Monday, July 21, 2014

Rev. James Blair

Tomb of Rev. James Blair at Jamestown, Virginia
In 1690 Rev. James Blair, who had been in the colony for five years, was appointed the first Commissary in Jamestown. He first settled in Henrico County but later on became the incumbent of the pulpit at Jamestown.  Blair was born in Scotland . His annual salary was one hundred pounds sterling which was paid out of the fund of the quit-rents, but was paid irregularly. However, Rev. Blair failed to invest the position of Commissary with any real power or influence. The Bishop of London acknowledged that the people of Virginia were disposed to condemn and slight his representative's authority, therefore, the Commissary should continue to occupy a seat in the Council as a means of securing for him a higher degree of popular consideration and respect. The Bishop referred to Blair as being "a discreet man who would give no offense".  Rev. Blair was involved in what was discribed as violent contention with Governor Nicholson on the subjet of a claim made by Blair that the Governor was the mouthpiece, not only of the King but also of the Bishop of London in the Colony. The claim was based on a statute passed about 1643 at a time when there could be no representative in Virginia (save the Governor) at the head of the diocese.  Blair also interferred in several cases of moral offenses, such as the incestuous marriage which came within the ecvclesiastical jurisdiction of the ordinary courts. On this issue, he was rebuked and the cases were referred to the courts for prosecution. Blair defended the colonists against the tyranny of the royal governors and had a play in the recall of three of them, viz: Edmund Andros, Francis Nicholson and Alexander Spotswood.  He also served as the Rector of Bruton Parish in Williamsburg from 1710 until he died. It was Dr. Blair who organized the construction of the church building, beginning in 1711. In 1722 he published Our Savior's Divine Sermon on the Mount, which was a collection of five volumes of his sermans from 1707 to 1721.  He was also the author of The Present State of Virginia and the College, published in 1727.  Blair died April 18, 1743 at the age of 87 and his body was taken to Jamestown where he was buried next to his wife Sarah (nee Harrison) Blair who had died in 1713 on the Jamestown Island.
 Sources: Letter of Bishop of London to Sir Philip Meadows, B. T. Va., 1698, vol. vi. p. 339; Memorial of Virginia Clergy (ca 1693), Lambeth Palace, Cod. Mis. No. 954.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Barron of Standish, England



Robert Barron, was born in Standish, Lancashire, England, and died in James City
County, Virginia and is listed as the first of the family to emigrate to America. “Robert
Barron, age 18, to Virginia in 1635”. Original Lists of Persons of Quality, page 106. His son, Andrew, came over on the ship David with  Capt. John Stythe who was granted 575 acres in James City County.  The Barron genealogy is available to members of Virginia Pioneers


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Monday, July 7, 2014

Bassett of Noble Lineage

Bassett of James City County


The first Bassett, Thurstine de Bassett, came with William the Conqueror to England and includes many noble families.   From this illustrious lineage descends William Bassett, who came to America in 1621 in the ship "Fortune." His name appeared on the list of freemen in 1633. He served as a representative to the court for six years; was in the Pequod War. William Bassett, captain in the King's army; after the defeat of Dunkirk, immigrated to Jamestown, Virginia, where he was contracted to build a fort. He was married to Bridget Cary, the daughter of Colonel Miles Cary of Southampton, England. Like so many of the first settlers to Jamestown, he died shortly after the birth of his son.  His cousin, the famous Nathaniel Bacon, then Governor of Virginia, was directed to care for his son. Bacon dutifully raised the boy; he build a mansion in New Kent County, Virginia, named it "Eltham" after the Bassett family residence in England. 

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Capitol moved to Middle Plantation

Map of Jamestown
Jamestown burned down again towards the close of the 17th century, this time by accidental fires. Considering all of the trouble in Jamestown, it was decided to remove the capitol of the Colony to the Middle Plantation (Williamsburg), which had many wholespring springs, two creeks, one of which emptied into the James, the other into the York. It was said that the new site offered the advantages of a healthy and temperate situation.  The plan of abandoning Jamestown as the site had been contemplated on several occasions.  The actual measure for incorporating the new capital was not introduced into the General Assembly until 1699 and it was embodied in the code of 1705.

Source: Hening's Statutes, Vol. III, pp. 197, 419.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Twelve to Fourteen Families

Map of Jamestown
During 1675, Jamestown consisted of only twelve or fourteen families, who obtained a living chiefly by keeping houses of entertainment.  There were twelve new brick houses and a number of framed houses with brick chimneys attached.  The two most substantial residences in the town were owned by Mr. Lawrence and Dr. Drummond.  When Jamestown was laid to ashes (Bacon's Rebellion) by the soldiers of Bacon, Drummond and Lawrence applied the torch each to his own home.  That meant that they were part of the rebellion.  The church and state-house were also destroyed and when the English regiments finally arrived to suppress the insurrection, there was not a house left standing!

 Source: Colonial Entry Book 80, pp. 90, 94.

Source: Bacon's Proceedings, p. 25, Force's Historical Tracts, Vol. I.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

More on Brick Houses

Jamestown Brick HouseIn the 1662 session of the Virginia General Assembly, a measure was passed to build towns upon the York, Rappahannock and Potomac rivers along the Eastern Shore and that Jamestown should consisted of thirty-two houses.  Each house was to be forty feet from end to end, twenty feet in width in the interior, and eighteen feet in height, and, constructed of brick.  The walls were to be two bricks in thickness as far as the water table, and one and a half the remaining distance.  The roof was to be covered with slate or tile, and was to be fifteen feet in pitch.  The Governor decided the relative arrangement of the houses, whether in a square or line.  The bricklayers, carpenters, sawyers and other tradesmen were to be pressed into service. The brick were to be manufactured in the most careful manner and were in size to represent statute measure; the price was not to exceed one hundred and fifty pounds of tobacco for every one thousand. The ordinary laborer received his food without charge and he was engaged at the rate of two thousand pounds of tobacco per year. Such details of the tradesmen were set out by regulations. Unfortunately, there was not a landowner in the Colony upon whom the enforcement of this law would not impose an onerous burden. A levy of thirty pounds of tobacco a head was to be raised by the counties and each county should use ten thousand pounds of the amount thus collected, in paying for the construction of the house which it was required to build at Jamestown. The inducement to erect brick houses granted the colonists a fee simple title to ground adjacent to the property sufficient in extent to afford room for a store!

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Towns and Brick Houses

Brickhouse in Jamestown ca 1740
House in Jamestown ca 1740
The plantations were always in a state of enlargement, for agriculture was the source of the economy. Tobacco crops were exported abroad and used for monetary exchanges.  Just about everything was paid for in tobacco, including the required tithe to the church. An effort was made to encourage those persons on nearby plantations to also have a house in town. The custom was that on Saturday afternoon the servants were relieved of work and were ordered to leave the plantation, with only a few to remain, the rest to go to the towns in which their masters had taken up residence and there (in their masters' houses) were to spend the Sabbath. This notion provided everyone the opportunity to attend divine service.  The days to bring goods to the market were set aside as Wednesdays and Saturdays, however traffic did not increase to Jamestown and in consequence the Act was repealed in 1655.  The planters had little desire to promote the building of towns even though the authorities in England passed a number of laws having this plan. In 1662 Governor Berkeley, after the return of the Stuarts to power (in England), was commanded to use his influence to induce the planters to erect a town upon every important river. Berkeley himself was commanded by the English Goveernment to build several houses in the town, presumably at his own expense, and he was told to inform the members of the Council that the authorities in England would be highly pleased if each one would erect a residence at Jamestown.  Considering the hardships which the settlers had suffered since the settlement of Jamestown and the continuing struggle to exist among savage Indians, it is no wonder that planters were busy with the business of survival.  Hence, the expansion of plantations was more important to the colony at large. Source: Instructions to Berkeley, 1662.


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