The grandchildren of Peter Smith of Yeocomico, Westmoreland, Virginia were caught up in the dramatic growth of a colony on the road to becoming a republic. I can’t emphasize enough how often we gloss over the important bits and pieces of American history that fueled the American Revolutionary War. As a history teacher I thought I was covering the textbook well if I could slide from the French Indian War through the Stamp Act and into Lexington and Concord.  If I expanded the study of those decades, I knew that I would never cover the Second World War, let alone Korea and Viet Nam, etc.  I can’t fault the American High School History teacher. Given 180 hours in a year to cover five hundred years of history is a daunting task and trying to make the subject interesting to students who are caught up in pop culture and answering the burning question, “What are you doing this weekend?” is an equally daunting task.

I only wish I knew then, what I know now.  American history comes alive in ways I never imagined as a student and teacher of the subject matter. The ability to locate my own ancestors in online genealogies, to find documents related to their personal efforts and to then tie their lives to world and regional events really helps me appreciate the richness of their lives and their commitment to principles of democracy and religion. As any good author knows, I am more likely to finish reading a book or staying awake for the movie if I give two cents about the main characters. It also helps that I am ‘older and wiser’ and should be ‘dead by now,’ as one student put it.

Several sets of our family members jumped off the page as I looked at the details emerging in each of their lives in Westmoreland. It is a cool experience, kind of like biting into a great ribeye and muttering, “Wow, this is good stuff.” And then washing it down with a good Merlot. And quite honestly I thought about my Cousin Greg Smith and his life and work in the Church. These guys were his forerunners in the family.

This page, the one I am introducing now in the Smith Family History, diverts our attention from the economic and political issues that were important to the Cavaliers in Virginia. We will move into the realm of their personal liberties. The religious issues that drove our Pilgrim ancestors into Massachusetts Bay and Plimouth Colony were also important to the Cavalier. In tracking down property deeds and wills I have focused your attention largely on legal tender (tobacco) and the manner in which tobacco initially saved the young Virginia Colony.  John Rolfe’s tobacco crops allowed Whittingtons, Littletons, Bowmans, Smiths, Baileys, Tayloes and others in our family trees to succeed in a New World economy. It did not provide a necessarily sound, long term future nor stable economy. The use of slave labor played a large role in the economic success of these planters and that is a factor from which we cannot hide.  We have watched ancestors gather in deeds as if they were playing a game of ‘Monopoly’ and trading slaves as if they were baseball cards. Our ancestors were both planters and speculators.  They were also entrepreneurs.  Many of their original hassles with Mother England were related to taxation, trade requirements and safety (both on the frontier and high seas).

In looking for leads as to the religious background of the Smith family I was hard pressed to find the name of Immigrant Peter Sr or his brother, James Smith (1600s), in any online data. I was equally hard pressed to find the affiliation of Peter Jr of Yeocomico or his son James with any church. I researched the minutes of any available online collections of the Nominy Church, Yeocomico Church and a few other churches in the county in the early decades of the 1700’s. I could not find one of my Smiths listed on the scrolls of a church. I should add that paperwork simply does not exist for some decades. You might suggest that Peter was an atheist.  And I would say, “Not a chance!” Not in the 1600’s and early 1700’s. A man had to have a church and pretty much had to attend that church.  It wasn’t some loosely held community norm.  It was often the law. Attendance was taken. A guy could be fined heavily for missing a Sunday meeting, physically punished and humiliated in the stocks at the next week’s service.  It made for great family fun on Saturday night just picturing what Old Man Wallace might look like in the stocks tomorrow!

“Can we throw eggs at him, dad?”

“Now children, you know we don’t waste Hennie’s good eggs.”

“What then, Mom?”

“Gather up some of Bessie’s droppings and do not use your good gloves, in doing so!”

