John Jordan’s Marriage Controversy

John Jordan‘s first marriage has been the subject of some controversy since the Greenbrier Historical Society first began making copies of original marriage bonds available for research. Before that time, family historians had accepted that John had been married to a lady named Catherine Blair. Instead, the newly available marriage bonds provided pretty conclusive evidence that his first wife had more likely been Elizabeth Newman, probably the sister of Leroy Newman Junior who had married John Jordan’s sister Sarah the previous December. Indeed, the documentary evidence supporting John’s marriage to Elizabeth Newman is substantial.

Marriage Records

Greenbrier County records show two marriages in the 1790s with grooms named John Jordan. The first took place on January 22, 1795 between John Jordan and Catherine Blair, daughter of William Blair.  Their marriage bond included a statement from Catherine’s father giving his permission–indicating that Catherine was under age at the time–while John signed the marriage bond in his own right.[1]

Three years later on October 17, 1798, John Jordan married Elizabeth Newman. Again, John Jordan signed the marriage bond, but this time the document was accompanied by a note signed by James Jordan Senstating, “I hereby certify that my son John is twenty one years of age–given under my hand and seal this 15th day of October 1798.” The note was witnessed by Leroy Newman, who also signed for the bond.[2]

It would have made sense to see a note appended to the first marriage bond in 1795, for John was probably under the legal age at the time (21 for males in Virginia). But having the note attached instead to the second bond (in 1798) strongly suggests that James Jordan‘s son was not the groom in the 1795 marriage–there would have been no need to acknowledge that John was of legal age if he had already been married three years before.

The obvious conclusion is that these two marriages involved different John Jordans.

Tax Records

Greenbrier County Personal Property Tax lists from the 1790s do not show a head of household named John Jordan, but do show one tithe (male over 16) attached to James Jordan Senior from 1795 to 1798. This would be consistent with an unmarried son living in his father’s household; and John would be the likely candidate, since his two elder brothers were counted in the tax lists in their own rights.

The absence of any Greenbrier tax records in John Jordan‘s name also indicates that John, the son of James Jordan, did not set up house on his own until after the 1798 tax list was compiled in the Spring. This, again, is consistent with his not getting married until October 1798.

Shortly after his marriage and before 1799 tax lists were made up, the Jordans moved to the Mud River area of Kanawha (later Cabell) County. John can be found as head of his own household in the first Kanawha tax listing available (1801).

Land Records

On April 15, 1821, John Jordan signed part of the land where he lived over to William Newman Jordan. It was not uncommon in those days for a father to give his eldest son part or all of the family farm when he had attained legal age–see William Jordan (John’s brother) who gave his home to his eldest son James only to take it back again some years later so he could sell it and move to Indiana. Given the other evidence above, it’s not much of a leap to conclude that William Newman Jordan was given his mother’s family name–that his mother was Elizabeth Newman.[3]

So who was the other John Jordan?

The John Jordan who married Catherine Blair in 1795 may have been the John Jordon who bought 73 acres in Greenbrier in 1794 (a year before the marriage). Since he cannot be found in the Greenbrier County Personal Property Tax (PPT) lists of 1794 and 1795, he may not have resided in the county or may have just been “passing through.” This John was living in Bath County, Virginia, in February of 1800 when he sold his Greenbrier land.[4]


1 Greenbrier County Record of Marriage, 1780-1849, West Virginia State Archives, Charleston, WV. The Greenbrier Historical Society, Inc. holds the original marriage bonds.
2 Ibid.
3 Cabell County Deed Book 3, p387.
4 Greenbrier County Deed Book 1, p371; and Deed Book 2, p188; as abstacted by Larry Shuck, Greenbrier County Virginia Deeds & Wills 1777-1833 (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1992).