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John S. (John Sergeant) Wise.

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of England for many years addressed all their decrees to



16 THE END OF AN ERA

Nowhere is the type of the original settler in Virginia
so well preserved, or are to be found the antique customs,
manners, and ways of the Englishman of the seventeenth
century in America so little altered, as in the Kingdom
of Accawmacke. No considerable influx of population
from anywhere else has ever gone to the eastern shore
of Virginia since the year 1700. The names of the very
earliest settlers are still there. Everybody on the Pen
insula knows everybody else. Everybody there is kin to
everybody else. Nobody is so poor that he is wretched ;
nobody is so rich that he is proud. The majority of the
upper class are stanch Episcopalians, just as their fathers
were Church of England men ; and the remainder of the
population are for the most part Methodists, Baptists,
and Presbyterians.

The vices of the community, as well as the virtues, are
equally well-recognized inheritances from their progeni
tors. Fighting and drunkenness are by no means absent,
but theft is rare among the whites. The kinship and
sociability of the population are such that the fondness of
the Englishman for sports of all kinds is freely indulged.
No neighborhood is without its race-boat ; no court day
without its sporting event of some kind ; and no tavern
without its backgammon board, quoits, and, in old times,
its fives-court. The poorhouse has fallen into decay.
When a man dies, his kin are sufficiently numerous to
care for his family ; and while he lives, there is no excuse
for pauperism in a land where earning a living is so easy
a matter.

The citizen of Accawmacke may begin life with no
other capital than a cotton string, a rusty nail, and a
broken clam, and end it leaving a considerable landed
estate. With his string for a line, his nail for a sinker,
and his clam for bait, he can catch enough crabs to eat,



THE KINGDOM OF ACCAWMACKE 17

and sell enough besides to enable him to buy himself
hooks and lines. With his hooks and lines he can catch
and sell enough fish to buy himself a boat and oyster
tongs. With his boat, fishing-lines, and oyster tongs he
can, in a short while, catch and sell enough fish and oysters
to enable him to build a sloop. With his sloop he can
trade to Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York,
sell fish, oysters, and terrapin, and carry fruit and vege
tables, until he has accumulated enough to buy his own
little patch of ground, and build his house upon it.
Then, from the proceeds of his fruit, berries, and every
variety of early vegetable, for which he will find excellent
markets, he is sure of a comfortable living with easy
labor ; and he will be happier in his simple home than
many who are far more pretentious, and whose incomes
are far greater.

Such has been for three centuries, and still is, the place
and people among whom my lot was cast when I arrived
from Brazil, descendants of the families of Scarburgh,
Littleton, Yeardley, Bowman, Wise, West, Custis, Smith,
Ward, Blackstone, Joynes, Kennard, Evans, Robins, Up-
shur, Fitchett, Simpkins, Nottingham, Goffigan, Pitts,
Poulson, Bowdoin, Bagwell, Gillett, Parker, Parramore,
Leatherbury, Cropper, Browne, and the rest of them, who
were there when Charles I. was king, and who gave the
name of Old Dominion to Virginia because they refused
to swear allegiance to the Pretender Cromwell, and made
the colony the asylum of the fugitive officers of their
lamented sovereign.

Poor enough pay they got for their loyalty ; for, when
Prince Charlie came to his own, although Sir Charles
Scarburgh, son of old Captain Edmund of blessed mem
ory, was Court Surgeon, and although Colonel Edmund
Scarburgh, his brother, was made Surveyor-General in



18 THE END OF AN ERA

Virginia, in recognition of his fidelity, the reckless sov
ereign gave away the devoted Kingdom of Accawmacke
to his favorites, Arlington and Culpeper. To this day,
one of the loveliest places upon the Peninsula, on Old
Plantation Creek, bears the name of Arlington, bestowed
upon it by John Custis, in honor of one of the proprie
tary lords of the eastern shore.

A famous local celebrity in his day was this old John
Custis, feasting and junketing at lordly Arlington.
When, in 1649, Colonel Norwood, seeking asylum in
Virginia after King Charles s defeat, was shipwrecked
upon the coast of the eastern shore, he first secured abun
dant clothing from Stephen Charlton, a minister of the
Church of England, and his sufferings were atoned for,
he says, by finding John Custis at Arlington. He tells
us how he had known him as a tavern-keeper in Rotter
dam, and of the high living he had with Custis in his new
home until he put him across the bay to Colonel Worm-
ley s, more dead than alive from hospitality.