Church was important to these characters, as was God.  The Peter Smith who immigrated in 1636 had to sign a document assuring Archbishop Laud that he was loyal to the King, Parliament and the Anglican Church. There would be no way he could have boarded the ship without his signature on that paperwork. It did not necessarily mean that he was a devout member of the Anglican Church or even a good Christian of any kind. As we have seen, many of the Smyths from the Berkshire hills were devout Catholics and benefactors of churches like St. Giles and St. Lawrence. At one point in my research it appeared that Smiths may have found their way into the growing Quaker database in the Mid Atlantic colonies. But nothing conclusive.

The first evidence of religious leanings in the early Nominy Bay neighborhood into which Peter Smith Sr moved, was provided by guys like John Mottrom, Thomas Youell, Robert Smith, Nathaniel Pope and the band of protestant freedom fighters and rebels who turned the Westmoreland shoreline into their beach head along the Potomac River. We met John Mottrom previously in our review of Doegs Neck. For detailed information on Ingles Rebellion and the various players in the two year drama I refer you to a well documented history found at click here. I have always wanted to do that, a nice and sweet footnote technique: “Click here.” Gotcha. That click got you into my favorite gastro pubs in Vancouver. One more time: Click here! You really have to spend an afternoon sipping a good wine at the Tea House in Stanley Park. Awesome experience.

Anyway.  I digress. I have to get out and stretch my legs, empty my bladder. Too much coffee.  And shoot some clay pigeons.  I am going to insert an excerpt from a recent presentation I provided at the National Convention for Smith Trackers of America, whose motto, “We uncover the dirt you tried to bury!” is fast becoming the catch phrase for politicians around the world. I have learned how to cut and paste with something other than wood glue. Here we go.

December 27, 2015, Vancouver, Washington

“I hope you all enjoyed the break and found your way to the bathrooms and refreshments. Those of you with the appropriate medical prescriptions seem lighter on your feet now.  Yes.  Chocolate mint? No thank you but thanks for offering. We were talking about Ingles Rebellion before the break.

The disgruntled Maryland Protestants from Kent Island and St. Mary’s County had plotted their rebellion against Governor Calvert at John Mottrom’s house and, after Lord Calvert subdued the rebellion in late 1646, it was to Mottrom’s house on Nomini Bay the rebels initially fled. Many of the prominent participants in Ingle’s Rebellion settled into the Nominy Bay neighborhood with legitimate Westmoreland deeds beginning in July 1653. [233]

The long and the short of Ingles’ Rebellion is basically this: The Civil War in England, which pitted the upstart Parliamentarians (Puritans) against the heavily favored Royalists (Church of England) spilled over into the Virginia Colony. The war in England was a basic, lusty grab for power by Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was able to overcome the odds in Las Vegas and went on to post both a victory and the head of King Charles I, adding new meaning to “Head of State.” It had been a protestant against protestant grudge match fought for control of the nation.

On this side of the pond the Catholic Governor Calvert wanted his private Maryland to accept various religious denominations as long as they were Christian. That seemed fair enough. He preferred Roman Catholics as he wanted Maryland to become a haven for Catholic Aristocrats fleeing the horrors of life in England. He pictured himself genuflecting with well healed Latin speaking scholars in vibrant Bingo games going late into the night in the pounding surf of his Mid Atlantic playground.  He adopted some of the first language in the New World encouraging a tolerance of various Christian denominations. When Maryland opened a Dunkin Donuts and a Starbucks it signaled an openness to variety and diversity. Folks began flocking across the border. Maryland went from mostly Roman Catholic to More Protestant than not. Keep in mind it is 1643 and we aren’t talking about more tha 600 citizens. Ingles and Company wanted the majority protestant population in Maryland to assume command of the colony’s government. They would not accept mere toleration. In fact, they wanted to not only rule the bloody Papists, they wanted to get rid of Lord Calvert’s Toleration Act and end the toleration of Catholics. Ingles and his protestant buddies held the upper hand for the better part of two years of skirmishing in 1644-45.

