1. Introduction. My family-related history associated with the Northern Neck area begins with this section dealing with demographics – for example, 1600s and 1700s population changes over time, immigrations and migrations into and out of the Northern Neck, life spans, and changes related to various groups such as Indians, indentured servants, and slaves during the period. European people first began living in what today is Northumberland County in the 1640s. About a dozen families immigrated there from the Maryland colony, across the Potomac River, likely due to religious conflicts the families were having with other Maryland colony residents. An ancestor, Walter Broadhurst (1618-1658), was the head of one of those families. Claughton, Gerrard, Pope, and Rodham, names found in my ancestral past, were also names found in the group of settlers from Maryland. More settlers, from other parts of the Virginia Colony and from England, quickly followed. During the rest of the 1600s and early 1700s, separate counties (Lancaster, Westmoreland, Richmond, and King George) were carved out of Northumberland, due to population growth (initially all of what was considered the Northern Neck was called Northumberland County).
2. Population. By the 1650s, the Northern Neck population is believed to have been more than one thousand. The 1790 Virginia Census shows the following populations for each of the Northern Neck counties:
The total 1790 Virginia population for 51 counties was 509,733 with an average of 9,995 per county. The Northern Neck population in 1790 (36,819 from the above table) declined approximately 15% by 1860.
Today the Northern Neck population is in the 75,000 range. By comparison, the population of the Virginia Colony (including the Northern Neck) in the 1650s is estimated at around 15,000. The Virginia Colony population in 1699 is estimated to have been approximately 80,000. The Northern Neck population growth from the 1650s (population around 1,000) to 2020 (population around 75,000) represents about a 2% compounded annual growth rate, less than Virginia state growth rate of 3% over the same time period (from 15,000 in the 1650s to 8.65 million in 2020).
The Northern Neck has remained a relatively low population density in recent years as shown in the table below. Virginia State’s population density in 2018 was 216 population per square mile. However, the Northern Neck currently is growing at a faster rate over the last 10 years than the state, growing at a 11% compared to the state’s rate of 8%. (76,407-69,013/69,013 = 11% versus 8.6 million – 8 million/8million = 8%).
Being primarily an agriculture economy and the lack of town development, because of the lack of industrial development, likely accounts, at least in some part, for the lower annual Northern Neck population growth rate compared to the Virginia State growth rate.
During the 1600s and 1700s, the Northern Neck remained primary an agriculture region. As an agricultural region, a lack of town development occurred. Because large tracks of land were owned by a few individuals, the development of self-sufficient communities by farmers on their large plantations tended to suppress the growth of towns. These communities, around the large plantations, could take on (and did) the characteristics of small towns, and would represent the closest to towns that existed for most of the 1600s and 1700s period. Officials (for example, the Virginia General Assembly) did create plans to develop Northern Neck towns (as well as towns in other parts of the Colony), but those plans for the most part were unsuccessful.
The lack of town development in the Northern Neck during the 1600s varied greatly from what was happening in the Massachusetts colonies, where many towns developed and prospered. Perhaps the ways in which the land was being used in the Northern Neck versus in the Massachusetts colonies, differences in the characteristics of the immigrants in the two areas, and differences in the affiliations in England that immigrants in the two areas had offer some explanations in the differences in town development.
A 1690s planned town in Lancaster County was to be called Queenstown, to be on land on the Corotoman River owned by William Ball (1615-1680) and Hannah Ball (1615-1695).Robert Carter (1663-1732) and Captain David Fox (1647-1699) were to administer the sale of the lots. Queenstown never came into existence. The Balls, Carter, and Fox are some of my ancestors, shown in the tables in Section I, Introduction.
In the 1700s, towns did develop along the Rappahannock River to serve as ports supporting the shipping of tobacco from the plantations. Ports along the Rappahannock existed at Leedstown, Port Royal, Tappahannock, and Urbanna. These ports continued to exist into the 1800s, and later, supporting steamships, but are no longer ports. Ships from England and the West Indies arrived and departed extensively. A high percentage of ships coming from and returning to England apparently used the English port of Whitehaven.
Towns came and went in the Northern Neck, with many towns no longer existing that once did. Even today, no Northern Neck towns exist with more than a few thousand people, at most. The largest of these include: White Stone; Irvington; Kilmarnock; Warsaw; Montross; and Colonial Beach.
