Friday, July 23, 2010

A New River

While the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Iroquois were fighting over this land they all seemed to want to claim, the colony of Virginia was trying to find its way around. Taking less than 32 years, they had settled the coastal areas and were wondering what was beyond the mountains to the west. Exploration to the head waters of the rivers that flowed to the Ocean [called The Tidewater] had only shown other mountains to the west, and only rivers that flowed to the eastern Atlantic coast. The Virginia Assembly in June 1641 encouraged individuals to undertake the discovery of a new river or unknown land with a river that would flow to the west. To the explorer this would mean reaching the other side of the mountains and perhaps being the first to discover a waterway to the long sought after route to China. The Assembly allowed those who discovered such a river to have exclusive right to the discovery for fourteen years. Their heirs, executors or administrators or assigns could enjoy all profit whatsoever. Wow, what a deal! You only had to get there first.

The first to get there and record their accomplishment were Edward Bland, merchant; Abraham Wood, Captain; Sackford Brewster, gentleman; and Elias Pennant, gentleman. Writing August 27, 1650, they describe the "...firft River in New Brittaine, which runneth Weft; being 120. Mile South-west, between 35. & 37 degrees, (a pleafant Country,)..." Imagine the excitement that this discovery produced, offering fame and wealth to those who could explore and settle this "new river". Now, for a genealogist, imagine the excitement this produced when you realized that two of these folks were family members!

To those who know early Virginia history, they know that Abraham Wood was the founder of Fort Henry (1646); and he was the first to open many doors to these western mountains. He arrived in Virginia at the young age of 8, and was 10 years of age in 1623 when the "Musters of The Inhabitants In Virginia" were recorded. His second wife was Margaret Jones, a widow who already had some Jones boys---Abraham, Richard, Peter, and William. These Jones boys had a lot to do with the naming and settlement of Petersburg, Virginia. Now, Elias Pennant seemed to be one of the backers [money lenders who were usually other family members] and he carried the same Jones blood that my Jones family carried from Wales. Both the Pennant and Jones families were descendants of Tudor Trevor, the founder of many Welsh and English surnames. But, that's another story.

1 comment:

  1. For those interested, Abraham Wood's account is published in a book entitled: The First Explorations of the Trans-Allegheny Region by the Virginians 1650-1674, by Alvord and Bidgood. The muster list of 1623 is published in a book called: Original Lists of Persons of Quality Who Went From Great Britain to the American Plantations, by J.C. Hotten.