Or, Subtitled: “Wee the Inhabitants of Northampton Countie Doe Complayne”
In my last posting, I introduced you to the immigrant ancestor of the Nottingham family in Northampton County, Virginia, Richard Nottingham, who was born in England around 1618-1621. I told you that various published accounts of his pre-Virginia life, some of them echoing longstanding tales in the Nottingham family, suggest that he came to Virginia after the defeat of Charles I in 1646, that he arrived with a wife who had the title of Lady and is identified in family stories as Elizabeth Hatton or Hutton, that he came overseas bringing a large sum of money, and that he bought a large tract of land soon after his arrival in Virginia.
I also told you that most of this information appears to be folklore not based in sound documentary sources. The one point in the preceding list of lore that may have a strong basis in fact is that he left England after Cromwell’s victory, because he and his family had Royalist leanings in the English Civil War. As I indicated to you in the last posting, Cedric Nottingham, a descendant of a branch of this Virginia Nottingham family that returned to England in the 18th century who has written a monograph about the Nottingham family, reports that the claim that Richard was a Royalist who went to Virginia after the defeat of Charles I has been passed down in his English branch of the Virginia family, and he finds this information credible.
The Date of Richard Nottingham’s Arrival in Northampton County, Virginia
I concluded my last posting by telling you that in my next posting about Richard, I’d move on to what can be factually established about him. The first solid fact about Richard Nottingham’s life in Virginia — that he was in Northampton County by October 1651 — requires us, however, to engage the longstanding tradition in both the Virginia Nottingham family and the English one descending from it that Richard fled from England following the Puritan victory in 1646, because he had supported the Royalist cause.
We know that Richard was in Northampton County by 28 October 1651, because he deposed in the county court on that date as John Johnson, Sr., freed Robert Watson from indenture. The court document identifies Richard Nottingham as brother of Robert Watson — that is, Watson was his brother-in-law. Note that, as I noted in my previous posting linked above, this document proves that Richard Nottingham’s wife Elizabeth was not née Hatton/Hutton, but Watson. It also demonstrates that the couple had married by 28 October 1651.
Cedric Nottingham transcribes this court record as follows:
The depo of Richard Nottingham taked appear cur saith that John Johnson Sr. freed Robert Watson (this depts brother) upon condition that he should live with this examinent or any other man where by he might enjoy the benefit of a freeman, but further saith not.
Though he indicates that he does not have proof positive of this claim, Cedric Nottingham suggests that Richard Nottingham’s wife Elizabeth is an Elizabeth, daughter of John Watson and Elizabeth Wilson, who was baptized at St. Clement Danes church in London, on 4 July 1633. This is a point I’ll return to down the road.
As we look at this 1651 record, it’s important to note that Richard Nottingham does, in fact, first begin appearing in Northampton County records in precisely the time frame in which large numbers of Royalists who left England for Virginia begin to show up in Virginia records. As Jennings Cropper Wise states in his study Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, or, The Eastern Shore of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century,
During the two years following the execution of the King [i.e., 1647 and 1648], fugitive Cavaliers poured by hundreds into Virginia.
I noted in my last posting that two published accounts of Richard Nottingham’s life have him arriving in Northampton County in 1645 (both are cited in the posting linked at the head of this posting). If, as these accounts also indicate, he was fleeing England after the defeat of King Charles in 1646, he wouldn’t have arrived in Virginia in 1645 — nor does either of these two sources cite any documentary evidence showing that Richard Nottingham came to Virginia in 1645. I have found no such evidence anywhere.
According to William Prosser Nottingham, a bill of sale in Northampton County shows Richard Nottingham buying a cow from John Savage on 31 October 1648. I have not seen this document, but I have no reason to discount William Prosser Nottingham’s testimony about it, especially since Elmer T. Crowson cites the same record and date. If this information is accurate, then it seems Richard Nottingham may have been in Northampton County by the fall of 1648 — and almost certainly not much before then, since no earlier records of his presence in the county (or anywhere else in Virginia) exist, to my knowledge.
