Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Joseph Royall, Sr. - tailor, sailor, early plantation owner

 1600 - 1655 
Joseph Royall 1 Mary Diane Royall 2 Champness Terry 3 Henry Terry 4, Obediah Moses Dickerson 5 Griffith Dickerson 6 William Smith Dickerson 7 Hiram C. Dickerson 8 William Vincent Dickerson 9 Queen Rebecca Dickerson 10 Edna Bethel Franklin 11 Judith Ann Hayward 12
    As early as 1467, the “Royall” family (that's not a spelling error) had earned a place in English history, thanks to John Royall who, in the late 1400s and early 1500s, held several  public offices under Kings Richard III and Henry VII, while his son, Roger, followed in his footsteps by serving King Henry VIII as a member of the Royal Palace Guard until the king's death in 1547, which finally freed the young people in the family to spread their wings and seek a new life in a new land. 
       One of those was 22 year old Joseph Royall, an accomplished tailor who, while never having lived or worked on a ship before, signed up in 1622 as a member of the crew on the“Charitie”, which was bound for America.  After discovering what was expected of a crewman,  Joseph was quick to admit that while he might not be an accomplished seaman, he was an experienced tailor.  As a result, the Captain assigned him to  mend all the sails and clothing that might suffer during the trip.  He obviously learned a great deal because, within three years, he was promoted to Captain of the ship – quite a feat for 25 year old landlubber!  
     That position was not without its challenges, however, including how to keep the ship afloat while most of his crew was stricken with a disease called “burning fever” (perhaps typhus or malaria in today's terms). 
Then, after the fever “burned itself out”, he was forced to deal with a seemingly minor but  extremely irritating  problem caused by two of his passengers who just happened to be the wife and daughter of the ship's owner, Luke Boyse.  To the Captain's  surprise, instead of complimenting him on his skill in bringing the ship to safety during a terrible storm, Mrs. Boyse accused him of allowing sea water to leak into the ship and ruin all her clothing!  Joseph must have been disheartened later to learn that her husband/his employer took his wife's side in the dispute and, as a result, ordered Joseph to not only apologize to his wife, but to replace every piece of damaged clothing and make them better than before. 
But Mrs. Boyse was on a crusade to make Joseph's life miserable, thanks to what she perceived as his disregard for her pain and loss.  As a result, she took him to court, where she presented an agreement which had been signed by both her late husband and Joseph soon  after he had been promoted to Captain of the Charitie.  (An explanation was never provided as to why he had signed it in the first place, but some believe it was just meant to get that woman off his back! )

     This document proved that Joseph had agreed to make and pay for every dress worn by Alice Boyse, her child and their servants until he was no longer living in the area, in which case his family members would then be held responsible for serving her and her child!  (Fortunately a decree of this sort, although sounding official, was impossible to enforce even then, and it's believed that he was eventually officially freed from what she considered a life-long obligation.)

      It seems that his encounter with Mrs. Boyse ended his life on the sea, and he soon was on his way to Virginia with a new plan in mind which included finding a wife and  building a plantation on the James River.. 

     Joseph was married three times, first to an English girl whose surname was Thomasin and who
died shortly after their marriage. Then, in 1629, he married Ann (whose surname is unknown but who agreed with his decision to build his home in Jamestown, Virginia which was the first permanent English settlement in North America and founded only20 years before.)  Sadly, Ann was killed by marauding Indians in 1642 before having had much of a chance to enjoy their beautiful new home.

     After identifying the land he wished to claim, Joseph had begun to accumulate head-rights, each of which was worth 50 acres of land. Before long, thanks to receiving a head-right for himself and each of his three wives (whose names, for some reason, were omitted from their patent applications), his brother, Henry who had joined him, and servants he transported from England, he had accumulated enough to claim 500 acres of prime land running along the north side of the James River in Henrico County just above the “Shirley” Plantation (
built in 1614 and still an active plantation).

     Perhaps in honor of happy times he had experienced while a child on the Aughama (aka Doghams) River in France, he named his home Doghams Farms. ( The house was occupied by his family for over 200 years and 300 years after it was built, it was listed by the Virginia Landmarks Register on the "National Register of Historic Places").

Thanks to Joseph's vast experience as a ship captain, he had known exactly where to build Doghams so that – while growing crops on the land - it would also allow lively trade opportunities on the James River where it was not only accessible but wide enough to allow ships to bring in rich cargoes in exchange for tobacco, furs and wood products. 

  Joseph remained a single widower until reaching the age of 45, when he fell in love with – and married - his 18 year old first cousin, Katherine Banks, who had arrived in Jamestown only five years before. 

     After 11 years of marriage, 58 year old Joseph died, leaving behind 1100 acres of rich, fertile land, a beautiful home, a loving wife, and five children who became fine, productive adults.

Doghams Cemetery

 Joseph was buried in Doghams Cemetery next to the house he had built and loved for so many years.

Katherine Banks Royall-Isham

  Katherine eventually married their wealthy neighbor, Henry Isham, who had come to America only two years before and was in the process of building a house he named “Bermuda 100 Plantation”.  She had two children with Henry and after her death became the third great-grandmother of Thomas Jefferson. Thanks to their wealth and friendliness, Katherine and Henry Isham were considered leaders of society.

According to custom, Joseph Royall's estate became Henry's property upon his marriage to Katherine. Henry then added another wing onto the residence and planted tall pines and an English flower garden – all enclosed within a white picket fence. Doghams remained in the Royall/Isham family and still stands on the old road between Richmond and Williamsburg.

For more information about this interesting family see:

Seldens of Va. & allied fams. By Mary S. Kennedy. New York [1911] (2v.):67 
Social Life in Virginia in the 17th Century by P.A. Bruce, 
The Wm and Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine 1915 pp 116-142, 
The Virginia Dynasties Virginia Biographical Encyclopedia, Joseph Royall

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