Capt. Jacob Hayes of the Constant

Arnold Edmund Hayes (1893-1982) wrote an article in Historical Southern Families, Volume XV, that contained this item:1

Jacob Hayes3 followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and earned his living on the sea. He was master of the “Constant” out of London. It is not known how he became involved in Bacon’s Rebellion, but he and his first mate Edward Cooke were subpoenaed to appear in court in London. Rather than comply, they resolved to leave the sea and take up land “in Albemarle”. Jacob is the first Hayes on record to make his home in North Carolina. For protection, he dropped the use of his first given name and used the second one, John. He made his home on Salmon Creek in Chowan Precinct. It is highly probable that the Hays families found in Tyrell, Martin, and Washington Counties are the descendants of old Capt. Jacob John Hayes.

Is any of this true? After seeing several errors in Mr. Hayes’ paper, I wondered how much of this story is accurate.  The answer, I believe, is very little.

Jacob Hayes, ship’s captain, in British maritime records

The fragmentary records of the port of London, preserved by Virginia’s Colonial Records Project show that a Jacob “Hay” was master of the ship Dove of London when it arrived in London carrying a load of Virginia tobacco in August 1664.2  Port of London records show that the Dove made three more annual trips to Virginia in 1675, 1676, and 1677 but with a different captain each year.

Probably the same man, variously recorded as”Jacob Hay”, “Jacob Hays”, and “Jacob Hayes”, was master of the ship Constant of London when it made annual voyages from England to Virginia and back in 1675, 1676, 1677, and 1678.3,  According to the port records, it typically carried clothing, cloth and spirits to Virginia and returned with cargoes mainly of tobacco.

Captain Hayes was not “involved in Bacon’s Rebellion”

He could not have been because he was nowhere near Virginia during the key moments of that brief episode.  Nathanial Bacon was expelled from the Council in May of 1676, arrived in Jamestown on 6 June, issued his famous proclamation on 30 July and burned Jamestown on 19 September 1676.  Bacon died of dysentery in late October 1676 and the rebellion petered out in late 1676 as troops and naval vessels captured the remaining rebels.  Governor Berkeley returned safely to Jamestown in mid-January 1677.

Jacob Hayes and the ship Constant left Jamestown for London well before most of this happened — he sailed for England early in June of 1676, arriving in London in mid-August.4  The ship did not leave England again until November 1676 when it carried English troops and supplies to Jamestown in support of the Governor, arriving in February 1677 after the rebellion was over  (more about this below.) 5

Actually, he actively supported the Crown

In late 1676 the Constant and several other merchant ships were contracted to transport troops and supplies to Virginia to strengthen the government in the aftermath of Bacon’s insurgency. Port of London records show the Constant being loaded in London with supplies for His Majesty’s Navy together with three tons of “strong waters” as late as 16 November 1676. 6

Fortuitously, the log of the H.M.S. Bristol, a naval vessel supporting Beverley in fortifying Jamestown has been preserved in British records.7  That log mentions Jacob Hayes, master of the Constant, several times.  The Bristol sailed from England on 18 November 1676 at the head of a fleet of contracted merchant ships and arrived at Newport News near the mouth of the James, more than ten weeks later on 29 January 1677.  The slower merchant ships trickled in over the next few weeks, among them the Constant arriving on the night of 5 February 1677 with 150 soldiers aboard.8  On 15 February the British commander ordered the merchant ships to sail to Jamestown and unload their cargoes.  The following day he recorded a complaint in his log: “To Mr. Hayes I have not only this daye but formerly sent my order to gett sloops and other conveniencys for the landinge…butt he takes little notice thereof absentinge himselfe about his own private concern in hope of Demurrage.”9  (Demurrage was a bonus fee paid to the ship’s owner if its cargo was not unloaded within, in this particular case, 14 days after arrival.)  As it turned out, high winds delayed the unloading and the Constant and four other ships did not unload their soldiers until 21 and 22 February.  50 soldiers remained on board the Constant, and Capt Hayes delivered them to duty at the falls of the James the following day.

The Bristol’s log records on 28 June 1677 show that the “Constant of London sailed home.”10  Port of London records show that it arrived in there two months later with a cargo of Virginia tobacco.11

Jacob Hayes transported a prisoner to Jamestown

There are three records in the Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, regarding an event that took place just before the above events, related to an early aspect of what we know as the “Culpepper Rebellion”.  However, the context in which Capt. Jacob Hayes and the Constant are mentioned is only in the sense that they transported an accused rebel.

