Dinsmore Documentation  presents  Classics of American Colonial History

Author: Bruce, Philip A.
Title: Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century: An Inquiry into the Material Condition of the People, Based on Original and Contemporaneous Records.
Citation: New York: MacMillan and Co., 1896
Subdivision: Chapter VII
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Eighty years had now passed since the day on which the colonists for the first time had sowed wheat in the soil of Virginia, this being the earliest seed that was planted after possession was taken of Jamestown Island. What changes had agriculture in this interval produced upon the face of the country? If the descriptions of contemporaneous observers are deserving of credence, the Colony, even where its population was densest, bore the aspect of a wilderness, owing to the enormous disproportion between the area in cultivation and the area still in a state of nature. The high lands were concealed by a heavy growth of trees, and the low grounds consisted largely of forest and marsh.1 I have already referred to the motives impelling the planters to engross as extensive tracts as they could secure; these motives were the absolute need of a virgin soil in the production of tobacco in perfection in that age when artificial manures were unknown, and the need equally as great of a wide surface for the support of cattle which had to obtain their own subsistence at every season in the year. It was asserted at this time that although the population of Virginia did not exceed the number of inhabitants in the single parish of Stepney, a part of the city of London, nevertheless they had acquired ownership in plantations that

1 Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 6.


spread over the same area of country as England itself.1 The proportion of open fields on these plantations was barely one-fifth of the whole. When the soil would no longer bring forth maize and wheat, which were cultivated after the third crop of tobacco, it was permitted to grow up again in underwood. As a result of this custom, a great extent of land which had been cleared at one time was covered with much thicker woods than the land remaining in primæval forest.2 In England, vast tracts were held by individual proprietors, but owing to the habit of leasing, which threw the tillage of an extensive surface into numerous hands, only a small part of the country was suffered to relapse into its original condition.

Not even England, however, had in the seventeenth century carried the cultivation of the soil to a moderate degree of perfection; the agriculture of the mother country throughout this century being very little advanced upon that of the fourteenth. This resulted in part from the narrow policy prevailing in that age, of requiring the tenant farmer to pay additional rent whenever he increased the value of the land which he leased by making improvements at his own expense. The first steps towards those modes of tillage which have in the nineteenth century converted England into one of the garden spots of the world, was taken in 1645, in which year the system in operation in Holland was introduced. Its adoption, however, was local, partial, and not persistent. According to the plan generally pursued in the mother country at this time, the land was sown for two years in wheat, and in the third year it was allowed to lie fallow. The application

1 Minutes of a Committee for Trade and Plantations, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 105, p. 130; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1677, p. 61, Va. State Library.

2 Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1097, p. 7.


of the four-course rule now began to be observed here and there. Hemp was cultivated to some extent, and artificial grasses were sown. The practice of these judicious principles was apparently confined to a few for a period of an hundred years.1 Arthur Young in the eighteenth century admitted that the Dutch system, which was the groundwork of the most improved forms of agriculture in modern times, had not been generally adopted in the kingdom. It was not until 1649, that the means employed in the present age of restoring the fertility of exhausted soils was even to a slight degree put into practice in England. About this time there are some indications of the use of clover and lime with this object in view. In 1665, the seeds of clover were sown in some parts of England for the purpose both of furnishing food for cattle and of keeping up the productiveness of the land.2

It would be too much to expect that the small advance which had been made in the mother country should be reflected in the general system of tillage prevailing in Virginia, especially in its relation to the improvement of the condition of the soil under cultivation. Indeed, no steps of importance were taken in the Colony to restore the fertility of lands that had been overworked.3 Recourse was occasionally had to the cow-pen as the means of manuring particular spots,4 but this was necessarily limited in its application, being employed principally by tenants who were compelled to make the most of ground which had been used for a number of years. In the records of deeds in the county courts, as well as in

1 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, pp. 99, 100, 783; Macaulay’s History of England, chap. III.

2 Improver Improved.

3 Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 7; Glover in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vols. XI-XII, p. 628.

4 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 21, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


the original patents, the references to old fields are very numerous; these were lands which, after passing out of cultivation, had at first been given up as pastures to roaming cattle, but which in a few years relapsed into thickets, and finally into forests of a second growth. There was an abundance of natural manures which might have been scattered over the surface of these impoverished fields if their owners had considered it to be advisable. Rolfe had observed the presence of marl in the Powhatan valley, and drawn attention to its value as a means of increasing the fertility of ground under tillage.1 Clayton, who visited the Colony in 1688, was very much impressed by the spectacle of the vast quantity of shells, which, with little trouble, could be converted into lime; in some places, he came upon deposits extending for several miles, the soil being so much intermixed with oyster shells that it seemed to be composed more of shells than of earth. At the foot of many hills where the underground was exposed to view, he saw veins of shell rock three or four yards in thickness, and in many cases pieces of this rock which had fallen off were several tons in weight. As the soil was thin and sandy, Clayton was of the opinion that marl and not lime should be used in manuring it.2

It was not until nearly a century and a half had passed that the value of these natural manures was generally recognized. It is recorded that Governor Yeardley used marl on one occasion to increase the fertility of a small tract which he had under tillage; but the example that be set was not followed on a notable scale until Edmund Ruffin, in his memorable treatise on calcareous manures, pointed out the important part which this material could

1 Works of Capt. John Smith, pp. 345, 541.

2 Clayton’s Virginia, pp. 14, 24, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


be made to play in restoring the exhausted lands of eastern Virginia. Ninety years after the foundation of Jamestown, there was no element of natural wealth as abundant in the Colony as a virgin soil; the axe and the laborer alone were needed to secure a new field, which was richer in productive qualities than the most highly improved spots in the English shires of Kent and Sussex. As long as this was the case, there could be no real demand for manures. In Virginia, in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, there were many planters of the highest intelligence familiar with all the methods that had been adopted in England and Holland for the improvement of agriculture. If they failed to introduce these methods into the Colony, it is evident that they considered it to be cheaper to obtain fertile lands by the removal of the forests than by the application of natural or artificial substances.

The extraordinary value placed upon new grounds in spite of the vast beds of marl to be found in all of the inhabited parts of the Colony, had been shown in a very striking manner in 1648, in an incident which was as characteristic of the last as of the middle part of the century. In that year, a very earnest petition was offered to the Governor and Council by a large number of planters, who sought permission to move from the south to the north side of Charles River, the name borne at that time by the modern York. The only reason advanced to justify the favorable consideration of this petition, was that their lands had become barren from cultivation, and they were anxious in consequence to secure tracts where the soil was still in its primæval state. They described their condition in their present situation to be one of great and clamorous necessity, their labors producing only mean tobacco, and their cattle falling into


decay because they were restricted in their range. These evils, it was asserted, were not confined to a few persons, but touched a considerable number of the inhabitants of the Colony.1

The ordinary manner of remunerating the overseers probably had an important influence in hastening the decline of the lands which had been recently cleared. The instance of Thomas Harwood, who in 1698 was employed in Elizabeth City by John George to superintend his laborers at a salary of six hundred pounds of tobacco, was undoubtedly rare.2 As a rule, the reward was a certain portion of the crop. In some instances this was one-fourth, in others one-tenth. One-half was the proportion agreed upon by Charles Hansford and his overseer, Thomas Sharpe, in York. David Jenkins, a few years later, instituted suit against Archer, a citizen of the same county, on the ground that as overseer of Archer’s estate he was entitled to an equal share in the grain and tobacco, his claim having been denied.3 At a still later period, the remuneration of a man of this class was regulated by the number of persons, including himself, in the employment of the planter who had engaged his services, slaves as well as indented and hired servants forming the basis of the calculation.4 The larger the volume of production on the plantation, the greater the amount he would secure; and this was a powerful inducement

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, pp. 353, 354.

2 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 182, Va. State Library.

3 Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 1, Va. State Library. An instance in which the remuneration was one-tenth of the grain and tobacco, is given in the records of the same county, vol. 1684-1687, p. 7. The overseer of Abraham Moone, in Lancaster, was allowed one-fourth of the tobacco crop. Original volume, 1654-1702, p. 28.

4 Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 36.


to him not only to urge forward the laborers under his supervision, but also to extend the area of new grounds, because it was from the virgin soil that he was able to obtain the most abundant crops of tobacco. It was always to his interest that the fields which had been under cultivation for several years should be abandoned as soon as they gave the first indication of exhaustion. As his only object was to extract as much from the land as it would give forth in its natural condition, there was nothing to create in him the desire to preserve its original fertility, either by following careful methods of tillage or by application of such manures as were in his reach. In the seventeenth century this was not so great a source of damage to the material welfare of Virginia as in the eighteenth and in the first quarter of the nineteenth, for the same system of remunerating the overseer continued to prevail down to as late a period as 1825. There was such a vast extent of uncleared land even in the most ancient counties of the Colony in the seventeenth century, that the extermination of the forest was the most important economic act which the inhabitants were called upon to perform. The motives prompting the overseer to display extraordinary energy in removing the woods did not, therefore, result in very great harm, except in the communities which were thickly populated, and where agricultural conditions prevailed similar to those found in Virginia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The estates in these communities demanded a careful system of tillage, but the same reckless waste appeared in their management as in that of the frontier plantations; the soil which had been under cultivation was left unimproved, and reliance was placed on the woodland to furnish the new grounds considered to be indispensable.

No step of importance seems to have been taken in the


seventeenth century to redeem even in part the vast expanse of marsh to be found here and there on the margins of the principal streams. Indeed, previous to 1700, but little ground in the swamps of the various plantations had been reclaimed. This was the case not only when Glover and Clayton were sojourning in the Colony, but also as far into the following century as the first years of the Spotswood administration, an Act being passed by the General Assembly in 1712, making the draining of permanently wet land one of the conditions, compliance with which gave an absolute title to the whole tract in which the soil thus rendered arable was situated.1 The desire of the local government that the marshes and swamps should as far as possible be put into a state of cultivation or general use is shown in the provision adopted in 1672, allowing the owner of land recently acquired in the immediate neighborhood of such areas, the privilege of suing out a patent to them at any time in the course of the first six months immediately succeeding the date on which a notice by others of an intention to obtain a title to these areas had been given.2 How little advantage was taken of this provision is revealed in the declaration of Berkeley, that it was doubtful if there were one hundred acres in the Colony which had been rescued from the tide or from standing pools. In 1671, a grant of four hundred acres was made to John Conyers in a locality bearing the name of Reedy Swamp and lying in Warwick County, a tract which had before been held by Major Charles Davis, but which was soon deserted by him as worthless. Conyers probably wished to use the ground covered by his patent as a range for his cattle.3 This seems to have been

1 Letters of Governor Spotswood, vol. II, p. 47.

2 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 300.

3 Records of the General Court, p. 87.


the only purpose to which the marshes and swamps were devoted. In March, 1673, the marsh land situated in the boundaries of James City Island, remaining without an owner, was determined to be the property of all the inhabitants of the corporation, the object of this provision being to furnish a common for the live stock of the whole population.1 As a rule, the marshy and swampy soil occupied such a low position that it would have been difficult to draw off the water without expensive ditches, or to have prevented an immediate inundation by the tides and floods without still more expensive dikes; nevertheless, there must have been a considerable area of ground which could have been protected from overflow without imposing a serious burden on the resources of the planters.

