The Estate of Matthew Hawkins

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Rappahnnock County, Virginiamap
Surnames/tags: Hawkins Nicklin Beans
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There are two Matthew Hawkins men documented in Culpeper County during period 1790-1821. They are often noted in records as Jr. and Sr. They are believed to be related as uncle and nephew. Matthew Sr. wrote a will dated 27 May 1820; proved 19 Jun 1820.[1] Our subject is Matthew Hawkins jr. who died intestate in 1821.

In 1833 Rappahannock County was carved from Culpeper County. Matthew Hawkins and his family were residents living in the vicinity of Woodville, Culpepr County when he died. Matthew's heirs became residents of Rappahannock County in 1833.

On 15 October 1821 Dr. Joseph Nicklin qualified as administrator of Matthew Hawkins' estate and executed bond of $4,000 with Reuben M Strother and John Hawkins sureties. On the same day Nicklin posted $2000 bond as the guardian of Matthew's four minor children: Benjamin, Archibald, Almira Jane and Eveline. One month later, on 22 Nov 1821, Nicklin, his wards, and the three of the adult children of Matthew Hawkins (John, James and Sophronia) sued William Hawkins in Culpeper County Chancery Court. Their goal was to discover William's location to elicit his response to their desire to sell Matthew's real estate and slaves. Matthew died in possession of 161 acres and at least 10 slaves.

The court approved an order for the sale of Matthew's land and slaves on 19 Feb 1822 and appointed Nicklin, Reuben M. Strother and John Smither Commissioners to oversee the sale. Due to the obvious conflict of interest, Nicklin was replaced as a Commissioner by Gerrard Popham at the next court held 19 Mar 1822. Although the conflict was recognized and Nicklin subsequently removed as Commissioner, his influence and interests over the entire process became apparent.

Four days after filing the suit against William Hawkins, Nicklin held a public auction on 26 Nov 1821 during which personal property of Matthew's estate (excluding land and slaves) was sold. The sale netted $522.80 with the majority of sales being made to family members:

  • Mrs. Nancy Hawkins, $198.59, goods and corn
  • John Hawkins, $33.00
  • James Hawkins Jr., $168.55
  • William Yowell, $31.00
  • Benjamin Hawkins, $2.30
  • Archibald Hawkins, $0.30

Nicklin set aside real estate and slaves for Nancy Hawkins as part of her one-third dower interest in her husband's estate: 33 acres with homes and improvement; two slaves, Caty and Jane, who were valued at $633.33. Nicklin then proceeded to acquire and use a fair portion of the remaining assets of Matthew's estate for his own personal gain.

The sale of land and slaves belonging to the estate of Matthew Hawkins was held at a public auction in Woodville, Culpeper County, on 10 Apr 1822. Terms of the sale required payment with interest within 12 months. Buyers were required to make a bond with security for the purchase amount. Outcome of the sale was approved by the Court on 16 Aug 1822 on the report of Commissioners John Smither, Reuben M. Strother and Gerrard Popham. The sale of eight slaves generated $1775.23.

  • man, Peter, $450 ... sold to William Hawkins; William Yowell security.
  • woman Dilsey, and girl Deliah, $396 ... sold to William Yowell; William Hawkins & Daniel Snyder security.
  • woman Amey, $325.50 ... sold to Smither Mason; Joseph Nicklin security
  • girl Esther, $200.00 ... sold to Joseph Nicklin; Reuben M. Strother security
  • boy Bob, $240.47 ... sold to Thomas P. Thornhill; Thomas Thornhill Sr., security
  • boy Charles, $161.00 ... sold to Charles Sisk; William Yowell security
  • old woman Molly, $2.26 ... sold to Archibald Hawkins

Nicklin retained Esther for himself though she was eventually conveyed and charged to Benjamin Hawkins, one of his guardianship wards. William Hawkins, one of Matthew's adult sons, bought Peter. Nicklin failed to account for sale proceeds as assets belonging to his wards or their older siblings, the heirs of Matthew Hawkins.

Matthew's remaining real estate, 128 acres with houses and improvements, was sold to his administrator Joseph Nicklin who executed a bond with security and a Deed-of-Trust to ensure payment of the premises. Nicklin was accused of paying an undervalued rate of $5.66/acre; $725.90 total. Nicklin failed to record conveyance of the property or acquire a deed. He also did not account for proceeds from the sale as assets of Matthew's estate. Conveyance would not be recorded and a deed not procured until 15 years later when, on 17 Oct 1837, the Court of Rappahannock County appointed Gerrard Popham Commissioner for the express purpose of securing a proper deed for Nicklin.

After the April auction of land and slaves the court again appointed Joseph Nicklin as a Commissioner on 16 Sep 1822 to collect monies associated with the purchase bonds issued at the sale. Thus, within a year of becoming administrator of Matthew's estate, guardian of his minor children, and occupant of his former homestead, Nicklin also became a Court appointed Commissioner overseeing and reviewing his own accounting work related to Matthew's estate assets.

Based on sales, Matthews Hawkins' estate was valued at $4,238:

  • Widow's dower (1/3): $1,412.67
    • Personal property: $198.59, goods & corn
    • Real estate: $ 580.75, 33 acres, $17.60/acre (value not reported, but calculated from reported estate assets)
    • Slaves: $633.33, 2 women.
  • Heirs legacy (2/3): $2,825.34
    • Personal property: $324.21
    • Real Estate: $725.90; 128 acres, $5.66/acre
    • Slaves: $1775.23, 8 humans

Each of the eight children and heirs of Matthew would theoretically receive $332 principal less costs for their maintenance and admin fees. This amount was reasonably close to an estimate made to the Culpeper County Court in late 1821 when administrator Nicklin stated each of the eight heirs would not receive more than $300 as their principal portion.

Eveline Hawkins, the youngest ward of Joseph Nicklin died "under age 21, intestate, unmarried, and without issue" around c1829. Her mother Nancy Hawkins, Matthew's widow, died intestate in 1835. Events associated with the administration of their estates appear to have initiated a query into the administration of Matthew Hawkins estate.

In 1839 Almira Jane and her husband John F. Beans sued her former guardian Joseph Nicklin in Rappahannock Chancery Court. At least two suits with Almira Jane and John F. Beans as Plaintiffs were filed and depending before the court simultaneously between 1839-1842. These suits reflected back on the administration of Matthew Hawkins' estate and essentially charged the administrator with self-dealing.

Beyond the questionable land acquisition and fraudulent accounting of monies from land and slave sales, the suits further charged Nicklin with failing to account for annual interest accruing to the heirs on funds collected and due to Matthew's estate. They also complained that Nicklin improperly charged the estate 6%, rather than the standard 5%, allowed by estate administrators for their work. Commissioners appointed by the Court to review the suits found that Nicklin's actions regarding the land purchase were irregular and improper. However, they decreed too much time had passed to void the transaction and allowed Nicklin to retain the land. Nonetheless, the Commissioners found for the Plaintiff's with regard to Nicklin's lax accounting and reported several awards of principal and interest to Matthew's heirs.

The suits were combined for a Final Decree and Judgement on Sep Term 1841:

  • Nicklin owes the estate of Matthew Hawkins ... $3,107 (for principal and interest collected from bonds of slave sales)
  • Nicklin owes heirs of Matthew Hawkins as follows:
    • James Hawkins ... $403
    • Eveline Hawkins' estate ... $453
    • Almira Jane Beans ... $285 (in addition to $150 Nicklin paid before the suits)
    • John Hawkins ... $0. John became an insolvent debtor and Nicklin bought his schedule (and presumably paid his debts).
    • Archibald Hawkins ... $0. Archibald issued a receipt indicating he had been paid in full before the suits.
  • Hawkins heirs owe Nicklin as follows:
    • Nancy Hawkins' estate ... $328
    • William Hawkins ... $322; See William Hawkins' Fraud.
    • Sophronia Yowell ... $112
    • Benjamin Hawkins ... $58

A note on sources. The foregoing information was compiled from two lawsuits filed in the Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery, Rappahannock County, Virginia. Beans et al. v Nicklin et al. and Moffett et al. v Hawkins [sic, Nicklin] et al. Complaint bills for each suit were filed in 1839 with court decrees, Commissioner reports, and final judgements following through 1842. The suits were depending before the court concurrently and the complaints bills covered many of the same issues relating to the administration of Matthew Hawkins' estate. The key adversarial defendant in both suits was Dr. Joseph Nicklin, administrator of Matthew Hawkins, deceased. The other defendants were heirs of Matthew Hawkins, his children, who were not adversarial but were included to elicit their response to the complaint bill and because the suit represented their interests. Several of the defendants received financial awards as legatees and heirs of Matthew Hawkins.

