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Maternal Generation I: Elizabeth Hill married William Pinley

First Homestead: now in Hampton Virginia

Our First Homestead in America

In Hampton, Virginia today, Route 167 leads to the river’s edge on LaSalle Avenue and then continues onto Chesapeake Avenue. A historical marker on LaSalle Avenue (Highway 167) near the intersection of Chesapeake Avenue indicates where excavation has evidenced the ancient town center and earliest church, led by Reverend William Mease from 1610 - 1620. (4) That intersection appears to be beyond the mouth of the Hampton River, on the western bank of the Hampton Roads waterway.

Most of the early plantations at Elizabeth City were along the river, “clinging tenaciously to the waterways as their only means of communication and transportation” (5). Routes across land were treacherous rudimentary paths where the settlers were too vulnerable to attack. For moving large goods or cattle, boats were the only practical answer.

Assuming the excavation report correct, it seems likely that the glebe lands were located near the mouth of the Hampton River, near Fort Charles, and that the plantations of the Ancient Planters stretched out on both sides of the church lands, lining the banks of both the Hampton River and what is now known as Hampton Roads. Both the extant Spelman and Mountney land grants mention the “main” river and the “main” land, but this could have indicated frontage either on the Hampton River or perhaps on the banks of what is today referred to as Hampton Roads. There is no distinct reference found to the waterway today known as Hampton Roads, they may have considered it to be part of the Hampton River, or part of the Chesapeake Bay.

Penley descendant Richard Scherer of Kansas has located this reference that clarifies which waterway was our ancestors’ boundary line.
To all to whom these present shall come greeting. Know yee that I Sir Francis Wyatt knight & Captain general of Virginia, out of the true knowledge of the discription and sufficiency of Captain William Tucker in all martial discipline & other afficiencies of the like nature do give and grant unto the said Captain Tucker to have absolute power & Command over all the people in the plantation adjoining to Elizabeth City at Keycotan that is to say from Newport News to Edward Hill his house, on the west side Southampton river, And to charge & Command all the said people upon pain of death to obey him, & to be ordered & directed by him Requiring the said Captain William Tucker to use all care & vigelance, for preventing the incursion of the enemy, for the safe guarding of the people & their goods & to receive such further commands & instructions as he shall reveive from myself, at James Citty the 16th day of July 1622.
Francis Wyatt, Governor in Virginia. A Commission to William Tucker July 16, 1622,
Manuscript Records Virginia Company, III, Part ii, Page 36a, Document in Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. List of Records No. 352. Records of the Virginia Company, pages 665 & 665.
The Spelman and Mountney land grants both mention the “main river”, while the next two grants published also in 1624, Dunthorne and Gainye, specifically reference the Southampton River. Governor Gates named the river Southampton in 1610, usage later contracted it to the Hampton River.
Alexander Mountney’s 100 acre plantation included 900 feet of river front property “by measure conteyning along the banke by the water sides fifty and five pole at sixteene foote and a halfe the pole”. His boundaries were: “Westward upon the Land of Edward Hill Eastward upon the devident of William Cole now in the tenure and possession of Capt Thomas Davis and Confining Southward upon the maine river and Northward upon the maine land by measure conteyning along the banke by the water sides fifty and five pole at sixteene foote and a halfe the pole” .

At the west end of Mountney’s property would be our family’s first homestead in America, the ancient estate of Edward and Hannah Hill where our ancestor, baby Elizabeth Hill was born. Hill’s land grant not located, it is only known that his plantation was 100 acres bounded on the east by Mountney’s land, on the west by Thomas Spelman’s land, and on the western bank of the Hampton River.

The 50 acres of Spelman land was bounded by the Edward Hill property. Published abstracts interpret the grant to say, “Edward Hill, deceased” but a photocopy study of the manuscript indicates it could be “Edward Hill’ Daughter”. His bounds were: abutting northward upon the broad creek by the old pines which parteth if from the land of Lt. Albiana Lupo Eastward upon the land of Edward Hill ‘Daughter (or ‘deceased) confining southward upon the main river and northward upon the Morris land the said 50 acres being in his own personal right.

If the ancients considered Hampton Roads to be part of the Hampton River, the “broad creek” mentioned in Spelman’s grant is thought to be the waterway today known as the Indian River near the intersection of Powhatan Parkway and Chesapeake Avenue (Route 167).

