Tag Archives: Quakers


thomas story.jpg

It was just months ago, when I posted about a Quaker named Thomas Story. I have a copy of his 1st edition autobiography in my possession. Little did I know then, that our family’s starting point, believed to be the lands of John Thomas in York County Virginia, is documented to be Thomas Story’s first stop and the location of his first sermon in America. Information on Thomas Story from Wikipedia: “In November 1698 Story sailed for Pennsylvania, where, at the request of Penn, …was chosen the first recorder of Philadelphia by a charter of 25 Oct. 1701, was a member of the council of state, keeper of the great seal, master of the rolls, and in 1706 elected mayor of Philadelphia, but paid a fine of £20 for declining to serve.”

The following passages are from A Journal of the Life of Thomas Story:

Page 152. HAVING sailed through many and great Storms, variable and uncomfortable Weather, over most of the great Western Ocean, under the Protection of the divine Providence; and all the Ship’s Reckonings being out, on the 7th Day of the Twelfth Month, the next Day, about Four in the Evening, we Struck Ground with the Lead at nineteen Fathom Water.

THIS was glad Tidings to us all: and being in our Latitude we stood in towards the Land all Night, and the next Morning we saw the Capes on either Side of the Bay of Chesapeak, and were standing right in as could have desired; and that Afternoon we came to Anchor in Mockjack Bay, a little above Point Comfort.

ON the 11th of the Twelfth Month, about Sunrising, (the Seventh Day of the Week, and exceeding cold) we set sail in the Long-boat for Queen’s Creek in York River; but the Wind coming contrary, we, with one of the Men, went on Shore about two Miles below Gloucester, and went up thither on Foot, and Soon after went on board our Friend William Dowell’s Ship, lying at Anchor in that River, to write Letters for England; after which he sent some Hands in his Boat with us to Queen’s Creek, being about twenty Miles; and setting out about Eleven in the Night, and very cold, (being a hard Frost and Snow) it was troublesome to find the Entrance of the Creek; and, often running upon Oyster Banks and other Shoals, it proved very fatiguing and dangerous.

BUT thither at length we got, about Five in the Morning, vz. To the House of our Friend Edward Thomas at Bangor-house, but with some Difficulty after we landed; for our Men not knowing the Place, we went to Several other Plantations in the Woods before we found it. When we came to the House and called, Edward arose out of his Bed and came to us, concluding before, that we were Friends from England, (for he had had some Apprehension that Way in himself, a little before, but knew not who in particular) and he and all his Family made us kindly welcome; and having a good Bed provided, we rested comfortably till about Nine in the Morning. And our Friend Edward, being zealous for Truth, and the Good of his Neighbors, gave Notice of us, and of a Meeting to there that Day; where the Lord owned us, and gave us very comfortable Season of his Goodness with the Family and a few of the Neighborhood; who, though not Friends, were, Several of them, much tendered: which was the first Fruits of our Ministry in that County, and good Encouragement.

HERE we remained to refresh ourselves, and put out Things in Order till the 15th Day of the Month, and then had a Meeting about sixteen Miles off, at Daniel Akeburst’s, at Warwick River; which was a good Meeting, but small.

Page 164. THAT Evening we arrived at the Dock where the Ship was building, and lodged that Night with Captain Clayborn; and, next Day, had a Meeting at the Dock, near the Place; which was small, but comfortable; And, being weary with hard Travel, (but especially our Horses, for want of Food, or Forage) we determined to stay there till the First Day; and, intending another Meeting at the Dock, we gave notice of it to the Country.

WE had a Meeting accordingly, which was large and well; the People being generally sober, and several tendered, and after the Meeting, expressed their satisfaction; and some of Note among them said, “That since we had so good Things to publish, they were in hopes we would not finally leave those Parts “without more Meetings thereaway”; several of them adding, “That we should be welcome to their Houses, and the best Entertainment they had, though we had laid open their Priests to the lowest Capacities, and especially their Pseudo Baptism.

THE next Day, accompanied by Edward Thomas of Bangor-House, on Queen’s Creek, and his son, and some other Friends, who had come up, and given us their Company Some Days, we set forward for Queen’s Creek; but, in our Way, had much Thunder and Rain; and, though it was very dark in the Night in the Woods through the good Providence of God, we got well to that Journey’s End.

Edward was son of John Thomas who left a last will and testament in 1665 York County Virginia. From Thomas Story’s memoir, we know that John’s son, Edward Thomas, was prominently Quaker.

This took place at a time when there were very few Quaker ministers and meeting houses. Filling the void, Quakers met at the homes of respected elders where meetings were led by those called by God to do so.

The land owned by Edward Thomas can be traced back to John Thomas and his 1649 patent for 350 acres. This realization is credited to research contracted by Camp Peary. Expect much more in future posts.


Journal of the Life of Thomas Story



There’s a HUGE amount of research pertaining to the lands of John Thomas 1649 which now can be seen as not true. Ancestry , Geni, and other genealogy sites  are nothing more than thoughtless compilations of  what’s been wrongly said from the past. Furthermore, you may even see reference to following 8 pages of my research notes which in truth counters must of what’s been written.

Before using any of the following 8 pages of my working notes, please set aside time to read all sections in entirety.  If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact me personally at geothos@bellsouth.net


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.”Thomas-Bridges story-59

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.

camp peary



(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!