Thomas Miller, who was believed to be plotting to transfer the Albemarle colony of Carolina to the rule of Sir William Berkeley of Virginia, was accused by the settlers there of sedition and sent to Jamestown for trial, where he was acquitted.  He was sent, under guard, on the ship Constant.  There exist depositions to that effect made by three sailors named James Swanson, Henry Crokly, and Edward Cooke taken in 1679 and 1680 and reported in the Colonial Records of North Carolina. 12  The sailors testified that they saw Thomas Miller loaded under guard aboard the Constant in Albemarle in May 1676 and delivered to Jamestown for trial – and that after being acquitted there he boarded the Constant to travel to England.

That is, the Constant was merely providing transport and Capt. Hayes did nothing that would cause him to flee England’s jurisdiction. Indeed, shortly thereafter he was contracted to the Navy, as reported above. I was unable to find any record that Hayes himself was subpoenaed, nor that either he or Cooke refused to testify.  Obviously, his mate Edward Cooke did provide his testimony. Indeed, Edward Cooke subsequently appears in Port of London records as master of his own ship.

Regarding the fate of Thomas Miller, upon his return to England in 1676 he successfully arranged to be appointed Secretary, Collector of Customs, and Lord Shaftsbury’s Deputy in Carolina.  At the same time, the proprietors named Thomas Eastchurch as the new Governor.  Miller and Eastchurch sailed back to Albemarle together, and the new Governor gave Thomas Miller a commission in July 1677 as president of his Executive Council. Thomas Eastchurch stopped in Nevis to marry a woman there and died in late 1677 without ever having actually served as Governor. Thomas Miller effectively became the acting Governor of Albemarle until he was arrested in December 1677 by John Culpepper and accused of malfeasance and treason. He escaped custody in 1679 and traveled to London to plead his case to the proprietors. A great many depositions were taken regarding his actions. The depositions by the three sailors on the Constant regarding his whereabouts in mid-1676 were, at best, peripheral to the later events — and they were certainly not charged with any wrongdoing  themselves.

To summarize the errors in Alfred Hayes’ paper:

  • Jacob Hayes and the Constant played no role in Bacon’s Rebellion, much less a mutinous one.  Indeed, he and his ship were paid agents of the King.
  • I could find no evidence that Hayes and Cooke were subpoenaed and refused to testify.  In fact, Cooke did offer testimony in the Thomas Miller affair.
  • I could not find a shred of evidence that Jacob Hayes changed his name and reappeared 37 years later as “John Hayes”, a cooper, in Chowan Precinct.  ndeed, I found no record whatsoever of him after 1679.  The port of London records stop after that, although they do show that Edward Cooke continued to sail after 1679 as master of his own ship.
  • There is absolutely no record that Jacob Hayes did anything that might induce him to change his name “for protection” or to flee.  London records show that he continued as master of the constant for at least another two years after the Rebellion was put down.  It is much more likely that he either continued to sail (the port records are lost after 1680) or retired to a peaceful life in England.
  • Conflating Jacob Hayes the mariner and John Hayes the cooper of Chowan — separated by more than 35 years and a wide ocean — would be egregiously irresponsible genealogy unless, of course there is a record somewhere that he refugeed “to Albemarle”.  I could not find a hint such a record and none was cited in Dr. Hayes’ article.


  1. Arnold Edmund Hayes, “Hayes – Hays of Virginia & North Carolina” published in Historical Southern Families, Vol. XV, reference pages 173-174. []
  2. Virginia Colonial Records Project, SR 03768, page 27 []
  3. Virginia Colonial Records Project numerous records including SR05582, SR05586, SR05589, SR05590, SR05593, SR05594, SR03774, SR03793, SR05725, SR05762. []
  4. Virginia Colonial Records Project, SR05582 and SR03793 dated 21 and 31 August 1676. []
  5. Virginia Colonial Records Project, SR 05589. []
  6. Virginia Colonial Records Project, SR05589, SR05594, SR05504. []
  7. Virginia Colonial Records Project, SR06402. []
  8. Ibid., page 3. []
  9. Ibid., page 5. []
  10. Ibid. page 6. []
  11. Virginia Colonial Records Project, SR05593, SR05725. []
  12. The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Volume 1, pages 234, 269, 289. []