believe I am the object of persecution to men, who are embarked on the same general interest, and whose friendship my heart does not reproach me with ever having done anything to forfeit. With many, it is a sufficient cause to hate and wish the ruin of a man because he has been happy enough to be the object of his country’s favor.”[40]

Washington’s enemies on the Board of War posed a genuine threat to his position, but Washington chose to ignore the Board—especially Conway—in favor of dealing directly with Congress. This tactic left the Board wrong footed and Congress “dithering” over the General’s breach of protocol. By failing to rise to the bait or argue, Washington could hold his ground until Congress gave up on the idea of Conway as the Inspector General.[41]

Washington’s allies in Congress and the army carried on the fight against the Cabal without directly involving the commander in chief.[42] In particular, aide-de-camp John Laurens kept his father apprised of what the army was thinking, and through John, Henry kept Washington informed of what was said during Congressional sessions.[43]

Even so, Washington did not shrink from confronting Gates and Conway in his correspondence and emerged the decisive victor by the time the army left Valley Forge in May 1778. At that time, he wrote to Landon Carter:

 “With great truth I think I can assure you, that the information you receivd from a Gentleman at Sabine-hall, respecting a disposition in the Northern Officers to see me superseded in my Command by Genl G——s is without the least foundation—I have very sufficient reasons to think that no Officers in the Army are more attached to me than those from the Northward and of those none more so than the Gentlemen who were under the immediate comd of G——s last Campaign. That there was a scheme of this sort on foot last fall admits of no doubt but it originated in another quarter—with three men who wanted to aggrandize themselves[44]—but finding no support, on the contrary, that their conduct, and views when seen into, was like to undergo severe reprehension they slunk back—disavowed the measure, & professed themselves my warmest admirers. Thus stands the matter at present—whether any members of Congress were privy to this scheme, and inclined to aid & abet it, I shall not take upon me to say, but am well informed that no whisper of the kind was ever heard in Congress.”[45]

Congress, in possession of letters of support from the majority of Washington’s officers, was forced to stand by him. Gates and Conway appeared duplicitous and foolish, and the movement to unseat Washington lost its steam.[46]

In recent years, details of Washington’s use of spies and counterintelligence has become widely known, and this is reflected in his methods of dealing with the Cabal. Washington was adept at letting his allies fight his battles behind the scenes, while presenting the public images that he did not dirty his hands with politics.[47]

After Valley Forge

Was Benjamin Stone captured at the Fall of Charleston? It is possible.

In 1779, Virginia was authorized to send militia to South Carolina.[48] When General Lincoln surrendered the city of Charleston to the British in May 1780, over six thousand Continental soldiers and militia were taken prisoner.

As part of her application for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mary Augusta Stone submitted the record of a Benjamin Stone who served under General Francis Marion in the 2nd Regiment of the South Carolina militia after the Fall of Charleston as proof of her great-great grandfather’s military service.

Up to six Benjamin Stones served in the South Carolina militia. We may never know if Rev. Benjamin was one of them, but I find it interesting to note that no Benjamin Stones from South Carolina applied for pensions, and no descendants of any other Benjamin Stones who served in the South Carolina militia have come forward to apply for membership in Revolutionary War lineage societies. Yet, research done for me by the Pro Genealogists at show seventy-three women have applied for membership in the DAR using Rev. Benjamin Stone as their patriot ancestor and citing his service in the South Carolina militia.[49]

After the War

In the years following the war, Anna and Benjamin’s family grew to include eleven children. Benjamin enjoyed a long career as a Baptist preacher “of some repute,” and in the years immediately following the war, the family moved eighty miles northwest to Hampshire County, in the eastern panhandle of what is now West Virginia. There, Benjamin organized the North River Baptist Church in 1787, and Crooked Run Baptist Church in 1790.[50]

There, Benjamin acquired several tracts of former Fairfax lands in excess of 1100 acres. Much of Anna’s family also moved to Hampshire County.

In 1792, Benjamin’s name was added to the list of pastors who served Great Bethel Baptist Church near Uniontown in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, about one hundred miles northwest.[51]

He also served as pastor of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Smithfield, which is about ten miles from Uniontown, “at the turn of the nineteenth century.”[52]

Benjamin was active in the Red Stone Baptist Association for many years and was responsible for organizing a revival in 1794 that was reputed to last for two to three years, by which many were brought into the church.[53]
The following notations appear with regard to Benjamin’s ministry in Pennsylvania:

1794 Rev. Benjamin Stone called to preach at Great Bethel once a month as supply.[54]

 1795 Brother Stone should be Moderator at Great Bethel.[55]

 1795-1804 Brother Stone appointed delegate to Association.[56]

Records in Greene County, Pennsylvania, list Benjamin as pastor at Great Bethel Baptist Church around 1800.[57]

1800 Rev. Benjamin Stone was a delegate and a member of the Redstone Baptist Association in Greene County, PA, and gave the opening sermon.[58]

1805 Agreed Brother Stone receives a letter of dismissal.[59]

1806 A collection given to Brother Stone.[60]

1806 Brother Stone recalled and asked to preach once a month. Retained as pastor until 1812.[61]

Benjamin’s Fight Against the Campbellites

Alexander Campbell, a young Scottish preacher whose views on several points of Baptist doctrine had put him at odds with other ministers in the area, had nonetheless agreed to join the Red Stone Association and adhere to their tenets. Campbell built a strong following while deviating from the accepted doctrine and practices until, in 1816, Benjamin and Elijah C. Stone were among the members who led a faction that wanted Campbell removed from the Association.

Yes, it is a bit ironic, isn’t it?

Campbell intended to preach at the Association conference that August, but it was Benjamin, and not Campbell, who was nominated. Benjamin was too ill to preach on the appointed morning, Campbell delivered his sermon, which was so at odds with the Association’s doctrine that it could not pass without a public protest.

After Campbell’s “Sermon on the Law,” Benjamin published his rebuttal in a pamphlet entitled A Short Reply to A Pamphlet, SAID TO BE THE SUBSTANCE OF A SERMON PREACHED BY ALEXANDER CAMPBELL, The first Lord’s-day in September, 1816, at the Redstone Baptist Association, held at Cross Creek Brooke County, Virginia: by Benjamin Stone, LATE PASTOR OF THE REGULAR BAPTIST CHURCH ON BIG WHITELEY, GREENE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, printed by S. Seigfried in Cadiz, Ohio in January 1819.[62]

In this pamphlet, we see Benjamin in a full passion, citing passage after passage of Scripture in support of his case against Campbell’s remarks. At age 75, Benjamin moved farther west into central Ohio, organizing churches and bringing more people to the doctrine approved by the Redstone Association—and thus protecting them from what he believed was Campbell’s blasphemous interpretation of doctrine. Accompanying he and Anna were their sons Elijah Craig and Jeremiah, their grandson Jesse, their daughter Rebecca Stone Hughes and their families.

Benjamin and Anna may have stayed with the Hughes in Guernsey County while organizing the Salt Fork Baptist Church in 1818. The church’s rolls list Anna as a charter member.[63] It is noted in the Salt Fork Baptist Church’s published history that a William Lee, who served as minister after Benjamin had moved on, was voted out of the pastorate by the congregation in 1830 because he had “embraced the Campbellite Baptist Church in a nearby town.”[64]

Records show Benjamin pastored the Clear Fork Baptist Church in Guernsey County from 1823-1830[65], when he was 87 years old.

Why are there Records Missing?

There is little doubt that Benjamin served in the local militia, as all able-bodied men between the ages of sixteen and sixty were required to do so for the defense of their communities. Benjamin’s name does not appear on Culpeper Minutemen muster rolls, but those records are known to be incomplete. The Culpeper Minute Men drew their ranks of volunteers from the three counties of Culpeper, Fauquier, and Orange.

Neither Benjamin nor Anna’s brothers are listed on muster rolls of troops that wintered at Valley Forge, so I placed them in Muhlenberg’s unit in the Third Virginia Regiment, which was comprised of men from Fauquier and nearby counties.

