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Upheaval in Albemarle: The Story of Culpeper's Rebellion


A Register of Rebellion

The following list of participants in Culpeper’s Rebellion is admittedly weak. Records with respect to individuals in the seventeenth century are not bountiful, and the relatively feeble information herein included is compiled with the assumption that these notes might be of use in better placing the participants within the framework of the activity. The length of the sketches does not by any means indicate the prominence in Albemarle or the rebellion of the participants. It simply means that for one reason or another, their names appear more often in the extant records. Some rather important participants have been omitted for no other reason than the paucity of available information.

Timothy Biggs

Timothy Biggs was a Quaker and had been in the Ashley River settlement in 1672. As a Deputy of the Earl of Craven in 1676, Thomas Miller also appointed him Deputy Collector of Customs for Upper Albemarle in that same year. On September 28, 1678, after the revolt and the first of his three trips to London, the Proprietors appointed him Comptroller and Surveyor-General for Albemarle. During this period he maintained an office on Little River Point. In 1679, as a Council Member and Colleton’s Deputy, he was a member of the Palatine Court to try Miller for blasphemy and treason, but shortly afterwards was instrumental in Miller’s escape.

Upon his return to Albemarle as Collector of Customs and Surveyor-General, around 1683, he married Mary, widow of George Catchmaid. Catchmaid had been Speaker of the Albemarle Assembly in 1666 and later was clerk for Nansemond County, Virginia. His wife’s inheritance of property in Albemarle led Biggs to lodge complaints against Seth Sothel, who refused to recognized her claims to the property of her first husband.

Timothy Biggs seems to have died around 1686, and some accounts say that prior to that date he had removed to Virginia in company with those Quakers who had found Albemarle too uncomfortable after the ebb of rebellion.

Valentine Bird

Valentine Bird was Speaker of the Assembly in 1672. Appointed by John Jenkins, he served as Collector of Customs from 1675 to 1677. In the investigations of the rebellion, the Proprietors claimed that Bird and several others resisted Thomas Miller when he first landed as Eastchurch’s representative in 1677. Certainly he was a leader in the rebellion and not only was a member of the “Parliament,” but was one of the judges who was to try Miller for blasphemy and treason.

Bird died some time before January 31, 1680, leaving an estate valued at £583. 1s. 3d. It was charged that at Bird’s death Zachariah Gillam owed his estate some 2,000 pounds of tobacco. Byrd’s widow, Margaret, married John Culpeper.

James Blount

In 1660 James Blount was living in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, but he had moved to Albemarle by 1669. He was a member of the Council in 1672, and in 1677 was one of the eighteen members chosen for the rebellious “Parliament.” He was also a judge on the court selected to try Miller at that time. He was listed as a member of the General Assembly in 1679. It was alleged that as a leader in Culpeper’s Rebellion he was responsible for bringing the Chowan Precinct into the revolt.

He died some time prior to July, 1686, when his will was proved before Seth Sothel. Surviving him was his wife, the former Anna Willix of Exeter, New Hampshire, who had been married previous to her union with Blount. In his will three sons, Thomas, John and James, and two daughters, Ann Slocum and Elizabeth Hawkins, were named as beneficiaries. Some time afterwards his widow became the wife of Seth Sothel.

Caleb Calleway

Calleway was a resident of Albemarle as early as 1663. In addition to planting tobacco, he apparently worked some as a cooper, building the hogsheads used for shipping tobacco.

Although active in the outbreak of the rebellion, and a member of the “Parliament” in 1677, his name fades from the lists of active participants after that date. He did, however, remain prominent in the affairs of Albemarle, serving as a Justice of the Perquimans Precinct Court between 1693 and 1699. He was listed as Overseer of Roads from 1704 to 1706.

His will was probated June 13, 1706.

William Crawford

His surname is usually spelled “Craford” or “Crafford” in the contemporary accounts. Although usually spoken of as a New England man, he was in Albemarle as early as 1665, for in that year Captain John Whitley, who seems to have been employed by the Proprietors to bring settlers and stock to Albemarle, complained that he had been “plaid the Knave” by Crawford.

