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.
Halloween brings out a series of ghost tours throughout Virginia from Colonial Williamsburg to Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Portsmouth, and so on. But such tours have only become popular recently. They’re popular, and draw large crowds to Virginia’s many famous sites, but why were such tours frowned upon for so long?
Dr. Alena Pirok joins me to discuss Ghost Stories and their importance to Colonial Williamsburg as well as Virginia. She details how Ghost Stories influenced Colonial Williamsburg’s founding, as well as how Virginian’s have viewed ghosts historically. Her new book reveals just how important those stories were and still are to the Commonwealth. Without them, Virginia’s tourist industry would never be the same. In fact, those frowned upon stories paved the way for the largest history museum in the world’s creation. They might even ensure that such places continue to endure well into the future.
Virginia’s earliest history saw the colony grow unlike other British and European colonies. The setup was quite sparse with no cities and at best a few small towns along major river outlets. In time, settlers began pushing westward into the Piedmont and mountainous regions. With such moves came new opportunities and ways of life. Through it all, Virginians continued to build smaller town centers along new roads. One such town was Abingdon, which slowly sprang into life along the Great Wagon Road extending southward into Tennessee.
During the mid to late 18th Century men like Daniel Boone and William Byrd III explored the region, before settlers under Thomas Walker began building homes along the Road. Because of unrest between settlers and the nearby Cherokee tribe the English built Black’s Fort, which saw some action during Lord Dunmore’s War, as well as the American War for Independence. After the latter war the settlement around Black’s Fort became known as Abingdon – so named perhaps due to a connection to Martha Washington’s home town Abingdon-on-Thames.
The Settlement continued to grow around a strong community of Scots-Irish immigrants, who built a marked local identity in their adopted Appalachian homeland. Though small population growth steadily increased during the 19th and 20th Centuries, Abingdon never lost her identity. One of the surest ways to witness Abingdon’s charm is visiting her historic district, which, in a nod to the Martha Washington tradition, includes places like the Martha Washington Inn – the former Martha Washington College.
Across the street from the college-turned-inn is the locally and internationally renowned Barter Theatre, or as it is officially known, State Theatre of Virginia. The Theatre moved into an old Presbyterian church during the Great Depression’s darkest days. Work was hard to find for anyone, which meant that little money could be spared for actors trying to ply their trade.
It was during this time that 5th generation Scottish descendant Robert Porterfield from nearby Wythe County embarked upon an acting career and returned to Southwestern Virginia. He worked hard to discover a way to help struggling actors, and founded the Barter Theatre in the process.
Since Porterfield’s original founding of the Theatre, only 3 others have served as the Producing Artistic Director, with Katy Brown being the current office holder. She’s the first woman to hold the position and the perfect person to discuss the Theatre’s history. She joins me to illustrate the Barter as well as offer a glimpse into Abingdon’s charming community.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. All images for this episode are used with permission from the Barter Theatre, and can be found on their Facebook Page.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and selections from “The Appalachian Spring Suite” by Aaron Copeland, performed by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein also available on Apple Music.
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.
All families on the First Families list were involved across the world in one way or another, but arguably no one was more involved than the Custises.
Their family history is relatively short, but from their rather humble beginnings as Cliffes in England, they grew into important figures. The Cliffe name morphed into Custis, and then the Custis name spread to Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands, the Caribbean, and Virginia.
Along the way, they mingled with royalty and aided some of history’s most famous people. Then, they became important and famous themselves. The main Virginia Custis line may have ended in the 1850s, but their accomplishments and landmarks endure, from the somewhat obscure Custis tombs to the hallowed Arlington National Cemetery. Indeed, without them, there wouldn’t be an Arlington.
In this pair of episodes, we take a look at the Custis family beginnings, and detail how they became the great family who played an important part in so much of Virginia’s history.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of the Custis Family Crest. Woodlawn and the Tudor Place are both from Wikipedia. The Arlington Mansion sketch is from Northampton County.
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.
Most Americans have heard about the young French war hero who formed a solid bond with George Washington during the American War for Independence. Lafayette’s work to both create a Franco-American alliance and help win the War with Britain were pivotal in American and World History. Though his work during that watershed period was profound, Lafayette’s involvement in the United State was not complete.
The famous Marquis returned to tour the young country in 1824. His year long trek was met with incredible excitement in all parts of the country that he visited. Crowds came out to witness this key historical figure from an era that by that time was passing into print only. Lafayette understood his place in history very well, and used that understanding to address key societal issues with his adoring American crowds.
