Edward Humston - The Immigrant

Virginia, to the Englishmen of the mid-seventeenth century, was colorfully delineated as a veritable earthly paradise. Pamphleteers extolled the virtues of this wondrous land beyond the seas; where riches could be had for the taking; and a land so fertile that crops grew to huge proportions with faint labor; a region of strange sights, forests and great rivers, new birds and beasts and picturesque savages.

Merchants and ship-owners, seeking settlers, laborers and passengers, fed their enthusiasm to the receptive mood of their countrymen. To the unhappy Englishmen, and there were many of them, the Colony of Virginia beckoned with a compelling allure. They were fearful of the recurring plaques, weary of years of revolution, the religious troubles and foreign wars. There was little work to be found and wages were meager. Political dissenters feared for their lives. In this era of disorder a gleam of hope was borne to many, a new start in life, this time in Virginia, and hopefully they bade farewell to England.

Facing realities, doubtlessly they were brought to an early awakening. Many were the dangers of the Atlantic in the small, sluggish sailing ships crowded by settlers, furniture and livestock. On the long voyage countless numbers died of disease and unforeseen mishaps.

Virginia, when at long last they found it, could not present the extravagant picture painted by over zealous promoters. But to the average sturdy Englishman a substantial dwelling on his own acres was a reward worthy of his earnest effort. It was, after all, a pleasant land, sunny and mild after Englands dreary scene, and in the unexplored back country there was land for their tobacco. And tobacco was the crop that ruled men’s fortunes.

There were other trials. Along the coast bordered by marshes the newcomers were preyed upon by mosquitoes, fever and misery. Food was not always plentiful. Indians, roaming the frontier, burned their fields and menaced their lives. The “Virginians,” in the main, thought of the Indian as only a savage, gave few favors and received few in return.

Into this paradoxical land colonists swarmed in steady stream to push the plantations further and further from Jamestown. In 1656 there were probably 20,000 persons in Virginia, but with the close of the Civil War in England the population increased until the number was approaching 40,000 by 1670.

In this tide of immigration Edward Humston arrived in Virginia . Unknown is his origin, his parentage his home, his birth or the port of his embarkation for the new world. Whether he was directly from the family home in Cheshire, from Ireland or some other place in England remains veiled in the yellowed fragmentary records of the past.

It would be interesting to know for what personal whim or decision Edward left his English home. Tradition, recalled by some descendants, relates he ran away as a rebel, but tradition cannot always be relied upon to furnish facts, and the proof is lacking. Should his journey be regarded as the exigency of a political rebel or the adventure of youth? Perhaps he was only a boy at the time of his leave taking; he may have been born as late as 1640. Passage to Virginia was expensive, even with the poorest accommodations. Hundreds, unable to pay, were provided free passage by shipmasters and planters, thereafter being bound by contract to work for their benefactors until the debt had been paid.

Whoever was responsible for or caused new colonists to go to Virginia could claim 50 acres of land for each “headright,” whether friend, kinsman, or indentured servant, so-called. Most of those transported are alluded to in the records simply as “persons,” so the status of thousands of colonists is not clearly defined.

In 1657, one Thomas Bell received land in Virginia for the transportation of each of the following persons: Hannah Howard, Edward Huntstone, Richard Davis, Humphrey XXXX, and John Hunter. The Edward Huntstone in this instrument is believed to have been Edward Humston.

Ten years later, on April 15, 1667, Governor William Berkeley made a grant to Edward of 337 acres of land on the south side of the Upper Machotick River in Stafford (now King George) county for the transportation of seven persons into the colony. Thos creek rises near the present village of Ducat and empties into the Potomac at Neill.

Along the first ten miles of this stream Edward and his descendants remained almost a hundred years. The land mentioned in the grant, together with 489 adjoining acres purchased later from Robert Howson, constituted the old homestead where three generations of the family lived. Stafford at this time was the furthest from Jamestown, being a frontier region a hundred miles distant by land and much more by water, the county having been formed in 1664 from Westmoreland. Thus it is seen that Edward Humston settled near the outer edge of civilization, being among the first planters in that section of Virginia.

The grant:

To all &c. Whereas &c. NOW KNOW YEE that I the said Wm Berkeley Knt Governor 7c give and grant unto Edward Humston Three hundred & thirty seven acres and 30 poles of land lying in Stafford County on the South side of upper Machotick river, downe upon the back lines of the Land of Mr. Robt Howsons beginning at a marked beach extending into the Maine woods South South East 150 poles to a red oake from thence West 80 poles, West 300 poles to a marked po-hickory standing upon a levell, from thence No. No. West 166 poles unto a white oake standing on the North side of the branch in the back line of the said Mr. Howson finally East No. East along the said Howsons line to the beach it began.

The said Land being due for the transportation of 7 persons. To Have and to hold &c. Yielding and paying &c. Provided &c. Dated the 15 th day of April 1667. (Persons transported :) Susan Woodward, Kath. Griggs, Floyd Bett, Jno Harvey, Stephen Pate, Math. Hogson, Henry Clarke.