He was a member of the rebel “Parliament” in 1677 and in 1678, and again in 1680 he was listed as a member of the Council during the administration of John Jenkins. He was charged with being one of the principal leaders of the rebellion, and apparently nourished political ambitions, for it was stated he “industriously made it his business to be popular.” He was one of the members of the court named in 1677 to try Thomas Miller.

His home was in “Pascotank” on Albemarle Sound, and during the continuing upheaval in 1679, and while Culpeper was Collector of Customs, his plantation seemed to be the primary point for the illegal shipping of tobacco. It may have been that he and his wife, Margaret, later moved to Virginia, for a Captain William Crawford was a delegate from Lower Norfolk County to that colony’s House of Burgesses in 1688. Three years later, in 1691, William Crawford, listing his age as fifty-four, made a deposition as a member of the Court of that same county.

John Culpeper

Culpeper was of good family, although it would seem by his later actions that he was the “black sheep.” It has been suggested that he was possibly the brother of the governor-marrying Frances Culpeper, who over the years became successively the wife of Samuel Stephens, Sir William Berkeley, and Philip Ludwell.

John Culpeper appeared in Carolina in 1671 in the Ashley River settlement, where he arrived with a proprietary commission as Surveyor-General. After being involved in an uprising there, he fled to Albemarle, where he arrived some time prior to October, 1675.

Intrigue seemed to be inherent in his nature. He is alleged to have been instrumental in plots and schemes of one kind or another in Ashley River, Albemarle, New England, and Virginia. In the Albemarle uprising, Thomas Miller said Culpeper was “their Cheif Councillour and scribe.”

Appointed Collector after the rebellion which bears his name, he obviously was lax in his duties, and not only were customs ignored, but he was accused of confiscating the tobacco and money that had already been taken in by Miller and his deputies. When in London he apparently explained away his transgressions to the satisfaction of everyone until the ill-timed arrival of Miller in England. Arrested and charged with treason, he was acquitted by the Court of the King’s Bench in 1680 when Lord Shaftesbury turned witness for the defense, claiming there had been no real rebellion in Albemarle and that Miller did not represent the legal government.

Culpeper is said to have gone to New England after the rebellion subsided, but apparently he died in Albemarle some time before 1695. Even in death, he remained a controversial figure, as a large number of law suits were brought against his estate, but in each instance the verdict was against the plaintiff. Strangely enough, the foreman of the jury that decided one of these cases on February 25, 1695, was named Thomas Miller — but not the same Miller of rebellion fame, for he had died some ten years earlier.

George Durant

In October 1688, George Durant had a brother living in London, so it is possible that Durant may have immigrated to Albemarle from England. In his will, he referred to himself as a “Marriner,” and it appears that his early life may have been spent at sea. On the other hand, inasmuch as he served as Attorney-General of Albemarle upon several occasions, it also seems that there was at least some legal training in his background.

Durant was in Albemarle as early as 1661 and probably earlier, and he was listed as one of the principals in the earliest known land exchange in the area. From the available evidence, he may well have been the primary instigator of Culpeper’s Rebellion, for the account compiled by the Lords Proprietors of the uprising related that “George Durant was always a discontented man and was the most active of the rebels.” Although Jenkins served as head of the government, it was charged that Durant, as Attorney-General, was the real power in Albemarle. This is given some credence by the revelation that a majority of the rebel meetings were held at the house of Durant, described by Timothy Biggs as “their usual rendezvous.” Durant was responsible for drawing up the charges against Miller in the trials of 1677 and 1679. He was also selected, along with John Willoughby, as agent for the insurgents “to cover all their actions over in England that truth might not come to light.”

After Seth Sothel became Governor, Durant was imprisoned for speaking out against the executive and threatening to go to the Proprietors with a complaint against the Governor’s operations.

His will was proved in February, 1694, the same day as the will of Seth Sothel. His survivors included his wife, Ann, two sons, and four daughters.

George Durant's Bible, printed in London in
1599. It is now in the North Carolina collection
at the University of North Carolina Library.
(Courtesy of University of North Carolina Library).

Thomas Eastchurch

As suggested by William S. Powell in his Ye Countie of Albemarle, this may well have been the same Thomas Eastchurch of Devon, England, who graduated in 1628 from Queen’s College, Oxford. His political connections were good, as he was related to Thomas Clifford, the Lord High Treasurer of England, on whose recommendation Eastchurch was appointed Governor of Albemarle.

