Virginia Armistead Garber.

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Copyright, 1910,


Richmond, Va.

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A RECORD of the editor's branch of the Armistead family
was begun in the summer of 1903, at the request of an
elder brother, who came to Virginia for the purpose of
collecting family data for his large family living in distant South-
ern States. Mrs. Sallie Nelson Robins, of the Virginia Historical
Society, started the ball in motion when preparing his paper to
join the Virginia Sons of the American Revolution. From this,
the work has grown till the editor sends "The Armistead Family''
to press, in sheer desperation at the endless chain she has started ;
powerless to gather up the broken links that seem to spring up
like dragon's teeth in her path. She feels that an explanation is
due, for the biographical notes, detail descriptions, and traditions
introduced in her own line; which was written when the record
was intended solely for her family. Therefore, she craves in-
dulgence for this personal element.

Dr. Lyon G. Tyler's Armistead research in the William and
Mary Quarterly is the backbone of the work, the use of which
has been graciously accorded the editor. She is also indebted
to Mr. Robert G. Stanard and Mrs. Sallie Nelson Robins, of .the
Virginia Historical Society; Mr. ■ W. S\ AppletonV Family of
Armistead, Bishop Meade's Ola Churches and Families of Vir-
gima, and various other authors of V ; rg:n;.a hisvory herein named.
Obtaining correct data was a wearying undertaking; some phases
of it amusing; charming letters -.were, received and friendships
started ; sometimes, ignorance of, or indifference to knowledge of
one's ancestry, prompted the remark "My father or grandfather

4 Preface

was so democratic that he paid little attention to such matters.'"
We wonder if they know that Thomas Jefferson, that great apostle
of democracy in Virginia, cared for "such matters."

There is on record a letter from Thomas Jefferson to John
Adams, his London agent, in which he directs Mr. Adams "to
search the Herald's office 'for the arms of my family.' I have what
I am told are the family arms, but on what authority I know not.
It is possible there may be none. If so, I would, with your as-
sistance, become a purchaser, having Sterne's word for it that a
coat of arms may be purchased as cheap as any other coat."

"What Mr. Adams found we cannot say, but thereafter upon
the silver, china, paper of the Sage of Monticello, yea, even upon
the fence that incloses his tomb, we find the three leopard's faces
with the head of a talbot for its crest."

Craving indulgence for all mistakes, we send it forth, assur-
ing the Armistead connection that we have done our best. We
heard it said a few days since that only two men ever lived who
never made a mistake — Enoch and Elijah, and they were trans-

Mrs. A. W. Garber,

211 E. Franklin St., Richmond, Va.

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THE search for data and incidents, relating to the Armistead
family, has necessitated a great deal of reading, besides
literal digging into the records of various counties and
the Land Office, disciphering old tombstones, and visiting the
sites of old homes and original grants. The drudgery, the weari-
ness of it all, is forgotten, but the charm and romance of those
early days linger with us, like some tender, bewitching dream,
that we would fane keep fresh in the memory of those of the
family, who may not have the same opportunity for the study of
Virginia's Colonial history.

Before considering the country, or the conditions surrounding
the early settlers, let us glance at the influences at work in Eng-
land, that impelled the emigration of such stalwart, brave men.

The emigration to Virginia, at the beginning of the seven-
teenth century, was evidently the outcome of the restless spirit
and craving for adventure that followed in the wake of the Refor-
mation and the introduction of printing. These twin wires electri-
fied the world. The rebound from the lethargy of dogma burst
forth in the wild desire for change, for broadening the horizon
of knowledge, and enlarging fortunes. The mystic, dreamland
stories of early sea-rovers ; later, the actual possessions of the
Spanish crown in the Western Hemisphere, fired the heart of
Sir Walter Raleigh, who had the bravery, daring and determi-
nation of a sea king, and the far-reaching vision of a states-
man. The disasters of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the mysterious fate
of Sir Richard Greville's settlement on Roanoke Island, paralyzed
the hopes of that generation. The spirit of adventure, zeal of
the missionary, and lust of gold, reached high tide at the begin-