From the point of Cape Charles to the Maryland bound
ary, the coast of the Peninsula on sea side and bay side
is indented with inlets, which are called " creeks " in this
section. On the bay side, going northward from the cape
where the oldest settlements were made, the names of
these creeks are English, such as Old Plantation, Cherry
stone, and Hungers. Higher up the bay side, the names
given by the Indians before the white settlements seem to
have been retained; for we have successively Occahan-
nock, Nandua, Pungoteague, Onancock, Chesconessex, An-
namessex, and Pocomoke as the names of the beautiful
and bold inlets on the bay side. On the sea side, they
rejoice in such titles as Assawamman, Chincoteague, and
the like. These numerous inlets, many of which are navi
gable for vessels of considerable size, are but a few miles



THE KINGDOM OF ACCAWMACKE 19

apart, and divide the Peninsula into many transverse
" necks." Thus it often happens that neighbors living
on opposite sides of these creeks, within hailing distance
of each other, find it necessary, in order to visit each other
by land, to travel miles around the head of the creek divid
ing them. Small boats are, therefore, as much in use as
means of intercourse between neighbors, and for visiting
the post-offices and little towns at the wharves, as are
horses and vehicles ; and an eastern shore man is as much
at home in a boat as upon the land. The public roads of
the counties are called Bay Side and Sea Side roads, and
their general course is up and down the Peninsula, just
inside of the heads of the creeks. The only transverse
public roads are those to the wharves, and an occasional
cross road from the Bay Side to the Sea Side road.

It by no means follows, from the general use of boats,
that the travel by land is diminished ; for in no place is the
proportion of wheeled vehicles to population greater than
upon the eastern shore. Poor, indeed, is the citizen who
cannot own, or cannot occasionally borrow, an animal and
a vehicle of some kind. Strangers, visiting that section
for the first time, get the impression that at least half the
population is continually driving back and forth upon the
highways ; and the number and variety of animals and
vehicles collected at the county seat on court day is some
thing truly astonishing. The speed at which the driving
is done is likewise a matter of comment and observation
by many visitors to the eastern shore.

People from the Blue Grass regions, where size and
bone and symmetry count for so much in horseflesh, are at
first disposed to look contemptuously upon the Accomack
type of horse ; and, indeed, it must be confessed that he
is not the highest expression of physical beauty. But
never was the Scripture saying, that " the back is fitted



20 THE END OF AN ERA

to its burden," better exemplified than in the tough and
wiry little animal which you will sit behind, if you ever
make a visit to this far-away kingdom. Small in stature,
inclined even to those homely features known as ewe neck
and cat ham, often higher behind than in front, and with
great length of stifle, he is not, I admit, imposing to look
upon. We must carefully scan the cunning little fellow
before we condemn him. Note, if you please, in the first
place, that the close, shiny coat bespeaks a strong infusion
of the thoroughbred ; observe the large, gazelle-like eyes
beaming beneath the foretop, which is fluffy and shaggy
from the constant influence of salt sea air; watch the
nervous playing of the pointed ear, and see how the
broad forehead tapers away to the muzzle, with its wide
and flexible nostrils ; observe the clean, straight legs and
flat knees before, and bent stifles, well muscled, behind ;
run your hand over those pasterns, long, limber, and
without a windgall ; and do not overlook the cup-like,
often unshod, hoofs. What say you to those sloping
shoulders, that deep chest, and those well-rounded ribs,
close coupled to the heavy hips? When you have fin
ished, you will not ridicule a moving machine like that, if
you know good horseflesh when you see it. You may call
him pony if you like. Many of them do, indeed, possess
a cross derived from the wild pony of Chincoteague
Island. Now, I see you turn to look at the light convey
ance, with its almost fragile harness, and know you are
wondering whether such an outfit, drawn by such a horse,
will take you to your destination. One drive will dissi
pate every doubt. You are starting for a journey in a
country where there is not a hill twelve feet high within
fifty miles, over light, well-packed sand roads, on which,
in many places, you could hear an egg-shell crush beneath
the wheel.



