Thursday, November 25, 2010

Our Family's Colonial Era - Part IX

by Glenn N. Holliman

More on Thomas Holeman, 1635 Land Owner at Martin's Hundred in Virginia

Martin's Hundred, a real estate development if you will, was named after the Society for Martin's Hundred of London, a land holding group in 1618. This huge settlement was located east of Jamestown and west of Skiffe's (Keith's Creek). It contained 20,000 acres and was a principle settlement site at that time. The website Jamestowne Rediscovery has an excellent summary.

Records indicated 140 or so English lived in the development when in 1622 on Good Friday, a surprise American Indian uprising took the lives of at least 78 of the settlers in Martin's Hundred. The remaining were captured or fled to Jamestown. According to historian Bob Dean in his book The River Where America Began, 347 settlers, more than 1/4th of all the colonists died in that one day massacre.

The Virginia colony was in great jeopardy, but struck back violently the next year against the Native Americans. The Crown took control of the dispirited colony from the Virginia Joint Stock Company that had founded Jamestown and had hoped to make a financial fortune.

Slowly the colony recovered, and immigrants arrived again. One being Thomas Holeman who purchased land in Martin's Hundred in 1635. Fifteen years later, Judith and Christopher Holyman, perhaps his siblings, arrived. Judith probably married quickly, and her name is lost to history.

In that same year of 1650, one John Holyman of Southampton, Virginia died leaving a will listing worldly goods but no land. He named a friend as an executor. When did he arrive and were Thomas, Judith and Christopher his siblings, all from Bedford, England?

We know Christopher survived and thrived, dieing in 1691 with an Isle of Wight County farm of 1,020 acres and numerous children. Most of us reading this today are his descendants.

In 1627, approximately 1,500 English persons lived in Virginia, mainly along the James. From 1606 until 1624, the Virginia Company had sent out over 7,000 settlers of whom over 6,000 died! By 1650, the year Christopher Holliman arrived, some 15,000, ten times as many white settlers were present, or about seven times as many Anglos over Native Americans by this time in Virginia. Many of the Indians had been destroyed by European diseases and malnutrition, as well as warfare. The English were living longer thanks to better diet and shelter.

What happened to Thomas? At this writing I know of no research that has surfaced a will or marriage record. He purchased land, and may have died early as did many. Unfortunately James City County records were destroyed when Richmond was burned during the Civil War, and only some land patent records survive to my knowledge. Martin's Hundred ceased to exist as an entity in the early 1700s.

Did Thomas survive long enough to welcome to Virginia other members of his family - assuming John, Judith and Christopher Holyman were his siblings (families often immigrated together or after one had settled and encouraged others to immigrate)? Can we ever know the whole story?

In the 1970s with a grant from the National Geographical Society, archaeologist Ivor Hume, excavated part of Martin's Hundred, now included in the Carter Grove Plantation and incorporated in the Williamsburg Foundation. Much of Hume's 1988 book (pictured above) focuses on the 1622 Good Friday Massacre and the physical remains of that day. The cover of the book shows an English soldier of the time, garbed in armor. It is compelling reading.

More in the next posting on our Colonial past....

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