(-Bef 1782)


Family Links

1. Sarah

2. Susannah

John LEAR 2

  • Marriage (1): Sarah 1
  • Marriage (2): Susannah 2
  • Died: Bef 16 Sep 1782, Culpeper County, Virginia 3

bullet  General Notes:

Although many accounts of this lineage appearing on the Internet attempt to connect Col. John Lear of Nansemond County, Virginia, to John Lear of Culpeper County, Virginia, no proof is offered to sustain the connection. Most accounts seemingly rely on an early DAR submittal by Mildred Pamelia Dobson Cosgriff, although in some instances the details vary somewhat. Mildred's DAR application sets forth the following line of descent, by which she was seeking to establish her line of descent from John Lear, Jr. of Culpeper, who allegedly served as a private in the Revolutionary War, through his alleged son, Jesse:

1. Col. John Lear, born 1636 in England. [He died about 1695 in Nansemond County, Virginia, since his will was dated 21 Nov 1695; was married possibly as many as four times; was a member of the Governor's Council and the House of Burgesses; and was one of the founders of William & Mary College.]

2. Thomas Lear, married Elizabeth Bridger. [Identified in the will of Col. John Lear as his only son, who had predeceased him leaving children, John, Elizabeth and Martha.]

3. John Lear, married Elizabeth Havelaid in 1728. [Some have an Elizabeth Thompson as his wife.]

4. John Lear, Jr., born 1734, died 1780 in Culpeper County, Virginia, married Jemima Struman in 1754. [Over time, Sturman became the preferred spelling, perhaps in an attempt to connect to an unaccounted for Jemima Sturman in the Sturman family of Westmoreland County, Virginia.]

5. [Children of John: Jesse, George, William, John, Livina, Jimima and Susannah.]

6. [Continues down to Mildred Pamelia Dobson Coscriff.]

The late Clifford A. Ratcliff of Omaha, Nebraska, called my attention to a number of problems with the various versions of this lineage on the Internet. After doing my own research, I found myself in general agreement with Cliff, whose research was unfortunately removed from the Internet after his death. I also discovered even more problems. Based on Cliff's and my research, I raise the following questions and offer the following answers about our Lear lineage (questions regarding the children of John Lear, Jr. will be addressed on his page):

1. Do our Culpeper County, Virginia Lears descend from Col. John Lear of Nansemond County, Virginia?

Col. John Lear's only grandson, John, died without issue sometime before 1742, which means Col. John's male Lear line ended with his grandson. This fact is established by litigation involving the entailed estate of Col. John Lear. (An entailed estate means the estate passed down from father to son for life, to grandson for life, etc., so long as the heir in possession had living issue at the time of his death. In the event the heir in possession died without issue, the estate reverted to the heirs of the grantor, in this case Col. John Lear.)

The named parties in the litigation, David Meade and William Thrustout, were lessees whose rights derived from those of, respectively, John Lear, Col. John's grandson, and Martha Godwin, Elizabeth Whitfield, et. al., probably Col. John's granddaughters and his then living heirs. Thrustout had been successful in an eviction action against Meade per a ruling of the General Court of Virginia on 15 Apr 1742. Meade appealed the judgment to the Privy Council in England and the Privy Council rendered a judgment on 3 Nov 1743 in favor of Meade and restored possession of the estate to him. Per the first cited source for this case (the second cited source contains nearly identical language): "On 10 July, 1680, letters patent for the estate in question were issued to Colonel John Lear. His son Thomas predeceased his father, leaving three children, John, Elizabeth and Martha. The estate in question ["One Messuage One Tenement and 900 acres of Land wth the Appurtenances in the Parish of Newport and County of Isle of Wight in Virginia"] descended in tail to John Lear the grandson, who by indenture of lease sold it at a peppercorn rent to the petitioner. Some time later John Lear died, whereby the estate tail determined, even if it had till then subsisted."

