Builders of the Old Dominion 1

Thomas Harris and Adria Hoare

Though I have 21  ancestors who immigrated to New Netherland (New York), 18 who went to South Carolina, 20 who got off the boat in Pennsylvania, 11 who arrived in North Carolina, seven who landed in Maryland, and quite a few Puritans and Pilgrims who came to Massachusetts, there were over 100 who first settled in Virginia, often now called the “Old Dominion.” Beginning with Jamestown and quickly expanding to other parts of the colony of Virginia, these 100+ adventurers helped lay the foundation not only for the colony, but for the whole United States.

It is my goal to learn more about these Virginians, thereby having a better understanding of historical events of the 17th and 18th centuries. I’m especially interested in getting “up close and personal” to understand their goals, hopes, fears, dangers, and living conditions, which were far more challenging than most Americans realize.  I aim to provide accurate names, dates, and places necessary to genealogical research, which is a challenge due to the errors even in official documents. Furthermore, the dates for some events are difficult to pin down due to changes in the calendar used during this time. Ample resources are available to learn about events leading up to the settlement of Virginia, so I will not explain that here; I encourage the reader to refer to the three-volume fourth edition of Adventurers of Purse and Person by John Frederick Dorman, the Jamestown Rediscovery website, and a wealth of free publications, including The Original Lists of Persons of Quality. . .  1600-1700, by John Camden Hotten, and Cavaliers and Pioneers, by Nell Nugent. The source that I have found most interesting, informative, and intimate, however, is Jennifer Potter’s recently published book The Jamestown Brides: The Story of England’s “Maids for Virginia”, which is described on her website. This and many other Virginia-related publications can be obtained at low cost on Kindle. Additionally, the reader may want to refer to the timeline developed by the Jamestowne Society.

My earliest immigrant ancestor is believed to be Thomas Harris. Information on his first wife, Adria Hoare, follows the entry about Thomas.

Capt. Thomas Harris (1586-1658)

Incorrect vs. Correct Information

After joining the Facebook page Harris Gathering, I learned that Phil Harris, a researcher in Richmond, Virginia, had discovered that almost everything published about Thomas Harris was wrong. He presented his research to John Frederick Dorman, who subsequently revised Adventurers of Purse and Person to reflect this new information. Even the Jamestown Biographies Project had incorrect information when I ordered their report a few years ago. I do not know whether they have corrected their report now (2020) or not, but it appears this project is undergoing some revisions. It must be understood that there were other men in the area of Jamestown around the same time who were also named Thomas Harris; this probably contributed to the confusion.

It was previously assumed that Thomas Harris was the son of Sir William Harris of Creeksea, Essex, and his wife, Alice Smyth. However, their son Thomas Harris died unmarried in England. The real parents of Thomas, subject of this summary, are not known, but it is believed he was born in or near Aylesbury since his wife Adria and most of the people he associated with were from there, including about half of the neighbors who settled near him in Virginia. Thomas was almost certainly born in England despite one immigration record listing him as from Wales. 

For many years, Thomas’s two wives have been identified incorrectly. He was married twice, and neither of his wives was surnamed Gurganey or Osbourne. His first wife, Adria (Audrey) Hoare, arrived on the Marmaduke in 1621 and is the only Adria listed on any ship. Through careful research, Phil Harris has concluded that Thomas’s second wife, Joane, was the widow of a neighbor, William Vincent, but there is no definitive proof of that. There were other Joanes living between Neck of Land and Jamestown, and they arrived in Virginia well before 1630. However, it is certain Thomas was never married to a Gurganey. Ann Gurganey, a neighboring landowner, was apparently closely connected to Thomas; she left her property to him in her will. She may have been a relative of Thomas or possibly a lover.

It was previously assumed that Adria died before 1626. This came about as a result of a witchcraft trial involving a prediction that the wife of Thomas Harris would die. This trial, however, involved a different Thomas Harris. Because of this early death date, Adria was presumed to be the mother of Mary only, and Joane was identified as the mother of William. However, Adria lived long enough to give birth to both children, and Joane was probably too old to have children at the time of her marriage to Thomas.

