Home > 006256. Thomas Swann > Colonial Surry

Colonial Surry

Source: John D. Boddie, Colonial Surry (Baltimore: Clearfield Company, 1989).

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The following persons shown below were appointed “Viewers of Tobacco” in 1639.  These persons were required to view the tobacco fields and see whether or not the laws governing the planting and growing of tobacco were being observed.

The penalty for planting tobacco out of the prescribed season (after July first) was a heavy fine.  All tobacco leaves on the ground were to be burned.  Any hidden tobacco was to be confiscated.  A person finding same or informing about same was to receive one-half of the tobacco, the other half was to be burned.  The object of such strict regulations was to prevent an over-production and the raising of an inferior quality.  It was hoped by these means to maintain a high price for tobacco.  (V.M. 5, p. 120, 274, 277.)



James City County

South Side


From Smith’s Fort to Grindall’s Hill,

Mr. Thomas SWAN, John BISHOP, William MILLS.

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A great Indian Massacre occurred in 1644, instigated by old Opecanough of former massacre fame, who though still alive was so feeble he could not lift his eyelids.  When it was necessary for him to see, an attendant raised them.  Notwithstanding his feebleness he still cherished his implacable hatred of the English.

Governor BERKELEY, alarmed by the spreading civil war in England, had ordered that Good Friday, April 18, 1644, be kept as a special day of fasting and prayer for the King.

However, upon Opecanough’s orders, on Holy Thursday, the Indians fell upon the outlying settlements and from 300 to 500 persons perished under their tomahawks.

The Assembly in 1644 provided that the county of Surry and other counties shall prosecute the enemy and defend those parts from “Upper Chipoake downward” by constant marches upon the enemy.

An Act was passed defraying the charges of the Pamunkey and Chickahominy march against the enemy.  Captain SHEPARD and Mr. SWAN were to raise 50 men, in Surry.  In all 300 men were to be raised for the march to Pamunkey.

For better measure of defense against the Indians, the Assembly in March 1645-46, enacted “that 45 soldiers be raised to garrison Fort Henry on the Appomattox, and that 45 soldiers be raised from the inhabitants of Basse’s Choice upwards including the said Basse’ Choice (In Isle of Wight).  All of which soldiers shall be raised by the Lieutenants and deputy Lieutenants within the said limits either by impressment or otherwise, Surry to finish 15 men.” […]

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[…] Colonel Thomas SWAN and Colonel John FLOOD also appeared in the Assembly of November 1645, from James City.  They were both residing then on the Surry side.

Colonel SWAN was also Burgess from James City in 1649 and from Surry, 1657-58.  In 1659, he was appointed a member of the Council which place he held until his death in 1680.

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In 1666, William BATTE witnessed a deed in Surry from Nathan STANTON to Captain Thomas SWANN (B. 1, p. 281).

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Several communities in the United States have claimed that their particular place was the “Birthplace of Freedom” because early in colonial times its citizens made protests against the payment of unjust and burdensome taxes.

We wish to advance the claim of Lawne’s Creek Parish Church in Surry county as the “Birthplace of Freedom” in America for some of its parishioners met there on December 12, 1673 “to declare they would not pay their public taxes.”

There was no freedom of assembly in those days and this unusual and unauthorized meeting alarmed the authorities.  Two Justices of the County Court, by virtue of an English statute nearly 300 years old which empowered Justices to inquire into such “Riots”, ordered the sheriff to arrest these “seditious” people and bring them before the court for trial.

This was only a prelude to Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676.  Governor BERKELEY was America’s first modern dictator.  It will be noted in the following chapter on the Rebellion, that his methods of obtaining absolute rule was somewhat like that of Huey LONG’s and governors of other states to whom subservient legislatures gave autocratic powers.

America’s freedom was not won by a single stroke.  It was of slow growth, as typified by this and other like protests made from time to time, until it finally burst forth in a greater rebellion than BACON’s, the American Revolution.

But let us get along with the story.  On January 3, 1673-74, following the gathering at Lawne’s Creek Church, Lawrence BAKER and Robert SPENCER, Justices of the County Court issued the following writ which was recorded January 13, 1673: (Bk. 2, p. 40.)  “Of how dangerous consequence unlawful assemblies and meetings have been is evident by the chronicles of our native country which are occasioned by a giddy headed multitude, and unless restrained may prove the ruin of a country, and therefore we, LAWRENCE BAKER and ROBERT SPENCER, two of ye justices of this county, being informed that on about the 12th of December last past, a company of seditious and rude people to the

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number of 14 did unlawfully assemble at the Parish Church of Lawne’s Creek, with intent to declare they would not pay their public taxes, and they expected divers others to meet them, who failing they did not put their wicked designs in execution, and for the good law made against Rogues and Riots and particularly the Statute of 13 Henry IV, chapter 7, and injoining Justices to inquire of such meetings, we therefore sent our warrant to the Sheriff of this county to Cause,

