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Barbara "Barbry" Hoy

Woman and child with ducks
  • Went by nickname Barbry
  • Married Alexander Hoy
  • Mother of two daughters
  • Supported her family through war
  • Widowed around 1782

Respectable local family

Barbara Hoy was a married woman by the time she first appeared in local Williamsburg records in the 1760s: "Mary the Daughter of Alexander Hoye & Barbara His Wife Was Born May the 6th: 1765," wrote the Bruton Parish clerk in his record book. She later gave birth to a second daughter, Elizabeth. Barbara probably had regular contact with other members of Alexander's family in the neighborhood.

Barbara, who went by Barbry, and Alexander lived in the Williamsburg area for more than ten years. For much of that time, Alexander's modest carpentry business kept the family in food and shelter. His service to a local court as a juror and guard put him in the ranks of responsible local residents.

Alexander joins the Army

By the late 1760s, the Hoys slid into debt, and court officials confiscated some of their belongings to repay creditors. The ready money offered by an enlistment officer in 1776 was reason enough for Alexander to join the Army.

After Alexander's regiment left Williamsburg, Barbry and her daughters struggled financially. Records suggest that the other Hoy kin had left the area several years before. With no special skills or a job, Barbry used a variety of means to support the family. She sometimes paid bills with the ducks that she raised, and borrowed money from her landlord.

Government assistance

By 1777, she was forced to turn to the government for assistance. Empowered to act in such cases by the state of Virginia, a local court stepped in: "Barbara the wife of Alexander Hoy a poor Soldier in the Service of the Commonwealth is allowed twelve pounds towards the support of herself and Children she being unable to provide for them." Again in 1779, Barbry received £40 as the "wife of a Soldier in the service of the Continent."

Widowed around 1782

Barbry, Alexander, Mary, and Elizabeth were together again in Williamsburg after the defeat of the Americans at the siege of Charleston, S. C., in 1780. Alexander, possibly weakened by disease or injury during his military service, died about 1782.

In her widowhood, Barbry was the head of her own household. In 1783, she paid personal property tax on one free worker named William Hoy, possibly her kinsman. In 1785, Barbry again borrowed money from her landlord, this time to pay what she still owed for Alexander’s burial. Daughters Mary and Elizabeth Hoy lived to adulthood.