Saturday, June 27, 2015

Peter Callaway (aka Kellaway) and Elizyabeth Johnson - forbidden lovers

Peter: (abt 1630 – 1713)
 Elizyabeth (aka Elizabeth): (1654 – 1739)

Family lineage: 1 Peter Callaway, 2 William Callaway, 3 Zachariah Callaway, 4 Sarah Callaway, 5 Eliza Frances Walker,
 6 Emarine Bartram,  7 Queen Rebecca Dickerson, 8 Edna Bethel Franklin, 9 Judith Ann Hayward

Like several other family legends who got their start in England, 19 year old Peter Callaway craved adventure in a land he thought was calling his name.   But turning that dream into reality was something else again, especially when he experienced the stomach-turning fact that the cost to finance such a dream would far outweigh his ability to pay for it.   And he certainly couldn't use a Visa card or drop in for a heart to heart visit with an astute banker, who would certainly question how the loan would be repaid – and when.  

So Peter went to “Plan B” and sold himself to a sea captain, who first agreed to provide him with transportation to America and then sold him to an American settler for 6 pounds.  In return, the young man was legally bound to serve the investor for up to 7 years in some capacity.  Both sides profited from this arrangement because: 
  • Peter would be able to fulfill his dream of building his life in America;
  •  his new master would be getting fairly inexpensive labor to work in his home and fields; and in addition
  •  would be granted at least 50 acres of prime land for each  headright he sponsored (person transported to America)
The plan was not without its potential downside, however, since the travelers often became ill and died at sea, leaving the colonist with nothing to show for his investment - unless he could convince the land office that he should still be granted the land because he had lived up to his part of the bargain. 

Early Virginia House of Burgess's
Peter Callaway's contract was awarded to William Pressley, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses  in Northumberland County, Virginia  (although English kings had always reserved the right to decide the fate of their colonies, the colonists themselves drew upon their traditional English rights and insisted on raising their own representative assemblies. Such was the case with the Virginia House of Burgess's, the first popularly elected legislature in the New World.)

Mr. Pressley must have been quite wealthy by the standards of that time.  After all, he could not only pay 6 pounds for Peter's passage, but he was able to invest 136 more pounds to pay the passage for 22 additional headrights, which included Mrs. Pressley and their three sons.  It was a good deal for him!  Besides bringing his family to America for a fairly minimal cost, his labor force had grown and he had been awarded more than 1,150 of acreage to add to his holdings.

No one knows for sure whether Peter was  a carpenter before he sailed for America or learned the trade during his indenture period.  What is known is that he used that skill to make a living after completing his obligation to Mr. Pressley.  And it's also likely that before he left the Pressleys, the 24 year old was awarded “freedom dues” (a pre-arranged termination bonus which often included 50 acres of land perhaps granted through a headright, money, a gun, clothes and/or food.). 1664 was his "freedom" year, during which time he took whatever skills and treasure he might have gained and traveled across the Chesapeake Bay into Maryland where he settled on the Wicomico River, a 13 mile tributary of the Patawomeke (or Potomac) River

The timing was good for an entrepreneur such as Peter  because Europeans were just beginning to realize the territory's great potential.  That change might have been good news for the early settlers with land and services to buy and sell, but it wasn't so great for the resident Indian tribes, including the Wicomicas, whose land holdings were being chipped away by ambitious settlers.  
This tribe had gained fame when, in 1608, Captain John Smith had written about his discovery of the 130 Indian men living in the Wicomica village on the mouth of the Patawomeke (Potomac) River.  Compared to other Europeans of that time, the Captain seemed to be open-minded toward the natives and described them in glowing terms as comely and civil.  He even referred to their chiefs as kings and emperors.

If there were women in his life during his first six years on the Wicomco, they are unknown to this day.  But he was obviously ready for love when he met 15 year old Elizybeth
Johnson who – even in those days - was too young to marry but old enough to get pregnant and thrown out of her home by her embarrassed family.  Somehow the desperate - and suddenly homeless - girl connected with the local Wicomica Indians, who offered her shelter and support during her pregnancy.  Even before her baby girl was born, Elizabeth knew that the child would suffer terribly for her mother's "sins" and be an outcast in the community.  So following her daughter's birth, she left her with the Indians and returned to town and the man she loved, knowing that more heartache awaited them. 

That fear soon became a reality.  Even though Peter wasn't a Quaker, he and Elizabeth were subjected to Quaker courts, known for giving harsh sentences – especially to couples who had not waited for their wedding to take place before having a child. 

During the court hearing on March 26, 1667,  Elizabeth Johnson named Peter Callaway as the father of her baby, and Peter did not deny his responsibility.  After hearing their pleas, the court delivered a shockingly harsh sentence - especially on Elizabeth, who was a minor at that time.  According to the Somerset County Judicial Records of  1671-1675:

  • Both Peter and Elyzabeth were to be publicly whipped unless Peter paid 1,000 pounds of tobacco to the court and Elizabeth paid 100 pounds as security for future good behavior.  In addition, Peter was to give the girl  one hundred pounds of tobacco for the "abuse" he had caused her (which could be used to pay her fine), and he had to deposit securities for the maintenance of their child so that no one else would be responsible for her financial requirements (lucky for him he had earned some money after arriving in Maryland and was able to pay the fines).

    They both were required to sign a bond of matrimony which would bind them to each other for a lifetime, which didn't seem to be a problem since that was their intention to begin with.. 
    The sentencing didn't sound too bad until one gets to the the next part of the penalty which decreed that Elizabeth was to be sold  to a Maryland settler, Thomas Ball, as an indentured servant and during her seven years with  Mr. Ball, she would be cut off from her new husband.

Stories about Elizabeth's life during those seven years say that she often wandered off to visit the Indians (no one seemed to know why she did that, but it seems pretty obvious to me that she needed to see her child and spend time with her Indian friends who offered her friendship and acceptance)  Poor Thomas Ball didn't get a good bargain when he accepted Elizabeth as his servant. Every time she wandered off  he was ordered to bring her back and deliver her to the Magistrate for disciplining (which didn't seem to stop her from wandering off again).

The punishment was obviously not the same for males and females at that time.  By 1672, while poor Elizabeth was only into her fifth year of servitude, Peter was given 50 acres of land for service to the province and was able to accumulate other large holdings of land and build his wealth.  Finally, at age 22, she completed her 7 year sentence and returned to Peter.

The Callaway marriage, despite its rough start, lasted for many years - once Peter and Elizabeth were finally able to live together as a married couple.  The first of their six legitimate children was born almost 8 years after their marriage, which confirms the 7 years they had to spend apart after their marriage.  There is no record of what happened to their first child, but it is believed she was raised by the Indians and lived with them her whole life.

Both of the Callaways lived long lives, with Peter dying in 1719 in his late 80s (several months after his death, Elizabeth Callaway registered her own cattle mark, which showed that she was now the owner of their property.).  She died in 1739 at age 85.
For more information on this interesting couple see  Clayton Torrence's book, "Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore of Maryland: A Study in Foundations and Founders."  and