The earliest known name for the family in England was the use of the Saxon form Meranwyrthe, from which the Meriwether name has been derived. This form was in use during the reign of the Saxon King Edgar (959-975). At the time of the Norman Conquest or shortly thereafter the name appears as Mereworth. The de Mereworth family had their coat of arms granted in 1202, for service rendered in 1099, for going along on one of the early Crusades. There is a reference in "Family of Merryweather in England and America", by Rev. E.A. Merryweather that the early coat of arms had ten crosses orto. "1190. William de Mereworth is recorded in the Dering roll among the Kentish Knights who assisted King Richard I at the Siege of Acre in Palestine." "1202. The heirs of William de Mereworth hold two Knight's Fees. Armorial: A chevron gules between ten crosses potent sable. The cross potent is also described as a Jerusalem Cross.
There are a number of spellings for Meriwether: Merriweather, Merriwether, Merryweather, and Merywether, this last being "female heir of Merywether who married John Foche" in 1399, the first instance of the family found in the English records which can be authoritatively dated. Line of Descent from Barons of Runnymede - families can trace their ancestry to the historical meeting of King John and the Barons of Runnymede in 1215, where the Magna Charta was forced from King John. A similar line also stems from Sir Constantine de Wodehouse (Woodhouse) from 1215, for twenty-one generations to Elizabeth Woodhouse who married Nicholas Meriwether I, 1656, in Jamestown, Virginia. Thomas Merywether of Claypoll, born ca 1500, will recorded 1571 in Lincolnshire, had at least one son, Thomas Merywether of Saxelbie, whose will was recorded in 1603. Thomas of Saxelbie had three sons, Thomas, John, and Matthew. Thomas, son of Saxelbie was called Thomas of Graingham and had five children; John, Mary, Thomas, Lydia, and Anthony. Thomas Merywether, son of Thomas of Graingham, is thought to be the Thomas Meriwether who was listed in some of the early colonial records as "Thomas, Merchant of London" and possibly an uncle of the Francis and Nicholas who came to America.
References: "Some Notes on the Family of Merryweather of England and America", author Rev. Merryweather, "The Meriwethers and Their Connections", by Nelson Heath Meriwether.
---- MERIWETHER was born ca 1604 probably in Kent, England. There is no record that ---- Meriwether ever came to America, but four of his children did so. It was rumored that the Meriwether family had helped Charles I and in repayment, Charles II, granted huge tracts of land to the American Meriwethers. However, Cromwell was in power during the Meriwethers early period in America, so they would have also have had to found favor with that faction. For whatever reason, the early Meriwethers in America were given positions of trust and influence at a very young age. The year of their arrival is unknown, but should have been before 1649. The eldest son in America, Francis Meriwether, was an agent of a Thomas Meriwether, Merchant of London, as proved by the records of their transactions in early Virginia. Francis was apparently the business side and Nicholas was the political. At 21 years of age, Nicholas was Clerk of the Court of Surry County, Virginia, and by age 24, he was Clerk of the Governor's Council of the Virginia Colony. Francis and Nicholas lived in Surry County first and it is not known if the other two children, Jane and Thomas, lived there also.
On June 14, 1676, the Governor of the Virginia Colony in James City appointed Nicholas Meriwether administrator of the estate of his brother, Francis I. Francis married Joan --- but had no children on record and his will left his estate to Nicholas and his descendants. Jane lived on Jamestown Island and married 1) Major William White and 2) Henry . was a prominent lawyer and Burgess from Surry County, Virginia in 1684 and later a powerful and able member of the Virginia Council. He was also a founder and a member of the first Council of William and Mary College. Jane signed a release of her dower rights to the William May-William White property on Jamestown Island when it was sold in April of 1695 to William Edwards. The deed and release were witnessed by Francis Meriwether, her nephew. In June, 1695, the childless Hartwells sailed for London from which they never returned and where he died in 1699. Jane's Meriwether nieces and nephews figured prominently in her will. There are no records that Thomas married or had children and in his will left everything to Nicholas and his descendants.
In 1656, Nicholas bought the "Island House" and 80 areas on Jamestown Island from Nathaniel Bacon and his wife Elizabeth Kingsmill Bacon, property which she had received from her father, Richard Kingsmill. This put Nicholas within a few miles of Jamestown so travel to his duties as Clerk was shortened and kept him in close touch with the leaders of the government. Nicholas appears to have built a tobacco barn or warehouse on this property. This may have been the beginning of the family operation of government supervised tobacco warehouses in Virginia for more than a hundred years.
