Who Was Widow Loy?

Martin Loy’s (to America 1741) son John married Mary (“Molly”) Holt. In 1801, Molly’s widower father, John Holt, was engaged to be married again. This caused Mary’s siblings anxiety over their elderly father’s estate. This new wife might attempt a claim to part of their inheritance. Thus, to ensure they would continue to get their share, Jeremiah Holt suggested to their father that these grown children should each receive a “deed of gift” from their father’s estate while he was still living. In papers dated 15 August 1801, John Holt deeded parts of his estate to his children, although he had not yet made a will. His intention was to only keep a minuscule portion of his estate for him to live on, the only part of his estate the new wife might inherit. Shortly after this 15 August 1801 deed John Holt died. Before he and his betrothed could make their wedding vows.

The Orange County, North Carolina court in Hillsboro was in a quandary. Holt died intestate (meaning, without a will) but should this deed of gift to his children be interpreted as a will? Or was this deed only to be in effect for once he remarried, as was its original purpose. As he never had the chance to remarry, should the deed be considered null and void?

The case, documented in 140+ images of court pages, drug out several years. John Loy and wife Molly were summoned several times for hearings between 1802-1809. After the September 1807 quarterly court term, the court sent summons to John Holt’s heirs to appear in the next court the third Monday in March 1808. As additional reminder, for three weeks the weekly Raleigh Minerva newspaper (Raleigh, NC) published notification for John Holt’s heirs to appear at the March 1808 court.

Finally, in 1809, a jury of 12 was to decide whether John Holt’s deed was an absolute deed; or was only to take effect as an absolute deed upon his second marriage. Their decision was the deed was valid as an absolute deed, whether or not the marriage took place.

But back to John Holt’s fiancée. Throughout his estate file she is only mentioned as “widow Loy.” But which “widow Loy”??

There were two women that married Loys who were widowed by 1801 Orange County, NC. Although Martin Loy’s widow Catherine would have been in age range of John Holt, she was assumed to have died by 1790. Her son Henry was to inherit the family land and plantation upon his mother’s death; Henry was listed in the 1790 Orange County, NC tax list, indicating he now owned the land.

Catherine, widow of Martin and Catherine’s son George, would have been in her 50s and next closest in age to John Holt. (Her age range based on age range in 1830 Jackson County, AL census, female in household of son George Loy, Jr.)

Margaret, widow of Martin and Catherine’s son Henry (my ancestors), would have been in her late 30s-early 40s and several decades younger than John Holt. (Margaret’s age based on age group in 1800 Orange County, NC census and that her first child was born ca. 1780.)

During the court hearings, the court presented an identical set of questions for all (male) persons involved, regarding the reason for John Holt’s deed of gift to his children. Everyone’s replies were practically the same, with exception of answers given by Adam Whitsell. (Not only had Whitsell been witness to John Holt writing this deed, but the Holt family entrusted Whitsell with the keeping of these papers until they needed to call for them, which Whitsell understood as upon John Holt’s death. Whitsell was unable to read or write, so the family had trusted him in keeping these papers and their contents private.) In his response, which the court transcribed, Whitsell elaborated further. He said John Holt informed him of his upcoming marriage to widow Loy, and that he wrote the deed of gift to his children because he didn’t intend for her to have any part of his estate except for the small part he reserved for himself. In addition, “he did not wish that in case he married another woman, any children that he had by her, should have any part of his then property.”

The other respondents only mentioned a second wife that might endanger the Holt children’s inheritance. Adam Whitsell’s wording, if taken generally, could be interpreted as the children of any future wife John Holt might have, of childbearing age, were not to have part of his current property. But if Adam Whitsell’s wording were to be taken specifically, this widow Loy was of childbearing age. If that were the case, this indicates the fiancée widow Loy could only have been my ancestor Margaret.

It’s interesting to note in November 1801 Margaret Loy sold some of the property from her late husband Henry’s Orange County, NC estate. Not long after this, George Loy’s widow Catherine and Margaret migrated with their children to East Tennessee.

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