6 The Armistead Family

ning of the seventeenth century. In the midst of this fever of
unrest, Captain John Smith came back to England, a youth in
years, just twenty-five, but a veteran in war and adventure. At
the old Mermaid Tavern he and Bartholomew Gosnold, with other
worthies of that day, would meet to talk over plans looking to a
speedy fulfilment of their dream. King James at last authorized
a voyage, and the first permanent English settlement in America
at Jamestown was the mustard seed, from which has sprung the
brains, energy and wealth of this vast United States of America.
Edmund Spenser, in dedicating his Faerie Queen to Queen Eliza-
beth, linked Virginia with her other kingdom jewels, perhaps in
compliment to his patron and friend, Sir Walter Raleigh, or did
his vision penetrate into the future and see the marvelous pos-
sibilites of this wonderland of the west? Aye, it was a very
wonderland — "the Western paradise" so long dreamed of — to
those pioneers, who, after an uncertain, stormy, mutinous voyage,
landed first at Cape Henry, and next at the Indian town, Ke-
coughtan, "pleasantly seated upon three acres of land, half sur-
rounded by the great River, the other part with the Baye of the
other river falling into the great Baye, with a little Isle, fit for
a castle, in the mouth thereof." "It was a Good Land, most
pleasant, sweet and wholesome,'' but their orders were to settle
inland, out of the way of the much dreaded Spaniards, so they
sailed further up the river, and "moared their shippes" at James-

From that time on, stalwart Englishmen literally hewed their
way through dissensions, privations, treachery, famine and mas-
sacre, until they were firmly established in plantations or hun-
dreds, all over Tidewater Virginia. It may be interesting to
know, that up to 1633, each plantation or hundred was repre-
sented by a burgess ; at that time the country was divided into
eight shires "to be governed, as in England." In 1643 counties
were formed. The thirteen counties, at the beginning of the Com-
monwealth, 1652, were Elizabeth City County, York, Warwick,
Gloucester, Lancaster, Henrico, Charles City, Isle de Wight,
Nansemond, Lower Norfolk, Northampton, Northumberland.

The Armistead Family 7

Elizabeth City County was one of the eight original shires. Rapid
changes were now taking place. Fine manor houses were being
built instead of log houses ; cultivated fields and rich harvests
were in evidence. "The pioneer is now a burgess, a justice, a ves-
tryman, a councillor, who rides in his coach and four ; his land a
valuable estate, which no creditor can claim for is it not entailed
on his eldest son, who shall be lord of the manor after his
father ? On the banks of the James, the York, the Rappahannock,
flourished a brilliant, prosperous society, whose centres were Vir-
ginia gentlemen, with their wives dispensing lordly hospitality."

Messrs. Stan^rd, Tyler and Bruce have given to the public
interesting and accurate facts of that time. It is plain from their
research, that there was in Virginia, during the seventeenth cen-
tury, a decided aristocracy; that "gentleman" had a definite mean-
ing; one who had a right to bear arms.

This class of Virginia gentlemen had a right to armorial
honor from their ancestors. "Virginians were simply English
people living in Virginia, tenacious of their rights and with a will
and determination to defend them."

The history of the ballot in Virginia begins with that first
legislative assembly in Jamestown in 1619. At first every planta-
tion was entitled to suffrage, then counties and the parishes of
the counties ; voting was not only a right and duty, but was com-

Rev. Hugh Jones, "Present State of Virginia in 1728," the in-
telligent professor of mathematics in William and Mary Col-
lege, said : "They live in the same neat manner, dress after the
same modes, and behave themselves exactly as the gentry in Lon-
don ; most families of any note have a coach, chariot, Berlin, or

"The public or political character of Virginians corresponds
with their private one ; they are haughty and jealous of their liber-
ties, impatient of restraint, and can scarcely bear the thought of
being controlled by any superior power. Many of them con-
sider the colonies as independent States, not connected with Great
Britain, otherwise than by having the same common King, and

8 The Armistead Family

being bound to her with natural affection" (Burnaby's Travels
in Virginia in 1759).

In point of education, the Virginians, judged by the education
prevalent in New England during the eighteenth century, were
unquestionably better off than any other colony. The foremost
merchant of Plymouth could not write his name. Nathaniel Mor-
ton, secretary of the colony, could write, but his. four daughters
could not. "Records of Virginia and Massachusetts, marriage
bonds, deeds, wills, letters, town and county records, etc., tell no
uncertain story in favor of Virginians."