References: "The Meriwethers and Their Connections", by Nelson Heath Meriwether.
NICHOLAS MERIWETHER I was born in 1631 in Kent, England, and died before 4 March 1678 in Surry County, Virginia. He married ca 1655-56 in Jamestown, Virginia to Elizabeth Woodhouse, daughter of Thomas Woodhouse. Thomas lived on Jamestown Island and there was a close bond of friendship between Nicholas and the Woodhouse family. Elizabeth was born ca 1638.
Nicholas acquired 430 acres of land in Surry County across the river from Jamestown in 1666 and an additional 650 acres in 1677. Nicholas was a taxpayer in Surry County on surviving tax rolls in 1668, 1674 and 1678. However, there were probably a minor part of his holdings; there is voluminous evidence in the records of Northern Neck Counties of his ownership in the 1650's of several parcels totaling some thousands of acres along the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. He was for many years during this period a Surry County Court Commissioner, where he had been a Clerk in 1652. The respect and confidence with which he was held by his contemporaries is indicated by the people who appointed him as attorney or executor of their wills, among them Edward Warren of Surry, Thomas Woodhouse, of Surry County and Jamestown Island, and William May, of Jamestown Island. Nicholas knew and supported Nathanial Bacon until the burning of Jamestown and then he like so many others supported the Governor.
In Surry County Court, Elizabeth Meriwether was listed as the executrix of Mr. Nicholas Meriwether, deceased, on 4 March 1678. On 13 Jun 1680 in James City, Coll. Browne represented Ni. Meriwether and on 6 July 1680 there is a judgement to Lt. Col. William Browne as marrying the executrix of Mr. Ni. Meriwether which would be Elizabeth Meriwether. Elizabeth had made a wise choice in her second marriage. William Browne had been a member of the Council from Surry County in 1640.
References: "The Meriwethers and Their Connections", by Nelson Heath Meriwether, "Albemarle County in Virginia" by Rev. Edgar Woods, "Early Virginia Families Along the James River Volume III" Compiled by Louise Pledge Heath Foley, "Virginia Land Records" Indexed by Gary Parks Isle of Wight County Deeds and Other Records Deeds, Orders, etc, "Surry County, Virginia Court Records 1652-1663 Book I" Weynette Parks Hawn, "Surry County, Virginia Court Records 1664-1671 Book II" Weynette Parks Hawn, "Surry County Virginia Court Records 1672-1682" Book III Weynette Parks Hawn, "Surry County Records, Surry County, Virginia 1652-1684 Book II" by Eliza Timberlake Davis, "Wills and Administrations of Surry County, Virginia 1671-1750" Compiled by Eliza Timberlake Davis, " Essex County, Virginia Deeds and Wills No. 13 1707-1711" compiled by John Frederick Dorman, "Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia" 2nd Edition Edited by H. R. NcIlwaine, and "Virginia Colonial Abstracts" by Beverley Fleet Vol II, "Colonial Surry" by John B. Boddie.
NICHOLAS MERIWETHER II was born 26 Oct 1667 in James City, Surry County, Virginia, and died in the fall of 1744, possibly in early November, as his will was filed on 05 Nov 1744 in Goochland County, Virginia. He married ca 1688-89 in New Kent County, Virginia to Elizabeth Crawford, daughter of David Crafford and Jane ----. Elizabeth was born in 1672 in Assassquin, New Kent County, Virginia and died in 1762 in Cloverfields, Albemarle County, Virginia.
Nicholas was only 11 when his father died. In April 1695 the first appearance of Nicholas II in a matter of record is that of his petitioning the court, along with his sister Elizabeth and her husband Francis Clements, to act as an administrator of the estate of their brother William Meriwether. On 19 May 1699 Nicholas became a member of the Vestry Board of St. Peter's Church in New Kent County. In 1704, the New Kent County records show that Nicholas was among the ten largest landowners in the county, listing him sixth as possessing 3,327 acres. In the same year his brother Francis is the second largest landowner in Essex County, the Rolls listing his 3,200 acres. In 1708, Nicholas II and his brother Francis are shown to be executors of the estate of their brother Thomas Meriwether. The will was proved 10 Feb 1708-09.
