A Relation of a Voyage to Sagadahoc by Captain James Davies / Davis (Complete)

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See also The Sagadahoc Colony by Reverend Henry Otis Thayer

See also The Popham Colony: Captain James Davis / Davies

See also the Davies of Gwysaney Hall

From repaskey.com notes Who we are

Captain James Davis

Notes 1:
Capt. James DAVIS, Birth: Gloucester, England, Death: 1624 in Jamestown, Virginia –
Original settler of Jamestown.  Captain James Davis was born between 1575 and 1580 in England. He was the son of Sir Thomas Davis. Captain James Davis married Rachel Keyes circa 1607/8. Adventurers of Purse and Person, page 238, Rachell’s name came from Patent Bk. 1, p. 17; CP I, p. xxxiv.

Captain James Davis died on 16 February 1622/23 in James City, Henrico, Nansemond County, Virginia; death noted by Hotten: “James Davis, dead at his plantation over the water from James City, Februay 16, 1623.” Whether he was killed by the Indians or not is not shown.

Captain James Davis has been mentioned as Gentleman, Captain, Captain of Fort Sagadahoc, Maine, Colony Governor; original settler of Jamestown, Virginia, and “Ancient Planter.” It appears that he spent a considerable amount of time sailing back and forth between England and Virginia, and Boddie notes he “was among the company of men assembled by Sir John Popham, 1607, to settle the region of Virginia which later was designated New England.”

In 1607 he first arrived in the northern colony of Virginia called Sagahadoc, Maine, which he helped establish. Captain James Davis was commander of the fort established at the mouth of Kennebec River 19 August 1607. He was also member of the Council of the New Colony.
Capt. John Smith mentions Capt. James Davis as among the leaders and councillors of the New Colony. Unfortunately the colonists at Sagahadoc had a very hard time of it and most returned home to England by 1610. At that point, Captain James sailed on to the southern colony in Virginia and made his home there.

In 1607, Capt. James Davis and Capt. Robert Davis, the sons of Englishman Sir Thomas Davis came to America.  James Davis was one of the original settlers of Jamestown, Virginia. He also was Captain of Fort Sagadahoc, the new, but short-lived English colony settled at the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine where brother Robert was a Sergeant Major. James and Robert’s father, Sir Thomas, later followed them to America, coming over on “The Margaret” and settling in Jamestown in 1619.

Notes 2:
Fort Sagadahoc – An English Colony settled at the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine — 1607

Following is an account of the voyage and expedition to build and colonize Maine in which our Davis ancestors had a part: Capt. James Davis who was Captain of Fort Sagadahoc, his brother Capt. Robert Davis was Sergeant-Major of the fort, and their brother John Davis is also briefly mentioned.

The Jamestown settlement was planted in Virginia in May, 1607. Less than three weeks later the Plymouth Company sent out an expedition which founded a colony at the mouth of the Sagadahoc, now known as the Kennebec River, in Maine. One of the chief sponsors of this expedition was Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice of England. His nephew George was a leader of the colonists.

This account, found in the “Second Book” of William Strachey’s History of Travel into Virginia Britania, describes the voyage in much more detail than it does the actual founding of the colony.

June 1607 – The late Lord Chief Justice would not for all his hard handsell and spanish mischief give over his determination for planting of a colony within the aforesaid so goodly a country upon the River of Sagadahoc. (The opening sentence refers to a previous expedition captured by Spanish pirates.) Against the next year he prepared a greater number of planters, and better provisions, which in 2 ships he sent thither, a flying boat (A flyboat was small, easily maneuvered, could sail in shallow water, ideal for coastal exploration) called the Gift Of God wherein a kinsman of his, George Popham, commanded, and a good ship called the Mary and John of London, wherein Raleigh Gilbert (Brother of Bartholomew Gilbert who was with Gosnold in 1602) commanded which with 120 persons for planters. They broke ground from Plymouth in June, 1607, the 25th fell with Gratiosa, and the 28th took in wood and water at Flores and Coruez, (Islands in the Azores) from whence they always kept their course to the westward, as much as wind and weather would permit. They ran 200 leagues from Flores, and in the Latitude of 42 degrees they found the compass to be varied one whole point.

July 1607 – From whence they stood still to the westward until the 27 of July being then in the latitude of 43 and 2/3 where they threw out the dipsing lead (The “dipsing” or deep sea lead was used to measure the ocean depth. It is referred to by other names in most of the journals) and had ground but 20 fanthom and 22 fanthom upon a bank, and here they fished some 3 hours and took near 200 of cod, very great fish and where they might have laden their ship in little time.

From hence they stood in for the main, the wind being at so-west, and as they ran in for the land, they always sounded from this bank, and having run some 12 leagues from the bank nor-west they sounded and had 60 fanthom, ooze ground black. The wind now growing scant, they were constrained to stand for the so-ward and sounded again the next day, being the 28 of July, and had 30 fathoms small stones and white shells, fishing ground.

29. They made a west way until noon and then sounding had 160 fathom black ooze.

30. In the morning they had sight of the land (Nova Scotia) and it bore off them nor-west. They sounded being 10 leagues from the shore and had 100 fathoms black ooze. They made towards the shore but could not recover it before the night took them for which they were constrained to bear off a little from the land and lie a hull all that night, where they found abundance of fish very large and great, and the water deep, hard aboard the shore, 18 or 20 fanthoms.

31. Standing in for the shore in the afternoon they came to and anchored under an island, for all this coast is full of islands but very sound and good for shipping to pass by them, and the water deep hard aboard them. They had not been at an anchor two hours when there came a Spanish shallop (It would be interesting to know from what expedition the Indians acquired these two boats, and how) to them from the shore, in her eight savage men and a little savage boy who at the first rowed about them, and would not come aboard notwithstanding they offered them bread, knives, beads, and other small trifles. Having gazed awhile upon the ship they made show to depart, howbeit when they were a little from them they returned again and bodily came up into the ship, and 3 of them stayed all night aboard. The rest departed and went to the shore, showing by signs that they would return the next day.

August 1607 – The first of August the same savages returned with three women with them in another Biscay shallop, bringing with them many beaver skins to exchange for knives and beads. The sagamo of that place, they told them, was called Messamot seated upon a river not far off which they called Emannet. The savages departing they hoisted out their boat, and the pilot Captain R. Davies, with 12 others rowed into the bay wherein their ship rode and landed on a galland island, where they found gooseberries, strawberries, raspices, hurts, (“Hurts” are whortleberries or huckleberries) and all the island full of huge high trees of divers sorts. After they had delighted themselves there awhile, they returned aboard again and observed the place to stand in 44 degrees and 1/3.

2. (These dates refer to the month of August) About midnight the moon shining bright and the wind being fair at nor-east, they departed from this place setting their course so-west, for so the coast lies.

(For the next few days the Mary and John sailed along the coast, crossing from Cape Sable in Novia Scotia to Maine. On the sixth of August they anchored in the Georges Islands, mapped by Waymouth in 1605. Here the other ship, the Gift of God, joined them in a remarkably skillful rendezvous, having been separated from them during the Atlantic crossing.)

7. They weighed anchor thereby to ride in more safely, howsoever the wind should happen to blow, howbeit before they put from the island they found a cross set up, one of the same which Captain George Waymouth in his discovery for all after occasions left upon this island. Having sailed to the westward they brought the highland (Camden Hills) before spoken of to be north. About midnight Captain Gilbert caused his ship’s boat to be manned with 14 persons and the Indian called Skidwares (brought into England by Captain Waymouth) and rowed to the westward, from their ship to the River of Pemaquid which they found to be 4 leagues distant from their ship where she rode. The Indian brought them to the savage’s houses, where they found 100 men, women, and children and their chief commander or sagamo, amongst them named Nahanada, who had been brought likewise into England by Captain Waymouth and returned thither by Captain Hanam setting forth for these parts, and some part of Canada the year before. (No one seems to have been surprised at meeting Indians who had been to England)

At their first coming the Indians betook them to their arms, their bows and arrows, but after Nahanada had talked to Skidwares and perceived that they were Englishmen, he caused them to lay aside their bows and arrows, and he himself came unto them and embraced them and made them much welcome, and after 2 hours interchangeably thus spent, they returned aboard again.

9. Being Sunday the chief of both the ships with the greatest part of all the company, landed on the island where the cross stood, which they called St. George’s Island, and heard a sermon delivered unto them by Mr. Seymour their preacher, and so returned aboard again.

