JOHN THOMAS: A STARTING POINT IN VIRGINIA (PT 6)

1And1more_fusedFollowing the death (prior to 1665) of John Thomas, his son Edward was bequeathed the Queen’s Creek land where he too lived out life. And as you’ll read in the following two paragraphs from the History of Porto Bello Plantation, it wasn’t John’s son Edward whose home was visited by prominent Quaker Thomas Story; rather, it was his son of same name. Please take a moment to read the following courtesy of the James River Archeology Institute:

What prompted Stephen and Edward Thomas to finally legalize their arrangement after so many years is unclear. Perhaps it was ill health, as Edward lived only three years longer. In his will dated September 1693, he left the Queens Creek property to his sons Edward and John with a unique stipulation. Although it was his desire that they hold the land jointly, should a dispute arise that required a division of the land, the portion of the property with no buildings would go to the brother who had started the disagreement. No such measure appears to have been necessary, however, if only because John had died or left the area (he subsequently vanished from the York County records). In any case, it was Edward Thomas II who would occupy the Queens Creek plantation (YCDOW 9: 283).

During Edward Thomas’[Junior] tenure the property would host its most significant visitor prior to the American Revolution. In 1698, his Queens Creek home was the site of the first American sermon preached by Thomas Story, a friend of William Penn who has been described as one of the most important Anglo-American Quakers. As he related in his autobiography, Story had felt a divine calling to visit the colonies in that year. After a stormy Atlantic crossing, his ship arrived off Point Comfort in December. “On the 11th of 12th month,” he recalled, “we set sail in the long boat for Queen’s Creek in York River, where we got with some difficulty, and were made welcome at the house of our friend Edward Thomas; had a meeting with the family, and a few of the neighborhood, who, though not of the society, were several of them much tendered; which was the first fruits of our ministry in that country, and good encouragement.” After his sojourn with the Thomas family, Story visited a number of other Quakers in the area, including John Bates of “Scimmino in York County.” Interestingly, Bates would later be a witness to the will of Edward’s son John, suggesting that there was an active network of dissenters in the area. Story had not originally intended to remain in America. William Penn invited him to stay, however, and he served in a number of official positions in Pennsylvania before finally returning to England in 1714. During this time he continued his ministry, returning to Virginia in 1705 and visiting “Queen’s Creek” on at least two occasions, including their “yearly meeting” (Weeks 1896: 64-65; Kendall 1805: 103-4, 196-97; Anon. 1869: 77-78).

 Having hoped for a clear and simple resolution on our start in Virginia, I’m a bit stunned by the above findings. We know of the 1649 patent on Queen’s Creek to John Thomas mentioning wife Dorothy. And then in 1651, a John Thomas received a patent across the York River on Poropotank Creek in part for transporting Katherine and James Thomas. And then in 1665, John’s last will in testament names wife Katherine along with sons Stephen, James and Edward. The story of whom and what for Dorothy remains a mystery. But for the original homeplace patented along Queen’s Creek, it passed through the hands of Edward and then again through his son of same name. Putting a bit of meat to the bones, let’s take a look at a few more records attributed to John and his descendants:

[YCR] 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.

[YCR] 25 Oct 1675 – Two references are granted to Edward Thomas till next court at suit of Mr James Vaulx, and other suit of Henry Benskin, as marrying the relect of Mr. Benjamin Lillington.

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

24 January 1688/9. James Slater, Cl[erk]. Brought an action of defamation against Edward Thomas and declared that Thomas did wickedly and mallishously scandalize and abuse Slater in his ministerial function by several opprobrious and defamatory words at several times by saying that he had heard the plaintiff speacke blasphemous words and blaspheamie to the paintiff’s great losse, staine to be his credit and reputation and to his great injury in his pastorhall charge and to his damage L500 sterling. The defendant confessed the words but seeing matter of fact ought to be found by a jury, a jury was impaneled: Hen: Howard               Ralph Walker Thos. Ray                       Jno. Underhill Jno: Wyte                     Wm. Heywood Robt: Hyde                   Wm. Hawthorne Phill: Moody                 Wm: Wade Henry Taylor                Geo: Hambleton

Wee find for the plaintiff L50 sterling and the defendant to aske the plaintiff forgiveness two several Sabbath dayes in Bruton Parish and likewise on next York Court day, or else to double the fine. The defendant moveing nothing in arrest thereof and being asked by the court whether hee would prove the words, replyed how could hee prove them, from which judgement the defendant appeales to the 5th day of the next Generall Court and enters Willm. Comon his securitie for prosecuting his appeal and James Slaterenters Hugh Norrell his securytie for answering the same.