Since the Protestants greatly outnumbered the Catholics in Maryland, Calvert’s position was dubious at best. However, the Catholics were not immediately overwhelmed. Calvert had time to construct St. Thomas Fort on the property of Giles Brent’s sisters: Margaret and Mary Brent. The Protestants constructed a fort around Nathaniel Pope’s house. Game on! Let’s all play Stratego. The ‘battle’ became one of raids and foraging to support each garrison. Poor Blanche Oliver, for example, lost an ox to Calvert supporters at St. Thomas Fort and a cow to the rebels at Pope’s Fort. [173] The following week her oxless cart had a cute bumper sticker reading “Stop the War!”

‘Warfare’ itself amounted to raids and counter-raids on each other’s fort. Theft and vandalism were usually followed by plunder and arson. Nobody really wanted to kill or be killed.  There were only a handful of people in the new colony and they had come to know each other in their daily lives. There certainly  weren’t enough people one could  count as strangers and mercilessly kill.  Occasionally a good Catholic (Thomas Cornwaleys wife) would watch as her mansion burned to the ground at the hands of old friends. A protestant might suffer similar consequences. Don’t get me wrong, it was hostile. Men were held hostage (Giles Brent) on ships, dragged to England to face trial, deprived of property and ruined for a time. Being good pioneers of sturdy stock, folks would often bounce back from defeat, but often in a new location. Lord Calvert was somehow able to maintain some military control in Maryland and arrange a peace agreement with Mottrom, Robert Smith and others. They had to promise to stay clear of Maryland for a time.

Mottrom and Company put Maryland behind them.

Slide 1: Mottrom and Company put Maryland behind them.

Let’s put slide 1 up on the screen.  Thank you.  The rebels then got on board Mottrom’s shallop with what amounted to a pardon and sailed across the Potomoc to their new digs on the far shore. Rumors that they downed Giles Brent’s fine tequila and smoked Cornwaley’s high quality Cuban cigars as they sailed are unfounded. We do know they kept an eye on Maryland politics for some time to come, established Westmoreland properties and went on with a life while they had it. Nathaniel Pope’s love life created enough offspring that he eventually became a great great grandfather of George Washington. No one had any idea that a skirmish with British aristocrats like Calvert could end more than a century later in a guerilla war that brought an end to the King’s rule in America. These not-so-little events (Ingles Rebellion) added up over time and gave the colonists a sense of bravado and self respect in the face of what appeared to be England’s lack of respect for the ungrateful hooligans over here in the colonies.

Here is what Mottrom’s Westmoreland neighborhood looked like in the early 1650’s.

Slide 2 please.  I respectfully used little red flames on my Google Map to designate the locations of each of the rebel’s start up plantations.

Nomini Bay Homesteads of Mottrom & Co.

Slide 2: Nomini Bay Homesteads of Mottrom & Co.

Someone in the audience just twittered and asked me to show where this land is in relation to Virginia. And we can do that with slide 3 please. Right between the red arrows there. Do you see that? #BuxomBlanchintheBackRow.  Interesting Twitter feed, Blanch.  God help me. I don’t need any more interruptions.

Nomini Bay is right there in between the two arrows.

Slide 3: Nomini Bay is right there in between the two arrows.

The question of religious affiliation is important for my understanding of Peter of Yeocomico’s ancestors. A church affiliation may open other doors in the effort to establish Peter’s identity and our own heritage.”

Producer:  “We have a question coming in online now. I can read it to you:  ‘Did the Smiths originally enter the New World through a port in Maryland or Pennsylvania or possibly a rabbit hole in a parallel universe?’ ”

Smith:  “Someone on Reddit I assume. Yes, I have considered the fact that Peter may have entered via a neighboring colony. But, I have been looking at Virginia headright records that covered immigrants coming in from both foreign ports and neighboring colonies, including Maryland and Pennsylvania so I think I have all ports covered. Not sure about rabbit holes. May need a Corgi pup to go after those.”