The first suit, Beans v Nicklin, was filed to challenge recording and accounting irregularities associated with the sale and possession of Matthew Hawkins' real estate. Plaintiffs requested the Court void an 1837 deed of conveyance issued to administrator Nicklin. A decree issued in April 1841 for a Court Commissioner to evaluate the accounting of defendant Nicklin and report on the guardianship accounts of his four Hawkins wards: Almira Jane, Benjamin, Archibald, and Eveline.

The action of the second suit, Moffett v Nicklin, was focused on settling the estate of Eveline Hawkins. Her heirs were her siblings however the estate was administered by Sheriff French Strother. The proceedings delved deeply into the administration of her father's estate, specifically improper accounting related to the sale and retention of slaves by administrator Nicklin.

One key difference among the suits was that between the filing of the first suit, Beans v Nicklin, and the second, Moffett v Hawkins [sic, Nicklin] (filed 15 Aug 1839), James Hawkins assigned his rights and interests as a legatee of Matthew Hawkins over to John F. Beans (10 Aug 1839). Subsequently, John F. and Almira Jane Beans assigned their rights and interests, including those acquired of James Hawkins, over to Horatio G. Moffett (13 Aug 1839).

Both suits referenced related suits that had occurred in the past or were still depending before the court. They were:

  • Nicklin et al. v William Hawkins, 1821, Culpeper Chancery Court. Complaint: to find Matthew Hawkins so that he could respond to plaintiffs request to sell land and slaves of Matthew Hawkins, deceased. Order: 19 Mar 1822 to sell land and slaves.
  • Nicklin v William Hawkins, c1829, Culpeper Chancery Court. Complaint: seeking to recover debt from Hawkins for purchase of slave Peter in 1822. Judgement Sep 1841, Hawkins indebted to Nicklin, $322.
  • Nicklin v Caldwell, depending before the court as of 22 Sep 1841. David Caldwell of Rockingham County recovered from Joseph Nicklin, admin of Matthew Hawkins, $130 on a debt from 1819. However, $38 in the suit was enjoined and remained in dispute.
  • Nicklin petition for Commissioner appointment to effect conveyance of deed, 17 Oct 1837, Rappahannock Chancery Court. Plea by Nicklin for Commissioner status so that he could convey to himself a deed of conveyance for real estate obtained from Matthew Hawkins' estate in 1822. Court appointed Gerrard Popham Commissioner to issue the requested deed. Deed conveyed and approved by Court 21 Nov 1837.


  1. Green, Raleigh Travers, Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia, published by the author, Culpeper, VA, 1900, p50. Wife Betty. Children Job, James, Rebecca, Betty, Phebe, Susanna, Mary, John.

See also:

  • Beans v Nicklin, 1839, Library of Virginia, Chancery Records Index, Rappahannock, Index no. 842-005, case no. 308, microfilm roll 56, image 491. Plaintiffs: John F. Beans and Almira Jane his wife. Defendants: Joseph Nicklin, John Hawkins, William Hawkins, James Hawkins, William Yowell and Sephronia his wife, Benjamin Hawkins, Archibald Hawkins, French Strother admin of Eveline Hawkins, dec'd, and Horatio G. Moffett.
  • Moffett v Hawkins [sic, Nicklin], 1839, Library of Virginia, Chancery Records Index, Rappahannock, Index no. 1842-006, case no. 309, microfilm roll 56, image 550. Plaintiffs: Horatio G. Moffett assignee of John F. Beans and Almira Jane his wife, John F. Beans and Almira Jane his wife in their own right, James Hawkins. Defendants: John Hawkins, William Hawkins, William Yowell and Sephronia his wife, Benjamin Hawkins and Archibald Hawkins. French Strother admin of Eveline Hawkins, dec'd.

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