Elizabeth's Wedding

Elizabeth (Montague) Minor m. 2nd Maurice Cocke, 3rd James Blaise.
Middlesex County Deed Book 3, 1709-1720, p. 250, Antient Press: Marriage Agreement between Elizabeth Cocke
and James Blaise bound to William MONTAGUE to pay Peter MINOR, Son of Elizabeth his Estate when he
reaches age of twenty one.
See Will of Doodes Minor


A Place in Time:
Family, Friends, Neighbors

by Darrett B. Rutman &
Anita H. Rutman

The trees in the streets are old trees used to living with people.
Family-trees that remember your grandfather's name...
He is not from Virginia, we never knew his grandfather.

-Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown's Body


It was Elizabeth's wedding day, and a hundred or more people crowded in and about the Montague house on the broad neck formed by Perrott's Creek and the Rappahannock in the county's upper precinct. Days had been spent getting ready. Pigs, chicken, geese, and even a steer had been slaughtered, then boiled, stewed, hashed and roasted at the great fireplace - the copious "meats of all kinds" upon which a passing traveler invited to the wedding by the groom would later comment, "I am sure there would have been enough for a regiment of five hundred soldiers." Gowns and waistcoats, petticoats and bodices - the family's very best, valuable enough to bequeath to children and grandchildren - had been careful removed from chests. mended, and pressed. The house was too small to hold the wedding guests; hence tables and benches had been set up in the yard outside. Neither did the tiny house hold enough of the trenchers, platters, spoons, noggins, and tankards needed for the tables. During the days before the wedding, Elizabeth and her sister-in-law Marie (more often called simply Mary) had bustled about the neighborhood borrowing.

The wedding ceremony itself was in the late morning, performed by the Reverend Mr. Shepherd, come up from his house in the middle precinct. (His fee was 250 pounds of tobacco.) The guests sat down to eat in stages, the "first table" at two. As they finished, Peter Montague, Elizabeth's brother, mixed the first batch of punch:

Three jugs of beer,
Three jugs of brandy,
Three pounds of sugar.
Some nutmegs and cinnamon.
Mix well together and when the sugar is melted, drink.

Bride and groom drank first, lifting together the "silver drinking Cupe with two handles," which the groom's mother had brought with her to Virginia and which she would bequeath to her eldest daughter. Thereafter, as the guests made away with the punch, old Deco, a black servant of the groom's father, and Deco's "wife" Phillis mixed more. Dancing began to the music of a fiddle, was abandoned for the inevitable horse race, then began again. Elizabeth's departure with her new husband at dusk was marked by celebratory musket shots; the two would spend their wedding night at the home of the groom's father, less than half a mile away. The dancing and drinking continued, however. a few guests with homes nearby drifted off as the night deepened. Others gradually found places to sleep here and there - men and boys wherever they could outside; women, girls and infants two, three, and four to a bed, in the house. still others "caroused all night long."

The marriage of Elizabeth Montague and Doodes Minor in 1671 was, for the neighborhood, an event, a coming together, in the same way that court day was an event for the whole county. Sitting admidst the merriment but blessed with the omniscience of the historian, a visitor might well have glanced around at the participants and guests, contemplating the relationships that linked them.

Start with Elizabeth herself, a girl in her mid-teens, standing by the door to the house. To one side is her groom, to the other her brother, Peter. Even before the wedding the two were brothers-in-law. Peter's wife, Mary was Doodes's sister. And even before they were brothers-in-law, Peter (and all the Montague children) had been close to the Minors. The senior Peter Montague and Doodes Minor - the latter an emigrant from Holland who had transposed his Dutch name, Mindeart Doodes, to create his English name -had known each other in Nansemond County as early as 1653 and had come up to the Rappahannock together in 1656. Montague had settled on the Southside, in what would become Middlesex, Minor on the Northside. Montague's wife (Elizabeth's mother) died soon after, followed by old Montague in 1659, leaving Peter and a stepmother, Cicely Thompson-Montague, to see the youngest children - Margaret, William, and Elizabeth - into maturity. Two older children were already married - Anne to neighbor John Jadwyn, Ellen to Cicely's son William Thompson. The link to the Minors persisted, however. When, in 1665, old Doodes fell on hard times, Peter came to his assistance. Doodes sold 200 northside acres to Peter, who in turn leased them back to Doodes for a term of fifty-four years. By 1666 Peter and Mary Minor were married, and sometime after 1668 Doodes, his wife Mary Geret, and Doodes junior, moved to the Southside, renting from Peter a portion of the Montague family's 1,000 acres. Close by the river and separated from the mainland by a labyrinth of tidal creeks and swamps, the roughly 200 acres were known locally as "Montague's Island." Elizabeth and her husband would live on the island with the elder Minors until young Doodes was able to buy 650 acres from his brother-in-law Jadwyn.

