Despite the fact that many events in the life of Samuel Almond cannot be documented, he was a real person who really did leave his home in Chesham, England, to immigrate to Jamestown. That much we know.
Chesham is only 11 miles from Aylesbury, where Thomas Harris and Adria Hoare had lived, and also not far from London, where Christopher Branch and Mary Addie had lived. They were among many who left this area of England in the first half of the 17th century to settle in Virginia. Samuel’s name is usually seen in the documents as SAMUELL, and the surname is sometimes seen as ALLMAND or D’ALMOND.
A review of my previous post, Builders of the Old Dominion 2, will help give context: Christopher Branch and his wife Mary Addie had arrived on the Marchant in 1620. By the time Christopher Branch’s children had grown up, Samuel Almond had arrived in Jamestown. This is estimated by researcher Louise Ashby Almond to have been around 1635, when Henrico County was organized as one of the eight original shires of Virginia.
Christopher Branch and Samuel Almond undoubtedly knew each other since they were land owners in the same county, but Christopher’s wife Mary had died by the time Samuel Almond arrived. Years later, Samuel’s daughter, Sarah Almond, married Christopher’s son, Christopher Branch, Jr. There is no documentation for this, unfortunately—only family tradition and unverified notes. Sarah Almond and Christopher Branch Jr. were the parents of Mary Branch, future grandmother of President Thomas Jefferson.
Becoming a Land Owner
Samuel’s three land transactions were made in 1637, 1638, and 1639. Immigration records show his arrival in 1639, but that date refers to when his land was patented or the record created—not when he actually arrived. This is explained in this reference from Ancestry.com:
The map which follows shows Samuel’s land in the extreme upper left corner. It was just south of present day Richmond. The transactions are listed in Cavaliers and Pioneers.
Arthur Bayly and Thomas Crosby received 800 acres in Henrico County in January 1637. They assigned 400 acres of this patent to Samuell Almond.
Thomas Crosby transferred another 400 acres to Samuell Almond in February 1638.
In March 1639, Samuell Almond received 600 more acres in Henrico County.
Almost all of the land owners grew tobacco, and, apparently, it was a very involved process to get the tobacco ready for market. (Note: The illustration more accurately portrays a much later time period.)
Whether Samuel had slaves or not, I do not know, but I doubt that he did. The first slaves arrived in 1619, but the Virginians had no intention of having slaves. Slavery was introduced when a Dutch ship captain, running short of provisions, was trying to get the Africans off his ship. He landed at Jamestown and wanted the Virginians to buy them. The Virginians did not want to do that, but they finally agreed to it when the captain threatened to throw the captives overboard. (Wallace)
Over time, more and more settlers had slaves, but it was a societal change that evolved slowly from that first encounter, eventually creating suffering and discord that has lasted to this day.
The tobacco growers had a system of verifying the quality of all the tobacco. Samuel was tasked with this responsibility in 1639, as explained in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. It is apparent that he had earned respect from his new neighbors after being in Henrico less than five years.
Still Researching the Almonds
I have seen some trees on Ancestry.com that provide more detailed information about Samuel Almond; however, the sources included do not support the conclusions. For example, you can’t use birth records to support a birth that occurred a century earlier. Obviously.
One contributor on Ancestry.com did provide some credible notes of Louise Ashby Almond (1911-1990), who had received the genealogical records completed by her uncle, Frank Hobson. Clearly, we have to use this information cautiously since we have no other documentation. Louise stated that the Almond family originally lived in Alsace Lorraine, where residents were under severe stress due to wars and religious persecution. The Almonds fled to England and settled in Chesham.
According to Louise’s notes, Samuel’s two children, Sarah and William, survived the well-documented Indian massacre of April 1644 by hiding in a woodbox. Samuel, however, was among 500 other Virginians who were slaughtered. No mention is made of Samuel’s wife or who cared for the children after their father’s death.
The tradition is that Samuel’s wife was Mary Crockford. I have not yet been able to verify that, but I have found some English wills in Sussex that mention Crockfords. Contributors to WikiTree have included a little more detail, providing the names John Almond and Elizabeth Weldon as Samuel’s parents, and George Crockford and Anne Honna as parents of Mary. The WikiTree page says Samuel and Mary were married in Sussex, England, in 1623. I will update this post as more reliable information comes to light.
Hopefully, someone will read this and offer information that helps verify the wife and children of Samuel Almond, a resident of Henrico County for less than 10 years before his decease. If you know more details, I want to hear from you!
Almond, Louise Ashby. Personal research shared by others on Ancestry.com family trees; no contact information.
According to a review of Branch of Abingdon, the Branch family was prominent and prosperous in Abingdon from about 1500, if not earlier. Some in the family had served as burgesses or mayors, and Richard and William Branch were part of Abingdon’s “Fraternity of the Holy Cross,” which I have not researched. Christopher’s father was Lionel Branch (1556-1605) (Dorman 366), who attended Magdalen College of Oxford University 1585-93 and received a B.A. degree. Oxford University alumni records, provided by Gresham Farrar on Findagrave, reveal that Richard, Thomas, and William Branch, probably Lionel’s brothers, were also Oxford graduates. Their parents (Christopher’s paternal grandparents) were William Branch (1524-1601) and Katherine Jennings (1524-1587), through whom the connection to royalty is made. Christopher’s mother (Lionel’s wife) was Valentia or Valentina Sparke (Dorman 366), some say the daughter of Ludgate Sparke and Margaret Greeke. (unverified) I will probably not spend much time researching those names because my goal is to trace ancestors back to the immigrant and not beyond that.
Christopher’s parents, Lionel Branch and Valentia Sparke were married in 1596 at St. Martin’s Church, Ludgate, London, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 but rebuilt later. Christopher, their only child, was born in London, exact date unknown. Early researchers such as Torrence (over 100 years ago) used the birth year of 1602, but more recent researchers, specifically Dorman, use the birth year 1598. The year 1602 cannot be correct if Christopher’s mother, Valentia, died and was buried in 1600, as stated on the Findagrave entry. I have not come across any information about Christopher’s childhood. His father died in 1605, when Christopher was about seven; his mother, paternal grandparents, several uncles, and maternal grandfather had died earlier. I do not know when his maternal grandmother died or whether she or an uncle raised Christopher. Regardless, his childhood must have been somewhat lonely and sad. However, his paternal grandfather, William Branch, had willed him money, which Christopher was to receive at age 18.
jamestown and henrico
While Christopher was growing up, he was most likely keenly aware of the excitement surrounding the settlement of Virginia. One year after Christopher’s father died, King James I of England issued a charter to the Virginia Company for a tract of land on the Atlantic coast. In December 1606, Captain Christopher Newport left London with three ships: Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery. When the 104 male settlers arrived in Virginia, they went up the James River about 40 miles and established the first permanent settlement in Virginia on a salt marsh, calling it “James Cittie”. The marshy ground contributed to a proliferation of insects: horsefiles, chiggers, mosquitoes, gnats, and ticks. Despite the bugs, Indian attacks, unhealthy air, starvation, illness, and lack of fresh water killing most of the settlers, hundreds of new people arrived in the next few years.
