Our Francis Wilks (ca1700-1783), Immigrant Ancestor


Francis Wilks of Plumstead Twp., Bucks Co., PA ("whereon he has been two years settled"), obtained a grant from a son of William Penn to be surveyed, dated 20 Dec 1735, for £30, 20 shillings, plus 1½ penny Sterling per acre annual Quit Rent. We have no record of his selling the land when he moved to Virginia.


 From a copy of the original, courtesy of Arlene Johnson Marble, descendant of Peyton Wilks

Yorkshire wills and other documents twenty years ago led me to believe our immigrant ancestor was the Francis Wilks born in London 14 Jan 1699/0 (old style calendar), St. Mary's, Whitechapel, to Francis Wilks and wife Susannah Foster, who married 2 May 1696 in St. James, Dukes Place, Westminster, London. Francis, the father, was baptized in 1679 at Panall, Yorkshire, the son of a Francis Wilks born 1640. The Palace of St. James, a Royal residence in Westminster, is inside the ancient Roman-built one-square-mile stone wall enclosing the heart of London, including Westminster Abbey and its Big Ben clock tower. Francis the father, "widower," remarried on 26 Jul 1718 at St. James, London, to Catherine Williams, spinster, at St. James, Westminster.

The most common Wilks given name in Yorkshire was Francis.

Francis our immigrant (ca1700) had a cousin named Francis Wilks born 1696 who was a London merchant and Agent for New England, a distinguished member of the family, who wrote his will in London in June 1741. It was proven in court in July 1742. A member of St. Dionisis Backchurch Parish of London, Francis was a merchant, former Director of the South Sea Company and Agent for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Agent for New England, often mentioned in London records. He bequeathed his "manor of Rigton" to his nephew, Robert Wilkes, and left £50 to "my kinsman Francis Wilkes." He made his sister Susannah Harris his sole executrix. Four codicils gave instructions for burying his body at Hackney Churchyard, and removal of his wife's body from a vault in Bunhill Fields (burial ground for Dissenters) to lie near him, "My deceased wife who was buried in Bunhill Fields may be taken up and put in the place near me as she often mentioned in her life." The will did not mention his wife's name. He died without a male heir.

Francis, age 35 of St. Dionis Backchurch, London, and Mary Jeffries, age 26 of St. Andrews, Holborn, London, married 6 Apr 1731 in the Chapel for Gray's Inn (the law court of London). Mary "the wife of Francis Wilks, Esq., ," died in childbed 1732 in Pennsylvania. Because Francis was 35 at marriage in 1731, he was born ca1696 when he who died in 1742, clearly he was NOT the child Francis born 1699/0 in London to Francis Wilks and Susannah Foster.

In 1732 the Gentleman's Magazine of London reported Mrs. Mary Wilks, wife of Francis, to have died in childbed. It is unlikely the Mrs. Wilks of New England was the wife of Francis the merchant of London and that he sent her body home for burial, although some genealogists assumed, and I said in Wilks & Young Families, 1984 (p. 228) that the Mrs. Wilks dead in Philadelphia was Mary Jeffries, wife of the Francis Wilks, merchant and Agent for New England, who wrote his will in London 1741.

The two cousins, Francis our forebear born 1699/70, and Francis his cousin Francis, merchant, were sons of Robert and Francis Wilks, the older and younger sons of George Wilks of Rigby, Kirkby Overblow. Both Francises had connections to "New England," since our immigrant Francis probably landed at the Port of Philadelphia, not a considerable distance from where he settled on a land patent in Bucks Co., PA.

The obituary of another Mrs. Francis Wilks of New England appeared 27 Apr 1732 in a Philadelphia newspaper. We can assume she was the first wife of our immigrant ancestor Francis born 1699/0, and therefore the mother of John Wilks, Sr.

Our ancestor Francis Wilks (ca1700-1683) was no doubt encouraged by "his kinsman" Francis (died 1742) to go from England to Pennsylvania, where he procured land from M. O. Penn in Bucks County in 1734. Earlier, William Penn attended the Falls Friends Meeting in Bucks Co., PA.


Francis Wilks (ca1700-1783) in Loudoun Co., VA

In 1735, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Baron, inherited and became Proprietor of the vast Northern Neck of Virginia, the land between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, some five million acres, including Loudoun County.

In 1739 Francis moved SW from Bucks Co., PA, to the portion of Fairfax Co., VA, which came out of Prince William Co. and became Loudoun Co. There in 1741 he had a Northern Neck Grant surveyed by Amos Janney for 250 ac. on a drain of Goose creek at Kittockton Mountain.

