Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ancient Planters of Jamestowne

Ancient Planters of Jamestowne
by Bebe Johns Fox/ under copyright

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 pageantry, 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 cowkeeper'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 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).

Copyright by Bebe Johns Fox
This material may not be used in any format without
Express written permission from the author.

Note that a number of Caswell County, North Carolina families claim ancestry from Captain Thomas Graves.

The following is from Adventurers of Purse and Person: Virginia 1607-1624/5, John Frederick Dorman (Fourth Edition 2005):

Thomas Graves came to Virginia in the Mary and Margaret and is listed among those arriving in the second supply, 1608. Shortly after his arrival, while on an exploring expedition, he was taken captive by the Indians who held him in Opecancanough's town subject to an uncertain fate when a timely rescle was effected by Ensign Thomas Savage. [Thus, he was saved from the savages by a Savage!]

An undated letter from Governor Yeardley to Sir Edwin Sandys concerning Smythe's (Southampton) Hundred, written after 29 April 1619, recites circumstances of the affair between Capt. William Epes, Commander, and Capt. Stallings in which the latter was slain and the former placed under arrest, and states "I have entreated Capt. Graves, and Antient officer of this Co[mpa]ny to take charge of the people and the workes." Capt. Graves was sent as one of two representatives from Smythe's Hundred to the first Representative Legislative Assembly which convened at Jamestown, 30 July 1619.

As a member of the Virginia Company, Capt. Graves had agreed to transport 100 persons to Virginia and accordingly was allowed a patent for land, 20 Nov. 1622. His grant for 200 acres "on the Easterne side of the Shoare of the bay of Chesepeacke [Eastern Shore] and abutting Southerly on the Land of Capt. Henry Fleete" is of record, 14 March 1628/9, and recites that the land was due him "by vertue of an Adventure" of L. 25 paid to "Sir Thomas Smith, late Tresurer for the Company of virginia." A tract of 100 acres due to Capt. Thomas Grayes "for his per[sonal] devident as being an Ancient Planter" was assigned to Capt. Thomas Purifye 29 February 1631.

Capt. Graves, referred to as Esquire in the Accomack-Northampton County court records, was appointed commander of the "Plantation of Accawmacke" by the General Court, 8 Feb. 1627/8, and headed the list of commissioners at the first extant court of record held for Accawmack, 7 Jan 1633/4. He served as Burgess to the Assembly, 1630 and 1632, and was a member of the first vestry of the parish, 14 Sept. 1635. His death occurred between Nov. 1635, when he was witness to a deed, and 5 Jan. 1635/6, when suit was entered against a "servant to Mrs. Graves."

Thomas Graves married Katherine ___________ who, with his two sons, came to Virginia after 1616, as is shown in a patent granted to John, 9 Aug. 1637, reciting that the 600 acres granted to him in Elizabeth City was "due . . . in Right of descent from his Father Thomas Graves, whoe transported at his owne proper costs . . . himselfe, Katherine Graves, his wife, John Graves the pattentee and Thomas Graves, Junr. and eight persons. Mrs Graves was living at the "Old Plantation," 20 May 1636.

Issue:  John; Thomas; Ann; Verlinda; Katherine; and Francis.


  1. Interesting, powerful, and well written.

  2. There are other descendants of Virginia's Ancient Planters who live(d) in Caswell County. Specifically the Chandlers.

    My ancestor John Chandler arrived in Jamestown on June 10, 1610 on the "Hercules," one of Lord Delaware' three ships. He was either 9 or 10 years of age and at the time was the youngest English immigrant to come to Jamestown. He was sent alone without his parents. In about 1626 he married Elizabeth Lupo, widow of Lt. Albiano Lupo who was a shareholder in the Virginia Company. John Chandler is listed as one of the Ancient Planters and amassed a large estate at what is now Newport News, Va.

    He had at least two sons, John, Jr. and Robert. My line descends from John through his second son Robert, specifically: John - Robert - Robert - William - William - Daniel - Pleasant - George W. - Thomas Yancey - Clyde Thomas - Gilbert Carlton - William Carlton (me) and my son Frederick Carlton, the 12th generation born in the US.

    The Chandlers lived in Virginia until Daniel moved to Orange County (after 1777, Caswell County). The first Chandler from this line born in North Carolina was Pleasant Chandler who lived and is buried on the Drew Chandler farm on Vernon Road off NC 62 North.

    William C. (Bill) Chandler, Ph.D.
    Apex, NC