In 1611, settler John Rolfe, a smoker, started experimenting with raising tobacco, which the Indians were already growing. Tobacco soon became Virginia’s major crop and it was usually used in lieu of money. (Timeline)
Also in 1611, acting governor Thomas Dale took about 350 men further up the James River to “the falls” to build a new town. He wrote to the Virginia Company: “I have surveyed a convenient strong, healthie and sweete seate to plant a new Towne in.” Settler Ralph Hamor described it as “high land invironed with the mayn River, som sixteene or twentie miles, from the head of the Fals, neere to an Indian towne called Arrahattocke.” Robert Johnson said that the new town would be 80 miles up the James River from Jamestown on “higher ground, strong and defensible by nature, a good air, wholesome and clear, unlike the marshy seat at Jamestown, with fresh and plenty of water springs, much fair and open grounds freed from woods, and wood enough at hand.” For the next few years, Dale instituted strict rules for the men, which allowed them to get a lot done. They built a palisade with five watchtowers and three streets of well-framed houses, as well as a church, storehouses, and a hospital. They grew tobacco and vegetables, raised livestock, and dug wells. After building the church, Henrico Parish was formed. This new settlement was called Henricus, later Henrico. However, over the next few years, the town deteriorated quickly. (Land 466-9)
In 1612, King James renewed the charter for the Virginia Company and allowed more self-governance. By 1616, John Rolfe recorded the English population in Virginia as 351 settlers at six different settlements. (Timeline)
The Virginia Company instituted a “headright” system, giving 50 acres to anyone who paid fare to get there, plus 50 additional acres for each person brought with him. This encouraged more settlement by “gentlemen” and laid the foundation for a plantation economy. (Timeline)
When Governor George Yeardley arrived in 1619, he brought a charter to form a government in which white men with property would be able to choose representatives for a new assembly meeting in Jamestown. (Timeline) In July, the House of Burgesses met for the first time. They passed a law requiring tobacco to be sold for at least three shillings per pound; passed measures against idleness, gambling, and drunkenness; and made church attendance mandatory. In addition, these 22 burgesses, with Gov. Yeardley and his council, decided how much settlers should pay in taxes. (The First Legislative Assembly)
Less than a month later, the first Africans arrived in Jamestown on a ship with a Dutch captain who wanted to sell them. “[T]o the credit of the colonists . . . they were unwilling to purchase the slaves . . . But upon his threat to throw them overboard, as his vessel was short of provisions, the colonists bought them out of pity, and unwittingly founded the system of enforced Negro labor, which in time cost Virginia a fearful price in blood and treasure.” (Wallace)
Also in 1619, as a way to revive the deteriorating settlement in Henrico, it was proposed to build a Protestant college to educate the Indians’ and the planters’ children. Ten thousand acres would be set aside for the school near Arrowhattock. It was to be called “Colledg Land” and 50 “good” people would be sent as tenants who would keep half the profits of their labor and give the other half toward starting the college. Plans were made to build a common guest house to serve as an inn to house the 50 new settlers. (Land 469ff)
Now back to Christopher and Mary . . .
new life in virginia
Explanatory Note: From John Dorman’s 3-volume Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th edition, Volume 1A, p. ix:
CALENDAR: The Julian calendar, according to which 25 March was reckoned as the first day of the New Year, was in use together with the Gregorian calendar until 1752 when it was abandoned and the 11 days difference between the two calendars was dropped out of the year. The occurrence of an event between 1 January, the first day of the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar and 25 March, the New Year’s Day of the Julian calendar, is indicated by a diagonal: thus 16 February 1624/25, which shows that the event took place on 16 February 1624 by the Julian but 1625 by the Gregorian.
* * * * *
We know little about Christopher Branch as he approached adulthood except that he was left money by his paternal grandfather, which he received at age 18. A few years later, on September 2, 1619, he married Mary Addy (Addie) at St. Peter’s, Westcheap, London, with a marriage license from the Bishop of London. The illustration below shows an event in Westcheap, but the church is not shown. The location of the church in Westcheap is shown on this amazing map.
Just as “Christmas” was sometimes written “Xmas,” the name “Christopher” was sometimes written “Xtopher.” The marriage record of Xtofer Braunch to Marie Addie can be found in London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations at Ancestry.com.
The transcription reads:
secondo Septembris 1619
Which daie appeared Xtofer Braunche gentleman, and a batchelor aged xxii  or there abouts and at his own government and disposing his father and mother both being deceased and did allege that he intendeth to marrie with Marie Addie mayden, aged xxiii  or there abouts the daughter of Francis Addie of Darton in the countie of Yorke husbandman and then appeared Thomas Addie miller, being brother to ye said Marrie and with whome she nowe lyveth and did testifie the consent of his said father to this intended Marry and the truthe of the promise as before that they know of no lawfull let or impediment by reason of pre contract or otherwise to hinder the same they both made faiethe and prayed licence for them to be married together in the pareshe Churche of St. Peter Westcheap, London.
The record indicates that Christopher was a “gentleman” meaning he was of a high social status. Mary is referred to as a maiden, and her father is called a “husbandman” (a small landowner or farmer). Thomas Addie, Mary’s brother, is identified as a miller. Through this document, we know the approximate year of birth for both Christopher and Mary, the names of Mary’s father and brother plus their social status or occupation, and where Mary’s father was from. He was still living in 1619, but Mary’s mother, Mary Standing Addie, was deceased.
The marriage of Christopher and Mary took place only a few months after the announcement that 50 “good” people were needed to settle at “Colledg Land.” These people were sent to Virginia in August 1619 on the Bona Nova. They were “tradesmen such as smiths, bricklayers, potters, carpenters, and farmers, mostly single, with plenty of food and arms.” A few months later, in 1620, the Virginia Company announced that it would send six tenants to cultivate the minister’s 100 acres of land and to help build the guest house. (Land) Christopher and Mary were chosen to settle at College Land and left for Jamestown on the London Marchannt [Merchant] in March 1620. (Dorman)
By the time they got to Virginia, the colony had been reorganized. The scattered settlements, plantations, and cities were organized politically into “four large corporations, with a capital city in each.” These were Elizabeth City, James City, Charles City, and Henrico. (Quisenberry 59) College Land was in Henrico, so that is where Christopher and Mary lived and worked for the next few years.