The phrase "the estate tail determined" refers to having died without issue. That being the case, one would not have expected the Privy Council to restore possession to Meade. No reason is given for this result. All I can say in this regard is that English common law did not favor entailed estates and often thwarted them through legal fictions or other devices. What's important for our purposes is the finding John Lear the grandson died without issue. Indeed, Thrustout could not have prevailed in the General Court of Virginia had this not been the case. (Unfortunately, the decision of the General Court of Virginia cannot be reviewed because it was among those records destroyed during the Civil War.)

Since Col. John's only grandson died without issue, we need not concern ourselves with the other details of Col. John's family. Note that I suspect the DAR, even if at the time it was otherwise diligent in processing applications, was also not concerned with the lineage back to Col. John of Nansemond, for it was John Lear, Jr. of Culpeper who was alleged to have served in the Revolutionary War. Also, I have been informed by the DAR that the standards for proof of lineage in the early years of the society were not what they are today. On its face, the notion that John Lear, Sr. or John Lear, Jr. of Culpeper (as we'll see below, Mildred's John Lear, Jr. was a composite of John Sr. and John Jr.) was a descendant of Col. John Lear of Nansemond should have engendered skepticism. How could it be that descendants of one of the wealthiest and most politically powerful men in Colonial Virginia, and a founder of William and Mary College, were tenant farmers most of their lives and could only sign their names by their marks?

2. Are the recitals contained in the DAR application regarding John Lear of Culpeper County, Virginia supported by any evidence?

It's not until we get to John Lear of Culpeper County, Virginia, that Mildred's statement of her lineage is in part true. It is true that there was a John Lear, Jr., who was married to a Jemima, as evidenced by a 1774 deed in Culpeper Co., VA. However, instead of John Lear, Jr.'s father being the grandson of Col. John Lear, his father was instead the John Lear of earlier Orange and Culpeper County records, who died in 1782. John Sr. is known to have had two wives: first, Sarah, as evidenced by a 1738 lease to John Lear of Orange County (from which Culpeper County was formed); and second, Susannah, as evidenced by John Sr.'s 1780 will, who was formerly the widow Susannah Latham based upon inferences drawn from the 1783 property tax list for Culpeper County. The supporting evidence for the other stated facts about John, Jr. -- that he was born in 1734, died in 1780 and that Jemimas' maiden name was Struman/Sturman -- is not known. In her DAR application, Mildred refers only generally in her recitation of evidence to an old Lear Family Bible, to old letters written in 1860 and to wills and deeds in Culpeper and Fauquier Counties.

The cited genealogy scrapbook for Mildred's family contains no additional source information. The only mention of the old Lear Family Bible is in reference to Jesse Lear, as follows: "Our interest centers only in Jesse Lear, the son of John and Jemima Lear, and we find from the old Lear bible he was born in Virginia in 1759." (The compiler of the scrapbook did not know whether this bible was still in existence as of 1997.) It does not appear from this passage that the bible identified Jesse's parents; their names instead appear to have come from the aforementioned 1774 deed, of which Mildred was aware. Note that while this deed is the only evidence cited for Jemima's maiden name being Struman, that name does not appear there. (While one can find the marriage of John Lear and Jemima Struman/Sturman in marriage compilations such as Dorothy Ford Wulfeck, Marriages of Some Virginia Residents, 1607-1800, the ultimate source is always a DAR record that invariably goes back to Mildred's application.) It's possible Mildred was familiar with some family story to the effect Jemima was a Struman (which over time has been changed by many to Sturman), but if so, it seems to me more likely that the name may have originally been Spillman, a neighboring family of the Lears, which morphed over time into Struman.

There being no evidence cited for John Jr.'s date of birth, I suspect the 1734 date was extrapolated from the 1759 date of birth for Jesse and/or the 1774 deed.