The "family" at the wedding was, therefore, a close but mixed affair. Old Doodes, representing the founding generation, was the patriarch, the father of the groom but also the father-in-law and tenant of the bride's brother and guardian. Doodes's wife, Mary Geret, had undoubtedly come across from the island early on the wedding day to help her daughter, the bride's sister-in-law and the matriarch of the Montague house. (Stepmother Cicely had returned to England following Peter's marriage and the death of her own son.) Peter and Mary's children - Mary, five, and Peter, one - represented the generation to come.

Others of the family on hand for the wedding included Elizabeth's brother, William, and his wife Elizabeth, still nursing her infant son, Thomas; Elizabeth's sister Margaret, childless, with her husband, William Cheyney; and Ellen (Montague) Thompson's children - Elizabeth, nine, and William, seven - in the company of Edward Poole, who had married their father's second wife following the death of first Ellen, then William Thompson. None of the family had far to come for the celebration. William Montague was living on the five hundred acres immediately adjoining Peter's, having taken possession of his half of his father's land at the time of his marriage. The Cheyneys lived as life tenants on one hundred acres of John Jadwyn's land, leased to them when, after the death of his Montague wife and their one child, Jadwyn departed the county for Maryland. Poole, as guardian of the Thompson orphans, lived on the three hundred acres adjoining the Cheyneys that had been left to the children by their father.

Turn to the guests. Henry Corbin and his wife Alice might be on hand, the guests of "social standing" commented upon by the passing traveler. The Corbins were of a decidedly higher rank in the society than either the Montagues or Minors. He was a member of Virginia's council of state and she was an Eltonhead, related to the Wormleys and Chicheleys. But old Montague had served as a member of the colony's assembly in his Nansemond days, briefly as a justice on the Lancaster court in the 1650s, and, with Corbin, on the vestry of the old Lancaster Parish. One can even imagine Master Shepherd riding up from mid-county the day before, spending the night with the Corbins, then riding over to the Montagues with them to perform the ceremony. His necessary return to mid-county would give them all an excuse to leave before the festivities turned to overly familiar carousing.

Certainly John Haslewood would be there, along with his brother Thomas and his sister-in-law and ward Mary Cole, who would soon marry Thomas Haslewood. both the Haslewoods and Coles were near neighbors and long-term friends of the Montagues; Mary's stepfather, George Marsh, had witnessed old Peter Montague's will. Mary Cole and the Corbins conceivably chatted, for Alice Corbin's first husband, Rowland burnham, and Mary's father, Francis, had been close - Cole was one of the two overseeers named in Burnham's will. Nicholas Cocke would be there too, with his wife Jane, their son Maurice, daughter Jane, and Cocke's stepsons Giles and Nicholas Curtis. Cocke, like Minor, was a Hollander. Richard and Margaret Perrott would be there, and their son Richard junior. In time, after old Doodes's death and when anticipating her own, Mary Geret Minor would ask Richard Perrott, Sr., and Nicholas Cocke to divide what property she had among her heirs. The Blazes would be on hand: William, his son James, and his daughters Rose and Mary. And Humphrey Jones. Jones was a close friend of the Cockes and Haslewoods, a vestryman and frequent churchwarden for the Upper Chapel. With him would be his wife, the former Eleanor Owen, relict Seager, her son Randolph Seager, and Humphrey's daughter by an earlier marriage, Mary Jones.