Matthew SWAN
William TOOKE
Thomas CLAY
Robert LACY
William LITTLE

to appear before us, yet the said persons not being satisfied with the former unlawful meeting, did this day, the greatest part of them meet together in ye old field called ‘Devil’s Old Field’, and as we justly suspect did confederate not to discover who were the first instigators or moved them to their unlawful assembling as afore and we upon their examination to find they have unanimously agreed to justify their meetings, persisting in the same as appears by the open declaring of Roger DELKE that if one suffers they would all burn, and we find their contemptuous behavior and carriage not respecting authority; have therefore committed ye persons aforesaid to the custody of the Sheriff, until they find security for their appearance at the next County Court and also for keeping the peace which we conceive consonant tot he law in such cases, and ye mutinous persons aforesaid being so many in number.  We have by Virtue of the Statute of ye 2d of Henry 5th command ye aide and assistance of several of the neighborhood for their security.  Given under our hands the day and year aforesaid.”  (Book 2, p. 40.)

Many of the above fourteen men were respectable landowners.  Matthew SWAN was perhaps related to Col. Thomas SWANN, one of the most prominent men in the county at the time and a member of the Council.  William TOOKE was the son of James TOOKE of Isle of Wight County, who had served in the House of Burgesses.  Thomas CLAY was connected with the family of John and William CORKER, burgesses and prominent in the early history of the county.  John BARNES was a Quaker and a fairly prosperous man, who later married Mr. TOOKE’s widow.  William HANCOCK married Elizabeth, daughter of Nicholas SPENCER, and a relative of the same Capt. Robert SPENCER who caused his arrest.

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Roger DELKE was the son of Roger DELKE, Sr., who had been Burgess for Stanley Hundred in the session of 1632-33.  John GREGORY was the step-father of Roger DELKE, Jr., as he had married Alice DELKE, his mother.

The depositions of all fourteen of the above men are recorded immediately after the above warrant from Capts. SPENCER and BAKER (id., pp. 40-41).  That of James CHESSETT was the first:  “James CHESSETT being this day at ye house of Capt. Law. BAKER & coming with Thirteen psons who were summoned to appeare there to give an acct. of theire Rioutous or unlawful Assemblying att ye Church of Lawnes Creek on ye 12th Xbr. Last, & for yt ye sd CHESSETT was not summoned, but comeing with ye Rest, he was brought before us ye subscribed, & being asked who gave him notice to come with ye Rest, he said he came of his own Simple head; he was also asked if he was of them yt mett at ye Church, he Answered ‘yes’, he being (asked?) why he invited Geo. PEETRS to yt meeting, he said it was to see his neighbors, soe yt he seemes premptorily to give an acct. of ye first pmoter or Instigator of that meeting.”

He was followed by Roger DELKE who “being this day brought before us the subscribed, and complaint being made to us by William SHERWOOD, sub sheriff of this county, the said DELKE did this day say that ‘we will burne all before one shall suffer.’  Ye said DELKE acknowledged he said ye same words, and being asked why they met at the church he said by reason their taxes were so unjust and they would not pay it.  He was demanded who was the person that invited him to meet, he peremptorily denied; but ye said DELKE on his own behalf and on behalf of the others then met did declare their meeting was to be relieved from payment of Drams and Cyder which they never had.  All the rest assented to what he said save only Michael UPCHURCH.”

Robert LACY then deposed that William HANCOCK took him to the meeting at the Devil’s Field, though he was warned to the contrary, and that John BARNES, Michael UPCHURCH, John GREENE and John SHEPPARD were also there.  He also said that he was at the meeting at the church, about which John SHEPPARD told him.  Thomas CLAY deposed that William HANCOCK told him of the meeting and was the first to tell him that the levies were unreasonable.  William HANCOCK denied who told him of the meeting, “very obstinately persisting.”

George PETERS testified that James CHESSETT asked him to go to the

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church.  Then Michael UPCHURCH denied who told him of the meeting or that he knew of the business they met about.

Matthew SWAN’s testimony was as follows:  “Matthew SWAN being this day brought before us the subscribed and being asked why he and others met at the Church, the 12th Xber, last, he said it was to agree about a redress from their taxes which were heavy.  He was asked how he knew their taxes were unreasonably laid, he said Mr. MASON (Francis MASON, one of the justices) told him and also Mr. GORING said the same, and that there were some extraordinary taxes, he being demanded what discourse he and Mr. GORING had about the meeting, he said Mr. GORING said he would be there if he did not go from home, and the said SWAN have also very obstinately persisted in the Lawlessness of the meeting, and said that all or most of the Country were of his mind.”

