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Byrd, William (1652–04 December 1704), Virginia colonial officer and planter, was born in London, England, the son of John Bird, a goldsmith, and Grace Stegge. Because his father was a member of a powerful labor guild, Byrd (who later changed the spelling of his name, probably because it sounded more “elegant”) grew up aspiring to a comfortable but lower-middle-class position in caste-bound London. However, when he was eighteen he received a letter from his uncle, Thomas Stegge, a plantation owner in Virginia, asking Byrd to join him and become his heir. Accepting the opportunity to secure position and wealth as a landed gentleman in the new world, Byrd sailed to Virginia in the autumn of 1670 and joined his kinsman on his plantation of 1,800 acres near the fall line of the James River. A year later Stegge died, and Byrd inherited his entire estate. In that same year Byrd accompanied a party that crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and explored the western wilderness. Quickly, the young man proved himself an able husbandman, caring for his tobacco plantations and improving the Indian trade that his uncle had begun. Soon he was recognized throughout the colony as a rising man of property and influence. In fact, he was typical of that group of Virginia leaders that arrived in the colony in the last half of the seventeenth century and established powerful families that would dominate Virginia in the next century. Needing a wife with experience in managing slaves and handling the domestic duties of a plantation, he married Mary Horsmanden, a well-connected widow, in 1673. They had five children before her death in 1699....

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Carter, Robert (1663–04 August 1732), merchant-planter and public official, was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, the son of John Carter, a wealthy merchant-planter and attorney, and Sarah Ludlow. John Carter died in 1669 leaving Robert 1,000 acres and one-third of his personal estate. He also provided that an indentured servant be “bought for him … to teach him his books either in English or Latine according to his capacity.” Later, probably around 1672, he was sent to London by his elder brother John where he spent six years receiving a grammar school education. In London Robert lived with Arthur Bailey, a prosperous merchant, from whom he must have learned about the intricacies of the tobacco trade. Little else is known about his early years, but in 1688 he married Judith Armistead, with whom he had five children. In 1701 he married Elizabeth Landon Willis; this union produced an additional ten children. Five sons and five daughters lived to maturity, and all the sons received an English education. The death of his brother John in 1690, followed shortly by the death of his daughter and half brother, resulted in Carter inheriting the bulk of a large estate that included more than 9,000 acres of land and 115 slaves. Carter, already a man of substance, quickly added to his wealth through planting and mercantile activity, including a significant involvement in the slave trade. He also began to acquire large amounts of land, a process that was aided by the two terms he served as agent (1702–1712, 1719–1732) for the Fairfax family, the proprietors of the Northern Neck. The Northern Neck was that vast area of land between the Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers, stretching to the headwaters of the latter. At Carter’s death it was reported that he left 300,000 acres of land, 1,000 slaves, and £10,000 in cash, and it appears that this estimate was not far off the mark....

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Dummer, William (1677–10 October 1761), politician, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, and farmer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Jeremiah Dummer, a silversmith, and Anna (or Hannah) Atwater. Born to wealthy parents, he was part of Boston’s Puritan elite. On 20 April 1714, he married Catherine Dudley, the daughter of Governor ...

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Habersham, James ( June 1715?–28 August 1775), planter-merchant in colonial Georgia, royal councilor, and acting governor, was born in Beverly, Yorkshire, England, the son of James Habersham, a dyer and innkeeper, and Elizabeth Sission. His mother died when he was seven; subsequently his father apprenticed him to his uncle, Joseph Habersham, a London merchant. From him he mastered the import trade in hides, indigo, and sugar. By the age of twenty-one he had assumed charge of two sugar-refining houses connected with his uncle’s interests. In 1736 Habersham came under the religious influence of ...

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Heathcote, Caleb (06 March 1666–01 March 1721), merchant, manor lord, and Anglican activist, was born in Derbyshire, England, the son of Gilbert Heathcote, a trader in hides and iron who served as mayor of Chesterfield, England, and Anne Dickens. While living in England Heathcote became a merchant specializing in trade with New York, where he settled in 1692 after the woman to whom he was betrothed fell in love with his brother Samuel and married him instead....

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Morgan, Sir Henry (1635–25 August 1688), buccaneer, planter, and lieutenant governor, was born in Llanrhymny, Wales, the son of Robert Morgan. His mother’s name is not known. Little is known of Morgan’s years in Wales. In a letter that he wrote to the Lords of Trade in 1680, Morgan said of his education that he “left the schools to [ ...

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Page, Mann (1691–24 January 1731), planter and royal councilor, was born in Gloucester County, Virginia, the son of Matthew Page, a planter and member of the council of Virginia, and Mary Mann, heiress of John Mann of “Timberneck,” Gloucester County. Mann Page inherited wealth and extensive lands from his parents and his grandfather, who had established the family’s social and political position by the time of his death in 1691. The third-generation representative of the family in Virginia, Page was sent back to England to be educated at Eton, where he was admitted in 1706. Three years later, in July 1709, he entered St. John’s College, Oxford, although it is not known how long he stayed. By 1711 he had returned to Virginia and married Judith Wormeley, the daughter of Ralph Wormeley II of “Rosegill,” Middlesex County. With this marriage, Page allied himself with another leading colonial Virginia family. In March 1714 Governor ...

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Penn, William (14 October 1644–30 July 1718), founder of Pennsylvania and eminent English Quaker, was born in London, England, the son of Sir William Penn, an admiral, and Margaret Jasper Vanderschuren, the daughter of a Rotterdam merchant. Penn was educated at Chigwell Free Grammar School, Essex, and Christ Church College, Oxford, where he studied from 1660 until 1662, when he was expelled for openly criticizing the Church of England. In an effort to prevent him from becoming a dissenter and to prepare him for the life of a gentleman, his father sent him to tour the Continent. In France the younger Penn studied Huguenot theology at L’Académie Protestante de Saumur. He returned to England in 1664 a more sophisticated man and the next year entered legal study at Lincoln’s Inn. He then assisted his father in business and military affairs. These activities required attendance at court, where he made acquaintances that would later prove useful, especially his friendship with Charles II’s brother, James, duke of York....

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William Penn. Print, c. 1897. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106735).

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Robinson, John (03 February 1704–11 May 1766), planter, Speaker of the House of Burgesses, and treasurer of Virginia, was born at “Hewick” plantation, Middlesex County, Virginia, the son of John Robinson, a planter and a member of the Virginia Council, and Catherine Beverley. Young Robinson studied at the College of William and Mary. In 1723 he married Mary Storey, who apparently died within a few years, probably in childbirth. They had no surviving children. By 1727 Robinson had moved to King and Queen County, possibly at the time of his marriage to Lucy Moore. Although the dates of both the wedding and the construction of the house are unknown, the Robinsons subsequently resided at “Pleasant Hill” across the Mattaponi River from “Chelsea,” the home of Lucy’s father, Augustine Moore. The new couple had at least two children. The date of Lucy Robinson’s death is uncertain, possibly 1755. Robinson married Susanna Chiswell in 1759. They also had at least two children....