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Ancestor of the Month

January 2007

 

Since 2007 will be the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in 1607, we thought that it would be fitting to feature one of our Jamestown ancestors.

 

William Hatcher

b.1613-d. before 31 March 1680

 

Pedigree

 

Like many of our ancestors’ lives, William Hatcher’s has some disputed facts.  His parents are not known and although a number of researchers have attached him to the Hatcher family of Careby, England, there is no definite proof that he is a descendent of this family.  About the only concensus is that he was born  in 1613 in Careby, Leichestershire, or Lincolnshire, England.  His birth date was determined by a legal document he signed 1 Aug 1676 in which he stated he was 63 years old.  All the male Hatchers in Careby with the exception of Henry Hatcher have been proven not to be the father of William.  Henry simply “vanished” from public documents and so far nothing has been found to prove definitely that he was or was not William’s father.  Early accounts tend to list William Hatcher, brother of Henry, as our William’s father.

 

Jamestown

 

Around 1635 when he was 22 years old, William Hatcher left England and came to the Jamestown Colony in Virginia.  Established in 1607, Jamestown was located on an island in the James River, and in its first years was a place of starvation, disease, and death.  In 1609 the colony had about 500 citizens; by 1610, there were only 65. Fortunately the people turned to agriculture rather than relying on help from the Indians or ships from England, and the colony began to succeed.  Then, when the colonists discovered that the land was good for tobacco, that crop helped Jamestown to prosper.

 

Acquiring land

 

Luckily William arrived after tobacco was “the” established crop.  He brought with him three “importees,” and by paying for their passage to the new world, he was awarded 50 acres of land for himself and 50 as compensation for each of those with him, giving him 200 acres in Virginia.   These three importees were Alice Emmerton, Richard Radford, and John Winchester. In 1637 William again imported 3 people--Benjamin Gregory, Thomas Browne, and Charles Howell--giving him additional property. As late as 1674 he was still using this method as one way of acquiring land for on September 26 of that year, he was given 227 acres in  Henrico Co on the South side of the  James River between. Gilbert Elam and Henry Lown’s property  for the transport of five more people:: Thomas Childers, Sarah Poynter, Henry. Davernett, Edward Stringer, and Ann Fryer.  It is possible that these people served as indentured servants to pay for their passage. The lands he received for the imported people were just the beginning, for William continue to amass property.  This method of land acquisition would indicate that William Hatcher was rather well-to-do when he arrived in  Jamestown.  This might be evidence that he was part of the Careby Hatchers if they, too, were wealthy.

 

William’s Marriage

 

In addition to showing William’s possible wealth and his desire to accumulate property, the patents of land also show that William was apparently single when he came to Jamestown, for a wife would have meant an additional 50 acres of land, and, if they had had children with them when they arrived, William would have received 50 acres for each child.  (See September “Ancestor of the Month” Benedictus Kuhn for a similar practice in South Carolina)

 

Exactly when William married is not known; neither is the name of his wife who has been variously listed as Alice, Mary, Sarah, Marion, and Mary Sarah.  Her surname has been given as Emmerton, Smith, and  Newport.  Whatever her name, the couple probably married fairly soon after William’s arrival in Jamestown and eventually established a home they called Varina on the James River. (The plantation still exists.)  It is interesting to note that several court sessions were held at Varina during William’s lifetime.  The reason for this is unclear, though the court officers may have held sessions there to take depositions or as a matter of courtesy to an important man.

 

One Version of  William’s Marriage

 

One of the stories concerning William’s wife has the bit of romance that a long ago ancestor needs to have attached to him.  According to this story, William married a woman named Marion Newport on 27 Dec 1632 in Ogburn, St. George County, Wiltshire, England.  Marion was the daughter of Captain Christopher Newport  (1563-1618) of Boynton, Yorkshire, England.  Captain Newport died at sea on an East Indies voyage to Java Indonesia.  Marion’s mother was Elizabeth Glaufield (c.1575-?) from Suffolk, England.  Marion was born 1613  in Puddleton, Dorsetshire, England and died  in Varina Parish, Henrico County, VA.  William is said to have been the son of Henry and Elizabeth Livingstone Hatcher.   None of this has been proven, but it is a nice story, especially the part concerning the adventurous and romantic ship’s captain.  Hopefully someone will find the evidence we need to bring that ship’s captain into our ancestral tree.

 

The  William Hatchers—whoever she was—had six children:  Edward, (1637-1711), William (1638-1661), Henry  (1639-1677), Jane (1641-before 1710), Benjamin (1644-bef.1727), and Susannah (1646-aft.1699).  It is from Edward that we descend.