On March 22, 1622, the Powhatan Indians staged a massive attack on the colony, killing 347 colonists in various settlements 60 miles up and down the James River. (Torrence, Part 1, 125ff) Christopher and Mary survived, so it is assumed that they fled to a safer location. Jamestown was spared because of a warning from a Christianized Indian. Nevertheless, the Indians and the colonists were at war for many years afterward. (Timeline)
After the massacre, the tenants at College Land were moved to a safer and lower area along the James River near present day College Creek in Surrey County. The company allowed tenants who wanted to work for themselves to pay rent of 20 bushels of corn, 60 pounds of good leaf tobacco, and one pound of silk yearly. They would also work six days a year on various public projects to build houses and to “plant gardens and orchards on the college land and not elsewhere.” By early 1624, there were 29 people living at College Land. A year later, the number had dropped to 22, who were living in 10 houses. (Land 495) Hundreds of colonists had died during the winter of 1624-1625 due to hunger, disease, and Indian attacks. That winter was later remembered as the “starving time.” (Timeline)
Christopher was documented as living at College Land (present-day Henrico County) in 1623/24; son Thomas was born in April or May. In May of 1624, the Virginia Company lost its charter due to mismanagement, and Virginia became a royal colony. (Timeline) In the muster taken in 1624/5, Christopher, Mary, and 9-month-old son Thomas were listed. (Dorman 366). That same muster showed that Jamestowne had a “church, a guardhouse, three stores [storage facilities], a merchant’s store, and 33 houses.” In addition, there were many boats, over 24,000 pounds of fish, corn, peas, and meal, as well as weapons, suits of armor, and hundreds of cattle, hogs, and goats. (Hatch)
After the “colony became a royal province, nothing more was done” for the college, but “the plantation of the college still had tenants and were represented in the House of Burgesses.” (Land) Christopher was a planter on his leased land at Arrowhattocks when son William was born about 1626, and when son Christopher Jr. was born about 1628. (Dorman 367-8) I assume the children were baptized, but I don’t think those baptism records exist.
I am very curious about something that I don’t believe I have read anywhere else. On 27 September 1629, in Kilmersdon, Somerset, England, there was a christening for a child named Christopher Branch, whose father was also named Christopher. Had they returned to England for some reason? Since Mary died in 1630, perhaps they had gone to England due to health issues. Somerset was not really near Abingdon or London, so why would they go there? If this christening record is for a different family, then Christopher Jr. was probably christened in Virginia, followed by the death of his mother, Mary, also in Virginia, about 1630.
After Mary’s death, Christopher continued his work as a planter at Arrowhattocks and adapted to being a single father with three small children. One can only imagine how hard that must have been for him. There is no record of a second marriage. In 1632, he returned to England briefly to bring a lawsuit for ownership of the Bull Inn in Abingdon, which had been owned by his uncle, Thomas Branch (1557-1603). This uncle had died when Christopher was quite young, so many years had gone by, and ownership of the Bull Inn had been claimed by someone else. Christopher lost this lawsuit. (Dorman 366)
In 1634, the four Virginia corporations were abolished and the colony was divided into eight counties: Elizabeth City County, Warrasquinoke County, Warwick County, James City County, Charles City County, Henrico County, York County, and Accomac County. (Quisenberry) In October of that year, “Christopher Branch, Planter, of Arrowhattocks in Henrico County” was granted a lease for 21 years on 100 acres lying east on the James River. This area of Henrico later became Chesterfield County. (Dorman 366) On December 8, 1635, Christopher patented 250 acres at Kingsland “over against Arrowhattocks, east upon the maine River . . . adjacent to the land of John Griffin, now in the tenure of said Branch . . . 50 acres for his own personal adventure and 200 acres for transportation of four persons.” (Dorman 366) The map shows where Kingsland and Arrowhattocks were in relation to each other.The property at “Kingsland” in what is now Chesterfield County was a “plantation long the property and residence of descendants of Christopher Branch.” (Abstracts 1) In September of 1636 he patented another 100 acres of land and was a successful tobacco planter. (Branchiana 26-29) By February 1638/39, the plantation had 450 acres because “he had acquired an additional 100 acres through an exchange with James Place and the remaining acreage through additional headrights.” (Dorman 366)
In January 1639/40, the House of Burgesses decided that “there be yearly chosen and appointed Men of experience and in dignity for the Careful Viewing of ech Man’s crop of Tobacco.” By an act of this assembly, Christopher was named as a tobacco viewer from World’s End to Henrico. He continued growing tobacco and was successful despite “sickly and desperate” conditions all over the colony. He was also elected burgess for Henrico County. (Branchiana 28-30)
Around 1645, Christopher’s oldest son, Thomas, married Elizabeth Gough, daughter of Capt. Matthew Gough of Henrico, who was a burgess in 1642. (Cabell 2) However, the fourth edition of Adventurers of Purse and Person says Thomas married “Elizabeth (Gough?)” indicating doubt. Next, Christopher Jr. married, but Dorman says the wife’s name is unknown. My records show that her name was Sarah Almond, but I don’t know the original documentation for that. There was a settler named Samuel Almond living in the same area. Between 1651 and 1657, several grandchildren were born: Mary and possibly Sarah to son Christopher Jr. and Elizabeth to son Thomas. Around the same time, in 1656, the new grandfather, Christopher Sr., was named justice of Henrico County. (Dorman 367)
The year 1657 had several highlights for Christopher, including the births of two grandsons. William Jr. was born to son William and his wife, Jane Hatcher. Thomas Jr. was born to son Thomas and wife Elizabeth. Christopher, Jr. was appointed justice of the peace in Charles City County that same year and his first son, Christopher III, was born in 1658. (Dorman 367-8) The grandchildren kept on coming: 1659, John born to William; 1660, Martha born to Thomas; 1661, Matthew, born to Thomas; 1663, Samuel born to Christopher Jr. and 1666 James born to Thomas. Several more generations of Christopher Branch’s descendants are given in Dorman’s book.
Shortly after the birth of Christopher Jr.’s son Benjamin in 1665, both Christopher Jr. and his wife Sarah died, leaving five children as orphans. (Dorman 368)Their grandfather, Christopher Sr. raised them. Within five years Christopher Sr.’s second son, William, also died. His wife, Jane, remarried and was able to care for their children. The rest of Christopher’s life seems to have been devoted to raising Christopher Jr.’s orphaned children. His will was written on June 20, 1678, and these grandchildren, especially Benjamin, were provided for in the will, below. It was filed at Henrico Courthouse. Christopher’s death occurred sometime before the date of probate, which was February 20, 1681/82.