We are told by Hugh Jones "that planters, and even the native
negroes, talked good English, without idiom or tone, and dis-
coursed handsomely on most common subjects."

J. F. D. Smyth wrote in 1773: "The first class in Virginia
are more respectable and numerous than any other province in
America. These, in general, have had a liberal education, possess
enlightened understandings and a thorough knowledge of the
world, that furnishes them with an ease and freedom of manners
and conversation, highly to their advantage in exterior, which no
vicissitude of fortune or place can divest them of, they being
actually, according to my ideas, the most agreeable and best com-
panions, friends and neighbors that need be desired. The greater
number of them keep their carriages, and have handsome services
of plates, but they all without exception have studs, as well as
sets of elegant and beautiful horses."

The Due. de Liancourt wrote that "in spite of the Virginia
love for dissipation, the taste for reading is commoner there
among men of the first class, than in any other part of America."

John Davis wrote: "The higher Virginians seem to venerate
themselves as men, and I am persuaded there was not one in the
company who would have felt embarrassed at being admitted to
the presence and conversation of the greatest monarch on earth.
There is a compound of virtue and vice in every character; no
man was ever faultless, but whatever may be advanced against
Virginians, their good qualities will ever out-weigh their defects,
and when the effervescence of youth has abated, when reason as-

The Armistead Family 9

serts her empire, there is no man on earth who discovers more
exalted sentiments, more contempt for baseness, more love for
justice, more sensibility of feeling, than a Virginian." * * *
"The New Jersey man is distinguished by his provincial dialect
and seldom enlarges his mind or transfers his attention to others ;
the Virginian is remarkable for his colloquial happiness, loses no
opportunity of knowledge, and delights to show his wit at the
expense of his neighbor.'' (Davis, Travels in the United States)
Charles Dexter Allen, in his interesting work, American Book-
plates (1894), notes these differences between the South and the
North, that the former, "to which came men of wealth and leisure,
with cultivated tastes, bringing books and musical instruments
with them, retaining their connection with the far away home
by correspondence and visits ; sending their sons to the great uni-
versities to be educated, and to the law schools for a finishing
course, and ordering their clothes, books and furniture and all
the luxuries of life from England, was the first to use book plates.
That the earliest comers to New England had a prejudice against
coats of arms and trinkets of such like character, which their
descendants soon forgot."

A few years ago, when Matthew Arnold was in this country,
he was given a dinner at Washington, at which the only Southern
gentleman present was Randal L. Gibson, of Louisiana. Being
asked where in this country he found the best English spoken,
he said: "Why in Virginia, which has the old English names
for its counties and cities, and the best English speech."

Libraries in Colonial Virginia.

Mr. Tyler says: "The careful examination of thousands of
wills and inventories, enables the editor to say that books were
not rare in Virginia, during the colony. Very few of the in-
ventories of personal estates are without mention of them, though
a failure to mention, is not always conclusive of their absence.
* * The backwoodsman in Virginia, in the time of Charles I.,
presented no worse picture than the English gentry, as repre-
sented by Macaulay."

io The Armistead Family

The New England inventories cannot claim superiority. From
the "Goodwins of Connecticut" we see that Ozias Goodwin had
no books ; William Goodwin, a Bible and two books." In Went-
worth's Genealogy "fourteen out of thirty-five Massachusetts set-
tlers made their marks in 1639.

"In his Colonial Times on Buzzards Bay, Mr. William Root
Bliss shows us how illiterate the first immigrants to Plymouth
were, and how much rubbish is collected in the Museum of Ply-
mouth Hall in Plymouth. He shows that the first company of
settlers, who landed at Plymouth Rock, eleven only are favorably
known, the (rest are known unfavorably, or known only by
name." In the A r <?zc York Critic, November 25, 1893, Wheeden,
shows that the wretched education obtained by the masses in New
England, till a very late day, was a doubtful competency to read,
write and cipher ; the free schools were two months in winter, two
in summer."