10. Captain Popham manned his shallop and Captain Gilbert his ship’s boat with 50 persons in both and departed for the River of Pemaquid, carrying with them Skidwares. Being arrived in the mouth of the river there came forth Nahanada with all his company of Indians with their bows and arrows in their hands, they being before his dwelling houses would not willingly have all our people come on shore, being fearful of us. To give them satisfaction the captains with some 8 or 10 of the chiefest landed, but after a little parley together they suffered all to come ashore using them in all kind sort after their manner. Nevertheless after one hour they all suddenly withdrew themselves into the woods, nor was Skidwares desirous to return with us any more aboard. Our people loath to offer any violence unto him by drawing him by force, suffered him to stay behind, promising to return unto them the day following, but he did not. After his departure our people embarked themselves, and rowed to the further side of the river and there remained on the shore for the night.

11. They returned to their ships towards the evening, where they still rode under St. Georges Island.

12. They weighed anchors and set sail to go for the River of Sagadahoc. They had little wind, and kept their course west.

13. They were south of the island of Sequin, (Sequin Island lies at the mouth of the Kennebec. The river cannot be seen from the ocean easily) a league from it, but they did not make it to be Sequin, so the weather being very fair they sought that island further to the westward. At length finding that they had overshot it, they bore up helm, but were soon becalmed, by which means they were constrained to remain at sea, when about midnight there arose a mighty storm upon them, which put them in great danger, by reason they were so near the shore and could not get off. The wind was all the while at south and it blew very stiff so as they were compelled to turn it to, and again hard aboard the lee-shore, many rocks and islands under their lee hard by them, but God be thanked, they escaped until it was day, the storm still continuing until noon the next day. (A square-sailed ship being blown toward shore in a storm had very little maneuverability.)

14. So soon as the day gave light they perceived that they were hard aboard the shore in the bay that they were in the day before, which made them look out for some place to thrust in the ship to save their lives, for towing the long boat, it lay sunk at the stern 2 hours and more, yet would they not cut her off in hope to save her, so bearing up helm they stood in right with the shore, when anon they perceived two little islands to which they made and there they found good anchoring where they rode until the storm broke which was the next day after. Here they freed their boat and had her ashore to repair her, being much torn and spoiled. These islands are two leagues to the westward of Sagadahoc. Upon one of them they went on shore, and found 4 savages and one woman, the island all rocky and full of pine trees.

15. The storm ended and the wind come fair for them to go for Sagadahoc, the river whither they were bound to and enjoined to make their plantation in, so they weighed anchor and set sail and came to the eastward and found the island of Sequin and anchored under it, for the wind was off the shore by which they could not get to Sagadahoc, yet Captain Popham with the flyboat got in.

16. In the morning Captain Popham sent his shallop to help in the Mary and John which weighed anchor and being calm was soon towed in and anchored by the Gift’s side.

17. Captain Popham in his pinnace with 30 persons and Captain Gilbert in his long boat with 18 persons more went early in the morning from their ship into the River of Sagadahoc to view the river and to search where they might find a fit place for their plantation. (The location was recommended by Martin Pring who had investigated it the year before.) They sailed up into the river near 14 leagues and found it to be a very gallant river, very deep and of a good breadth, and full of fish leaping above the water, (The Sturgeon leaps out of the water and falls back with a spectacular splash.) and seldom less water than 3 fathom when they found least. Whereupon they proceeded no farther, but in their return homewards they observed many goodly islands therein, and many branches of other small rivers falling into it.

18. They all went on shore, and there made choice of a place for their plantation, at the mouth or entry of the river on the west-side, (for the river bendeth itself towards the northeast) being almost an island of a good bigness being in a province called by the Indians Sabino, so called of a sagamo, or chief commander under the grand Basshaba. (Champlain spelled this chief’s name Bessabez, and Waymouth, Bashabe.) As they were on shore, 3 canoes full of Indians came by them but would not come near, but rowed away up the river.

19. They all went to the shore where they had made choice of their plantation and where they had a sermon delivered them by their preacher, and after the sermon the President’s Commission was read with the laws to be observed and kept. George Popham, Gentleman, was nominated president; Captain Raleigh Gilbert, James Davies, R. Seymour (Preacher), Captain Richard Davies, Captain Harlow (the same who brought away the savages at this time showed in London, from the River of Canada) were all sworn assistants and so they returned aboard again.

20. All went to shore again, and there began to entrench and make a fort, and to build a storehouse, so continuing the 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27.

28. Whilst most of the hands labored hard about the fort and the carpenters about the building of a small pinnace, the president overseeing and applying every one to his work, Captain Gilbert departed in the shallop upon a discovery to the westward and sailed all the day by many gallant islands. The wind at night coming contrary they came to an anchor that night under a headland by the Indians called Semeamis, (Cape Elizabeth) the land exceeding goodly and great, most oak and walnut, with spacious passages between and no rubbish under and a place most fit to fortify, being by nature fortified on two sides with a spring of water under it.

29. They departed from this headland Semeamis lying in the height of 43 1/2 degrees and rowed along the shore to the westward, for that the wind was against them, and which blew so hard that they reached no further than an island 2 leagues off, where whilst they anchored two canoes passed by them, but would not come near them.

30. They returned homeward before the wind, sailing by many goodly and gallant islands, for betwixt the said headland Semeamis, and the River of Sagadahoc is a very great bay (Casco Bay) in the which there lie so many islands and so thick and new together, that can hardly be discerned the number, yet may any ship pass betwixt the greatest part of them, having seldom less water than 8 or 10 fathom about them. These islands are all overgrown with woods, as oak, walnut, pine, spruce trees, hazelnuts, sarsaparilla, and hurts in abundance, only they found no sassafras at all in the country. This night they arrived at the fort again.

September 1607

31. And the 1 of September 2, 3, and 4 nothing was done but only for the furtherance and building of the fort and storehouse to receive ashore their victuals.

5. About noon there came into the entrance of the River of Sagadahoc and so unto the fort as our people were at their work 9 canoes with 40 savages in them, men, women and children, and amongst them was Nahanada and Skidwares. They came up into the fort and the president gave them meat and drink and used them exceeding kindly. Two or three hours they remained there, and then they parted, Skidwares and another savage remaining, with whom at night Captain Gilbert, James Davies and Ellis Best went over to the furthest side of the river, whither all the rest had withdrawn themselves, and there remained with them all the night, and early in the morning, the savages departed in their canoes for the river of Pemaquid promising Captain Gilbert to accompany him in their canoes to the River of Penobscot where the Basshaba dwells.

6. and 7. The business of the fort only attended.

8. Captain Gilbert with 22 others departed in the shallop for the River of Penobscot, taking with him divers sorts of merchandise to trade with the Basshaba, but by reason the wind held easterly being contrary, it was 3 days before they got unto the River of Pemaquid.

11. Early in the morning they came into the River of Pemaquid there to call Nahanada and Skidwares to go along with them, but being arrived there, they found that they were all gone from thence unto the River of Penobscot before, wherefore they set sail for that river, and all that day as likewise 12 and 13 they sailed and searched to the eastward, yet by no means could find the river, for which they returned, their victuals spent and the wind large and good and in 2 days arrived again at the fort, having had a sight the 15th in the morning of a blazing-star to the nor-east of them.

The 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 all labored about the fort and building up of the storehouse.

23. Captain Gilbert accompanied with 19 others, departed in his shallop to go for the head of the River of Sagadahoc. They sailed all this day, and the 24 the like until 6 of the clock in the afternoon, when they landed on the river’s side, where they found a champion land, (“Champion” refers to grassland – perhaps beaver meadows.) and very fertile, where they remained all that night.

25. In the morning they departed from thence, and sailed up the river, and came to a flat low island, (Evidently near Augusta. Old maps show an island there.) where is a great cataract or downfall of water, which runs by both sides of this island very short and swift. On this island they found great store of grapes both red and white, good hops, as also chiballs (“Chiballs” are onions) and garlic. They hauled their boat, with a strong rope through this downfall perforce, and went near a league further up, and here they lay all night. In the first of the night there called certain savages on the further side of the river unto them in broken English. (These upriver Indians probably learned their English during the time of year when they frequented the coast. They very likely also knew some French.) They answered them again and parlied long with them. Towards morning they departed.

