John Baynham (c1570 – 1628/9) of Jamestown

Although this man left no male descendants, it is certainly possible that he was related in some way — perhaps as a distant uncle or cousin — to the John Baynham/Bynum who settled across the river in Surry County two generations later.  All we can be certain of is that the two men were not related in a direct line.

John Baynham transported himself to Jamestown in 1616 as a gentleman planter, making him the first of the name to arrive in America.  His wife Elizabeth joined him in 1620, followed by his son John in 1621.  Although he died without leaving male descendants in America, he deserves an honored place in our Baynham history as the first to arrive in the New World.

Several Bynum family researchers of the early and mid 20th century theorized that he was the father or grandfather of the John Baynham who later appeared in Surry County, Virginia in 1663.  However, a careful search of records quickly proves that this was not the case and the theory was abandoned some decades ago.  The records clearly show that the two men were not related in any direct way, for John Baynham’s son John died before 1624, unmarried and childless.  Alas, one generation’s theory has a way of becoming a later generation’s fact, and a few persons still occasionally, and ignorantly, offer up John Baynham of Jamestown as the progenitor of American Bynums.

Turning back to the first Baynham in America, the first muster of the population of Virginia taken on 16 February 1623/4 shows “John Baynan”, “Elizabeth Baynam”, and Robert Sweet enumerated together at the settlement in Elizabeth City.1  The muster of 7 February 1624/5, taken a year later for Elizabeth City shows “John Banum aged 54 in the Susan 1616” and “Elizabeth Banum aged 43 in the Bona Nova 1620” and Robert Sweete (age 42 in the Neptune 1818) in a household which included seven servants.2   (See below for a note on Robert Sweete.)

John Baynham, according to the latter record, was the third-oldest white person in Virginia at the time, immigrating at the relatively advanced age of 46.  His wife was the third-oldest female.  We know something of the ships on which they arrived, including the fact that both ships sailed from London.  From Virginia Company records we learn that the Susan was called a “small ship” when it delivered clothing to the settlers in 1615, and that it sailed from the port of London.  It must have arrived in the spring of 1616, for a later record suggests that John Baynham had arrived prior to May of that year some four and a half years before his wife.  In the 1624/5 muster, four persons are listed as arriving on the Susan in 1616, and one in 1615.

The Bona Nova, on which Elizabeth Baynham arrived, made at least three trips to Jamestown, the first being the delivery of 97 Virginia Company servants and a few paying passengers in the fall of 1619.   Elizabeth Baynham sailed on its second voyage which left the port of London on 7 September 1620 and arrived in Virginia sometime in November with 120 persons aboard.3   A bit more than four years later, the muster shows only 28 of them still alive, five of them women.  Elizabeth Baynham evidently accompanied several servants indentured to her husband, for two servants listed in the Baynham household in the 1624/5 muster had arrived on the same voyage.

The earliest record of John Baynham is his “first dividend” patent of 17 January 1619/20 for 200 acres in Tappahanna, across the river from James City in what later became Surry County.  Although the patent itself does not survive, it was referenced thirty years later when the land was repatented to Monjoy Evelin.4   The patent was for 200 acres, implying that he had arrived prior to May of 1616, for ancient planters arriving after that date were permitted only 100 acres.

John Baynham probably never occupied this land.  Later records show that he traded this parcel to George Sandys in exchange for another parcel at Elizabeth City in what became Warwick River County.  Sandys repatented “Mr. Bainham’s dividend” in Tappahanna on 4 December 1624.5  Three days earlier, on 1 December 1624, John Baynham received a 300 acre patent in Elizabeth City, 200 acres in exchange for four headrights of Sandys’ made over to Baynham, and another 100 acres for transportation of his deceased son John Baynham and a servant named Robert Draper.6  A month later, George Sandys appeared in court to formally transfer his headrights for the four servants to Baynham.7  It seems clear from these transactions that John Baynham had traded his land at Tappahanna for land in Elizabeth City.  The patents probably postdate the actual land exchange by at least a year, for the Baynhams were living in Elizabeth City by the 16 February 1623/4 muster.  They had likely been there for some time, since all of the Elizabeth City residents had survived the devastating Indian massacre of early 1623.

