THE SUTTON CONNECTIONS
When we consider the family of my maternal grandmother, Henrietta (Sutton) Whichard, we need go far a field several times.
It's hard to know where and with whom to start, so I've chosen to begin with Thomas Savage, our earliest known American ancestor in any geneal stream.
One learns a lesson when questing for "facts" about a legend. In the first place, an end is never reached -- as a single incident is pursued it simply leads to another.
In time one finds himself in a circular pattern of doubt when an item found from one source is contradicted by information later gleaned elsewhere.
In the end one must belong to the sainthood of scholarship to avoid contrivance.
So it has been with my learning about Thomas Savage. He was an intriguing young man, but this account must be taken with "a grain of salt."
I've done my best to "take a good history" -- to go back to an opening premise of this treatise -- but, indeed, I may have settled for what is simply "a good story."
THOMAS AND HANNAH (TYNINGS) SAVAGE of THE EASTERN SHORE
In the early 17th century, the courtiers, sea dogs and merchant princes of England forsook the more southern shoreline of the continental coast, then all known as Virginia, where in the earlier century Sir Walter Raleigh had made an ill-begotten attempt to establish a colony on Roanoke Island.
This first try had been made just inside the barrier islands, which would someday be known as "The Outer Banks" of North Carolina.
A decade later Raleigh enjoined others to band with him as "The Virginia Company," and on this occasion they elected to intrude into a massive tide-water bay a bit farther north.
The large bay was in actuality the estuary of a long para-coastal river whose entrances had been flooded as the last glaciers ebbed.
The upper reach of the river is today known as The Susquehanna while its mammoth estuary is termed The Chesapeake Bay.
In 1607 two small sailing ships, The Phoenix and The John and Francis -- both from Bristol, England -- made landfall at the mouth of The Bay bringing another contingent of Englishmen to again attempt a settlement.
Their first landing was on the southern headland of a large inlet they named "Cape Henry" in memory of the last Tudor King, Henry VIII, who had first made England a maritime power with which to be reckoned.
The opposite northern headland was named "Cape Charles" -- said to be in honor of The Duke of York -- though I've not learned why he was so honored or whether he was son or brother of the monarch.
These venturing Englishmen much feared the Spanish who had earlier come to this part of The New World, and had even more impressive sea power of their own.
This dread was in the back of English minds as their small caravels pushed into The Bay and its tributaries, searching for a promising and sequestered anchorage as well as a place to permanently put ashore.
Just as the stream further south in what would later become "Carolana," or "The Land of Charles," flowed southeast from the mountains to form a complex system of sounds behind "The Outer Banks," so also the mountain outpouring further north in Virginia flowed into The Chesapeake.
It was into the largest and southernmost of these that the ships of The Virginia Company made their way.
The House of Tudor had been succeeded by The House of Stuart after Queen Elizabeth's death, and it was under the aegis of the first of the Stuarts -- King James I of England (King James IV of Scotland) -- that the Company's charter had been granted, and so it was for him that the river was named.
It seems likely that the Duke of York for whom "Cape Charles" was named was either his brother or son.
A few miles up the James River the two ships found a small peninsula reaching out from the northern shore of the river. The water off-shore was deep enough that the ships could be directly moored to the trees ashore.
Such anchorage also seemed sufficiently hidden that the Spaniards would remain unaware of what the Englishmen were up to.
The settlement was named "Jamestown," also in honor of their sovereign, and as agriculture was later entered upon, it was also called "Jamestown Plantation."
History now marks Jamestown as the first permanent English settlement in the new world.
Unfortunately the colonists were almost entirely men who viewed themselves as becoming landholders as had been their antecedents in England, rather than men who would implant civilization in the wilderness by the sweat of their brows.
Some were cadets of English families who had essentially been disinherited by the laws of primogeniture which favored eldest sons with sizeable legacies compared to that received by their younger siblings.
The colonists' unwillingness to soil their hands at farming made for sparse eating and decreed that the colony would need be supplied by ships from England or what they could scrounge from the Indians.
It was the following year, in 1608, when The John and Francis, still under the command of Capt. Newport, returned as the first support ship to Jamestown.
Aboard was a 13-year-old lad, Thomas Savage -- we have several versions of his status.
One was that he was Capt. Newport's cabin boy and an indentured servant.
Another was that he was among several youths who had been trained in England as apprentices to The Virginia Company and groomed more-or-less to be civil servants to the colony -- particularly to work as interpreters.
Indentured servants were expected to remain directly under a sponsor's control for seven years while company apprentices would persist as such until they reached the age of maturity at 21 years.
A little simple arithmetic shows that for Thomas Savage it could be seven of one or eight of another.
