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Subject: Origin of the Melungeons - 1619, Part 1
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2004 05:52:33 EDT

1619 - the Black Mayflower and the Origin of the Melungeons

by Tim Hashaw,
all rights retained by author

The following series of articles describe a chain of events that occurred in
the year 1619 that may hold a key to some of the questions of Melungeon
origins. The articles are taken from two chapter from a manuscript I am researching
on the Black Mayflower - the first middle voyage to British North America in

Records indicate that the arrival of two pirate ships with these Africans in
Virginia in late August of 1619 led to a schism within the investment venture
known as the London Company that held Virginia's colonial charter. As a
result of the scandal and ensuing investigation by the Company, the King's Privy
Council, and complaints of Spanish ambassador Gondomar de Acuna, a high ranking
stockholder in the Company named Robert Rich, lost his ship, the Treasurer.
Rich became angry over the confiscation of his ship and then left the venture
and, with Sir Ferdinando Gorges and other investors, created a new venture in
1620 known as the New England Council.

This new company received a charter from King James I of England and
persuaded a group of Pilgrims in England and Leyden, Holland to sail to New England to
establish the Plymouth Colony north of Virginia in December of 1620.
Unbeknownst to King James, these Pilgrims were the very same religious dissidents he
was seeking to arrest. Robert Rich was a devout Puritan and had previously
sought to send the Pilgrims to populate his colony in Guiana before the charter
was withdrawn. Fearful of King James, the Pilgrims were contemplating
relocating to Virginia, Ireland or other places when they received the invitation to
sail to Plymouth.

The research comes to the conclusion that the 1619 arrival of America's first
Africans started a chain of events that led to the famous Mayflower sailing
from England to Cape Code with the Pilgrim founders in 1620. And records
suggest that it is possible that some of the ancestors of the Melungeons were among
those first Africans who arrived in 1619.

Evidence indicates that John Rolfe and others deliberately obscured important
details about the arrival of the first Africans (stolen property) in order to
conceal wrong doing by his patron, Robert Rich, earl of Warwick, and his
friend Samuel Argall, former governor of Virginia. Rich and Argall had secretly
set up a black market at Virginia unknown to King James, where they disposed of
the booty their pirate ship, Treasurer, had stolen from Spain and Portugal,
in violation of the king's treaty.

Introduction to this series

In May of 1619 a Spanish/Portuguese frigate named the "St. John the Baptist"
left the slave fortress on the Angolan island of Luanda with 350 Africans
taken captive months earlier in a Portuguese invasion of the Malange plateau in
the central Angolan highlands. The "Baptist" headed out into the Atlantic Ocean
westward, bound for the port of Vera Cruz, Mexico where the captain, Manuel
de Acuna, intended to sell his captives. Manuel de Acuna was related to the
Spanish Ambassador Gondomar de Acuna to the English Court of King James I; a
coincidence that would lead to serious consequences in the coming months.

Meanwhile, at the same time on the American side of the Atlantic Ocean, two
pirate ships manned with English and Dutch soldiers met near Cuba and decided
to join together to hunt for treasurer-laden Spanish and Portuguese merchant
ships in the West Indies. One of the corsairs was named the White Lion and the
other was called the Treasurer. The captain and owner of the White Lion was
John Colyn Jope, an Englishman who carried a Dutch letter of Marque from Prince
Maurice of Nassau empowering him to seize Portuguese and Spanish merchant
ships. The captain of the Treasurer was Daniel Elfrith who was in the employ of
the ship's English co-owners, Samuel Argall, the English governor of the
Virginia colony, and Robert Rich, 2nd earl of Warwick, nicknamed the 'King of the
Privateers.' The ship Treasurer had no Marque and was operating as a pirate
under the orders of Argall and Rich in open violation of England's treaty with
Spain, and against King James' approval.

As they continued their hunt for treasurer ships about the middle of July,
the Spanish/Portuguese slave ship "the Baptist" had crossed the Atlantic and was
sailing between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula enroute to Vera Cruz when she
cross the path of the two pirates ships.

What followed was an experience that made the voyage of the later Mayflower
mild in comparison.