As to the 1780 date of death, the Library of Virginia's online database of Virginia Military Dead contains a listing for a Private John Lear of Virginia who died in 1780. However, the source for that database is a book, the author of which indicates some of his information came from DAR records. It seems very likely Mildred's application was the source for this listing. Mildred appears to have used the date of the will of John Lear, Sr., which she thought was the will of John Lear, Jr., as the date of John Jr.'s death, even though John Sr. did not die until 1782. In fact, John Lear, Jr. enlisted in the 2nd Virginia Regiment of the Continental line on 7 Jan 1780, and was certified on 24 Jan 1784 by his commander, Col. Christian Febriger, to have served until the end of the war, thus qualifying him for a Revolutionary War Bounty Warrant. That it was John Lear, Jr. who enlisted, and not a John of the next generation or a John from another county, is confirmed by the absence of any Lears in the militia records of Culpeper County for 1781. (John Lear, Sr. would have been too old to have been part of the militia in the area where the Lears lived.)

Following the war, a John Lear participated in an estate sale in Culpeper County on 11 Mar 1785 and in 1786 started appearing in the tax records. He was a man of moderate personal property, having been taxed in 1786 on 1 Black age 16 or over, 1 Black under age 16, 5 horses and 9 cattle, which also suggests he was John Lear, Jr. and not a John of the next generation. John Lear, Jr. appears to have died between 1809, when the will of his daughter Lavina was written (which contained a bequest to her father and mother) and 1811, when the Estate of John Lear appears on the tax list (the years 1809-1810 are missing).

3. Did John Lear of Culpeper County, Virginia serve in the Revolutionary War?

While the previous reference to the service of John Lear, Jr. in the 2nd Virginia Regiment would seem to fully answer this question, the path to that answer was not easy. At one point in my research, I was pretty sure that I was going to upset a lot of Lear descendants who had become DAR members by piggybacking Mildred's application. I was pleased that in the end I was able to justify the DAR's acceptance of John Lear, Jr. as a Patriot, even though, as a descendant of a brother of John Lear, Jr., I had nothing at stake one way or the other.

As before, let's begin with the evidence provided in Mildred's DAR application. Therein, Mildred cites two letters: (1) a letter (no date given) from F. Ainsworth, Adjutant General in the War Department, stating John Lear served as a private in Captain Richard Taylor's Company, 1st Virginia Regiment, commanded by Isaac Read Esq., and further stating muster rolls showed him to have been sick at Philadelphia in May, 1777; and (2) a letter dated 2 Aug 1909 from Mr. McGovern, State Librarian in Richmond, Virginia, stating John Lear and his three sons all enlisted from Fauquier County, Virginia. In her genealogical scrapbook, she identifies the three sons as George, William and Jesse and notes all four appear on different rosters of Revolutionary War soldiers, but provides no details.

While such official letters would seem to answer the question posed, when one consults the actual muster rolls several issues arise. It is true that one individual muster roll card exists for John Lear, a private in Captain Richard Taylor's Company, 1st Virginia Regiment, commanded by Isaac Read Esq, and that card does show that he was sick in Philadelphia in May, 1777. (See Card No. 35659516.) But, a problem arises when one looks at the muster roll for the whole Company for May 1777. There, the name John Lear does not appear, nor does it appear in the muster roll for June or July, 1777. Instead, the name Jesse Lear appears. At first, I thought Jesse might have been misread as John when the individual muster roll cards were prepared, but an identical individual muster roll card exists for Jesse for May, 1777, including the reference to being sick in Philadelphia, and cards also exist for him in June and July. (See Cards No. 35659556, 35659558 and 35659677.) Next, I considered that the name below Jesse's in the Company muster roll, which is very difficult to read (as is Jesse's name), and who was also noted as being sick in Philadelphia, might have been read as John Lear, but by looking at the June and July rosters (which also confirm it was Jesse Lear in the May muster roll) it is clear this person was Jesse Carter, for whom an individual card for May 1777 also exists. The only plausible explanation I can offer is that Jesse's name in the May muster roll was initially read as John Lear, but then after reviewing the subsequent muster rolls it was determined it was Jesse in the May muster roll and thus an individual card for Jesse was created, but the earlier card for John Lear was not destroyed. I can see how that might have happened, but of course have no proof it did.