Producer:  “Another question from here in the audience, Doc. If you don’t mind.”

Smith: “I do mind. But go ahead. The lady in the headdress looking like a nun?” Pause.  “Oh, you are a nun? Sister Barbara? Thank you Sister.”

Sister Barbara: “Were the Smiths protestant or catholic and why is it important to know?”

Smith:  “Well Sister Barbara. The answer to your question might explain a motivation for leaving England. That’s why it is important to me. I have asked myself, ‘Was Peter Sr a protestant and one of the participants in the Ingles rebellion?  I mean, look at it: Immigrant Peter Smith (Sr’s) Nomini Bay neighborhood was home to the protestant ringleaders of Ingles Rebellion. Mottrom was dead (d.1655) before Peter settled in (1657), but these other guys were hanging around. Was Peter related to the Robert Smith who was a major player in the Ingles Rebellion? I don’t know. Robert’s will doesn’t indicate he was a father for Pete. But, maybe he was a brother.  Or, was Peter a Catholic fleeing the turmoil in Maryland? Virginia was a refuge for families from all sides of the crisis. A neighbor in Doegs Neck and Nominy, Colonel Speakes, a Catholic moved into the Nominy neighborhood to flee the chaos in Maryland and he was welcomed in by both the Neighborhood Watch Committee and the Welcome Wagon.  Was Peter Sr even in the colony at the time of Ingles Rebellion? Probably not. Unless he was the Peter who stepped off the boat in 1636.  That guy would fit the bill. Or maybe a guy who came in through some crazy rabbit hole. I don’t know. A rabbit hole? Of all the bizarre questions. I need coffee. I really do.”

“Every once in awhile I reexamine the deeds, plat maps and descriptions and honestly ask myself, ‘Have I got the Smiths in the right location?’ I am open to second guessing and more research.”

Producer: “Doc. We have an email from NukeMeBaby@MadHatter.com. I can read it for you if you like.”

Smith: “I would rather you didn’t.

Producer:  “Doc?”

Smith: “I suppose in the name of chivalry and all that is nice and polite, you should read the moron’s question.”

Producer: “It reads: ‘I don’t recognize Virginia in that slide 3 thingy map thing you put up there. Do you have another map thingy that would maybe sorta make more sense to me?'”

Smith: “Slide 4 Please.  I really hope this helps. I don’t know how much more I can take.”

Slide 4: This is Westmoreland. This is Virginia.

Slide 4: This is Westmoreland. This is Virginia.

Producer: “We have one more question.”

Smith:  “No! Not from Sister Barbara? No! Not right now. Sit down, Sister. Please set your laser pointer aside! That can burn a hole in a retina you know! Oh! Geeez! Ouch! Someone please. Remove her from the room! Now!”

The conference ended on a sad note. A trip to the village clinic, too late in the day for emergency service, sent me packing for home with one eye covered in cotton swabs and an elastic bandage from a first aid box that had been opened once before “in the sixties,” I was assured.  I skipped the dinner honoring the Smith family of Lexington, Kentucky whose research into the involvement of a Smith family marine in the invasion of Grenada sparked a year of breakthrough documentation among family genealogists.

 

The First Sign of Christ

The first clear reference to a Smith church membership I have found is in online data related to the children of Thomas Smith. Thomas (1708-1778) was a son of Peter of Yeocomico and a brother of our James Smith (1708-1749). Thomas had 6 sons and 2 daughters, all of whom made it to adulthood and marriage. It was a prolific family and had the makings of a fine basketball team. The Thomas Smith family is a perfect example of the old adage:  a family that prays together stays together. Thomas is my 6th Great Uncle. His 8 kids would be my first cousins, six times removed, once by an ice cream truck. Here’s the scoop: They were Baptists at a time when Baptists were proliferating in Virginia, and they helped frame Virginia’s entry into the Revolutionary War in 1776. That’s right. We are heading into cool stuff here.