Henrico County, Virginia, has information about Thomas Harris on their website. The historical marker shown below used to be there, but it has been stolen.  

Approximate Timeline for Thomas Harris

1585/86 Birth in England.

I am unaware of proof of a specific date for Thomas’s birth or baptism. His birth year of 1586 was determined from the 1624/25 muster in which he stated he was 38. That muster is included in the Hotten source, as well as in Dorman’s.

1611 (May 11) Arrival in Jamestown on the Prosperous.

This painting shows how Jamestown looked just a few years after Thomas arrived.

                                        Jamestown, 1614

1611 (September) Settlement in Henricus with group led by Sir Thomas Dale.

1618 (November 18) Designation as an “Ancient Planter” with land grant of 100 acres at “Neck of Land”.

This land became known as “Curle’s Neck,” perhaps derived from the surname of a later landowner named Curle. Wikipedia has an entry about Curle’s Neck Plantation as well as a List of James River Plantations.

1619 (February 11) Will of Ann Gurganey names Thomas Harris to inherit her property. (Nugent, p. 60)

1621 (November) Adria Hoare’s arrival on the Marmaduke.  Marriage.

Adria arrived with other young women sent from England to be wives for the Jamestown residents. Thomas may have married Adria soon after she arrived. The women were free to marry or not, but the men had to pay for the expenses of the trip with tobacco. (Potter)  One can conclude that Thomas had already started growing tobacco on his land. The 19th century engraving below depicts the cultivation of tobacco at Jamestown.

Other researchers disagree that the marriage was soon after arrival. However, some of the brides did marry within a couple of months after they reached Jamestown, according to David Ransome.

1622 (March 22) Indian attack on settlements near Jamestown.  David Ransome’s article mentions that the settlers at Neck of Land were forced to abandon their settlement because of this aggression.  Ransome reports that the only loss at Neck of Land mentioned in any record was “the houses were burnt by the Indians,” so it is likely that the inhabitants retreated to a nearby settlement. 

Over 300 settlers died, but Thomas and wife Adria were listed as survivors. Jennifer Potter describes this event in detail in The Jamestown Brides. The violent massacre seems to have been every bit as extreme as shown in the  image below.

1623 Settled with wife, Adria, at “Neck of Land,” if not earlier.  Ransome’s article says that though the settlers there survived the Indian attack, return to Neck of Land was not possible until the spring of 1623. “Certainly by April 1623 the situation in the colony had been stabilized . . . [and] Neck of Land had been reoccupied.”

1624 Muster (census) listing Thomas, age 38, married to Adria, age 23, with kinswoman Ann Woodlase [Woodliffe], age 7, and servant Elizabeth, age 15 (Hotten).

1624 Election as burgess to represent “Neck of the Land.”

1625 (approximately) Birth of daughter, Mary Harris.

It is clear she was not born before this since she was not named in the 1624/25 muster.

1626 (August) Appointment as one of the “Commissioners for the Upper Parts,” which included Henrico.

1629 Birth of son, William Harris, Henrico County, Virginia.

1634 (or before) Death of first wife, Adria Harris.

1635 (approximately) Marriage to Joane.

She may have been the widow of Thomas’s neighbor, William Vincent, but there were as many as five Joanes in settlements up and down the James River.

1635 (November 11) Property included 100 acres due him as an Ancient Planter in 1618 and 650 acres for transporting 13 persons. (Nugent, p. 37)

1636 (May) Possession of land inherited from Ann Gurganey.

1637 (July 12) New patent for all his land.

“700 acres called ‘Longfield’ with swamps and marshes, 400 acres granted to Edward Gurganey by order of the Court, 1 October 1617 . . . and bequeathed by Ann Gurganey, widowe of the said Edward, to Thomas Harris by her will 11 Feb. 1619.” (Nugent, p. 60)

1638 (Feb 25) Henrico, Virginia–New patent for his land.

