Among the old British families whose members took their place amidst the pioneer residents of the Allegheny region was the family of Summerfields who show up in regional records beginning in 1771. This prolific family crossed the Allegheny Front in the first tide of settlement, and descendants of the pioneer ancestors now number in the thousands nationwide.
The family name of Summerfield goes back centuries in central England. The name, meaning literally "dwellers in the summer fields", shows up as Tamworth, near Birmingham, England in the 1500's. The name shows up in Virginia records during the first decade of the history of the colony, as in 1619 a Nicholas Summerfield ("Sumerfild") is listed in 'MUSTERS OF THE INHABITANTS IN VIRGINIA 1607-1675".(1) The first known evidence of Summerfields in the Allegheny region is in November of 1746, when one Francis Summerfield shows up in the records of Augusta County.(2) A Richard Summerfield from England shows up in the records of Botetourt County by the 1780's, at which time his wife was tried in court on suspicion of having tory sympathies, or sympathies for the cause of England rather than the United States in the Revolution.(3) None of these Summerfields, however, are known to have any relationship to the family with which this article is concerned.
The Summerfield family dealt herewith are descended from two brothers,(4) Thomas and Joseph Summerfield, who turn up in the records of Pendleton County beginning in 1771. While the European roots of these brothers have not been proven, we are indebted to Albert Summerfield of Seattle, Washington for our most likely and promising lead. It would appear that our Thomas and Joseph Summerfield were from Birmingham, England.
Throughout it's colonial history the United States, like Australia in later years, was among other things an English penal colony. The idea that the colonial labor force might be augmented by the emptying of English jails was advanced as early as 1606. During the period from 1614-1775 some 50,000 English persons were sentenced by legal process to forcible transportation to the Americas and neighboring areas, among these scores of petty criminals and hardened felons. The practice of deporting English convicts to America stopped after the American Revolution.(5)
Early in 1765, near Birmingham, England, a silk waistcoat was stolen from the possessions of one Thomas Phipson. Two brothers, Thomas and Joseph Summerfield, were arrested.(6) Thomas Summerfield gave a detailed deposition in which among other things he related that he was born in Birmingham, England, had been apprenticed as a buttonmaker at Birmingham but was a watch chain maker by occupation, had been twice in the King's service, and he told of being a witness to several petty crimes committed by one David Sorrel in London and Birmingham. Both being convicted, Thomas Summerfield asked the court to commute his sentence to transportation to the colonies in America for seven years. Joseph Summerfield asked that he be sentenced to be "burnt in the hand". While the actual transportation order lists only the name of Thomas Summerfield as transported, Coldhams "COMPLETE BOOK OF EMIGRANTS IN BONDAGE" lists both Thomas and Joseph as transportees.(7)
Six years after the above related English court proceedings, the names of the two Summerfield brothers, Thomas and Joseph, who were the ancestors of the Western Virginia Summerfields, begin to show up in the Virginia records. In December of 1771, Thomas Summerfield (actually "Sumervil") had a survey made for 33 acres of land on Skidmore's Mill Run of the South Branch of the Potomac, a few miles north of what is now Franklin, Pendleton County.(8) What he did with his rights to this property is not clear, as he is not listed in Simms Index as having actually perfected a patent for it. At the time the Summerfield survey was made another English family, the Wilmoths, were on Skidmore's Mill Run,(9) and when the Summerfields crossed the Alleghenies and settled on Western waters a few years later, it appears that they did so in company with the Wilmoths.
The name of Joseph Summerfield ("Summerville") appears in Virginia records by 1775(10) when he made an entry (a formal declaration of intent to acquire a patent) for 83 acres of land on the South Fork of the South Branch. As is the case with Thomas Summerfield's 33 acre survey, the final disposition of this property has not been determined.