 

Election to the  Virginia House of Burgesses

 

William became quite active in Henrico County, Virginia.  As a successful tobacco planter and landowner he had position and power. (Barter rather than actual money was the practice of the day in most cases.)  William’s family was considered “well-to-do,” perhaps because of the large amount of land he managed to accumulate.    He was obviously held in high regard for he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses a number of times:  1644, 1645, 1646, 1649, 1652,1658, and 1659  The last two terms he was elected--1658 and 1659--were the last of William Hatcher’s public service in elective offices.  He was first elected at age 31 and was about 47 years old when he left office for good. 

 

The House of Burgesses was the first elected political body in the colonies.  The Virginia Company--which had established the colony of Jamestown as an investment--wanted the colony to prosper so that they,  in turn, could profit  as much as possible.  For this reason they allowed the colonists to own their own land and to govern themselves.  The resulting govermental body was a bicameral legislature The upper house was the Governor’s Council and consisted of about eight men in its first years.  The first representatives (or Burgesses) of the people numbered about twenty-two based on two representatives for each of the eleven plantations along the St. James River. Over time the name House of Burgesses came to represent the entire official legislative body of the colony of Virginia. The Burgesses could make laws--which could be vetoed by the governor or the directors of the Virginia Company—but even at the risk of being vetoed, the colonists had some control over their destinies, and the Virginia Company thought that this “control” would help keep the colonists happy.

 

Hatcher’s outspoken nature

 

William had quite a temper and a reputation for speaking his mind.  At the 1654 Session of the House of Burgesses he was forced to apologize—on his knees—to Colonel Edward Hill, Speaker of the House of Burgesses.   William was brought to this humiliating position for defaming  Col. Hill, a popular man who had been unaminously elected Speaker.  William’s defamation included calling Hill “an atheist and blasphemer.”  The charge further stated that  “ the said William Hatcher... hath also reported, that the mouth of this house [Col. Hill] was a Devil.”    Because of these unwise remarks,  “it [was] therefore ordered by this house, that the said William Hatcher, upon his knees, make an humble acknowledgement of his offence unto the said Col. Edward Hill and Burgesses of this Assembly….”  In addition to the apology, William also had to pay a fine.  Since William was not a member of the House of Burgesses at that time, his punishment must have been particularly galling.

 

Bacon’s Rebellion

Hatcher’s fiery spirit came into play again in 1676 when he was involved in Bacon’s Rebellion, an uprising of small farmers in Virginia led by Nathaniel Bacon, Jr.  Bacon’s Rebellion is usually mentioned as an early example of American resistance to British control.  The fact that it occurred in 1676, 100 years before the Revolution in 1776, is often pointed out as particularly fitting.  Modern scholars have discovered, however, that Bacon’s rebellion was based largely on two men of hot temper   Both behaved like spoiled schoolboys who didn’t get what they wanted and then acted out of spite.

In the beginning of the colony of Virginia, every free adult male could vote,  but  by  the 1670’s this practice was changing.  First, a new law allowed only large property holders to vote. Next new heavier taxes were levied to  defray the expenses of running Jamestown.  Finally the people had not been allowed to elect representatives to the House of Burgesses for fifteen years.   William Hatcher’s last term occurred just about the same time the elections stopped.  Seeds of discontent grew among the colonists.  When Indians attacked the outer areas of the colony in 1676, Governor Sir William Berkeley (pronounced bark’ lee) did nothing to defend the farmers.  As a result, the farmers on the frontier of the colony banded together to protect themselves and elected Nathaniel Bacon, Jr. to lead them against the Indians.

Bacon’s farmers defeated the Indians, but his success so infuriated Berkeley that the governor charged Bacon and his men with being rebels and threatened reprisals.  As a result, Bacon’s “army” invaded Jamestown, took over, and made changes.  They forced the governor to hold an election.  The newly elected representatives reinstated the law that all free men could vote.  Dishonest sheriffs and officials were punished.  Members of the governor’s council were to be taxed like everyone else.  Other reforms overturned measures that Berkeley and his cronies had installed to insure more profit for themselves.

