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Beck, Jeffrey
Beverley, Capt. Harry
Beverley, Major Robert
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Ancestor of the Month

May 2009 

 

Major Robert Beverley

b. 1641     d. 1687

 

Our ancestor Robert Beverley came from a prominent, distinguished family in Beverley, Yorkshire, England.  The Beverley family can trace its lineage back to the time of King John and can boast of many outstanding individuals.

 

Beverley Ancestors

 

In the early 1400’s one notable member of the family was a learned, eloquent priest named John Beverley.  He associated himself with those who worked to get an English language Bible into the hands of the people.  Though we, today, would applaud his efforts, the authorities of the time considered his act heresy.  They announced that “the greatest of crimes was to read the Bible in the mother tongue,” and that such “high treason against [the Pope] “ should result in “confiscation and burning of the man himself to ashes.”   Thus in 1413, Sir John Beverley and 38 others, “most of them gentlemen by birth, were condemned for heresy, and burnt in St. Giles's Fields.” Although this ancestor had one of the most disturbing fates, other Beverleys of the past garnered many honors.

 

Robert’s Family

 

Our Robert Beverley was the son of Peter (1610-1650) and Susannah Hollis Beverley (1618-?).  Peter was born in Hull, Yorkshire, England, where he was admired enough to be elected free Burgess of St. Mary's Parish in the borough of Hull.   Robert’s mother Susannah had been born in Nottingham, where her father, Robert Hollis, was a member of the Society of Merchant Adventurers of Hull and assistant to the governor of that body.

 

Peter and Susannah had five children:  Jane (1639-?), Philip (1740-?), Robert (1741-1687), Henry (c1742-?), and Anne (c1744-?).

 

Move to the Colonies

 

The first of the Beverley family to move to the colonies was our Robert.  He is “The Immigrant” for the Beverley family in America.  Why he moved is not certain, although political unrest in England could have been a reason.  (The English Civil War lasted from 1642-1652.  Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660).   Robert arrived in Jamestown about 1663 when he was 22 years old.  He was a loyal subject of the crown and made it known that “his heart [had] been filled from his youth up with loyalty to his King.”

 

First Marriage

 

About 3 years after his move to the colonies, Robert married his first wife, Mary, whose surname is a matter of much conjecture and debate.  She has been listed as Maria Carter, Mary Carter, Mary Whitby, Mary Keeble, Margaret (Mary) Boyd, and there is even an Elizabeth Unknown in the list.  Most researchers agree that whoever Mary was, she was a widow when she married Robert, and she had had seven children with her first husband before she was widowed at age 29.  (The consensus leans toward George Keeble as Mary’s first husband.  Keeble was a prominent man, serving as a justice in Lancaster County and as a vestryman of Pianketank parish.  See note below about vestry.)

 

April Fool’s Day of 1666 was the wedding date for Robert and Mary.  If the date had any sinister meanings for the couple or caused them to be wary, their concern was evidently groundless as their married life seemed to progress well.  They began with a “ready made” family of Keeble children (Walter, George, Mary, and Margaret) and soon had an even larger family as they added five more children to those Mary brought from her first marriage:  Peter (1668-1728), Robert, Jr. (1673-1722), Henry called “Harry” (1675-1730), John (1675-1742), and Mary (c1677-?).   (Harry is our ancestor)

 

Family Life in Middlesex County

 

Robert and Mary Beverley made their family home in the farmlands of Middlesex County, about 20 miles outside Jamestown.   Within a very short time Robert was involved in the colony's civic affairs, military concerns, and religious matters. He soon held the rank of Major in the Virginia Militia, and it is by this title that he is usually remembered.  He was elected Clerk of the House of Burgesses in 1670 and was also appointed by the Governor as a member of the Governor’s Council. (In a simple analogy, the House [elected] was similar to England’s House of Commons, and the Council [appointed] was similar to England’s House of Lords.)  In addition to these responsibilities, Robert was  “a lawyer of learning and ability.”

