A ‘naughty’ wife

The following advisory was printed in the Virginia Gazette on 21 January 1775:

Prince Edward, Dec. 1, 1774

“Whereas my wife Delphia hath been a naughty, furious Housewife for some Years past, and hath invented, and reported certain Slanders, to the Prejudice of my Character, and hath often threatened to ruin me, which she hath in Some part effected; This is therefore to forewarn all Merchants and others, from crediting her on my Account, as I will pay no Debts of her contracting; and I do hereby forewarn all Persons from receiving at her Hand, any Goods or Chattels appertaining to me, as they will answer the fame at their Peril.” THOMAS COLDWELL

I received news of Thomas Coldwell’s “naughty furious Housewife” by accident, while I was looking for another Delphia in Virginia during the late eighteenth century. Though I have worked on various genealogical projects since then, my thoughts often turn to this incendiary, forked-tongued woman who caused such pain to her husband. I could not help wondering what he—Thomas Coldwell—had done to promote such behavior and what became of this miserable couple.

…I could only learn a few biographical details about Delphia.

I checked order books from Prince Edward County, 1771-1781, for a possible suit brought against Delphia by her husband. Minutes from the March 1774 term record a “John Caldwell vs. John Caldwell” case, but the only instance of Thomas Caldwell appearing in court order books from that period is when he was delinquent on the repayment of a bond to William Griffin in January 1771.[1] Furthermore, I could only learn a few biographical details about Delphia. It turns out she was born to William and Mary Ballard, a Quaker family belonging to the Camp Creek Monthly Meeting in Louisa County, Virginia, on 1 May 1742 (1 Jul 1742 on the Quaker calendar).[2] The births of five siblings were recorded in the same family record: Thomas, 1735; Frances, 1737; Byram, 1740; Moorman, 1747; and David, 1750.

According to the SAR Patriot Database, Delphia Ballard married Thomas Coldwell in 1765. Though a marriage record doesn’t seem to be accessible online, the Last Will and Testament of William Ballard, dated 12 June 1792 at Bedford County, Virginia, refers to his sons Byrom Ballard and Barclay Ballard and daughters Francis Wilson, Mary McKinney, and Delphiah Caldwell.[3] Per the SAR database, Thomas Coldwell apparently moved his family to Washington County, North Carolina—land that would later become Hawkins County, North Carolina, and then Hawkins County, Tennessee—around 1775. Both Thomas Coldwell and Delphia Ballard Coldwell are buried in the Coldwell Family Cemetery in Surgoinsville, Hawkins County, though I can’t be sure how they reconciled their differences.[4]

To be continued.


[1] Prince Edward County, Virginia. County Order Book 5, Page 3.

[2] U.S. Quaker Meeting Minutes, 1681-1935; Virginia, Richmond City, Richmond and Cedar Creek Monthly Meetings; Minutes, 1729-1755; image 34/37 (Ancestry).

[3] The Edward Pleasants Valentine Papers, Vol. I; Ballard Family, Albemarle County Records; page 110.

[4] FindAGrave Memorials 146595712 and 128909670.

About Jennifer Shakshober

Jen Shakshober earned a dual BA in English and Economics from Westfield State University, an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Bennington College, and a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University. She is currently pursuing an MLIS in Archives Management from Simmons University. Her past research has involved nineteenth and twentieth-century Vermont records from local and state-level repositories. Most recently she wrote two articles about the murder of labor organizer Joseph Shoemaker for The Walloomsack Review, a biannual publication of the Bennington (Vt.) Museum, and she is always interested in crafting narrative genealogical reports.

5 thoughts on “A ‘naughty’ wife

    1. Similar notice posted by one of my Newhouse ancestors in the 1700’s but a month later a notice appeared to recind the first one.

  1. An interesting story! I’m sure there’s more to it, but I see that this is “to be continued.” As one who has spent hours and days and months reading the Quaker monthly meeting minutes, I just want to point out that according to the minutes you cite, Delphia was born on “1 of the 5 Mo 1742” which would indeed be July according to the old style dating the Friends used at the time. If the SAR database says May, it is in error.

    There should be some mention of her marriage, or her disownment at marriage if Thomas was not a Quaker, but I haven’t found it yet. The indexing on Ancestry.com for this database is haphazard, to say the least. Most of the time you just have to read through from page to page to find things.

    I did find this nugget about her sister:

    8th 7mo 1763
    Frances Ballard Daughter of William hathe removed from among Friends and hath taken undue liberties such as dancing

    Maybe Delphia was similarly inclined to “undue liberties?”


  2. I descend from “Richard” Ballard, also listed in the Cedar Creek Monthly Meetings (1742/43), also migrated to Bedford County, VA…..I wonder if William and Richard were siblings, making Richard Delphia’s uncle?

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