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.
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
EMIGRANTS; RELIGIOUS EXILES; POLITICAL REBELS;
SERVING MEN SOLD FOR A TERM OF YEARS; APPRENTICES;
CHILDREN STOLEN; MAIDENS PRESSED; AND OTHERS
WHO WENT FROM GREAT BRITAIN TO THE
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.
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.