Moses Musgrave – His life and his will, with an analysis by the author

Moses Musgrave, son of Oswin, was bom in Belfast, Northern Ireland about 1667. MOSES died about 5 Mar 1725/6 in Lancaster County, Pa., at about 58 years of age. He married ELIZABETH in Chester County, Pennsylvania, about 1700.

 From the Quaker records, Moses must have been unfortunate in his “affairs of the heart” for at a Monthly Meeting on June 5th, 1695, Moses Musgrave and Grace Roberts said their intentions of marriage. A month later they said their intentions again.  We don’t know whether Moses and Grace changed their minds and did not marry or whether they married and she died.

 On December 28, 1697, he requested a certificate to marry Patience Hussey, daughter of John Hussey of New Castle County. Moses was asked to bring his Mother’s consent. We don’t know if he married Patience. We do know, a few years later John Hussey’s Will did not mention a child Patience, nor did it mention any children of Patience’s.

 We know Moses did marry Elizabeth who was the mother of his children and named in his will.

 On  June 3, 1693 Moses was made a defendant in a suit of alleged defamation of character brought by Phillip Yarnell. Moses succeeded in vindicating himself of the charge and the court ordered Yarnell to pay the costs of the case. The final will of Moses is transcribed and analyzed below.

 The Will of Moses Musgrave -spelling is as transcribed from the will

 I, Moses Musgrave, of Sadsbury in the County of Chester, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Yeoman*, being sick in body, but praise be to God of sound and perfect memory, do make this my last Will and Testament, Revoking all others formerly made. First and foremost I commend my soul into the hands of Almighty God and my body to a decent burial. I will that all my debts and funeral expenses shall be paid; and as touching all such temporal estate as it has pleased God to bestow upon me, I give and dispose thereof as followeth:

Item.   I give to my dear wife, Elizabeth, all and every of my household goods and cart and plows and gears and all my other plantation** tools and all my homed cattell and five horses and a mare and colt, she to pay to my youngest son, John, when he shall become of age, thirty pounds, lawful money of die Province. I likewise give to my son, John, one gray mare.

 *Yeoman – Someone who owned and worked his own land with the help of his sons and, rarely, hired hands. In colonial Pennsylvania, the yeoman was the rural majority. As a class, yeomen were considered to be above renters and below gentlemen. To the yeoman, working the land was considered to be a way of life, rather than a business to generate cash. Land was something to keep in the family and pass down to future generations. In that time, a farmer was someone who rented land and laborers, to generate cash, with no loyalties to the land.

**Plantation – In Pennsylvania, farms were called plantations. Not to be confused with southern plantations, where most labor was done by slaves. In Pennsylvania at the time, 250 acres was considered the need for a family plantation. At the time of his death, Moses Sr. had acquired 500 acres of the 750 acres he would have needed to provide adequate land for each of his sons.

      Item.   I give to my oldest son, Moses Musgrave, and his heirs forever, the place I now live on containing 250 acres, and all improvements and one chestnut-colored mare and colt and my gun, for and in consideration of his providing sufficient house room upon the said place for my loving wife, his mother, during her widowhood and providing sufficient maintenance, winter and summer for one cow and one horse and to provide sufficient fire wood. These provisions are to be made but during her widowhood.

     Item.   I give and bequeath unto my son, Aaron Musgrave, and to his heirs and assigns, 250 acres of land lying and joining to Roger Dyers in the Great Valley and I give to my son, Aaron, one brown mare and colt, for and in consideration of his paying to his brother, Moses, one pound current money every year after he becomes of age, yearly during my wife’s widowhood, as long as she lives, but no longer.

     Item.   I give to my daughter, Jean, one dark brown mare and two young brown horses and another mare two years old, and her colt, with their increase, from date hereof.