John GREENE in his deposition denied who instigated him to go to meeting.  William LITTLE said that he went with John BARNES, but denied who instigated him to go.  John SHEPPARD agreed with the others to meet at the church “to be redressed from their Levys”; he said that he heard from Samuel CORNELL that the levies were unjust, and that CORNELL said Mr. HOLT (i.e., Randall HOLT) told him so.

John BARNES then being called denied who said first that the levies were unreasonable and said that he heard it from everybody.  William TOOKE also denied knowing who said first that the levies were unreasonable.

The examination was concluded by the deposition of Francis TAYLOR, a person not involved.  “The deposition of Francis TAYLOR being called before Capt. Law. BAKER, Mr. Robert CAUFIELD, and Capt. Robert SPENCER to swear his true knowledge concerning a meeting of some of the Parish on Friday 12 Xbr., 1673, at Lawne’s Creek Parish Church is as follows:  “That being at my lodging — looking out I espyed John GREGORY going through the Field, and called him to desire him to make me a waistcoate, which he told me he would, but he asked me if I would not be at the Church for there was to be a great part of the Parish meeting there this morning concerning ye Levys.  I told him I knew nothing of it, neither was I concerned in it, as being no housekeeper, but I did not much care if I went with him to see what was done.  He told me he was going to Mr. CAUFIELD’s to take measure of one of his men, to make his freedom clothes and he would holler for me as he came back, which accordingly he did and we went together.

When we came there we found about halfe a score men sitting there,

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and asking them how they did, and what they met for they said they did expect some more to come intending civilly to treate concerning the Levy for they did understand that there was several officers to be paid tobacco out of the Levy, which they knew no reason for, by reason they were put to as much trouble and expense as they were.  Colonel SWAN was to have 5000 lbs. tbco. for the officers and the Colonel was to be levied on this parish only.  Their company not meeting yet they stayed there about an hour, and so resolved to speake about it on the next Sabbath being sermon day.  In the Interior on Saturday, I being at Mr. SHERWOOD’s (the sub-sheriff) requested him to see the list of the Levy which he did show me and there I saw the charge was levied on the whole county.  Which I spoke of at the Church, they hearing said no more, and further saith not.”  (Book 2, pp. 42-3.)

This simple meeting of citizens to complain about their taxes seems to be a “tempest in a tea pot” from a 20th century standpoint.  However, it appears to have been regarded as an extremely serious matter in 17th century Virginia under BERKELEY’s autocratic rule.

The case was speedily disposed of as follows at a court held for Surry County January 6, 1673/4 (O.B. 1671-90, p. 42):  “for that they were sorry for their offence & were no projectors of ye same, John GREGORY, Robert LACY, James CHESSETT, Thos. CLAY, Michll UPCHURCH, Wm. TOOKE, Wm. LITTLE and John GREENE be ordered committed until they give bond for their future good behaviour and pay costs and be dismist.”  (George PETERS seems to have been unintentionally omitted from the above list.)  John  BARNES, John SHEPPARD, and William HANCOCK were ordered to “be committed untill they give ye like bond and pay each of them one Thousand pounds tobo. fine, to ye use of his Majesty, and pay costs.”  Roger DELKE “altho he were noe Ring Leader in ye faction, yet for saying after much fair admonicon yt if one of them suffered they would burne all, he shall stand Comitted untell he give ye Like bond and pay ye Like fine of 1000 pds. of tobo. wth costs.” … “& for ye sd Mathew SWAN was a Chief projector of ye design & being asked if he were Convinced & said yt ye Cort had unjustly proceeded in ye sd Levy & Charged ye Cort therewth at ye Barr, it is therefore order’d that he stand Comitted untell he give bond for his good abearing wth security for his appearance at ye 3’d day of ye next Genrall Cort before ye Right Honourable ye Governour & Councell for his Dangerous Contempt & Unlawful project & his wicked Prsisting in ye same; & being called again one by one & strictly

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Examined how & by whome ye sd unlawfull Assembly was projected & sett on foot; it appearing yt ye sd Mathew SWAN, Jno. BARNES, Jno. SHEPPARD and Wm. HANCOCK at ye house of ye sd Jno. BARNES did first resolve & conclude upon ye meeting & yt ye rest (with a great many more whome they intended to prsuade were only drawne on from ye beginning).”

The case of Matthew SWAN was finally brought before the Council and General Court of Virginia on the afternoon of April 6, 1674 and settled as follows:  “It is ordered that the order of Surry Court Against the mutinuss Psons he Confirmed and that Mathew SWAN the ringleader of them, who was bound over to the Court be Fined Two Thousand pounds of tobacco and Caske and that all fines of the Psons goe towards the ffort at James Citty And that they pay all Just Costs and Charges.”  (Minutes of Council and General Court, p. 367.)

