William Bourne and Rosamond Jones
of Grayson County, Virginia

Rosamond Jones and William Bourne were early settlers of Grayson County, Virginia. Rosa was born in 1750 and grew up on a large land grant near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Her parents were Thomas and Bette Jones. She had a sister Naomi and three brothers, Minetree Jones Sr., Thomas, and Daniel. Some family researchers believe Bette's maiden name may have been Minetree.

William was born in 1743 to Stephen and Hanna Bourne of Louisa County, Virginia. William and his brothers Stephen and John - also Grayson pioneers - grew up on the 300 acre land grant obtained by their grandfather, William Bourne II, in 1719. The text of this grant, which appears in the Cutchshaw book (see below), was signed by Alexander Spottswood, the Lieutenant Governor of the Virginia Colony. The property can be found today at the intersections of highways 611 and 635 at the southern tip of Louisa County near the Hanover border.

William and Rosa were married in about 1765, when he was 22 years old, and she was just 15. Tax records show that they remained in Louisa County for at least the first ten years of their marriage.(1)

In 1768 the Iroquois Nation signed a treaty with King George III abandoning all their claims to the Virginia Territory south of the Ohio River and west of the Cumberland mountains, making this area available for white settlement. Sometime before 1782 William and Rosa received a land grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia and left their colonial home for the unsettled territory in southwest Virginia. The Bournes were among many settlers who selected land along the tributaries of the New River which was rich with vegetation for their stock.

Most of the Bourne's 250 mile journey to their new home involved crossing the vast Piedmont Plateau. They were able to do this by wagon, but at Fort Chisel they had to transfer all of their household goods to pack horses to cross the Iron Mountains. When they reached their land grant, they chose a homesite on the Knob Fork of Elk Creek, near where it empties into the New River. They joined eight other families who had already settled in the region.

Having to travel as they did, it seems unlikely that they were able to bring much in the way of household goods, but the Bournes managed to pack what must have been their prize possession - a large grandfather clock made in Boston by Aaron Willard of Common House Clocks. Made of mahogany with rosewood inlays, it stood at over 8 feet 3 inches. The fittings were of brass including the key in the shape of a Z. It was wound every eight days and showed the phases of the moon, as well as telling the time. It was Grayson County's first clock, and some years later served as a model for a local clockmaker. It now resides with a Bourne descendant in Tennessee.

When William and Rosa arrived in the New River country they built a cabin and other temporary buildings and cleared out the best portion of the land for farming. They were so isolated that there was little or no trade, so they would have grown their own grains, vegetables, and fruit, and their meat would have come from whatever game they found in the surrounding forest. They would have worn homespun clothing made from wool, cotton or flax, and worn shoes or moccasins from the leather they likely tanned themselves.

Early on William took an interest in local government and was among those who successfully lobbied the Virginia State Legislature to create Grayson County from Wythe County in 1792. The county was named for William Grayson, one of the first senators of Virginia.

The first Grayson County Court was held in the Bourne barn on May 21, 1793. Later court records of that year mention the court sitting in "Rosa's cabin." William was elected Clerk of the Court, a position he held for 17 years. Some time later other relatives were also appointed to important posts. Shadrack Greer became a Justice of the Peace, and Major Minetree Jones became a Magistrate.

One of the Bourne's enterprises included turning their family home into an inn. On 24, 1794 the Grayson County Court fixed these rates to be observed by their establishment and all other "Ordinary Houses."

A breakfast with coffee
Ditto Without Coffee
Dinner Warm, if good
Lodging Clean for 1 in bed
2 in bed
More than 2 in bed
West India rum per half-pint
Gin per Do.
Whiskey per Do.
Good Beer per Do.
Small Beer

It appears that lodging was quite affordable, if you were willing to eat cold food, drink small beers, and share a bed with strangers.

The Bournes must have done well with their farm and inn, because William later went into partnership with his son William Bourne III, and bought 100 acres of property that included the Point Hope Furnace and Forge, a gristmill, a sawmill and yards, barns, stables, gardens, and houses. The old Point Hope Furnace, which sat at the falls on Peach Bottom Creek, was Grayson County's first industry and had been used to process iron ore since before the Revolutionary War.

William further involved himself in politics becoming a member of the Virginia legislature which required yearly trips to Richmond. On one of these trips he attended a slave auction and bought a woman and little girl, apparently a mother and child. The woman's name was Granny Beck and the child's Aimy. In his book, Nuckolls briefly recounts Aimy's story of her kidnaping in Africa and subsequent trip to America on a sailing ship.

Granny Beck was put to work tending the cattle on the range and Aimy was the house girl, waiting on her "master and mistress" as long as they lived. According to Nuckolls, William gave Aimy her freedom in his will stating, "Aimy has been a faithful, good servant and has raised for me 18 children. She is not to be sold or taken in, in the divide." Nuckolls adds, "With his children she should be free to go where she pleased."