This opinion was entertained by Mr. Clayton, a very intelligent observer, who, during his sojourn in Virginia, was much impressed with the folly of the proprietors, who instead of turning to their advantage in the culture of tobacco the bogs and marshes in their possession, which could have been easily drained, preferred to go to a great outlay of time and labor in order to destroy the heavy growth of forest covering the surface of the earth on a higher level.2 While a resident of the Colony, he visited for a short time a lady owning a plantation which had been cultivated almost to the point of exhaustion. On this estate there was a large area in swamp that had only to be ditched to be converted into a rich arable soil. No sooner had the eye of Mr. Clayton detected the presence of this unreclaimed land, than he took occasion to call the attention of the overseer to it, with the advice that he should drain it and use it in the cultivation of tobacco. The reply which was returned was characteristic

1 Records of the General Court, p. 127.

2 Clayton’s Virginia, pp. 21, 22, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


of the whole planting class. Mr. Clayton, who was a clergyman by profession, was flatly informed that he knew very much better how to compose a sermon than how to produce tobacco, and was warned not to interfere further with a man who had learned his business from practical experience. Doubtless it appeared to the overseer the very height of presumption on the part of the guest of his mistress, a man who had, perhaps, never seen the plant in his life until his arrival a few weeks before in Virginia, to be seeking to instruct him as to the soil best adapted to its production. In enforcing his views, Mr. Clayton, no doubt, spoke dogmatically, and his confidence in the soundness of his advice was further sustained by the claims which he laid to considerable scientific knowledge. A Virginian overseer of the seventeenth century, however, was not to be overawed by such pretensions.

The English clergyman was not discouraged by the bluntness of the overseer in warning him to confine himself to his sermons. His reflections at the moment were, as we learn from what he subsequently published, that the Virginians were “conceitedly bent on following their old custom and practice,” and were opposed to receiving instructions from others, however plain, easy and advantageous they might be. This state of feeling be disclosed some time afterwards on offering the same advice to his hostess, who proved to be much more compliant than her overseer. She adopted his suggestion, and in the proper season directed that the swamp should be drained, although in doing so she gave her agent such offence as to lead to his withdrawal from her employment. In the following year, when the exposed soil had become thoroughly dry, it was cultivated in tobacco and brought forth plants almost unexampled in size. Mr. Clayton records with evident pride and satisfaction in the accuracy of his prediction,


that his former hostess, who happened to be in England in the course of the year in which the first crop was harvested from the former bog, had related to him that the product was so heavy as to incur the suspicion of being Oronoco, and that she consulted him in consequence as to the proper method of reducing the size and weight of the leaves, he prudently recommended that, instead of allowing four or five to the stalk, she should increase the number to seven or eight, and so by distributing the strength of the plant in many directions, diminish the length, width, and thickness of each leaf. This course appears so obvious as a means of reducing the bulk that it is surprising that our proprietress should have been led to consult a foreign clergyman to obtain a remedy for the fault of which she complained. She was either ignorant of the culture of tobacco, or was seeking to make an agreeable impression upon her former guest by appearing to rely upon his superior knowledge.

If Mr. Clayton had revisited Virginia ten years subsequent to the time which he passed there, he would have found the planters still actively engaged in clearing new grounds in preference to draining the swamps and marshes. The only use to which the soil in these localities was put in connection with tobacco was when occasionally removed in small quantities to the field and there inserted in the hills as a means of manuring them. As a rule, however, this had proved to be injurious, the earth, as soon as the moisture in it evaporated, becoming so hard that the roots of the plant were unable to penetrate it and in consequence died.1 It was a recognized fact among all who were informed as to the Virginian leaf from practical experience in its cultivation, that the kinds grown in marsh land belonged to inferior grades. The overseer

1 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 25, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


who replied with so much contempt to Mr. Clayton, when urged to drain the swamp, was only expressing the opinion entertained by the planters in general. The English traveller himself states that when he pressed the same advice upon a number of his acquaintances, they received the suggestion with an unmistakable flout. One explanation of their objection was, that tobacco produced in a soil which had been recovered from the bog, unless kept for a long time, was as incombustible in a pipe as leather.1 It was known as the non-burning sort, a defect in its first stage after curing that was temporarily fatal to its value. There was quite naturally but little disposition to cultivate a plant that was not marketable until it had been stored away for a very considerable period, during which it was exposed to the same risks of depreciation as the other grades. The incombustibility of leaves obtained from ground redeemed from swamp and marsh was supposed to be due to the small quantity of nitre the plant contained in consequence of the absence of that ingredient in the soil itself. The character of the product was dependent upon the character of the land. Both planter and merchant were disposed to lay much emphasis upon the substance of their tobacco, since its excellence was considered to be proportionate to the closeness of its texture, and this was only observed in perfection when the soil was especially adapted to its growth. Earth containing among its elements a moderate quantity of sand was thought to be very much impregnated with nitre, and was, therefore, peculiarly suitable for the cultivation of the variety most popular with smokers, its greater combustibility being attributed to this cause.2 This was the sweet-scented tobacco for which the Colony enjoyed so much

1 Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 39.

2 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 16, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


reputation. Between the sweet-scented and the Oronoco, which represented the other extreme in weight, there were several varieties, the seed of which bore the names of planters who had given them special distinction. The Pryor, which is cultivated in Virginia to-day, was well known as early as the seventeenth century; but other kinds distinguished in a similar way have not descended to more recent times.1 It was stated that the Indians had several varieties of tobacco of their own at this period which were unknown to colonial husbandry.

When Hugh Jones resided in Virginia, nearly twenty years subsequent to the decade now claiming our attention, he noted the fact, which was just as true in the closing years of the seventeenth century as in the opening years of the eighteenth, that the lands situated between the York and the James were peculiarly adapted to the growth of the sweet-scented tobacco, and that the quality of this variety was observed to decline the further one proceeded northward from the York or southward from the James. Jones was disposed to attribute this in a very large measure to a difference in seeds and management, but the true explanation doubtless lay in the difference in the ground under cultivation. The modern history of the plant in Southern Virginia has shown how dependent are the fine varieties upon special elements in the composition of land, and that these elements may be found in the soil of one county and yet be entirely absent in that of another, although contiguous. In the time of Hugh Jones, the tobacco cultivated on a small tract in York County, known as Digges Neck, enjoyed the highest degree of reputation for its mild taste and agreeable odor.2 Apparently,

1 The Townsend variety was well known. See Records of York County, vol. 1657-1662, p. 128, Va. State Library.

2 Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 34.


the general division of country adjacent to the Neck was of precisely the same character, but the difference in the product revealed that this was not so. We have here an instance recalling the history of many of the most famous brands of foreign wines, the growth of the grapes from which they are made being in many cases restricted, not to certain parts of Europe, but to single vineyards covering an area of comparatively few acres.

William Fitzhugh, who not only planted tobacco himself but also purchased a large quantity annually, was of the opinion that the soil of the country north of the Rappahannock was as well adapted as that of the Peninsula to the development of the finest grades of the leaf. In a letter to James Bligh, an English merchant with whom he had dealings in 1697, he announced that he had sent to his correspondent’s address a certain quantity of the stemmed, sweet-scented variety, which he asserted to be as excellent in quality as the same kind from York, a statement that he justifies by his experience in selling the product of this county in the markets of London and Bristol during a period of several years.1 Whether or not the soil of the Northern Neck was as conducive to the growth of sweet-scented tobacco as the soil of the Peninsula, it was cultivated in the former part of the country to a very great extent. Fitzhugh seems to have planted the Oronoco or the sweet-scented just as his anticipation as to which of the two would ensure the largest profit when disposed of in England dictated. In 1685, he is found in possession of thirty or forty hogsheads of the latter, which were in large measure the product of his own lands.2 In 1688, his crop of Oronoco amounted in volume to one hundred casks, but as it commanded a very

1 Letters of William Fitzhugh, April 8, 1696.

2 Ibid., June 1, 1685.


low price, he decided to substitute for it in the following year the sweet-scented, because this was capable of being packed in greater bulk and was therefore cheaper to transport.1 The Oronoco was grown on bottom lands remarkable for their fertility, the aim of those who were engaged in cultivating it being to make it extremely heavy, and to bring it to the color of a kite’s foot.2 The shape of the leaf of this variety was more elongated and sharper at the end than that of the sweet-scented, causing it to resemble the ear of the fox. The leaf of the sweet-scented was rounder and finer in its fibre. The excellence of the seeds of both was tested by the readiness and brilliancy with which they flashed when cast into the fire. In laying off a plant bed, a spot of ground was selected that was found to be composed of a rich mould. The seeds were sown about the middle of January. It seems to have been due to a suggestion of Clayton that the method was introduced of steeping them in an infusion of soot and stable manure before they were scattered over the surface of the plant bed, the object of which was to quicken the process of germination; it was also the habit to mix them with ashes and then to sow them broadcast, as it was supposed that a more even distribution was thus ensured.3

The plants, before they were removed from the bed in the woods to the field where they were to be set, were exposed, as in more recent times, to the depredation of a small fly which devoured the plume; no effort seems to have been made to divert the attention of this insect from the young tobacco by cultivating, around the boundaries

1 Letters of William Fitzhugh, July 22, 1689.

2 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 15, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.

3 Glover, in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vol. XI-XII, p. 634; Clayton’s Virginia, p. 18, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


of the beds, weeds, for the flowers of which they were known to have a strong proclivity. To raise a barrier against the incursions of these pests as well as to furnish protection from the rays of the sun, oak leaves and boughs were thickly strewn over the surface of the patch; straw was also used until it was observed that the plants which had been guarded from injury by this means showed, when transferred to the field, a tendency to lag in their growth and to take a spiral shape. For this reason they were always referred to as “Frenchmen,” a people who were associated in the Virginian mind with tallness and attenuation in form.1

There was no date which was universally accepted as the proper time for transplantation. It was the habit of some to remove the tobacco from the bed as early in the season as was practicable; but of others, to defer doing so until the latest moment, the peculiar character of the soils of the different fields not entering into consideration.2 As a rule, transplantation began very early in May, small hills situated about four feet apart having first been thrown up for the reception of the slips. The tobacco patches on the same estate lay in some cases as widely separated as a mile, or a mile and a half, such ground being chosen as was most fertile, and, therefore, most certain to be highly productive.3 As each plant grew in size, care was taken to keep the surrounding earth entirely free of weeds, and when the plant had put forth leaves to a certain number, a dozen or more if the ground was rich, or if poor, nine or ten, the stalk of the top was broken off, and from that time the offshoots at the junction of leaf and stalk were destroyed as fast as they

1 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 19, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.

2 Ibid., p. 17.

3 Ibid., p. 22.


attained to a fair size, which was in the course of a week.1 The horn-worm had also to be removed. As soon as the appearance of the plants indicated ripeness, they were cut down with a special knife,2 a dry day being chosen on which to perform the work, as it was necessary that the leaves should shrink and fall before they were transferred under roof. The modern custom of placing each plant on a stick while it was still in the field was unknown in the seventeenth century. The plants were carried to the barn by the laborers and were there received by others, whose duty it was to drive a peg into the stalk of each plant, the peg being subsequently attached to the tobacco stick. The use of the peg is evidence that the splitting of the stalk was an invention of a much more recent age. At the present time the stick is thrust between the two portions of the severed stalk, and thus furnishes all the support that is needed. The manufacture of pegs and sticks was a work which was probably accomplished at odd times; a witness in a case in Henrico County, in 1688, refers to the fact that an acquaintance had on one occasion in the month of October been employed until midnight in making these articles as a provision against the cutting of the tobacco.3 It was doubtless a common occupation in the idle hours of winter.

The barns in that age were probably more carefully built than are those of to-day. They were both cased and weather-boarded, the coverings being put on in a series of equal lengths. In general, the number was

1 Glover, in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vols. XI-XII, pp. 634, 635.

2 There are numerous references in the county records to the “tobacco knife.”

3 Glover, in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vols. XI-XII, pp. 634, 635; Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 13, Va. State Library.


six.1 The average length and breadth of the barns appear to have been thirty by twenty, but structures of this kind forty, fifty, and even sixty feet long were not unusual.2 The use of fire in hastening the process of curing was unknown to the planters of the seventeenth century; this process was left to the operation of the air, which was permitted to circulate freely in the interior of the building. At the end of five or six weeks the tobacco had undergone the desired change, as appeared from the quickness with which the stem snapped when bent.3 While passing through the various stages of curing, there was danger that the texture of the leaf would suffer from house-burning;4 and there was also a possibility that it would become husky from repeated sweatings.

