Researching Virginia’s First Families can be an adventure. For anyone studying the Wormeleys this is certainly true. Their connections extend far back into World History, linking them to many of Medieval and Early Modern names and places.
Eventually a branch of the Wormeleys from Hatfield, Yorkshire extended into the Caribbean and then northward to Virginia, where they first settled along the York River at a creek bearing their name today – Wormeley Creek.
Their formerly important status came with them, in custom at least, when they established early plantations, most notably Rosegill along Urbanna Creek on what Virginian’s call the Middle Peninsula. From there, the Wormeley name is found deeply embedded into Virginia’s rich history.
Though they rose to prominence with celerity, their demise came even more rapidly. The Wormeley’s found themselves on the losing side of the American War for Independence, and suffered for it.
Another Wormley line appeared as the main line faded. This one claims to have potentially descended from the Wormeley’s, but conclusive proof has been elusive. Regardless, the Wormley‘s, most likely former Wormeley slaves, were very influential after the American Civil War in establishing schools for black children. They also ran an important D.C. Hotel that was used to broker the Compromise of 1877, allowing Rutheford B. Hayes to become President.
Today’s Wormeleys are all over the world, but they can be confident in that their imprint is firmly stamped upon not only Virginia’s history, but also England’s and much of the world as well. For that, the Wormeley’s are an intriguing study, and should not be forgotten.
Perhaps the Armisteads, pronounced “Ahmi-steyud” by colonial Virginians, are not the most important First Family of Virginia, but their impact is without question. They feature in most First Family genealogies, including two presidential lines the Tylers and Harrisons. They also have ties to other important figures such as Robert E. Lee and Robert “King” Carter to name a few.
Beyond family connections, the Armisteads were involved in settling along early Hampton and Norfolk as well as the Middle Peninsula, where the main family branch settled. Soon thereafter, the Armisteads were involved in not only Virginia, but also Maryland, and then North Carolina, before they started to spread south and westward into the evolving United States.
Along the journey, Armisteads featured in all of early America’s Wars from Independence to 1812, Mexico, and the Civil War to name a few. The most notable figures from those conflicts were William and his slave James, George, and Lewis Armistead respectively.
The Armisteads did more than fight America’s wars; however, they helped unite leading families, and build a Commonwealth as well as a newly formed Country. For that, their inclusion in the First Family list is undeniable.
Music used for the first episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “The Crossing” performed by The East Pointers, also available on Apple Music.
It’s hard to think about Yorktown, VA without the Nelson family. In fact, one could say it another way – It’s hard to think about the Nelson family without Yorktown. They were so instrumental in creating the once prominent port city that they’ve often been called the city’s founders. Whether they were or not is debatable, but what is not debatable is that Yorktown as we know it would not have existed.
“Scotch Tom” emigrated to Virginia in the early 18th Century, began many businesses, and established a solid foundation for his descendants in the process.
Those descendants became major figures that shaped Virginia and then the United State’s History. Undoubtedly that history would be quite different had this important family not existed, which is why the Nelson’s must be discussed.
The Parke Family may not have endured as the others on the First Family list, but their impact, mostly negative due to Daniel Parke, Jr, is undeniable. They burst onto the scene in both England and Virginia relatively quickly. Within a few generations, all that remained of them was their name, which was curiously demanded to be added to any who wanted to inherit Parke wealth.
The Parkes helped build Yorktown and Williamsburg. In the process, they found themselves at the heart of a thriving colonial community. It was a community that the last Parke male heir wanted to govern, but he couldn’t govern himself. In the end, the family that had intermarried with Ludwells, Byrds, and Custises saw their inheritance pass into those and other leading families of their day.
If one is seeking to understand the philosophy driving The 1619 Project as well as the Project‘s goals, then Dr. Grabar’s work is a must read. I trust our discussion illustrates my claim, and that my listeners will get a copy of this important new book.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is Dr. Mary Grabar from the author’s website.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, The New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein also available on Apple Music.