The Lafayette Trail’s Julien Icher, a Frenchman himself, has made it his profound duty to retrace and highlight Lafayette’s 1824 tour, and its legacy upon American History. We discuss this impact as well as plans to honor the 200th anniversary of the landmark visit. Do, please, consider joining alongside the Lafayette Trail’s wonderful mission after listening to the episode. Information will be listed below.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is The Lafayette Trail’s Logo. The Julien Icher Picture is from the Eagle Times December 2020 article.
The Covid pandemic has hurt many businesses during this past year. One hard hit industry is tourism due to places being shut down. Historic locations across the country have reported difficult numbers during this time, as many are shutting down, never to reopen. Some of those sites have come up with creative solutions like offering virtual tours or weekly online lectures with museum personnel. This podcast episode is yet another way that historic locations are working to attract attention during the shutdown.
The James Madison Museum of Orange County Heritage, located in picturesque Orange County, and I teemed up to highlight their important collections and work. Director Bethany Sullivan graciously took the time to walk me through the museum as we discussed some of its collection. We hope that our quick podcast tour will pique your interest and get you out to visit the museum soon. When you go, please, tell Bethany that you heard our discussion! It’d be much appreciated.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is the James Madison Museum of Orange County Heritage’s logo. All other photography is generously provided by the James Madison Museum of Orange County, unless otherwise noted.
I suppose superlatives become cliche, or at least they’re overused when discussing Virginia’s leading colonial dynasties. The Randolph family, however, deserves those superlatives just as much as any of the preceding families that we’ve discussed in this series, if not more. They were an immense family that impacted Virginia and the United States in such a way that few others, even from this series, can claim.
William Randolph of Turkey Island is often credited as being the first Randolph to immigrate, but he followed his uncle, Henry, who was already established in the colony. Henry Randolph came to Virginia and soon settled just west of Bermuda Hundred on Swift Creek in today’s Colonial Heights in the early 1640s. From there Henry got involved in mid-17th Century Virginia politics, where he rubbed shoulders with all of the colony’s leading men, he even married one of their daughters when he wed Henry Soane’s daughter Judith.
Henry continued to expand his footprint throughout the 1650s and 1660s. He became friend with Sir William Berkeley, was involved in rewriting Virginia’s legal codes, and built one of the colony’s first grist mills at Swift Creek. Newly found wealth allowed Henry to return to England in the late 1660s, where he convinced his nephew William to join him in the New World.
William accompanied his uncle’s trip back to Virginia, and settled near him along the James River’s Curls section. It was from here that William Randolph earned his name as being from Turkey Island, and from here that an enormous family grew into being one of Virginia’s largest. Largest didn’t always mean best, as the family has a few interesting characters dotting the history books, but the Randolphs have do have some of American History’s stalwarts.
This First Family of Virginia episode takes a look into the Randolph patriarch’s life, and then summarily dives into some of those characters and stalwarts. Find the links below.
LINKS TO THE PODCAST:
Randolph Family Tree
Mary Isham Randolph
William Randolph House at Colonial Williamsburg
Swift Creek Mill
Wilton Manor House
Turkey Island Marker
William Randolph of Turkey Island
Anderson, Jefferson Randolph. “TUCKAHOE AND THE TUCKAHOE RANDOLPHS.” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society, vol. 35, no. 110, 1937, pp. 29–59. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23371542.
Jefferson Randolph Anderson. “Supplement to Tuckahoe and the Tuckahoe Randolphs: As Appearing in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XLV: No. 1, January, 1937.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 45, no. 4, 1937, pp. 392–405. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4244824.
Cartoon depicting the needed State votes to Ratify the US Constitution
John Randolph of Roanoke
First Page of the Virginia Ratification Convention
St. George Tucker House, Colonial Williamsburg
Peyton Randolph House, Colonial Williamsburg
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of the Randolph Family Crest. All Randolph Portraits as well as Swift Creek Mill are from Wikimedia Commons. The Turkey Island Mansion Marker and The Dungeness Marker are both from hmdb.org. Tazewell Hall is located at Skinner Family Papers.The Randolph Family Tree is located in Tess Taylor’s article, found in the Bibliography above. The Prayer in the First the First Congress, A.D. 1774 can be found at Boston Tea Party Ship. Edmund Randolph’s former home was accessed at RV Hub. The Virginia Ratification Convention Cartoon is part of Historically Thinking’s Shownotes page for Episode 78. Lastly, Edmund Randolph as Member of Washington’s Cabinet is found at the American Herigate.