Charles C. Chaney's Dameron-Damron Family Association Page

of Norfolk Co. VA

Based on an article from
The Dameron-Damron Family Newsletter
Volume 18. Spring 1990.

A Revolutionary War pension file for CHRISTOPHER TOMPKINS shows that on 29 July 1837, in the Borough of Norfolk, Virginia, MARTHA DAMERON stated that she was a resident of Norfolk and was 72 years of age. She married Christopher Tompkins, a lieutenant in the Virginia Navy, on 13 March 1783. He died on 5 May 1789. She lived in Hampton at the time of her marriage to Tompkins and lived there until 1785 when she moved to Norfolk. She married "Omaniferus" Dameron in July of 1796. "Omaneforeas" Dameron died on 5 May 1799 "with the Decline," perhaps meaning tuberculosis. Since his death she had remained a widow. On 12 September 1838 she gave a second sworn statement that agreed with the first statement except the date of death of Christopher Tompkins was given as the fall of 1789.

The Norfolk Herald carried a legal notice in 1799 concerning the estate of ONEY S. DAMERON, dec'd. Accounts were to be settled with his executrix, Martha Dameron of Norfolk. "Those in N. Carolina who are indebted or have demands against his estate are to apply to William T. Muse of Pasquotank Co." He would clearly be the Onisephorus Dameron, resident of Virginia, listed on the 1790 tax list for Pasquotank Co., NC. THOMAS DAMMERON was also listed on the same tax list. The word executrix in this newspaper item is apparently an error. According to Helen Foster Snow's book, there was no will and Martha was the administrator of his estate. Pension file, newspaper notice, and tax list give 4 different versions of the name of Martha Dameron's second husband, Onesiphorus Dameron.

The pension file shows no maiden name of Martha. She was born in about 1765. The listing of Onesiphorus on the 1790 tax list for Pasquotank Co., NC, suggests that his birth was prior to 1770.

Helen Foster Snow placed Onesiphorus Dameron of Norfolk Co. as a son of the Onesiphorous Dameron who wrote his will in 1782 in Northumberland Co., VA. Neither the 1782 will of Onesiphorous nor the 1794 will of his widow, Mary, mention a son named Onesiphorus. There seems to be no evidence to support Mrs. Snow's assumption. A son named Onesiphorous is mentioned in the 1762 will of Onesiphorous Dameron in Northumberland Co. This son was probably the Onesiphorous who wrote his will in 1782, but it is possible that Onesiphorus of Norfolk Co. was the son mentioned in the 1762 will. In any case, it seems reasonable to suspect that Onesiphorus of Norfolk Co. was related to the Northumberland Co. Dameron family that used that given name. See the article in this issue about Lancaster Co., VA, for more information on that family. The 1787 personal property tax list for Northumberland Co. does show an Onesiphorus Dameron who was over 21. This could be the Onesiphorus found later in Norfolk Co.

The pension file also contained an official copy, complete with seal, of the will of Martha Dameron:

This is my Will--
I am concerned in a claim against the government of the U.S. for the Services of my first husband, Christopher B. Tompkins -- Mr. Bourm is prosecuting it.
I give (if my claim is recovered) five hundred dollars to my son in law Oney S. Dameron -- To John Shurter (to be used by him as I have directed) one hundred dollars -- To the corporation of Norfolk Boro: for the use of the poor of said Boro, one hundred dollars -- and the balance to my son in law David Duncan (of Randolph Macon College) for his sole benefit.
Norfolk. January 16, 1838
Martha Dameron
John Croel
Ann S. Holt

The will was proved on 29 Oct. 1842 before a hustings court of Norfolk Borough by the oath of John Croel and the affirmation of Ann S. Holt. Quakers believing that sworn oaths were forbidden by the Bible, gave affirmations in court. Martha Dameron had been dead for more than 3 months, her will did not name an executor, and no one had applied to administer her estate. On the motion of David Duncan, the sergeant of Norfolk Borough was instructed to take possession of her estate and administer the provisions of her will.

Martha Dameron apparently did not receive a pension for Christopher Tompkins' service because she did not meet all requirements for remarried widows. The deficiency was probably that she was not the wife of Tompkins during the time he served in the navy.

On 28 March 1848 ONEY S. DAMERON wrote from Norfolk, VA, to Congressman Archibald Atkinsen to inquire about the status of Martha Dameron's claim for pension benefits. In the letter Oney stated that Mrs. Martha Dameron had died in July, 1842, and that he was one of the legatees of her will.

There is an Ony S. Dameren listed in the 1850 census for Harrison Co., Mississippi. He is shown as age 60, born in Virginia. His wife, Alice, is age 55, born in VA. Two obituaries from the New Orleans Christian Advocate indicate that this couple had come from Norfolk, VA. Oney S. Dameron who died in 1852 at Mississippi City was 61 years old and a native of Norfolk, VA. Mrs. Alice H. Dameron who died in 1855 had married O.S. Dameron of Norfolk at age 15 and had resided in Norfolk until 1848. Norfolk city records show that Oney S. Dameron married ALICE HERBERT on 28 March 1812. The will of JAMES DAWLEY, written in 1831 in Norfolk, mentions his daughter, Alice H. Dameron. There is nothing in the records to indicate that more than one Oney S. Dameron lived in Norfolk during the 1830s and 1840s. It does appear, however, that the wife of this Oney S. Dameron could not have been a daughter of Martha, either by her marriage to Christopher Tompkins or her marriage to Onesiphorous Dameron.

During the colonial era some terms used to describe family relationships had a broader meaning than they have today. The term "in-law" was formerly used to describe any family relationship that came about because of a marriage. In colonial terminology a man's mother-in-law might be his wife's mother or his own step-mother.

Martha Dameron wrote her will long after the colonial era. The surprisingly informal language of her will, however, suggests that it was written without the assistance of a lawyer. It seems possible that she could have used the term son-in-law in its older meaning to indicate a step-son. Could Oney S. Dameron have been a son of Onesiphorus Dameron, born prior to the marriage of Onesiphorus and Martha? If so, there should be guardianship records for Oney S. that would prove the relationship. No record has surfaced to show a marriage for a Dameron female to DAVID DUNCAN. Perhaps the wife of David Duncan was a daughter of Martha and Christopher Tompkins.

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Last updated 12 July 2015