Edward Gresham, the Cavalier (1618-1704)

Birthplace of Edward Gresham

Birthplace of Edward Gresham

Titsey Manor is a far cry from the wilds of Virginia. Located south of London in the modern suburb of Surrey, it remains in the Gresham family. Peggy and I visited it during our trip of 2012.

Cannot Get Away from this Noble Bug

Cannot Get Away from this Noble Bug

We paid our entrance fee at the kiosk in the parking lot and proceeded to take the tour of the manor house that has been owned continuously by Greshams ever since it was built in Elizabethan times. Many portraits and dishes as you might expect. We did not tour the rooms where a current generation of Greshams was preparing to take up residence. As we were leaving, I mentioned to the docent our reason for touring the manor. When I explained that my wife is a descendant of the Greshams and that her ancestor was born in Titsey Manor, she immediately lost her English reserve. She provided us with contact information to connect with the Virginia Greshams. This project is on the list.

Since this my first entry on the Gresham’s, I need provide a thumbnail overview that will expand on in later entries. Edward was the son of Sir John Gresham, who graduated from Queen’s College Oxford at the ripe old age of 15. A “graduate” law student at the Inner Temple in 1607 and was knighted at Hampton Court by the king (that would be King James I who commissioned a Bible and gave approval to colonies in Virginia) in 1617 at 26 years old.The family had been moving and shaking London society for a long time and this celebrity gives us an insight into our Edward’s subsequent warm welcome in Virginia.

England itself was entering one of the most turbulent times in its history. The King Charles I had risen to the throne after the death of his father, James I. Not only did he inherit the throne but also the belief in the Divine Right of Kings. This belief never sat well with most of the English. By the time Edward’s leaving England, Charles was in deep dispute with Parliament over finances, religion and foreign policy. The English Civil War results in Charles losing his head and many of his supporters fleeing to Virginia and Maryland. Since many of them were from the upper classes, at least in terms of linage, they became known as Cavaliers as they could afford to fight on horseback.

Our Edward was not the eldest son and needed to look else where for a career. In 1635, at age 17 we find young Edward on St. Christopher, today known as the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts. We find him “imbarquing” on September 2, 1635 on the good ship William and John from London after “examined by the Minister of Gravesend £ tooke the oaths of Alleg: £ Suprein: die et A0 pet”. This jewel was found in Hotten’s Persons of Quality published in 1874. It defines persons of quality as






I kind of wonder if any would be admitted to the United States today.

St. Christopher, at the time, was jointly occupied by the French and the English. Tobacco was the cash crop and plantation owners were getting rich. My guess is that young Edward planned to join them although I have no records of land ownership (sounds like another family research trip). The island began the transition to sugar plantations by the 1640s because of intense tobacco competition from Virginia. It appears that he is in New Kent County, Virginia by 1650.

He marries Elizabeth (parent’s not known) on St. Christoper since his eldest son, Edward is born in 1640 and our ancestor George is not born until 1660 in Virginia. They have three sons and between them own 750 acres in King and Queen’s County when Edward dies at age 86 in 1704. Elizabeth pioneers on until 1732 and passes on at the ripe old age of 110.

According to the land records, on 18 March, 1662, 500 acres ” on the north side of the Mattapany River beginning at land of John Exoll on the north side of Peanketanke SW” becomes Edward’s. The Piankatank River (as it is known today) is located on the Middle Peninsula, between the Rappahannock and York rivers, it was the site of numerous actions during the American Civil War. Since the Piankatank is a mere 24 miles long, we should be able to find the place.

Location of Gresham Virginia Land

Location of Gresham Virginia Land

Originally, many of the land was granted to men who paid for the transportation of indentured servants to the labor hungry colony. the going going rate seemed to range from 50 to 100 acres per transport. It appears that Edward purchased his land from one these human importers.

Edward’s family house built near Newton, Virginia was still standing in the 1970’s. The Briar Hill House needs more research to find out about who was the actual builder. I am sure that it was probably reconstructed several times. The Virginia Historical Association has pictures but they are not available on-line.

This is hardly the end of the Gresham story in the colonies. Another Gresham, John was also a descendant Sir Richard Gresham, the brother of the Sir John in the linage discussed so far. This John immigrated to Maryland in 1635 and was a member of the Maryland Legislature by 1641. The family continued to reside in Maryland but it is my theory that they intermarried with Gresham cousins across the river. Jane, a George Gresham’s daughter, Ann will marry Travis McKinney in 1756. Travis’ son, William will marry Jane Gresham. She is the lineal descendant of our Edward.

