James Brown’s Huge Debt, Chester Co., PA, 1688

James married William Clayton’s daughter Honour. The Browns are our direct line. James got involved with all kinds of business transactions and court cases and land deals. It looks like this one got the better of him.

3rd day, 4th month, 1688 (June 3, 1688)

Henry Jones, plaintiff

James Brown, defendant

In an action of the case, plaintiff declares for 152£, 1s 4d

152£ is huge. I can’t think of an equivalent today, but I’m confident a good house could be built for that price back then.


Nathaniel Thornton, James Swafford, Joseph Richards, John Worrell, Randall Vernon, Philip Roman, John Child, Richard Farr, Caleb Pusie, Thomas Robinson, Richard Woodworth, Francis Chadsey

In the previous case William Brown (James Brown’s brother) and John Beales (married Mary Clayton, William Clayton’s youngest daughter) sat on the jury, but William Brown and John Beales were replaced with Philip Roman and Francis Chadsey.

Let’s start the case. Recall that Quakers don’t swear oaths; they “attest” they will tell the truth.

Modernized transcription begins:

The defendant in his answer sets forth the declaration to be false, untrue, and vexatious;

The names of those witnesses taken in writing which remains upon file:

Cornelius Emson, Isaac Warner, Thomas Green for the defendant;

Joseph Jones being attested declares the account to be true and just and that James Brown did acknowledge the same;

Zachary Patrick being attested in open court for the defendant declares that Henry Jones did order James Brown to give him one gallon of rum to make hast [sic] with the pipe staves and did ask him when he came over the river whether he could hew timber as even as a dye;

Katherine Davis being attested in open court declares for the defendant that she did hear Henry Jones give order to James Brown to give Zachary Patrick one gallon of rum to make hast [sic] with the pipe staves and the timber at Raccoon Creek;

Joseph Jones being again attested in open court for the plaintiff declares that his father Henry Jones ordered him to make bills for the balance of the defendant’s account upon which the defendant declared the plaintiff to know in what produce, who answered in Indian corn and wheat upon which the defendant replied he would go down and sell two plantations and in 14 days would come again and pay it in money;

The 5th of the 4th month Joseph Richards foreman 1688;

The verdict of the jury in that the defendant do pay to the plaintiff thirty pounds in timber at 4 ½ d per foot and fifty pounds in pipe staves at 2£ 10s per thousand and the remainder is to be paid in other lawful produce of the country also with cost of suit and 2d damage.

Hereupon judgment is granted.

Transcription ends.

“Make hast or haste” seems to be used as an “equal exchange for” or “in compensation for.”

James is unlike his father-in-law William Clayton, a Councilman, who did not get himself in so much trouble. James also traded in alcohol.

I often wonder how Honour felt about James’s wheeling and dealing—and the alcohol.

There’s something to be said for living a streamlined life, without complications.

Record for the Courts of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Begun the 13th of September, 1681, Ending the 10th day of March 1696/7, pp. 125-126.


Clayton Land Records in Chester County, Pennsylvania

Clayton Deed Records in New Castle County, Delaware

William Clayton’s Records

The Records of William Clayton, Jr., and Elizabeth Beazer

The Records of Henry Reynolds and Prudence Clayton

William Clayton and Prudence Lankford

Honour Clayton and James Brown

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