COTTON Family of Isle of Wight County and Bertie County, North Carolina

Bridal House. Sumner County, Tennessee. Built by my half 1st cousin, six times removed Moore Carter Cotton, for his daughter, Elizabeth “Betsy” Cotton, on the occasion of the 1819 wedding to Richard Hobday/Hobdy. Richard is my 5th great uncle. They raised 11 children in that house.

This page will document my Cotton/Cotten ancestors. The spelling of the name changed from deCotton (ca. 1300s) to Cotten to Cotton and sometimes was spelled both ways in ONE document! 

John Cotton “was a Virginia planter and very likely a merchant, but not one of the great land owners, although he was associated with them” states Professor Jay B. Hubbell. 

John Cotton was born in Hungars Parish, Northampton Co, Virginia, probably the son of the Rev. William Cotton and his wife Ann Graves. The Wheeler plantation was in Hampton parish , and there is a deed dated February 18, 1658/59, by which Francis Wheeler sells all his land between King’s and Queen’s Creeks to Thomas Beale, who sold it to John Cotton, December31, 1666, who later conveyed it to Col. Nathaniel Bacon. This Cotton as appears from a deed in 1666 had a wife Ann who was thought to be the famous “Ann Cotton of Queen’s Creek,” who wrote the history of Bacon’s Rebellion. However, Professor Jay Hubbell in his book South and Southwest, tells us that the actual author of the account of Bacon’s Rebellion was John Cotton. John Cotton was a witness to Mrs. Wheeler’s will, and received under its provisions, “a gold seal ring,” according to William and Mary College Quarterly 5 (1) 1 23 -4 ) 1660, 21 Oct. Also,  daughter Mary was baptized in Hungar parish on December 8, 1661 and son John was also baptized in Hungar parish in 1661. Will Drummond used John Cotton as a headright on 20 Sept 1661 for some land in Westmoreland. Could this John Cotton/en have been a sailor in his youth or at least made several trips out of the colony? In 1666 he appeared again as a headright on 26 Oct 1666 when John Paine was patenting on the Rappahannock River.  In a 1767 deed John Cotton noted that he had a proprietary grant dated 1 June 1668 of 640 acres north of the Roanoke River, land that was later in Northampton Co. Although the deed states the John Cotten of Bertie was the patentee, it is obviously his father. In 1676 John and Ann Cotton were living at Queen’s Creek. In 1677 John Cotton was living in York County when he sued John Harris et al (York Deed and Will Book #6, p. 26) Also see the deposition from 1681 of a 1679 incident from the York County Records.

In the New England Historic and Genealogical Magazine Vol. XLIV, p.199, there is an examination of Mrs. Cotton’s narrative (actually that written by John Cotton, her husband) which is addressed to C.H. at Yardley, in Northamptonshire. Mention is made of a family of Harrisons at Gobions Manor, Northamptonshire, among whom the names Robert and Benjamin occur. Robert Harrison, mentioned in Mrs. Wheeler’s will had by his wife Elizabeth Comins: Nicholas, Robert, James, Amadea (Amy) married James Ming of Charles City, Frances who married Thomas Shanes of same county. (Records of York county, 1692.)

I think that it is also implied that Ann was writing a close relative so she may well have been a Harrison as also the families continued in close contact. There is no formal proof that has been found. It is also suggested that she was the Ann Dunbar who appears in several of the headright lists beside John Cotton.1693 This John Cotten appears to have moved to Isle of Wight where he died by 1693 after marrying the widow of Thomas Abington. John Penny was “looking after the estate of John Cotten, dec’d.

John “Bertie” Cotton


John “Bertie” Cotton was born 22 Apr 1658 in Queens Creek, Isle of Wight County, Virginia, and died 17 May 1728 in Portecase Creek, Bertie County, North Carolina. Whether or not he was the son of John Cotton and Ann, above, is not for certain; however, much is known about John “Bertie” Cotton. 

John Cotton married three times. His married his third wife, Martha Godwin in 1701 in Isle of Wight Co., Virginia. (Deed Book 2, pg. 69 & Great Book 2, pg. 52). Martha Godwin Cotton is my ancestor. 


Abstrated from As We Were by Maj. Bruce Cotten, son of R. R. and Sallie Southall Cotten.

John Cotten, living at South Quay on Blackwater River in the Province of Virginia in 1712, was the first of the Cotten family of whom there is authentic record. He married Martha Godwin in 1701, daughter of William Godwin of Isle of Wight County, Virginia.