Berkelely vs Bacon

Now we see the pettiness of the two major participants. Though they were slightly related, they were in almost every other way opposites.  Berkeley was old, about 70.   He was intelligent--a scholar and playwright--and he had earned a reputation as a soldier in the English Civil Wars and the colonial Indian wars on the frontier.  King Charles I had been pleased with Berkeley’s work as Gov. of Virginia during the 1640’s.  Though Berkeley had been ousted as governor when Charles I was beheaded, he was unanimously reelected governor by the Virginia colonists  when Charles II came to the throne.  All in all, Berkeley was admired and respected.  On the other hand 29-year old Nathaniel Bacon, Jr. had a somewhat tarnished reputation  He was an intelligent, eloquent man, but he had also been a young troublemaker who had so vexed his father with his schemes, misdeeds, and aversion to work that the elder Bacon had sent him to Virginia to “grow up.” 

Virginia was chosen because the Bacons were slightly related to Governor Berkeley.  The governor’s wife, Lady Berkeley (Frances Culpepper) was Nathaniel’s cousin.  As such, the governor had given him special treatment when the young man first arrived from England.  He gave him a large choice land grant “next door” to William Hatcher’s plantation and had made him a member of the governor’s council in 1675.  This was not enough for Bacon, however.    He asked for a commission in the militia which Berkeley refused.  Some think that Bacon, like a sulking youngster who didn’t get what he wanted, used the Indian attack as an excuse to seize power.

After the “first” Rebellion, Bacon demanded and did receive a commission to fight the Indians, but he was still not satisfied as he wanted to be declared general over all the militia.  As soon as Bacon began to fight again, the governor once more declared his nephew a rebel. Perhaps this came about because of the two men’s opposite views on Indians.  Bacon wanted to kill them all; to him there was “no such thing as a ‘good’ Indian.”  The governor made a distinction between Indians who were his allies and Indians who shot at him.  The young man returned to Jamestown with his men and burned the town.  Governor Berkeley escaped and fled to the Virginia shore.

End or Outcome of the Rebellion

For a brief time Bacon “ruled” Virginia, but he suddenly became sick and died. (His death was reportedly horrible—“bloody flux” and the “lousy disease”  [dysentery and lice]  Stories say that his men burned his body.) With him gone, the rebellion fell apart.  The governor returned to Jamestown and had his turn of playing spoiled schoolboy when he overreacted in seeking revenge.  He hunted down Bacon’s followers, took their property, and executed several men.  Finally Charles II sent troops from England, replaced Berkeley, and recalled him to England  where he died soon after.  Both Berkeley and Bacon had good and bad points.  Historians cannot seem to agree on the two.

Hatcher’s Punishment

Bacon’s plantation was next door to William Hatcher’s and Hatcher participated with Bacon in the rebellion.  He was fortunate that he escaped Governor Berkley’s revenge and retribution, but he did not escape unscathed.  He had to go to court and was fined:

for uttering divers mutinous words tending to the disquiett of this his Majesty's countrey, and it being evidently made appeare what was layd to his charge by divers oaths, and a jury being impanelled to assesse the damages, who bring in their verdict that they award the said Hatcher to pay ten thousand pounds of tobacco and caske, which verdict of the jury this honourable court doth confirme: but in respect the said Hatcher is an aged man, the court doth order that the said Hatcher doe pay with all expedition eight thousand pounds of drest porke unto his Majestie's Commander of his forces in Henrico county. for the supply of the soldiers, which if he fayle to doe, that he pay eight thousands pounds of tobacco and caske the next cropp, and pay costs.  (Notice that the fine is not in currency but in goods.)

 

Even with this sizeable fine, William was much more fortunate than many of his neighbors who had also participated in the rebellion.  His age at the  time—63—had given him leniency and likely his participation was largely verbal  (“uttering divers mutinous words”)  Many of his neighbors were given prison sentences and had all or most of their property condemned and taken as punishment.  The seized land was given to friends and supporters of the King. 

 

William Hatcher and other neighbors who were punished for their participation in Bacon’s rebellion sent a list of grievances to Charles II.  The grievances were signed by Will Hatcher, Wilber Elam, John Pleasants, and Solomon Knibbe.  His spirit was definitely not broken.

 

Hatcher’s Business Ventures

Land and tobacco were not the only means of William Hatcher’s acquisition of wealth.   In 1658 or 1659 at Newport, Rhode Island, William and two of his friends, George Potter and Henry Randolph bought a ship called the Blackbird. The vessel was fairly good size and cost three hundred pounds British sterling.  (Here we have money exchanging hands.)   Descriptions of the ship say that it was painted red. Exactly what the three men did with the ship is not specified, but they probably used it for shipping tobacco or for other trade with Boston. 

