Delmarva Peninsula

Delmarva Peninsula

After decades of research I am finally ready to write something of substance about the first of the Whittington family to arrive in the colonies. William Whittington was among the first Europeans to inhabit the present day Delmarva Peninsula. The peninsula dangles down from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, separating the Atlantic Ocean from Chesapeake Bay. The Peninsula contains the land of three states: Maryland, Virginia and all of Delaware. In the mid 17th century (1650), the Whittingtons were one of the major landowners on the southern tip of the peninsula in present day Virginia. In fact, plat maps and deeds indicate that the Whittingtons, Littletons, Robins and others of our relations lived in the vicinity of the ‘D’ in Delmarva as shown on the map. The Chesapeake Bay separated the peninsula from the early settlements to the west in the James River Valley. That separation, the distance of water between the two, allowed the folks on the peninsula to think of themselves as the Kingdom of Accomacke, a separate entity from that of Virginia. It was wishful thinking and an easy mistake to make. Oliver Cromwell (in 1652) would correct any misgivings the Whittingtons had about being British citizens so far removed from their homeland (England). Before I digress too far into an interesting piece of American history let’s look at our cast of characters.

The immigrant ancestor, William Whittington (Capt.), son of a Whittington, is believed to have been born in England “about 1616”. This Captain William died before January 1, 1660 in Northampton Co., VA. Whenever I find the word “about” in the record books, as it relates to a birth, it tells me genealogists are struggling to piece together the life history of our predecessors. I get that. And in the case of our immigrant Whittingtons there are some unresolved issues.

We can assume the Captain was born in England in roughly 1616.  We know that he arrived in the colonies as a young man and began a life long development of his plantation in Accomack.  An examination of his acquisitions, legal entanglements, community involvement and paternity activities provide a picture of his life. At times, as I study the evidence gathered before me I wonder if the Captain was accompanied by a father of the same name, William Whittington. As I proceed to spin this tale I will elaborate on a hypothesis along that line.

In a “deposition of Capt Wm Whittington aged 37” secured May 14, 1658, Whittington provides his best guess as to his year of birth. Simple subtraction provides the year 1621. Within one year of the 1658 deposition, Whittington is dead. That is to say he was deceased, passed on, gone to be with his maker. His will, probate November 2, 1659, reveals his heirs.

The Captain married three times. He married first, a woman named Susan prior to 1647. Upon her death he married Mary Rowbotham before 1654. He then married Elizabeth Weston circa 1659. William was in Northampton Co VA 1640, where he was a Lieutenant and Captain of the militia and member of the Court. He moved to Somerset Co. MD after 1650.

In 1652, Whittington became the first Virginian on record to sell a slave from one plantation owner to another plantation owner. Slaves had been brought into the colony as early as 1619 and sold in the slave markets. But, Whittington’s transaction, “selling one Negro girle of Ten yeares and with her Issue and Produce  duringe her ( or either of them) for their Life tyme. And their successors forever,” is the first record of a sale of this kind in Virginia.


His unborn child was Elizabeth. His third wife, Elizabeth Weston, married Capt. William Spencer after his death.


(ref: Clayton Torrence, Old Somerset;

Meyer & Dorman, Adventures of Purse and Person,

Woodrow T. Wilson, 34 Families of Old Somerset)

William was probably related in some way to Andrew Whittington, a first settler of Somerset Co. MD. William may descend from the Whittingtons of County Gloucester and may be related in some way to the early settlers by that name in Talbot and Calvert Counties, MD. (Kelly Avant; Winona Pfander, “The Whittington-Brown Family History.”

William Whittington(Capt.) and Susan(wife of William Whittington) had the following child:

child + 2 i. Ursula2 Whittington.

William Whittington(Capt.) and Elizabeth Weston had the following children:

child + 3 ii. William Whittington was born about 1650.

child 4 iii. Elizabeth Whittington was born October, 1659. (Dan Trimble; Kelly Avant)

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hides two secrets from us, but we can work our way around these two items.  1) His birth year is given as anywhere between 1601 and 1616 and an accurate record has not yet been found. 1601 works for my purposes as I develop the tree and account for events and offspring in his life.  2) We do not know the surname (last name) of his lovely wife. Susan appears as a first name and we will accept that as accurate. We believe William was the son of Thomas Whittington and Alice Ball. Thomas was born in 1580 in St. Brievels, Gloucestershire, England and it is believed he died at Pauntley Manor in Gloucestershire. The name Alice Ball catches the eye of anyone familiar with the history of George Washington.  The first President descended from members of the Ball family, including his mother, Mary Ball. I have not yet found any data linking our Alice Ball in a direct line to George. She could easily be a great great great aunt of some sort. I really am not too interested in nailing down that detail at this time. I would rather take the next few minutes to grab a pop tart out of the toaster. I can help you find other, more readily available links to George Washington. Rest assured, you do share common ancestors with George, but you do not descend from the guy.

