Adam Thorowgood, Slavery, and 17th Century Racism

What were you thinking, Adam Thorowgood?  Why did you do it?

101_2553
Slave Market Memorial, Zanzibar Island

Recorded in the land records of the Lower County of New Norfolk on February 8, 1637, Captain Adam Thorowgood was granted “150 acres, due for transportation of 3 Negroes.”2 Adam had become a success by 1637.  He arrived in Virginia in 1621 as a 17-year-old indentured servant eager to learn the skills of a successful planter.  He married well, recruited his own indentured servants, became a planter-merchant, was elected a Burgess, and was appointed to the Governor’s Council.  Through good management of his affairs, he secured the largest land grant at that time in Lower Norfolk (Virginia Beach), and, with his English family connections, he even received a recommendation from the King’s Privy Council.  He had achieved all that by age 33 without owning a single enslaved person.  He had acquired his land and wealth through providing opportunities for willing English workers to come to Virginia– until that February.1

IMG_8324
Hampton, VA 400th Commemoration of First Landing

 Adam Thorowgood,  by then a Captain in the local militia, had transported over 100 English headrights whose names were recorded.  Unlike his white indentured servants, the unnamed Africans had not willingly agreed to pay for their passage with their labor.  His purchase appeared as an insignificant entry in the 17th century land records, yet it was a pivotal life moment.  How seriously did Adam consider his decision? As the son of a minister, did his soul wrestle with a moral decision or was it a business decision based on “others are doing it?”  As three more workers and 150 acres were not critical to his success and there were few Africans in the Colony, was it done for status? being part of the next new trend?  “wise” planning for the future?

Virginia’s First Africans

IMG_3833
Point Comfort (Fort Monroe), Virginia

The first Africans arrived in Virginia in August 1619 before the Pilgrims or New England Puritans ever  stepped foot in North America.  They arrived, not bringing their hopes for freedom from oppression and dreams of unlimited possibilities, but with sadness for their lost homes and liberty as well as fear for the future.  The United  States recently commemorated 400 years since the first Africans were brought to Point Comfort (Hampton), Virginia,  aboard the White Lion commanded by an English privateer John Jope.  The White Lion along with the Treasurer, which was owned by the Earl of Warwick, had attacked the Portuguese slave ship St. John de Baptiste which was carrying 350 African captives to Veracruz, Spanish America.

IMG_8289
Battle of St. John de Baptiste, the White Lion, and Treasurer by R.C. Moore,  NPS

The captains took around 60 of the Africans as booty, of which the White Lion, arriving in Virginia, “brought not anything but 20, and odd Negroes which the Governor [Yeardley] and Cape Merchant bought for vituals…at the best and easiest rates they could.”3 It was a significant moment in the history of the Colony of Virginia and the future United States of America. Their descendants and those of later enslaved persons brought here have been part of the fabric and story of this nation ever since.  The descendants of those from Africa are as American as Mayflower descendants who came from England.

IMG_5123

Enslaved or Indentured?

When Captain Thorowgood and the early Virginians looked at the world around them, they likely saw what they considered justification.  Although Virginia had been the first permanent English colony founded, it was not the first to be brought captured Africans.  The first  Negro was taken to English Bermuda in 1616, only three years after the settlement of that island.  In 1619, when Virginia got its first twenty or so, Bermuda had nearly 100 Black Africans, who, having been captured from slave ships, continued in bondage.4

Image 5-22-19 at 10.16 PM
Bermuda Fortress Photo by M. Suerdieck

In Bermuda and Virginia, a few Black Africans were fortunate to have time-limited service and were granted or able to buy their freedom.  Some historians have suggested that the status of Africans in Virginia was initially unclear as there were no official laws about slavery until the 1660s, and they should be considered indentured, not enslaved. However, as early as 1623, Bermuda passed a law forbidding Negros from having firearms, which Virginia seemed to copy in 1640 legislating that “all persons, except Negroes” should be provided with arms and ammunition. In 1630, English Barbados passed a law that “Negros … who came here to be sold should serve for life unless a contract was before made to the contrary.” English racism and slavery had taken root.5

slave ship Unknown
Slave Ship

Slavery, though, is not just defined by the term of service, but also the conditions under which a person is placed in bondage.  No one was going all the way to Africa or even the Caribbean to recruit voluntary indentured servants for Virginia. Persons from Africa were not offered options for time- limited contracts while in their home countries nor did they request transport to the Americas on slave ships. The White Lion and Treasurer were not on humanitarian rescue missions to free those they pirated from the slave ship, but rather sought to profit from them.   Slave ship captains brought captured Africans to the Americas against their wills in the most horrendous conditions and sold them to labor involuntarily without recompense or opportunity to return to their homes. That is slavery, whether it was for a few years, a lifetime, or perpetual; whether they were treated kindly or harshly; whether housed with white servants or in slave quarters; whether or not the term “slave” was yet in the legal code or even if they were accorded a few rights.6

101_2511
Slave Market Site, Stone Town, Zanzibar Island

Trans-Saharan and East African Slave Trade

The English and early Virginians, though, were not the inventors of African slavery.  Before Columbus “discovered” America, Arabs and Ottoman Turks, forbidden from enslaving fellow Muslims, had for centuries been capturing sub-Saharan Africans  for forced labor in Africa or transporting them as enslaved laborers and servants to the Persian Gulf and Arabian Penninsula. 

Arabslavers
Trans-Saharan Slave Trade

While  the triangle trade of tobacco, sugar, and slaves spanned the Atlantic in the 17th and 18th centuries, there was also the trans-Saharan and East African trade in gold, salt, spices, ivory,  and slaves with major slave markets in the Nile Basin and on Zanzibar Island in the Indian Ocean. It has been estimated that at least 9 million Africans were taken in the East African slave trade which did not end until into the 20th century.7

Lagos slaves 235px-Lagos43_kopie
Slave Caravel, Lagos, Portugal

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Portuguese mariners  started to sell Black African slaves in Lagos, Portugal,  50 years before Columbus sailed and quickly expanded their trade further into the Western Mediterranean and islands off the African coast.  By the early 16th century, they were also sending enslaved persons to colonies in the Americas.  Most of the 5.8 million enslaved Africans transported by the Portuguese had short lives in the sugar plantations of Brazil and the Caribbean.   Although records of the Spanish trans-Atlantic trade are sketchy, it is now believed the Spanish may have taken at least 1.5 million Africans  to their Spanish colonies.8

sugar cane Unknown
Caribbean Sugar Plantation

The Dutch were early participants in the slave trade and brought about a million captured Africans across the Atlantic between 1596 to 1829 to their sugar plantations in Dutch Guiana, the Caribbean, and other colonies.  The French were also significant slave traders, bringing more than a million enslaved Africans to their Caribbean islands, particularly Saint-Domingue (Haiti).   Even the Prussians and Danes joined in the slave trade in the 17th through 19th centuries.  9

1672 RAC Unknown
Royal African Company Seal

English Slave Trade

Being late to colonization, the English were late to enter the African slave trade, but ultimately became the second largest group of slave traders.   In the 1560s, Queen Elizabeth I authorized Sir John Hawkins to engage in slave trading directly with Africa, taking around 1,300 Africans to the Spanish Caribbean over 4 voyages to exchange for pearls and other commodities.  However, it proved more profitable for English privateers to simply prey on Spanish and Portuguese slaving ships, as with the White Lion and Treasurer.  In 1631, the Guinea  Company of London merchants were granted rights  by King Charles I to trade with West Africa.  This was revitalized and reformed into the Royal African Company in 1672 under King Charles II.  It is estimated that between 1640-1807, the British  transported 3.1 million Africans to the Caribbean, North and South America, and other countries.10

IMG_8275
New Towne at Jamestown by Keith Rocco, NPS

The number of Africans brought to Virginia in the first half of the 17th century was relatively small compared to the number of white English indentured servants. However, as it became harder to entice English laborers to Virginia, planters increasingly turned to using enslaved African workers. By 1650, there were about 300 enslaved persons in Virginia.  By 1700, there were 6,000. Virginia became a slave society, dependent on their slave labor. By 1860, the slave population in the United States had expanded to almost 4,000,000 of which about 500,000 lived in Virginia.11

slave lossless-page1-440px-Thomas-Clarkson-De-kreet-der-Afrikanen_MG_1315
The Brookes Slave Ship with 454 slaves 

Slavery in New England

In the popular narrative of Colonial American history, slavery is viewed as a Southern sin.  However, New England Puritans not only profited from the slave trade early on, but some owned and financed slave ships as well as had enslaved servants and laborers. In 1638,  the year after Thorowgood made his purchase, the Salem-based ship Desire took a group of captured Native Americans to the West Indies to exchange for the first shipload of  enslaved Negros to be brought to New England.

In 1641, Massachusetts was the first colony to enact a law regarding the parameters of slavery.  By midcentury, there were actually more enslaved Africans in the Northern colonies  than in the Chesapeake region, although that rapidly changed.  In the Boston vicinity, many families transitioned from primarily using white indentured  servants to enslaved Africans during the 17th century. However, as in all eras, there were those who embraced humanity, such as Samuel Sewall, the author of the first New England anti-slavery pamphlet, The Selling of Joseph, in 1700, which declared that even slaves, “are the Offspring of God,  and have equal Right unto Liberty….” 12

SC slave market Unknown
Slave Market, Charleston, S.C.           

Accountability

Overall,  the total number of enslaved Africans imported to the areas that became the United States of America was around 600,000. This was only about 5% of the estimated 12 million enslaved Africans brought to North and South America in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Despite the great migration of white Europeans across the Atlantic from 1580-1700, there were even more who arrived in the Americas in those years as enslaved Africans.   However, as the African population expanded in the colonies, the number of enslaved individuals who were bought and sold in the intercolonial trade soon exceeded those brought from afar.  13

120 101_2520
Holding Room at Slave Market, Zanzibar Island

Slavery would not have spread across the world, though, without some complicit Africans.  Portugal engaged in war in Angola, but most Europeans  waited for captured Africans to be brought to the coasts.  Prisoners from wars between kingdoms and tribal groupings were sold by enemy groups.  In addition, greedy and cruel mercenaries  raided rural villages and sophisticated cities to capture and sell Blacks for profit.  Countless men, women, and children died in the raids, wars, and horrific marches across Africa to the sea coasts. Many of those who survived then died in the slave ships during the Middle Passage voyage across the Atlantic.  Trying to grasp the breath and depth of seventeenth century slavery through this post is not intended to shift or lessen anyone’s responsibility, but rather to extend accountability. 14

Pope_Nicholas_V
Pope Nicholas V
JohnWinthropColorPortrait
Gov. John Winthrop

Concept of Equality

How could Adam Thorowgood and other decent people of his time not see the shared humanity of the enslaved? Into the 17th century, most Europeans and non-Europeans did not believe all men were equal or that liberty was a God-given right.  The concept of equality was not championed by prevailing religious, political, or scientific thought.  Pope Nicholas V in 1452 sanctioned Portuguese Christians to “vanquish” and “reduce their [black Gentiles] persons to perpetual slavery…” as a means of conversion and controlling barbarians.  Protestant, especially Calvinistic, thought at the time believed men were predestined to their station in life and saw divine providence in the hierarchical social structure.  Many New England Puritans, including Governor Winthrop, did not oppose enslaving Africans or Native Americans.  Science focused on differentiating species and subspecies which some extended to humanity and the idea of race “inferiority.”15

founding fathers imagesJohn Locke, the influential English philosopher, proposed in 1689 that men had a natural right to life, liberty, and property, despite he himself having stock in slave trading companies. Gradually through the 17th and 18th centuries, these principles gained greater acceptance, even if they were not yet inclusive of all mankind/womankind. The American Founding Fathers, while imperfect in their own understandings, attitudes, and actions, were extraordinary and revolutionary in using ideals, not persons or heredity, to create a national government based on principles of equality and liberty.  Unfortunately, these rights were not extended to all.  We still need to improve.16

0103 grandkids md IMG_4911_edited-1
African Grandmother

Slavery in New Norfolk, Virginia

Adam Thorowgood was not the only one in New Norfolk, Virginia, to own Africans.  Argoll Yeardley, the elder son of Governor Yeardley, received his land grant in New Norfolk on February 6, 1637 by including “Andolo and Maria 2 Negroes.”  On May 18, 1637, John Wilkins also received land there for importing a Negro.  Between 1638 and 1650, at least 33 Africans were purchased in Lower Norfolk County. Among those, Francisco, Emanuell, Antonyo, Lewis, and Maria were sold to Francis Yeardley, Argoll’s younger brother and the third husband of Adam’s widow, Sarah Thorowgood Gookin Yeardley, “to possess and peaceably enjoy…for ever.”  A few years later in 1653, Argoll Yeardley sold to John Custis, recently arrived in Northampton, Virginia, his first enslaved person, a girl named Doll.  The terms were explicit that Custis was to “have and to hold her and her increase forever.”  Although this all occurred before the 1660 slavery laws, those conditions for slavery were clear.17

Julia_Grant_-_Brady-Handy
Julia Dent
Mary-Custis-Lee_1
Mary Anna Randolph Custis

Legacies

I have found no evidence that Adam Thorowgood himself purchased more than his initial three Africans.  He died only three years later in 1640.   In his will, Adam did not enumerate the names of or differentiate between his servants, but gave them all to his wife and minor children.18  I will discuss their further family entanglements with slavery in future posts.  While some of Adam and Sarah’s descendants continued to own enslaved persons until the Emancipation, others had already willingly freed theirs.  Some of their descendants moved North and fought and died as Union soldiers;  others supported the Confederacy.  The complexity of Adam and Sarah Thorowgood’s legacy is evidenced as one descendant, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, married Robert E. Lee and another, Julia Dent, married Ulysses S. Grant.

IMG_5147
400th Commemoration at Fort Monroe, Virginia

I wish I could travel back in time to change the course of history and warn Adam Thorowgood and others not to open that door to slavery.  However, neither I, nor any of us, can alter the past, although we can seek to better understand and learn from it.  In my time, I can  oppose injustice and seek to make my community, my nation, and my world more inclusive, more kind, and more fair as we strive harder for liberty and justice for all.  I wish the world could have understood earlier how much Black lives really do matter.

Upcoming Post: Envisioning the Invisible: Thorowgood’s First Home in Lynnhaven, Virginia


  1. McCartney, Martha W., Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers 1607-1635 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007), 691-692. 
  2. Nugent, Nell Marion, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623-1800, v. I  (Richmond: Dietz Printing Co., 1934), 79. 
  3. Horn, James, 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy (New York: Basic Books, 2018), 85-88. 
  4. Jarvis, Michael J., “Bermuda and the Beginnings of Black Anglo-America,”  Virginia 1619: Slavery and Freedom in the Making of English America, Paul Musselwhite, Peter C. Mancall and James Horn eds. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 114-115, 125. 
  5. Horn, 103, 112-114, 239. Jarvis, 125. Billings, Warren M., The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 173-178. 
  6. Horn, 107-108. Morgan, Philip D., “Virginia Slavery in Atlantic Context, 1550 to 1650,”Virginia 1619: Slavery and Freedom in the Making of English America, Paul Musselwhite, Peter C. Mancall and James Horn eds. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 86. 
  7. McDougall, E. Ann, “The Caravel and the Caravan,” The Atlantic World and Virginia: 1550-1624, Peter C. Mancall, ed. (Chapel Hill: The University or North Carolina Press, 2007), 143-149. Horn, 92-94. Koigi, Bob, “Forgotten Slavery: The Arab-Muslim Slave Trade,” Fair Planet Dossier.  Accessed online  on August 27, 2020 at fairplanet.org/dossier 
  8. Horn, 92-94. Northrup, David, ” The Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic World,” The Atlantic World and Virginia: 1550-1624, Peter C. Mancall, ed. (Chapel Hill: The University or North Carolina Press, 2007), 174, 227. Davis, David Brion, Slavery in the Colonial Chesapeake (Williamsburg, Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1986), 2-4. Low Country Digital History Initiative of the College of Charleston, “African Laborers for a New Empire: Iberia, Slavery, and the Atlantic World.” Accessed online August 21, 2020 at ldhi.library.cofc.edu 
  9. “Dutch Slave Trade” and “French Slave Trade,” Slavery and Remembrance: A Guide to Sites, Museums and Memory, (Williamsburg, Virginia; The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2020).  Accessed online on 8/18, 2020 at slaveryandremembrance.org.  Eltis, David, The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 37-38, 121-122.  Boucher, Philip P., “Revisioning the French Atlantic,”Virginia 1619: Slavery and Freedom in the Making of English America, Paul Musselwhite, Peter C. Mancall and James Horn eds. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 302-304. Weindl, Andrea, “The Slave Trade of Northern Germany from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries,” Extending the Frontiers, Yale Scholarship Online. Accessed 8/15/20 at yale.universitypressscholarship.com 
  10. Eltis, 61-62. Morgan, 102-104. The National Archives, “Britain and the Slave Trade.”  Accessed online 8/ 14/20 at nationalarchives.gov.uk 
  11. Billings, 173. Morgan, 85-87. “Virginia Slave Population Map, 1860,” Shaping the Constitution: Resources from the Library of Virginia and the Library of Congress.  Accessed online on 9/8/2020 at edu.lva.virginia.gov. 
  12. Warren, Wendy, New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016), 7, 11-12; 221-222.  Whiting, Gloria McCahon, ” Race, Slavery, and the Problem of Numbers in Early New England,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser. 77:3 (July 2020), 424-427. 
  13. Eltis, 11.  O’Malley, Gregory E., Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619-1807 (Chapel Hill: The University ofNorth Carolina Press, 2014).  “Slavery in the United States” Accessed online at en.wikipedia.org on 8/5/2020. 
  14. Eltis, 59-60, 147-151. Horn, 115-116. 
  15. Horn, 105- 107.  LDHI online. Davis, David Brion, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution 1770-1823 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 42-44. Warren, 31-33. 
  16. Davis, Problem of Slavery, 45-47. Eltis, 15-18.  Douglass, Frederick, “The Constitution of the United States: Is it Pro-Slavery or Anti-Slavery?” presented at the Scottish Anti-Slavery Society in Glasgow, Scotland on March 26, 1860.  Accessed online on September 15, 2020 at blackpast . Uzgalis, William, “John Locke, Racism, Slavery, and Indian Lands,” abstracted from The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Race.  Accessed 8/18/20 at  Oxford Handbooks Online: Scholarly Research Reviews at oxfordhandbooks.com 
  17. Billings, 223. Horn, 111-112. Morgan, 86. Nugent, 53, 75, 81. Walczyk, Frank V.,  Northampton County, Virginia Orders and Wills 1698-1710, vol II 1704-1710  (Coram, New York: Peter’s Row, 2001), 7, 128. 
  18. “The Thorowgood Family of Princess Anne County, Va.” The Richmond Standard.  26 November 1882 

English Settlers to Virginia Beach: Who’s First?

IMG_6155
Settling into Contemporary Virginia Beach

Who was the first Englishman to own land in New Norfolk County, Virginia from which Virginia Beach City was later formed?  It  wasn’t Adam Thorowgood.  What???  Isn’t that what he’s famous for?  Then why have I led faithful readers through Adam’s story on my blog for 2.5 years?

At the start of my blog, I echoed the question posed in Lin Manuel’s Hamilton: “Who tells your story?” Nearly every history of the settlement of Princess Anne County/Virginia Beach references Adam Thorowgood/Thoroughgood.  His history has become central in its origin story.  Why?  (See Telling (& Spelling) the Thorowgood Story)

Mysteries of The Chesapeake Tribe and The Lost Colony

IMG_9961
Thoroughgood House Display

Obviously, before Europeans arrived, the land on the southern banks of what the English called the James River was occupied by indigenous people.  Archaeologists have found evidence that it was a seasonal hunting ground as far back as the  Archaic Period (8000 B.C. to 500 B.C.) and then became home to Algonquian tribes during the Woodland Period. 1

IMG_8101At the time of 16th century European exploration, the Chesapeake Indians were the dominant tribe on the south side of the James from  the Atlantic coast/ Chesapeake Bay area to the Nansemond River.  An extraordinary burial site of  a Chesapean chief, “The Great King of  Great Neck,” in Virginia Beach  was discovered in 1979, the chief still dressed in his robe, headdress, bracelets and moccasins covered with 30,000 small iridescent shells.2 Being located at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, this prosperous tribe witnessed Spanish and other European explorers sail into the Bay.

white-derby map 1590
White-DeBry Map of 1590

The first known contact between the English and the Chesapeake tribe occurred in the 1585-1586 expedition from Roanoke Island which included Thomas Harriot, the renowned English scientist and astronomer.  The artist John White created a map of the area showing the Chesapeake Bay and the James, Lynnhaven, and Elizabeth Rivers as well as important Indian villages. 3

IMG_0326
Historic Jamestowne Interpreter

The English had considered relocation to the Chesapeake area, but by the time reinforcements and supplies were finally sent in 1590, the colonists had disappeared from Roanoke.  Ever since, there have been searches and theories as to what happened to “The Lost Colony.”  Recently it has been claimed that the mystery is solved, as they blended with the Croatan tribe.  However, there may have been more than one outcome, as various artifacts and clues have been found for different areas. Based on the boastings of Chief Powhatan, some believe a group made it all the way to the Chesapeake region. Were they the first English settlers there? 4

White's Indian village
John White’s Painting of a Native Village

The claims would have been easier to verify if there were not also a “Lost/Extinct Tribe.”  According to William Strachey, the Secretary at Jamestown, the Chesapeake tribe was considered an enemy to Powhatan and did not join his empire.  When the priests told Powhatan of a prophecy that “from the  Chesapeake Bay a nation should arise which should dissolve and give end to his empire,…he destroyed and put to sword  all such who might lie under any doubtful construction of said prophecy….And so remain all the Chessiopeians at this day and for this cause, extinct.” 5 That took place sometime between 1590 and the time the Jamestown settlers arrived in 1607.  As tribes usually subdued and intermarried when they conquered, the massacre of an entire tribe would have been very unusual, leading some now to believe that Powhatan might have exaggerated his feats.

Smith's map 1606 chestribe
John Smith’s Map 1612

According to Samuel Purchas, “Powhatan confessed that he had bin at the mirder of that colonie [Roanoke] and shewed to Captain Smith a musket barrell and brase mortar and certain pieces of iron which had been theirs.”  Sir Thomas Gates in 1609 searched for Roanoke survivors in Powhatan territory.  However, none were found, and it was concluded they had been killed with the Chesapeakes. 6

IMG_1122
Cape Henry Memorial Cross

When the Jamestown settlers initially arrived at Cape Henry in the Chesapeake territory, they planted a cross and spent a few days exploring before moving up the James River.  The Indians they encountered were skittish, hostile, and not very numerous.  Were they survivors of the Chesapean massacre, an inter-married mix, or Powhatan tribes who had moved in to fill the void?

IMG_8108Excavations in the Great Neck area in the 1970s-1990s uncovered the remains of 64 Native Americans which have since been reburied at First Landing State Park.   Despite archaeologists finding an abundance of Indian artifacts in the region, there has been no evidence of any Roanoke settlers.  By 1635, most of the Indians had left that area, leaving behind the mysteries. 7

Settling New Norfolk

IMG_8089
Lynnhaven River Inlet

While the English established the settlement Kecoughtan (Elizabeth Cittie) on the north shore of the James River in 1610,  they seemed hesitant to spread out to the south side, especially after the Powhatan uprising in 1622.  The Elizabeth Cittie Shire which was created in 1634 spanned both sides of the James River and included Chesapean lands.  The Public Records Office in London indicates that there may have been some patents awarded  south of Elizabeth Cittie in the 1620s, but it is unclear if they were ever settled. Generally, if land was not “settled” (improvements made and someone living there) within three years, the land resorted back to the colony. 8

Existing Virginia land records show only one land patent on the south side prior to 1634.   Thomas Allen was granted 550 acres  in 1630 along the east side of the Chesapeake (later called Lynnhaven) River for transporting 11 people to Virginia.  The next patents were not until 1635 when Adam Thorowgood and 12 others obtained their grants. They likely recognized there was safety in numbers and neighbors when settling a new area. 9

IMG_8103
Broad Bay Manor

Little is known about Thomas Allen. He was wealthy enough to pay passage for 11 headrights.  His land was part of “the great Indian field” along the Lynnhaven River. He may have been a mariner before becoming a planter, and in 1647 he took a shipment of tobacco to Holland.  Allen never served in governmental positions, but he seemed to be a respected and prosperous planter.  Several times he went to court to make claims for owed tobacco. He also did appraisals and witness agreements for the Lower Norfolk Court. In 1657, he was involved in a land dispute with his neighbor, the three-time widowed Sarah Offley Thorowgood Gookin Yeadley.  It has been claimed that part of the Broad Bay Manor in Virginia Beach incorporated Thomas Allen’s original one room house.  However, examinations by historical architects, archaeologists, and historians of other houses in the area with similar claims of being built in the 17th century (including the “Adam Thoroughgood” house) have found those structures to be from the early 18th century.  10

The Land Grab

us-history-clipart-jamestown-9The colonists who obtained land grants in 1635 included (in order of their patent date): John Gayre (Feb 13–300 acres); Francis Towers (April 21–200 acres); John Hill (April 21–350 acres); John Parrott (May 29–450 acres); John Sibsey (June 1–1500 acres); Thomas Lambert (June 1–100 acres);  Joseph Johnson (June 19–400 acres); Adam Thorowgood (June 24–5,350 acres);  Richard Bennett (June 26–2,000 acres); Robert Bennett (June 26–700 acres); Cornelius Loyd (July 2–800 acres); Francis Hough (November 12–800 acres); and Rev. William Wilkinson (November 20–700 acres).   Of course, the settlers would have brought their families and servants with them when they moved. While Adam Thorowgood was not the first to receive a patent,  he was likely an instigator for the group movement into the Chesapeake area.  Based on the Privy Council recommendation, it appears he desired Chesapeake land before 1634 when he visited England.11

IMG_6295
Seventeenth Century Map

In 1636, Elizabeth Cittie Shire was divided along the James River, and New Norfolk County was formed. A land rush ensued.  By the end of 1637, 57 additional land patents were granted with over 35,000 acres being claimed in just those three years.  New Norfolk County was subdivided in 1637 into Lower Norfolk County  and Upper Norfolk County. Changes were happening in that area so rapidly that even a 17th century English map maker made the mistake of labeling part of Lower Norfolk County as Carotuk County which was next door in Carolina. With the divisions, some planters had their grants renewed, so it can be confusing to find the same land granted both in 1635 and again in 1637. (My numbers do not include repeats.) Upper Norfolk contained 53 of the initial 70 grants, although they tended to be smaller than those in Lower Norfolk.  By 1650, Lynnhaven was populous and had many of the middling class landowners (500-1,000 acres).

IMG_8175
Eighteenth Century Map

Upper Norfolk became Nansemond County in 1646 and is now the independent City of Suffolk.  In 1640 Lower Norfolk was redivided into the Lynnhaven and Elizabeth River Parishes.  In 1691, Lynnhaven became Princess Anne County which is now the City of Virginia Beach.  Elizabeth River Parish became Norfolk County which is now today’s cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake. 12

aerial Norfolk images
Norfolk County, England

Adam Thorowgood is often credited with naming the area New Norfolk after Norfolk County where he had lived in England.  Anyone familiar with the King’s Lynn area near the fens and broads of East Anglia, England, would have seen the similarities in the flat, river-laced lands and rich marshes. Again referencing his homeland, the area and river where Adam settled became known as Lynnhaven, meaning a place of safe harbor.

IMG_8120
1st Landing Park Cypress Swamp

Unfortunately, the soil in the area was not particularly conducive to growing great tobacco, so planters had to diversify.  In addition to farm and grazing land, the Lower Norfolk area included excellent river oyster beds, sandy beach dunes called “the Desert,” and the upper reaches of the “Great Dismal Swamp.”

IMG_8081
Lower Norfolk, Virginia

Adam’s lands from multiple grants stretched along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay from the Lynnhaven River to Little Creek and then “shot” into the main land until he had his acres. This would have included neighborhoods known today as Thoroughgood and Thoroughgood Estates, Baylake Pines, Hermitage, Bayville, Ocean Park, Pleasure House, Gracetown, Church Point, Thalia, and part of the Little Creek Naval Base. 13

Preserving the Stories

IMG_8147While some of those who had grants before 1638 had small claims of 50-200 acres for transporting themselves and maybe a wife, a child,  and/or servants, others were already notables in the Colony:  Capt. Thomas Willoughby; Daniel Gookin, Esq.; John Gookin, Gent. (Daniel’s son and future 2nd husband of Sarah Thorowgood); Jonathan Langwoth, surgeon; Thomas Hampton, clerk; Henry Woodhouse, Gent; Lt. Richard Popeley; Reverend William Wilkinson; Richard Bennett (elected as Virginia’s governor during the English Commonwealth period), and Adam Thorowgood.  Francis Mason, Henry  Sewell, and William Julian joined them soon thereafter.  Some still have local neighborhoods and land features named for them, such as Willoughby Spit, Willoughby Bay, Mason’s Creek, Julian’s Creek, and Sewell Point in Norfolk. The majority of those who patented land in the New Norfolk area lived on their land. 14

img_3122What made Adam Thorowgood’s story one to be retold while those of some early neighbors have faded away?  Perhaps it was a lucky roll of fortune’s dice that Adam both survived in Virginia for 19 years and that the story of his life in Virginia has survived for 399 years.

The Wow Factor

To have one’s story remembered, it has to grab people’s attention.  Adam Thorowgood’s 1635 grant of 5,350 acres to which he added 800 more in 1637 was far and away the largest in the new county.  (For those of you struggling to conceptualize an acre, my friend Google told me that it is approximately the size of a football field.) Over 6,000 football fields is a lot of land.  Some of those other notables in New Norfolk actually owned more land throughout the Colony, but Adam chose to concentrate most of his holdings in this area.  His land also was in a prominent location where ships would pass headed into the Chesapeake Bay or along the James River, and was easily accessible by the network of rivers and creeks. People knew where the Thorowgoods lived.

IMG_5850
Chesapeake Bay Bridge seen from Thorowgood Land

It was not only the quantity of land, though, that was impressive.  Land grants were handled through the county courts to be sure there were not overlapping claims.  Adam’s petition came to the county via a special request from the King’s Privy Council in London to the Governor and Council of Virginia.  That would certainly have garnered attention.  According to the Privy Council Register, the request was issued almost a year before Adam actually received his Virginia grant:15

Privy Council meeting:  Whitehall, 6 August 1634.  A letter directed to the Governor and Council of Virginia.  Special recommendation …from their lordships and others His Majesties most Honble. privie councill. Recommend Adam Thorowgood Esquire and wish that he will be given land for his ….service on Chesopahack River to the Southward of the Bay.

The Storytellers

An impressive story, though, will not last if there are no storytellers to pass it along. While Adam’s three daughters left the area when they married, his land remained with the descendants from his son, Adam Thorowgood II.  Many Thorowgood descendants married into  prominent Virginian and American families, but after the Civil War there were few that still carried the name. In November 1881, Thomas Harding Ellis, a descendant, carried the torch by publishing  a six part series in The Richmond Standard entitled “The Thorowgood Family of Princess Anne County, Va.”  He traced many of Adam and Sarah’s descendants to 1874, but concluded “so far as I know, the name Thorowgood, in Virginia, is entirely extinct.” There were, though, a few left.  16

The Relic

PICT0358
Thoroughgood House 1959

Shrines and relics that draw pilgrims always help to pass a story along.  As genealogical and historical societies started to form and sites such as Jamestown and Yorktown were honored, there was interest in finding the local origin story.  Although Thorowgood descendants no longer lived on his land grant, there was a very old house still on the property.  When the site was purchased in the early 1900s by the Keeler family from New York,  it was assumed that the brick house had been the one originally built by Adam.  Grace Keeler started the renovation of the house and organized tours, festivals, and pageants. By 1911, it was declared the oldest house in Virginia by the APVA, and in the 1950s, some claimed it was the oldest brick house in America.  While the Kellams, who wrote about the house in the 1930s, questioned its date, they still referred to it as “ so perfect a shrine.” 17

The controversies surrounding the house’s age sustained interest in the Thorowgoods.  The latest investigations have determined that this remarkable house was built by a great grandson around 1719.  The Thoroughgood House with its new Education Center/ Museum still draws visitors to share the broader story of the Thorowgoods and Virginia Beach beginnings.

IMG_9447
Sargeant Memorial Collection at the Slover Library, Norfolk

The Guardians

IMG_9861
Cary Carson at Thoroughgood House Rededication 2018

Still, many important buildings and notable stories are lost over time.  Adam and Sarah’s stories were fortunate to have been picked up by those committed to historic preservation.  Even if  there were unknowns and errors in the telling, important roles in rediscovering and preserving the history of these early settlers were played by Grace Keeler who brought the house back to life, the Adam Thoroughgood House Foundation  with H.C. Hoffheimer, II, which financed  its restoration and made it into a museum, the City of Norfolk which operated the house museum, the Garden Club of Virginia which restored the gardens, archaeologists Floyd Painter and  Nicholas Luccketti and historical architects Cary Carson and Willie Graham who helped uncover its origins, the City of Virginia Beach which recently provided needed renovations and created the Education Center, and many more. See earlier posts in this blog: The Identity Crisis of the “Adam Thoroughgood” HouseMystery At The Thoroughgood House, and Truth Revealed At The Thoroughgood House.

Universal Appeal

38c4 IMG_0439
Mythical Neptune at Virginia Beach

Everyone loves a good story, and this one has many popular elements. The inspiring tale of a teenager leaving home and crossing the seas,  working hard under perilous conditions, and becoming successful was an early version of  The American Dream.  As in popular myths and legends, Adam  was a younger son, the mythical seventh son, who was a servant and became a prominent and wealthy gentleman.  English nobility is part of the story as well, with Adam’s brother serving in the King’s Court, and Sarah’s grandfather and great grandfather knighted and serving as Lord Mayors of London.  It’s an easy and satisfying story to remember and retell.

I have not yet finished my telling of the tale, so there are still more posts to come. What stories do you know that you can preserve and pass along?

Special Thanks to Jorja Jean for sharing her insight and information.

Coming Post:  Adam Thorowgood, Slavery, and 17th Century Racism


  1.   Mansfield, Stephen S., Princess Anne County and Virginia Beach: A Pictorial History (Norfolk: The Donning Company, 1989), 15.  The Virginia Beach Public Library based on original text by Kathleen M. Eighmey, The Beach: A History of Virginia Beach, Virginia (Virginia Beach: Department of Public Libraries, City of Virginia Beach, 1996), 1-2. 
  2. Turner, Florence Kimberly, Gateway to the New World: A History of Princess Anne County, Virginia 1607-1824 (Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1984), 3-4. 
  3. McCartney, Martha W., Early Exploration and Settlement in the Southern Chesapeake: Lynnhaven’s Historical Context (Harrisonburg, VA: unpublished paper for James Madison University, May 1984),39-44.  Parramore, Thomas C.,  Norfolk: The First Four Centuries (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994), 13-19. 
  4. Mansfield, 12. Rountree, Helen C., Pocahontas’s People (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1990), 20-27. 
  5. Haile, Edward Wright (ed.), Jamestown Narratives: Eyewitness Accounts of the Virginia Colony (Champlain, VA: RoundHouse, 1998), 662. 
  6. Haile, 648, 664. McCartney, 104, 118. Rountree, 21-24. 
  7. “Native American Burial Sites in Virginia,” Virginia Places.  Accessed online http://www.virginiaplaces.org/population/natamergraveyards.html on 7/30/20.  Applegate, Aaron, “Va. Beach marker remembers area’s early residents,” The Virginia-Pilot, April 09, 2009.  Accessed online on 8/16/20. 
  8.  Horn, James, Adapting to a New World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 164-167. “How Settlers Acquired Title to Land in Virginia,” Virginia Places, Accessed online on 8/20/20 at http://www.virginiaplaces.org/settleland/headright.html 
  9. McCartney, 130-131.  Nugent, Nell Marion. Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623-1800  (Richmond: Dietz Printing Co., 1934),  47. 
  10. Turner, 50, 56. Walter, Alice Granbery and Harry Ed Walter.  Lower Norfolk County, Virginia, Court Records: Book “A” 1637-1646.  Baltimore:  Clearfield, 1994.  
  11. Horn, 166-169.  Nugent, 21-27, 33-37. Parramore, 31-32. 
  12. McCartney, Martha W., Jamestown People to 1800, (Baltimore: Geneaological Publishing Company, 2012), xviii-xix.  Horn, 164, 167-169.  Nugent, 38-41, 48-59, 61, 65, 71-81.  Jorga Jean, personal records.  
  13. Parramore, 30-32. Virginia Beach Public Library, 16-17. Jorja Jean, personal records. 
  14. Turner, 27-33. Horn, 167. 
  15. Nugent, 35. Parramore, 30. Colonial Record Project (VCRP), Survey Report (local call number) 04539  (London Public Record Office: Privy Council Register, 1634, 1635), 2.   Accessed online at Library of Virginia website.  
  16. Ellis, Thomas Harding, “The Thorowgood Family of Princess Anne County, Va.” The Richmond Standard.  26 November 1882. 
  17. HABS No. VA 209/ 77-LYNHA., Addendum 2013, 78; Luccketti, Nicholas M., Matthew Laird, Robert Haas, Willie Graham, and Cary Carson,  Archaeological Assessment of the Adam Thoroughgood House Site, Virginia Beach, Virginia (Williamsburg, VA: James River Institute for Archaeology, Inc, May 2006),  57-60.  Kellam, Sadie Scott and V. Hope Kellam, Old Houses in Princess Anne Virginia  (Portsmouth, VA: Printcraft Press, 1931), 37. 