Once again: if Richard Nottingham did come to Northampton County sometime not long before the end of October 1648, this places his arrival in Virginia squarely in the time frame in which many historical sources report that supporters of the monarchy were fleeing England for Virginia. The date tends to corroborate the longstanding tradition in the Nottingham family in Virginia and its offshoot in England — branches of a family that have not been in contact with each other for several centuries — that Richard Nottingham left England after Charles’ defeat, having taken the king’s side.
Note, too, that there’s no record of a headright claim for Richard Nottingham in or prior to 1651 (or 1648), when we know for certain he was in Northampton County. This, too, seems to back up the conclusion that he may have left England in company with others fleeing for political reasons, whose arrival in Virginia may not have been documented in the usual way by a headright claim filed by the person who imported them to Virginia. Cedric Nottingham underscores this point, noting that Richard Nottingham filed no land patents after arriving in Virginia, something that indicates to him that Richard arrived in Northampton County as a political refugee.
Leading Royalists of Northampton County and Nottingham Family’s Ties to Them
Wise’s Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke provides abundant interesting information about the Royalist leanings of many citizens of Northampton County and their leaders in the 17th century. He notes, in fact, that Obedience Robins (1601-1662), an influential early justice of the Eastern Shore and burgess for six terms, who came to Virginia from Long Buckby in Northamptonshire, pressed for the county to be named Northampton in 1642 as a token of esteem for Spencer Compton, the Earl of Northampton, who was an ardent Royalist who died the following year in service to Charles I.
He also points out that the “royalist planters” of the Eastern Shore enacted a resolution in December 1649 expressing their devotion to the monarchy. Wise thinks that Obedience Robins came to the Eastern Shore specifically to escape persecution as a Royalist — though he was in Virginia well before the Civil War broke out in England and other historians think he was likely a Puritan, despite the fact that his son John Robins was a devoted Royalist who was appointed Northampton sheriff in 1676/7 with the appointment especially lauding his loyalty to the crown in the “late horrid rebellion.” (It’s worth noting that the John Savage from whom Richard Nottingham bought a cow in 1648 — if reports about that bill of sale are accurate — married Obedience Robins’ daughter Mary. John Savage represented Northampton County in the Virginia House of Burgesses 1665-1676.)
Wise identifies Argoll Yeardley, Obedience Robins, Nathaniel Littleton, and, above all, Edmund Scarburgh (who appeared in a previous posting here as Edmond Scarborough, an alternative spelling of his name) as leaders of the Royalist faction in Northampton County. In Wise’s estimation, Scarburgh (1617-1671) led “an extreme royalist faction” whose goal was to separate the Eastern Shore from the rest of Virginia when, accepting the monarchy’s defeat, Virginia capitulated to the Commonwealth in 1652.
Wise proposes that, in contrast to Scarburgh, Yeardley, Robins, and Littleton were pragmatic Royalists who wanted the colony to uphold the newly established government in England after the monarchy was defeated in 1646. With the Royalist party strongly predominant on the Eastern Shore in 1650-1652 and pushing to separate the Eastern Shore from the rest of Virginia due to the Royalist sympathies of Northampton and Accomack, Edmund Scarburgh led the Royalist faction, while Yeardley, Robins, and Littleton, who were also Royalists, advocated for Northampton and Accomack Counties to support the Commonwealth.
The Royalist-leaning families of Northampton County that Wise discusses have ties of one sort or another to the Nottingham family. As we’ve seen previously, one of the executors of and witnesses to the will of William Nottingham (1669-1719), son of Richard Nottingham, was Severn Eyre. Severn’s wife was Gertrude, daughter of Henry Harmanson and Gertrude Littleton. Gertrude Littleton was the daughter of Southey Littleton, whose father was Nathaniel Littleton (abt. 1605-1654), one of the Royalist leaders of Northampton County discussed by Wise, who’s thought to have been the son of Sir Edward Littleton of Henley in Shropshire, and who held the title of Chief Justice of Wales.