William’s Grandson, Thomas Burton, Jr.

In any event, William’s grandson Thomas Burton, Jr.  was apparently using the Blackbird between 1686-1691 after his grandfather had died,   for he mentions it in a letter to his mother.   In another letter Thomas’ wife Elizabeth indicates that she does not know how her husband died.  Many assume that he may have died aboard the Blackbird about 1691 in one of his voyages to or from Boston.

Thomas, the son of Thomas and Susannah Hatcher Burton,  must have been a special grandson of William, for after his grandfather’s death, the young man was not only apparently in charge of the Blackbird, his grandfather had made other provisions for him as well.   For example, William made a gift of deed  in his will for  the then thirteen-year-old Thomas.  None of William’s children or other grandchildren were mentioned in the will.

I give unto Thomas Burton, Jr. the plantation between the land of Mr. Henry Lound and the land of Gilbert Elam to wit: two hundred and twenty-six acres, his choice of all my horses or mares, one heifer called Blackchops, a young ewe, and a year’s schooling and clothes, till he reaches the age of seventeen years, to the confirmation of which I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this two and twentieth day of February, 1676/7.  (Note: this plantation is the land he received for transporting five people to the colony in 1674.)

 

William added a final memorandum to his will:

Memorandum before the signing and sealing hereof, I do bequeath unto the above mentioned Thomas Burton, Jr. the second choice of all my furniture thereunto belonging. s/Will Hatcher

 

William died sometime before  31 Mar 1680.  His estate was handled as if he had died intestate since his will was more of a gift of deed than it was a regular will.  No executors were named, but surviving sons Edward and Benjamin gave their deceased brother Henry’s minor children cattle and other property from the estate. Brother William had died without marrying.  Edward and Benjamin then signed an agreement to divide the remaining property and specified who was to get what.  Robert Sharpe, one of the founders of Henrico Co., VA, laid claim to the planatation Varina, which had fallen to Edward.  Sharpe and Edward agreed to divide the property in half and agreed that Sharpe should have first choice.  (Just why Sharpe would have a claim to this land is a mystery, but I’ll keep looking.)  Sharpe later sold the land to William Byrd, Esquire, of the famous Byrd family of Virginia.

 

William Hatcher was one of our “lucky” ancestors who came to the New World and really prospered.   He served his new homeland as an elected representative and built a home and family of which he could be proud.  We, in turn, can be proud of him.

 

William Hatcher is Mamaw’s 7greats grandfather.  If you are Elizabeth “Betsy” Hatcher McCarter’s great great grandchild, William Hatcher is your 11 great grandfather

 

Line of Descent from William Hatcher to Mary Elizabeth Hatcher

 

William Hatcher (1613-1680) + Unknown (?-?)

Edward Hatcher (1636-1711) + Mary Ward (c1641-aft.1711)

William Hatcher (1660-c1736) + Ann Burton (1664-1736)

William Hatcher, Jr. (1695-1770) + Obedience Unknown (1700-1772/1773)

Edward Hatcher (1726-c1782) + Sarah Heil (1732-1775/1779)

William Hatcher (1769-1820) + Mary Elizabeth Crowson (1770/1780-1838)

Reuben Hatcher, Sr. (1798-1870) + Marthew (Martha) Magill (1802-1875)

James H. (Pete) Hatcher (1839-1911) + Mary Elizabeth McInturff (1837-1915)

Israel Alexander Hatcher (1860-1950) + Susannah Ann Sutton (1866-1903)

Mary Elizabeth Hatcher (1889-1969) + Rev. Eli McCarter (1886-1955)

 

Sources

Bacon:1647-1676  www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAbaconN.htm

Bacon’s Rebellion. www.nps.gov/colo/Jthanout/BacRebel.html

Descendants of Abraham Childers, (the emigrant)[sic]
www.childers-childress.com/theemigrant.html

Hatcher group sheets, pedigree charts, traditions

Hatcher, Nel.  The Hatcher Family Resource Center.  homepages.rootsweb.com/~nhatcher/faq.htm

 

 House of Burgesses.   www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1151.html                                      

 

Jensen, Merrill.  “Bacon’s Rebellion.”  Colliers Encyclopedia. Sierra, 1998.

 

Lineage Quest Organization   “Ancient and Early Colonial Virginia.” lineagequest.org/ 

 

“Sharp, Robert.”  www.colonist.com  (information on 5th generation of Robert Sharp.)

 

“Terrible Transformation, The:  Bacon’s Rebellion 1675-1776” www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p274.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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