In 1719 John Cotten purchased from his friend, Frederick Jones, a plantation on Potecasi Creek in what is now Hertford County, N.C., and removed there with his family, having been preceded by several grown sons. He, though an elderly man, was made Justice of the Peace, Collector of Quit Rents and a member of the General Court of the Province. His third wife was Martha Godwin whom he married in 1701 in Isle of Wight Co., VA. She had eight children. Martha Godwin was born about 1680. Her parents were William Godwin and Elizabeth Wright. In 1704, he owned 200 acres in Isle of Wight Co., VA.

John Cotton, Jr. was also called “Bertie”. Most likely a nickname given since he lived in Bertie Co., NC. He was a surveyor and landowner. He lived in South Quay on the Blackwater River in 1712 in Nansemond Co., VA, where he had a trading post and stop-over place on the river. 

On November 13, 1713, he bought 91 acres in the upper part of Nansemond Co., VA, on the westward side of the Blackwater River. He also owned 75 acres in Surry Co. in Southwark Parrish on the North side of the Blackwater River.

In 1715, they moved to North Carolina and bought land on Meherrin River from Colonel Frederick Jones, who was Chief Justice of the Colony. Then he bought land on Ahosky, which became “Mulberry Grove”. 

In 1722, John became Justice of the General Court. He was a member of Rev. William Cotton’s church (Hungar’s Parish in Accomac Co., Virginia.) The Cotton family settled in York Co., VA. From the book Cavaliers and Pioneers of Virginia – Vol. III 1695-1732 John Cotton in 1711 was living in Nansemond, VA, near the junction of the boundries of that county with Isle of Wight and North Carolina.

Phillip Ludwell, one of the commissioners for “settling the bound” between NC and VA states on July 28, 1711 that it was agreed next to meet at John Cotton’s house at South Key. Also, from Nansemond Indian Town” August 1, 1711, John Lawson, one of the Commissioners for NC wrote to Benjamin Harrison, a Commissioner for Virginia, “I desire your appointment at John Cotton’s and hope it will be the last of the month”. (ref; Boddie Vol. 3)

John Cotton, Jr. died on May 17, 1728 in Bertie Precinct, NC. William Bennett was executor of John Cotton’s Will. On July 5, 1732, Mrs. William Bennett and Capt. Thomas Bryant were trustees for the four small children of John Cotton (Arthur, Priscilla James and THOMAS).

John Cotton, Jr.’s Will was probated in the May Court, 1728. His legatees were: sons John, William, Samuel, THOMAS, Arthur, Joseph, Alexander, his wife Martha, son-in-law John Thomas, Capt. John Spears -daughters
Susannah and Priscilla Cotton, Martha Benton, widow of Francis Benton. Executors Thomas Bryan and William Bennett. Witnesses; Thomas Bryant, Thomas Strange and Mary Parker. (From Misc. Wills, Etc. North Carolina)

Martha Godwin Cotton, widow of John, married secondly to William Green.

John Cotton’s Will

Item. I Give to my Daughter, Martha Benton , Late widow of Frances Benton , decesed, Three Ewes with their in Crease.

Item. I Give to my Sons, Wm. and Samll. Cotten , 20 pound of feathers, to be Equaly devided Inlargen their beads.

My will is furder, that my mill Stones, Spindle, Jaks and peecks, to be Sould for Silver Money, and that to be Equaley devided betweixt my fower Small Children, Arthur , Pesseller , James , and Thos. Cotten , and all the Remd. of my Estate, both with in and with oute dores, I Leave to my wife and fower Small Children above named, to be Eaqualey devided.

Item. I Give to my Daughter, Susanah , as Much fine Silk Stufe as will mak hur a Sute of Clothes, and my will is that my mair that Runes in Tormenteing nack, the first Coult She Bringes, may be for my Son, Arthur Cotten , and if the Sd mair lives to bring Aney more Coultes may be for my Son, James and Thos Cotten . and,

Lastly, I doe apoint My Loveing wife to be Exetrs. of This my Last will and testment, butt Nomonate and apoint My Loveing friend, Thos Bryant , and Wm Benet to be over Sears, and have power, In case my wife Should again Marey, and hur Covetor prove unhapey to hur and my fower Small Children, to Remove and Secure them and their Estate att their desc.

In witness war of Asigne this to be my Last will and testement.

John Cotten  (Seal)

Test. Thos. Bryant, Jurat . Thomas Strange . Marey Parkers. Jurat .

Bertie sc. May Court, 1728 .

The above Will was Exhibited by Martha Cotton , Widow and Sole Executrix of John Cotton , Deced. and was proved by the Oaths of Capt. Thomas Bryant , and Mary Parker , in Open Court, in due form of Law, who were Evidences thereto. And then the sd. Martha took the the Exrs: oath in Open Court.

Test. Rt. Forster, Cler. Cur.
Copied from Original Will filed in the Office of the Secretary of State

This page is still under construction and I’ll be adding information and documents as time permits. 

Updated 7 October 2022