Gertrude Littleton had a brother Nathaniel (abt. 1665-1703) whose daughter Esther married Thomas Savage, a grandson of the John Savage (1624-1678) from whom Richard Nottingham is said to have bought a cow in 1648. The Littleton-Savage-Robins families were further linked by the marriage of Obedience Robins’ son John Robins (1636-1709) to Esther, daughter of Nathaniel Littleton (abt. 1605-1654).
Then there’s Argoll Yeardley (abt. 1620-1655), another of the Royalist-leaning leaders of Northampton County to whom Wise points us. He was the son of Sir George Yeardley and Temperance Flowerdew. George Yeardley convened Virginia’s first legislative assembly and was governor 1618-1621. George’s son Argoll Yeardley, who was a member of the Virginia Council 1639-1655, married Ann, daughter of Henry and Joan Custis, who had a victualing house in Rotterdam. Argol Yeardley met Ann Custis on a trip to the Netherlands in 1649 and married her there. We’ve met this Henry and Joan Custis and their descendants previously in discussing the life of William Monk (abt. 1690-1750), who married Elizabeth Nottingham, daughter of Richard Nottingham’s son William. In that previous posting, I told you that Elizabeth Nottingham Monk’s aunt Anne, a daughter of Richard Nottingham, married (inter alia) Charles Parks, and that couple had a daughter Jane/Joane who married William Kendall, a son of William Kendall I and Sarah Custis, Sarah being a daughter of Henry and Joane Custis.
In Wise’s view, Henry and Joane’s son John Custis, who immigrated to Northampton County and appears in historical accounts as John Custis II, was a “true royalist” who married a daughter of Edmund Scarburgh, the Royalist leader in Northampton County. As Wise emphasizes in discussing this marriage of John Custis to Tabitha Scarburgh, the Yeardleys, Custises, and Scarburghs of Northampton were tightly interwoven by an intergenerational network of marriages. Down the road, when we discuss the Pett ancestry of Richard Nottingham the Virginia immigrant through his mother Mary Pett, we’ll discover that the Yeardley and Pett families were connected by marriage in England, as well.
So, to repeat a point I made above, before I launched into a discussion of the Royalist leaders in Northampton County, Virginia, at the time Richard Nottingham arrived there: The Royalist-leaning families of Northampton County discussed by Jennings Cropper Wise in his classic work Ye Kingdom of Accawmacke have ties of one sort or another to the Nottingham family.
Richard Nottingham Signs Northampton Oath of Loyalty to Commonwealthm 1651/2
This is important information to keep in mind as we discuss the next document providing clear evidence that Richard Nottingham was in Northampton by the 1650s. On 12 March 1651/2 (1651 is the date according to the Old Style [i.e., Julian] calendar), the colony of Virginia capitulated to the Commonwealth established with by the English Parliament after the monarchy’s defeat. Because Northampton was known to be “strongly disaffected” from the Commonwealth and pro-Royalist, an “engagement” was put to the county the preceding day, 11 March, by the Council for the Commonwealth, to which Nathaniel Littleton and Argoll Yeardley belonged, to sign an oath of loyalty to the Commonwealth.
On 13 March 1651/2, Richard Nottingham signed the Northampton oath of loyalty along with a number of other county residents; other residents of the county signed on the 25th, and the oath was presented to the Council on the 20th of August. All the “pragmatic” Royalists of the county signed this oath; the “extreme” Royalist Scarburgh did not do so.
As Cedric Nottingham suggests, the fact that Richard Nottingham signed this oath of loyalty along with a group of men with ties of one sort or another to him, all known to have Royalist leanings, actually appears to confirm the longstanding family tradition that Richard Nottingham arrived in Northampton County with Royalist sympathies. Those signing this oath were under duress to prove their loyalty to the new government precisely because they had taken the opposing side in the conflict between those who now had the upper hand and those who were defeated.