Some of the libraries of the Virginia gentry, notably those
of William Byrd, Ralph Wormeley, Richard Lee, were astonish-
ingly rich, many of their books being great folios, expensively
illustrated. Col. "William Byrd of Westover had three thousand,
six hundred and twenty-five volumes — history, seven hundred ;
classics, six hundred and fifty ; entertaining, six hundred and
fifty; French, five hundred and fifty; law, three hundred and fifty;
divinity, three hundred; scientific, two hundred and twenty-five;
physics, two hundred. Two volume folios, Records of London
Company, made at instance of the Earl of Southampton, are now
in the Library of Congress.

"Library of Rev. William Dunlop: Several thousand volumes
in most, arts and sciences ; Hon. Philip Ludwell, Green Spring,
books and library furniture appraised at £5,385. John Hood,
a valuable library of entertaining and instructive books of the
best editions ; George Davenport had a large collection of law
books ; Joseph McAdams advertised in the Virginia Gazette A
curious collection of prints and pamphlets, relating to all the trans-
actions in Europe for years past ; two hundred prints or pictures,
representing all persons of note in Europe. Rev. Thos. Horrocks.
a variety of valuable books and sermons, mostly celebrated

The Armistead Family ii

authors. Library of John Semple, deceased ; attorney at law, con-
sisting of history law and novels, etc. For sale at Jordan's Point,
Prince George County, the personal estate of Richard Bland, the
antiquary, including a library of valuable books. For sale at Dr.
Alexander Jameson's, a library of books on various branches
of literature. Rev. Charles Jeffrey Smith, New Kent, a large
and valuable collection of books, 1771 Virginia Gazette. Library
of Col. John Carter, of Lancaster County, classical, religious and
miscellaneous, 1690. Library of Col. Daniel McCarty, of West-
moreland County, a valuable collection on all subjects. Charles
Dexter Allen says : "There is more evidence of refinement pre-
served in Virginia, by means of tombstones, book-plates, records
of libraries, than in any other of the colonies. Williamsburg was
the first Colonial town to have a theatre (1716) and the first to
have an asylum for the insane. Travelers were witness to the
cultivation and numbers of first-class men in Virginia."

''The small land holders, or second-class in the social scale, an-
swered to the English yeoman ; they lived in harmony with the
aristocrats, as they may be called, having mutual regard and re-
spect for each other. They stood shoulder to shoulder in the
Revolution as neighbors, were associated and worked together
for aims as dear to one class as to the other. They maintained
a pride that lays at the foundation of true manhood." Mr. Tyler
says there was no distinct line between the first and second class
in Virginia; in public and in politics, they met on a plane of

Henry A. Wise said in Congress : "Wherever black slavery
exists there is found at least, equality among the white popula-

Now as to cultivation and education, in Virginia in Colonial
Days, Mr. Tyler quotes Mr. Jefferson as saying: "That the mass
of education in Virginia, before the Revolution, placed her with
the foremost of her sister colonies."

"Of the truth of Mr. Jefferson's remark there can be no doubt,
after instituting a comparison with Massachusetts, who is gen-
erally admitted to have been the most enlightened of Virginia's

12 The Armistead Family

Northern sisters. To both these colonies came very nearly the
same elements of society in England. That Massachusetts had
quite her share of disreputable characters, is apparent from the
words of Rev. John White, one of the most active colonizers of
Massachusetts, who, writing to John Winthrop, ,-aid that "the very
scum of the earth was sent to New England." "It is well known
that the climate of Eastern Virginia was most deadly to the new
comers from England. In 1671, when negro laborers were be-
ginning to be preferred. Sir William Berkeley reported that four
out of five white servants had hitherto succumbed to the inroads of
disease." The class of servants who survived were undoubtedly
those who suffered the least exposure — that is to say, the better
class. Among these were many political refugees of family and
education. It must not be forgotten that the word "servant"
was in the seventeenth century, a much wider term than now ;
everybody in the employment of another was called "servant."
Wards, secretaries, apprentices, etc., were "servants."

Mr. Bruce says : "The descent from convicts is a silly fable !
that those best acquainted with Virginia records and genealogy
have never found a family of such descent."

