The Life and Times of Daniel Cugley: A Biographical Sketch
By Mark E. Roberts
Note About Sources
Given the time period in which Daniel Cugley lived, there are a limited number of sources which may be researched to provide information about him and his life. The major sources of information which are extant and can be utilized are the County Court records of Northampton County, Virginia, which begin in 1632. These primary documents offer numerous insights into Cugley’s life and the world in which he lived. The court records of this time contain an abundance of information which help explain the many facets of his life and the social, economic, and cultural realities of colonial Virginia. These records have been preserved on microfilm and may be found at the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University located in Salisbury, Maryland. Both the original court records and a complete transcribed version created at the end of the nineteenth century are available on microfilm. For ease of reading and accuracy I chose to transcribe the latter set of documents. To check my accuracy and the accuracy of the late nineteenth century transcriptions, I also consulted volumes 7 and 10 of Susie Ames’s County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton, Virginia, which are a later transcribed version of the original documents.
Unfortunately few records or pieces of information are still extant which can shed light onto the events of Daniel Cugley’s life between the years 1620 and 1632. But for the period beginning in 1632, there is continuous documentation in the form of County Court records that are available and have numerous references to events in his life. Each of these records has been transcribed and included in a series of appendices to the biographical sketch. There are two main groups of appendices. The first group is a compilation of all the court records in which Daniel Cugley’s name appears between the years of 1640-1645. The second group is the same as the latter except the documents cover the years 1632-1640. In addition there is a smaller group that lists Daniel Cugley’s accounts as far as they are revealed in the court records. It lists all of his debts and items that were owed to him. The last appendix contains a map of Virginia and Maryland with an approximate location of where Cugley lived.
The Life and Times of Daniel Cugley
The early period of American colonial history was shaped by those few individuals who ventured across the Atlantic and settled the shores of the new world. One of these individuals who left his legacy in this historic era of our nation’s history was Daniel Cugley. Daniel Cugley was twenty-four when he arrived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the year of 1620 on board the ship named London Merchant. He was one of only thirty-five individuals who inhabited the area of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He would reside on the Eastern Shore for nineteen years before perishing. His life there proved to be both extremely profitable and full of mischief. Daniel Cugley appears as one of the most infamous individuals of this period with an unorthodox lifestyle and character.
The first document that reveals information about Daniel Cugley is the Muster that was taken in 1624/25. After an Indian massacre the colonists of Virginia made a list of all the living and dead along with the provisions which they possessed. This document contains two very important pieces of information about Daniel Cugley. First, it shows that he was unlike many of the typical settlers in early colonial Virginia. For this period it was most common to see settlers arriving in the new world as indentured servants. The typical settler was unable to pay his way across the Atlantic; to compensate for this cost he would have to work for the person who fronted him the money for a minimum of five years. Cugley, on the other hand, may have been able to pay his own way, since he is not listed as a servant in this muster of 1624/25. Since this muster was taken just under four years after his arrival, it supports a belief that he was not an indentured servant given the minimum requirement of five years of service. Secondly, it shows that he was already quite wealthy and that he had amassed a very impressive amount of wealth in the four years after his arrival. The muster also lists the provisions which each household brought with them. This muster is useful in giving a rough estimate of what Cugley’s wealth was. Since it only accounts for the items that were useful in the event of a war, it does not give a true and perfect account of his total wealth. Among the provisions in Cugley’s household were: fifteen barrels of corn, four pounds of gun powder, forty-five pounds of shot, a house, and a store. Though Cugley lived with two other gentlemen and was not the head of the house, this typically meant the items were not exclusively his, but the record does in this case separate the provisions and places all of the above under his name. 
Given the lack of information for the next nine years of his life, it is hard to say what he did; however, it is clear that he must have continued on a rather lucrative path and established himself as a person of some importance. This is evidenced by the court records which begin in the latter half of 1632 when Daniel Cugley’s name begins to appear. In these records he is given the title “Mr.” in numerous cases heard by the court, although there are instances where he is not. This can be seen for the first time on the first month of the year 1634.  This is significant in several ways. First, it establishes that he had become a member of the higher social classes, meaning he became a person of significance. Secondly, by the time that Mr. Cugley had obtained a substantial amount of wealth. In colonial times “Mr.” was not a title every man was called just because he had reached a certain age, but it served as a title of distinction. Lastly, the fact that this title is given rather inconsistently throughout his life may reflect on his reputation for being rather notorious as well.
