About Me
Terms of Use

Paternal Generation I: William Pinley to Maryland and Virginia

Maryland: Pinleys & Pirates & Kent Island

Maryland's Time of Trouble

Pirates, Kent Island, William Claiborne, & Richard Ingle

The Kent Connection

The controversy over Kent Island played a large role in the lives of two of our generations, the Mountneys, Elizabeth Hill and William Pinley. William Claiborne was a neighbor of the Mountneys in Elizabeth City and Accomack/Northampton. Alexander Mountney was a business partner with Claiborne in the building of the fort and Craford plantation on Kent. Captain Phillip Taylor, Alexander Mountney’s friend and associate from Accomack was made commander of Claiborne’s remaining supporters. Executed pirate Thomas Smyth was Keeper of the Common Store/trading post at times on Kent Island, and as such, was in contact with Mountney’s trading post in Accomack. Many of Claiborne’s staunch supporters moved to homes near the Mountneys in Accomack after Claiborne left for England.

Lord Calvert used William Pinley’s name as his indentured servant on the same list with the servants he seized from Claiborne on Kent Island, Thomas Gerrard went to court to have William released from Calvert’s vengeful grasp. Among the found documents, William Pinley wrote and witnessed more papers for the rowdy Kent Islander Thomas Sturman than any other person. Pinley married Alexander Mountney’s step-daughter, Elizabeth Hill, but there is no indication that Alexander Mountney ever moved his family to Kent Island.

William Pinley’s loyalties in Maryland's chaos are difficult to follow. He did legal work for various "Kent Island Rebels" such as Sturman, Porter and Hilliard, but he was never charged with crimes as they were, nor was he ever found forced to sign a loyalty oath as they were. He did legal work for various people caught up in Ingle's Rebellion, such as Hallowes and Sturman, but he was never charged with their crimes, nor was he ever found forced to sign a loyal oath as they were. In Accomack/Northampton County, near the trading post on Kings Creek, he met and married Hannah Mountney’s daughter, Elizabeth Hill. Based on the size of the inventory of his estate, and the types of property listed, it is obvious that William and Elizabeth Pinley had a residence in Northampton County at the time of his death in 1650.

The complicated dispute between Claiborne and Calvert over Kent Island struggled through the courts in England and the colonies for over 40 years, not ending until Claiborne’s death in 1677. William Claiborne discovered Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay just east of current Annapolis in 1628. Considering it an ideal location for a fur trading post, he bought it, for twelve pounds sterling silver of his personal funds, from the Natives who lived there, named it Kent Island, and claimed it for the King of England. Beginning in 1631, Claiborne fortified Kent Island, planted crops and orchards, stocked it with cattle, and built a fort, church, trading post, living quarters for 100 men, and a plantation house for himself named Crayford.

When Lord Baltimore received a charter from the King to found Maryland, the charter specified that Maryland should have the unsettled land above the Potomac River and across the Chesapeake Bay. William Claiborne believed that Kent Island was exempt from the Maryland charter because it was settled and inhabited. Leonard Calvert took the position that Kent Island was NOT settled because it only contained a trading post, not permanent residents with families.

The preceding explanation of the controversy squeezes 40 years of courtroom drama into a few sentences, but the purpose here is to establish the events relative to William Pinley and Alexander Mountney. William Claiborne was a neighbor to Hannah and her husbands at Elizabeth City, Claiborne ran the Community Store/trading post from his estate at Strawberry Banks. Eventually, Claiborne claimed land and established the trading posts on the Eastern Shore as well, having founded the trading post that became Alexander Mountney’s Community Store at Kings Creek. In 1634, Mountney entered into a partnership with William Claiborne on the building projects and trading post at Kent Island. See the chapter on Alexander Mountney.

Lord Calvert offered to allow Claiborne to bring his plantation at Kent under Maryland’s authority and continue his operation there, but Claiborne stubbornly refused, insisting that Kent Island was already under the Virginia charter. When Calvert sent Robert Vaughn to the area with a militia, Claiborne’s Captain Thomas Smyth arrested the men as invaders. He eventually released them unharmed, but kept some useful commodities. Maryland issued a warrant for the arrest of Captain Smyth for piracy. In 1635, Maryland loyalist Henry Fleet, the sole survivor of the massacre of Henry Spelman and his men in 1623, seized Claiborne's prize ship, The Long Tayle. Fleet refused to accept the ship's license to trade because it was issued by Virginia instead of Maryland. Captain Fleet, a fur trader in dire competition with Claiborne, delivered the The Long Tayle and its crew to Calvert as a war prize. Calvert released the crew, forcing them to make their way back to Kent Island by a treacherous and long overland hike around the Chesapeake Bay.

