2021, Colonial America, New Information, Ragland Family History, Research, Wales

Mystery Solved?

In researching the history of the Raglands, I’ve been concentrating lately on tracing the Raglands in America. From their arrival in the America their westward movement. But it’s murky at best about who the first Raglan to emigrate to the colonies and it’s uncertain when. On Ancestry.com, I’ve seen several theories about who was the first and where in the colonies they settled in America. But the question is: which is correct? It’s hard to double-check against official records because the ones in Virginia burned.

Recently, as my sister was helping my Mom clean out their 60-year-old-home, she found a copy of a letter written in 1896. In it, the writer recounts the family genealogy. D.B. Ragland wrote, “I am the son of Dr. William Ragland and a grandson of Pettus Ragland.” Stop the presses! This is valuable information.

Letter Written in 1895 Outlines Ragland History

The letter was addressed to J. M. Ragland in Osceola, Missouri on March 23, 1895. For those of you who are interested, I’m summarizing a portion D. B. Ragland’s genealogy of the American Raglands.[Note: I’ve added sentence and paragraph breaks for clarity.]

John Ragland, the progenitor of the  Raglands of Virginia. He married his kinswoman Anne Beaufort in Wales and they emigrated to Virginia around 1720.  They settled on Mechumps Creek near the Pamunkey River in Hanover County. John Ragland’s residence was known as Rippling Hall. It was destroyed by fire in 1826. The land books in the Registers office in Richmond show that he patented in the aggregate more than 15,000 acres of land in the counties of Hanover and Louisa. John Ragland and his wife, Aimie (Anne) Beaufort had nine children: John, William, Samuel, James, Evan, Pettus, Martha, and 2 other daughters.

Mr. Hugh Davis Ragland of Hadensville, Virginia can give you an account of his wife Annie Dudley.

D. B. Ragland, 1895

Mr. Hugh Davis Ragland of Hadensville, Virginia can give you an account of his wife, Annie Dudley. Her parents were James Dudley and his wife, Catherine Davis. Catherine’s parents were Evan Ragland and Miss Lipscomb. James’ other daughter, Martha married Thomas Linsley. [R.A. Brooke, See Va. History.] Thomas Linsley is a great-grandson of Pettus Ragland. “I do not know of the two daughters of John of Ripping Hall; one of them married a Winfield, and the other a Davis. If my information is correct all the Ragland of Ameris are descendants of John of Ripping Hall.”

If my information is correct all of the Raglands of America are descendents of John of Ripping Hall.

D. B. Ragland, 1895

D. B. goes on to write: The Davises are descendants of the old Welsh King and Princess. The Raglands and Davises were related in Wales to Jefferson Davis, the late president of the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis descended from Samuel Davis.

I am a son of Dr. William Ragland and a grandson of Pettus Ragland of Willson County Tennessee. My grandfather only had two brothers, Harden and Tolivar. Their father was named William, son of Pettus, who was a son of John of Ripping Hall.

I have two sons, William and Harden; my grandfather comes from Hanover Co., Virginia, but his two brothers remained in Virginia. I will be 57 years of age my next birthday. My oldest son William B. Ragland is a bookkeeper for Baldwin & Co. Louisville, Kentucky, a large piano firm.

D. B. Ragland

P.S. I have only one brother, Harden Raglands, a practicing physician of Gainsboro, Tennessee.

At the bottom of the letter is a final notation that the information was passed on to Mary E. Ragland by Miss George Blakemore, Clinton, Missouri whose grandmother was Fannie Blakemore Ragland.

Could D. B. Ragland could be Daniel Burger Ragland (1855-1942) of Clinton, Missouri (when he died?) And, J. M. Ragland of Osceola, Missouri is John Milton Ragland (1837-1911)? But my research indicated their father was Rev. Nathaniel Madison Ragland (1810-1871) of Plano, Texas and D. B. wrote his father was Dr. Willliam Ragland. My tree is beginning to look like a tangled mess rather than a stately tree. Help!

Now I have a lot of leads to follow up on in Ancestry.com. However, I wanted to share this information as soon as I could with everyone who is researching the Raglands. If you have information that can shed some additional light on the first Raglands in America and their descendants, I am eager to hear about it. Genealogy research works best in collaboration with others and hence the topic of this blog post.

