Mystery: Who is Mary Fornes?

by | Jan 7, 2018 | 1 comment

Alright, we have yet another mystery on our hands. I’m hoping some of you might actually have some pieces of information that can fill in the blanks for me.

Below are two deeds from Pitt County.

  • The first item below is a deed in which Mary FORNES gives land to her son, John FORNES.
  • The second item is Mary FORNES granted Power of Attorney to “my Trust friend James CLARK in the County of Craven” to recover that which is due to her from Thomas FORNES.

So who was this Mary FORNES? Was she the mother of Elizabeth FORNES (?) EDWARDS? She was definitely the mother of a John FORNES, but which John FORNES?

So many questions! Lots more research is ahead. In the meantime, here’s a little bit more of what we do know.

We already know one John FORNES died during the Revolution because the land to which he was entitled fell to Thomas FORNES. And this is likely the same Thomas FORNES to which Mary FORNES is referring below.

What to make of all this… Hmm… Maybe there are some other items I’ve just not seen yet that will help shed some light on the subject.

Here are some FORNES FACTS to consider: 

  • We know the John FORNES in the deed below from Mary FORNES was her son. He was most likely born sometime between 1775 and 1784 based on Mary FORNES listing in the 1800 Pitt County Census. She has one young man in her household between the ages of 16 and 25.
  • We know there is a John FORNES from over in Craven County who would be about the same age. He married Charity SMITH and he was the son of Thomas FORNES (1750-1829) and Jerusha KING (1760-1832). Jerusha specifically names her son John in her will.
  • The aforementioned Thomas FORNES (1750-1829) was evidently one of four FORNES brothers who served in the Continental Line during the Revolutionary War, and he was the only one who survived. The other brothers were John, Jonathan, and William.
  • In 1811, a “John FORNES, Jr.” from Craven County appears on a deed along with Emanuel and Elizabeth EDWARDS and Ransom B. CAMPBELL. The three are selling land that formerly belonged to Thomas FORNES to John FORNES, Sr. Is the John FORNES, son of Mary, John FORNES, Jr.?
  • In the 1805 deed, Mary FORNES refers to her “lifetime or Widdowhood.” One would think that means she had at one time been married, but it’s possible it was standard lawyerspeak for that particular type of deed. It’s also possible that Mary FORNES is a FORNES by birth and her son John was illegitimate. Or maybe his father was the John FORNES that was killed during the Revolution and Mary FORNES was his wife, even if commonlaw. The timing on the age for John FORNES would work for that. What I’m bothered by is that I’m not finding another John FORNES in the records other than the one over in Craven County who was the son of Thomas and Jerusha.

One note: The marks for Mary FORNES on the two deeds are different, but I attribute this to the person who transcribed the deeds, as they are clearly not in the original handwriting. The POA deed just has an X to indicate her mark, whereas the other deed has an upside-down “V.” 

Mary FORNES deeds land to John FORNES (29 June 1805)

State of North Carolina Pitt County this Indenture made twenty ninth day of June one thousand Eight hundred & five between Mary FORNES of the County aforesaid of the one part and John FORNES son of the said Mary FONES of the other Part witnesseth that the said Mary as well for & in consideration of the natural love and affection which she hath and bereth unto the said John FONES her son as also for the better maintenance and preservance of the sd John FRONES hath given granted aliened Enfcoffed? & Confirmed and by these presents doth give grant alien enfeoff? and Confirm unto the said John FONES all the land that I have Beginning as folloth, Beginning at a pine on the Side of Creeping Swamp it being the Lower Corner of ???? Turning North one hundred poles to two pines then north 58 West two hundred & seventeen poles to a pine on the back line then along the same south twenty six west sixty pole to a gum & oak then south fifty four west one hundred & fifty poles to a pine on the side of said Swamp then down the winding of said Swamp to the Begining Containing Seventy nine acres of land more or less to have & to hold the sd Land for ever and all houses & orchards fences trees & all other things belongs to the said land to my beloved son John Fones to himself his Hiers Executors adminstr or assigns for ever I the said Mary FORNES do bind myself my Heirs Executors & ??? & assigns forever will defend the same land every part thereof to my son John FORNES to him Hiers and assigns forever to have ?? ?? posession for ever I the said Mary FORNES further give all and every other thing that I have or that I am posses with to wit: my bed & furniture & my ?? pott knives & forks and chest & ?? bees and money And all my plows & axes Hoes & every other thing that I am posses with in this world I do hereby give to my son John FORNES all these things here made mention of in this deed of gift & I Mary FORNES do bind myself My hiers & Executors Adminisrs & assigns for ever warrent to defend the same to my Dear Son John FORNES to him off his hiers and assigns for ever all & every part here made mention of Last of all I Mary FORNES do hereby Reserve my lifetime or widdow Hood in them all the land & every other thing & after I am Dead or married then it is to belong to my son John FORNES to have & to hold forever more.

Mary ( her ^ mark ) FORNES { Seal }

In presence of

Henry SMITH son David

Pitt County August Term 1805
This deed was exhibited into open Court & proved in due form of law by the oath of Henry SMITH a Subscribing witness thereto ordered to be Registered. George EVANS CC

Richard Evans DC


Mary FORNES grants Power of Attorney to James CLARK (28 Apr 1806)

Know all men by these presents that I Mary FORNES in County of Pitt ??? ??? ??? for divers considerations and good causes one hereunto moving having made ordained Constituted and apointed and by these Presents do make ordain constitute and appoint my Trusty friend James CLARK in the County of Craven my True and Lawful attorney For me in my name and to my use to ask Demand recover or receive of and from Thomas FORNES in the County of Craven the sum due me Giving and by these presents granted to my said attorney my sole and full power and authority to take pursue and follow such Legal courses for the recovery receiving and obtaining of the same as myself could do were I personally present and upon the Receipt of the same acquitances and other sufficient discharges for me and my name to make sign seal and Deliver as also one or more attorny or attornees under Him to substitute or appoint and again at his pleasure to revoke and further to perform and exdcute for me and in my name all and singular things or things to which shall or may be necessary touching and concerning the Premises as fully thoroughly and entirely as I the said Mary FORNES in My own person ought or could do in and about the same ratifying allowing and confirming whatsoever my said Lawful attorney shall Lawfully do or cause to be done in and about the execution of the premises by virtue of these presents in witness wehreof I have here unto set my hand and seal the twenty eight Day of April in year of Our Lord 1806.

Mary ( her X mark ) FORNES { Seal }

Witness: Thomas CAMPBELL
James BRE???

Pitt County November Term 1806. This Power of Attorney was exhibited into open Court and proved in due Form of Law on Oath by Thomas Campbell a subscribing Witness thereto … Ordrered to be Registered.

1 Comment

  1. Sue Frye

    There is a Dennis Fornes in New Bern area…….about 60-70 years old. Maybe he knows the family.


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