In April of 1635, Claiborne retaliated by sending another ship, The Cockatrice into the Chesapeake to find The Long Tayle and bring it home to Kent Island. Warren sneaked up on one Maryland ship in the bay, but another Calvert ship hidden in a cove came to the defense. After a brief but swashbuckling battle of swords, pistols, guns and hand to hand combat, Lieutenant Warren, Richard Hancock, and Robert Lake attempted to board The St. Helen, Captain Cornwallis’ ordered cannons fired at his fellow Englishmen, and Maryland won the day. Hancock, Lake, and Commander Warren were killed instantly, Virginians William Dawson and John Belson also died in battle. Maryland lost one man, William Ashmore. The Cockatrice, manned only by ten wounded survivors, limped back to Kent Island to report the loss.

By the end of 1636, the fur trade had declined because of the warfare, and Cloberry and Company, Claiborne’s financial backers in London, sent George Evelyn to Kent Island as their attorney to take charge of the settlement on Kent and called Claiborne to England to explain his actions, as the recent hostilities had reduced their profits.

Claiborne delayed his departure until 1637, completed a thorough inventory of his property and tried to force Evelyn to post bond that he would not surrender Kent. After Evelyn refused to make the promise, Claiborne finally left for England, positive that he could argue and win his case for Kent Island with the King himself.

William Claiborne was a Virginian first, last and always.
George Evelin was a businessman, first last and always.

With Claiborne finally gone, George Evelin conceded jurisdiction of Kent Island to Governor Calvert, and then attempted to convince the residents of Kent that they should pledge allegiance to Calvert and Maryland and carry on about the business of earning profits for the stockholders back in London.

Testimony given by William Pinley’s frequent associate, Thomas Sturman, in Maryland court indicated that Evelyn took no care to provide food for the Kent residents, and witnesses testified that under Evelyn, they were kept alive only because Captain Thomas Smyth smuggled food in from Claiborne’s friends and neighbors at the Eastern Shore (where Alexander Mountney was the keeper of the Common Store). Adding insult to the injury of starvation, Evelyn even transported some of the corn smuggled to Kent Island by Thomas Smyth out to supposedly hungry people in Calvert’s Maryland.

Oysters saved the day again. Evelyn spent more time bonding with Calvert than the men at Kent Island. The arrogant and divisive George Evelyn conspired to starve the servants on Kent into submission to Maryland’s rule by refusing to buy corn and other staples, and shipping their scarce supplies out to the Marylanders when they did manage to smuggle food onto the island. The men on Kent, ever loyal to Claiborne and Virginia, and still pained over the brutal loss of their commander Ratcliffe Warren, refused to admit defeat and resisted Evelyn’s plans. Note: starvation as a tactic to win the “hearts and minds" of the people didn’t work in the 1640’s either.

"The said Evelin badd the said servants gett Oysters and shift for themselves for he had noe meate nor Corne for them nor could not tell where to gett it."
Deposition of Thomas Sturman, May, 1640
Maryland Archives, Proceedings of the Council of Maryland,Volume 5, Page 186,

George Evelyn conspired with Calvert to lead a small army of men onto the island in the dark of night to subdue the rebels on Kent. In what became known as “the reduction of Kent Island”, Claiborne’s assets and servants were seized.

Claiborne’s immensely popular commander on Kent, Thomas Smyth (Smith) was arrested for piracy, tried by the Maryland Assembly, and hung by the neck until dead.

* This Smith, having committed Piracy, was Arraigned, Tried, found Guilty, and sentenced to Death by this Assembly. The reason of which Proceeding was, that the Lieutenant-General having no Power by his Commission to punish with Loss of life or Member, unless by Laws to be made in the Province, and no such Laws being made, it was necessary, for the due Execution of Justice, that the whole Legislative Body should concur in this Man's Condemnation. (Maryland Archives)

Smyth was denied a lawyer, denied clergy, and denied witnesses in his favor, but was permitted to speak in his own defense after the evidence had been presented. Since Maryland had no law on their books to cover his actions, the Maryland Assembly passed an illegal bill of attainder and convicted Smyth.