In the early days of the American Revolution, there was no repository for muster rolls and other military records. It was not safe to leave such records unsecured, for should the rebellion fail, lists of soldiers and officers could be used by the British to seek out and punish the rebels.

Some officers kept records in their private homes long after the war had ended. Requests to have such records turned in to government agencies yielded many documents that otherwise might have been lost forever. How many were unwittingly disposed of or destroyed will never be known.

A complete listing of the individuals who served in the Continental forces and the militia cannot be achieved.[66]

Most records in War Department custody were destroyed by fire, November 8, 1800. Many of the remaining Revolutionary War records were lost during the War of 1812. As a result, there were, until 1873, few records for the period before 1789 in War Department custody. In 1873 Secretary of War William Belknap purchased for the Federal Government the papers of Timothy Pickering, who between 1777 and 1785 had been a member of the Board of War, Adjutant General of the Continental Army, and Quartermaster General; the papers of Samuel Hodgdon, Commissary General of Military Stores for several years during the war; miscellaneous contemporary papers; and some minor groups of records and single record items. In 1888 these records were transferred to the Department of State. By acts of July 27, 1892 (27 Stat. 275) and August 18, 1894 (28 Stat. 403), Congress authorized the transfer to the War Department of all military records for the Revolutionary War period then in the custody of other Executive branch departments. These military records were transferred between 1894 and 1913 from the Departments of State, the Interior, and the Treasury. In 1914 and 1915, under authority of an act of March 2, 1913 (37 Stat. 723), the War Department made photographic copies of Revolutionary War records in the custody of public and private institutions in VA, NC, and MA. The entire collection was transferred to the National Archives in 1938. Although its contents span the period 1629-1915, the bulk of the information deals with the period 1775-83.[67]

The government’s efforts to compile and catalog the records from the Revolutionary War coincided with the founding of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

The NSDAR was founded on October 11, 1890, “during a time that was marked by a revival in patriotism and intense interest in the beginnings of the United States of America.” Women frustrated by their exclusion from men’s organizations formed to perpetuate the memory of ancestors who fought to make this country free and independent formed their own organization dedicated to historic preservation and service. The Daughters of the American Revolution has carried the torch of patriotism ever since.[68]

According to records on file with the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, descendants of Benjamin and Anna’s children Elijah, William, Jeremiah, Mary (Polly) and Eleanor (Nelly) have sought DAR membership with Benjamin their patriot ancestor. Though Benjamin’s military service remains unsubstantiated, the evidence that he served as a juror in Fauquier County in 1782 allows him to qualify as a patriot who supported the American government in a civil matter.

Descendants of Anna and Benjamin’s eleven children are scattered across the country, with large concentrations in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Anna’s Parents and Siblings

According to an article in the Virginia Genealogical Quarterly George Asbury (1720-1758) and Hannah Hardwick (1720-c.1782) Asbury probably had eight children:

Joseph (1743-1822)

Ann (1747-1748)

Anna (1748-1833)

Henry (1750-1816)

William (1752-1793)[69]

Mary (1755)

Eleanor (1754-1810)

Jeremiah (1757)[70]

But now I have evidence that there was a daughter named Jemima. Could the record of her birth have been misread as Jeremiah? For no further evidence of Jeremiah Asbury exists, so many genealogists have assumed he died young. But I submit that Jemima was actually George and Hannah Asbury’s youngest child.

Jemima does not appear in the Overwharton Parish records like her siblings. Holtzclaw does not mention her in his article in the Virginia Genealogical Quarterly. But court records pertaining to dividing Joseph’s estate after his death in 1823 name Jemima Howell, formerly Jemima Asbury, as Joseph’s sister and one of his heirs.[71] She was likely born before 1759 and was still living in 1831.[72]

Armed with her married name, I searched other records and found very little about her—only two mentions.

