Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

Peyton Randolph, — Marked for Death by the British for His Role in the Continental Congress–52 Ancestors in 52 weeks, #26


Peyton Randolph held so many leadership roles in Colonial America that his name appeared on a list obtained from the British of people to be captured and hung until dead! This was war after all, and Peyton Randolph was an outspoken leader! It has been said he was the real “Father of our country” and /or “the Father of the Revolution.”  When you study his life and accomplishments, you can’t help but be impressed and realize how blessed we were to have such  intelligent, proactive men in the colonies. 

Peyton Randolph was born about 1721 in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was the second son of John and Susannah Beverly Randolph. This placed him in one of the wealthiest, most powerful planter families in Virginia! His father died when he was only 16, but he was already focused on attending William and Mary College and becoming a lawyer. He went back to England for law school, and upon returning to Virginia in 1744, was asked by Governor William Gooch to be the attorney general for the colony. By 1746 he had married Elizabeth Harrison and by 1749, Peyton had served as a vestryman for Bruton Parish Church, a representative in the House of Burgesses, and a Justice of the Peace–I wonder if he realized he was just beginning his life’s work! 

In 1753, when Peyton was only 32 years old, he was hired as an attorney to represent the House of Burgesses! He was sent to England to basically ask the King to veto the Governor of Virginia–Gov. Robert Dinwiddie ‘s new practice of charging a “tax”- a fee  for certifying land patents.  Going over the governor’s head was unheard of! However, London officials supported Peyton and the Gov. rescinded his tax and reinstated Peyton to his office from which he’d been fired! Talk about fireworks! Do you think those English officials were really mad they had supported Peyton Randolph as he moved on to support the revolutionary movement?!

Always active in colony leadership, things really heated up in 1764. As colonists learned more,  they became infuriated by The Stamp Act and conflict with England and the crown itself became more overt. Peyton was directed by the Virginia House of Burgesses to draft a set of protests to the King and Parliament! In 1766, Peyton was elected Speaker of the House of Burgesses. In 1769, Peyton and Patrick Henry, who had disagreed before, came together to work on passing resolves against the Towshend Duties. The Governor –Gov. Botetourt, however, disagreed with them, and dissolved the House of Burgesses! According to an article written in the online resources of Colonial Williamsburg  re. Peyton Randolph,  “The “former representatives of the people,” as they called themselves, met the next day at the Raleigh Tavern with Speaker Peyton Randolph in the chair. They adopted a compact drafted by George Mason and introduced by George Washington against the importation of British goods. Speaker Randolph was the first to sign.”  Obviously the House of Burgesses was reconvened in the next few months, and the Townshend Duties were repealed  except for that on tea! By 1773, the colonists were all upset with England again over the Boston Tea Party and its continuing conflicts. In 1774 the House of Burgesses passed a resolution written by Thomas Jefferson that said, 

“This House, being deeply impressed with apprehension of the great dangers, to be derived to British America, from the hostile Invasion of the City of Boston, in our Sister Colony of Massachusetts bay, whose commerce and harbour are, on the first Day of June next, to be stopped by an Armed force, deem it highly necessary that the said first day of June be set apart, by the Members of this House, as a day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, devoutly to implore the divine interposition for averting the heavy Calamity which threatens destruction to our Civil Rights, and the Evils of civil War; to give us one heart and one Mind to firmly oppose, by all just and proper means, every injury to American Rights; and that the Minds of his Majesty and his parliament, may be inspired from above with Wisdom, Moderation, and Justice, to remove from the loyal People of America, all cause of danger, from a continued pursuit of Measure, pregnant with their ruin.” (Colonial Williamsburg ref. cited previously)

In response,  “Governor Dunmore summoned the House on May 26, 1774 and told them: “Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Burgesses, I have in my hand a paper published by order of your House, conceived in such terms as reflect highly upon His Majesty and the Parliament of Great Britain, which makes it necessary for me to dissolve you; and you are accordingly dissolved.”  

Again, the burgesses gathered at Raleigh Tavern and the very next day at Peyton Randolph’s house.  They planned a Virginia Convention that would take place prior to the Continental Congress which their group had proposed just the day before! (If you’d like, you can see a newspaper article written about one of the meetings of the Virginia Conventions in my blog post on William Langhorne, my 5th great-grandfather who took part.) On September 5, 1774, Peyton Randolph was unanimously elected Chairman of the First Continental Congress in the colonies! From then on he was accompanied everywhere he went by voluntary armed militia! They had learned that there was a list  for the execution of “rebel leaders” which included Peyton Randolph. In the Continental Congress meetings, the leaders of the thirteen colonies, with Georgia not participating until late in the second congress, It became increasingly clear that the colonies needed to make a “Declaration of Independence” and form their own government! The United States Declaration of Independence was formally approved on July 4, 1776, a date we continue to  celebrate today! The Articles of Confederation weren’t passed until November 1777. The Revolutionary War is generally considered lasting from 1775-1783. The defeat of the British at Yorktown, Virginia, with the French helping the Americans capture over 7000 British soldiers, effectively ended the war. The Treaty of Paris officially ended the war and recognized the sovereignty of the United States of America in 1783! (Another blog post re. Yorktown is: Nicholas Martiau, Ancestor of George Washington and My 9th Great Grandfather — 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks)

