Tennant – Tomahawk Claim


Sylvia Rene Stevens (1948-Present)


Sylvia Marie Tennant (1924-2004) My mother


Robert Aubrey Tennant (1900-1981) My grandfather


William Thadius Tennant (1874-1935) My great grandfather


James F Tennant (1851-1934 My 2nd great grandfather


Peter Androus Tennant (1827-1887) My 3rd great grandfather


Peter Tennant (1773-1847) My 4th great grandfather


Richard Tennant (1751-1822) My 5th great grandfather

Richard Tennant is the subject of this post. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He immigrated to Philadelphia as an indentured servant. Upon arrival, Peter Haught bought his indentured servitude for seven years. Richard worked for Peter in a German settlement on the banks of the Potomac River for only two years of his seven year commitment when Peter released him. The reason becomes apparent to us when we see that Richard married Peter’s daughter Elizabeth some years later.

Richard and Elizabeth, with some members of her family eventually migrated to the wilderness of the Monongalia River Valley region of Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1775. There they “filed a tomohawk claim” on Jakes Run.

In The History of Monogalia County by Samuel T Wiley I read this interesting account of filing land claims in early Virginia. It seems that Virginia gave to every bona fide settler who built a log cabin and raised a crop of corn before 1778 a title to 400 acres of land and a pre-emption to an adjoining 1000 acres. Commissioners were appointed to give certificate of these “settlement rights.” In six months if no objection was offered, a patent was issued and the title was complete. Previous to this was a custom, not authorized in law, called “the tomahawk right.” A hunter would deaden a few trees around a spring and cut his name in the bark of others and then claim the land later on. Since the cost of the patent certificate was two shillings and six pence in addition to the cost of the settlement right of ten shillings per one hundred acres they may have had to wait until they had a crop or two in before they could file legally.


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