“Jemima Howell, widow of George Howell, who was a private in service of the United States, is entitled to the sum of ten pounds yearly, to commence upon the first day of Jany, 1787.”[73]

In 1790, Jemima Howell is listed as a charter member of Benjamin’s church at Crooked Run.[74]

Benjamin’s Parents and Siblings

Thomas Stone (1722-1788) and Mary Butler (c.1725-before 1788) probably had seven children:

Thomas (1743-1819)

Benjamin (1743-1830)

Anne (1745-?)

Elizabeth (1751/2-1783)

Spencer (1755-1838)

Baylis (1757/8-1777)

James (1760-1826)[75]

Again, I omitted some of Benjamin’s siblings to streamline the story.

Historian William Stone suggests that perhaps Benjamin’s birth date was recorded incorrectly, since it was unlikely both he and Thomas were born in the same calendar year. In the Mercer County, KY Court Order Book P, it is recorded: “Proof given by Richard Roper that Thomas Stone as the eldest brother and heir at law to Bayles (sic) Stone who belonged to the Army of the Revolution and died an unmarried man.”[76] With Thomas established as the eldest brother, Stone suggests Benjamin may have been born in 1747/8, between his sisters Anne and Elizabeth, but has offered no proof.

It is possible that Thomas and Benjamin were born very close in age, or that Benjamin’s age was incorrectly recorded. For my purposes, I had Thomas assert himself as the eldest sibling without getting specific about the age gap.

Benjamin Stone in Public Records

As many as one-third of adult males who lived in Fauquier County in the latter half of the eighteenth century left no official record of their existence other than their presence on the county tax and tithe rolls.[77] Benjamin appeared on the county’s tax rolls off and on through 1783, and court records show he served on a jury and as part of a road inspection committee in 1782.

-1772 Benjamin Stone leased 264 acres from Jerry Johnson, term for the longest living of Benjamin, Anna, and dau. Rhoda, for five pounds Virginia money yearly rent.[78]

-1777 Benjamin Stone listed as head of household in John Moffett’s list of tithes Sole male over the age of 16 in his household. No slaves, not a landowner.[79]

-March 1777 Benjamin Stone ordered to appraise the estate of Joseph Smith.[80]

-August 1778 Benjamin Stone ordered by the County Court to view the path of a road.[81]

-1781 Benjamin Stone listed on the Tithable and Personal Property Tax List in Fauquier County, one tithe.[82]

-1782 Benjamin Stone served on a jury in Fauquier County.[83]

-1782 William Moffett, Benjamin’s brother-in-law, leased him two hundred acres in Leeds Manor.[84]

-1783 Benjamin Stone listed in the List of Property Thursday April 17, 1783. One male over twenty-one years of age, three head of cattle and five horses.[85]

-1783 Land Office Warrant No. 211437, dated December 23, 1783, to Benjamin Stone for 1103 acres, 159 ½ acres, and 62 acres in Hampshire County, VA.[86]

-1785 Benjamin Stone is listed in Fauquier County in the Virginia state census. Ten white people resided in one dwelling house with one outbuilding. Presumably, eight of their eleven children were born when this census was taken.[87]

-1789 Benjamin Stone owned 50 acres on Maple Run in Hampshire County.[88]

The Virginia Land Office was established in 1779 by the General Assembly to sell unappropriated lands.

Any person could purchase as much land as desired upon payment to the Treasurer of a fee of forty pounds for one hundred acres. In return the purchaser was given a receipt, that was then given to the Auditor of Public Accounts, who issued a certificate noting the amount of land to which the person was entitled. The certificate was taken to the Land Office where the Register entered a warrant authorizing a surveyor to lay off the land. The warrantee entered a claim to the land by depositing the warrant with the surveyor of the county in which the land was located.

Once the survey had been completed, the documents were examined by the Register, and, if correctly executed, were filed for a period of not less than six months. If, within that time, no caveat was entered on the survey, the plat and certificate of survey were recorded, and the grant was issued by the Register. Once written, the grant was signed by the governor, sealed, recorded, and delivered to the grantee.[89]

Benjamin and Anna’s children and their Spouses

According to Mary Augusta Stone’s handwritten notes on a Stone Genealogical Bureau pamphlet, all eleven Stone children lived to adulthood, and ten of the eleven married:

Rhoda (1769-1845)[90] m. abt. 1790 to Cornelius Williamson (1772-?)