Per her genealogical scrapbook, it is clear Mildred (assuming she was the author of the Lear family sketch beginning on page 64, which seems almost a certainty, although the compiler professed not to know) knew of the May 1777 roster card for Jesse, which she said was the last record found for him in Virginia. That means Mildred could have based her DAR application on Jesse's service. So, why did she not mention his service, but instead base her application solely on the service of John Lear, Jr.? I suspect the answer is to be found in the fact Jesse was listed as a deserter in the July 1777 muster roll. To be fair, Mildred may not have known he was a deserter if she was unaware of the July 1777 muster roll, but she certainly knew he had become a Loyalist by the time of his marriage to Elinor Mitchell, a widow, in 1779 in New York, and as a Loyalist had moved to Nova Scotia after the war. Query how the DAR would have treated Mildred's application had it known Jesse was a deserter and then became a Loyalist.

Having proven, at least to my satisfaction, that the July 1777 individual muster roll card for John Lear of the 1st Virginia Regiment could not be substantiated by company muster rolls, it seemed that the second letter cited by Mildred in her DAR application provided the only hope that John Lear, Jr. did in fact serve in the Revolutionary War. Further research uncovered the evidence of John Lear, Jr's previously discussed Revolutionary War Bounty Warrant for his service in the 2nd Virginia Regiment. Thus, as Mildred noted, there were four Lears from Culpeper who served in the Revolutionary War, all in different regiments: John, Jr., who served in the 2nd Virginia Regiment; Jesse, who served in the 1st Virginia Regiment; George, who served in the 4th and 8th Virginia Regiments; and William, who served in George Roger Clark's expedition against the Shawnee in Indiana. However, as we shall see later on the page for John Lear, Jr., not all of the last three were his sons.

One final observation: I can't help but wonder whether John Lear Jr.'s enlistment in 1780, following as it did the desertion of Jesse and his subsequent marriage in New York, wasn't, at least in part, motivated by a desire to uphold family honor. On the other hand, the fact my William Lear, Jesse's uncle, named a son Jesse, and that Thomas M. Lear, Jesse's probable younger brother, named a son Jesse, indicates he was not repudiated by his family. Also, Jesse himself did not seem estranged from his family, since he named children after them. It would be very interesting to know more about the internal dynamics of this family during the war and what it was that caused Jesse to desert and become a Loyalist.


In summary, a lot of bad information and unsupported conjecture has become entrenched in the family histories written about John Lear of Culpeper County, Virginia. Although I'm sure my work is not error free, I hope the facts and evidence set forth in this note and elsewhere in these pages will help correct the record and motivate others to do additional research on this line. We still need to determine whether John Lear, Sr. of Culpeper was our immigrant ancestor. We also need to determine the national origin of our Lears. While I suspect they were from England, it is interesting that John Lear Sr. lived amongst the Germanna settlers in the Little Fork of Culpeper County. However, I have been unable to find any reference to him in the Germanna records. 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15


bullet  Noted events in his life were:

1. Lease: 1738, Orange County, Virginia. 1

Dated 20 Sep 1738, Recorded 22 Sep 1738, Bk 3:59
Lease from William Beverley, Gent of Essex County, Virginia to John Lear, Planter of Orange County, Virginia, of 100 acres of land and appurtances on Elk River in the Little Fork, being the plantation on which John Lear then lived. The metes and bounds legal description, still to be determined, referenced the tenement of Thomas Little. The term of the lease was for the natural lives of John Lear, his wife Sarah, and his son James. The rents consisted of (i) 430 pounds of tobacco or cash equivalent, payable 5 Dec each year, beginning in 1741, and (ii) 4 fat hens, capons or pullets, payable on 26 Nov of each year. If, besides the tenant, there were more than two tithables working the farm, additional rent of 100 pounds of tobacco for each such tithable in excess of two was payable. Tenant was also obligated to plant 64 apple trees within 2 years. Tenant was further obligated to keep the houses and fences on the plantation in good repair. A personal bond of 50 pounds sterling was also required of the tenant, to secure his performance of the lease obligaions.