(Most lawyers in the colonies were “self educated,” and learned by reading law under the tutelage of an established attorney—if one were handy.)  This background or interest in law may have helped him to be elected Justice in 1670, and his legal knowledge also probably held him in good stead while he served as a vestryman of Christ Church parish. (Note: The vestry in an Anglican or Episcopal parish is made up of the rector and a group of elected parishioners who handle the secular or “earthly” affairs of the parish.)  Thus in addition to being a planter, Robert was involved in a great many aspects of colonial life.  His reputation was good, and his neighbors held him in high esteem.

 

As the years passed, Robert and Mary became quite prosperous.  During the 12 years of their marriage, they acquired a great deal of land and possessions.

 

In 1678, Mary died at the age of 41.  She was buried under the floor of the lower church of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex, VA.   During a renovation many years later, her tomb was found and the inscription could still be read:

     

                            Here lyeth interred the Bodi of
                            Mrs. Mary Beverley, Wife of
                            Major Robert Beverley
                            Mother of nine sons and three daughters
                            Who departed this life the last day of
                            June 1678 aged fortie one years and three Months,
                            having been married to him 12 years & 2

    Months—and was

    A Careful Mother teaching Virtuous Life
    Happy and making happy when a wife
    Religious to Example, May all strive
     To imitate her Virtues whilst alive

 

(If you enjoy counting and working out the 9 sons and 3 daughters, here’s some help: 

Keebles:  Walter, George, Mary, Margaret, John, Thomas, and William.

Keeble/Beverleys: Peter, Henry, Robert, John, and Mary. 

[John, Thomas, and William Keeble may have died before Mary and Robert wed since they are not listed as coming with her to the new marriage.  Likewise, Mary Keeble may have died after the Keeble/Beverley wedding, suggesting Mary Beverley may have been named in honor of her step sister, Mary Keeble.])

 

Second Marriage

 

With such a large family, even if some children were grown, it should not be surprising that very shortly after Mary’s death, Robert married his second wife, Catherine (1643-1692).  Their wedding took place 28 Mar 1679.  Like Mary, Catherine’s surname is in dispute.  She is variously called Catherine (or Katherine) Hone, Armistead, Keeble, and other names.  Many believe she was born Catherine Armistead—vehemently denied by others—who then married Theophilus Hone, Sr.  (Others say she was Catherine Hone, [daughter of Theophilus Hone, Sr.] who married William Armistead.)  When Theophilus died, Catherine married our Robert Beverley who needed help with his children.  She brought with her to the marriage at least one child, Theophilus Hone, Jr.  She and Robert had four more children:  William, Thomas, Christopher, and Catherine.  In 1680, the children in the Robert and Catherine Beverley household would have included: Walter, Mary, George, and Margaret Keeble; Theophilus Hone, Jr.; and William Beverley, the first of Robert and Catherine’s four children.

 

(Later, when our Robert died, Catherine Armistead?-Hone-Beverley  married Christopher Robinson who had had some children with his first wife, Agatha Bertram Obert (1652-1686):  Anne [1679-1712], Clara [1683-1697], John [1683-1749], and Christopher [1681-1727].  [The names and number of these Robinson-Obert children vary in different accounts.  Many list only one child for Agatha and Christopher—John]  In any event, Catherine and Christopher are said to have had 4 more children named Agatha [c1687-?], Elizabeth [1688-1695], Benjamin [1690-1761], and Theophilus  [1691-1691].)

 

Let’s just run through this:  Robert Beverley was married at least twice (Mary and Catherine); Mary was married twice (George Keeble and Robert Beverley); Catherine was married at least three times  (Theophilus Hone and/or William Armistead [depending on what her maiden name was],  Robert Beverley, and Christopher Robinson.)  Christopher Robinson was married twice (Agatha Obert and Catherine Whoever).  The surviving minor offspring of all these marriages eventually ended up with the longest-surviving adult.  Catherine died 23 Apr 1692 and her husband Christopher Robinson died about 10 months later on 13 Feb 1693.  Thus, for almost a year all the children were technically under his care. Hopefully the children from all these marriages were in the most part grown by the time Catherine/Katherine married Christopher Robinson.  Otherwise, the Robinson household must have been teeming with children of various ages and surnames.  [Maybe that 1 Apr 1666 marriage date was significant after all.])