One distinctive characteristic of Cugley that continually comes out in the records is his abusiveness and recklessness. There are four major incidents that were brought before the court and recorded between the years of 1634 and 1639. Within this five year period alone, he had committed two acts of assault, spoke slanderously to the court and acted in an unbecoming manner. The first of the two assault cases was heard in May of 1634. He was accused and found to be guilty of miscalling and striking a man named William Berriman.  One outstanding fact about William Berriman is that just eight months prior, he and Mr. Cugley were both arrested for an outstanding debt for a large sum of tobacco--eight thousand pounds.  Whether this debt was the reason for Cugley miscalling him and striking him is not mentioned, but it may have played a role.
The second instance where Cugley was accused and found guilty of assault was far worse for him and for the victim. The complaint was made to the court in July of 1637.  It was made by a man named John Sea or Say who accused Cugley of “battering” him. At the next monthly court session he was found to be guilty and was charged for his actions against John Sea. The clerk wrote:
He (Cugley) hath most violently abused him (Sea) with dangerous blows to his great hindrance and Charge Itt is thereupon thought Fitt and soe ordered that the said Cugley shall pay and satisfie unto him the said Say the some of one hundred pounds of tobacco per moneth for soe longe tyme as hee the said Say shall make appeare to bee arreare and behind and justly due unto him And alsoe 100lbs. of tobaccoe for damages and eighty pounds of tobacco for charges expended by the said Say for his cure, he beinge soe beaten and hurte as aforesaid with charges of suite.
It is quite clear that Mr. Cugley did not just get into a fight with John Say, but severely hurt and injured him.  The next record that attests to Cugley’s notorious character involves slanderous speeches made against the court itself. Cugley was found guilty of this crime and charged in the summer of 1638.  When exactly he made this speech is not certain, but most likely at the previous months court hearings.
For the last incident that occurred Cugley behaved in a less than gentlemanly manner, but not to the degree of severity as seen in the three cases above. This incident occurred within the same five year period as the latter three cases and took place approximately a year before in September 1636. It involved Mr. Cugley receiving a group of Indians at his home who were sent by the chief called the Laughing King. The Indians had come to make a payment to the settlers for the killing of an Englishman and his child. They had brought a quantity of tobacco called a Roanoke to compensate for the lives they had taken. When the Indians arrived, Mr. Cugley had summonsed Mr. Obedience Robins who was the wealthiest and most respected man in the area as well as an interpreter. After hearing what the Indians had done and their proposed payment for the lives they had taken, Mr. Obedience Robins swiftly declined their offer of tobacco as a just compensation. Mr. Robins was quoted to have said by a witness “god forbid I should take it, I would not do it for all the world.”  After having made his statement, he departed. However, Mr. Cugley did in fact accept their offer of Roanoke. When Mr. Robins had heard of this, he brought the matter before the court and charged him to present the said Roanoke to the court. Mr. Cugley agreed and promised to do so, but he never did.  Because there are no records of his activities prior to 1633, it is unclear if these were isolated incidents or whether he had committed similar infractions before. It is likely, however, that other cases like these may have existed in the years prior to 1633.
A very interesting feature about each one of these court records that Mr. Cugley appears in where he had behaved immorally is that he is never referred to as “Mr”. One court record from January 1638 that reiterates this point involves a suit brought against a man named Mr. Rochester by Roger Johns. The court ordered Cugley to pay a sum of seven hundred and ninety pounds of tobacco to Roger Johns out of the estate of Mr. Rochester since Cugley was his attorney and was in charge of his estate.  In this particular case Daniel Cugley is referred to as “Mr”--perhaps because he is acting in a respectable manner and from a position of distinction. The fact that “Mr.” is used only occasionally and not continuously before Cugley’s name throughout the court records, like others having the same title, may be because of his abusive and reckless actions.
Another aspect of Mr. Cugley’s life that was unique for this period was that he was not tied to the land. The vast majority of settlers were subsistence farmers or cash crop farmers who worked the lands and raised small quantities of livestock. Of course, there were other types of trades that did not revolve around farming, but for the most part even the people with other trades did still farm. Mr. Cugley, however, was a merchant by trade and did not work the land, which would explain his ability to generate wealth as well as establish himself as a person of some importance in a short period of time. Most people would have depended on Mr. Cugley for supplying goods and items not readily available to them. By not being tied to the land like most of the other settlers, Mr. Cugley was able to travel for extended periods of time and obtain many household items and some more luxurious items as well.