William Whittington Sr had seven brothers and their first names are commonly found over the centuries in British history. It is as if creativity was frowned upon when naming British children.  Richard, William, James, Guy, Robert, Thomas, Edward and John all filled the pews of Gloucestershire in their youth and were one player short of having a youth league baseball team. If you are thinking the name ‘Guy’ was unique, you are wrong. It is one of the most overused names in Whittington patrimonial history.

William Whittington Sr and Susan (surname unknown) have a son William. We will refer to him as Captain William Whittington, born in roughly 1618.  Obviously that rules out William Sr  being born in 1616.  In fact, it makes my 1601 look pretty iffy, but it is possible that William and Susan could have spawned a newborn in 1618. It is interesting to look into family trees online and find mothers born after their sons or giving birth before the age of 10.  A lot of folks cut and paste misinformation into their trees in an effort to complete their search with little regard for accuracy and detail.  I don’t mind spending additional hours laboriously going through reams of evidence as long as I have an endless supply of pop tarts. It is important for this family historian to assure my family that this stuff isn’t bogus.

Captain William W. is born in Crewkerne, Somerset, England.  Get that image in your mind: these families were really stepping away from the comfort of home (Somerset, England) to live in a new and unsettled land (Virginia) 400 years ago! Who would do that?  And was home really all that comfortable in the early years of the 17th Century (1620s and 30s)? The answer of course is an emphatic “No!”.  Life in England was hell for a variety of reasons, beyond the notorious bad cuisine; which they have since corrected.  We will look at the uncivil events that drove folks out of Britain as we proceed.

Captain William also had a son named William Whittington, whose life began ca. 1650 and lasted 70 years (d. 1720). Let’s call this third William, William III so that we can make sense out this family tree, because it is about to become very discombobulated. In summation we may have three generations of William Whittingtons: William Sr born circa 1601, Captain William (b. 1618) and William III (b. 1650). Don’t get picky about those years. Accurate records are hard to locate. In fact, there is an ongoing debate as to the Captain’s father and grandfather.  Was William Sr the actual father of the Captain?

William III (b. 1650) resided at a plantation manor he referred to simply as “Choice” in Coventry Parish, Somerset County Maryland.  Early Virginia aristocrats loved to give their plantations names, a pattern that continues to this day. In the 17th Century it was an appropriate strategy for helping folks find your dwellings in a land with few roads and no zip codes. William III made the move to Maryland in September of 1684.  I was curious as to why he left Accomack, VA and did some digging. He started life off in Northampton County, VA on the Delmarva Peninsula in 1650 and made his earthly exit from Maryland.

William Sr. was  a militia captain and justice of Northampton County, Virginia.