Kecoughtan and Elizabeth City

The Powhatan village 37 miles from Jamestown had a few thousand acres of land cleared and planted. After the starving time in Jamestown in the winter of 1609/10, Sir Thomas Gates seized the Indian land at Kecoughtan and ordered his soldiers and servants to construct two forts within a musket’s shot of each other. Forts Henry and Charles stood on the east and west banks of the Hampton River guarding the mouth of the Hampton River. In 1619, the name was changed to Elizabeth City, one of the “Four Ancient Incorporations”. Today the city of Hampton, Virginia has replaced Kecoughtan and Elizabeth City.

Governor Dale arrived at Point Comfort in May of 1611. He visited Kecoughtan on the second day after arrival, and put his men to work immediately clearing and planting the area by Fort Henry. He left Captain Davis in charge of the same work on the west side of the Hampton River, on the land adjoining Fort Charles, and proceeded onto Jamestown. Under his leadership, every man with a family was assured, rent free, a house of four rooms or more. Nearby, twelve acres of fenced ground were assigned to him on condition that he only cultivate wheat, maize, roots, and herbs. Dale was one of the few leaders in Virginia who realized that no profits could ever be turned for the Virginia Company until the survival of the colonists was assured. Tools were provided to the newcomer as well as poultry, swine, goats, and a cow. Under Dale, a twelve month supply of food and necessities was delivered to each new comer, after which he was expected to be self-sufficient.

Under Dale, the male inhabitants were divided into officers, farmers, laborers or servants. The laborers belonged to two sections, those who were employed in the common garden, and those who were employed in the trades of smith, shoemaker, carpenter, tailor, and tanner. No soldier or colonist, whatever his title was exempt from the necessity of providing his own support by farming the soil and tending livestock. (Bruce, 204, 205)

By the time of Dale’s departure in 1616, there were twenty households at Kecoughtan, eleven of which were farmers, and Reverend Mease had established a church there. By 1619, fine crops of tobacco and corn were raised, and peaches, apricots, and other fruits were harvested from orchards. (Jamestown, Davis, page 7) Travels of Captaine John Smith, Volume II, he published observations about daily life at Kecoughtan as it rebounded from the devastation after the 1623 massacre. He mentioned the recovery of apple, pear and apricot orchards by 1629, and an abundance of peaches, vines and figs. The livestock had recovered, and Smith added:
“He is a verie bad husband breedeth not an hundred in a yeere, and the richer sort doth daily feed on them.
For drinke, some malt the Indian corne, others barley, of which they make good Ale, both strong and small, and such plentie thereof, few of the upper Planters drinke any water: but the better sort are well furnished with Sacke, Aquavitæ, and good English Beere.

Their servants commonly feed upon Milke Homini, which is bruized Indian corne pounded, and boiled thicke, and milke for the sauce; but boiled with milke the best of all will oft feed on it, And everie one is so applyed to his labour about Tobacco and Corne, which doth yeeld them such profit.

Upon this River they seldome see any Salvages; but in the woods, many times their fires: yet some few there are, that upon their opportunitie have slaine some few stragglers, which have beene revenged with the death of so many of themselves; but no other attempt hath beene made upon them this two or three yeares.” (Smith, 176-177)
There was a major attempt to make Elizabeth City into a silk producing community, but famine and bad government got in the way. Each resident was required to plant seven mulberry trees annually for six years, and French specialists were recruited to teach the colonists how to encourage the silk worms. “all such persons as shall neglect the yearly planting and maintaining of that small proportion shall be subject to the censure of the Governor and the Council of Estate." Proceedings of the Virginia Assembly, 1619

It is apparent that the silkworm plan was soon overwhelmed by tobacco. Tobacco grew quickly and brought an immediate return on the investments of cash and labor. The colonists were starving before the cash crop of tobacco saved their lives and the Virginia colony. They could not afford to wait for the eventual development of the silk industry over the course of 20 or 30 years.

Daily life at Elizabeth City appears to have been a bit easier than at Jamestown, but the struggle for survival continued. The town center area was referred to as Kecoughtan, to distinguish it from the massive area assigned to the Corporation of Elizabeth City. The settlement at Kecoughtan was not located in a swamp like Jamestown; the water and air were healthier, fewer insects and swamp creatures brought disease.
“From all we can learn the town was never in such desperate straits as the neighboring settlement at Jamestown, and would seem to justify the opinion of those historians who believe that the English would have been wiser had they made Kecoughtan their first Virginia settlement.” (Davis, page 7).

“Life was easier at Kecoughtan than at Jamestown, but the conditions were of the crudest. The scattered dwelling houses were chiefly cabins built of logs or slabs and carefully fortified by palisades. No man ventured into his fields, particularly after the massacre of 1622/3, without wearing a shirt of mail and carrying firearms. Tobacco and sassafras were the chief exports, but maize was also raised.” (Davis, page 21)

In January of 1619/20, a letter from John Rolfe reports:
“All the Ancient Planters being sett free haue chosen place for their dividend according to the Comyssion. Wch giueth all greate content, for now knowing their owne land, they strive and are prpared to build houses §&§ to cleere their ground ready to plant, wch giveth the * * * greate incouragemt, and the greatest hope to make the Colony florrish that ever yet happened to them.”6

Hope did flourish in the Virginia colony by 1619. Our men were no longer renters, they were landowners, working for themselves at last, improving their own homesteads. Representative government had begun at the 1619 House of Burgesses. The Indian attacks diminished, crops were growing in the fields, and tobacco served as cash to buy supplies they could not produce. Many men sent for their families, more healthy babies were born, and thousands of new settlers poured into Virginia.

Two boatloads of women were brought over to wed bachelors who were willing to pay for their transportation in transactions resembling auctions. White slavery was abundant in Virginia. Street urchins (orphans) were scooped out of London and sent to the colony to be sold as servants. Debtors, the insane, and supposedly nonviolent criminals were paroled to Virginia, sold as servants to cover the cost of transportation.

In 1619, African slaves arrived; at first their contracts were identical to the white servants. This labor force required constant replenishment as contracts matured or the servants fled, melting into the population to elude capture. If they were caught, brutal whippings were authorized by law and years added to their contract. Captured Native children and adults were indentured permanently whenever possible, but frequently escaped back to their tribes through the wilderness they knew so well. Indentured servants from England and Africa served a master for a set period of years, after which they were given 50 acres, a suit of clothes and rudimentary tools. Retaining and acquiring English and Native servant-slaves was a struggle, and eventually, the greedy colonists conspired to acquire permanent ownership of the African servants. Unable to blend into the environment upon escape, the African slaves were forced to provide the permanent source of labor demanded by the English colonists.

Temporary contracts on white servant-slaves left Virginia still quivering after twelve years of heartbreaking, backbreaking efforts to tame the wilderness. Virginia’s success as a colony was ensured only after African slavery was made into a permanent condition.

Documents describe Mountney and Hill as yeomen, Thomas Spelman as a gentleman; his neighbor Albion Lupo was one of the goldsmiths brought over to process the vast mounds of gold the Virginia Company daily expected to find. Perhaps because of the forts and its location, the Natives were less of a problem at Kecoughtan. The Corporation was bounded by the James River, Chesapeake Bay, and Atlantic Ocean, the only land boundary being the Corporation of James City. The geography could explain why the settlers at Elizabeth City had no casualties in the 1623 Massacre.

Hannah’s third husband, Alexander Mountney, appears to be one of the men sent to Kecoughtan to construct Forts Henry and Charles, either by Governor Gates or Dale. Only the forts were occupied at first, but by 1616, twenty settlers had moved there, eleven of which were farmers. Sometime between 1610 and 1619, Edward Hill moved to Kecoughtan and laid claim as an Ancient Planter to 100 acres of land.

On the “List of the Living and the Dead in Virginia” written after the massacre in 1623/4 , there are two lists for Elizabeth City: Elizabeth City and “More at Elizabeth City”. The survivors listed at “Elizabeth City” were found on the eastern bank of the Hampton River, the company lands. “More at Elizabeth City” appears to be the census as taken on the west side of the Hampton River. The more elaborate census taken in 1624/5 again divides the Corporation of Elizabeth City into those living on the west and east of the Hampton River.
The established residents of the corporation at Elizabeth City are found under “More at Elizabeth City” , those living on the western bank of the Hampton, many of whom were Ancient Planters and landowners listed on the Corporation charter. Edward and Hannah Hill, baby Elizabeth, Spelman and Mountney are all found under “More at Elizabeth City.”

On the “List of the Living” at Elizabeth City, several soldiers are listed by rank, there are orphans and widows, and some fragments of families displaced by the disaster. The Company land on the east side of the river was used to provide a place for those persons coming to the colony at the Virginia Company's expense. (Jamestown and her Neighbors, Davis, p. 7) It was also used to house the military contingent protecting the area from enemy attack.