Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ancient Planters (Jamestowne, Virginia)


Several families in old Orange can claim descent from Ancient Planters... those who paid their own passage, arrived in Virginia before 1616, and remained for a minimum of three years. Right off hand the names which occur to me are the Norwoods of Chatham, who descend from William Farrar, as do the Burtons of Caswell, and the Cox family, who built "Riverside" on the Eno, descend from William Spencer, owner of twelve acres on the island itself who became a Burgess representing Surry County across the James River at a later date. A number of descendants of Capt. Graves reside in Caswell County. Your compiler had the distinct pleasure of being a charter member in 1991 of the The Order of Descendants of Ancient Planters founded in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Can you imagine the visual incongruity at the arrival of Lord De La Warr in 1610? His ship dropped anchor in the spring, he debarked, amid some pagentry, to find the little village with the somewhat glorious name of James Cittee, with it's church almost in ruins and the bridge falling in. After a brief tour and a rousing sermon by Rev. Buck, Lord De La Warr returned to his ship. He later become ill and departed.

The joint stock enterprise had tried to wring a profit out of the New World for 17 years. There was no gold. There were no diamonds. The Company had even lowered it's sights to glass and silk. But we all know what saved the day - so to speak- and the little New World colony. Tobacco. Not only were more and more lands cleared for the planting of it, much to the chagrin of the Tidewater Indians, but it could be found flourishing in every nook and cranny of James Cittee itself. It is fair to say that John Rolfe put the settlement "on the map".

It is also fair to say that a certain kind of democracy was born out of the labor hungry money crop. The "Old" or "Ancient Planters" as the early well established and usually well connected early settlers were later referred to, were exempt from certain taxation and other orders of the day. They had made their own contributions to the establishment of the colony. But what of the many indentured folk, some brought in as refuges from Old Bailey and the meaner streets of London? Where else could a man serve out his seven years and look only to himself for the fulfillment of his dreams of the future? It was not uncommon that the children of his children might be leaders in the colony. Why even the cow-keeper's wife was noticed at church wearing flaming silk and a rough beaver hat! It was said that in England her husband would have been at the level of the "black arts", another way of describing a coal miner.

The earliest justice of the country was not determined in the colony, but in England. So much for speedy justice. Samuel Jordan, of Jordan's Journey, also known as Beggar's Bush, was a member of the 1st Assembly in the New World, in 1619. But their hands were tied when it came to making anything more than suggestions and recommendations. Apparently some cases were not considered to be weighty enough for the barristers of London. Samuel Jordan's widow, Cicely, became involved in a romantic triangle when the Rev. Greville Pooley demanded that she live up to her supposed agreement to marry him instead of her favored suitor William Farrar. The charming suit, which was first sent to England for arbitration, landed back in this country. Cecily, whose gold threaded bits of garments and tiny pearl buttons survive, chose Farrar over the minister. Pooley died within a year of so, perhaps of a broken heart. Thus the first "Breach of Promise" suit in the new world.

At one point Fortune (Jordan) Flood Mills, sister of Attorney General Col. George Jordan and widow of Col. John Flood, took the law into her own hands.

After having complained at court about her then husband, Mr. Mills, who was squandering her dower, she invited him to her house, they apparently living separately, and proceeded to throw "hot stinking oyle" all over him. Then it was Mills turn to complain at court.

One of the more colorful cases, in the event any of us labor under the belief that things were better in the old days, concerned an animal control problem - although it sounds more like a people control problem. It seems that a dog, probably a mastiff since they were a favored canine in the colony, bit a fellow, who then ran into the owner's house - that of a Mr. and Mrs. Roote. The battle that followed almost defies the imagination - Mr. Roote grabbed his sword which was propped by the door and Mrs. Roote armed herself with a piece of firewood - and as I recall reading, the dog was still in on the act.

(We must not think that our forefathers had no time for a keen sense of humor - names like Jordan's Journey, Beggar's Bush, Paces Paines, and Causey's Care indicate the tongue in cheek delight they took in naming their plantations).



-A letter dated March 15th 1619, the author, John Pory, Secretary of the Colony.

-To his friend in London he writes:

"Nowe that your lordship may know, that we are not the veriest beggars in the worlde, our cowekeeper here of James citty on Sunday goes accowtered all in fresh flaming silke;

and a wife of one that in England had professed the black arte, not of a schollar, but of a collier of Croyden, wears her rough bever hatt with a faire perle hatband, and a silken suite thereto correspondent." (collier=coalminer).

-The scene was quite different just 12 short years earlier. May 13, 1607, saw 144 men disembark from three small ships, at least one in chains.

-What would entice them to come to this flat watery place on the James River in the first place?

-And why would at least 104 remain?

- Then, as now, a strong desire for a better life for oneself and progeny, as well as a keen sense of adventure, must have been the reason for the majority.

