William Scarborough (c1630-1677)

William Scarborough’s name does not appear among the headrights of persons immigrating to  Virginia.  Nor does he appear among the early patentees of land in Virginia.  Rather, he first appears in Surry County in 1656 as a witness in a very interesting court case.

Witness in the Potter case of 1656

In November 1656 a 23-year old man named Roger Potter1 approached several men in Surry County about a scheme to escape their obligations by joining him in stealing a boat and “secretly running away into a remote part of ye bay”.2  The Surry County court heard testimony the following month from four men who had been propositioned by Potter, one of whom was William Scarborough.  On 29 December 1656 William Scarborough deposed that Potter had twice asked him to participate in the scheme and he had twice refused due to his “ingagements” in Surry.3

Perhaps a servant?

William Scarborough may have been an indentured servant at the time.  Three of the four deponents were identifiable as servants, and their statements mention four additional persons involved with Potter, three of whom were servants. Anthony Whitman, John Alder and James Hugate were the other three men deposed, all of whom identified themselves explicitly or implicitly as servants.  Their depositions mention others — “Wm Rose his boy”, “Doll at Thomas Andrews”, and “Live his servant” — in a manner implying that those persons were also servants.  William Scarborough and Thomas Morris were mentioned in Hugate’s deposition, with no further description.  None of the other seven persons were mentioned in later records, except for James Hugate. William Scarborough’s own deposition mentions that Potter had first proposed to “pay all his ingagements” and later that “…ye sd. Potter spoke to Mr. Delke to take him up a seat of land in ye bay…” suggesting the possibility that Scarborough was a servant or employee contracted to Roger Delke.

The resolution of the case is not recorded, but Roger Potter evidently avoided any serious consequences as he remained in the county for decades.

William Scarborough — usually rendered as “Scarbrough”, “Scarbrow”, or “Scarburgh” at this time — was absent from Surry records for the next seven years, then on 2 September 1663  he posted a “good behavior” bond of 5,000 pounds of tobacco.4  (Good behavior bonds were typically the result of some abusive behavior, and were usually intended to assure that the person would not injure another person or his property.)  His securities, Arthur Jordan and Robert Spenser, both lived in the northwestern part of Surry County, which suggests that William Scarborough lived there are well. Two men from the same neighborhood named John Gittings and John LeGrand also posted good behavior bonds at the same court (LeGrand’s bond being underwritten by the same two securities) as did their neighbor Ann Dennis, wife of Robert Dennis.  Whether these four bonds were related to the same dispute or not is unknown.

Buys land on Burchen Swamp in 1664

A few months later on 1 March 1663/4 William Scarborough bought a parcel of land on the north side of Burchen Swamp (now called Bailey Branch) just east of Upper Chippokes Creek from John Rawlings, a part of a 1653 patent to  his father Gregory Rawlings.5  Neither the acreage nor the consideration were specified, which appears to have occasioned the unusual wording in a second deed four months later when Rawlings sold the remainder of the patent to Humphrey Allen “after ye aforsaid Wm Scarborough hath surveyed & know ye full quantity of acres in his aforesaid parcell of land“.6  Scarborough’s portion was apparently 180 acres according to the 1677 inventory of his estate.

We can locate his land fairly precisely, which helps our understanding of later generations, since the parcel remained in the family for the next 70 years.  Rawlings’ patent was for 476 acres on Burchen Swamp just east of Chippokes Creek and bordered the land of William Symons.7  A later patent confirms the location, not far from where Burchen Swamp empties into Upper Chippokes Creek.  A 1680 patent to Thomas Sowersby, renewed in 1684 to Benjamin Harrison, described that land as “beginning at a small red oak near Mr. Wm. Symons cart path being an ancient corner tree between William Symons, Mr. Allen and William Scarbrough.”8  (Note that the adjacent landowner Humphrey Allen had died about 1666 and his land was inherited by Arthur Allen.)