2. County Road Order: 27 Mar 1746, Orange County, Virginia. 16

"James Spilman by the Court appointed Overseer of the Road in the Little Fork from Hedgmans Ford on the North River up to the said Little Fork Chappell . . . and the Gang Ordered to be under him are Gabriel Jones William Crawford John Hackley Jacob Clinch John Lear William Edgar Robert Duncan Thomas Hopper Alexander McKentosh Richard Bridges John Bridges Jeremiah Corbin John Bridgedel George Wayman and William Topp . . . ."

3. Deed: 1772, Culpeper County, Virginia. 17 18

Dated 16 Nov 1772, Recorded 16 Nov 1772, Bk F:636
John Wiggenton and Elizabeth his wife of Culpeper County, Virginia sold 80 acres to John Lear, Planter, of Culpeper County, Virginia for 24 pounds current money Virginia. The land was in the upper end of a 400 acre tract in the Little Fork of the Rapahannock River that Wiggenton had acquired by gift deed from Richard Young. Metes & Bounds description references Hoppers Branch, Lawson's line, James Spilman and John Matthews. Witness: Nathaniel Spilman.

[This land was bequeathed to his widow Susannah in 1782 and was sold by her in 1788 to neighboring John Matthews for 30 pounds. See Bk O:307.]

4. Deed: 1773, Culpeper County, Virginia. 1

A note in the margin of the 1738 lease referred to above indicates something happened in June 1773. I can't tell if the lease was terminated or whether the subject property was deeded to John Lear. I think the latter was the case, but his 1772 purchase may indicate John terminated the lease.

5. Estate Administration: 1782-1783, Culpeper County, Virginia. 2 3

Will of John Lear, Deceased
Dated Sep 1780, Proved 16 Sep 1782, Book B:527

"In the name of God Amen. I John Lair of the County of Culpeper and Parish of St. Mark's of Sound mind and memory thanks to God for the same Calling to mind the uncertain duration of this life do make & ordain this my Last Will and Testament in manner following:

Impremis: I do with all Humiliation & Contritions for my past sins & offences recommend my Soul to the Mercies of Almighty God hoping through the Merits of my blessed Saviour & Redeemer Jesus Christ after this Mortal Body shall return to the dust from whence it came. that I shall rise to a Glorious Immortality & enjoy everlasting Felicity. my body I commit to the Earth therein to decently intered at the Discretion of my Surviving Friends.

Item, It is my will & devise that all my Just Debts and Funeral charges be first paid & discharged.

Item. I give & bequeath to my loving wife, Susanna Lair to hur and hur heirs forever the Land whereon I live, my Stock of all Kinds & Household furntiture after paying to each of my Children, John, William, Elizabeth, Mary & my Grandson William Lear the son of James Lair, five shillings eache. it is my will & devise that my Estate not be appraised.

Lastly, I hereby constitute & appoint my loving wife Executrix to this my Last Will & Testament Revoking all ___ heretofore made by me In Consequence thereof I have hereunto set my hand & fixed my Seal this 12th of September in the year of our Lord 1780."

/s/ John (his mark) Lear

B Weeks
Amos Crane
Sabidiah Israel
Elizabeth Weeks
John Spillaman

On 16 Sep 1782, Will was proven by oaths of Benjamin Weeks, Amos Crane and Sabidiah Israel and ordered to be recorded, and on motion of Susannah Lear, Executrix, she was authorized to probate the will, having given bond and surety as required by law.

Inventory of Estate of John Lear, Deceased
Dated 19 Nov 1782, Recorded 17 Mar 1783, Book C:3

The inventory was valued at 43.10.6 pounds.