He had been in Carolina prior to December, 1671, for in that month, in a letter written from Virginia, he complained to Carteret about the vandalism done his property in Albemarle.

In 1671 he had been appointed Surveyor-General of Albemarle, and by 1675 he was Speaker of the Assembly and the leader of the proprietary faction in the colony. In 1676, upon the recommendation of Clifford, the Proprietors appointed him Governor of Albemarle, in addition to any new settlements that might be established on the Neuse or Pamlico rivers. The Proprietors had found him to be “of a very good family,” as well as “a very discreet and worthy man.”

On his way to the colony in 1676 he stopped over on the West Indian island of Nevis, where he married a woman of “a considerable fortune,” and dispatched Thomas Miller with authorization to perform his duties in Albemarle.

In the early summer of 1677 he reached Virginia, but was prevented from entering Albemarle by armed guards stationed by the rebels along the border. While collecting recruits to stamp out the revolt, he contracted the fever of which he died.

Richard Foster

The name of Richard Foster appears in the records of Lower Norfolk County, Virginia, as early as 1641. At the same time that he was a member of the House of Burgesses in 1655-1656, he held the title of captain.

His political prestige is indicated by the number of times he served as a member of the Council: 1670 (Stephens), 1670-1672 (Carteret), 1678 (Jenkins), 1679 (Harvey), and 1680 (Jenkins). The fact that he was addressed by the military title of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1679 implies that he was in command of the Albemarle militia during this year.

Foster was the only Proprietary Deputy who participated in Culpeper’s Rebellion, and in summarizing their investigation of the uprising, the King’s Council was of the opinion that Foster, along with Culpeper, “contrived” the rebellion. In 1677 Foster presided over the court that attempted to try Thomas Miller for blasphemy and treason.

There is no record of his death.

Zachariah Gillam

Zachariah Gillam was felt by many to be one of the ringleaders of the revolt against Thomas Miller. He was the second son of Benjamin Gillam of Gillam and Company of Boston.

In 1664, when about thirty years old, he was captain of the vessel that transported the French explorers, Radisson and Groseillers, into the Hudson Bay region. In the ketch Nonesuch, he reconnoitered the bay for those interested in forming the Hudson Bay Company, and his was reputed to be the first European ship ever to reach the lower end of the bay. In 1671, the year after the company was chartered, Gillam sailed the Prince Rupert into Hudson Bay again, among other things conducting a search for the Northwest Passage. He was dismissed from company service upon his return to England in 1673, and charged with engaging in private trade while employed on business for the Proprietors of Hudson Bay. Shaftesbury instituted a suit against him in Chancery Court in 1674, although the captain seems to have been back in the good graces of the Proprietors by 1675.

He was in the Albemarle tobacco trade as early as 1676 and possibly earlier. By this date he also appears to have served as an unauthorized agent purchasing tobacco for the non-English European market. In addition, there has been the suggestion that Gillam operated a counting house in Albemarle.

Zachariah Gillam was without a doubt involved in Culpeper’s Rebellion, for the uprising did not occur until after the arrival of his ship, the Carolina, with a cargo of arms and ammunition. Arrested in London in 1680 with John Culpeper, he was released for lack of actual proof of his participation.

Soon after this, known as “old Gillam,” he once again captained the Prince Rupert on a voyage to Hudson Bay. There he and his son, Benjamin II, “Young Gillam,” became entangled in new charges of illegal trading in the area. On October 21, 1682, Zachariah Gillam drowned when the Prince Rupert, crushed by the ice in the Nelson River, sank.

John Harvey

John Harvey came to Albemarle from Virginia around 1658, bringing with him seventeen persons as settlers. His land grant was what has since become known as Harvey’s Neck. In 1670 he was a Council member under Stephens and in 1672 he was Assistant Governor to Peter Carteret.

Harvey seems to have participated little in Culpeper’s Rebellion, although he was responsible for taking Marshal General Edward Wade prisoner in the early stages of the upheaval. His only other activity seems to have been the recording of depositions in the building up of a case against Miller. His name is not listed as an active rebel in any of the complaints, affidavits, or depositions filed by Miller and his group.