This, however, did not end the matter, for there is always a court of public opinion to which even dictators sometimes bow.  This action caused so much resentment among the colonists that Governor BERKELEY found it advisable to remit the fines which he finally did on September 23, 1674.  (W.M. 23, p. 122.)

It is significant that these events occurred a full two years before the outbreak of the Rebellion, and the case indicates the discontent of the people and their sullen attitude toward their rulers.  Only Lawnes Creek Parish men were involved in the above.  When the actual rebellion broke out, most of those involved with BACON — in fact, a very large majority — were inhabitants of Southwark, the other parish in Surry.  Perhaps the spirit of the Lawnes Creek men had been broken by the condemnation of Matthew SWAN and his colleagues.

Matthew SWAN, the ringleader of this protest against high taxes, has many descendants in Virginia and the South.  In 1675 he married Mrs. Mary SPILTIMBER, widow of Anthony SPILTIMBER and daughter of Robert HARRIS.  His will was dated December 14, 1702 and probated Jan. 5, 1702/[3?].  He mentioned daughter, Elizabeth, wife of John DREW, daughter, Sarah; Elizabeth, daughter of John DREW; son-in-law John DREW; daughter, Mary, wife of William PHILLIPS; and grandson, John PHILLIPS.  Executors were John DREW and Sarah SWANN.  Witnesses were Arthur ALLEN, William CHAMBERS, John ALLEN, and Robert RUFFIN.

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I.   Elizabeth, m. (1) John DREW, d. 1703.  (See DREW.)  (2) John SUGARS.  (No children.)

II.  Mary, m. William PHILLIPS of Surry County, Va., who in his will dated Feb. 14, 1720/21, probated April 19, 1721, mentioned wife, Mary; sons, John, William, Swann, and Mathew PHILLIPS (the three last named under 16 years f age); and daughters, Anne, Mary, and Elizabeth PHILLIPS.  Executors were wife, Mary, and sons, William and Swann PHILLIPS.  Witnesses:  Joseph WATTELL, William NEWSUM, Carter CRAFFORD.

III. Sarah, m. Carter CRAFFORD (1682?-1743).  (See CRAFFORD.)

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Due to the disturbances of 1676, no list of tithables for Surry County is recorded for that year.  The list of 1675 (Book 2, pp. 92-4), however, gives us some idea of the state of the county at the time of the outbreak of the rebellion […] Only 30 negro slaves appear among the tithables of 1675 in the whole county, although there may have been a few more, as Mr. Benjamin HARRISON’s list for part of Southwark Parish does not specify the character of the tithables, and the same is true for a few other households in other sections of the county.  As far as the list of 1675 shows, negroes were owned only by Col. Thomas SWANN, Major William BROWNE, John PULISTONE, Francis MASON and Nicholas MERIWETHER in Southwark Parish […]

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[…] Judging from the tithables, as well as other records, the wealthiest men in Southwark Parish appear to have been Lieut.-Col. George JORDAN, Attorney-General of Virginia, with 7 tithable servants; Rev. William THOMPSON, the minister, with 6 white servants; Col. Thomas SWANN, Member of the Council, with 3 white servants and 2 negro slaves; and Francis MASON, with 6 white servants and 7 negroes in Southwark, and 2 negroes in Lawnes Creek […] In Lawne’s Creek Parish […] [o]thers fairly well-to-do were: […] Capt. Samuel SWANN (son of Col. Thomas SWANN) […]

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The real rulers of the county in 1676 were practically identical  with the wealthier men.  The two most prominent persons were Col. Thomas SWANN, Member of the Governor’s Council, and Lieutenant Colonel George JORDAN, Attorney-General of Virginia.  Both were elderly men, Col. SWANN being 60 years of age […] The justices, in order of their appointment to the Commission, were as follows:  Lieutenant-Colonel George JORDAN, Capt. Lawrence BAKER, Major William BROWNE, Capt. Charles BARHAM, Mr. Robert CAUFIELD, Capt. Robert SPENCER, Mr. Benjamin HARRISON, Mr. Nicholas MERIWETHER, Capt. Samuel SWANN, Mr. Arthur ALLEN, and Mr. Francis MASON.  They and their families had long been powers in the county […] Capt. Samuel SWANN was the son of Col. Thomas SWANN […] It appears that during the critical last days of the Rebellion they all remained faithful to Governor BERKELEY (with the possible doubtful exception of the two SWANNs), as the Governor on March 31, 1677