Thus all our records of John Baynham in Virginia show him living on his 300 acre grant in Elizabeth City a few miles downriver from Jamestown.  His land has some historical significance, though not because of his occupancy.   The patent was inherited by his daughter Mary Baynham (see below) who sold it to Thomas Taylor, who eventually transferred it to his son-in-law Miles Cary.  Miles Cary’s plantation on the original Baynham patent, known as Windmill Point, is a historic site complete with a commemorative marker.8

Among the records of Jamestown are quite a large number which refer to John Baynham, and which establish him as a gentleman planter.  All “adventurers” who had financed their own settlement were members of the local court.  The court records which survive, from 7 July 1620 through 7 June 1624, mention his regular attendance a member at sessions of the Quarter Courts held for the colony, his name consistently rendered as either “Baynham” or “Baynam”.9   In late 1621 and early 1622 he served on two committees.10   In April 1623 he was among those planters lobbying for dissolution of the Virginia Company.11   He was later appointed a Justice when a monthly court was established for Elizabeth City on 8 August 1626.12   One record appears to indicate that he was engaged in shipping goods into the colony on a ship called the Sparrow in 1625/6.13   Two other records show that he had contracted for three indentured servants in 1625 and 1626.14

The will of John Baynham, which no longer exists, was proved on 9 February 1628/9.15  He had apparently been dead at least a few weeks, for at the same court Robert Sweete presented the inventory of the estate.  At the same court, Sweete renounced the executorship of the will, and was replaced by the widow Elizabeth Baynham.  A later patent (see below) establishes that Mary Baynham Tisdall was his “daughter and heire.”

He was clearly neither the father, nor the grandfather, of the later John Baynham of Surry County.  In fact, he evidently left no male descendants in America or elsewhere.  A generation later, the John Baynham from whom most American Bynums are descended arrived in Surry County, across the river from Jamestown.  Whether the two men were related in some other way is unknown.

He had two children, only one of whom survived him:

  1. John Baynham Jr. (c1600? – c1623)    On 1 December 1624 John Baynham was granted a patent “in right of his transportation out of England of his son John Bainham deceased who came in the Charles 1621” and five other persons.16  Other records tell us that the Charles arrived in Jamestown in November of 1621.  This provides at least a rough clue to the son’s age, for he remained in England for a year after his mother immigrated, and five years after his father.  Taking into account his parents’ ages, an estimate of his birth about 1600 seems reasonable.  John Baynham Jr., like the great majority of early settlers, died shortly after his arrival.  He was not mentioned among the living or the dead in the muster of 16 February 1623/4, nor in the muster of 7 February 1624/5, which included those who had died during the year 1624.17  That would seem to place his death sometime between his arrival in November 1621 and the end of 1623.   No wife or children are listed in any of the musters.  He clearly had no heirs of his own, for his sister inherited his father’s land in Virginia.
  2. Mary Baynham (c1600? – ?)   She evidently remained in England for some years after her parents’ arrival in Virginia, and may never have come to Virginia at all.  Mary was not listed in the musters of 16 February 1623/4 or 7 February 1624/5, nor was she used as a headright by her father or anyone else.  As later records show, she was at some point married to Richard Tisdall, who also does not appear in any Jamestown musters or other records.  The only evidence that her husband was in Virginia is a record seven years after her father’s death.  On 10 February 1635/6 Richard Tisdall patented 200 acres at the head of Merchant’s Hope Creek in Charles City County for transportation of four persons.18  Tisdale almost immediately assigned this land to Thomas Wheeler, for on 10 November 1638 Wheeler renewed the same patent “by assignment from Sergeant Richard Tisdall”.19 There is no further record of either Tisdall or his wife Mary in Virginia.