The Grymes have a hazy beginning in Virginia. The consensus is that they came from Ightham, England through Reverend Charles Grymes, but there are other theories. Bishop Meade, a Grymes descendant himself, claimed that they came from Thomas Grymes, Lieutenant General in Oliver Cromwell’s army. Famed genealogist Louise Pecquet Du Bellet recounts the same theory in her monumental work. But evidence supporting the claim is lacking. Either way, we do know who the Grymes were by their second generation.
From that generation onward we know a fair amount about this prominent Middle Peninsula family. They owned much land, served in high offices, and married very well. But by the late 18th Century the Grymes wealth had been spread thin, either by poor financial management, or inheritances which moved holdings out of the family.
The name still carried some weight into the 19th Century, especially as Grymes women continued to marry very well for themselves. However, those marriages served to spread remaining Grymes wealth throughout Virginia, and eventually out of the Commonwealth, furthering their slow decline.
Today little is left other than what was once Grymes’ land or tombstones of their most well-known family members. But they were once a proud family, a family that could rightly boast of their position among Virginia’s elite.
Jane Lucas DeGrummond. “Cayetana Susana Bosque Y Fanqui, ‘A Notable Woman.’” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, vol. 23, no. 3, 1982, pp. 277–294. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4232191.
“Grymes of ‘Brandon’ &c.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 27, no. 2, 1919, pp. 184–187. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243724.
“Grymes of ‘Brandon’, &c (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 27, no. 3/4, 1919, pp. 403–413. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243739.
“The Grymes Family (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 28, no. 1, 1920, pp. 90–96. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243758.
“Grymes of Brandon Etc. (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 28, no. 2, 1920, pp. 187–192b. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243769.
“Grymes of Brandon, &c (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 28, no. 3, 1920, pp. 283–285. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243781.
“Grymes of Brandon, &c (Concluded).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 28, no. 4, 1920, pp. 374–375. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243794.
The Ludwell family had arguably more impact upon Virginia’s foundations in the shortest amount of time. In just over a century three Philip Ludwells stood atop Virginia’s power structure, and then because of no male heirs, the name vanished in all but first and middle names used by other First Family relatives.
They hailed from Bruton, Somersetshire, England, the same area as Governor William Berkeley. In fact, they were most likely related to the powerful 17th Century Colonial leader, which appears to have aided the Ludwells from the very beginning.
Thomas Ludwell served in the Cavalier army during the English Civil War alongside Governor Berkeley’s brother John. John Berkeley recommended Thomas to become Virginia’s Colonial Secretary of State as a reward for his service to the Crown, and Charles II obliged. Thus, Thomas moved to Virginia. Philip, Thomas’s youngest brother, tagged along, and together they planted the Ludwell name firmly in Virginia’s history.
Virginia B. Price. “Constructing to Command: Rivalries between Green Spring and the Governor’s Palace, 1677-1722.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 113, no. 1, 2005, pp. 2–45. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4250232.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of Philip Ludwell Sr’s Crest. Greenspring Plantation is from Green Spring Plantation as seen by Benjamin Latrobe during the plantation’s Ludwell ownership. The Ludwell Paradise House is from Virginia Places.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “Roots” by The Arcadian Wild also available on Apple Music.
Reading through William Fitzhugh the Immigrant’s letters allows us to reach back into 17th Century Virginia in a tangible way. We get a taste of life that we don’t get from the other First Family patriarchs. William shares his thoughts, feelings, and ambitions, thus making him arguably the most accessible figure from his era. Indeed historians often point to William and his letters as the single most important first hand accounts from this pivotal period in Virginia’s history.
William descended from a long line of successful Bedfordshire Fitzhughs who have been traced back to at least the 13th Century. Their family history, though in bits and pieces, makes for interesting research as it melded into the English countryside and into the Royal Court. Though successful for generations, disaster struck, which affected William directly. He chose to look for new opportunities, which he found in Virginia.