 

(Another note:  This marital situation was not extremely unusual.   Remember, lifespans were short; people married fairly young and remarried quickly.  These children, although they were all at some time orphans and/or stepchildren, were actually lucky.  Had they been from poor families, they would probably have been “apprenticed out” to help with family finances; as it was, they stayed with their families.)

 

(I tried for months to get enough evidence to figure out the surnames of Mary and Catherine because I did not want to lose whole branches of our family tree—which is what happens whenever we run into an unknown last name.  We won’t be able to claim any of the maternal surnames in this mess.  We have ancestors from both Mary’s and Catherine’s lines:  Harry Beverley [1669-1730] from Mary whatever her name was, and Catherine Beverley [1686-1726] from  Catherine/Katherine Whozit.  In addition, we have the Hon. John Robinson (son of Christopher) who married Catherine Beverley, child of Robert Beverley.  Isn’t genealogy fun?)

 

(Note:  Please remember that almost all of this information comes from secondary sources; thus names, dates, and other facts are all suspect.)

 

Life with Catherine

 

Robert and Catherine added to the plantation life he and his first wife started.  He even sent some of his sons back to England for schooling.  (Son Thomas, unfortunately, died at school in England—some say of an accident—and  was buried there.  When Robert himself died in 1687, the year after Thomas, he owned more land in Virginia than any other person had owned up to that time—38,000 acres. (Some say 50,000 acres)  He owned several plantations, plus all that goes with them.  All this was accomplished in the fairly short life span of 46 years—actually, it was accomplished in the even shorter span of 24 years that Robert had lived in the colonies.

 

A description of the plantation of Col. William Fitzhugh, Robert’s friend and his attorney during the “plant cutting” trials, [see below]  might give us an idea of what Robert’s own plantation would be like:  “On [the land] was a comfortable dwelling, dairy, dovecot, stable, barn, henhouse, and kitchen, an orchard of 2,500 apple trees, a garden one hundred feet square, large tobacco fields, and a good stock of cattle, hogs, horses, and sheep.”

 

As far as possessions inside the Beverley house are concerned, the 1674 inventory of Ambrose Fielding, a well-to-do Virginia planter who lived at about the same time as our Robert, might give us an idea of what we might expect to find in a Seventeenth Century Virginia plantation.

 

If we toured  Fielding’s house we might see a “great room” containing “a dining table, a serving table, another small table, fourteen rush-bottom chairs, two chests, a cupboard, a bottle case and bottles, some linen, earthenware, glassware, pewter, two brass candlesticks, a silver bowl, and a silver tankard.  In one chamber” [we might see]  “a ‘great bed’ with damask canopy, curtains, silk counterpane, feather mattress, and blankets; two chairs, a chest, a pewter basin and ewer, a looking glass, a warming pan, and a brass candlestick. In the parlor…two tables, twelve chairs, a couch, a cupboard, several books, a Turkey carpet, a pair of silver candlesticks, and four family portraits.”  It would seem that after a Spartan beginning, the Virginia planters “did all right” in the long run.  Even so, we must remember that at that time: “Matches had not been invented; there was no running water in the house, no gas for lighting and heating, no sewer to carry off the waste matter, no central heating, and no powered washing [or cleaning] machines. “  As Governor William Berkeley said in a letter describing the living conditions in Virginia, “We live after the simplicity of the past age.”

 

Into every idyllic life, some rain must fall.  Two major events were to occur that would change Robert’s life forever.