As it turned out it made little difference except to Thomas Savage who was living in real time instead of historic perception, and to whom a year was still twelve long months.
As most know, Capt. John Smith was a professional soldier and in charge of defending the colony whereas Capt. Newport became "The Admiral of the Virginia Fleet."
Shortly after the return of The John and Francis in January 1608 a small shallop was being prepared in which it was planned that a modest contingent of colonists -- under the two captains -- could explore the great bay, the reaches of which were still largely unknown.
The supplies from England had hardly been unloaded when a ruinous fire swept thorough Jamestown, destroying all but three cabins and totally decimating the newly arrived succor.
This decreed that the first stop on the jaunt into The Bay would be at the Indian village of Werococamo at the mouth of the York River, and the seat of the Powhatan, the chief king of the Alogonquin Confederacy, the purpose being to try to trade with the Indians for corn.
Thomas Savage was among those to go along, this being an undertaking which would shape the rest of his life as well as the lives of those of us who were to follow.
As noted, the natives of that immediate part of The New World called themselves Algonquins, and though I know not what that meant in their language, my best guess would be that in one way or another it translated into "The Human Beings."
From what was later learned from the Indians of the western plains most every tribal entitlement seemed a given group's way of calling themselves "The People" or "The Human Beings" -- the inference being that all others were somehow of a different species or a lesser sort.
There were different tribes around the lower Chesapeake who apparently considered themselves Algonquin, but who were called "Powhatans" by the colonists.
This was a misnomer. From my sources, the overall king to the Alogonquin Confederacy was called "The Powhatan" and the colonists used this as a personal name for the King as well as a tribal name for his people.
In recent years we "whites," with some justification, have been much criticized as having treated Native Americans as somewhat less than human -- certainly less than equals.
However, to me we've been little different from all other racial and national groups of our species who have come our way and thrived elsewhere -- at least, when we gave political structure to our culture we gave lip service to all our species as having been created equally.
In my lifetime Native Americans, Blacks and émigrés of varied nationalities have enjoyed exponential improvement in rights and the correctness of their cultural diversity.
If this improvement continues perhaps when -- and if -- my great-great-grandchildren read this, things will be more Utopian.
After all, only one more generation need come along for our line to be at that juncture.
Meanwhile, back to the exploration of the Chesapeake Bay.
At some point along the way Capt. John Smith was captured and thus comes the legend of the intervention of Pocohontas, the Indian princess, in Smith's proposed execution.
It would seem a tenuous peace ensued, buttressed by the marriage of Pocohontas to the colonist John Rolfe and by the fact that Thomas Savage was left at Werococamo as a hostage.
This served a double purpose. It was also an opportunity for Savage to begin assimilating the Indian language, this proving of lasting benefit to the English.
However, when Smith, Newport and their men left Werococamo, the young teenager must have felt utterly abandoned by his kind.
In truth, though, living conditions were probably much better with the Indians than in Jamestown, particularly as Thomas Savage was treated more as an adopted son of The Powhatan than as a captive.
Thereafter Thomas Savage spent much of his time traversing the waters of The Bay, being much in demand by his government and by merchants as an interpreter.
At some point he ventured across The Bay on such a mission -- perhaps another exploration -- and made landfall on the peninsula between The Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
On this eastern shore he encountered a friendly tribe of Indians called the Accomacks and ruled by their own chieftain, Debedeavon, known as "The Laughing King."
The king took a shine to young Savage and he was again left behind as a hostage to this group.
King Debedeavon also treated Savage as a son and settled on him a gift of 9000 acres of land, thus becoming the first English land-holder on "The Eastern Shore."
Over the years this land became deeded to his descendents and was known as "Savage's Neck."
Such an entity is not charted on the maps of today. I came to suspect it had been eroded and was now covered by water. Sometime later my love of North Carolina barbecue led me to the truth.
Over the years Thomas Savage established several homesteads on this tract, and essentially after 1608-1609 he became an inhabitant of "The Eastern Shore" rather than Jamestown.
It was as such that he came to contribute his greatest effort to the Virginia colony.
Several developments in Jamestown led Savage to much prefer a life mainly among the natives to life in the colony per se.
A rigid despotism with attendant civil cruelty arose in the colony and this compared poorly to the freedom he enjoyed living on The Eastern Shore.
Further, the "Powhatans" knowing other productive growing seasons would come, saw little reason to store provender in times of abundance, and the Jamestown colonists followed this same improvident pattern.
Thus, for the Indians of the mainland and the colonists alike one bad season meant famine and want.
Conversely, the Accomacks of "The Eastern Shore" were much more advanced in their farming, always stored food when there was a surplus and consequently enjoyed an on-going bounty -- as did Thomas Savage.
