Conversations with Justin Sanders (part 3) William and John Sanders of Charles City, County, Virginia

Justin Sanders essay on his earliest Virginia ancestors continues:


I’d like to follow up on the note files sent earlier regarding William Sanders and John Saunders of Charles City County, with some thoughts and interpretations of what those records might mean to our research, and offer a couple of additional items clipped from other files. The two items that follow are from John Camden Hotten’s 19th century work, The Original Lists of Persons of Quality: 1600-1700, pages 117 and 119, respectively.

Ye Port of London: Ultimo Julij 1635

Theis under-written names are to be transported to Virginea imbarqued in ye Merchant’s Hope Hugh Weston Mr: p examinacon by the Minister of Gravesend touching their conformitie to the Church discipline of England & have taken the oaths of Alleg: Supremi:

. . . Jo: Saunders, 22. . . . [John Saunders].

Ye Port of London: vijo Augusti 1635

Theis under-written names are to be transported to Virginea imbarqued in the Globe of London Jeremy Blackman Mr: have been examined by the Minister of Gravesend of the Conformities & have taken the oaths of Alleg: & Surpemacie.

. . . Ric’r Adams, 22 . . . Wm Burton, 20 . . . Wm Saund’rs, 19.

I’ll comment on the latter record first. We’ve briefly discussed the topic of family alliances [See Ancestral Families and the English-Colonial Trade (1612-1632)], and this passenger manifest is noteworthy in that regard, containing three family names in my direct line that converged in Goochland/Albemarle County in the early 18th century.

My direct ancestor Thomas Sanders married Anne Adams about 1725. She was the daughter of Robert Adams, who was probably born in New Kent around 1680.

Thomas’ youngest brother Stephen married Priscilla Burton in Goochland about 1742. She is reportedly the daughter of Robert Burton, Jr. and Priscilla Farrar. I have not researched the Adams or Burton lines enough to know whether or not the men mentioned in this record are direct ancestors of Anne Adams and Priscilla Burton, or if are from offshoot branches of the same DNA group, but seeing the three names on the same manifest a century earlier illustrates the depth and strength of ancient alliances.

The first record is of interest because it, in conjunction with the records concerning William Sanders of Charles City County, may validate our shared belief that a strong tie appears to have existed between Sanders/Saunders persons connected to London’s financial and mercantile interests, and those of southwest England’s maritime community.

Although the 1635 Port of London record does not state where in Virginia John Saunders was destined, knowing he was transported to America aboard the Merchant’s Hope leaves little doubt about where he disembarked: at a growing settlement on the south bank of the James River near the mouth of Powell’s Creek in present-day Prince George County. Thirteen years earlier this location was known as Powellbrooke Plantation, owned by Captain Nathaniel Powell.

The Captain, his wife and ten servants were slain in the great Indian Massacre of March 22nd, 1622 and the property lay dormant for a space of years. A trio of wealthy London merchants – William Barker, Richard Quiney and John Sadler – acquired the property, each year stocking it with people and supplies borne by a ship owned by Barker, the Merchant’s Hope.

In 1638 the trio obtained a patent to the land and dubbed the plantation after Barker’s ship. In 1639 Barker added an adjoining patent, owning the headrights of William Sanders, amongst others.

Many of the people residing at the Merchant’s Hope plantation were indentured servants, but many others were not. Few descriptions of the settlement have survived, but it appears Barker, Quiney and Sadler were proprietors of a community resembling a feudal society in microcosm.

The John Saunders noted on the 1635 ship manifest, and the John Sanders documented in 1658 as an employee of Merchant’s Hope proprietors, may be one and the same (that record is included in the record file of William Sanders of Charles City County).

The document is a note demanding  payment fo r a tract leased by Mr. Rice Howe, and states: “. . . shall desire you to pay the bearer hereof John Sanders the five pounds sterl Due to Mr. Sadler and comp’ (company) being a fine for the Land you hold att Merch’ts Hope.” The document was signed by William Thomas, evidently an agent of the proprietors.

The John Saunders noted by Hotten would have been about forty-five years of age in 1658, so the theory that these two records pertain to the same man is at least plausible. And, although the knowledge that John and William Sanders appear to have lived in proximity of one another in Charles City County, and were brought there by the same ship owner, is not in itself proof of a relationship, William Thomas, signer of the above document, was a common denominator between them.

The record trail shows both men had an association with Thomas, a fact that may strengthen the possibility of a relationship.

I am almost certain William Sanders arrived in Virginia aboard Merchant’s Hope in late 1637 or early 1638. William Barker’s patent, in which William’s headrights were included, was dated 11 May 1639, and because the process of obtaining a patent generally took about a year, early 1638 seems the most likely estimate.

And while it is true that some patentees collected headrights over several years before seeking a patent, Barker had redeemed another set of headrights the previous year; thus it is certain William Sanders did not arrive before late 1637.

On 10 Oct 1640,William Sanders he obtained a patent of his own for a tract of land on the south side of the Appomattox River. Accomplishing this much less than two and a half years after his arrival is noteworthy, and a definitive statement that his financial circumstances were much better than most new arrivals.

I have not been able to locate this patent in Cavaliers & Pioneers, nor at the Library of Virginia, but it is referenced in a patent received by Walter Chiles on 5 Nov 1649. The Chiles patent pertains to the same land William acquired by patent, and includes a recitation of the property’s ownership history, already lengthy by the time Chiles obtained it by deed in 1642.