Fraud and Piracy in the Virginia Tobacco Trade: The Thorowgood Brothers vs. Captain John Paine

IMG_0669

After returning from England with his headrights on the John and Dorothy in 1634, Adam Thorowgood shipped 9,000 pounds of tobacco to his brothers in England for sale.  That same year Maurice Thomson shipped 155,000 pounds. 1 Neither shipment ever made it to England.  What happened?

Tobacco was Virginia’s colonial gold.  Digging and planting, harvesting and exporting tobacco provided Virginia’s wealth, not her yet undiscovered mountain gold mines.  Once John Rolfe introduced a strain of sweet tobacco in 1614, almost anyone with a good plot of ground could grow it as a cash crop.  Yet, tobacco cultivation was demanding–its planting and harvesting seasons were particular and limited; it required intensive, back-breaking labor to tend, weed, de-worm, and harvest its leaves; it quickly depleted soil nutrients and required new or replenished land; its drying leaves were susceptible to rot in the humid climate.2

IMG_0851The tobacco cycle impacted the schedule of ships arriving from and returning to England.  Planters worried whether their  hogsheads would make it safely across the ocean and then whether English merchants would give them a fair price. Tobacco credit notes became the very currency for purchases and payments in the colony, but one’s profits depended on a fluctuating English market.  Neither Thorowgood nor Thomson could afford to lose a shipment.

The London Companies

Obviously, the greatest rewards for growing tobacco ended up with those who acquired the most land.  A new landed “aristocracy” was born in the New World, not based on formal titles, lineage, or Old World wealth, but on careful planning, grasped opportunities, and survivor’s luck.  Soon Virginia’s tobacco commerce also upended the merchant community of London.

IMG_7908In the 16th century the great English trading companies opened trade markets for exporting English goods and importing needed and exotic wares.  Most notable were the Merchant Adventurers;  the Muscovy Company for Russia; the Levant Company for Turkey and the Middle East; and the East India Company for India and the Far East. Select groups of merchants were granted trading monopolies by the crown, and membership was limited to those who met strict criteria and abided by their restrictions.  As colonization began, many members of these wealthy and powerful companies contributed to and became part of the joint stock companies such as the Virginia Company of London and later, Bermuda. 3

VA Co seal images
Virginia Company Seal

Sir Edward Osborne, the grandfather of Adam Thorowgood’s wife, Sarah Offley, was the first Governor of the Levant Company, but with his death in 1591, he was not part of the Virginia projects.  However, Sarah’s father, Robert Offley, was a Levant trader and invested in both the Virginia Company of London and Bermuda.  Much of her family was involved with the Levant and/or East India Company. While such Company involvements would have given the Thorowgood couple added prestige, it did not necessarily translate to New World power and wealth. 4

The New Planter-Merchants

IMG_6279 - Version 2
Historic Jamestowne

When King James I dissolved the Virginia Company in 1624 and made Virginia a royal colony, there was little incentive for Company investors to continue to support a venture which had brought them little profit and over which they no longer had preferential status or authority.  Although a few Levant traders stayed involved, most Company men were not interested in owning and managing actual plantations, preferring to operate around the world as trading merchants.  This opened the door for the “new planter-merchants” who  established their own connections between the colonies and English ship captains and merchants. Those who rose under this system were often from modest backgrounds who had settled in the colonies, developed successful plantations, used the headright system to acquire land, and connected with good selling markets in England.  A few started out as ship captains or shopkeepers in London. They were adaptable, open to flexible partnerships, and willing to take risks that many Company traders were not.5

From obscure and unimpressive beginnings, they altered their own economic activities and condition, while they worked a fundamental transformation of the English  commercial world.

The Thomson Connection

img_0979
Drying Tobacco

One of the most successful of the early new planter-merchants was Maurice Thomson who settled in Virginia in 1617, but soon became a transatlantic ship captain, helping to provision Virginia.   Maurice was joined by family in Virginia and  partnered with his brother-in-law, William Tucker, another important planter-merchant and  political leader in the Colony.  Tucker then joined with his good friend, Ralph Hamor,  sharing commercial ventures and as well as powerful political positions as Councilors on the Governor’s Council.  Maurice Thomson returned to England to further their commercial transatlantic trade, while William Tucker handled affairs in Virginia.  They collaborated with William Claiborne, another large plantation owner who had first arrived in 1621 as a surveyor to the Colony, but rose to ultimately become its Secretary of State and Treasurer. 6

IMG_0838
Fur Trade

Other partners, such as William Cloberry and Thomas Combes, worked with Thomson to expand trade to include furs from New England and sending African slaves to their  West Indies plantation at St. Kitts as early as 1626.  They helped establish the “triangle trade” across the Atlantic.   While all this might be viewed as “success for the little guys” operating outside the system, the Thomson conglomerate itself became very powerful in controlling trade and commodity prices.  In their governmental positions, they worked for Virginia laws to favor merchants and large land owners which often squeezed out the simple and small farmers.  These and other networks of merchants and planters brought great economic expansion to the colonies, but they also planted seeds that would later erupt in Bacon’s Rebellion and lead to the entrenchment of a slave society. 7

Adam Thorowgood also was a successful planter-merchant.  He acquired large tracks of land; recruited and imported servants; was directly involved in the tobacco trade; held governmental responsibilities as a Burgess,  justice of the peace, and ultimately a Councillor;  had English connections, including his brother Sir John Thorowgood of Kensington in the court of Charles I as well as relatives in the Levant trade; and even received a recommendation from the King’s Privy Council.  Yet, there appeared to be a certain independence in the paths and associates he chose, and he was not part of the Thomson network.  As Adam died at age 36, one can only speculate what might have been. 8

Perils at Sea: Dunkirker Privateers or Pirates? 

IMG_5451
El Galeon, a replica ship sailed from Spain

In 1634 when Maurice Thomson sent 155,000 pounds of tobacco from Virginia, it was the largest amount anyone had shipped that year.  When the ship neared the English coast, however, it was seized by the Spanish Dunkirker privateers.  Since 1583, when Spain made claim to Flanders and the Dutch lowlands, Spain had provided “letters of marque” (permission to engage in piracy against the state’s enemies) to encourage private raiders to take Protestant Dutch and English  ships.  The Protestant Dutch and English, of course, declared these Dunkirkers  (named for the prominent lowland city of Dunkirk) to be pirates. By 1628, over 522 English ships and fishing boats had been seized. This loose network of Dunkirkers continued to harass shipping off the English, German, and even Danish coasts up until 1712. 9

IMG_5441
Spanish Galleon Ship

Predictably, Thomson was upset by the loss.  The English, however, were no strangers to privateering, as they had  been engaged in it for years against the Spanish in the West Indies and off the coast of South America.  Thomson and Clement, thus, received permission from King Charles I to engage in their own privateering ventures against the Spanish which continued into the 1640s.  In addition to revenge, this allowed them to further expand their collaborations in the transatlantic trade. 10

Thorowgoods and a Crafty Captain

IMG_0982
Hogsheads and Barrels

After spending about a year in England recruiting additional headrights, Adam set sail on the John and Dorthy on September 2, 1634 from Gravesend to return to Virginia, three ordinance being shot to announce their departure. 11  During that year, Adam’s indentured servants, likely under the supervision of his capable wife Sarah and an overseer, would have been busy with the cultivation of tobacco.   Upon his return, Adam arranged for  9 hogshead (about 1,000 pounds each) to be shipped on the return voyage of the  John and Dorothy to London.  At least two of his  brothers, Sir John and Edmund Thorowgood, were involved with him in the tobacco trade and were expecting this shipment. That year London received at least 388,000 pounds of tobacco from the Chesapeake area.  12  Adam’s shipment was comparatively small, but at that time, he only owned several hundred acres.  Once he received his new land grant,  his shipments and income increased considerably.

IMG_2538
Ireland

Although headed for London, the John and the Dorothy made an unscheduled stop in Galway, Ireland.  According to Captain John Paine,  he “was forced by a leak to put into Galway” and was “forced to sell some of the cargo to raise money to pay for repairs to the ship and for provisions.”  However, the Captain’s account was disputed in two law suits brought for recovery of the stolen tobacco.

On February 2, 1636/7, Sir John and Edmund Thorowgood made a Bill of Complaint against Samuel Weale, the agent of Captain Paine who purchased the tobacco, in the Court of Chancery, which at that time handled equity and business matters.  Mr. Weale was arrested in London pending trial.  From January 23, 1635/36 until 7 December 1638, the same matter was brought before the Admiralty Court by Henry Fabian and Philip White against John Payne, Joseph Hawes, and John Beale, owners of the John and Dorothy. According to a composite of witnesses, this is what really occurred:13

Samuel Leigh, mariner, declared that the ship was at anchor on the James River in April 1635, being “laden” and in good condition.  The voyage went well “without any stress of weather or contrary winds.”  The ship put in to the Port of Galway, which was considered dangerous to shipping, by order of Paine where he sold much of the tobacco to buy vituals despite “orders to the contrary.”

John Flood, seaman, reported no problems on the voyage and that they were “well able to get to London and there was no need to call in at Ireland.”  The rest of the crew were against the selling of tobacco.

Hugh Bullock, Esq., passenger,  had paid the bond to the London Custom House that the John and Dorothy would be returned to London. Contrary to his wishes, Captain Paine had ordered her to Galway.

Christopher Boyes, passenger from Blunt Point, Virginia, understood that Mr. Bullock was in danger of imprisonment if the ship did not return to England according to his bond.

John Turnor and John Johnson:  stated that the ship arrived in Galway July 1635 carrying black walnut, butter, and Virginia tobacco.  The Mayor of Galway had the ship and cargo impounded because it had not been entered in the Customs House, but some of the tobacco had already been sold to Mr. Preston and Mr. Weale.

Lawrence Allen: Noted the entry and sale of 29 hogsheads of tobacco to Weale and Preston for £219. 6 shillings.

Thomas Taylor of Bristol: Had loaded tobacco for himself and Christopher Carew on the ship in January 1634/5 while it was on the James River.  In June 1636, he went to Galway in search of his tobacco and, after litigation, he finally received possession of it, “much of which was by then rotten.”

Sir John Thorowgood:  declared that Adam Thorowgood had shipped 9 hogsheads of tobacco to him, but Paine took the ship to Ireland for some “fraudulent purpose and not through necessity he being only three days out of London.”  Paine sold the tobacco far under market price.  Weale fully knew that the tobacco did not belong to Paine and “has refused to restore the tobacco or pay any compensation.”

DSC00749
Dublin

It was a rather “water-tight” case against Paine.  Unfortunately, fraud by captains, clerks and merchants was a problem in the shipping trade.  On July 2, 1634, several months before the John and Dorothy set sail for Virginia, the Privy Council dealt with the problem of Virginia tobacco being taken and sold to the United Provinces and other foreign countries.  The Council required a bond be posted “that they will return with the tobacco to the Port of London without unloading any part of it before that time.”  The Privy Council records of 1634-1635 recorded other incidents of interference by the Dunkirker pirates and the selling of tobacco in other lands.

Mr. Bullock had paid that bond for the John and Dorothy, so Captain Paine would have been fully aware of the requirement.  Also, it is never a good idea to cheat a knight who is in the daily service of the King.  In 1637, Captain John Paine was a prisoner in Dublin and Mr. Samuel Weale was arrested and awaiting his trial, but the John and the Dorothy was back in service under a new captain, transporting 56 Puritans to New England. 14

Next Posts:  English Settlers to Virginia Beach: Who Really Was First?; Adam Thorowgood, Slavery, and 17th Century Racism

Footnotes:


  1. Billings, Warren M., The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1607-1700 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007),  209-211. 
  2. Brenner, Robert, Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict, and London’s Overseas Traders, 1550-1653 (London: Verso, 2003), 135.  Virginia Colonial Record Project (VCRP), Survey Report 12530  (London Public Record Office: Court of Chancery Bills and Answers Series I Charles I,  1636/7).   Accessed online at Library of Virginia website on June 30, 2020. 
  3.   Hewins, William Albert Samuel,  English Trade and Finance Chiefly in the Seventeenth Century (London: Methuen & Co., 1892), 24-30, 44-47. Gray, Stanley and V. J. Wyckoff, “The International Tobacco Trade in the Seventeenth Century,” The Southern Economic Journal, VII:1 (July 1940), 1-26. 
  4. Harwood, “Pedigree of Offley,” The Genealogist: A Quarterly Magazine of Genealogical, Antiquarian, Topographical, and Heraldic Research, XIX, 1903, 217-231. 
  5. Billings, 212-214.  Brenner, 103- 107, 111-114. 
  6. Brenner, 115-124.  McCartney, Martha W., Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 689-690; 702-703. 
  7. Brenner, 122-132. 
  8.   McCartney, 691-692. Horn, James, Adapting to a New World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 423. 
  9. Brenner, 134-135; Dunkirkers, Wikipedia, accessed online on July 8, 2020 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkirkers. 
  10. Brenner, 135. 
  11.   Coldham, Peter Wilson, English Adventurers and Emigrants, 1609-1660:  Abstracts of Examinations in the High Court of Admiralty with Reference to Colonial America (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984), 60-62. 
  12.   Clemens, Paul G.E., The Atlantic Economy and Colonial Maryland’s Eastern Shore: From Tobacco to Grain (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980), 34.  Virginia Colonial Records Project (VCRP), Survey Report 12530. VCRP, Survey Report 9985. 
  13. VCRP, Survey Record 12530. VCRP, Survey Record 13852. VCRP, Survey Record 09977. Coldman, 60. 
  14. VCRP,  Survey Report 4764 and 04539: Privy Council Register 1634. 1635. Stephens, W.B. , The Seventeenth Century Customs Service Surveyed (New York: Ashgate Publishing, 2012). “John and Dorothy, 1637,” Great Migration Ships: 1630 Sailings, accessed online at WikiTree on July 10, 2020. 

Thorowgood’s Return: Competing for Emigrants for 17th Century Virginia

Puritan_Great_Migration_Editing_Guidance-1(1)
Puritan Great Migration to Massachusetts Bay Colony

Why did Adam Thorowgood decide to go back to England in 1633?  Having completed his indentureship followed by a visit to England in 1626, Adam now had land, a family, indentured servants, and prestige as a Burgess in Virginia.  What else did he want?

The Indentured Dilemma

servant 487841_1_En_2_Fig2_HTMLThe headright system that had been established to encourage English men and women to come to Virginia as indentured servants worked relatively well for immigrants and investors in the second quarter of the 17th century.  However, one of the problems was that even when indentured servants managed to survive 4-7 years  in Virginia,  the planter had to find a replacement when the time was over, unless they entered into a tenancy arrangement.  A successful landowner had to deal with constant turnover.  Virginia had an insatiable need for workers. (See Indentured: The Gamble of a Lifetime)

In 1633, many of the 51 headrights  whose passage was paid for by Adam Thorowgood during 1628-29 would have been close to completing their indentureships.  While most likely Adam would have initially sold some of those contracts  to other planters for a profit, his personal need for workers was now increasing.  In addition to replacing expiring indentureships, he had purchased more land to be worked and had desires for a very large land grant. As before, Adam chose to do his own recruiting in England rather than to go through others. Also, he likely wanted to follow up on some family connections. (See Pied Pipers to Virginia: The Recruitment of 17th Century Headrights)

City on Hill 1*2NJHjcgnjpMyu-zPApdLKw
City on a Hill

Puritans to Massachusetts

Choices and opportunities had increased in those intervening years for persons who wanted to emigrate from England.   In the summer of 1630, 11 ships had brought around 700 Puritan passengers to form the  Massachusetts Bay Colony.  It was early in the Great Migration which eventually resulted in about 20,000 Puritans coming to Massachusetts. Many of these came from the area of East Anglia which included the Thorowgood’s County Norfolk as well as Suffolk and part of  Cambridgeshire.  East Anglia was noted for its religious nonconformity.  The Puritans were reformers of the Anglican Church, not Separatists like the earlier Pilgrim colonists.1

JohnWinthropColorPortrait
Gov. John Winthrop

Governor John Winthrop from Suffolk led this first fleet of Puritans and desired for their New England colony to become a righteous beacon or “a city on a hill” for those willing to abide by their Puritan code.  They were not interested in offering religious freedom to others or in setting up a democracy.  In fact, Winthrop said “a democracy is …accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government.” 2

This ongoing mass migration likely reduced the number of Norfolk residents who might have considered going to Virginia, but those who chose to go with Winthrop were not necessarily the type Adam Thorowgood would have been seeking.  Adam was primarily looking for healthy, young men interested in Virginia tobacco farming.  The Great Migration Puritans tended to migrate as families, and there was nearly an equal ratio of men to women. Only about a quarter of the men were in their twenties.  In contrast, the usual Virginia emigrants were single males in their twenties. 3

Leonard_Calvert_by_Florence_MacKubin
Gov. Leonard Calvert

Catholics to Maryland

In 1633 when Adam arrived in England, another group based on religious identity was preparing to leave for the Americas.   Whereas the Puritans were dissatisfied because they felt the Anglican church retained too much of the Catholic ceremony, English Catholics were hoping to have a place where they could freely practice their Catholicism.  George Calvert, 1st Baron of Baltimore,  had announced his conversion to Catholicism in 1625 and was able to obtain a charter from King Charles I to establish a colony initially in Newfoundland, later renegotiated for “Maryland,” where Catholics could settle.  They named it for the Catholic wife of Charles I, Henrietta Maria.  When George Calvert died suddenly in 1632, his son Cecil Calvert proceeded with the charter and appointed his brother Leonard Calvert as Maryland’s first governor.  On November 22, 1633, the ships the Ark and the Dove were ready to leave with 140 settlers bound for this new colony. 4

IMG_1630
The Ark, a “Super-Sized” Ship at 400 tons

Whereas the Puritans wanted only Puritans in their settlement, the Calverts were willing to allow Protestants to join them.  Based on those whose faith is known through records of The Ark and the Dove Society, at least a quarter of the settlers may have been Protestant.  Some have estimated it could have been as much as half, so, by necessity, religious tolerance was practiced.  The Calverts came from Yorkshire, but their emigrants were from a variety of counties, including Essex, Middlesex, Kent, Gloustershire and Lancastershire.  In this first group, at least 35 were identified as gentlemen, 14 as servants to the gentlemen, and 5 in the trades.  There were only 3 women, one identified as a servant.  The situations of the others onboard are unknown. 5

