Category Archives: Continuing Story

John James – Immigrant Cavalier to the New World

The first foothold of the James family in the New World was secured by John James, the Immigrant. John was born about 1623. Sometime before 1690, he died. As a cavalier and ship’s captain, the Immigrant John James transported ten people to Virginia on his commercial brigantine. They likely were indentured for a long term as enslaved tobacco field hands or as house servants. For this, Sir William Berkeley, Governor of the colony, compensated John James with a land patent of 500 acres. Sources and maps document this first step of the James into the New World of America. Later, descendants of the Immigrant, Captain John James, acquired other land grants. They grew the family wealth.


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In the New World, the progenitor of our James family of Stray Leaves is John James “The Immigrant.”

Royal Roots

A cavalier, merchant, and ship’s master, John James is presumed to descend from royalty. The direct ancestry leading to John’s royal line remains unknown.

Among the various lines of John’s descendants, however, multiple lines of the James ancestry lead from the James back across time to the royal bloodlines of the Kings, Queens, and courtiers of Great Britain.

Outstanding among those royals is Edward I, “Longshanks,” King of England. Edward built Caernarvon Castle in Wales, presumed to be the ancestral home of John James “The Immigrant.”

Civil War, Rebellion, & Dissent in the Old World

To colonize the New World, King James I chartered the Virginia Company of London in 1606. In May of 1607, the Virginia Company sent colonists to establish the first permanent English settlement in America, at Jamestown.

In 1624, King James I revoked the charter of the Virginia Company and brought the Virginia colony under the rule of the Crown. The colonists often quarreled with the royal governors sent by England.

John James, the Immigrant, was one of many cavaliers who fled to the Virginia colony
Distressed Cavaliers

Sir William Berkeley maintained good relations with the colonists. He served as governor from 1642 to 1652.

However, the civil war intervened in England. In 1652, Oliver Cromwell overthrew King Charles I, who was beheaded. Berkeley was forced to surrender Virginia to Cromwell.

“Virginia was ‘the only city of refuge left in His Majesty’s Dominions, in those times, for distressed cavaliers.’ So, they came to Virginia.”

Source: Huntley, Dana. “The Cavalier Flight to Virginia,” British Heritage Travel

Cavaliers sought refuge in Virginia. There, distance and independence ensured the continuing existence of two classes, best known to cavaliers in England. A ruling class and an underclass comprised the two-tier system with which cavaliers were the most comfortable.

Under Cromwell, the colonists enjoyed significant political freedom. Aside from their political freedom, however, the colonists still remained loyal to the English Crown as royalists.

“The Cavaliers whom Berkeley actively recruited to Virginia during and after the English Civil War became an effective, closed, and largely despotic hereditary oligarchy.”

For the next eight years, Virginia’s colonists were allowed to take nearly complete charge of their own government, until the monarchy was restored in 1660 under Charles II.

“This colonial ascendancy pointedly did not believe that all men were created equal. Quite the contrary, as much as they believed in the legitimacy of their own right to wealth and power, they believed that the vast majority of people belonged to a divinely ordered underclass. It is not a giant step from such an axiom of life to a justification of race slavery…

“When Berkeley became governor of Virginia in 1642, the colony was still a tenuous experiment of a few thousand colonists after 35 years of existence. By the time of his death, 35 years later, Virginia was the flagship colony in the Americas, with 40,000 colonists, a working economy, a functioning legal system, and established social order.” 

Source: Huntley, Dana. “The Cavalier Flight to Virginia,” British Heritage Travel

First Biography of the Immigrant in the New World

“JOHN JAMES came to Virginia in 1650 and in 1670 patented land in Stafford County where he died ante 1690; his widow ELIZABETH married secondly THOMAS NORMAN.”

Source: King, George Harrison Sanford, The Register of Overwharton Parish, Stafford Co VA, 1723-1758, p.59; pub. by Southern Historical Press Inc., 1961, p.55

John James the Immigrant – Transporter of Colonists & Indentured Persons

The land patent to John James by Sir William Berkeley shows James engaged in transporting colonists to Jamestown.

Under the order of Sir William Berkley 1605-1677, some or all of those transported by John James may have been indentured to Sir Berkeley personally or to the Virginia Council.

John James, the Immigrant, was granted   a land patent for 500 acres by Sir. William Berkeley
Sir William Berkeley 1605-1677, Governor of Virginia

“To whome these presents shall come I Sr. WILLIAM BERKLEY KNT doe with the consent of ye Councell of the State of Virginia accordingly grant unto JOHN JAMES five hundred acres of land in Stafford County upon ye North East side of Pohik Creeke in ye treshes of Potomick River…Adj. Will. Greene, Mr. Rich. Normansell…for trans Tenn psons into Collony…given at James City under my hand and ye seale of ye Collony thos 20th day of July 1670.”

Source: Stafford County Virginia Record Books, Abstracts of Deed Book & Will Book of Stafford County, Virginia 1689-1693, Sparacio, p. 89

The land patents granted to John James, the Immigrant, is located on the north side of Pohick Creek, adjacent to Accotinck Creek
In the lower-left corner, the patent awarded to John James of 500 acres on the north side of Pohick Creek, granted by Sr. William Berkeley

Ship of John James – The Betty Hope

Records of the ships entering the Potomac River document the ship of John James.

“A list of ships entered and cleared in ye District of Potomack from 17th Sept. 1691 to 17th June 1692. Col. Christopher Wormley, Coll’r:
Ship: Attendance Master Name: John James. Page 296: List of ship & vessels entering inwards lower District James River from 25th March 50 10th July 1702: Ship: Betty Hope of Pennsylvania Master & Owner: John James.”

Source: Lost Virginia Records, English Duplicates, by Louis des Cognets, Jr., pp. 276-277; found in the Urbana Free Library, Urbana, IL, July 2000

John James, the Immigrant, probably was a captain of other ships, too. The current records identify a large number of additional ships in the District of the Potomac River. They, too, bear captains by the name of John James. The Betty Hope probably was not the only ship under the command of John James. The current records make it impossible to distinguish which ships are, and which ships are not under his command.

To Page 2 – First Patent of John James – Pohick Creek