Croom Court Details
A Family Affair
Dying Without a Will and Its Implications 200 Years Later
In 1878 and again in 1880, a very sad and unfortunate thing happened: The Lenoir County (North Carolina) Courthouse burned and most of the very important records of early settlers, including the Crooms, of that region were lost. Many records reflected marriages, births, deaths and property transfers. Today, we must rely on the few records that survived the fire and information from other sources, such as the federal census, family bibles, scattered private documents, the state archives and other counties.
Over a period of several decades, Doris Croom Outlaw of Kinston, NC compiled information on the Croom families from many sources and in 1956 she published "The Croom Family." From her many charts and extensive notes, it seemed possible, though not likely, that my ancestor, (James?) Frederick Croom, was the ninth child of Major Croom and his wife Olief. My first observation was that the time-span between the reported births of the first and ninth child was pressing beyond the limits of normal childbearing years. In 1962, some new information came to the attention of Doris Croom Outlaw. Messrs. Frank Oliver Goodlett of Tupelo, MS and Bickham Christian of Shreveport, LA, after intensive investigation, determined that Major Croom had married a second time. They learned that several children, originally believed to have been the issue of Major and Olief, actually were issue of Major and his second wife Susannah. Susannah, a widow of Abraham Enloe who died about 1761, is alleged by some, but not this writer, to have been a daughter of Col. John Hardee and his wife Susannah Tyson of Pitt County. The principal evidence in the Goodlett-Christian investigation arises from a lawsuit filed in North Carolina and noticed in the RALEIGH REGISTER, October 19, 1809, p. 3, column 2:
It is apparent from the Notice that several brothers and sisters, either of whole or half-blood, petitioned the Court for a partitioning of the estate of Hardee Croom who died without a will. The evidence suggests that Hardee's wife had predeceased him sometime between the 1790 Census of North Carolina, Dobbs County, and sometime in November, 1807, the time of Hardee's death. They had no issue. When he died at 40 years of age, Hardee apparently was a wealthy planter. At the age of 23, the 1790 Census indicates that he and his wife had 41 slaves, an indication of an apparently good-sized plantation for a young man.
Susannah Hardee of Pitt County married Abraham Enloe and they had at least two children: Susannah Enloe who married Abraham Sheppard, and John Enloe, a captain in the Revolutionary War who died about 1785. (In a 1799 Lenoir County deposition, Susanna Croom stated that she had a daughter named Betsy, who was born in November 1755. Betsy may be a third child or a nickname for Susannah). After her husband Abraham Enloe died in 1760/61, Susannah married Major Croom, I, about 1764. Records fairly well confirm they were parents of the first three of the following listed sons. The fourth, (James?) Frederick, appears to me to rely on family lore. They are:
Susannah Enloe SHEPPARD, a party to the Petition, was a child of Susannah, as was Hardee CROOM, and therefore was a half-sister of the deceased Hardee CROOM. In his research papers, Mr. Christian stated that he believed the William CROOM mentioned in the Petition was the son of Joshua CROOM, the eldest son of Major CROOM and his first wife Olief. Joshua was an older half-brother of the deceased Hardee CROOM and deed records do suggest that William, the son of Joshua, actively purchased and later sold interests of several of the heirs to Hardee's estate.
From other records, we find these reported offspring of Major and his first wife Olief:
It is interesting to note that of all the brothers and sisters, either whole or half-blood, the only ones that I could determine to be living at the time of Hardee's death and the subsequent court filing, were whole-blood brothers William and the presumed (by some) James Frederick, and half-blood brothers, Major Jr. and Lott. And, of course, Susannah Enloe SHEPPARD, a half-sister of Hardee who was a party to the petition. Another alleged half-blood brother of Hardee was Asa who, according to family lore, was born to Major and Olief CROOM about 1757. The records are sparse concerning his exact date of birth, his whereabouts and the remaining events in his life. Some have speculated that he may have been a minister of some note in the Washington, DC, area during that period. My research, however, suggests that Asa CROOM was a son of Abel CROOM and therefore a half-uncle of the deceased Hardee. By 1809, it appears that this Asa was deceased.
