The Spurious Legend of John Mayfield - Clarinda Pleasants
By Phil Norfleet
In my opinion, the legend of John Mayfield and Clarinda Pleasants, is almost completely spurious. This story is best told in the well known source book for genealogists entitled Colonial and Revolutionary Lineages of America (published 1939). The book contains an essay (pages 419-421) concerning the ancestry of Reuben Newton Mayfield (1859-1939) of Seattle, Washington. The essay unqualifiedly asserts that Reuben's great-great-grandfather was a certain John Mayfield, a Revolutionary War veteran, who purportedly married a lady named Clarinda Pleasants. The essay also asserts that John and Clarinda Pleasants Mayfield had a son also named John who married a certain Mary Wolf and resided in Pulaski County, Kentucky. The following is a verbatim quote from page 419 of the book:
"I. John (1) Mayfield, the first of our line to be of record, was born in 1745 in Albemarle County, Virginia, and died in 1816, in Pulaski County, Kentucky. During the Revolutionary War he was a resident of Buckingham County, Virginia. He served during the entire period of the war as a private. His certificate was issued January 28, 1784. Enlisted by Sergeant James Bedford on Continental Establishment he received certificate for the balance of his full pay, agreeable to Act of Assembly, November Session, 1781. Warrant No. 2307, Lawrence Muse, assignee, two hundred acres bounty land for Revolutionary service; February 6, 1780, enlistment in 1st Virginia Regiment, and last service with General Daniel Morgan, Buckingham, Virginia. John Mayfield, Sr. received five hundred acres of a military grant of land in Kentucky, November 18, 1796. In 1807 he received thirty-seven acres in Pulaski County and again in 1817, two hundred acres in Warren County, Kentucky.
"John (1) Mayfield married, in 1767, Clarinda Pleasants, who was born in 1749 and died in 1821 [Sic]. A son was John (2), of whom further.
"II. John (2) Mayfield, son of John (10 and Clarinda (Pleasants) Mayfield, was born in Virginia in 1768 and died in Pulaski County, Kentucky, in 1813, a tree falling on him. He received a land grant in Barren County, Kentucky, July 15, 1802. ... John (2) married in January, 1790, Mary Wolf, who was born in 1770 and died in 1848, a pioneer doctor of the times. ... "
The essay goes on to cite the following documents in support of the above narrative:
1) Revolutionary Soldiers, by Hamilton James Eckenrode, page 304.
2) Records of Adjutant-General's Office, War Department, Washington, D. C.
3) Sons of American Revolution Year Book for the State of Kentucky, by Samuel M. Wilson, page 238.
4) Kentucky Land Grants, 1782-1924, W. R. Jillson, pages 207-359.
5) Old Kentucky, Entries and Deeds, by W. R. Jillson, page 349.
In a letter to Lindsey Mayfield, dated 16 Apr 1935, Ella Mayfield Taylor of Lexington KY (a great-granddaughter of John Mayfield and Mary Woolf) makes the following statement expressing her doubts concerning the John and Clarinda Mayfield ancestry:
Based on the above, it is obvious that the actual research with respect to the elder John Mayfield ((1745-1816), his Revolutionary War record in particular, was done by a professional genealogist hired by a certain Mrs. Crouch, who probably was related in some way to Reuben Newton Mayfield (1859-1939). After receiving the report, an attempt was made by Mrs. Crouch to contact the professional genealogist again to get a clearer understanding of the supporting rationale for this very questionable connection between the two John Mayfields. The genealogist did not reply and Mrs. Crouch never heard from her again (she presumably had already been paid!). Mrs. Crouch is now long deceased.
On the surface, the John Mayfield - Clarinda Pleasants narrative appears to be well documented and seems to be a fine bit of genealogical detective work. Unfortunately, the stated connection between the two Johns is almost certainly wrong! Primary evidence has been discovered which clearly establishes that the father of John Mayfield (1768-1813), husband of Mary Wolf, was a certain Isaac Mayfield who died in Lauderdale County AL in 1822. This primary evidence, a 10 page Lauderdale County AL court record, has been published in its entirety to this website.
While the documents, cited in 1) through 5) above, do exist and do concern people named "John Mayfield" the documents do not all refer to the same John Mayfield, and none of the John Mayfields so referenced were the father of John Mayfield (1768-1813) of Pulaski County KY. Furthermore, very important assertions made in the narrative, e. g., that John was born in 1745 and died in 1816, that he married Clarinda Pleasants in 1767, and most importantly, that he was the father of the John Mayfield (1768-1813) of Pulaski County are totally unsupported. I must say that my eyes tend to get a bit glazed, when I read about a professional genealogist (the one hired by Mrs. Crouch), who makes a lot of important assertions about people who died a long time ago, but who does not provide any real documentary evidence in support!
My review of the land records cited in 4) and 5) above, indicate that different John Mayfields are associated with these land acquisitions and their is no evidence that anyone of them had a wife named Clarinda Pleasants. My analysis of the people most probably associated with two of the four land acquisitions, cited above, disclosed the following:
1807 - Pulaski County KY (37 Acres): This land was actually acquired by the John Mayfield who died in 1813. The land was surveyed for John Mayfield on 04 August 1807. The land tax records for Pulaski County KY clearly indicate that this land belonged to John Mayfield, husband of Mary. After John's death in 1813, the tax records show this same 37-acre tract as belonging to Mary Mayfield.
1817 - Warren County KY (200 Acres): The John Mayfield who was supposed to have married Clarinda Pleasants was also said to have died in 1816. It is interesting to note that he was able to acquire land not surveyed until 1817 and not granted until 1819. [See KY Warren County Land Grant, dated 20 January 1819] Actually, the recipient of this 200-acre tract, located on the north side of Big Barren River, was an entirely different John Mayfield. He was John Mayfield, Sr. of Barren County KY. This John Mayfield and his sons John and Thomas appear to have arrived in Barren County, Kentucky in about 1800 and are reasonably well documented in the records of that county. These Barren County Mayfields do not seem to be closely related to the John Mayfield (1768-1813) of Pulaski County. John Mayfield, Sr. of Barren County died late in the year 1828 and his wife was named Sally, not Clarinda! [See Barren County KY Order Book 5, January Court 1829]
Re the Pleasants marriage: I've never been able to find any evidence in the official records supporting the assertion that there was a lady named Clarinda Pleasants who married a man named John Mayfield. The Pleasants family of VA is well documented in the Valentine Papers; I've reviewed these papers, but could find no mention of any Pleasants - Mayfield connection.
Re John's residence in Buckingham County: The John Mayfield, purported husband of Clarinda Pleasants, was supposed to have resided in Buckingham County VA. Unfortunately, virtually all the records of this county prior to the Civil War have been lost/destroyed. Hence, I wonder how the professional genealogist, hired by Mrs. Crouch, found out about him living there?
The book, cited at the beginning of this essay, Colonial and Revolutionary Lineages of America has been a major reference source of genealogists for many years. It is probably most unfortunate for Mayfield genealogy that the John Mayfield - Clarinda Pleasants story was printed in such a well-known book. Many Mayfield genealogists have accepted the story unquestionably and, in my view, much mischief to genealogical truth has been caused thereby. Hopefully, this short essay will help to publicize the "facts" concerning this genealogical error.