Virginia History Gazette

Old Church Tavern, Hanover, Virginia

McLean Farm where Lee Surrendered

Old Church Tavern, Hanover, Virginia

Loading hogsheads of tobacco

The Magazine Ship

The affairs of the Magazine were administered by a director (of the London Company) who was assisted by a committee of five councillors and the accounts thereof were required to be passed upon by auditors specially nominated at a Quarter Court. This means that the adventurers held separate meetiings when all routine business was transacted. At this time, no outside trader could send supplies into the Colony. The first ships had carried supplies to the Colony as well as a large number of persons who proposed to reside in Virginia. After the year of 1619, the vessel which conveyed articles and supplies into the Jamestown settlement were called a magazine ship. The articles purchased by the adventurers who entered into a joint stock (known as the magazine) were conveyed by the magazine ship and its loading was confined to goods and a few men who were appointed to take charge of them both before and after their arrival at Jamestown. The first magazine ship was the Susan, a small vessel whose cargo was restricted to clothing (of which the Colony stood in great need). The goods of the Susan were placed in the care of Abraham Piersey as Cape Merchant, both during the voyage and after Virginia was reached. The only commodities produced in the Colony assuring a profit when sold in England were tobacco and sassafras, which was exchanged for the contents of the magazine vessel.

The Price of Butter

In England, the price of butter fluctuated very much during the 17th century. Between 1643 and 1652 it was very dear, then declined for 30 years, then rose in price again until the last decade. In 1600, it commanded five pence and one-seventh of a penny a pound. By the end of the century, it had sunk to still lower figures. The Virginia colonists drank as much cider as did beer. Of course, beer was consumed because the water was impure in England and it was thought that beer was wholesome. Large quantities of cider were frequently the subject of specialities. Peter Marsh of York County (about 1675) entered into a bond to pay James Minge 120 gallons. Cider was also used as payment for rent. Alexander Moore of York County upon his decease bequeathed 20 gallons of raw cider and 100 and 3 of boiled. Richard Moore of the same county kept on hand as many as 14 cider casks. Richard Bennett made about 20 butts of cider annually, while Richard Kinsman compressed from pears growing in his orchard 40 or 50 of perry. These liquors seemed to have been kept in butts, hogsheads and runlets. A great quantity of peach and apple brandy was also manufactured.The Assembly of 1623-1624 recommended to all new comers that they should bring in a supply of malt to be used in brewing liquor, thus making it unnecessary to drink the water of Virginia until the body had become hardened to the climate. Previous to 1625, two brew-houses were in operation in the colony, and the patronage which they received was very liberal. 

Barley and Indian corn were planted to secure material for brewing. Cider was used as common as beer and in season it was found in the home of every planter. Wild fowls were plentiful in rivers, creeks and bays, and were so numerous in autumn and winter that they were regarded as the least expensive food on the table of the planter. There were large flocks of wild turkeys. The goose, mallard and the canvas-back, the red-head, the plover, and other species of the most highly flavored marine birds were more frequently cooked in the kitchen than domestic poultry. Sheepshead, shad, breme, perch, soles, bass, chub and pike swarmed in the nearest rivers. Source: Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 63.

Old Jails

The local tavern frequently substituted for a jail in Northampton County as early as 1645. It was almost two decades later before the county prison consisted of a house known as the “new store””, belonging to Capt. William Jones and standing near the site of his residence, was used. And for its use, the court allowed him 600 pds. of tobacco from year to year. A change was apparently made before the end of 1664, since a part of the court-house was serving (at that time) as a jail. However, there was no permanent custodian chosen to prevent prisoners from escaping and it was necessary for the sheriff, being held responsible, to appoint a special guardian. Source: Northampton County Records, Orders Nov. 7, 1645; vol. 1657-64, p. 19.
St. Johns Episcopal Church near Suffolk, Virginia

