Between 1661 and 1665, over 40,000 acres were patented along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. From the Eastern Shores of Virginia, my 7th great parents Woodman Stockley and Jane Rogers were among those who listened to the proclamation of Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. “For the benefit of the people of this our province …..Tract of land within this our province of Maryland bounded on the South with a line drawn from Watkins Point to the Ocean on the East, Nanticoke River on the North and the sound of Chesapeake on the West into a Country by the name of Somerset County in honor to our Dear Sister Lady Mary Somerset… Vol III p 553-55, Archives of Maryland. In 1661, Calvert had directed a massive land rush into the lower Shore region, encouraging the inhabitants of Northampton, or Accomack, in Virginia, to move into his unsettled territory.
Somerset County, Maryland was where my 6th great grandmother, Elizabeth Stockley was born, in 1689. She would grow up in an agrarian society amongst wealthy merchant-planters, smaller farmers and small freeholders, their wives and families. Indentured servants and imported slaves from Africa and the Caribbean provided sources of manual labor that were considered essential to the growth and development of early Somerset. They inhabited a largely forested landscape with intermittent clearings for plantations.
Found in the Bristol Registers of Servants Aug 17, 1660.
Woodman Stockley in 1660 had an indentured servant named Thomas Dampney, cooper for 4 years in Virginia. This Woodman was probably an uncle to my great grandfather of the same name.
There were woman as well as men who became indentured servants, usually contracted for 5-7 years. Female servants were often the subject of harassment from their masters. A woman who became pregnant while a servant often had years tacked on to the end of her service time. Some servants were able to become free men and gain their own land. But the best land was already claimed along the coast with easy access to ports. They pushed westward, where the mountainous land was less arable and Native threat was constant. A class of angry, impoverished pioneers took matters into their own hands with Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 in Virginia, over high taxes, low tobacco prices and resentment of special privileges given those close to the governor. African slaves, European indentured servants and Native American allied together to fight the establishment. The governor had failed to defend the frontier against attacks by the Natives. Bacon was elected their leader after arriving with brandy. Against the governor’s orders, Bacon attacked a friendly village murdering men, women and children. After months of conflict, Bacon’s forces besieged Jamestown. and burned it to the ground. The Governor executed 23 rebels by hanging them.
Bacon’s Rebellion is a crucial event leading to much of the racial strife, both Native American and slave. A restructuring and expansion of the slave system resulted from Bacon’s Rebellion and in response the government established policies to ensure nothing like it would happen again. The indentured proved to be unreliable and rebellious and were replaced with slaves. Government worked to maintain the loyalty of the common planters to avert future rebellions, and they dispossessed and destroyed frontier Natives, giving each freedman fifty acres of land, a promise that obliged the government to continue taking land from the Natives. Bacon’s experiment in expressing the people’s will under the colonial rule of England, was a precursor to the Revolution. The only people able to vote during this time were the wealthy men who owned land. The right to vote and social equality were denied to these farmers.
Woodman and Jane Stockley were 70 miles away from the Bacon Rebellion. Woodman was a young 22 year old planter, having taken his inherited cattle north of Accomack, Virginia, where he was born and moved into Somerset County, Maryland. They were part of the planters, shaken by the fact that a militia of white and black servants and slaves had destroyed the colonial capital at Jamestown which was burned to the ground.
Can my readers see any use for trying to learn from history? Life, liberty and the pursuit of whiteness perhaps? Come forward in time to 2016; a campaign targeting the White working class and telling them he would save the country on behalf of their whiteness, deporting immigrants, banning Muslims and stopping and frisking African Americans. After Bacon’s Rebellion came 200 years of slavery and white supremacy. It took a Revolution and a Civil War to end, or perhaps it never really ended? January 6, 2021 could have overthrown the government and ended American democracy. January 6th could have ended differently and changed the course of history just as Bacon’s Rebellion did.