This included 100 acres in the name of his “first wife Adry Harris, being an Ancient Planter.” (Nugent, p. 101) No one knows why Adria qualified as an Ancient Planter.  Different researchers have different opinions.

1640 Election as burgess for Henrico County.

1640 (December) Appointment as “Commander of Henrico County”

1647 Election as burgess for Henrico County.

1649 (approximately) Will written (but now lost). Commander of militia.

1658 Death. Survived by his wife, Joane.


A Wikipedia article on Curle’s Plantation has the following information:

“During excavation, archaeologists uncovered the foundation of Captain Harris’s house, dating between 1635-1654, and portions of a later house probably occupied by [Nathaniel] Bacon. Landscape features include intricate terraces and traces of tunnels down to the James River which could be used as an escape route from potential invasions by Native Americans.”

If the above dates are correct, it would appear that Thomas and Joane lived in a new house–different from the home Thomas shared with Adria. Also, one wonders when the tunnels were built. If Thomas built them, maybe that explains why he and Adria survived Indian attacks.

Scroll down to read about Adria Hoare–his first wife and the mother of his children.

Thomas Harris Sources

1. “Captain Thomas Harris.” Henrico County, Virginia, Website. https://henrico.us/locations/captain-thomas-harris/. Accessed February 15, 2020.

2. Dorman, John Frederick. Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th edition, Volume 2. (Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 2004-2007). Repository: Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, Texas.

3. Harris, J. Philip. Document:“No Such Person as Adria Gurganey.”  Harris Gathering Facebook Page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/282511681884554/. Accessed February 13, 2020.

4. Harris, J. Philip. Document: “Thomas Harris-Establishing a True History.” (November 15, 2005) Originally posted in a forum called Harris-ColonialVA-Archives. Document accessed at Ancestry.com in a tree by Therese Mitchell.

5. Hotten, John Camden. The Original Lists of Persons of Quality-1600-1700. (London, 1874. Reprinted by Empire State Book Company, New York.)

6. Nugent, Nell Marion. Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623-1800, Volume 1. (Press of the Dietz Printing Company, Richmond, Virginia, 1934.) Accessed online at Archive.org on February 15, 2020.

7. Potter, Jennifer. The Jamestown Brides: The Story of England’s Maids for Virginia. (Oxford University Press, New York, New York, 2019). Accessed on Kindle.

8. Ransome, David. “Village Tensions in Early Virgina: Sex, Land, and Status at Neck of Land in the 1620s.” The Historical Journal, 43, 2 (2000), pp. 365-381. (Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, 2000).

9. U.S. and Canada Passenger and Immigration Lists. Ancestry.com

Adria Hoare (1604-1635), First Wife of Thomas Harris

Unless otherwise noted, my source for Jamestown immigrant Adria Hoare is The Jamestown Brides, by Jennifer Potter, recently published by Oxford University Press (2019). Ms. Potter’s book is rich with detail, and her sources include David Ransome’s article “Wives for Virginia, 1621” at Colonial Williamsburg’s John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library; the papers of Nicholas Ferrar housed at Magdalene College, Cambridge; experts such as cultural historian Helen Rountree, curator Beverly Straube, archaeologist Nicholas Luccketti, and riverkeeper Jamie Brunkow; and numerous institutions and publications listed in her “Endnotes”. The sections of the book are– Part One: England and Its Virginian Colony (Chapters 1-7); Intermezzo: Maidens’ Voyage (Chapters 8 and 9); and Part Two: Virginia (Chapters 10-18).  Chapter 17, “The Cordwainer’s Daughter” tells much about Adria Hoare.