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reappointed them all to office, naming on the Quorum Col. JORDAN, Capt. BAKER and Major BROWNE (who were apparently already on it), and adding to the Quorum Robert CAUFIELD in place of Capt. SWANN, and Arthur ALLEN, now called Captain ALLEN (Book 2, p. 120) […] Capt. Samuel SWANN was High Sheriff in 1676, and John SOLWAY, owner of the Warren House, was Sub-Sheriff (O.B. 1671-90, p. 125).  Rev. William THOMPSON was minister of Southwark Parish, and probably also of Lawnes Creek […]

We have mentioned that the deep-seated cause of the movement known as Bacon’s Rebellion was economic and political.  The immediate cause of its outbreak in 1676 was a series of Indian raids on outlying settlements in 1675.  Governor BERKELEY had himself taken the field against the Indians in the wars thirty years before, and the colonists appealed to him now for aid.  The Governor, however, had a profitable fur trade monopoly with the Indians which brought him a large income and which he did not wish to disturb.  He was appealed to early in 1676, but refused to declare war, postponing any action till the meeting of an Assembly which he called in March, 1675/6.  The Indian raids grew worse, and by March it is said that over 300 whites had been massacred by the savages, and indignation with the Governor ran high, particularly in the border counties of Stafford in the north, and Henrico and Charles City in the south and west.  When the Assembly met in March, it remained subservient to the Governor, and limited its action to levying 500 men from the counties for military service and ordering the construction of nine forts for the protection of the colonists.  They were to be erected on the Potomac in Stafford County, the Rappahannock in Gloucester County, the Mattapony in New Kent County, at Mahixon on the Pamunkey River in York County, on the James River in James City County, and Appomattox in Charles City County, the Black Water in Surry County, at Currawaugh probably in Nansemond County, and in Accomac County on the Eastern Shore.  Most of these

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forts appear to have been perfectly useless for the purpose in hand, as there seems to have been no danger from the Indians in many of the locations.  In this regard, the building of the Accomac fort seems especially ridiculous, and so were several of the others.  Even in the border counties, the people claimed that the forts gave them no real protection, and later on it was claimed that in many cases the contractors, who were BERKELEY’s favorites, embezzled the money and even failed to build the forts, or left them unfinished.  The people in the border counties needed a punitive expedition against the Indians to protect them, but BERKELEY and the Assembly forbade any such attack on the enemy without the Governor’s specific order, which he was not likely to give.  As a climax, two million pounds of tobacco were added to the people’s taxes for building these forts, which they felt to be useless.

Surry’s Burgesses in this Assembly were the old ones, George JORDAN and Lawrence BAKER.  For the fort in Surry County the order was for “fforty men in the county of Surry to be garrisoned at one ffort or defenceable place neare Richard ATKINS upon the black water in the same county of Surry, of which ffort captain Roger POTTER to be captain or chiefe commander” (Hening Statutes, II, p. 318).  180 pounds of powder and 440 pounds of shot were ordered to the Black Water fort (id., p. 329), and Col. Thomas SWAN and Lt.-Col. George JORDAN were ordered to make choice of the garrison and impress the men and provisions for the fort (id., p. 330).  One wonders as to the identity of these men, and whether any of them later followed BACON.  It is interesting to note that exactly forty men received the act of pardon in Surry County, February 6, 1676/7, and that they were nearly all from Southwark Parish, where the fort was located.  It is probable that this was one of the useless forts.  There were Indians to the far south in Surry, but we find no record that they were making trouble.  This is indicated, also, by the fact that the appropriation for ammunition for the Black Water fort was the smallest of all the nine with the single exception of that on Currawaugh Swamp in Isle of Wight or Nansemond County.  The trouble in Surry was not with the Indians, but was economic and political.

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[…] On August 3, 1676 he [Nathaniel BACON] assembled at the house of Major Otho THORPE in York County as many of the prominent men of the colony as he could gather, and after exerting some pressure on them, secured the signatures of sixty-nine of them to the following document (Eggleston Manuscripts, pp. 36-38, Calendar of Transcripts, Va. Dept. of Archives):

Declaration of the people of Virginia concerning the adherence with BACON.

“Whereas the country hath raised an Army against our common Enemies the Indians and putt the same under the Command of Nathaniel BACON Esqr Generall, being upon the point to march forth against the said common Enemy, hath been diverted, and necessitated to move, tot he suppressing of forces, by evill disposed psons raised agt the said Generll BACON, purposely to foment and stirr up civill warre amongst us, to the ruine of his Majties Country; and whereas it is notoriously manifest, that Sr Wm BERKELEY knt Governr of ye Country, assisted, councelled, and abetted by those evill disposed psons aforesaid, hath actually commanded, fomented and stirred up the people tot he said civill warre, and failing of success herein, hath with drawn himself to the great astonishment of the people, and unsettlement of the Country; and whereas the said Army raised by the Countrie for the causes aforesaid are drawn downe, and remain full of dissatisfaction in the middle of the Country, expecting attempts from the designes of the said Governour, and his evill Councillours aforesaid; and noe proper means found out for the settlement of the distractions within and preventing the horrible outrages, and murders daily committed in many pts of the Country by the barbarous Enemy.

