Bishops-Frome church

In searching for early colonial ladies for my continuing Founding Mothers blog, I came upon one who does not quite fit the bill but is so outstanding that I decided to include her, anyhow: Susanna Harvey Hopton.

Susanna Harvey was born to Sir Simon Harvey and his wife, Lady Ursula, in 1627, the last of six children. She was baptized 27 October at the Church of St. Martin in the Fields, in London. Sir Simon worked in the royal household as an organizer of events, purchaser of food and supporter of His Majesty. His brother, Sir John Harvey, was the despotic governor of Virginia 1628-1639. This tenuous relationship with the founding of the United States is enough to allow Susanna into the elect Founding Mothers blogpost.

Sir Simon died the year after Susanna’s birth. Her mother raised the children alone for some time. The family, it would seem, would have remained royalist in their views, considering their source of income was directly from the king for some years. When Susanna was fourteen, Lady Ursula remarried. The new stepfather was a parliamentarian, the liberal side of the upcoming Civil War. Susanna, being a staunch royalist, was most likely opposed to such a marriage. Her uncle, Sir John, having recently returned from a rocky term in Virginia, likely supported Susanna’s position, although he was not happy with King Charles at the time.

Susanna did not give up her support of royalist values, even after the King was executed in 1649. By the age of 24, she had become a royalist agent, collaborating with Richard Hopton, a barrister and judge from Kington, Herefordshire. At the same time as she was doing that, Susanna had made the acquaintance of Fr. Henry Turberville, a Catholic priest. Long talks with him convinced Susanna to convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism. This few years’ engagement in Roman Catholicism remained a defining event in her spiritual development and had a powerful influence on her subsequent writing.

She, in turn, referred to his poems in her works. Her works include:

  1. Daily Devotions Consisting of Thanksgivings, Confessions and Prayers (1673)
  2. Devotions in the Ancient Way of Offfices (1700)
  3. Letter to Father Turberville  in the “Second Collection of Controversial Letters” (posthumously)
  4. Meditations of the Six Days of the Creation and Devotions on the Life of Christ (posthumously)

As Susanna and Richard worked together, they fell in love, even though Richard was almost twenty years her senior. His large concern was her conversion. He worked to reverse her beliefs by plying her with writings by William Laud, Thomas Morton and William Chillingworth. All three were leading theologians of the day. In 1655, having been converted back to Richard’s belief, the two were married. She was 28. He was 47.

The marriage was a loving one. They lived in Kington and were socially quite active. Although without formal education, Susanna wrote extensively and adapted Roman Catholic devotional sources for Anglican use. She had a close relationship with many influential men, who helped her to publish some of her works anonymously. Other works were published posthumously. Thomas Traherne, a young minister, dedicated many of his mystic poetical works to her. She, in turn, referred to his poems in her works. Her works include:

  1. Daily Devotions Consisting of Thanksgivings, Confessions and Prayers (1673)
  2. Devotions in the Ancient Way of Offfices (1700)
  3. Letter to Father Turberville  in the “Second Collection of Controversial Letters” (posthumously)
  4. Meditations of the Six Days of the Creation and Devotions on the Life of Christ (posthumously)

In her later life, Susanna was known for her self-discipline and acts of charity.

Richard died in 1696, probably 88 years of age. After living in Kington for years, and some other places for extended periods, Susanna moved to the larger city of Hereford. There she died 12 July 1709 at the age of 81. She was buried in the chancel of the church at Bishops-Frome.

Her works were frequently reprinted, and she herself was commemorated in compilations of the lives of celebrated women for a hundred and fifty years after her death.

Frances Grenville

Frances Grenville


Frances Greville was the daughter of Giles Grenville and born around 1598-1600. Frances appears to have been the oldest of seven or eight, and the only girl. She grew up in Charlton Kings, about 25 miles from the bustling city of Bristol. One can assume that Frances grew up in a middle class environment.  Her family was probably the “poor” side of the family.