Click this link to see an original copy of the above grant.

In the summer of 1675 the Indians began fierce attacks upon the settlers dwelling in the Northern Neck (that part of Virginia between the Potomac and the Rappahannock). Forts were built to protect the outer plantations, but they were useless when completed and the cost was great. Nathaniel Bacon, without permission and contrary to the desires of Governor Berkeley, led some of the Virginia frontiersmen successfully against the savages. Together with general unrest over taxation, this act became an insurrection which Berkeley could not put down until 1677.

As a result of Bacon’s Rebellion, the people of Stafford were treated severely, and in protest a set of grievances (later known as the Stafford Grievances) was drafted and presented to the King’s commissioners in 1676. The grievances were signed by nine planters of Stafford, among whom was Edward Humston.

The grievances:

At a meeting of ye Comission of Stafford County 14 March 1676 In ye twenty ninth yeare of ye Raigne of our Sovereigne Lord King Charles ye Second &c. Present, Mr. Robert Howson, Mr. James Ashton, Mr. Vincent Younge, Justices.

To ye Honnorable Collo Herbert Jefferys Esqr., Sr John Berry Knt and Coll. Francis Morrison Esqr his Most Sacred Majesties Commissioners./

In Complyance to yor Honnors favourable Declaracons and Letter wee ye Inhabitants of Stafford County have accordingly sent ye Generall Grievances of this County of Stafford./

First. Wee are altogether Ignorant of ye first Sparkle, and also of ye Incendiaries and motives that blew it into such a flame that hath almost Ruined and destroyed this Country, there being few in this County tainted with it./

Secondly. Whereas his Matie by Informacon Knowing ye Indigence of ye Country, and wee in this County perticulerly. And eperimantally feeling ye same Doe find ourselves very much Buthened, and oppressed through those Annuall assemblies, and doe humbly Conceive that were they trieniall and new Elections, our Buthens might be lessened, and wee altogether furnished with as good Lawes./

Thirdly. The two shillings p hhd being leveyed upon ye Country for easing of Taxes, and taking off other Pressures of ye Country, which hath not been performed accordingly. Wee desire to have an Accompt of ye disposal thereof, and that for ye future it may be Imployed according to ye Intent of ye first grant.

Fouthly. That ye Lord of Baltomore Proprietor of ye Province of Maryland, may some way of other take that course with those Indians Inhabiting in his Province, and so neere Adjacant to this County that they may not Infest us by their Incurtious, destroying and killing oour Stocks, and assisting our Indian Enemie, they having greater opertunity to Muther us & destroy our Stocks undiscovered then any others./

Fifthly. Wee have for severall yeares paid toward ye bilding of fforts. Supplying ye Country with Armes and Amunicon provided accordingly, therefore wee humbly desire that an Accompt may be given of ye Tobacco, and Money paid for ye same./

Sixthly. A very Considerable sume of Tobacco was raised and levied about three yeares since by 50 p. poll through ye Country towards ye Purchasing this neck of land and Uniting ye Country. Wee humbly beg an Accompt of ye Tobacco, and how it was Imployed.

Seventhly. That all such Men who being Impressed and Commanded to serve in ye beginning of this lat Indian Warr, as to suppressing ye Enemie before ye time of Rebellion by Nath: Bacon and who then was souldier under ye Lawfull Comand of ye Right Honble ye governr and ye Militia then by his Honnr appointed may have their pay allowed, and ye charge of that Warr defrayed.

Sam Hayward (Signed) Richd Gibson

(Clerk) Thomas Humfry

Edward Humston

Anthony Buckner

Charles Elliott

Wm. Norwood

Wm. Birch

Thomas Barton

John Mathews

This is the first known record bearing Edward Humston’s own signature.

In 1680 Edward is mentioned as being a member of a jury deciding a question of escheated land in Stafford. A William Whittbey of Warwick County had received July 13, 16, a grant of 1800 acres of land for the transportation of thirty-six persons. The land was bequeathed to his son, Thomas Whittbey, in the will dated Jan. 8, 1654, but the son having died without heirs, the land escheated. Joseph Sumner then petitioned for the land and the request was granted July 25, 1680, the composition and quit-rents to be paid by him. An inquisition was taken in the case at the house of James Ashton in Stafford , with the verdict that Thomas Whittbey had no heirs in the country. The jurors were: Joseph Hayward, Thomas O’donnel, Burr Harrison, Robert Richards, Robert Alexander, William Kay, Edward Humston, Jonah Randall, Anthony Buckner, William Banks, Samuel Hayward, and Robert Hewitt.

While little information can be found of Edward Humston, his status in the colony may be judged by those with whom he associated and about whom records are often more complete. The names on the jury list, and the signers of the Stafford Grievances are representative of Stafford and the Northern Neck. Members of these families were eminent in that county and in the decades to follow there and in the new counties to the North and West.

