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Works Project Administration – Articles from Rockingham County


Silas Hart.

Named first in order of the list of the Justices commissioned for the organization of Rockingham County,
thus becoming the chairman or presiding justice of the court. Some years before he had been a member of the
court and also High Sheriff of Augusta County.

For the purpose of organization he was commissioned Sheriff, with Gabriel Jones and Robert Cravens as his
sureties. Upon completion of organization on the second day, Hart and Daniel Smith, the senior justice “in
consideration of their having enjoyed the office lately in Augusta” relinquished their claim to the Office of
Sheriff and requested the court to recommend another. Josiah Davison, John Skidmore, and George Boswell
were named to the Governor as suitable persons. (Rockingham Court Order Book No. 1, part 1, pages 1, 2, and
3). Davison was chosen and his commission signed by Patrick Henry. It was sixty days in arriving. A reading
of the names of those chosen to organize the court and start it on its way, will indicate the fact of their being
men of the highest integrity and learning, and who all along wisely guided and shaped the affairs of the new

Among the early settlers in the region of the North Fork were the brothers, John and Silas Hart (above).
Thomas, another brother, settled in the lower Valley. All three are mentioned on the Orange Records.
“September 25th 1741, John Hart was sworn Under Sheriff for the part of Augusta County called Irish Tract
(Beverly Manor); March 25th, 1742, Thomas appointed Constable; August 25th, 1743, Silas Hart appointed
Administrator of his Brother and Next of Kin, John Hart; November 24th, 1743, Silas Hart appointed Under
Sheriff; etc.” (Orange Court Order Book, 1741-1743, pages 24 and 113; 1743-1746, pages 5, 29, and 55)
(Harrison in his Settlers by the Long Grey Trail).

The Harts were from Burks [likely, Bucks] County, Pennsylvania. John and Eleanor (Crispin) Hart of this
county had ten children, among who were Joseph and Oliver, John, Silas and Thomas. Joseph, the eldest, was
prominent as a patriot of Bucks County, Pennsylvania during Monthly Meeting in 1722 and settled on Elk
Branch of the Opequin, where he purchased 1500 acres of land from Joist Hite in 1735. Oliver Hart, A.M.,
entered the Baptist ministry in 1748, and for over thirty years served his church at Charleston, South Carolina.


Silas Hart was a rather ample land owner, tho possibly not to the extent his brother Thomas seems to have
been. He is credited with being the owner of more than 900 acres on the south Fork of North River of
Shenandoah. In Chalkley; volume 3, page 274, we find: “February 15, 1740, Robert Rennock to Silas Hart,
mason, part of 400 acres patented to Robert (Rennock), June 10th, 1740, Buffalo Lick Branch”; June 5th, 1749,
John Smith, Gentleman, to Silas Hart, mason, 400 acres on south Fork of North River of Shenandoah, James
Wood’s Line. Patented to John Smith, June 25th, 1747. Margaret (Smith), John’s wife, releases dower. Teste,
John Thompson, John Poage, John Archer. He had other lands besides the tracts noted.

Being a tradesman seems not to have been a handicap, nor to have prevented the holding of positions of trust
and importance, and those who had been brought up in mechanical trades were proud of their special pursuits
and were generally careful to refer to them in their legal documents. Such reference indicated that they had
been well reared. It was customary in the best of families where funds were not sufficient to establish the sons
in a profession to apprentice them in trade. Frequently in early deeds the same man is referred to in one place
as a “carpenter” or “mason”, etc., and in another as a “gentleman.” I understand every boy should learn a trade,
thus encouraging self-reliance and independence and sturdiness of character for which the Englishman is
famous. Silas Hart was a mason; he was also our first justice of the court. His ancestry traces back to England,
originating near Islip in Oxfordshire. His father was John Hart, the immigrant of Whitney, in Oxfordshire, who
married Susannah Rush. John Rush, the father of Susannah, was the great grand father of the celebrated Dr.
Benjamin Rush signer of the Declaration of Independence.

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