Debora Buerk
Writer, Editor and 
Sometimes Family Historian

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2021, American Revolutionary War, Colonial America, Ragland Family History, United States

What’s in a Name?

Editor’s note: I began this research for my Dad before he died this winter on his 90th birthday, January 25, 2021. I write this post in loving memory of my Dad.

James Madison Ragland

My father, James Madison Ragland (1931-2021) was named after the first Ragland to bear the name James Madison Ragland. 

1743, Virginia

The first James Madison Ragland was born in the fourth generation (as best as I can tell) of the Raglands in America (1743-1818).

First Generation 

Evan Ragland was the first of our tree to immigrate from Wales to Colonial Virginia. He married Susanna Pettus and together they had five children:

  1. Catherine Ragland was born in 1681 in St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia
  2. Evan Ragland, 1683-1739 
  3. Thomas Ragland, 1685- 1719
  4. Stephen Ragland, born 1688-1747
  5. John Ragland, born 1690-1751

Third Generation

My history continues through Evan’s son, Nathaniel James.

Nathaniel was born in 1707 in St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia and died in 1760. Like his father and grandfather, he was a farmer. About 1735, Nathaniel married Elizabeth Love (1714) and they had two children before her death:

  1. John (1736-1737)
  2. Nathaniel (1738 to about 1769)

Nathaniel remarries in about 1742 to Belinda Blandina. Together they had eight children.

  1. James Madison (1743-1818)
  2. Joseph (about 1757-1810)
  3. Samuel (about 1747-1799)
  4. William (1753-1805)
  5. Nancy (1755-)
  6. David (about 1757-1810)
  7. Edmund (1758-1818)
  8. Elizabeth (about 1760-1814).

What’s in a Name?

Why did the Ragland’s of Virginia start a tradition of naming their sons, James Madison? 

I confess to being perplexed. Nathaniel died before the Revolutionary War so that’s not the connection. Was it because Ragland farm was near Montpelier, the Madison plantation? Or, did they know Dolly Todd Madison because she lived in the same county? 

It’s all conjecture on my part but still this first James Madison Ragland was born to a contemporary of James Madison, the fourth president and architect of the US Constitution and so begins a tradition within the Ragland Family Tree of naming future generations James Madison.

It’s all conjecture on my part but still this first James Madison Ragland was born to a contemporary of James Madison, the fourth president and author of the US Constitution–beginning a tradition within the Ragland Family tree.

It’s not just my branch within the Ragland Family Tree that bears witness to James Madison. I found namesakes throughout the many limbs and branches of the tree. 

And my Dad, James Madison Ragland (1931-2021) was the seventh generation descendent of the original James Madison Ragland. Did I answer his question about the origin of his name? Not really but he died proud that his family heritage is tied with the founding of the nation we live in today.

Debora Buerk
WriterEditor and
Sometimes Family Historian


1 My thanks to Bill Ragland of Clinton, Missouri for his extensive Ragland Ancestry research.

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2021, American Revolutionary War, Colonial America, Ragland Family History, United States

The First Ragland in America

The Ragland Family Tree

My maiden name is Ragland. I’m a descendant of soldiers who fought in this war, primarily from Virginia through the several family tree branches.. 

In the days ahead, I’ll share with you stories I’ve uncovered about my family and perhaps they’ll overlap with yours. This is what his-story is–stories.

The First Ragland Arrived at the Jamestown Settlement

In the latter years of the Jamestown settlement, the first Ragland arrived in America[1]around 1670. That first Ragland was Evan Ragland. Born in 1656 in St. Decuman’s parish, Somerset, England, Evan died in 1717 in St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia. He married Susanna Pettus about 1680 in St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia. She was born about 1660 in St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia, and her death details are unknown. Susanna was the daughter of Stephen Pettus.

Indentured Servitude

Indentured servitude is a form of labor in which a person (an indenture) agrees to work without salary for a specific number of years through a contract for eventual compensation or debt repayment. Historically, it has been used to pay for apprenticeships, typically when an apprentice agreed to work for free for a master tradesman to learn a trade (similar to a modern internship but for a fixed length of time, usually seven years). Later it was also used as a way for a person to pay the cost of transportation to colonies in the Americas.