The greatest source of information that gives insight into his trade and the extent of his wealth is the inventory made of all his possessions after his death.  The period in which Mr. Cugley lived required each person to have an inventory made at the time of death. These documents account for every item that was found in a person’s house and serve as a photograph of the person’s surroundings. The first and most obvious observation that can be made about Cugley’s inventory is that it is one of the most extensive of this period. Most of the items are quite typical of a man with substantial wealth, but several items are very unique and reveal specific things about him. The most impressive item on his inventory is a pinnace or boat that had full rigging and accessories. This is the most significant piece of information that attests to his trade as being a merchant. Another very unique item that was found in his inventory was a quantity of silk lace, which was very rare and luxurious. This also attests to his being a merchant.
Another outstanding aspect of his inventory is that there is also an abundance of carpentry tools which would seem to confirm that he was a carpenter; however, he was not a carpenter. This is evidenced by the fact that Mr. Cugley, two years prior to his death had married Hannah Savage, the widow of a carpenter. Hanna Savage was married to Thomas Savage, who in numerous records was referred to as “Thomas Savage Carpenter”. The fact that there are carpenter’s tools listed in Cugley’s inventory probably indicates that he had moved into Hannah Savage’s house after the marriage. Another way in which Cugley’s inventory is helpful in revealing information about him is by what is NOT listed. There is absolutely no farming equipment, which might indicate that he was not a farmer and did not work the land.
Two other major possessions that are not accounted for in inventories, but are of significant value are land and structures like houses or stores. Cugley possessed both a number of houses and a few tracts of land. The records reveal that Cugley possessed possibly two or three houses. There are two court records which mention houses owned by him. The first record that offers insight into the number of houses he possessed appears around 1636.  The record is a complaint made by Cugley to the court for the loss of a house he lent to a man named Mr. Edward Drue [Drew]. The house that he lent to Mr. Drue was burned down while in his possession. The court ordered two other men to present an estimate of its worth and that sum was to be paid to Mr. Cugley. The second instance in which a matter about a house belonging to Mr. Cugley appears in the records is at a later date and is obviously about a different house. This court case was heard in 1638 and was similar to the previous case.  The clerk recorded the testimony of a witness who stated that Cugley had rented a house to a man named Richard Bemond for two hundred pounds of tobacco, three barrels of corn, and twelve days work. These two records indicate that he could have possessed three houses. However, given Mr. Cugley’s trade it is uncertain whether or not he rented his own house out while away on business or a separate house other than his own residence. In all likelihood it was a separate residence. It is even possible that he could have owned more houses that are mentioned in these court records. In either case these documents attest to his wealth.
Land is also a way to measure a person’s wealth and Cugley had approximately a thousand acres, if not more. The first reference to Cugley acquiring land is made on June 25, 1635.  The court record states that he patented four hundred acres of land and was granted it for a yearly rate of eight shillings rent. The second such instance was two days later and for the exact same quantity and conditions as the latter. 
Unfortunately, there is no record of Mr. Cugley’s first acquisition of land. But it is clear that he must have had some quantity of land prior to these two patents. The reason Cugley was granted each of these two tracts was for the number of people he had brought into the country. For each person someone brought to the new world he was entitled to fifty acres of land and Cugley brought in eight people. One court record indicates that in May of 1635 Mr. Cugley had been credited for bringing nineteen people over into the country.  The court both recognized this to be true and presented the request to the governor for the land which was due to him. It is quite clear that the governor did give the land to Cugley for the people he brought in. One of the people that Cugley brought over was a man named Peter Varlow. After he had been a servant for Mr. Cugley for a little more than four years he made a complaint to the court in order to secure the wages he was due for his performances.  The typical indentured servant was entitled to receive some clothes and corn after their service was finished. At a later date, the court ordered that he should receive those items out of Mr. Cugley’s estate. 
Cugley was unorthodox in not being tied to the land; he was also different from the typical settler since he had not married for quite some time after he arrived. This is most likely due to his trade and the fact that he did not work the land and become too involved with his neighbors. Marriage during this period was most commonly between neighbors. Given the life expectancy of people, it was not uncommon for people to marry several times during their life and because people lived rather sparsely, marriage usually happened when a neighbor’s spouse passed. A widow would most commonly marry within a year to keep her land productive and stay afloat. Since so much depended upon subsistence farming, a husband was essential if there were not any old enough sons to keep the land productive. Widowers and bachelors also married not just for companionship, but for economic reasons as well. Most married their neighbors, thus increasing their own land holdings. Numerous records attest to both the frequency of neighbor marriages and the promptness of remarriage after a spouse’s death. Mr. Cugley, however, took around seventeen years to finally get married.