IMG_1816
St. Mary’s City, Maryland

Interestingly, one of the gentlemen on the Ark was Cyprian Thorowgood, a twenty-seven year old Catholic from Wenden, Essex.  Cyprian would go on to distinguish himself as  a fur trader, explorer of the Chesapeake Bay, member of the Maryland Assembly, and Sheriff.  Adam Thorowgood’s ancestors were known to have lived in Hertfordshire, England during the 15th century and  in Felsted, Essex in the 16th century.  Adam’s father, William Thorowgood was born in Essex. It is possible that these families were related, but no connection has yet been identified.  Clearly, there was a religious difference between these Thorowgood families. William Thorowgood moved to Grimston, Norfolk in 1585 as the Anglican rector of St. Botolph’s and became Commissary to the Anglican Bishop of Norwich.   There is no evidence that Cyprian  and Adam ever connected.  Cyprian had no known descendants. 6

IMG_1676
St. Mary’s City 1685 by Walter Crowe

In February 1634, the Ark and the Dove arrived at Port Comfort in Elizabeth City, Virginia.  After resting about a week, they sailed up the Chesapeake to St. Clement’s Island and then established their first settlement at St. Mary’s City, Maryland. This all occurred around the very time Adam Thorowgood was also recruiting.  Adam managed, however, to quickly find a group of Virginia hopefuls.  While we do not know where or how he recruited them, Adam contracted to pay the passage for 11  headrights in 1633 on the Hopewell, the same ship that had brought him and his new bride, Sarah Offley, to Virginia in 1628.7

2374 c uk344 IMG_4205_edited-2
Holyroodhouse Palace where Charles I had his Scottish Coronation

A Brother Knighted

Among those in England that Adam would have been eager to see was his brother, Sir John Thorowgood of Kensington, who was knighted at the Scottish coronation of Charles I in Edinburgh in June 1633. It would have been an exciting time for the family. (Do not confuse Adam’s brother with the other Sir John Thorowgood).  Sir John’s duties as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber of Charles I were focused on his daily attendance on the King. Still, he and another of their brothers, Edmund Thorowgood, were involved with Adam in the tobacco trade. (next post)  Edmund, a gentleman, and his wife, Frances Smith, the daughter of Edward Smith of Chelston Temple, Essex, were living in Markham, Norfolk, just a few miles from Grimston, Norfolk where Adam and his six older brothers and one sister had grown up. 8 (See Untangling 17th Century Genealogies: Thoroughly Confusing Thorowgoods)

Family Supports

Image 6-27-20 at 4.57 PM
John Speed’s 1610 Map of Norfolk, England

Another of these brothers, Thomas Thorowgood, married to Anne Windham, was the rector in nearby Little Massingham, Norfolk at that time.  Anne’s brother, Edward Windham, must have been enthused by Adam’s adventures and success, and he agreed to go to Virginia as one of Adam’s headrights.   Due to their relationship, Edward may not have been an indentured servant, as only four years after his voyage, he was serving as a Justice on the Lower County of New Norfolk (VA) Court under Adam.  In his will, Adam Thorowgood referred to Edward Windham as his “brother,” although he was technically Adam’s brother’s brother-in-law. 9

2.-London-Bridge-Claes-Vissher-c.1616-copy
Claes Visscher 1616 Panorama of London

Adam also made contact with his wife, Sarah Offley’s, London-based family while he was in England.  Sarah’s older widowed sister, Ann Offley Workman, had remarried Robert Hayes.  As they had sufficient funds, they did not need to come as headrights, but they did soon follow Adam to Virginia and purchased land near him in Lower Norfolk, Virginia in 1637.  By 1638, Robert Hayes was serving as a Burgess from that county. Adam also called Robert his “brother” (brother-in-law) in his will.  In addition, Adam had involvement with Sarah’s uncle Alexander Harris of Tower Hill, London, whom he would name along with his “dearly beloved brother” Sir John Thorowgood of Kensington as executors of his will in England. 10(See A “Big Bang” Marriage: How Sarah (Offley) met Adam (Thorowgood) in London 1627)

Perhaps with some help from his family connections, Adam Thorowgood arranged for an even larger group of emigrants for 1634.  He paid for 5 on the Bonadventure, 1 on Merchant’s Hope, and 1 on Mr. Middleton, and then arranged passage for 30 individuals to accompany him back to Virginia on the John and Dorothy.  One of Adam’s headrights on the Bonadventure was Patrick Blacock (or Blalocke), the only known instance of Adam transporting someone who had been detained at the famous Bridewell Prison, known to include many vagrants with minor infractions who were shipped to Virginia. Adam transported  at least 3 women and a child in 1634. There are an additional 4 women for whom we do not have a date or ship. In a little over a year in England, Adam Thorowgood had managed to recruit and fund at least 48 headrights.  He was entitled to 50 acres of land for each person he paid for and then 50 more acres for himself just for returning to Virginia.11

Recommended by the Privy Council

FOT1142601
The Old Whitehall Palace from the River

Adam’s  greatest prize, though, was a letter from Whitehall on August 6, 1634 in which the King’s Privy Council  informed the Governor and Council of Virginia that they “recommend Adam Thorowgood, Esquire, and wish that he be given land in Chesapahack [now Lynnhaven] River to the Southward of the Bay.” 12 Land grants were usually just matters for the local county courts in Virginia.  A Privy Council recommendation gave Adam considerable status.  A brother at Court was indeed useful.  However, all was not “smooth sailing.”  Although the voyages to Virginia had gone well, Adam and his brothers were about to be cheated by a ship’s captain.

The List of Emigrants

Although I  listed those headrights brought by Adam Thorowgood in 1628-29 in a prior post, this list includes the entire group of his headrights by ship and date (when known) from 1628-1634. 13

The Hopewell, 1628:  Jno Barnards; Stephen Bernard; Margaret Bilbie; Thomas Boulton; Jon Bradston; Thomas Brooks; Thomas Chandler; Andrew Chant; Susan Colson; William Edwards; Robert Heasell; Richard Jego (Iego); Richard Jenerie; Thomas Johnson; Richard Johnson; Thomas Keeling; Rachel Lane; James Leading; Jos Leake; Thomas Melton; Jon Moyse (Moise); Jon Newarke; Francis Newton; Ed Parish; John Penton; Jno Percie; Edward Pitts; Jane Prosser; Dennis Russell; Ann Spark; Adam Thorowgood; Sarah Thorowgood; Thomas Thorowgood; Edmund Wallis; Augustine Warner; John Waters; Jane Westerfield

The True Love, 1628:  Andrew Boyer; Thomas Boyer; Jon Lock; John Harris

The Ark, 1628:  Francis Bramly

The Africa, 1628: Merciful Halle;  Ann Allerson;   Victo Fraford;   Ann Long;   Casander Underwood;  Dorothy Wheeler

The “French ship,” 1629:  John Dyer; William Hines; Edward Jones; Edward Palmer; Edward Reynolds

The Hopewell, 1633   John Enies;  William Fawne;  William Gastrock;  Gilbert Gye (Guy); Daniel Hutton;  George Mee;  Jon Reynolds;  William Speed;  William Was;  James Wilson; Jno Witt

The John and the Dorothy,  1634   Jon Alporte;  Thomas Atmore;  Jon Brewton;  Thomas Creasor;  Arthur Eggleston;  Henry Franklin;  Robert Gainie;  Humphrey Hayward;  Henry Hill;  Jon Hill;  Mary Hill;  Mary Hill (child);  John Holton;  William Hookes;  Cob Howell;  William Kempe;  Christopher Newgent;  Richard Poole;  Joseph Sedgwick;  Thomas Smith;  Robert Spring;  Symond Stanfield;  Adam Thorowgood; Roger Ward;  George Whitehead;  Ann Whithorne;  Edward Windham;  Jno Withers;  Stephen Withers;  and Henry Woods

The Bonadventure, 1634  James Belly; Patrick Blacock (Blalocke); Ann Boulton;  John Cowes;  Stephen Swaine;  John Wakefield

The Merchant’s Hope, 1634    Robert Westwell

Mr. Middleton, 1634    William Fletcher

The Christopher and Mary,  Date unknown  Eliza Gosmore

Unknown Ship and Date    William Atkins;  Ann Burroughs;  William Burroughs;  Elizabeth Creasor;  Eliza Custisse

Next Post:  The Thorowgood Brothers v. Captain Paine: Trouble in the Virginia Tobacco Trade

Footnotes

 

 


  1. Bailyn, Bernard, The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), 365-367.  Hopley, Claire, “The Puritan Migration–Albion’s Seed Sets Sail,” British Heritage Travel @ britishheritage.com/puritan-migration-albions-sets-sail, Mar. 06, 2020.  Accessed online on June 23, 2020.  “Puritan Migration to New England (1620-1640),” Wikipedia, edited  June 5, 2020. Accessed online June 23, 2020. 
  2.  Ibid 
  3. Betlock, Lynn, “New England’s Great Migration,” Great Migration.org: A Survey of New England 1620-1640 @ greatmigration.org.  Accessed online June 24, 2020. Horn, James, “Servant Emigration” in Tate and Ammerman, eds., The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century,  (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), 61. 
  4. Hammett, Regina Combs, History of St. Mary’s County, Maryland 1634-1990 (Ridge, Maryland: self published, 1991), 1-3. 
  5. The Ark and the Dove Society, The Adventurer List. Accessed online June 26, 2020 at  http://www.thearkandthedove.com/passenger-list/ . Hammett, 3-5. 
  6. Hammett, 19, 62.  “Cyprian Thoroughgood,” Archives of Maryland: Biographical Series MSASC 3520-2854 accessed online 3/15/2018.   Nugent, Nell Marion, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents (Richmond: VA State Library Archives, 1992), I:415.  The Gayton, Grimston, Great Massingham & District Team Benefice of the Diocese of Norwich, Grimston Church History: The Benefice and Rectors.  Accessed online on June 20, 2020 at ggmbenefice.uk. 
  7. Hammett, 5-6.  Nugent, I: 22-23. 
  8. Matthew, H. C. G.,  and Brian Harrison ed., “Thoroughgood, John” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 54 (London: Oxford University Press, 2004), 660-662.  Virginia Colonial Records Project, Survey Report No. 12530: Court of Chancery: Bills and Answers. Series I. Charles I. from Public Record Office Class C2 Charles I W49/3. Accessed online  at Library of Virginia on April 21, 2020. 
  9. McCartney, Martha W., Jamestown People to 1800 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2012), 452. “The Thorowgood Family of Princess Anne County, Va.” The Richmond Standard.  26 November 1882.  Turner, Florence Kimberly, Gateway to the New World: A History of Princess Anne County, Virginia 1607-1824 (Easley, So. Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1984), 29, 38. 
  10. McCartney, 200. Turner, 38. 
  11. Nugent, Ibid
  12. Virginia Colonial Record Project, Survey Report 4764 Privy Council Register Dates 1634, 1635.  Accessed online Library of Virginia (local call number SR 08781) on April 21, 2020. 
  13. Nugent, Ibid. 

Becoming a Virginia Burgess in 1629: Representation,Voting, and the Commonwealth’s Urine Collection Act

IMG_4701
Historic Jamestowne Reenactment of 1st General Assembly in 1619
IMG_7714
Commemoration Program

Jamestown. October 16, 1629.  The General Assembly of the Colony of Virginia convened consisting of 46 elected representatives from 24 designated sites along with Governor John Pott and his  Councillors. It had been ten years since the House of Burgesses with its twenty-two representatives from 11 localities had met under the leadership of the newly appointed governor, Sir George Yeardley, becoming the first representative legislative assembly in the Americas.1 In the intervening years, the Colony had pulled through the devastation of the Powhatan Uprising and the dissolution of its founding commercial Virginia Company of London.  The Colony had not only survived, but prospered.  In 2019, the Commonwealth of Virginia celebrated the 400th anniversary of the beginning of representative government in America.  Did the Burgesses in 1629 happen to pause to acknowledge its tenth anniversary?

Charles I mg_2356
King Charles I

The burgesses that year would have been aware that their situation was tenuous.  The election of representatives began while the Colony was under the private chartered Virginia Company of London.  After the Company was dissolved and Virginia was designated a Royal Colony in 1624, the House of Burgesses was neither sanctioned nor disallowed by King Charles I.  Virginians, though, had taken to the idea of elected representation, and, despite the uncertainty, the General Assembly still met. 2 Still, continuation of a representative assembly was not assured.  Ironically, while the Virginia representatives met in 1629, Charles I, weary of not getting the monies and approvals he wanted, dissolved England’s Parliament.  He did not call it back into session until 1640, a time in English history known as “The Eleven Year Tyranny.” 3  The citizens in England in that period were denied their representative voice.

The Vision of a Commonwealth

IMG_4748
Gov. Yeardley Reenactor

The commission that was carried to the Colony in 1619 by Governor Yeardley changed the course of Virginia’s government  and ultimately that of the United States of America.  It reflected an important step in the English philosophical debate about how nations and colonies should be governed.  In the 15th and 16th century, some judicial philosophers  put forward the idealized concept of a nation as a “common-weal” where a harmonious hierarchical balance would be maintained between the monarchy, the government, and the people in such a way that all would share in a common well-being. To achieve this would require an enlightened monarch, a responsive and responsible government, and a represented and diligent populace, all of them living in accordance with the righteous principles and laws of the Church.  4

VA Co seal images
Seal of the Virginia Company of London

Although the basic components of a commonwealth existed in 17th century England (King, Parliament, Church, and the People), they were not harmoniously united, and the initial governments of Jamestown were chaotic and authoritarian.   The harsh implementation of the Company’s initial “Lawes Divine, Moral, and Martial” by its governors had not fostered shared prosperity or unity in Virginia.  With the Colony still struggling, the Virginia Company changed leadership, and Sir Edwin Sandys, a proponent of the commonwealth concept, was elected a director.

Edwin Sandys 472pre_2c25eb685520a48
Sir Edwin Sandys

Sir Edwin Sandys, A Founding Father

Sandys and his supporters desired for Virginia to become a New World commonwealth that would benefit all those living there and involve them in their own public affairs.  He believed in  strengthening the economy by diversification of crops and production, increasing emigration through land incentives, allowing free trade, providing representation in  government, and converting the native peoples to Anglican Protestantism after which they surely would  happily assume their place in this harmonious, supportive hierarchy.  He saw Virginia as the opportunity to create “a perfected English society.”  However, Virginia was not a blank slate.   The Powhatan Indians were not interested in becoming loyal Protestant subjects of James I.  Colonists already had a taste of wealth through tobacco and did not want to diversify.  The offer of land ownership and a voice in one’s governance, though, were attractive incentives to increase emigration. 5

Sir Edwin Sandys also had his difficulties with the Crown.  Considered the most influential member of the House of Commons at the time, he was in frequent conflict with King James I.  In 1621, he was even placed under house arrest related to his contrary opinion on the “Spanish marriage” being considered for Prince Charles.   Sandys never proposed a commonwealth without a monarch, but he supported a powerful Parliament.  Perceiving his democratic tendencies, Capt. John Bargrave attacked the Virginia commonwealth project saying, “the mouth of equal liberty must be stopped.”  6

Today,  while one of the fifty states, Virginia is still officially named The Commonwealth of Virginia.  The noted Jamestown historian, Dr. James Horn, summarized Sandys’s contribution as an unrecognized early Founding Father thus: 7

Sandys’s dream of creating a commonwealth in the interests of settlers and Indians proved short-lived.  But the twin-pillars of democracy–the rule of law and representative government–survived and flourished.  It was his greatest legacy to America.

Challenges of Creating a General Assembly

IMG_3701
John Pory Reenactor

While the concept of an elected governmental body was exciting to the early colonists, there were challenges in its implementation.  It was easily decided that the Assembly would meet in the choir seats of the largest and finest  building in Jamestown, its new church built in 1617, but how to conduct the meeting was a greater challenge.  Only John Pory, the Secretary of the Colony, had ever had legislative experience as a member of the House of Commons in Parliament, so he was authorized as the Speaker of the House. Still, it was uncertain what a colonial legislative body of a private company could or should do.  Was it to be more of an advisory appendage to handle local matters for the Company or could it actually formulate laws for the Colony and become a type of “Little Parliament?”  8

IMG_4553
Church Choir Benches, Historic Jamestowne

Until 1643, the General Assembly was a unicameral body intended to convene annually with the Governor, his Councillors, and the elected Burgesses all meeting and working together.  According to the instructions, Sir George Yeardley was to establish ” a laudable form of Magistracy and just Laws…for the happy guiding and governing of the people.” With little direction from England, no experience in drafting laws, and a whole new set of circumstances to regulate, Virginians began to craft their own unique government, setting themselves on a twisting and rocky path that would ultimately lead to independence.9

17th Century Voting and Representation

IMG_0007
Adam Thorowgood Thoroughgood House, Va. Beach

Among those newly elected Burgesses in 1629 was Adam Thorowgood of Elizabeth City, whose life regular readers of this blog know I am tracking through the 17th Century.  It is rather remarkable that he was elected at that point, for it was only four years since he had finished his indentureship to Edward Waters, and Elizabeth City was a large and important settlement.  However, much had transpired in those years to boost his prominence.  Likely using the £100 inheritance from his father, Adam purchased 150 acres and was recognized as a “gentleman of  Kikotan. ” He then returned to England and married into the influential and wealthy merchant families of the Osbournes and Offleys.  Around that time, his older brother, John Thorowgood, was appointed a Gentleman of the Bed Chamber for King Charles (like Ladies in Waiting for a Queen) and was anticipating knighthood.  Although only 24 years old when he returned to Virginia in 1628, Adam Thorowgood was a young man of which to take note. So, who would have been able to vote to elect him a Burgess? 10

As a tour guide for Jamestown and Williamsburg, I frequently hear interpreters talk about how many people were not represented in government in those days.  However, officials from the 17th or 18th century might have argued that.  Today we equate representation with being able to cast a vote.  It was construed differently at that time.