What is certain is, that life in Virginia, at that time was an
ideal life, simple, wholesome and happy. "The planter in his
manor house, surrounded by his family and retainers, was a
feudal patriarch mildly ruling everybody ; drank wholesome wine,
sherry or canary, of his own importation ; entertained every one ;
held great festivities at Christmas, witb huge log fires in the
great fireplaces, around which the family clan gathered, and every-
body high and low was happy. It was the life of the family, not
of the great world, and produced that intense attachment for the
soil, which has become proverbial ; what passed in Europe was
not known for months, but the fact did not seem to detract from
the general contentment. Journeys were made on horseback or
in coaches, and men were deliberate in their work or pleasures.
But if not so rapid, life was more satisfactory. The plantation
produced everything and was a little community sufficient for
itself. There was food in profusion ; wool was woven into cloth-

The Armistead Family r,3

ing, shoes made, and blacksmithing performed by retainers on
the estate. Such luxuries as were desired, books, wines, silk and
laces, were brought from London to the planter's wharf, in ex-
change for tobacco, and he was content to pay well for all, if he
could thereby escape living in towns."

During the winter large numbers of the planters went to Wil-
liamsburg to live, the vice regal capital, and here were held grand
assemblies at the Raleigh Tavern, or the old Capitol, where the
beaux and belles of the time, in finest silks and laces, danced and
feasted. Or the theatre drew them, for the "Virginia Company
of Comedians" had come over in the ship "Charming Sally," and
acted Shakespeare and Congreve for the amusement of the care-
less old society."

If this state of things nurtured pride and the sentiment of
self importance, many virtues were the result ; honor, cordiality
of manner, and abounding hospitality. The planter may have
been a Nabob, but he was also a kind neighbor and warm friend.
He was brave, honest, and spoke the truth ; and under his foibles
lay a broad manliness of nature, which gave him influence as an
individual and a citizen."

Mr. Davis in his Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth, Mass., says
"that in the year 1793, a project to establish a school for girls
was opposed because it might teach wives how to correct their
husband's errors in spelling."

Note. — If any deed is recorded or discovered during Colonial
times, without "Esquire" added to the surnames, it may be certain
such families or surnames did not belong to families bearing coat-
armor. "Esquire" means nothing now, in England or America,
but it did mean much then when it was written "Armiger" be-
fore the Revolution. This "Armiger" descended from father to
son, and carried rank with it, and in which case it involved the
possession of coat armor. If on any tombstone, old deed, or old
English charts, we find "Armiger." (or gentleman) attached to
the name, it is certain that they bore arms as "Knights," the first
rank which could claim any armor. "Esquire" did not depend on
wealth, yet those who held it were considered more educated. We
adopted this rule generally in our searching. E. C. M.

14 The Armistead Family

Education in Colonial Virginia.

The following is copied from William and Mary Quarterly,
Vol. VI., No. 2. Beverley, who wrote in 1705, says: "There are
large tracts of land, houses, and other things granted to free
schools for the education of children in many parts of this country,
and some of these are so large, that of themselves, they are a
handsome maintenance, to a master. These schools have been
founded by legacies of well inclined gentlemen, and the manage-
ment of them hath commonly been left to the direction of the
county court, or the vestry of their respective parishes."

"As early as 161 7, King James had issued his letters patent,
through the Kingdom for collecting funds for a college at Henrico
in Virginia, and almost contemporaneously, money was raised
for a school at City Point (then called Charles City), which was
named the East India School, in honor of its first benefactors.
The question of the Henrico College received discussion in 1619
in the assembly in Jamestown, the first ever convened on this
continent. But though the college and school were rapidly pushed,
and a rector for the college, a master and usher for the school,
and a manager for the college lands, and tenants were selected,
and all but the Rector, sent over to the colony ; the Indian mas-
sacre of 1622, by destroying at a blow, three hundred and fifty
persons in the settlement, effectually crushed both the college and
the school."

Private persons took up the design of a free school and some
years after the massacre, Edward Palmer, of London, in his
will (1624) left "all his lands in Virginia and New England,
for the foundinge and maintenance of a University and such
schools in Virginia as shall then be erected" * * *

A better fortune attended a few years later, the benefaction of

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