Vol. 8 p. 261 [YCDOW] – 24 May 1689. Edward Thomas of York County unto the Honorale Nathaniell Bacon Esqr. In satisfaction of L66.1.10 sterling and 308 pounds of tobacco which is the balance of all accounts to this day. One English man servant named William Colligrig and one woman servant named Elizabeth Corne, about three yeares apiece to serve, and one Indian boy commonly called Dick, four feather beds and furniture, and seven cowes, markt cropt and keeld of the right and slitt and underkeele of left.       Edward Thomas Wit: Wm. Bassett, William Davis. 24 May 1689. Proved by the witnesses.m

Vol. 9 p. 182 [YCDOW] – Stephen Thomas and Eliz: his wife their deed for land 10 January 1690 [1691] was with the bond for performance of covenants acknowledged by Stephen Thomas unto Edward Thomas.

Vol. 9 p, 281 [YCDOW] – Will of Edward Thomas of Bruton Parish in the County of Yorke, dated 21 Sept. 1693.   Unto my true and well loved sons Edward and John Thomas all my land wheron I now live in Bruton Parish upon Queen’s Creek, jointly and in coparsonary to have the same with all houses, edifices, buildings, gardens, orchards & c In case Edward and John cannot or doe not agree in the joynt possession, then for quieting the differences betwixt my well beloved friends Dannll. Ackurst and John Pleasant shall enter upon the premises and the same according to the quantity of land into two parts equally divide. The moiety of the land whereupon are noe buildings shall be given to him who is the first mover or stirrer up of discord, notwithstanding the seniority or priority of age and birth and after such division Edward and John shall deliver unto each other a firme indenture of partition. And to the end that the land shall not alienate nor come into the hands and possession of strangers, if Edward or John dye without a lawfull issue the survivor shall enjoy the whole land and if either of them offer to sell his part then upon proofe made of such offer the other shall immediately thereon enter and possession take as if he were naturally dead and such offender eject. Because upon such division there must needs be difference and inequality by reason of the buildings upon one moiety, to moderate and ballance the same I desire that my friends Dannill. Ackhurst and John Pleasant shall sett a value upon the buildings, clearings & c and one halfe of such vallue be allowed by him to whome that part of the land falls to the other whose lott is where there are no buildings.

Unto Edward and John and unto each 40 shillings sterling in full Mary and Rebeckah Thomas to each 40 shillings sterling in full of their portion of my estate when they attaine to the age of twenty one years or day of marryage and if any of them dye before such time, his or her parte to goe amongst the survivors.

All the rest of my estate, cattle, horses, mares, sheep, hogs, woolen, linings, brass, iron, pewter, wood, stone, bills, bonds, obligations and whatsoever in my owne hands or in the hands of any other unto my loving wife Ann Thomas.

My wife executrix ad my two friends Dannll. Ackhurst and John Pleasant coadjutors and assistants to her.       Edward Thomas 24 Nov. 1693. Acknowledged in court by Edward Thomas.

