Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our Family's Colonial Era, Part XV

by Glenn N. Holliman

The New Life of Christopher Holyman, Sr. in 1650

DNA testing and research both come to the same conclusions that the father of the Holliman family in America (Holleman, Hollomon and other variations) is Christopher Holyman, Sr (1618 - 1691), who landed at Jamestown, Virginia on May 22, 1650.

Unfortunately, we know his first wife only by her first name, Anne, and we do not know how and where Christopher lived during his first decade in Virginia. His name first appears in a legal document in 1660 in Isle of Wight County on the west side of the James River. If Thomas Holyman of Martin's Hundred (assuming he was Christopher's brother, a considerable 'if'') who had arrived in 1635 was still alive, no doubt he may have materially assisted this Holyman in his first years in the New World. Sadly Thomas Holyman is lost to history, and we can only speculate.

Imagine the America in which Christopher settled in 1650. Barely 50,000 Europeans were scattered from Boston to Jamestown, hugging the east coast with a fragile toe hold. There was no Charleston (or South or North Carolina), no Baltimore, no Philadelphia (no Pennsylvania) and New Amsterdam (later New York) was a small settlement at the tip of Manhattan surrounded, as were all colonies, by semi-hostile Native Americans. Only 15,000 or so settlers lived in Virginia, and the roads, such as existed, were mud hollows in wet weather.

Jamestown itself was little more than a village of 30 to 50 cabins and a brick church (see below) that also served as the colonial assembly building. Williamsburg did not exist.

The New World, although blessed with boundless forests, rivers teeming with fish, and savannas ripe with game, was a hostile environment. If one survived the wretched voyage in small ships across the North Atlantic (and on average, one out of four did not), then there was the period of 'seasoning' when immigrants had to face and overcome American diseases such as malaria and yellow fever from Virginia mosquitoes, and the usual small pox and other assorted maladies that took the lives of many. Until settlers established apple groves, there was a lack of vitamin C. Most wells were shallow in the Tidewater with resulting contamination and disease.

In 1650 already enshrined in Virginia law was the requirement that all white men carry muskets when leaving their homes. Powhatan Indians had delivered bloody blows to the encroaching settlements in both 1622 and 1642. In the last encounter, eight years before our Christopher arrived, over 500 Virginia colonists had been slain by Indians. The tension between the two cultures remained real and dangerous.

We know that on January 11, 1661, Christopher and Anne Holyman patented land along the Cypress River, Isle of Wight County from the founder of Smithfield, Virginia, George Smith. This would be virgin land, not yet exhausted by tobacco. In 1668, Christopher Holyman, this time with a new wife, Mary, would sell the land to Thomas Pittman. Google these names and one will find 'Holyman' and these sales articulated in several web sites.

Several sources besides web sites reveal these early transactions. In addition to Brodie's book I discussed in a previous post, Blanche Adams Chapman's Wills and Administrations of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, 1647 - 1800, Books 1 - 3 contains considerable legal recordings of the Holyman families.
Chapman's book (pictured below) is available through Heritage Books, 65 E. Main Street, Westminister, Maryland 21157.

The Story of Christopher Holliman, Sr. continues with the Next Post....

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