26. In the morning there came a canoe unto them, and in her a sagamo and 4 savages, some of those which spoke to them the night before. The sagamo called his name Sabenoa, and told us how he was Lord of the River of Sagadahoc. They entertained him friendly, and took him into their boat and presented him with some trifling things which he accepted. Howbeit he desired some one of our men to be put into his canoe, as a pawn of his safety, whereupon Captain Gilbert sent in a man of his.

Presently the canoe rowed away from them, with all the speed they could make up the river. They followed with the shallop, having great care that the sagamo should not leap overboard. The canoe quickly rowed from them and landed, and the men made to their houses being near a league in on the land from the riverside and carried our man with them. The shallop making good way, at length came unto another downfall which was so shallow and so swift that by no means they could pass any further. Captain Gilbert with 9 others landed and took their fare, the savage sagamo, with them and went in search after those other savages whose houses the sagamo told Captain Gilbert were not far off. After a good tedious march they came at length unto those savages’ houses, where they found near 50 able men very strong and tall, such as their like they had not seen, all new painted and armed with their bows and arrows. Howbeit after the sagamo had talked with them, they delivered back again the man and used all the rest very friendly, as did ours the like by them, who showed them their commodities of beads, knives, and some copper of which they seemed very fond, and by way of trade made show that they would come down to the boat and there bring such things as they had to exchange them for ours.

So Captain Gilbert departed from them and within half an hour after he had gotten to his boat, there came 3 canoes down unto them and in them some 16 savages, and brought with them some tobacco and certain small skins which were of no value, which Captain Gilbert perceiving and that they had nothing else wherewith to trade, he caused all his men to come aboard. As he would have put from shore, the savages perceiving so much, subtly devise how they might put out the fire in the shallop (Fire was needed in order to set off the musket charge), by which means, they saw they should be free from the danger of our men’s pieces. To perform the same, one of the savages came into the shallop and taking the firebrand which one of our company held in his hand thereby to light the matches, as if he would light a pipe of tobacco, as soon as he had gotten it in his hand, he presently threw it into the water and leapt out of the shallop. Captain Gilbert seeing that, suddenly commanded his men to betake them to their muskets, and the targeteers to form the head of the boat, and bade one of the men before, with his target (A “Target” was a shield.) on his arm, to step on the shore for more fire. The savages resisted him and would not suffer him to take any, and some others holding fast the boat rope that the shallop could not put off, Captain Gilbert caused the musketeers to present their pieces, the which the savages seeing presently let go the boat rope and betook them to their bows and arrows and ran into the bushes, nocking their arrows but did not shoot, neither did ours at them. So the shallop departed from them to the further side of the river, where one of the canoes came unto them and would have excused the fault of the others. Captain Gilbert made show as if he were still friends and entertained them kindly and so left them, returning to the place where he had lodged the night before, and there came to an anchor for that night.

The head of this river stands in 45 degrees and odd minutes. Upon the continent they found abundance of spruce trees such as are able to mast the greatest ship his Majesty has, and many other trees, oak, walnut, pineapple. (“Pineapple” refers to white pines.) There were fish in abundance and great stores of grapes, hops and chiballs. Also they found certain pods in which they supposed, the cotton wool to grow, (Milkweed) and also upon the banks many shells of pearl.

27. Here they set up a cross and then returned homeward, in the way seeking the by-river of some note called Sasanoa. (This tidal connection to Sheepscot Bay retains the name Sasanoa River) This day and the next they sought it, when the weather turning foul and full of fog and rain they made all haste to the fort, before which the 29 they arrived.

October 1607

30. and the 1 and 2 of October, all busy about the fort.

3. There came a canoe unto some of the people of the fort as they were fishing on the sand, in which was Skidwares who bade them tell their president that Nahanada with the Basshaba’s brother, and others were on the further side of the river and the next day would come and visit him.

4. There came 2 canoes to the fort, in which were Nahanada and his wife and Skidwares and the Basshaba’s brother, and one more called Amenquin, a sagamo, all whom the president feasted and entertained with all kindness both that day and the next. Being Sunday the president carried them with him to the place of public prayers, which they were at both morning and evening, attending it with great reverence and silence.

6. The savages departed, all except Amenquin, the sagamo, who would needs stay amongst our people a longer time. Upon the departure of the others the president gave unto every one of them copper, beads, or knives, which contented them not a little, as also delivered a present unto the Basshaba’s brother to be presented unto the Basshaba, and another for his wife, giving him to understand, that he would come unto his court in the River of Penobscot and see him very shortly bringing many such like of his country commodities with him.

You may please to understand how whilst this business was thus followed here soon after their first arrival, that had dispatched away Captain Robert Davies in the Mary and John to advertise both of their safe arrival and forwardness of their plantation within this River of Sagadahoc, with letters to the Lord Chief Justice importuning a supply for the most necessary wants to the subsisting of a colony to be sent unto them betimes the next year.

After Captain Davies’ departure they fully finished the fort, trenched and fortified it with 12 pieces of ordinance, and built 50 houses therein, beside a church and a storehouse, and the carpenters framed a pretty pinnace of about some 30 ton, which they called the Virginia, the chief shipwright being one Digbe of London.

Many discoveries likewise would have been made both to the main and unto the neighbor rivers, and the frontier nations fully discovered by the diligence of Captain Gilbert had not the winter proved so extreme unseasonable and frosty. For it being in the year 1607 when the extraordinary frost was felt in most parts of Europe, it was here likewise as vehement, by which no boat could stir upon any business. Howbeit as time and occasion gave leave, there was nothing omitted which could add unto the benefit or knowledge of the planters. When Captain Davies arrived there in the year following, set out from Topsam, the port-town of Exeter, with a ship laded full of victuals, arms, instruments and tools, etc., albeit he found Mr. George Popham the president and some others dead, yet he found all things in good forwardness, and many kinds of furs obtained from the Indians by way of trade, good store of sasparilla gathered and the new pinance all finished. But by reason Captain Gilbert received letters that his brother was newly dead and a fair portion of land fallen unto his share which required his repair home, and no mines discovered nor hope thereof, being the main intended benefit expected to uphold the charge of the plantation, and the fear that all other winters would prove like this first, the company by no means would stay any longer in the country, especially since Captain Gilbert was going to leave them and Mr. Popham as aforesaid dead, wherefore they all embarked in this new arrived ship and in the new pinance the Virginia and set sail for England, and this was the end of that Northern Colony upon the River of Sagadahoc. Note: “Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice of England in the year 1606 procured means and men to possess it.” He sent, among others, Capt. Robert Davis to act as Sergeant-Major and Capt. James Davis to be Captain of the fort. John Davis also is mentioned among the “noble captains” on the expedition.

Notes 3:
Children of James Davis and Rachel Keyes are:
John DAVIS b: 1610, Isle of Wight, Virginia (our line)
Nathaniel Davis
Thomas DAVIS b: Abt 1613 in Henrico, Nansemond, VA, Death: BEF 30 Sep 1683 in Nansemond, Virginia ~ Maj. Thomas Davis was born in 1612/13 in Jamestown (Chuckatuck), Nansemond County, Virginia. He was the son of Captain James Davis and Rachel Keyes. Maj. Thomas Davis married Mary Bowers circa 1639/40. Maj. Thomas Davis died before 20 September 1683 in Nansemond County, Virginia.

Thomas was one of the Virginia settlers on Herring Creek.

An affidavit in the Admiralty Court in London in 1639 was made by Thomas Davis, born 1613, son of Captain James Davis, in which he stated he was “A Merchant of Chuckatuck in Virginia, aged 26 years.”

He is known to be the son of Captain James Davis because he received a grant of land in Isle of Wight, as follows:

“Sir John Harley to Thomas Davis, 300 acres, Mar 6, 1633 page 128. Son and heir of James Davis, Gentleman late of Henrico, abutting east on Warwicksqueicke Creek about 2 miles from the mouth. In right of his father, an ancient planter, and for the transportation of George Cooke and Alice Mulleines who came in the “George” in 1617, and in the right of his mother, Rachell Davis, an ancient planter.”

The Virginia Asssembly had decreed that planters who came at their own cost before the coming away of Sir Thomas Dale, that is prior to April 1616, should have on the first division of land, 100 acres for their own personal adventure and also the same for every single share, amounting to the sum of 12-10-0 paid into the London Company of Virginia. This was the reason that Captain Thomas Davis received this grant of land, as the heir of his father. His mother Rachell Davis was probably dead long before 1633. Thomas Davis had many other land grants, deeds and patents.

