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Biographical Profiles
William Bibby
By Mercedes Quesada-Embid

Introduction
In historical research, primary documents must provide the chronology for what has occurred in the past. By allowing the primary documents to guide the research, a more accurate and true account of the history under study will follow. This is certainly apparent in the attempts of historians to recount the lives of some of the first settlers to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the early seventeenth century. Many times the primary documents do not tell the story the present-day researcher expects about a particular person or small community, but despite our modern interests and preconceptions about what we believe life should have been like in the early colonial period, it is the documents – as they were originally recorded – that give historical researchers insight into the past.



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The following study is one of three English men who traveled to Virginia’s Eastern Shore between 1620 and 1640. They were William Berriman, Henry Carsley, and William Bibby. It is this researcher’s belief that these men, once studied, can provide the foundation for typical life and community interaction within the first settlements on the Shore. Among this group they had no great wealth, no incredulous social standing nor did they leave a legacy of their surnames with their descendents of today. Notwithstanding, Berriman, Carsley, and Bibby were a fundamental part of the establishment of Eastern Shore society in the seventeenth century. Through their lives, as they have been portrayed in the written documents, they demonstrated how average people endured new life and constant change and challenge in the New World of Virginia. It is through these men that what may appear ordinary is in fact a remarkable accomplishment. They share many similarities yet each experienced Virginia and the formation of its community in a unique way. This study will chronicle the lives of these men on an individual basis to give a complete representation of each one of them as he stood in society.

 

William Bibby
c. 1600 - c.1637

According to the Passenger, Lists William Bibby entered into Northampton County in either 1621, 1623, or 1624, at the age of 22. There is no record of him being transported as a headright, nor is there a record of him transporting himself, but there does exist a document that shows he transported his wife, Mary Bibby.[1] The earliest documented appearance by William Bibby in the Virginia Court is on January 31, 1624. It was in the case of Thomas Parker, an Englishman who had chosen to give all of his possessions to “his mate,” Bibby, and refused to write a will to document the transfer of his goods. His only request, which Bibby was ordered to carry out, was to send an undisclosed amount of pounds of tobacco to Parker’s mother in England.[2]

Bibby was "33 years or thereabouts sworn and examined" in October 1633 when he came to court for a dispute over land which he had cleared; in a court appearance in the next year he was "25 years or thereabouts" and "sworn in court" to be a witness," and he was "aged 35 or there abouts" on another court occasion.[3] From this information it is difficult to discern Bibby’s actual age, but more or less taking into account his estimated arrival age, he was about 30 years old when he began to participate steadily in the court system. His first documented court transaction was made with Edmund Scarborough. Bibby bought "one...cow, one brindled heyfer and one blacke bull calfe 3 weeks old, all wild cattle."[4]

On September 17, 1633, Bibby filed an unusual complaint "against Roger Fyerbrasse for the keeping of his child which upon examination it is ordered that the said Bibby shall keep the sow which is now in his possession untill Fyerbrasse hath paid him for the keeping of his child."[5] There is no other discussion of this case and it is in fact a strange scenario, but, nevertheless, it seems Bibby received compensation in the matter. This strange situation was also the last court case in which Bibby participated in while he was alive. The rest of his story is told through his wife, Mary, his children, Elizabeth, and Edmund, and also through the few mentions of Bibby as a deceased person.

One of the instances in which he is labeled as already deceased is in the case of his servant, William Cosier. On September 25, 1637, Cosier states that "the said William Bibby told him he should be free, if the said Cosier would give him a months work or fit up his house." Cosier claimed that he accomplished those things and so was petitioning the court for his freedom since he could no longer request it from his deceased master.[6] There is also no apparent resolution to Cosier’s situation, but it may have been resolved in Bibby’s will. Research shows that Bibby did in fact write a will because it was declared in court "that the will or testament of William Bebby was true," but unfortunately the document has not survived over the years.[7]

Another instance in which reference was made to Bibby is at his wife’s death. Mary Bibby did not leave a will behind either, but it is through a discussion of "her small estate in goods and chattels" that we find out that the court stated that she died about one year after Bibby. From this research it seems that she did not die so long after her husband, but rather died only about two months after her husband. This supposition was made according to the testimonies of the administrators of her estate. They declared that Mary died in November 1637. Bibby is also stated to have died sometime in the year 1637, according to the aforementioned claim of his servant.[8] The court record continues, "Now forasmuch as her being dead and leaving her said estate dispursed and undisposed of the said Overseers [Captain William Roper and George Travellor] formerly appointed out of charity to her children took upon them to be guardians of the said estate...". Travellor took into his care Elizabeth Bibby, and Roper became the guardian of Edmund Bibby. [9]