Thomas Smith was married to Elizabeth Fleming, daughter of Alexander Fleming and Sarah Kennedy. Alex liked to tell people he was descended from Pocahontas. We shall see about that. Thomas and Elizabeth Smith appear in the minutes of the Broad River Baptist Church in 1665, seeking release to become members of the Chappawamsic Baptist Church, on Chappawamsic Creek in Stafford County, VA. The church, in Prince William County, VA was mowed over by the federal government when Quantico Base was created in 1917. All graves were moved to the Cedar Run Cemetary.

In 1766 Thomas and Elizabeth, along with 61 other rambunctious souls busted a move and left the Broad River Church in Fauquier County to establish the new church, a little closer to home. The members of the church identified here include Thomas and Elizabeth Smith and their adult sons: Fleming, Daniel, James, John, Charles and Peter. Also identified are John and Elizabeth Taylor and Thomas, John and Margaret Bland. The Blands and Taylors are the names of aristocratic, upper crust families in Virginia. Less aristocratic but of equal interest to me are the names of John and Ann Davis, Betty Harper and George and Joseph Williams. I have been looking for neighborhood and church member links to these various families from one generation to the next across America. I am no longer surprised when I find them sharing village streets and church pews.

As an example:  the Williams, Davis and Bland families end up with my Smiths as neigbors and relations in Kentucky and the Carolinas. They are also names found in our family tree. The Williams family is a major surname in my wife’s Whittington family tree. And Betty Harper may be the lead I have been looking for in terms of my father’s unanswered question. He had heard that he was a distant cousin of Abraham Lincoln but never did understand how, not that dad would have reveled in such a finding. The name of Betty Harper leads me to the Hanks family, Abraham Lincoln’s maternal tree. I will explore that linkage in the months ahead along with a lot of other notes piling up among the bookmarks on this laptop. If I learn anything I will let you know. It will give you something to brag about the next time you are in the weight room.  I can hear you now:

“Hey guys! Just wanna let you know: these guns I’ve got here…. got ’em from Abraham Lincoln. Yep. I am his second step cousin, six times removed on my father’s father’s side!”

Okay. I’ll stop there. Just so you know. This is how I am spending my retirement. You, son, set me up with a blog on a website, got me a laptop, and asked me to consider writing again. So here I am lost in time with these faceless people, all of whom are dead but bugging the heck out of me as if somehow my recounting of their life will help them amend some broken family tie, find a prodigal son or save a wayward Aristocrat from proletarianism.

I am serious about the intrusion these characters create in my subconscious mind. I have had a viral cold this last week (January, 2015) and you would think I could sleep it off. But no. Peter Smith shows up in the lateral hemisphere of my medulla-oblongota during a REM sleep and I don’t get REM very often, so I am really enjoying a good sleep and this guy wants me to look at his son Thomas. “Thomas was a good Christian boy,” blah, blah, blah. So I do that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night, with a bright thought and go to write it down. Right? Only your mother has moved my notebook, or not. She says I blame her for everything. That isn’t true. It isn’t there on the side table where it’s supposed to be. Maybe I moved it while engaged in one of my anal retentive efforts to bring order to my life. I don’t know. I’m not OCD. I swear I’m not. I allow clutter to form around my bed post every night. “Look at that clutter. Perfectly organized!” your mother cries as she pleads with me to stop organizing my socks by purchase dates.

George Mason IV

George Mason IV

So anyway I track down Tommy Smith and ‘Voila’ the guy not only ‘Got God’, but he made a bit of history while trying to live his beliefs. The guy had some serious mojo. I am not saying Thomas Smith and his family helped push the Virginia Commonwealth and House of Burgess into war with England in 1776 but he sure created a ’sidebar agreeement’ that aided George Mason’s efforts. Virginia was already in a mood to tackle Britain and establish an independent nation. A Petition that began as a simple request by Thomas Smith and two of his sons to establish a neighborhood Baptist Church at Occoquan in 1776 grew into something much larger than Thomas had originally envisioned. George Mason IV (great grandson of GM I@Doegs Head) could not resist the opportunity to get involved. Maybe Mason and Smith collaborated. Mason was a neighbor and represented Smith in legal matters. Anyway. I digress. The colony had the authority to designate churches, certify preachers and grant or limit freedoms related to the exercise of religion. So Smith petitioned the House of Burgesses to grant a license for his new church to operate.  And the petition became an article framing the need for, not ‘toleration’, but religious freedom. And boy! Is there a difference between the two.

