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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.”

Research Companion

General Muster of Virginia 1619/1620

Historians have long believed that the earliest documented Africans to arrive on American soil were brought in August of 1619, courtesy of a Dutch Captain. The evidence was confirmed in the earliest known count of the inhabitants of Virginia, known as the ‘List of the Living’, compiled after the Great Massacre of 1622. However, in the last decade, new discoveries have been made and some Historians now believe there was an earlier notation. Found in the Ferrar papers, the two page “General Muster of Virginia” dated March 1619 lists, at the bottom of the second page, thirty-two (32) Africans. Assuming that those same 32 Africans were there five months later when the “twenty and odd” arrive, there would have been no less than 53 Africans. The “List of the Living” completed after the Indian massacre of 1622 indicates that there were 23 Africans at that time. Historical records indicate that no Africans were killed in the 1622 massacre. That means that no less than 30 Africans died between August 1619 and 1622. Very unlikely. If this were the case, where would the 32 Africans have come from? How did they arrive? There are no records that indicate the arrival of any Africans prior to August of 1619 from England. If not England, where? In 1619, Virginia was an English settlement and all inhabitants were from England, with the exception of the occasional Frenchman or Italian.
Since the discovery of the Ferrar Papers, Martha W. McCartney proposed that the March 1619 muster was written in the old-style which dates it to 1620. Therefore, if the Muster was completed in 1620, the number of Africans jumped from ‘twenty and odd’ to 32 in less than a year?”  The answer to this question could fall within Dutton’s letters from Bermuda.  When the Treasurer arrived in Bermuda it was noted to be carrying 29 Africans.  Dutton reveals Gov. Miles Kendall only receiving 14 of these Africans.  It has been suggested by Historians Heywood & Thornton the balance of the Africans (approx. 15) returned on the Treasurer back to Virginia.

My Opinion: Many possibilities exist!  I feel the 23 Africans that are listed on the “List of the Living” are the same Africans that arrived in August 1619 on the White Lion. They were the first Africans to arrive at the English settlement of Virginia. There were none before them. The 32 Africans listed on the March 1619/1620 General Muster of Virginia  could have existed.  Hidden away in the Farrar papers, they became part of a scheme concocted to cover the tracks of piracy by an English aristocrat and his cronies.

Genealogy Kind of Christmas

The Genealogy Christmas Gift

The realization of my husband’s unknown ancestry becomes my quest, ‘To find the stories of his Ancestors past’.   He has very little information about who they were or where they came from, so I dig in hard to see what I can find.  It becomes like a hidden treasure map to me, soon finding one then the next with many of the men in his direct paternal line being men of elevated standing during their time.  One is the youngest state attorney ever appointed, another a senator, the next a war hero-if I may, who his opponent could never hold, but one in the same as the Lieutenant who lost several cousins riding with him in Florida’s First Calvary.  Proudly reporting back to my husband, with one find then the next, I easily go back several generations, finding more and more.  The hunt becomes an addiction.  Who or what will I find next?

For Christmas of 2007, we give my father in-law a family tree of his direct paternal lineage going back to the 1600’s, and in return I receive the best gift I could ask for.  Not a gift as a package would be, but a request to find a new story.  My father in-law wants to know about the Minorcan heritage he always heard of through his grandmother’s line, the Senator’s wife, who became the third female to take and pass the Florida bar.

Her name is Nancy L. Langford, born September 22, 1879, Bradford County, Florida.  Her father John Alexander Langford, born Columbia County, Florida November 26, 1837. Her mother, Nancy Alice Roberts, born in 1844.  I continue up the maternal line with Roberts leading me to John J. Roberts her father and Sarah “Sallie” Sweat, her mother, the beginning of a new line to explore, the Sweats.

Buried not far from where we currently live on old family property, we go to the cemetery and find their graves.  The question of the Minorcan heritage again surfaces.  Could Sallie Sweat be of Minorcan descent?

Maybe it was pronounced Sweet?  Sweat could be Sweet I thought.  In genealogy we find there can be many variations in a single generation, depending on who records the entry.  Not far to our east is St. Augustine, where many Minorcans lived in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, when Florida was a Spanish Territory.  Could it be so simple?

As a genealogist, we search for facts that can be supported by records or documents such as birth records, a last will and testament, a census, tax and land records and even the local telegraph.  With a very clear documented history, Sarah “Sallie” Sweat’s father is John Sweat, born c. 1794 Burke, Bulloch County, Georgia (Pioneers of Wiregrass, 1850 Columbia County, Florida Federal Census.) John Sweat married Charlotte Moore, (Pioneers of Wiregrass.;  and then I find them in 1850 Columbia County, Florida (Federal Census).  John Sweat dies in 1868, New River County, which is now known as Bradford County, Florida.  John served in the Indian Wars as a private in Captain Jonathan Knight’s company of Lowndes County Militia, 1840. (Pioneers of Wiregrass)  Is this another clue?   Jonathan Knight is my husband’s fourth generation direct paternal great grandfather.  Soon after arriving in Florida, John Sweat served as a Justice of the Peace in Columbia County, Florida from 1845 to 1847 (source: Pioneers of Wiregrass.)

Further,  I trace back another generation to Nathan (sometimes written Nathaniel) Sweat, R.S., born between c.1753-1760 of Marion District, South Carolina.   Nathan is listed in Captain Robert Lide’s Company of Volunteer Militia who signed a petition to the Council of Safety of South Carolina on 9 October 1775. He was counted as white in 1790, head of a Beaufort District, South Carolina, a household of one white male over 16, one white male under 16, and four white females [SC:11].  Next I find another reference to a Nathan Sweat in a book by Genealogist/Historian Paul Heinegg, called “Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.”