Northern Neck Grants, Patent Book E, pp. 384, 400, at Library of Virginia, Richmond 

 "The Right Honorable Thomas Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron in that part of Great Britain called Scotland Proprietor of the Northern Neck of Virginia: To all whom this present Writing shall come Sends Greetings. Know ye that for good causes and in consideration of the Composition for my Use paid And for the annual Rent hereafter Reserved I have given granted and Confirmed And by these presents for Me my Heirs and Assigns do Give Grant and Confirm unto FRANCIS WILKS late of Pensilvania one certain tract of waste Land situate in the Co. of Prince William and bounded as by a Survey thereof made by Mr. Amos Janney pursuant to a Warrant to him divided as followeth . . . Goose Creek near some Rocks being a corner of Mr. George Atwood's Tract . . . line of Joseph Janney . . . Containing 250 acres Together with all Rights Members and appurtenances thereunto belonging Royal Mines excepted and a full third Part of all Lead Copper Tinn Coals Iron Mines and Iron Ore that shall be found thereon . . . yielding and Paying to Me . . . Yearly and every year on the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel the Fee Rent of one shilling sterling money for every Fifty Acres of Land hereby Granted . . . 30 Nov in the 15th year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second by the Grace of God Britain France & Ireland King Defender of the Faith etc. AD 1741."

Click pix to see larger Patent image



Goose Creek runs into the Potomac River about 30 miles NW of Washington, DC. Goose Creek is a main source of drinking water to both Fairfax City and Loudoun County. It starts in the Blue Ridge Mountains and travels 45 miles through Fauquier and Loudoun before emptying into the Potomac. Since Kitockton Mountain is mentioned in the grant (now spelled Catoctin), Francis Wilks's land was east of Goose Creek. Edward's ferry on the Potomac at Goose Creek is one of several ferries seen on this old map. White's ferry across the Potomac still operates today.





Like the Wilks manor at Rigston, Yorkshire, the Northern Neck Grant from Lord Fairfax to Francis Wilks was a leasehold. Such grants were actually given by Lease, with a small annual rent or Quit Rent to be paid the Proprietor or Lord. The leasehold could be passed to heirs, but the land itself could not. When the leaseholder gave up the property, it was by a document called Release, because Lord Fairfax still owned the land.

Francis Wilks, William and Samuel Mead, and other neighbors from Bucks Co. moved to the area in its early days. "Loudoun County was formed from Fairfax County, which was primarily Truro Parish, in 1757. In October 1748, Truro was divided at Difficult Run and the upper part became Cameron Parish. When Loudoun was created, its boundaries were essentially those of Cameron Parish ~ the Potomac River on the north; Prince William County (which later became Fauquier) on the south; Difficult Run on the east; and the Blue Ridge Mountains on the west. Shelburne Parish was created in 1770 from the western part of Cameron and included, generally, the land west of Goose Creek running to the Blue Ridge" (Marriages of Loudoun County, 1757-1853, by Mary Alice Wertz).

In 1662 the Virginia Assembly required counties to appoint surveyors to lay out the most convenient ways to Church, Court, James Towne, and from County to County, but improvement was delayed until the withdrawal of Native Americans after the Treaty of Albany was signed in 1722.

In 1749 Francis Wilks was granted a bounty of 500 lbs. tobacco for one old wolf and 8 young ones.

In the French and Indian (Seven Years') War, 700 British and American soldiers fighting throughout April 1755 trekked through what is now Loudoun County toward Fort Duquesne, PA, hoping to drive the French and allied Indians from their forts in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes. They were the first large contingent of troops ever seen in the Virginia Piedmont. They were hoping to avenge the defeat of 22-year-old Col. George Washington at Fort Necessity, PA, in July 1754. They were joined by a second force of about 700 marched west through Maryland. They were ambushed, defeated, and the overall commander, British Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock was killed.

A wooden stockade was built at Leesburg to enclose the first court house, and Francis Wilks of Loudoun Co. served in the militia in 1758 (Act of Virginia Assembly to pay arrears to "forces in the pay of this Colony", in Statutues of Virginia, Legislative Enactments, An Act of Assembly, State of Virginia; by Hening (Vol. 7, p. 26).

It was not until Feb 1763 that the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War. In the meantime, land prices and sales plummeted in western Loudoun, many expected Indian attacks, and some settlers left their farms for safer regions of Tidewater Virginia.

No relationship is known of our Wilks/Wilkes Family to another large Virginia Family by the same name


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