 

Bacon’s Rebellion

 

When Bacon’s Rebellion broke out in 1676, Major Robert defended his friend, the Royal Governor William Berkeley, and the Governor in turn appointed him in charge of all the government’s forces.  Beverley was so successful and zealous in his defense and the governor was so pleased with his service that he said of our Robert, “Major Beverley has proved himself to be most loyal, circumspect and courageous in his majesties service."   (For information about Bacon’s Rebellion, see the AOM for our ancestor William Hatcher, who was on Bacon’s side) 

 

 When Bacon and his followers attacked and burned Jamestown, Major Robert accompanied the Governor to the Eastern Shore to protect him.  The governor sent him back to Jamestown with a force of 20 to 30 men, and Major Robert distinguished himself in battle.  Beverley did receive some criticism, too, for he felt that “war should support war,” and because of this belief plundered and seized property and land belonging to the dissidents who had aided Bacon.  The court later held that this property and land had been justifiably seized and that Major Robert and his militiamen could keep what they had taken.

 

After Bacon was forced to flee and after his horrible death, (See the Hatcher AOM) both Beverley and Governor Berkeley expected more praise than they received from the King.  Beverley had always been a supporter of the king, and he was irritated when the King Charles did not seem to recognize his contributions.  This may have been a turning point, for as someone once said, “Times change and men change with them.” King Charles II sent a group of Commissioners to VA to investigate the uprising, recalled Berkeley to England, and appointed a new governor.   By the time the soldiers and Commissioners arrived, the rebellion was over.  Although he had backed the Governor (and thus, the King), Major Beverley refused to turn over the records of the House of Burgesses without the permission of the House.  Though Governor Berkeley had been recalled to England, he died in his rooms there in 1677 without having an audience with the King.   However, according to Robert’s son and namesake in his writings about Bacon’s Rebellion,  “his majesty declared himself well satisfied with his [Berkeley’s] conduct in Virginia, and was very kind to him during his sickness, often enquiring after his health, and commanding him not to hazard it by too early an endeavor to come to court.”  On the other hand, as far as Major Robert’s friendship with Berkeley was concerned, by this time, the two men had had a falling out, for Robert believed that Governor Berkeley had committed illegal acts in regard to his office, especially in passing on land and valuables to his cronies.

 

The “Plant Cutters”

 

Adding to the situation and making matters even worse was the so-called “plant cutting.”  Virginia economy of the time was built on tobacco.  Unfortunately, in the early 1680’s tobacco had dropped in price.  Our Robert and several others pointed out that having less tobacco would raise the product’s price.  He encouraged planters not to plant tobacco and/or to cut back the crops they had already planted.  The low prices caused riots, and with Beverley’s encouragement, groups of men raided tobacco fields to cut the plants.  The new royal Governor Lord Thomas Culpepeper was in England, so the Lieutenant and Acting Governor, Henry Chichley had to handle the situation.   Proclamations were issued stating  that “unlawful Assembling to cut up pull up or otherwise destroying tobacco Plants to be open Rebellion,” and that people who did so would be “prosecuted as Rebels.”  Many were arrested, some punished, and a few executed.  Chichley was more easygoing than Culpeper, however, and he pardoned a number of the “plant cutters’ as they came to be called in VA history.  When Culpeper returned, he was livid.

 

In Virginia the King’s Commissioners—originally sent after the Bacon Rebellion—had the House of Burgesses’ records seized.  (The King had sent word—seize the records even if the men have to kick the doors down.)  Members of the House supported Beverley in his defiance of withholding the records—since in a way doing so protected them—thus, they sent a protest to Parliament.  This protest angered the king who ordered Beverley removed from both his position as Clerk and his position on the Governor’s Council.  Beverley thus lost his seat and office but was reinstated some time later.  In addition, during the next election, the people re-elected Robert Beverley to the House.

 

Imprisonment

 

Because of his refusal to hand over the Legislative Journals, Beverley was charged with sedition and arrested in May of 1682 .  He was held prisoner aboard the Duke of York in the Rappahannock River.  He claimed the right of a “free borne Englishman “ and was transferred under guard to another ship, The Concord.  Next he was moved to “Colonel Curtis’ sloop” with the intention of him being taken to Northampton for confinement.  All this moving about permitted Beverley to escape from the Sheriff of York during the transfer from the sloop.  He made it back to his home in Middlesex, but was recaptured and sent to the Eastern Shore.  He applied for a writ of habeas corpus but was refused and escaped again.  In January of 1683 he was again captured and newly charged with sedition.  The specific charges were:  1.  breaking open letters addressed to the Secretary’s office; 2. making up the journal he had refused to hand over to officials, and 3. refusing to give copies of the journal to the Governor and Council “saying he might not do it without leave of his masters [the Burgesses].” 