In The Politics of War: Race, Class and Conflict in Revolutionary Virginia, Michael McConnell articulated the point better than I can. I will let McConnell spell that out for you while I nap. That loss of REM sleep really destroyed me. I can’t believe I actually had a ‘great uncle’ stand up in the House of Burgess on the day, thee day, the Virginians declared independence. This seems so surreal.  Anyway… Here’s McConnell:

Religious dissenters also made demands, asserting their rights to a full place in the new republic. In the middle of the Fifth Convention, Baptists from the church in Occaquon in Prince William County petitioned the delegates for greater rights. While the colony was “contending [for the civil rights] and liberties of mankind against the enslaving Scheme of a power(ful) Enemy,” they began, it was vital that the “strictest unanimity” prevail. To achieve this, the convention would have to remove the “remaining clause of animosity and division” which for the Baptists and others meant granting them “several religious privileges” that they had never enjoyed in Virginia before. They had not been allowed to “worship God in our own way, without interruption” nor been allowed to maintain their own ministers (and “no other”); nor had they been allowed to marry, or be buried without paying the Anglican minister. Only when these rights had been granted would they “gladly unite with their Brethren of other denominations, and to the upmost of our ability, promote the common cause of Freedom.”

The Smiths and others were along for the ride at this point. George Mason IV was trumpeting their cause. Blessed with the right to petition their government, they were not necessarily putting their lives on the line as they would have in England in prior years.  To put things into historical context: the Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, suspended the House of Burgesses in 1774. The Burgesses took it upon themselves to continue meeting in a pub crawl across Virginia. They called their meetings ‘conventions’ and held their first at Raleigh Tavern on the very day Dunmore chased them out of the Legislative House. Over a robust stout they agreed to 1) pray for Boston, 2) cut trade with Britain and 3) refuse to pay any debt owed to Britain. The Brits had previously put the screws to Boston following the Tea Party fiasco. What scrawny white guy dresses up like an ‘Indian’ and honestly thinks he can pull that off and why? Virginia showed solidarity with Boston and got props for that. Prior to this Fifth Convention the good people of Virginia had already agreed: Dunmore sucked, Britain sucked, King George sucked, Boston was good, and independence necessary. In that sense, the colonists had all put their lives on the line.

In this Fifth Convention, Smith was bartering with the delegates who were about the business of declaring independence. He was saying basically, “Look. You guys are all accusing Britain of stepping on your various rights and yet I don’t have, as a devout Baptist, the privileges you bloody Anglicans have. Cut us some slack. If you want us to send our sons into battle and our families into turmoil, let us do so with the same privilege you have to carry God with you as you go forward into perilous times.” It would have been a great speech. He was a Smith. He must have had the gift to gab. We got that from Leb even before the Irish DNA from grandmother Mary Hughes infiltrated our blood.

Again, it was George Mason IV who actually tied Smith’s issue into a variety of other issues, in an effort to secure consensus and support for independence. But it was Smith, the Dissenter, and his sons who were active on the streets.