While Sr. was able to get through life with one wife, his son Captain William would exchange wedding vows with  as many as five women as can be found in literature. The Captain first tied the know in roughly 1647 with a young lady named Susan.  In 1654 he begged Mary to marry him. ,
Susan, second, by 1654, Mary, and third, Eliza-
beth. MOTHER. Susan or Mary. SISTER: Urselie (Ursula), who probably married Edmund Scarburgh (?-1711/12) of Accomack County, Virginia. MARRIED first, by 1674, Tabitha Scarburgh (ca. 1654-?), daughter of John Smart and wife Tabitha Scarburgh (1639-1717/18); stepdaughter of Devorax Browne (?-by 1673). Tabitha’s half brother was Edmund Browne (1660-1675), who died in Turkey “having been taken into captivity.” Her grandfather was Edmund Scarburgh (ca.1617-ca. 1671) of Accomack County, Virginia.
Tabitha’s mother subsequently married by 1680 Gen. John Custis (1630-1695/96) of Virginia, and married fourth, on September 28, 1696, Col. Edward Hill (?-1700) of Charles City County, Virginia. MARRIED second, after 1679, Esther, daughter of Col. Southy Littleton (1645-1679), a burgess from Accomack County, Virginia. MARRIED third, after 1687, Attalanta, widow of John Osborne (?-1687), daughter of Mistress Ann Toft and stepdaughter of Daniel Jenifer (ca. 1637-ca. 1692). MARRIED fourth, by 1696, Hannah (1670-?), daughter of Samuel Hopkins (ca. 1636-1711). Her brothers were Samuel Hopkins (1688-1744); Nathaniel Hopkins
(?-1739/40). MARRIED fifth, by March 5, 1712/13, Elizabeth (?-1734/35), widow of William Rickards (Ricketts) (?-1712). Whittington signed an agreement to convey to Elizabeth her personal estate worth £247.2.11 and 3 slaves from his own estate. Elizabeth subsequently married the Rev. Samuel Davis (?-1725), pastor of Snow Hill Pres-
byterian Church. CHILDREN. SONS: Smart, who died without issue; William Whittington (ca. 1681-1756); and Southy (?-ca. 1773), who married Mary Fassitt (?-ca. 1775), daughter of William Fassitt (?- 1735). DAUGHTERS: Tabitha Scarburgh (by 1674-by 1700/1), who married Edmund Custis (?-1700/1); Esther, who married first, William Skirven (?-1720/21), and second, by 1726, Isaac Morris; Hannah, who married by 1726 Edmund Hough;
and Attalanta, who married by 1710 Stevens White (1679-1718), son of John White (?-1685).


SOCIAL STATUS AND ACTIVITIES: Esq., by 1703; Hon., by 1710. OCCUPATIONAL PROFILE: planter; merchant, by 1684; owned the ship Hannah, which was seized by the
French in 1703.

PUBLIC CAREER. LEGISLATIVE SERVICE: Lower House, Somerset County, 1692-1693 (Accounts 1; Laws 1; Aggrievances 2), 1694-1695 (Accounts 3, chairman; resigned before the 4th session of the 1694-1697 Assembly to become sheriff), 1699-1700 (elected to the 3rd session of the 1697/98-1700 Assembly; Laws 4), 1701-1704; Upper House, 1709-1711 (appointed by the 2nd session of the 1708B-1711 Assembly), 1712-1714, 1715, 1716-1717 (asked to be excused from the 3rd session of the 1716-1718 Assembly; did not attend thereafter).

treasurer of the Eastern Shore, 1694-1695; justice, Provincial Court, 1701-1704; Council, 1709-1717 (asked to be excused from further attendance, May 31, 1717).

LOCAL OFFICES: deputy surveyor, Somerset County, 1686/87; sheriff, Somerset County, 1689 (reappointed by the Protestant Associators, but declined to serve and was discharged), 1695-1698, 1704-1706; Lord Baltimore’s collector of the tax, Somerset County, 1691/92; justice, Somerset County, 1694/95-by 1701 (quorum 1694/95-1695, chief justice by 1699/1700-by 1701).

MILITARY SERVICE, captain, by 1686; major, by 1694; It. colonel, by 1699; colonel, by 1705.

STANDS ON PUBLIC/PRI VATE ISSUES: Strongly opposed Revolution of Protestant Associators in
1689 and refused to serve under the new government; returned to appointive offices by Gov. Francis Nicholson in 1694/95; charged in 1697 with malfeasance in office of sheriff but was ultimately vindicated; called a Jacobite in 1699; bequeathed 400 acres for the care of the poor children in
Somerset County and Northampton County, Virginia.

WEALTH DURING LIFETIME. LAND AT FIRST ELECTION: ca. 3,100 acres in Somerset (later became Sussex County, Delaware, and Worcester County) and Charles counties (1,924 acres patented in Charles and Somerset counties, and 1,200 acres purchased from Attalanta Osborne, whom he later married). Whittington had inherited over 3,000 acres in Northampton County, Virginia, from his father, part of a total of 14,000 acres in Northampton County to which he held the patents; most of this land, however, was sold in the 1670s and 1680s.

SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN LAND BETWEEN FIRST ELECTION AND DEATH: acquired by purchase 3,241 acres, 1694-1713; patented at least 4,750 acres, 1694-1723, and sold 3,089 acres, 1697- 1715, including 924 acres which was deeded to a son-in-law for 5 shillings; all of these tracts were in what is now Worcester, Wicomico, and Som-
erset counties, and Sussex County, Delaware.