Adria (Audry) was baptized on August 25, 1604, at St. Mary the Virgin parish church in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. She was the daughter of a shoemaker, Thomas Hoare, and his wife, Julyan (née Triplett), and was younger than all of her siblings–Joan, Agnes, Elizabeth, and Richard. Though both parents were living at the time Adria went to Virginia, her father died not long after—in 1627—leaving a will in which he referred to Adria as “Awadrye” and reserving money from his estate for her and her daughter (Mary Harris).

Adria was barely 17 when she set sail on the Marmaduke from the Isle of Wight on August 12, 1621, but she claimed to be two years older. She was among the “young, handsome, and honestlie educated maydes for Virginia” chosen by the Virginia Company, which was eager to ensure the permanence of the colony by providing wives for the men since they vastly outnumbered females. She was described as one who could “do plain work and black works [types of needlework] and can make all manner of buttons”.

There was a horrific Indian attack on many of the surrounding settlements and plantations on March 22, 1622, but Thomas and Adria were among the survivors. It was after this attack, but before February 1624, that the couple settled at Neck of Land, Charles City. This was further up the river, with healthier air than Jamestowne (above).  A muster (census) taken in 1625 identifies Thomas’s wife as Adria and states that she arrived on the Marmaduke in 1621. Also in the household was a seven-year-old girl, Ann Woodlase, who was likely the daughter of Capt. John Woodliffe, one of Adria’s relatives. A fifteen-year-old girl, Elizabeth (surname probably Perkinson) was also in the household. She had been in the colony since 1620 after coming on the Margrett and John. Was she one of the many homeless children who had been swept off the streets of London and brought to the colonies as servants? 

The family owned “two houses, a boat, and a quantity of foodstuffs, including seven and a half bushels of corn and one of peas.” They also had 11 cattle and 30 hens. Thomas’s military equipment included three fixed guns, gunpowder and lead, “one sword, a complete suit of armour and a coat of mail.”

Mary, the first child of Thomas and Adria, was apparently born after the muster was taken. By the time she was born, other “brides” had arrived for the men living in the colony, so Adria had plenty of female companionship. Son William was born around 1629. Both children survived to adulthood.

In March 1626, Thomas’s reputation as a womanizer was exposed in the court at Jamestown. One of those making (hearsay) accusations was Joane Vincent. It was her husband, William Vincent, who secured a warrant. Thomas and Adria both had to go to court, but Joane Vincent’s husband failed to show up and ended up having to pay the Harrises 30 pounds of tobacco for their “loss of tyme”. One can only imagine how Adria handled this, as no record has been found that elaborates on her feelings.

Due to a land transaction made in 1635 that referred to Thomas’s wife as Joane Harris, it is apparent that Adria had died by that time. Since the only “Joane” in the area was Joane Vincent, she is assumed–but not proven– to be Thomas’s second wife. She may have been four years older than Thomas, but she outlived him, inheriting at least some of his land at Curles.

It is claimed that both children, Mary and William, were considered part of Virginia’s “elite”. Mary married Thomas Ligon (Lyggon) who became a burgess, Lieutenant Colonel of the militia, and a surveyor in Henrico County. Similarly, William became a justice and a burgess of Henricus, as well as Major of the Charles City and Henrico militia, by age 27.

In her book, author Jennifer Potter relates her meetings with some of Adria’s descendants through both Mary and William. I will be doing further research on the Harris children, and will add that information to my private family tree at Ancestry.com. I generally send an invitation to my tree to anyone who requests it.

Copyright © 2020 K Steele Barrera. All rights reserved.

2 Replies to “Builders of the Old Dominion 1”

  1. Thomas Harris and Adria Hoare are my 10th Great Grandparents, I follow Mary Harris and Thomas Ligon, Richard Ligon and Mary Horsham, Mathew Ligon and Elizabeth Anderson, Richard Ligon and Ann Ward, then my 6th Great Grandparents Leonard Seth Ligon and Janet Mayo. Sarah W. Ligon and George Stubblefield. and then the Stubblefield, Welch, Coy on to my parents.

    Charleen Schuster
    Cferrettails@comcast.net

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