In commenting on their investigative work and the Petition, Messrs. Goodlett and Christian do not mention a James Frederick as issue of Major CROOM and his second wife, Susannah. If indeed James Frederick was a son of Major I and Susannah, I can only surmise that he left home at an early age and did not maintain any contacts with those back in Lenoir County. He would have been between 2 and 7 years old when his father died. From a deposition given by Susannah on 1 Sep 1804, I assume that she died sometime after that and before October 1809 when the petition was filed. (James?) Frederick presumably was between 16 and 21 years of age in the fall of 1804. We do know that by 1812 Frederick CROOM was living as a young man in New Hanover County. Records reveal that he was a member of Nixon's Company, New Hanover County, in the War of 1812. New Hanover County tax records show him paying taxes in 1815. The Fourth Census, 1820 for New Hanover County, Vol. 6, p. 79 reveals the following for a Fred'k Croom: "3 free white males under 10; 1 free white male of 26 and under 45; 2 free white females under 10; 1 free white female of 26 and under 45. (1 engaged in agriculture; no slaves.)" This record is consistent with the known births of our Frederick's children. The Sixth Census, 1840, New Hanover County, Vol. 7, p. 40, further supports this identification of Frederick. The census records show that a "James Malpas (sic), age 88, pensioner for Revolutionary War or military," was living with the F. Croom family. A study of deed records reveals that Frederick lived on property previously recorded in the name of James Malpass. This strongly suggests that James MALPASS was the father of Frederick's wife, Rebecca MALPASS. Of further note, the same 1840 census, page 43, lists the following: "James F. Croom. (age 20-30), Lower Black River District; 4 in family; 5 slaves; 1 in agriculture." This profile fits what we know about James Frederick, Sr, son of Frederick Croom. Lastly, while the early CROOM families in eastern North Carolina list many members named Major, Abel and Jesse, no other names of Frederick appear in concurrent records.
Continuing the presumption that (James?) Frederick CROOM was a son of Major CROOM, I, it is possible that he maintained no ties to his kin back in the Kinston, Lenoir County area. His whole blood brothers were 12 to 18 years older than he and his half-brothers and half-sister were much older than that. With both of his parents deceased, it is quite likely that James Frederick, left home at an early age. As the census records indicate, he was living some distance away from Lenoir. It is possible in that time of limited communications that James Frederick had no knowledge of the Lenoir Court's proceedings pursuant to the petition for partitioning Hardee's lands. When the Court acted on the petition in 1810, Frederick was going on 27 years of age and lived some distance away in an area of New Hanover County that became Pender in 1875. In those days, 50 miles would have been considered a good distance. It is possible that he either did not learn of his standing as a potential heir to Hardee's lands or, for some unknown reason, elected not to participate. Deed records show that a William CROOM purchased most of the shares of the of the lands from other heirs of Hardee and parties to the petition. The records suggest that this William Croom was a son of Joshua, the deceased half-brother of the deceased Hardee Croom. No record has been found mentioning James Frederick CROOM, a purported full-blood brother, as sharing in the partitioning of Hardee's estate.
A MAJOR CONCERN
Contrary to long-held beliefs of many, I believe that (James?) Frederick was NOT the son of Major, I. It seems improbable to me that Frederick as a full brother to Hardee would not be mentioned as an heir. There does not appear to be any indication that he received any shared interest in the lands of the deceased Hardee Croom, son of Major Croom, I. It seems strange that (James?) Frederick would not have participated in the petition to partition the large estate of Hardee Croom, if he were a full-blood brother. Even if he were not present to signify as a party to the petition, he most certainly would have received his allotted share of Hardee's estate, assuming he was a full-blood brother. Court records reveal other parties to the estate division selling their respective shares. No such record has been found naming a James Frederick Croom or a Frederick Croom.
Major Croom, I, was a man of some standing and wealth in Dobbs County. His land holdings exceeded 12,000 acres. Tax and census records indicate that other sons of Major CROOM owned sizable estates, each at a relatively young age, an indication that Major had given each a good "head start." If Frederick were his youngest son, it seems incongruous that the young Frederick should have moved to New Hanover County and settled on a relatively modest farm of 150 acres acquired from his father-in-law.. As a young man and even later as a middle-aged adult, Frederick certainly was not as prosperous as were the proved sons of Major Croom back in Dobbs County.
By 1783, the earliest estimated date of James Frederick's birth, Major, I, was about 61 years of age and Susannah was about 50, generally considered to be reaching the end of childbearing age for a woman. Most records suggest Frederick Croom most likely was born as late as 1788, raising serious doubt that Susannah was his mother.
A study of the families of the sons and daughters of Major CROOM, I, exclusive of (James?) Frederick, reveals no children named James or Frederick. Similarly, a study of the names of the children of Frederick Croom of New Hanover County reveals few, if any, names that can be identified with other children and grandchildren of Major I. All of this seems quite out of character with the common practice during that age of naming children for siblings and ancestors.