Elijah Craig (1775 – 1859)[91] m. about 1792 (1) Miriam Gassaway ( -1821) and (2) 1822[92] Mary Suddeth (1794-1889)

William (1777-1852) m. 1802 Margaret Gustin (1784-1862)[93]

Hannah (?-1786) m. about 1785 John Williamson (1764- )*

Mary “Polly” (?) m. George Richardson[94]

Jeremiah Asbury Stone (1781 – 1853) m. 1805 to Hannah Reed[95] ( -1821)

Anna (?) m. John Galinton/Gallatin/Gallatine?

Benjamin[96] (1783 – 1833)[97] m. 1804 to Sarah La Rue (1785-1871)[98]

Thomas (c.1785-?)

Eleanor “Nelly” (1787[99] – 1866) m. 1808[100] to Thomas Reed (1776-1855)[101]

Rebecca (1789-1842) m. 1806[102] to Joseph Hughes (1786-1858)[10

I am still looking for records pertaining to Hannah Stone Williamson. Though several trees on indicate she died in 1786, a Hannah Williamson is listed on the membership roll at Benjamin’s church in 1790. It is possible Hannah lived longer than 1786. It is also possible she died at that time and was not removed from the church membership roll until years after her death.

Anna and Benjamin’s Final Wishes

After Joseph’s death in 1823, Anna and Benjamin inherited one-fourth of his estate. Because Joseph died intestate and without children, the estate was divided by his executors into four lots and distributed to Joseph’s siblings and their heirs. Benjamin and Anna’s lot included 117 acres of land, and two enslaved women named Baby and Amey.

In an Article of Agreement filed in the Hampshire County Court in September 1828, Anna and Benjamin contracted with their son Jeremiah, authorizing him to sell the land they had inherited, and stipulating that the proceeds go to him in exchange for his agreeing to care for them until their deaths, and then to see to their Christian burial. It was a living will of sorts—with one other important detail. Jeremiah promised to bring the enslaved women back from Virginia as soon as possible so that they could be “emancipated and set free.”[104]

Family lore says that after Benjamin and Anna inherited the two enslaved women from Joseph, the “abiding impression was upon [Benjamin’s] mind that he should not die until he might perform that duty to the poor and oppressed.” While seated in his chair waiting the time of his departure, his son [Jeremiah] returned with the slaves and the forms, which he signed. He died the same day, in the hope of “blessed immortality, and with the consciousness that he had done unto others as he would have them do unto him and anticipating the smile of the eternal Judge.”[105]

The Story closes with a last glimpse of Anna: “She remained active until the end of her days, and even when she was an old lady she could still go out to the pasture and catch her pet horse so she could ride to visit neighbors.”

In a court document filed on August 20, 1830, Anna Stone, “widow and relict of Benjamin Stone deceased,” conveys the 117 acres from her inheritance from Joseph Asbury, deceased, to Jeremiah Stone.[106] Anna being referred to as “widow” and “relict” proves that Benjamin had died prior to August 20, 1830.

Benjamin and Anna are buried in the Stone Cemetery, (N. E. 1/4 Sec. 11, T9 R4) which is located on private land in Rose Valley, Green Township, in Harrison County, Ohio. The cemetery is not maintained, and the gravestones were reportedly crumbling in the 1960s. A commemorative headstone for Benjamin and Anna, erected in Union Cemetery in Cadiz, reports Benjamin’s death incorrectly as 1833. Anna’s date of death, also inscribed as 1833, is unknown.

[1] Ragosta, John A. Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia’s Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty. Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 3.

[2]  William M. Stone, The Chronicle of Thomas Stone of Hamilton Parish in Colonial Virginia, Second Edition. Lenox, MA: Published by the Author, 2017. pp. 94-95.

[3] Regosta, Wellspring of Liberty, op. cit., p. 56.

[4] Ibid., p. 89.

