The first English settlers to Virginia were not respectful of others who were different. They were not passionate, or even moderately interested in the rights of others, unlike their descendants 150 years later. Any interest was simply economic, a business transaction. This is not simply a definition of the distinction between the whites and the natives. This is a way that the rich white landed gentry looked on everyone else. Many women got caught up in the middle of these business transactions and lost.
Jane Dickenson was married to her husband, Ralph, some time before they came to Virginia in 1620. Since they could not afford to pay the fees required, Ralph signed a contract with Nicholas Hide. He would be an indentured servant, for seven years, in exchange for the transportation. Hide probably lived in Martin’s Hundred, a plantation of about 21,000 acres, on the north shore of James River, several miles downstream from Jamestown. There was an administrative center named Wolstenholme Town. The tiny, year-old hamlet was a fortified area of about 40 poorly constructed huts. They were made of daub and wattle, woven to poles buried in the clay soil. A good rain could wash them away.
Ralph was a servant to Nicholas Hide for about two years when the unbelievable happened. In the early morning hours of Good Friday, March 22, 1622, members of the Pamunkey Indians attacked various spots along the river, with the intention of getting rid of the white people. One of the most damaged area was Martin’s Hundred. Ralph was killed outright and Jane was kidnapped. The couple were named Ralphe Digginson and his wife in the list of the murdered.
When the fight was over and people came out from their hiding, they discovered severe damage. In Wolstenholme Town only two houses and part of a church were left standing. The people tried to take a census. At least fifteen women were claimed to have been killed, yet their remains could not be found. It was months before rumors, circulated by Richard Frethorne, a settler in Wolstenholme Towne, were heard that the women were living as slaves in the Indian villages.
In the meantime, various small bands of settlers went after Indian villages as revenge, killing natives and burning corn fields. They did not go to rescue the women. As a matter of fact, the women were not only terrorized by the natives, but also by their own people. They were also starved by the loss of crops and danger of hunting, with the white men around. Jane and others were made to be the bottom of the barrel denizens of the tribe. After ten months, the attacks were so ferocious, that several women ran away from their captives, hoping to make it back to English civilization.
Were the women protected? Given psychological help after being in captivity? Hailed for their heroics? No.
Dr. Potts, physician and future governor, heard that others were still being held. He offered to pay a ransom of two pounds of beads for Jane Dickenson. But he had a plan in mind to reimburse himself. Jane was told that since Ralph’s term of indenture was never finished, she had to do it. Then she was told that she would have to reimburse Potts for the ransom money. She became an unwitting indentured servant herself and was moved to Jamestown, to Potts’ house.
Female indentured servants were not often well treated. Beatings and sexual assault were not infrequent. Jane, probably having grown up poor, was likely used to difficult times. But her life was much more difficult than simply being a poor, married settler.
Even she had it better than some women. Several died in Indian custody. And one woman, Anne Jackson, apparently lost her mind after being rescued in 1630, eight years after the attack.
Elizabeth Wormeley was apparently a beautiful young lady from a very fine family in the new colony of Virginia. She was born in the early 1620s in England, most likely. She and her family emigrated to Virginia when she was still young.
In the mid or late-1630s, while still a teenager, Elizabeth married Richard Kemp, a widower with no children. At the time, he was secretary of state to Governor John Harvey. Richard was significantly older than Elizabeth, being in his mid-30s at that point. Their early married life was filled with events that are read in history books. Richard stuck by his governor during the attempted coup of 1635. Harvey was arrested and sent to London for a while. Two years later, a Reverend Anthony Pantone was sued for mocking the secretary of state, some of which are very funny. Richard was out of a job for a while but reinstated in his job when Governor William Berkeley, the pompous royalist, came to power.
Richard built the first brick house in Jamestown right around the time of their marriage. It was described as the fairest house in the colony. Just two years later, Richard bought a plantation from George Menefie, one of the members of the attempted coup, and named it Rich Neck. It was a mile from the northern shore of James River. Elizabeth and Richard had two children, Richard, Jr and Elizabeth, who died around the age of four soon after her father, who died some time between January 1649 and October 1650.
Although Richard’s will specified that Elizabeth should sell Rich Neck and move back to England, she chose to do neither. On October 24, 1650, Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Lunsford, a man 20 years her senior.
