Ancestor of the Month
Major Robert Beverley
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.
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 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
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.”
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.)
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
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.”
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.
years passed, Robert and Mary became quite prosperous. During the 12 years of
their marriage, they acquired a great deal of land and possessions.
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:
lyeth interred the Bodi of
Mary Beverley, Wife of
of nine sons and three daughters
departed this life the last day of
1678 aged fortie one years and three Months,
been married to him 12 years & 2
Careful Mother teaching Virtuous Life
Happy and making happy when a wife
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:
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.])
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
(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.)
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
(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,
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.
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”
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.
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.
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].”
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
James II Steps In
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Robert Beverley (1641-1687) + Mary Unknown (1637-1678)
Harry Beverley (1669-1730) + Elizabeth Smith
Beverley (1716-?) + William Robinson (1709-1792)
Robinson (1737-1812) + Capt. William Sims (c1729-c1798)
Sims (1761-1852) + James Ownby (1761-1850)
Ownby (1781-1857) + Mary Jane Koone (1793-1881)
Ownby (1814-1846) + Thomas McCarter (1811-1888)
Hill McCarter (1846-1923) + Marriah Reagan (1842-1923)
Eli McCarter (1886-1955) + Mary Elizabeth Hatcher (1889-1969)
Beverley Family Genforum
Beverley, Robert. The History and Present State of
Virginia. London, England: n.p. , 1705.
Reprint Richmond, VA: J.W.
Descendent Register of J. Peter Bev.
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
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
Faber, Temple Christian. Caste and Christianity: A Looking-glass for
Published by Robert Hardwicke, 1857
Original from the University of California
Digitized Dec 11, 2007
William." Edited Appleton’s Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM
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
Robert Beverley On Bacon's Rebellion, 1704
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.
Magazine of History and Biography
By Virginia Historical Society
Published by Virginia Historical Society, 1910
Item notes: v. 18, pp. 252-256.
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