He appears infrequently in court records.  In November 1672 the court ordered William Scarborough to make good on a contract with a woman named Frances Kemp by providing her with stockings, shoes, and clothing material.9  She was evidently a servant reaching the end of her contract.  In November 1674 George Jordan obtained a judgment against him for 300 pounds of tobacco.10  In January 1675/6 he complained to the court that fees assessed to him on an account with William Edwards were too high; the court lowered the amount to 280 pounds of tobacco which Edwards appealed.11

Marries Naomi (Amy) the widow Holdsworth, about 1672

Her given name is uncertain, as it appears in two records as “Amy” and in two other records as “Naomi”.  Her maiden name is unknown, but she appears to have been married to Thomas Davis before marrying Walter Holdsworth in 1660.

William Scarborough was awarded administration of the estate of Walter Holdsworth (sometimes rendered as “Houlsworth” or “Holsworth”) in May 1672, having married the widow.12  Walter Holdsworth had been described as a resident of nearby Martins Brandon parish of Charles City County when he was given a power of attorney in Surry County on 1 June 1661.13

Excursus regarding Holdsworth:  Not much is known about Walter Holdsworth, since Charles City County records are almost entirely missing for the period — only court orders covering 1655-1665 still exist, in which  Walter Holdsworth is mentioned two dozen times, mainly as a juror or witness, beginning in 1657.14  Fortuitously, and amazingly, those court orders contain a partial record of baptisms, burials and marriages in Martins Brandon parish for the year 1660.  In those records we find that Mary, the wife of Walter Holdsworth, was buried on 11 May 1660, evidently having died in childbirth, for five days later Mary the daughter of Walter Holdsworth was baptized.15  A few months later, on 11 October 1660, Walter Holdsworth married “Naomie Davis”.16  She was perhaps the widow or sister of Thomas Davis (Davies), the last record of whom was his deposition on 3 April 1660 in which he stated that he was 22 years old.17  Howell Pryse, a prolific importer of persons, claimed in 1663 to have imported 19 persons, two of whom were Thomas and Amy Davies, both of whom he had previously claimed in 1657 and 1659, respectively.18

In May 1675 William Scarborough was granted administration of the estate of Ann Holdsworth, daughter of Walter Holdsworth.19  Ann Holdsworth had written a will on 6 March 1673/4, probated 4 May 1675, making bequests to her brother Walter Holdsworth and sister Mary Holdsworth, and leaving burial arrangements to her (step) “father William Scarbro”.20  Her will failed to name an executor, thus William Scarborough was granted administration cum testamento annexo. (Note that minors aged 14 or more could make wills disposing of personal property, thus it is not clear how old Ann might have been.  Mary was 15.  Presumably Ann was older.)

Bacon’s Rebellion

The story of Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion has been exhaustively told and retold.  A number of Surry and Charles City county planters — perhaps even a majority — were sympathetic to Bacon’s cause and many of them joined his militia.  Bacon’s men initially participated in forays against the Indians in early 1676. In September when Bacon’s forces returned from his expedition against the Pamunkey Indians they laid siege to Jamestown, which Governor Berkeley’s loyalists had retaken only a few days earlier.  Reentering Jamestown on or about September 19th, Bacon’s forces burned it to the ground.  At about this time his supporters seized strategic locations in the counties and took over local governments.  Exactly what happened in Surry County is somewhat mysterious, owing to the fact that there is not a single entry in the court records during that period.

Depositions taken afterwards, mainly in 1677, give a hint of some of the rebels’ activities between September and December.  Arthur Allen, a supporter of Governor Berkeley, had built a huge brick mansion on Lower Chippokes Creek that was the grandest structure in the county.  The day before Bacon burned Jamestown, Major William Rookings and about 70 rebels seized Allen’s mansion while Allen was off defending Jamestown. William Rookings and his forces held the structure for more than three months and were among the last of Bacon’s supporters to surrender, finally being driven out of Allen’s mansion on December 28th or 29th more than two months after Bacon’s death.