Lunsford was a wild child, who entered into the life of a soldier during the civil war in England. He was declared an outlaw on several occasions and spent time in prison. He came to Virginia around the same time King Charles I lost his head. He brought his young children from his second marriage. A weather-beaten man, with faded red hair and a lame leg from a battle injury, within months he met and married Elizabeth, who was in her early 20s at this point. He had appropriated over 3000 acres of land on a bay on the south side of the Rappahanock River, where he intended to build a plantation. The plantation was named Portobacco. He was quickly made lieutenant-general of the Virginia military, a member of the governor’s council. However, he died somewhere between 1653 and 1656. Eljizabeth was left with a baby, or toddler, named Catherine. Lunsford’s other children were sent back to England. By April, 1656, Elizabeth, being referred to as Lady (or Dame) Lunsford, was doing business under her own name. After all, she still had the 1200-acre Rich Neck as well as the developing new plantation. Her annual income from all that tobacco was pretty substantial. Trading real estate gave her even more income.
In 1657, Elizabeth married Robert Smith, a man of her own age, 27. He had served in the king’s army before the civil war and had arrived in Virginia in some unknown way, being as he was probably wanted in England. Governor Berkeley invited him onto the council by 1659 and made him a leader of the militia. He was named major-general in the war between England and Holland in 1666.
Together, Elizabeth and Robert built Brandon plantation on the Rappahanack River, after selling Rich Neck. It was not too far from her brother, Ralph’s place, Rosegill. This marriage lasted about 30 years and produced several sons. They lived through the Bacon Rebellion with little damage to their home and family. They lived the gentleman’s lifestyle, dying at a relatively old age.
Jamestown, Virginia was settled in April, 1607. A total of 144 men, boys and mariners were in the first ships to land. These men were predominantly gentlemen adventurers, with a handful of laborers, carpenters, a minister and a barber. Twenty or more were there, temporarily, to help settle things, the ships’ crew. This was not a good beginning for a colony. It was more like a fantasy adventure event. There were not enough people to build houses, cook food, plant crops. They were left on their own in an unknown place to make due. Captain Christopher Newport took his crews away before winter.
The following January, Newport returned with one of two ships laden with supplies. The other showed up in April. This ship included a lower percentage of gentlemen (only 28 out of 73), more laborers, and some specialty workers, tailors, a jeweler, a perfume maker (not that I would know why!) and a few others. They also were given instructions to come up with some products for the Virginia Company to sell for profit. It was at this time that a fire consumed most of the stores of the colony. They had to rebuild much of the fort. Rather than planting more corn in the spring, the men went out hunting or chopping down trees for huts. The crop was late in coming.
The second supply ship arrived in October, 1608. This ship carried the first women, Thomas Forrest’s wife and her maid, Anne Burras. Captain Newport’s 70 passengers included 26 gentlemen, a number of laborers and fourteen tradesmen. Who they could sell items to was yet to be seen. Instructions were to go look for the survivors of the lost Roanoke colony. Newport returned to London with pitch, tar, clapboard, wainscotting and other items, the sale of which did not give the Virginia Company much of a return on their investments.
In the spring of 1609, Captain Samuel Argyll arrived, having found a shorter passage to Virginia from London. The colonists were again in danger of failing. A rat infestation in April had eaten all their food. Argyll sold as much of his stores as possible to Captain John Smith. He gave promises of more help and food on its way to Jamestown but he did not leave til October.
On June 2 of that year, seven ships and two pinnaces formed a flotilla to come to the aid of the failing colony. Most of the supplies were on the lead ship, while the other ships held up to 400 passengers and their personal belongings. Yellow fever broke out on two ships and “London plague” on another. Then they met a hurricane at the end of July. Almost everything was thrown overboard during the storm to lighten the load. The lead ship was blown off course to Bermuda, where it was grounded on shoals. One ship was lost. The various ships limped into Jamestown harbor over the course of two months, but without much in the way of supplies. About 300 people needed to be accommodated, without extra food. A suspicious explosion, severely burning John Smith, led to his leaving with Argyll and others on the return voyages of the ships. The death of all three council members and no firm leadership added to the difficulties of the colony. With winter coming and a drought leaving them with a poor harvest, the colony was all but doomed.