However, a later patent proves that she was John Baynham’s daughter, and had inherited his land in Virginia.   On 23 October 1643 Thomas Taylor renewed the old patent for 300 acres “granted unto John Baynam, deceased, bearing date 1 December 1624 which said pattent grew unto Richard Tisdall by marrying with Mary Baynam daughter and heire unto the said John Baynam…20

A Note on Robert Sweet

There was some connection between John Baynham and Robert Sweet (or Sweete).  They were listed in a common household in the musters of  1624 and 1625, and Robert Sweet was named executor of John Baynham’s will.  According to the latter muster, Robert Sweet, age 42 in 1625, arrived in the Neptune in 1818.  He appears to have been in some sort of partnership with John Baynham, for he did not receive a patent of his own until after Baynham’s death.  On 14 March 1628, “Robert Sweete of Elizabeth Citty, Gent.” was granted 150 acres at Elizabeth City for transportation of himself in 1818 and two servants in 1621 and 1623.21  The musters show no wife or children.  It was perhaps he who was mentioned in John Carter’s English will of 1626, which gave oversight of his shipping to the “lowland” to Robert Sweete and Richard Love.22

His neighbor Robert Sheppard claimed a “Robert Swett” as a headright in a 1638 patent.23   Whether “Robert Swett” was the same person or not is unclear.  One or the other of these persons was involved in one of the first known cases of a mixed-race union in Virginia.  On 17 October 1640, the General Court found that “Robert Sweat hath begotten with child a negro woman servant belonging unto Lieutenant [Robert] Sheppard” and ordered “that the said negro woman shall be whipt at the whipping post and the said Sweat shall tomorrow in the forenoon do public penance for his offence at James city church in the time of devine service according to the laws of England…”24  The black servant was perhaps one Margaret Cornish, thought to have been the wife or consort of another black servant, who was later a free woman.

Robert Baynham of London

The records of the Virginia Company mention one Robert Baynham, goldsmith, of London as a shareholder.  Naturally, one cannot help but wonder if there was some relationship with John Baynham the Ancient Planter.  The Visitation of Gloucestershire, which contains an abbreviated Baynham genealogy, mentions this man.  His will, probated in 1626, names his father and mother Christopher and Lucy Baynham, Edward Fludgate his brother-in-law,  his widowed sister Gayer, and several other relations.  Only one child, Robert,  is mentioned.  There is no indication that he was related to John Baynham of Jamestown.

  1. The Original Lists of Persons of Quality, John Camden Hotten (Reprint by G.A. Baker & Co., 1931) pp184. []
  2. Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia 1607-1625, Annie Lash Jester (Princeton University Press, 1956), p54. []
  3. The Records of The Virginia Company of London, Susan Myra Kingsbury, ed., (Government Printing Office, 1906) Vol. 3, p406.  Letter from Sir Edwin Sandys to John Ferrar mentions that on that date the Bona Nova “set saile from the Downs with a prosperous wynd.” []
  4. Virginia Patent Book 4, p316. []
  5. Virginia Patent Book 1, p12. []
  6. Virginia Patent Book 1, p17. []
  7. Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia, H. R. McIlwaine, ed. (1924), p39. []
  8. One description of the patent’s history and of Windmill Point is in The Virginia Carys, Fairfax Harrison (1985), pp32. []
  9. The Records of The Virginia Company of London, Susan Myra Kingsbury, ed., (Government Printing Office, 1906) Volume I and Volume II, numerous pages. []
  10. Kingsbury, Volume I, p569, p596. []
  11. Kingsbury, Volume IV, p80. []
  12. McIlwaine, p106. []
  13. McIlwaine, p96. []
  14. McIlwaine, p118, p145. []
  15. McIlwaine, p185. []
  16. irginia Patent Book 1, p17. []
  17. A John Beanam was listed among the dead at Martin’s Hundred “since April last” in the February 1623/4.  Although this may have been the son, it seems unlikely for Martin’s Hundred was almost exclusively comprised of servants. []
  18. Virginia Patent Book 1, p697. []
  19. Virginia Patent Book 1, p602. []
  20. Virginia Patent Book 1, p923. []
  21. Virginia Patent Book 1, p70. []
  22. Genealogical Gleanings in England, Henry F. Waters (1901), Vol. 2, p1016. []
  23. Virginia Patent Book 1, p584. []
  24. McIlwaine, p477. []