 30 Aug 169-. Deed of Lease. Robert Vaulx of Dorchester Co. MD planter for 5 shillings farme letten to Stephen Fouace of Yorke Co. clerke all that tr of land which was formerly by patent dated 29 Oct 1647 granted to John Davis from who it descended unto Thomas Davis in fee, & by him was conveyed in fee simple unto James Vaulx, and from him legally & rightfully descended & come unto the sd Robert Vaulz containing 150 a. of land o the upper most side of Queen’s Creek bounded by the land of Jernew, John Judson & Joseph Croshaw & also one other tr of land in Bruton Parish (or Brereton) formerly called Merston Parish in Yorke Co adj 150 a. of land formerly ye estate of John Thomas & by him conveyed to John Davis, from whome it descended unto the afsd Thomas Davis who conveyed over in fee unto the afsd James Vaulx from whome it descended rightfully & lawfully unto the sd Robert Vaulx, containing 100 a, & sold by the sd Robert Vaulx to Arther Lunn… . Wit: John Tahlor, W Bladen. Port of Annapolis 31 Aug then came into court the within named Robt Vaulx & did ackn to within to be his act & deed to the use within mentioned. Law Gregory clk of the court. Ackn 24 Mar 1699 by the atty Benjamin Harrison on behalf of the within named Robt Vaulx & Elizth his wife unto Stephen Rouace & committed to record. Attest: William Sedwick clerk (pg 241)

24 Nov 1709. Deed of Lease. The honorable Philip Ludwell esqr atty of Stephen Fonase of Sutton in the Parish of Heston in the Co. of Middlesex in England clerk for L42:10 farm let unto Capt William Timson of Bruton Parish, York Co., VA & Capt James Archer of same place a 150 a. tr of land formerly by patent dated 29 Oct 1647 granted to John Davis & his heirs forever & by several mean conveyances conveyed unto the Stephen Fonase in fee simple situate on the uppermost side of Queens Cr bounded by land fornerly of Mr Jernew, land of John Judson & land of Joseph Croshaw, also one other 100 a. tr. Of land in Bruton Parish ad ti & upon the afsd tr of land being formerly the land of John Thomas by several mean conveyances conveyed unto the afsd Stephen Fonase in fee simple …for the term of 21 years paying the annual rent of one grain of Indian corn upon the feast day of the Nativity of our Lord God …& that the [blank] w/o the sd Stephen Fonase shall & will relinquish her right of dower …Wit: Fra Ballard, M. Ballard, Michl Archer. Ackn 24 Nov 1709 by Philip Ludwell esqr atty of Stephen Fonase of England clerk & admitted to record. Attest: Phi Lightfoot clerk. (Pg 333)

25 Feb 1702. The former order to summon Edward Thomas to this court to give an account of ye estate of Francis Brewer dec’d at ye suite of Mary Brewer in behalfe of her four sons ye lawfull brothers of ye said dec’d is continued to the next court ye def being now sick (Pg 92)

24 May 1703. A true account of ye estate of FRANCES BREWER late dec’d. 2 cowes, 1 ½ year old boul, 1 ½ year old steer, 2 calves, in all six head, 1 old silver spoone. Edward Thomas. Ordered to be recorded 29 Jun 1703. (Pg 119)

24 Jun 1703. The return of ye estate of Francis Brewer decd by Edward Thomas is ordered to be committed to record & it is further ordered that ye said Edward Thomas deliver up ye said estate in kind to Mary Brewer who formerly made suite to ye court for ye same in behalfe of sd dec’ds four brothers namely Sakefield, Edmund, Peter & Thomas heirs at law to sd estate the sd Mary Brewer paying to sd Edward Thomas 3 pd for his charge of sd decd’s last sickness & funerall expenses. (Pg 130)

24 Mar 1704. Thomas Dunsford his petition for his freedom from Edwd Thomas is granted as ye sd Edward being summoned to this court and making no defense, it is ordered ye sd Edward pay cost. (Pg 319)

24 Aug 1704. Edward Thomas Junr by his petition setting forth that there is due to him by marrying ye orphan of Thomas Reynolds decd an estate of 43 pd 4 sl 11 pn which said estate is found to be in ye hands of Edward Thomas Senr by marryage with ye relict of said Reynolds and the sd Edward Thomas Senr not shewing cause why judgment should not pass agt him for payment therof said Edward Thomas Junr hath judgment granted agt sd Edward Thomas Senr for present payment therof with cost. (Pg 248)

25 Mar 1706. Nathaniel Norris servant of Edward Thomas Senr on his petition obtained judgment agt sd Edward (who being present & making no defense) for his freedom & corn & cloths according to ye customs of ye country and is ordered to be paid with cost. (Pg 403)