A running sea battle ensued during a storm, possibly a hurricane. Then on
July 15, 1619, the Spanish/Portuguese crew of the "St. John the Baptist"
surrendered to the pirates after serious damage left her without a mast and most of
her sails. The pirates of the White Lion and the Treasurer boarded the slave
ship, selected the healthiest Africans and then sailed away, leaving the
remaining Portuguese crew and their African captives on the badly damaged slave

Weeks later, near the end of August, the corsair, White Lion, arrived first
in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia with her share of the stolen Africans to trade.
Passing Point Comfort, she sailed up the James River and traded "20 and odd"
Africans to the two wealthiest Virginians; new governor George Yeardley, and Cape
merchant Abraham Piersey who welcomed the ship at Jamestown. These were the
first Africans to arrive in British North America.

A few days later, the second pirate, the ship Treasurer, arrived in the
Chesapeake and stopped at the English stockade of Point Comfort at the mouth of the
James River before sending word to Jamestown for permission to trade her
share of the stolen Africans in Jamestown as had her partner, the White Lion, just
a few days earlier.

However, unlike he had with the White Lion, Gov. Yeardley denied the
Treasurer's request to pass, and he chose three men; Colony secretary John Rolfe
(widowed husband of Pocahontas, a merchant named William Ewens (aka "Evans") and
Lt. William Pierce (commander of the Jamestown militia and new father-in-law of
John Rolfe) to sail to Point Comfort some 50 miles upriver and meet the ship

According to a letter written by Rolfe, the Treasurer mysteriously departed
before the three men arrived at Point Comfort on their mission. She had set
sail for the Bermuda Islands where she arrived badly banged up to unload her
share of the African captives from the Portuguese slaver. One of these Africans
was John Pedro who would be sent first to Plymouth and later to Virginia where
he would re-unite with John Geaween.

But curiously, some of the Virginia planters sent by Yeardley to meet the
Treasurer on the day she arrived, soon had in their possession, certain African
servants. It would be many years before another large African cargo would be
delivered; so the question, where did these planters get these Africans?

A few days after the Treasurer left for Bermuda, one of Rolfe's two
companions on the mission, William Ewens, a London merchant who had come to Virginia to
start his plantation, petitioned for 400 acres of land on the basis of eight
headrights: settlers who paid the passage of new servants received 1 headright
for each servant. Each headright granted the settler 50 acres.
Coincidentally, Ewens/Evans' new land at Tappahana was next door to the plantations of his
companions John Rolfe and William Pierce and Pierce soon was found in
possession of an African servant. Not long after the White Lion and the Treasurer
departed, William Ewens/Evans had several new servants clearing land for tobacco
on his brand new plantation.

Flash forward from 1619 to some 20 years later. In 1641, an African named
John Geaween, earlier freed by the same William Ewens/Evans, petitions Virginia
for the freedom of a young son he had by a black woman named Margaret Cornish
who was a slave on the neighboring plantation of Robert Sheppard. (The 1624
census that was taken after the great Indian attack against the Virginia colony
showed one black woman named simply "Margrett" in the Warwick Squeak

Some years after winning the release of his boy, a young African man named
Mihill Gowen, while a servant on the plantation of Christopher Stafford, has a
son by a slave woman named Prossa; an Angolan woman. Christopher Stafford dies
and his estate goes to his sister, who soon frees Mihill Gowen and his son
William, but not the child's mother.

Mihill Gowen, a free man of color, then acquires land and becomes a Virginia
planter. Some researchers have pointed to this Mihill Gowen as the possible
ancestor of the numerous mixed Gowens/Goins etc, of the Melungeons and other
'fpc' communities.

Could Melungeon origin stories of "Portuguese" and "pirates" date back to the
Jamestown events of 1619, one year before the Mayflower? Angola was a colony
of Portuguese. Their Portuguese ship was attacked by pirates. The Kimbundu
speaking Angolans being sent to other American settlements used a word
"malungu" (meaning, "those who came across on the same ship from the same homeland")
to describe Angolan migrants in America. The word passed into the Portuguese
language as "melungo."