Although we do not have a will from Mary Bibby, we do learn a little about the Bibby estate through several court testimonies of the combined administrators and guardians, Roper and Travellor. For example, Roper claimed that “Mary Biby deceased Left in my Custody two Cowes the First yeare one of the Cowes miscarried and now hath three Cowes and two Calves And this is all the increase...".[10] In February 1637, “An account of what Cattle George Travellor Received with Elizabeth Bibbe being about Tenn Monthes old” was written by the court. He received “one Cowe called Rose, One bull Calfe of Rose” and “One yeareling heifer.”[11]

Shortly after Travellor received these goods and the small orphan, Elizabeth Bibby, a rather disturbing court case appeared regarding the treatment of William Bibby’s daughter. Guardian Travellor’s wife, Alice Travellor, was accused of abusing the baby girl. There are several court testimonies that refer to the way in which Alice treated Elizabeth, and some excerpts follow:

"This deponent saith That when shee dwelt with George Travellor Elizabeth Bibby befould the bedd and goodwife Travellor bidd the boy carry the Child into the Creeke and wash her And after that done shee put her into the sawpit the child being Cold my dame bidd her goe and warme herselfe."[12]

"The said Bibby befould her bed and my dame pluck’t of the Childs smock and put her into a vessel of Cold water and did Beate her against the Vessell side insoemuch that the Child was over the head in water...she strocke her Brocke her head in somuch that the bloud came through her capp..."[13]

“That Alice Travellor after she had whipped Elizabeth Bibby tooke the said Byby and hoysted her upp by a Tackle which they use to hang deare with all And that the sayde Alice hath throwne the sayde Bibby soe farr into the Creeke that she could very hardly crawle out And that she shooke the said Bibby over the fyre threatening that shee would burne her…”[14]

Another testimony indicated that Travellor himself tried to speak with his wife about her treatment of Elizabeth Bibby, but it was to no avail because “often tymes her husband and shee had some words concering her abusing and beateing the said Child, and then the said Alice would runn in a fury to her and beate her and whipp her".[15] The next mention of Elizabeth Bibby in the court records dealt with the disappearance of one of her cows from the property of the Travellors'.[16] Her final mention is amid an increased interest by the Northampton County Court in the lives of orphan children. A court declaration was made, “It is ordered by this Cort [court] that all men have interest in the states of orphants wthin this Countye of Northampton…and shall hereafter give a yearely Accompt [account] of all orphants estates that are or herafter shalbe on the 28th day of July [1646] yearely.”[17] Perhaps it was due to the mistreatment of Elizabeth Bibby that such a law came to be passed by the colonial government. The only reference to Elizabeth Bibby’s account was recorded on July 29, 1646 – one day after the yearly date mandated by the law – and included “1 old Cowe named Madge, 1 young Cowe named Madge, 1 Blacke Cowe…” and “two yearely heifers.”[18] Much is still unknown about the guardianship of Elizabeth Bibby; she does not appear to have lived a very long life - assuming she was born in approximately 1636 - according to Travellor’s aforementioned court record. She was not mentioned again after 1646.[19]

Elizabeth’s brother, Edmund Bibby, on the other hand, seemed to fair better and led a different kind of life with his appointed guardian, Captain William Roper. An account of his cattle was recorded on the same day as his sister Elizabeth’s. He had “Cowes, one heyfor wth Calfe, Calves of this yeares, 1 yearling.”[20] Edmund was to remain under the care of Roper until “the age of one and twenty yeares” when “Capt Roper shall pcure [procure] him a maystr & put him to a trade.” The estate that Edmund inherited from his father, William Bibby, was to remain in the hands of Roper until he reached twenty-one years of age as well. In October 1648, another account of the cattle of Edmund was taken. He had “Nynteene head, One Plantacon.” Several years passed but, by March 27, 1651 the court ordered that “Upon serious & mature Consideracon of Edmund Bibby orphant of Wm Bibby decd alsoe ye Estate apptayneinge unto him. It is thought fitt & ordrd by the Court that ye sd Edm: Bibby shall forthwth bee att Libertye...". The court order continued on to state that Captain William Roper had died “And yt Mris Kathryne Roper widd & Relict of Capt Wm Roper decd shall...make delivry unto the sd Edm: Bibby.” Even though Edmund was given his “libertye” part of his estate was given to Thomas Hunt and put “into his charge (for the orphantes [Edmund’s] use).” [21] Several months later Edmund requested the estate be in his own hands. He “petitioned the court that he may forthwith be actually possessed of the estate appertaining unto him...being at full age...".[22]

