An Inheritance of Ghosts

William Colley [or Corley] and Martha —–

Posted in Martha (-----) Colley [or Corley], Martha -----, William Colley [or Corley] by Gregg Mattocks on 10 September 2009

William Colley (or Corley) [192]

Father: Valentine Corley [384]

Mother: perhaps Sarah [Walker?] [385]

Mattocks Family Heritage entry

Martha —– [193]

Father: unknown [386]

Mother: unknown [387]

Mattocks Family Heritage entry


William Colley (or Corley) [192] was born about 1754 at Cumberland County, Virginia. During the Revolutionary War, he served as a private in the Sixth Virginia Battalion.

William married, by 1784, Martha —– [193].

William appeared as the head of household in the 1784 census of Cumberland County, Virginia, in a family with three “white souls” and one “dwelling”.

William may have been the William Colley who appears in the following abstract of a 1781-82 land grant at Washington County, Virginia:

William Colley … 152 ac … Commissioners Certificate … granted to Richard Brindle, assigned to Colley … on a branch of the Middle fork of Holston River … Beginning corner to Andrew Smothers land … with John Ekys and Andrew Smothers … to John McMurrays land … November 25, 1782 – Richard Brindle, assignee of Elias McKey, assignee of Thomas Potter, assignee of Elias McCay … 200 ac … joining Arthur Bowens lines, 144 ac surveyed for Thomas Potter on June 10, 1774, includes improvements, actual settlement made in 1772 … August 28, 1781 – Assigned to William Colley by purchase on October 25, 1782. Signed: Richard Brindle

On 28 February 1784, a William Colley offered 100 acres for sale at Albemarle County to satisfy taxes due on that land in 1782 and 1783.  This property was still being offered for sale on 5 March 1785.

On 4 December 1791, William purchased, for fifty pounds, from his father Valentine, half of the land Valentine was then living on. Reportedly, on 26 December 1791, at Cumberland County, William was granted a lease by his father.

An advertisement in the 1 September 1795 issue of the American Gazette and Norfolk and Portsmouth Public Advertiser may have been placed by our William Colley:

Forty Dollars Reward, RUNAWAY from the subscriber the 26th of last May, a Virginia born negro man, named PATRICK, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high; yellowish complexion, bad, lost one or two of his fore teeth; has small red eyes; is fond playing on the fiddle; and understands making of shoes; — Had on when he went away an oznaburgh shirt and trousers dark home spun jacket. He was formerly the property of capt. Henry Carter of Lancaster county. I expect he will endeavour to pass for a free man, as I am informed one of the soldiers belonging to Fort Norfolk, forged him a free pass. Whoever apprehends and delivers the said Negro to Josiah Hodges, in Norfolk, or the subscriber near Fort Norfolk, shall receive the above reward.

WILLIAM COLLEY. Norfolk, July,6, 1795.

Norfolk was at a considerable distance from Cumberland County, so it is not known if this record concerns our William Colley. No other record exists of William owning a slave named Patrick.

William appeared on the 1800 tax list for Cumberland County with five horses and four slaves over 16.

In the will of William’s father Valentine Corley, dated 10 November 1801 and proved 26 January 1803, Valentine left four slaves, including one named Sarah, to his wife for her use during her life. After the death of Valentine’s wife, William was to take possession of Sarah until Valentine’s granddaughter Sally Brown came of age. William was to have “the benefit from the labour of said Sarah” while the slave was in his possession.

Valentine further stipulated that “the increase from this time until the death of my wife if any from [slaves] Betty, Rosy and Sarah shall be equally divided between my three sons Viz. Caniel, William Corley, Asa Corley except the first one that is born if any, I give to my son William.” William was also bequeathed the slave Wiat outright. Finally, if there was any “stock” left after the death of Valentine’s wife, William was to have it.

In June 1805 and again on 25 August 1806, at Cumberland County, William was deeded property by Francis and Madeline Vaughan.

In 1810, William was living as the head of household at Cumberland County.

In September 1817, at Cumberland County, William was deeded by nephews George and James Corley.

In the 1820 Census of Cumberland County, a William F. [or J.] Colley was listed as the head of a household consisting of one male aged 45 or over, one female aged 45 or over, and one female aged 26 to 45. The older female was almost certainly William’s wife Martha. At this time, I beleive that the younger female was probably an unmarried daughter of William and Martha.

In the 1830 Census of Cumberland County, William Cauley, Sr., was listed as the head of a household consisting of one male aged 70 to 80 (William himself), one male aged 30 to 40, and one female aged 30 to 40. The identities of the the younger male and female in the household is not known at this time. They were perhaps one of William’s daughters and her husband. William’s wife Martha had apparently died in the years between the 1820 and 1830 census.

On 26 November 1832, at Cumberland County, William deeded property to William W. Colley.

William’s will was dated 9 March 1833.

I William Colly of the County of Cumberland being of sound and disposing mind and memory do make this my last Will and testament in manner and form following.

Item the first. My Will and desire is that my Executor herein after named proceed to pay off all my just debts as soon as practicable.

Item. The Second. I lend to my daughter Elizabeth Durham two negroes Frank and Betty and the increase of the female slave with an eaqual part of the rest of my personal Estate to be divided after my death which property I lend to my said daughter during her natural life, and at her death to be equally divided between the heirs of her body.

Item the Third. I give to my daughter Diannah Palmore two negroes, Stephen and Polly and the future increase of the said female slave together with an equal part of the personal property belonging to my Estate after my death, and the payment of my debts.