There is much more information about the Branch family in numerous publications. My descent is from Christopher Jr.’s daughter Mary, who married Thomas Jefferson, an immigrant who was to be grandfather of a president. The Jefferson genealogy will be the subject of another post.
Dorman, John Frederick. Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia, 1607-1624/5, Vol. 1, part A., pages 367-371. (Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 2004.)
“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch : 11 February 2018, Christopher Branch, 27 Sep 1629; citing, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 95,273.
Roberts, Gary Boyd. The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States: who were themselves notable or left descendants notable in American history. (Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 2002). Repository: Clayton Library for Genealogical Research in Houston, Texas. Shelf number 929.70973 R644 USA
The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 20, no. 1, 1912, pp. 111–112. JSTOR. Accessed 9 Mar. 2020. (A review of Branch of Abingdon. Being a Partial Account of the Ancestry of Christopher Branch of “Arrowhattocks” and “Kingsland,”in Henrico, and the Founder of the Branch Family in Virginia, by James Branch Cabell.)
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 calendarused 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, includingThe 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.
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”.
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.
“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.
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.
Long before the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, my ancestors migrated to North America from Europe. It’s hard to imagine how they could support themselves in an unfamiliar and untamed land, but some arrived as experienced craftsmen with skills that were greatly in demand as more and more settlers arrived. Others learned a skill after they got here. For the most part, these trades are very different from work people do today.
Pilgrims in Massachusetts
Francis Eaton, carpenter
Francis Eaton was my only ancestor to come on the Mayflower with the English Separatists who settled in Plymouth (Massachusetts) in 1620. With him on the Mayflower were his wife Sarah and son Samuel. Francis, a carpenter, was born in England, date unknown. His carpentry skills were undoubtedly in demand since the Pilgrims had to build all their homes. Unfortunately, Sarah was one of many who died in 1621, and Francis married a second wife who also died. In 1623, Christian Penn arrived on the Anne. She became his third wife around 1625, and they had three children: Rachel, Benjamin, and Christopher. Francis died on November 4, 1633, and Christian married Mayflower passenger Francis Billington the following year. My descent is through Benjamin Eaton.
Giles Rickard, Sr., weaver
Giles Rickard Sr., born about 1599 in England, arrived in Plymouth on the Speedwell in 1637 with his wife, Judith Cogan-King, and three children. On December 4, 1637, he was granted seven acres of land in Plymouth, where he served on several grand juries and was chosen to be constable in June 1658. Though he was granted a license to have an ordinary (a tavern), he was also a weaver–one involved in textile production. He died about 1684 in Massachusetts. I am descended from his son Giles Rickard, Jr.
John Barrowe, cooper
Born in Yarmouth, England, in 1609, John Barrow sailed to Massachusetts in 1637, probably on the Mary Ann, with his wife, Anne Thompson Barrowe. Shortly after arriving, they settled in Salem. John had several ways of supporting his family; one of them was working as a cooper. A cooper made barrels, vats, buckets, tubs, troughs, and churns out of wood pieces held together with hoops. John and Anne were the parents of my ancestor Robert Barrowe, born in 1639, but Anne died soon after the birth. By 1665, John had moved to Plymouth, where he died in 1691.
John Stockbridge, wheelwright
John Stockbridge, born about 1607 in England, was not technically a “Pilgrim,” but his biography is listed in Genealogies of Mayflower Families, Vol. III, available at the Ancestry website. This source discusses at length some of the controversies regarding baptism that divided people in the church. The claim is made that John came to New England for economic, not religious, reasons. There is no evidence he belonged to the church, but his first wife, Ann, is listed as “Goodwife Stockbridge” in the church records of Scituate, Massachusetts, in 1637. His second wife also accepted the church’s teachings, despite John’s dissatisfaction with the government in Scituate. He was fined more than once for his “contemptuous speeches,” but his “usefulness as a wheelwright” protected him from being punished more severely. In 1646, he is mentioned in land transfers as “John Stockbridge, wheelwright.” Wheelwrights built and repaired wooden wheels, so it may be that most people did not have the knowledge or the means to do this themselves. He was later party to the purchase of a sawmill, which must have been a help to him in his work as a wheelwright. I am descended from his daughter Mary Stockbridge by his third wife, Mary Broughton. This daughter married Benjamin Singletary in Essex County, Massachusetts, in 1678.
Nathaniel Briscoe, tanner
The maternal grandfather of Mary Broughton Stockbridge (mentioned in the preceding biography) was Nathaniel Briscoe, born in Missenden, England, in 1595. The surname is also sometimes seen as “Biscoe”. In Watertown, Massachusetts, Genealogies and Histories at Ancestry.com, he is described as “the rich tanner”. Tanners were responsible for treating the hides or skins of animals to make leather. Nathaniel had come to Watertown around 1640 and was always politically active. Like John Stockbridge, he was a rather contentious person. For example, he circulated a pamphlet complaining about the way ministers were supported financially. By 1651, he was so fed up with the “religious intolerance” and not being allowed to vote as a “freeman” due to his Baptist beliefs that he returned to England, where it is believed he died. His wife, Elizabeth Honor Briscoe, born in 1600, had passed away before he left, but Nathaniel’s grown children remained in Massachusetts. He later wrote to his son-in-law that he would rather be in Massachusetts if people were allowed freedom of conscience.
Settlers in New Netherland
Philippe Antoni Du Trieux II, worsted dyer
Philippe Du Trieux was born in July of 1586 in Roubaix, France, which is now part of Belgium. In 1615, he married Jacquemine Noirett, and they had four children. After Jacquemine died in 1620, Philippe married Susanna Du Chesne in Leiden, Holland; their families had come to Leiden to escape religious persecution in France. The Netherlands was enriched with the arrival of these new immigrants because they were highly skilled craftsmen and artisans. Philippe was among these skilled workers; he was a worsted dyer–a dyer of wool yarn. In 1623, the Dutch West India Company decided to take settlers to the Delaware Valley near the Connecticut River. Philippe and 29 other families sailed in the spring of 1624 on the ship Nieuw Nederland but ended up going to a different location than planned: New Amsterdam (now New York City). The families settled on Manhattan Island, and Philippe became an employee of the Dutch West India Company. He later served his community in other capacities and had at least nine more children. Sometime before September of 1653, Philippe died, and Susanna died in 1654. I am descended from their daughter Susanna, who married Evert Wendell.