The building of homes superseded the importance of finding food. Indian attacks made fishing and hunting very difficult. By the time it was cold, not enough fishing or hunting had been done to make up for the lack of corn. And few men knew how to identify edible wild fruits. People died of starvation over the course of the cold months. One house of women survived primarily on roasted acorn seeds and other greens found in the late summer and preserved. 90% of the inhabitants had died by spring. The 60 survivors were suffering from trauma.
Those left decided they had had enough. With only a handful of people left, the desire to return to England was in most people’s minds. On May 24th, two small ships sailed into the harbor. Those on board were the survivors of the Bermuda grounding. The industrious crew had rebuilt two smaller ships out of the large ship. Interim governor Thomas Gates was among the arriving men. After meeting with the survivors of the Starving Time, Gates decided to close down the experiment, put everyone on the two ships and go back to England.
As the distraught passengers sailed down the James River towards the bay, they met up with a supply ship from England. It contained more settlers, food, supplies, and the new governor, Baron De La Warr. The new governor told Gates to turn around the ship and head back.
Anne Orthwood was born August 13, 1639 near Bristol, England. By age 22, she had decided to go to the new colony of Virginia. The least expensive way was by becoming an indentured servant. She sold her servitude to Colonel William Kendall. The colonel had begun his days in Virginia as an indentured servant and had worked his way into the upper echelons of Virginia society, where he had become one of the most powerful politicians. Anne moved to Newport House Plantation and worked in the house as a servant.
Colonel Kendall had a young nephew, John, who had moved to Virginia from Norfolk, England. In his early 20s, John helped his uncle run the plantation. And this is where Anne met John. They soon began an affair.
Like many men who have had difficulty climbing the social ladder, Colonel Kendall, when he found out about the two, was most fearful of scandal. Not just a scandal of sex, but even one of different classes falling in love and messing with the social order. So, the loving uncle sold his contractual rights of indenture to Jacob Bishop, a man very high in the social order, with his own large plantation. Being as there was no courthouse in the county at the time, the council met at Webb’s Inn to approve the purchase. And there, Anne and John met again in November of 1663. They managed to consummate their love by conceiving twins that very weekend. John immediately stopped the relationship, never acknowledging anything.
Anne hid her pregnancy as long as possible, possibly due to shame or the expected punishment once someone found out the truth. By late spring, she could no longer hide it. Bishop sold her indenture to Colonel Williams Waters, justice of the peace and well-to-do gentleman, avowing that the young lady was well enough to work, and a virgin. Waters soon found out differently, complained and had her arrested. Anne was questioned but refused to indicate who the father was.
Anne was in prison for almost two months until she went into early labor. She was denied a midwife until she released the father’s name. Eventually, Anne gave John Kendall’s name. But she died of complications, along with one of the two twin boys. The baby Jasper survived.
In the meantime, Colonel Waters was angry at being shysted by Mr. Bishop. Waters had been sold damaged goods. The servant could not work. Waters wanted a refund and did not wish to care for the servant girl. English law read that wherever the servant girl lived at the time of becoming pregnant, that owner had to care for her. Waters was not obligated. Bishop did not want the responsibility. Bishop was called out of town at the beginning of the lawsuit and did not return until Anne died. Waters was awarded his down payment and court payments.
Several weeks after Anne’s death, a civil liability charge was brought against John Kendall. The court ruled that John owed maintenance for baby Jasper. This was probably decided to save the public the tax money needed to maintain the child. But then they ruled that John was not the father, to save his life from being socially ruined.
However, this last statement required the formality of a trial. The conclusion of the court was that since it was only seven months from the date of Anne and John’s meeting, the child could not be John’s because everyone knows it takes nine months. Anne’s credibility in naming John was doubtful since she was in terrible pain while being interrogated.
Twenty-one years later, another trial was held, dependent on the same scenario. Jasper was now over 21 and had been bound over as a servant from infancy. John Kendall had paid the child’s way but had not taken his own son in. Jasper was, now, an indentured servant to John Warren. Jasper requested to be released and was denied. The English law that Warren cited claimed an indentured servant had to remain until age 24. So, Jasper hired a lawyer and sued Warren, based on a colonial law that read that illegitimate children were indentured only to age 21. Jasper won.