In 1618 hail followed by drought destroyed the colonists' crops and Savage began a career of ferrying supplies from "The Eastern Shore" to "Jamestown Plantation" thereby tiding them over until the next support ship arrived.
These forays are credited by some as having saved the beleaguered settlement from extinction on more than one occasion.
Today as one motors down "The Delmarva Peninsula" -- as "The Eastern Shore" is now known, with parts in each of the states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia -- one wonders if the striking orderliness and obvious fecundity of the farms does not reflect the legacy of The Accomacks.
In 1616 Capt. Argall sailed The George back to England, carrying the Rolfes and an Indian observer named Tomakin.
Tomakin had a two-fold mission -- to interview the white man's God, and to count the number of English who inhabited "the tree-less island of London" -- so that The Powhatan might have a better notion of the pressure of settlement which might be brought to bear on his provinces.
Tomakin carried a notched stick to record his tally, but the teeming population of London -- a mass of people beyond the Indians' imagining- - soon proved the stick inadequate.
I found no record of Tomakin's luck with God.
Pocohontas was a great hit in the English court, but unfortunately she succumbed to an acute illness just as Argall was planning to return to Virginia.
The George reached The New World again in May 1617, and Tomakin made his disheartening report to The Powhatan, now the previous ruler's brother, Opechancanow.
The previous chief had abdicated when he became seventy years old, and when he died a short time later the Algonquins gathered from far and wide for his last ceremony, and Opechancanow used this as an opportunity to propose a massive uprising against the whites.
King Debedeavon warned Thomas Savage of this plot, and, in turn, Savage warned Governor Yardley who prepared the colony as best their limited defensive abilities and facilities allowed.
Fortunately for the English this was adequate for survival, but costly collectively as 400 colonists were slaughtered in the tempestuous initial onslaught by the Indians.
However, after the frenzy of the fighting of the first day, the Indians were repelled though the colony's swine were largely slaughtered and the food stores of the colony were decimated.
Again succor came from "The Eastern Shore" with Accomacks providing and Savage delivering relief supplies.
The Accomacks -- thanks largely to the influence of Thomas Savage -- held themselves out of the plot by the Powhatans, and indeed, many mainland survivors moved their homes to "The Eastern Shore."
Near-disastrous though this was for the colonists it was the last chance the natives would have to stem the flow of the whites into their lands.
In a few years would come the burgeoning settlement of the whole of the lower Chesapeake into what became "The Tidewater Hearth," -- a story illustrated by our account of the Bridger and Wishard families in early Virginia.
Capt. John Smith is easily the best known of those who have been marked as heroes of the founding of "The Jamestown Plantation."
To an extent this is a deserved honor but springs mainly from his having published accounts of his experiences, which have been a major source of our information about these early days.
Actually Smith spent but 2-1/2 years in the colony before poor health from illness and injuries forced his return to England.
He spent the rest of his days in compiling his memoirs, exploits in which he was always the central focus.
His experience when Pocohontas saved him from execution has become a legend, and in large part accounts for the popularity of John Smith's stories.
No progeny survived in America of the settlers who first came to Jamestown in 1607 aboard The Phoenix and The John and Francis.
Only two colonists in the second sailing -- viz: Thomas Savage and Thomas Wooton -- left descendents in the United States today.
When I started researching the family tree, I had no notion of Thomas Savage, and certainly no knowledge that my lines literally extend back to the very beginning of white settlement in America.
Interestingly enough descendents of both Savage and Wooton live today in Pitt County, North Carolina, and were there when I was growing up.
In 1620 The Sea Venture put into Jamestown laden with women who had elected to come to The New World as wives for the benedict colonists who had arrived earlier.
Among them was Hannah Tynings.
No word has come down as to her family background in England, but certainly for young women to blindly take their chances in a wilderness land in order to marry men they had never known required a great leap of faith.
She and Thomas Savage had but a single child, John Savage who was 10 years old when his father died. He lived out his days on "Savage's Neck."
Since learning of Thomas and Hannah Savage, I have searched in vain for a precise location for "Savage's Neck" on old maps of "The Eastern Shore" and modern maps of "The Delmarva Peninsula."
I figured, as with many historic sites along the Chesapeake shore, that it had suffered erosion and was now under water.
My abiding fondness of North Carolina pit-cooked barbecue was to provide an answer.
In the years, off and on, that I've lived in the Middle-Atlantic and Northeastern states, I have made many of my frequent returns to North Carolina by using U. S. Highway 13 -- an artery which lies along the spine of "The Delmarva Peninsula."
About 40 miles north of Cape Charles I found "Foomy's" a barbecue restaurant, which features North Carolina style cooking.
On return to his home state most every red-blooded son of North Carolina avails himself a barbecue meal as soon as possible. I'm a votary of hickory-cooked barbecue.
