1. Introduction. In this section, I write about Northern Neck individual and community concerns for security. Tensions that would lead to these concerns include Indian attacks, crime, slave rebellions, and a fight for independence from England.
2. 1600s. Tensions certainly existed between the Northern Neck settlers and the area Indian tribes, primarily over land use. Often settlers encroached on land that the Indian tribes thought they were entitled to, either through negotiation or through long-term use. Rebellions by Indian tribes in 1622 and 1644, in other areas of the Virginia Colony, when many settlers were killed, would certainly create security concerns for more such rebellions continuing past the 1640s.
The Northern Neck culture, for the most part, was hard on those who not only committed serious crimes but also those who violated community norms. Public punishments were common, even for those committing relatively minor offences, such as misbehaving at public meetings. Capital punishment, by public hanging, was meted out for the most serious crimes. The public punishments were considered to be a deterrent, especially for lower-level crimes due to embarrassment thought to be associated with punishment in public.
Two periods considered to have increased crime were: 1. The periods in the 1700s when increased numbers of indentured servants, convicted of offenses in England, arrived in the Northern Neck, and 2. During the 1780s when society was in disarray due to the war with England.
Large numbers of convicts were exported by England to the Virginia Colony and, during a period in the 1700s, most of them went to the Northern Neck. For example, between 1725 and 1753, reportedly 26 ships carrying convicts arrived in the Virginia Colony, with 18 of those off-loading the convicts along the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. England did not stop exporting convicts to the colonies until the start of the War of Independence.
The Indian threat as well as the remoteness of farms, the threat from wild animals, especially in the 1600s, slave rebellions, and the reality of the lack of adequate security would lead to widespread gun ownership. It was probably rare to find a family that did not own at least one gun, readily available for use. Considering those threats, it is easy to understand how gun ownership would become viewed as a necessity, continuing to be so embedded to the present in the American psyche, even beyond the times when reasons for gun ownership no longer existed.
Tensions existed to some extent, in the mid-1600s, with the Maryland Colony, related to religious differences (Maryland having many Catholic settlers). Also, competition for Indian loyalties and cooperation as well the closeness of the two areas with ship piracy occurring, seemingly was behind some of the tensions. Some of the first settlers (protestants) in Northumberland County migrated there from the Maryland Colony because of catholic-protestant tensions in the Maryland Colony.
The potential of slave rebellions created tensions. In 1687, a slave conspiracy to kill whites and then escape was discovered in Westmoreland County, with the conspiracy leaders executed.
In response to the security concerns during the 1600s, each county established and maintained a militia, continuing to have them until past the 1700s. The following ancestors, listed in the ancestors’ tables (Section I, Introduction), had militia service:
All males were expected to serve in the militia, which usually was commanded by a colonel. Militias might be called on to do various tasks (other than the initial one of repelling Indian attacks), such as seeking run-away-slaves. Militias also served county-wide socializing and cohesion roles.
Internal differences within the counties, between the residents, existed at various times. The political upheavals in England in the second half of the 1600s and early 1700s likely created some tension in the Northern Neck. Although, for the most part, the Northern Neck would remained loyal to the English crown, nevertheless the other side (Cromwell and the parliamentarians) had the government power for a period of time, and with that, the ability to intervene in Colony affairs. The English civil/political divisions likely created, at least to some extent, uncertainties and confusion in the Northern Neck, which would be a source of tension.
During this period when Cromwell and the parliamentarians did have government control (the 1650s), a ship arrived at Jamestown in 1652 demanding an oath of allegiance from the Virginia Colony. Included were statements that those who did not make such an oath would have to leave the Colony, losing their land. Within a month of this ship arrival, approximately a hundred male residents of Northumberland County signed an oath of allegiance to the new government. This suggests that only when events in England had economic consequences for the colonists (e.g., being ejected from the colony for not taking an oath of allegiance) did the colonists much care about English requests. This would be much different when economic pain was unavoidable as in the 1760s’ taxation demands.
The following ancestors, listed in the table of ancestors in Section I, Introduction, signed the oath of allegiance:
Walter Broadhurst (1618-1658)
James Claughton (1639-1698)
John Mottram (1610-1655)
Possibly related to the political difficulties in England, 1676 saw the start of what can be described as a civil war in the Virginia Colony, known as Bacon’s Rebellion, with colony residents for and against the rebellion, causing not just tensions but casualties. Rebellious settlers thought the colony government was not doing enough to protect them against the Indians and to open Indian land for settlements, among other complaints.