When the tobacco had been cured, it was taken down as soon as the moisture in the atmosphere was sufficient to penetrate the leaves and to produce in them such limpness that they could be handled without bruising, in which condition they were stripped from the stalk and assorted according to grade and variety, Oronoco and sweet-scented

1 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1682-1701, p. 325; Ibid., original vol. 1677-1692, p. 104.

2 Ibid., original vol. 1697-1704, p. 195; Records of York County, vol. 1633-1694, p. 63; Ibid., vol. 1657-1662, p. 96; Ibid., vol. 1664-1672, p. 16, Va. State Library.

3 The following is the only reference to the use of fire in the tobacco barns which I have been able to find in the records of the seventeenth century: “Deposition of Hopkins Davis saith that . . . Thomas Relye sent yr examinant to the tobacco house to make a fire pretending it to be for to make a smuther under the tobacco. Deposition of Thomas Relye that sitting at the tobacco house making peggs his master came to him and told him they had hung the tobacco . . . that there must be a smuther made.” Records of Accomac County, original volume 1671-1673, p. 107. The object of the “smuther” seems to have been merely to smoke the tobacco, probably to free it of horn-worms and other insects.

4 Letters of William Byrd, Oct. 11, 1688.


being exported separately. The lowest grade was known as lugs as early as 1686, one barrel of this quality forming a part of the estate of Robert Clark of York, an appraisement of which was made and entered upon record in that year.1 The leaves were generally deprived of their stems before they were packed in cask, but occasionally these were allowed to remain;2 in July, 1698, Fitzhugh shipped to England in the same vessel thirteen hogsheads of stemmed sweet-scented tobacco and two hogsheads of unstemmed.

Special legislative precaution continued to be taken to ensure excellence in the construction of the framework of the cask, this being necessary to keep it from falling asunder when rolled; every stave was still to be one-third of an inch in thickness, and the timber from which it was fashioned was to be dry and seasoned. It was not judged to be in this condition unless it had been kept for a period of three months after it had been hewed.3 The hogshead was required to be forty inches in height, measuring by the stave, and thirty inches in the drain of the head. It was first to be stamped with the initials of the name of the cooper who had made it, and as soon as it was packed with tobacco, it was marked 1, 2, 3, or 4, and so on, according to the number of the hogsheads which the owner intended to export. The initials of the

1 For an additional instance, see Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, p. 292, Va. State Library.

2 Letters of William Fitzhugh, July 26, 1698.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 51. The strictness of the regulations as to the size of the hogsheads and the timber of which they were made seems to have been rendered necessary by the disposition of many planters to give an over-proportion of thickness to the staves and heading, as a means of defrauding the purchaser, who was generally a merchant or a shipowner. See Proclamation of Howard instructing the Grand Juries to take cognizance of all violations of the law. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1675-1686, f. p. 178.


latter were then inscribed upon each. The weight of the average cask increased with the progress of the century, ranging from five hundred to one thousand pounds, the object of the increase being probably to lessen the burden of the tax of two shillings imposed upon every one sent out. The larger the size of the hogsheads forming the cargo, the smaller the amount of duty to be paid, because the duty had respect to number and not to weight. The latter was ascertained by means of a pair of great still-yards, an instrument that was frequently included among the items of inventories of estates.1

The final disposition of the tobacco depended upon a variety of circumstances. If the owner was not in debt to merchants for previous advances of clothing and other necessaries, he either sold it to some local trader, or shipped it to a correspondent in England or one of the Colonies. In the majority of cases it was delivered to the receivers of merchants in accord with formal contracts made long beforehand, under the terms of which the planters had obtained goods in anticipation of crops to be produced. The receiver was simply an agent, but it was important that he should have had experience in observing and handling the leaf, as without it he was likely to become the victim of numerous impositions. There were many complaints about the knavishness of this class of men.2 In the absence of special agreements, the merchant

1 See, for these various details, Letters of William Fitzhugh, June 5, 1682; Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 27, Va. State Library; Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 35, Va. State Library; Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 58. Instances of hogsheads of tobacco weighing over six hundred pounds will be found in Records of Middlesex, original vol. 1694-1705, p. 251; Records of York County, vol. 1694-1702, p. 171, Va. State Library; Ibid., vol. 1694-1697, p. 46, Va. State Library.

2 Letters of William Fitzhugh, May 16, 1695.


in taking possession of the tobacco of his debtor had to meet the cost of the hogsheads in which it was packed.1 This expense, however, was often covered by the amount of goods advanced.

The purchaser of tobacco, whether a local merchant, a trading planter, or the master of a ship, having secured the hogsheads which he had bought either in his own person or in the person of his agent, directed their removal to the nearest warehouse, or rolling-house, as it was called in that age. When the landing was situated at a distance they were conveyed in carts.2 A common method, at this time, appears to have been, not to draw the cask over the ground by means of horses or oxen, like an enormous clod crusher, the custom of a later period, but to propel it by the application of a steady force from behind.3

Those who were most frequently employed in this work were the servants and slaves, but the energies of the seamen were also called into requisition, as a rule, however, when the hogsheads of tobacco were stored in barns situated not far from landings. The exertion demanded on their part in pushing the heavy casks over the surface of the colonial roads, in addition to the relaxing effect of the heat of the sun, caused them to express their disgust in unrestrained imprecations. It was from them that many unfavorable impressions of Virginia were obtained by people in England, who were not aware of the special reasons prompting the sailors to speak with

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 352.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 114, Va. State Library; Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 9.

3 The hogshead was made as strong as possible in order to withstand the strain of rolling. See Hening’s Statutes at Large, vol. III, p. [illegible] Notwithstanding this precaution, the heading sometimes fell out. Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 317, Va. State Library.


harshness of the country. Not satisfied with describing the Colony in the light of the difficulties which they had to overcome in rolling the tobacco to the shores of rivers, they ascribed to it a very unwholesome character, because at the time they were engaged in the performance of this work, they indulged very freely in drinking cold water and cider and in devouring the unripe fruit, which led to serious fevers and fluxes.1

Whenever the burden of the ship in which the tobacco was to be transported was too heavy to allow it to sail directly up to the wharf, or to enter the shallow creeks on which so many of the plantations were situated, the hogs-heads were brought to the vessel by means of flats and shallops, the hire of which, when necessary, was always a source of considerable expense.2 In order to avoid a long course of navigation, it was the habit of some shipmasters to despatch sloops into the different rivers to collect a sufficient number of casks to form a cargo. To ensure an unobstructed channel in the small streams, there was a special provision that not only the logs which had been floated down and had been lodged should be removed, and the trees which had fallen into the water from the banks be cut away,3 but that no master of a vessel should throw his ballast into the channel when he came to anchor. The importance of this general regulation in the public view was shown by the grant to the different counties in 1679 of the power to pass by-laws to compel its strict observance.4

The ships employed in the transportation of tobacco to

1 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 241.

2 Letters of William Fitzhugh, March 10, 1682-83. For an instance of the damage tobacco was exposed to in the course of such transportation, reference may be made to Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1694-1705, p. 283.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, pp. 484, 485.

4 Ibid., p. 455.


England were built principally with a view to accommodating the largest amount of that commodity which it was practicable to store in the same extent of room, the holds being unusually spacious, while the cabins were very contracted. The number of casks which they carried ranged from two hundred to six hundred, or in point of weight, from one hundred and twenty to three hundred thousand pounds.1 Fitzhugh asserted that he could load a big vessel with as much facility as a small, but it is significant that the planters, whether they produced large crops of tobacco or purchased a great quantity in addition to what they cultivated, as a rule, in sending their hogsheads to Europe, apportioned them to different ships. In February, 1685, Byrd wrote to his English correspondent that he had recently forwarded thirty in one vessel and ninety-one in another.2 In 1695, Fitzhugh exported eight hogsheads in one ship, twenty in a second, and thirty-seven in a third.3 In adopting this course, both Byrd and Fitzhugh, who were representatives of their class, were influenced not so much by apprehension lest in sending all of their tobacco in a single

1 Letters of William Fitzhugh, April 8, 1687. The following items in the appraisement of the Francis and Mary, owned in part by Francis Emperor of Lower Norfolk County, will show the value of many of the ships engaged in the transportation of tobacco: hull, with her masts, yards, standing and running rigging, £140; one sheet cable of ten inches, one cable of seven inches, one of five and a half, £50; one suit of sails, £10; one anchor weighing 700 lbs., one weighing 500 lbs., one small anchor, £15; one long boat with mast and sails, £4; seven guns, weight 5800 lbs. with carriages, tackles, round and bar shot, crows and hammer, £40; five old muskets and two swords, £14; one copper kettle, iron pot and skillet, £10 five tons of old water casks and two tons of new, £5; the value of the vessel and contents being £265 12s. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1656-1666, f. p. 114.

2 Letters of William Byrd, Feb. 19, 1685.

3 Letters of William Fitzhugh, June 10, 1695.


vessel they should expose themselves to the destruction of the whole of it in one wreck, as by inability to collect the commodity, whether produced by themselves or purchased from others, in time to form a cargo. The prospect of losses at sea was always imminent, and unless policies of insurance had been previously obtained, these losses were irrevocable. Fitzhugh declares that he had, in the course of three years alone, been deprived of two large crops of tobacco by the foundering or capture of the vessels which were engaged in transporting them to England.1

It was in some years difficult to obtain transportation, owing to the failure of vessels to make their appearance in the rivers in sufficient numbers to carry off the tobacco. Fitzhugh frequently complained that he had a large number of hogsheads which it was impossible for him to export in consequence of the scarcity of shipping, their contents undergoing great damage by delay, and in some cases falling into ruin.2 This scarcity was not confined to the remote waters of the Rappahannock and Potomac. Byrd, who resided on the James, had reason to complain quite often of the same condition, and he was forced occasionally to transfer his crop in his own sloops as far as Kecoughtan to find a vessel in which it might be conveyed to England.3 It was always inadvisable to neglect the use of the first ships arriving in the Colony, as there was no assurance that freight would be secured

1 Letters of William Fitzhugh, July 21, 1692.

2 Ibid., July 22, 1690. Byrd, writing in the same year to his brother (July 25, 1690), says in evident reference to himself and his neighbors: “I doubt not but you may have had considerable taxes during these late revolutions, (in England) but still you enjoy what you have in peace, whilst others daily venture a great part of theirs to sea, where if they escape the enemy are often lost by tempest.”