Background and Notes

1. For background on John Geaween and Mihill Gowen, see: "Gowen" at <A HREF="">;</A>;

2. For background on Margaret Cornish see: "Cornish" at
<A HREF=""></A>;

3. For Mihill Gowen as possible ancestor of Melungeon Goins see: TENNESSEE

4. For background on the Portuguese invasion of Malange, Angola etc, see:
<A HREF=""></A>;
<A HREF=""></A>;
<A HREF=""></A>;

5. For name of "Margrett" at Warwick Squeak in 1624 Virginia census see: <A HREF="">;</A>;

6. Notes on John Geaween in addition to records cited by Paul Heinegg: I
received an email from John Thornton, professor of Miller University,
Millersville, Pa and Linda Heywood, professor of Howard University, who are researching
for an upcoming book on the early 17th century African slave trade in America.
Their records search indicates that John Geaween, "managed to buy his
children out of slavery in 1641 from Sheppard, and then shows up in Evans inventory
in 1643 for a patent in James City. He then shows up again in Lancaster County
in 1653 on the patent claim of Denis Conniers. This land is patented right
where John Pedro now is living. He already owns land and had his mark on trees
in 1650, and assigned land to Brocas, Conniers neighbor."

(th - Note: John Pedro was an African and devout Catholic, went from Bermuda
to Massachusetts in 1622, and arrived not long after in Virginia.)

7. Notes on Prossa, the mother of Mihill Gowen's son, Thornton and Heywood
write, "We noted that Mihil Gowan is connected to a woman that Heinegg
idenifies as "Prossa," one of Stafford's slaves. She turns up in 1644 on another
inventory as "Pallassa": , "one negroe man called Anthonio at 2700 lb tobacco, one
negroe [woe?]man called Mickaell at 2700 lbs, one negroe woman Couchanello,
2500 lbs, one negroe woman Pallassa 2500 lbs, one negroe girle Mary 4 years old
0700 lbs, one negore called Eliz: 3 yeares old 0400 lbs, one negroe boy one
yeare old 0400 lbs, one negroe boy 2 weekes old 0200 lbs" [York County,
(Virginia) County Deeds, Orders, Wills 2, 1645-49, pp. 185-6, "An Invenory of the
estate of Wm. Cheescrake in possession of John Gleverius, 3 March

"It happens there is a Palassa/Palasse/Pallas in New Amsterdam also at the
same time, and her origin is unmistakable, since she is listed in the Marriage
Register as Palassa van Angola. I think that Palasa is a Kimbundu name, at
least I know it isn't Kikongo but has a Kimbundu ring to it.- John Thornton."

8. Regarding the Jamestown plantation William Ewens/Evans began in 1619:

Surry County, Va. records show that William Evans who was John Geaween's
master in 1641 patented 400 acres in Sept 15, 1619 (two weeks after the arrival of
the White Lion) based on headrights. Four Africans are named as attached to
Evans household at a early time: John "Grasheare", "Mathew," "Michael" and
"Katherine" as calculated by the ages of the children of Michael and Katherine.
John "Grasheare" is a variant spelling of John "Geaween."

The documentation comes from the history of Evans' estates cited when his
widow sold his estate in 1659. John Geaween could have appeared on Evans'
Virginia Tappahana plantation on Sept 15, 1619, not long after the White Lion and
the Treasurer arrived in Virginia. Evans' original patent in Sept 15, 1619
implies he was supplying his plantation with servants from recent ships docking
in Jamestown.

William Ewens or Evans, master of John Geaween, was a London merchant who
owned the ship "Supply" which he leased to the Virginia Colony (at the least) for
the year 1620 (to Richard Berkeley).

"Surry County Land Records:

Jan 6, 1621/22 VPB 1 p904 WILLIAM EWEN 1100acrs James City County 7

8 Jul 1648 VPB 2 p143 William Ewen, Merchant 1400a James City Co.5

15 Sep 1619 WILLIAM EWEN 400a 120

30 Sep 1643 VPB 1 p904 William EWINS, hd of Up.Chi 1100a James City County

Source: "William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, Vol. 9, No.
GOVERNMENT.(Continued from Vol. IX., pages 67 to 74).

See also: Thomas Jefferson Papers
Records of the Virginia Company
Table of Contents for Volume III
Kingsbury: CXXXII 200 Charter Party between Richard Berkeley and Associates
and William Ewins, for the Ship "Supply". August 31, 1620.