Trials such as Smyth's eventually caused the American Revolution!

In 1606, King James I issued a proclamation to encourage colonization. The King promised that all who went bravely into the “New World” would retain all of their Rights as Englishmen, the same as if they had remained in England. Thomas Smyth’s Rights as an Englishman were denied, and he became a sacred martyr to the Kent Islanders.

For many years afterward, his death was spoken of by his friends in depositions given in the Claiborne law suits. After the hanging, Claiborne was also charged with piracy, but he had gone to England to see the King before he could be captured.

Though the rebels on Kent may have appeared subdued afterwards, many were just waiting for their next opportunity to get even with the Calvert and his blue bloods, especially the hated Thomas Cornwallis. Seven years later, during Ingle’s rebellion, Cornwallis’ home was the site of especially enormous destruction. That plunder is often ascribed to Ingle, the Puritans, and the rebels on Kent Island, but Cornwallis’ lurid murder of Ratcliffe Warren may have been the original motive for revenge.

A delightful website on the history of the Chesapeake Bay was found to have great detail on the conflicts between William Claiborne and Maryland, and is linked here.

"Piracy" on the Chesapeake Bay in the 1600s

Thomas Sturman and the Puritans

Of all of William Pinley’s close friends or associates researched, none is more intriguing than Thomas Sturman (Sterman). Sturman, a cooper by trade, actually came to Kent Island on The Sarah Elizabeth as an employee (not a servant) of George Evelyn and Clobbery and Company to help with the transition away from William Claiborne’s rule on the island.

William Pinley was present near the death of Sturman’s friend, Nicholas Porter, as he wrote and witnessed the Porter will in 1645. In 1646, Pinley wrote and witnessed the document which transferred ownership of Sturman’s boat and cattle to his son John Sturman. And lastly, Thomas Sturman was with William Pinley when they both got permission to leave Maryland to “goe to Virginia” after Pinley’s stated preference for oysters had earned him twenty lashes and a large fine. Pinley wrote or witnessed more documents for Sturman than any other individual in his short life.

Though he entered Maryland as an ally of George Evelyn, at some point, Thomas Sturman became a supporter of the Virginians on Kent Island. Sturman, a devout Puritan, may have altered his political ideology after witnessing the cavalier attitude of George Evelyn toward plight of the starving settlers on Kent Island. Thomas Sturman was a witness (and a victim of the policy) when Evelyn told the servants to shift for themselves and eat oysters to avoid starvation. He may have been influenced by the hanging of the popular pirate Thomas Smyth, who had smuggled food onto the island to ward off starvation. In the days of the Puritan Revolution in England, the hostile politics spilled over into the colonies.

William Claiborne was a devout Anglican, but he, and most of the Kent Islanders are usually accused of siding with the Puritan pirate and plunderer, Richard Ingle who ransacked Maryland in 1645. PenleyPearls is unsure if Claiborne’s followers supported Ingle, or simply took advantage of the chaos to disempower the hated royals.

Calvert feared for his life and hid out in Virginia when Claiborne and Ingle were roaming about. After the first removal of Governor William Stone, Claiborne returned to Maryland as Governor, with the Puritan Richard Bennett, though most Maryland government sources only refer to him as a Parliamentary Commissioner instead of Governor. Virginia and Maryland continued to argue over ownership of Kent Island until Claiborne’s death in 1677 finally ended the law suits.

Sturman also joined forces with Ingle at times, and when Thomas Cornwallis, the particularly arrogant royalist, arranged for Ingle’s escape from prison and sailed back to England in Ingle’s ship, Sturman moved into the Cornwallis home for a while. While there, Sturman gutted the place, taking the hinges from the doors, the planks out of the floors. Cornwallis sued Sturman upon his return, and Sturman confessed to the plundering, but avoided prosecution by pleading a statute of limitation on the crime. He eventually paid for some damage, but also won some damage payments from Cornwallis.

