Sunday, September 14, 2014

Accomplishments during Short Life-Spans

During the reign of Charles I, there are many entries in the English Chancellor's Records reflect names of settlers who traveled to and fro concerning the affairs of Jamestown. 
The life expectancy of a colonists who came to Jamestown during the 17th century was exceedingly low.  The main reason was the brutality of the unfriendly tribes of the emperer Powhatan, deprivation, starvation and general hardship.  Prior to the formation of the colony in 1607,  James I had come to the throne of England after the death of Queen Elizabeth I.  He made an agreement with Spain which forced Spain to relinquish total control of North America so that the English could explore. Thus, the Virginia Company was formed, which was a joint stock company. It sponsored the first settlement to Jamestown and outfitted 144 settlers (mostly males)  to make the trip.  In those days, sea voyages caused dysentery, fevers and deaths, and only 104 immigrants survived the journey.  The new colonists were faced with aggressive opposition from the natives and were compelled to construct a stockade fence around the town and remain inside. Venturing outside of the village was so disastrous that when another supply arrived the following year, there were only about 38 of the original settlers left.  Emperor Powhatan massacred much of the population in 1622/1623.  Throughout the settlement periods of the 17th century, there were few women in the colony, and passenger lists contained many of the same names of males who returned to England for wives.  No need to wish the Jamestown records survived to locate marriage records, because almost all settlers were married in England.  The Parish Records is the place to search. Considering the hardships which the first colonists to Virginia endured and the short life-spans, it is a small miracle that the colonists accomplished lasting settlements and finally  built a productive tobacco economy. Reflecting back, this makes their lives valuable commodities to Americans today and descendants of Virginians can appreciate a unique sacrifice to the cause of freedom.



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Saturday, September 6, 2014

The old Will of Ludwell Lee is found!

William Ludwell Lee
 William Ludwell Lee of the prominent Lee family of Virginia resided at Jamestown.  Although all of the records of Jamestown were destroyed, I accidently discovered Lee's Last Will and Testament in Alexandria City, Virginia (now district of Columbia).  He mentioned is good friend, James Madison, gave detailed instructions about his burial beside his father, the care of graves for future generations, bequests to Jamestown for an educational center and to the College of William and Mary.  From his will, we learn that he owned Greenfield plantation in Jamestown, which was first the 980 acre plantation of the unpopular Governor Berkeley during the time that during Bacon's Rebellion, the town was first burned.  Berkeley ignored the protection of the settlers against Indian massacres and thievery.  Although he won the rebellion against Nathaniel Bacon and had him hanged, the complaints concerning royal Governor was soon recalled to England.  Greenfield then passed into the hands of the Ludwell family, who found the manor house unsuitable.  Ultimately, it was passed down to William Ludwell Lee.  A letter was found wherein Lee stated that the home was too uncomfortable and that he planned to construct a separate manor house.  We are talking early 1600's here.  Berkeley had imported bricks from England and fancy decorations were found on the structure according to the architectural style of James I.  How fancy a structure for an era of massacres and starvation for the first colonists!  Ruins of the old structure are on the original site (which is not the reconstructed site for visitors) where excavation has been in progress for a number of years.  Since Lee's Will was deposited in Alexandria City (old town), he was apparently a political figure there.  Old Wills of several members of the Washington family were also found.  A great history lesson is in the last will and testament of Ludwell Lee!  This is why it is so important to read the old documents which are available to members of Virginia Pioneers



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Monday, July 28, 2014

Jamestown: First Parsonage

Rev. Mr. Alexander Whitaker probably occupied the first parsonage erected in Virginia. It was situated on the western side of the James River at a point opposite Henricopolis, was a frame building and was known as "Rock Hall".  Many years later there was a parsonage standing further down the river at Martin Brandon because there is a record of a bequest of John Sadler, London Merchant, to repair it. Whitaker was the son of one of the most celebrated preachers of the age and won his degree of master-of-arts at Cambridge.  His mission to America was to "help to bear the name of God to the Gentiles" (Indians). This statement, I believed, amazed his friends.  "My coming to Virginia," he wrote, "has been prosperous, and my continuane here hath been answerable. I think I have fgared better for your prayers and the rest.  Though my promise of three years' service to my country be expired, I will abide in my vocation here until I be lawfully called hence."  Thus, Whitaker remained in Virginia until he accidentally drowned in the James River!

Sources: Works of Captain John Smith, vol. ii, p. 12, Richmond edition; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. iv, p.316; Brown's Genesis of the United States, vol. ii, pp. 614-615.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

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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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