I will let someone else speak for me while I watch the river rise outside the house.  We have an ice dam building up and it always makes me nervous. I wonder if a lake could form behind that wall of ice and move the flow of the river into my living room. Sidetracked again, sorry. I think the Tamsolin I am taking for my weak bladder and enlarged prostate is shortening up my brain’s focus. So I can go longer without taking a leak, but shorter periods of lucid thought. What was I talking about before? Focus? Bladder? Prostate? Ice dam? River? Oh! Dissenters! OK, got it. According to G. Hugh Wamble in an article he submitted to the Journal of Baptist Studies, 1 (2007): 38 – 55, Smith and his two sons

“also took the lead in gathering about 10,000 signatures on a 1776 petition which protested ‘the Burden of an Ecclesiastical Establishment’ and asked for ‘Equal liberty! That invaluable blessing,’ so that ‘every religious Denomination being on a level, Animosities may cease, and that Christian Forbearance, Love and Charity’ they borrowed from Virginia’s new constitution.”

By the end of the day the House of Burgesses voted to cut ties with Britain. Thomas Smith watched as the locals tore down the union jack from the Williamsburg town pole and celebrated with this naive sense of false security and a vitriolic fever lathered in liquid refreshments from the local ordinary (Colonial Brit speake for ’tavern’). I picture Thomas and wife Elizabeth with their two adult sons, perched on a balcony of an Irish pub, Guinness (b. 1759) in hand, saluting the sunset and turmoil and saying out loud, “I didn’t see this coming! Did you?”

Son 1: “No dad. I didn’t. That’s for sure. Who knew the Irish could make a good draught?”

Son 2: “It loses something in transport.”

Elizabeth: “I think your father was talking about independence.”

It occurs to me that Thomas Smith and George Mason IV were engaged in a dialogue that is missing from our nation today (2016). Listen to the garbage coming out of Donald Trump and tell me he understands liberty and freedom.  He does not.  He understands the need to feed the fear of those who would lock anything down that is different. And so they are easy prey for a jackal like Trump, a man so vastly different from those to whom he panders. George Mason understood the need to respect diversity. Smith wanted that respect for his congregation. And do you know what issue  set his congregation up as outsiders in Virginia? The Baptist didn’t believe in the baptism of infants and the Anglicans did.  A heck of a thing to pick apart as a need for prejudice and discrimination!

Smith’s Occoquan Petition was one of many petitions. Don’t let my family pride get in the way of historical accuracy. Petitions flowed into the Fifth Convention from around the colony. The petitions revealed a concern among the public that would eventually lend itself to the very construction of our Constitutional foundations and principles. After four conventions, a lot of pamphlets, public stump speeches, and letters to the editor the public was trying to maintain some sensibility while maintaining a fever pitch.  It must have been like watching Bill Belichick masterminding the end to that Super Bowl victory against Seattle in 2015. Fever pitch of battle, maintain order, stay calm, stay focused, straight ahead vision. Victory in sight.

Would be patriots in 1776 were basically saying, “If we are going to do this thing, cut ties with Britain and all; then where in hell are we headed? And how are we going to get there if we aren’t in this together on equal terms, with equal rights and equal commitment?” They never did iron out many of the equality arguments. Women were still second class, slaves of any color were still slaves and 3/5th human and perhaps most notably the two percent wealthy were still above it all, allowed their loopholes and special privilege. That’s right! Surprise, surprise. The wealthy overseer of the plantation in Virginia and the sons of overseers did not face conscription, the draft, forced service in the militia. Call it what you will.  Every other male, big enough to carry a gun and young enough to breathe was called forward to serve the cause, fight the Brits. But the rich could sit this one out and the lesser folks could go forth into battle, face the bullets, hunker down in Valley Forge and die on the slope of King’s Mountain. And the lesser folks could protect the property wealth of the plantation owner and wealthy merchant. We know that our Smiths were well to do in Westmoreland and Bull Run. I wonder what role they will play in the Revolutionary War? We shall see. Have you noticed how these ‘We shall see’ phrases keep cropping up in here? They are adding up. It’s as if the Lord has told me, “Keep writing family history and I will let you live! But make it good.”

The petition became an important tool in the hands of the people of the newly independent colony seeking status as a nation. When one leafs through all of the petitions submitted at the Fifth Convention it becomes apparent. They were either all written by George Mason, or the authors were schooled by Mason. Or maybe, just maybe: The plight and the song was the same.  Cue Led Zepellan: The Song Remains the Same.

