John Culpeper of Accomack
By Bill Russell
Although not a great deal of attention has been paid to him, I believe that an examination of the facts can eliminate John of early Accomack County from consideration of all the other known incidents and basically relegate him to being irrelevant to our broader interests. All of the known facts about John of Accomack (#1) are from the court records of Accomack County.
First, he is identified as John Culpepper, a "servant" to Mrs. Graves, and accused of stealing two "hoggs" from Anthony Willis in a court held 4 and 5 January 1635/6. He admits to this, names John Greene as a confederate, and admits to also stealing pumpkins. Culpepper is sentenced "to be whipt presently and have thirty lashes." At a court held 1 February 1635/6, Willis sues Mrs. Graves to execute judgment for a new sow "for default of her man John Culpeper."
The next court action concerning John Culpeper/Culpepper is a claim for a headright for John Culpeper/Culpeper filed in Accomack Court by Henry Pendenden (sp? Pedenden) 23 November 1640. The headright could be for this John or for John Culpeper of Harrietsham (#2) who accumulated many headrights traveling in and out of Virginia on business. In any event, it does not expand or limit the time reference for either John as headrights could be "banked" or sold and used many years after the event of emigration and it's claim falls between known events for both men. This headright claim is listed on the Culpepper web site.
The last reference to this John Culpeper/Culpepper in Accomack Court is in a civil suit over the completion of a building project heard 28 July 1645. John Culpepper gave a deposition in court that he had a contract to "sawe and maule" some timber in connection with this suit. County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton, Virginia; 1640-1645, by Susie M. Ames, edit., The University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1973, p. 441. This is the last reference to a John Culpeper/Culpepper on the Eastern Shore of Virginia until 1671. As far as I am able to tell this John Culpeper simply disappears from the records.
Could John of Accomack have been identical with any of the other John Culpepers under investigation here? He was not John of Albemarle (#5), the "Carolina Rebel," whose North Carolina court deposition gives his age. An earliest possible dating of that document still leaves John of Albemarle born years after John of Accomack was brought into court for stealing "hoggs" and pumpkins. He could not have been John Culpeper (#3), the son of Thomas and Katherine St. Leger Culpeper, whose generally accepted birth date (1633) would make him only 2 or 3 at the time of the pumpkin caper. Even 16th Century Virginia courts were unlikely to have ordered 30 lashes for three year olds. Additionally, the family is generally not placed in Virginia prior to 1649/50. He could not have been John of Harrietsham (#2) who was a trained lawyer and was engaged in shipping and merchant trade in the years John of Accomack shows up as an indentured servant and sawyer.
Could he have been identical with John of Northampton (#4)? They both were resident on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and John was of a probable age to have been alive from 1671 to 1675. Social status, lack of intervening record, and political reality make it highly unlikely. John of Northampton held appointment from Thomas Ludwell, Secretary of the Council of Virginia, as Clerk of the Court for Accomack/Northampton Counties beginning in 1671. Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke or the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, by Jennings Cropper Wise, The Bell Book and Stationery Co., Richmond, 1911, pp. 14, 175. He held direct appointment from Sir William Berkeley, the Governor, as Sheriff of Accomack and Northampton Counties from 1673 to 1675, arguably the most powerful position in the county where the sheriff served as a member of the county council and was responsible for the collection of both levies and parish dues. Studies of the Virginia Eastern Shore in the Seventeenth Century, by Susie M. Ames, Russell & Russell, New York, 1940, pp. 163-164. The political realities are that neither Ludwell nor Berkeley would have appointed someone to such powerful positions who did not bring some political/social and/or economic status with them. From the record, John of Accomack brings none of these. Gov. Berkeley during this period used his appointments to reward politically powerful men at the local and state level who could support his position. No other appointment of sheriffs would show such a complete lack of family preferment or record of some political status.
John of Northampton relied upon deputy clerks to fulfill his duties as he was apparently absent on other business during this period. "Daniel Neech served as clerk but in a short time he became deputy clerk for the two courts. John Culpeper had been commissioned by Governor Berkeley as clerk. Apparently the latter spent most of his time at Jamestown." The Eastern Shore of Virginia: 1603-1964, by Nora Miller Turman, The Eastern Shore News, Onancock, 1964. This also doesn't fit the known facts about John of Accomack.
John of Accomack disappears from our discussion. He may fit into one of the Culpeper lines, but not the ones of John of Harrietsham, John of Northampton or John of Albemarle which are those of most interest to our recent discussions of the Culpeper/Culpepper families of Virginia and Carolina. Hopefully, someone can place him with the correct Culpeper family of England, but I'll leave that for another researcher at this point.
William A. Russell, Jr., Alexandria, Virginia, 21 Nov 1998.
Last Revised: 01 Apr 2001