Analysis of the ancestor tables in Section I, Introduction, identifying my ancestors who lived in the Northern Neck counties at some time in the 1600s and 1700s, provides the following:15 of the ancestors were born in Northumberland County and 17 died there; 4 were born in Lancaster County and 15 died there; 7 were born in Westmoreland County and 13 died there; 3 were born in Richmond County and 2 died there; and 4 were born in King George County and 2 died there. Others were born in Europe and some born or died in other Virginia counties.
3. Immigration. (The term immigration is used in this history for relocation from outside the colonies to inside the colonies.) Most European immigrants into the Northern Neck came from England. (Some French Huguenots immigrated to the Northern Neck; my ancestors, named Cralle and Foushee, are descendants of Huguenots who immigrated to the Northern Neck.) Of the ninety-one of my ancestors in the tables above (Section I, Introduction), twenty are known to have been born in England and one in France. Of those known to be from England, most were from southern England. Most of these immigrants arriving from England did so in the mid-1600s. The known locations in England that my Northern Neck ancestors came from include: Berkshire; Bristol; Hampshire; London; Northamptonshire; Oxford; Somerset; Suffolk; and Wiltshire. This mid-1600s period corresponds with much unrest in England due to the English civil war, which likely accounted for at least some of the immigration from England to the Northern Neck.
Of my known Northern Neck ancestors (see tables in Section I, Introduction), the following are known to have immigrated from Europe:
Hannah Atherold (1615-1694; England)
Joseph Ball (1649-1711; England)
Hannah Ball (1650-1709; Berkshire, England)
William Ball II (1573-1647; England)
William Ball III (1615-1680; England)
John Bradshaw (1613-1655; England)
Walter Broadhurst (1618-1658; England)
John Carter (1613-1669; London, England)
James Claughton (1590-1647; England)
James Claughton, Jr. (1639-1698; England)
James Fouchee (1669-1729; France)
Lucy Anne Luce Fox (1611-1660; England)
Anne Gerrard (1623-1676; Suffolk, England)
Mary Bennett Johnson (?-1721; England)
Richard Kenner (1635-1692; Oxford, England)
Sarah Ludlow (1635-1668; Wiltshire; England)
Luce Mottrom (1620-1667; Bristol;, England)
Richard Pemberton (1630-1708; France)
Nathaniel Pope (1603-1660; England)
Frances Walton (1630-1709; Somerset, England)
John Washington (1629-1677; Northamptonshire, England)
Many on the list above are from better-off families, which might have provided the immigrants with more education and other resources, increasing their likelihood of success as new immigrants.
The need for larger numbers of immigrants into the Northern Neck during the 1600s and 1700s was due to such reasons as short life spans of those living in the Northern Neck and a growing economy based on tobacco farming. European immigration into the Northern Neck greatly declined after the first part of the 1700s.This was due to residents and authorities less welcoming of European immigrants, lesser desire by Europeans to immigrate in the 1700s, and to a greatly decreased need for English workers (many who came over as indentured servants), because they were being replaced by African slaves.
4. Migration. (The term migration is used in this history for relocation within the colonies.) Although immigration from outside the colonies accounted for most of the people arriving in the Northern Neck in the 1600s and 1700s, a few people migrated to the Northern Neck from other parts of the Virginia Colony, the Maryland Colony, and other colonies.
Migration out of the Northern Neck also occurred, especially beginning in the 1700s.A number of residents started migrating from the Northern Neck to other parts of Virginia, further west. Initially, in the 1600s, restrictions were in place on settlers moving westward because of treaties with the Indians, reserving the westward lands for the Indians. But with the large families that were typical of the 1600s and 1700s, generating many male offspring that needed land to farm for their own families and that Northern Neck land was already accounted for, it was inevitable that the Indians would lose out and migrating settlers would gained access to the western lands.
The Northern Neck also lost population after the 1760s due to migrations back to England, and elsewhere, by those Northern Neck residents that remained loyal to Britain during America’s war for independence.
As an example of the migration out of the Northern Neck in the 1700s, two of my ancestors, Thomas Hull Cralle (1766-1815) and his wife Elizabeth Mary Claughton (1766-1808), left Northumberland County and migrated to Halifax County, Virginia, very likely because land was available in Halifax County (that was not available in Northumberland County).Thomas Cralle and Elizabeth Claughton’s ancestors had been living in Northern Neck as early as the middle of the 1600s.Other Cralles and Claughtons did not migrate, continuing to live in the Northern Neck up into modern times.