3 Letters of William Byrd, May 10, Feb. 12, 1686.


at a later date. This difficulty in obtaining transportation was doubtless in general confined to years in which prices had sunk to a low point. At the same time, it was well known that the masters of vessels were unwilling to accept the hogsheads of persons who refused to consign their tobacco to the merchants in England who owned these vessels.1 The planter would not infrequently write to his correspondent in New England to procure a ship in that region, and to send it to Virginia to transfer his crop to London or Bristol, or he would for the same purpose contract with a master who had brought in a cargo from the West Indies, and in such agreements several persons would sometimes unite. Whenever it was the habit of certain colonists to export their hogsheads in a particular ship, there was an indisposition on the part of others to anticipate them, even though a full opportunity to do so presented itself.2

In spite of the inconveniences to which the planters were so frequently exposed in obtaining freight, they seem to have felt no very strong inclination to purchase a share in a large vessel. Among those who acquired a part or an entire interest in a ship were Samuel Bayly, John Rice, Edmund Scarborough, Stephen Charlton, Francis Emperor, Thomas Butts, Henry Goodrich, Nicholas Scott, Thomas Stegge, William Pryor, Nathaniel Bacon, Sr., Richard Lee, and John Page.3 It was not

1 Letters of William Byrd, Aug. 8, 1690.

2 Ibid., June 6, 1685, Oct. 30, 1686, July 19, 1690.

3 Records of Accomac County, vol. 1632-1640, p. 22, Va. State Library; Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1682-1692, p. 34; Ibid. vol. 1677-1682, p. 353, Va. State Library; Records of Northampton County, original vol. 1654-1655, pp. 22, 153; Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1656-1666, pp. 133, 313, 421; Records of Middlesex County, Orders of Court, Jan. 2, 1692-1693; Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 137; vol. 1638-1648, p. 202, Va. State Library; N. E. Historical [footnote continues on p. 449] and Genealogical Register, April, 1885, p. 160, January, 1892, pp. 69, 70. John Page owned an interest in three ships: the Augustine, East India Merchant and the Jeffery.


until 1696 that Fitzhugh expressed an intention of becoming a part owner in a vessel.1 Byrd complained that he was brought into debt by the interest which he possessed in property of this kind, but such an interest was not lacking in substantial advantages, as the captains of the ships in which the Virginian planters had partial ownership generally gave them the preference in freighting.2

The bill of lading contained the marks and numbers stamped upon each hogshead when ready to be exported. It stated that the tobacco was in good order when delivered, and guaranteed that it would be in the same condition when it reached the consignee, the only exception made being for damage inflicted by the action of the sea.3 It also prescribed the amount of the charges to be paid for transportation. A second bill of lading with the same provisions was drawn along with the first, the one to become void as soon as the other was accomplished; one of the two was enclosed by the owner to his merchant wherever he resided, whether in England or elsewhere, and by its authority a demand was made by the latter for the tobacco when it reached its destination.4

1 Letters of William Fitzhugh, June 15, 1695.

2 Letters of William Byrd, July 19, 1690.

3 See bills of lading recorded in Middlesex County, original vol. 1694-1705, p. 283; Lancaster County, original vol. 1666-1682, p. 170.

4 Records of York County, vol. 1671-1694, p. 109, Va. State Library; Letters of William Fitzhugh, p. 262. The following was the form of the bill of lading (see volume and page of York Records just referred to): “Shipped by the Grace of God in good order and well conditioned by mee, Robert Bauldry, in and upon the good shipp called the Thomas and Edward, whereof is master under God for this prsent voyage, Capt. John Martin, and now riding at anchor in Yorke River and by God’s [footnote continues on p. 450] grace bound for London, to say, Tenn hodds of sweete scented tobaccoe being marked and numbered as pr margent

[ B.
 R. C.
No. 1: 2: 3:
4: 5: 6:
7: 8: 9: 10: ]

and are to bee delivered in the like good order and well conditioned at the aforesaid port of London (the danger of the seas only excepted) unto George Baker or order, hee or they paying freight for the said goods after the rate of seven pounds p. tunn with primage and average accustomed. In witnesse whereof, the said master hath affirmed to two bills of Lading, both of one tenor and date, the one of which being accomplished, the other to stand void, and doe God send the good Shipp to her desired Port in safety, Amen. Dated the tenth of May, 1675. The quantity received, quality not known.” John Martin. Among the goods belonging to the estate of John Gosling was one-half quire of Bills of Lading. Records of York, vol. 1657-1662, p. 87, Va. State Library.


The freight rates fluctuated with circumstances. In 1630, there was a sharp complaint on the part of the planters that they were compelled to pay twelve pounds sterling a ton, which at this period consisted of four hogs-heads, this extortionate charge continuing until the General Assembly interposed, in the session of 1639-40, with the enactment that all masters of vessels who advanced the freight rate beyond six pounds were to be fined in such an amount as the Governor and Council should consider advisable.1 Thirty years later these masters were sometimes instructed by the owners of their craft to grant transportation at seven pounds sterling a ton; if the ship in making the voyage to England was to pass by the West Indies, there was an additional charge of twenty shillings.2 In a bill of lading which Robert Bauldry received in 1675,

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. I, p. 225.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 391, Va. State Library. The freight rate in 1674 from Rappahannock River was £10.


showing the transfer of ten hogsheads to England, the freight rate was seven pounds sterling. In some instances, this was reduced to six pounds ten shillings,1 and in others still to five pounds five shillings.2 It was the opinion of masters of vessels ten years afterwards that a freight rate of six pounds sterling a ton left no margin for profit.3 Whenever shipping was scarce, the charges advanced in a notable degree; in 1690, Byrd, who had two hundred hogsheads still on hand, was compelled to accept an offer of Captain Tatnall to convey his tobacco to England for fourteen pounds sterling a ton. Under some circumstances at this time, as much as sixteen pounds sterling was asked by masters and paid by planters, who were glad to secure transportation even on these terms. These advanced rates were due to the fact that England was now involved in a war that diverted a large amount of shipping from Virginia.4 In the following year the number of vessels in the waters of the Colony were so few, that the masters who arrived demanded from seventeen to eighteen pounds sterling in freight to the ton. The most careful persons were willing to pay as much as fifteen pounds.5 In order to avoid the high rates for conveyance in English ships, some of the planters wrote to New England to obtain cheaper bottoms; in 1690, Byrd is found in correspondence with Mr. Hutchinson for the purpose of engaging in the Northern Colonies several vessels, each of which should carry about ninety tons, and he declared himself ready to pay ten pounds sterling a ton.6 The heavy charges were largely to be attributed

1 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 190, Va. State Library.

2 Letters of William Fitzhugh, March 30, 1684.

3 Letters of William Byrd, March 6, 1658.

4 Ibid., July 25, 1600.

5 Ibid. See first and third letters, dated May 29, 1691.

6 Ibid., Aug. 1, 1690.


to the length of time a ship was compelled to remain in Virginia while occupied in collecting a cargo; it was asserted that these charges were double what they would have been if the vessel could have taken in its load of tobacco promptly instead of being compelled to pass from landing to landing, often very remote from each other, thus losing three or four months, during which it was necessary to provide the sailors with food and to remunerate them in wages.1 The amount of freight was not due until the cargo was delivered in England or wherever it was consigned.1

A large portion of the tobacco exported from the Colony at this time was shipped in a loose mass. So strong was the temptation to transport it in this shape, that even after it had been placed on board in hogsheads, the hogs-heads were frequently broken open when the vessel had gotten under way, and the cargo rearranged.2 One explanation of this course of action in many cases was that tobacco in bulk could be smuggled very easily into the kingdom, which was done by running the ships into the smaller ports where the revenue laws were laxly enforced, or into the mouths of creeks or lonely bays and estuaries. Having once found access to land, it was borne on pack-horses to the interior towns, where it was sold from door to door at much cheaper rates than the merchants in London could afford to retail it. Even when the leaf shipped in bulk was conveyed directly to ports where the custom laws were strictly carried out, an important part

1 Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 9.

2 All the details that follow as to shipments in bulk, unless a different authority is given, are taken from William Byrd’s treatise on bulk tobacco. It is of interest to note that although Byrd condemned so severely exportation in bulk, nevertheless, on one occasion he sent out as much as fifty-one hogsheads in this shape. See his letter, June 4, 1691. Byrd’s treatise will be found in the History of the Dividing Line and Other Tracts, vol. II, p. 140.


of it escaped the regular charges. Women and children came on board in a quiet way, bought the tobacco in bundles, and secretly bore it off to the shore.1 The sailors also disposed of the leaves in the same furtive manner. When the cargo was afterwards weighed in the custom-house, it was found to be smaller in amount than the ship papers called for, and the discrepancy was generally explained on the ground that the commodity had shrunk in the course of the voyage, or that a portion of it had been thrown into the sea to save the remainder. Transported in bulk, it was necessarily subject to a great many casualties from which it was exempt when packed in hogs-heads, such as spontaneous combustion, mowheat, and the depreciation resulting from the entrance of sea water through the hatchways in heavy storms. There was always a decline in the quality of such tobacco, even when the voyage was fair and prosperous. Its color faded and the sweetness of its scent was sensibly diminished.

Grave as was the loss to the royal revenue from the volume of leaf in bulk escaping the officers of the customs, the loss to the treasury of the colonial government was still, more serious, the income of the latter being curtailed, because tobacco in this shape was exported in only too many instances without the owners having paid the usual charges to the collectors, the packages or bundles being smuggled on board as the vessels passed from plantation to plantation. An amount which would require a dozen ships to convey it, if exported in hogsheads, needed only ten when it was in bulk, and the result of this was that the Colony was deprived of port dues upon one vessel in every six. The number of crews to be supplied with

1 In 1695, Fitzhugh authorized Captain Jones, whom he had engaged to transport his tobacco to England, to sell it “at the mast.” See Letters, June 15, 1695.


meal, flour; meat, and vegetables was also lessened to that extent. A ship in which a cargo of loose tobacco was stored was more heavily laden than if it had only hogsheads on board, because the bundles of leaves could be deposited in the cantlings and hollows, where it was impossible to place even casks of the smallest size. A vessel that would hold five hundred hogsheads could transport sixty thousand pounds in bulk.

The damage inflicted upon the planter was more serious than the injury which fell upon the colonial government in these shipments of the leaf in its loose state. The effect of the smaller expense of transportation in bulk was to enable the foreign importer to dispose of it at a lower rate than the same commodity that had come to him in hogsheads, and this necessarily brought the latter down in spite of the heavier charges which it had been required to bear. Loose tobacco did not have to undergo the delay entailed by the process of assorting and packing, and it, therefore, reached England at an earlier date and forestalled the arrival of the leaf in cask, which suffered from the largeness of the supply already on hand. The English market for tobacco in hogsheads was also injured by the fact that the commodity in its loose state could be hawked about the streets in small quantities and sold very cheaply, even when it had borne all the charges in the form of freight and custom.

The damage inflicted upon their interests by the shipments in bulk had been long recognized by the planters, and many had on a number of occasions protested against it. In 1687, for instance, James the Second was earnestly petitioned to prohibit its continuance and he consented,1

1 Order of the King in Council, British State Papers, Colonial Entry Book, No. 83, pp. 159, 160; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1687, p. 93, Va. State Library; see also Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of Council, vol. 1687-1693, p. 45.


but in the conflicts of the time no steps were taken by the Assembly to carry out his command. Five years later, when the evil complained of had become more intolerable, Byrd addressed his well-known treatise on bulk tobacco to the English authorities, and his recommendations were marked by a thorough understanding of every aspect of the question under discussion.1 In his opinion, it was advisable to pass a law which would impose a penalty of one thousand pounds upon all who exported in bulk, and furthermore, a bond in the same amount should be required of the commander of every vessel engaged in the transportation of Virginian products, and also a specific statement of all his consignments. Every bill of lading should be sworn to, and the oath, with the signature of the collector attached, embodied in it. Three contents should be drawn up, the first to be delivered to the master to enter his ship by when he arrived in the mother country; the second to be forwarded to the Commissioners of the English Customs, and the third to be retained by the collector in Virginia. Finally, the shipmaster should return, before the expiration of twelve months, a certificate showing that he had been discharged by the Commissioners of Customs in England.

The stringency of these propositions is an evidence of the warm opposition which the habit of shipping in bulk had aroused among a large number of the colonists. No man who produced tobacco on a considerable scale was in favor of it, and of this class, Colonel Byrd was a very conspicuous representative; he was not only a cultivator of the ground but also a merchant and trader, and in all of these characters appreciated the force of every influence that was likely to lower the value of the principal commodity which he dealt in. The habit must have found

1 A brief synopsis of this treatise has already been given.


its chief supporters among those who were not interested in planting, and who were anxious to take advantage of every means that would enable them to transport their tobacco to the English market at the earliest opportunity after the process of curing was finished, and at the lowest freight rates which could be secured. Such men were doubtless, in most cases, factors of English merchants who were seeking to acquire the largest profit on their purchases.