-The Virginia Company of London had great expectations.

-With DREAMS of GREAT riches, well heeled and well connected merchants of London RISKED their financial futures.

-But as often happens anticipation EXCEEDED realization.

-There was no gold. There were no diamonds.

-In the meanwhile the colonists, cognizant of the abandoned Roanoke
settlement of Sir Walter Raleigh, were faced with mere survival.

-On April 29th a cross was planted in the soft sand of coastal Virginia.

-May 13th saw the little band, representing a microcosim of ambitions and motivation, arrive at Jamestowne.

-There was no dock - the ships were tied to trees -

no neon signs blinking with promise of climate controlled rooms,
tasty treats, and cable TV.

- But roasted oysters, "fine beautiful strawberries", cool green vistas and fresh water were infinitely superior in their unjaded eyes.

-Within 48 hours a fort was begun, just for the barest protection from the unknown.

-In no time a makeshift church was erected, an old sail protecting the colonists from the beating sun.

-The seats were unhewn logs, and the pulpit a plank nailed between two trees.

-There was prayer morning and evening, two Sunday sermons, and Holy Communion every three months until the minister died.

-A New World equaled a clean slate. Right? Wrong.

-Then, as now, hopes, dreams, and agendas, accompany the individual, not a group as a whole.

-By September of the first year the small colony was already embroiled in two jury trials.

-Remember the fellow in chains?

-That was the famed John Smith who had to wait for about a year before having the opportunity to provide the much
needed leadership.

- Edward Maria Wingfield, the only Virginia Company organizer to accompany the settlers, had first dibs at the Presidency.

-It is written that he spent a bit too much time holed away on the pinnace Discovery with the choicest provisions and a few of his favorite folk.

He was deported to England in chains - complaining all the way of having been accused - and I quote - of "doing slack in the service of the colony" and of doing "nothing but tend to my pott, spitt, and oven".
-John Smith wasn't unshackled until about a month after Captain Newport opened the letter in the sealed box.

-It was an unpleasant surprise to Newport that the name of this middle born adventurer had been included as Councillor by the Virginia Company.

-Newport departed for England in a month.

-The little colony ran through Council Presidents at break neck speed and in just over a year the seasoned and practical Smith got his shot at leadership.

-Smith, the son of a yeomen farmer, and thus only a MARGINAL "gentleman", commanded :

"He that shall not WORKE shall not EATE"!

-Men were marched to the fields and forests accompanied by the beat of the drum.

-Oaths uttered by tender handed aristocracy was not tolerated by Smith - as each oath merited a cup of cold water down the sleeve of the offender.

-A chicken or cluster of grapes pilfered from a neighbor could bring on a death warrant.

-John Smith was not what you would call a popular man but he knew what it took to get the job done.

-He had street sense.

-Smith, who was INTOLERANT of complainers, DID complain a BIT himself.

-He declared that HE would never be a CANDIDATE for SAINTHOOD-

- that he sorely
missed aquavitae (water of life such as brandy), sack, beef and eggs -

that all they had was a daily ration of a little wheat and barley, wormy at that, water to drink, their LODGINGS "CASTLES in the air".

-Within a year Smith returned to England with a severe powder burned hand, never to return to Virginia, although he did make 3 voyages attempting to reach New England.

-The Company had received many complaints from the colonists, but they were even more displeased with the low rate of return on their investment
and with Smith's high handed manner toward the Indians.

- Smith left the colonists in pretty good shape.

- There were adequate foodstuffs laid up, and a fair number of animals, ships, arms, and houses.

-Without his direction, however, the settlers suffered the terrible winter of 1609-1610, known to this day as "The Starving Time".

-The 60 or so out of 500 who managed to survive did so by eating roots, berries, and sometimes each other.

-Later writings by Smith made it clear that he was CONVINCED that FORCED labor did not produce the desired results and that DISSENSION "particularly the seeds and BLASTED the fruits of ALL mens' labor".

-He also made it clear that workers were needed in the colony to compliment the high percentage of the well born.

-The joint stock enterprise had tried for 17 years to wring out a profit.

-The Company had lowered it's sights from the unrealistic gold and diamonds to glass and silk.

-The glass venture was not particularly successful- and MICE had EATEN the silkworms.

-Smith had tried to appease the stockholders with cedar clapboards

- an activity which had delayed the planting season, thus causing additional hardships for the settlers, and had proved to be a bulky export
-even for the timber hungry Mother Country.

-His retort to those Englishmen who declared America barren was that cherries couldn't be found in Kent at Christmas, either.

-There was a time and season for all things and not to give up hope.

-Understandably a little tired of the unrealistic demands of the Company, he did send a letter to England suggesting that-

he could ship them some worthless gilded dirt if they wanted it.