We have, of course, used our imagination in reconstructing Elizabeth's wedding. The relationships cited are real. Placing particular people on the scene, however, is simply the work of imagination guided by the knowledge of the existence of a relationship, either kinship or, in some fashion, friendship. And the whole exercise is designed to make a point. Even at this early date (1671) some of the people of the county were deeply embedded in a web or network of social relationships.

In terms of kinship - that is, the five families to which our young bride was linked by ties of blood or marriage - Elizabeth was certainly atypical. Her father, Peter Montague, had arrived early during the settlement years, bringing with him a wife and nearly grown children who soon married, providing Elizabeth with in-laws, nephews, and nieces. Most of those arriving after the initial entry into this country were younger than Peter, unmarried, more often than not servants with indentures to work off, and sometimes freedmen who had completed their servitude elsewhere. Marriage to a son or daughter of the county, or to a widow or widower, might give such an individual instant kin. But only over time, with the maturing and marriage of children, would the union itself contribute to the pool of relationships. As late as 1687, more than half the families of the county had neither kin nor affinal ties to any other of the county's families, 43 percent had ties to between one and four families, and only a handful (4 percent) had ties to five or more. Still, Elizabeth's was the web of relationships toward which all those persisting in the county were inevitably and rapidly heading. By 1724 more than half of the county's families would be linked to five or more other families; the average household head would live in a milieu of thirty-one relatives, ranging in kind from a sister's infant children to a wife's aging uncle.

Kinship is only one aspect of the social bond, however. Recall that we placed simple friends at Elizabeth's wedding - Blazes, Haslewoods, Cockes, Joneses, Perrotts, and Corbins. Given the nature of the remnant materials of this early Chesapeake society, our ability to discern friendships is limited. Occasionally they are delineated in wills, letters, and other documents. Thus in 1687 Margaret Perrott left minor bequests to her "Loving Friend Mistress Mary Goodlaw" and her "loving friend Mistress Elizabeth Weekes." But more often we must infer friendship from a variety of reciprocal relationships spotted in the county records - men witnessing documents for each other or standing bond for one another in suits at court.

The glimpse we obtain of friendship in this fashion is, we stress, minimal. The gregarious Virginian is well documented in literary materials. In a letter of the 1680s, we see Ralph Wormley "in company with another gentleman" teasing a rattlesnake along the road with a posy of dittany tied to a stick, then, "tired with skipping about after the snake, " dropping into a neighbor's house "to refresh themselves." William Byrd in 1686 wrote to an absent uncle of the "great misfortune amongst many....that we are wholly deprived of ever haveing your good company in Virginia again, where wee have been so often merry together, and I must assure you its seldome the upland gange meets but wee remember your good health, though wee so often forgett our owne... All our friends here in health; B. B. is as you left her, and soe is Bumble B. Dumble B. Only Bradly and Hall quarrell who spins most cotton." A traveler during the same decade wrote that "when a man has fifty acres of ground, two men-servants, a maid and some cattle, neither he nor his wife do anything but visit among their neighbors." Taken by an acquaintance to visit "many houses" in cider-making time, the traveler complained that "everywhere we were required to drink so freely that even if there were twenty, all would drink to a stranger and he must pledge them all." In contrast, our gauge of friendship catches individuals at a few relatively serious moments in their lives, when securities had to be found or a will or deed written, although conceivably friendships caught in such a manner were among the strongest and steadiest. Certainly, however, ours is a biased gauge, inflating the number of friends of a long-lived man active in affairs relative to those of a man dying young and intestate.

Limited as it is, our view of friendship is enough to put us on guard against presuming that the kinless axiomatically lived in isolation. Richard Allen shows us otherwise. Entering the county in 1662 as a servant to Arthur Nash, Allen completed his service in 1669, rented land for a while, was married by 1679 when his first child was born, and in 1683 purchased land from Nash's son John. Through the 1680s, we are unable to link Allen or his wife Anne to any kin in the county. Yet they were deeply ensconced in a web of relationships.