Like any loan, an indenture could be sold; most employers had to depend on middlemen to recruit and transport the workers, so indentures (indentured workers) were commonly bought and sold when they arrived at their destinations. Like prices of the enslaved, their price went up or down depending on supply and demand. When the indenture (loan) was paid off, the worker was free. Sometimes they might be given a plot of land.

Indentured workers could usually marry, move about locally as long as the work got done, read whatever they wanted, and take classes.

Until the late 18th century, indentured servitude was common in British America. It was often a way for Europeans (usually from Ireland) to immigrate to the American colonies: they signed an indenture in return for a costly passage. 

In some cases, the indenture was made with a ship’s master, who sold the indenture to an employer in the colonies. Most indentured servants worked as farm laborers or domestic servants, although some were apprenticed to craftsmen.

Early Americans Predominately Indentured

Between one-half and two-thirds of European immigrants to the American colonies between the 1630s and American Revolution came under indentures.[2] However, while almost half the European immigrants to the Thirteen Colonies were indentured servants, at any one time they were outnumbered by workers who had never been indentured, or whose indenture had expired, and thus free wage labor was the more prevalent for Europeans in the colonies.[3] 

Indentured people were numerically important mostly in the region from Virginia north to New Jersey. Other colonies saw far fewer of them. The total number of European immigrants to all 13 colonies before 1775 was about 500,000; of these 55,000 were involuntary prisoners. Of the 450,000 or so European arrivals who came voluntarily, Tomlins estimates that 48 percent were indentured.[4] About 75 percent of these were under the age of 25. The age of adulthood for men was 24 years (not 21); those over 24 generally came on contracts lasting about three years.[5] 

Many were Kidnapped

Several instances of kidnapping[7] for transportation to the Americas are recorded, such as that of Peter Williamson (1730–1799). As historian Richard Hofstadter pointed out, “Although efforts were made to regulate or check their activities, and they diminished in importance in the eighteenth century, it remains true that a certain small part of the European colonial population of America was brought by force, and a much larger portion came in response to deceit and misrepresentation on the part of the spirits [recruiting agents].”[8] One “spirit” named William Thiene was known to have spirited away[9] 840 people from Britain to the colonies in a single year.[10] Historian Lerone Bennett Jr. notes that “Masters given to flogging often did not care whether their victims were black or white.”[11]

The First Ragland was Sold into Servitude

The facts around Evan Ragland’s arrival in America are obscure. However, according to oral history and traditions during this time in history, leaves us this story. 

In the 17th century, ship captains often abducted men from the small ports on both sides of the Bristol Channel. Evan Ragland was probably abducted around 1670 from Watchet’s village in Somerset by one of these captains of the hundreds of ships that traveled between the various ports of Bristol Channel and America. Evan would have been transported to Virginia under the harshest of conditions, a sea journey of about two months. In America, he was sold into slavery (sometimes called indentured servitude) for five to seven years.  

The only source that sheds light on Evan Ragland’s activities during his first ten years in America comes from family oral history dating back to the eighteenth century. According to family history, Evan, was well educated for his age, was taken into the planter’s home, Stephen Pettus, who had purchased him. And with his education, for several years, Evan served as the planter’s secretary. Family lore says he fell in love with the planter’s daughter, Susanna, and married her after obtaining his freedom.

The research I’ve done points to Stephen Pettus[2] as the homesteader who purchased Evan as an indentured servant. In the mid-1600s Pettus would have been considered a moderately wealthy planter. He lived along the Chickahominy River in New Kent County, Virginia. Evan’s marriage to Susanna probably took place around 1680.

Life in Jamestown

Life in the colonization of America was hard. Evan Ragland arrived while the Jamestown Settlement was the capital of the Colony. 

By 1670, Jamestown is an established community and thriving by 17th century standards. But, what the history books tell us about the Jamestown Settlement is the living conditions were primitive. The land is harsh—mostly swampland. And the English did not get along with the native Americans.