To obtain an accurate notion as to the quantity of leaf which was shipped from Virginia each year in the closing decade of the century, it is necessary only to examine the returns of the collectors for the different districts established when a duty of two shillings was imposed on every hogshead and every five hundred pounds in bulk exported from the Colony. In 1689, there were eight of these districts, and the whole amount of tax derived from this source was three thousand six hundred and thirty-one pounds sterling. It is interesting to note that in this year the county of York produced the largest quantity of tobacco; Rappahannock followed next, but at a very considerable interval; Upper James was the third in the list, and Accomac the last. Seven years afterwards, the tax collected did not exceed three thousand pounds, but in the meantime a law had been passed providing that the size of a hogshead might be increased one-fifth, the result of which was to diminish the volume of revenue from this source very materially. So far as the amount reaching the colonial treasury was concerned, it was still further curtailed by the fact that ten per cent of it was paid over to the masters of the ships to induce them to return an accurate statement as to their cargoes; an additional ten per cent was always allowed to the collectors, and seven and a half per cent to the auditors.1

1 Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 58.


The average price of the leaf in the closing years of the seventeenth century did not vary materially from the average price during the period immediately preceding 1688. In 1695, Samuel Smith of Elizabeth City entered suit upon his account against Philip Johnson in the sum of ten pounds sterling, or sixteen hundred pounds of sweet-scented tobacco. This equivalent would indicate that the latter was now worth about a penny and a half a pound. A suit was also brought by the same person against John Collsell for three pounds eight shillings and nine pence, or five hundred and fifty pounds of the same variety of the plant, which would represent the same salable value.1 On the other hand, there is recorded in this year the transfer in Elizabeth City County of a large quantity of this commodity in return for five shillings a hundred pounds.2 Ten years previously, Colonel Fitzhugh had disposed of one hundred and fifty casks at the rate of five pounds sterling a cask, or seven hundred and fifty pounds sterling for the whole amount of tobacco, deductions having been made for every kind of charge. The average weight of the hogsheads in this instance probably did not exceed six hundred pounds, causing the price of each pound of their contents to be equal to about two pennies.3

There were as many reasons to induce the planters to complain of the prices of tobacco in the latter as in the early part of the seventeenth century. Both Fitzhugh and Byrd refer very frequently to the rapid changes in its value. Byrd writing to a kinsman in England in 1688,

1 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1654-1699, p. 200, Va. State Library. An entry in the Records of York for 1688 shows that this was the price of tobacco in that year. Vol. 1687-1691, p. 286, Va. State Library.

2 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 96, Va. State Library.

3 Letters of William Fitzhugh, May 18, 1685.


declared that the only crop of Virginia was “stinking tobacco,” and that it was not “worth a farthing.” A few years before, he had expressed regret that the Colony did not produce a crop upon which the firmest reliance could be placed as a source of income.1 The language of Fitzhugh in 1695 was almost precisely similar. “I heartily wish,” be wrote to John Cooper in London, “that tobacco was such a commodity that we might certainly depend to raise money on the same.”2

How enormous had grown the volume of tobacco imported into England may be discovered from the official statement issued in 1689, which had application to the previous three years. The quantity recorded for London for the year the report was published was 11,646,600 pounds, and for the other English ports 3,882,200 pounds.3 In the light of these figures, the low price of the commodity is very intelligible. It seems entirely natural that the people of Virginia should have looked forward with much apprehension to the effect of the steady enlargement of the area cultivated in the plant in the different American colonies; there was apparently but one result possible, a still greater decline in its value. The only consolation which they could bring forward to modify the character of the outlook was that for fifty or sixty years, practically the whole history of Virginia, there had been a fear, now growing, now declining, that the increase in the amount of tobacco produced, following from the steady growth in population, would soon precipitate the total ruin of the community by rendering its staple a drug in the

1 Letters of William Byrd, July 8, 1688, April 16, 1688.

2 Letters of William Fitzhugh, May 17, 1695.

3 Computation of Tobacco Imported in three Years, British State Papers, America and West Indies, No. 512; McDonald Papers, vol. VII, pp. 348-350, Va. State Library.


market, and yet this condition, which always seemed at hand and at times appeared actually to have arrived, had been staved off, and arguing from experience in the past would yet be in the future.1

There was never a prolonged disposition on the part of the people of the Colony to abandon for any length of time the culture of the plant and direct their attention to other products. This disinclination was as notable in the closing as in the early part of the century. The fact that all forms of public dues, such as quit-rents, levies, and tithes were still paid in tobacco had a strong tendency to give to this commodity the first importance in the esteem of the population of that age.2 Jones, writing many years later, declared that in his own recollection, several English farmers had settled in Virginia and attempted to continue there the cultivation of the crops to which they had been accustomed in their native country. They had failed, in his opinion, because they would not make proper allowance for a difference in soil, climate, and seasons. The expense and labor imposed upon them in destroying the forest as well as in erecting barns and dwelling-houses had been so discouraging, that by the time that their plantations had been put in condition for grain, they were compelled to turn their attention to tobacco, to ensure the income of which they now stood in such urgent need.3 There is no reason to doubt that precisely the same influences were at work in the last years of the seventeenth century to dishearten every colonist who undertook to confine himself to the cereals. There are, however, indications

1 “I cannot imagine what this trade will come to, since as we increase, there will certainly be greater quantity tobacco made, but the case hath been the same these forty or fifty years.” Letters of William Byrd, July 8, 1686.

2 Letters of Governor Spotswood, vol. II, p. 178.

3 Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 125.


that wheat, oats, and barley were grown on many estates devoted chiefly to the staple crop of the country. A considerable abundance of these grains was found at this time in Virginia. It is probable that there were now few of the larger plantations which did not have a number of acres in wheat, the product of which was to be converted to family use. One clause of the agreement, under the terms of which Reeves leased to William Arrington a part of his land in Henrico County, a transaction already referred to, was that Arrington should assist in ploughing in one or two bushels of this cereal.1 Such a contract was not uncommon. The poorest class of planters were discouraged from putting down their soil in wheat to any extent by the fact that a fence had to be erected to enclose every field to prevent the depredations of live stock, a step entailing a draught upon their resources which they were unwilling to make.2 In spite of the numerous obstacles in the way of the culture of this grain in the Colony, the amount produced was insufficient in many years, if not in every year, to furnish a considerable quantity for outside markets. That it was the habit of some persons to make shipments of wheat abroad is shown in the occasional laws prohibiting the exportation of the cereals in general on the ground that the supply in Virginia had been cut short by a recent storm or drought.3 The countries to which this product was sent at this time were New England, Madeira, Barbadoes, and the Leeward

1 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 578, Va. State Library.

2 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 237.

3 Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 338. Wheat was not referred to by name in this statute, but it is presumed that this grain was included in the expression “corn or provisions.” This supposition is strengthened by the fact that in the law of 1699, “Indian corn” is mentioned as the only grain which that statute was designed to keep from being exported. Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 185.


Islands.1 It was not unusual for a vessel to take on a load of wheat in the Colony, sail to Madeira, where it was exchanged for wine, and return by way of the West Indies, where the wine was exchanged, in part at least, for sugar, rum, and slaves.2 The ship commanded by Captain Jackson of Piscataqua, which arrived in the Rappahannock in 1683, came for a cargo of this grain.3 From the terms of the agreement entered into by Fitzhugh and Jackson with reference to certain slaves to be imported by the latter, it would be inferred that this New England vessel was at the time on a voyage to the West Indies, where negroes were easily procurable.

The land in which wheat was sown was put into a condition to receive the seeds by means of the plough, the use of this instrument for breaking up the soil being now more general than it was in 1649, when it was stated that not more than one hundred and fifty ploughs were at work in the Colony. This implement would have been employed still more frequently but for the shortness of the time in which a field was exhausted by cultivation; in the case of low grounds, this condition was reached in eight years, and in the case of lands less favorably situated, in three. It was just as true of this period as of all preceding it, that the method of clearing away the forest by which the surface was left covered with stumps, was the most serious impediment to the general use of the plough. When the stumps had rotted in the ground, the latter had been abandoned as too poor for further cultivation.4 It does not appear to have been the custom to fallow the land which was to be sown in wheat; one

1 Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 4.

2 Letters of William Byrd, Feb. 12, 1686.

3 Letters of William Fitzhugh, Feb. 5, 1682-1683.

4 Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair’s Present State of Virginia, 1697, p. 7.


passage through the soil was considered to be sufficient.1 No material change had taken place in the manufacture of the plough beyond the introduction of the mould-board, an invention of the Dutch. There were the share, the device, and the colter. The references in the inventories to plough irons are numerous, showing that iron entered largely into the construction of this implement. In one instance they were valued at twelve shillings, representing about fifteen dollars in modern currency.2 The sizes of the ploughs differed materially.3 Oxen were the animals most commonly employed in their use, the only gear necessary being chains, yokes, rings, and hooks.4 The ploughs found in the Colony were of both domestic and English manufacture; among the articles included in the inventory of Ralph Graves of York County was a Virginian plough valued at ten shillings, and an English plough valued at one pound sterling, a difference of ten shillings, which is to be accounted for either by the superior material and finer workmanship of the English implement or its more recent manufacture.5 The number of ploughs in the possession of a planter rarely exceeded two; in a majority of cases it did not rise above one.6 In the appraisement of the merchandise in the store of Francis Eppes of Henrico, there are references to only two shares and colters, although this inventory includes a great variety and quantity

1 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 20, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. Wheat, like tobacco, was often sown in small areas of land which had been manured by the droppings of penned-up cattle. Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1680-1688, p. 280, Va. State Library.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 446, Va. State Library.

3 Ibid., vol. 1638-1648, p. 391, Va. State Library.

4 Ibid., vol. 1664-1672, p. 258, Va. State Library; New Description of Virginia, p. 14, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. II.

5 Records of York County, vol. 1671-1694, p. 105, Va. State Library.

6 Ibid., vol. 1638-1648, p. 391; Ibid., vol. 1664-1672, p. 176, Va. State Library.


of goods.1 The enumeration of the contents of many similar establishments in the Colony in this age shows no entry of a plough or any of its component parts.

When wheat was sown over a small area, it was perhaps the common plan to prepare the land for its culture with the hoe.2 There were several kinds of this implement, the hilling, the weeding, and the grubbing. According to another classification, the broad and narrow were distinguished. The greater number were probably imported. In 1690, Fitzhugh is found sending instructions to his merchant in London to consign to him so many hoes, and his example was doubtless followed by others.3 There are, however, in the inventories, many references to the “Virginia hoe,” that is, the hoe manufactured in the Colony, which must have been skilfully fashioned if an inference can be drawn from its valuation, the average price ranging from nineteen pence to two shillings.4 Spades were also used to a small extent, perhaps, in the preparation of the soil for wheat; they were sometimes made of steel, and were appraised as high as thirty pence.5 The seed of wheat appear to have been

1 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692, p. 96, Va. State Library.

2 Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 124. “It is common only by hoeing up the ground and throwing seed upon it and harrowing it in.”

3 Letters of William Fitzhugh, June 11, 1695.

4 See inventory of Thomas Jefferson, 1698, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. I, p. 209. See also Major inventory, Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 48, Va. State Library. Among the articles included in the appraisement of the personal estate of Robert Beverley, 1687, were twenty-eight grubbing hoes. See inventory on file in Middlesex County. Thomas Haynes of Lancaster County was, according to the inventory of his personalty, the owner of twenty-two broad hoes and twenty narrow. Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1674-1687, f. p. 62. The Stone inventory in York, 1648, included three small garden hoes. Vol. 1638-1648, p. 391.