Free African Americans?  But Nathan Sweat, R.S. is listed as white in the census of 1790 Beaufort, SC.  Is this the same Sweat family?

Looking in the Georgia Black Book, I find on page 90 a Nathan Sweat, son of Nathan Sweat (R.S.) being arrested and gives his physical description.
Sweat, Nathan – Cattle Stealing, 7 Jan 1836 Appling Co., Farmer Georgia 39 yrs.,  6’2″
Dark complexion, dark hair, dark eyes. He is pardoned 30 Nov 1837.

John’s father Nathan had at least seven children, and one was named Nathan, Jr.   With my interest now peeked, my search intensifies.  According to the Reverend Alexander Gregg, Rector of St. David’s Church in Cheraw, South Carolina, William was the father of Nathan, James and William Sweat. [Gregg, History of the Old Cheraws, 101, 311, 312].   William Sweat marries Lucy Turbeville/Turbevil, c. 1750, South Carolina. Reverend Gregg’s account also lists William Sweat as a Mulatto/Melungeon.

Until this point, every census has listed  their race as White.  I now realize the Sweat line is not of a Minorcan heritage at all, it is documented to be Melungeon.

Melungeon-(pron.) is a term traditionally applied to one of a number of tri-racial isolate groups.

Tri-racial-(pron.) describes populations thought to be of mixed European, sub Saharan African and Native American Ancestry.

On 23 July 1763 William Sweat is named as executor and son-in-law of John Turbeville who mentions his daughter Lucy Sweat and grandson Nathan Sweat in his Craven County, South Carolina will (which was proved 3 August the same year.) [WB RR: 55].   On the 16th July, 1772, William receives a grant of 150 acres on Three Creeks in Craven County, Beaufort District of South Carolina.  William Sweat dies 23 Jul 1783, in Hunt’s  Bluff, Cheraw District, Chesterfield, SC.   He becomes known as William Sweat of Hunt’s Bluff.

Who is William Sweat of Old Cheraw? His father was also named William Sweat.  He was born in 1690, Surry County, Virginia.  Surry County…….this is a new clue.  Note: Part of James City County, VA became Surry County, VA.

Next a simple google.com search sends me into a tale-spin!

From the Minutes of the Governor’s Council.

17 October 1640: James City Court: “Whereas Robert Sweat hath begotten with child a negro woman servant belonging unto Lieutenant Sheppard, the court hath therefore ordered that the said negro woman shall be whipt at the whipping post and the said Sweat shall tomorrow in the forenoon do public penance for his offence at James City church in the time of divine service according to the laws of England in that case provided.” [Virginia Council and General Court Records 1640-1641, in “Virginia Magazine of History” Vol. II, p. 281] This was a general law against fornication that applied to all members of the colony.   Note that she was a servant and not a slave.

Within six months, she again is brought before the court, but this time by her husband.

March 31, 1641-Suit of John Gowen;

“Whereas it appeareth to the court that John Gowen, being a negro servant
unto William Evans, was permitted by his said master to keep hogs and make
the best benefit thereof to himself provided that the said Evans might have
half the increase which was accordingly rendered unto him by the said negro
and the other half reserved for his own benefit: And whereas the said negro
having a young child of a negro woman belonging to Lt. Robert Sheppard which
he desired should be made a Christian and be taught and exercised in the
church of England, by reason whereof he, the said negro did for his said
child purchase its freedom of Lt. Sheppard with the good liking and consent
of Tho: Gooman’s overseer as by the deposition of the said Sheppard and Ewens
appeareth, the court hath therefore ordered that the child shall be free from
the said Evans or his assigns and to be and remain at the disposing and
education of the said Gowen and the child’s godfather who undertaketh to see
it brought up in the Christian religion as aforesaid.”

My heart sinks.  Who is this woman?  What is her story?  How did she find herself in such a situation?

Subscribe to my blog and continue to read my discovery of her story.

Colonial genealogy

For the last seven years my focus has been Colonial Genealogy and the first English settlement on the shores of James River which the English named Virginia.  Controlled by an English developmental company the Virginia Company of London, four shires were established.  They were James City, Charles City, Henrico and Kikotan (Elizabeth City). For the first fifteen years the Virginia settlement experienced ups and downs but continued to grow even though it was plagued by illness, dysentery, Indian attacks and starvation.  But, in 1622, the great Indian massacre killed a quarter of the population (347 settlers) with the surviving settlers convening in some eight plantations deemed capable of defending themselves.  The rest, some seventy or so plantations were abandoned.  The hardest hit areas were Martin’s Hundred where seventy eight colonist were killed and Bennett’s plantation on the south side of the James River, where some fifty plus colonist perished.  With the conditions of the colony and the inner fighting of the Virginia Company of London, the Crown revokes the companies patent and Virginia becomes an English Colony under the crown of King James I.

By 1634 the four original corporations were split to permit the creation of Warwick River (Warwick), Warrosquyoake (Isle of Wight) and Charles River (York), making a total of seven shires in the vicinity of the James River’s estuary.  Accawmack was added as an eighth shire encompassing the population of the Eastern Shore.  Most of these people lived near riverbanks because travel in most cases was limited to the boats, skiffs or ships in the rivers, the Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic Ocean.

When beginning your work, you must recognize which counties were formed from or carved from which shire, parish or county, depending on your local.  Most colonial records are scarce due to the fires which  burned in Richmond during the American Civil War, so in the 1950s the Virginia Colonial Records Project was established by the Virginia Historical Society, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the University of Virginia Library, and Library of Virginia to reconstruct the archives of Virginia’s colonial history, making any of these a great place to begin.