On 29 June 1707 Nicholas bought Lot No. 4 in Delaware Town (established in 1705), situated on the York River at West Point. Nicholas served in the House of Burgesses, Williamsburg, from 1704 until 1734, from New Kent County and the new Hanover County, created from part of New Kent County lands. He was also serving simultaneously in the Virginia militia, from October 1687, in the mounted or horse troops, 1700-01 as Captain, 1702-04 as Major. He was called Colonel but that could have been an honorary title.
Nicholas was one of the large landholders in colonial Virginia and took an active part in the Established Church. At one time he had accumulated almost 33,000 acres of land. A tremendous grant of land on 9 July 1730 of 17,952 acres in Goochland County (later Albemarle County) on the eastern side of the Chestnut Mountains (later South West) into his hands. His vast acreage was occasionally disposed of in gifts to his children of 300 to 1139 acres at a time. He owned land in King and Queen County, New Kent County, King William County, Hanover County, Louisa County, and Goochland County. His last home was on the Rivanna River, a few miles east of Charlottesville, which was the 1,020 acre grant of 1735, and to this he added 119 acres by purchase. It is this place, later called "The Farm" which he willed to his grandson Colonel Nicholas Lewis and which now occupied in its entirety by the city of Charlottesville. His will, dated 12 December 1743, probated in January 1745, was one of the longest wills to be filed in the state of Virginia, at least prior to the Revolution. It was said to have contained originally nineteen sheets of paper. It disposed of 15,000 acres, as well as 42 slaves, Sterling and plate, cattle, and "mares, horses and hoggs". His wife, Elizabeth, and Robert Lewis, his son-in-law, were co-executors of the estate. Peter Jefferson, the father of Thomas Jefferson, was one of the three witnesses to the will and appeared in court to confirm it in the Goochland County, Virginia, Court on November 20, 1744.
References: "Old New Kent County Some Account of The Planters, Plantations, and Places in King William County St. John's Parish - Volume II" Compiled by Malcolm Hart Harris MD, "The Shaping of Colonial Virginia", Thomas J. Wertenbaker, Professor of History, "Essex County, Virginia, Quit Rent Roll of 1704 " "From William & Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine, October 1879", "The Vestry Book & Register of St. Peter's Parish, New Kent and James City Counties, Virginia 1684-1786" Transcribed by C.G. Chamberlayne, "The Vestry Book of St. Paul's Parish, Hanover County 1706-1780" Edited by C.G. Chamberlayne, "Will and Administrations of Surry County, Virginia 1671-1750" by Eliza Timberlake Davis, "Surry County, Virginia Court Records (Part II: Order Book 1671-1691) 1682-1691 Book IV" Weynette Parks Haun, "Surry County, Virginia Deeds 1684-1733 and Other Court Papers" by William Lindsay Hopkins, "The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography" Vol. XXXIV Published by the Virginia Historical Society Virginia Council Journals, 1726-1753, "Virginia Land Records" Indexed by Gary Parks, "Louisa County, Virginia Deed Books A and B 1741-1579" Abstracted and compiled by Rosalie Edith Davis, "The Record of Bruton Parish Church" edited by Mary Frances Goodwin, "Cavaliers and Pioneers Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants - Volume Three: 1695-1732" Abstracted by Nell Marion Nugent, "Cavaliers and Pioneers - Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants - Volume Four: 1731-1741" edited by Denis Hudgins, "Abstracts of Wills from Goochland County, Virginia 1727-1777" by Margaret V. Henley, "Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia Vol. II (August 3, 1699-April 27, 1705)" Editor H.R. McIlwaine , "The General Assembly of Virginia July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978" Compiled by Cynthia Miller Leonard, "The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography" Volume XXXIV Published by the Virginia Historical Society, "Old New Kent County Some Account of the Planters, Plantations, and Places in King William County St. John's.
ANN MERIWETHER was born on 15 Jul 1694 in Goochland, Virginia, and died ca 1780-1785 in Louisa County, Virginia. She married (1) in Virginia Thomas Johnson , son of Richard Johnson and (2) ca 1750-52 to John Crosby. Thomas Johnson was born 1694 in King William County, Virginia, and died 1734 in Hanover County, Virginia.
In 1711 Thomas was issued a patent for 970 acres in King William County lying between the lands of the Gooches and Pamunkey River, which he possessed at the time of his death in 1734. Thomas was a Burgess from King and Queen in 1718, and for King William County in 1720-22. He was living at this time on his father's estate, Chericoke, a tract of land, 750 acres in the parish of St. John, King William County at Pamunkey Neck. Thomas Johnson owned land in New Kent County in St. Paul's Parrish on branch of Stonehorse Creek and on 5 September 1723 in Hanover County on Stony run.
