JOHN THOMAS: A STARTING POINT IN VIRGINIA (PT. 5)

house

Floor plan of extant Porto Bello house prior to 1915 fire (Campbell 1961: 467.

From John Thomas’ 1651 patent for 450 acres on Poropotank Creek, we are introduced to Kath. Thomas and James Thomas who were among nine others transported as headrights by John to America. More than ten years later, the relationship between these people named Thomas becomes clear as is found in an entry of the Bruton [& Middleton] Parish Register:

Burials in 1663 – March 14, Robert Thomas sonne of John & Katherine Thomas  

A few years later John Thomas himself died as is recorded in his last will and testament. Opening a whole new chapter in the life of John Thomas on Queen’s Creek, let’s take a look at paragraph three from the History of Porto Bello Plantation (courtesy of the James River Archeology Institute}.

John Thomas died in October 1665. According to the terms of his will, his wife Katherine was to share the Queens Creek property with their sons, James, Stephen, and Edward as long as she remained a widow. Katherine subsequently married Benjamin Lillingston, and James died prematurely, leaving Stephen and Edward the sole owners. Although the division of their inheritance was not formalized until 1690, it is likely that the two brothers had reached an accommodation some time earlier, with Stephen settling on their father’s Poropotank River property in what is now King and Queen County, and Edward living on the Queens Creek plantation, which by that time had been reduced by sale to 223 acres (York County Deeds, Orders, Wills [YCDOW] 4: 63; Barbar 1923: 71; YCDOW 1: 308, 332; YCDOW 9: 153).

Let’s look at supporting records:

-p. 55 Will of John Thomas 3 April 166_married My houses and 250 acres at Queen’s Creek, where I live, to my three sons James, Stephen and Edward Thomas, equally divided between them and my wife for widowhood. All my land at Portupotamcke, 490 acres, to them above, also my household goods. Wit: William Gibbes, John (O) Lewis. Signed: John (IT) Thomas Recorded 26 Feb 1665.

-By court order of 26 Feb. 1665 we have divided estate of John Thomas dec’d:

To James Thomas, L31/4/20 and 1432 ½ lbs tob., with same to Edward Thomas, and Stephen Thomas, children of dec’d. to the relict: L46/17/3 and 2239 lbs tob. To each of them livestock 12 March 1665 Signed: Richard Croshaw, Ralph Graves*, Henry (H) white*, Ashell Batten.

*brother in laws of Richard Croshaw, son of Joseph Croshaw.

-p. 57 Bod of Benjamin Lillington & Ralph Graves of Maston Parishm, Yock Co. 13 March 1665 for Lillington’s administration of the estate of John Thomas dec’d. Wit: Richard Croshaw, Jno. Baskervyle. Signed: P Efford Recorded 13 April 1665.

24 January 1666. It appearing on report of Mrs. Katherine Lillington that James Thomas is 21; and it is ordered he be possessed of his estate by Mr. Benjamin Lillington, his guardian and father in law.

25 January 1666. On petition of Stephen Thomas his brother James Thomas is appointed his guardian.

I, Thomas London, testify that it is 19 years ago and as much as since 9th day October last, since Katherine Thomas, the mother of James Thomas, brought him forth out of England. 23 Jan 1666. Thomas (x) London.

20 April 1666. John Baskervyle, for his trouble in Inventory of John Thomas. Dec’d to be paid 1000 lbs. tob.

On petition of James Thomas, son of John Thomas, dec’d, Richard Roberts is appointed his guardian, and he is to have benefit of his own labor, being over 17 years of age.

James Thomas desired me to acquaint you that I have nothing to say in contradiction to his age. I thought good to write you, otherwise my not coming there might, as he suggests, do him injury. I would have waited upon the court myself, but am already troubled with a cold and this weather might a caused more. March 24, 1666 Signed Ben Lilllington.

-p. 63 Inventory of John Thomas, dec’d, (whole page), valued at L140/11/09 1665, by Richard Croshaw, Ralph Graves, Henry (H) White and Aschell Batten. Signed: Katherine (K) Lillington, relict of John Thomas 24 April 1666.

Henry White, age 34, says he was to seale the upper rooms with riven boards and make wainscote partitions between the two rooms and a wainscotte portal on the stair head and put banisters on the stairs, and Bourne was to pay him 606 lbs tob. Signed Henery (H) White, wit: Jno. Baskervyle.

-p. 64. Bond of Benjamin Lillington, Daniel Wyld and Richard Roberts for Lillington, 24 April 1666, that as he married Katherine, a relict of John Thomas, dec’d, he will cause to be paid to James, Edward and Stephen Thomas, sons of John, their shares of estate. James is eldest son. Signed: Ben Lillington, Daniel Wyld, Richard Roberts. Recorded 24 April 1666.

19 Sep 1672. Edward Thomas, having attained the age of 21, is ordered to be possessed of his estate by Ben Lillingston, his father in Law and gaurdian, Mary Hawthorne having made oath he is of age to Mr. Vaulx, in court.

I, Thomas Davis of York Co. and Maston Parish, sold to James Vaulx, land in the above parish, between Capt. William Corker and Edward Thomas, 150 acres as by patent, and 1—acres more, purchased by my father, John Davis, from John Thomas, being bounded by this 150 acres 29 Oct. 1672. [In 1674, Marston Parish was combined with Middletown to form the present Bruton Parish. Bruton Parish church still stands in Williamsburg, Virginia. Bishop Meade, an early Episcopalian minister of Virginia, says in his book, Old Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia, that James Vaulx was a vestryman of Bruton Parish church.] Wit: Elizabeth Wall, William (I) Showall. Recorded 21 Nov. 1672.

24 Jan 1675. Edward Thomas was appointed surveyor of highways in upper precinct of Bruton Parish, in place of Mr. Thomas Taylor.

From estate related records, we learn that Katherine is indeed the wife of John Thomas whose last will and testament was probated in 1665 York County VA. In testimony from Thomas London, Katherine brought her oldest son James out of England around 1646. This record and date agrees with John Thomas’s 1651 Poropotank Creek patent naming Katherine and James. And, we know that John’s son Edward came to leagal age of 21 in 1672. This means he was born ca. 1651 about the time John patented land on Poropotank Creek.

The legal attorney Benjamin Lillington was administrator of John Thomas’ estate. Benjamin soon after married Katherine, John Thomas’ widow. And, it appears Katherine’s son James married Benjamin Lillington’s daughter.

I find it interesting the size and scope of John Thomas’ estate. He appears not to be the mild mannered indentured servant our family has made him out to be. He was evidently prosperous, mixing in circles of the famed and powerful. And in preparing the estate, neighbor Joseph Crowshaw’s son-in-law Henry White documented structural repairs giving us a glimpse into what John Thomas’ home was like. Two stories, wainscotte and a portal at the stairhead; looking at the ca. 1900 photo of Porto Bello, I have to ask if the house or at least a knock-down rebuilt version of it was built upon the foundation of John Thomas’ homeplace? Or, as building technology advanced, could the archeological remains of an old barn or other outbuilding be the home place of John Thomas?

John Thomas in mention of his lands will appear in records into the 1700’s. His land will be visited by a notable Quaker and will later become home away from home being the Governor’s retreat. We do not exactly know John Thomas’s religion or beliefs. However, upcoming posts will shed light upon the lives and beliefs embraced by his children.

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