5. Life Spans. During the 1600s, adult life span was in the 40s. By comparison, the current life span in Virginia is about 79 years. The low 1600s life span did not improved much in the 1700s. Forty to fifty percent of children died by age 20 in the 1600s. Most children would lose one or more parents, leading to many orphans and needy children. Epidemics were common, caused by many diseases. Epidemics increased in the 1700s with the increased imports of Africans as slaves. Emerging local governments still lacking in necessary resources created large gaps in caring for the needy that were filled by churches, much more than is the case in later centuries, where governments are the largest providers of such services. New immigrant arrivals often had difficulties in coping with the challenges leading to high death rates among the immigrants.
Information from my ancestor tables in Section I, Introduction shows that the average life span for my ancestors who lived sometime during the 1600s and 1700s in the Northern Neck was 56.This 56-year life span is somewhat higher than “in the 40s”, which is believed to have been the life span of all residents in the Northern Neck (see the paragraph above). This higher life span might suggest that my ancestors were somewhat better off than the average person, and therefore had better health.
6. Deaths. The frequent deaths, funerals, and burials seem to have an impact different than what would be experienced today. Funerals were often all-day affairs held in the home and were important social events. Guns were often fired as part of the funeral event (guns were prominent, every family likely owning at least one; militia members – most males were required to be in the militia – were required to own a gun). Such gun firing likely had a meaning that might not be well understood today. Burials were often on land owned by the grieving, in specially prepared and kept areas, and in plots following a prescribed plan. Because doctors were very sparse, a coroner, an important position then in ways not the same today, fill the role that might be expected of doctors today.
7. Indians. Initially in the 1640s, when the first European settlers came to the Northern Neck, apparently peaceful relations mostly existed between the Indians and the settlers. The settlers were able to trade for badly needed corn and other food stuffs to tie them over during difficult periods. The major disputes between the settlers and Indians was over land ownership, some of which were settled by the county courts. Unfortunately, the Indians seem to have been greatly mismatched going up against the Europeans in terms of negotiating and obtaining value for what they gave up. For example, the Indians would trade corn to the settlers, badly needed by the settlers for survival, to obtain such things as seashell necklaces and pieces of metals that would improve their status with other Indians. The Indians did not seem to sufficiently recognize that the Europeans had technologies (e.g., tools) and management skills (e.g., in agriculture) that could greatly advance the Indians welfare, and which they should try to acquire.
A trading post was established in the 1640s by a Col. John Mottram (1610-1655) in the area where the first Europeans settled in the Northern Neck (see the Introduction paragraph above for more on the first European settles).The trading post likely traded with the Indians. One of my ancestors, Luce Mottram (1620-1667), was the wife of another ancestor, Nathaniel Pope (1620-1660), and they lived in the area of the trading post. Luce and Nathaniel are believed to have married in 1638. Both Luce and Nathaniel were born in England and died in Westmoreland County, not far from Col. John Mottram’s trading post. Luce’s father was believed to be a William Mottram and her mother Eleanor Upton. Luce’s relationship to Col. John Mottram is not known but very likely they were related. Perhaps John was Luce’s uncle; William being John’s brother.
Views are that at least eight Indian tribes lived in the Northern Neck area in the early 1600s, totaling about 2,000 Indians. Many tribes lived along the Rappahannock River. By the start of the 1700s very few Indians remained in the Northern Neck. The Indian culture, and the things they valued, were fundamentally different from the English, and over the long-term that culture had no chance of countering English growth and expansion desires and the English aggressiveness (available land and its ownership was the principle reason for the English interest in the Virginia colony).The Indians were unable to successfully acclimate to English ways.
Today, in 2021, more Indians live in the Northern Neck area than at the start of the 1700s.Eleven Indian tribes are recognized by the State of Virginia for special State rights and considerations. Two of these are in, or adjacent, to the Northern Neck. The Rappahannock Tribe, whose Tribal Center is near the Rappahannock River, has about 500 members on its tribal roll. The Patawomeck Tribe, located in Stafford County, has approximately 2,300 members, 80% of whom live within ten miles of their historic Patawomeck Village.
8. Indentured Servants. The Northern Neck tobacco farmers of the 1600s needed large numbers of workers. This led to the use of a system known as the indentured servant system, developed to provide the needed workers. The system consisted of individuals in England agreeing to serve a specific time (for example, 5 to 7 years) in the Virginia colony in return for free passage to the colony and signing a contract outlining the responsibilities that the farmer and the indentured servant had to one another. At the end of the service period, the indentured servant was free of obligations to the farmer and in many cases would receive some acres of land. Indentured servants are believed to represent as much as 75% of the Northern Neck population in the late 1600s.