Now the use of my plantation I doth ordain for to bring or raise up my children in ye hands of my wife until my son, Moses, comes to one and twenty years of age; but if my wife should marry, the date thereof, I do appoint my friend*, Abraham Marshall and Zekiall Harland, for to oversee and take care of my children and to take care of my said plantation and to see that neither children nor plantation is hurt and I doth authorize and empower the aforesaid Abraham Marshall and Zekiall Harland to put my

children to trades and to disinherit any man and my wife of ye plantation, if need be required. Lastly, I make, appoint and constitute Abraham Marshall and my loving wife, Elizabeth, to be sole executors of this my last Will and Testament. In Witness thereof, I have herunto set my hand and seal this ye 5th day of the first month, 1726.                                                                                             

           /s/ Moses Musgrave


Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of

John Musgrave

 John Walter

 Caleb Pierce


Comments – Moses Musgrave will**

 Moses’ brother, John, was the first Musgrave of our family line to come to American. In 1682, at the age fifteen, John came from Ireland with Valentine Hollingsworth, one of the leaders of the Quakers, as an indentured servant.  John spent his four years with Hollingsworth; then we have records of John and Moses together in Pennsylvania, along with their father, Oswin and mother Elizabeth. John, Moses, and their three brothers, Aaron, Thomas and Abraham (five Quaker brothers, with the last three born in Pennsylvania) were among the first settlers in the valley of Sadsbury, Lancaster County.

 By 1713, John and Moses owned rich valley land on Octoraro Creek and were within the bounds of the Sadsbury Quaker Monthly Meeting in Chester County, which was later split to make Lancaster County. Both John and Moses signed their documents, so were literate, as were most Quakers.

* Friend – term used for a member of a Quaker monthly meeting.

**Author’s note – I conducted the following research on Moses’ will to figure present worth and analyzed the social customs of the times. These comments, follow-up section and research notes are from my research. amp

 Moses was about 59 years old when he died. His will named his wife, Elizabeth, and also his children. Moses Musgrave and Elizabeth Fischer had the following children:

  Moses Musgrave was bom about 1711, about age 15 when his father died. 

Jean Musgrave, daughter, was bom about 1712, about age 14 when her father died.
Aaron Musgrave was bom about 1713, about age 13 when his father died.
John Musgrave was born about 1719, about age 5 when his father died.

 Elizabeth was alive at the time Moses’ will was written, but must have died within a year. We have a record dated April 26, 1727, where, what is most probably, young Moses Musgrave requested a survey to sell 300 acres on a Branch of the Octoraro, next to Robert Dyer. In their father’s will, this land was left to Aaron, who later became a merchant in Philadelphia. Moses would have been about 16 at the time, which seems under the age of majority for this type of transaction, so we assume Elizabeth had died within a year of her husband.  I did see other probate records with other sons receiving their inheritance at age 14.

The statements in first section of the will are typical of wills of that time and place. In wills, Quaker families divided property equality, not only between sons, but between sons and daughters. Horses were valuable property, generating cash when sold mainly for use on plantations on the coast or, perhaps, export to the Caribbean Islands. Daughters typically did not inherit land, but they were given their part of the personal estate at marriage or upon reaching age eighteen or twenty one. So Jean didn’t do too badly in receiving the horses. In addition, she would have received the rest of her equal part, at eighteen or twenty one years of age or when she married.

 Moses Sr. was determined that no man should marry his wife and step in and deprive his children of their inheritance, which he had worked so hard to create out of the frontier wilderness. In this matter, his will was no different than other wills of that time and place.


                                 INVENTORY AND VALUE OF MOSES MUSGRAVE’S WILL


How Many

Value in 1726 Each/Lbs**

Total Value in 1726/Lbs

Current Value US$*****











Acres of land***


37.1/250 acres



Minus Funeral expenses****





Minus Debts ******










 *number of cattle not given in will. Estimated from other wills probated same year 1726 and same county.

**value of horse and cattle estimated from “Colonial American to 1763” by Thomas L. Purvis.

***value of land from Abstract of Will. 

**** estimated based on expenses from will in “Albion’s Seed.”

*****based on currency conversion calculator on the British National Archives website.

******Moses mentioned debts in his will, but not the amount. Most farmers incurred some debt to buy seed. The debt was generally paid back in the fall after harvest. Quakers had a horror of debt, with some monthly meetings appointing two honest friends to inspect friends’ transactions to assure no one took on more debt than they could handle.