5 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692, p. 97, Va. State Library; [footnote continues on p. 464] Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 492, Va. State Library.


turned under by means of the harrow, the teeth of which were frequently of iron. The implement in use in Virginia in the seventeenth century was the same as that of the English farmers, which consisted in general of five parallel bars of wood, two yards in length, which were kept firmly in position by cross-pieces. In these the teeth were inserted. The use of the weeding harrow was probably confined to the maize and tobacco fields.1

The testimony is very favorable regarding the productiveness of the lands in Virginia which at this time were put down in wheat, a condition which was to be expected, as the culture of tobacco has always been found to be the most admirable preparation for the culture of this cereal. Clayton declares that the yield ranged from fifteen to thirty for every bushel that was sown, while in England it did not exceed eight.2 Jones, writing in the early part of the eighteenth century, estimated the return in the proportion of sixty, and in some cases even as high as eighty bushels.3 In 1773, when nearly one hundred years had passed since Clayton’s visit to the Colony, the ratio of increase on the lowlands was placed at twenty-five, thirty, and thirty-five bushels, and on the highlands at eight, ten, and fifteen.4

In harvesting wheat, both the reap-hook and the sickle were used, the number in the possession of individual planters being often very notable. In the inventory of the Richards personal estate, there were thirty of the former

1 Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 107, Va. State Library; Records of Elizabeth City, vol. 1684-1699, p. 320.

2 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 20, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III; Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 783.

3 Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 124.

4 Smyth’s Travels, Va. Hist. Register, vol. VI, No. III, p. 132.


implements. Five reap-hooks and one sickle were among the articles bequeathed in the will of Dr. Francis Haddon in 1674. The personalty of Captain William Marshall included twelve sickles, and that of John Thomas, eleven sickles and reap-hooks.1 The cradle was employed as early as the sixteenth century, but only in cutting barley and oats. Wheat was reaped throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.2

In describing wheat culture in Virginia about the middle of the century, Williams states incidentally that the grain could be trodden out without any difficulty by means of oxen, from which it is to be inferred that this was a more popular method than the flail.3 Towards the end of the century, the sieve was employed to remove the chaff, this implement being imported not only from Old

1 See Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692, for Richards’ Inventory; Records of York County, vol. 1671-1694, p. 99; Ibid., vol. 1664-1672, p. 63, Va. State Library; Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 224, Va. State Library.

2 Tusser’s Hundred Good Points of Husbandry; London’s Encyclopædia of Agriculture, 405, 509; Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. IV, p. 47.

3 Virginia Richly Valued, p. 13, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. According to Bishop, the custom of treading out grain was followed in Maryland and Virginia as late as 1790. “Horses were preferred and the advantages of this mode over that of the flail as used in the Northern States and England at that time, were, that an entire crop could be beaten out in a few days, thus securing it from the ravages of the fly. Three thousand bushels could be secured thus in ten days, which would employ five men 100 days with the flail. Treading floors were sometimes shifted from field to field, but a permanent floor of good waxy earth which became smooth, hard and glossy by use, was preferred. The floors were made from 40 to 130 feet in diameter, usually 60 to 100, with a path or tract at the outer circumference 12 to 14 feet wide, in which the sheaves were laid. The horses were led around by halters in ranks equidistant from each other, and at a sober trot.” Bishop’s History of American Manufactures, vol. I, p. 32. See American Museum, vol. VII, p. 64.


but also from New England. In August, 1690, Byrd requested Mr. Hutchinson of Boston to send him several to be used on his own plantation.1 The chaff and straw were often stored in the tobacco houses.2

The Act requiring a certain number of acres to be cultivated in Indian corn and wheat still remained on the statute book, and there is unmistakable evidence that the law was strictly enforced.3 The methods of preparing the soil for maize did not differ essentially from those which have been noted in the case of wheat, the plough, the hoe, and the spade being used indiscriminately for this purpose. The grains of Indian corn were probably removed from the husk at this time not entirely by the naked hand.4 It commanded ten shillings a barrel, but there were local instances of its sale at six shillings, its condition in these cases being perhaps inferior.5

There were still intermittent efforts to stimulate the production of other commodities. In 1691, every tithable person in the Colony was required to make or cause to be made one pound of dressed flax and one pound of dressed hemp, or two pounds of either.6 Andros, who was appointed to the administration of affairs in 1692, was very much interested in cotton, and a considerable area was planted in it under the influence of his encouragement, which was prompted by a desire to establish the manufacture of cloth in Virginia.7 The cultivation of cotton,

1 Letters of William Byrd, Aug. 1, 1690.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 120, Va. State Library.

3 See Ibid., vol. 1684-1687, p. 84, Va. State Library.

4 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 145, Va. State Library. In Elizabeth City County Records, vol. 1684-1699, Va. State Library, we find a reference to a “cradle to shale corn.”

5 Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 240, Va. State Library.

6 Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 81.

7 Berkeley, in his reply to the interrogatories of the English Commissioners, [footnote continues on p. 467] 1671, declared that one of the bad effects of the Navigation Act had been the discouragement of cotton culture in Virginia. Hening’s Statutes, vol. II, p. 516.


which began during his term on a scale of some importance, was continued in increasing proportions down to the administration of Spotswood, but it could never have reached a high stage of development.1 In modern times, a considerable amount is grown in a number of the southern counties of the State, but in that part of the Colony where Andros sought to promote its culture, only a few patches on each plantation have been worked, and these in the private gardens. Neither the soil nor the climate in the seventeenth century was adapted to the plant in its highest form, although the product was of sufficient excellence to excite the favorable comment of competent judges. Rice to a large extent remained unregarded, as there was nobody who understood the proper method of husking and cleaning it; whatever amount of this grain was raised, which must have been small, was consumed on the plantation where it was produced, for there was no market for its general sale.2

No use at this time seems to have been made of silk-grass. Silk culture had fallen into abeyance, if any inference is to be drawn from the absence of statutory allusions to it in the closing years of the century. It was supposed at one time that there were several vegetables that gave indications of degeneration in the climate of Virginia; among these was the red-top turnip,

1 Letters of Governor Spotswood, vol. I, p. 72. Among the articles referred to in the inventory of John Nicholls’ estate, were two pair of cotton cards. Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1695-1703, f. p. 96. The authors of the Present State of Virginia, 1697 (Hartwell, Chilton, and Blair) declare in that work that “cotton grows in Virginia very fine.” p. 5. At the time this was written there was little room for comparison.

2 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 261.


which was thought to be converted by transportation into rape. This was subsequently discovered to be a mistake. It was found that if after having been stored away during the whole of the winter, the top were cut off and planted alone, it would yield a seed from which a very fine species of turnip could be produced.1 Jones at a later date declared that so far as his own observation extended, the only vegetable in Virginia which had declined since its removal from England was the artichoke.

In the closing years of the seventeenth century, there were few plantations in Virginia which did not possess orchards of apple and peach trees, pear, plum, apricot, and quince.2 The number of trees was often very large. The orchard of Robert Hide of York3 contained three hundred peach and three hundred apple trees. There were twenty-five hundred apple trees in the orchard of Colonel Fitzhugh.4 Each species of fruit was represented by many varieties; thus, of the apple, there were mains, pippins, russentens, costards, marigolds, kings, magitens and batchelors; of the pear, bergamy and warden. The quince was greater in size, but less acidulated than the English quince; on the other hand, the apricot and plum were inferior in quality to the English, not ripening in the same perfection.5 Cherries grew in notable abundance. So great was the productive capacity of the peach that some of the landowners planted orchards of the tree for the mere purpose of using the fruit to fatten their hogs;6 on some plantations, as many as forty bushels are

1 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 238.

2 mover in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vols. XI-XII, p. 628.

3 Records of York County, vol. 1694-1697, p. 71, Va. State Library.

4 Letters of William Fitzhugh, April 22, 1686.

5 Glover in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vols. XI-XII, p. 628.

6 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 260.


said to have been knocked down to the swine in the course of a single season.1

As a rule, the planters were indisposed to make any effort to improve their fruit by a system of pruning and grafting; the orchards, numerous as they were, were generally neglected, the plentifulness of the yield rather than the quality being most valued. Many persons who had gone to heavy expense to establish very large collections of fruit trees were not sufficiently interested in their preservation to protect them from the depredations of animals.2 This indifference was not universal. The greater number of the trees of Colonel Fitzhugh, for instance, had been carefully grafted, and the whole area of ground upon which they stood was surrounded by a locust fence.3 Six or seven years after the scions were planted, they were large enough to bear fruit, so quickly did they arrive at maturity under the influence of the moist climate and the light and sandy soil. The yield was not always consumed either by the hogs or the different persons belonging to the estates on which the trees were situated; the popularity of cider induced many landowners to rent their orchards, and a considerable income was secured from this source. Thus in 1697, Mrs. Mary Naylor, of Elizabeth City County, received from Jacob Walker ten pounds sterling for the lease of her fruit trees in that year.4 Fitzhugh in describing his orchard of twenty-five hundred apple trees, declared that it ought in a few years to bring in an annual sum of fifteen thousand pounds of tobacco.5

Glover during his visit to Virginia remarked upon the

1 Glover in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vols. XI-XII, p. 628.

2 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 259.

3 Letters of William Fitzhugh, April 22, 1686.

4 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 144.

5 Letters of William Fitzhugh, April 22, 1686.


excellence of the figs, which in his opinion were equal to those which were grown in Spain. No English currants were seen by him in the Colony. He informs us that it was now fully admitted that oranges were not adapted to the soil or the climate. The hope that the olive could be cultivated still survived. In 1684, Fitzhugh decided to repeat the trial which had been so often undertaken already, with such a small degree of success, being prompted to the step by the fact that Virginia was in the same latitude as several countries in which this fruit was known to prosper. He instructed Samuel Haywood in England to send him olive plants procured from these lands. No record has been transmitted as to the result of Fitzhugh’s experiment, but it is highly probable that, like all the previous ones, it ended in a complete failure.

But little attention was paid to the culture of the grape, the masses of the people being content with the fruit of the wild vines growing in such quantities in every part of the forest.1 There were not many vines in the gardens of the planters. Few as they were in number, no effort was made to improve them, either by the process of cutting or laying, and this was especially improvident in the light of the fact, which had been long observed, that whenever one of the wild vines was exposed to the full rays of the sun and the free circulation of the air, it brought forth with an abundance that was five or six times in excess of the production of a vine hidden away in the deep shadows of the woods. When forced to trail upon the ground, or when allowed the support of a trellis, and at the same time subjected to the process of slipping, the wild vine exhibited in a few years an extraordinary degree of fecundity. From the native grape, a wine was manufactured

1 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 260. See Beverley for the details that follow.


by some planters, which was described as smaller in body than French claret.1 Colonel Beverley, a man of inquiring mind, having become much interested in the general question of vintages, to some extent probably from the example set by the Huguenot colonists,2 planted a small vineyard, and having good reason to anticipate a very fair yield of grapes, boasted among his friends and acquaintances of his expectations. On being bantered for his exaggerated statements, Beverley proposed a bet of one guinea to ten that he would secure a designated number of gallons of wine from his first vintage. He won the wager, and the money which he thus obtained he expended in the enlargement of his vineyards with a view to increasing the production. The quantity of wine he made was so large that he was able to supply his family and slaves with it abundantly, and they used it with a freedom that was only generally customary in Europe. A French traveller3 who visited Colonel Beverley in the early part of the eighteenth century, and who from his birthplace was doubtless an excellent judge of the quality of wine, was disposed to think from the samples he tasted that his host was not entirely familiar with the proper methods of making it. The defects which he discovered must have been inherent and not, as he supposed, attributable to ignorant management. Jones, who probably lacked the experience of Fontaine, declared that the red wine of Virginia resembled claret in taste and red port in strength. It is an interesting fact that he pointed out the admirable adaptability to grape culture of the country lying in the direction

1 Glover in Philo. Trans. Royal Soc., 1676-1678, vols. XI-XII, p. 629; Fontaine’s Memoirs of a Huguenot Family, p. 265.

2 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 229. The experiment was tried in 1712. See Fontaine’s Memoirs of a Huguenot Family, p. 265. This was the second Robert Beverley.