"Foomy's" fortunately offered me an early break in my barbecue fast on the way down and "a taste for the road" on the way back up Highway 13.
On one such lay-over there I found Foomy, the owner, not too busy and able to visit with me as I ate.
It turns out that "Foomy" is his first name, his surname being Du Val -- this obviously of French or Norman origin -- and that he had been raised in the White Lake region of southeastern Carolina.
I told him of my descent from Thomas Savage.
He was very familiar with the name and some of Thomas Savage's exploits, though he viewed him as much more of an antagonist to the Indians than I have portrayed here.
He did say I might learn more at Eastville on "The Atlantic Shore" and just a few miles above Cape Charles.
I stopped at an antique store there and purchased a book on Eastern Shore history.
I again told the lady there what I was about, and she told me I should feel at home, for if I was descended from Thomas Savage I was related to most everyone in Eastville.
I bothered no one else -- it was enough to know that Thomas and Hannah (Tynings) Savage had left behind a rather vast legacy of relatives.
Likewise, I've since learned that the Savages in Pitt County have the same roots.
It also seems likely that the folk of Eastville -- which it turns out took root on "Savage's Neck" -- and were mainly those responsible for a commemorative plaque to Thomas Savage in the remnants of the old church at Jamestown, which is another story.
It happens that in the mid-1980's -- when I was reviewing hospitals for The Joint Commission -- I was caught for a week-end in the Yorktown region of the Chesapeake.
Having by then heard of Thomas savage I felt forced to visit Jamestown -- now an island rather than a peninsula -- and which I had not visited since high school days.
When the colony had been new a worship center had been set-up under a canopy of a ship's sail hung between trees, and, in time, a church had been built there, the first in The New World.
Due to the vagaries of the colony's fortune the building had been burned down and replaced on several occasions.
The log structure now standing in partial completion has been preserved as a historic site.
Sixty years ago relatives of Thomas and Hannah Savage had erected a plaque to the memory and honor of "Ensign" Savage, this being a commissioned rank, albeit low, to which the young man had ultimately been appointed:
THOMAS SAVAGE, GENTLEMAN AND ENSIGN
THE FIRST WHITE SETTLER ON THE EASTERN SHORE OF VIRGINIA
HOSTAGE TO POWHATAN, 1608; HIS LOYALTY AND
FEARLESSNESS ENDEARED HIM TO THE GREAT KING WHO TREATED HIM AS
HIS SON WHILE HE RENDERED INVALUABLE AID TO THE COLONY AS INTERPRETER.
GREATLY BELOVED DEBEDEAVON, "THE LAUGHING KING OF THE ACCOMACKES,"
HE WAS GIVEN A TRACT OF NINE THOUSAND ACRES OF LAND
KNOWN AS SAVAGES NECK.
HE OBTAINED FOOD FOR THE STARVING COLONY AT JAMESTOWN THROUGH HIS
FRIENDSHIP WITH THE KINDLY EASTERN SHORE INDIANS.
A RELATION OF HIS VOYAGES ON THE GREAT BAY IN SEARCH OF TRADE FOR THE
ENGLISH, WAS READ BEFORE THE LONDON COMPANY AT A COURT HELD JULY 10TH, 1621.
JOHN PORY, SECRETARY OF THE COLONY SAYS: "HE WITH MUCH HONESITE
AND GOOD SUCCESSE, SERVED THE PUBLIQUE WITHOUT PUBLIQUE RECOMPENSE,
YET HAD AN ARROW SHOT THROUGH HIS BODY IN THEIR SERVICE."
"FOR BRAVE HEROIC MINDS,
WORTHY YOUR COUNTRY'S FATE,
THAT HONOR STILL PURSUE;
GO AND SUBDUE:
WHILST LOITERING HANDS
WORK HERE AT HOME, WITH SHAME."
ERECTED BY SOME OF HIS DESCENDENTS
Thomas and Hannah (Tynings) Savage had but one child, their son John, who was apparently around 5 years old when his father died in 1627 after a life that was unbelievably short for one so extremely eventful.
Hannah, after but a brief bereavement, married a neighbor Daniel Cudley who apparently was a caring and attentive stepfather.
John Savage in turn became guardian to his half-sister when her father died.
John -- wife unknown -- married Alice Harmondson; their great-grand-daughter, Hester Williams, married William Isler; and their daughter, Ferebee Isler, married John Sutton, Jr.
These connections are indeed sketchier than most I've traced, though probably much to the grief of the compulsive genealogists in the family, but likely a relief to those who've had their fill of beavers.
Anyway, this brings us back to the Suttons and introduces us to the Islers, each with stories deemed worth recounting.
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