Despite the hardship that Anne went through, she will be remembered for the attitudes of councils. Which laws the court would choose, rule by, or ignore was based on how the people in the community felt about the case being prosecuted. With criminal conduct cases, the court acted upon moral justification rather than law. In paternity cases, they acted upon the community’s best financial interests, finding a responsible party to take the burden off themselves.
In the late 1610s, the Virginia Company realized that they could use the economic downturn in England to their advantage. The men who had turned their backs on England and gone to North America to try their hands at prosperity were tired of only working. Their Christian, European background was slipping away with time. The company acknowledged this. They saw that the Indian maidens were not good partners for the men. They needed women who could guarantee security, permanence and a continuation of European traditions.
Starting in 1619, the company advertised for sensible, honest young ladies to join the men in Virginia and marry if they found someone who could attract them. They were guaranteed no punishment if they did not find a husband. The men, on their side, were obligated to pay the 12 pound sterling, each, that it cost to transport the women, if the company had paid the fee.
One of the many who were willing to voyage over was Anne Jackson, whose father was William Jackson, a gardener of Westminster. She needed to get letters of recommendation from her church and needed her father to give his consent to his daughter’s request. He had a son already living there in the hamlet of Martin’s Hundred. Ann and 56 other women arrived in Jamestown in late 1621. She moved to her brother, John’s, place.
The first few months were probably enjoyable, getting used to the land, her brother’s family and the different weather. However, on Good Friday, March 1622, the outlying farms and hamlets were attacked by Powhatan Indians. Over 300 settlers were killed, including the famous John Rolfe. Anne and eighteen other women were kidnapped.
Over the next eight years, the women were either bought back, returned by negotiation or died. Anne was the last to come home, in 1630. The only way she could have survived is through strength of mind and body, and tenacity. Apparently, she was, by then, at the end of her psychological rope. Such an experience proved to be too much of an impact on her. The court ordered her brother to keep her safe until she could go aboard a ship and return home.
History has lost the rest of her story. We can only hope that some kind Englishman was willing to accept a fragile woman to care for the rest of her life.
The ship, Mary and Margaret, landed in Jamestown September 30, 1608. It was part of the second supply, bringing supplies and more settlers to the new settlement of Jamestown. On board were Thomas Graves, gentleman, his friend Rawley Crowshaw and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Forrest. With the Forrests came Mrs. Forrest’s lady’s maid, Anne Burras (Burrows). A John Burras was abroard, also. He may have been an older brother to keep an eye on his young sister in her first job. The couple had not been married very long, only about three years. There is no indication of children. Mistress Forrest apparently got sick on the journey. Anne was responsible for caring for her employer.
The fort at Jamestown was small at best, covering about 1 acre of land. The houses and the church were shoddily built. The first shipload of men did not believe they would be staying very long, so they threw up poor shelters. There was no where nice for Mistress Forrest to be as she fought her illness. She died within a month or so of arriving. Fourteen-year old Anne was unemployed. The only female among over one hundred men, most unmarried, Anne had the attention of all the inhabitants.
Only two or so months after landing, Anne found a man she could be comfortable with and married John Layton. John was a laborer who was twice her age. They had the first child to survive in the New World in December 1609. And they named her Virginia. At that point, they moved to a small outpost closer to the ocean called Point Comfort. It was fortuitous. For that was the winter of the Starving Time. Those stuck within the fort were unable to get out for months due to Indian attacks. Their food supplies did not hold out. Point Comfort had no Indian attacks and the salt water nearby had plenty of seafood.
They and their growing family survived. During the next few years Alice, Katherine and Margaret joined their older sister.
The family next survived the Good Friday massacre in March 1622. They then moved a little further away from the James River, residing in Elizabeth City (now Newport News) by the muster of 1624. At this point, John had begun to accumulate patents of land. In the muster, it was indicated that he had 100 acres on the east side of Blunt Point Creek, in lieu of 100 acres on the island of Henrico. This city became less favorable after the massacre.
In 1636, John and Anne’s brother, Anthony Burrows, patented 1250 acres near Elizabeth City. They had become moderately prosperous by the 1630s. But even prosperous people could not fight the poor quality of life at that time. It is assumed that Anne died sometime in the mid 1630s.