WEALTH AT DEATH. DIED: between March 13, 1719/20, and April 11, 1720, in Somerset County.

PERSONAL PROPERTY TEV, £1,340.9.1 current money (including 21 slaves, 63 oz. plate, gold and silver “in the house” worth £41.8.2, and a silver-headed cane); FB, £154.15.7. LAND: ca. 8,100 acres in Somerset County (now Worcester and Wicomico counties and Sussex County, Delaware), plus 2 tracts of unspecified acreage, one of which he patented with Charles Carroll on Cape Henlopen, and a tract called “Askiminie” (Askquesonne, Askecksy) on the Indian River (alias Baltimore River), the rights to which he assigned to Weacomoconus. Queen of the Askecksy Indians in 1711/12. Apparently he regained possession of some of the tract by the time of his death.
WHITTINGTON, WILLIAM (ca. 1681-1756). BORN. ca. 1681, probably in Accomack County, Virginia. IMMIGRATED: ca. 1684, as an infant with his family.

RESIDED, in Somerset County until at least March 1741/42; returned to Accomack County, Virginia, by February 1742/43 to live on a 400-acre tract at “Ockohonson.”

FAMILY BACKGROUND. FATHER: William Whittington (ca. 1650- 1720). MOTHER: Esther, daughter of Col. Southy Littleton (1645-1679) of Accomack County, Virginia. BROTHER: Southy (?-Ca. 1773). HALF
BROTHER: Smart. SISTER: Esther. HALF SISTERS. Tabitha; Hannah; and Attalanta. MARRIED Elizabeth (by 1698-1762), daughter of Elias Taylor (?-1717) and wife Comfort Anderson (?-1743) of Accomack County, Virginia. Her brother was Joshua (?-by 1743). Her sisters were Naomi (by 1698-?), who married first, Samuel Davis, and
second, Joseph Stockley; Mary (by 1698-?), who married John Kendall; Hannah, who married James Wishart; Ester, who married first, William White, and second, John Williams; and Comfort (by 1698-by 1743), who married first, Solomon Ewell, and second, Charles Stockley. Her first cousin was Anne Makemie, who married Robert
King (1689-1755). CHILDREN. SONS: Joshua (ca. 1764), who married Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Nairn (?-1764); William (by 1719-ca. 1740/41), who married Betty (Elizabeth) (?-1779), daughter of Robert Martin (?-1725) and Mary Downes (?-1774), stepdaughter of James Martin (?-1747/48); Southy (?-1790), of Accomack County, who married Ann; and John. DAUGHTERS. Elizabeth, who married (first name unknown) Ardis.

PRIVATE CAREER. EDUCATION: literate, by 1705; by 1748 was signing documents with his mark. RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION. Anglican. SOCIAL STATUS AND ACTIVITIES: Mr., by 1712; Gent., by 1713. OCCUPATIONAL PROFILE: planter. PUBLIC CAREER. LEGISLATIVE SERVICE: Lower House, Somerset County, 1712-1714, 1716-1718, 1722-1724. LOCAL OFFICE: justice, Somerset County, 1713-1724/25. WEALTH DURING LIFETIME. LAND AT FIRST ELECTION: 1,200 acres in Somerset (later became Worcester) County (400 acres inherited from his mother, which he had sold; 900 acres by purchase and 300 acres by patent). SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN LAND BETWEEN FIRST ELECTION AND DEATH: purchased 1,150 acres between 1713-1723; patented 824 acres, 1734-
1736; inherited 575 acres from father, 1720; sold 3,465 acres, 1722-1748, which was probably all
of his land in Somerset (now Worcester) County; acquired 400 acres in Accomack County, Vir
ginia, through marriage. WEALTH AT DEATH. DIED: will probated May 26, 1756. LAND: one tract of
250 acres in Somerset County, which had been in arrears since 1734, and 400 acres in Accomack County, Virginia, where he had gone to live after 1741/42. ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The inventory of William Whittington (?-1769), son of William (by 1719-ca. 1740/41), listed a silver cane. The inventory of William Wittington (ca. 1650-1720), the direct antecedent of both of these Williams, listed “a silver headed cane.”

(ref: Clayton Torrence, Old Somerset; Meyer & Dorman, Adventures of Purse and Person, Woodrow T. Wilson, 34 Families of Old Somerset)