One of Frances’ distant cousins was Mary Conroy, the daughter of  Elenor Grenville . Mary was 20 years older than Frances, so they may not have been close. Around 1601, Mary married William Tracy. Tracy had many associates who had invested in the Virginia Company, specifically, the Berkeley Hundred plantation, including his cousin, Richard Berkeley. He became involved with that investment. A multi-talented man, Tracy was also a ship’s captain. In 1620, he was captain of the Supply. In September of 1620, the ship left Bristol with  fifty passengers, and four times as much alcohol as would be expected, to Virginia. Most of these people were expected to work on the plantation. Tracy brought his wife, Mary, their children Judy and Thomas and Mary’s cousin, Frances as well as three maid servants. They landed in early 1621.

It appears that the Wests, the father being the second Baron DeLaWare, and the Grenville  grandfather were close friends. Some places say that Nathaniel West, the baron’s youngest son, was promised the hand of Frances. Taking her to Virginia was simply to marry her to West. Of all the West brothers, and there were twelve children, three had plantations near Jamestown. This was perfect, from the point of view of Mary, who would be Frances’ chaperone. Westover plantation was only a mile from Berkeley plantation. It was only a few months before they married. By April, Captain Tracy was dead. Judy married almost immediately. Thomas and Mary returned to England, leaving Frances alone with a new husband in a new world. Unfortunately, Judy and her husband were killed in the Indian Massacre of March 1622.

Frances’ marriage did not last very long. Nathaniel died somewhere between April 1623 and February 1624. They had a two-year-old, Nathaniel, Jr. Right after West’s death, Frances moved into the home of her brother-in-law, Francis, where she was living at the time of the census in 1624.

A beautiful young lady of probably only 24 or 25, Frances attracted the eye of Abraham Peirsey. He was one of the richest men in Jamestown, a widow with two teenaged daughters. Marrying Frances gave him control over Westover, the plantation that Frances’ baby had inherited. Buying the large Flowerdew Plantation, across the river, from George Yeardley the year before, made the Peirseys the largest landowners in the colony. They renamed it Peirsey’s Hundred and Abraham had a large stone house built to replace the smaller house on the premises. This marriage gave Frances a step-father for little Nathaniel and almost anything material she could want. However, Abraham died 16 January of 1628, at only 41. In his will, he made Frances executrix, with orders to sell the plantation for the best price possible. It looks like he meant to have the two daughters inherit the proceeds.

Frances did not sell the land. She married again, within a year, Captain Samuel Mathew. As a widow, she was now probably the richest woman in the colony, with two large plantations, very attractive to a prospective groom. The captain was probably the richest man in the colony. He was an attractive catch.

Frances and Samuel kept the Hundred to use as they wished, along with Westover, which belonged to her son, and Mathew’s plantation, Mathew’s Manor, later renamed Denbeigh Manor. Apparently, they moved much of value, including servants, to Mathew’s Manor, downriver on the north side of the James. The Hundred was not maintained well for several years while Frances and Samuel concentrated on building their family. Samuel Jr. was born in 1629/30 and Francis in 1632. Although Frances could have anything, being so rich, she could not have her health. In the end, she was dead before 1633 was over, leaving Samuel with two very little boys.

Nathaniel eventually moved back to England. His uncles probably watched over him carefully. One uncle, John West, was governor for a short period after the “thrusting out” of Governor John Harvey in 1635.

Frances and Samuel’s lack of action on the Peirsey plantation lead to much hard feelings between Mathews and the orphaned daughters by 1634. Both young ladies were now married and filed suit against Mathews for possession of the plantation and all the goods which had been there. The suit was eventually dropped but not before the governor gave the sisters permission to have their agents ransack Mathew’s Manor. Mathews and his family were in London at the time, charged with treason. It was easy for the sisters to retrieve their father’s furnishings and goods.

It appears that Mathews married again, fairly soon after the death of Frances, so that his two boys would have a mother. They were raised by Sarah Hinton Mathews.




Painting by Felix Darley (1822-1888)

Lydia was a Farley. The Farleys were Quakers and anti-government. Her uncle was Captain George Farley. More about him, later. Her mother, Elizabeth, George’s sister, was widowed before Lydia was of marriageable age, and she  remarried Thomas Bushrod, a recent widower. This Mr. Bushrod was a Quaker, which was illegal at the time. He had continually gotten into some trouble by his confession of beliefs in both Massachusetts, as a young man, and in Virginia. At the same time, he was a justice for York County as well as a burgess in 1658 and 1659. He had been married before to Mary Peirsey Hill, the sister-in-law of the notorious Governor, John Harvey.