Raving Wolves

It was said by a Quaker witness in Northampton County that “the ministers who came into this country were raveninge wolves and hungry dogges and would preach no longer than they were fed.” Rev. Robert Powes of Lower Norfolk County in 1652 owned 64 volumes of books. For four years Powes performed all of the ministerial duties of Lower Norfolk County and received no compensation. In 1648 the vestry paid him one years full tithe in tobacco and corn. An inventory taken in 1652 disclosed that he was the owner of no inconsiderable aount of property, however, his personalty was valued at nearly 12,000 pds of tobacco and included a large quantity of household furniture and utensils, 18 head of cattle and seven head of swine. He also possessed a boat. He instructed in his will that the cattle should pass to his daughter who was living in the Mother Country (England). To his only son, Robert, he devised the remainder of his estate. Hence, the life of clergymen in the Virginia Colony was a sparse existence at most, depending upon the parishers for support, even food. The churches were comprised of a vestry, who created boundaries, measured roads, visited parishioners, and a number of charitable duties. Attendance to the Anglican Church was required, as well as tithing which was usually done in the form of tobacco. 

Westover Plantation, Charles City County.
Tobacco was widely traded for goods in the Colony and exported to England. But Virginians were adventurers who invested more in farm lands and out buildings than they did their own homes. The temperament of Virginians was not particularly religious in nature. By the time of the Declaration of Independence, Virginians had created an economy of thriving plantations which produced independent wealth in rice and cotton crops. After the war, as loyalists were declared traiters and their estates confiscated, an old colonial churchyard, St. John’s Episcopal Church near Suffolk, County, suffered damage to its cemetery when patriots torn down Loyalist tombstones. Sources: Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. vi, p. 191 and Last Will and Testament, Norfolk County; Lower Norfolk Antiquity, vol. ii, pp. 124, 126; Northampton Records, 1657-64, p. 27.

Homes of the Colonists

The floor was frequently protected by carpets, some of which were of stout leather, some of stuffs highly figured and colored. However, the term “carpet” in the old documents sometimes applied to table coverings. Tablecloths were manufactured of cotton, oznaburg, dowlas, holland and damask. The furniture in the dining-room of Robert Beverley, Sr. of Middlesex County, one of the wealthiest men in the Colony, consisted of an oval and a folding table, a small table and leather couch, two chests, a chest of drawers and fifteen Russian leather chairs. The hall or dining room was sometimes called the “great room” and was furnished with several varieties of tables, the most common of which were the short and long framed, with benches. In addition there were the folding, the falling, the Spanish, the Dutch oval and the sideboard table. Some pieces were made with black walnut and cedar. The inventory of the average planter in Virginia during the 17th century revealed a variety of household articles among the different apartments of a dwelling. The home of Thomas Osborne of Henrico County left a personalty calculated to be worth 125 pounds sterling. There was furniture, tableware, bed and table linen and the utensils in the kitchen and dairy. The room designed as the best contained a feather-bed, bolster, pair of pillows, curtains and valance, a blanket and a worsted rug.
Westover Plantation, Charles City County.
There were also two chests with locks and keys, a framed table, one small sideboard table, one chest of drawers, six high and six low leather chairs, a small old-fashioned looking glass, pair of andirons with brass bosses, pair of bellows and a small leather trunk. A very important commodity in the Virginia Colony was the use of plank board. Some plantations were in possession of a great abundance of plank. John Smyth of York lft 1500 feet; John Andrews of Accomac, 1800 feet. Henry Jenkins, of Elizabeth City was indebted to Pascho Curle for 4,029 feet of plank. Sources: Records of York County, vol. 1694-1697, p. 410, Records of Accomac County, vol. 1666-1670, p. 23; Records of Henrico County, Vol. 1688-97, page 350; Records of York County, vol. 1675-1685, page 146; Records of York County, vol. 1694-1697, p. 410, Records of Accomac County, vol. 1666-1670, p. 23.