From 1689 until his death, Evan Ragland’s name appears with some regularity on the rent rolls of New Kent County and the parish register of St. Peter’s. It seems that he lived the remainder of his life in New Kent County on the homestead of his father-in-law, which he acquired through marriage at his Pettus’s death. The farm was reportedly 400 acres.[3]

Evan Ragland Inherited Pettus Farm

We know that the Pettus farm was located along the Chickahominy River in New Kent County, Virginia—about 27 miles from Williamsburg and 33 miles from Jamestown. We know that Pettus purchased workers for his plantation—that’s how Evan came to live there. And based on the registry in the St. Peter’s Parish, we can conclude that the farm had slaves by the time of Evan’s death.

Not much more is known about Evan Ragland and the farm he inherited from Stephen Pettus. I did find a note on Ancestry.com from a researcher in the 1930’s discovered a history of some of the early families founding Bedford County, Virginia, author is unknown. 

“The first Ragland who came to America in about 1720, and settled on Mechamps Creek, near the mouth of the Chickahominy River. He obtained land grants for some fifteen thousand acres of land in the counties of Hanover and Louisa, and imported slaves directly from Africa. His country seat was known as “Ripping Hall,”[4] and remained in the Ragland family till 1823, when it was destroyed by fire.”


Evan Ragland’s Death

The final official notation relating to Evan is found in the St. Peter’s Parish registry.

“Evan Raglin departed this life may ye 30th 1717.” 

“Also Peter, a negro of Evan Ragland, died 22 Mar 1717.”

“[Son] Thomas Ragland died 15 Feb 1719.”

St. Peter’s Parish Vestry Book and Register, 1684-1786 (Ancestry.com)

Putting Evan Ragland’s Hi-story in Context

I can only speculate, but listing a slave’s death in the parish registry would signify Peter’s significance to Evan Ragland. Furthermore, they both died within weeks of each other, indicating perhaps the cause of death was a contagious illness.

Setting Evan Ragland’s life into the history of Virginia, we know that he arrived at the same time the Jamestown Settlement still existed. Still, during his lifetime, the capital of the Colony would become Williamsburg. Evan died before the Revolutionary War, but subsequent decedants would fight.

Is It True?

I cannot prove or disprove this minor notice in the history of Virginia. The records pertaining to this time period were destroyed by fire.

Children of Evan Ragland

The children of Evan Ragland and Susanna Pettus were:

  • Catherine Ragland, born 1681, St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia; death. Unknown.
  • Evan Ragland (Jr.), born 1683, St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia; died 1739, St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia.
  • Thomas Ragland, born 1685, St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia; died 1719, St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia.
  • Stephen Ragland, born 1688, St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia; died 1747, Northampton County, North Carolina.
  • John Ragland, born 1690, St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia; died 1751, Hanover County, Virginia.

My family history continues through the son, Evan Ragland (Jr.)

Debora Buerk
Writer, Editor and 
Sometimes Family Histori


[1] Source: Ragland Family History on Ancestry.com

[2] Research done on Ancestry.com

[3] The records have since then been destroyed by fire. 

[4] Another document referred to the homestead as “Hipping Hall.”

Sources: Wikipedia on Jamestown Settlement and Indentured Servitude and Ancestry.com

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Does your family fit into this tree? Do you have family history and stories to tell? Let’s talk.

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2021, Colonial America, Ragland Family History, United States, Wales

The First Ragland in America–Part 2

More About Where Evan Ragland Lived

1654—Orange County, Virginia

According to Wikipedia[1], New Kent County is located in the eastern part the Commonwealth of Virginia. New Kent County is included in the Greater Richmond Region.

History of Kent County

New Kent County was established in 1654, using territory annexed from York County and was organized and settled by William Claiborne. The county’s name originated because several prominent inhabitants, including William Claiborne, recently had been forced from their settlement at Kent Island, Maryland by Lord Baltimore upon the formation of Maryland. Claiborne had named the island for his birthplace in Kent, England.

Birthplace to Two US Presidents’ Wives

New Kent County is the birthplace of two US presidents’ wives – Martha Washington and Letitia Christian Tyler. The church where George and Martha Washington are believed to have been wed, St. Peter’s, still holds services today. The Chickahominy Indians frequented this area as well as nearby Charles City County, and two tribes are still well-established in this area.