Now this appears somewhat convoluted and it is. The two American Gresham branches appear to have cross pollinated in Georgia by the end of the 18th Century. They were cousins but distant. More work needs to done before this tracing is finished, but it is clear that all of the Greshams were children of the South. They were tobacco farmers and gentlemen of mostly high standing in their communities. After the Revolutionary War, in which many fought on the side of the rebels, some of the family moved south to Georgia. It is this group that I will concentrate on next.

37 thoughts on “Edward Gresham, the Cavalier (1618-1704)

  1. Very interesting. I love to imagine those times in the not so distant past, and how our ancestors were not so very different than we are, in terms of human needs and desires.

  2. What an interesting entry. Looking at Titsey Manor, I imagine all kinds of wonderful stories going on under that roof similar to Downton Abbey. Surviving and holding on to the place under Henry the Eighth reign strikes me as quite remarkable since many of his advisors died at a hand holding an axe.

  3. Hello! I am a Gresham as well, and have always wanted to find out more about my family history as a gresham. It’s hard because My Dad did not know his father well (Edgar Gresham) so we don’t know alot. When my husband and I went to England last year We went to Gresham College, and the royal exchange. I would love to know if our line goes back to Sir Richard. Hope to visit Titsey Manor next time we visit!

  4. Mark and Peggy,

    While searching for information on Edward Gresham I ran across you post. Although my surname is Hewitt I found out about 3 of years ago that I’m actually a Gresham descendant. First some background. My estimated 7th cousin (Shawn Hewitt) and I were researching our individual Hewitt lines in Onslow County, North Carolina and after reaching the dreaded brick wall in our research of our individual Hewitt lines, we decided to submit yDNA tests FTDNA.com to determine if our 5th great grandfathers were brothers (early 1700s).

    We were a match but discovered that neither of us matched with any other Hewitt males in the FTDNA database but were overwhelming matches with Gresham males and their variants. Since that discovery we’ve been on a quest to determine when and why the surname change occurred. After running a Dean McGee yDNA utility we were able to determine that Shawn, some of our Gresham matches, and my Most Recent Common Ancestor was estimated to be around 1680. However, unfortunately those Gresham matches have only traced their lines back to the mid and late 1700s.

    I was hoping that you might point me to where I might find the material on the Virginia Gresham families offered by the guide you spoke with at the House of Titsey mentioned in your post.


  5. Edward Gresham was one of my great grandfathers directly. We might be related
    When he arrived in va he changed his name to Grissom

  6. I am a descendant of John Gresham (Grissom) and wife Barbara Burden of Anderson county, South Carolina. Abbeville map of 1825 show Gresham land. Daughter Sally Eugenia Brown of Ga. Governor during Civil War shows lineage to immigrant Edward Gresham of Titsey Place. John Gresham was an orphan and Charles Gresham, son of Thomas (I think) died young and had a son John. Is anyone working on this line??

  7. Has anyone heard that Bonnie Parker (as in–the bank robber?!) is supposedly a Gresham descendant? I got matched as a distant cousin of hers with our mutual ancestor being Thomas Gresham (B. 1646). On my side Thomas had William and William had Mary. Mary relocated to North Carolina, probably after marriage. Glad to have stumbled upon this page–thanks for posting all of the photos! I want to visit Titsey Manor!

  8. My wife is in the Gresham line, and she shares the same Edward Gresham that arrived in Virginia 1635.
    I could sure use some help with the family tree. I could send a pdf of my work so far, with some art and photo’s.
    Would you be interested?

  9. I located the Gresham home in Newtown, Va, that is called Briar Hill. The home still stood although was in a point of deterioration as the chimney was collapsed and the roof was developing a hole. Needless to say rot is not far behind. I was fortunate to work out an arrangement with the owner of the property and he allowed me to dismantle the old home place. Took nearly four years. I am now in the process of rebuilding the home on property in my locality using as much as possible that includes the original windows ( which have been professionally restored), flooring, siding, bricks, cut nails and framing lumber. The chimneys will be rebuilt with original bricks starting in the next two weeks.The top sill plate is 36 feet long and mortised, tennoned and pegged at corners, which I was able to recreate. Original home was four rooms with a central hallway. To increase living space, I added an English basement to the home. I’m estimating the date of the home as 1760. Briar Hill lives on for hopefully another 250 years. Gresham Dew Crane

    • Would love to see pictures of before and after. I, too, am a Gresham description. My mother was a Gresham from Kentucky.

