In late 1618 or early 1619, Sir Richard Worsley, knight baronet, of Appuldercombe, Isle of Wight, England, and his associates were granted a patent for a particular plantation by the Virginia Company. His associates were Capt. Christopher Lawne, Nathaniel Basse, John Hobson, Anthony Olevan, Richard Wiseman, Robert Newland, Robert Gyner and William Willis.
Most of these subscribers had no intention of going over to Virginia in person to suffer the hardships of establishing a plantation, but they were interested in investing their money in such a venture. Whether this partnership was based on a personal friendship between the members is not known. All were stockholders in the Virginia Company. Perhaps they were brought together on a purely professional level, if all were looking for other stockholders with whom to join in a venture. Presumably, Worsley and Newland knew each other reasonably well, coming as they both did from the Isle of Wight. It is clear that the main adventurer of this group - both in wealth and in status - was Worsley himself. In "A Note of the Shipping, Men, and Provisions, sent and prouided for Virginia...this yeare, 1620", six names ( one Earl, three Sirs and two Captains) are mentioned as receiving patents. Among the six names was Sir Richard Worsley "Who together with their Associates haue undertaken to transport great multitudes of People and Cattell". But how did Worsley come to be interested in overseas colonisation? There was certainly no shortage of literature at that time that either concerned itself directly with or promoted Virginia, Newfoundland or the West Indies. But there were possible influences nearer home, in the form of the two Governors of the Isle of Wight, who both had connections with the New World - Sir George Carey and Henry Wriothesley.
On 27 April 1619, Captain Lawne arrived in the James River with a number of settlers on board The Marygold, commanded by Capt. Evans. From the start Lawne seems to have faced an arduous task in setting up this plantation, but it was thanks to his fellow associate, Robert Newland, who provided a solid supply of necessaries, that he managed to prevail.
Lawne had brought over with him twenty men who were sent over to be tenants on the Company's own land. However, he only handed over fifteen, because he was not satisfied with the amount of corn and cattle that the Company loaned him.
In an "Examn what ships ariued in Virginia after the 18th of December 1618 and till michallmas following", there is listed the name of the ship and the number of settlers arriving:
In an unknown, potentially dangerous and mainly uncleared landscape, the James River provided the main highway for the early settlers. They tended to go everywhere by boat, especially since the area is well endowed with rivers and navigable creeks. In their desire to locate their settlements close to the James River, planters often sited themselves a little way up the many creeks that litter the tidewater region. Lawne 'planted' his settlement at the mouth of a creek on the south shore of the James River, south east of Jamestown. He sited it on a neck of land, now known as 'Lawne's Neck', between the James River on the east and a creek,that subsequently became known as Lawne's Creek, on the west, thus providing the settlement with protection against native attacks.
On 11 November 1619, the Governor and his Council in Virginia reported back to the Company in London on how and why they had distributed new tenants amongst private plantations instead of placing them on Company land. In this report they express their misgivings about the site of Lawne's plantation.
From 30 July to 4 August 1619, Virginia's first General Assembly was convened. This consisted of "the Governor, the Counsell of Estate and two Burgesses elected out of eache Incorporation and Plantation,..." The list of burgesses, sent by each plantation, contains the following : "For Captain Lawne's Plantation Captain Christopher Lawne, Ensigne Washer."
Unfortunately, sometime in November 1619, Lawne and some of his settlement were struck down by disease and abandoned Lawne's Plantation.
For ease of access and protection, settlements were sited on the James River or on creeks. But often the advantages of these waterside locations were accompanied by the added unavoidable disadvantage of marshland bordering the high ground of their homesteads. Even today there is an area of marshland extending up from the mouth of Lawne's Creek on the east side for some distance. And these marsh areas proved most unhealthy for English settlers, living in close proximity for protection and often suffering from the effects of malnutrition. However they were not the only settlement experiencing problems from disease, as Smythes Hundred to the west was suffering the same fate. Indeed a clue to Lawne's demise is found in the report of 1619 mentioned above. Crowding and idleness was considered as precursors of disease.
The weakness of the initial settlement is further outlined in the following letter to Sir Edwin Sandys in January 1620.
The external experience of disease was subject to internal religious interpetation. The Company saw the hand of God in the destitution of the settlements and this theme of divine punishment runs through many of the letters sent back and forth between Virginia and London.