Jochem Wesselse, baker
Jochem Wesselse (1579-1681) was born in Hamburg, Germany. Very little is known about him, but he married Geertruy Hieronimus and had at least one child, Catrina. Though they were among the earliest settlers of Rensselerswyck (now Albany), they later moved to New Amsterdam. Jochem was a baker, and, obviously, his skills were in demand, regardless of where he lived. Everybody eats bread! He made a will around 1680 and died not long after. Geertruy was born in the Netherlands in 1579, but her date of death is unknown. Catrina (1620-1703) married Abraham Staats, a surgeon, fur trader, and community leader in Fort Orange, Rensselaerswyck, now Albany.
Goosen Van Schaick, brewer
Goosen Gerritse Van Schaick was born in Utrecht and came to New Netherland in 1637 under contract to Patroon Killian Van Rensselaer. After seven years of service, he went back to Holland but returned to New Netherland in 1646 on the ship Rensselaerswyck. Goosen was interested in the fur trade and was also involved in the real estate market. In 1664 he and Philip Pieterse Schuyler purchased the “Halve Maan”– land– from the Indians. Within this patent is Van Schaick Island, where the Van Schaick Mansion was built by his son Anthony. In 1675, Goosen and Pieter Lassingh purchased Harmen Rutger’s brewery on the Exchange Block; subsequently, Goosen became a brewer. A brewer, of course, makes beer, which was probably a necessity in that time and place. Goosen’s first wife was Geeritje Brantse Van Nieukerke, mother of my ancestor Sybrant Goosen Van Schaick. After she died, Goosen remarried. Due to his two marriages, he was the patriarch of a large and prominent family in Albany. At his death, sometime before 1679, he left a substantial estate to his second wife and to his ten children living in Albany.
Immigrants to Virginia and South Carolina
Salvator Muscoe, Sr., stone mason
As far as I know, Salvator Muscoe is my only Italian ancestor. According to Doug Garnett of the Garnett Family Registry, Salvator was a stone cutter, or stone mason, born in 1645 in Sicily. He went to London following the Great Fire of 1666 because workers with his skills were in demand to rebuild the city. He worked under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren in the construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Salvator immigrated to Virginia around 1685 and settled near one of the Garnett families living there. Sometimes there is confusion about the details of his life due to the fact he had a son also named Salvator. Both Salvator Sr. and Salvator Jr. had daughters named Elizabeth who married Garnetts. I am descended from Elizabeth, daughter of the elder Salvator. Elizabeth was born about 1680 and married Thomas Garnett, born about 1675. They lived in St. Anne’s Parish, Essex County, Virginia.
Johann Philip ensminger, blacksmith
Johann Philip Ensminger, born in 1727 in Waldambach, Alsace, France, immigrated to Pennsylvania as a child with his parents, Peter and Mary Catherine Trautmann Ensminger. He was the fourth generation of Ensminger men to be a blacksmith. His great-grandfather, Philipp Ensminger, Sr. (1640-1712), age 20, was listed in the 1662 tax records for Grafschaft Lützelstein, which included Waldhambach. His occupation is listed as schmeidwerks. A schmied is a smith (blacksmith) and werks means works. Johann Philip’s grandfather, Philipp Ensminger, Jr. (1666 – post 1730), worked as a blacksmith who shoed horses in Alsace. Johann Philipp’s father, Peter Ensminger (1694-1739), was a blacksmith, too, and practiced that trade both in Alsace and in Pennsylvania. However, blacksmiths do more than shoe horses. They are really metalsmiths– hammering, bending, and cutting metal to make grills, railings, grates, tools, cooking utensils, weapons, and chains, among other things. After the death of his father, Johann Philip married Catherine Margaret Kissinger, supported the American Revolution, and moved to Virginia, where he worked as a blacksmith, raised at least ten children, and died in Monroe County. This area is now in West Virginia.
john dickey, Linen draper
One of the strangest professions I’ve ever heard of is linen draper. Basically, this is the job title for someone who sold cloth or linens–a dry goods merchant. According to Grover Dickey’s book John and Alexander Dickey, Immigrants, 1772, this was John Dickey’s job in Larne, County Antrim, Ireland, before he and his son Alexander arrived in South Carolina on the ship James and Mary. They received warrants for land surveys in 1773, and John Dickey’s land was 150 acres in Berkley County. Obviously, they had to do some farming, but I do not know for sure that John continued to work as a linen draper. John died in York County, South Carolina, in 1788. His son Alexander (1746-1832) served in the American Revolution and married Ann Wiseman, also an Irish immigrant.
John mcvey, millwright
Long-time McVey researcher Vern Taylor believes that John McVey (1737-1823) was probably born in Scotland and came to America as a soldier in the French and Indian War. He and his (unknown) first wife had four children and lived in Greenbrier County, Virginia (now West Virginia). I am descended from their son Samuel Lewis McVey. After John’s first wife died, he married Sarah Snedigar and had twelve more children. John was given leave to build a mill on his land in 1787 and then worked as a millwright. A millwright’s responsibilities might have included installing, repairing, dismantling, assembling, or moving machinery, as well as constructing any of a variety of types of mills–flour mills, sawmills, or paper mills. The idyllc scenes of mills that are often seen in artwork might make one think that a millwright’s life was easy. However, looking at a diagram showing how complicated the machinery could be, it becomes clear that a millwright actually had to be very knowledgeable about many things. John moved to Kentucky later in life, but records are unclear as to whether he died in Kentucky or in Virginia.
These examples give a simple overview of some of the crafts and trades our earliest American ancestors learned. Technical and practical skills are always needed, but not always appreciated. I am looking forward to finding more information about other ancestors and the crafts and skills that helped them to support their families and contribute to the welfare of the whole community.
Before immigrating to New Hanover County, North Carolina, William Faris (or Farris) had been a merchant in London and possibly Ireland. In Wilmington, he owned a tar house and wharf located on Princess Street. With David Lindsay, he also had a store called Faris & Lindsay on Market Street.
William was a member of the Wilmington Assembly. He was chosen as Wilmington Town Commissioner in 1740, when the town was chartered, and, with William Bartram, he promptly presented a bill that same year to establish St. James Parish. In other actions as an Assembly member from 1740-1752, he proposed forming a committee for the General Inspection of Commodities of the Province, presented an address from the entire Assembly in response to a speech by the Governor, proposed a committee to manage the public debt, served on a committee to prepare a tax bill, brought forth an Act for building and maintaining the roads, and authored an Act to better regulate the town and confirm a survey. In August 1750, he and Dr. Isaac Faris were chosen to hold a poll to choose two new Commissioners in Wilmington. In September 1751, taxes were levied to go toward the construction of the new church that William had helped to establish. However, the second building, illustrated above, was constructed in the late 1800s.
Considered a man of vision and action, William Faris was responsible for improving the lives of Wilmington residents through his many roles within the community. In his will of January 3, 1757, part of the estate was to go toward finishing the construction of St. James Church. His will was probated the same year.