It hath been thought fitt by the said Generall, to call unto him all such sober and discreete Gentlemen: as the short exigence of ye dis-

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tracted condition of the Country would admitt to the middle plantation, to consult and advice the settling of the peace of that Country, and the Gentleman of this 3d day of August 1676 accordingly have mett, and in order to the said settlement doe advice, resolve, and declare, and conclude, and for ourselves doe swear in manner following.

First that we will at all times joine wth the sd Nathaneel BACON his Army, against the Common Enemy in all points whatsoever.

Whereas certain psons have lately contrived and designed the raising of forces agt the said Generall, and the Army under his command, thereby to begett a civill warre.  We will endeavour the discovery and apprehending of all, & every those evill disposed psons, and then for to secure them, till farther order from the said Generall.

And whereas it is credibly reported, that the Governr hath informed the King’s Maty yt ye said Generall and the people of the Country in Armes under his command, their aiders and abettors are rebelling and removed from their Allegiance, and this and such information, hee the said Governr hath advised and petitioned the King, to send forces tor educe them; Wee doe farther declare beleive in our consciences, that it consists with the wellfare of his Maties Countree, and yt it is consistent wth our Allegiance to his most sacred Maty for us and every one of us the Inhabitants of Virginia to oppose, and suppresse all force whatsoever of that nature, untill such time as the king and his Councell be fully enformed of the States of the Case, by such pson or psons shall be sent from the said Nathaneel BACON Genll, in the behalf of the people; and the determination thereof to be remitted hither.  And we doe swear yt we will him the said Generall and the Army under his command, aid, and assist accordingly.”

The first two signatures affixed to the above declaration are those of Thomas SWAN and George JORDAN.  It is uncertain whether there were any other representatives of Surry County among these sixty-nine men, among whom were included Councillors and Burgesses, as well as BACON’s chief political advisers […]

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Col. JORDAN and the other possible Surry representatives to this meeting seem to have gone home by the following day, August 4.  However, Col. SWANN remained and his is again the first signature to the following somewhat more extreme declaration signed by only twenty-nine gentlemen on that date (id., pp. 39-41):

“Whereas certain informations is now made, that the Ammunition at the fort of Tindalls point is commanded away and putt aboard a ketch, and yt ye great quantity of arms are removed & carried away out of Glocestr County, and from Mr. Secretaries house at Richneck, and that certain psons in contempt of the Authority of Nathaneel BACON Esqr Generll appointed over the forces for the Indian warre, are in open hostility in the County of Westmoreland and the fort on the head of Rappahanack River; not surrendred to the said Generlls Command, And whereas it is much doubted, that severall psons lately fled, and also such as they can stirr up and arms with the Ammunition aforesaid, will fall in amongst some of the Northern Counties, or other defensible places to the diverting the forces aforesaid, from the defence of the Country, and engaging the Country in a civill warre, which threatens the utter ruine of this Country, if the same be not timely prevented.  And whereas the said Generall hath demanded Concell, and advice of us the Subscribers, what is fitt in this Exigence to be done, to prevent the universall ruine impending the distracted Country.  Wee doe advise and request the said Generall, that as soon as may bee an Assembly may be summoned by some precepts or othr warrants or writts directed to the Counties from Some Gentlemen of ye Councell.  And that in the meantime the civill Administracon of Justice may remain constant, & run in the same course and Channell as formerly, and that the Subscriptions made yesterday by the Gentlemen then summoned and mett together, there at the middle plantation to consult ye settling of the present distractions of the Country, bee sent to all the Counties in the Country, and yt ye said Generall authorize fitting psons in those Counties, to take the said Subscriptions, and administer the said Oath.  and lastly that the Generall and forces under him efectually prosecute as well the Indian warre, as by all meanes and waies oppose, suppresse, and wth open hostility prosecute all manner of psons whatsoever, their Confederates, Councellors, aidors, and abettors, that doe or hereafter shall combine, conspire, or attempt agt ye sd Generall, or his the forces under his Command, or that shall

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disturb or raise tumults or otherwise impeach the domestick peace and Safety of the Country.”

“Given at the middle Plantation aforesaid, this 4th of August 1676.”

On August 11, 1676 Nathaniel BACON, with the four members of the Governor’s Council who had signed the “Declaration” of August 3, namely, Thomas SWANN, Thomas BEALE, Thomas BALLARD and James BRAY, sent a proclamation to the Sheriff of Westmoreland County, stating that since Governor BERKELEY had absented himself from the government, he was under their authority to proceed to call an election of two representatives from Westmoreland to sit in a new assembly of the House of Burgesses, to meet at James City on September 4th, 1676.  (Sainsbury Abstracts, Vol. XVI, p. 29.)