Among the earliest settlers of New Kent County was Nicholas Gentry, who settled in New Kent in 1684. The parish register books of St. Peter’s Parish show that Nicholas Gentry’s daughter was baptized in the church in 1687. The records also reflect other Gentrys, probably Nicholas Gentry’s relations, Peter and Samuel Gentry.  As the result of arson confessed to by John Price Posey and Tho Green, and, allegedly, involving “a negro boy belonging to W. Chamberlayne” on July 15, 1787, many later county records were burned, making identifying relationships between family members difficult. 

In 1720, a portion of New Kent County known then as St. Paul’s Parish was formed into a separate county, now Hanover County


The northeast border of the county is defined by the meanderings of the Pamunkey River, and the southwest county border is similarly defined by the Chickahominy River. The county terrain consists of rolling hills, either wooded or devoted to agriculture, and carved by drainages.. The terrain slopes to the east and south, with its highest point on the west border at 174’ (53m) ASL. The county has a total area of 223 square miles, of which 210 square miles is land and 14 square miles (6.23 percent) is water.

The Chickahominy River borders the county to the south, the Pamunkey and York rivers border it to the north and east.

Adjacent counties 

  1. King William County – north
  2. King and Queen County – northeast
  3. James City County – southeast
  4. Charles City County -south
  5. Henrico County – southwest
  6. Hanover County – west

Orange County, Virginia?

Note: Some records pertaining to the early Ragland’s in America mentions Orange, Virginia. I think the following explains why. Later references to the first Ragland’s in Virginia refer to Kent County.

The first European settlement in what was to become Orange County was Germanna, formed when Governor Alexander Spotswood settled twelve immigrant families from Westphalia, Germany, there in 1714; a total of forty-two people. [2]

Orange County, as a legal entity, was created in August 1734 when the Virginia House of Burgesses adopted An Act for DividingSpotsylvania County. Unlike other counties whose boundaries had ended at the Blue Ridge Mountains, Orange was bounded on the west “by the utmost limits of Virginia” which, at that time, stretched to the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. The colony of Virginia claimed the land, but very little of it had yet been occupied by any English. For this reason, some contend that Orange County was at one time the largest county that ever existed. This situation lasted only four years; in 1738 most of the western tract was split off into Augusta County. The expansiveness of the county boundaries was to encourage settlement further westward as well as to contend against the French claim to the Ohio Valley region.[8]

Debora Buerk
Writer, Editor and 
Sometimes Family Historian

Your Story is My Story

You’re reading Ragland Family History WordPress.com.

Do we share a leaf in common?

Does your family fit into this tree? Do you have family history and stories to tell? Let’s talk.

Your Story is My Story

You’re reading Ragland Family History WordPress.com.

2021, Colonial America, Ragland Family History, United States, Wales

A Website Dedicated to Collecting Ragland Family History

Ragland Family History WordPress.com

The purpose of this website is to serve as a clearing house for Ragland Family History. We’re a big clan with lots of branches and offshoots. It’s my hope that members of the Ragland family will add content to this site so we can have a more complete and balance look at our shared ancestry.

I majored in journalism at the University of Missouri. I’m fascinated by stories. The word hi-story says it all for me.
And because I’m willing to share my findings –especially if they are helpful to you.

When I’m not writing or editing a book, I enjoy researching my family tree. Currently I’m researching primarily the Ragland family tree and its offshoots. I use the internet–especially ancestry.com–and other secondary sources.

I hope that what I discover might help with others researching their forefathers. 

This page is where you’ll find the latest information collected.

I’m also researching my maternal family history

Raglands – Dunns – Taylors – Beaches – Ohares – Buerks

I’m also researching the remainder of my family tree and history. Currently I’m researching primarily these family branches: Raglands, Dunns, Taylors, Beaches, Ohares, and Buerks. I use the internet–especially ancestry.com–and other secondary sources.

You’ll find this information at My Family History.com

Is your hi-story part of mine? Please share your stories with me. I’m all ears. Let talk.

Debora Buerk
Writer, Editor and 
Sometimes Family Histori

Do we share a leaf in common?

Does your family fit into this tree? Do you have family history and stories to tell? Let’s talk.

Your Story is My Story

You’re reading Ragland Family History WordPress.com.