No one dominated Virginia between Governor Berkeley and the American War for Independence more completely than Robert “King” Carter. His presence could be felt in every facet.
Carter reigned supreme economically in that he purchased and sold more land than anyone else. He used that land not only for tobacco, but also many other ventures including agriculture, mining, and other schemes. These projects were so successful that after Carter’s death, his proprietor, Lord Fairfax, decided that he had to move to Virginia himself and take over the family business.
Politically, few rivaled Carter, and none save perhaps James Blair, reigned supreme for so long. Carter won most of his battles, and in the end even served to write and rewrite many of Virginia’s laws. Those who dared to oppose him often lost in spectacular ways, such as when Governor ran afoul of many leading colonists. Carter’s heavy influence certainly helped sway the Crown’s decision in removing the erstwhile Nicholson.
As dominant as Carter was both economically and politically, he left a far more enduring legacy with his large family. Robert married twice, fathered 15 children, and more than 60 grandchildren. Carter made sure that this vast progeny married well and received desirable bequests from his more than 60 page will. Those bequests set his descendants in high positions of influence for many generations, even influencing the United States still today. Such was the vast shadow that Carter cast that in some instances it can still be felt, both good and bad, today.
Arguably all families on the list could have had more than a single episode dedicated to them. The Custises did. The Carters, however, must have more than one, which is what I’ve done with this family. The sheer size and importance of just the John of Corotoman line requires, even summarily, more time. As such, this episode briefly looks at the Carter’s American founding up to the emergence of family scion Robert “King” Carter.
The Carters were quite common in England. They were not nobility, but did acquire enough land and importance by the late 16th Century to earn the right to a coat of arms. They acknowledged their commonality on that family crest, as you can see above, by affixing wheels to their shield as a nod to their family past. Carting goods, though common, however, allowed the Carters of all branches to learn something of the merchanting trade. That knowledge put them in prime position when the time came for New World trade to begin.
Many Carters appear to have sailed to Virginia in the early 17th Century, but only a few remained to establish roots. This episode, and any hereafter, will focus mainly upon the chiefest branch of that Carter lineage that of John Carter of Corotoman. I will set aside some space in the future to discuss two other branches, but that’s only to show just how pervasive the Carter name truly was. Still, no matter which branch one focuses upon, it’s undoubted just how important the Carters were. They intermarried with all the great families, built the most spectacular plantations, and dominated Virginia’s Colonial Golden Age. Such an influence commands respect while demands attention.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of the Carter Family Crest. Picture Gallery from Top to Bottom and Left to Right – 1. Corotoman Foundations. 2. Part of the Cedar Lined road leading from Corotoman to Christ Church. 3. Carter’s Creek into the Rappahannock from Corotoman 4. Corotoman 5. Patriarch John Carter and Wives Gravestone at Historic Christ Church 6. Recreated cedar lined road leading to Christ Church.
Piracy became quite a serious issue for Colonial Virginia during the late 17th Century. Many leading figures were split regarding how to handle the situation. Some didn’t want to handle it at all, as they saw piracy as useful outlet circumventing the hated Navigation Acts.
Governor Francis Nicholson chose to fight. His choice affected the colony in profound ways, as our guest for this episode argues in his newest book Colonial Virginia’s War Against Piracy: The Governor and the Buccaneer. Jeremy illustrates a battle that took place between the Virginia Capes, at the inlet of the Lynnhaven Bay.
Nicholson, the oft-beleaguered governor, won the day. His victory helped future governors in their fight against piracy, most famously Alexander Spottswood’s involvement with Blackbeard. It also aided in bolstering rule of law in such a way that later influenced the American War for Independence.
Tune in to this episode to learn more about Nicholson’s fight with Louis Guittar, and then click the links below to purchase Mr. Moss’s books, as well as follow his work.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is Mr. Moss’s newest book – Colonial Virginia’s War Against Piracy: The Governor and the Buccaneer, from The History Press.
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.