[5] Ibid., pp. 13, 92-93.

[6] Elijah Craig Bourbon website,

[7] Dale Taylor, The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Colonial America from 1607-1783. Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH, p. 87.

[8] Tracy Lawson, Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More: Explorations of Henry Rogers’ 1838 Journal of Travel from Southwestern Ohio to New York City., Granville, OH: McDonald & Woodward Publishing, 2012, pp. 83-84.

[9] John Champe High School website,

[10] Benoit, Brian, “Baker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Christopher Ludwick and the General Staff of Life,” February 16, 2015.

[11] Eric W. Nye, Pounds Sterling to Dollars: Historical Conversion of Currency, accessed Wednesday, December 25, 2019,

[12] “This Helpless Human Tide: Bastards, Abandoned Babes, and Orphans,”

[13] Stone, The Chronicle of Thomas Stone, op. cit., p. 204-5.

[14] The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia. (Philadelphia, PA: Printed by Thomas DeSilver) p. 375.

[15] Prowell, George Reeser. History of York County, Pennsylvania. Chicago, IL: J. H. Beers & Co., 1907, p. 140.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., pp. 137-138.

[18] Keith Krawczynski, History in Dispute, Vol. 12: The American Revolution. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale, 2003, p. 96.

[19] Thomas Fleming, Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2005, p. 28.

[20] Ibid., pp. 242-243.

[21] George R. Prowell Continental Congress at York, Pennsylvania and York County in the Revolution. York, PA: The York Printing Co., p. 331.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Krawczynski, History in Dispute, op. cit., p. 97.

[24] William Dunlap, A History of New York, for Schools in Two Volumes. Vol. II. New York: Collins, Keese, & Co., p. 154.

[25] Mark Edward Lender, Cabal! The Plot Against General Washington. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, LLC, p. 73.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid, p 154.

[29] Krawczynski, History in Dispute, op. cit. p. 98.

[30] Lender, Cabal! op. cit., p. 84.

[31] Fleming, Washington’s Secret War, p. 126.

[32] Ibid, p. 126.

[33] Ibid, pp. 125-126.

[34] Ibid, p. 92.

[35] Ibid., p. 127

[36] Ibid.,p. 101.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Lender, Cabal! op. cit., p. 138.

[39] Ibid., p. 224.

[40] Prowell, History of York County, op. cit., p. 330.

[41] Lender, Cabal!, op. cit. p. 224.

[42] Ibid, p. 225.

[43] Ibid.

[44] National Archives online, letters of George Washington, GW apparently is referring to Thomas Conway, Horatio Gates, and Thomas Mifflin.

[45] Ibid.

[46] US History online, The Conway Cabal.

[47] Ibid.

[48] J. T. McAllister, Virginia Militia in the Revolutionary War. Hot Springs, VA: McAllister Publishing Co. p. 5.

[49] The NSDAR has since adopted more rigorous standards of proof of military service, and currently Benjamin Stone is considered a patriot because of his civil service, for serving on a jury in 1782.

[50] Hu Maxwell and H. L. Swisher. History of Hampshire County, West Virginia, From its Earliest Settlement Through the Present, Morgantown, WV: A. Brown Boughner, Printer. p. 374.

[51] S. B. Nelson, Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary and Historic Reference Book of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Uniontown, PA: S. B. Nelson, Publisher,p. 380.

[52] Uniontown, PA Morning Herald, February 7, 1940, p. 7.

[53] Stone, The Chronicle of Thomas Stone, op. cit., pp. 49-50.

[54] James Hadden, A History of Uniontown, The County Seat of Greene County Pennsylvania, p. 709.

[55] Nelson, Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary and Historical Reference Book of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, op. cit., p. 380.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Bates, Samuel Penniman, History of Greene County, Pennsylvania. Chicago: Nelson, Rishforth & Co., pp. 509-511.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Bates, A History of Uniontown, op. cit., pp. 709-710.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Ibid.

[62] Copy in the author’s private collection.