THE KINGDOM OF ACCAWMACKE 21

Come, mount with me. Never fear that our vehicle
and harness are frail. They are light, but not fragile. In
the matter of our driving we are exquisites, and we buy
the toughest and the best. Never fear that we shall be
overturned, or that we shall hurt the horse. Hurt him ?
I love him as the apple of my eye ; and he knows me as
the Arab steed knows his rider. See how the little rascal
snuffs for a caress, as I loosen him from the fence where
he and a long line of his companions are made fast. Now
we have backed him out into the roadway. Gentle as a
lamb, quick as a kitten, see the little bundle of nerves
start the instant the reins are gathered, and how, with
that squat between the shafts, and spraddle, and over
reach in the hind legs, known to every horseman as the
surest sign of going, he is settled to his work, and spin
ning us along at a slashing gait. Before long, twenty
miles lie behind us, and when we pull up at Belle Haven
or Horn Town, not a sign of weariness or punishment
does the little beggar show. All that he asks and he
asks that in a way that no one can mistake his wish is
that we loosen his check-rein and let him stretch that
bony neck, and give a long, deep heave, before he takes
thirty swallows from the roadside water-trough. Then he
rubs his neck against my sleeve, and his unclouded eye
says, " Come, I am ready. Let us go again."

Let me tell you, also, that the horse is not the only
thing which you will find better than it looks in the King
dom of Accawmacke. The pretty little white-painted,
red-roofed houses are better than they look, as you will
learn when you enter their hospitable portals, and find
them the abodes of refinement and virtue and hospitality.
The quaint, flat farms are better than they look, as you
will learn when you see the bountiful crops of fruit and
high-priced early vegetables and berries which they pro-



22 THE END OF AN ERA

duce. The sea side and the bay side are even better
than they look, as you will know when you learn the
wealth of fish and shell-fish and sea food and game of
which they are the storehouses. The people themselves
are better than they look ; for, beneath their unassuming
and oftentimes provincial appearance, they possess great
shrewdness, great powers of observation, strong char
acter, decided opinions, refinement, and considerable edu
cation ; and, without one tinge of false pride, they are of
a lineage as old and as honorable as any of which Amer
ica can boast.

Two things, also, you will find in this locality which
can be no better than they look. One is the daybreak
and sunrise from the sea, and the other is the exquisite
sunset which lights land and ocean as the orb of day sinks
out of sight to the west beneath the waves of the Chesa
peake. Not sunny Italy, with all her boasted wealth of
color, can surpass the many-tinted loveliness of evening
in the ancient Kingdom of Accawrnacke, to which, for
some years to come, my residence was now transferred.



CHAPTER III
OUR FOLKS IN GENERAL AND IN PARTICULAR

OUR folks have been in Old England since the days of
Alfred, and in America since Thomas West, Lord de la
War, was governor of the Virginia colony in 1608, when
numerous brothers, cousins, and relatives followed him
hither in search of the treasures of the still undiscovered
South Sea.

There and here, for centuries, in peace and in war, they
have never failed to be mixed up in the thick of whatever
game the English stock has played.

They have lived and died in Devonshire and Somerset
shire for nearly ten centuries. Until its recent destruc
tion to make way for the government buildings, the old
family nest at Plymouth was almost as well known to
Englishmen as the banks of the Tamar itself. Burke
tells us the name is among the oldest in England.

The first American ancestor of our name was a younger
son of these old Devonshire people, and came to the Vir
ginia colony in the reign of Charles the First. The an
cient shipping-lists show that he sailed from Gravesend,
July 4, 1635, after first taking the oath of allegiance to
king and church. He was a lad of eighteen, who, yield
ing to the spirit of adventure which then prevailed in
England, joined his friends, the Scarburghs of Norfolk,
in the Kingdom of Accawmacke.

Two hundred and sixty years of separation ordinarily
works considerable estrangement, and difference in char-



04 THE END OF AN ERA

acteristics, between the separated branches of a family.
Not so with our people. If they possess one predominant
trait, it is their faith in and attachment to anybody and
everybody bearing the name, or springing from the old
stock. But for the evidence it gives of stanchness in love
and loyalty, the way in which the old ties are kept up, to
this day, between the English and American branches
would seem absurd. Descendants in the eighth degree
since the separation recognize the kinship ; and the Eng
lish cousins welcome the Americans to hearth and home,
taking no note of the two and a half centuries which have
elapsed since the American immigrant wandered off from
his English home, and placed the Atlantic Ocean between
himself and his family.