      Susan Allen

    • My great, great, grandfather was Samuel Gresham, born 1778.Was postmaster at Newtown and built Greenway (currently Turpin House) in1845. His father, also Samuel Gresham was born 1843 at Briar Hill. I think there was a family cemetery at Briar Hill, but I have been unable to locate it. Do you know if and where it would be. Also, would love to see a picture of what you reconstructed.

  10. I’m trying to make the connection between the English Gresham’s and George Gresham from Virginia who moved to Lawrence County Tennessee in probably early 1800s.

  11. FYI: My mothers family Gresham’s of Ga. Edward’s son George Gresham 1660-1721, his son George Gresham K & Q Cty Va 1706-abt 1776, his son George Gresham b,12/20/1736 K & Q Cty Va d 12/31/1818 Wilkes Co Ga,DAR Grant Ga Line Rev War, his son John Gresham B 1782 Wilkes Cty Ga D.5/101849 Upson Cty Ga, Find a Grave Good Hope Cemetery, War of 1812, 3rd Reg Ga Militia, his son George William Gresham b. 1802 Lincoln Cty Ga D.1866 Cobb Cty Ga, Find a Grave Gresham Cemetery Kennesaw Ga, 1832 land grant War of 1812 from father, his son George Washington Gresham b.2/14/1847 d.11/61891 Cobb Cty, his son William Andrew Gresham B.7/24/1884 Cobb Cty Ga d.11/27/1973 he raised me, his daughter Marry Alice Gresham [York} b. 7/2/1920 Cobb Cty d. 3/9/1946 Cobb Cty Ga giving birth to me Glenn York

    • For Glen York: one of you ancestors named George William Gresham(b-1802 Upson county GA) had a sibling named Pleasant Gresham. Pleasant is my line. Thank you for your post.

  12. I know this is a super old post, and likely not even followed up on anymore, but I am, from what my brother and I can gather, distant cousins to Peggy Gresham on my mother’s mother’s (my grandmother) side. Looking deeper, I think some of the “Gresham” descendants changed in name to “Grissom” when they dispersed from Virginia and settled in Tennessee. I may be incorrect, but there’s definitely some intriguing links with our families to Edward on my “Grissom” side. Thanks for the article!

    • I have approved your post. The “Gresham” family links are extensive and your comments might be what somebody is looking for. My Greshams moved to Georgia after the Revolution.

  13. I’m the great granddaughter of the late Jernigan “Marmaduke “ Gresham.. my Great Grandmother was Laura Frances Gresham . My dads mom was Gladys Gresham which was my grandmother, I’ve traced my bloodline all the way to Fathing”Marmaduke” Gresham. All on my dads mom side of the family tree ..

  14. William McKenney had a sibling named John J. John J McKenney is my line from Travis. My Great Grandfather’s middle name was “Travis”. I have been looking at Ann G. to see where she fit into my family. I want to thank you for your posts.

  15. Read your blog with interest. Have updated information on the Gresham home, Briar Hill. I located the home in 2013 and purchased the home with agreement to remove from its location near Newtown. The house was facing determination and likely would not have survived another two years. The home was a typical home of the early 1700’s that was built by most irrespective of their wealth. It is one and a half story home with two rooms over two rooms with a central hallway. It was anchored by massive chimney on each end that was constructed in Flemish bond. It had wooden roof shingles that were hidden by a metal roof that was installed years later. Sometime in early 1800 a two story addition was added and one of the chimneys was removed. These bricks were reused for the pores of the new addition. I spent nearly four years disassembling the home before rebuilding it in my home county of Nottoway. The original bricks, flooring, exterior siding and framing were used on construction. The original windows were professionally restored and the original staircase was put back in place. If you would like do see pictures of the home, email me at greshamc@hotmail.com. Gresham Few Crane

  16. Crane,

    I would love to see your restoration. My next family history trip will focus on the early Greshams and McKenneys in Virginia and Georgia. I hope to be able to travel next spring after they come up with a real vaccine for this COVID plague. Would a vist, once it is safe, work for you? Thanks
    Mark La Porte

  17. Questioning my line. I come form the Tennessee Gresham in buffalo ridge. in 1895 Peter H Gresham wrote a letter to his cousins Elijah and Nathan stating he had done family research in Maryland and England and went on the explain their Gresham line. Today I find out that this is all in question as a man names Carl Woods has done research and stated Dorcas Lane married Thomas Gresham in Virginia and not Maryland so His Gresham line is from Virginia. I am floored.
    Has anyone else found information on this?

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