The tie to the Nashes, living a few hundred yards away, was clearly reciprocal. Allen had served old Arthur and bought his land from John, but he had stood security for John's sister Betty in her administration of her husband's estate; John, his wife Mary, and son Arthur would witness Allen's own will. Another neighbor, Thomas Chowning, witnessed Allen's deed from Nash. Thomas's father Robert had been an overseer of Arthur Nash's will. Allen himself would be named one of two "friends" to look after the children of Thomas's brother, Robert junior, when they were orphaned by the death of Robert's widow. For his part, Robert was close enough to John Nash to call on him for security when assuming control of his sister Catherine's inheritance in 1689. Allen in 1688 stood security for neighbor William Nicholson, executor of the will of Edward Bateman, who was the "trusty and well beloved friend" of John Skeeres, who in turn stood security for Robert Chowning when Robert was administering his father-in-law's estate. Bateman would subsequently witness Robert's will. When Skeeres himself had to post bond, Richard Allen stood security, and Allen was named executor in Skeerer's will, "to do what he thinketh fitting for all things." Among Skeerer's heirs was George Johnson, Jr., son of Allen's neighbor George; Allen and John Nash were witnesses to the senior Johnson's will. To return to Bateman: When he named his "friend" John Skeeres to serve as his attorney, the document was witnessed by Mary Shippey, a widow subsequently married to John Purvis, who, with Skeeres, was a beneficiary of the estate of Alexander Crerar. Mary was the godmother of the daughter of Nicholas Love, who called Skeeres "friend" when charging him to execute his will and raise his daughter, Frances. John Nash witnessed the will. Skeeres later took guardianship of Love's other daughter, Lettice, who ultimately became a charge of Allen's when Skeeres died.

In all, this complex series suggests a network of friendships tying the Allens in the 1680s to at least nine other families, all living in the near vicinity of the Allen property just above Mickleburrough's bridge on the main road. The hints of the network lie in cold and scattered legal entries, but it takes little in the way of imagination to envision what Byrd called a "gange" - in this case, Chownings, Batemans, Skeereses, and the rest - gathering in the Allens' hall for a night of drinking and talking.

Friendship and kinship ties were clearly interwoven. For one thing, formal relationships tended to follow prior friendships. Richard Allen's daughter Anne would eventually marry John Nash's son Arthur; his daughter Catherine would marry William Nicholson's nephew William Southward; Mary Shippey's daughter Lettice would marry Edward Bateman's son Thomas; Allen himself, as a widower, would marry John Skeeres's stepdaughter Elizabeth Osbondistall; and after Allen's death his "then wife" would marry William Davis, who sister was wife to Robert Chowning's son Thomas. For her part, had Elizabeth Montague been endowed with prescience on her wedding day, she could have looked out at those we have placed on hand only as friends and seen in almost every case a future connection. She herself, after Doodes's death, would marry in turn two of them, Maurice Cocke and James Blaze.

For another, the same pattern of reciprocal relations by which we infer freindship frequently identifies a kin or affine as a friend, a phenomenon that increases dramatically over time. In 1687, 17 percent of all identifiable friendhips between household heads in the county involved a tie by blood or marriage, a percentage rising to 64 by 1724. At the same time, however, the number of external households to which the average householder was linked by ties of friendship remained roughly constant, shifting from 2.5 in 1687 to 2.2 in 1724. Between the same years, the percentage of households heads tied by friendship to between 1 and 4 other households rose only slightly, from 67 percent to 73 percent, while the percentage related to 5 or more actually dropped from 15 to 14. Admittedly our measures are crude, but they seem to suggest the existence of an upper limit to the number of friends one could have in a society such as ours, and it is a limit constantly achieved - in the early years, which the likelihood of kin in the vicinity was relatively scant, more by friendship alone; in the later years, when the likelihood of nearby kin was greater, by a conjunction of kinship and friendship.

Let us return to our bride, Elizabeth. In the years after her marriage, she grew into womanhood. She bore children - at least five sons and a daughter - three of whom survived to maturity and had children of their own. Following Doodes's death, she remarried twice, outlived both husbands, and died in 1708. Her own marriages and those of her siblings, her children, and her nephews and nieces by blood and by marriage steadily expanded the web of kinship that surrounded her and strenghtened it as kin married kin, doubling and tripling the strands that connected her to others. Indeed, by the early 1700s she would be related in one fashion or another to fully three out of every four households in her immediate vicinity.

