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From Bermuda to Leigh's Priory

Who Were the Three Africans taken from Bermuda to Leighs (Leez) Priory, Felsted, England in 1621

ANTHONY/ANTONIO
One of the most documented early Africans to arrive in Virginia was Anthony/Antonio. Records show Anthony/Antonio arrived in Virginia on the ship ‘James’ from England in 1621.  Was he one of the first “twenty and odd” sold on the shores of the James River in August of 1619? The short answer is NO. However, its slightly more complicated than that.  Anthony/Antonio was among at least two others who found their way to Virginia from the pirating of the San Juan Bautista in the Bay of Campeche in the summer of 1619.  The San Juan Bautista is the same slave ship the first “twenty and odd” were pirated from.   Anthony/Antonio’s path would be slightly different than the “twenty and odd” who arrived on the White Lion.  From the San Juan Bautista, Anthony/Antonio was put aboard the Treasurer, which arrived at Point Comfort three days after the White Lion.  The Treasurer would be turned away or “warned” off allowing its Captain, Daniel Elfrith, to sail to Bermuda.  Anthony/Antonio would remain in Bermuda until 1621 when Gov. Butler would put him and two other Africans/Angolans aboard the ship “James” sailing for the Port of Southampton, England.  Once in the English port the three Africans/Angolans were taken to Robert Rich / Earl of Warwick’s Felsted estate, Leighs (Leez) Priory.   Before the end of 1621, Anthony/Antonio would be brought back to the south shore of the James River and indentured to Robert Bennett of Bennett’s Plantation also known as Warrosquarak.  There he would survive the great massacre of 1622 and remain in the area for nearly 30 years.  Anthony/Antonio was one of America’s first FREE Africans.

MARY / MARIA
Mary, like Anthony/Antonio, was among the African slaves pirated from the San Juan Bautista in the Bay of Campeche, 500 miles from their destination of Vera Cruz, Mexico.  Mary was put aboard the “Treasurer” which arrived at Old Point Comfort, Virginia three days after the “White Lion.”  Warned of the pirating charges the Captain would face the Treasurer would disappear from the James River and reappear in Bermuda with a cargo of Africans. Mary, like Anthony/Antonio was among them.  In 1621, Mary would be put aboard the ship James, sailing from Bermuda for the port of Southampton, England where she would be taken with Anthony/Antonio and one other African to Robert Rich’s Estate in Felsted, England known as Leighs (Leez) Priory.  In mid 1622, six months after Anthony/Antonio was removed from Leighs/Leez Priory Mary was put aboard the English ship “Margaret & John” sailing to Virginia.  By 1623, Mary would be listed on a muster, like Anthony/Antonio, at Bennett’s plantation on the south side of the James River in the area called Warrasquarak.  Later, Mary would marry Anthony and they would be known as Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Johnson.  By 1644, they would have four children, two boys and two girls.

JOHN PEDRO

Like Antonio/Anthony and Maria/Mary, John Pedro was among the San Juan Bautista survivors brought to Bermuda on the “Treasurer” in 1619.  John Pedro is the third and last African to be put aboard the  “James” in 1621 sailing for the English port of Southampton and delivered to Robert Rich’s estate in Felsted, England known as Leighs (Leez) Priory.  Where the other two Africans (Antonio/Anthony and Maria/Mary) were sent from England to Virginia, John Pedro, a catholic, would take a different route.  In 1622 John Pedro was placed on the “Swan,” one of Robert Rich’s ships, sailing for Cape Cod, New England.  Within the year John Pedro would make his way to Virginia with Captain Francis West.  In 1623, John Pedro is listed on the muster at Captain Francis West’s plantation at the Eastern Shore where he would remain until West’s death in January of 1634.

Interesting fact:  The Angolan kingdom raided by the Portuguese in 1618/1619 where the San Juan Bautista survivors were enslaved was documented as a Catholic community.   John Pedro would be the first openly practicing Catholic in Virginia’s early Anglican settlement.

WHY DID ANTHONY, MARY AND JOHN PEDRO FIND THEMSELVES IN ENGLAND IN 1621?  Antonio/Anthony, Maria/Mary and John Pedro were taken to Leighs (Leez) Priory, the estate of Robert Rich II, Earl of Warwick in Felsted, England in 1621 as an aristocrat’s attempt to cement a political charade.