[63] Salt Fork Baptist Church, Oxford Township, Guernsey County, Ohio, records compiled 1972 from records in the possession of Spence Tedrick, of Old Washington, OH. Copy on file at Guernsey County Historical Society and Harrison County, Ohio Genealogical Society.

[64] Ibid. pp. 2-3.

[65] Guernsey County, Ohio A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of the Guernsey County Chapter, Ohio Genealogical Society. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Co., 1979, p. 14.

[66] Wilmer L. Kerns, Historical Records of Old Frederick and Hampshire Counties, Virginia (Revised). Bowle, MD: Heritage Books, Inc. 1982, pp. 2-5.

[67] National Archives online, War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records

[68] NSDAR online,

[69] Having Anna’s uncle, her brother, and her son all named William would have been unnecessarily confusing in the novel, so I opted to change her brother William’s name to Jeremiah, the name of the youngest Asbury son, who appears to have died in infancy. I also opted not to include Anna’s sisters in the novel.

[70] B. C. Holtzclaw, “Asbury of Westmoreland County,” Virginia Genealogical Quarterly, Richmond, VA. Vol. V, No. 3, July 1967, pp. 55-59.

[71] Hampshire County, WV Deed Book 1, pp. 374-375.

[72] Hampshire County, WV Deed Book 1, pp. 574.

[73] Hampshire County, WV Deed Book VII 1785-1790.

[74] Kerns, op. cit. p. 91.

[75] Stone, The Chronicle of Thomas Stone of Hamilton Parish, p. 73.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid. p. 201.

[78] Fauquier County Deed Book 5, 1771-1774.

[79] Joan W. Peters, The Tax Man Cometh: Land and Property in Colonial Fauquier County, Virginia 1759-1782. Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, p. 22.

[80] Fauquier County Minute Book, 1773-1780, p. 280.

[81] Ibid., p. 372.

[82] Alcock, John P. Fauquier Families Volume 2 Supplement

[83] Gott, Fauquier County Court Records 1776-1782, p. 143.

[84] Fauquier County Deed Book 7, 1778-1783, pp. 474-475.

[85] Alcock, Fauquier Families Volume 2 Supplement, op. cit.

[86] Library of Virginia online, Benjamin Stone, grantee.

[87] Joan W. Peters, The 1785 Fauquier County, Virginia Census: 12 Lists of Whites & Dwellings in Fauquier County, Virginia, 1785. Published by the author, p. 5.

[88] Maxwell, History of Hampshire County, op. cit., p. 400.

[89] Library of Virginia online, “Land Office Grants,”



[92] Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016, p. 204.

[93] Book Title: Lineage Book : NSDAR : Volume 142 : 1918, p. 111.

[94] A George Richardson was listed in Georges Township, Fayette County, PA in 1800, near Benjamin Stone. Pennsylvania, Septennial Census, 1779-1863 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. p. 18. Members of the household were not listed, so this does not confirm that he was the George Richardson who is supposed to have married Mary “Polly” Stone.

[95] Book Title: Lineage Book of the Charter Members of the DAR Vol 077, p. 265.


[97] Will Books of Dearborn County, Indiana, 1824-1900; Author: Dearborn County (Indiana). Clerk of the Circuit Court; Probate Place: Dearborn, Indiana, pp. 111-112.


[99] Year: 1850; Census Place: Clark, Coshocton, Ohio; Roll: M432_670; Page: 189A; Image: 381

[100] Commemorative Biographical Record Harrison, Ohio. Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1891 pp. 86-87.

[101] Ohio, Soldier Grave Registrations, 1804-1958 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2017.

[102] Home Guide and Instructor History of Guernsey County, OH. Cleveland: T. F. Williams, 1882. p. 486.

[103] Executors’ and administrators Bonds and Letters (Guernsey County, Ohio), 1849-1921; Author: Ohio. Probate Court (Guernsey County); Probate Place: Guernsey, Ohio. Bonds 1-4, p. 285.

[104] Hampshire County, WV Deed Book One, pp. 358-359.

[105] Papers in the author’s collection.

[106] Hampshire County, WV Deed Book One, p. 373.


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