Item the Fourth. I give to my daughter Gilley Blanton a negro man by the name of Henry which she now has in possession and the further sum of five dollars and nothing more of my Estate.

Item the Fifth. I lend to my daughter Julia Pigg two negroes Albert and Emeline and the present and future increase of the female slave Emeline and an eaqual part of the rest of my personal estate at my death, all of which I lend to her during her life, and at her death I give the same to the children of my daughter Julia Pigg to be eaqually divided among them.

Item the Sixth. I give to my son William W. Colley the tract of land on which I now live, and which tract of land I have also deeded to him and the following negroes to wit, Anderson and Matilda with the future and present increase of the female slave Matilda and also an eaqual part of the rest of my estate at my death.

Item the Seventh. I give to my three grand children Wm. S. Colly, Julia A. Colly, and Elijah W. Colly the sum of five dollars each to be paid to them after my death by my Executor and no other part or portion of my estate whatever. And Lastly I do hereby appoint my son William W. Colly Executor to this my last will and testament hereby revoking all other wills heretofore made by me. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this the ninth day of March 1833.


William   Colley (seal)


In the presents of these witnesses

Sam’l R. Simpson
William N. Lee
Charles S. Ligon

In an 1835 “list of non-commssioned officers and soldiers of the Virginia Line on Continental Establishment whose names appear on the Army register and who have not received bounty land” was “Colley, William, Soldier, Inf.”

William Colley died at Cumberland County by 26 February 1844.

At a Court held for Cumberland County the 26th day of February 1844 A Writing purporting the Last Will and testament of William Colley deceased bearing date the 9th day of March 1833, was this day again produced in Court by William W. Colley the Executor in said Will named in order to be proved. And Elijah W. Colly, Joseph A. Jenkins and wife and Lawrence Blanton in his own right and as Guardian for Catharine Ann Colley, appeared and opposed the proof of said Will. Whereupon divers witnesses were sworn and examined, Depositions seal, and the parties aforesaid by counsel fully heard. On consideration whereof it is the opinion of the Court, that the said Wm. Colley deceased, at the time of executing the said will aforesaid dated the 9th day of March 1833 was of sound and disposing mind and memory; and that he was under no undue influence. And William N. Lee, one of the surviving Witnesses to said Will having testified in Court, that the said William Colley signed and published the said Will in his presence, and as for his last will and testament, that he subscirbed his name as a witness thereto, in the presence of the said testator, and at his request and that the said testator was of sound sense and memory as far as he knew or believed, and having also testified that he saw Samuel R. Simpson and Charles S. Ligon the other witnesses to said Will subscirbe their names thereto also in the presence of the said testator, and at his request, and the hand writing of Samuel R. Simpson one of the witnesses to said Will, who is now dead proved by Leonard B. Simpson. It was ordered that the said writing be recorded, as the last Will and testament of the said William Colley deceased. And Elijah W. Colley, Joseph H. Jenkins and Julia his wife and Lawrence Blanton in his own right and as Guardian for Catharine Ann Colley prayed an appeal to the Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery for Cumberland County, and the said Lawrence Blanton, having entered into bond with William Holeman his security, the appeal is allowed. And at a Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery continued and held for Cumberland County, at the Courthouse of said County, on the 30th day of August 1844 came the parties by their attorneys. Whereupon the transcrip_ of the record of the said County Court of Cumberland being seen and inspected, and sundry witnesses examined, ot seems to the Court here, that there is no error in the order of the siad County Court, admitting to record the will of the said William Colley, Therefore it is ordered that the same be affirmed.

And at a Court held for said County the 23rd day of September 1844, On the motion of William W. Colley Executor in said will named, who made oath thereto, and together with Wm. B. B. Walker and Wm. Phaup his securities entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of Eight thousand dollars conditioned as the law directs a certificate is granted the said William W. Colley for obtaining a probat_ of said will in due form.

Teste   B. B. Woodson, C.

Children of William and Martha (—–) Colley [or Corley]:

  • 192.1. William W. Colley.
  • 192.2. Elijah W. Colley [96], born about 1790.
  • 192.3. Elizabeth Colley.
  • 192.4. Diannah Colley, born about 1786.
  • 192.5. Gill[e]y Colley, born about 1787.
  • 192.6. Julia [or Judith] Colley.


  • —, “Cumberland County, Virginia: 1800 Tax List,” Virginia Genealogist 17[1973]:198.
  • —, Cumberland County, Virginia, Will Book 3, page 216, transcribed by Luster Earl Colley.
  • —, Cumberland County, Virginia, Will Book 11, page 32, transcribed by Julie Coley, as found at “Will of William Colley,” at, accessed 31 August 2009.
  • —, Cumberland County, Virginia, Will Book 11, page 32, transcribed by Luster Earl Colley.
  • —, “Local Notices from the Virginia Gazette: Richmond, 1784,” Virginia Genealogist 30[1986]:35.
  • —, “Local Notices from the Virginia Gazette: Richmond, 1785,” Virginia Genealogist 32[1988]:194.
  • Elizabeth Petty Bentley, Index to the 1810 Census of Virginia (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1980).
  • Julie Williams Coley, “WilliamsC,” at, accessed 13 September 2009.
  • Jim Corley, “Descendants of Richard Corley,” at, accessed 16 August 1998.
  • Lynn DeRider Olivier, “Descendants of Richard Corley of VA,” at, created 1 March 1998.
  • Nita [Rueth], “The Colley Surname Message Board,” at, posted 3 August 2000.
  • United States Census Office, Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Records of the State Enumerations: 1782 to 1785: Virginia (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1986), page 67.