Just prior to posting, we received information that will likely change the whole scenario of this post. It may also change our history in ways you’d never believe. However, so that you’re aware that this is an evolving storyline, I’ve decided to post the following in belief that your understanding now will go a long way in helping you to comprehend upcoming posts. The posts may not happen immediately and there may be other posts prior. This is because there are other leads that must be chased and verified. Their use must also be approved. So, please read, enjoy, and know that what you’re reading now may or may not apply at all to our THOMAS family. Know that the story WILL get much deeper. And, know that, unlike in the past, there’s a HUGE AMOUNT of research professionally completed pertaining to the lands of John Thomas 1649.
We could start writing about John Thomas and his arrival in Virginia from any of many perspectives. But, as good fortune would have it, my first venture into this cause was initiated by David Queen whose knowledge and determination enabled a visit with Mark Kostro, Project Archaeologist for Colonial Williamsburg. Mark is likely the best qualified person in the region to address one of the top Thomas family mysteries.
But before moving forward, it should be pointed out that many questions can be asked about John Thomas ….when was he born, when did he arrive in the new world, and on board what ship did he sail? Was he one person, two different people, a father and son, man and cousin or nephew? And when did he marry and what was his life like following his sail to the new world? Did he make the trip once or many times? There is also question of his land holdings. Where did he first live and what later transactions are related to our ancestor versus the possibility of being confused with others of same name. And ultimately, what was the route of our ancestor out of Virginia into North Carolina where more modern records are increasingly available to search. Despite what anyone may say, the records on John Thomas do not collectively paint a clear picture. Much of what we know will be revisited in years to come and with that said, let’s now look at what’s traditionally believed to be the starting point for John Thomas in America.
Arriving sometime in the early years of the 17th century, it wasn’t until 1649 that a person by name of John Thomas is recorded as being granted land. A general location for the tract has been suggested for years by various family historians. Seeking clarity, and wanting to lay our eyes and hands on something tangible, arrangements were made for David and myself to meet with Mark who was well prepared. You’ll hear from Mark in a bit, but first look at the grant and transcription:
To all & c. whereas & c. Now know ye that I, the said Sir William Berkely do with the consent of the council of State – accordingly give and grant unto John Thomas three hundred and fifty acres of land lying on the north side of Queen’s Creek and in the County of Yorke bounded vizt: north by west upon the land of Joseph Croshaw south by east upon Queen’s creek, west by south upon a little creek and swamp leading to the Indian cabin and east upon the by north land of M. Jernew, three hundred acres of the said land being granted formerly unto John Broach and by the said Broach assigned to Anthony Barckhurst and purchased of the said Barkurst by the said John Thomas and fifty acres the residue being deed unto ye sd John Thomas by and for the transportation of one person into the Colony whose name is in records mentioned under this patent to have and to hold & c yielding of which payment is to be made seven years after ye first ex. grant or sealing of the same & dated ye 4th 8ber 1649 Dorothy Wife
I cannot begin to write in detail about methodology and of how the above land was physically located. But, Edison H Thomas himself offers the following rationale and photo in his book “The Thomas and Bridges Story 1540-1840”:
“John Thomas and wife Dorothy settled on his 350 acres of land which was located near what is now the city of Williamsburg, Virginia. Today, it is a part of a military reservation and not accessible to the public. However, the general area can be plainly seen from a concrete bridge that carries State Road No. 132 across Queen’s Creek. The area lies on the east or right side of the creek as one looks upstream.”
This site is easily located on today’s landscape using an updated photo, a Google based map and Google interactive street view. And one note, of all the places on Queen’s creek to take a photo, the bridge crossing Hwy 132 offers the most representative view with the least amount of modern visual obstruction. As pointed out by David Queen, from any other vantage point, the appearance of a bridge upstream or down would detract from the image’s background.
Did Edison Thomas choose the photo location because he wanted readers to imagine the creek in John Thomas’ day and time …in the 1600’s? Was it a simple mistake or was there some other reason he located land in the secretive governmental base as being north of Hwy. 132?
Williamsburg archaeologist Mark Kostro, offered the following that both confirms and yet diverges from Edison Thomas’ take on the land. His assistance was very helpful in providing both historical context along with specific information pointing to another physical location. The impromptu presentation is in two parts, Make sure to see both!
So, as Mark Kostro clearly points out, archaeological research supported by historic record locates an early poor house on the land in question north and east of the Hwy 132 bridge. As Mark put it, John Thomas’ land is highly likely to not be the location previously portrayed. However, it does lie somewhere along the north side of the short run of Queen’s Creek. And from a previous study aimed at connecting original land holdings, it’s highly likely that John Thomas’s 350 acres does indeed lie on the grounds of the secretive base known as “The Farm” or officially, Camp Peary.
As offered in the presentation, and as based upon independent research from the past, John Thomas’ ca. 1649 grant of 350 acres is located within or near the green shaded area on the image below. Following the meeting at the Colonial Williamsburg Department of Archaeological Research, David Queen did not waste time and drove us to a public marina on W. Queen’s Drive. That location offered the best view north across Queen’s Creek towards Camp Peary and the lands once owned by John Thomas.
(top) Google image locating the John Thomas lands (in green) on Camp Peary along with location of marina and direction of viewpoint of the (bottom) photo looking across Queen’s Creek towards Camp Peary and the John Thomas lands.
In closing, I’d like to again express admiration and a sincere thanks to the efforts of both David Queen and Mark Kostro. I’d also like to express admiration for researchers such as Edison Thomas who made so much happen in a time when records were much more difficult to access. The takeaway for me is to tell the whole story. The background of how a story comes together is often as valuable and appreciated as much as the story itself. And with the same critical eye, we’ll need to move from this point to ask more questions. And for each one, we’ll need to base the answers from a large circle of possibilities, making sure to tell it all.
As for John Thomas’ land, was this the starting point for our many generations in America? Or, was this but a point along his journey south. Was this the land of our John Thomas or could it be the makings of history for someone else’s family? Our goal was to establish a clear starting point which we now have. It’s time to move forward and know that these are the challenges we will face. And please realize that new information will likely change your perspective of what you’ve just read. Stay tuned!