According to family legend, the first Nation ancestor to settle in America–John Nation of Rowan County, North Carolina, my 8th great-grandfather–was kidnapped as a young boy in England and brought to New Jersey as an indentured servant. It is much more likely, though, that John Nation entered into indenture in exchange for passage to the colonies. Most indentured servants arrived in the American colonies of their own free will; they often worked as farm laborers or domestic servants for a period of four to seven years, and they received food, lodging and clothing as a part of their legally-binding contract.
The first mention of John Nation in America is found in William Beakes’ will, dated March 24, 1710/11: “Real and personal estate, incl. servant boy John Nation.” John and the Beakes family were living in Nottingham Township, New Jersey at the time of William’s death, and John’s indenture was transferred to William’s wife and eldest son, Ruth and Edmond Beakes, after his decease. There is no mention of John’s age, years of indenture or arrival date, but he likely worked as a farm hand: William was listed as a “yeoman” in his will, an individual who owns or cultivates a small farm.
By 1750, John was living in Frederick County, Virginia, and he had, at some point and in some way, reached the end of his indenture to the Beakes family. John married Bethiah Robbins, the daughter of Joseph and Ann (Pack) Robbins of Monmouth County, New Jersey, and moved to Rowan County, North Carolina before 1754; in 1754, he was listed as the administrator of his brother-in-law’s, Joseph Robbins, estate. In May of 1758, John–and, by extension, Bethiah–received 401 acres of farmland in a land grant, and they were issued an additional 260 acres in February of 1759 to provide for their family.
John and Bethiah Nation had seven children, and their descendants number in the thousands: Joseph (m. Eleanor Robbins); John (m. Bethiah Robbins); Christopher (m. Elizabeth Sharp); Elizabeth (m. Marmaduke Vickery; Ann (m. John Bullar); Bethiah (m. Joseph Robbins); and Frances (m. William Robbins). (An aside–the Nation and Robbins families maintained adjoning farms and homesteads in Rowan County in the 1750s, and their descendants all married their own cousins.) John continued to acquire land “between Pole Cat and Deep Creek River,” and he became a successful “planter” in the area.
John made his mark and completed his will in December of 1772; the document was later proved in 1774, making the year of his death about 1774. He wrote, the the presence of Benjamin, Isaac and Richard Beeson, “In the Name of God Amen–I John Nation, Senior of Guilford County and province of North yeoman, Being but weekly of Body, But of sound and perfect mind and memory, thanks be to God for the same, But calling to mind the shortness and uncertainty of this mortal State and that tis appointed once for all men one to die and after recommending my immortal part to God that gave it, resting in hopes of a glorious Resurrection & to live and reign with him for ever and ever, and willing my mortal part to the Dust from whence it was taken…”
He willed his estate and possessions (“a bed and furniture and chest and box”) to his wife and eldest son, Joseph, and provided his other children with “one shilling sterling” apiece. Joseph and Bethiah, as well as Joseph’s wife Eleanor, sold the land to William Borden in May of 1774 for five shillings, and I’m searching to find out more about the location of the tract. And that’s John’s story: he was a mystery man from England who ended up in New Jersey–and, later, North Carolina–and became a well-off farmer and landowner. It seems to me that he must’ve been brave, and he definitely had guts; I’m lucky to number myself among his thousands of descendants, so many years later.