Probably the most significant evidence—at least to me—questioning Frederick's alleged relationship to Major Croom, I, as a son, is the will of Richard CROOM, who was born in 1765 and died June 28, 1805. Richard definitely is known to be a son of this Major. In his will (Wayne County Records, Vol. I, 1776--1805, NC State Archives), Richard names his full brothers: Hardee and William. If (James?) Frederick also was a full-blood brother of Richard CROOM , it is indeed strange that Richard did not mention this brother who was a few years younger than he.
A VERY WEAK CASE FOR JAMES FREDERICK AS A SON of MAJOR CROOM, I
The only offsetting evidence I can find to the hypothesis that James Frederick was not the son of Major, I, son of Daniel, is my analysis of the First Federal Census of 1790. A Major Crooms, Sr. of Dobbs County is listed as having one male under sixteen. Some contend that the male less than 16 years of age was Frederick, his youngest son. This is wild speculation. By 1790 Susannah had grandchildren, possibly even great-grandchildren, from her first marriage. These and other family members make much more sense as likely candidates than assuming it is Frederick. A review of the census listings indicates that all of Major's sons are accounted for with the exception of an alleged son Asa, who reportedly left eastern North Carolina to find his fortune. (I found an ASA CROOM listed in Revolutionary War pay vouchers, but as indicated elsewhere on these pages I believe him to be a son of Abel). If the young male living in Major's household was not James Frederick, the most likely explanation is that a grandson was in the household, possibly one of Susannah's by her first marriage.
One piece of circumstantial evidence apparently was convincing enough for a descendant of Frederick CROOM to gain membership in the DAR on the assertion that Frederick was a son of Major CROOM, I, a Patriot in the Revolutionary War. On 18 Dec 1959, Ola Cobb BATSON, a great-granddaughter of Frederick, signed a notarized statement in which she set forth the basis of her claim that Frederick was a son of Major CROOM. At that time, Ola had just turned 64 years of age. Ola's mother, Alice Bailey CROOM, was 16 years of age in 1870. We know that Rebecca, wife of Frederick CROOM, was living in 1870 and undoubtedly she and her granddaughter Alice saw one another often, inasmuch as they lived near one another. Is it likely that Rebecca related to Alice and Alice in turn to Ola the names of the parents of (James?) Frederick CROOM? If we were to accept Ola's belief that her 2nd great-grandfather was named MAJOR CROOM, it would have been based on information received from her mother. Ola's Croom grandparents were deceased before she was born. Ola's mother possibly could have heard of MAJOR CROOM from her father and/or Rebecca CROOM, widow of Frederick CROOM. Frederick died the same year that Ola's mother, Alice Bailey, was born. This writer has seen all too many mistakes made in discerning ancestors of like names four generations removed not to believe that this very likely was the case here. Many times uncles with the same given name have been mistakenly assumed to be a direct ancestor. From all of my studies, I believe it quite possible that Ola may have been correct about MAJOR CROOM being her ancestor. Only she had the wrong MAJOR. I believe her ancestor, and mine was MAJOR ASA CROOM, son of ABEL CROOM.
How popular was the name MAJOR CROOM? At last count this writer had a total of sixteen males in his database named MAJOR CROOM. At least four of these were living concurrently in Dobbs and/or contiguous counties in North Carolina in the late 1700s. One of those, of course, was Major CROOM, I, the second son of Daniel CROOM of Virginia. Records suggest another MAJOR CROOM, son of Abel, and a nephew of Major CROOM, I, living in the same general area. As I set forth on this and other pages at this web site, MAJOR CROOM, son of Abel, is a stronger candidate as the likely father of Frederick CROOM than MAJOR CROOM, I, son of Daniel.
A few decades ago, the DAR instituted more stringent requirements of proof for membership. Given the higher standard of proof required today by the DAR, it does not appear likely that Ola's application if submitted today would reach that threshold. It is my judgment that Ola may have correctly identified her second great-grandfather as MAJOR CROOM, just the wrong MAJOR.
