John Cabell (1735-1815)

New evidence discovered by Randolph Wall Cabell proves that Col. John Cabell, the progenitor of an astonishing thirteen Cabell grandchildren, was born before his father William Cabell‘s departure for England in 1735. In a letter dated 19 January 1736 (1737 using today’s calendar), William Cabell exhorted his wife, Elizabeth Burks Cabell, “to keep my fore Children close to their books…” The fourth child, born just before his father’s departure, could only have been little John Cabell.

By 1756, Cabell was no longer little, but he needed his father’s assistance as much as ever. John Cabell’s horse fell onto his leg and shattered it on 5 December, and his father bandaged the limb. When the patient proved restless and disturbed the setting, his father rebroke the bone and set it properly. His father contributed even more to Cabell’s welfare when–after his 1762 marriage to Paulina Jordan–the elder Cabell deeded his son land in Buckingham County and paid off his debts.

Settled on his estate, “Green Hill,” Cabell became involved in politics and helped lead his county through the Revolution and into the early national period. He served as sheriff of Buckingham County and as a member of the militia. He attended the Fifth Revolutionary Convention, when forged Virginia’s 1776 Constitution and launched the Commonwealth as a political entity. He also served several terms in the General Assembly as a representative of his county.

Paulina Cabell died in 1781, after bearing ten children, seven of whom survived her. Cabell remarried in 1787, to Elizabeth Brierton Jones. She then died in 1802, with no children. Cabell appears, however, to have adopted her only son from her first marriage, Robert Jones. In his will, the child appears as Robert Jones Cabell. Still robust at 65 years old, John Cabell took yet another wife after Elizabeth Jones’ death. He may never have formally married Frances Johnson (c. 1788-?), but he acknowledges her as the mother of three additional children, Elizabeth Burks Cabell, Alexander A. Cabell, and Napoleon Bonaparte Cabell. Alexander Brown was not aware of or chose not to acknowledge these children in his 1895 The Cabells and Their Kin. Carrington Cabell Tutwiler puzzled over the genealogy of John’s family as well; as late as 1950 (well after the republication of Cabells and Their Kin), he received a letter from L. R. Hodges of Charleston, WV suggesting that Napoleon Bonaparte Cabell and his siblings were the children of Elizabeth Jones.

Having survived two wives and five of his children, John Cabell died on June 12, 1815, about a mile from Green Hill.

Additional Sources Consulted:
R. W. Cabell, Cabell Sightings (1996)
Anna Marie Mitchell, “Dr. William Cabell” (1939)
Cabell Family Genealogy, MSS 9764-A, Box 5, folder 111-a”