He was a Justice of Nansemond in 1654. He acquired lands in Somerset County, Maryland in 1662 and probably resided in Maryland for several years thereafter but returned to Virginia prior to his death.1

A Thomas Davis was Burgess for Warwick in 1655-58. This Thomas Davis, as “Major Thomas Davis,” patented 500 acres in Warwick the 18th of March, 1662, 100 acres was at the head of his patent granted 10th of September, 1645, and adjoined 300 acres granted him 20th January, 1655 – land lay on Reedy Swamp at the head of Walter’s Creek. In 1663 Thomas Davis was sheriff of Warwick. In 1671, land of Major Thomas Davis in Warwick was reported deserted. The question arises: Is this Major Thomas Davis of Warwick one and the same as Major Thomas Davis of Nansemond?4

Returning to Thomas Davis of Nansemond, in 1660, the General Assembly dismissed Mr. Thomas Davis from the Commission of Nansemond at his request. In 1674, Major Thomas Davis and Mr. Barneby Kearney were summonded to the grand jury and paid 200 pounds of tobacco as a fine for not appearing.5

Children of Maj. Thomas Davis and Mary Bowers:
Unknown Davis b. c 1639/40, d. ?unknown
James Davis+ b. 1641/42, d. a 1687/88
Richard Davis d. 1695/96
Thomas Davis+
William Davis d. b 24 Nov 1684

The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland by J.D. Warfield.
Brown’s “First Republic”, pp. 128, 318.
Nugent’s Abstracts.
Council Journals, Vol. I, p. 283.
Burgess Journals, Vol. II, 1659-95, p. 9.

“Adventurers of Purse and Person” by First Families of VA; pg 221… patent issued to Thomas Davis, 10 Aug 1644, for 300 acres in Nansemond Co. notes that it adjoined the land of Thomas Jordan dec’d. – “Caviliers and Pioneers” pg 266 record of DEED James Davis 141 acres Nansimund Co. on Chuckatuck Cr. 20 Sep 1683 p 310 adj his brother Thomas Davis; Thomas Chutchin and William Thompson. Being 1/3 of land his father Major Thomas Davis dyed seized of, who devised sd James – DEED: pg 55 18 Mar 1668 Isle of Wight Co. 100 acres upon Pagan point Bay land of Maf Thomas Davis and Mr. Jno Mohoone – DEED: Richard and John Sanders 350 acres in the W. Br. in the Up Par. Nansemond 30 Oct 1689…300 acres granted to Thomas Davis 11 Mar 1664 and now in possession of said John and Richard – BIRTH-RELATIONSHIP: to parents 1988 IGI Va. Batch #8609103 SS24 relationship that the Thomas Davis born to James and Rachel was the same Thomas Davis who was father of James who married Margaret Jordan time and place only.

Marriage 1 Rebecca or Elizabeth CHRISTIAN b: ABT 1615, Married: ABT 1635
James DAVIS b: ABT 1643 in Nansemond, Virginia
Thomas DAVIS b: 1658 in ,Surry, Virginia
Richard DAVIS
William DAVIS
Mary DAVIS b: ABT 1647,Nansemond, Virginia

Marriage 2 Mary BOWERS

Birth: ABT 1643 in Nansemond, Virginia
Death: AFT 1688 in Virginia
Note: One account has James Davis’s parents as Major Thomas Davis and Mary Bowers.

Marriage 1 Margaret JORDAN b: 1636 in Warrasquioke, Nansemond, VA
Married: 1660 in Virginia
Sarah DAVIS b: 5 Apr 1662 in Chuccatuck, Virginia
Thomas DAVIS b: 7 Aug 1666 in Isle of Wight, Virginia
Thomas DAVIS b: 28 Jan 1668 in Manokin, Somerset, Maryland
Rachell DAVIS b: 2 Jan 1673 in Manoakin, Virginia
Mary DAVIS b: 2 Dec 1689 in Chester, PA

Major Thomas Davis (1613-1683: Land Grants, Deeds & Patents
Following are land grants, deeds and patents which have been found for Thomas Davis:
22 May 1637 – 300 acres – Upper county of New Norfolk later Nansemond upon south side of East branch of Elizabeth River.
23 Nov 1637 – 100 acres – Oyster Bank Neck, Isle of Wight. bordered by Thomas Poole – 100 acres – 27 Nov 1637 and Thomas Jordan.
It was also noted he was a neighbor to:
1638 – Richard Bennett – 600 acres – Bay behind Ambrose Point.
21 Aug 1637 – Peter Hays – 350 acres – Pagan Creek.
1642 – John Moon – 1,250 acres – Pagan Creek, Isle of Wight. He was bordered by Tom Sayer and later John Gary, 250 acres in 1639.
10 Aug 1644 – 300 acres – Branch of Newton Haven River called Beverly Creek bordered by Thomas Jordens.
On May 22, 1637 Thomas Davis received a grant of land in the Upper County of New Norfolk, later Nansemond (Nugent’s Abstracts, p. 82), as follows:
“Sir John Harvey to Thomas Davis, 300 acs. in the Upper Co. of New Norfolk, May 22, 1637, page 424. Upon the S. side of the eastern branch of Eliz. Riv. opposite Thomas Sawyer, 5 or 6 mi. up the river Easterly to the head thereof. Due for the trans. of: Joane Jobb, Ann Griffin, Geo. Tabott, Susanna Bony, Robert Pearse, Wm. Pett.”
One Peter Hays received a grant of 350 acres August 21, 1637 upon Pagan Creek adjoining the land of Thomas Davis.
Thomas Davis received another grant of land in Isle of Wight County, as follows (Nugent’s Abstracts, p. 111):
“Thomas Davis, 100 acs. Isle of Wight Co., November 23, 1637, page 502. Called Oyster banke Neck, adj. Thomas Jorden. Trans. of 2 pers. Names not given.”
In 1638 John Moon received a grant of 400 acres on the South Side of Warwicksqueicke River North upon Thomas Davis’ land, and in 1638 Richard Bennett received a grant of 600 acres upon the bay behind Ambrose Meders Point and upon Thomas Davis’ land.
Thomas Davis had land in Upper Norfolk County (later Nansemond) which has been in the possession of Thomas Dew and was by him assigned to Thomas Davis, for John Gary received a grant of 250 acres in that county in 1639 between the land “late in the possession of Thomas Dew and by him assigned to Thomas Davis” and the land of other persons.
Thomas Davis deeded fifty acres to Ambrose Meader in Isle of Wight County, July 18, 1636 (Va. Mag. 5, p. 403). He also deeded to John Moon 200 acres of the 300 granted March 6, 1643 (Va. Mag. 6, pp. 33, 113, 344). John Moon received a grant of 1,250 acres on Pagan Creek in Isle of Wight near the land of Thomas Davis in 1642.
Thomas Davis received a grant of land of 300 acres in Upper County of Norfolk in 1644, as follows (Nugent’s Abstracts, p. 232):
“Thomas Davis, 300 acs. Up. Norf. Co., Aug. 10, 1644, Page 21. Upon a br. of Newtown haven river alled Beverley Cr., adj. Thomas Jordens, dec’d. & Thomas Poole, 100 acs. by patent dated Nov. 27, 1637 & the residue for trans. of: Attwell Bestwicke, Richd. Goffe, Michael James & Jno. _______. Marginal note: This patent was falce in the old records and entered true in the 56th page of the said Booke.”
There are two grants in Nugent’s Abstracts, pages 238-239, one under the other, the first for land in Nansemond, and the second for land in Isle of Wight, which leads us to believe that these grants were for the same Thomas Davis, the subject of this sketch, and they are as follows:
“Thomas Davis, 300 acs. Nansemond Co., Aug. 10, 1646, Page 70. On Beverley Cr. a br. of Newtown haven Riv., adj. Thomas Jordan, dec’d. & Thomas Poole. 100 acs. by former patent & 200 acs. for trans. of 4 pers.
“Thomas Davis, 200 acs. Isle of Wight Co., Nov. 12, 1646, Page 71. About 2 Mi. up a cr. formerly called Warrasquiack. Due by purchase of a patent from Benjamin Harrison & ack. in court for James City Co., June 8, 1646.”
Anthony Fulgham received a grant of 100 acres of land upon Pagan Point Bay, October, 1643, adjoining land of Thomas Davis and John Moon and again, in 1668 he received a grant of 150 acres adjoining the land of Thomas Davis and John Moon.
On the 6th of November, 1653, Thomas Davis patented 100 acres in Nansemond for the transportation of two persons. The land patented was formerly granted Richard Preston and by him deserted.
2.  William Strachey, “Historie of Travaile Into Virginia, Second Book”
This document was mostly researched by Ralph Marquart of Centreville, Maryland
3.The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland by J.D. Warfield.
Brown’s “First Republic”, pp. 128, 318.
Nugent’s Abstracts.
Council Journals, Vol. I, p. 283.
Burgess Journals, Vol. II, 1659-95, p. 9.