Thomas and Joseph Summerfield both married by 1777. Morton's HISTORY OF PENDLETON COUNTY says that Thomas' wife was a Nelson, but no evidence has been found to support or even suggest this. Several years later Joseph Summerfield did in fact Mary Winnie Nelson, but the fact that she was still having children by John Lambert as late as 1812 indicates that she could not have been the woman who married Joseph Summerfield and gave birth to his daughter Elizabeth in the mid 1770's. So the identities of the Summerfield wives in 1777 are not known. This point is crucial to the family history of the descendants of David White who married the Elizabeth Summerfield just mentioned, as they do not trace their ancestry through Winnie Nelson.
Prior to 1778 Thomas and Joseph Summerfield crossed the mountains and made separate settlements on Western waters. Thomas Summerfield settled on the east side of Shavers Fork river at the mouth of what is now known as Rattlesnake Run of Lower Cheat in Leadsville District in Randolph County.(11) Several extant records tell of his settlement at that location. In March of 1781 Thomas Wilmoth was certified by the land commission as entitled to 400 acres on Cheat River as assignee of George Shaver and "near land claimed by Thomas Summerfield". This shows that George Shaver was the original settler on the Wilmoth tract and that Thomas Summerfield's settlement an Shaver's Fork was next door to the namesake of the stream.(12) In June of 1784 Thomas Wilmoth made an entry for 79 acres of land adjoining his settlement "on Shaver's Run (Fork) including Thomas Summerfield's improvement".(13) It is interesting to note that in the record just mentioned the original right to the property was in the name of Joseph Friend, showing that Summerfield settled on the land apparently without intention of perfecting title to it as the right was not in his name. Friend did actually survey the property in 1785 as a 100 acre tract(14) but it was actually granted to Thomas Wilmoth as a 77 acre tract in 1785, although it had been entered and surveyed for him as 79 acres.(15) The Friend survey refers to the site specifically as "Summerfield Bottom".
On the west side of Shaver's Fork, opposite Summerfield bottom, Summerfield Run flows into the river. This stream may well have been named for old Thomas Summerfield, although a Joseph Summerfield, a grandson of old Joseph, lived there in the 1850's. Proceeding up Summerfield Run and over Cheat Mountain, one comes to the headwaters of Stalnaker Run of Leading Creek. By that route the mouth of Stalnaker Run is about four miles from Sommerfeld bottom. Prior to 1778, one Moses Thompson from Pendleton County settled at the mouth of Stalnaker Run, near the present day Mountain State Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Thompson died in the summer of 1778, and Thomas and Joseph Summerfield are mentioned in his vendue bill.(16) Thompson's estate papers show him as a resident of Leading Creek in Tygart Valley, and they also indicate that at his death he still held the settlement right to his land at that location. At some point after Thompson's death, but before the land commission meeting in 1780, Joseph Summerfield had acquired Thompson's rights to his homeplace, and other properties in the immediate area.
Virginia law of the period provided that any person or persons who would settle themselves or their agents on unappropriated lands on western waters prior to 1 Jan 1778 were entitled to 400 acres of land to include their settlement. As was mentioned, Moses Thompson made such a settlement at the mouth of Stalnaker Run of Leading creek in the Tygart Valley. This settlement right included the bottom land at and around the mouth of that run, and extended east up the run a short .distance.(17) Just up Leading Creek from there, immediately northeast of Horse Run, Charles Cleaver had made another pre 1778 settlement.(18) Under the law the state was divided into districts and commissioners were appointed for each of these to settle claims made by settlers. At the meeting of the commissioners for 22 March 1780 at the home of John Crouch near present day Valley Bend and Mill Creek, West Virginia, Joseph Summerfield ("Somerfield") was granted certificates for two 400 acre settlement rights, one as assignee of Moses Thompson and one as assignee of Charles Cleaver, these being the settlement rights referred to above. Summerfield had apparently purchased the rights to those settlements from Thompson's heirs and from Charles Cleaver.(19) By November of 1780 Summerfield apparently had moved to that location, as his name appears as an "inhabitant of Tigers Valley" in the legislative petition of that date.(20)
It might be added that of the above settlement rights, the Cleaver tract turned out by actual survey to be 157 acres, and the Thompson tract surveyed for 277. At that time Stalnaker Run was known as Thompson Run. Just north of the Charles Cleaver tract, Benjamin Cleaver had made a pre 1788 settlement in the bottom opposite what is now Kerens, West Virginia. At the 1780 land commission meeting this tract was certified for Benjamin Hornbeck, showing that he had purchased the right to it from Benjamin Cleaver. The certificate shows that tract as "adjoining the land of Joseph Somerfield". Under the Virginia law of the time, after one made his entry for a tract of land, and after the same was certified (if need be) by the commissioners, the next step in acquiring a land grant was to have the property surveyed. Joseph Summerfield did not stay on the property long as Benjamin Hornbeck had purchased his rights by 28 December 1780, when he had the Thompson tract surveyed in his name.(21) Hornbeck eventually perfected his title to that tract, as well as both Cleaver tracts, and other lands in the vicinity. Not long after the above mentioned survey, the Leading Creek massacre, Randolph County's worst Indian raid, occurred, and Benjamin Hornbeck's entire family were killed. It is somewhat sobering to think that if Joseph Summerfield had stayed on that tract he may have been killed in the same raid, and the thousands of his descendants alive today may have been wiped out of existence.