3 Fontaine, See his Memoirs of a Huguenot Family.


of the mountains, which in a more recent age has become the seat of wine manufacture in the State, and which in the future may develop into the greatest wine-producing district in the Western Hemisphere, after California.

An account of the agricultural interests of Virginia in the closing decade of the seventeenth century would not be complete without some reference to its live stock at that time. In the course of this important period, there is observed a growing desire among the people of Virginia to improve the breed of their horses. It is remarkable that this feeling had not been exhibited at a still earlier date in the older communities of the Colony, since for fifty years previous to 1686, when the Assembly of Virginia enacted its most carefully considered law for the improvement of the strain of these animals, much interest had been shown in England in the same subject. Before 1660, a number of Arab, Barb, and Turkish stallions had been imported into the mother country for the purpose of producing a fine type of horse, both for the saddle and for the turf, and several standard books on the subject had been written. Charles the Second had bought the four foreign mares which are generally regarded as the beginning of the breed of English thoroughbreds, and his successor had encouraged the introduction of Eastern blood. A number of planters in the Colony, who had emigrated from England after reaching the age of manhood, must have acquired in their early associations a great fondness for the excitement of the turf as well as cultivated a love of the animal for itself. In the inventory of the live stock of Virginia in 1649, it was stated, as has been seen, that many of the horses and mares to be found there at that time were of excellent blood, and this does not seem to be at all improbable.

The decline in the physical character of the Virginian


breed previous to the law of 1686, was due to the cause which has been touched upon already. It was hardly practicable for the owners to devote much attention to their horses as long as they were compelled to allow them to run at large in the woods, under which circumstances the finest live stock in the world would have rapidly degenerated, not only because there was a promiscuous intercourse among the animals, the basest and purest blood being indiscriminately mingled, but also because the precariousness of subsistence in the forests was calculated in itself to dwarf their size. In this struggle for sufficient food, only the staunchest and most hardy specimens survived. When the law of 1686 was passed, the horses of the Colony, however defective in size, were remarkable for their fleetness and their powers of endurance. The disadvantage attending their smallness in stature seems to have been so great that the House of Burgesses considered it necessary to adopt some measure which would either remove the drawback entirely, or diminish it very materially. It was through the influence of this feeling that the law of 1686 was enacted, which provided that no stallion under thirteen and a half hands in height, and not yet two years old, should be suffered to range at liberty in the woods or in the marshes where they might have access to mares. Loss of the animal was the penalty for the violation of this Act, it becoming the property of the informer, provided the owner did not appear and pay four hundred pounds of tobacco in the course of two months. The law was to be in operation during seven years from the date of its passage.1 Unfortunately, it was not enforced.2

So numerous had the wild horses grown to be at the close of the century that one of the principal sports of the

1 Statutes, vol. III, p. 85.

2 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 35, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


young men of the Colony was to hunt them, not infrequently with the assistance of dogs. Saddle horses were trained especially for the purpose of threading the heavy timber of the forests at a high rate of speed. In consequence of the extraordinary fleetness of these wild animals, it was often impossible to catch them, a fine horse being frequently ruined irretrievably, by its rider through the exertions which it was spurred on to make. The only result of the chase, in many instances, was the seizure of an old animal, which was found to be too sullen to tame. Owing to the large number of foals born in the woods and remaining unmarked, the hunting of wild horses was not unprofitable, as to the captors belonged those upon which no brand had been placed.1 One of the provisions of the law of 1691 shows how numerous were the horses running at large in the forests. Under no circumstances previous to that year was the owner of cultivated land suffered, in driving the cattle of his neighbors from his enclosures, to kill them deliberately, notwithstanding that the damage had been frequently repeated by the same animals. According to the terms of the statute of 1691, all horses discovered in the act of depredating upon orchards surrounded by a legal pale, could upon the third offence be shot on the spot, without exposing the person who destroyed them to any form of punishment at the hands of the law,2

So widely dispersed were the horses belonging to the same owner that it was often impossible after his death to run them together with a view to their appraisement with his other properties.3 This occurred in the case of the

1 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 258.

2 An instance in which a mare, encroaching upon a cultivated field, was shot, will be found in Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 105, Va. State Library.

3 Letters of William Fitzhugh, April 15, 1687.


Asheton estate in the Northern Neck in 1687, and also in the case of other estates equally as large. It was sometimes the custom of a number of planters to unite in the confinement of their horses to a neck of land, where they were permitted to roam at liberty, only they were periodically driven into a pen, and the special mark of each owner branded upon the foals born to his mares in the interval. In order to prevent any secret encroachments upon the rights of each other, it was generally required that a notice of an intention to drive the herd should be given by the persons interested, at the parish church, two weeks previous to its actual undertaking.1

In 1688, Clayton states that the average value of horses in the Colony was five pounds sterling. This amount exceeded rather than fell below the ordinary prices as disclosed in the contemporaneous records of court. There is an instance in Henrico of the sale of an animal of this kind at twelve pounds and eleven shillings,2 and in Middlesex, at seven pounds.3 In 1690, a mare, two years old, was valued in York at two pounds and five shillings, and one, four years old, at two pounds and two shillings; some years previous to this, a mare of the same age had been sold in the same county for two pounds and five shillings, a difference so small as to show that these figures represented the general appraisement of such an animal.4 In 1699, a mare eight years of age was valued in Henrico at four pounds;5 and about the same

1 Records of the General Court, p. 39.

2 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1682-1701, p. 118, Va. State Library.

3 See Inventory of Robert Beverley, 1687, on file among the Records of Middlesex County.

4 Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 8; Ibid., vol. 1684-1687, p. 308. Va. State Library.

5 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, p. 137.


time one nine years old was appraised in York at two pounds and ten shillings, this difference being attributable to some inequality in their relative excellence.1 From 1688 to 1700, the average value of a coach or saddle horse in England was fifteen pounds sterling,2 ten pounds sterling more than the value of the same kind of horse in Virginia.

There is no reason to think that horses were at this period in as common use as oxen as draught animals, and this is partially explained by the fact that it was less difficult to obtain food for the latter in winter. There are many indications, however, that horses had a prominent place in the economy of the plantation. Collars, in some cases made of flag, in others of ticking, are frequently entered in the inventory of an estate.3 Both collars and traces were ordered by planters in Virginia from their English merchants.4 The cart of the seventeenth century, which was drawn indiscriminately by oxen and horses, was sometimes spoken of as a tumbril.5 The body appears to have been always manufactured in the Colony, but the wheels were frequently imported from England, their rims being shod with iron. A wheel thus protected was such a valuable article that it was often specifically bequeathed. It was occasionally the subject of a suit. The value of a pair included in an inventory in 1686, was two pounds and five shillings sterling, just five shillings less than that of a similar pair in 1670, a difference possibly due to the condition of the respective wheels.6

1 Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 13, Va. State Library.

2 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 352.

3 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 349, Va. State Library.

4 Letters of William Byrd, July 30, 1688.

5 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 466, Va. State Library.

6 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, p. 83; Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 293; Ibid., vol. 1664-1672, p. 446, Va. State Library.


The number of horned cattle running wild in the forests of Virginia in the last years of the seventeenth century was even greater than the number of horses. Bulls and cows as untamed as those which, in the present age, are found on the South American pampas, frequented parts of York County as late as 1685, forming herds which it was difficult to approach on account of their extraordinary acuteness in smelling. These cattle were hunted with guns as if they were elk or deer.1 So wide were the ranges in which even the domesticated animals wandered, that, in appraising an estate, the number of bulls, cows, and calves belonging to it were rarely ascertained with exactness.2 For the Northern Neck, which was held under a proprietary title, a ranger general was appointed, whose duty it was, in the person of his under rangers, to seize all the unmarked live stock roaming in that part of the Colony, and to appropriate them in the name of his principal.3 There was no officer of this kind in the other counties of Virginia. In order to show their ownership in the neat cattle let loose in the forest, it was the custom of the planters to use brands representing various devices. In some cases the one selected was a fleur de luce in the left ear and a half moon in both ears, or a fleur de luce in the left ear and a hole or a swallow fork in the right, or an underkeel in one ear and an overkeel in the other. These marks were recorded in the county courts.4 The

1 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 35, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III; Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 40, Va. State Library.

2 Letters of William Fitzhugh, Aug. 10, 1687.

3 Commission to Giles Brent to be Ranger General of the Northern Neck. British State Papers, America and West Indies, No. 512; McDonald Papers, vol. VII., pp. 277-280, Va. State Library.

4 See Records of Rappahannock County, vol. 1664-1673, p. 49, Va. State Library. The cattle marks recorded in Northampton County for one period alone cover thirty-six pages at the end of original vol. 1651-1654. [footnote continues on p. 478] See also the last pages of vol. 1654-1655. The records of the other counties contain as many entries, made from time to time.


cow-bell was in general use, but was employed to disclose the whereabouts of the cattle, and not to indicate the ownership.1 Herdsmen were also not uncommon.2

There were few inventories at this time that did not show the presence of neat cattle among the properties which they included, but the number held does not appear to have been very much larger than what has been noted in the case of estates in the decades immediately previous. From the variety of colors distinguishing the horned cattle entered in the appraisements, it would be inferred that there were no distinct breeds in the Colony, the original ones having become by repeated crossings so confused in blood as to represent no separate types except in an extremely modified form. There is proof, however, that the importation of bulls from England was not unknown, and this step must have been taken with a view to improving the physical character of the stock. The neat cattle at this period suffered even more than the horses from the hardships and privations to which they were exposed in the winter, many perishing in the spring, because, having ventured after the young grass in the marshes, they were too weak to extricate themselves from the quagmires into which hunger had led them. The wealthiest planters, from this cause, sometimes lost as many as thirty head apiece. Among the horned cattle a curious habit was observed

1 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1677-1692, p. 356, Va. State Library; Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 294, Va. State Library, In the inventory of the store owned by Jonathan Newell, there are entries of twenty-three cow-bells. See Records of York County, vol. 1675-1684, p. 140, Va. State Library.

2 T. M.’s Account of Bacon’s Rebellion, p. 8, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. I.


as soon as the spring tides began to pour their floods into the rivers and estuaries; an irresistible impulse taking possession of them, they would make for the salt water, travelling twenty and thirty miles to reach it, [sic] The planters were so familiar with this habit that they were fully aware where their herds had strayed, and at their leisure sent out slaves and servants to drive them back to their former pastures.1

In the course of his sojourn in the Colony, Clayton displayed as much interest in the preservation of the cattle as in the cultivation of tobacco. According to him, the opinion prevailed among a large number of planters that to feed live stock in winter was to prepare the way for their destruction. He sought very earnestly to combat this notion as far as it was entertained by the lady with whom he resided during a part of his stay in Virginia. He urged that wheat should be sown in time for it to reach a fair size before the cold weather set in, in order that it might furnish grazing. He recommended moreover that the tops and blades of the corn-stalks, and also straw, should be laid aside as food for the cattle. No hay was now produced in the Colony as a cultivated crop; when Fitzhugh, in 1680, desired to sow a few bushels of grass seed, he was compelled to export them from England, and his attention was only directed to hay at all by the extreme depression in the price of tobacco.2 Clayton advised his hostess to raise sanfoin, as the soil was largely composed of sand. The custom of providing no food for the horned cattle was not universal. It is probable that

1 Clayton’s Virginia, pp. 12, 26, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III. For the manner in which cattle were cared for in England at this time, see the third chapter of Macaulay’s History of England. It does not seem to have been more thoughtful in the mother country than it was in the Colony.