During the month of August, both the authorities and the common people of Surry County appear to have been thoroughly Baconian.  Due probably to the prestige of Cols. SWANN and JORDAN, the following entries appear in the Order Book (1671-90) on pages 131 and 132:

“  August 10, 1676

Present Lt. Coll. JORDAN
Mr. CAUFIELD } Mr. MASON } Coms.

At a meeting of ye Cort at Southwarke this day to Setle ye Com. in peace, according to ye Comand of ye Honoble Genll & having reced a Comand from him this day to pvide bread for our pporcion of three hundred men for a month, for ye Countrys service In pformance of ye sd Comand of ye Honble Nath. BACON Esqr Genll  It is Ordrd ytt every mr. of a family doe forthwith provide ffoure pds of good sound bisquett for every tithable in his ffamaley, and yt ye Mill do lay all private Grinding aside untill this be done, & yt all ye housekeeprs. in ye lower pish doe Carry in yr. pporcion of bread to ye House of Capt. Arthur LONG, & all those in ye uper Pish to Carry their pporcion to ye house of Mr Wm THOMPSON, they being desired to receive & serve ye same, & yt it be all brought in to ye sd places by Thursday next being ye 17th Instant & this ordr to be forthwth published through ye County.

Vera Recordtur              Test  W E Cl Cur.”

[page 122]

It is noteworthy  that all the Justices were present on this occasion save only Capts. BAKER and SWANN.  Col. Thomas SWANN sat with a Commission composed of Lt.-Col. JORDAN, Major BROWNE, Capt. SWANN, Mr. CAUFIELD, and Capt. SPENCER, on August 24, 1676, to enact the following order (p. 132):

“In Order and Obedience to the Genll Ordr, It is Ordered that Every Master of a family in this county doe forthwith provide five pounds & a halfe of good sufficient Biskett for Every tithable pson in his ffamily, (also for Every tithable two pds & a halfe of dryed beefe or bacon if they have it, but if they have it not the said beefe or bacon, then they are to pay for theire pporcon to those psons that shall provide it) — the said Bread & meate being for our pporcon of two months provisions for our Souldrs undr the Comand of the sd Genll According to Act of Assembly, It is also ordered all the tithables below Ware Neck carry their pvissions to the Houses of Capt. Charles BARHAM & Mr. Francis MASON, & all above Ware Neck to the houses of Major Wm BROWNE & Doctor Nathll KNIGHT, who are requested to receive & serve the same.”

Surry County so far seems to have been united.  We now come to the turbulent days of mid-September, 1676, when BERKELEY’s and BACON’s forces clashed in open war, and Surry County, like many others was split between Berkeleians and Baconians.  Early in September, when BACON and his wearied troops returned from the expedition against the Pamunkey Indians in the swamps of what is now King and Queen County, he found that BERKELEY had by a ruse captured the small fleet sent against him, and himself embarking with troops on a number of ships, had reentered and seized Jamestown on September 7th or 8th.  BACON hastened to the capital city and laid seige to it.  Between September 15th and 18th (the exact chronology is difficult to follow), BERKELEY’s troops finally sallied out of town and attacked BACON’s forces, but were defeated and withdrew in confusion.  The Governor, finding he could not rely on his troops, became disheartened, and sending word to a number of the ruling class on both sides the river that all was lost, secretly embarked in the night, and with a large number of the wealthier people, took refuge a second time on the Eastern Shore.  On September 19th BACON entered Jamestown, and feeling that it was not defensible against ships, burned it to the ground, that it might not again become a stronghold of the Governor and his fleet.  At the same time

[page 123]

his followers seized and occupied strategic buildings (usually the homes of wealthier planters) in the various counties, and took over the county governments.  Thus BACON and his men, now distinguished more prominently than ever as “the poor” in contradiction to “the rich”, became absolute masters of most of Virginia.

