Miles Gorham (? – 1693)

Miles Gorham first appears in 1661 in Northumberland County, Virginia.1  Miles Gorham does not appear as a headright in any Virginia patent.  Where he came from, and when, is unknown although he was clearly English.  He was highly likely to have been from southern England, from which the overwhelming majority of early immigrants to Virginia came. Indeed, there were Gorhams in Middlesex as early as the 1100s, and later in several surrounding counties.

He is identified three times in various records as a cooper.2   Unlike many artisans of the time he could sign his own name. The area in which he first appears, and later lived, was the southern bank of the Potomac River near the mouth of the Yeocomico River, which formed the border between Northumberland County to the east and Westmoreland County to the west. Records of the first several years of these counties are missing, so he may have been in the area quite early.

He was apparently a landowner when he first appears in the records. Though I found no record of a purchase, on 10 January 1670/1 Miles Gorham mortgaged 200 acres on the east side of the Yeocomico in Northumberland County.3  He and his wife Alice sold what was apparently the same land to John Evans a year later on 18 January 1671/2.4  He had evidently owned this land at least ten years earlier, as he witnessed deeds to adjoining landowners in 1661 and again in 1663. Despite selling what was evidently his only land there, he continued to live in Northumberland through 1678.

He had moved across the Yeocomico into Westmoreland County by 1680.  Several years earlier, on 21 December 1664, he had bought 100 acres on the opposite side of the Yeocomico in Westmoreland County from William Thomas. 5   He and his wife Alice Gorham, as residents of Northumberland, sold this land on 28 April 1671.6  It is not clear that he ever lived on this land, since all references to him during that time frame are in Northumberland County. But, despite the absence of any record of other purchases (except the one noted below), Miles Gorham clearly owned additional land in Westmoreland County. He was a resident of Northumberland as late as 1678 (see below) but was living in Westmoreland by 1680 when he served on a jury, a privilege normally restricted to landowners.7  He was subsequently sued as a resident of Westmoreland in 16838  and was tithable there in 1682.9   The only record of a land purchase is one referenced fifty years later, indicating that Miles Goreham bought land in early 1684 and sold it seven months later.10

His wife Alice was alive as late as the January 1672 deed, but by 2 July 1675 he had remarried to a woman named Susannah.11  He appears several times thereafter in court records, but the most interesting of these involve his children. Miles Goreham apparently was absent from the area, perhaps in England or another colony, and on 16 April 1676 his son “John Goreham” bound himself out to a neighbor named Captain John Rogers.12   Two years later, on 16 August 1678, Miles Gorham petitioned the court for the return of his son, claiming that in his absence  his son had apprenticed himself without his knowledge or consent. 13  The court granted his petition on 16 October. 14   One wonders why he waited so long to pursue the matter; perhaps he was away from home on some lengthy trip.  We have some indication that he ranged far afield — he appears as a witness in Maryland a few years later.15

Nearly ten years later a similar event occurred.  On 24 November 1686 Susannah Gorham bound out her son Michael Gorham and daughter Susannah Gorham to Robert King because her husband “lately ran away and left behind his wife and several children in great necessity and poverty.16  At the same court, the estate of Miles Gorham (totaling only 170 pounds of tobacco) was attached by a creditor named William Paine.  Miles Gorham apparently returned to Westmoreland within a few months, as he brought two suits in Westmoreland court on 23 February 1686/7, both of which were dismissed in April 1687 when Goreham was represented by his attorney.17  At the same court Susannah Gorham bound out another of her children, Mary Gorham, to Henry Wharton.18  However, Miles Gorham was again back in Westmoreland with in a few months, appearing as a witness in court on 31 August 1687.19

Miles Gorham’s financial troubles continued. He was sued four times for debt in 1691 alone, the last year in which he appears in the records.20  On 27 September 1693, his widow Winifred (apparently a third wife) was granted administration of his estate.21  She recorded the inventory and appraisal two months later.22  There are no further records of either Miles or Winnifred.

We know of only the four children named in the court records. John Gorham was apparently a son of Alice, the other three apparently were children of Susannah.

  1. John Gorham (c1662? – 1700)  See separate page.
  2. Michael Gorham (c1673-6 – ?) The only citation for him is the 1686 court record. He must have been under 14 since his mother bound him out.  If he were actually a son of Susannah, he must have been born after 1672. Further he was probably at least 10, else his apprenticeship would have been nearly worthless. Presumably both Michael and Susannah were older than Mary, since they were apprenticed a year earlier than she. The absence of later records suggests that he died young.
  3. Susannah Gorham (c1673-6 -?) As with Michael, the only citation is the 1686 court record, when she was apparently under the age of 14.
  4. Mary Gorham (c1680 – ) The 1687 court record calls her “a small child” and binds her for a period of ten years “until she reaches the age of 17”. There is a published (but speculative) theory that Mary survived to become the wife of Edward Ransdell.23
  1. Northumberland County Deeds & Wills 1658-1662, p51 witness to a deed dated 21 January 1660/1. He is apparently mentioned two years earlier in the Northumberland Record Book 1658-66, p35 and p39 which I have not checked. []
  2. Westmoreland County Order Book 1675-1688, p274; Westmoreland County Order Book 1675-1688, p528; Northumberland County Deeds & Wills 1670-1672, p225. []
  3. Northumberland County Deeds & Wills 1670-1672, p147. []
  4. Northumberland County Deeds & Wills 1670-1672, p225. []
  5. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 1, p305. []
  6. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 1, p377. []
  7. Westmoreland County Order Book 1675-1688, p187. []
  8. Westmoreland County Order Book 1675-1688, p247. []
  9. Westmoreland County Order Book 1675-1688, p274. []
  10. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 8, p228. []
  11. Westmoreland County Deeds & Wills 1, p240a. []
  12. Northumberland County Order Book 3, 1666-1678, p134. []
  13. Northumberland County Order Book 4, 1678-1698, p3. []
  14. Northumberland County Order Book 4, 1678-1698, p8. []
  15. Maryland Archives, Volume 87, p97. []
  16. Westmoreland County Order Book 1675-1688, p528. []
  17. Westmoreland County Order Book 1675-1688, p557-8, p571. []
  18. Westmoreland County Order Book 1675-1688, p561. []
  19. Westmoreland County Order Book 1675-1688, p595. []
  20. Westmoreland County Order Book 1690-1698, p6a, p8a, p36. []
  21. Westmoreland County Order Book 1690-1698, p105. []
  22. Westmoreland County Order Book 1690-1698, p111. []
  23. “Thornton of Richmond County, Virginia with Related Families…”, Benjamin C. Hotzclaw, published in Historical Southern Families, Vol. 12, (J. B. Boddie, ed.., 1968) pp. 14-16. []