Apparently, William read widely, especially in the fields of theology, government, literature, and commerce. The books listed below were part of the inventory of his estate. I have found information about some of these online at AbeBooks.co.uk. That information is indicated with brackets.
Marine Affairs, 2nd Volume
Map of Charleston
Reflections on Theatrical Expression [in Tragedy]
Lives of the Saints
The Holy Bible
Fisher’s Arithmetic [A Teacher’s Manual in Arithmetic for Primary Grades]
Introduction to the Classics
Treatise on Hemp and Flax
Moses and Aaron
An Apology for Christian Divinity [by Robert Barclay, 1711]
An Account of Denmark
Tully’s Offices [by Roger L’Estrange, 1720]
An Apology for the Christian Religion
Poems on Several Occasions [by Mary Barber]
Jacob Behmon’s Epistles
Guide to English Juries [possibly by Richard Bernard, published 1627]
Treatise on Baptism
11 Volumes of Rapin’s [Rapin De Thoyras] History of England
Dialogues on Education
Prideaux’s Connection [of the Old and New Testaments]
Abernathy on the Attributes
Paraphrase on the Gospels
Common Prayer Book
Milton’s Paradise Lost
Forster’s Sermon [Popery Destructive of the Evidence of Christianity]
Free and Candid Disquisitions . . . [by John Jones, 1749]
Sophocles, a Tragedy
Manners Translated from the French
A Discourse on Freedom of Will [possibly by Jonathan Edwards]
Scripture Line of Time
The History of Louis XIV
Duchess of Marlborough’s London
Nature of the Sacrament
A Letter Concerning Affirmation
Taylor on the Romans
Naval Trade and Commerce
An Essay on the Sabbath
The Order of Passing Bills [possibly by Henry Scobell, published 1685]
“North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9CV-V7NZ?cc=1911121&wc=Q649-H7W%3A183207901%2C183266201%2C1066710761 : 21 May 2014), New Hanover County > F > Faris, William (1757) > image 22 of 23; State Archives, Raleigh.
When one hears the name Alsace, it is often assumed that the region is thoroughly French, but it has not always been under French rule. For much of its history, it was part of Germany. The Palatines were emigrants from this middle region of the Rhine River. In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the region was repeatedly overrun by French troops, causing armed conflict, destruction, and famine. Even after it became part of France, many of the people spoke Alsatian or a German dialect and had German customs. After the Protestant Reformation, many Alsatians worshipped in Lutheran churches, which put them in conflict with the Catholic French monarchy. On the map, a small red W marks the approximate location of the village of Waldhambach in Alsace in the late 17th century.
The Ensminger family lived in that village–Waldenbach–very near the Rhine River. I write about the Ensmingers because I am descended from them several times. Both of my great-great-great-great grandmother Elizabeth Miller’s parents were from the Ensminger line. Her father was the grandson of Nicholas Ensminger, and her mother was the granddaughter of Peter Ensminger. Nicholas, born in 1699, and Peter, born in 1694, were brothers, sons of Philip Ensminger and Elizabeth Quirin of Alsace. I am descended from three of Elizabeth Miller’s children, (Thomas Skaggs, Susan Skaggs Withrow, and Cynthia Skaggs Vandal), so my Ensminger ancestry is significant. Additionally, Thomas’s wife, Julia Hunter, was an Ensminger descendant.
The first Ensminger to come to America was Peter. He left Rotterdam aboard the Samuel with his wife, Maria Catherina Trautmann Ensminger, his widowed mother-in-law, Katharina Emmerich Trautmann, and four children, arriving in Pennsylvania in 1733. Peter and Maria Catherina settled in Cocalico in Lancaster County, where two more children were born, and the family attended the Muddy Creek Lutheran Church. Peter was finally able to get 200 acres along Muddy Creek in 1738, but he died in 1739 at the age of 45. Maria Catherina remarried.
In 1738, right before Peter died, his brother Nicholas and his family arrived in Pennsylvania on the Billender Thistle with another group of Palatines. Nicholas and his wife, Anna Ludwig, also settled in Cocalico in Lancaster County and attended the Muddy Creek Lutheran Church, where several of his children were baptized. His daughter Catherine Elizabeth, born in 1742, married Theobalt Mueller (Miller), and they became the parents of Valentine Miller, who later settled in Monroe County, Virginia (now West Virginia).
Meanwhile, Peter’s son Philip, born in 1727, and his wife, Catherine Margaret Kessinger, had moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland, but they eventually settled in Monroe County, Virginia (now West Virginia). Philip supported the American patriots in the Revolutionary War and is described as an “associator” with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), which has verified that I am his descendant. Philip lived to the age of 80, and his will was probated in Monroe County. I am a direct descendant of two of his children: Susanna, mother of Elizabeth Miller, and Mary Elizabeth, the mother of Julia Hunter. In addition, I am a direct descendant of his uncle, Johannes Nicholas Ensminger.
The family relationships are complicated to keep straight unless looking at the pedigree chart. The bottom line is that I am descended from the first Philip Ensminger and his wife Elizabeth Quirin at least four times. The first Philip and his wife, Elizabeth, died in France, never coming to America, but their sons and grandchildren made a positive contribution toward building this country.
Future research on the Palatine immigration will include these surnames: Koontz, Federkeil, Longenecker, Spahr, Baumgardner, Schnaeder.
[Note: Since I wrote this post, I have heard from other researchers on the Nansemond and Bass Facebook pages that some of this information -which has been widely accepted – is actually not as clear as one might wish. Specifically, I have been told that yDNA has proven that my ancestor Richard Basse’s descendants do not match the rest of John Basse’s descendants. Therefore, if you have a particular interest in this family, let me know, and I will direct you to more knowledgeable researchers. I do not plan to continue researching this line.]
Having traced my mother’s ancestral line back to John Basse’s wife, of the Nansemond Indian tribe, I was certainly curious as to whether this would show up in my DNA. When I got the report, there was no Native American DNA identified, but I know this happens often to people of Native American descent. The reason for this is that less and less of a specific ancestor’s DNA is passed on over time, so you may very well end up with none of it. There is a very tiny “unassigned” portion of my DNA (0.1%) that cannot be identified. I guess that is the Nansemond Indian portion, but I don’t know for sure and probably never will. The Native American ancestry did show up in my brother’s DNA.
The English immigrant John Basse, born in 1616, was brought to the New World as a child by his father, Nathaniel. John later married a Nansemond Indian chief’s daughter, Elizabeth, and kept a record in his prayer book that proves family relationships and provides insight into their sincere Christian faith. It’s a fascinating story that would make a great television show or movie and has been told quite well by Billy Pittard on his blog.