That Lawne and his associates lost money on this venture is suggested by a petition submitted by William Wellis on the behalf of his executors to the Council of the Virginia Company in June 1620 asking for compensation in the form of the freight duties on 800 weight of Tobacco. The council did not want to set a precedent for this sort of compensation "butt in regard of the great charge and losse, the saide mr Lawne hath been putt unto and susteyned in his pryvate Plantacon, itt is agreed to allow him the passage of 2 men wch they esteeme to be xiili..."
What sort of man was Captain Lawne? The first clue to Christopher Lawne emerges in connection with the Barrowist and Brownist congregations in Amsterdam in the early seventeenth century. Both were separatist, Independent 'puritan' groups, advocating self-governing congregations. Both had emigrated from England in the last decade of Elizabeth I's reign to escape religious persecution and benefit from the free religious atmosphere of Holland. While in Amsterdam, their church became known as the " Exiled English Church". It was from these congregations that the so-called "Pilgrim Fathers" - a term coined only in the 19th century - originated.
The Barrowist congregation followed the ideas of Henry Barrow, who advocated total separation from the Church of England, which he felt was tainted by Catholicism. However the unity of this group in Amsterdam was disrupted by bitter disagreements concerning the nature of authority within the congregation, as well as a suspicion, in some sections, concerning the motives of the elected 'Pastor' and the 'Elders'. This led to dissension and disagreement within the Barrowist community, which also translated into print.
Into this clash of the printed word entered Christopher Lawne in 1612 and 1613. The Pastor of the Barrowist "Exiled English Church" at that time was Francis Johnson but his administration and the form of his services had become increasingly questioned by John Smyth, who had arrived in Amsterdam with another congregation in 1608. In 1609-10, Smyth left to form his own second "Exiled English Church", but his criticisms of Johnson's authority was continued by Henry Ainsworth, a leading member and 'Teacher' of Francis's congregation, who finally broke away in 1612 to form his own congregation. In 1612, Lawne published a book, entitled "The Prophane Schism of the Brownists or Separatists, with the impiety, dissensions, lewd and abominable vices of that impure Sect. Discovered by C. Lawne, J. Fowler, etc.". One of Johnson's Elders, Daniel Studley, had been suspected of a number of moral offences and it seems it was these that Lawne was attacking and using as a pretext to criticise the "Exiled English Church". On the departure of Ainsworth, he was succeeded as 'Teacher' by Richard Clifton who countered Lawne's accusations with "An Advertisement concerning a book lately published by Christopher Lawne and others, against the Exiled English Church at Amsterdam," also published in 1612. In 1613, Henry Ainsworth stepped in to support Lawne and fellow authors with "An Animadversion to Mr. Richard Cliftons Advertisement". In that same year, Lawne published a further book called "Brownisme turned the in-side outward". Lawne was undoubtedly part of the Ainsworth congregation, which tended to hold more radical views on separatism and the nature of authority than the Johnson congregation. This evidence supports the contention made in history books that Lawne was "a Separatist, Brownist and Puritan in Amsterdam" and also an "Elder of the Ancient Church in the Netherlands".
Another clue to Lawne's character appears in a court case, concerning the killing of a Capt. Stallenge by a Capt. Epps after a ship they were sailing in ran aground. Lawne was the foreman of the jury.
With the demise of Lawne's plantation, Worsley and his associates were informed they would be required to send out further settlers to make up the shortfall or risk losing their patent. And it is from the confirmation and redefinition of this patent that Isle of Wight Plantation, and consequently Isle of Wight County, originates. In the Company's Court Book, a marginal sub-title proclaims: "Sr Rich: Worsleep knight & Barronet & theire olde Patent confirmed". Either this points to the fact that Worsley never attended meetings and so his name was little known; or the clerk has made a spelling mistake; or the clerk is having a little joke on the fact that Worsley spent the duration of meetings asleep?! Whatever the reason, Worsley and his associates submitted a petition to the Council on 4 November 1620:
On 30 April 1621, Worsley's Patent, as well as two others, were "reade and recomended as afore said". And finally, several days later, on 2 May, "three patents for pticular Plantacons in Virginia one to Sr: Rich: Bulkly the second to Sr Richard Worsley and his associats and a third to Captain Willm Newce being all three formerly read and approved of by the Preparatiue Court, and nowe put to the question were confirmed and ordered to be sealed." However, Worsley did not last much longer to experience the fruits of his investment, for on 27 June 1621, he died.