He aided Durant in drawing up charges for Miller’s second trial in 1679, and as Governor he would have served as presiding judge had the trial taken place.

When Governor Seth Sothel was taken at sea and held for ransom by Turkish pirates, Harvey served as Governor from February, 1679, until his death in August that same year. He was survived by this wife, the former Dorothy Tuke of Isle of Wight County, Virginia.

Robert Holden

William S. Powell suggests that Robert Holden may have been a native of Kent, England, and studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

He was in Virginia no later than December of 1671. In September of that same year the Lords Proprietors of Carolina had granted him 660 acres of land in Albemarle, and also allowed him to trade with the Indians with the expressed desire that by doing so he might open up a trading path with the Ashley River settlement.

Holden seems to have been a favorite of the Proprietors. He often served as Secretary of Albemarle, having filled that position in 1675, 1677, and between 1679 and 1684. In addition he also filled a chair in the Council in 1678 and between 1679 and 1690.

It would seem that he was involved in Culpeper’s Rebellion more than is indicated by the records, for he was accused as a “Ringleader” in Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia and a warrant had been issued for him in that colony as one of the leaders in that uprising.

Appointed Customs Collector under Sothel, it was Holden who brought Harvey’s commission to Albemarle after the Governor was captured by the Turks. He seems to have occupied the office of Customs Collector until 1685, and was the first holder of that position who returned any receipts to the Crown.

In February, 1679, Holden was commissioned by the Proprietors as commander of a body of men to explore the interior of Carolina “on this side or beyond the Apeletean Mountaines.” In addition he was commissioned as the personal representative of the Proprietors in claiming “all Wrecks, Ambergrise or any other Ejections of the Sea.”

In the spring of 1707 he was in London and wrote a description of Carolina for the Proprietors. That same year the Proprietors also attempted to secure royal confirmation of Holden’s appointment as Governor of the Bahamas, but there is no evidence that he ever served in that office.

Henry Hudson

In 1680 Hudson was fifty-four years old.

He served as Deputy Collector for Lower Albemarle under Miller and was arrested with him in 1677. In 1679 Hudson was one of those who aided Miller’s escape. He testified against Culpeper in the latter’s trial in 1680.

In 1681 Henry Hudson petitioned relief from the economic distress resulting from the rebellion. On July 19, 1681, he was appointed Customs Collector for Albemarle, but he died the next year before he could make the voyage to the colony.

Thomas Jarvis

Thomas Jarvis settled in Albemarle some time before 1663, perhaps as early as 1658. He was known as a man “of sterling character and sound judgement.” With his wife, Dorcas, he lived on a plantation adjoining that of John Jenkins.

He was a Council member in 1672 and elected a delegate to the rebel “Parliament” in 1677. Between 1691 and 1694 he served as deputy to Philip Ludwell and as such was governor of Carolina “north east of the Cape Fear.”

Inventory of the estate of “Thomas Jervis, esqr.” valued at £509 6s 11d, was accomplished August 6, 1694, by Foster Jervis, believed to be his son.

John Jenkins

Powell in Ye Countie of Albemarle feels that perhaps this is the same John Jenkins who graduated from Clare College, Cambridge, in 1642.

In 1653 Jenkins patented land in Northumberland County, Virginia, but he did not settle it. That same year he was also licensed by the Council of State in England to transport twenty-three men and one hundred dozen pairs of shoes to Bermuda.

He settled in Albemarle around 1658, and on September 6, 1663, received from Sir William Berkeley a grant of 700 acres of land south of the Perquimans River.

In 1670 he was Deputy of the Earl of Craven and served on the Council of Governor Stephens. He was also a member of the Council in 1677 and again in 1679 under Harvey. In 1672 Jenkins bore the title of Lieutenant-Colonel of militia, and as President of the Council that year succeeded Peter Carteret as acting Governor. He served in this capacity until 1677, when he was put out of office by the proprietary faction of the Assembly. As a leader in the rebellion against Thomas Miller, he was again to be selected as acting executive, although there were claims that he was but the puppet of George Durant. After the death of John Harvey in August, 1679, Jenkins once again became the acting Governor and performed the functions of that office until his own death on December 17, 1681.