[Query why a second spouse, seemingly well provided for by her first husband (see 1783 tax list), would be so favored over his children. In all, a sum of 25 shillings was left to his children, while the personal estate left to Susannah exceeded 40 pounds and the land that was left to her later sold for 30 pounds. Moreover, this bequest ultimately benefited her Latham children. Might it be that nearly everything he owned derived from her inheritance from her first husband? Note that John was seemingly not in a position until later in life to purchase land, which was perhaps after he married Susannah.]


John married Sarah.1


John next married Susannah.2



1 Orange County, Virginia, Deed Book 3, 1738-1740, FHL Film No. 33012, Page 59.

2 Will Book B, 1770-1783, Culpeper County, Virginia, FHL Film No. 30,931, Page 527.

3 Will Book C, 1783-1791,Culpeper County, Virginia, FHL Film No. 30,932, Page 3.

4 Application for Membership to The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, National Number 81395, submitted by Mildred Pamelia Dobson Cosgriff and approved 27 Sep 1910.

5 W. L. Grant, James Munro & Almeric W. Fitzroy, Ed, Acts of the Privy Council of England, Colonial Series, Volume 3: A.D. 1720-1745 (TannerRitchie Publishing, Burlington, Ontario, Canada: 2005), Pages 748-749 (Page 384 of CD digital version).

6 George Adrian Washburne, Imperial Control of the Administration of Justice in the Thirteen American Colonies, 1684-1776 (New York, Columbia University, 1923), Page 89.

7 Jim Lyons, Compiler, A Genealogical Scrapbook for the family of James Everett Cosgriff (1862-1938) and Mildred Pamelia Dobson Cosgriff (1883-1961) with additional information on the family of Emerson Soule Sturdevant (1912-1989) and the Briscoe, Calvert, Compton, Dobson, Holland and Lear families (Los Altos, California, 1997). (The part of this scrapbook that pertains to the Lear family is to be found at pages 59-74 and 89-90. Note that the version of Mildred's DAR application in this scrapbook differs from the record copy in the files of the DAR, but not in any material respect. The scrapbook version appears to be an earlier draft that was superceded by the record copy. Only the record copy was acknowledged and notarized.)

8 Library of Virginia Database of Virginia Military Dead, The source for Revolutionary War dead in this database is Known Military Dead During The American Revolution, 1775-1783, by Ex-Lieut. Clarence Stewart Peterson, M.A. (Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1967). Mr. Peterson acknowledges that due to the loss of many official records he often had to rely on other sources, among them the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

9 Bounty Warrant Voucher 1784 and Land Office Military Certificate LO 2362 for John Lear, Archives of the Library of Virginia.

10 John Blankenbaker, The Culpeper Classes (John Blandenbaker; Chadds Ford, PA; 1999), see Class No. 36 (which includes John Lear's neighbors). Also titled A List of The Classes in Culpeper County for January 1781 for Recruiting this State's Quota of Troops to serve in the Continental Army.

11 Personal Property Tax Books, 1782-1802, Culpeper County, Virginia, FHL Film No. 2,024,517.

12 Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, 1775-1785, NARA Publication M881 (Images by, Image 2279761 for John Lear.

13 Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, NARA Publication M246 (Images by, Folder 18 (Virginia, 1st Regiment, 1777-1779), Pages 2 (May 1777), 37 (June 1777) and 38 (July 1777).

14 Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, 1775-1785, NARA Publication M881 (Images by, Images 2279760-61 for Jesse Lear.

15 Unknown, Preliminary Findings on the Ancestry of William Powell Lear, (Institute of Family Research, 1977), FHL Film No. 1,320,562. This is the William Lear of Learjet fame.

16 Ann Brush Miller, Orange County Road Orders 1734-1749 (Virginia Highway & Transportation Council, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1984), Page 460 (online at, page 116).

17 Deed Books F-G, 1769-1775, Culpeper County, Virginia, FHL Film No. 30,945, Book F, Page 636.

18 Deed Books N-O, 1785-1789, Culpeper County, Virginia, FHL Film No. 30948, Book O, Page 307.

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