More Notes For Captain James Davis:
Notes 4:
Captain James Davis, 1580 – 1623
The early settlement of New England & Virginia

The following account is pieced together from many sources of the life, voyages and expeditions of Captain James Davis throughout the years of the earliest settlement of New England and Virginia before the Pilgrims arrived in 1620. (Go here to see more about Fort Sagahadoc)

The accounts begin when he was 27 years old and set sail on 1st June 1607 from Plymouth, England to Virginia, and go up to his death “at his plantation over the water from James City” on February 16th 1623. Captain Davis was a founder and builder of the first English colony in New England (Sagahadoc, Maine) which was considered to be a northern Virginia colony in those days. After the remaining members of that colony gave up and returned in discouragement to England in 1609, he sailed for the southern Virginia colony where he became one its earliest settlers and one of the “ancient planters.” Boddie says that “his [Capt. James Davis’] descendants in the South can claim to be the oldest New England family, ante dating the Mayflower by 13 years!”

London, 1606, King James Grants Charters to Colonize Virginia

Boddie writes:

“King James I on the 10th of April 1606 granted charters for two companies to colonize Virginia. Strachey in his “Historie of Travaile Into Virginia,” says that “one consisted of divers knights, gentlemen, merchants, and others of the City of London, called the First Colony (the London Company) and the other of sundry knights, gentlement, and others of the City of Bristoll, Exeter, and the towne of Plymouth and other places, called the Second Colonye (the Plymouth Company).”

“Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice of England, had obtained the charter to colonize northern Virginia for the Second Colony and in 1606 sent out a ship under Captain Henry Callons, containing 100 or more persons. This ship was captured by the Spanish and the persons taken to Spain and “made slaves in their galleons.”

Strachey says “Howbeyt, the aforesaid late Lord Chief Justice would not for all this Spanish mischief give over his determinacion for establishing a colony within the aforesaid so goodly a country, upon the river of Sachadehoc; but againe the next yeare prepared a greater number of planters, and better provisions, which in two shipps he sent forth.”

The Voyage from England to Sagahadoc, Maine in 1607

The “two ships sent forth” by Sir John Popham were the “Gift of God” commanded by Capt. George Popham and the “Mary and John” by Captain Raleigh Gilbert. (Capt. Raleigh Gilbert was a son of Sir Humphrey Gilbert who lost his life in the “Squirrel” on the voyage to Newfoundland in 1583.)

Captain James Davis was master of the “Mary and John” and he wrote an account of the voyage called “The Relation of a voyage unto New England begun from the Lizard, ye first of June 1607.” Note: The author of this Ms. is not shown, his name being left blank on the title page, but The Rev. Henry Otis Thayer in his account of the Sagadahoc Colony (p. 19) gives his reason for believing that the author of the “Relation” was Captain James Davis, which seems conclusive.

Mr. Thayer further says, “both James and Robert Davis were assigned to office in the colony administration. It must be that the two under the designations of ‘Captain Davies and Master Davies’ were officers in command of the ‘Virginia’ in a voyage in 1609, to the Southern Colony. In the next year, Captain James Davis is reported from there in command of Algernon Fort at Point Comfort. Robert Davis of Bristol, had been master of Sir Walter Raleigh’s vessel, the barke ‘Rawley’ which sailed in Sir Humfrey Gilbert’s expedition of 1583. Captain John Smith mentions among ‘these noble captains’ connected with the planting of Sagadahoc, ‘Robert Davis, James Davis and John Davis.’ A family of master mariners seems to be indicated.”

Monday, 1st June 1607 – Departure from Plymouth, England

Capt. James Davis, in his “Relation” says, “Departed from the Lyzard [Plymouth, England] the first day of June 1607, being Monday about 6 of the clock in the afternoon and it bore me then northeast by north eight leagues.

“From thence directed our course for the Islands of Flores and Corvo (Azores) in the which we were 24 days attaining all of which time we never saw but one saile, being a ship of Salcombe (Village of Devonshire) bound for Newfoundland. The first day of July being Wednesday we departed from the Island of Flores for ten leagues S. W. of it. From hence we kept our course to the westward until the 27th of July during which time we oftentimes sounded but never found grounds until the 27th day of July early in the morning we sounded and had ground in 18 Fathoms, beinge then in latitude 43 degrees 40′ fished three hours and tooke near two hundred of Cods, very great and large fyshe, bigger than which comes to the Banke of Newfoundland (They passed some twenty miles S. W. of Sable Island.)

“From this point the course was set S. W.” James Davis evidently was navigating the ship for he says “6th of August I found the ship to be in 43 d and 1/2 by my observation and from thense seth our course and stood away due weste and saw three other islands.”

Wednesday, 19th Auguste 1607 — Arrival in Maine

“Wednesday being the 19th Auguste we all went to the shore where we made choice for our plantation and there we had a sermon delivered in by our preacher.”

19 Aug 1607 – Established Fort at mouth of Kennebec River in Maine. The colony was called the “Sagadahoc Colony.” This colony preceded the “Mayflower” landing at Plymouth, Mass. by 13 years.

Captain John Smith says the officers of this colony by “That honorable patron of virtue Sir John Popham were: Captain George Popham for president. Captain Raleigh Gilbert for admiral. Edward Harlow, Master of the Ordinance, Captain Robert Davis, Sergeant Major, Captain Ellis Bert, Marshall, Mr. Leaman, Secretary, Captain James Davis, to be Captain of the Fort, Mr. Gome Carew to be searcher, all these were of the Counsel.” The preacher was Richard Seymour.

John Bennett Boddie also says: “Captain James Davis was Commander of the Fort established at the mouth of the Kennebec River, August 19, 1607 (o.s.) by that New England Colony called the “Sagadahoc Colony. After that colony returned to England, Captain Davis sailed for Virginia.”

6 October 1607 — Return to England

6 October 1607, James Davis sailed for England as Captain of the “Mary and John”. His narrative in “Relation” suspends on the 6th of October 1607 and Mr. Thayer concludes from this that it was because James Davis sailed away for England. This vessel arrived in England December 1st after a voyage of 53 days. A plan of Fort St. George at Sagadahoc inscribed “taken out on the 8th of October 1607” was found in later years with the narrative.

The “Gift” also sailed from Sagadahoc Colony to England on 15 Dec 1607 and arrived at Plymouth 7 February 1608. These ships on arriving found that Sir John Popham (President) The Chief Justice, had died 10 Jun 1607, ten days after they had sailed away from England to Northern Virginia.

After these ships had left Sagadohoc, the last one carrying 45 persons who wished to return to England, the settlers who remained Began to build a ship with their limited means in the winter time in this bleak country and when this ship was finished, they called it the “Virginia” and it seems to have been a staunch trust-worthy vessel.

May 1608 Return to Sagadahoc

Captain James Davis again set sail for Sagadahoc and arrived, it is supposed, about the month of May 1608. He found the colonists had been through a severe winter. George Popham, the first president, had died, and Raleigh Gilbert was now the president. Sir John Gilbert, eldest son of Sir Humphrey Gilbert and the brother of Raleigh Gilbert, had also died in England and left his estate to his brother Raleigh Gilbert to settle. Raleigh Gilbert desired to return to England to settle his brothers estate and the experience the colonists had been through, determined them to abandon the enterprise before the coming of another winter.

17 October 1608 The Colony Gives Up & Returns to England

In the newly arrived ship, and in the “Virginia” which they had built (of which Captain James Davis was aboard), they embarked for England 17 Oct 1608, and the colony in North Virginia, on the River Sagadahoc came to an end.