Among the other tracts in the vicinity that Hornbeck perfected title to was a 100 acre tract south of the Thompson place (but not immediately south), on the site of the little restaurant built by Lensie Paugh in the 1980's, just under half a mile north of where Route 219 crosses Leading Creek today. This tract was entered by Cornelius Westfall in 1784 on behalf of Issac Westfall. The 1784 entry was for 300 acres, and it calls for land on "both sides of Summervile Run", showing that the little stream at that location had been named for Joseph Summerfield.(22)
During the various land dealings just discussed, it appears that Thomas Summerfield had moved back across the Alleghenies and was living somewhere on the South Branch. In November of 1779 he was paid out of the estate of Michael Mallow.(23) Morton tells us that in 1779 he served in Captain Hull's Company of Augusta County militia.(24) About 1786 he moved back across the mountains to the site of what is now Job, West Virginia in Randolph County. He still maintained an association with the Lower cheat area and the Wilmoth family as in 1790 William Blair made an entry for Thomas Summerfield for 63 acres on John Wilmoth's Run, east side of Cheat River, this being the run above Rattlesnake Run and "Summerfield Bottom". Summerfield assigned his rights to that property to Nicholas Wilmoth and Wilmoth perfected the title.(25)
Joseph Summerfield also moved back east of the Alleghenies, as in 1783 he turns up in court in Rockingham County (of which Pendleton County was then a part) and asked the court to be made "levy free" (not liable for taxation) as he was "ancient, sickly, infirm, and unable to work"(26) While this item postdates 1780 and therefore is beyond the scope of this writing, it may tell us something about Joseph Summerfield's date of birth. If he were "ancient" in 1783, it would not be unreasonable to assume he was over 50, and born prior to 1733. If he and his brother Thomas were the brothers Thomas and Joseph Summerfield deported from England in 1765, then they must have been in their 30's by that time. This would seem to fit with the English Thomas' deposition that he had done two tours in the military prior to 1765. In the same Rockingham County record it states that Joseph Summerfield's hand had been shot off, and this also may tell us something about him before 1780, although the date of this occurrence is not known. Akron, Ohio genealogist and Summerfield descendant Jeff Carr has suggested that this may be in some way connected with the fact that the English Joseph Summerfield was "burned in the hand" in 1765 (see above).
Virginia Thomas and Joseph Summerfield lived out their lives in the shadow of the Allegheny Mountain range. Of the descendants of these brothers alive today, the majority, at least in the Allegheny Mountain region, are descendants of Joseph. He has descendants named both Summerfield and Lambert, due to his second wife's relationship with John Lambert after her divorce from Joseph Summerfield.(27) The history of these people even up to the death of Thomas and Joseph could fill a number of articles the size of this one. What is presented here is not an effort to provide a complete history of these families even up to 1780, but rather an effort to present some lesser known facts pertinent to our history in a readable format, to see to the preservation of such material. Additions and corrections to this material are welcome as the research is continuing, and these should be addressed to the author at P.O. Box 1933, Elkins, WV 26241.
The Allegheny Regional Family History Society