“Everything that’s small has to grow.
And it has to grow!”

And it did grow, didn’t it?  From the Coastal Plain to the Piedmont and Blue Ridge, maybe the freeholder recognized the need to make it clear: If the politicians want my support they better realize it is contingent upon my view being taken seriously by you politicians. As we said in the days before the Supreme Court decided Citizen United (2010):  “The power of the politician rests with the people.” Now of course, the power rests with “the 400”, the supremely wealthy in America who recently announced with glee that they have close to one billion dollars to spend this year on their corporate ownership of a political candidate. Might as well stamp the Corporate brands on the suits and ties of the candidates, like NASCAR drivers.  I saw something like that on the internet. Comical, but sadly true. The Song Remains the Same.

Back to the original quest. This diatribe all began with my query regarding faith, belief in God, House of Worship…. etc.  I was looking for a denomination and Thomas Smith plunged me into a realization that he was not only Baptist, but bold enough to demand equal rights as a citizen in worship of his God. Cool stuff. But that was Thomas and he was a great uncle. His tree wanders off to South Carolina and  my tree off to North Carolina, Kentucky and Indiana. Awareness of the Baptist faith held by Thomas and Elizabeth Smith and their children does not necessarily lend itself to helping me understand Peter Smith of Yeocomico or his son and our (5 times great) grandfather, James. It does say something about the upbringing of Thomas and the home environment that possibly shaped him and his siblings.

If Peter of Yeocomico was Baptist, he was Regular Baptist, not Separate Baptist. There was a difference, but even the Baptists had to admit the differences were slight and easy enough to disregard. Beginning in Virginia in 1787, the two wings of one church united and agreed to lose the terms ‘Regular’ and ’Separate’. Perhaps as they got older, the senior members of the ‘Regular’ Baptist Church realized, as I have, they weren’t regular any more. The Separate Baptists were born of the Evangelical Movement, the Great Awakening, that rocked Europe and Boston in particular. For more about your mother’s family role in all of that: turn to the pages found in my novel approach to 1638 and dig in. It is interesting as to how all of these events and the DNA and beliefs of all of these people, these ancestors, shaped who we are today.  Obviously, there are some preachers in your ancestral tree that I don’t have in mine.

At any rate, long story short, a much heralded preacher (Shubal Stearns 1701-1771) was inspired by the renown George Whitefield (1714-1770) and followed in his footsteps as an evangelical preacher, rousing the passion of the congregation and espousing the importance of witnessing for Christ and doing mission work. He brought that fever into Virginia on the Great Wilderness Road and filtered in through the back door.  Leave it to British society to make the Scotch Irish come in through the back door. And so they filtered down through the Shenandoah, into the Appalachian foothills, the Blue Ridge and onto the Piedmont of Virginia and North Carolina. But all of that began happening a decade after Peter’s death in 1741 and several years after the death of James in 1749. I brought up Shubal for a reason. As I researched cousins coming out of the Smith family and the marriages they entered into, I found a number of young Baptist ministers in our extended family, moving across the land from Arkansas, Missouri and full circle, from South Carolina to Philadelphia, all related to you and I in a distant shirt tail sort of way. And all inspired by the work of Shubal Stearns and his contemporaries. And here’s the kicker: Stearns and Whitefield were inspired by your ancestors (Anne Hutchinson, Pierson, Peck, Wheelright, Cotton, et. in Boston. The Song Remains the Same.

I am left here with no further lead shaping an identity for Peter Smith of Yeocomico, his father or his ancestors prior to their arrival on planet Earth. I will reveal more of the history of Peter’s children and grandchildren before we introduce a new generation and follow them into the hills of Kentucky where they begin to distill and mingle, in a nice way, with your mom’s ancestors.

Chapter 8: Our Extended Family in the 18th Century