The land which he received on June 27, 1635 made him a neighbor of a widow named Hannah Savage.  This tract of land was adjoined to land known as Savage’s Choice which was owned by the widow, Hannah Savage. Hannah had lost her husband Thomas approximately two years before she and Cugley became neighbors.  On September 24, 1633 Hannah Savage for the first time is referred to in the court records as “Widdowe Hannah Savage” .  Hannah had been left a considerable amount of land by her husband and was one of the greatest landholders on the Eastern Shore at the time. One estimate of Thomas Savage’s holdings was stated to have been around 9,000 acres.  This made Hannah Savage a very attractive widow and a suitable bride for Mr. Cugley. Within approximately two years after they became neighbors they were married.  Without receiving the tract of land next to Hanna, Mr. Cugley may never have married her.
Their marriage, however, did not last very long. The last known date on which Cugley was alive was December 29, 1639.  Hannah Cugley did not long survive her husband and was on her deathbed on February 1, 1640.  They did have a daughter named Margery.  Since she was still an infant, the orphaned Margery was placed under the guardianship of Mareene Delawmundayes.  Hanna’s other children from her first marriage were placed under the guardianship of a man named John Webster. 
All of Mr. Cugley’s possessions were sold at a public auction called an outcry.  The fact that all his possessions were sold is another very unique aspect of Mr. Cugley. He was the only person of this period to have had an outcry instead of having his possessions passed down to family. This was ordered by the court to be done, so that all of his remaining debts could be paid. It was common for a person’s debts to pass along to the remaining family members, but in this rare incident there was not any adult family member alive. Hannah’s possessions were given over to her children’s guardian until they reached a rightful age. One interesting thing about this is that the guardian was given the right to use the land and whatever else the children were left in order to keep the land productive.
Though Daniel Cugley’s time in the new world was short, he had achieved great wealth, a reputation for notoriety, and even married one of the greatest land owners of the area. Daniel Cugley left his legacy as a self-made man in one of America’s most vibrant and challenging periods. The Virginia records provide significant amounts of information about the rapid rise to power of one of Virginia’s earliest settlers, Daniel Cugley.
1. Virginia M. Meyer, ed., Adventures of Purse and Person, Virginia 1607-1624/25, 3d ed., (Richmond: The Dietz Press Inc., 1987) 70.
2. Virginia M. Meyer, ed., Adventures of Purse and Person, 70.
3. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1634, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia (microfilm, vol. 1, Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland), 16.
4. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1634, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia microfilm, vol. 1, 16.
5. Ibid., 6.
6. Ibid., 73.
7. Ibid., 78.
8. Ibid., 109-110.
9. Ibid., 56.
10. Ibid., 55-6.
11. Ibid., 135.
12. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1641, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia (microfilm, vol. 2, Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland), 55-56.
13. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1634, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia microfilm, vol. 1, 95.
14. Ibid., 137.
15. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1641, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia microfilm, vol. 2, 10.
16. Ibid., 10.
17. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1634, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia microfilm, vol. 1, 37.
18. Ibid., 54
19. Ibid., 69
20. Virginia M. Meyer, ed. Adventures of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/25. 3d ed. (Richmond: The Dietz Press Inc., 1987) 534.
21. Virginia M. Meyer, ed. Adventures of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/25. 3d ed. 534.
22. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1633, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia microfilm, vol. 1, 7.
23. Virginia M. Meyer, ed. Adventures of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/25. 3d ed. 533.
24. Ibid., 534.
25. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1633, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia microfilm, vol. 1, 150.
26. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1640, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia microfilm, vol. 2, 51-52.
27. Virginia M. Meyer, ed. Adventures of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/25. 3d ed. 534.
28. Daniel Cugley, Orders, 1640, Accomack County Courthouse, Accomack, Virginia microfilm, vol. 2, 107.
29. Ibid., 71.
30. Ibid., 91-94.
Accomack County Judicial Records. Clerk of the Court, Accomack County Courthouse,
Accomack, Virginia. Volume 1, Film of Transcript.
Accomack County Judicial Records. Clerk of the Court, Accomack County Courthouse,
Accomack, Virginia. Volume 2, Film of Transcript.
Ames, Susie M., ed. County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton Virginia 1632-
1640. Vol. 7. Washington: The American Historical Association, 1954.
Ames, Susie M., ed. County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton Virginia 1640-
1645. Vol. 10. City, Virginia: The University Press of Virginia Historical Society,
Meyer, Virginia M., ed. Adventures of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/25, 3d ed.
Richmond: The Dietz Press Inc., 1987.
Go to Appendices