The Earl of Warwick was fully engaged in a court battle with Count Gondomar, the Spanish Ambassador in King James’ English court, over the Piracy of the San Juan Bautista’s Africans.  As FATE would have it, the Captain of the San Juan Bautista pirated by Rich’s Treasurer in the summer of 1619 was  no less than Count Gondomar’s kin. By 1621, deep within the court case, Gondomar is rabidly demanding his African slaves to be returned to his family’s possession. Believing he could convince Anthony, Mary and John Pedro to twist their testimony in his favor, the Earl of Warwick brings Anthony to testify before the court.  But, Anthony would not falsify his testimony and claims there were two ships at the raid, the White Lion and Rich’s Treasurer.  Instantly Rich/Earl of Warwick declares Anthony’s testimony invalid bringing to light the fact Anthony’s baptismal was unverifiable.  Angry over his testimony and unable to wait, Rich puts Anthony aboard the “James” shipping him to Bennett’s plantation on the south shore of the James River.  Mary and John Pedro follow as soon as the harsh winter months pass.

Interesting facts:  

The Angolan kingdom raided by the Portuguese in 1618/1619 where the San Juan Bautista survivors were captured and enslaved was documented as a Catholic community.   John Pedro would be the first openly practicing Catholic in Virginia’s early Anglican settlement.

Robert Rich was a Puritan leader as was Edward Bennett of Bennett’s Plantation.  Bennett’s plantation is the only puritan plantation in all of the Anglican settlement of Virginia until 1624 when Virginia becomes an English colony.

 

The Depths of Somerset

Two Angolans in the Depths of Somerset

Manchester Papers, page 252, London, England – PRO.  Courtesy Author – Benjamin Woolley, Savage Kingdom, The True Story of Jamestown.

Two Angolans were not specifically named in the Manchester Papers, filed in the Public Records Offices in London.  The evidence is an accumulation.  The naming of the “White Lyon (Lion) was not coincidental.  These Angolans were pirated from the San Juan Bautista in the summer of 1619.  As you follow, it will be determined, the two Angolans in England (noted below) were Margaret Cornish and John Gowen/Graweere.

 

Manchester Papers – Rich Letters  1621

Three other Angolans, pirated from the San Juan Bautista, would also visit England via the English ship, James, from Bermuda.  They landed at the Port of Southampton where they were taken to Leez (Leighs) Priory, Robert Rich II, Earl of Warwick’s estate.   Their names were – Anthony, Mary, and John Pedro.

 

 

First Africans to arrive in English America

First Africans in English America

First Africans to arrive in English America

First Africans to arrive in English America

continued…..Unveiling the First Africans in English America
Next, we must explore the men who owned and captained the three intersecting ships on that fateful day.
The San Juan Bautista was captained by the Don Manuel Mendez de Acuna. Known to be of the powerful Acuna family to which Don Diego Sarmiento de Acuna, the Count of Gondomar also belonged.
The Treasurer’s ownership was shared between the powerful Earl of Warwick, Robert Rich II and the current Governor of Jamestown, Samuel Argall. In early 1618, Captain Daniel Elfrith was hired once again by Warwick to Captain the Treasurer. Elfrith, an active and known privateer in the West Indies as early as 1607, had captained the Treasurer before. Elfrith and the Treasurer left England in late April or early May 1618 and arrived in the Settlement of Virginia just as the Neptune, carrying Lord Del la Warre to retrieve Argall back to England was making its way into the mouth of the James River. Questions of foul play arose quickly. The Neptune’s Brewster accused the Treasurer of foul play and bad air. Lord Del la Warre, Sir Thomas West was dead. Governor Argall would in turn order his Treasurer, Elfrith and crew to the West Indies, to plunder what they may with the marque of Charles Emmanuel I, a commission Rich obtained from Count Sarnafissi, Emmanuel’s ambassador to England.
The White Lion was owned and captained by the Reverend John Colyn Jope, a Calvinist Minister from Merrifield in Cornwall England, just miles northwest of Plymouth. In 1619 on the captain’s maiden voyage, Jope would leave his wife, the well-connected Mary Glanville and the Port of Plymouth, heading for the West Indies with a Dutch Marque, a commission acquired through Prince Maurice.

The Bautista’s Cargo
In early 1619, the Kingdom of Ndongo in the Central Mountains of Angola, under siege by the Portuguese Governor Luis Mendes de Vasconcellos, is ransacked and men, women, and children are enslaved and marched to the Port of Luanda to be transported to the silver mines of Mexico.
Of the six slave ships leaving the port of Luanda in the summer of 1619 for the Port of Vera Cruz, only one would report a raid by English pirates. The San Juan Bautista, captained by the Don Manuel Mendez de Acuna.
Just weeks later in mid August 1619 the White Lion arrives with “twenty and odd” Africans. The Captain, carrying a Dutch marque, claims he took them from a floundering Spanish warship.
Documents recently discovered by Historian John Thornton determines they were the Northern Mbundu people who spoke Bantu, from the Kingdom of Ndongo. Only one other possibility exists. There was a report of some Portuguese Christian porters who accidently became caught up in the Imbangala’s slave march to the Port of Luanda, their port of origin and point of sale.
Of the three hundred fifty sold to the Bautista’s Captain Acuna there would only be “twenty and odd” blessed souls to make it to Englands’ young settlement of Virginia. Will the “twenty and odd” continue to be slaves as they were when they left Africa? Or do they find their freedom? Could God’s hand have been involved? Over the centuries many have said “God must have been involved.”

