On the Origins of Francis Hester

Owing to the destruction of the early records of New Kent County, our first record of Francis Hester is the baptism of his son Robert Hester on 10 October 1686.1   There are no records of his patenting land in or new New Kent County, from which we infer that he bought his land in New Kent County from someone else via a deed that was lost in the county courthouse fire.

Was he Francis “Hoster”?

One intriguing theory is that Francis Hester was used as a headright for a patent in early 1656.   That seems very unlikely to be the same person who was having children thirty years later, but it is certainly possible.    Some Hester researchers have proposed that he was the “Francis Hoster” mentioned in a secondary source as a headright for a patent to Samuel “Heely” and John Carter in Surry County.2   However, another secondary source reports the name as “Fra Hossier (?)”, and the patentees as Samuel “Huby” and John Carter.3    Examination of the actual patent itself, dated 25 January 1655/6 to Samuel Huly and John Carter, reveals that the headright’s name may well have been Fra. Hester.4

Note that “Fra.” could be either male or female (one wonders how Greer decided this was a male), but that the surname does, in fact, appear to be either “Hester” or “Hoster”.  Below is a copy of the pertinent portion of that patent:

From Virginia Patent Book 4, page 23.

From Virginia Patent Book 4, page 23.

 Probably a different person

Since the patent was for land in Surry County, it is possible that the headrights were imported into Surry County.   Unfortunately, while the Surry court and deed records are quite nicely preserved from its formation in 1652, no one named Hester or Hoster (or any similar name) appears in any record.  In any event, this person would surely have been too old to be having his first child thirty years later in 1686.  (Not to mention that a migration from the James River basin to New Kent is quite unlikely.)


  1. The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia 1684 to 1786, edited by Dr. C. G. Chamberlayne, (Virginia State Library, 1937), p359 (both entries are on page 14 of the original vestry book).  Note that these entries are rendered very slightly differently in the transcriptions by Chamberlayne in 1937 and the Colonial Dames in 1905. []
  2. Early Virginia Immigrants 1623-1666, George Cabel Greer (W. C. Hill Printing Co., 1912), p167. []
  3. Cavaliers and Pioneers, Vol. I, Nell Marion Nugent (Virginia State Library and Archives, 1992), p326. []
  4. Virginia Patent Book 4, p23. []