3. 1700s. 1730s tensions developed between the smaller tobacco farmers and the Colony government over regulations related to the tobacco industry, such as putting a limit on the amount of tobacco that could be grown and requiring the use of government warehouses. Some disobedience occurred, such as the burning of warehouses.
Religious differences, starting in the middle 1700s between the “official” church – the Church of England – and the “separatists” denominations, created tension. Church of England representatives complained to Colony officials, seeking remedies.
The 1750s to 1760s period saw war between England and France, including fighting on the North American continent (known as the French and Indian War). Virginia militia marched against the French and Indians. Northern Neck militia served in the 1st and 2nd Virginia regiments.
The period of pursuing greater independence from England (after the 1750s) created tension between those on the side of independence and those wanting to remain loyal to England. Loyalists to England during this period, in the minority, suffered abuse, with many relocating to parts further west, e.g., in the Shenandoah Valley, to Canada, and to England. The abuse could be quite harsh.
Many historians hold that between 15 to 20% of the colonists viewed themselves as loyalists. The historians believed that loyalists tended to be older, better established, and against radical change. Often they had long-standing business and family attachments to England. Such loyalist characteristics fit well some of my ancestors identified in my ancestor tables in Section I, Introduction. However, I have not found any documentation identifying any of the ancestors in the tables as loyalists, although such documentation could be rare, even if the ancestor was a loyalist.
In the Northern Neck, events occurred as early as the 1760s reflecting resistance to, and more independence from, various English actions. A 1766 proclamation (known as the Leedstown Resolutions), signed by a group of 115 Westmoreland and other Northern Neck county citizens, protested taxation without consent (specifically England’s Stamp Act). They pledged by the proclamation that they stood together in their objection to the implementation of the Stamp Act in the Virginia Colony. (The Stamp Act imposed a tax on documents printed in the colonies.)
Signers with last names the same as ancestors in the tables in Section I, Introduction, and related to those ancestors, are in the following table:
Leedstown Resolutions Signers with Ancestor Last Names
Robert Wormeley Carter
John Augustine Washington
Some restrictions on trade with England apparently were put into place in the Northern Neck during the 1770s. County committees were created to monitor those restrictions and ensure compliance. One of my ancestors in the tables in Section I, Introduction, John Cralle (1724-1778), was on the Northumberland Committee. But not all Northern neck residents were supportive of independence from England. Many, although not loyalists, were concerned about being drafted to fight, and opposed actions that might lead to war. Reportedly, many in the Lancaster County militia were opposed to a war of independence.
The American Revolution War in the 1770s and 1780s was, of course, a very tense period in the Northern Neck. Battles between the British and the Americans took place on Northern Neck land, e.g., at the Richmond and Northumberland County courthouses and along the Coan River in Northumberland County. Because of the waterways surrounding the Northern Neck (e.g., two major rivers and the Chesapeake Bay), the Northern Neck had a unique involvement in naval operations during the Revolution War. Rodham Kenner (Kenner is an ancestor family name) was a crew member on the , defending coaster waters.
The following table shows those names that are on a list of Virginians who participated in the Revolution War. These are only names that were associated with Northern Neck Counties and also have last names focused on in the Section X, Ancestors Living in the Northern Neck in the 1600s and 1700s – Ball, Carter, Champe, Claughton, Cralle, Garner, and Washington. Many names had no county association, so the following table is likely incomplete.
Northern Neck Revolution War Participants with Ancestor Last Names
James Ball, Jr.
John Champe Carter
Robert Wormeley Carter
John Augustine Washington
ancestors in militias table
highest known grade
Robert Carter (1631-1732)
John Champe (1698-1763)
Nathaniel Pope (1603-1660)
Joseph Ball (1649-1700)
Rodham Kenner (1671-1706)
William Ball (1615-1680)
John Carter (1613-1669)
Thomas Cralle (1695-1726)
John Cralle (1724-1778)
John Cralle (1660-1728)
John Foushee (1697-1773)
David Fox (1650-1702)
Richard Kenner (1635-1692)
Thomas Matthew (1630-1703)
John Mottram (1610-1655)
Augustine Washington (1694-1743)