In record books are the following: 1) Orphans Bond, 6 February 1734, Ann Johnson widow and David Meriwether Gent. and Joseph Fox of Hanover County are firmly bound unto Nicholas Meriwether Gent. first Justice in the Commission of the Peace for Hanover County as guardian of Richard, James, Ann and Thomas Johnson, orphans of Thomas Johnson, deceased, 2) Deed of Gift, 12 December 1734, from Ann Johnson to her son Nicholas Johnson, a Boy Slave named Daniel and 3 Negro Girl Slaves, Sarah, Ester and Tamar, 3) Deed, January 1734, from Nicholas Johnson of King William County, to his sisters Jane and Ann Johnson, 4) 26 April 1758 Ann Crosby gave to her son, Richard Johnson of St. Paul's Par., Hanover Co. 14 Negro slaves and 5) 26 Apr. 1757 Ann Crosby sold to Thomas Johnson of Caroline Co. Entered into court, 7 June 1734, was a Deed of Gift from Thomas Johnson of Hanover County, St. Paul's Parrish to his daughter, Semi Remis Paullet, for 200 acres on Stone Horse Creek with the plantation houses, barns, orchards and all other appurtenance.
After Thomas died, she married in 1750 to John Cosby, born in 1680 and died in 1760. John's 1st wife was Martha Garland (born 1690, died 1749), daughter of Edward Garland of Hanover County. John and Martha had 7 children, born between 1711 and 1722. Ann Meriwether Crosby's will, dated 2 February 1780, was recorded 9 May 1785 in Louisa County, Virginia.
References: "A History of 'Louisa County, Virginia", by Malcolm H. Harris, MD, "Genealogies of Virginia Families" from the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol IV, "The Louisa County Historical Magazine", Vol II No 1 Summer 1979, "Cavaliers and Pioneers" Abstracts of Virginia land Patents and Grants Vol III: 1695-1732, abstracted by Nell Marion Nugent p 213, "Cavaliers and Pioneers - Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants - Vol 4 1732-1741" Edited by Denis Hudgins, "Cavaliers and Pioneers", Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, Vol 5 1741-1749 Edited by Dennis Ray Hudgins, "Old New Kent County Some Account of the Planters, Plantations, and Places in King William County, St. John's Parish" Volume II compiled by Malcolm Hart Harris MD p 754, "Hanover County, Virginia Court Records 1733-1735: Deeds, Wills and Inventories Abstracted and compiled by Rosalie Edith Davis p 27, "Hanover County, Virginia Court Records 1733-1735, Deeds, Wills, & Inventories Abstracted and Compiled by Rosalie Edith Davis p. 52, "Louisa County, Virginia", Deed Book A and B 1742-1759 Abstracted and compiled by Rosalie Edith Davis p. 139, "Abstracts of Early Louisa County, Virginia Will Books" 1743-1819 p. 79 W.B. 3, p.82.
The House of Burgess was similar to our present day House of Representatives and its membership was determined by the ownership of land. One or two Burgesses were chosen from each county. It must be remembered that no general electrons were held and the choosing of these members rested in the hands of the wealthy landowners in their separate districts or counties. Occasionally, the Crown, through the Governor, took a hand in the selection of some members by passing the word as to the acceptability of a Burgess, but generally they were chosen on a purely local basis. The first consideration was one of education and a knowledge and understanding of the limited powers of the House to advise the Governor in the promulgation of laws for the Colony. When laws were passed in the House and had not been proposed by the Governor, they were on local matters not in conflict with the King's Minister to the Colony. The concurrence of the House of Burgess was expected in other matters that strengthened or sustained an action of the Council. Today such concurrence might be termed a "rubber stamp" Congress but in that day the interests of the landed proprietors almost always coincidental with the wishes of the Governor and Council.
A land grant was not a favor or gift. From an early time in Virginia there had been two ways in which grants were secured.
1. By bringing to the Colony a number of new immigrants and assuring the Governor's Council of the ability to care for these arrivals for a period of at least seven years. These immigrants were known as "Indentured" persons. They could only come to the Colony if they were provided for, both for the present and for the seven years following. The planter bringing them was then awarded so many acres of land for each such person. The planter could then expect labor and service from these Indentures for a stated period without payment of wages, other than to provide for their "Cloathing and keepe". It was expected of these indentured servants that at the termination of their service they would make their way in the Colony, and become either artisans or small landowners.
2. By being established in the Colony and have the capacity to pay certain sums, depending on the acreage, for a number of years to the Crown as "rent". The records of these grants, detailing acreage, payment of rent, constitute the Quit Rent Rolls, and are among the most numerous of all official records available as showing the first evidence of the foundation of a family in early Virginia. All the Kings of England - and their Ministries - from Charles II in 1660 through King George III (to 1776) relied in no small part on these collections to partly defray their expenses. Indeed, it was the lack of continuing Rent Rolls which caused the Ministries of George III to institute the now familiar tax bites on molasses, rum, salt-petre, and of course, tea, which brought into open dispute the undercurrent feeling of dissatisfaction of the Colonist with their home government.
The Laws of Virginia At a Grand Assembly 6 January 1639-40 Charles I King, Sir Frances Wyatt, Gov. Act. XXIV - Seven years after date of patents 2 shillings per hundred acres quit rents to be paid yearly at some convenient place to be appointed in each county.
At a Grand Assembly Holden at James City, 2 March 1642-43 King Charles I King Sir William Berkeley, Knight, Governor. Act LXXII - Whereas it was enacted at an Assembly in January 1640 in explanation of the time when quit rents upon grants of land are due, That all those grants that were of seaven years continuance or above were to beginn their payments. Their first years payment at the feast of St. Michael the Archangel 1639 and soe forwards and that all other grants should have the benefit to be free from quit rents until seaven years after their first grant, which in enacted and confirmed by this present Grand Assembly.
At a Grand Assembly Holden at James City, 20 November 1645 Sir William Berkeley, Knight, Governour Act XVII - According to his majesties gracious bounty to this collony expressed in his late Royal letters, Be it enacted by the Governour, Council and Burgesses of this Grand Assembly that all the quit rents for land due to his Majeste in this colloney be disposed of as followeth, first allowing to the treasurer for the time being his salary of L500 per ann. as the revenues shall amount thereto, and then what shall arise by surplussage the accompt thereof to be presented to the Governor and Council and then to be disposed of by the Assembly as they think fit.
Second Session, March 1645-6 Act XIV - Be it enacted by this present Grand Assembly, That his Ma'ties treasurer do receive the Quit Rents in Tobacco at the rate of 3d. per pound. It being conceived the value of the comoditie at present.
At a Grand Assembly Holden at James City, 3 November 1647 Charles I King, Sir William Berkeley, Knight, Gov. Act XX - Whereas there is and has been great neglect in the payment of quit rents upon the motion of the treasurer, for remedy thereof, Bee it enacted and declared as followeth; That the deliquents in the payment of any quit rents shall be destranyed upon the lands by the treasurers receivers by direction and warrent from under his hand, And that if any will repleavy their goods, then giving good caution, their allegations shall be heard, either at the countie courts or before the Governour and Council, And the Kings suits and debts be preferred any other, And that all Courts and Officers ought to be assistant therein and proceed according to the laws of England.
At a General Assembly Begun and Holden at the Capitol in the City of Williamsburg, on 2 November 1720 in the 7th year of the reign of our sovereign Lord George 1st, defender of the faith etc. Chapter II - Every sheriff at November court yearly is to divide his county into precincts, appoint and publickly, one place in each precinct, --set the time of his appearance there before February 20th annually, To these places the people are to bring their quit rents either in current money or in tobacco at one penny per pound. If the sheriff dont do the people justice by these appointments the county courts are to direct and order others. And if the people fail the sherriff makes distress and sale for satisfaction of the quit rents, The sheriff or collector to be answerable for all quit rents, if sufficient distress can be had upon the lands liable. To pay the sweet scented tobacco in hogsheads of seven hundred nett, and the Aranoka six hundred nett, and paid upon demand. If the proprietor lives out of the county, the sherriff is to notify the collector of the other county. And if the proprietor lives out of the Collony, his attorney is to be notified if none, then a notice is to be put on outside of court house, - etc. Double quit rents are levied against this property. All persons concealing any part of his land shall pay double quit rents. For better discovery of such persons, the moiety of such double quit rents is given to the person discoverng the concealment.
At a General Assembly Begun and Held at the capitol, in the City of Williamsburg, on Monday 20 Oct. 1777, 2nd year of the Commonwealth, Patrick Henry, Governor. "Be it enacted that all lands within this Commonwealth shall henceforth be exempted and discharged from the payments of all quit rents, except the lands in that tract between Rappahannock and Potomack rivers known as the Northern Neck.