The number of indentured servants coming to the Northern Neck was the highest in the middle 1600s.This is likely due to the political problems in England at that time (e.g., the English Civil War), limiting opportunities for many or threat of arrest to others. During the first few years of the 1700s, indentured servants coming to the Northern Neck fell as the number of African slaves purchased by Northern Neck farmers started increasing, driving down the need for indentured servants. So opportunities in England probably greatly improved in the early 1700s compared to the 1600s.
Although indentured servant numbers decreased in the early 1700s, the numbers rose again later in the 1700s, as England used their Virginia Colony as a dumping ground for their prison populations, a practice not well-liked in the Colony.
More indentured servants came to the Northern Neck than other areas of the Virginia Colony, as tobacco farming was more successful in the Northern Neck. Many of the indentured servants had needed skills such as carpentry, blacksmithing, and milling. These better-skilled indentured servants would be treated better and eventually some of them will buy land in the Northern Neck and serve as a community of skilled craftsmen (carpenters, smiths, tailors, etc.) that would be needed in any growing economy. Many of the craftsmen likely migrated from the Northern Neck, so that the Northern Neck served as a resource for economic growth in other parts of Virginia, and even further west.
Ancestors listed in the ancestor tables in Section I, Introduction who brought indentured servants to the Northern Neck include:
Walter Broadhurst (1618-1658)
John Carter (1613-1669)
James Claughton (1629-1698)
John Cralle (1660-1728)
David Fox (1650-1702)
Parish Garner (1674-1718)
Rodham Kenner (1689-1710)
Thomas Matthew (1630-1703)
Nathaniel Pope (1603-1660)
John Washington (1631-1677)
Note that these ancestors lived in the 1600s when the number of indentured servants coming to the Northern Neck was the highest. The indentured servant program seems to have been successful government policy, but greatly declined in the 1700s.
Ancestors listed in the ancestor tables in Section I, Introduction believed to have come to the Northern Neck as indentured servants are:
John Garner (1634-1702)
Mary Bennett Johnson (1650s?-1721)
Another group of workers in the 1600s were orphan children, of which there were many due to the high death rates of parents. Many of these children were incorporated into an “apprentice” system, receiving upkeep, providing services, and learning skills.
9. African Slaves. A few Africans were in the Northern Neck as slaves early, not long after the first European settlers in 1640s. By the 1720s, 20% of the Northern Neck population are believed to be African slaves and by 1750, 30 to 40%. During the 1600s, some Indians were enslaved.
Initially, African slaves could more easily be freed, being treated more like indentured servants. Those who converted to Christianity could be freed. But by the late 1600s, the African slave status changed for the worst. Children were considered slaves if their mother was a slave even if the father was white. Converting to Christianity was no longer allowed as a reason for freedom and slaves were not taught to read. Slaves were viewed more of a threat, than in earlier periods, to rebel and cause harm, so harsher conditions likely existed for many.
Some African slaves had advanced skills, e.g., as blacksmiths, and provided income for the owners when the owners offered blacksmithing services for a fee. Slave class distinctions existed, e.g., those with more skills and value to the owner enjoyed a better life. Living quarters for slaves mostly were terrible – a slave might have only a corner of a building, e.g., a storage facility to sleep in; hut-like structures were more likely. More valuable slaves might have better quarters. Most slaves were treated terribly.
Most farmers in the Northern Neck owned at least one or two slaves. During the American war for independence, the British encouraged slaves to defect to their side, often being successful. African slaves were probably less expensive for the tobacco farmers than indentured servants. Both the indentured servants and the African slaves were instrumental to the economic success of the Northern Neck tobacco farmer.
Records show that in Lancaster County in 1716 there were 200 slave owners, with 165 of them owning 1 to 4 slaves, and four owing greater than 20 slaves. These four were: William Ball – 22; Robert Carter – 123; Madam Fox – 23; and William Fox – 25. Robert Carter is in my ancestor tables in Section I, Introduction and Ball and Fox are Lancaster County ancestral names.
During the 1700s, a small percentage of Africans were not enslaved. For example, in 1750 about 145 Africans in Lancaster County were “free”.
Northern Neck Counties Populalion 1790
population density (2020) pop/sq mi