-John Smith, who had experienced gale wind forces and extremes in temperature unlike the ENGLISH climate

- DID make an assurance, however,
- that the weather in Virginia would IMPROVE once the province was populated and cultivated by a CIVILIZED people!

I might add that at that time it was an accepted theory that nature could be tamed by mankind.

-What was the background of this man whose supposed likeness we see in etchings?
- with the overlarge head and suit of armor.

-Although it is written that his eyes might have been a bit too close together - John Smith must have seemed a giant -

standing at six foot two - in an age of a far lesser average height.

-He had been apprenticed at age 15 to a seaport merchant - not unusual even for families of above average means -.

-Upon the death of his parents, however,
John was OFF in a flash.

-He made his way to the Low Country were he spent 3 years fighting on the side of the Dutch Protestants against the Spanish Roman Catholics.

-During a lull in the fighting -

John didn't put up with TOO many "lulls" -

he made his way about France and then on to Scotland looking for a job.

-The next thing we know he had entered the Austrian Army -beheading Turks in Hungary, for which he was enslaved.

-Christian against infidel, the Great Motivator.

-The wife of a Turkish pasha, apparently enamored by the adventurer, set him free. Again he became enslaved -this time by the Russians -but fought his way out.

-At some point Smith killed the brother of his female patron - a wealthy woman with whom he shared an interest in Italian.

-It is fair to say that John Rolfe put the little colony on the financial map. While it is true that tobacco - called Nicotania Rustica - was indigenous to Virginia, it had a biting taste.

- John Rolfe is credited with importing a superior seed from Trinidad.

-The gold in this county was a LEAF, NOT a mineral.

-In less than two decades exportation had reached 1,500,000 lbs. No longer were the colonists keeping "an eye on the store", so to speak.

-Fields were cleared, well beyond those necessary in the earlier years, and a visitor or newcomer would readily notice the weed springing up in every nook and corner of the village as well.

-The Indians, whom Smith had tried so hard to keep at bay and in awe of the white man, were in and out of town at will.

-Can you imagine the visual incongruity at the arrival of Lord De La Warr?

-His ship dropped anchor in the spring, he debarked amid some pagentry, colors flying, to find the little village with the somewhat glorious name of James Cittee,-

with it's CHURCH almost in RUINS and the BRIDGE falling in?

-After a short tour and a sermon delivered by Rev. Buck, the Lord retreated to his comfortable quarters aboard ship.

There were three primary means of attaining land in Virginia.
1) The Virginia Company and its investors.
2) PRIVATE adventurers who were members of OTHER English investor groups and
3) The HEADRIGHT system which provided the backer with 50 acres per person whose way he paid.

-The latter system lasted for generations, spreading to other American colonies.

-The earlier planters fell into two classifications -

-The Ancient Planter, considered Virginia's first aristocrats, who immigrated prior to Dale's departure in 1616 and

-Company men who were to serve as tenants for a seven year period.

-The great influx of settlers which began about 1618 increased the need for law and order.

-The earliest justice was meted out in England. So much for speed.

-Samuel Jordan, an Ancient Planter, was a member of the 1st Assembly in the colony.

-The House of Burgesses was not established until 1619 and had no real clout in any but civil matters.

-But then, as now, there were the problems of animal control, breach of promise, local taxation, attention to the needy, trespass, and the ever present problem of church attendance.

-Not to mention church laws on the local level and civilizing the Indians.

-It was directed that Indian boys who showed "wit and grace" should live with the colonists to be taught literature and religion in preparation for the planned university.

-With the demise of the Virginia Company, Henricus, a town consisting of three rows of "well framed houses", a church, and 10,000 vines planted - in preparation for the college -

was in a state of ruin by 1625.

-This area became known as Farrar's Island a few years later.

-The village, named for Henry, Prince of Wales and patron of Virginia, was not destined to become the seat of the colony as Governor Dale had planned.

-Apparently some matters were not considered weighty enough for the barristers of London.

-Samuel Jordan's widow, Cecily, referred to by one author as "that fascinating dame" and by another as "the heartbreaker of Virginia bachelors",-

became involved in a romantic triangle when the Rev. Greville Pooley demanded that she live up to her supposed agreement to marry him instead of her favored suitor William Farrar.

-This delightful suit which was first sent to England for arbitration, landed back in this country.

-Cecily, whose gold threaded bits of garments and tiny pearl buttons survive, chose Farrar over the minister. Rev. Pooley died within a few years - perhaps of a broken heart. Thus the first "Breach of Promise" suit in the New World.

-The currently popular Pre Nuptial Agreement would have come in handy for Mrs. Fortune (Jordan) Flood Mills, sister of Attorney General Col. George Jordan, and former wife of the deceased Col. John Flood.

-She seems to have taken the law into her own hands.

-Fortune had complained that Mr. Mills was squandering her dower -

the Mills, apparently living apart, had a rather colorful encounter.