In October 1676 the King had commissioned Governor Berkeley to try the rebels.  On 26 January 1676/7 a trial was held at Berkeley’s plantation, called Green Spring, of seven ringleaders.  Six of them were sentenced to hang, including William Rookings of Surry, and the seventh was banished from the Colonies.21  Nearly two months later after another series of trials William Scarborough and his neighbor John Whitson were also sentenced to death.

Hanged in 1677 for treasonous participation in Bacon’s Rebellion

Unfortunately no record survives of exactly what role William Scarborough played in Bacon’s Rebellion.  Whatever it was, a jury considered it serious enough that he was one of only two dozen men to be sentenced to execution.  When the Governor’s council met at Green Spring on 16 March 1676/7 it received the following report of William Scarborough (along with an identically worded report of John Whitson):

Wm. Scarborough being convicted of divers rebellions, treasons and other misdemeanors, by him committed against his most sacred majestie; the grand jury brought in their verdict Billa Vera, and the jury of life and death brought in their verdict guilty according to the indictment. And sentance of death past upon him according to forme.22

Of the 58 rebels from Surry County who went to trial, only three were sentenced to execution.23  Major William Rookins, commander of Bacon’s forces in Surry County and another of my ancestors, was sentenced to death but died in prison before he could be hanged.  John Whitson and William Scarborough were convicted and hanged in March 1677.

Estate either recovered or not confiscated

The estates of all those “convicted for horrid treasons and rebellions against his most sacred majestie and… accordingly executed” were to be confiscated and forfeited to King Charles II, potentially leaving Scarborough’s widow and children destitute.24  However, later records suggest that most or all of his assets were later recovered.  Many of the widows of the executed petitioned the Governor to recover their husband’s estates in order to provide for the widows and orphans.25 I note that the executor of William Rookings petitioned to preserve that estate for the benefit of the widow and orphans. Apparently Naomy Scarborough did so as well.

According to the inventory following Bacon’s Rebellion, William Scarborough held 180 acres of land on which was an uncompleted “new framed dwelling house” with a “room above stairs”.26

His inventory of personal property, submitted to the council by his widow “Naomy” Scarborough, included 1 horse, 17 cattle, and 10 swine. He was in debt a total of 9,000 pounds of tobacco, a considerable amount.27  Naomy Scarborough and Robert Lee posted a £200 bond for the estate.

Robert Lee’s identity is unknown, though he may have been a relative.  (Note alsothe intervention on behalf of the Holdsworth children by George Lee in 1681.)  Tithable lists place him in the same general neighborhood as William Scarborough, and he was at this time a constable for that district.  He was not a landowner and was often in debt; following several debt judgments against him in 1682 he absconded from the county.

The widow marries Thomas Tyas

The June 1677 tithables list contains the entry:  “At Widdow Scarbro, Tho. Mason, Tho. Tias” of  2 tithables.  Thomas Tias was apparently already employed by or managing the Scarborough plantation.  The following year, having married the widow, Thomas Tias was listed as the taxpayer. (I note that, although the 1676 tithables list is lost, Thomas Tias did not appear on the 1675 or earlier tax lists.)

On 5 March 1677/8 a Surry court record referred to “Tho. Tias who married ye relict of Wm. Scarbroo.”28  A year and a half later, on 2 September 1679, administration of the William Scarborough estate was granted to “Tho. Tias who married the relict of Wm. Scarbroo deced.29  Although, as mentioned above, the estate was subject to forfeiture, the delay implies that Tyas or the widow may have petitioned the Governor for relief on behalf of the orphans, as did the executor of co-conspirator William Rookings.  “Amy, the wife of Tho. Tias” presented the inventory of what remained of the estate on 6 January 1679/80.30  Thomas Tyas submitted an accounting of the estate on 6 September 1683 and posted bond for his guardianship of the Scarborough orphans at the same court. 31