                                       VALUE OF BEQUESTS TO EACH CHILD

Moses, son

Jean, daughter

Aaron, son

John, son

1 horse

5 horses

2 horses

1 horse




30 pounds

250 acres


250 acres


1726 Value/Current Value

1726 Value/Current Value

1726 Value/Current Value

1726 Value/Current Value

41.05 lbs/$5,432

20 lbs/$2,648


34 lbs/$4,502

 Moses Sr. left his household and farm equipment to his wife. We do not know how that was distributed. We do know that Moses Jr. sold 300 acres of land, while the land in the will was divided equally at 250 acres,  between Moses and Aaron. Perhaps, Moses gave the proceeds of the sale of 50 acres to Aaron to make up for Moses keeping the household and farm equipment, since Aaron left the county.

Perhaps, Moses Sr.’s larger legacy was having the courage to come to this country as a young man. Soon after arrival in this country, he headed to the frontier helping to start this new country on its path.  Several of his sons and grandsons, even though Quakers, supported the Revolutionary War, even taking up arms in support of the new country. Many of his descendents continued the westward journey into Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and all the way to California, taking his yeoman culture and love of the land with them.


Moses Jr. married Elizabeth and had eight children. After several years, he sold most of his land and moved close to Sadsbury. When he died on January 13, 1790, the Overseers of the poor informed the meeting that “Elizabeth Musgrave was placed with her daughter at 5 shillings per week,” so she must not have had any savings. Elizabeth died on April 2, 1791. Two of their five sons served in the Revolutionary Army, including my 5th great grandfather–Samuel Musgrave, who served in the Revolutionary War.

No further records have been found for Jean.


Aaron became a successful merchant in Philadelphia. He signed a loyalty oath for the new United States of American. He and his wife, Elizabeth Walter, had five children. His son, Joseph, married Esther, “the flower of Kennett,” who was also proclaimed as very intelligent and possessed 3000 acres of land. Joseph and Esther had six children, one who became a physician and, another, a silversmith of some renown.

 For John, we have less information. We know he did marry, but we don’t know her name. The last record of John shows him having 50 acres in Lancaster County in 1772 with two sons renting from him. One son served in the Revolutionary Army.

 Research Notes on Will of Moses Musgrave

 Abstracts and Administrations 1713-1825: January 5, 1725/6. April 7, 1726. A. 189. The will was probated April 7th, 1726, and is recorded in Will Book A, page 189, in the Court House at West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

 Note on dates: Before 1752, March 25th (Feast of the Annunciation) was the first day of the new year by traditional acceptance of the ecclesiastical calendar. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted double dates were used from January lst until March 25th. In some cases, the dates are followed by the Will Book letter and page number.  So Moses probably died in March 1726 (current calendar), with his will probated in April.

 Tax & other lists for Chester County Townships, etc: The name Sadsbury appears as early as 1708, on a deed, but the township wasn’t organized till 1717, and the following are the only ones on the 1718 tax assessment: William Grinson, James Hamer, Thomas Hayward, John Musgrave, William Smith, Moses Musgrave, William Marsh, John Whitesides, John Moore.


“A History of the Quaker Branch of the Musgrave Family: of the north of Ireland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Illinois and elsewhere, with selected papers relating to the ancient and landed Musgraves of England,” Stanley Musgrave Shartle.

 “A History of the Moses Musgrave Family – Quakers,” Duane and Marie Musgrave, Kansas City, MO., 1998. This book is available online and can be downloaded to your computer by following the link below. If the link doesn’t work, go to Click on the catalog and type in “History of the Moses Musgrave Family Quakers.” The book is a little over 200 pages and presents information from Oswin to William Tate Musgrave.

 “The Musgraves, An Appendix to The Ancestors & Descendants of Joseph Mason & Debby Ann Palmer,” Kirk Bentley Barb, 1932, pp6‐7.

 “Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in American,” David Hackett Fischer, 1989, pp 568-9.

 “Colonial American to 1763” by Thomas L. Purvis.

 Website to calculate present value of British money

Copyrighted, 2012 by Andrea Musgrove Perisho.

About Andrea Musgrove Perisho

Genealogy research on my own ancestors is a new focus. Posts will include information about those ancestors including the social and economic issues, along with techniques for research.
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