2 Letters of William Fitzhugh, July 1, 1680.


the milch cows were fed in winter. Clayton himself declares that some of the planters furnished their live stock with corn in the morning, which he considered to be a mistake, because it made them indisposed to browse upon the trees. Allusions to “foddering” the cattle are not infrequent in the depositions entered in the records of the county courts.1

Clayton, writing in 1688, states that at this time the price of a cow and call was fifty shillings, their size not being taken into consideration in the purchase, and the county records show that he was substantially correct.2 In 1690, the value of four cows in Elizabeth City County was placed at forty shillings apiece;3 this was also the value of those owned by John Carter of Lancaster.4 In the following year a cow, five years of age, was appraised in York at thirty-five shillings. In 1682, three were appraised in Henrico at one hundred and five, or thirty-five apiece. A heifer, three years of age, was valued in the same county at twenty shillings, and a yearling in Elizabeth City at fifteen.5 In 1698, cows were valued in Middlesex at forty shillings.6 Bulls were appraised at this time at a uniformly low figure. In Henrico one, which was two years old, was valued at ten shillings, and another; three years old, at twelve. In Elizabeth City, in 1690, the young animal was appraised at twenty. In York, in 1686, a bull, one year of age, was valued at ten shillings, and another, four years of age, at twenty-one. In 1693, in the same county, a bull, probably of the same

1 Records of Henrico County, vol. 1688-1697, p. 485, Va. State Library.

2 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 35, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.

3 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 278.

4 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1690-1709, p. 33.

5 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, p. 137; Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 278, Va. State Library.

6 Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1608-1713, pp. 8, 13.


age, was valued at twenty-five. The appraisement in Middlesex ran from twenty to thirty shillings.1 Steers also were considered to be less valuable than cows. In Henrico, one, four years old, was appraised at thirty shillings, and another, two years old, at ten. There is an instance, however, of a steer, two years of age, being valued at twenty-five shillings. A sucking calf in the same county was appraised at three.2 These figures show that while cows were the dearest of all neat cattle, yet they were not considered so valuable as horses, a difference to be attributed to the comparative scarcity of the latter animals. The enormous increase in the number of neat cattle in the Colony after 1627, when both cows and oxen were sold for fifteen pounds, was most strikingly shown in the falling off in the average appraisement of cows to two pounds sterling, and of oxen to thirty-five shillings. The sharpest decline began subsequent to the middle of the century.

It was not until 1690 that flocks of sheep became objects of common observation in Virginia; previous to this, a saddle or leg of mutton was thought to be a much finer dish than venison, wild goose, widgeon, or teal.3 In the last decade of the century the inventories reveal the fact that sheep formed a not unimportant part of many estates. In 1691, among the live stock of Samuel Hollier, of Elizabeth City, were two rams, five wethers, and seventeen ewes; Thomas Price, of this county, in the same year possessed

1 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, p. 137; Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 278, Va. State Library; Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, p. 239; Ibid., vol. 1690-1694, p. 294, Va. State Library; Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1698-1713, p. 125.

2 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, p. 137; Ibid., vol. 1677-1692, pp. 217, 257, Va. State Library.

3 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 35, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.


one ram and thirty-one ewes; Peter Roby, twenty-seven ewes and one ram.1 In 1689, Mrs. Rowland Jones, of York, owned thirty-six sheep and James Goodwyn thirty-three; three years later Robert Booth, of the same county, owned two rams, four wethers, and thirty-six ewes and lambs.2 Robert Miller, of Elizabeth City, possessed in the same year eighteen sheep, and Quintillian Gutteriek seven.3 In 1697, John Pleasants, a wealthy planter of Henrico, bequeathed in his will, which was placed on record in his lifetime, a ram and ten ewes to his eldest son, a ram and ten ewes to his second son, and a ram and six ewes to his daughter. In the following year, the Stratton estate is found to include seventeen sheep Thomas Osborne owned eighteen and Thomas Batte thirty-two.4

In Middlesex, Richard Willis possessed twenty-four sheep, Robert Dudley twenty-eight, Corbin Griffin thirty-nine, Robert Beverley fifty-seven, and Ralph Wormeley eighty-six.5 The estate of John Carter, of Lancaster, included one hundred and ninety-two.6 William Porteus and Adam Thoroughgood, of Norfolk County, owned forty-one and forty-nine, respectively.7

1 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, pp. 311, 318, 320, Va. State Library.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1687-1691, pp. 66, 381; Ibid., vol. 1690-1694, p. 180, Va. State Library.

3 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, pp. 100, 424, Va. State Library. The sheep belonging to Miller were valued at 8s. apiece, the lambs at 5s.

4 Records of Henrico County, original vol. 1697-1704, pp. 74, 137; Ibid., vol. 1688-1697, pp. 234, 350.

5 Records of Middlesex County, original vol. 1698-1713, pp. 74, 99, 114, 136; Beverley Inventory, on file in the same county, 1687.

6 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1690-1709, p. 27.

7 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1675-1686, f. p. 224.


The references to this animal in the inventories recorded in the frontier counties are comparatively few, the number there being small on account of the depredations of wolves, which, by ravaging such sheep as the planters possessed, discouraged them from giving much attention to this branch of husbandry. The allowance made in the levies of Henrico County for the payment of prizes granted for the destruction of wolves was an important item of expense as late as 1700. In 1699, the levy for the six months ending with October, showed that the heads of thirty had been presented to the officers of the county for the purpose of securing the reward, which was two hundred pounds for each one if killed with a gun, or three hundred if caught in a trap.1 The payments in the counties situated in the lower part of the Peninsula indicate that these animals had not disappeared from the forests there. In the public levy for November, 1698, in Elizabeth City County, an appropriation in tobacco was made for two heads that had been brought in. In the following year, nine heads were offered in order to obtain the reward.2 Wolves do not appear to have been so numerous in York County. In 1685, there was an appropriation of three hundred pounds of tobacco in one of the levies for their destruction. The allowance in 1686 was for two heads, and it was for the same number in 1692. In 1696, the allowance was for five heads.3

In Lower Norfolk County, an appropriation was made in a single levy, in 1693, for fourteen wolves’ heads; in one of the levies in 1695 for twenty heads; two years

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 42.

2 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, pp. 193, 194, Va. State Library.

3 Records of York County, vol. 1684-1687, pp. 125, 225; Ibid., vol. 1690-1694, p. 247; Ibid., vol. 1694-1697, p. 328, Va. State Library.


later for nineteen, and in the second levy, in 1699, for thirteen.1

It was not due entirely to the attacks of wolves that the flocks of sheep in the Colony were so small. No systematic effort was made to supply them with fodder or litter, or to protect them in winter from the weather; but in this respect the Virginians were only less negligent than the farmers of England. It was not until 1681, that it was discovered in the mother country that these animals could be supported on turnips when driven from the fields by frost and snow, and that ten acres sown in the seed of this vegetable would furnish them a greater abundance of food than an hundred in ordinary pasture.2 The sheep of the Colony were of middling size, exposure doubtless having the same influence in reducing their proportions as was observed in the case of horses and horned cattle; nevertheless, their wool was pronounced by capable judges from England to have been as fine in quality as the wool of the flocks ranging in the vicinity of Leominster.3 It is a fact of interest that this commodity was cheaper in Virginia in the seventeenth century than in England. This was due to the small use made of it in the Colony in the manufacture of clothing, as compared with the consumption in this form in the mother country. The average price of wool in the latter did not exceed twelve pence.4 In 1691, nine and one-half pounds were valued in Elizabeth City County at three shillings and nine

1 Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1695-1703, f. pp. 9, 112, 169. Panthers were killed in Gloucester County as late as 1688. See Clayton’s Virginia, p. 37, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III.

2 Haughton’s Husbandry, 1681.

3 Clayton’s Virginia, p. 35, Force’s Historical Tracts, vol. III; Hugh Jones’ Present State of Virginia, p. 41.

4 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 407.


pence; and thirteen and a half pounds, belonging to the same estate and probably of better quality, at three shillings additional.1 In 1670, fifty-three pounds of washed wool were appraised in York at four and one-half pence a pound; unwashed wool was in the same year valued at three pence. In 1695, sixty pounds were valued in this county at six pence a pound. Three years later, a pound of washed wool was rated in York at ten pence.2 In 1692, a pound was entered in Lancaster at five pence, and in Lower Norfolk in 1681 at six.3 As wool was cheaper in Virginia than in England, it is not surprising to find that a sheep commanded a slightly lower price in the Colony than in the mother country.4 The average value in all the counties seems to have been eight shillings; even when old they did not sell for less than seven. Lambs were appraised at four and five shillings.5

In the last years of the century, the hogs owned by the planters had become so numerous and were allowed to roam so much at liberty, that they were not always included in the appraisement of estates. The proprietorship of a drove was determined by the few which the owner had been able to catch and brand.6 Sufficient interest was felt in this form of property to cause planters to insist upon the continuation of the law requiring the

1 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, pp. 311, 312, Va. State Library.

2 Records of York County, vol. 1664-1672, p. 466; Ibid. vol. 1694- 1702, pp. 253, 410, Va. State Library.

3 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1690-1709, p. 44; Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1675-1686, f. p. 95.

4 Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 352.

5 Records of Lancaster County, original vol. 1674-1687, p.129; Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 424, Va. State Library; Records of Middlesex, original vol. 1698-1713, p. 110. See also Beverley Inventory, 1687, filed among the records of Middlesex County.

6 Beverley’s History of Virginia, p. 262.


friendly Indians to use a tribal mark for the hogs belonging to them. The exports of pork as well as of beef were so large, that not only was the size of the barrel prescribed by statute, but public packers were appointed who were heavily fined in case they accepted unwholesome meat, or allowed it to be placed in a receptacle above or below the legal size. The justices of the peace selected marks for the barrels shipped from places in their jurisdiction, and the quantity which each contained was also stamped on its face.1 A large amount of pork was often sent out by individual planters; thus in 1689, Sebastian Perrin, of Elizabeth City County, exported at one time thirty barrels, which were valued at £21, 5s. 9d., or four hundred dollars approximately in modern American currency.2 Specialties for this kind of meat were unusually common in Norfolk County.3 The appraisement of hogs in Virginia, as was to be expected, was somewhat lower than in the mother country at this time. In 1690, six yearling shoats were valued in York at four shillings apiece; in England, shoats, six months old, commanded, in 1700, seven shillings and three pence. In Virginia, eight shillings constituted the average price of sows and barrows.4

1 Hening’s Statutes, vol. III, p. 149.

2 Records of Elizabeth City County, vol. 1684-1699, p. 212, Va. State Library. These shipments were in some instances consigned to the West Indies (Records of Lower Norfolk County, original vol. 1686-1695, f. p. 156); in others, to New England. The quantity exported in one case was twenty-two barrels of pickled pork and two barrels of hogs’ lard. Records of Norfolk County, original vol. 1605-1703, f. p. 102.

3 The inventory of Robert Hodges, a prominent merchant who lived in this county, shows an indebtedness to his estate of 11,620 pounds of pork. Records, original vol. 1675-1686, f. p. 126.

4 Records of York County, vol. 1690-1694, p. 29, Va. State Library Rogers’ History of Agriculture and Prices in England, vol. V, p. 342. It should be remembered that figures in money sterling were used to represent simply certain amounts of tobacco, which was the real consideration in the sale of hogs.

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