In his “Conquest of Virginia, the Second Attempt,” p. 567, Sams says:

“The failure of this Northern Colony is to be regretted. Had it succeeded, the United States would have been settled by two companies, organized under the same Charter, sympathetic with each other, and sympathetic with England. The failure of this colony in the North, left that region to be settled, some years later, by another Colony, the Pilgrims, who were not in sympathy with England, while the southern Colony on the other hand, was typically English.”

Captain Davis Returns to Virginia from England in 1609

Apparently undaunted, Captain James Davis again sailed for Virginia on the “Virginia” on June 8th 1609 from Falmouth, England, the largest fleet ever sent over to Virginia, full of people and provisions. He, James Davis, was in command of the “Virginia” one of nine vessels of the fleet known as the “Third Supply” which assembled at Falmouth and proceeded to Virginia by way of the Azores. It carried with it the new Charter of the Virginia Company, which had been drafted by Sir Francis Bacon and signed by King James I on May 23, 1609, granting a vast extension of territory and larger powers were given to the Company. Sams says (p. 579) “It was a force strong enough to put the Colony on its feet, had not misfortune awaited it.”

After passing the Canary Islands the fleet encountered a great hurricane. The vessels were scattered and the “Virginia” arrived among the last. The ship the “Sea Adventure” carrying the fleet commanders, Sir James Somers and Sir Thomas Gates, was wrecked on Somers Island, now called Bermuda. The “Catch” one of the vessels, foundered with all on board.

The ships of the Third Supply and their Captains were as follows:

“Unite” – Captain Wood – Departed England 8 (18) Jun1609 and arrived Jamestown, Virginia 21 Aug 1609.

“Blessing” – Captain Gabriel Archer – Departed England 8 (18) Jun 1609 arrived Jamestown, Virginia 21 Aug 1609.

“Lion” – Captain Webb – Departed England 8 (18) Jun 1609 and arrived Jamestown, Virginia 21 Aug 1609.

“Falcon” – Captain John Martin – Departed England 8 (18) Jun 1609 and arrived Jamestown, Virginia 21 Aug 1609.

“Diamond” – Captains Ratcliffe and King – Departed England 8 (18) Jun 1609 and arrived Jamestown, Virginia Aug 1609.

“Swallow” – Captain Moone – Departed England 8 (18)Jun 1609 and arrived Jamestown, Virginia Aug 1609.

“Catch” – Master Matthew Fitch – Departed England 8 (18) Jun 1609 and was lost at sea with all aboard.

“Virginia” – Captain James Davis – Departed England 8 (18) Jun 1609 and arrived Jamestown, Virginia 3 Oct 1609.

“Sea Adventure” – Captain Christopher – With Sir Thomas Gates and Sir James Somers on board with the new Charter of the Virginia, Company, which had been drafted by Sir Francis Bacon and signed by King James I on May 23 1609. This ship wrecked on Bermuda during hurricane. The “Deliverance” and “Patience” were built from the wreck of “Sea Adventure” and these two ships then left Bermuda 20 May 1610 bound for Jamestown, Virginia and arrived there May 1610.

There were two factions at this time opposing one another in the Virginia Company of London, and the Smith faction apparently did not receive this fleet with any great joy. This may account for the fact that Captain Percy, the Governor, mentions Captain James Davis very frequently in his “True Relation” whereas the Smith faction mentions him very little.

Sams quotes first from the writers belonging to the Smith faction as follows: (p. 688)

“The first incident recorded is the arrival of the ‘Virginia,’ which had formed one of the great fleet of nine which left England on the eighth of June 1609. It was October when she at last reached her destination, as the ‘Catch,’ one of the vessels, was known to have foundered with all on Board, the arrival of the ‘Virginia’ left only the ‘Sea Adventure,’ the most important of all still to be accounted for. They thought she was certainly lost.

“The rather unimportant way the arrival of the ‘Virginia’ is recorded was probably due to the fact that the Smith faction looked upon all these vessels and their crews with little sympathy. There is no note of rejoicing over this sheep which was lost, being now found alive and safe; they merely say: ‘The day before the ships departed, C. Davies arrived in a small pinnance with some sixteen proper men more.’ To these were added a company from James Town, under the command of Captain Ratcliffe, to inhabit Point Comfort. Martin and Master West having lost their boats, and near half their men amongst savages, were returned to James Town. For the savages no sooner understood of Captain’s Smith’s loss, but they all revolted, and did murder and spoil all they could encounter. Nor were we all constrained to leave only of that which Smith had only for his own company for the rest had consumed their proportions.”

Fort Algernon, The Luckless Captain Ratcliffe & The Indians

Captain John Ratcliffe was Commander of the “Discovery,” one of the three ships which came over with the first colonists to Jamestown. He is often referred to in narratives of those times as the “Luckless and Ill-fated Captain Ratcliffe.” It seems that Captain Ratcliffe commanded the fort at Point Comfort called “Fort Algernon,” a favorite Christian name in the family of Percy, Earls of Northumberland. The Luckless Captain Ratcliffe was killed by the Indians, and Captain James Davis succeeded him as Commander of the fort.

Note: Robert Davis, brother of James Davis, sailed to North Virginia with Captain James Davis and was one of the councilors for the North Virginia Colony (Brown’s “First Republic,” p. 16). He was also Master of “The Virginia” when this vessel arrived at Jamestown in 1609.

Captain Percy’s account of this in his “True Relation” is as follows (Tyler’s Magazine, Vol. III, p. 266):

“I sent Captain Ratcliffe to Powhatan to secure victals and corne by way of commerce and trade, but Powhatan, the sly old king at a fitting time surprised Captain Ratcliffe whom he caused to be bound to a tree naked with a fire afore him and by women his flesh was scraped from his bones, with muscel shells and before his face thrown into the fire wherefrom he miserably perished.”

“Captain William Phetiplace who remained in the Pinnace escaped with only sixteen men out of fifty.”

The Starving Time 1609/1610

Captain Percy’s account continues:

“Upon wch defeate I sentt Capte James Davis to Algernowe foarte to comanwnd there in Capts. Ratliefes place and Capte West I sent to Potoamack with aboutt thirty sixe men to trade for maize and grayne where he in short tyme loaded his pinesse sufficyently yett used some harshe and crewell dealinge by cutteinge of two of the savages heads and other extermetyes and [when they left they came by] comeinge by Algernowns foarte Capteine Davis did call unto them acquaintinge them with our Great wants [they were starving] exhortinge them to make all the speded they cowlde to Releve us upon wch reporte Capte: Weste by the persuasive or rather by the inforcement of his company hoisted upp Sayles and shaped their course directly for England and lefte us in that extreme misery and wante.”

Captain Percy during “Starving Time” nearly died of starvation along with the others but during this “Starving Time” he undertook a trip to Fort Algernon, and of this trip he says (p. 268):

“By this Tyme being Reasonable well recovered of my sickness I did undertake a jorney unto Algernowns foarte bothe to understand how things weare there ordered as also to have bene Revenged of the Salvages att Kekowhatan who had treacherously slayne dyvers of our men. Our people I fownd in good care and well lykenge haveinge concealed their plenty from us above att James Towne.

“Beinge so well stored thatt the Crabb fishes where-with they had fede their hoggs would have bene a greate relefe unto us and saved many of our Lyves But their intente was for to have kept some of the better sorte alyve and with their towe pinnesses to have Retourned for England nott Regardinge our miseries and wants at all; wherewith I taxed Capt: Davis and tolde him thatt I had a full intente to bringe halfe of our men from James Towne to be there releved and after to Retoourne them backe ageine and bringe the reste to be susteyned there also and if all this woulde nott serve to save our mens Lyves I purposed to bring them all unto Algernowns foarte Tellinge Capt: Davis that another towne or foarte mighte be erected and buylded butt mens lyves once Loste colde never be recovered.”

These Virginia Colonists became discouraged. Only 60 men were left out of 500 and they decided to embark for England, Captain Davis again commanded his old ship the “Virginia.”

August 1610 Expedition Against the Indians

Percy’s account of this proposed return is as follows (p. 270):

“Then all of us embarking ourselves, Sir Thomas Gates in the “Deliverance” with his company, Sir George Somers in the “Patience”, Percy in the Discoverie (Discovery), and Captain James Davis in the “Virginia.” All of us sailing down the river with full intent to have proceeded upon our voyage for England when suddenly we spied a boat making toward us wherein we found Captain Bruster sent from my Lorde La Ware (Lord Deleware) who was come unto us with many gentlemen of quality, and three hundred men besides great store of victewles municyon and other privisions whereupon all returned to Jamestown.”

