John D. Bridgers M.D.
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Shaggy Dog Chronicles
Chapter 2, Part 2 - The Wishard/Whichard of Little Creek and Pungo


It is unlikely that anyone living today knows for certain from whence in the Mother Country came James Wishard to Virginia in the mid-17th century.

However, it is suspected that the origins of his family are known.

Following The Battle of Hastings in 1066 William the Conqueror entered his new dominions in The British Isles from Normandy.

It was a matter of a sophisticated culture implanting itself into an agrarian country, the latter made up in large part of small farming villages populated by folk who in general functioned without surnames.

As will be recalled, in the early generations after the invasion, the Normans brought a retinue of courtiers, trained artisans and administrators whose first task was the assigning of surnames to the Britons, the mixture of Celtic, Roman and Anglo-Saxon folk who then peopled The Isles.

The Norman French brought names with them as they joined the mix and so it was apparently with my mother's family.

At the time of the conquest Robert Wishard was a Norman nobleman, the Duke of Apalia and Calabria.

It is thought that the Duke's grandson, William, the son of Anketell de Wychard early in the 12th century founded the Wychard family of Oshaston in Leicestershire, Britain.

In turn in 1249, John Wichard of this line founded the family of Wishart of Petterow, thereafter seated in Kincardineshire, Scotland.

We will recall from our earlier review of European migrations that Normandy took its name form the Norsemen and that these particular Frenchmen were of Viking descent.

From his Presbyterian connections and other circumstances it is inferred that James Wishard must have come from this Caledonian stock though he was probably living in England at the time of his departure across the Atlantic.

If so, his particular kinsmen had fallen in station and fortune for it was to escape incarceration in debtor's prison that James Wishard became an indentured servant to Capt. James Willoughby and found his way to the New World.

There's no further mention of James Wishard in the written records of the Virginia Colony for the seven years he spent discharging the terms of his servitude.

What we have in this interlude is from family tradition as passed along by my uncle, "Big Dave" Wichard, though he never revealed the source of his information.

According to him, James Wishard practically became a member of the Willoughby family serving the father as overseer of his plantation and later his son.

His ties became so close to the family that he temporarily took the name Willoughby as his own, perhaps because of the kind treatment he received as well as his shame over his financial duress.

When he was free to do so -- and as soon as he had garnered sufficient funds -- James Wishard sailed back to England, cleared the debts against his name, reclaimed the name of his birth and sailed back to Virginia.

His first recorded independent action was in witnessing a deed in 1662, and it's hinted that he was married about the same time, but his will in 1679 or 1680 contains the first written record as to his wife.

The date of the will is uncertain because the keeping of the calendar changed about that time.

Elder William Langley and his wife Joyce were also early comers to the colony, and their daughter Elizabeth became the wife of James Wishard. 

We know nothing more of the Langley background than this, but other descendents of theirs feed back into our family lore within several generations. 

Pioneers relatively quickly came to settle along the estuaries of the James and other Chesapeake streams, but for some years it was a sparsely settled countryside -- and if the truth be known -- most likely the majority of early families had intermarried.

We need be ever mindful that what we include here is but a smidgen of the full history.

He bought his first land in 1665, purchasing the older Thoroughgood estate, which contained a Jacobean-type, two-story house which thereafter served as the homestead of James and Elizabeth Wishard on Little Creek in the Lynnhaven district.

The house still stands and Joseph Howard Whichard tells of working on its restoration in recent years. 

James Wishard added to these holdings by other purchases and by bringing "headrights" of his own into the colony.

Again, looking at the map of the area will show that the Little Creek area is to the east of Willoughby Spit, near Cape Henry where the shore of the Bay turns from east to south and becomes the Atlantic shoreline in the area that was the core settlement of Virginia Beach.

It was in this rectangle of land south of the Bay, west of what was later Virginia Beach and north of Norfolk that the Wishard family began its migration to the edge of "The Tidewater Hearth."

When I visit Williamsburg it's easy to picture our ancestors living in the splendid elegance of colonial restoration rather than the cruder dwellings along small waterways and sandy and muddy lanes that must have been the ambience of these earlier days.

It seems remarkable that in a quarter of a century James Wishard advanced from essentially a pauper to an esteemed and affluent member of colonial society -- an accomplishment which would have been unheard of in England and marks early the land of opportunity which America would become.

He was listed in the records as a "planter" and his holdings as a "plantation," though in those days that was the equivalent of "farmer" and did not bear the aristocratic connotation it came to later signify.

True genealogists -- a merry band to which I claim but marginal allegiance -- spend much time searching for deeds, wills and the like, these being the records of their ancestors' lives most likely preserved.

Deeds particularly, the record of how a person disposes of one's worldly goods and properties, tell much of how his family lived and how a man felt toward them, so that the antique records we come by, come not as diaries but as requiems.

Thus it was with James Wishard whose will was probated in August 1680, six months after his death.

Detailed instructions were provided for how he expected his family to persist as a functioning unit after his death, and infer a close sense of unity, which must have prevailed during his lifetime.

