Delmarva Settlers

Biographical Profiles
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.


Contents : Essays

Settlers & Sites Index

< < About these essays

Each of these essays provides merely a part of the macrocosmic picture. Only when all the settlers' stories are told, will the total picture of the development of the Eastern Shore be truly understood.

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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.

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This project is in support of the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture
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