Basse's Choice MarkerIn 1729, Joseph Thomas deeded land on Oropeak Swamp in now Gates County to Samuel Bass. In return, Samuel Bass sold to the same Joseph Thomas land on Cashie River in neighboring Bertie County. Curious of any deeper family interactions, I came across the record of Nathaniel Bass. Likely a relative and possibly being Samuel’s great-grandfather, Nathaniel Bass along with others sought to establish a plantation known as “Basse’s Choice” situated on James River at Pagan Creek. The site was attacked by Indians in the 1622 English-Powhatan War. Pagan Creek can be seen in the top right corner of the 1864 Colleton Map (above).
Let’s look at an interesting deed which connects who we believe to be our ancestral Thomas family to the above map. Dated 6 Apr 1693, John Portis of Isle of Wight Virginia deeded to his daughter Susannah Thomas land “beginning at the house (where) John Frizell did formerly live in and adjoining Thomas Moore, said Portis, and Thomas Tooke, the Blackwater Road, Oyster Shell Neck and the main Swamp.” John Portis identifies his daughter as “being formerly the wife of John Frizell.” He further stipulates the land will pass to Susannah “for life and then to her son Will Frizell or to my son John Portis.” Witnesses to the conveyance were John (X) Prell, John (X) Prime, and Edmond (x) Prime.

So, John Thomas married Susannah, the widow of John Frizell and daughter of John Portis Senior. We can say with certainty that John Thomas married into the Portis family who once lived on the Blackwater Road near Oyster Shell Neck and the Main Swamp. Note that Black Water River runs along the left side of the above map. There is also a paralleling road leading to the Courthouse and beyond to Pagan Creek. Was that the road on which John Portis lived? Also note there is a road heading due west from Pagan Creek towards Blackwater River. Could that be the road? Occurring over 100 years later, the following Act of Virginia sheds a little light confirming that the stated Oyster Shell Neck is located within a sailor’s reach …likely near the wide and navigable mouth of Pagan Creek. It’s not located further inland towards the town of Smithfield:

An Act to empower RM Booker to erect a wharf on Pagan creek
in the county of Isle of Wight
Approved December 20, 1803.

Be it enacted by the general assembly of Virginia That RM Booker be and he is hereby empowered to erect a wharf on Pagan creek in front of its lands on said creek in the county of Isle of Wight known as Oyster shell neck provided said wharf shall not obstruct navigation and shall be subject to the laws of this State governing wharves erected in the waters thereof 2 This act shall be in force from its passage. Approved Dec 1803.


It is believed that Samuel Bass is the brother of John Bass who settled from Virginia into the northern portion of Bertie that later became Northampton County. Acquiring land on the Uraha Swamp (a branch of Potecasi Creek), it’s worthy to note that John Bass purchased land in the same area as Phillip Thomas who is believed to be the son of John and Susannah Portis Thomas. And, our Joseph Thomas (brother of Phillip) who acquired land from Samuel Bass lived further south but was in the same general area. Joseph is believed to be Phillip’s brother? Is he?

Today while in the genealogy room at the North Carolina State Library I decided to end my visit with a peek at a few general history books on counties in Virginia where we believe our Thomas family once lived. I cut short the effort and only had the chance to visually browse through a book on Isle of Wight County as a line of storms was nearby and I really needed to get home. But my quick search yielded one thing that I needed to see. According to the writer, he believed there were likely two or even three Thomas families who moved through the county. Ugh… This validates my concern that a much broader representation of possible descendants needs to be DNA tested. BAsically, we need wide sampling from all THOMAS family coming out of Virginia. I ask this of any male out there who believes they are related …please take time to join us in our familytreedna Thomas Family Y-testing project. By the way, we are pedigree 115 (written in blue on the results page).

Please feel free to email me if you have questions and wish to get involved! My address is geothos@bellsouth.net

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