However it was not long before former associates of Worsley were pursuing patents of their own for land in the Warraskoyak area. In October 1621, Mr. Richard Wiseman joined with Mr. Edward Bennett and other associates (Thomas Ayres, Robert Bennett, Richard Bennett, Thomas Wiseman) in petitioning for a patent for a plantation. Edward Bennett was described as "a gentleman that had deserved singularly well of the Company" for "hee had been att a verie great charge for transportinge of people to Virginia". The other associates were all substantial merchants and shipowners.
Richard Wiseman owned along with Mr. Bland and some others a ship, called the Abigail. This ship was described as " a verie convenyent Ship" of 350 tons. Mr. Bland and Mr. Wiseman were both regular attenders of Council meetings and Wiseman had been one of Worsley's associates. Bland was to later receive a grant of land between the James River and the Pagan River. The Abigail was a regular passage ship for Virginia, transporting out settlers and supplies. In April, Wiseman also offered the use of another of his ships, the George, for transporting supplies and settlers to Virginia. He laid down various specific conditions as to how many settlers and how much cargo should be carried, as well as the freight charges he expected. These are interesting for the freight charges at that time: 6li per man; 3li on each tun of goods; and 3li per pound of tobacco on the return journey. This offer was accepted. Presumably, Robert Newland, another of Wiseman's associates with Worsley, was aware of the good money to be made from supplying Virginia and soon entered the business himself, going so far as to have a ship built in Cowes to serve the Company in the supply of Virginia. It was for his good services in organising this that Newland was given five shares in the Virginia Company.
At the same Court in October 1621, Nathaniel Basse, another of Worsley's associates from the original patent, joined with a Mr. Swayne, Mr. Conder and others in applying for a patent too. Both Basse's and Wiseman/Bennett's patents were for transporting the standard one hundred persons. Bennett was described as one of a number of "planters", who had applied for patents. The use of the word "planter" would suggest that Bennett was intending to go out himself to Virginia. In November 1621, these patents, along with seven others, were granted. Wiseman and Bennett's settlement became known as "Bennetes Wellcome".Basse and Swayne were described as "Adventurers", suggesting they had bought shares and might not have gone out to Virginia on this occasion. But in January 1621/22, Basse was again applying for a patent on land, undertaking to send out one hundred settlers and it may have been on this occasion that he went out.
"For my part I care not for any profitt, indeed it is as much as we can doe to saue our lives"
"But since our last by the George dated Januarie 1621 itt hath pleased God for our manyfo[ld] sinns to laye a most lamentable Afflictione uppon this Plantacon, by the trecherie of the Indyans, who one the 22th of march laste, attempted in most places, under the coulor of unsuspected amytie, in some by Surprize, to haue cutt us of all and to haue Swept us away at once through owte the whole lande, had it nott plesed god of his abundante mercy to prevent them in many places, for wch we can never sufficyently magnifie his blessed name, Butt yet they prevayled soe farr, yt they haue massacred in all partes aboue three hundred men women and Children, and haue, since nott only spoyled and slaine Divers of our Cattell, and some more of our People, and burnte most of the Howses we haue forsaken, but haue alsoe enforced us to quitt many places the better for to Strengthen and Defende our selue against them, Wee haue thought most fitt to hol[d] these few places, James Cyttie wth Paspehay and Certen Plantacons one the oth[er] side of the river over against the Cyttie, and Kickoghtan and Newports news Southampton hundred, Flowerdei hundred Sherley hundred & A Plantacione of mr Samuell Jourdes, all other throughowt the whole Colonie we haue been fayne to abanden and to bringe the most of our Cattle to James Cyttie, the Island beinge the securest place for them, wch we hold in all the River, And these are more then wee would willinglie haue held, but that it was ympossible to retire from soe many dispersed and straglinge Plantacions, and bringe of soe much People. Goods. provisions and Cattle to any one place, soe Sudenlie, as the seasone of the yeere for ymplantinge required, neyther yf we would, was there in any one wee held soe much Clered grounde or Howsinge as was able to receaue halfe the people togeather,...."
The immediate aftermath witnessed a great feeling of insecurity and fear amongst the settlers. Part of the problem was the dispersed and non-compact nature of the plantations, which tended to be spread out some distance from their neighbours, presenting problems of defence.