William Jennings

William Jennings patented 350 acres of land in Surry County, Virginia, in 1657, and six years later, in 1663, was granted 550 acres on New Begun Creek in Albemarle County.

Although there is little definite information about Jennings, it seems that he was fairly active in Culpeper’s Rebellion. As early as 1672 he had served on the Governor’s Council and in 1677 was elected a member of the rebel “Parliament.”

In 1679 his home was reported as being located on the upper end of the Pasquotank River.

His will, probated April, 1687, bequeathed to a son-in-law “my gun that I bought of Cpt: Gillam.”

Alexander Lillington

There is only fragmentary mention of Lillington in the colonial records. He is mentioned as an attorney in 1694, and he served as a Justice of Perquimans Precinct from 1693 to 1697. There is also an account of a law suit between Lillington and Caleb Calleway in 1695. His participation in the rebellion is vague, although he is listed as one of the members of the “Parliament” of 1677. On the other hand, in reading through the accounts, there is a definite feeling that Lillington was one of the more active leaders.

Alexander Lillington’s will was probated October 8, 1697.

Thomas Miller

In the indictment drawn up by the rebels against him, Thomas Miller was referred to as an apothecary. In the resistance against the proprietary faction in 1675, Miller was indicted for treasonable and blasphemous utterances, some of which dated back to 1673. Escorted to Virginia, Miller was acquitted by Governor William Berkeley and his Council. From Jamestown he sailed to London where he was to be joined by Thomas Eastchurch. After Eastchurch’s appointment as Governor he and Miller sailed for Albemarle by way of the West Indies, where the newly appointed Governor fell victim to Cupid’s wiles. Miller sailed for the Albemarle colony as Eastchurch’s personal representative.

When Thomas Miller arrived in Albemarle in the summer of 1677 he was twenty-nine years old. He was a Deputy for the Earl of Shaftesbury and held a commission as Register and Collector of the Customs, in addition to instructions from Eastchurch allowing his representative to perform executive functions until the arrival of the honeymooning Governor. For five months he collected customs with efficiency, although not without some resistance from Valentine Bird and others of the anti-proprietary faction. According to Shaftesbury, he had no legal authority to assume the powers of government in Albemarle.

When the rebellious element rose up against him, Miller was once again charged with the old charges of blasphemy and treasonable words, and was confined in a log jail on the plantation of William Jennings. He escaped in 1679 and made his way to London, where he bombarded the Proprietors, the Commissioners of Customs, and the Privy Council with depositions, affidavits, and petitions.

After the desertion of Miller by the Lords Proprietors in favor of Culpeper during the trial of the latter, Miller continued to present claims, and to complain of Lord Shaftesbury’s interference in favor of Culpeper, who had been proven guilty. Not until December, 1680, did he formally resign his position as Collector. The Treasury reimbursed him £59 for his losses in Albemarle. A short time later he was appointed to the position of Collector for the ports of Poole and Weymouth on the English Channel. Once again ill winds dogged the trail of this unfortunate man. Falling in arrears in his accounts, Thomas Miller was arrested and he died in prison in 1685. His wife was summoned to court and sued for £1,000, the amount of Miller’s bond, but she reported that her husband’s accounts were so hopelessly “embezzled,” that it was impossible to make them up. She also made an unsuccessful attempt to regain her husband’s lands in Carolina. She was eventually released from the responsibility of her husband’s bond.

John Nixon

John Nixon seems to have been a Scot and a protegé of Shaftesbury and Colleton. The first notice of the presence of this rather dour and surly man in Albemarle occurs in 1668.

In 1673 he was a Magistrate for Albemarle, and refused to try Miller for blasphemy and treasonable words because of lack of sufficient evidence.

In 1677 he was a Deputy for Sir Peter Colleton and a member of the Council and was arrested along with Miller and others of the proprietary faction, and accused of treason by the Culpeper group.

He was again a member of the Council in 1679, but by this time he seems to have learned his lesson and was playing both sides of the political stream. Upon Miller’s arraignment for trial in that year, John Nixon submitted a deposition against the accused.