As full owner of his estate, on August 23, 1651, Edmund stated, “Be it known unto all men by these presents that I Edmund Bibby of Accomacke planter have bargained, sold, and delivered...unto John Pott...one black cow with a star in the forehead...[and] a cow calf by her side...". Despite Edmund’s ownership of the estate Thomas Hunt also stated, “I Thomas Hunt do consent to this bill of sale...".[23]

Edmund continued to enhance his status in society. Records indicate that he was a jury member at least three times in the year 1658.[24] A new milestone for Edmund was apparently reached in the 1660s. Although there is no specific record of a marriage and/or a wife, there is a reference to his being the son-in-law of Nathan Wilkins. It is stated that Wilkins made a “humble petition...in the behalfe of Edmund Bibby.”[25] In this petition he requested that a man by the name of William Waters not “Intrenche” upon Edmund’s land. In order to convince the court, Edmund’s father-in-law stated that “the sd Bibby [,] his grandfather his father & himself [were all] Orphant[s],” and that all held 400 acres and Edmund wanted it to remain within the Bibby family. There is no closure to this case in the record books, but it appears that Bibby was able to maintain his land without any future encroachments from Waters. Notwithstanding, Edmund Bibby did receive 400 pounds of tobacco from another individual, Henrick Lamberton, for having been “deficient in ye pformance of the convenants to wch hee was obliged as a Tenant” on Edmund’s land.[26]

The final mention in the court records of Edmund Bibby, references a young servant boy by the name of Thomas Walker. The boy was brought to the court “to have their Judgmt of his age whome they Adjudged att Eleven yeares of age att the time of the Arrivall of the Shipp...".[27] Edmund appears to have been able to “live” his father’s legacy as well as enjoy it. As in many other cases, it is through the surviving primary documents about family and other community members that one is able to develop clues to a realistic picture of the life of a historic personality in seventeenth-century Virginia.



Footnotes:

1 Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. Compiled by William Filby and Mary K. Meyer. 1981. Detroit: Gale Research Company. Early Virginia Immigrants 1623-1666. Compiled by George Cabell Greer. 1978. Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Co.




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2 Minutes of the General Court of Colonial Virginia: 1622-1632, 1670-1676. Transcribed by H.R. McIlwaine. p. 46.

3 The case of the “cleared thicket” was between Bibby and Mr. William Stone. The clearing actually took place in 1629, but was not recorded in the books until 1633. Bibby was also called to be a witness/jurer in 1633 about two times. Ames, p. 6, 16, 29 and some of the same can be seen in Northampton County Virginia: Orders, Deeds, and Wills 1651-1654. Transcribed by Frank V. Walczyk 2003. Book I. Coram: Peter’s Row p. 5, 22, 23.

4 13 March 1632. Ibid. p. 7, and County Court Records of Accomacke-Northampton, Virginia 1632-1640. Transcribed by Susie M. Ames. 1973. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. p. 8. Bibby also served as a witness to a purchase of cattle made by Henry Wilson from William Melling on December 8, 1634.

5 Northampton County Virginia: Orders, Deeds, and Wills 1651-1654. Transcribed by Frank V. Walczyk 2003. Book I. Coram: Peter’s Row. p. 27.

6 Northampton County Virginia: Orders, Deeds, and Wills 1651-1654. Transcribed by Frank V. Walczyk 2003. Book I. Coram: Peter’s Row. p. 66

7 Ibid. p. 66.

8 County Court Records of Accomacke-Northampton, Virginia 1640-1645. Transcribed by Susie M. Ames. 1973. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. p. 249. Just prior to her death (about three weeks prior), Mary was taken to court regarding a debt to Mr. William Melling. She denied that she owed him anything despite his comment “concerning a rich suit of clothes.” Northampton County Virginia: Orders, Deeds, and Wills 1651-1654. Transcribed by Frank V. Walczyk 2003. Book I. Coram: Peter’s Row. p. 88.

9 Ibid. p. 81. Roper and Travellor were also the administrators of the Mary Bibby estate and on September 13, 1641, were court ordered to pay 300 pounds of tobacco at “40 lbs per centum” to Roger Johnson in response to a claim that he had paid her far too much “in her lyfe tyme for a parcell of Land.” County Court Records of Accomacke-Northampton, Virginia 1640-1645. Transcribed by Susie M. Ames. 1973. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. p. 117.

