Porto Bello, photograph taken approximately 1900

A recent post introduced the lands of John Thomas on Queen’s Creek in York County VA. It was described in a 1649 patent as being adjoined

“on the 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”.

Without substantiated proof, this has been considered by many to be the earliest known lands upon which lived John Thomas who is believed to be my family’s emigrant ancestor. This belief may or may not be true as new finds are leading us down a path to a much greater understanding of this piece of land and what it means to our family.

Remember from an earlier post that our family has traditionally located John Thomas’ 1649 patent to be on the north side of Hwy 132 near Williamsburg. Wrong. Remember that Mark Kostro, Project Archaeologist for Colonial Williamsburg, stated that “John Thomas’ land is highly unlikely to be the location previously portrayed. However, [he firmly stated], 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’ 350 acres does indeed lie on the grounds of the secretive base known as Camp Peary” [a CIA training camp which immediately made us exclaim …. we’ll never step foot on that land!]. Mark Kostro was clear in that he had no certain information other than knowing the land could not be where we thought. He did though, give us an idea of where land may be located based on a past project carried out by a trusted intern.


Just as I was about to roll out this stuff, we received word from Mark that he had contacted other researchers who both validated his beliefs while offering significant changes. Instead of being where the intern’s study had placed it, the 1649 patent is closer to the mouth of Queen’s Creek near the York River. It’s now seen as adjoining Queen’s Creek near the present-day docks of Camp Peary.

So, what’s the scoop on this new angle of information? As it turns out, Camp Peary, like many government installations, is keenly interested in its own history. And to that end, the highly-respected James River Institute for Archeology was contracted to research the history of a site on Camp Peary known as Porto Bello. Traced back to John Thomas’ 1649 patent, the lands upon which Porto Bello stood are historically significant.

The next few posts will connect Porto Bello with the land of John Thomas while giving us the opportunity to take a little side-trip into John’s day and time. Courtesy of the James River Institute for Archeology, pertinent information abstracted from their report will be offered (with discussion) in hopes that we’ll understand more clearly the title history for the land of John Thomas. Wanting to be as thorough as able and realizing my own limitations, future posts will delve into the report one or two paragraphs at a time.

As we move forward it’s important for you to know that there is nothing yet known connecting this land on Queen’s Creek to our North Carolina descendancy as is traditionally believed. And, just as with the prior post, now, new information from noted York County historian Martha McCartney leads us to believe that there were at least three early arrivals with the name John Thomas. Their lives are distinguished in Martha’s book of biographical sketches titled Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers 1607-1635.

As originally stated, our goal is to establish a clear starting point for our family history. It’s all we want for now. Many others have offered their take on the lands of John Thomas. And, once again, let’s take a close look at yet another “new research” in hopes of establishing a starting point from which to study our Thomas family. Let’s begin with paragraph two of the “History of Porto Bello Plantation.” (See next post)

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