That same year, it is not unlikely that this fifty-four year old man was the same John Nixon who was appointed Governor of the Hudson Bay, but found himself in difficulty with the Proprietors and out of office by 1684.

The will of John Nixon was probated in Pasquotank, August 8, 1692.

Samuel Pricklove

Although not a leader in Culpeper’s Rebellion, Samuel Pricklove seems to have been involved as one of the primary subordinates. He had been in Albemarle in 1662 and probably earlier.

Pricklove acted as messenger carrying the “Remonstrance” of the inhabitants of Pasquotank into Perquimans and was arrested by Marshal Edward Wade. He was later elected a member of the rebel “Parliament” of 1677.

In 1680, as Deputy Surveyor-General to Timothy Biggs, Pricklove was arrested and imprisoned when he was sent by Biggs to investigate the operations of Robert Holden.

The will of Samuel Pricklove was proved March 29, 1703.

Anthony Slocum

Anthony Slocum is another of those characters whose role in the rebellion appears to have been rather large, but of whom information is scant. A member of the “Parliament” of 1677, he was to serve as a member of the Council in 1678 under Jenkins, in 1679 under Harvey, and again in 1680 under Jenkins.

He died some time before November 26, 1688.

Seth Sothel

Little is known of Seth Sothel’s earlier life, and there is practically no mention of him until he is listed as one of the Proprietors of Carolina.

Sothel became a Proprietor of Carolina through the purchase of the share held by the Earl of Clarendon. Named Governor of Albemarle, he was captured by Turkish pirates who carried him to Algiers and held him for ransom. He arrived in Albemarle around 1683.

As Governor his arbitrary actions so incensed the people of Albemarle that, led by Thomas Pollock, they arrested Sothel. Like Miller, he was kept prisoner in a “Logg House.” Rather than return to England to answer charges against him, he agreed to abide by the decision of the Assembly. Forced to take an oath renouncing any ambitions to the Government of Albemarle forever and agreeing to leave the colony for twelve months, Sothel spent his banishment in Charleston. On June 10, 1691, Governor Francis Nicholson of Virginia wrote the Lords of Trade, “I hear that at South Carolina one Mr. Southwell who was banished by ye Mob out of North Carolina now heads them there [Charleston], soe they are in great disorder.” Creating a faction against the administration of Governor Peter Colleton, Sothel gained the Governor’s chair in South Carolina and remained as chief executive of the Ashley River settlement until 1691. His administration in South Carolina is usually looked upon with some favor by those who have studied the history of that colony.

Seth Sothel apparently returned to Albemarle to live out his days and remained a Proprietor until his death in 1694. The date of his death is sometimes listed as 1697, but his will was proven in February, 1694. A number of law suits were brought against his estate after his death.

Patrick White

Patrick White is another of those prominent in the rebellion about whom but little is known, although in the accusations prepared against the leaders of the insurgents it was said White “hath formerly been a disturber of Government.”

A member of the “Parliament” of 1677, he was also among the six judges selected for the court to try Thomas Miller.

After the rebellion in Albemarle died down, it seems that he went to Virginia, for in April, 1682, a Patrick White was granted Crow Island in Princess Ann County.

John Willoughby

John Willoughby ranks as one of the most prominent politicians of the period. It was claimed that his courteous treatment of those inferior to him was only because he was “factious and would be popular,” while as a judge he was described as somewhat arbitrary and with “a natural habit of pride and ambition.”

He was a Deputy for Ashley-Cooper in 1670 and again, after that Proprietor became Lord Shaftesbury, Willoughby was listed as his Deputy in 1682. He was a member of the Council in 1670 (Stephens), 1678 (Jenkins), 1679 (Harvey), and in 1680 (Jenkins).

Before the outbreak of the rebellion he fled to Virginia in 1675 to avoid persecution by the Eastchurch faction, after Willoughby had thrashed the messenger bearing summons for him to appear before them. He was named as one of the principal leaders in the rebellion, and he was selected as an agent, along with George Durant, to present the case of the insurgents to the authorities in England.

In March, 1686, when it was said that John Willoughby was sixty-five years of age, his wife, Deborah, gave birth to twins.

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