[WHB: Note that in the next century, the daughter of a Micajah Chiles, marries into one of my Quaker ancestral lines. See: Bedford County VA Quakers: Selected Notes from the South River Monthly Meetings.]

William Sanders assigned his patent to Walter Brooke at an unspecified date; Brooke soon after deeded the property  to William Thomas, the proprietary agent who authored the payment demand delivered by John Sanders delivered to Rice Howe.

Walter Chiles then purchased the land from Thomas on 20 Oct 1642, and received a patent for it seven years later. Although it is not noted when Sanders assigned his patent to Brooke, that the property received its fourth owner in the space of two years and ten days implies Sanders disposed of the land immediately after it was received.

From the Chiles patent several clues regarding William Sanders’ life and livelihood can be gleaned:that he received the patent only two to three years after his arrival is a clear indicator he never served a period of indenture; that he used the patent as a commodity rather than making the required improvements suggests William Sanders was not a planter.

The Chiles record also states Sanders’ original patent was for two hundred acres. Headrights were set at fifty acres per each person transported to the colony. William, evidently, had paid the passage of four persons.

And because the process of obtaining a patent required a year or more, it is safe to say this event took place no later than 1639. William’s 1660 will, presented at court in Charles City County in September of that year, identifies a family group consisting of wife Joane, three unmarried daughters named Jane, Susan and Joane, and a son, William Jr. The will notes that William Jr. was then a minor, meaning he was born after 1639 – after the family relocated to Virginia.

Therefore it is likely that William obtained the 200 acre patent of the Appomattox River for paying the passage of his wife and three daughters. Thus, the Chiles patent suggests William Sanders was a man possessed of his own resources, perhaps engaged as a mercantilist, or was well connected to shipping interests – or both.

Of three men named in the Sanders to Chiles land transaction, the descendants of two, Walter Chiles and Walter Brooke, are found in early 18th century records of my direct line, and the third, William Thomas, establishes another direct link (William Barker being the first) between John Saunders and William Sanders.

In a previous email I noted the connections of Walter Chiles’ great-grandson, Henry Chiles, to my direct ancestor Thomas Sanders in Albemarle County circa 1750. I’ll not repeat that information, but speculation about Walter Chiles origins bears repeating in the context of the current topic.

What I have documented about Chiles is that he was a member of the gentrified class, a merchant and burgess whose principal residence was in James City County; he and with wife Elizabeth had two sons, Walter Jr. and William. I have located two unsourced family trees that states Walter’s wife Elizabeth was a Sanders, and that they hailed from Gloucestershire, England.

I have yet to find records to substantiate these claims, but if Elizabeth truly was a Sanders and native of Gloucestershire, the names of their sons take on added significance. If English naming patterns were adhered to in Chiles household, Walter Jr. would have been named after his paternal grandfather, and William after his maternal grandfather, William Sanders.

In 1638, the year William Sanders arrived in the Virginia Colony, Walter Chiles Sr. received two patents on the south bank of the “Appamattucke River.” The first, dated 1 March 1638, identified Chiles as a merchant and adjoined the patent of Edward Tunstall. (Virginia Patent Book 1, p. 625).

The second patent, dated 2 May 1638 was for transporting himself, wife Elizabeth and sons Walter and William, and adjoined Edward Tunstall’s and his own recent patent. (Virginia Patent Book 1, p. 551).

When the newly arrived William Sanders obtained his patent in 1640, I do not think it a coincidence that it adjoined the patent of Walter Chiles. I think it far more likely that, in 1639, when Sanders would have begun the patent process, Chiles located and identified the property he wished to patent – as patentees were required to do – because William Sanders was his brother-in-law and uncle to his children. This leads me to believe that the 1634 marriage record between William Saunders and Joane Longe of Bitton, Gloucester County, England may in fact pertain to the William and Joane Sanders of Charles City County, Virginia circa 1638-1660.

A cursory look at the descendants of Walter Brooke allows for the possibility that the Reverend Zachariah Brooks of Hanover and Goochland County records of the early 18thcentury is a direct descendant.

A 1727 entry in the Douglas Register states Rev. Brooks was contracted for a period of one year to conduct worship services in St. James Parish of Goochland, and to read prayers one Sunday each month at the home of John Saunders.

This John Saunders is the father of John Hyde Saunders, and I strongly believe is the brother of my direct ancestor, James Sanders of St. Peter’s Parish records, 1699-1717. I am actively trying to prove or debunk this theory about James and John being brothers, and although I have yet to find anything that definitely proves the theory, I have also not seen anything that tends to disprove it.

Whether or not William Sanders of Charles City County ties directly to my line or yours – and I do think it possible he is a direct ancestor of your Julius Saunders – isn’t of real importance in this discussion.  But I do think this record trail validates our belief that strong and actives ties did exist between the two groups.

The 1635 passenger manifest regarding John Saunders show he sailed to Virginia aboard the Merchant’s Hope out of the Port of London. Records pertain to William Sanders do not indicate where he boarded the same ship two to three years later, but Bristol would have been a natural and logical layover point for Virginia bound ships out of London.

It seems likely that William Sanders, possibly a merchant or entrepreneur of some sort, embarked from Bristol, and the matter may have been arranged by John Saunders, a distant relative with ties to mercantile and shipping interests in London.

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