Surry County Historical Society and Museum: "In the first book of the
Virginia Land Office [as transcribed in 1683 by the Clerk, EDWARD HARRISON], WILLIAM
EWINS obtained an 1100 acre patent for land in then James Citty County dated
30 September 1643 in Patent Book 1, pp. 904-905.

part A - 400 acres Tappahannah Territory patented 15 September 1619 by

part B - 1,000 acres Tappahannah Territory patented January 1621/22 by

part C - 1,400 acres James Citty County in Patent Book 2, p. 143 dated 8 July
1648 by WILLIAM EWEN, Merchant.

part D - 1,400 acres Surry County in Patent Book 7, p. 717 dated 25 April
1689 by Mrs. ALICE STANFORD, Widow

part C - Patent Book 2, p. 143, 8th. of July 1648, Sr WM. BERKELEY Knt unto

Library of Virginia Microfilm Reel #113; Surry Deeds, Wills, &c. (1652-1673)

"These Presents Testifie that I WM. BATT have sould and delivered unto JNO.
BISHOPP one Cowe being Red mked. wth fower markes? in each Eare (wch. cowe
formerly did belong unto WM. EWEN) for a Certain Consideration allreadye recd. for
the use of the sd. WM. EWEN. Witts. my hand this 20 of Feb. Anno Domini
1647/48. Signed WILL. BATTS. Signed and delivered in the presence of us JNO.
JENNINGS, WM. LEA. Recordatr. prim_ Marty 1652/53. Teste me ROBT. STANTON"

"Mrs. MARY EWEN by vertue of a Procuration or Letter of Attorney Dated the
20th of June 1659 hath given Power and authority to Mr. FRANCIS NEWTON or his
Substitutes to take into his hands and Possession the Plantation of the said
Mrs. EWEN in Virginia with all things thereon and thereunto belonging as by the
said Procuration more largely may appr. And for as much as the said FRA. NEWTON
by vertue of the Clause of Substitution has made and ordered his well beloved
brother NICHOLAS NEWTON (since deceased) and RICHARD HOPKINS his lawfull
Attorneys to execute his said authority as by an instrument to that purpose Dated
30th. June 1659 may app. Now Know ye that I the said RICHARD HOPKINS by vertue
of the said Authority to have received into my possession these things
hereafter menconed and thereunto Sett my hand Seale the 6th. day of December 1659"

By this time John Geaween was free and had left the Evans plantation.

"The Plantacon of the said Mrs. MARY EWEN with her right and tytle to
foureteene hundred Acres of Land thereunto belonging wth. the Pattent thereof

MICHAELL A negroe man
KATHERINE A negroe woman
RABECCA? about 20 yeares old}
FRANCIS about [18 or 10] yeares old}
AMOS about [9 or 7] yeares old}
SUSANNA about [5] yeares old} {the Children of the sd. MICHLL: & KATHERINE
In all seaven negroes
SAMUELL MAYSANT an English Servt. that hath about 4 yeares to Serve

Recorded the first May 1660] Sept 2003 Newsletter Surry County Virginia
Historical Society and Museum."

9. January 1620 letter from John Rolfe to Virginia Company president Edwin
Sandys in London in which he names William Evans as his companion on the mission
to meet the ship Treasurer. "About the latter end of August, a Dutch man of
Warr of the burden of 160 tons arrived at Point Comfort, the Comandor's name
was Capt. Jope, his Pilot for the West Indies one Mr. Marmaduke an Englishman.
They mett with the 'Treasurer' in the West Indies and determined to hold
consort shipp hetherward,but in their passage lost one the other. He brought not
anything but 20 and odd Negroes, which the Governor and Cape Merchant bought
for victualle [whereof he was in greate need as he pretended] at the best and
easyest rate they could. He hadd a lardge and ample Comyssion from his
Excellency to range and to take purchase in the West Indies."...Three or 4 days after
(Jope) the Treasurer arrived. At his arrivall he sent word presently to the
Governor to know his pleasure, who wrote to him, and did request myself,
Leiftenante Peace and Mr. Ewens to goe downe to him, to desyre him to come up to
James City. But before we gott downe he hadd sett saile and was gone out of the
Bay. The occasion hereof happened by the unfriendly dealing of the inhabitants
of Keqnoughton, for he was in greate want of victualle, wherewith they would
not relieve him nor his Company upon any termes." [From the "Record of the
Virginia Company of London" Susan Myra Kingsbury, editor.]

End Introduction Part 1

by Tim Hashaw

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