Peyton Randolph continued to lead and inspire in the third Virginia convention! Unfortunately, on October 23, 1775  on a Sunday evening, Peyton had a stroke and died immediately. While he was first buried at Christ’s Church in Philadelphia, in 1776 he was brought home to Williamsburg and his “remains interred in the family crypt in the Chapel at the College of William and Mary.” ibid. How sad that he died before Independence was gained after working so hard for it. However, he has truly gone down in history for his leadership and contributions. 

Peyton Randolph was my second cousin! Since learning about him , and researching so man y illustrious ancestors in our family’s past, I have looked at current  family members with different interest, analysis, and respect perhaps. The characteristics of strong opinions, leadership, activism, and outspokenness can be interpreted many ways. Historically, we look back and usually admire the men and women who were our leaders, especially the ones who took us in brave new directions. But in the midst of making history, many hard feelings are often created. Peyton’s brother John was a loyalist to the crown, so he ended up leaving his brother and moving back to England, disgusted with what he saw as his brother’s treasonous behavior–the results of which we are celebrating today! Currently in our country,  we have a huge split between conservatives and liberals about how to run our country. The anger and rhetoric are not unlike that expressed by the citizens of our country at the time of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the time of Civil Rights–especially the 1960’s.  Maybe there comes a point where people must take a stand, where there is no room to compromise. I don’t like to think that, but we all have different ideas about what is “right”. Peyton Randolph had his ideas, and he was willing to put his life on the line, and he did, to support his beliefs. What a wonderful week to remember this ancestor–the week of July 4th, 2014! 


Peyton Randolph (1721 – 1775)
is your 2nd cousin 6x removed
mother of Peyton Randolph
father of Susannah Beverley
father of Col Peter Beverley
daughter of Maj. Robert Beverley Sr.
son of Mary Beverley
daughter of Maurice Langhorne
son of Elizabeth Langhorne
son of Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne
daughter of James Steptoe (blind) Langhorne
daughter of Evaline (going blind when died young)) Langhorne
daughter of Katherine Steptoe Houchins
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse

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Nicholas Martiau, Ancestor of George Washington and Jamestown Colony Engineer– 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks




Correction and Update, April 24, 2018. Upon researching more thoroughly I discovered that I had made a mistake in my research for this blog post. As it turns out, Nicholas Martiau is not my 9th Great-Grandfather.  I can only apologize and set the record straight for those who used this blog post as evidence for their own relationship to Nicholas Martiau.  As it turns out, while Nicholas Martiau’s daughter Mary Jane Martiau, 1631-1701 did marry my 8th great-grandfather, John Scarsbrook, b. 1627.  they only had two daughters together.  My ancestor John Scarsbrook born  1676, was the son of John Scarsbrook, 1627, and his second wife Elizabeth, unknown maiden name. (Note: 1. 1679: Mrs. Elizabeth BUSHROD wrote her will. She names Elizabeth, wife of Col. John SCARSBROOK.
2.  1679, 18 Apr: John SCASBROOK of York Co. wrote his will. He named his two oldest daughters Jane DUKE and Elizabeth CONDON executrices and directs that anything recovered from Mrs. BUSHROD’s estate be divided among his four minor children, Martha, Mary, Hannah and John SCASBROOK. )  Even though Nicholas Martiau may not be my direct ancestor, he is an important figure in American history, and I am pleased to have learned about him.  The rest of the history included in this post about Martiau is correct, only our relationship was incorrect.

In working on my genealogy of ancestors from the Jamestown Colony, I learned of a man named Nicholas Martiau, 1591-1657, who holds a strong place in American and Virginia history! He was a French Huguenot, a military engineer appointed by King James I (King James VI of Scotland) of England, at the express petition and sponsorship of the Earl of Huntington, to come to America and help build the fort at Yorktown, Virginia. He served as a Burgess from Jamestown in 1623. Many, many stories are written about Nicholas Martiau on ancestry.com, some of which contradict each other, unfortunately. However, between these and the scholarly works like that of John Baer Stoudt’s book entitled Nicolas Martiau–Adventurous Huguenot, certain facts emerge. 

