Michael Brake

One of the genealogical enigmas of the last 50 years has been the 1820 census listing for Michael Brake in Hardy County, (now) West Virginia. Michael was living at "Brake" on the South Fork where his father had operated a mill in the 1700's, which was the site of the famous "Claypole Rebellion" of so called "Tories", an uprising in protest of high taxes levied by the Revolutionary Government. Michael Brake's 1820 census listing includes marks for several persons beyond his known family, and it is hoped that the following will shed some light on this troublesome census listing.

Some family group sheets have circulated that attempted to assign Brake identities to a number of the persons in Michael's 1820 listing. Some have suggested that perhaps two Brakes married in Rockingham County, Virginia were Michael's children. This situation was complicated for me by the fact that until recently I had been unable to prove for certain just how many children Michael had. But on a recent trip to Moorefield Courthouse I read a most interesting Chancery File, Brake vs See, and that file alone I feel has clarified the 1820 Michael Brake census listing as well as proven the number and identity of Michael Brake's children.

Testimony in Brake vs See gives many, many day to day details about the goings on at the Brake Mill. It seems to have been quite a little village. Michael had a blacksmith shop ran by his slave man Isaac, who after emancipation took the name Isaac Kent. There was a carpenter shop where they made coffins and bedsteads. A saw and grist mill ran full time. People seem to have drifted in and out, hanging around, living for a time, working on the place. At least one by marriage relative of the Brakes had an illegitimate child raised there. Mary Ann Radcliff's chickens had to be chased out of the corn, and a still was in operation making liquor from the fruits grown on the place. Yes, this was a small village, later a post office. These details are all to be found in the file above mentioned, as well as testimony that Leonard Brake had three children who died in infancy, giving us identities for three of the unknown burials in the cemetery there.

It is clear from Brake vs See that Michael Brake was in the habit of taking in orphans. Nimrod Thorn testified that he had lived for several years with the family of Michael Brake, having gone there when about twelve years of age. George S. Brake, grandson of Michael, testified that Michael had raised a child that Nimrod See had prior to his marriage to Magdalen Brake. George Brake also was asked whether Michael Brake had a large and expensive family, and he replied that he did not think that his grandfather's family was expensive, and that Michael Brake "bought more for children out that way than he did for his own family". Clearly the Brake Mill was a little village populated in part by orphan children, by transient laborers, by unfortunate urchins who lived under the generosity of Michael Brake. The 1820 csnsus listings should be clarified to a great extent by the above information.

Testimony by several family members in Brake vs See clearly proves that Michael Brake had only three children of his own, these being Leonard, Magdalen, and Elizabeth in that order. A follow up on these in later census records gives us their ages, and allows us to assign them to slots in the census 1820 - 1840 census listings. Also, recent developments in the search for the roots of Elizabeth Brake who married Edward Moneypennny in Lewis County seem to indicate that she was from Hardy County, rather than the West Fork, and that she appears to have came to Lewis County in 1825 with William Radcliff, who until that time had been a resident of Brake Run in Hardy County. This new theoretical information on her may suggest that she is one of the listings. Probable guesses can be made regarding other persons in the 1820 listings.

What follows is a charted summary of the 1820, 1830, and 1840 Hardy County Census listing for Michael Brake. Each person listed is aligned with the corresponding slot in the later listings, and each is assigned a number. The 1820 listing has been particularly troublesome to students of the Brake family history as there seem to be several persons not related living in the household. Following the chart is an explanation or theoretical explanation of each listing given after it's respective number.

1820 1830 1840
(1) male 1775-94 male 1770-80 female 1770-80
(2) male 1775-94 gone gone
(3) female 1775-94 female 1770-80 gone
(4) male 1775-94 gone gone
(5) male 1794-04 gone gone
(6) male 1794-04 gone gone
(7) female 1804-10 gone gone
(8) female 1804-10 gone gone
(9) male 1804-10 gone gone
(10) female 1810-20 female 1810-15 gone
(11) ------------ female 1825-30 female 1825-30
(12) female 1790-00
(Convert to Table later)

(1) MICHAEL BRAKE born 1779 as per later census

(2) ?probably as farmhand, probbably born closer to 1794 than 1775

(3) ELIZABETH BRAKE, wife of Michael Brake. Thought to have died in the 1830's

(4) LEONARD BRAKE, son of Michael, born per census and tombstone info 1804.

(5) - (6) ?probably farmhands, as above?

(7) MAGDALEN BRAKE, Michael's daughter. Born c 1806-07 as testimony in Brake vs See shows that her birth was between those of Leonard and Elizabeth.

(8) ? ELIZABETH BRAKE ?, parents unknown. This may be the Elizabeth Brake who married Ed Moneypenny in Lewis County in 1832. Assigned here as a guess, as she seems to have came to County in 1825 with William Radcliff, when he moved his family west from Brake Run, Hardy County. This is a suggested assignment and NOT PROVEN, but the age is right, and the disappearance from the Michael Brake listing by 1830 fits with an 1825 removal to Lewis County.

(9) ?a sixteen year old farm hand or other orphan?

(10) ELIZABETH BRAKE, Michael's youngest child. Marriage to Jacob B. Simon in 1832 accounts for her being gone from the 1840 listing. Born 1810 as per later census.

(11) NIMROD SEE'S illegitimate daughter. Raised by Michael Brake as per testimony in Brake vs See

(12) unknown female, ?possible Mary Ann Radcliff?. Mary Ann was an apparent unmarried girl of William Radcliff's family who made a purchase in her own right at the estate sale of Baron Jacob Brake in 1809. Her connection to William not clear, but she was still in the area of the Brake farm in the 1830's according to testimony in Brake vs See that her chickens had to be chased out of Michael Brake's corn crop.

It his hoped that the above will be taken in the spirit it is intended, that of speculation and study. The definite listings are shown as definite, with reasons given, and the others are admittedly speculation. It cannot be said with certainty that the guesses made for numbers eight and twelve are correct, but they are based on some circumstantial evidence.

The Brake family is still cursed with a number of members whose placement on the proper branch of the family tree is impossible. #8 Elizabeth above is one. While all of her documented life was lived on the West Fork River in Lewis County, research has eliminated nearly EVERY Brake over there as her possible parents. The sole exception being Jacob B. Brake, son of John. But she is not with any of the West Fork Brakes in any early census. The fact that she first appears in Lewis County the same year William Radcliff moved there, the fact that she named her first two kids after Radcliffs, and the fact that she testified in court that she gave birth to her third child at William Radcliffs has led this writer, her 3X great grandson, to look in Hardy County for her roots, hence the hypothetical assignment above.

Another unknown in the Brake family is Catherine, born about 1802 (just two years before Elizabeth) and bound by the court of Pendleton County to William Dyer in 1812. Nothing further is known of this Catherine for certain. Yet another is Fanny, who married in Licking County, Ohio in 1823. Licking County was the home of Abraham Brake from Hardy County, possibly a nephew of Michael. Abraham presents yet another unknown in the Brake history, at least one with parentage unproven.

Finally James Brake has given researchers some trouble. He married apparently in Hardy County about 1818, and in 1820 named a son Nimrod See Brake, suggesting a close tie to Michael Brake's family. He was a witness to the will of John Rohrbaugh there, and moved to what is now Peck Run, Upshur County, being listed in the tax lists of Lewis County in 1823, and 1824. Testimony in Chancery File 12 case 19 at the Harrison County Circuit Clerk's office shows that James Brake rented a farm at Peck's Run from Jacob B. Brake mentioned above, and that at the time Jacob B. was manager of the Salt Works at Clarksburg. The same chancery record shows that James Brake was killed by the fall of a tree in 1825. James Brake and Licking County Abraham Brake have been assigned by some as sons of Isaac Brake, Michael's brother, but no document has been presented to prove the connection for either. The search continues.

Comments regarding this page to: Deborah Johnson.