In the beginning, to vote for a Burgess one had only to be a free man of age (21) who gave allegiance to England.  The first Africans were brought to Virginia a month after the Burgesses met, but their arrival was unanticipated. (future posts) The restriction on being free was not originally intended to exclude slaves, but to keep bound indentured servants from voting who might be unduly pressured by their temporary “owners.”   Masters were viewed as representing their bound and enslaved servants.11

IMG_0054
Sarah Thorowgood,  Thoroughgood House

Most adult women were considered under the concept of “feme covert.”  If unmarried and living at home, she was considered represented by her father.  If married, her husband was to represent her and their children.  Only widowed or independent single women (“feme sole”) had no “representation” in this system.  With men outnumbering women in the Colony for its first century, women were usually not single for long.  Adam Thorowgood’s wife, Sarah, though,  became a formidable widow even without the vote.  12

Initially, it was easier for a man to qualify to vote in Virginia than in England.  Just as what was happening in England influenced Virginia, what Virginia did influenced the direction of events in England. There were efforts in the House of Commons during this same period to broaden England’s parliamentary franchise, but they were unsuccessful.  Unfortunately, with time, more restrictions were added to Virginia’s voting requirements.  In 1670, around the period the Assembly was passing restrictive race-related laws, they added the requirement that one had to to own land or property to vote.13

Johnson free blacks xk593uwdqztz
Anthony & Mary Johnson, Free Blacks in Virginia

Out of concern over the increasing number of free blacks within the Colony and fear they might join in a slave insurrection, the Assembly passed a law in 1723  “That no free negro, mulatto, or Indian whatsoever, hereafter have any vote at the election of burgesses, or any other election whatsoever.” Another right was curtailed.  After Bacon’s rebellion in 1676, the King had begun to exert more control over Virginia, so even the elected legislature began to lose some of its freedoms and independence.14

The Legislative Agendas  1629-1632

IMG_4675
General Assembly Reenactment

During the years Adam Thorowgood participated as a Burgess, the Assembly dealt with some significant changes as well as rather provincial matters.  In his first session in 1629, the Burgesses considered the usual issues of  planting corn, going against the Indians, planting tobacco, penalties for not going to church, paying for tithables, and the refortification of Point Comfort.15

corn fieldDiscussions might have been a bit more interesting in the following session on March 24, 1629/30 (using the Julian calendar). Sir John Harvey had just been appointed governor to replace John Pott, who was accused of stealing cattle (he was convicted in July). The Assembly passed Acts prohibiting price gouging and defrauding by sea merchants and colonists, ordering farmers to grow at least 2 acres of corn per worker, forbidding the killing of female cows until they were post-breeding, and, as colonists had renewed attacks on the Indians, allowing “noe peace bee concluded with them.”  Act 5, though, was more unusual. After asking each household to preserve their wood ashes for the making of potash, the following was requested: 16

ACT V

…every master of a family shall have a special care…to preserve and keepe all their urine which shall be made…they shall receave directions the benefit whereof…shall redounde to those that shall make the experiment…

chamber pots m31Hb
17th c. Chamber Pot

How the urine was to be collected and stored and the means of the Act’s enforcement were not explained. Indeed, there was much the Burgesses still needed to learn about the fine art of practical legislation. However, urine could be used as the source of potassium nitrate which, combined with manure and a few other ingredients and allowed to age for 10 months, could produce gunpowder.  Or you could just order more ready-made from England.

burgesses print 486820fd2dfff444833b42e31dfe3dd8In contrast, the  sessions in 1631-32 were groundbreaking as the Assembly decided to review, consolidate, revise, void when needed, and reform the body of laws that had accumulated over the years.  This was their first attempt to develop and publish a consistent Code of Law for the Colony.  The first review appeared to have taken place by only a partial Assembly as it included  only 20 Burgesses representing 13 combined districts and started meeting on February 21, 1631/32.  They produced a document of 68 acts which included 15 related to Church matters.    Not surprisingly, the “urine collection” regulation did not survive the review. 17

While Adam Thorowgood was not in the February meetings, he was present a few months later on September 4, 1632 when the entire group of 37 Burgesses from all 25 sites met to consider the work that had been done.  With some changes to the earlier revision for clarity and convenience, the Assembly then issued 61 Acts.  The Preamble stated:  18

we doe therefore herby ordeyne and establish that these acts and orders… be published in this colony and to be accounted and adjudged in force.  And all other acts and orders of any assembly heretofore holden to be voyd and of none effect.

While there would be many more revisions in the years to come, that year Virginians confidently took ownership of their legislative process.

Coming Post:  Thorowgood’s Return: Competing for Emigrants for 17th Century Virginia

Footnotes:


  1. Hening, William Waller, The Statutes at Large Being a Collection of  all the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in the Year 1619, vol. I (New York: R.W. & G. Bartow, 1823), 132-33. Accessed online at books. google on May 15, 2020.  McIlwaine, H.R. and J.P. Kennedy, eds.,  Journal of the House of Burgesses of Virginia I: 1619-1658-59. (Virginia, General Assembly, 1915), 2-3; 52 137. Accessed online at books.google on May 15, 2020. 
  2. Billings, Warren M., The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1607-1700 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 52. 
  3. Crofton, Ian, The Kings and Queens of England (London: Quercus, 2006), 162-163. 
  4. Horn, James, 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy (New York: Basic Books, 2018), 121-123. 
  5. Ibid., 127-131, 153.  Rabb, Theodore K. “Sir Edwin Sandys (1561–1629).” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 May. 2020
  6. Horn, 8. 
  7. Ibid., 217. 
  8. Ibid., 68-69. Billings, Warren M.,  A Little Parliament: The Virginia General Assembly in the Seventeenth Century (Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 2004), xvi-xix, 160. 
  9. Billings, Little Parliament, 16-17.  Horn, 60, 67-68, 81, 160. 
  10. McCartney, Martha W., Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers 1607-1635 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2007), 168.  Matthew, H. C. G.,  and Brian Harrison ed., “Thoroughgood, John” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 54 (London: Oxford University Press, 2004), 660-662. 
  11. Billings, Little Parliament, 18, 55, 160. 
  12. Billings, Old Dominion, 360-361. Parramore, Thomas C., Peter C. Stewart, and Tommy L. Bogger, Norfolk: The First Four Centuries (Charlottesville: Univeristy Press of Virginia, 1994), 26-28, 39-42. 
  13. Horn, 208. Bushman, Richard, “English Franchise Reform in the Seventeenth Century,” The Journal of British Studies, III (November 1963), 36-38.  Accessed online on May 10, 2020 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/175047.pdf.  Requirements for Voting in Virginia, 1670-1850 from Virginia Places.   Accessed online May 2, 2020 at  http://www.virginiaplaces.org/government/voteproperty.html    
  14. Wolfe, Brendan. “Free Blacks in Colonial Virginia.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 13 May. 2019. Web. 19 May. 2020
  15. Hening, 145. 
  16. Ibid., 149-152 
  17. Ibid., 153. 
  18.  Ibid., 178-180. Billings, Little Parliament, 193-194. 

Easter 1628 at “St. John’s” Church in Elizabeth Cittie Parish (Hampton), Virginia

IMG_3974
Sunday “Tarrying” at Second Kecoughtan Church, Elizabeth Cittie Parish

While it is known where Virginia settlers would have attended church in Elizabeth Cittie Parish on Easter Sunday in 1628, it is less certain how that Easter was celebrated.  When Adam Thorowgood returned from England that year with his new bride, Sarah Offley, they would have joined in services with the congregation that later became known as St. John’s.  In the period between the Powhatan Uprising and the division of Elizabeth Cittie into three counties in 1634 (Warwick–now Newport News; Norfolk–now Norfolk and Virginia Beach; and Elizabeth City County–now Hampton), it had become the largest settlement in Virginia. (see Life in Kecoughtan/ Elizabeth Cittie in the Early 17th Century)

Early English Easter Traditions

resurrected Christ b79a37d2350ed19Easter has long been regarded as the most important of the Holy Days for Christians. In medieval times, the faithful would prepare by consuming fish, but abstaining from all meat and dairy for 40 days in the observance of Lent. Holy Week started with Palm Sunday and proceeded through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and finally culminated in Resurrection Sunday with great feasting and festivity.  As with Christmas, some pagan aspects were adopted, especially symbols associated with new life and fertility, such as rabbits, eggs, and new chicks. 1

English-FeastAs eggs were also one of the forbidden foods in Lent, they were often in great abundance at the Easter Day feast.  There was also likely to be roast lamb, replacing the Passover lamb of the  Last Supper with the symbol of Christ as the unblemished Lamb of God. In 1407, the Bishop of Salisbury and his 80 guests consumed two lambs as well as venison, veal, beef, pigs and piglets, 20 capons, 48 chickens, and more than 500 eggs!  2

MaundyMaundy Thursday, named for the mandatum or commandment given by Christ at the Last Supper to love others, had been associated with humility and the washing of the feet of the poor since the fourth century.  King John started the English tradition of the monarch giving gifts in 1210 by him donating clothing, forks, food, and other gifts to the poor.  In 1213, he gave small silver coins.  By 1363, Edward III was both giving coins and washing the feet of selected poor. Nobles were also known to have held their own Maundy distributions, but not necessarily at Easter. 3

easter-egg-gold-golden-royalty-free-thumbnailThe decorating and gifting of eggs was an ancient tradition in many cultures. Eggs became a Christian symbol of the resurrection  with elaborate decoration particularly popular in the Germanic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Coloring eggs was also adopted in England. The household accounts for Edward I in 1307 included “18 pence for 450 eggs to be boiled and dyed or covered with gold leaf and distributed to the Royal household.” 4

Image 4-14-20 at 12.30 PM
Maundy Money 1698

While much church pageantry was dropped when Henry VIII separated from the Catholic Church, many Lenten and Holy Week traditions continued in the reigns of Tudor and Stuart monarchs.  Both Queen Mary and Elizabeth I held elaborate Maundy celebrations. In years of plague, though, the monarch did not attend, but had the ceremony performed by court officials.  James II may have been the last monarch to wash feet.  Maundy Thursday in a modified form continues to the present day with Queen Elizabeth II giving away purses of Maundy coins to pensioners who have served their churches and community and with Anglican and Episcopal church services which may include the washing of feet and a focus on charity and Christ’s gift of peace.  The Royal Maundy was not held this year (2020) due to COVID 19 restrictions. Traditions such as blessing the greenery on Palm Sunday, Creeping to the Cross Ceremony, and preparing a symbolic closed Sepulcher on Friday were discontinued.5

1647 parliamentimages
The Long Parliament of 1647

In the first half of the 17th century,  Puritans increased in power and influence in England, culminating in the beheading of King Charles I in 1649 and the establishment of the English Commonwealth.  Easter, like Christmas and all other religious festivals and holy days, was banned by Parliament in June 1647. There was no special Easter service, and it was not remarked on in sermons. A simplified Lord’s Supper (no longer called Communion) was offered on  first Sundays, but there was  no special communion for Easter.

Not all English, though, were willing to conform to the now accepted nonconformist Puritan changes.  In a study by the British historian John Morrill, it was noted that although the frequency of communion fell in the 1640s, up to half of the parishes in western England and East Anglia still held an Easter Communion during the Commonwealth era.  After Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, Christmas celebrations rebounded quickly, but Easter remained a more solemn and sacred church commemoration, not regaining its festive nature until recent years. 6

Religion in 17th Century Virginia

Puritan preacher csm-webandcontentvol63-p157bAlthough most colonists did not come to Virginia seeking religious freedom or with intense religious zeal, there was greater diversity of religious beliefs  and practices in the early years than is often recognized. Archaeological evidence at the Jamestown fort has revealed that there were some secret Catholics in the fort.  The first Puritans in America settled in Virginia years before a group traveled together to Massachusetts in 1630.  Adam Thorowgood seemed to have had Puritan leanings himself, as his brother, Thomas, became a noted Puritan preacher in England, and Adam and his wife Sarah had married in a Puritan congregation in England.  Sarah’s second husband, John Gookin, was from a staunch early Puritan family. Later, even Quakers established themselves in Virginia.  Dissidents would later be forced to leave. 7 (see A “Big Bang” Marriage: How Sarah (Offley) met Adam (Thorowgood) in London 1627)

Image 4-14-20 at 12.14 PM
1685 St. Luke’s Church Smithfield, VA

Still, the Anglican Church of England was clearly the established church, and Virginia continued to combine church and state through its royal governors who represented the monarch both in civic and religious matters up until the American Revolution.  Yet, if the church hierarchy in England wanted a vibrant commitment to the Anglican faith, they did little to promote it.  There were not enough church structures built within reasonable traveling distances for many colonists to attend.  Some “chapels of ease” were set up, but services were infrequent.  During the 17th c., there was never a sufficient number of clergy sent to the colony to serve the parishes, and, with no Bishop, one had to travel to England to be ordained. In the 1640s, there were only 5-10 ministers serving a spread out population of 8,000. While most settlers followed the rules and moral standards of the Church, those away from the population centers experienced an “unchurching.” 8

The Churches of Kecoughtan/ Elizabeth Cittie/ Hampton, Virginia

IMG_3915
St. John’s Episcopal Church Memorial to Early Ministers of Elizabeth Cittie

Elizabeth Cittie was fortunate.  From the time of its settlement in 1610, it consistently had both a church and clergy.    Reverend William Mays was assigned as the first minister for Kecoughtan (later called Elizabeth Cittie), and a church was built there shortly thereafter. Sadly, the actual location of that first church is unknown.  Rev. Mays served for 10 years, at which time he returned to England, having been replaced by George Keith. However, Rev. Keith transferred to the prosperous Martin’s Hundred and was replaced by Rev. Thomas White, “a man of good sufficiency for learning, and recommended for integrity and uprightness of life.” Unfortunately, Rev. Keith had chosen poorly and was killed in the massacre at Martin’s Hundred in 1622. 9

IMG_3967
Site of the Second Church Building

With an increased population in Elizabeth Cittie after the Uprising, the first church was abandoned and a second one built around 1624.  Rev. White died that year, so Rev. Jonas Stockton was appointed by Gov. Yeardley.  Edward Waters, for whom Adam Thorowgood worked as an indentured servant, was selected as one of the church wardens of this new church.  This was the church Adam would have attended as a servant and then again as a gentleman after he returned from England.

IMG_3970
Foundation Stones of Second Church

An archaeological excavation conducted in 1968 by the Archaeological Society of Virginia found the foundations of that church on the current grounds of Hampton University.  The building was  52′ by 23′ with an extended square entryway.   The floor in the chancel, west end, and center aisle were covered with square brick tiles. As with all buildings in Virginia at that time, it would have been built of a timber frame and finished either with wood planks or in the mud and stud manner that was used on the two churches built at Jamestown in 1608 and in 1617. 10

IMG_4526 - Version 2
Jamestowne Rediscovery Virtual Image of 1617 Jamestown Church

Last year (2019), the Jamestowne Rediscovery archaeology team completed investigation of the foundations and chancel burials of the 1617 Jamestown church.  They have “virtually rebuilt” what that church may have looked like.  As the Elizabeth Cittie Church had similar dimensions, these churches may have looked similar, although the Elizabeth Cittie one was probably not as tall, had no  belfry, and the entry way was at the end, not side, of the building. Even after a third church was built in Elizabeth Cittie in 1667, the second one continued to be used at times for marriages and burials.  At least 75 burials were found within the second church.11

IMG_7618
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hampton

The third church in Elizabeth Cittie was built under the diligent Rev. Aylmer at what would later be known as Pembrook Plantation on the west side of the Hampton River. Unfortunately the subsequent minister, Rev. Jeremiah Taylor, was known for his bad temper, drunkenness, slander, and getting in trouble with the law.  The fourth church, which was built of brick closer to the river in 1728, survived both the American Revolution and the burning of Hampton by  Confederate troops in 1861.  Repaired, it continues as St. John’s Episcopal Church, and with a heritage going back to 1610, it is the oldest continuous Protestant congregation in the Americas. 12

Easter 1628

Image 4-14-20 at 10.35 AM
2019 Easter Sunrise Service Jamestown Island Photo Credit Mike Suerdieck

What can be deduced about Easter in the early 17th century in Virginia?  While Virginians liked a good time, their seasonal celebrations were more muted than those in England. Religious pageantry and festivities did not seem to have had a hold among those who were still struggling to establish themselves and improve their lot in this new world.  Their churches were certainly less spacious and ornate. 13

IMG_3879Lent was probably observed, ending with an Easter feast, though not as elaborate as in England. As the Elizabeth Cittie Parish remained firmly Anglican, except unwittingly during the Commonwealth era, Easter Communion would have been offered and probably Palm Sunday celebrated.  I have found no references to other special services during Holy Week in this era in Virginia, although they may have been held. As on other Sundays, they would have likely followed their tradition of “tarrying” before and/or after church, as it was one of the few occasions when the settlers could gather casually with friends and distant neighbors.  At the second church site, the finding of numerous pipe stems of the period is evidence of leisure gatherings.  14

st john silver
1618 Communion Silver at St. John’s Episcopal Church

For Easter in 1628, there would have been at least one elegant reminder of England. In 1618, Mrs. Mary Robinson from England sent a gift of fine Communion silver to the church in Smith’s Hundred. The silver was preserved when Smith Hundred was destroyed in the Powhatan Uprising. In 1628, it was donated to the congregation in Elizabeth Cittie where it has continued to be used to the present day.  What would have been special about Easter Sunday on April 23, 1628? Adam and Sarah Thorowgood would likely  have been part of that first congregation to receive communion on this silver Communion service which has now been passed down through St. John’s Episcopal Church for 392 years. If the silver was not given to the church until after Easter, the Thorowgoods would have also been there to partake in 1629.  15

Special Thanks to the gracious Heritage Committee volunteers of St. John’s Church for their hospitality and tour.

Upcoming Post:  Adam Thorowgood, Elected Burgess of Elizabeth Cittie

Footnotes:

 

 

 


  1. “Medieval Easter Traditions,” A Medievalist Errant, accessed online on April 8, 2020 at medievalisterrant.wordpress.com (March 29, 2013). 
  2. Woolgar, Chris, Easter and Medieval Food,” in Yale University Press Official London Blog,  accessed online on April 10, 2020 at yalebooksblog.co.uk. 
  3. “Royal Maundy,” Wikipedia, accessed online April 10, 2020 at en.wikipedia.org  (edited April 9, 2020). 
  4. “The History of Easter Eggs,”  Preston, UK:  Fulwood Methodist Church Crossroads Centre; accessed online on April 10, 2020 at fulwoodmethodist.org.uk.Ridgway. 
  5. “Royal Maundy.”  Claire, “Easter in Tudor Times,” The Anne Boleyn Files, accessed online on April 13, 2020 at theanneboleynfiles.com (April 2, 2010). 
  6. Earl of Manchester’s Regiment of Foote, “Easter: The Devil’s Holiday,” accessed online on April 10, 2020 at earlofmanchesters.co.uk/easter-the-devils-holiday.  Brown, Marc, “The Lord’s Supper: Foundations and Practice in Puritan Liturgy,” Mark 20:30 Worshipping with Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, accessed online on April 13, 2020 at thinkingaboutworship.wordpress.com (December 17, 2018). 
  7. Bond, Edward Lawrence, Religion in Seventeenth-Century Anglican Virginia: Myth, Persuasion, and the Creation of an American Identity, doctoral dissertation (Louisiana State University:  LSU Digital Commons, 1995), 10-12;  accessed online at digitalcommons.lsu.edu on April 8, 2020.  Horn, James, Adapting to a New World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 385- 387, 400-410.  Kelso, William, Jamestown: The Truth Revealed (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017), 163, 176-80. 
  8. Horn, 385-387, 410-430.  E. L. “Church of England in Virginia.,” (2014, October 3). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Church_of_England_in_Virginia on April 13, 2020. 
  9. Tormey, James, How Firm a Foundation: The 400-Year History of Hampton Virginia’s St. John Episcopal Church, The Oldest Anglican Parish in the Americas (Richmond: The Dietz Press, 2009), 6, 11, 13-15. 
  10. Tormey, 18-19. 
  11. Tormey, 38. 
  12. Tormey, 37-41. Meade, William, Old Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia, Article XVIII Hampton or Elizabeth City Parish (Philadelphia: xxxx, 1857), 230-231. 
  13. Dorion, Alexa, “Want to celebrate Easter like a colonist?” WYDaily (Tuesday, April 19, 2019), accessed online on April 3, 2020, at wydaily.com. 
  14. Tormey, 20-21. Billings, Warren M., The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century, (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 364. 
  15. Brydon, George MacLaraen, Religious Life of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century: The Faith of our Fathers (Williamsburg: Jamestown 350th Anniversary Historical Booklet, #10, 1957) accessed online through The Project Gutenberg EBook on April 11, 2020 at http://www.gutenberg.com. 

