It has been long considered that Melinda Gurley was the wife of Benjamin Thomas and the mother of his children. Who was She? As witnessed through land transactions, the family of Benjamin Thomas did have extensive interaction with the Gurley's. However, I have been unable to find legal documentation proving Benjamin Thomas was married to Melinda Gurley.
The first record of Benjamin Thomas in Anson County was as a chain bearer for Gideon Green's land grant surveys, dated 15 Jun 1779. Benjamin would not purchase land for himself until 26 Oct 1785. William Gurley first received land in Anson County in a 1782 deed of conveyance. From records of Johnston County, it is clear that William Gurley and his ancestors had lived on Moccasin Creek since at least 1745.
It has been widely written that Melinda was the daughter of William and Melinda Gurley. Born to William and Mary Gurley, this William Gurley lived in Johnston County, NC before a migration of families brought him to Anson County. In 1778, his brother Jacob Gurley was the first one of the family to enter land in Anson County. William Gurley's first land purchase in Anson County on 28 Feb 1782 was from friend Middleton Pool. On 5 Mar 1785, William Gurley, "now of Anson County", sold his remaining holdings in Johnston County(S-231, Johnston NC). Witnessed by Needham Whitley and James Holt, he sold several tracts of land situated on Moccasin Creek.
The older children of Benjamin and Melinda Gurley Thomas were David b. ca. 1775, Ezekial b. ca. 1777, and Annanias b. 1 Oct 1779. Where were they born? Before her father, did Melinda Gurley move to Anson County where she married Benjamin Thomas? Did Benjamin travel to Johnston County, where he met and married Melinda before she came to Anson County? Or could Benjamin Thomas have been one of many from Johnston County who moved to Anson County?
Completed 12 Oct 1946, the research of John Miller Bradley of Birmingham AL provides an excellent history of the William Gurley family. In particular, he lists the birth of William Gurley as 8 Jan 1748. I have not been able to verify the source for this birth date as provided by the notes of J. M. Bradley. If the birth date of William Gurley is 8 Jan 1748, then none of his daughters could have been old enough to be the mother of Benjamin Thomas's older children. In respect to age, Benjamin Thomas and William Gurley were more like brothers than father and son.
In Oct 1804, the Last Will and Testament of William Gurley was probated in Anson County. Leaving a sizable estate, there was no mention of a daughter named Melinda, nor of Benjamin Thomas. Instead, William Gurley first bequeathed to his wife Millinder, "300 acres of land on the river plantation whereon I now live'. He mentioned oldest daughters Elizabeth Austin, Jean Pool, and Sarah Lauhon. He bequeathed two hundred and fifty acres on the Watery Branch to be divided between the sons of Jean Pool, namely Alexander Pool, William Pool, and Nathan Pool. He then gave daughter Sarah Lauhon 200 acres joining Leonard Musslewhite's land and an entry adjoining John Lauhon. He gave son James Gurley 100 acres including the oak pond. William gave to his son Willis Gurley, an adjoining entry and four hundred acres, further stating that "if there is as much after the three hundred already given is recovered". This land was situated "out toward Musslewhite's". He then gave to son William Gurley, all the lands below the mouth of Shipmon's Branch. He gave to daughter's Dorcass and Ferraba 500 acres situated on the "Bair branch and the Shipmon's branch". William Gurley appointed Leonard Musselwhite and son Willis Gurley as executors. Witnesses were Richard Austin and William Gurley, Jr. William Gurley signed the will with his "W" mark. I have only listed the real property; the personal property is equally as impressive. But how did Benjamin Thomas and his wife Melinda fit into this family?
A jury of the Court laid off the dower right for the widow of William Gurley deceased. In the document (P&Q-261), the "heirs" then drew from seven lots. Drawing lot #6, Benjamin Thomas received a 130-acre share of the estate of William Gurley. The land adjoined a 70-acre tract drawn by Drury Austin. From one of a few early plats surviving from this era, this division of William Gurley's land was registered in Jul 1815. Since Benjamin was not listed in the will, it is unlikely that he received a share based specifically on friendship. This record represents either a mechanism to clear an obligation or the rightful share of a lawful heir. From this division and as implied in the Sam L. Thomas Bible record, it has always been the belief that Benjamin Thomas married a daughter of William Gurley that was not mentioned in the will. Named for her mother, could Malinda have earlier died? Could the children of Benjamin have been born by another woman? Could the statement in the will pertaining to the need or concern in recovering 300 acres of land have any bearing on why Benjamin received a portion of the estate? Of interest, the name of Melinda was not used extensively by later Thomas generations. Could Benjamin have married to William's wife who was named Melinda? Could she have been his second wife?
Until more is known, I cannot say for sure who Benjamin Thomas's wife was.
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