The Fitzhugh family built upon William the Immigrant’s solid foundation, and became extraordinarily important figures throughout not only Virginia, but also the new Country. They married into all of the most important families, befriended all of the leading figures, and together built a lasting legacy. They might not be a house-hold name for many, but their importance is undoubted, which is why we discuss them in this next podcast installment.
*The original podcast recording stated that Mary and George Washington Parke Custis had 7 children, which is incorrect. They had 4 children. That correction has been made in the current podcast recording.
Davis, Richard Beale. “Chesapeake Pattern and Pole-Star: William Fitzhugh in His Plantation World, 1676-1701.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 105, no. 6, 1961, pp. 525–529. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/985162.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of the proper Fitzhugh Family Crest. The “Robert E. Lee Boyhood Home” is from wtop.com. The Ravensworth picture is from “The Story of Ravensworth.” The “Barons Fitz Hugh Crest” improperly used by William the Immigrant is from jstor.org. Finally, the William “The Immigrant” portrait by John Hesselius is from Colonial Virginia Portraits.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “Ulysses” by Josh Garrells also available on Apple Music.
Not all of Virginia’s First Families held the Colony’s highest offices, but they didn’t need to hold those offices in order to affect Virginia’s history. Some of them, like the next name in our series moved in the same circles as the other families, and often intermarried within those social spheres.
A few things make the Taliaferro name an interesting study. Legends regarding their founding reach as far back as Julius Caesar, William the Conqueror’s Norman Invasion, and into Europe’s royal families. That’s before the Taliaferro name even made it to Virginia. Once in the New World, Robert Taliaferro “The Immigrant” got to work forging new bonds, while working to expand Virginia’s landscape. That work didn’t end with Robert’s death.
The Immigrant’s children picked up where their trailblazing father left off and expanded Virginia’s borders even further. While doing so, they began adding to the colonial framework, especially along the Middle Peninsula, before moving slowly westward. Along the way, Taliaferros featured in all of Virginia’s wars from as early as small skirmishes along frontier lines to the War for Independence, War of 1812, Civil War and beyond.
Their work has left a lasting legacy that soon spread not only beyond Virginia borders, but also color lines as well. Today, it is not uncommon to see the name shared by both white and black Americans. One former slave even proudly kept the name as part of his own. Perhaps this family didn’t put a son into the highest positions, but Virginia would not be the same without the Taliaferros immigration.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of one of the Taliaferro Family Crests. The William Booth Taliaferro and Booker T. Washington portraits as well as the Thomas Jefferson Sketch of the Taliaferro Crest are from Wikimedia Commons. The Taliaferro County, Georgia Map is from My Genealogy Hound. The final picture is of Carter’s Grove Plantation, a home designed by Richard Taliaferro from Riley and Associates.com
2020 marks the 450th anniversary of the ill-fated Spanish Jesuit Ajacan Mission. Discussing this topic and a key ingredient to Ajacan’s downfall is Dr. Seth Mallios, who wrote The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange and Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, and Jamestown in 2006. The key ingredient leading to Ajacan’s fate, Mallios argues, is gift giving, or better stated, how the Spanish did not understand how gift giving was properly used in indigenous society. Because of this lack of understanding, when the Spanish returned to establish Ajacan in 1570 the mission quickly and violently ended.
Dr. Mallios then ventures into Roanoke and Jamestown with the same focus, how did gift giving affect those colonies? Tune in to this episode to find out the answer to this and other questions that Seth and I discuss, such as whether or not the Ajacan Jesuit missionaries were martyrs and differences between how European and Indigenous societies viewed transactions.
All photography on this website is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of Dr. Seth Mallios from the dailyaztec.com. The image of Don Luis decapitating the Ajacan Jesuits can be found at virginiaplaces.org.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “”Simple Gifts” performed by the New York Philharmonic, also available on Apple Music.