John Dillard was likely born around 1720 in or near King and Queen County VA. Many Dillards named John can be found in America today, but researchers recognize this one as the first and, therefore, refer to him as John The Elder. He first emerges in the same area as four other Dillards thought to be his brothers and father. Collectively, these five--Thomas, George, Edward, John The Elder, and Edward, their father, would ultimately be known to genealogists as the Dillards of Culpeper County.
In the early years of the eighteenth century, settlers from the tidewater region of Virginia begin pushing north and west into Spotsylvania County, a huge wilderness lying west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Researchers think that's where John was probably born. Over the next 100 years, the area comprising original Spotsylvania will be periodically whittled to eventually form five Virginia Counties including Orange, Culpeper, Madison, and Rappahannock. Today Johns property, which was a tiny part of Lord Fairfaxs original grant from King Charles II, falls into an area where Culpeper, Madison, and Rappahannock Counties meet. The Dillards of Culpeper, however, actually reach the area before there is a Culpeper, even before there is an Orange County from which Culpeper was carved. When the Dillards arrive, its still wild and unsettled Spotsylvania.
The Virginia General Assembly attracted settlers to Spotsylvania by waving property taxes for three years for those establishing themselves by Jan 1, 1735. Two of Johns brothers patented tracts immediately, Thomas with 550 acres in late February and George with 400 acres in mid-June of 1735. The 950 acres of prime Virginia land is thought to have cost the brothers a total of about $11.
In 1737, the western part of Spotsylvania County was chopped off to form Orange County in which an Edward Dillard bought land that same year. Although John's father, Edward, may have been the one who bought the 190 acres in Orange, it could have been his brother, Edward, instead. Either way, George is found living on it later and without a transfer deed, we can easily assume he inherited it from his father.
In 1748, about the time the western part of Orange County was chopped off to form Culpeper County, Lord Fairfax met 16 year-old George Washington, whom he hired to survey his estate of more than five million acres. For his loyalty, King Charles II granted the land to Lord Fairfaxs grandfather, Lord Culpeper, who passed it on to his daughter, Catherine, who married Thomas, Lord Fairfax the 5th. Their son, the 6th Lord Fairfax, would have to fight almost everyone to prove himself the rightful owner. However, once its settled, Lord Fairfax hires the future president to survey the property, after which he offers some of it for sell. John becomes the first Dillard to buy land from Lord Fairfax when on Jun 23, 1749 hes granted 300 acres on the north side of the Hazel River in the Gourd Vine Fork. The next month, Culpeper County hires George Washington, then 17, as official surveyor. For the next two years, Washington holds the job he described as a "high and pleasant situation.
Later in 1749, on Nov 4, John buys 166 acres in the Gourd Vine Fork adjoining the original 300 and running near the foot of the Grindstone Mountain. John sold 100 acres of the 166-acre tract in 1753, 50 acres each to John Gayle and Thomas Poole on the 20 and 21 of April.
Over a four-year period, from 1748 through 1752, John served as clerk of Saint Marks Parish Little Fork Church, for which he received 1,000 pounds of tobacco. His brother, Thomas, earned 1,000 pounds of tobacco a year from 1741 through 1746 for reading in the church. When Saint Mark's is divided in 1752, Johns land falls into Bromfield Parish.
He apparently married a Sophia, but we dont know when or have a record of her last name. The two witnessed a deed between "Aaron Oliver and Elizabeth his wife" and John Campbell on Mar 17, 1761. In 1774, John Brown of Bromfield Parish has John and Sophia witness his will.
Two men thought to be sons of John and Sophia join the fight for American independence. For his exploits, one becomes somewhat of a South Carolina legend. The other, our grandfather William, is killed in battle. John and Sophias daughter, Elizabeth, married Robert Strother, who apparently owned property jointly with John in Culpeper. No will for John has been found and we have no record of what happened to his remaining property, when he died, or where he is buried. Some researchers theorize he may have sold out and moved with the Strothers, perhaps to Kentucky near where his grandson, James (son of William Dillard and Mary Norman), settled.
Branches of some of Johns brothers' families have been well documented, particularly those of George and Thomas. Its noteworthy to mention brother George, who married Pricilla Major. Their great-grandson, Major Lemuel Dillard, would play a pivotal role in the lives of two of our Dillard grandmothers, Martha Lofton Dalrymple and her daughter, Margaret.
Probable children of John Dillard and Sophia ?:
1. Elizabeth b. about 1741, m. Robert Strother, d. ?.
2. William b. about 1743, m. Mary Norman, d. Sep 8, 1781.
3. James b. 1755, m. 1st Mary Ramage, m. 2nd Mary Puckett, d. Dec 4, 1836, buried next to Mary Puckett in SC. Rose to the rank of major during the American Revolution.
?. George b.?, m. ?, d. ?.