The San Juan Bautista's battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

Fate & Freedom

Discovering Margaret…..

Twenty and Odd Africans arrive in Virginia in 1619.  Most of their names are unknown, or quite possibly they were concealed.  The less known about the incident would be best.  The names we have are from the ‘List of the Living’ compiled after the Indian massacre of 1622.  They were Angela, Anthony, Isabel, Frances, Peter, Anthony, and Margaret.  The others were identified as only male or female as much about the whole incident would be camouflaged to protect the few involved.

Documents show that the Africans arrived at Old Pointe Comfort, Virginia in the later part of August, 1619.   The Captain, a former Calvinist Reverend turned Privateer, reported his only cargo as being “Twenty and Odd” Africans he took (pirated) from a floundering vessel off the coast of Vera Cruz, Mexico.  Under the watchful eye of the crown the incident is quietly reported.   John Pory, the Virginia Company’s newly appointed Secretary, writes in a letter to Sir Dudley Carleton dated September 30, 1619,

The San Juan Bautista's battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

The San Juan Bautista’s battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion.

“Having mett with so fitt a messenger as this man of Warre of Flushing.”   The letter goes on to tell of the arrival of some “twenty and odd” Africans brought by a Dutch Captain.

Was Pory disguising the ship to protect its captain and crew? Probably not.

Oddly, the letter was sent to Sir Dudley Carleton via messenger, Marmaduke Reynor, the English pilot of the White Lion.  This information alone is telling of some sort of an association. 
Was Pory’s loyalty to the company, trying to diminish the association by the cover of a Dutch marque?  Or was his loyalty to the Earl of Warwick?  Possibly it was to the English Crown.  But, clearly Pory’s loyalties didn’t align with the White Lion who was sent back into the English channels with a letter suggesting a Spanish piracy, not to mention, a cargo that would confirm Pory’s words.

Why?  There are several reasons.

Just months before the African’s arrival, Samuel Argall, the acting Governor of Virginia, was ordered to return to England to face questioning from the King’s Privy Council regarding the suggestion Virginia was nothing more than a Pirate’s haven.   The thought of a Spanish Piracy by an English ship so soon might be the last straw to an English King’s already tarnished image with Spain.  Proof of a Spanish piracy would surely condemn the Virginia Company, giving King James good reason to revoke their patent.

Another reason…..there were two ships involved, two English Corsairs.  When the Treasurer arrived at Pointe Comfort carrying Africans just days after the White Lion, oddly the Treasurer was immediately turned away, or was the ship warned off?  The Treasurer, captained by Daniel Elfrith was owned by Robert Rich II, Earl of Warwick, one of the most influential and powerful men in England.  The Treasurer would sail for Bermuda, an island known to be under the Earl of Warwick’s hand, where he could control the secrecy of the situation.

England would be tricky, as the White Lion was a common sight in the Port of Plymouth where the ship sat for years.  Reverend Jope had purchased the decayed White Lion from a member of his congregation, who captained the ship during the Elizabethan War between England and Spain 1585-1604.  In fact, it was the Port of Plymouth where Captain Jope re-launched the White Lion’s sails after the ten (10) years it took to refurbish the old war ship.    The White Lion, it’s captain and it’s crew were English, not Dutch as Pory’s letter would suggest and now their identities would need to be hidden under the association of a “Dutch” marque.

As fate would have it, the San Juan Bautista’s Captain Acuna, who reported the incident upon his arrival in Mexico, was kin to Count Gondomar, the Spanish Ambassador who was in the inner circle of England’s King James.  When the Spanish Captain Acuna makes claim to his kin that two English Corsairs pirated his San Juan Bautista just off the coast of Vera Cruz, Mexico stealing some fifty or sixty African slaves, Virginia becomes the target of Gondomar’s rage and demands retribution. For an English Captain in the year of 1619 the act of Spanish piracy would be a death sentence, for it was less than two years earlier Sir Walter Raleigh was be-headed for Spanish piracy, a result of Gondomar’s insistence under the Maritime Peace Treaty.
 

Continue to follow this blog as I reveal my findings while discovering Margaret.