The situation was so serious that all outlying settlements were recalled back to the main centres or well-defended plantations. Accordingly, the settlers of two of the worst hit areas, Warraskoyak and Martin's Hundred, were ordered by the Governor to retire to Jamestown.
"By the Goveror and Captaine generall of Virginia. These are to require and Comand Capt Raph Hamor, that he bring away all the people and goods of Wariscoyack upp to James Cittie, and to charge and Comand all the said people to obey the Comands and directions, of the said Captaine Raph Hamor during the said vioage. Given at James Cittie the Nyneteenthday of Aprill 1622".(Governor in Virginia. Order to Ralph Hamor. 19 April 1622. Manuscript Records Virginia Company, III, Part ii, Page 50a. Library of Congress, Washington D.C.)
It was not long before the English felt strong enough to retaliate by launching revenge attacks throughout the province. In January 1622/23, the Council in Virginia was able to report to the Virginia Company in London that "Wee haue anticipated your desires by settinge uppon the Indyans in all places, mr Treuor firste fell uppon the Tapahatonahs, in two severall expeditions, Sr. George yardley uppon ye Wyanokes and in a seconde expeditione uppon the nancemunds, Warescoyks & Pawmunkie ye Chiefe seate of Sansapen & apochankeno, Capt John West uppon the Tanx Powhatans, and Capt William Powell uppon the Chocohominy Capt Hamer beinge sent to the Patomecks to trade for Corne slew divers of ye Necochincos yt sought to Circumvent him by treacherie, The like did Capt madisone at Patomeck, Capt Hamer a seconde tyme ymployde to Pataomeck for Corne slew some others yt proved our enemies, And now is Capt Tucker in the River of Rapahanock to take revenge uppon them,as Confederates wth Apochankeno. In all wch places we haue slaine divers, burnte theire Townes, destroyde theire Wears & Corne..." (1622/23. Manuscript Records Virginia Company, III, Part ii, pp. 4-5a. Library of Congress, Washington D.C.)
In April 1623, Edward Hill highlighted the problems of fear and want suffered by the settlers at that time in a letter to his brother, in which he despaired: "So the truth is we lyue in the fearfullest age that euer christians lyued in: And to speake the truth I stay to gett what I haue lost and then god willing I will leaue the Contrey: for this is the worst yeare here that ever I saw like to bee.. We are all like to haue the greatest famine in the land that euer was". The ever present scourge of food shortages was a constant worry, causing death from mal-nutrition or its consequence, disease. Like Hill, a number of planters, faced with the desparate conditions, decided to cut their losses and return back to England. The corollary of a scarcity of corn was a rise in its price which exacerbated their problems. Hill mentions that he could have coped if he had been in a position to grow as much corn as he wanted but "we dare scarce stepp out of our dores neither for wood nor water. The last yeare I had a very hard yeare of it by reason of th'Indians and I feare this wilbe as bad: I lost the last yeare as many Cattle as were worth a 100 li". This same fear was evident in Warraskoyak where Edward Bennet's Plantation had lain in ruins with many of its settlers dead. And many planters had the additional problem of providing for indentured servants. In another letter from Hill to his father-in-law, he admits, "I haue a great many people to keep and if I can but saue their liues I hope I doe not amiss".
Thomas Niccolls wrote home in April 1623 of the great privatations that the tenants of Sir John Worsenholme were suffering: "yor poore Tenants that haue nothing dye miserablie through nastines & many depte the World in their owne dung for want of help in their sicknes". Niccolls felt that the fatalities due to disease appeared "to be want of comforts and no way through the ill disposiconof the Clymate or ayre of the Contrey". It was the lack of care for the sick that was causing such problems. For Samuel Sharp, the explanation was simple. "The Lord hath crossed us by stricking most of us wth sicknes and death:..." Such were the conditions under which the inhabitants of Isle of Wight Plantations were living.
The question of defence had been brought into sharp focus by the "Indian Massacre"and there was still the threat of a Spanish attack which loomed as a more dangerous issue. After all, in September 1565, the Spanish had ruthlessly wiped out earlier French settlements in the North Florida region, considering this settlement as an encroachment on Spanish territory. This claim by Spain to all land rights in North America stemmed from the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, which had drawn a dividing line between Spanish and Portuguese territories 270 leagues west of the Azores. And in 1572, the Spanish had sent a punitive expedition to the Chesapeake bay to avenge the massacre by the natives of a Jesuit missionary settlement that had been set up in 1571 at Axacan in Chesapeake Bay. The Spanish, through their ambassador in London, had never hidden their intense disapproval and outrage at the exploits of English Adventurers in the Americas, let alone those of the privateers and pirates, and they had also made it clear they would treat any English incursion in the most severe terms.