“In one of the equity cases, that of Cornwallis v. Sterman, for carrying away goods in the plundering year [Ingle’s presence], the defendants pleaded the statute of limitations, and as this was "doubtfully understood," the case was respited until the next General Assembly.
"In March, 1653/4, however, the case was referred to the arbitration of Stone and Hatton, and was decided by directing the Sturmans to pay three hogsheads and one hundred pounds of tobacco and court charges, whereupon Cornwallis should deliver them two bills given to Ingle concerning powder and a gun.”
Maryland under the Commonwealth: A Chronicle of the Years 1649-1658. Contributors: Bernard C. Steiner - author. Publisher: Johns Hopkins Press. Place of Publication: Baltimore, MD. Publication Year: 1911. Page Number: 142.

Both of Thomas Sturman’s daughters married Puritans and Kent rebels. Daughter Ann married Claiborne Captain Thomas Ewell (Youell), and Elizabeth married William Hardidge. Calvert so despised Thomas Ewell that at one time, Thomas Sturman had to post a bond of 2,000 pounds of tobacco as security that he would have no communication with his own son-in-law that he did not report to the governor.

Thomas Sturman and his daughters, the Ewells and the Hardidges, left the chaos in Maryland and settled across the Potomac in present day Westmoreland County, Virginia around 1646. Thomas Gerrard and Walter Broadhurst settled there as well by 1650. Perhaps William Pinley had plans to move his family to the Northumberland/Westmoreland/Lancaster area as well; after his death, Hannah Mountney and his three orphans moved to Lancaster County.

Kent Islanders and Northumberland County

Orphan Thomas Pinley returned to Northumberland County, and there the descendants of William Pinley lived until about 1750. Disenchanted Kent Islanders began settling across the Potomac River in Virginia during the 1640’s, living on lands promised to the Natives. Northumberland County had become a haven for the Kent Island rebels even before it was opened up for legal settlement. Many were accused of harassing Marylanders and then escaping into the safety of the Virginia wilderness. Northumberland County was formed in 1645 when Virginia opened up the land for settlement. There was a mass exodus from Maryland around 1650 with a number of Penley cohorts from Maryland moving across the Potomac River to seat both large and small plantations in Northumberland County. With the rapid increases in population, Lancaster County was formed in 1651, Westmoreland County in 1653.

Thomas Gerrard and Walter Broadhurst, owners of William Pinley’s indentured contract in Maryland, both patented land in Northumberland County in October of 1650. (Nugent, Vol. 1, p. 198, 199)

John Hallowes, who appointed William Pinley as his attorney, and at whose home William Pinley was arrested for his “seditious and reviling” speech about oysters in 1650, claimed 1800 acres in Northumberland in January of 1651. The Hallowes patent includes headrights for the Thomas Youell (Ewell) family, Thomas Sturman’s son-in-law, and five Butlers who were William Claiborne’s in-laws from Kent Island, in addition to Hallowes own family and several others. (Nugent, Vol. 1, p. 207) Thomas Sturman’s other son-in-law, William Hardidge, claimed 1,000 acres in 1653 bounded by Walter Broadhurst’s land.

To compensate for his loss of Kent Island, William Claiborne was given 5,000 acres in what would become New Kent County. (Nugent, Vol. 1, p. 245) As headrights, he listed 100 men who had loyally served him on Kent Island, including Penley cohort Thomas Sturman, and seven of the men seized with William Pinley from Kent Island by Lord Calvert to be Calvert servants.

It appears from the Claiborne and Hallowes headrights that Claiborne authorized John Hallowes to claim the headrights from the Kent Islanders that exceeded Claiborne’s needs at the time. Most of the men listed as headrights for William Claiborne soon patented land in their own name, duplicating headrights for each other it seems.

Andrew Munrow (Monroe), whose mark of “A” on a Thomas Sturman document William Pinley had witnessed in 1646 Maryland, patented Northumberland land which was bounded by Sturman and Hallowes property.

One Thomas Hobkins (Hobson) re-used many of these names in a 1654 patent showing the names of several Hallowes, Youall (Ewell), Munroe, and one John Knott. Since Claiborne was the Virginia Secretary of State and chief surveyor during much of this time, it is assumed that the repeated use of these headrights was authorized by Claiborne, either for a friendly favor or a fee.