It's here also that we have a record of whom he married, and his children:  James, Joyce, John, William, Thomas and Frances.
It is said that his widow, Elizabeth (Langley) Wishard, survived her husband about a decade.

Their burial place is not known, but it is suspected to have been a family graveyard on the premises of their homestead and that the land is now underwater due to erosion.

It is the younger son Thomas with whom we are most concerned.


A single candle aflame in the darkness projects a more definite image that does a candelabra, though the latter casts more light.

So it is with the patriarch of a family and the members of his tribe who follow.

Further, in the next several generations of his family, Christian names were sufficiently repetitive as to make it difficult to lay out individual personalities when they were identified mainly through legal documents such as deeds and wills.

Here in the Wishard clan, these records tend to blur rather than separate, and make the teasing out of those with similar names in successive generations a tedious business.

Rogers Day Whichard, our prime family genealogist, had trouble divining such from his basic sources, and similar vagaries issue from his explanations.

Thomas Wishard of the second American generation of our maternal family apparently spent his life where he was born, along Little Creek in the Lynnhaven area.

The inheritance of original Wishard lands by his descendents is a rather circuitous affair.

First, John Wishard the oldest son of James, our immigrant ancestor, got the homestead of his parents;  whereas William the next brother inherited a large tract of adjacent "Richerson" land which his father had also purchased along Little Creek.

William, being unmarried, gave half of this land to his younger brother, Thomas, who inherited no land per se from his father's estate.

However, William outlived Thomas so his portions of this land passed to his brother's son, Thomas, the second in line of this name. 

The first Thomas had married Mary Kemp, daughter of James Kemp and granddaughter of George Kemp whose homestead was originally known as "Kemp's Landing" and today is called "Kempville."

It is assumed from these facts that the Kemps too had settled along Little Creek and that George was the immigrant ancestor of the Kemp line.

The Kemp family was well connected in the colonial society of Virginia, one member having served as an early governor of the colony.

We have searched out no further knowledge of the Kemps, but need to remember that these folk contributed as surely to our gene pool as did their Wishard/Whichard relatives.

The first Thomas Wishard died in 1728 or 1729 and from his will we learn of his children:  Thomas, George, William, John, James, Anne and Jacomina.

Again our interest focuses on his second son, Thomas, and he the second Thomas of the line.

He relocated his family to the south along Pungo Creek -- his decision perhaps had to do with the division of his father's estate or because his acres had been over-farmed and could be improved by more primitive lands.

We can surmise that he re-settled on another creek for this was before an extensive system of roadways had emerged, and settlement followed the connecting minor and major waterways, which provided the primary arteries of transportation. 

In part, the original Wishard holdings around Lynnhaven passed to a collateral family group who signed themselves as "Wishards."

Among them were several understandably sharing the names of James, Thomas and John whose records further complicate the following of those who retained the name of "Wishard."

The "Wisharts" persisted in southeastern Virginia for a number of years, but there are no records of them per se beyond 1823, though it seems likely their descendants must still be there, having again modified the surname or having married into other families.


This brings us back to my World War II days in the Norfolk area.

In late 1941 and early 1942 there was a system of outlying field from whence we did much our flying:  Whitehurst, Oceana, Pungo and Creeds.

These were all the low country bordering on the perimeter of "The Great Dismal Swamp," in the middle of which is Lake Drummond, a large body of shallow water abounding with wild-life.

On my second war-time tour in the area -- nigh tow years later -- Whitehurst Field had been swallowed up by The Little Creek Amphibious Warfare Center, and Pungo, Oceana and Creeds had acquired hangars and "Quonset Huts," and there newly commissioned squadrons were variously stationed in their formative stages.

At this later time our particular group was establishing Air Group 15, bound for the second aircraft carrier christened the U. S. S. Hornet (CV-15), which was undergoing its final fitting-out in The Newport News Shipyard across Hampton Roads where it had been launched several months before.

Our dive-bombing squadron,VB-15, was stationed far south at Creeds Field -- nigh in North Carolina -- and our fighter squadron, VF-15, was similarly located at Pungo Field.

In the years following W. W. II, Oceana was enlarged to a master jet base and became the main seat for the air services of the Atlantic Fleet.

I heard that at one time the landing field at Creeds had returned to civilian ownership and was being used for a drag-racing strip.

Unfortunately -- from the standpoint of genealogy -- at that time I knew little of the roots of my mother's family, was really not into genealogy then, and thus availed nothing from a priceless opportunity to look into such things when I actually had ancestral pathways.

However, any experiences there would likely have come to little as have other nostalgic forays I've taken into places not specifically preserved as historic settings.

Any search for points of interest, like James Wishard's grave, would likely have been underwater or buried beneath the sands of time.

There's no record of the wife of the first Thomas Wishard of Pungo.

The children of whom we know included a son named John, and he had a grandson and nephew of the same name who further confuse the picture.

In any event one of this name -- and most likely the grandson -- was married twice and moved his second family to North Carolina in 1750.

It's impossible to be certain as to our ancestors and their generations at this juncture who once lived in the Pungo region.

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