Captain James Davis was sent soon thereafter on an expedition against the Indians and concerning this expedition Percy says (p. 273):

“Their sayleigne some two myles down the River I sent Capt. Davis A shoare with moste of my Sowldiers, myselfe being wearyed before and for my owne part, but an easie foote man was Capt: Davis. At his landeinge, he was approached by some Indyans who spared nott to send their arrowes Amongste our men but within A shorte Tyme he putt them to flighte and landed withoutt further opposity on marcheinge About fowrtene myles into the country cutt downe their corne, burned their howses, Temples and Idolles and amongste the reste A Spacyous Temple cleane and neattly keptt A thinge strange and seldome sene amongste the Indyans in those partes. So havinge performed all the spoyle he cowulde Retourned aboarde to me ageine and then we sayled downe the River to James Towne.

“My Lord Generall not forgetting old Powhatan subtell treacery sent a messanger unto him to demand certain Armies and Dyvrs men who we supposed might be living in his country but he returned no other then proud and distainfull answers. Whereupon my Lorde being much incensed caused a commission to be drawn wherein he appointed me Chief Commander over seventy men and sent me to take revenge upon the Paspaheans and Chiconamians and so shipping myself and my soldgiers in two boats I departed from James Town the 9th of August 1610 and the same night landed within three miles of Paspahas town then drawing my soldiers into Battalio placing a Captain or Lieutentant at every file we marched towards the town having an Indian guide with me named “Kempes” whom the Provoste Marshall led in a hand lock.

This subtell savage leading us out of the way I bastinaded him with my truncheon and threatened to cut off his head whereupon the slave altered his course and brought us the right way near unto the town so that then I commanded every leader to draw away his file before me to beset the savages houses that none might escape with a charge not to give the alarm until I were come up unto them with the colors. At my command I appointed Captain William West to give the alarm the which he performed by shooting of a pistol. And then we fell in upon them put 15 or 16 to the sword and almost all the rest to flight, whereupon I caused my drum to beat and drew all my soldiers to the Colors. My Lieutentant bringing with him the Queen and her children and one indian prisoner for the which I taxed him because he had spared them his answer was that having them now in my custody I might do with them what I pleased.

“Upon the same I caused the indians heads to be cut off. And then dispensed my files appointing my soldiers to burn their houses and to cut down their corn growing about the town, and after we marched with the Queen and her children to our boats again, where being no sooner well shipped my soldiers did begin to murmur because the Queen and children were spared. So upon the same council being called it was agreed upon to put the children to death the which was affected by throwing them overboard and shooting out their brains in the water yet for all this cruelty the soldiers were not pleased and I had much to do to save the Queens life for that time.

“My Lord General not being well did lie a shipboard to whom we rowed, he being joyfull of our safe return yet seemed to be discontent because the Queen was spared as Captain Davis told me and that it was my Lords pleasure that we should see her dispatched. The way he thought best to burn her. To the first I replied that having seen so much bloodshed that day now in my cold blood I desired to see no more and for to burn her I did no hold fitting but either by shot or sword to give he a quicker dispatch. So turning myself from Captain Davis he did take the Queen with two soldiers ashore and in the woods put her to the sword and although Captain Davis told me it was my Lords (Delaware) direction yet I am persuaded to the contrary.”

An explanation of the above quotations from Percy’s “True Relation” might be made by saying that Captain James Davis was in command of Fort Algernon on May 31, 1610 and Govenor Gates decided to abandon the colony and sent the “Virginia” to Point Comfort to take on Captain Davis and his men at Fort Algernon, and while they were in the James River preparing to leave, Lord Delaware came into the river 15 Jun 1610 with three ships (Brown, pp. 126, 128). Lord Delaware was the new govenor appointed to succeed Govenor Gates.

Fort Algernon May 1611 to Henrico 1616

We next find mention of Captain Davis when Sir Thomas Dale arrived 22 May 1611 and found Davis in command at Fort Algernon (Brown, p. 149). The two forts, Henry and Charles, which were located on the capes bearing those names, had been abandoned and Sir Thomas Dale ordered Captain Davis to repossess them and put him in command of all three forts.

On 27 June 1611 some Spanish vessels arrived opposite Fort Algernon and according to Brown (p. 152) requested the surrender of Captain Davis. Davis said to the Spaniards “Go to the Devil.” In Captain George Percy’s account of this (Tyler III, p. 278), it seems that when the Spaniards came to the fort, Captain Davis lay in ambush on the shore and when they came ashore he captured their leader Diego Malina and some of his men. After parleying with the Spaniards about their leader, he gave them a pilot to sail to James Town, but when the pilot arrived on board, they hoisted sail and went out to the ocean, leaving their leader in Davis’s hands.

Captain Percy says that Fort Algernon burned to the ground and “whereupon Captain Davis fearinge to receive some displeasure and to be removed from thence the same being the most plentifulleste place for food, he used such expedition in rebuilding of the same again that it was almost incredible.”

This is about the end of Captain Percy’s “True Relation” as he sailed on his return trip to England in 1612, so Captain Davis’ activities after that time did not receive very much mention. However, at the close of Dale’s administration in 1616, Captain James Davis had command of the colonists in Henrico (Va. Mag., Vol. III, p. 411).

Brown (p. 228) says that Captain Smaley commanded at Henrico the latter part of 1616 in the absence of Captain James Davis, who may have gone on an expedition against the Indians or have sailed for England.

James City, Virginia 1623
Captain James Davis died in Virginia, at his plantation over the water from James City, February 16, 1623 (Hotten, p. 236). Whether he was killed by the Indians or not is not known.

1. Emigrants by Hotten, p. 236.
2. 17th Century Isle of Wight County, VA, by John Bennett Boddie, 1938, Chapter XXIII, Captain James Davis of New England and Virginia; pp. 434-49.
3. Historie of Travaile Into Virginia by William Strachey.
4. “Sagadahoc Colony,” by The Rev. Henry Otis Thayer, The Georges Society Pub., Vol. IV.
5. True Relation by Captain George Percy, written circa 1607, Tyler’s Magazine, Vol. III.
6. Conquest of Virginia, the Second Attempt, by Sams.
7. The Relation of a voyage unto New England begun from the Lizard, ye first of June 1607 by Captain James Davis, The Georges Society Publication, Vol. IV.
8. Some Southern Colonial Families, III, David A. Avant (Tallahassee, Florida, 1989), pp. 205-52.

Rachel Keyes

Captain James Davis married Rachel Keyes circa 1607/8. Adventurers of Purse and Person, page 238, Rachell’s name came from Patent Bk. 1, p. 17; CP I, p. xxxiv.
Children of James Davis and Rachel Keyes are:
John DAVIS b: 1610, Isle of Wight, Virginia (our line)
Nathaniel Davis
Thomas DAVIS b: Abt 1613 in Henrico, Nansemond, VA, Death: BEF 30 Sep 1683 in Nansemond, Virginia ~ Maj. Thomas Davis was born in 1612/13 in Jamestown (Chuckatuck), Nansemond County, Virginia. He was the son of Captain James Davis and Rachel Keyes. Maj. Thomas Davis married Mary Bowers circa 1639/40. Maj. Thomas Davis died before 20 September 1683 in Nansemond County, Virginia.

The Popham Colony: Captain James Davis / Davies

John Hunt Map Ft St GeorgeA map of Fort St. George, drawn by colonist John Hunt in 1607/08 but not discovered for more than 250 years. Public Domain image.

“The Founding of America” is boggy ground to cover, since 19th-century Americans mythologized the New England colonies to the exclusion of other people who were at the roots of their country too. The 20th century has seen Jamestown and the Virginia Colony surge forward to equal footing, but there are others still searching for recognition. The city of St. Augustine, Florida has been making noise recently—mostly tourism-related publicity stunts—but there’s no denying that it’s the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the continental US.

But even St. Augustine’s claim to fame is heavily laden with weasel words, mostly to avoid having to deal with San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s also carefully designed to exclude a couple of other places, not to mention one entire region. So, OK: founded in 1541, St. John’s, Newfoundland is the oldest city anywhere north of the Rio Grande, as well as the oldest English settlement in the New World—Newfoundland just had the bad grace to not be part of the Thirteen Colonies and so it’s forgotten by the large majority of people who don’t even realize there were sixteen British American colonies in 1776 (besides Newfoundland there was also Nova Scotia, St. John’s Island AKA Prince Edward Island, and that’s not counting the peculiar case of Québec). Even if you want to avoid offshore islands, Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia is also three years older than Jamestown.