A CASE FOR FREDERICK CROOM AS A DESCENDANT OF ABEL CROOM
While it may be remotely possible that (James?) Frederick CROOM was a legitimate son of Major, I, and the grandson of Daniel CROOM, sufficient questions have been raised and additional facts have been found which lead me to believe that it is more likely that Frederick was a descendant of Abel, the older brother of Major CROOM, I. Possibly he was a son of an alleged son of Abel named Major CROOM. Family lore in some quarters has long maintained that Abel CROOM, the older brother of Major, I, had a son named Major. In his book, Blake Family of Eastern NC, Descendants of Henry Blake of Pender & Onslow, (2nd Edition, 1997, author Donald Blake states on page one that his oldest known ancestor, Dr. John BLAKE married Elizabeth "Becky" CROOM, born about 1767, the daughter of Major Asa CROOM of Crooms Bridge, New Hanover County, NC. Croomsbridge Road is still identifiable and is located in the upper northeast portion of what is now Pender County. The Croomsbridge road crosses the NE Cape Fear River from Pender into Duplin County. It is noteworthy that records reveal many known descendants of Abel CROOM settled in and around that area. Likewise, it should be noted that Frederick CROOM settled on land a short distance from Crooms Bridge in what is now Pender County. To date, I have found no known descendants of Major CROOM, I, who settled in that area.
According to Doris Croom Outlaw in The Croom Family, Major CROOM, I's older brother Abel possibly had a son named Major. A recent and intense study of 18th century land and court records in Johnston, Dobbs, Duplin and Wayne counties by Richard Booth and this writer has provided enough information for this writer to conclude that ABEL CROOM very likely had a son named Major. It appears likely that this son was named MAJOR ASA CROOM, the purported father of ELIZABETH "Becky" CROOM, who reportedly was born about 1767 and married Dr. John BLAKE. Doris Croom Outlaw's book states that Major, son of Abel, was the father of Timothy CROOM who was born in 1800. Timothy settled in the Rocky Point area of New Hanover County, not far from Frederick in the Piney Woods District. Jesse, another son of Abel and a brother to this presumed Major, settled in the same general area of New Hanover County. My research suggests that Timothy more likely was a grandson of Jesse, son of Abel. Additional research may confirm that Timothy more likely was a son of the illusive Major, son of Abel. If this were to be the case, then the father of Frederick CROOM might more likely be Major, son of Abel, as well. All of these connections seemingly pointing back to Abel CROOM seem to offer a plausible reason as to why Frederick happened to settle near the Moore's Creek area of New Hanover County, an area that became Pender County in 1875. Please refer to FREDERICK CROOM, my webpage at this web site, which provides the basis of my conclusions that Frederick Croom was a son of MAJOR ASA CROOM, a surrogate son of JOHN CROOM and a grandson of ABEL CROOM.
How popular was the name MAJOR CROOM? At last count this writer had a total of sixteen males in his database named MAJOR CROOM. At least four of these were living concurrently in Dobbs and/or contiguous counties in North Carolina in the late 1700s. One of those, of course, was Major CROOM, I, the second son of Daniel CROOM of Virginia. Records suggest another MAJOR CROOM, son of ABEL, and a nephew of MAJOR CROOM, I, living in the same general area.
In her book, The Croom Family, third printing 1978, Doris Croom Outlaw concluded her sub-section on the known descendants of Abel CROOM, son of Daniel, with these lines: "It is very probable that some of the things accredited to Major Croom, son of Daniel Croom, were the deeds of Major Croom, son of Abel, grandson of Daniel who made his will back in 1734." Continuing, she wrote: "This section is incomplete, but it is included with the hopes that it will help to create interest and will be used as a foundation for a more complete family record."
Indeed! Let's find more about this alleged son of Abel named Major. I think I have offered sufficient evidence that John Croom in the 1790 Stokes County census was not related to Jesse, son of Abel, as Doris Croom Outlaw speculated. Read my comments on my CROOM GENEALOGY page at this website John Croom of Stokes County as to how I discovered that John, son of Jesse CROOM, never went to Stokes County. There is a missing link begging to be proved. Much research remains to be done in properly discerning and establishing the respective issue of Abel CROOM and his brother, Major.
Circumstantially, FREDERICK CROOM appears to this writer to be a descendant of ABEL CROOM; however, in musing for possible reasons for FREDERICK CROOM's residency in New Hanover County, we know that during the period just prior to the Revolutionary War a number of individuals from South Carolina came north and settled in New Hanover County. Roger "King" MOORE and his brother Maurice came north leading the SC militia to help in fighting the Indians in the Tuscarawas War, thus introducing a number of young men in the militia to eastern North Carolina. Both MOORE brothers became owners of vast acreage in New Hanover County. Records reveal that a FREDERICK CROOME was a member of the South Carolina Militia in 1760 fighting Indians. Is it possible that this FREDERICK CROOME came to NC and was the father of our FREDERICK CROOM? I have found no other record of this militiaman and I have no idea what happened to him. To date this is the earliest CROOM that I have found with the given name Frederick. How strange these coincidences are!
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This page was last revised on 1 April 2009
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