Life in Kecoughtan/ Elizabeth Cittie (Hampton), VA., in the Early 17th Century

IMG_7608
Hampton History Museum and Visitor Center

Most who recognize the name of Adam Thorowgood probably think of him as that early settler with a house/ land in Virginia Beach. ( see The Identity Crisis of the “Adam Thoroughgood” House)   While Adam was an early settler in Lower Norfolk,  he actually spent most of his time as a Virginian on the opposite side of the James River in an area that was once known as Kecoughtan or Kikotan.  So where was this and how does it fit into the story of early America? (It’s that hard to read spot in red near Poynt Comfort.)

IMG_7506
Dutch map 1671 Nova Virginae Tabula based on John Smith’s map

It was at Kecoughtan that the Jamestown settlers were first welcomed in 1607 as the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery entered the James River off the Chesapeake Bay and began the exploration that resulted in the selection of Jamestown for their  settlement.  George Percy reported that they  named that point of land Cape Comfort because “it put us in good comfort” and noted a nearby plat of land that was “full of fine and beautiful strawberries four times bigger and better than ours in England” that would later be called Strawberry Banks.  Several Kecoughtan Indians swam over with bows and arrows in their mouths to invite the English to their village “where we were entertained by them very kindly….”1

IMG_3154At the time the English arrived, the Indians at Kecoughtan were a small group  living in about 18 homes (yi-hakans) under the Powhatan chiefdom.  They had once been a larger tribe, but were conquered by Chief Powhatan in 1597/8 . At the time of the landing, Pochins, a son of Powhatan, was their leader.  Captain John Smith later traded with the Kecoughtans (forcibly) for corn and spent a pleasant and memorable Christmas season where “we were never more merry nor fed on more plentie of good oysters, fish, flesh, and wild fowle and good bread, nor never had better fires in England than in the dry smoky houses of Kecoughten.”2

IMG_3822The English quickly realized the importance of this Indian territory to control access to the James River.  By October 1609, George Percy, as leader of the colony, ordered Fort Algernourne built near Cape Comfort (today’s Fort Monroe).  With greater access to fresh water and food sources, those stationed there survived the 1609/10 Starving Time far better than those at Jamestown.  However, they made no attempt to rescue Jamestown, but, rather, some secretly planned to return to England. 3

IMG_7626
Hampton 400 year Anniversary Memorial

Not long after Governor De La Warr arrived and saved the Jamestown settlement, he ordered an attack on the Kecoughtans in reprisal for a prior attack by the nearby Nansemonds on English settlers.  Sadly, the kindly Kecoughtans were lured out of their town to see a tambourine dance at which time they were attacked.  Those who were able to flee abandoned their lands to the English.  By 1616, John Rolfe reported that there were 21 men living there, including the Rev. William Mease (Mays) and 11 farmers.  Two more forts, Fort Charles and Fort Henry, were built, named after the sons of James I, and the first House of Burgesses in 1619 accepted a petition to abandon the Indian name and rename the area Elizabeth Cittie, after the daughter of James I.

IMG_3833This “cittie” originally included much of the area south of Jamestown, but should not be confused with today’s Elizabeth City in North Carolina. For many years, part of the area was still called Kecoughtan, especially near Indian Thicket where their village once stood.  There are streets, a high school, and shopping places that continue to carry the name. Ironically, Cape “Comfort” became the site where the first “twenty or odd” Africans were brought to the colony on the privateer vessel The White Lion and traded for supplies in 1619.  In 1620, the English in Kecoughtan numbered 28 men, 12 women, and 14 children.  4

IMG_7657

When Adam Thorowgood first arrived in Virginia in 1621, he worked in Elizabeth Cittie as an indentured servant for Edward Waters at Waters Creek which was later turned into Lake Maury on the grounds of today’s Mariner Museum.   In 1634 that part was divided off into Warwick County and now is incorporated as Newport News.  The south side of Elizabeth Cittie across the James River later became Norfolk and Virginia Beach. The eastern area of the early settlement was ultimately called Hampton.  While Jamestown was still inhabited after its city dissolved, Hampton promotes its claim to early fame as “the oldest English-speaking city in continual existence in America.”

IMG_3816As early as 1617, the Virginia Company sent over some French colonists to try growing grape vines in a beach area they called Buckroe. In 1620 they tried the cultivation of silk worms without much success.  Still, there were 30 colonists living in Buckroe  in 1623.  Over the years, this Chesapeake Bay beach in Hampton became best known for its production of recreational fun.

IMG_3516
Nansemond Festival

Elizabeth Cittie was spared the devastation of the Powhatan attacks of 1622.  In fact, only the dwelling of Edward Waters where Adam Thorowgood worked was impacted when Edward and his wife were kidnapped by Nansemonds, though they later escaped.  However, nearby Mulberry Island was brutally attacked.  Elizabeth Cittie was one of the designated places of safety where displaced colonists gathered.  By 1625, there were 359 people living there, making it the largest settlement in Virginia at that time. It had 89 houses, 34 of which were fortified. John and Anne Burras Laydon, the first English couple who married and the parents of the first child born in Jamestown, were among those who came. 5(see Virginia 1622: Make War, Not Peace)

IMG_7636
Hampton River

Settlers likely known by Waters and Thorowgood included Daniel Gookin residing in the Newport News area on his 1200 acres, and those who settled on the Hampton River, such as  Commander William Tucker, Captain Francis West, John Powell, Michael Wilcox, Thomas Purifoy, Ensign Thomas Willoughby, George Keith, Captain Martian, Francis Mason, Col. William Claiborne, Lt. Flint,  Lt. John Chisman, Capt. Francis Chamberlayne, and Rev. Jonas Stockton. Several of these colonists would continue to be Adam’s friends as they later moved to the south.  Not only was Daniel Gookin’s son, John, a neighbor to the Thorowgoods in Lower Norfolk, he became Sarah Thorowgood’s second husband after Adam died. 6

IMG_3902
Creek on Western Side

After completing his indentureship, Adam Thorowgood purchased his first 150 acres in Elizabeth Cittie on December 30, 1626 from John Gundry, an “ancient planter of Kiquotan, having with 2 other sufficient sureties entered into bond to pay sd. Gundy £100 of lawful money of England.”  As that was the amount Adam inherited after his father’s death the year before, he likely used his inheritance to make the purchase.  The lands were already rented to tenants whom Adam agreed not to displace, so the purchase would have given him some income, and he was referred to as a “Gent. of Kiquotan.” 7  This land was on the west side of Hampton River.  Adam had taken quite a step up from being a servant to Edward Waters the year before.  He then returned to England where he married well and recruited 35 headrights to return with him and his wife in 1628. ( see Pied Pipers to Virginia: The Recruitment of 17th Century Headrights)
Not all of Adam’s neighbors were impressed by his new found status.  On March 29, 1628, William Capps, a litigious ancient planter who was often in conflict with authorities, claimed Adam Thorowgood was a rogue and a thief and accused him of being in possession of stolen goods.  He wanted Adam’s flesh to be branded with a “T” as was done in that era.   Thomas Thorowgood, Adam’s “kinsman” also of Elizabeth Cittie, testified on his behalf in court.  It was determined that the accusation was unfounded, and Capps had to admit to slander and apologize before the court. Others thought better of the Thorowgoods for that year he was appointed a commissioner for the monthly courts in Elizabeth Cittie and elected to the House of Burgesses as one of their representatives. Unfortunately, there are no later references for this Thomas Thorowgood, but he was not the brother who was a rector in England at the time.8

IMG_3905Kecoughton/ Elizabeth Cittie quickly developed into a proper town.   An Anglican parish had been established in July 1610, making St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hampton “the oldest active, English-speaking congregation in the Americas.” The site of the initial church building is unknown, but the second church whose foundations have been found on the Hampton University grounds was built around 1624. Adam and Sarah Thorowgood and their neighbors would have worshipped there. Several of the upright (or uptight?)  men and women of this town were involved in bringing accusations in the first witchcraft trial in the English colonies against Joan Wright who had lived in Kecoughtan .9 (see Witches and the Thorowgoods in 17th Century Virginia)

17th century tavern Tavern_Scene-1658-David_Teniers_IIIn the early 1620s, Captain Thomas Neuce, the manager of the Virginia Company of London lands, built two guest houses for the reception of new immigrants when they first arrived.  William Capps offered to build one on the west side of the river in 1623 to help with the influx of persons.  However, hospitality took a step up when James Knott in 1632 leased land “desiring to keepe a house of entertainment…whereby strangers and others my bee well accommodated…the howse commonly called the great howse.” John Potts, the Virginia governor who was disgraced and discharged in 1630 for stealing cattle, was among those known to enjoy the entertainment (which was a respectable term) in Kecoughtan.10

blooming-peach-tree
Blossoming Peach Tree

It was reported in 1628 that the settlement had “a great plenty of everything” and “peaches in abundance.” By 1630, Col. William Claiborne set up a storehouse for trading with the Indians on land which, of course, had once belonged to them.  In 1634, the area was designated as Elizabeth City County as one of the original eight shires of Virginia.  While it would in no way have provided as comfortable a life for Sarah Offley Thorowgood and the other planters’ wives as they would have known in England, the colony was starting to acquire some refinement.  Most of Sarah and Adam’s children, Ann, Sarah, Elizabeth and Adam II, were likely born there. There were 859 English residents in 1634.11

Unique to this settlement was the establishment of a free school.  In 1634, Benjamin Symns bequeathed 200 hundred acres and the milk and increase of eight cows for the education and instruction of the children in the parishes of Elizabeth Cittie and Poquoson to “manteyne poor Children, or decayed or maimed persons of the said parish.”  Symns signed his will with a “X”, as he himself was illiterate.  The school, set up in what is now the NASA Langley area, was in operation by the 1640s and continued in some form until eventually becoming the public Hampton High School in the 1890s. 12

IMG_7642There are no actual buildings that remain in Hampton, or the rest of Virginia, from the second quarter of the 17th century when Adam and the others lived there.  Archaeological studies have found that homes both for the wealthy and  the common folk were built from the abundant timber in a post-in-ground earthfast manner which did not survive long in Virginia’s climate and soil. In 1986-87, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Department of Archaeological Research conducted follow-up investigations of an early 17th century site at Hampton University.  They found evidence of an early two-bay house of wood and mud possibly from the 1620s that was followed by other houses within 10-15 years “embellished with glass windows, possibly a tile roof, a passage, and a brick-lined cellar.”  The artifacts found at the site suggested a “relatively high-status colonial residence,” and they were comparable in the quality, quantity, and point of origin to those found at the capital Jamestown.  These findings seem to correlate with economic and societal progress of Elizabeth Cittie.13

IMG_3803Like most of the early landowners, Adam Thorowgood bought additional tracts of land.  While his purchases were never in dispute, there was extensive litigation over some land claims, particularly in the original areas designated as “company lands” by the Virginia Company. Some colonists had already settled in the areas of Strawberry Banks and Mill Creek, and there were muddled and contested claims after the Company was dissolved in 1624. 14

IMG_7661
Created by Hampton History Museum

In March 1634,  Adam purchased 200 acres on the Back River from Captain Stephens.  He had also obtained land in 1630 along the York River when the English colonized the territory that had belonged to the Chiskiack Indians.15  In none of those land purchases did Adam receive land based upon the importation of the many headrights he had brought to the colony.  He seemed to be saving them for something special which was just around the corner–or rather, across the river,  that would be named Norfolk.

Blackbeard_the_PirateDid I forget to mention that the head of Blackbeard, the Pirate, was placed on a spike on the James River in 1718 to adorn the entrance to Hampton and scare off the pirates?

IMG_3896Or that the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation was done under the Emancipation Oak in Hampton?

Or that the first NASA astronauts trained there?

Guess that’s another time and another story….

Next Post:  17th Century Easter and The Churches of St. John’s in Elizabeth Cittie, Virginia

Footnotes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Haile, Edward Wright. ed., Jamestown Narratives: Eyewitness Accounts of the Virginia Colony (Champlain, VA: Round House, 1998), 85-86. 
  2. Roundtree, Helen C., Pochahontas’s People (Norman. OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 10.  Cobb, J. Michael and Wythe Holt on behalf of the Hampton History Museum, Images of America: Hampton (Charleston: Arcadia Press, 2008), 10. 
  3. McCartney, Martha, The Environs of the Hampton River: A Chronological Overview (reprinted with the permission of U.A. J. V.. 1983), 3-5, 7-8.  Tyler, Lyon G., History of Hampton and Elizabeth City County Virginia (Hampton, Virginia: The Board of Supervisors of Elizabeth City County, 1922), 13-15. 
  4. Tyler, 13. McCartney, Martha W., Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007), 44. 
  5. Cobb, 9. McCarthney, Environs, 25. Starkey, Marion L., The First Plantation: A History of Hampton and Elizabeth City County, Virginia (Hampton: Marion L. Starkey, 1936), 9-11. Williamson, Gene, Of the Sea and Skies: Historic Hampton and its Times (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc, 1993), 76-78, 83-85. 
  6.   Tyler, 17-18. 
  7. Nugent, Nell Marion, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, vol. I (Richmond: Press of the Dietz Printing Co, 1934), 70.  Brayton, John Anderson, “The Ancestry of Mrs. Anne (Thoroughgood) Chandler-Fowke,” The Virginia Genealogist, 48:4 (October-December 2004), 247-248. 
  8. Dorman, John Frederick, Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia, 1607-1624/5 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 2004), 326-327. McCarthney, Virginia Immigrants, 186-187; 691-692. 
  9. Tormey, James, How Firm A Foundation: The 400 Year History of Hampton Virginia’s St. John’s Episcopal Church (Richmond: The Dietz Press, 2009), 6, 18-19.  Hudson, Carson O., Jr., Witchcraft in Colonial Virginia (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2019), 75. 
  10. McCartney, Environs, 10-12, 28. Starkey, 12. 
  11. McCartney, Environs, 29. Tyler, 18. 
  12. Tyler, 22-23. Clancy, Paul, “Hampton Roads has claim to first free public education,” The Virginian Pilot, February 23, 2014, accessed online March 24, 2020.  Starkey, 9-10. 
  13. McCartney, Environs, 9-10, 27.  Tyler,  Lyon G.,”Old Kecoughtan,” William and Mary College Quarterly, vol IX (1900-1901), 87-121. 
  14. Edwards, Andrew C., William E. Pittman, Gregory J. Brown, et. al.,  Hampton University Archaeological Project: A Report on the Findings (Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, July 1989; reissued June 2001), 2-4; 113-114; 175-178. 
  15. Nugent, 21. 

Augustine Warner: The Headright Ancestor of George Washington

DSC00110
George Washington by Jean-Antoine Houdon at Virginia State Capital, Richmond

Could His Excellency George Washington, the first President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the victorious Continental Army, have had an ancestor who came to Virginia as an immigrant headright?  Of course.  After all, is that not what the American story is all about?

Coming to Virginia

IMG_0669A headright to the British Colonies in the 17th Century was someone whose passage was paid for by another person who in turn received a land grant, typically of 50 acres, for each person brought as an effort to encourage sponsorship of emigrants.  The headright was then expected to repay his or her passage, usually through labor as an indentured servant for 4-7 years.  Augustine Warner was among the first 35 individuals recruited as headrights by the newly  wed Adam and Sarah Thorowgood in England.  Augustine accompanied them to Virginia in the Hopewell in 1628. 1 (See Pied Pipers to Virginia: The Recruitment of 17th Century Headrights)

Adam Thorowgood himself had first come to Virginia as an indentured servant, but within three years of completing his service, he was bringing his own immigrants.  Adam and Augustine Warner were among those who defied the common stereotype of poor, illiterate, and unsuccessful indentured servants.  They both became prominent landholders and government leaders in the Colony, were ancestors to important founders of this nation, and had descendants who continued to connect their stories.  (See Indentured: The Gamble of a Lifetime)

Norwich_Cathedral,_spire_and_south_transept
Norwich Cathedral

Augustine Warner was born September 28, 1611 in Norwich in Norfolk County, England to Thomas Warner and Elizabeth Sotherton.   It is not known when or how he became interested in immigrating to Virginia, but he was likely influenced by the stories of Adam Thorowgood and the successes of earlier immigrants from Norfolk, including Henry Spelman, John Rolfe, and Lady Temperance Flowerdiew Yeardley.  (See To Go Or Not To Go: Early Immigrants from Norfolk, England)  It is possible that the Thorowgood and Warner families knew or knew of each other.  Although Adam Thorowgood was raised in Grimston, Norfolk, his mother was from Norwich, and his father had been a commissary to the Bishop of Norwich. 2

Augustine at age 17 and his family might well have been reassured by the fact that Adam, who also went to Virginia when he was 17, had not only survived, but had begun to prosper. Augustine seemed to have concurred with the outlook of Charles Alsop, a later literate indentured servant to Maryland:3

What’s a four years Servitude to advantage a man all the remainder of his dayes, making his predecessors happy in his sufficient abilities which he attained to partly by the restrainment of so small a time?

1024px-Coat_of_Arms_of_Augustine_Warner.svg
Warner Coat of Arms

Spending his later teen years in servitude learning how to farm tobacco (Virginia’s gold), Augustine was then ready to start off on his own once he reached his majority at age 21.  As both Adam and Augustine were born into armorial families who could have paid their passage, they represent an often unacknowledged group of young emigrants who seem to have chosen temporary servitude as part of their “career path” in order to gain the knowledge and skills to become successful planters.  Having once been servants did not impede their upward mobility in Virginia in the middle of the 17th century.