The same suggestion appears in Robert Patterson Robins’s classic study of the Littleton family in New England Historical and Genealogical Register: Robins states that Nathaniel Littleton’s signing of this oath of loyalty “may have been simply a matter of policy on his part,” since he continued his close ties to the Royalist governor Sir William Berkeley. As James R. Revell points out,
On March 30th a protest was drawn up by some of the same people who, days earlier, had signed the oath of loyalty to the Commonwealth.
And, finally, as Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker notes in his Virginia under the Stuarts, the protest document to which Revell is pointing, drawn up at the end of March 1652 immediately after leading residents of Northampton had taken just the oath of loyalty, shows the people of Northampton “ill affected” to the new Commonwealth before it even began its governance of the colony. Wee the Inhabitants of Northampton Countie doe complayne the document began….
In my next posting, I’ll conclude my chronicle of what we know of Richard Nottingham’s life in Virginia after his arrival in the colony by 1651 and probably as early as 1648. In this posting, I cited Richard Nottingham’s October 1651 deposition in Northampton court prior to his signing the oath of loyalty in March 1651/2 because I believe the latter document should have a 1652 date under the Gregorian calendar — though I’m not as clear as I might be about how the Julian and Gregorian calendars meshed in this period.
 Northampton County, Virginia, Orders, Deeds and Wills Bk. 4, p. 36.
 “The Nottingham Surname: The Virginian Connection,” p. 39.
 Jennings Cropper Wise, Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, or, The Eastern Shore of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century (Richmond: Bell, Book, and Stationery Co., 1911), p. 111. In the same vein, see David Hackett Fischer and James C. Kelly, Bound Away (Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press, 2000), p. 35.
 William Prosser Nottingham, Some of the Ancestry of the Reverend Luther Nottingham (1817-1867) of Northampton County, Virginia (priv. publ., Indianapolis, 1980), p.
 Elmer T. Crowson, Life as Revealed Through Early American Court Records: Including the Story of Col. John Custis of Arlington, Queen’s Creek, and Williamsburg (Greenville, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1981), p. 32.
 Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, pp. 86-7.
 Ibid., pp. 110-111.
 Ibid., p. 75. See also John Frederick Dorman, ed., Adventurers of Purse and Person: Virginia, 1607-1624/5, vol. 2 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ. Co., 2007, 4th ed.), pp. 703-4; Martha W. McCartney, Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ. Co., 2007), p. 602; and Martha W. McCartney, Jamestown People to 1800: Landowners, Public Officials, Minorities, and Native Leaders (Baltimore: Geneal. Publ. Co., 2012), p. 347.
 Lyon G. Tyler, ed., Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, vol. 1 (NY: Lewis, 1915), p. 319; Jamestown People to 1800, p. 357; and Adventurers of Purse and Person, vol. 3, pp. 118-141.
 Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, pp. 167-8.
 Ibid. See also Cynthia McDaniel, “Descendants of Edmund Scarborough,” at the website of Genealogy and History of The Eastern Shore of Virginia (GHOTES); Adventurers of Purse and Person, vol. 3, pp. 142-3; Jamestown People to 1800, p. 358; and MilesFiles, p. 201.
 Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, pp. 167-8.
 Ibid., pp. 138-9. As Wise notes, though Scarburgh opposed the Commonwealth, he still did not sign the Northampton Protest of 30 March 1652, calling for the Eastern Shore counties to reject the Commonwealth (pp. 139-140).
 Adventurers of Purse and Person, vol. 2, pp. 703-4, and vol. 3, pp. 219-221.
 Ibid., vol. 3, pp. 861-872.
 See Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635, p. 775; Adventurers of Purse and Person, vol. 3, pp. 865-6; Jamestown People to 1800, pp. 131-2; and Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, pp. 112-114.
 Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, p. 114.
 Ibid., pp. 133-5.
 Ibid., pp. 135-7. See also Virginia Historical Register, vol. 1 (1848), p. 164.
 “The Nottingham Surname: The Virginian Connection,” p. 16.
 “A Tentative Pedigree of the Littleton Family of Virginia,” p. 365 (cited supra, n. 15).
 Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, Virginia under the Stuarts, 1607-1688 (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1914), pp. 103-4.