Lydia was born around 1649. Her mother remarried in 1661 and they moved to the large plantation in York County that Bushrod had inherited from his dead wife. With Bushrod’s political ties, Lydia soon found a suitor who was acceptable. She was married within a few years to Edmund Cheesman. Edmund’s family had gotten into serious trouble when he was young, being arrested for having Quaker meetings at their house. Even his mother had been arrested. It would appear that Lydia was brought up as being sympathetic to Quaker religious thoughts.

The two married around 1670 and Edmund began building his legacy by patenting 200 acres in Charles Parish, York County on July 1, 1670. Within weeks he became a justice of the peace. In two years, he was a captain of the militia in York. During this time, Lydia and Edmund had a son, John, who died at a very early age. They had no further children. Four years later, Edmund was promoted to major. At that point, Nathaniel Bacon, a brash young immigrant, virtually declared war on the Virginia government. Not only did Edmund agree with Bacon, he joined his side. His contemporaries saw Cheesman as being a principal actor in the hostilities. His father had marched against the Pamunkey Indians in 1644, and Cheesman may have embraced Bacon’s plans to make war on Virginia’s Indians. It also appears that Lydia agreed with, or even encouraged, his actions.

This is where Lydia’s uncle George appears. George was sent to England for his education as a young boy. The rise of Cromwell coincided with George finishing his education and he joined the rebellion on the side of Cromwell. Once the king returned to power, George returned to Virginia. Apparently, fighting was in George’s blood, for he joined Bacon’s rebels around the same time as his nephew-in-law.

In November of 1676, Edmund was captured in York and accused of treason. George was captured and accused about the same time. Governor William Berkeley came for the preliminary trial. Lydia managed to sneak into the hearings and eventually was able to speak. and she pleaded with the governor to spare her husband’s life on the grounds that “if he had not bin influencd by her instigations, he had never don that which he had don.” On “her bended knees” she begged the governor “that shee might be hang’d, and he pardon’d.” Her eloquence and bravery failed to persuade the governor to release or spare him. Nor was she able to persuade him on any grounds to save her uncle. Before the trial date, Edmund died in prison, whether of sickness or exposure or grief, we will never know. She must have been quite a woman to even propose such a thought!

Two months later, George was executed in Accomac County and all his estates were forfeited to the king, or, perhaps, to the governor. His son, John, never got his family’s land back, since he, too, participated in the rebellion and was in prison at the time of his father’s execution.

In February, Governor Berkeley issued a proclamation of pardon for the treasonous actions of three men who, by coincidence, just happened to all die in prison over the winter. Edmund was one. Within three months, Governor Berkeley, having gone to London to report to the king, was dead.

A year later, Lydia claimed the estate of Edmund. It was probably held for some time after the trial. The estate consisted of 250 acres, six laborers, five black and one white, livestock and household furnishings. In June of 1678, the widow Lydia Cheesman married Thomas Harwood. She and her new husband occupied the land until her death. She died in the spring of 1694 by lightening. She was not yet 50.

After her death, Lydia’s brother-in-law, Thomas Cheesman, tried for years to gain the estate, eventually winning after the death of Harwood.



See the source image

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.



Richard Kemp’s brick house


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. 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.  Richard was significantly older than Elizabeth, being in his mid-30s at that point. At the time, he was secretary of state to Governor John Harvey. 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, only to return a year later, still governor. Two years later, a Reverend Anthony Panton was sued for mocking the secretary of state, some of which are very funny. Panton was sent to England until Harvey lost his governorship. 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 by several people. 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 sometime 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. He entered into the life of a soldier for the king during the civil war in England. For that, 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 (1649), bringing with him his young children from a previous marriage. At around 50, he was not a good-looking catch. He was a weather-beaten man, with faded red hair and a lame leg from a battle injury. Yet, within months he met and married Elizabeth, who was in her mid to late 20s at this point. He had appropriated over 3000 acres of land on a bay on the south side of the Rappahanock River, (the next river north of the York) where he intended to build a plantation. The plantation was named Portobacco. With his battle expertise, he was quickly made lieutenant-general of the Virginia military and 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, the only crop of significance in the colony, was pretty substantial. Trading real estate gave her even more income.

In 1657, Elizabeth married Robert Smith, a man of her own age. 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 disastrous 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.

They began again…..