 

Our ancestor had also incurred governmental wrath for being largely instrumental in instigating the plant cutting, and in stirring up the discontent caused by the government’s “foolish attempt to force the people of Virginia to trade at certain towns.”  Major Robert Beverley was found guilty of the charges.  On his knees “the formerly gallant” Beverley begged for pardon, and it was granted.  After he was forced to pay ₤2,000 in fines to insure his “good behavior,” he was released, but for the remainder of his life, he was restricted to Middlesex County.

 

King James II Steps In

 

Although he had fallen from favor with the new governor and new King, Major Robert was still held in high esteem by the colonists.  At the next election he was returned to the House of Burgesses and in 1685 was again elected Clerk of that Body.  In addition, the House began protesting against the actions of the governor and king, passing proclamations and resolutions against them.  The new King, James II, who assumed the crown in 1685, was most upset and blamed Robert Berkeley for “these democratical [sic] proceedings” in the House.  The King commanded that Beverley “be incapable of holding any office, and that he should be prosecuted and that in future the appointment of [the House of Burgesses’ Clerk] should be made by the governor.”

 

Shortly after all this political strife, Robert Beverley died 16 Mar 1687.  Since his wife Catherine was pregnant when he wrote his will on 26 Aug 1686, he included his unborn child as one of his heirs.  This child is probably Christopher, who was not mentioned in the will and who was born 19 Mar 1687, three days after his father’s death. (Some sources give conflicting dates for Christopher’s birth.) Major Robert’s will is the well-thought-out, lengthy document of a very wealthy man.

 

Considering all his honors, contributions, and adventures, Robert Beverley’s greatest gift to America was probably the influence he had on his children and on Americans who would come later.

 

  • His oldest son, Colonel Peter Beverley was Clerk of the House of Burgesses from 1691-1699.  He was Clerk of Gloucester County from 702-1714.  He served as Treasurer of Virginia and was appointed as a member of the Council in 1719. 

 

  • His second son, Robert Beverley, Jr., was Clerk of the General Court, Clerk of Council and Clerk of the General Assembly. As a freeholder of Jamestown he served in the House of Burgesses, in the Assemblies of 1699. He wrote "History of Virginia in Its Present State” and is considered one of Virginia’s foremost historians.  Thomas Jefferson read Beverley, and it is said that Beverley, Jr.’s writings include “the seeds of political ideas that were to flower in the prose of Thomas Jefferson.” Jefferson considered  Robert, Sr. “a forerunner of the American Revolution by creating antagonism with the British government.”

 

  • Major Robert’s third son, Captain Harry Beverly, served as a Justice and Burgess of Middlesex County and was elected Clerk of the House of Burgesses.  He was a surveyor of King and Queen Co. and King William County 1702-1714; he assisted in surveying the Virginia-North Carolina boundary line with Col. William Byrd.  In 1716 VA Governor Spotswood sent Capt Harry to search for pirates and Spanish wrecks in the Bahamas. Harry was captured by a Spanish man-of-war and held prisoner in Vera Cruz for seven months without a trial before he managed to escape.  He returned to VA before August 1717.  About 1720, he moved to Spotsylvania County, where he was Presiding Justice of Spotsylvania County for a number years.  Harry is our ancestor.

 

  • Although it was difficult for a woman of the time to become a “leader,” Major Robert’s daughter, Catherine may have become a woman of influence since she married the Honorable John Robinson, member of the House of Burgesses, member of Council between 1720 and 1749, and Acting Governor of Virginia in 1749.

 

When he died, Robert Beverley was considered by his neighbors as a great patriot of Virginia.  History remembers him as ”a man loyal to the king, yet an ardent supporter of the liberties of the Colony of Virginia and of the House of Burgesses, of which he was long a faithful and useful officer, a courageous and active soldier, a true and stanch friend, and the possessor of a very general popularity and influence among the people.”