The Humston’s were to be seated for fifty years in that part of Prince William which after 1759 was included in the present limits of Fauquier County, removing to Shenandoah after 1800. The Humstons and Harrison's were neighbors and friends from their early settlement in Old Stafford and their residence in Prince William and Fauquier. This association will be noted later.

In the counties where the Humstons lived, war, fire and time have ravaged the records and there are but meager accounts remaining. It is doubtful if further search would shed more light on this pioneer ancestor of the family.

At the time of the organization of County in 1664, it was divided into two parishes. Potomac Creek was the dividing line, the upper part being called Potomac and after 1702 Overwharton. The lower part in which the Humstons lived was called Chotanck and about 1710 St. Paul ’s, which is still in existence is King George County (Staffordand King George boundaries were reformed in 1776). The records of old Chotanck are believed to be non-existent, consequently data are unavailable on births, marriages, and deaths of the family.

Whom Edward married and the date and place of the ceremony are unknown, as is also the date of his wife’s death.

It is probable that he died about 1700, for a problem of disposition of part of his land arose in 1703. On February 1 of that year Capt. William Jones of Northumberland County suggested to the Proprietors’ office that a certain tract of land in Stafford should escheat to the Proprietors. The immigrant’s son Edward Humston II, shoed in 1704, however, that he had inherited a portion of this land from his father, after the latter had purchased it from Robert Howson. Edward perhaps had not been dead many years before the suggested escheatment.

Edward and his wife presumably were buried on their home plantation, that being the general custom of the time.


2. i. Edward2, born about 1670 in Stafford County.

3. ii. William2, born in Stafford County; died Nov. 14, 1728 (St. Paul’s Parish Register). No other record has been found of him and it is presumed he was a son of Edward, the immigrant.

The following was from from "Humston Gleanings":

The immigrant ancestor o the family, Edward Humston, was clearing acres on his colonial Virginia plantation, situated on the Upper Machodoc in Westmoreland County, about the year 1660.

Northumberland County records on Feb.10, 1662/3 show that he obtained a servant, on John Smith, 15 years old, who was to serve him six years. Transactions for the Northern Neck still flowed through Northumberland, the original administrative seat. That Edward was mature by that time is evident and it is clear he had already begun settling in the back country. Thus, his birth date may have been around 1635-40.

As a "headright" in 1657 of Thomas Bell of New Kent, he may have arrived in Virginia some time before that. But he lost little time in choosing his home place, perhaps because of available unclaimed land on the frontier.

7 Jan. 1663. Francis Jordan of Potomack (Westmoreland Co.), planter, to Robert Streete of Westmoreland County, planter. All right to 250 acres upon Machodick dams and near the horse pathe being part of a patent granted unto Col. Gerrard Fowke, Wm. Horton and Thomas Gregg jointly, from Thomas Gregg by bill of sale. Francis Jordan. Wit: Edward Humston, Henry Aldy 25 May 1663. Acknowledged by Francis Jordan.

As settlement progressed in the Northern Neck, Westmoreland County had been formed from upper Northumberland on the Potomac side in 1653. In 1664 Stafford County was separated from Westmoreland and Edward's land then fell in Stafford. Hence the patent granted a few years later mentioned it as being in Stafford.

On April 15, 1667, Gov. William Berkeley made the grant to Edward of 337 acres on the south side of the Upper Machotick (Machodoc) River in Stafford for the transportation of seven persons into the colony. It was not unusual for patents to be issued a number of years after the actual "homesteading" took place.

Westmoreland records of 1674-1676 show Edward dealing wiht tobacco buyers, whose clerks, no doubt spelling the name as they heard it, wrote down Humpstead, Humsden and even Laumston.

On June 29, 1675, JOhn Williams of Stafford gave power of attorney to his loving friend (kinsman), William Horton, to acknowledge sale of land to John Berryman. Witnesses were Maurice Haines and Mar-- (X) Humstead. The latter signature, partly illegible, would seem to be for a feminine name, and it could have been Edward's wife, who has remained unidentified.

Two other instruments by John Williams in 1676 were witnessed by John and Katherine Blumsted (and Blaumsted). In view of th erratic spelling of surnames copied in the old records, these names were studied with no further enlightenment. This name was never found again in available sources.

Because of meager existing records there is no certainty as to the actual number of Edward's children. This is especially true of daughters, as their identity often vanished with marriage. One member of a landed family, usually the oldest son, inherited nearly all of the father's estate. So younger sons turned to other occupations and further records of them are scarce or non-existent.

In addition to Edward2, it seems likely that Edward1 had another son, James2, who was in Stafford about 1724. At that time he was listed as a tender of tobacco (James Humstead) with John Young in Overwharton Parish, records showing two thithables and 6,905 plants. Nothing further has been found of him.


<<Bishop Humston