In response to a petition by George Lee. perhaps a relative, the Surry court on 1 March 1680/81 ordered that the estate belonging to the Holdsworth orphans be separated from Tyas’s holdings as administrator of the Scarborough estate, resulting in the Holdsworth orphans being allotted 6,100 pounds of tobacco on 3 May 1681.32  Thomas Tyas gave security as guardian of their estates on the same date.33  No further record of Mary Holdsworth was found, but Walter Holdsworth had reached 21 by 19 January 1691/2 when he acknowledged receipt from Thomas Tyas of his share of his father’s estate.34 He was not further traced.35

The widow Amy had at least one more child by her third husband, Thomas Tyas.  Beginning in 1697 Thomas Tyas was taxed on his son John Tyas, implying a birth in 1680 or 1681.  Amy (or Naomy) evidently died before her husband.  Thomas Tyas died intestate sometime in 1726; His son John Tyus administered the estate, filing an inventory on 20 July 1726.36

It isn’t clear where Thomas Tyas and the orphans lived, but they probably lived on Scarborough’s plantation for at least a few years.  Tyas had a patent for 500 acres not far away in 1688.37


To save space, William Scarborough’s descendants are treated in a separate page.

  1. He testified in early 1685 that he was then 52 years old. Surry County Deed Book 3, page 17. []
  2. Surry County Deeds and Records Book 1, pages 120-122.  By “bay” he presumably meant somewhere along the Virginia or Maryland shores of Chesapeake Bay. []
  3. Surry County Deeds and Records Book 1, page 122. []
  4. Surry County Deeds and Records Book 1, page 216. []
  5. Surry County Deeds and Records Book 1, page 229. []
  6. Surry County Deeds and Records Book 1, page 238, deed dated 28 June 1664. []
  7. Virginia Patent Book 3, page 23, originally issued to Gregory Rawlings. []
  8. Virginia Patent Book 7, page 363. []
  9. Surry County Order Book 1671-1691, page 16. []
  10. Ibid., page 75. []
  11. Ibid., page 115. []
  12. Surry County Order Book 1671-1691, page 6. []
  13. Surry County Deeds and Records Book 1, page 176. []
  14. Beverley Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Vol. 10: Charles City County Court Orders 1655-1658, page 63. []
  15. Beverley Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Vol. 11: Charles City County Court Orders 1658-1661, page 92. []
  16. Ibid., page 92. []
  17. Ibid., page 69. []
  18. Ibid., page 33.  I note that Howell Pryse had obtained a headright certificate in 1657 for 70 persons, one of whom was Thomas Davies and another certificate in 1659 for 47 persons one of whom was Amy Davies. It was not particularly unusual to claim the same person more than once.  Pryse never used any of those certificates to obtain land patents. []
  19. Surry County Order Book 1671-1691, page 93. []
  20. Surry County Deed Book 2, page 81. []
  21. William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large, Vol. 2, page 547. []
  22. William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large, Vol. II, page 553. []
  23. Hugh Buckner Johnson, in a 1983 article in the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal identified 55 rebels from Surry County who were pardoned.  Three were sentenced to execution, making a total of 58 whose names are known. []
  24. William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large, Vol. II, page 370. []
  25. John Harold Sprinkle, Jr., Loyalists and Baconians: the participants in Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia (PhD dissertation, College of William and Mary, 1992), page 61. []
  26. Sprinkle, pages 75, 78-79. []
  27. Sprinkle, pages 88, 90, 92. []
  28. Ibid., page 194. []
  29. Ibid., page 267. []
  30. Ibid., page 289. []
  31. Surry County Order Book 1671-1691, page 414 and 415. []
  32. Surry County Order Book 1671-1691, pages 335, 339.  George Lee had been a security for William Scarborough’s guardianship of the Holdsworth orphans. []
  33. Ibid., page 340. []
  34. Surry County Deeds etc., Book 4, page 245. []
  35. Surry County Deeds & Wills Book 4, page 62. []
  36. Surry County Deeds & Wills Book 7. []
  37. Virginia Patent Book  7, page 670. []