A Fortune in Land

IMG_6279 - Version 2Adam Thorowgood brought more headrights than he would have needed to work his own land in 1628, so he would likely have followed the custom of selling indentured contracts to other planters.  It is not known where Augustine served his indentureship. However, in 1635, a few years after having finished his service, Augustine obtained his first 250 acres of land, based on sponsoring 12 headrights of his own to Virginia.  He purchased “one neck of ground called…Pynie Neck…lying at the new Poquoson.”  4

Like Adam Thorowgood,  Augustine Warner then returned to England  to find a wife and recruit more headrights.  In 1638, he expanded his holdings at Pynie Creek by 450 acres for  “his own personal adventure, the adventure of his wife Mary and transport of 7 persons.”  Augustine had married Mary Townley of  Stone Edge in Lancashire, England. 5

IMG_6857
Warner Hall on the Severn River

It was not until 1642 that Augustine Warner obtained 600 acres on the Severn River for his transport of 12 more individuals.   He built the first Warner Hall there on the site which still is known by his name.  He then added 80 more acres to that plot in 1653; 594 acres in 1654; and 348 acres in 1657, all by transporting headrights. 6

In addition, he acquired  2,500 acres in 1652 for transporting 50 persons, including four negroes.  This land was located along the Piankatank River which runs through the Middle Penninsula in Virginia between the Rappahannock and York Rivers.  Then in 1658, Augustine Warner was granted  3,000 more acres in Northumberland/ Lancaster Counties for bringing 60 more persons to Virginia.  Using this headright system which had given him his start in the Colony, he obtained over 7,500 acres by bringing 160+ people to Virginia. 7

Government Service

IMG_7311
1660 Jamestown Statehouse Foundations

Along with becoming  a wealthy planter, Augustine Warner became a significant leader of the fast growing colony of Virginia. In 1652 he was chosen as a Burgess to represent York County  at the capital of  Jamestown.8  His descendant George Washington would also be elected a member of the House of Burgesses, but 106 years later.  There was a tense political climate at the time, for this was the period of the English Commonwealth.  Charles I had been beheaded in 1649; Parliament ruled; Oliver Cromwell was rising in power.  In opposition, Virginia Governor Berkeley had maintained his support for the monarchy and offered asylum to fleeing Royalists.

The year that Augustine Warner became a Burgess, Parliament sent a fleet to Virginia to force Berkeley to resign. Though Warner, like many Virginians, had royalist leanings, the Assembly, with Parliament’s approval,  elected Governor Richard Bennett, a respected Virginia Puritan, as the next governor.   In 1659, Warner was serving as a Burgess from Gloucester County, but in 1660, he was selected for the powerful, lifetime position of Councilor on the Governor’s Council.  That year the English monarchy had been restored and the royalist Governor Berkeley reinstated. 9

IMG_6812Augustine Warner remained on the Council until his death on December 24, 1674 at the age of 63.  He and his wife Mary were buried in the family cemetery at Warner Hall  in Gloucester, Virginia.10

Warner Hall 

IMG_6859

IMG_6864Although no original structures remain of the first Warner Hall built on the Severn River and this plantation was sold out of the family in 1830,  the site has continued to be known by the Warner name. 11 The oldest structures are an 18th century colonial brick barn, a smaller 18th/19th century barn, and  two connected dependencies (an office and a kitchen) on either side of the main house.

IMG_6801
18th Century “Office”

The archaeological study at Warner Hall conducted in 2000-2001 estimated that the dependencies  may date from the 1740s.  Some earlier 17th century artifacts have been found in the vicinity of the kitchen, indicting it may have been the site of an earlier building.  The center part of the house burned in the mid nineteenth century and was reconstructed around 1905 in a Colonial Revival style.  12

IMG_7319IMG_6799Today The Inn at Warner Hall is an elegant Bed and Breakfast, filled with exquisite antiques and the fascinating history of those who have lived there and their descendants.  Recently, an Open House with costumed guided tours of the house and grounds  was offered as a charitable fund raiser for the Children’s Hospital of King’s Daughters in Norfolk.  “True to the legacy of the Warner, Lewis, and Clarke families, Warner Hall remains a great house of fellowship, entertainment, and hospitality.”13

Bacon’s Rebellion at Warner Hall

Augustine Warner II  was given the advantage of education in England before following in his father’s footsteps as a landowner and governmental leader.  He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1666, becoming its Speaker in 1676-77.  In a rare occurrence, he remained as Speaker even when he became  a Councillor to Governor Berkeley in 1677.  Warner worked with the Governor on the Indian policy which became a much disputed issue with colonists in the northern and western areas of Virginia.  In 1675-1676, Nathaniel Bacon, the opportunistic, newly arrived, rebel cousin to the elder Nathaniel Bacon on the Governor’s Council, rallied discontented colonists in Bacon’s Rebellion against the established government and wealthy land owners. The complex causes and consequences of the Rebellion will be dealt with in a future post. 14

IMG_5418
Historic Jamestown Reenactment

Augustine Warner II was the Speaker of the House when Nathaniel Bacon agreed to submit himself to the Assembly and ask forgiveness of the Governor on June 9, 1676 so that he could serve as the Henrico County Burgess.  However, not long after the Assembly, Bacon reignited the rebellion and on September 19, 1676, he led the burning of Jamestown, the Governor and Warner having already fled to the Eastern Shore.

IMG_5523
Bacon’s Rebellion

On October 26, 1676, Nathaniel Bacon died of bloody flux (dysentery), causing the movement to fall apart.  He was secretly buried in Gloucester County. However, a number of wealthy properties had been damaged by Bacon’s men. In September 1676, Nathaniel Bacon and Captain William Byrd I, a lieutenant and neighbor to Nathaniel Bacon, arrived at Warner Hall with 200 soldiers while attempting to raise supporters in Gloucester County.  They stole £845 worth of  possessions from Warner Hall. 15

Augustine_Warner
Augustine I or II?

Augustine Warner II unfortunately died at only 39 years of age.  This Warner portrait has been ascribed to both Augustine Warner I  and his son Augustine II.  There is some historical support that it is Augustine II in his Speaker robes, but the two were likely similar in appearance, as they were in life.   Augustine II’s three sons  died without leaving heirs to carry on the Warner name.  However, his three daughters married well and provided numerous descendants. His daughter Mildred Warner married Lawrence Washington becoming the grandmother of George Washington;  Elizabeth Warner married Councillor John Lewis, with descendants including the explorer  Meriwether Lewis and Confederate General Robert E. Lee; and marriages of Mary Warner’s descendants who returned to England made her an ancestor to the present Queen Elizabeth. 16

Descendants and Legacies

Washington family
The Washingtons and their Custis grandchildren

Adam Thorowgood died in 1640, so he never saw the great success of his fledgling immigrant.  However, like many of the early elite families, their families continued to intertwine.  Augustine Warner’s descendant George Washington’s step children, Jackie and Patsy Custis, were Thorowgood descendants.  While George Washington fought for liberty with the sword, his gout-ridden neighbor and friend George Mason, another Thorowgood descendant, fought with the pen.  Mason was the primary author of The Virginia Declaration of Rights  in 1776 which heavily influenced The Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson.

custis lee mansion
The Arlington House

In 1831, their families joined again as Augustine’s descendant Robert E. Lee married Adam’s descendant Mary Anna Randolph Custis. Their home, The Arlington House ( formerly the Custis-Lee Mansion) in Arlington, Virginia, continues as a reminder of that union.   Together, Augustine Warner and Adam Thorowgood illustrate a similar early 17th century path to achieving the great “American Dream.”

Next Post:  Kecoughtan/ Hampton:  Living in the Second Settlement

Footnotes:

 

 

 

 


  1.   Brown, David and Thane Harpole, Warner Hall: Story of a Great Plantation (Gloucester, Virginia: DATA Investigations, LLc, 2004), 1.  Nugent, Nell Marion, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, vol. I (Richmond: Press of the Dietz Printing Co, 1934), 22. 
  2. McCurdy, Mary Burton Derrickson, “The Townleys and Warners of Virginia and Their English Connections,” in Genealogies of Virginia Families, vol 5, indexed by Thomas L. Hollowak (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, Inc., 1982), 542-543. 
  3. Morgan, Kenneth, Slavery and Servitude in Colonial North American: A Short History (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 16. 
  4.    Nugent, 32. 
  5. Nugent, 92.  McCurdy, Mary Burton Derrickson, “A Discovery Concerning the Townley and Warner Families of Virginia,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 77:4 (October 1969), 475-476. 
  6. Brown, 4-6.  Nugent, 227, 301, 365.  McCurdy, “The Townleys and Warners,” 543. 
  7. Nugent, 264, 385. 
  8. Neill, Edward D., Virginia Carolorum: The Colony under the Rule of  Charles the First and Second (Albany: Joel Munsell’s Sons, 1886; Scholar Select: reprinted facsimile) 226. McCartney, Martha W., Jamestown People to 1800 (Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 2012), 424. 
  9. Neill, 266-270; 352-353. 
  10. McCartney, 424.  Branch, Joseph Bryan, Epitaphs of Gloucester and Matthews Counties in Tidewater Virginia Through 1865 (Richmond: The Virginia State Library, 1959), 98, 100. 
  11. Brown, 18-19.  McCartney, Martha W., With Reverence for the Past: Gloucester County, Virginia (Richmond: The Dietz Press, 2001), 114-115.  Sorley, Merrow Egerton, Lewis of Warner Hall: The History of a Family (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1935), 45. 
  12. Brown, 32-44. 
  13. Brown, 31. 
  14.   Sorley, 48-51. 
  15. Brown, 6-8. McCartney, With Reverence,  58-61. Billings, Warren M., The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 330, 338-346. Rice, James D., Tales from a Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 98-99. 
  16. Brown, 8.  Sorley, 51-53; 836-839. Spencer, Albert H., Genealogy of the Spencer Family (River Edge, New Jersey: A. H. Spencer, 1956), v. 

Pied Pipers to Virginia: The Recruitment of 17th Century Headrights

 

pied piper
Kate Greenaway, Pied Piper of Hamlin

When King James I withdrew the charter for the private Virginia Company of London and made Virginia a Royal Colony in 1624, that did not solve all its problems.  (See 1625 England: Thorowgoods, Plague, War, Death, and the Defunct Virginia Company) With all its faults, the Company had consistently recruited volunteers to go to Virginia with promises of riches, land, status, salvation, and even husbands.  Now that the Crown was in charge, who and what was going to interest enough settlers to risk everything in order to finally make a profitable and sustainable colony?  No longer a Company initiative, it was up to enterprising individuals to swell the ranks of emigrants.1 Unlike the Pied Piper of Hamlin, the intent was not to bring colonists to their deaths (though that was a real possibility).  Still, the tune needed to be sweetly played to gather a following.

1698 North America map Louis Hennepin
Louis Hennepin, 1698 Map of North America

Land was the melody of choice.  There was certainly plenty of it.  The English Crown had claimed  all the way from New France in Canada to Spanish Florida and west to the next ocean, wherever it might be.  There was little concern about pushing the indigenous people already living on the land out of their way, especially after the Powhatan uprising in 1622.  Nor did the piper’s tune happen to mention that not all land was equally desirable or that the most desirable was being claimed by those already established.

Headrights and the Trade in Servants

Adam Thorowgood became an effective “piper.”  After having just completed his own Virginia indentureship in 1626, then returning to London and marrying the wealthy Sarah Offley in 1627,  he and Sarah sailed to Virginia in 1628 along with 35 headrights they had recruited.   In addition, they paid for 11 others in 1628-29.   Over a span of ten years, Adam paid the passage for more than 105 immigrants. Was that a wise investment?

tobacco cultivationComing to Virginia as a servant prior to 1626, Adam had received 50 acres of land at the end of his indentureship.  Bond servants arriving after that date were promised only “the custom of the country” at the end of their time, which often consisted only of a bushel of corn and a new suit of clothes.  Other items could be included if the master agreed. 2 If those servants could survive the “seasoning” and learn to cultivate tobacco, they were able to work as hired hands or tenant farmers at the end of the indentureship until they could hopefully buy their own land.

While indentured servants were working the  4-7 years to pay off  their passage, those who had sponsored them were getting 50 acres for each immigrant for whom they had paid.  This headright system proved advantageous to sponsors and enabled ship captains, recruitment agents (sometimes called Spirits), speculators, and landowners to increase their wealth with minimal investment. 3  It cost around £5-6 for passage and a few pounds more if you were outfitting the servant.  As the contract for a servant could be sold to a planter for about £6 to £15  depending on skills and the price of tobacco, a sponsor would usually make a cash profit as well as earn land to develop or sell.  There were risks, though, as servants died or ran away. For ship captains, using servants as cargo was more profitable than simply filling ships with supplies and ballast on the way  to pick up colonial tobacco and exports.  In addition, more workers would ultimately lead to more crops and increased shipping. 4

us-history-clipart-jamestown-9The system also worked relatively well for a number of the white English servants during the second quarter of the 17th century when Adam Thorowgood was bringing them over.  The threat of death from disease and Indian attacks had decreased in Virginia, and  there were still opportunities to find good land, import their own servants, and move up in Virginia society as had Adam.  In this period, those who chose to come as servants appear to have been more skilled and better off than many who came either at the beginning or in the last quarter of the 17th century. However, much depended on their masters, as they were considered as “chattel” and could be sold, inherited, or traded while under bondage. Unlike the enslaved, though, their servitude was only for a specified term–if they survived.5 (See Indentured: The Gamble of a Lifetime for a discussion of the characteristics and hardships of indentured servants)

Recruiting (and Kidnapping) Emigrants

IMG_0083Broadsides and pamphlets praising Virginia had been circulated since the beginning. However, many of the desired recruits were illiterate.  Thus, much recruitment took place by word of mouth and by setting up recruitment stations at ports, taverns, fairs, and popular gathering places.  Letters or testimonials from settlers living in the colonies were read as powerful inducements.  There were even ballads sung promoting life in the colonies.

IMG_2975 a

At times, recruitment agents brought pipers and drummers to fairs or through towns to literally “drum up business” and secure servants. In 1636, the master of the ship Abraham, stopped in Ireland to recruit and reported, ” …upon the feast days of market…we caused the drum to be beaten and gave warning to all those that disposed to go servants to Virginia should repair to Kinsale….”6

In the middle of the 17th century, there seemed to be an adequate number of people, particularly young men, who saw the possibility for a better and/or more exciting life abroad.  However, as the century progressed, there were more opportunities for work at home and encouragement for workers to stay in England.  Recruitment of foreign workers increased, especially among the Scots, Irish, Swiss and Germans.7

beggar family main-imageIn the early years of colonization,  laws had been enacted to allow courts to send orphaned children, vagrants, and convicts to the colonies, even against their will.  While this was promoted as a win-win solution to the overpopulation of English cities, these unfortunates were among the most vulnerable to disease and death and often were not productive in the new world.  With an unquenchable need for servants in the colonies and a lessening urgency to leave England, some agents resorted to questionable or illegal means to secure them.  Kidnapping became a serious concern, leading ports to begin to keep records of  those going onboard. 8

kidnappedIn the last half of the 17th century, over 4,500 children (under age 21) arrived in Virginia and Maryland without indentureships and were assigned by the courts to involuntary servitude, sometimes to those very justices. In 1660, the Privy Council addressed the problem of “diverse children from their parents and servants from their masters are daily enticed away, taken up, and kept from said Parents and Masters, against their wills, by Merchants, Planters, Commanders of Ships, and Seamen trading to Virginia, Barbados….”9 Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped had real and deep roots.  Parents taught their children to be wary of the “Spirits” (agents).  One of my own ancestors was a student at Dublin College who was lured onto a ship and “spirited away” to America.

Adam Thorowgood was one of the small number of  Virginia planters who selected and transported indentured servants, rather than depending on captains and agents. Some colonists wrote to solicit family or friends to come or at least to assist them in recruitment.10    Adam may have used his recently inherited £100 to purchase his land in Virginia, (yes, a seventh son got an inheritance!) so they may have depended on his wealthy wife’s dowry to come up with the likely £260+ needed to pay for 53 passengers (including themselves) in 1628-9.11  Possibly, the Offley and/or Thorowgood brothers also contributed to this venture. (See A “Big Bang” Marriage: How Sarah (Offley) met Adam (Thorowgood) in London 1627 )

Sydney_King_Jamestown_wharf
Jamestown Wharf  by Sydney King

As a survivor and a success in Virginia, Adam would have been a powerful recruiter speaking from his personal experience.  Limited information is available on those he brought with him, but at least some came from Adam’s home of County Norfolk.  This first group consisted of  10 women and 43 men.  In addition to the 50 acres he received for his indentureship, Adam had purchased 100 acres before returning to England in 1626. He  would not have needed all of these headrights to work his 150 acres, so he probably recouped some of his expenses through selling indentured contracts to other planters.   While it can be risky to infer personality traits from actions, it appears Adam was likely enterprising, enthusiastic, methodically patient, and a good businessman.  He did not “cash in” his headrights for land right away, but rather held on six more years until he could make an even larger claim. 12  (See To Go Or Not To Go: Early Immigrants from Norfolk, England)

Voyages of the Hopewell

IMG_0874
Susan Constant, Jamestown Settlement

Adam and Sarah Thorowgood and their first headrights came to Virginia on the ship Hopewell which had been transporting passengers and cargo since 1616 to ports in Virginia, New England, Bermuda, and Barbados.  The Hopewell was a 60 ton ship, a moderate size for those days. (For reference, the Jamestown Susan Constant was 80 ton; the Godspeed was 40 ton.While details are not available on their specific 1628 voyage, records indicate that the Hopewell left England for Virginia in 1627 and 1629 in July and sailed back to England in December those years under her Master Richard Russell, age 39, of Ratcliffe, Middlesex.13  If it had followed a similar schedule in 1628, the ship would have arrived at Jamestown in the fall.

On later trips to New England and Barbados, the Hopewell was reported to carry between 54 to 149 passengers (the large number probably included crew).   In 1621, it may have brought the first hives of honeybees to Virginia (they were not native to America). 14  The Hopewell was run aground in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1635 by a pilot who had come onboard to guide it into the harbor, so the ship had to return to England for repair rather than continuing on to Virginia to deliver passengers.  Those passengers probably did not mind transferring to another ship, as  the Hopewell had developed leaks and “none of the passengers had been able to keep dry in their cabins”  on the way over. 15

101_2555In December 1657, the Hopewell,  which had earlier carried so many English to their adventures and indentureships, was transporting enslaved Africans from Angola to Virginia when it was seized off the coast of Africa. 16 Sadly, it was another indication that Virginia planters were increasingly turning to slavery to meet their labor needs. (a future post)

In addition to his Hopewell passengers, Adam paid passage for individuals on the True Love, Ark, Africa, and one designated as the French ship between 1628 and 1629.