In Surry County we are told that “all the great ones” went away with BERKELEY on this second flight, leaving the county to BACON’s men, with the exception of Col. Thomas SWANN, who apparently remained calmly at his home at “Swann’s Point.”  It is probable, also, that Col. SWANN’s son, Capt. Thomas SWANN, remained in the county.  We have mentioned that Col. SWANN signed both “Declarations”  in favor of BACON early in August.  His son, Capt. SWANN, was the son-in-law of William DRUMMOND, a Scottish gentleman who lived at Jamestown, who had once been Governor of North Carolina, who was one of BACON’s most ardent supporters and best advisers, and who was finally executed in a brutal manner and his family terribly persecuted by Governor BERKELEY after his final victory.  Col. SWANN was certainly suspected by some of Baconian partisanship, as indicated by the following deposition of Alice MARRIOTT, wife of Matthias MARRIOTT and daughter of Thomas WARREN, builder of the “Warren House” and former Burgess from Surry (Book 2, p. 149):

“Deposition of Alice MARRIOTT, aged 32 years, or thereabouts, sworne saith:

“That about the middle of last Febry your deponent being at the house of William FOREMAN, in the company of William FOREMAN and his wife, Lawrence MEIZLE, Katherine WITHERINGTON made answers that the great ones went all away and left the poor ones and they were forced to do what they did.  No said Thomas HIGH, ‘the Great Toad tarried behind’, and one of the company asked Thomas HIGH who he meant by ‘the Great Toad’.  He replied he meant Coll. SWANN, the old rebel and traitor, your deponent knows not which.  Your deponent made answer she never heard Coll. SWANN did meddle or make in the late troubles.  ‘No’ said he, when Coll. SWANN sent a note to Mr. BISHOP by Christopher FOSTER to raise men and come down with them to stop the Governor’s men, the horses, saddles and bridles of ours would have been taken had it not been for Colonel SWANN.

[page 124]

“Katherine WITHERINGTON made answer again that he might hold his tongue for his saddle was saved by her sister, and further your deponent did hear Thomas HIGH say that SWAN did send for a boate load of apples from Mr. MASONs, for that he thought Mr. MASON would never come again.  That Thomas HIGH said Coll. SWANN did sit in the Council of War for burning the town and when the Governor went away from town he sent for Coll SWANN but he would not come to him.  As soon as BACON came to towne he would take a boate and go over to him and he hoped Coll. SWANN would be plucked bare.

“Sworne Nov. 15, 1677.”

Much of the above is probably malicious slander by Thomas HIGH, who had formerly been one of BACON’s men.  It is true, however, that Col. SWANN did stay in the county, and that he did not allow himself to be thrown into a panic by BERKELEY.  The county might have been better off had more of the prominent men stayed at home.  As it is, we are not certain that literally all the Justices and officials left with BERKELEY.  The only ones of whom we are certain are Arthur ALLEN, Robert CAUFIELD, John SOLWAY, and Francis MASON, who later prosecuted a number of people for seizing their houses during the Rebellion and appropriating their property.  Probably others went, too.  Col. SWANN did not suffer for his conduct later on.  When the Royal Commissioners arrived in Virginia late in January 1676/7, to investigate the rebellion and make a report to the King, the Governor refused to entertain them at his home, “Green Spring”, in James City County (Jamestown being destroyed), and Col. SWANN offered them the hospitality of his home at Swann’s Point across the river, which they made their headquarters during their stay in the colony.  In the Minutes of the Council of Trade and Plantations, at a meeting held at Whitehall December 6, 1677 it was recommended that certain “rash and fiery men” be excluded from the Governor’s Council of Virginia, but that Col. SWANN be continued in office.  It was also mentioned that the Governor refused to receive His Majesty’s Commissioners into his home, and recommended that “Col. SWAN be recommended to Col. JEFFREYS (the new Governor) for some reward for his kindness and expense in doing so” (Calendar of Transcripts, Va. Dept. of Archives, Vol. XVII, Sainsbury Transcripts, pp. 99-100).  One rather admires Col. SWANN’s calmness and levelheadedness, which is also illustrated by the following testimony of

[page 125]

Christopher FOSTER, Col. JORDAN’s nephew, given November 15, 1677 when he was twenty-seven years of age (Book 2, p. 149):

“That being at Coll SWANNs house about ye same day ye late Governor Sr Wm BERKELEY Sallied out of Towne, Coll. SWANN thinking ye County being in some danger of ye upland men did desire yr. depont. to goe up to Mr. BUSBY’s & to see whether there was any guard kept there or noe & withall to tell Mr. BUSBY he would speake with him, but when yr. depont. Came there he found noe body at Mr. BUSBY’s home but Mrs. BUSBY a woman or two more, & Wm PICKERALL a lame man, and further saith not.”

One wonders from the above deposition what had happened to Lieut. BUSBY and the guard at his house.

[page 132]

By January 11, 1676/7 BERKELEY was once more in complete control of the colony.  On that date he began a series of court-martials, which resulted in the death of a large number of chief rebels and caused

[page 133]

Charles II later on to exclaim that “the old fool had executed more men than he himself had caused to die for the death of his father, Charles I.”  One of the men executed during this period in a peculiarly brutal manner was William DRUMMOND, father-in-law of Capt. Samuel SWANN.  After the execution, DRUMMOND’s wife and children were driven from their home and almost perished in the swamps of James City County.

Categories: 006256. Thomas Swann
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