There has been some debate among the descendants about where Nuckolls' obtained this information. The will, as recorded in the courthouse at Independence, does not contain the above passage. Instead, each of the Bourne children is given two slaves and their progeny, in addition to $500. While we may never know if these slave children were, in fact, William's progeny, it certainly wasn't unusual for slave-owners, and often their sons, to have fathered the children of their slaves.

After William and Rosa's deaths, Aimy went to Old Town to live with Mary Dickenson who owned her daughter Mourning. When Mary died, she went to Elk Creek to the home of Francis Hale who owned Winny, another of her daughters. Aimy died there and was buried in the Hale family cemetery.

Rosa was reputed to have been treated their slaves with relative kindness. Nuckolls writes, "She was their doctor when sick, their comfort in trouble . . . She was also helpful to her friends and neighbors and would go to them in their time of need."

Nuckolls recounts this story which reveals much about Rosa's character. Each fall William and several of his men trekked "over the hollow" to the nearest mill in North Carolina to have their corn ground into meal for their bread. They carried the grain in sacks on their horses, following an old Indian trail through the Blue Ridge Mountains. One year a deep snow kept them from returning home before the family's food supply ran out. Rosa took matters in hand and, early one morning, roused one of her slaves saying, "We must hunt for something to eat."

Armed with a rifle and butcher knife, they hiked into the forest looking for prey. They soon found a large deer sleeping in the snow under a tree. Rosa raised her gun and fired, but missed. The startled deer jumped up and struck its head against a limb, breaking its neck. The slave ran and cut the deer's throat, and they drug the large animal back to the house through the snow. The family fed well on venison and hominy while they waited for the men to return with the corn meal.

William and Rosa had nine children, who raised large families of their own, and lived to be quite elderly. The daughters were all widowed at about the same time and apparently chose not to remarry. They were said, by Nuckolls, to have managed their estates well. The Bourne children were:

Jonathon Thomas
Jessie McKinney
John Blair
Stephen G.
Patsy Mays
Martin Dickinson
Lewis Hale
Steven Hale, Sr.
Robert Johnstone
William, Jr.
Mary Johnstone

Our line descends through their daughter Patience Bourne Thomas.(2) In the spring of 1852 she wrote to her daughter, Elizabeth Cox, about wanting to pay a visit. At the age of 82, she seems undaunted by the thought of a two-day hike to reach them, but was somewhat reluctant to "waid the waters" of New River during the rainy season.

Dear children,

I drop you a line which will inform you that I am in good health as I have been in some time. I believe better my cough has not hurt me much since I left your house. I do not know when I shall come unless you come after me or send some word that you want me to come down. I wish you to write often and let me know how you all are getting along and perticklur how Betty is. I have nothing of interest to write at present. I should like to see you all very much if I could conveniently do so. I believe I could walk down in a bout two days but I would not like to waid the waters at this season of the year. Well I must bring my letter to a close by ascribing myself your affectionate Mother till death.

Patience Thomas

In 1836 the Bournes sold their large estate on Knob Fork to A.M. Young of Iredell County, North Carolina. The original estate was subdivided and sold to more settlers during the early 19th century.

William and Rosa lived on Knob Fork for over 40 years and are buried where they built their first house. Their graves are marked with large tombstones made of soapstone by their son-in-law John Blair. He wrote the inscription for Rosa's tombstone which reads:

Here Rosa Bourne's body laid
of whom in truth no harm was said
Her Sovereign will was much obeyed
While here with us on Earth she Stayed
Because that her deportment made
through perfect love, all feel afraid.

The Man who wrote these lines to tell
of her character knew her well
He put these lines upon the Stone
To make it to the readers Known,
That they like her may do the same,
In order to obtain a name
And to perpetuate their fame.


1. An unpleasant footnote in the story of the Bournes was their involvement in slavery. The 1775 Louisa County tax records list William and his brother Stephen as "patrollers," or those who scouted the region looking for runaway slaves. Stephen gained the nickname "Devil Steve" from his work in the slave trade, and his willingness to beat his own slaves, as well as the slaves of others settlers who didn't have the stomach for the "task."

2. Another slave story passed down through the generations has one of our great grandmothers with "several sisters who were all widowed" upsetting her "mammy" by marrying a man she deemed "white trash." It seems likely that subject of this story was Patience Bourne who, at 16, was the first of the Bourne chldren to leave home when she married Revolutionary War veteran Jonathan Thomas.


Everyday Life in Early America by David Hawke, Harper and Ross, New York, 1989.

Grayson County: A History in Words and Pictures by Betty-Lou Fields and Jene Hughs.Grayson County Historical Society, P.O. Box 529, Independence, VA. 24348-0529, 1976.

Pioneer Settlers of Grayson County, Virginia by Benjamin Floyd Nuckolls, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1001 North Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21202-3897, 1982.

Stephen Bourn and Rosamond Mallory: Descendants-Related Families 1650-1982 by Lura Cutchshaw. Grayson County Historical Society, P.O. Box 529, Independence, VA. 24348-0529, 1982.

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