This is the family record that John kept in his prayer book: “John Basse was born ye 7 day of September in ye year of our Lord 1616 ye son of Nathll Basse and Mary his wife … he married Elizabeth dafter of Robin the Elder, King of ye Nansimuns kingdom, a Baptized xtian, in Holy Matrimonie accdg to ye Canons of ye Church of England, ye 14th day of August in the Year of our Blessed Lord 1638.”
My descent from the immigrant John Basse (b. 1616) is Richard Basse (b 1658), Thomas Bass (b 1719), Lucy Bass (b 1742), Joshua Nettles (b 1770), James Nettles (b 1796), Margaret E. Nettles (b 1831), Margaret Johnson (b 1871), and then my maternal grandfather. The colorized photo is Margaret E. Nettles. With every generation, it seems they moved farther west until they ended up in Texas. As you can see, I am many generations removed from the Native American ancestor. Even if I don’t have Native American DNA, I’m proud they are part of my family.
It boggles my mind that people doubt that this country was established by Christians. Most Christians never intended to impose their faith on others; however, their beliefs were extremely important to them, and they were willing to risk all for freedom of worship.
Having become a Christian at an early age, I treasure every insight into the convictions of those who came before me. Not only did they establish the country, they established me in the faith before I was even born. I am awed by and grateful for what they were able to do.
One of the most significant ancestral accomplishments in my mind is the formation of the Old Greenbrier Baptist Church in Alderson, West Virginia. Strangely, Alderson is in both Monroe County and Greenbrier County. The photo (left, taken by my son when we were there in 2002) shows the building as it looks today, not the original building. However, as far as I can determine, the church is on the original site, and the cemetery is full of many early church members. (The photo at right was posted by Chris McVey at Findagrave.com.) The church was started by at least three of my direct ancestors: Bailey and Ann “Nancy” Wood and John Skaggs and first wife Katherine Skaggs. Since no one knows the parents of Bailey, Ann, or Katherine, it is possible they were not immigrants at the time but had been living here for several generations. However, they were new to this part of the country and had hope for a new future with the end of the Revolution in 1781. “Thirty-six days after the surrender at Yorktown, this church was organized by a company of twelve Baptists who had settled in this almost wilderness.” Their pastor was Rev. John Alderson, Jr., a true missionary and visionary in establishing Baptist principles where few had heard of them. “When this church was organized on November 24, 1781, it was the first church of any denomination in what is now all of southern West Virginia.” Despite starting with only those 12 Baptists, Baptist numbers have increased to millions who live in that region today. To get a more comprehensive understanding, please read the account of the 130th anniversary celebration, which was held in 1911. Here it is — an account preserved in West Virginia Archives and History. More about the Aldersons can be found here, thanks to the excellent scholarship of David Fridley.
One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen is a copy of the original church minutes, included below. Minutes 1.jpg The first entry is from January 1782. Many of the names mentioned are part of the Skaggs and Wood extended families. Minutes 2.jpg My direct ancestors, William and Susannah Withrow and William and Elizabeth Johnston and possibly John and Mary Ellis, became members shortly after the church was formed. Minutes3 It is difficult to decipher everything, but their sincerity is clear. They were committed to prayer, to receiving members upon profession of faith, to missionary work, to working with other churches, and to teaching the word of God. Minutes 4.jpg John and his second wife Catherine (“Kitty”) are buried in the Greenbrier Baptist Church Cemetery, though Catherine’s death date is incorrect. John’s father, Thomas Skaggs, is also buried there, but the grave is not marked. Thomas became a member eventually, but he was not a charter member. Evidence in Prince George County, Maryland, vital records suggests that he was the son of Richard Skaggs, Jr., and Mary Brashier and was baptized in this church.
Around 1792, Bailey moved 55 miles away from Greenbrier Church. This was not far in today’s terms, but, at that time, it must have seemed quite far. Bailey’s property was within the Monroe County boundary when it was created in 1799. He moved one more time–to Nicholas County before 1820, but this property was in Fayette County when it was created in 1831.
A History of Greenbrier County, West Virginia, by Otis K. Rice, states that Bailey Wood was instrumental in organizing the first Baptist church in the area of Woodville, now known as Ansted (Fayette County, West Virginia). At that time it was still in Greenbrier County, Virginia. The church was called Hopewell Baptist Church. Shirley Donnelly, in an article he wrote for the Fayette Tribune, unknown date, stated, “The first Baptist church at Ansted was formed in 1796. It was composed of members of [several] families, a group of squatters . . . About the year 1800, they built a log building and occupied it as their house of worship.”
Shirley Donnelly, in Historical Notes on Fayette County, West Virginia, wrote: “Those ‘squatters’ built homes at Ansted about the year 1790, exact year being unknown. Among them were the families of James Lykens, Willliam Parrish, James Taylor, Bailey Wood, and others. These were religious people of Baptist persuasion and built at Ansted the first meeting house in the county. That log church stood across the road from the later day historic Tyree Tavern [left, built in 1810] and a hundred yards or so to the east of it. They called it the Hopewell Baptist Church. Early records, if kept, have been lost. Hopewell Baptist Church, some miles west of the town of Ansted is the outgrowth of that early organization.” Wikipedia also has a page about the first settlers of Ansted.
Part 3 Meanwhile, Back in Alderson
Despite the fact that Bailey Wood and others moved away from the Alderson area, Greenbrier Baptist Church continued to grow, even after the death of Rev. John Alderson in 1821. The family of John Skaggs apparently played a major role in the church until at least 1833 when this list of members was compiled.Membership, 1833
Below are the members listed on that document. Next to some of the names, I have added information in parentheses to give the reader a better idea of who they were.
Thos. Alderson (brother of Rev. John Alderson)
Sally Alderson (wife of Thos. Alderson)
Susan Jarrett (sister of Catherine Hicks Skaggs and widow of David Jarrett)
Winney Dempsey (possibly Winifred Athol, wife of William S. Dempsey)
Jos: Alderson (Joseph Alderson, son of Rev. John Alderson and Mary Alderson)
Polly Alderson (Mary Newman Alderson, wife of Joseph Alderson)
—- Sidenstricker (possibly Rachel)
Out of the 23 members, nine were relatives of John and Catherine Hicks Skaggs, and four were relatives of the Rev. John Alderson, who had died 12 years earlier. The list includes some dates of death and dates of dismissal (when members moved away or left the church). Thomas Alderson and his wife died in 1837 and 1835, respectively. John Skaggs died in 1839. John’s wife, Catherine (Kitty), did not die before 1851, according to 1850 census records. From the supplemental information shown, it appears that her daughters Catherine, Mary (Polly), Susan, and Sarah (Sally) all left the church within a couple of years of their mother’s death.