-In Court Mr. Mills related arriving as per invitation to visit his wife- only to be greeted by her pouring "hot stinking oyle" all over him.

-He may have gotten the best of her though as later records show him here and there buying and selling ships.

-Mrs. Mills seems to have died insolvent as her heirs were ordered to sell a desk and other heirlooms to pay her debts!

-Animal control problems were not unknown either.

-A rollicking court case involved a Mr. and Mrs. Roote whose dog, probably a Mastiff since they were a favored colonial canine,
took a nip out of a man.

-The fellow chased the dog right into the house were Mr. Roote took up his SWORD and MRS. Roote joined in with a stick of firewood leaning by the door.

-As I recall the dog was still in on the act.

-The Court ruled against Mr. Roote who had to pay the medical bill.

-Over on the easy going and isolated Eastern Shore Mr. Upshur continued to cross Mr. Bradford's land in order to reach his own property, apparently a little peninsula.

-So the irritated Mr. Bradford dug a ditch which would turn Mr. Upshur's peninsula into an island -
thus strongly suggesting that Upshur run his errands by boat.

- Mr. Upshur sued. Mr. Bradford lost.

- They say the remnents of the ditch can still be seen -several hundred years later.

-They also say that Mr. Bradford himself was trespassing as he was digging on Mr. UPSHURS' land IN THE FIRST PLACE.

- A fine of 1 lb. tobacco for one missed Sunday and an attention getting 50 lbs. for 4 Sundays in a given month.

-Each house had to have a special room or at least a space set aside for holy purposes and a holy spot of land for the burial ground.

-It became illegal to trade with the Indians for corn and in one session it was directed that the colonists "fall upon the Indians near you as we did last year" - presumably to burn their fields and houses.

-Women, including Isabella Pace, could have land in their own rights.

-The little body of lawmakers wrote that it was "impossible to tell whether men or women were more necessary on the new plantations".

-After the first hard years the Ancient Planters , as well as the Burgesses, received some special consideration under the law.

-The Planter and his posterity were exempt from Public Service and the Burgess was not to be seized during Assembly.

-This apparently referred to military service.

-We are famililar with the Indian Massacre of 1622.

-Among many others seventeen tenants at the College Lands were murdered.

-After a number were killed at the plantation of William Farrar on the Appomattox-

the Councilor fled down-river to Jordan's Journey.

-Remember John Smith's admonition to keep them in awe?

-The Jordan's had had no casualties -

perhaps because they had been warned by Ancient Planter Richard Pace.

-Chanco, a resident Indian of Paces Paines, whom Pace looked on as a son, shared his knowledge of the pending raid.

-Chanco naturally became a hero.

-The Eastern Shore was spared. As a young boy Thomas Savage lived among the Accomack Indians-

-Another idea of Capt. John Smith.

-Savage became a lasting friend of the Chief Laughing King.

- Ancient Planter, Capt. Robert Beheathland, was well known as an Indian Interpreter on the mainland.

-It is interesting that the 1625 Muster included only four Ancient Planters -
the remainder apparently deceased by this date.

-It also included 70 swords , 35 suits of armor and several coats of mail.

-In a just over 25 years the dress of the Cavalier began to change with the influx of Quaker missionaries -

the stiff neck ruff replaced by the more comfortable wide flat collars of linen or lace.

-Why did some of our Virginia ancestors become Quakers?

-Remember that Anglican ministers had to be ordained.

-So by 1656 when Quaker missionaries arrived in Virginia many of the Episcopal leaders had died, and there being no bishop to ordain new ones, the conditions were ripe -

-We find this change of faith especially in Nansemond and New Kent Counties- and across the socioeconomic board.

-Were our early folk devoid of a sense of humor. No.

-Just let the plantation names roll off your tongue.
Jordan's Journey,
Beggar's Bush,
Paces Paines,
Causey's Care,
Chaplin's Choice.

-And then there was World's End on up the river.

-When we are tempted to think that our predecessors were perfect, and ABOVE the frey of life,

we need only read the early records to see that they were
AND litigious.

-But of course, since they were "ours" -they were also PERFECT.

Bibliography for Journey to Jamestowne and Evolution of Justice.

Burton Chronicles of Colonial Virginia by Childs.
Captain John Smith edited by Karen O. Kupperman.
The First Seventeen Years of Jamestowne Virginia 1607-1624 by Charles E. Hatch, Jr.
The Five Royal Governors of North Carolina 1729-1775 by Blackwell P. Robinson, Ph D.
Inventory of the County Archives of Virginia #75, Prince George County Court House Historical Survey and Work Project Administration.
North Carolina by Hugh T. Lefler & Albert R. Newsome.
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 30. pg. 164.
Wills and Administrations of Isle of Wight County, Virginia by Chapman.
World Book Encyclopedia.