Such networks as surrounded Elizabeth - in her case, largely definable in terms of kinship; in others, simply friendship; in still others, a mixture of kinship and friendship - were the warp and woof of Middlesex society, important to all, but particularly important to the women of the county. In their roles of mother and housewife, women tended to be tied to house, garden, and fields, in contrast to husbands, who traveled the roads and met and taked to others on their own or on county business. Husbands had tobacco to sell and communal tasks to perform as jurors, assessors, surveyors of highways, and the like. They could, and did, gather in public houses, attended court and militia musters and the races. Women for the most part had but their pots, animals, and children to tend and the services at chapel or church to go to. Yet from a neighborhood of kin and friends, women received support and reciprocated in kind. Neighbors crowded to Elizabeth's wedding. Giving birth to her children,Elizabeth was surrounded by matrons of the vicinage. No stranger, but instead a mother-in-law, a sister, or a brother's wife helped her from bed to birthing stool. And it would be Elizabeth who would help a son's or nephew's wife, a husband's niece. Friends and kinfolk visited her hall - and she theirs - the "many brabling women" who, the law complained at one time, "scandalize their neighbours for which their poore husbands are often brought into chargeable and vexatious suites." Had Elizabeth, in her ultimate widowhood, cause to forward (or defend) an action at the county court, she could call upon any one of a dozen male heads of house to act for her. Finally, friends and kin would crowd around her deathbed, helping her devise the last testament, steadying her for what some Virginians called simply "Dissolution."

1) Rice Jones was Elizabeth's nephew by marriage. His mother, the former Jane Cocke, was the sister of Elizabeth's second husband, Maurice Cocke.
2) Thomas Toseley was the father of the first wife of Minor Minor, Elizabeth's son, and the maternal grandfather of Elizabeth's grandchildren through Minor.
3) Charles Maderas's mother Elizabeth had married Thomas Toseley and was the maternal grandmother of Elizabeth's grandchildren through Minor Minor. Charles was her grandchildren's uncle.
4) John Parson's wife Mary was Elizabeth's niece by marriage. Mary's mother was the sister of Elizabeth's third husband, James Blaze. Mary had also been Elizabeth's ward after the death of James. And Mary was the stepdaughter of Elizabeth's daughter-in-law Alice, second wife of Minor Minor.
5) Thomas Blewford's wife Mary was the mother, by a previous marriage, of Elizabeth's daughter-in-law Alice, second wife of her son Minor. In 1707 Blewford's son Henry would marry Mary, widow of John Parsons. Thomas Blewford was also the guardian of Elizabeth's grandnephew, John Somers.
6) John Hickey was the stepfather of Elizabeth's grandniece and grandnephew. John and Elizabeth Somers, children of the daughter of Elizabeth's sister Ellen Thompson, having married the children's stepmother.
7) Minor Minor was Elizabeth's son.
8) Garrett Minor was Elizabeth's son.
9) William Montague was Elizabeth's brother.
10) Rice Curtis was Elizabeth's nephew by marriage. He was the son of her second husband Maurice Cocke's half- brother. He was also the stepfather of Peter and Thomas Montague, Elizabeth's grandnephews. Their father had been the son of Elizabeth's brother Peter and his wife Mary, sister of Elizabeth's first husband, Doodes Minor.
11) Thomas Montague was Elizabeth's nephew, son of her brother William.
12) Penelope Warwick Cheyney was the second wife of Elizabeth's brother-in-law William Cheyney, who had earlier been married to Elizabeth's sister Margaret. And Penelope's brother Thomas had married Mary Minor Montague, Elizabeth's sister-in-law (sister of her first husband Doodes Minor and wife of her brother Peter) after Peter Montague's death. Penelope's granddaughter, Penelope Warwick, would eventually marry Elizabeth's grandnephew, Thomas Montague.
13) Philip Warwick was the son of Penelope Cheyney, Elizabeth's brother-in-law's widow.
14) Thomas Warwick was another son of Penelope Cheyney. He was also the godson of Jane Cocke, mother of Elizabeth's second husband.
15) David George was the brother of Elizabeth's daughter-in-law Alice, second wife of her son Minor Minor. He was also the son of Mary, wife of Thomas Blewford (number 5 above.)