As mentioned in Part 1, Bailey Wood and his wife Ann (also called Nancy) were founding members of Greenbrier Baptist Church in 1781, formed right after the surrender at Yorktown that ended the Revolutionary War. About ten years later, Bailey moved away to an area now in Fayette County, West Virginia, along with a few other families who became “squatters”. As discussed in Part 2, Bailey was one of the founding members of a new church called Hopewell Baptist Church.
Bailey and Ann had at least seven children, the second-oldest of whom was William, born in 1777. William was a teenager when the family moved away from the Alderson area, but he had probably already met Mary Anne McGraw, whom he married in 1800. Rev. John Alderson McGraw permission performed the wedding in Monroe County. Her parents, Martin and Margaret McGraw gave permission, and the marriage bond was signed by John and William Wood. William Wood marriage bond John Wood was probably related in some way.
It is not known to what extent William Wood was involved in church activities. He and Mary Anne raised at least six children in the Ansted area. Like many of his contemporaries, William was able to profit from the increased travel through the area. He ran a stage stop at Dogwood Gap along the James River and Kanawha Turnpike, according to History of Fayette County, West Virginia, by J. T. Peters and H.B. Carden. Wm. Wood is shown on the Fayette County Tax Lists dated June 5 , 1831, but he died in 1835. Two of his sons, Amos and Elijah, were administrators of his estate, and William’s widow, Mary Anne, was also actively involved. Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 11.46.44 AM
One of William’s sons, Allen, is not mentioned in the estate sale. Allen, born between 1809 and 1813, married Elizabeth Johns(t)on in 1832. Elizabeth was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Hicks Johnston, former members of Greenbrier Baptist Church. 7625874b-2c74-4047-9a7e-d3803d2bdf08 The relationship with Charles Johnson is not known, but it seems reasonable to surmise that he was a brother of Elizabeth.
Allen’s role in the spiritual development of the Ansted community was significant. He was a Baptist preacher who traveled about the countryside, and he also preached in the Ansted area. The Virginia Baptist Historical Society in Richmond, Virginia, verifies that Allen Wood was a missionary serving in the territory of the Western Virginia Baptist Association as early as 1846, with his address as Mountain Cove (later Ansted), Fayette County, Virginia. Fayette County, Virginia (now WV), court records show that Allen Wood, a minister of the Baptist church, presented his credentials of ordination, took the oath of allegiance, and was granted a testimonial before the Fayette County Court in January 1850. Subsequently, Allen Wood performed many marriages between 1850 and 1861 in Fayette County.
Mr. Shirley Donnelly, in an article in the Fayette Tribune, date unknown, stated: “Jeanette Missionary Baptist Church was formed in 1853 with 14 members. The first house of worship was built by Col. Geo. Alderson, who gave it the name of Jeanette in honor of his first wife. Its first pastor was Rev. Allen Wood.” The name is sometimes spelled “Jennette”.
According to the Minutes of the Western Virginia Baptist Association of 1860, “A. Wood – preached 220 sermons, travelled 1,185 miles, visited 350 families, baptized 16 persons, organized 2 Sunday Schools, and delivered several S.S. and Temperance lectures. Brother Wood writes: ‘I have lately held a two days’ meeting in a section of the country where not a single sermon from a Baptist minister up to that time had been preached. So strong was the prejudice against the denomination, that it was supposed not more than ten persons would attend the meetings, but contrary to our expectation, a large congregation was in attendance. And under the power of divine truth, many wept like children. At the close of the meetings, several persons came forward and urged me to come back again and preach for them. There are many such sections in this and the adjoining counties, where the people are, to a great extent, ignorant of Baptists and Baptist principles. Should I be permitted to continue in the employment of the Board, I want to devote much of my time to such places.'”
The diary of James B. Hamilton, begun on January 1, 1858, has been preserved in the History of Fayette County, West Virginia.In this diary, Hamilton reports on many of the events leading up to and involving the Civil War. He also reveals his own spiritual inclinations by reporting on church services and expressing his disappointment when there were no services on a given “sabbath.” If there was no sermon, he would stay home and read the Bible or the writings of Charles Spurgeon. He mentions going to Woodville to attend singing, debates, and prayer meetings.
On April 17, 1858, Hamilton mentions preaching for the first time. The diary entry reads, ” Very good sermon by Amos Wood” (Allen’s brother). Hamilton was apparently well-acquainted with the Wood family because he also mentions helping Eli Wood (Allen’s first cousin) in his store. On June 20, his diary entry says, “Went to Church. Allen preached a very good sermon.” On July 3, Hamilton reports going to Gauley Bridge to a celebration at which he hears several people speak.
A few months later, on September 19, Hamilton reports, “Attended church. Rev. Allen Wood preached a good sermon.” In October, he reported helping Eli Wood to make a school. On Oct. 16: “Went to church. Good sermon by Rev. Allen Wood.” On Oct. 20: “Went to church today. Rev. Allen Wood delivered the best sermon that I have ever heard him preach. Nancy Wood baptized today.” He also went to church for the next four days, when he reported on the preaching of several individuals and the baptism of four.
Nov. 7: “At church. Allen preached a good sermon. Six baptized.” Dec. 18: “Went to church. Heard an excellent sermon by Uncle Allen.”
By the end of the year, Hamilton had completed the building of a school in which 29 pupils were enrolled. He was the teacher.
On January 14, he reported: “James Wood, Sr. died last night.” It seems likely he was related to Rev. Allen Wood.
Though Hamilton mentions hearing others preach, Allen Wood is the only one he mentions repeatedly. On Feb. 19, 1859: “Rev. Allen Wood preached on Matthew 18. Very good turn out at Temperance meeting.” On March 28, he reported on the marriage of William Johnson Wood and Mary Ann Vandal. (Wm.) Johnson Wood (right) was the son of Allen and Elizabeth and would later become well known as an excellent teacher and mathematician.
April 16, 1859: “At church. Heard Allen Wood on Hebrews 12:10.” In June, he reported hearing the preaching of Martin Bibb, Eli Wood, and others. At least 12 joined the church. Not much is written over the next couple of years except Hamilton’s reflections on his spiritual growth and the activities building up to the Civil War.
Overall, Hamilton’s diary reveals the character of an entire community, its citizens striving for high standards of personal morality and a commitment to pleasing God. The Wood family, among many others, played a major role in spiritual affairs of the Ansted/Woodville/Mountain Cove area.
The Jennette Baptist Church, of which Rev. Allen Wood was pastor, was burned by Union troops during the war. It was not rebuilt until quite a few years later and eventually relocated to the Edmond area.