Nicholas was born in 1591 on the Ile de Re, France, and raised a French Huguenot who learned to speak English by reading the Bible. Due to the religious persecution of Huguenots, his family escaped to England where he was naturalized English and was registered in a Huguenot church there. He left England and sailed for Virginia on the ship Francis Bona Ventura (sometimes seen as Francis Bonadventure) arriving in June 1620. His construction of a fence or palisade around the Jamestown Fort helped the settlers survive an Indian uprising in 1622. He was also instrumental in constructing the palisades at Yorktown, Fort Story, and Old Point Comfort, Fort Monroe. He can be seen in the first census taken in Jamestown in 1624 and was elected to the House of Burgesses from the colony. Later he served as a Burgess from Elizabeth City, Yorktown, and the Isle of Kent.  Nicholas also served as a Justice for the early court system of Virginia–with court sometimes being held in his home. 

Nicholas received land patents for bringing people over from England, and later as rewards for his work.  He settled on a 1300 acre plantation on the York River. His home apparently sat on a bluff overlooking a curve in the York River where it connects with the Chesapeake Bay.  What a beautiful place to live that must have been! Nicholas did not live to see his land become the modern-day site of Yorktown, Virginia, but his grandson donated or sold, depending on the report, 50 acres of land for the original site of that vibrant town in 1691.  The town’s creation established Yorktown as the principal location for shipping and receiving tobacco, and other goods via the port.  Wharves, warehouses, and other business buildings were established at the riverfront. In 1931, a monument was dedicated to Nicholas Martiau by the Martiau-Washington Memorial Association commemorating his accomplishments and his illustrious descendants like George Washington; Governor of Virginia, Thomas Nelson;  and Confederate Commander Robert E Lee.  An eleven-foot tall slab of Vermont granite, the monument sits on Ballard Street in Yorktown near where Martiau made his first home upon arrival in Virginia. Nicholas Martiau,  le buste de Nicholas Martiau, oeuvre du sculpteur Desire Bardot

We know that Nicholas was married three times. unfortunately, the name of his first wife and perhaps even two children are not recorded or at least have not been discovered at this writing. They are recorded as having arrived after him on  a separate ship. It is assumed that they died soon after arriving as did so many settlers.  In 1625, Nicholas married Jane Page Berkeley, the widow of a prominent man named Lt. Edward Berkeley–marrying her increased his social status.  Together they had a son Nicholas who died without children as well as a son Richard who died at age ten. Their three daughters, however, grew to adulthood and made great matches leading to the founding of many prominent Virginia families. His will can be found in the Virginia State Library in Richmond, Virginia and names his three daughters as Elizabeth,b. 1625 who married George Reade and leads to George Washington;  Sarah, b. 1629 who marries Capt. William Fuller; and Mary Jane, my own 8th great-grandmother who marries my 8th great-grandfather (convenient) John Scarsbrook. Nicholas marries a third time after Jane Berkeley’s death to Isabella, the widow of both Capt. Robert Felgate and George Beech with no children from this marriage.

Less you think Nicholas was a mild-mannered man, I’ll share one story that tells us more about his character. In 1635, Nicholas was a leader in a revolt against the tyranny of Royal Governor, Sir John Harvey. This was the first revolt against British authority in Virginia.  For his efforts, he was arrested and confined –but only for a brief while as Governor Harvey was deposed and Martiau released! He was a strong patriot, and it is interesting that his daughter Mary Jane married John Scarsbrook who was a leader in the Bacon rebellion! 

Nicholas is credited as the earliest American ancestor of President George Washington.  We can see the relationship in this descendancy chart:       

President George Washington (1732 – 1799)

is your 3rd great-grandson

father of President George Washington

mother of Augustine Washington Sr,

mother of Mildred Warner

mother of Mildred Reade

 Nicholas Martiau                                                                                                                                      You are the father of Elizabeth Martiau  

 In  St. Martin de Re, France, where Nicholas Martiau was born, in a garden behind the Ernest Cognacq Museum, there is a statue of George Washington, with the base of the monument featuring  a crest representing Martiau and his relationship to George Washington–dedicated by the American ambassador to France in 2007!     
Nicholas Martiau, George Washington statue,statue of George Washington w crest,  featuring Nicholas Martiau as Washington's earliest American ancestorNicholas Martiau Crest on George Washington Statue
Another caveat of being a descendant of Nicholas Martiau is that it qualifies them to join several “historical” organizations. One is “First Families of Virginia”, because Martiau arrived before the first census was taken in 1624.  His living in Jamestown qualifies his descendants for membership in the Jamestown Society also. Another important group to preserve our ancestor’s history is the “Nicolas Martiau Descendant Association”.  If I were going to join these groups however, my favorite I believe would be to belong to the august group of women with ancestors dating to early colonial Virginia called the “Grand Dames of Virginia”!
Here’s wishing you the most fun as you trace your own family tree! Helen
After writing this blog post, in May, 2014, my daughter Ali Holshouser Orcutt and her husband Greg Orcutt took their children to Yorktown where Greg took this picture of the plaque in Yorktown, Va. honoring Nicholas Martiau.
     Nicholas martiau plaque , pic. by Greg Orcutt, May, 2014





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