As a result of the combined threats of Spanish and Indian attack, the Governor and Council decided to build a number of forts at various places along the James River for the defence of the extended colony, which had, by now, extended a good way in all directions beyond Jamestown. There was already one at (Old) Point Comfort called Fort Algernon, but now they planned to erect one near Blunt Point and a further one at Warraskoyak. In April 1623, The 'Governor and Captain General of Virginia' issued a proclamation stating that "nothing can be more acceptable ... to ye saffety & reputation of this colony, then to fortifie some place upon this river, to defend the same against ye invasion of any forreine ennimy". It was ordered that a fort should be sited at Warraskoyak and that every twentieth man throughout the colony was to be used in the building of the fort. In May, Captain Roger Smith was given a commission with full powers over the constructing of the fort and the workers assigned to him.
The settlers returned to re-invest the land at Warraskoyak and the protection afforded by the fort attracted settlers to settle close by. In June 1623, Robert Bennet wrote to his brother, Edward, in London asking him to find out if Capt. Basse or others, who had acquired land in the area, had any claim on lands there.
"The Fortte is abuyldinge apase. I hope yt wilbe a great strenthning unto us, for God sende us well to doe this yeare; the nexte year, God willinge, we mean to seatte by them and sette out all this lande, and howsses. Therefore praye lette me intreat you to wrytte me at large whether Capten Basse or Leftenent Barklye or anye other have anye thinge to doe or claym anye lande as ther ryghte, for I macke noe question yf plese God but to blese us this yeare the nexte to have tooe or three hondred men more into our plantasions to be our terretory..."
Robert went on to describe Warraskoyak as "the best state in all the lande, and not the lycke quantitie is grown for goodnes in the lande". In the same letter, Bennett informs his brother of , yet again, an impending attack on the local natives in further revenge for the previous year's attack. "We purpose god willinge after we have wedid our Tobaco and cornne with the helpe of Captn Smythe and otheres to goe upon the Waresquokes and Nansemomes to cute downe ther corne and put them to the sorde. God sende us vyctrie, as we macke noe god asistinge."
In July, the Governor issued commissions to various captains to strike at the the natives' achilles heel - their corn crops. "Whereas there is no meanes so probable to worke the ruine, and destruccon of our Salvage & treacherous enemies, as cutting downe theire Corne in the fitt season,...". It must be remembered that the local natives existed on a subsistence economy and often, like the settlers, faced a shortage of corn themselves. They could ill afford to lose their corn harvest. The English found it difficult to pin down the light-footed, elusive natives, who possessed an excellent knowledge of the region and used 'hit-and-run', guerrilla tactics to erode their enemy's strength. "Seeing they haue so many lurkeing places to escape the execucon of the Sword by flight", it was ordered that each captain, with an armed party, would "pursue the Salvages wth fire and Sword, especially to employ himself and his Company in cutting down and destroying theire Corne". Captain William Tucker was assigned the attack upon the "Nansamums, & Wariscoyacks". As well as Tucker's raid, there were two other coordinated attacks, "All wch fell uppon them [the various chosen tribes] on the same day namely the 23th of July 1623".
That summer also brought further sickness to the depleted Warraskoyak settlement, such that "Martyns Hundred and Wariscoyacque are inforced (wthout itt) to draw in old Planters, or els were in no sort to maynteine their plantacons so much hath this Sumer sicknes (renewed by the Shipps this Winter) weakened them:..." Ironically, the ships, that were sent to support the colony by bringing supplies, unleashed disease and mal-nourished passengers amongst the settlements.
However, slowly the local settlements began to recover. By February 1623/24, a census revealed that thirty three colonists were living at Warraskoyak in various homesteads, while at Basse's Choice, there were forty two settlers. The death rate was still high. In "a list of the names of the dead in Virginia, since April last", included in the above census, twenty five people were listed for "Warwick's Squrak", showing the rapid death rate in those early years.( Virginia Census, February 16, 1623/4 from Hotten's Lists)
By May 1625, the amount of land in Warraskoyak that had been allotted was 1,750 acres.