Will of Edwrd Thomas [Junior] of Bruton Parish, York Co. To my son John Thomas & to my son Abraham Thomas all that tr of land whereupon I now live lying in Bruton Parish upon Queen’s Cr divided ys same way between my two sons Jno & Abraham Thomas as followeth, I give to my son Jno Thomas my dwelling house & plantation & land to be bounded by Spring Br & Stephen Foarce, to my son John Thomas & his heirs being maile & in case of no such heir then to my son Abraham Thomas & his maile (heir) of his body but if no such then to my grandson James Thomas & his maile heir but if no such to my grandson Jno Thomas & his heir being maile. I give ye other pt/o my land called Fish Neck bounded with Queen’s Cr.., Archers Swamp & sd Foarce’s line, to my son Abraham Thomas & his heirs being maile but if no such heirs then I give to my grandson James Thomas & his maile heirs, but if no such then I give it to my grandson John Thomas & to his maile heirs, but if it should happen that my son Abraham should die without heirs then then my will is that my son in law Giles Moody & my daughter Mary Moody to have ye use of my estate til my grandson James or John Thomas come to age. To my son John Thomas 5 shillings. To my dau Mary Moody 5 shillings. To my dau Martha Thomas 5 shillings. To my dau Rebecca Ree 1 shilling. I give all ye rest of my estate to my son Abraham Thomas after my debts are paid & also what debts are doe to me I give to him also & do make my son Abraham at age ye day of my death & I do appoint my sons Jno Thomas & Abraham Thomas executors. Dated 12 Apr 1714. Wit: W. Timson, Wm Unthanks, Jno Robinson. Proved 17 May 1714 & admitted to record. Attest: Phi Lightfoot (p. 329)

15 Sep 1718. Bond. Ann Thomas, James Bates & John Bates Junr of York Co are firmly bound unto the justices of sd co for 300 pd …the condition of this obligation is such that if the afsd Ann Thomas adminr of the estate of John Thomas decd to make a tru & perfect inventory of all & singular the goods, chattles & credits of the sd John Thomas decd which have or shall come to her hands, & the same so made do exhibit into co court & do well & truly administer according to law, & further do make a true & just acct of her actings & doings therein, & all the rest & residue of the sd goods, chattles & credits which shall be found remaining the same being first examined by the justices shall delier & pay unto such persons the sd justices by their order or judgement shall direct, then this obligation to be void … Ackn 15 Sep 1718 & admitted to record. Attest: Phi Lightfoot clerk. (pg. 326)

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As can be seen in record, John Thomas’ son Edward lived out a very interesting life on his Queen’s Creek plantation. You can see Edward’s 1688 interaction with the established Anglican Church. Was that actually Edward or his son of same name? Edward Junior   interacted legally with Mary Brewer. Her maiden name is Smith and she married first George Bates, brother of Quaker John Bates. She married second to Edmond Brewer. Also, Edward II’s son John died not long after his father and it looks like Quaker John Bates (or his children) witnessed the estate settlement.

There’s also a land dispute that was settled with the services of attorney Phillip Ludwell Esq. who may have been the Governor of Carolina? His adversary in court is Benjamin Harrison who may be the great grandfather of President Benjamin Harrison? And then there is a legal suite involving Nathaniel Bacon Esq. who was at one point acting Governor of the Colony.

It’s a rich history and not to be known as that of a simple immigrant family as I had imagined.  For me, I’ve been able to find little further on John’s sons Stephen and James as it appears they either died or removed themselves from the area.

The History of Porto Bellow does leave open the possibility that Edward’s son John may have either died early or moved beyond the legal records of York County. This leaves open the slim chance that Edward’s son John is he who’s believed to be in our family tree. But, that’s quite a longshot as I have no immediate access to any supporting research bearing the missing linkage.

In the next post we’ll look briefly at the title history of land on Queen’s Creek beyond its ownership by the Thomas family. It’s got a fabulous history though there’s but little genealogical information remaining to be gleaned. And, after looking at the land history, I’ll conclude with a final post on implications for our Thomas family research along with a bit of discussion on where we might go from here.

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