The Immigrants

In Adam Thorowgood’s request for a land grant in 1635, he claimed he had paid passage to Virginia for the following 52 persons in 1628-29 .  The other headrights he claimed for that grant will be named in a future posts.  As was common in the 17th century,  there were variations in the spelling of the names.17

On the Hopewell, 1628:  Jno Barnards; Stephen Bernard; Margaret Bilbie; Thomas Boulton; Jon Bradston; Thomas Brooks; Thomas Chandler; Andrew Chant; Susan Colson; William Edwards; Robert Heasell; Richard Jego (Iego); Richard Jenerie; Thomas Johnson; Richard Johnson; Thomas Keeling; Rachel Lane; James Leading; Jos Leake; Thomas Melton; Jon Moyse (Moise); Jon Newarke; Francis Newton; Ed Parish; John Penton; Jno Percie; Edward Pitts; Jane Prosser; Dennis Russell; Ann Spark; Adam Thorowgood; Sarah Thorowgood; Thomas Thorowgood; Edmund Wallis; Augustine Warner; John Waters; Jane Westerfield

On the True Love, 1628:  Andrew Boyer; Thomas Boyer; John Harris; Jon Lock

On the Ark, 1628:  Francis Bramly

On the Africa, 1628: Merciful Halley, Ann Allerson, Victo Fraford, Ann Long, Casander Underwood, Dorothy Wheeler

On the “French ship,” 1629:  John Dyer; William Hines; Edward Jones; Edward Palmer; Edward Reynolds

There has been much speculation about which Thomas Thorowgood accompanied them.  As Adam and Sarah had married in July 1627, it was possible it was a very young infant, but if so, he must have died young for there is no further mention of a child named Thomas.  It was not Adam’s brother who was serving as a vicar in Norfolk.  For other possibilities, see Untangling 17th Century Genealogies: Thoroughly Confusing Thorowgoods

Coming Post:  Augustine Warner–George Washington’s Headright Ancestor

Footnotes:

 

 

 


  1. Smith, Abbot Emerson, Colonists in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict Labor in America 1607-1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1947), 5, 60. 
  2. Billings, Warren M., The Old Dominion in the Seventeenth Century: A Documentary History of Virginia, 1607-1700 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 145. 
  3. Ibid. 
  4. Smith, 35-38.  Morgan, Kenneth, Slavery and Servitude in Colonial North America: A Short History (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 11-17. 
  5. Horn, James, Adapting to a New World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 272-274. Horn, James, “Servant Emigration” in Tate and Ammerman, eds., The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century  (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), 57-60. Menard, Russell R., “British Migration to the Chesapeake Colonies in the Seventeenth Century,” Lois Green Catt, Philip D. Morgan and Jean B. Russo, eds., Colonial Chesapeake Society (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 114-116. 
  6. Smith, 54, 61-64. 
  7. Smith, 54-62. Menard, 111-112 
  8. Smith, 67-73. 
  9. Smith, 86.  Phillips, Richard Hayes, Without Indentures: Index to White Slave Children in Colonial Court Records Maryland and Virginia (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2013), xii-xiii, xvi.  Morgan, 15-16. 
  10. Billings, 146. Smith, 53. 
  11. Brayton, John Anderson, “The Ancestry of Mrs. Anne (Thoroughgood) Chandler-Fowke,” The Virginia Genealogist, 48:4 (October-December 2004), 247-248. 
  12. Nugent, Nell Marion, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, vol. I (Richmond: Press of the Dietz Printing Co, 1934), 22.  Grant, W.L. and James Munro (eds.), Acts of the Privy council of England: Colonial Series vol I 1613-1680, (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1908; Reprinted in Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint, LTD, 1966), 204-205. 
  13. Coldham, Peter Wilson, English Adventurers and Emigrants, 1609-1660: Abstracts of Examinations in the High Court of Admiralty with Reference to Colonial America (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1984), 23.  Hillier, Susan, A List of Ships Traveling Between England and Virginia: 1607-1630 (Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series, 1970), under Hopewell (no page numbers). Kingsley, Susan Myra (ed.), The Records of the Virginia Company of London, III (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1933), 639. 
  14. Crane, Eva, World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (New York: Routledge, 1999), 359. 
  15. Coldham, 63-64. 
  16. Coldham, 171. 
  17. Nugent, 22. 

Witches and the Thorowgoods in 17th Century Virginia

0005 flying witches public domain

Sorry, New Englanders, Virginia was not only founded first (13 years before Plymouth); had the first publicly proclaimed Thanksgiving (1 year before the Pilgrims arrived); held the first elected representative Assembly (again 1 year before the Pilgrims arrived); but Virginia can also claim the first known colonial trial of a suspected witch (four years before the Puritans under Governor John Winthrop even arrived in 1630).  Massachusetts does get the award, though, for the most dramatic presentations:  inviting the indigenous people to their Thanksgiving feast and  hanging their witches.  So how then was witchcraft handled in Virginia?  Did Adam Thorowgood or his family have any dealings with suspected witches?

Witches in England and Scotland

witches 6 34427876715_0e59110873_bSince Biblical times, good Christians had been taught to fear the Devil and his evil spirits, but around the 14th century, suspicions developed that the odd ones living in their communities might have sold their souls to the Devil and contracted to do his biding.1 When inexplicable misfortune hit, it seemed reasonable that one’s disagreeable neighbor, the town’s social misfit, or the eccentric widow who collected herbs by night might be responsible through a witch’s spell. 

IMG_5615
Folger’s Shakespeare Library  Washington, D.C.

Witches seemed very real to most of the English and Scots in the 16th and 17th century.  Even Shakespeare conjured up three Scottish witches to poison Macbeth’s mind  with ambitious prophecies. The problem, though, was how to recognize and catch them.

2335 c uk324 IMG_4016_edited-3
The Witches’ Well Memorial at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

King James VI of Scotland (who also became King James I of England) was very concerned about witches and, in fact, literally wrote the book on what to do about them. Relying heavily on a 1584 English translation of a popular treatise published by two Dominican friars, Malleus Maleficarum, the King composed his  Daemonologie in 1597 with a Protestant twist.   When he took the English crown in 1603, he had his book published in England and had witchcraft again made a felony punishable by death under The Witchcraft Statute of James I. That was the law that the colonists brought to Jamestown. 2

The First Colonial Witch Trial: Joan Wright 

IMG_4683
Gov. Yeardley  Historic Jamestowne

Sir George Yeardley, twice the Governor of Virginia, had many firsts.  In 1619, he convened the first House of Burgesses and purchased some of the first Africans to arrive.  When he was later reappointed, he presided in 1626 over the first known trial of a suspected witch in the colonies .  The early colonists had been  quick to condemn the native Powhatans as Devil worshippers and children of the Devil, but were a bit slower at pointing the finger at each other.

Elizabeth Cittie Parish (formerly called Kecoughtan; now known as Hampton) was one of the early shires in Virginia.  Its population increased when it was designated as an area of safety for the settlers after the Powhatan Uprising of 1622.  According to the census of Virginia conducted in 1624/5, there were  258 settlers living in that area.  Among those were Edward Waters and his servant Adam Thorowgood.   Also living there were Robert and Joan (or Jane) Wright, servants to Anthony Bonall, a French silk maker and wine grape cultivator. In 1626, the Wrights moved to Pace’s Paines across from Jamestown (now Surry County), but suspicions followed that Joan had practiced witchcraft in Kecoughtan.  Soon thereafter she was formally charged and tried. 3

IMG_0145As the trial was in September, it is unknown whether Adam had returned to England before the trial started.  However, having lived in Kecoughtan the previous years as part of Edward Waters’ household, he may well have known the Wrights or at least heard talk of  Joan’s suspicious activities.  According to the surviving transcript of the trial, charges against Goodwife Wright included causing hens in Kecoughton to die, healthy plants to be drowned, and people to become sick; foretelling  deaths; cursing a hunter so that he “for a long time could never kill anything;” and causing an infant to die. 4

IMG_0195Joan Wright had been asked by Lt. Allington, to attend to his pregnant wife as the midwife, but when the wife discovered that Joan was left-handed and heard the rumors about her, she refused her and had another midwife brought.  When Goodwife Wright found out,  she was upset.  The Allingtons believed she therefore cursed them, and consequently, each sequentially became ill (although of different disorders).  Even though they all recovered,  the infant succumbed after a second illness more than a  month after its birth.   

In the trial, Mrs. Isabel Perry testified that Mrs Gates said that “she (Wright) was a very bad woman and was accompted a witch amongst all them at Kickotan” and that Dorothy Behethlem had said that Wright had even practiced witchcraft back in Hull, England.  Also according to Mrs Perry, when Mrs. Gates confronted Wright, she did not deny being a witch, but rather “replied, god forgive them, and so made light of it.” 5

IMG_5334
Governor’s House at Jamestown Settlement

There obviously was much hearsay testimony and circumstantial evidence brought against Joan Wright.  Clearly, she had troubled relationships with her neighbors and may have even enjoyed making them fearful of her.  However, illness and death were so common in Virginia that it would have been difficult to prove she caused them, particularly over an extended period of time.  Although the transcript of the trial survived, the verdict of Gov. Yeardley did not. It is likely, though, that he took a more reasoned approach to the accusations. If she had been put to death for witchcraft, that certainly would have been remembered or survived in some record.  This fall, Jamestown Settlement presented an excellent re-enactment of the trial of Jane/Joan Wright in “ Season of the Witch.”

The Thorowgoods and Virginia Witch Trials 

There were at least 22 witch trials in Virginia from 1626 to 1730.  Of those, 8 were held in Lower Norfolk County (later Princess Anne County), 3 of which involved the same accused witch, Grace Sherwood. 6  While it may appear that the citizens of this county were particularly superstitious or accursed, the seemingly high proportion of cases is partly because those court records survived, while records of many other counties were destroyed.  Lower Norfolk was the county settled by Adam Thorowgood; its first county court was held in his home; and he often presided as a justice at the court until his death in 1640.  Although he never tried the case of a witch, his grandsons did.

mesmerizing-translucent-waves-19th-century-painting-ivan-konstantinovich-aivazovsky-6The Virginia justices found most of the accusations of witchcraft unsubstantiated.  The only guilty verdict that remains is for William Harding of the Northern Neck in Virginia, who was accused by his Scottish preacher of witchcraft and sorcery in 1656.  The accusations must not have been too serious, for his punishment was only ten lashes and banishment from the county.  Nor were the citizens overly concerned, as he was given two months to leave.  Katherine Grady was the only suspected witch to be hung, but it was done before she even reached Virginia in 1654 and under the direction of the ship’s captain, not court justices.  When the ship encountered a severe storm near the end of  its journey, the passengers were convinced that Katherine had caused it through witchcraft.  Upon reaching Jamestown, the Captain had to appear before the admiralty court, but its findings have been lost.7

The justices were concerned, however, that reputations and lives were being damaged by casual accusations of witchcraft. In 1655, the Lower Norfolk justices ordered that persons who  raised “any such scandal concerning any party whatsoever and shall not be able to prove the same, both upon oath and by sufficient witness” would have to pay 1,000 pounds of tobacco and be censured by the court. 8

5000 flying witchesThis was put to the test in 1698 when John and Ann Byrd sued Charles Kinsey and John Potts for having “falsely and scandalously” defamed them by claiming they were witches and “in league with the Devil.”  Kinsey finally admitted to the court that he might have only dreamed that they “had rid him along the Seaside and home” through witchcraft .  John Thorowgood, a son of Adam Thorowgood II, was one of the justices on that court which surprisingly did not give a cash award to the Byrds, but rather found for the defendants. However, they chose not to pursue witchcraft charges against the Byrds. 9

The Trials of Grace Sherwood

IMG_5819
Grace Sherwood Memorial  Virginia Beach

The hysteria of Salem’s witch trials in 1692-3 might have encouraged Virginians  to take a closer look at their neighbors, as there was a modest increase in witch trials from 1694-1706.  Lt. Col. Adam Thorowgood III,  John’s brother, also served as a justice in the Lower Norfolk County Court. He was part of the famous and complicated 1705/1706 witch trials  of  Grace Sherwood, “The Virginia Witch” or “The Witch of  Pungo.”   Like Joan Wright, Grace had a history of contentious relations with her neighbors.  It started when a neighbor, Richard Capps, called Grace a witch, and the Sherwoods brought suit against him for defamation. 10

Although that was settled out of court, a few months later several other neighbors began to make accusations that she had bewitched pigs to death, destroyed cotton, and taken Mrs. Barnes on a ride through the keyhole.  In 1698, the Sherwoods again brought a defamation suit against those neighbors. Grace Sherwood presented eight witnesses in her behalf, but again the justices decided in favor of the defendants who had made the accusations of witchcraft. Grace Sherwood had to pay the court costs and for the defendant’s nine witnesses.  Even so, the court did not pursue charges of witchcraft.

witches 3 34385864146_c55d0419ee_cIn 1705, Elizabeth Hill, another neighbor, called Grace a witch, and  a brawl between them ensued.  Grace filed a complaint of trespassing and assault and battery against Elizabeth.  Although Grace prevailed, she received little in monetary damages.  Elizabeth Hill’s husband then made a formal charge of witchcraft against her.  Accusations included that no grass would grow where she had danced in the moonlight, that she had soured the cow’s milk, and that she had made herself small enough to fly in an eggshell to England and back in one night to get rosemary seeds for her garden. However, rosemary was abundant locally and, ironically, often used to protect against witches. 11

wirch exam
Examination of a Witch by T.H. Matheson

The justices, which included Adam Thorowgood III, warned the Hills against making false claims, but agreed to have Grace examined by a jury of women to see if she had any “devil’s marks” (unusual growths or discolorations) on her.  The foreman for the women was Mrs. Barnes, one of those Grace had previously tried to sue.  They came back with the finding that she did have some unusual marks.  Unlike the photo, the exam would have only been conducted by a group of women; nonetheless, it would have been very humiliating.

IMG_5974
Colonial Williamsburg Capitol

The Princess Anne justices then passed  the case to the General Court in the new Virginia capital of Williamsburg, but that court remanded it back to the county justices for clearer charges.  In Princess Anne, the justices ordered another group of women to examine her to confirm the prior findings, but the women refused to come.  Another group was asked, and they also refused.  It seemed no one wanted to tangle with a possible real witch.

IMG_5825

The justices then decided to try the method of “ducking” the accused in a body of water as King James had advocated.  As water was considered a pure medium, an innocent person would sink, whereas the water would reject a witch and she would float.  A rope was tied around Grace’s waist to pull her up so she would not drown if innocent, and they even postponed the test to a sunny day to not endanger her health.  Grace was dressed in a shift, so whether the ropes were tied so air was trapped in her shift or she held her breath or, as some claimed, she untied her ropes and swam around the cove laughing at the observers, Grace did not sink. The results of the physical examination and ducking were taken to indicate she was a witch, but which accusations were considered credible is unknown.

IMG_5991
Grace Sherwood in Colonial Williamsburg

The case was probably sent back to the General Court, but those records burned in 1865, and  we do not know the final disposition of the case.  Her trial is dramatized in Colonial Williamsburg’s program “Cry Witch.” Grace Sherwood spent some time in jail, but was ultimately released and lived until around 1740. 12

walk2 Virginia Beach has erected a kindly statue in honor of this misunderstood woman, and the Governor of Virginia recently pardoned her, even though there is no record of her conviction.  Grace seems not to have had the sweet disposition portrayed in the statue, but still she serves as a symbol of those innocent “cunning women” who suffered when their skills with herbal potions and their independent and defiant spirits were  misconstrued as evil.  The last known witch trial in Virginia was in 1730.

The Witch’s Bottle

IMG_5912
Thoroughgood House Education Center

It appears that not all the Lower  Norfolk/Princess Anne County residents were confident that the justices could keep them safe from witches.  In 1979, near the Thorowgood property, a still-sealed witch’s bottle was found buried upside down, as would be expected, possibly dating from the era of the Sherwood trials. 13 Inside one can still see the straight pins intended to harm the witch and a yellowish liquid stain, which might have been urine, to keep the witches away.  Someone was worried.

A Modern Dilemma

6000 burning witchesWitchcraft and the occult are still practiced by some today.  While there are those who try to connect with the spirit of the earth and be “good witches,” there are others who have carried out horrific acts.  Unfortunately, over the ages, many innocents were sent to their deaths because of the superstitions and suspicions of others.  It has been estimated that 85% of those killed in European witch hunts were women.  A Puritan preacher of the time, William Perkins, was unapologetic in his explanation: 14

The woman, being the weaker sex, is sooner entangled by the devil’s illusions, with the damnable act, than the man.  And in all ages it is found true by experience, that the devil hath more easily and oftener prevailed with women than with men.

Although we may recoil from or laugh at the beliefs and practices of the past, today we also struggle with what to do with individuals who desire to inflict harm.  How can we humanely identify and deal with potential terrorists and mass murderers without sweeping up “strange,” but innocent, victims?  How can we better prevent and respond to acts of evil and hatred?  These challenges are with us still.

Footnotes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Hudson, Carson O., Jr., Witchcraft in Colonial Virginia (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2019), 16. 
  2. Hudson, 55-60. “King James VI and I’s Demonology, 1597,” published online in The British Library: Discovering Literature: Shakespeare and Renaissance collection items. http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/king-james-vi-and-is-demonology-1597.  Accessed online 10/22/2019. 
  3. Hudson, 75.  Hotten, John Camden, The Original Lists of Persons of Quality (Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1980), 253. 
  4.   Hudson, 75-79.  “Transcription from the Original: General Court Hears Case on Witchcraft, 1626,” Encyclopedia of Virginia, accessed online 10/15/2019. 
  5. Ibid. 
  6. Hudson, 127-129. 
  7. Hudson, 81. “Witchcraft in Virginia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 1:3 (January 1893), 127-128. 
  8. Hudson, 89. Turner, Florence Kimberly, Gateway to the New World: A History of Princess Anne County, Virginia, 1607-1824 (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1984), 79. 
  9.   Hudson, 89.  “Witchcraft in Virginia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 2:1 (July 1893), 60. McCartney, Martha W.,  Jamestown People to 1800 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2012), 403. 
  10. Hudson, 90.  “Transcription from the Original: The Case of Grace Sherwood (1706),” Enclyclopedia of Virginia, accessed online 10/5/2019.  Dorman, John Frederick, Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia, 1607-1624/5, 4th ed., vol 3  (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 2004), 335. 
  11. Hudson, 90-92.  Tucker, 79-80. “Transcription from the Original: The Case of Grace Sherwood (1706),” online access. 
  12. Hudson, 92-98.  Tucker, 80-81.  “Witchcraft in Virginia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 1:3 (January 1893), 127-128.  “Transcription from the Original: The Case of Grace Sherwood (1706),” online access. 
  13. Tucker, 82. 
  14. Hudson, 74.