And let me tell you, you boys of America, that there is
no higher inspiration to any man to be a good man, a good
citizen, and a good son, brother, or father, than the know
ledge that you come from honest blood. Few who have
it scorn it, and many of those who are loudest in belittling
it would give all they have to possess it. And, boys, let
me tell you another thing. When you are hunting for
that honest blood, when you are looking back into the
wellsprings of your existence for the source of the virtue,
the courage, the manhood, the truth, the honesty, the
reverence, the family love, the simplicity of life, which
will make you what true men ought to be, believe me, you
are more apt to find it in the progenitors who came from
" the right little, tight little island " than anywhere else
on this rolling planet.

Don t deceive yourselves with the notion that England
did not furnish the best of us. We have had our trou
bles with her in the past, it is true. But it is hard for
the mother to realize that her boy is grown, and accord
him his rights as a man. She sometimes makes it very






^
CAI IPO*

OUR FOLKS IN GENERAL AND IN PARTICULAR 25



uncomfortable for him by failing to recognize that he is
no longer in his swaddling-clothes. But there is not a
true-hearted boy in the world who, in spite of his mo
ther s shortcomings, does not feel in his heart that there
is no other like her.

Don t take my word for it, if you think I am an old
fogy. Wait until you grow up and see the world for
yourselves. Travel through Russia, or Turkey, or Austria,
and you will never see a thing to stir your heart with a
desire to be one of them. Stand in the shadow of the
Pyramids, and you will be untouched by one wish that
your blood were Egyptian. Go through Germany, and,
while you will find there much to admire, there will still
be something lacking. In the home of the fickle Gaul,
even at Napoleon s tomb, the American boy is not in
touch with his surroundings. Spain and Italy, while pos
sessed of a wealth of antique beauty, are to us only echoes
of a decayed and different civilization.

But, some sunny day in London, wander through West
minster Abbey and read the names. Some misty morning
in Trafalgar Square, cast your eye upward to the form of
Nelson, as he stands there in the fog, with the lions sleep
ing at the base of his column. In some leisure hour, visit
the crypt of St. Paul s, where the car that bore Wellington
to his rest still stands. Then, perhaps, you will appre
ciate the meaning of an old fogy when he tells you,
"There s nothing outside America which tugs at an
American s heart-strings like the names and deeds and
monuments of Old England."

Don t let us deceive ourselves about it, either. Don t
think or say that it is a better country than our own.
Don t let us be Anglomaniacs. That is not at all neces
sary. America is good enough for us. In many things
these blessed United States already equal any nation on



26 THE END OF AN ERA

the globe. In almost everything, time considered, they
are a marvel. Within the past seventy years, American
inventive genius has contributed more to make life easy,
and to advance civilization, than all the world beside in
many hundred years, if we except the inventions of print
ing and gunpowder. In future we may, and probably
shall, become in all things the greatest nation that ever
existed. But it is not disloyalty to your own country,
and no disparagement of its greatness, to thank God that
the people from whom we sprang were Englishmen, and
that we have part and lot in England s glory.

In all America, there is no spot more emphatically Eng
lish than the Kingdom of Accawmacke. Nay, more : there
is many a spot in England to-day where the manners and
customs of the population have changed more from what
they were in the seventeenth century, than those of that
little peninsula in America. Of the twenty-five thousand
white people in the two counties of the eastern shore of
Virginia, it is safe to say that four fifths of them are de
scendants of the earliest English settlers, and that there
has been less infusion of foreign element there within the
last three centuries than in many parts of England itself.
But a few years ago, this writer sat in the old church at
Bishops Lydeard, Somersetshire, and looked over the
congregation. The resemblance in appearance between
the people assembled there and the congregations he had
often seen in the Episcopal Church at Eastville, the first
county seat of Accawmacke, and in the Bruton Parish
Church at Williamsburg, was striking.

The first John Wise married Hannah, eldest daughter
of Captain Edmund Scarburgh. In 1655, we find him
locating his grant from Governor Diggs on Nandua Creek,
and in 1662, he was one of the first presiding justices of
the newly formed county of Accawmacke. In this year.



OUR FOLKS IN GENERAL AND IN PARTICULAR 27

also, the Indian chief Ekeekes, for " seven Dutch blan
kets " sold him the two thousand acre tract on Chescones-
seck, named " Clifton " by its new purchaser, a tract of
which the greater part descended without deed from father
to son for six generations, until sold to pay the debts of
the seventh heir, who was killed in 1864 in the American
war between the States.

