About the biographical profiles on Delmarva Settlers.
Early Settlers Of The Eastern Shore And Settlement Patterns:
This fascicle introduces the first of a series of monographs on the settlement
of the Eastern Shore. Research into the original records is bringing to light
significant new features of life on Delmarva's Eastern Shore during the germinal
period of its settlement. Included in this fascicle are two types of essays:
biographies of early settlers and narratives of the development of the Eastern Shore.
The intent of these essays is to let the original records speak for themselves
about "who" the early settlers were and how they interacted with each other.
Not only are there biographical accounts of early residents of the Shore, but
there are also detailed reportings of interactions among the various settlers in
this frontier environment. Following the pattern established by James L. Perry,
but not fully developed by recent scholars, research will point out the networking
patterns and the kinship patterns which developed here on the Eastern Shore in the
seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Included are approximately equal numbers of individuals from both the Eastern Shore
of Virginia and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Since there was a steady process of
settlement and migration upward through the Eastern Shore of Virginia, into the
Eastern shore of Maryland and then into Delaware, that migratory pattern will be
apparent in a number of the biographical sketches, most notably that of the
Johnson family, an African family whose movement from Tidewater Virginia, through
the Eastern Shore areas of Virginia and Maryland, up into Sussex County Delaware
has been traced. Social and economic progress and political and religious upheavals
are also clearly visible patterns in the biographies.
This developmental period demonstrates the uniqueness of the time in which an
individual could arrive in Colonial Virginia as an indentured servant and by the
end of his life risen to the highest position of society and wealth. Such dramatic
shifts in wealth would scarcely have been possible in the European homeland. Yet,
in the colonial outpost, ability, talent, and sheer luck saw to the movement of
people in a brief span of time from the lowest economic level to the highest.
William Burdett is an example of such an individual.
Although the preponderance of early settlers were men, women also populated the
Eastern Shore and were just as able to move upward socially as were their male
counterparts. The networking patterns created by intermarriage demonstrate something
of this frontier economy's ability to "make" new individuals. Alicia Traveller Burdett
Walker Custis, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and Parthenia Ennis Smock Reid Morris,
on Maryland's Seaside in Somerset County are merely two examples of women whose marriage
alliances demonstrate the intensity of the networking patterns and the importance
of familial kinship ties. Clearly no man or woman was "an island" in the seventeenth
century Chesapeake. The environment was fragile; family relations were just as
temporary. Yet, although death broke ties, it just as quickly led to the mending of
ties and establishment of new networking and kinship ties.
Included within this fascicle are the stories of a variety of individuals from a
variety of different social backgrounds and of varying economic status--individuals
depicting the variety of occupations found in colonial America, individuals demonstrating
the variety of social strata replicated from their trans-Atlantic homelands, and
individuals showing the ability of these newly planted individuals in developing a
society during the seventeenth century on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake.