The Northern Neck, A Fork in the Road Woodman and Jane Stockley

Both Charles Calvert, 6th Baron of Baltimore and William Penn claimed the land between the 39 and 40th parallels. The red dot is where Woodman and Jane Stockley lived and where my 6th great grandmother Elizabeth Stockley was born in 1689, listed as Somerset Maryland. Penn would change it to Sussex County, Delaware.

Imagine a time when there were no roads! Woodman Stockley sighed. He had come to a fork in the trail. They both diverged into the woods. Did he take the one less travelled as Robert Frost wrote in his poem? I do not know how he decided that September in 1694 when tasked. There were trails walked by many many moccasins from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. They knew the land and traveled the shortest possible routes and knew the best crossings for rivers and swamps. Maybe he used a cow path, following the least resistance. Settlement had been sparse and many miles between the plantations, the way was often marked with hatchet marks on trees. Woodman made use of these historic highways and he is part of my connection from the distant past to the present. The route is now called U.S. Highway 1, a major north south road that serves the East Coast of the United States.

The land between the Potomac and Rappanhannock rivers is the Northern Neck. Virginians had settled their colony 25 years before Marylanders. This is where my mother’s family lived in the latter 1600’s. But was it Maryland or Delaware? Sussex County was the first European settlement in Delaware. In 1631, the Dutch tried to establish a whaling colony. The Indian tribes burned and destroyed it. They rebuilt but never settled on the land. In 1663, 35 Mennonite men came but the English destroyed their colony, “so that not even a nail remained.” The few Dutch left were rounded up as prisoners and sent to Virginia as slaves.

In 1649, King Charles II of England, granted seven Englishmen all of Virginia between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. Most of the land wasn’t even mapped at the time. Thomas Fairfax, the 6th Lord inherited the title and the shares in the Northern Neck. There were also conflicting land grants which led to long running border disputes. The Virginians lost control over a significant portion of land and a feud ensued for years. Eventually legal boundary disputes between Maryland and Virginia were solved but only long after when my relatives lived there. There were land hungry Americans fighting over property lines and ownership, and Lord Fairfax and William Penn each claimed the land. It was a tempting wilderness used as a base for pirates to hide down the various river inlets in the Chesapeake Bay.

My 7th Great grandfather Woodman Stockley, was born at Assawoman, Accomack County, Virginia in 1654-1713. He took the cattle he inherited from his father, and moved north about 50 miles. The man who named Woodman after his mother’s last name, Elizabeth Woodman, John Stockley, his father would die the next year, 1673. Once Woodman was established he needed a helpmate. Jane Rogers (1659-1713) consented and Woodman and Jane were married in 1680, at Assawoman. The land where they made their plantation(s) wasn’t surveyed. From Delaware the family moved back and forth between the two plantations (Woodman inherited a 1/7 share or about 373 acres at Assawoman from his father’s will.) Their children were born: Joseph Joshua was born in 1682, and Benjamin in 1688, at Accomack, Elizabeth 1689 at Somerset, Maryland my 6th great grandmother, Woodman II 1690, and Temperance 1691 at Accomack, Virginia, and lastly Oliver Jan 31, 1699 Somerset Maryland.

In 1682 the Delaware Colonies were given to William Penn as payment for a family debt. Penn arrived in 1682, renamed the county Sussex and Lewes became the county seat. On Oct 25, 1682 Penn directed Delaware be divided into hundreds for the purpose of taxation. “a Hundred” was an old English Saxon land division smaller than a county or shire, larger than a tithing. 10 tithings of 10 freeholder families would equal 100 families and make a judicial district. Woodman Stokely (misspelled) at a town meeting was court appointed on September 4, 1694 by Captain Thomas Pemberton to be overseer of ye Highwayes for Ye County and to oversee men. Further Woodman was to talk to all inhabitants in Rehoboth Hundred between Bundicks Bridge and Pothooks Creek and take testimony from the inhabitants what quantity of lands they had.

By this time 40 million pounds of tobacco had been shipped to markets in England and the slave traders, since 1619- 1642, had brought slaves to the shores of the colonies. Fewer indentured servants came and tobacco was a labor-intensive item to cultivate and process. The planters struggled. Maryland and Delaware turned to importing more slaves to satisfy labor demand. Their government started passing laws. 1661 Maryland was against “miscegenation” – marriage between races. By 1664, under Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore, ruled all enslaved people should be held in slavery for life (and all the mother’s children). In England, social status of the English depended on the father. In the colonies, children took status of the mother and thus those born into slavery regardless if the father was white, English or Christian, occurred. Nell Butler, an indentured servant of Lord Calvert, married and enslaved African, and her indenture converted to slavery by the 1664 Act. By 1671 Maryland and Virginia decided that a baptized slave would not lead to freedom and more laws passed permitted Christianity and slavery to tandemly develop.

What side of Bacon’s Rebellion did the Stockley family take, I do not know, but probably the planters? He was a colonist squatting on the Northern Neck of the frontier. The Secocowon natives moved into the region as well. In July 1666, the colonists declared war on them. The House of Burgesses was divided. Unjust taxes were being imposed on the pretense of public works, public offices were appointed as favorites, and the colonists wanted the natives gone. Governor Berkeley was forced to grant Bacon a commission to fight the Indians. He slaughtered them. Months of conflict followed and Bacon organized 300-500 men and besieged Jamestown, burning it to the ground. Indentured servants both black and white had joined the frontier rebellion. Their united cause alarmed the ruling class. The Governor’s enemies were ferreted out and imprisoned or executed. The King sent soldiers to restore order. The rebellion hardened racial lines associated with slavery, as a way for planters and the colonies to control them. The elite needed the common planter to avert future rebellions. Before Woodman died Slave Codes of 1705 were enacted aimed socially to segregate the white and black races.

Woodman Stockley left a detailed will leaving his plantation called Bradford Hall in Sussex County and in Angola to his namesake, Woodman Jr. 1682-1748. In the event of this son’s death he left the land to the other three sons, Joseph, Benjamin and Oliver and between these 3 boys a plantation of 300 acres on the seaside of Cedar Neck. Angola is located on an inlet of Rehoboth Bay in Sussex County, Delaware. It was the center for the Indian River Hundred. To the girls, my 6th great grandmother Elizabeth and sister, Temperance, he willed livestock. And to his good friend Jacob Morris, he left, 200 acres called Fenwick’s Choyce. Woodman and Jane were married for 38 years and both are listed as having died when the will was probated September 12, 1713.

On May 20, 1710, their residence was listed as Somerset, Maryland, British America where he filed his will in Maryland, Calendar of Wills, 1635-1743.

Next time I come to a fork in a road, I’ll take it and think of my 7th Great Grandfather Woodman Stockley making decisions on his journey through life. Woodman was 40 years of age when tasked to make a road through the wilderness.

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