John, eldest son of the emigrant, married a Matilda,
daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel John West, and died in
1717. Their son John married a Scarburgh, daughter
of Colonel Tully Robinson, and died in 1767. Their son
John married a Margaret, daughter of Colonel George
Douglas, and died in 1770. Their son John married first
a Mary, daughter of Judge James Henry, and then a
Sarah, daughter of General John Cropper, and died in
1813 ; and their eon Henry, a younger son, was my father.
Related to a great number of the people of his county ;
known to all ; honored and respected for his high charac
ter ; and beloved for his widely known talents and elo
quence, which had reflected honor upon the community,
father s return from Brazil to his home in Accomack was
the occasion of great rejoicing and festivities upon the
eastern shore.

No more beautiful spot for a dwelling-place can be
found anywhere than his home named "Only." It is
located upon a bold estuary of the Chesapeake,, called
Onancock Creek, which comes down westwardly from its
source, and, upon reaching Only, makes a graceful turn,
first southward, then westward, then northward, and,
curving like a horseshoe, incloses within its bend five
acres of ground, with banks high above the stream and
level as a table, on which stands a grove of noble oaks of
the original growth.

In the neck of the horseshoe, with the grove behind ifc



28 THE END OF AN ERA

and a fan-shaped lawn of greensward before it, stood the
mansion house. It was not a stately structure. There
are few such among the simple folk of this Peninsula.
But it was a model of scrupulous neatness, every way fit
for the residence of an unpretentious country gentleman,
and, outside and inside, gave evidence of taste and refine
ment. On the eastern side of the lawn, a terraced garden
ran down to the water s edge ; and about the porches,
roses, cape jessamines, and honeysuckles climbed in great
luxuriance. Adjoining the house were the kitchen and
quarters of the household slaves, and outside the lawn,
beyond the terraced garden, were the barns, carriage-
houses, stables, and cattle-pens. Still further away were
the quarters occupied by the plantation slaves. Looking
upstream, other pretty points were visible, on which, in
groves, the picturesque dwellings of the neighbors were
seen ; and in the further distance was the village of
Onancock, with its steeples, and sandy streets, and red-
topped houses, and wharves swarming with boats of all
sizes from the schooner to the skiff. Westward from
Only, the stream courses broad and shining between slop
ing banks, on which, here and there, their greensward
often coming down to the water s edge, stood other homes,
which looked smaller and smaller in the distance. Far
away, beyond a dim point of pines marking the mouth of
Onancock Creek, the sparkling whitecaps of the bay are
visible, with the sails of commerce passing up and down,
or turning in and out of the entrance to the creek.

On the beautiful November morning determined upon
for welcoming my father on his return to the United
States, relatives, neighbors, friends, clients, and political
adherents began to assemble at Only.

Bright and early, activity was visible on the plantation.
Under the wide-spreading oaks, long tables were impro-



OUR FOLKS IN GENERAL AND IN PARTICULAR 29

vised, covered with snowy linen, and groaning with every
thing good to eat. At several points under the bluffs, pits
were dug where beeves and sheep and pigs were bar
becued, and oysters and clams and crabs and fish were
cooked by the bushel. Great hampers of food, sent from
the village, or from the homes of neighbors, stood about
the tables, ready for distribution when the feast should
begin. The house itself, decorated with flowers and
evergreens, was thrown wide open to the guests, and in
the rooms of the first floor was spread a collation for the
more distinguished visitors.

By eight o clock in the morning, the earliest of the
guests hove in sight. By ten o clock, the grandees of
the county began to arrive.

There were Colonel Joynes, the county clerk ; Lorenzo
Bell, the county attorney ; the Arbuckles, the Custises ;
the Finneys, the Waples ; the Corbins from near the Mary
land line ; the Savages from Upshur s Neck ; the Crop
pers from Bowman s Folly on the seaside ; the Sneads
from Mount Prospect ; the Upshurs from Brownsville ;
the Baylys from Mount Custis ; and the Yerbys, the
Nottinghams, the Goffigons, the Kennards, and Smiths,
from Northampton. But why enumerate ? Their name
was legion.

By midday the stables and stable-yards were filled ;
and the horses, fastened to the front-yard fence, formed a



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