Some historians even think that the Portuguese got to Newfoundland before John Cabot in 1497—ever notice that the names of several of Newfoundland’s geographical features are bastardized Portuguese? Cape Spear is Cabo da Esperança, Cape Race is Cabo Raso. Conception Bay is Baia de Conceicao, and tiny Baccalieu Island in Conception Bay is Ilha do Bacalhau, which is especially interesting since that name was first used by João Vaz Corte-Real in 1474 after a nebulous mission of his that (if you look at it the right way) might have been to Newfoundland. The Portuguese connection to North America only faded when two of Corte-Real’s three sons disappeared after exploring what was definitely the Newfoundland area, the Portuguese looked at their choices—Newfoundland? Or Brazil?—and made the obvious decision.

And then there’s the whole 11th-century Viking thing in the Great Northern Peninsula…one can see why the afore-mentioned 19th century Americans washed their hands of the whole mess, cried “Pilgrim forefathers!”, then sat down for turkey and corn at Thanksgiving.

Fort Popham Perspective

Still, all fame aside, the Mayflower expedition was not even the first English settlement in New England. The Plymouth Colony wasn’t founded until 1620. Jamestown was founded in 1607 by the Virginia Company of London, while a second, complementary effort the same year was made by the Virginia Company of Plymouth and targeted the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine. This was the Popham Colony, sometimes called the Sagadahoc Colony.

Region of Popham Colony and Fort Saint George

Region of Popham Colony and Fort Saint George

As the names of the two companies suggest, at the time “Virginia” applied to a much larger area than it does in the present day. This is almost entirely due to the success of the southern effort and the failure of the northern, which opened up the north to further charters. The initial plan was somewhat different: King James I deliberately created two overlapping grants, to inspire competition between two rival Virginia Companies. “Of London” received the coast from 34° to 38° north, “Of Plymouth” received 41° to 45° north, and the land in-between would go to whichever group was strong enough to get to it first. The Dutch, not incidentally, used the ambiguity of this no-man’s-land to found their own trading settlement at 40° 42´—which is to say, the southern tip of Manhattan Island in modern-day New York City.

Fort Overlay

Fort Overlay

That neither Virginia Company managed to claim the middle area says volumes. Jamestown’s Virginia was a relative success, but it’s rightly notorious for being a typhoid- and dysentery-ridden deathtrap in its early years. It almost certainly would have been abandoned if not for the immense profits from tobacco, which was only introduced five years after the first settlement and largely by luck at that. Popham Colony, by contrast, had less of a problem with mass death and more with money.

The effort to colonize Maine started in 1605 when Sir Ferdinando Gorges sponsored  on a voyage to explore the area. On his return, Weymouth gave his destination a passing grade (and, incidentally, brought the Patuxet Indian Tisquantum to England where he wGeorge Weymouthould learn English, be returned to New England, be kidnapped into slavery by another Englishman, serve John Smith for a while, return to his village to discover everyone in his sub-tribe dead from virgin-field epidemics, and famously help to feed the Plymouth Colony during their first winter). On the strength of Weymouth’s recommendation, Gorges became one of the main shareholders in the Virginia Company of Plymouth. The other important shareholder was Sir John Popham, the Lord Chief Justice of England. While Gorges sent a second exploring ship in 1606 with instructions to look for a colony site, Popham’s son George was selected to lead the colony. The next year he and two ships—Gift of God and the Mary and John—left for Maine with 120 settlers and their equipment.

Unfortunately for them, they set out late in the year and didn’t land until August 18th, 1607. Even in late summer coastal Maine’s temperature drops below ten Celsius some nights; by October it’s regularly pushing freezing. With no reason to suspect this, the colonists went ahead, made tense-but-peaceful contact with the local natives, and founded Fort St. George at the mouth of the Kennebec River; it was finished by mid-October. They then sent the Mary and John back to England with news of their success and for more supplies.

James-Popham and the Indians

Popham, James and the Indians

While it was gone winter set in. Accounts are that it was quite bad, and half the colonists took the remaining Gift of God back home rather than try to wait it out, but it’s worth noting that as far as anyone can tell only one colonist died—quite the contrast with Jamestown, where 70% of the population died during “The Starving Time“. Unfortunately, that one was George Popham himself on February 5th, 1608. He was somewhere between 55 and 60 in 1608, so it’s not too surprising that he wasn’t able to stand up to the stress, but his death was the first in a series of blows to the colony.

The colonists selected another of their number, Raleigh Gilbert, as their new leader. Both parts of his name are worth noting, as he was the second son of explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert (of the famous last words from the deck of his foundering ship, “We are as near to Heaven by sea as by land!”) and his half-uncle was Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh was, of course, the man who founded Roanoke in Virginia; the early English colonization of the Americas was an incestuous affair.

Fort St. George made it through to the spring before Mary and John returned. When it did, there was news: their patron, George’s father, had died just ten days after they had cleared The Lizard on their outbound journey the previous summer. Their influence at home was crumbling.

Compton Castle, Devon England

Compton Castle, Devon England

The ship sailed home again, and returned again with more supplies and more news. As the second son, Raleigh Gilbert hadn’t inherited much from his father. Now he found out that his elder brother John had died childless and he’d become the heir to Compton Castle in Devon. He decided to leave Maine and return home.

Disheartened at losing two leaders in quick succession, and staring down a second winter in Maine without enough support on the other side of the Atlantic, the other colonists decided to leave with him. But before embarking they came up with a load of sassafras harvested from trees in the area, as they had done in the spring for the first trip of the Mary and John. The leaves were worth something as they were boiled down for use as a topical painkiller at the time (and also make excellent filé powder), but couldn’t hold a candle to the money that tobacco brought, or hope to cover the costs of the Popham Colony. So in the end, despite the relative success of the Plymouth Company as compared to the London Company, the winner of King James’ competition was the one that had the will to hang on until they came up with a way to make serious money.

More than a decade later Sir Fernando Gorges regrouped, reclaimed his moribund charter rights, and helped to finance the Mayflower expedition. With its success, he was able to establish a permanent grip on Maine, getting sole land patent to it in 1629. The modern-day state of Maine sprung from this recapitulation of the Popham Colony.

The Popham Colony itself disappeared so thoroughly from history that it took until the latter part of the 19th century for New England’s historians to even be sure that it had existed. The sole evidence was a second-hand account in a book entitled Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia, which was written by Jamestown settler William Strachey in the 1610s but published in 1625; it remained notable not only as one of the prime sources of Jamestown history but also because it contained an eyewitness account of the wreck of the Sea Venture which is believed by Shakespeare historians to be the source material of The Tempest. The Popham Colony portion of it was more controversial, though, and by the mid-19th century the whole thing had degenerated into a heated war of New England town-boosterism disguised as an academic argument about whether the northern portion of King James’ 1607 Virginia charter had been acted on at all, or if Strachey was just relaying a tall tale.

Enter a document entitled Relation of a Voyage to Sagadahoc. The Relation was apparently among Sir Fernando’s papers when he died in 1647, and fell into the keeping of one William Griffith (about whom nothing else is known) before eventually ending up in the library of Lambeth Palace, where it was found in 1875.  It was immediately clear that this was the source of Strachey’s story, and that it matched up. His Historie even had something to add, as the Relation was missing its final few pages describing Gilbert and the remaining colonists’ decision to abandon Maine but Strachey’s retelling continued on to the end. By the 1890s there was a pretty good idea where Fort St. George was based on both the description of it in the Relation and the sketch map shown at the top of this article: it had been found in the Spanish archives in 1888. Though obviously drawn by an Englishman, it had apparently been taken by a spy and given to the Spanish ambassador to England, Pedro de Zuniga, who was somewhat obsessed with keeping tabs on non-Catholic colonists ignoring the papal Tordesillas Line. But it wasn’t until 1994 that archaeologists from the Peabody Essex Museum located Fort St. George’s physical remains in the shoreline backyard of a house in Phippsburg, Maine.

See also Captain Davies catches spy in Chesapeake bay

Captain James Davis Governor and Commander of Forts in VA

Captain James Davis Governor and Commander of Forts in Virginia