10 Ibid. p. 249. This is where Roper states when Mary died: “She deceased November 1637.”

11 The yearling heifer was exchanged in 1640 with “John Pott for another called Magg which had in 1641 one Cowe and Calfe.” The list goes on to detail the increase of the cattle over the succeeding years detailing 1639, 1640, and 1641. County Court Records of Accomacke-Northampton, Virginia 1640-1645. Transcribed by Susie M. Ames. 1973. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. p. 280. Travellor’s statement also supports the claim made by Roper that Mary died in the year 1637.

12 Ibid. p. 271.

13 Ibid. p.271.

14 Ibid. p.271.

15 Ibid. p.271.

16 Ibid. p. 381-384.

17 Orders, Deeds, Wills &c. Transcribed by Mackey, Howard and Marlene Alma Hinkley Groves. 1999. Vol. 3. Rockport: Picton Press. p. 85.

18 Orders, Deeds, Wills &c. Transcribed by Mackey, Howard and Marlene Alma Hinkley Groves. 1999. Vol. 3. Rockport: Picton Press. p. 86.

19 According to Carroll L. C. McNamara, a descendant of Elizabeth Bibby, she married George Freshwater and they had at least one issue: Sarah. The other orphans under the care of George Travellor were a young boy, also given the name George Travellor, and another girl named Elizabeth Travellor. Elizabeth Travellor eventually married Henry Carsley.

20 County Court Records of Accomacke-Northampton, Virginia 1640-1645. Transcribed by Susie M. Ames. 1973. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. p. 381-384. One of Edmund’s cows disappeared from his guardian protection and was found in the possession of Mr. Peter Walker and ordered by the court to return it to Roper.

21 Northampton County Virginia: Orders, Deeds, and Wills 1651-1654. Transcribed by Frank V. Walczyk 2003. Book 4. Coram: Peter’s Row. p. 463

22 Ibid. p. 54.

23 Although this happened on 23 August 1651 it was not recorded until 1653. Ibid. p. 124. Also about this time in the beginning of 1652 the land of Edmund Bibby was under dispute by Edmund Scarborough. No more is mentioned about the land dispute. That can be found on p. 67.

24 Orders, Deeds, Wills &c. Transcribed by Mackey, Howard and Marlene Alma Hinkley Groves. 1999. Rockport: Picton Press. Vol 8. p. 37, 40, 42.

25 Orders, Deeds, Wills &c. Transcribed by Mackey, Howard and Marlene Alma Hinkley Groves. 1999. Rockport: Picton Press. Vol 9. p. 123. He is also listed as the son-in-law to Nathan Wilkins on p. 483.

26 Orders, Deeds, Wills &c. Transcribed by Mackey, Howard and Marlene Alma Hinkley Groves. 1999. Rockport: Picton Press. Vol 10. This can be seen on p. 52 and 64. Thomas Hunt continued to be present at these court proceedings as “”guardian to Edmund Bibbee.” John Hutchinson paid “the Sume of Nine Hundred pounds of Tobacco 7 caske…Thomas Hunt as guardian to Edmund Bibbee…” for an unknown reason. p. 122.

27 Ibid. p. 243. There are references to other Edmund Bibby’s in the year 1710-1717, but it regards a younger Edmund marrying his wife Mary in 1711. It is too many years later to be this Edmund, but it could easily be a son of his and therefore the grandchild of William Bibby. Orders, Deeds, Wills &c. Transcribed by Mackey, Howard and Marlene Alma Hinkley Groves. 1999. Rockport: Picton Press. Vol 15. p. 20.

Works Used

*All Sources were found in the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture.* *Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland*

County Court Records of Accomacke-Northampton, Virginia 1632-1640, 1640-1645. Transcribed by Susie M. Ames. 1973. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

Early Virginia Immigrants 1623-1666. Compiled by George Cabell Greer. 1978. Baltimore: Geneological Publishing Company.

Minutes of the General Court of Colonial Virginia: 1622-1632, 1670-1676. Transcribed and edited by H[enry].Read]. McIlwaine. 1924. Richmond: Colonial Press, Everett Waddy Company.

Orders, Deeds, Wills &c. Transcribed by Mackey, Howard and Marlene Alma Hinkley Groves. 1999. Volumes 3, 8, 9, 10, 15. Rockport: Picton Press.

Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. Compiled by William Filby and Mary K. Meyer. 1981. Detroit: Gale Research Company.

Perry, James. R. 1990. The Formation of A Society on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, 1615- 1655. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.28




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