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Monday, January 6, 2014

Pounds Sterling

An Act was passed in 1633 requiring that all contracts and bargains should be kept in money sterling and not in tobacco, which was the custom at that time.  A large proportion of these sales were based on credit in anticipation of the next year's crop.  In the course of time, however, prices could drop rather dramatically, leaving the planter with a heavy loss. Business has always had it risks and the planters also took their chances. The idea was to make a better world than the one they'd left.  Property was conveyed as collateral. In the event that the debt was not settled in a timely manner (when the tobacco crop was in), the merchant or creditor could take possession of the landed property. If the crop were sufficient to pay the debt, the planter could claim a release in full.

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Code of the Gentleman

There were several wealthy and prominent business men in the colony, viz: Lawrence Evans, John Chew, Thomas Stegg, George Ludlow and Thomas Burbage.  Since many of the factors representing planters proved themselves to be untrue, numerous suits arose in consequence of their defalcations. Boards of Arbitration were often appointed by the General Court and arbitrators were appointed in the case of Lawrence Evans in 1638.  Business was transacted on a basis of credit, whether the residence was Virginia or England, but much of this debt was impossible to collect. The planter, after having nurtured and picked his crop, was always subject to such a danger. In those days, a gentleman could be trusted and his word was his bond.  Thus, it seems that those who had left England to find prosperity in the American colonies, maintained class distinctions for very sound reasons. In England, one identified himself by his dress and titles.  This practice also became a tradition of the colonials. Those planters who shirked their debts found refuge from their creditors in Maryland.

Source: British State Papers, Colonial, vol. X, Nos. 15, I, II, III; Records of General Court, p. 61.


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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Factors: Colonial Agents

A factor is an agent who transacts business for another.  In colonial days there were tobacco and cotton factors.  In other words, shipping tobacco to England, the West Indies or elsewhere, required an agent to sell the crops and handle the business transactions. In 1672, one of the factors of George Lee, an English merchant, died in Virginia.  At the time he was indebted to his principal for 700 pounds sterling.  His property was passed into the hands of his mother who appointed an attorney to take charge of it.  The whole estate was converted into tobacco, a crop which he was about to ship to his own consignee in England.  The General Court interposed with an order requiring him to transfer the entire quantity to a third person in the mother country until the justice of the claim of Lee onn the property of his deceased agent had been decided.  Also, all of his account books went back to England.  As was the common practice, widows had plenty of suitors owing to a shortage of females in the Virginia colony.  This is how the goods of an estate went into the hands of the second husband who very often showed no scruple in dealing with them as his personal property.  Such was the case of Thomas Kingston, the agent of Thomas Cowell who owned a plantation in the colony about 1636. Upon the death of Kingston, his relict became the wife of Thomas Loving who appropriated the credits and merchandise of Cowell.  Cowell petitioned that Loving be required to take an inventory of the property in his possession and to give bond in a large sum to hold it without further purloining it.

Sources: Records of General Court, pp. 131, 132; Letter from Governor and Council to Privy Council, British State Papers, Colonial.

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  7. GaGraduates.com (Graduates database from ca 1830 to 1925)
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Candle Light

During the 17th century the candle was in common use as a means of illuminating the rooms of the planter's residences. It was made of different materials. The most popular was myrtle wax, owing partly to the clear light which it gave forth and partly to the exquisite odor emanating from it. Also, it was considered equal to a candle of beeswax. The myrtle plant grew in all of the marshes and swamps and its berries could be gathered in great quantities.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Warwick sails in 1621

The magazine ship Warwick, accompanied by a pinnace, sailed for Virginia in September of 1621 with a large cargo of clothing and other necessities to be used for the relief and comfort of the planters.  This cargo was valued at a thousand pounds sterling. These clothes could be exchanged for tobacco at the rate of three shillings a pound for the best, or eighteen pence for the meanest grades.  In order to avoid the certain loss which would result from exchanging the goods included in the magazine ship, the Governor and Council were enjoined to leave Mr. Blaney, who was in charge of it, to his free discretion in disposing of the merchandise within the limits as to price laid down in privvate instructions for his guidance.  The Company did not realize that a far greater profit was to be got from sending over spirits and fine apparel. The Company admitted that is own purse was empty and they had to rely upon the purses of members coming forward in the character of private adventurers.

Source: Abstracts of Proceedings of the Virginia Company of London, vol. I, page 158.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Periwigs

When you read the old last wills and testaments in Virginia, you discover the details of the lives of the colonists. Clothing was not wasted and bequeathed to friends and relatives. Gentlemen wore silk stockings and ordinary leather shoes with shoe buckles made of brass, steel or silver. Also, the periwig was a common head covering.  The gentleman shaved his head to prevent fleas and bugs, and replaced it with the wig. In 1689 William Byrd forwarded a periwig to his London merchant with instructions to have it altered. Thomas Perkins of Rappahannock left three wigs at his death, and Alexander Young of York County, bequeathed two wigs. Source: Letters of William Byrd June 10, 1689; Records of Middlesex County vol. 1698-1713, p; 103.

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  7. GaGraduates.com (Graduates database from ca 1830 to 1925)
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Drugget

drugget cloth
Drugget in the 17th century was composed of part silk and part wool or cotton, the warp containing gold or silver threads.  Galloon was a closely woven lace used in binding. In England, as well as in the colony, it was the custom of consumers to purchase large quantities of these cloths to be sewn into garments or articles for household use.

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  5. VirginiaPioneers.net
  6. Genealogy-Books.com
  7. GaGraduates.com (Graduates database from ca 1830 to 1925)
  8. SoutheasternGenealogy.com (Digitized Wills in counties of: Carter 1794-1830; Jefferson 1802-1810;Johnson 1839-1900;Unicoi 1878-1887; Washington 1779-1800)


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