 

Major Robert Beverley was Papaw’s 7-great grandfather.  If you are Eli McCarter’s great great grandchild, Robert Beverley is your 11-great grandfather.

 

Line of Descent from Major Robert Beverley to Rev. Eli McCarter

 

Major Robert Beverley (1641-1687) + Mary Unknown (1637-1678)

Capt. Harry Beverley (1669-1730) + Elizabeth Smith

Agatha Beverley (1716-?) + William Robinson (1709-1792)

Agatha Robinson (1737-1812) + Capt. William Sims (c1729-c1798)

Joanna Sims (1761-1852) + James Ownby (1761-1850)

John Ownby (1781-1857)  + Mary Jane Koone (1793-1881)

Mary Ownby (1814-1846) + Thomas McCarter (1811-1888)

Thomas Hill McCarter (1846-1923) + Marriah Reagan (1842-1923)

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

 

Sources:

 

BEVERLEY FAMILY

http://www.geocities.com/whatupchuck1942/otherfamily.html

 

Beverley Family

http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~marshall/esmd25.htm

 

Beverley Family Genforum
genforum.genealogy.com/beverly/   

 

Beverley, Robert.  The History and Present State of Virginia.  London, England: n.p. , 1705.  Reprint  Richmond, VA:  J.W. Randolph,   www.archive.org/stream/historyofvirgini00beve/historyofvirgini00beve_djvu.txt

 

Descendent Register of J. Peter Bev.

Hawley Davis Stowell Payton Family Association http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=hdspfa&id=I4806

 

Description of The Beverley Family of Virginia: Descendants of Major Robert Beverley (1641-1687) and Allied Families, by John McGill (Columbia, South Carolina, 1956), 8vo, 1118 pages, with twelve interleaved images and 112 pages of index   http://www.digital-editions.com/BEVERLEY.htm

 

Endnotes to:  REGISTER CONTAINING THE BAPTISMS MADE IN THE CHURCH OF THE FRENCH REFUGEES AT MANNIKIN-TOWN IN VIRGINIA, IN THE PARISH OF KING WILLIAM, IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD, 1721, THE 25TH MARCH. 82-DONE BY JAMES SOBLET, 83 CLERK

http://manakin.addr.com/brock4.htm

 

Faber, Temple Christian.  Caste and Christianity: A Looking-glass for the Times.

Published by Robert Hardwicke, 1857

Original from the University of California

Digitized Dec 11, 2007 

books.google.com/books?id=Td9LAAAAIAAJ...

 

"Fitzhugh, William."  Edited Appleton’s Encyclopedia, Copyright 2001 VirtualologyTM

http://famousamericans.net/williamfitzhugh

 

Kennedy, Mary Selden.  Seldens of Virginia and Allied Families.  Madison, Wisconsin:  University of Wisconsin.  Reprint.  Frank Allaben Genealogical Company, 1911. Digitized Nov 29, 2007 pp336-345

http://books.google.com/books?id=y61RAAAAMAAJ&output=textssss

 

Robert Beverley On Bacon's Rebellion, 1704

http://www.etsu.edu/cas/history/docs/bevbacon.htm

 

Stanard, W. G.  Major Robert Beverley and His Descendants.  http://www.jstor.org/pss/4241849

 

Tate, Thad W., and David Ammerman.  The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century.  New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, 1979.  pp. 155-156.  

 

The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

By Virginia Historical Society

Published by Virginia Historical Society, 1910

Item notes: v. 18, pp. 252-256. 

www.ancestorbibliography.org/page_bev.htm

 

Warner, Charles Willard Hoskins.  “Robert Beverley,” in Ancestor Sketches:
A Closer Look at Our Ancestors. 
Prepared by Members of the Chesapeake Bay Company.  http://jamestownechesapeakebaycompany.com/Ancestor_Sketches_Of_Members_Of_The_Chesapeake_Bay_Company_Of_The_Jamestowne_Society.htm

 

 

 

 

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